On one occasion, a monk asked Isan about the need for cultivation of one’s spiritual life after enlightenment. Isan responded that it was needed because of the “inertia of habit” he then went on to say:
“What you hear must first be accepted by your reason; and when your rational understanding is deepened and subtilized in an ineffable way, your mind will, of its own spontaneity, become comprehensive and bright, never to relapse into the state of doubt and delusion. However numerous and various the subtle teachings are, you know intuitively how to apply them – in accordance with the occasion.
“In this way only will you be qualified to sit in the chair and wear your robe as a master of the true art of living. To sum up, it is of primary importance to know that ultimate reality, or the bedrock of reason, does not admit of a single speck of dust, while in innumerable doors and paths of action not a single law or thing is to be abandoned.”
Maneesha, it is one of the most important problems for any seeker, to understand a clear distinction between cultivation and enlightenment. You can cultivate enlightenment, but that will be only phony. You may believe in it, but your belief cannot make it true. Even if the whole society supports it, it does not matter.
Truth needs no support; it has to be self-evident. And how can you cultivate enlightenment if you don’t know it? You will simply imitate other enlightened ones. But every enlightened person has a unique character of his own. Nobody can be another Isan. However hard he tries to cultivate, imitates every action of Isan, every word, still he cannot be Isan. He will remain himself, only with a cultured, cultivated layer around his mind. It will remain a mind act, and certainly enlightenment is not a mind act. So nobody can cultivate enlightenment.
But after enlightenment…
Enlightenment happens suddenly. You can follow a device, with no guarantee that it will lead to enlightenment. But if you have a living master with you, watching step by step where you are moving, supporting you with one hand, as one of the Indian mystics, Gora, used to say…Gora was a potter, a very poor man, but he came to the same height as Gautam Buddha. His language, of course, was that of a potter. But sometimes the raw language of the villagers can express things which very sophisticated language cannot.
Gora says that the master has to use both his hands, just like a potter. The potter hits the mud that he is turning into a pot from the outside with one hand, and from the inside with the other hand. His hits, his support, slowly create the pot.
The master has to use every possible way to bring you to the point where enlightenment is possible. Just a little push – either of circumstances or by the master, or by the disciple himself – just a little turn. One step, and the old world is gone and you have entered into a new sky.
This is very sudden, because you were not preparing for it – although for the master it is not sudden. He was preparing for it from every possible corner. Hitting you, shouting at you, being respectful to you – in every possible way the master was bringing you to the brink from where you need to take one step more. That step only you can take; the master can bring you up to the brink.