The idea of gradual enlightenment is one of the most beautiful rationalizations, and it appeals to the mind because all that mind knows is gradual. The whole language of the mind is the language of time. Whatsoever the mind can do has to be done in time, it needs time.
But enlightenment does not happen in time. When I say it can happen in a moment, please don’t misunderstand me – the moment is not part of time at all! I am saying it can happen immediately; it needs no time at all, not even a single moment is needed. It can happen now…but you cling. You say, “How is it possible? I have to become slowly, slowly alert, aware, meditative. Chunk by chunk I have to transform my unconscious being. I have to drop greed, anger, lust, jealousy, possessiveness, hatred, and there are a thousand and one things, and each thing is going to take time. I have to drop fear, I have to drop my identification with the body and the mind, I have to drop my attachments….” And the list is almost infinite. It will take eternity for you to become enlightened; in fact, you will never become enlightened. The very idea that it is going to be a gradual process is only a strategy of the mind to postpone it.
Enlightenment is always sudden. It is a question of understanding, insight, illumination. It is like sudden lightning. It has always happened like that.
Gautam Buddha was trying for his enlightenment for six years; it was a lengthy process. He was following many methods, many paths. He was doing whatsoever is humanly possible to do, but nothing was happening. He was moving in circles; he was where he had started, he was not going anywhere else. He was becoming tired, utterly tired. Finally one evening this sudden illumination happened to him that his whole effort was irrelevant.
Enlightenment is not something like an achievement; one cannot achieve it. One has to disappear for it to happen. It is a happening and it happens only in the absence of the ego. And whenever you are doing something the ego becomes more and more strengthened. The ego is a doer, and enlightenment happens in a state of nondoing. It is simply the realization of who you are; it is not a question of achievement. You are already it! Just an awakening, just a turning in!
Seeing the point, Buddha relaxed; he dropped all his methods. That is the only use of methods: you get tired of them, you feel utterly bored with them. One day out of sheer boredom you drop all the methods.
That evening he dropped his whole spiritual search. He had dropped all worldly search six years before, but it is the same search whether you are seeking money or meditation, whether you are seeking power or enlightenment, whether you are running after prestige or God – it is the same thing! The mind needs some object to run after. The mind wants something to desire. It wants an objective goal; whatsoever that objective goal is doesn’t matter – xyz, anything will do.