Spiritual Enlightenment is of Many Kinds
Spiritual enlightenment or realization is the attainment of a particular divine power. That attainment becomes a constant blissful experience of the divine for the enlightened practitioner. A by-product of this realization is that the limiting effect of his material or mayic bondage ends forever.
What is a divine power? In the material world, powers are formless. Electricity is generated by the movement of electrons, but what does it actually look like? What is the form of electricity? We only see its effect when we plug an appliance into an electrical outlet.
Hinduism elaborates in great detail on the nature of divine powers. Contributions to and verifications of this body of knowledge come from enlightened Saints' experience of God. What we can understand from our limited perspective is that divine powers are exactly the opposite of material powers in one important way. All divine powers have a form.
There are different qualities of divine bliss that relate to the different forms of God whose names appear in the scriptures. Some of these names include Lakchmi Vishnu, Durga, Kali, Shiva, Ganesha, Kartikeya, Sita, Rama, Radha and Krishna.
The bliss of nondual spiritual enlightenment is related to the impersonal or formless aspect of God called nirakar brahm. Oftentimes understood to be the ultimate divine state, formless divinity is actually dependently established in the personal form of God (called sakar brahm). If every divine power has a form, what is this formless aspect?
For example, the sun is the source of two formless energies, heat and light. Either heat or light could be considered to be an independent power, but if we take away the sun, both would cease to exist. So both are dependently established in the sun.
Similarly, the formless aspect of divinity is like a divine blissful effulgence or radiance that is dependently established in its origin, the personal form of God. Although this effulgence is intrinsically related to God's form, it is also realized separately by jnanis and yogis. Click here for more details.
Although God is one absolute, indivisible existence, because of these unique characteristics, the divine existence appears to have many contradictory facets.
If you look at a diamond from a particular angle, it will seem to have a certain appearance. If you turn the same diamond so it faces the light differently, it will have a different sparkle and luster.
It's appearance may look so different it may seem like a separate stone, but you are only seeing a different facet of the same object.
Similarly, according to the Hindu scriptures, when God is expressing a particular divine power (just as you are positioning a diamond to face the light in a certain way) He manifests a unique form. Form and power are one. That form changes when a different power is expressed.
Spiritual enlightenment or divine realization means to attain ONE divine power. This refinement of your spiritual goal focuses your efforts and ensures success in your spiritual practice.
The proper and most beneficial sequence to receive the guidance of a true Guru who has fully realized the divine goal. He or she in turn will explain that goal and the specific guidelines you must practice to reach it, as well as inspiring you with his or her blissful personal experiences of that goal.
That enlightened Saint will also provide an internal grace and protection based on your dedication and surrender that will facilitate your progress. In the end, the Saint graces his disciple with the same power he has attained. He transfers that spiritual enlightenment to the qualified disciple. No Guru can give what he doesn't possess.
There is no high or low or greater or lesser in the spiritual enlightenment of Saints. To diminish the attainment of one Saint as being inferior to the realization of another Saint is ignorance. Any kind and class of spiritual enlightenment is a source of unlimited bliss. However, Saints and scriptures delineate some distinctions in this bliss that relate to the feeling of closeness and intimacy with God. These are:
The impersonal realization of nirakar brahm (formless aspect of God) reveals an experience of nondual bliss called brahm-anand. As the diagram above illustrates, it is like the branch of a rose plant minus the sweet flower and its perfume.
A feeling of relationship with God begins with the realization of sakar brahm (the form of God) as Mahalakchmi-Mahavishnu and the attainment of almighty bliss (aishwarya-ananda). Through this realization God's divine form, divine beauty, proximity is perceived, not His loving intimacy. Like the rosebud above, beauty begins here, but the full expression of the flower is still concealed.
Beyond this there is a modified experience of almighty bliss mixed with divine love bliss in the form of Sita Ram. A feeling of intimacy begins from this realization. This is like the partially bloomed-rose above. Some inner beauty is now visible, as well as a hint of the rose's beautiful perfume.
Beyond this is the realization of Radha Krishna or pure divine love bliss (prem-ananda). This is the most enriched, most proximate, and most intimate experience of God a soul could experience in an enlightened state. This love is like the fully-bloomed rose, where the charm and attraction of the flower is at its greatest - full perfume, full beauty.
For example imagine a person is observing the earth planet from a distant galaxy. The earth may at best appear as a pinpoint of light. As he comes within range of the moon, he can now see much more detail - clouds, land masses, water. When he penetrates the earth's atmosphere, space is left behind and only land appears. When he reaches the surface of the earth and exits his craft, he can now feel the loving association and joyous embrace of the local residents.
Similarly, although it is a class of spiritual enlightenment, from the point of view of divine loving intimacy, the experience of nirakar brahm (impersonal divinity) is the most distant experience of the divine.
Beyond this is the experience of almighty power (aishwarya-ananda). This is like being close to the moon and seeing the earth - there is a clear perception of God and the experience of divine beauty, but no divine intimacy.
Entering the earth's atmosphere is like the modified form of Sita-Ram, which is a mixture of almighty and divine love powers. Some expression of loving closeness is now present.
But it is only when our visitor lands and feels a close embrace that he has the sweetest experience of his journey. Similarly, the realization of Radha Krishna or divine love power (prem-ananda) is the realization of the sweetest, most charming, most intimate quality of God's bliss.
Just as the earth planet remained the same for our traveler, whether he was distant or near, so God remains one in all His divine forms and expressions of divine power.
It is our choice which aspect of divinity we wish to approach, but the science of God realization is we must choose just one aspect as our spiritual goal. The quality of your experience of divine bliss is determined by this.
The knowledge of the personal form of God is essential in all aspects of bhakti yoga meditation practice.