Why is it that so few people become enlightened? Millions of people all over the world are meditating. Others (or the same ones) are contemplating about what the enlightened self may be. Our great masters use different terms: self realization, emptiness, God, Presence, True Self, That, etcetera, etcetera. However they all agree on one thing: basically the enlightened self is the same for everyone. It may be experienced differently, but basically there is only one True Self that can be reached. Why is it that so few people attain that?
The classical explanation is that we won’t give up our ego. We stick to our ego as a drowning person to a lifebuoy. We put a lot of effort in the development of it as a means for survival in this life. To give it up would cause a deep anxiety. Nevertheless the masters are telling us that this is exactly what needs to happen if we want to reach self realization. It is a necessary condition, our most difficult growing edge to cross.
Marc Gafni is giving a slightly different explanation.* He says we are all unique. In my own words: We have our unique finger prints, or unique gifts to give to the world, our unique talents, character traits and life purpose. We form a unique pattern that wants to be fulfilled and expressed in the world. Our deepest desire is to discover our Unique Self, as he is calling it, our own uniqueness. That is what for us is self realization. And that is why we don’t want to be enlightened, because enlightened we are all the same (or so we think).
Our ego is part of our unique self: our unique pattern to survive in the world. Gafni says it is a misconception that we have to give it up to reach our True Self. We only have to detach from it. If we fully realize this we don’t have to be afraid to strive for enlightenment. Then it will be easy to reach True Self, but having reached that, the work goes on with discovering our Unique Self. As he says it: True Self with a (personal) perspective = Unique Self.
Personally I have a different experience. Indeed is finding and developing my Unique Self my deepest desire that leads to a lifelong adventure trip. Like all adventures it brings all kinds of feelings: excitement, joy, pain, fear, contentment. One of the results is indeed knowing and loving my ego, and gradually also letting it go. Other results are insight, clarity, strength, the experience of beauty and taking more and more responsibility. I came far on the road to my Unique Self. But still I can’t say I am an enlightened person in the classical meaning of the word. Glimpses of my True Self I have experienced, but being in a state of True Self is still to be attained. I may not be afraid anymore to reach my True Self, but it still for me is a mystery.
* Marc Gafni, Your Unique Self, 2012
(I apologize for mistakes in my English. Blogs are cursory – not stuff for correction by a native speaker)