Chapter 40: Sudden Enlightenment and Its Obstacles
The first question:
You said that either one sees the world or the brahman and that no gradually increasing perception of the brahman is possible. But in experience we feel that as we become aware and more silent and still, the feeling of the divine presence becomes gradually clearer and clearer. What is this gradual growth and clarity if the authentic experience is never gradual, but sudden?
This has been a very ancient problem: “Is enlightenment sudden or gradual?” Many things have to be understood. There has been a tradition which says that enlightenment is gradual and that everything can be divided into degrees, everything can be divided into steps - that like anything else, knowledge can also be divided; you can become more and more wise, you can become more and more enlightened. This has been widely accepted because the human mind cannot conceive of anything sudden. Mind wants to divide, analyze. Mind is a divider. Degrees can be understood by the mind, but suddenness is non-mental - beyond mind.
If I say to you that you are ignorant and that gradually you will become wise, this is comprehensible, you can comprehend it. If I say to you, “No, there is no gradual growth. Either you are ignorant or you become enlightened, there is a sudden jump,” then the question arises of how to become enlightened. If there were no gradualness, there could be no progress. If there were no degree of growth, no degrees, then you could not make progress, you could not proceed. From where to begin? In a sudden explosion, the beginning and the end are both the same. There is no gap between the beginning and the end, so from where to begin? The beginning is the end.
It becomes a puzzle for the mind, it becomes a koan. But sudden enlightenment seems to be impossible. It is not that it is impossible, but that the mind cannot conceive of it. And, remember, how can the mind conceive of enlightenment? It cannot. It has been widely accepted that this inner explosion is also gradual growth. Even many enlightened persons have conceded that to your minds, and they have said, “Yes, there is a gradual growth.”
It is not that there is. They have said it and accepted your attitude, your way of perception. They have been in a deep compassion for you. They know that if you start thinking that it is gradual, the start will be good, but there will be no gradual growth. But if you start, if you go on seeking it, someday the sudden thing will happen to you. And if it is said that enlightenment is only sudden and no gradual growth is possible, you are not even going to start and it will never happen. Many enlightened persons have said that enlightenment is a gradual thing just to help you, just to persuade you to start.