Are You Enlightened?

By David Swenson, July, 2012

A student once asked me: Are you enlightened?
My answer: If I am it is a big disappointment!

So what is our perception of the person that is enlightened?
Are they wearing a particular style or brand of clothing?
Do they always have a smile on their face?
Is there a slight hush to the sound of their voice when they speak?
Are they living separate from society in a cave or remote setting?

Those could certainly be symptoms of an enlightened person but are they truly the definitive expressions and demeanor of an enlightened being?

The Zen Buddhists have another possible view contained within this statement:
Before enlightenment I chopped wood and carried water.
After enlightenment I chopped wood and carried water.

Expanding upon that definition we could say that the truly enlightened individual is one that is grossly absorbed in the activities and duties of their daily life. Living to the fullest extent their true purpose. With such enlightened activities as getting their children dressed and ready for school. Approaching their job and all actions and encounters that each day has to offer with the greatest of integrity and presence. If truly enlightened the individual does not need to disengage from apparently mundane activities but rather every action becomes an expression of a truly deep understanding of the eternal spiritual nature of all beings and the common inner-connection we all share through the thread of spirit that permeates the fabric of life.

So what is enlightenment and who is enlightened? Does it really matter? Lets say we are all enlightened as of this moment forward! How would it change our life? We must still get on with our daily duties and endeavors. The difference is that no longer would our mind be disturbed by the ups and downs, struggles and joys and the tedium of daily life. Each moment is as important as any other. Every breath we take contains the full potential for enlightenment. It is not in the next level of asana or some future moment in time beyond this very instant. Rather enlightenment is waiting for our recognition of its presence right here in the very fabric of each breath we take, every thought, endeavor and encounter.

Here is a definition of a yogi that I like:
A yogi is one who leaves a place a little nicer than when they arrived.

It is a simple statement with profound significance! It does not matter how much knowledge or ability we have if our interactions are causing pain or suffering to others or the world around us. We may each ask ourselves a simple question. Is the world a better place by our presence in it? Regardless of the system of yoga we practice or the path of self-development we have chosen we must see how we are applying the juice from those activities within our daily existence.

Are we enlightened? That may be the wrong question.

Are we becoming better human beings! Now that is worth contemplating!

David Swenson

David began practicing yoga at a very early age. His older brother Doug was his first teacher. They practiced hatha yoga from whatever books they could find. In 1975, K. Pattabhi Jois came to the United States for the first time, and David was fortunate enough to be there. It was then that he initiated studies directly with the master. Swenson made his first trip to Mysore, India, in 1977, and learned the full Ashtanga system as it was originally taught by K. Pattabhi Jois. David is recognized today as one of the world's foremost practitioners and instructors of Ashtanga yoga.

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