Excerpt About Illumination
Even though I am mentioning the progressive view of the teaching, when I say that realization or awakening or enlightenment is nothing but the self-illumination of true nature, I mean that this self-illumination is happening from the beginning of spiritual practice. I don’t mean that at the beginning we are responsible for realization and that, at some point, true nature steps in. Every single time we experience and understand something about reality, it is true nature illuminating itself. When this illumination happens in a more total way, we call it awakening or realization or enlightenment. This perspective of the dynamic of realization—the relationship of practice and awakening—is an antidote to the delusion that we are liberating ourselves through our own individual efforts and capacities. When we side with this delusion, we are appropriating the liberating power of true nature. We are appropriating the light of true nature, its intelligence and clarity and awareness. The theistic traditions have useful measures to counteract this human tendency to appropriate. They make it clear that we are always at God’s mercy, that whatever good we derive is from God, that we are in a state of paucity and insufficiency. We are told from the beginning that whatever light, whatever intelligence, whatever illumination, whatever goodness arises is always a blessing, is always grace.