Q.455 Physical changes on enlightenment

Q: In his book of talks called ‘The New Freedom’, Rajneesh (Osho) has stated that awakening disturbs the body and brain so much that a majority of people leave the body. Those who survive may suffer some severe physical deformity or inability to speak etc.

In the Gospel of Ramakrishna, Mahendranath Gupta relates how the Paramahamsa suffered on awakening. One of the changes that occurred was an enormous release of energy in the body which was unbearable. Adyashanti also states that the disturbance of the nervous system takes years to settle down. In ‘The Mystique of Enlightenment’, U. G. Krishnamurti has described at length the many drastic changes that took place in his body on account of awakening. In ‘Nothing is Everything’, a book on talks given by Nisargadatta Maharaj, the Sage is quoted as saying: “This body is on fire. Self-knowledge has a strange quality. Sometimes it is unbearable”.

What I want you to throw some light on, if possible, is the following:

Does awakening lead to drastic physical changes? Are they the same for all individuals or do these changes vary from person to person? Should one be deterred from attempting self-realization?

Steven Norquist, who claims to have awakened, told his audience in a 2010 talk available on the internet, that they should not seek awakening but should be ‘spiritual’. One of the reasons he mentioned was the bodily changes I have referred to.

I would also be obliged if you could suggest some literature on the subject, if it exists.

A: “Does awakening lead to drastic physical changes?” No.

“Are they the same for all individuals or do these changes vary from person to person?” It is certainly conceivable that such a significant change in the mental outlook could bring about some bodily change but I am not aware of any authoritative records of such a thing, and it is not relevant anyway – we are not the body or mind.

“Should one be deterred from attempting self-realization?” No.

“Steven Norquist, who claims to have awakened, told his audience in a 2010 talk available on the internet, that they should not seek awakening but should be ‘spiritual’”. What does this even mean??

“I would also be obliged if you could suggest some literature on the subject, if it exists”. Nothing in this vein exists in traditional Advaita texts to my knowledge and I would be more than surprised if it did!

‘Awakening’ is not a term that I would ever use. What happens on so-called enlightenment is that the mind realizes the truth of the non-dual teaching. Obviously this affects one’s mental outlook on life but otherwise, things continue pretty much as usual. There still seems to be a world and other people. It is just that one now knows that these are just forms of Brahman/Consciousness, in an analogous way to continuing to see waves and rivers etc., even knowing that all are just name and form of water.

I am surprised at your quotations. If literally true, they detract from the regard in which I hold those teachers. In the case of Osho, this is the sort of thing he might have said to insure that his audience was genuinely serious about seeking enlightenment. The ‘kundalini’ and ‘samAdhi’ to which Ramakrishna refers regarding ‘awakening’ have nothing to do with Advaita. Nor was U. G. Krishnamurti an Advaitin. The quotation from Nisargadatta does not necessarily mean what you suggest, especially if it is a poor translation. I don’t know anything about Norquist but don’t believe he was an Advaitin (or necessarily knew anything about Advaita). Lots of people speak or write about enlightenment but one thing you should know: if they make a big issue about the enlightenment ‘experience’, you can be pretty sure that they are not enlightened in the true sense of the word (having Self-knowledge).

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