In the histories of the Advaitists about themselves, an element of insight is always present, a certain enlightenment, after which they essentially do understand everything about non-duality. I would say that the sudden flash of awareness or something like it is a part of their religion. Such a thing happened, as we know, with Maharshi at the age of 16, and such things – in different variations – the majority of modern teachers of Advaita tell about themselves. Insight or something like it has become an inseparable part of the mythology of the Advaita, and without a tale about it, you cannot be a teacher in it. They usually cannot explain the nature of this insight and everything comes down to the fact that it came suddenly, bringing with it a clear vision of non-duality. Well, or something like it.
On the basis of the suddenness of these insights, the Advaitists deny the presence of the spiritual Path and its necessity. It seems to them that the break in perception and its change are not conditioned in any way and from their stories that is exactly what follows. Really, what sort of Way is it here? Not understanding the natures of their insights, nevertheless, they understand non-duality and for some reason begin to teach it, denying the possible paths to achievement, and hoping for insight for no reason. Moreover, the main trick which today’s teachers strive to perform in their presentations is the artificial creation of insight in the person who asks them a question. It is said at one time this worked with Maharshi. Something strange, but about the same thing, we observe in the video with Papaji. And in general, the majority of modern teachers of Advaita would like to become the source of the miracle of awakening of the person who turned to them. After all, then all their teaching would acquire at least some sort of meaning.
When the teacher of Advaita is asked a question, the entire answer always amounts to the fact that the question itself has no meaning, because it is just a thought in the mind, and therefore one must come to awareness of the essence, to awareness of the person who asks it. The responder simply tries to return a person to the state of being in the here and now, turning the attention of the questioner toward himself. It is this turn, as it is believed, that may indeed lead to insight. But with insight there is still one problem – the source of it for the Advaitists is not known, although they instinctively suppose that internal transformation may come from the “opening” by a person of his internal nature. That is, if it is correctly interpreted, by repeating all the time, “But who is sensing this? But who is asking that question” and so on, such a turn may occur that will immediately change a person’s perception. But to speak seriously, all of this game of answering a question with a question may, perhaps, lead the questioner to awareness of a certain stupidity and the pointlessness of his questions, but the effect of the given “awakening” does not last long at all. The mind, even if stalled by the turning of the attention to itself, will still once again start accelerating, and the questions will return. And even if a person manages to obtain a certain key to turning to himself inside, even so, this is not the insight which participants in such meetings would like.
Any mentally-balanced person can attain a short-term stay in the “here and now.” He will not come out of the dreams of his identifications for long, but even so, he can come out of them. Therefore, it is not very difficult to turn a person toward returning for a few minutes to the state of presence in himself. But to bring him to insight is far more complicated – if possible at all.
The majority of those who have tried to figure out the questions of enlightenment never had any special clarity about the reasons for which it occurs. And that is understandable – after all, enlightenment came to us from Buddhism, and there is no God there – only emptiness and Nirvana.
Therefore, the phenomenon itself of enlightenment is connected to meditation, cleansing the mind from desires and the growth of awareness. And all of that as a result led a person to such a wonderful state as enlightenment. There exist the most diverse descriptions of enlightenment, which sometimes are so silly that you don’t even know how to regard them. Like the fantasies of their authors, perhaps. The majority of them come down to Consciousness at a certain moment seeming to explode inside a person, and he becomes enlightened. It is hard to say whether the energy of Consciousness is directed toward itself, which then leads to an explosion, or a person’s full disidentification occurs with all of its “lower” bodies, and from this, the light of Consciousness becomes liberated and explodes, changing the structure of its bearer, but approximately such explanations are given to us in movements where God and His influence are not taken into account at all.
He who practices awareness fairly successfully in time understands that the energy of Consciousness influences all a person’s energies, but never leads them to any sort of transformation. The awareness of anger does not change anger. The awareness of desire does not change its content and essence. Awareness leads to cleansing of a person’s internal space and to a refinement of his perception, and that is all. Of course one can hope that the quantity of manifested energy of Consciousness may change the quality of his action, but even this, in the end, is not confirmed. A person does not have the necessary energy inside which could bring about his spiritual transformation, and that is known to all mystics – from the most ancient times. We cannot summon it ourselves, because our energies – including the energy of Consciousness – are not intended for that. The impulse leading a person to qualitative change may be received only from without, and not from within. You can like this or not like it, you can argue with it until you are hoarse, but that is exactly how matters stand.
The Sufis call the impulse of higher energy, irreversibly changing a person, the Grace of God. That is indeed grace, because it is impossible to earn it, although you can prepare yourself for its descent. Those who served God, who interact with Him, following His Will, in time acquire the opportunity to clearly sense the entry of an impulse into their internal space. There are impulses of Will or Knowledge, and there is the impulse of Grace, which gives a person a real, and not an invented transformation. Those who receive the impulse of Grace once or twice in their lives cannot understand at all what has happened to them. Since mystics who serve God receive many such impulses, for them, the difficulties of discernment in time cease to exist, and they always know exactly what is happening now with them. Moreover, they can trace the action of the impulse of Grace within themselves and see its results, from which their understanding becomes even deeper.
When experience is interpreted incorrectly, when there is no understanding of what has happened, you do not have to count on an adequate transmission and exposition of experience. And when there isn’t the necessary understanding, then only by great desire and childish naivete can you hope that a practice useful for seekers will come from this. If you do not understand the reason for what happened to you, then you do not understand, in the end, what it is that happened, and whether something happened at all.
This summarizes the problem of the majority of today’s so-called enlightened ones and the teachers of Advaita as well. Of course they do not call themselves the enlightened, and even speak against the concept of enlightenment, but that does not change the essence of the problem. Insight in Advaita must be the reception of the impulse of Grace, and nothing else, because simply having looked nowhere (at Selfhood or the higher “I”) you will not come to an experience of non-duality.
Transformation does not come like happiness or an attack of irrepressible laughter. Transformation is a rather painful process, and it is no accident that mystics compare it to death and a second birth. We find a description of transformation in the biography of Maharshi, and judging from everything, he, too, passed through it a minimum of two times, but it is not a fact that everything is known to us. There was something more than simply awareness in his presence, but his words also reflected a misunderstanding of what had happened, since the first transformation happened to him early, and without evident reasons. Then he studied at Arunachala, but I don’t think that a sacred mountain –even if it is a kind of incarnation of Shiva – can serve in the same way as mystics serve God and interact with him.
The majority of the descriptions of transformations of contemporary teachers of Advaita seem far simpler and are reminiscent of a certain turn at the level of the mind, which later was declared a true achievement. In the majority of them, that energy of the Beyond which was manifested in Maharshi is impossible to see, although now all of them to a man propagandize obscurity, considering it a sign of achievement of true non-duality. They do not comprehend that the simplicity of the being of a mystic and the obscurity of the ordinary man are entirely different things.
I have written a fair amount about the impulse of Grace in other books; here I will say that theoretically, it can be received by anyone at all, and here the Will of God and the necessity of Creation decide everything. There is one other necessity, acting as a law. Even if a person does not search for interaction with God, and simply practices awareness, then this practice itself will him to such a cleansing of the internal space that the impulse of Grace cannot help but descend upon him. When your internal space has become empty, higher energy fills that emptiness, releasing a process of spiritual transformation. This is exactly how the enlightened ones appear – those who are really enlightened. For there always exists the temptation of passing off for enlightenment a certain change in the mind which is striving for it. And if insight becomes a requirement in order to begin to present himself to others in the role of a person who has reached the state of non-duality, then sooner or later it will occur – even if there will be no Grace manifested.