So then, in order for a person to become enlightened, they experience this progression into knowing the absolute in a unique way - special to them, right?
Certain choices allow one to expand their knowledge and awareness of reality and the experience of reality as it is influenced by knowledge. Some knowledge is relative to belief which can also be attached to emotions which can influence experiences to be more subjective than objective.
In the case of the Milgram experiment or other documented issues where people compromise what they know to be morally right,
unconscious choice will allow fear to take them further down into thoughts and actions that will add to the emotional stress in their lives.
This would be an example of unconscious choices that do not expand ones sense of appreciation and sense of self. Unless you allow contrast to be the relative factor to realizing the value of choice and understanding in how to make value judgments, such choices and their experiences have less value than those which automatically expand the intellect and awareness permanently.
This is in fact an example of growth in experience and enlightenment. Enlightenment by definition is to know and experience, what was not known before. In spirituality it is to know the foundation of reality and to understand how reality unfolds according to definitions and beliefs created through intention, as well as how we are interconnected above and beyond the physical differences seen and experienced through the layers of belief (more or less).
Cause and effect in experience is influenced by desire which comes from the heart but is often clouded by the layers of ego identification and beliefs in what brings relief from suffering or happiness in the face of sadness. The heart leads to union and unconditional Joy and freedom while the ego divides, isolates, categorizes and projects fear of reoccurring past emotional trauma.
For the individual (the isolated experience of personality) the unique way we choose to recognize ourselves in/on the universal stage is all about free will and choice. Our internal programs are unique to the choices we make in what we make real, or accept in relationship to our nervous system which is a mechanism that is similar to each others but different in the way we load it with thoughts and ideas.
You can put several people in a movie theater and show the same picture and not everyone will sit with the same container of popcorn, taste their popcorn the same or even pay attention to the movie and absorb or appreciate the movie the same way. This is a result of free will and the choices we have to think as we will about ourselves and our environment.
Similarly because the absolute underlying all relative experiences is in itself more than can be contained in an experience any individual experience of it is going to be subjective as well as objective.
In some ways then, I assume it is something that a person cannot teach - but must learn through looking inwardly?
If one understands the complexity of the ego and its habit of returning experience to the boxes that are created in individual experience and identification one could fully appreciate the term enlightened ego.
The ego can and will make its own determination of its experience and status of enlightenment in its relationship to itself. However the ego also continues to relate to the absolute as being separate from it, in the way it experiences it and describes it. It also has the experience of being separate from others, seeing itself as a victim to circumstance and accepts its suffering in relationship to the cause and effect of others rather than itself as being the cause of suffering.
As such it is not the ego that leads the awareness to the absolute and expansion of consciousness. The ego is a construct isolated to limited identification and boundaries, it cannot project a big enough infinity to lead one to infinity.
It is the heart that knows what is above and beyond conditioning and is always speaking to the reality of Truth above and beyond all relative truths. Not the physical heart but the Soul/Self heart.
Sometimes we say the heart knows no boundaries and we can experience a pull that draws us to do something that makes no logical sense, yet we do it knowing we must regardless of ego and its boundaries of sensibility. This pull is directed to greater sensibility that is willing to surrender the past to the present and a presence that is seen as more powerful than any belief or condition. That would be the absolute Self. We sometimes move toward it without conscious awareness of it.
This can take a very long time if the process is through random happenings and mixed intervention of the ego and its relative boundaries. Most won't deny the ego and its beliefs because it sees limitation and belief as a very real condition that exists in the world and everything associated with it.
If one could surrender themselves to the wisdom of another who has themselves stabilized the awareness of the absolute and recognizes the tricks of the ego the process can take a dramatic turn and be shortened considerably.
This kind of Teacher does not teach enlightenment but can lead another by helping them recognize the difference between ego self and the absolute self. It is then that choices are refined to draw the attention to something greater than boundaries and beliefs and the ability to witness expansion and contraction that results from choice.
Traditionally, religion teaches relative values based on understanding of the principles of that particular religion. The Tradition of enlightenment is that the Teacher leads one to their own experience but does not exclude certain realities that exist at different levels of conscious experience. Natural laws such as cause and effect of choice and the energetics that support choice that is an intelligent supportive force within the universe.
There is a lot of information regarding the expansion of consciousness. Thousands of books have been written and the ones that stand out in the process of ones growth vary from individual to individual.
Modern day gurus such as Ekhart Tolle or Gangaji, or the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi lead from their own experience of expanded consciousness and appeal to the different flavors of individual experience.
Over 90% of the population of the world believes in a God of some sort, and it is not necessarily the same God they believe in, in fact some don't have any idea what God is but they believe there is some sort of force in the universe that is directly related to life in the universe as we experience it. This belief comes through the filters of the ego but is not necessarily because of the ego, it is inspired by a deeper connection that exists in the foundation of life on all levels.
The reality is that if we knew what it was like to be without the ego we would be able to make simple choices to abandon it. The ego however, as long as it is intact with its ideals and beliefs, interprets scripture and enlightenment as idealistic to ones own identification with relative happiness and its limitations and boundaries, even its concepts of being unbounded or ego-less.
What does inner knowing mean exactly? Is this about looking inward into one's self and temporarily cutting off outside distractions?
Meditation is removing ones self from outside distractions, taking the mind and body without any influences such as mind altering drugs into self reflection.
Inner knowing is refined intuition, expanded sense of hearing that goes beyond the noises that are mechanical and physical.
What you said about the masks is very interesting. I take it that you mean by pretending to be the roles we play, we limit ourselves in what we can understand - because of the roles themselves.
When we become absorbed in any role we lose objectivity.
Like if we played the role of someone who was not good in biology, we would be limited in the understanding of biology because the role we play refuses to allow us to develop a deep understanding of it. Then it is by casting off the masks we wear that enables oneself to achieve, learn and understand more than could be ever be achieved through a mask.
That to me, is a very profound and fascinating idea.
Value systems initiated from lack of self worth is probably the greatest evil that exists within the human psyche. But fortunately beliefs change and choices can initiate changes that expand rather than contract our sense of self and the ability to overcome limitations.
So to me it sounds like you use meditation in order to remove the masks that we wear and then from the removal of those masks one is now able to reach a higher level of understanding - because the old, limiting beliefs have now been removed?
By removing stress from the nervous system it is enhanced, or returned to its fresh and original state of innocence and with the expansion of intellect what has been learned in the past can be used to enhance life rather than to weigh it down. The mind and body become more efficient.
However this doesn't happen overnight, it takes diligence and commitment.
The Upanishads state a formula for expanding consciousness, and the mind and body:
1. Read scripture, or words transcribed from those who have traversed the pathway from limitation and belief to expanded conscious awareness.
2. Prayer, or meditation, as an effective way to still the mind and body so that one can let the boundaries of the outer senses fade and expand the inner senses above and beyond the limitations of mortal moral conditioning.
3. Surround yourself with enlightened company, or make yourself available to reflection. The things you cannot see in yourself out of your own habit to come from subjective conditioning others can see because they are not attached to your beliefs and ideas. Through the interaction of communication and reflection what is hidden is exposed and understood so that choices can be made to rise above them and let them go.
This last one takes a great deal of humility and it is something the pride of ego can never surrender to. In fact the ego will fight to claim its own ability to self realize in its independence of being without any help whatsoever.
If I understand this correctly, enlightenment is not an event - one does not wake up and become enlightened but rather enlightenment is a way of living, a way of seeing, a way of being.
Correct. All too often because of the addiction to experience we worship some event and then base the following experiences and values around the event. Life is meant to continue beyond such events and expand continuously. It would be ridiculous to think that nothing can be expanded upon, especially our own experience of an unlimited or unbounded self. How ludicrous would it be to believe you have contained the infinite in an experience or a belief?
I think I get why you cannot answer the question about if you are enlightened. Since measuring things limits them and defines them, measuring enlightenment causes you to limit the potential of enlightenment and of yourself. Just like how by wearing masks we limit ourselves in what we can achieve - so too is it that by labeling enlightenment and giving it definition, we remove the very existence of enlightenment which is to remove all limits and become aware of the unlimited absolute.
This is good, you are understanding the meaning of God saying to moses "I am becoming." God is transition from thought to manifestation and it is intelligent and free from absolute definition and mortal boundaries.
This is just as much a scientific reality as it is often thought to be a religious belief.
Also I have for a long time thought about that everything is connected and how they are all in a rhythmic harmony with each other, does the ideal of the absolute mean that everything is connected to it and through the awareness of the absolute do we heighten our awareness of everything in the universe?
Experiencing the absolute is the first step in experiencing it or recognizing it in everything and having the experience of how connected everything is, rather than just thinking about it.
Having a feeling that it is real is often subject to doubts and beliefs but after having the experience of it and knowing it there is no doubt.
We can look into a mirror and see our face change and even change how we feel about ourselves when we look at ourselves but we always know we are looking at ourselves regardless of the change in appearances.
We even experience that what is inside of us does not change as the appearance and feeling changes
Similarly when we come to know ourselves through the absolute we experience life as we know it as the reflection of ourselves regardless of the emotional and physical changes we experience. Looking into it reveals the True reflection of ourselves.