Question : Is the enlightenment slow process or a sudden process ?
There is either darkness or light. There is either enlightenment or ignorance. It is either “zero” or “1”. It is either “maya” or liberation. We need to understand the meaning of enlightenment and liberation.
The intellect aligned with the ego self “I” is called bondage – this is called jiva. The intellect understanding the falsehood of ego centric “I” is called enlightenment while aligning with the witness “sakshi” within is called liberation. Enlightenment is always a jump. A quantum jump. From ego to no ego. From mind to no mind. This jump is called Sudden Enlightenment/liberation – “Sadyomukti”. This is like “Eureka” moment. Moment of recognizing the Self within. Moment of Self recognition.
Self enquiry –“who am i?” leads to sudden enlightenment – sadyo mukti. Even though the enlightenment is a jump, removal of ignorance can be slow process. It is a slow process of gradual detachment from the sense objects, body –mind-ego complex. This is the process of karma mukti – gradual liberation by chipping away ignorance. But finally jump has to happen at the end of karma mukti for liberation. Hence there are two paths specified in Bhagavadgita – path of Jnana, path of karma. Path of Jnana for Sankhya yogis and path of Karma for karmayogis. The path of Jnana for sankhya yogis is path of awareness. Being aware of various levels of existence, manifestation of prakriti in body mind complex and establishment in the Self. On the otherhand, path of Karma yoga is path of purification.
Path of Purification – Karmayoga.
One whos mind is outwardly directed gets involved in various kinds of activities
Dropping of ignorance and wrong identification in stages. This is the path of yoga marga – Karma yoga.
Karma is of four kinds – physical (kaya), vacha (verbal), manasa (mental), buddhi (intellect).
Corresponding spiritual practices involving action/intention called – karma yoga, verbal – like prayers, chanting/japa, mental – upasana/contemplation- called dhyana yoga , intellectual – study of Vedanta, scriptures – called Jnana yoga, working on the body-mind complex – called kriya yoga. All these are clubbed under one heading called “karma yoga” or path of Purification.
In essence the path of Purification is path of Surrender. Surrender to the Lord – Ishwara. karma phala/mental modifications, ignorance.
Path of Wisdom - Path of Self Enquiry
Path of wisdom involves being aware of the elements of Prakriti/body-mind complex to separate self from non self. Developing witness consciousness. Developing detachment from evolutes of prakriti/nature and understanding that the self in me “Atman/ Sakshi” is nothing but Brahman. With this understanding, the intellect gets totally freed from Avidya – ignorance.
Analogy of Cutting of a Tree
The analogy for two types of enlightenment can be given – that of a cutting tree. There is a huge tree. Tree of samsara. The tree needs to be cut. What is the mechanism of cutting ? If we have good tools, we can straightaway go and drill a hole into the ground and cut the roots of the tree. The tree will die even though the stem, leaves and branches remain. This is sudden death for the tree. This represents the sudden enlightenment.- Sadyomukti. The tool required here is sharp intellect which can discriminate between the real/unreal, self and non-self.
On the other hand, the tree can be cut gradually. Cut branches first – one by one. Cut leaves. Cut the stem, dig the ground and finally pull out the root. This is karma mukti. – Gradual liberation.
Based on these two approaches, there are two philosophical systems in general – non-dualistic and dualistic. Non-dualistic systems stress on Jnana – wisdom leading to sudden liberation while dualistic systems stress on devotion – bhakti/service to the Lord for the purpose of purification eventually leading to liberation. These two are complementary systems depending on the nature of the spiritual aspirant.