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  • Writer's pictureAnne Sweet

Enlightenment and ethics

Regarding enlightenment and right action/ethics: a simple definition of enlightenment in my understanding would be the stable, enduring and effortless recognition of oneself as Being/awareness/peace and no longer being identified with the contracted, constricted personal self/ego. It's common in spiritual circles to believe that this realization automatically enlightens the entire individual and dissolves all their unconscious/unethical/shadow behaviours. A quick look at the actions of many, many spiritual teachers past and present shows this to be patently untrue. It seems in almost all cases the ego remains in some form, even with profound realization of the Self. Our true nature is peace, compassion and kindness, but as long as there is still ego (and we can be pretty sure there will be), there is the possibility of corruption/unethical behaviour. This is why consciously building a matrix of integrity and the understanding of its necessity, is so essential. Going against our conscience muddies the waters and takes us further away from our true nature. When this occurs with a spiritual teacher the consequences are exponentially greater.

The great traditions and teachings all emphasize the need for integrity and ethics as the very foundation of the path. There are good reasons for this. As a seeker one is engaged in an extremely difficult and subtle endeavor: to discover/uncover one's true nature beyond the endless clamouring of the ego, and to become established and rooted there. This most often requires tremendous effort and perseverance. If one is constantly distracted by unethical behaviours and their repercussions, this delicate and demanding work is not going to be possible."You cannot leave a mess behind and go beyond - it will pull you back" Nisargadatta Maharaj.

As I experience it (and again the various traditions have their own versions), there are deep fundamental laws of existence (I'm not speaking about man-made laws/ethics here) and our work if we choose to do it, is to perceive these laws and align ourselves with them for own sake and for the sake of the whole. A good place to start is with ruthless and compassionate honesty with oneself. The individual needs to recognize the inherent value of 'right action' (or do the work to develop it) and the destructive nature of 'wrong action' and base their thoughts and deeds on this foundation. This is usually a lifelong process and there is of course room for error and the making of mistakes (no blame), but one's intention must be rooted unwaveringly in this foundation. This is our 'ground', or the stabilization of ourselves in truth. I can't emphasise enough how important this is. Without this ground one will make a mess and harm others and oneself.

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