The Ultimate Upgrade Neurosis

Between 2002 and 2004 I did more than 170 interviews to prepare for the book The Translucent Revolution. One of the things I asked everybody in those interviews was about enlightenment. Almost no-one I talked to would say ‘I am enlightened,’ nor would they say ‘I am trying to become enlightened.’ Instead most would say, ‘I have cancelled my subscription to the concept for enlightenment. What remains is not enlightened, it is not not-enlightened. It is just this awareness which has always been here.’

So it is interesting for us to consider what is enlightenment, and what it does to us when we believe in this concept. My teacher in India was named H.W.L.Poonja. The shift in consciousness happened for me in relationship with him. I remember one day, somebody asked him, “Papaji, what is enlightenment?” We used to call him Papaji. “‘What is enlightenment?’” he replied.“It is a word in the vocabulary of those who are asle


Let’s look into this. What does it mean? When people speak of enlightenment, they generally speak about a future

state. “Just now, I’m not enlightened, but maybe in the future….” Or maybe they might say, well, I am not enlightened, but the holy one up there on the podium, that is enlightenment.” What does that do to our experience of the present moment? If we hold a concept of a better future, or of somebody who is better than us up on a podium, what does it do to our experience of now? To our capacity to love? It distracts us from what is now, from where the mojo always is. The really revolutionary moment for a human being is not when you become enlightened, but when you finally abandon the concept of any future state better than this one. And then there is just this.

Today I got on a train from Vienna to Munich. The person who bought the ticket for me bought a Second Class ticket. That was perfectly OK. It had a place to plug in the computer, it had a table. My seat was by the window. Everything was good. But then I went for a walk to look for the bathroom, and I opened the sliding door into the First Class wagon, with a leather seats that recline. It looked very nice. So I asked the ticket inspector how much extra you have to pay to sit in the First Class. It was 40 Euro more. Then I walked a little further and there was another section, beyond the First class. They call it the Business Class. Now you get your own little light, the seat goes all the way back. Just a few seats in a private room. It was fantastic.

You see? Life is like that. There is always an upgrade. You can upgrade your seat. You can upgrade your car. You can upgrade your house, you can upgrade your job. You can upgrade your husband or your wife. For most of us, our entire life is about “How can I get an upgrade?” As I was standing in the Business Class section of the train, feeling desirous, and now feeling dissatisfied with my ordinary second class seat, I said to myself, “Arjuna, stop. It’s perfectly great where you are. It will make no difference to your enjoyment to sit here or to sit there.” And it was true. I returned to my seat in Second class, and enjoyed looking out of the window, cruising through the Bavarian Countryside.

Enlightenment is the ultimate upgrade neurosis. You can drive yourself crazy, thinking that there is something wrong with me like I am. “Oh my god, I’m having thoughts. I’m having negative thoughts. I’m thinking about ice cream. I’m having feelings in my body. Now I’m having feelings down here, below the waist. Oh my god! I need to become enlightened.” There is also the possibility to not fulfill the fantasy of the upgrade, but instead to go back to your perfect seat in Second Class and to fully enjoy the ride.

Our focus in Awakening Coaching is not really connected to the traditional idea of enlightenment, about becoming better. It is something different than that. It means to really see things as they already are. Not to upgrade, but to recognize that this moment is already perfect. We are here. We can see each other, we can meet. You are wearing such a beautiful hat. I love your shoes. I can smell the faint hint of gardenia. How can this be any more perfect than it already is? This moment is already perfect as it is, it doesn’t have to change. It is being experienced by consciousness, which also doesn’t have to change. It cannot change, it is infinite and still. So we speak about moments of awakening. Always now, always fresh, always new.

Words that end in _ING are always about now. This very moment now, a fresh moment of awakening. As soon as we put -ED at the end of the word, it smacks of an accomplishment, the end of a process. “Back in 1991 I became enlightened, and now I am enlightened.” But how about now, and now and now? This moment here is always a new invitation to awakening.

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3 Responses to “The Ultimate Upgrade Neurosis”

  1. Charlie Coxill January 10, 2013 at 2:40 pm // Reply

    Yes yes yes.
    No such thing….only THIS now!



  2. Christa January 20, 2013 at 11:24 pm // Reply

    Having grown up in a Western, Christian tradition, the concept of enlightenment was never tempting to me. When I became interested in meditation through the TM program I prayed and asked if this was right for me. I received a distinct message, that the meditation practice, itself (the mantra) would be very helpful to me, sort of like taking a vitamin, but that the spiritual teachings of Maharhishi were not for me. So I got my mantra and is has been very helpful to but not a replacement for my more Western spiritual practice.

    What does have meaning for me is the concept of Light. So if I think if “en-light-en-ment” as a process of bringing light or insight to a problem, it is meaningful. In the Swedish culture of which I am a product, we celebrate
    Santa Lucia as a bringer of light to a dark country in midwinter. I often pray “Let there be Light” on a subject when I was clarification or insight and it is very helpful.

    (could say more but that’s enough for now..) 🙂


  3. Christa January 20, 2013 at 11:27 pm // Reply

    correction: I meant to type “want clafication” in the last paragraph, not “was clarification.”


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