Chapter 7: Aes Dhammo Sanantano
The first question:
Is it possible that you are not enlightened? If it is the case, would that make any difference for me?
It is not only possible, it is absolutely certain that I am not enlightened! Enlightenment happens only when one is not, hence one cannot be enlightened. Either one is, or enlightenment is; both cannot be together - that is an impossibility, that is not in the very nature of things. Buddha will say: Aes dhammo sanantano, “This is the ultimate law of life.”
One cannot be enlightened. To be is the barrier, not the bridge. It hinders; in fact, it is the only hindrance. To dissolve, not to be, that becomes the bridge.
Hence the word Buddha uses for enlightenment is tremendously significant and beautiful. It contains the most profound truth ever uttered, but it is untranslatable; enlightenment is a very faraway echo of it. The very word enlightenment gives you a totally different sense. Buddha’s word is nirvana; nirvana means cessation, disappearance. Literally it means when you blow a candle out, when the light of the candle is blown out, when the light disappears.. One cannot ask where it has gone, one cannot say where it is now; it is simply no more. This is nirvana: the disappearance of the light.
Enlightenment gives you just the opposite meaning. It makes you feel that you become enlightened, that you become full of light, that darkness disappears, not you. You remain; in fact you are far more than you were before. Before, you were hidden in darkness; now, all the darkness is gone and your being is revealed.
Buddha says there is no being in you; you are a non-being - anatta is his word. Anatta means no-self, no-soul, no-being. He not only denies the ego, he denies every possibility of the ego; otherwise, the ego is so cunning it will go on coming back again and again. It will find subtle ways to catch hold of you. It will come in the name of the self; in fact it will come very loudly in the name of the self.
Ordinarily people write self with a lower case s, and the people who philosophize about the ultimate reality start writing Self with a capital S. It is ego magnified, it is ego decorated, it is ego pretending to be holy, it is ego pretending to be eternal.
Buddha uses the words no-self, no-soul, no-being. He leaves no possibility for the ego to sprout again; he simply cuts it from the very roots. Never before Gautama the Buddha had it been done so efficiently.