In this video (see link below), Rupert Spira teaches a Buddhist practitioner that there is no such thing “completion” in an extraordinary future event called “enlightenment,” and that the “light of pure knowing” does not get any brighter with practice over time. There is only recognition or lack of recognition of this already perfect light of pure knowing. On this, I agree. But there is more. I’m not sure that Spira knows or understands what “enlightenment” is in the Dhamma.
First, recognition does not equate with alignment, let alone alignment without any gap or residue. Once recognized, there is a journey of aligning one’s experience of body, mind, space, time, and the world with this recognition. This is a process. There is completion or lack of it in this process.
Second, recognition does not equate with eradication of defilements and its residues. Defilements are greed, hatred, and delusion (which includes “I-am” conceit). They persist as long as there is even a sliver of non-recognition of pure knowing. Thus, momentary gaps in recognition in everyday life would find expression in persistence of defilements and their residues.
Even in the seeming timelessness of recognition, it is possible that subtle imprints of ignorance (of “am-ness” and “is-ness”) remain. Hence, there is completion or lack of completion in this process of coming into seamless uninterrupted awareness where even residues of “am-ness” and “is-ness” remain no more.
Third, eradicating these subtle imprints requires penetrative insight-knowing beyond mere recognition of awareness. What sort of insight? Insight into what? It is insight into the essence of that very awareness itself. This is not easy to see. But for discourse sake, what exactly is this essence? It is emptiness (sunyata). Emptiness of what? Emptiness of inherent existence, of existing from its own side, of existing as not imputed or labelled by word and idea.
For even the “light of pure knowing” cannot be said to “be” on its own, independent of word and idea. Speaking of awareness is an act of word and idea. Every activity of word and idea saturated with grasping and clinging leaves traces or residues of perception of inherent existence in the mind near its core. Penetrative insight into emptiness directly counteracts and removes these subtle imprints completely, like water extinguishing fire.
From knowing’s perspective, there is no increase or decrease, no completion or lack thereof. But from everyday experience’s perspective (of body-mind-world), there is indeed a process of alignment and eradication towards completion.
The Buddha is one who has completed this process of alignment and eradication. His enlightenment event was simultaneously a complete alignment and eradication event, something rarer than rare for humanity. For most of us, our enlightenment event is followed by a lifetime (or less) process of alignment and eradication. More than that, the Buddha is one who has “fully” blossomed all intrinsic qualities of pure empty awareness—peace, happiness, bliss, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, love, compassion, equanimity, empathetic joy, faithfulness, self-mastery, and more.
Yet, while Buddhist discourse says that this is the end, the fullness of enlightenment, I don’t think they are right. My sense is that the journey of enlightenment has no end. Why? This is because “full” recognition, alignment, eradication, and insight pertains only to the pure awareness of you and I as individual streams of consciousness. While experientially one and boundless, pure awareness of empty being is but a sliver of God’s immaculate infinite Being in actuality. We taste that nonduality in experience. But in reality and substantively, God is God and we are we.
Thus, enlightenment acts as a portal into the unending process of growing into God’s infinite plenitude, in and through Christ. This process is beyond enlightenment or enlightenment upon enlightenment, if you like. It’s a process that is enmeshed in the fabric of God’s triune Being where we are drawn into an endlessly ecstatic communion dance of unitive love amongst Father, Son, and Spirit without measure—three infinite Persons of the One pristine light, life, and love of being-knowing-bliss (saccidananda), each containing the whole and the whole including each.
Enlightenment is an end and a beginning. Beyond buddhahood is Christ-likeness without end. Be open, seeking truth beyond comfort zones.