What does it mean to be enlightened, what are the symptoms?
In today’s society where it is easier than ever to teach yourself online or do a course for a few days on healing or consciousness, and then present yourself as a therapist or healer, or even a spiritual teacher, one may be curious to know how exactly we can determine who is genuine and who is a poser. If you go to India you will find a godman on every street corner. Some of them are claiming to be gurus who can lead you to God or enlightenment, and some even claim to be God. Check out the classified section of a newspaper and there you will find so many ads by this or that “bhagavan” claiming to offer the goal of life for a few rupees. And people buy into it because they don’t know any better.
Generally when trying to sell something, be it a product or a concept or idea, your audience often does not buy what you say as much as the conviction with which you say it. In other words, if you show confidence in a product by your statements, people are likely to buy into your confidence in the product as much as they are going to buy the product itself. If you can promote it with confidence, they buy into that, regardless of what it is. So, if you are confident about what you say, that will sway your audience a lot of the time. They are buying you. You are selling yourself, or your confidence as much as you are selling a product.
Lawyers do this all the time when they sell an idea to the judge or jury. If they can make a convincing speech, they can win the case. Politicians are another perfect example. So, when evangelists or “messiahs” come along in their different guises to promote themselves as “Prophets” as they call themselves here in Africa, or “Avatars” – incarnations of God – in India, the masses can easily be swindled by the word jugglery or flowery speech of the orator.
How then does one determine a genuine spiritualist among the many out there propounding consciousness awakening or liberation or union with source? The answer lies in the text book on consciousness, namely Bhagavad Gita. The guidelines are all presented for humanity to follow. The descriptions of a saintly person are mentioned categorically throughout the 18 chapters of the Gita itself. The speaker of the Gita, Krishna, the original godhead himself, speaks the revelation to his friend and student Arjuna on the battlefield in the epic Mahabharata written some say around 5000 years ago.
And there Krishna tells Arjuna exactly who he is as the original godhead by revealing in chapter 11 to Arjuna his “Universal form” with thousands of heads and stretching up into the cosmos to encompass the stars and planets. Arjuna has a mystical experience, where his eyes are opened, or his third eye is opened so that he can see the divinity is all his glory. Krishna then goes on to reveal to Arjuna the symptoms of a truly spiritually mature or evolved individual. In other words, there is no room for speculation or pseudo-spiritual imitation. There are direct symptoms. They are found for example throughout chapter 12 in a long list, as Krishna answers Arjuna’s questions about the goal of life.
For example Krishna says:
samaḥ śatrau ca mitre ca
santuṣṭo yena kenacit
bhaktimān me priyo naraḥ
“One who is equal to friends and enemies, who is equipoised in honor and dishonor, heat and cold, happiness and distress, fame and infamy, who is always free from contaminating association, always silent and satisﬁed with anything, who doesn’t care for any residence, who is ﬁxed in knowledge and who is engaged in devotional service – such a person is very dear to Me.”
Bhagavad Gita as it is chapter 12:18-19 Translation by Swami A.C. Bhaktivedanta
These are the qualities you will find in a truly evolved person, among others mentioned, so if someone comes along claiming to be god or is spokesperson, you can check the list, you can look at their symptoms or qualities and determine for yourself the genuineness of the speaker. For example a self-realized person is equal to all living beings, not prejudiced even against enemies, s/he is beyond the need for honour, social status of popularity, s/he is aloof from bodily discomfort, no dependent on comforts, with no ego attachment to fame or aversion to infamy. In fact they are by nature self-satisfied, in the sense that they are satisfied with things as they are and not dependent on facilities or quality of home to feel good about life. Importantly they don’t associate with people who might engage in degrading activities and they are able to do all of this because they have knowledge of right and wrong and are engaged in “devotional service” or Bhakti yoga, the yoga of loving service to the divine, the path of meditation with love.
By reading Bhagavad Gita one can find out the practical details of what to do and what not to do in order to make advancement on the path of consciousness evolution or awakening. And one can find the criteria that determine one’s level of progress, or the symptoms of someone who claims to be advanced. So next time you hear a person claiming to be god, then simply observe their behaviour and see if they display the symptoms of a godly person, what to speak of the godhead directly. If they were on par with the godhead then ask them to display their “Universal form” with thousands of heads and limbs, stretching into the sky and encompassing the entire cosmos of stars and planets. That’s all.
Some godmen have genuinely practiced meditation and yoga and may have achieved some mystic powers, where thy can manifest objects out of thin air or read your mind, but these are small by-product obtainable by anyone who applies the yoga scientific practice and techniques for raising consciousness. But it does not make you God. Nothing you can do will ever make you God of the universe. We are all always and eternally fragmental part and parcel, like a spark from a fire, in quality identical to the source but in quantity very minute in comparison. And we certainly won’t have any ego issues or need for name and fame, even as the top servant of god or topmost yogi or mystic. Such a person will be aloof from desires for anything to feel complete, for real wholeness is found within, not via external additives, on the material platform.
There is very little room for speculation when it comes to science, and yoga is the science of consciousness. It is the process practiced by sincere seekers of truth over thousands of years already and by applying the criteria we can all become liberated from the illusions of material life. So as it says in this verse, become fixed in knowledge form the text books on yoga like Bhagavad Gita, and you too can realize your true potential as a spirit soul or consciousness in a material body. You can know yourself and know the symptoms of self-realization. You can see the state of consciousness of those around you based on the list of qualities mentioned in the yoga texts. The rest is speculation or the con game of godmen who have fallen victim to the last snares of Maya or illusion and have identified their ego with the supersoul in the pursuit of name and fame, adoration and distinction, quite contrary to the qualities described by Krishna in the Gita as dear to him. Enlightenment is not a cheap thing. It’s free but it’s not to be taken cheaply and that is the difference.