There are no degrees of enlightenment. Once it is, it is there. It is just like jumping into an ocean of feeling. You jump, you become one with it, like a drop dropping into the ocean becomes one with it.
But that doesn't mean that you have known the whole ocean.
The moment is total: the moment of dropping the ego - the moment of ego elimination, the moment of egolessness - is total; it is complete. As far as you are concerned, it is perfect. But as far as the ocean is concerned, as far as the divine is concerned, it is just a beginning, and there will be no end to it.
One thing to remember: ignorance has no beginning, but it has an end. You cannot know from what point your ignorance begins; you always find it there; you are always in the midst of it. You never know the beginning: there is no beginning.
Ignorance has no beginning, but it ends. Enlightenment has a beginning, but it never ends. And both of these become one; they both are one. The beginning of enlightenment and the end of ignorance is a single point. It is one point, a dangerous point with two faces: one face looking toward beginningless ignorance and the other face looking at the beginning of endless enlightenment.
So you reach enlightenment, but yet you never reach it. You come to it, you drop into it, you become one with it, but still a vast unknown remains. And that is the beauty of it; that is the mystery of it.
If everything was known in enlightenment, there would be no mystery. If everything became known, the whole thing would become ugly; then there would be no mystery, everything would be dead. So enlightenment is not "knowing" in this sense; it is not knowing as a suicide, it is knowing in the sense that it is an opening into greater mysteries. "Knowing" then means that you have known the mystery, you have become aware of the mystery. It is not that you have solved it: it is not that there is a mathematical formula and now everything is known. Rather, the knowing of enlightenment means that you have come to a point where the mystery has become ultimate. You have known that this is the ultimate mystery; you have known it as a mystery, now it has become so mysterious that you cannot hope to solve it. Now you leave all hope.
But it is not despair, it is not hopelessness; it is just understanding the nature of the mystery. The mystery is such that it is insoluble; the mystery is such that the very effort to solve it is absurd. The mystery is such that to try to solve it through the intellect is meaningless: you have come to the limit of your thinking. Now there is no thinking at all, and knowing begins.
But this is something very different from the knowing of science. The very word science means knowing, but knowing in the sense of making a mystery demystified. Religious knowing means something quite the contrary. It is not demystifying reality; rather, all that was known before becomes mysterious again, even ordinary things about which you were confident, absolutely confident, that you knew. Now even that gate is lost. Everything, in a way, becomes gateless - endless and unsolvable.
Knowing must be conceived of in this sense: it is participating in the exclusive mystery of existence; it is saying yes to the mystery of life. The intellect - intellectual theory - is not there now; you are face to face with it. It is an existential encounter - not through the mind, but through you, the totality of you. Now you feel it from everywhere: from your body, from your eyes, from your hands, from your heart. The total personality comes in contact with the total mystery.
This is just a beginning. And the end will never be, because the end would mean demystifying it.
This is the beginning of enlightenment. There is no end to it, but this is the beginning. You can conceive of the end of ignorance, but there will be no end to this enlightened state of mind. Now you have jumped into a bottomless abyss.
You can conceive of it from so many points of view. If one comes to this state of mind through kundalini it will be an endless flowering. The one thousand petals of the sahasrar do not mean exactly one thousand: the "one thousand" simply means the greatest number - it is symbolic. This means that the petals of kundalini that are flowering are endless; they will go on opening and opening and opening. So you will know the first opening, but the last will never be there because there is no limit to it. One can come to this point through kundalini or one can come to it through other ways.
Kundalini is not indispensable.
Those who reach enlightenment by other paths come to this same point, but the name will be different, the symbol will be different. You will conceive of it differently because what is happening cannot be described, and what is being described is not exactly what is happening. The description is an allegory, the description is metaphoric. You can say it is like the flowering of a flower - though there is no flower at all. But the feeling is just as if you are a flower that is beginning to open; the same feeling of opening is there. But someone else can conceive of it differently. He can say, "It is like the opening of a door - a door that leads to the infinite, a door which goes on opening." So one can use anything.
Tantra uses sex symbols. They can use them! They say, "It is a meeting, an endless union."
When tantra says, "It is just like maithuna, intercourse, what is meant is:
a meeting of individuals with the infinite - but endless, eternal.
It can be conceived of in this way, but any conception is bound to be just a metaphor. It is symbolic; it is bound to be. But when I say symbolic, I do not mean that a symbol has no meaning.
A symbol has meaning as far as your individuality is concerned because you conceived of it in this way. You cannot conceive of it otherwise. A person who has not loved flowers, who has not known flowering, who has passed by flowers but remained unacquainted with them, whose whole life is not concerned with the realm of flowering, cannot feel it as a flowering. But if you feel it as a flowering, it means so many things; it means that the symbol is natural to you, it corresponds somehow to your personality.
After the sahasrar opens, there should be no feeling but inner silence and void. The feeling will be acute in the beginning - when you feel it for the first time it will be very acute - but the more you know it, the less acute it will become. The more you become one with it, the more it will lose its acuteness.
Then a moment comes - and it must come - when you will not feel it at all.
Feeling is always of the new. You feel that which is strange; you do not feel that which is not strange.
The strangeness is felt. If it becomes one with you and you have known it, you won't feel it, but that doesn't mean that it will not be there. It will be there, even more than before. It will go on intensifying more and more, but the feeling will be there less and less. And the moment will come when there will be no feeling; there will be no sense of "otherness," so the feeling will not be there.
When the flowering of the sahasrar comes for the first time, it is something other than you. It is unknown to you and you are unacquainted with it. It is something penetrating into you, or you are penetrating into it. There is a gap between you and it, but the gap will gradually drop and you will become one with it. Now you will not see it as something happening to you; you will become the happening. It will go on expanding and you will become one with it.
Then you will not feel it. You will notice it, but will not feel it any more than you feel your breathing.
You feel your breathing only when something new, or wrong, has happened to you; otherwise you do not feel it. You do not even feel your body unless some disease has crept in, unless you are ill. If you are completely healthy, you do not feel it: you just have it. Really, your body is more alive when you are healthy, but you do not feel it. You need not feel it; you are one with it.
All these things will drop. All pictures will drop - visions, everything, will drop, because these things come only in the beginning. They are good signs, but they will drop away.
Before the opening of the sahasrar comes, many visions will come to you. These are not unreal; visions are real, but with the opening of the sahasrar there will be no more visions. They will not come because this "flowering experience" is the peak experience for the mind, it is the last experience for the mind; beyond this, there will be no mind.
All that is happening beforehand is happening to the mind, but the moment you transcend mind, there will be nothing. When the mind ceases, there will be neither mudras - outward expressions of psychic transformation - nor visions; neither flowers nor serpents. There will be nothing at all, because beyond mind there is no metaphor. Beyond mind the reality is so pure that there is no otherness; beyond mind the reality is so total that it cannot be divided into the experiencer and the experienced.
Within the mind, everything is divided into two. You experience something - you may call it anything; the name doesn't matter - but the division between the experiencer and the experienced, the knower and the known, remains. The duality remains.
But these visions are good signs because they come only in the last stages. They come only when the mind is to drop; they come only when the mind is to die. Particular mudras and visions are symbolic only, symbolic in the sense that they indicate a coming death for the mind. When the mind dies there will be nothing left. Or, everything will be left, but the divisions between the experiencer and the experienced will not be there.
Mudras, visions - particularly visions - are experiences; they indicate certain stages. It is just like when you say, "I was dreaming": we can take it for granted that you were asleep because dreaming indicates sleep. And if you say, "I was daydreaming," then too you have dropped into a sort of sleep, because dreaming is possible only when the mind, the conscious mind, has gone to sleep. So dreaming is indicative of sleep: in the same way, mudras and visions are indicative of a particular state.
You may see visions of certain figures - you can identify them - and these figures, too, will be different for different individuals. The figure of Shiva cannot come to a Christian mind. It cannot; there is no possibility of it coming, but Jesus will come. That will be the last vision for a Christian mind, and it is very valuable.
The last vision to be seen is of a central religious figure. This central figure will be the last vision. To a Christian - and by Christian I mean one who has imbibed the language of Christianity, the symbols of Christianity, one whose Christianity has entered his blood and bones from his very childhood - the figure of Jesus on the cross will be the last. The knower, the experiencer, is still present, but at the very end there will be the savior. It has been experienced; you cannot deny it. In the last moment of the mind - of the dying mind - in the end, Jesus is there.
But to a Jaina, Jesus cannot come; to a Buddhist, Jesus cannot come. To a Buddhist, the figure of Buddha will be there. The moment the sahasrar opens - with the opening of the sahasrar, Buddha will be there. That is why Buddha is visualized on a flower. The flower was never placed there for the real Buddha - under his feet the flower was not there - but the flower is placed there in statues because statues are not real replicas of Gautam Buddha. They are the representation of the last vision to come into the mind. When the mind drops into the eternal, Buddha is seen in this way: on the flower.
That is why Vishnu is placed on a flower. This flower is symbolic of the sahasrar, and Vishnu is the last figure to be seen by a Hindu mind. Buddha, Vishnu, Jesus, are archetypes - what Jung calls archetypes.
The mind cannot conceive of anything abstractly, so the last effort of the mind to understand reality will be through the symbol that has been most important to it. This peak experience of the mind is the mind's last experience. The peak is always the end; the peak means the beginning of the end.
The peak is the death, so the opening of the sahasrar is the peak experience of the mind, the utmost that is possible with the mind, the last that is possible with the mind. The last figure - the centralmost figure, the deepest one, the archetype - will come. And it will be real. When I say "vision," many will deny that it is real. They will say that it cannot be real because they think the word vision means illusionary, but it will be more real than reality itself. Even if the whole world denies it, you will not be ready to accept the denial. You will say, "It is more real to me than the whole world. A stone is not so real as the figure I have seen. It is real; it is perfectly real." But the reality is subjective; the reality is colored by your mind. The experience is real but the metaphor is given by you, so Christians will give one metaphor, Buddhists will give another, Hindus will give another.
No, transcendence is beyond the opening. But enlightenment has two connotations. One, the dying mind - the ending mind, the mind that is going to die, the mind that has come to its peak, the mind that has come to its last - conceives of the enlightenment. But a barrier has come and now the mind will not go beyond this. The mind knows that it is ending, and with its ending the mind also knows the end of suffering; the mind also knows the end of division; the mind also knows the end of the conflict that was there. All this ends and the mind conceives of this as enlightenment, but it is still the mind that is conceiving of it. So this is enlightenment conceived of by the mind.
When the mind has gone, then the real enlightenment comes. Now you have transcended, but you cannot talk about it, you cannot say anything about it. That is why Lao Tzu says, "All that can be said cannot be true. That which can be said will not be true, and the truth cannot be said. Only this much can be said, and only this much is true."
And this is the last statement of the mind. This last statement has meaning, much meaning, but it is not transcendental. The meaning is still a limitation of the mind; it is still mental, it is still conceived of through the mind.
It is just like a flame, a flame in a lamp that is just going to die. Darkness is descending; the darkness is coming, it is encircling nearer and nearer, and the flame is dying, the flame has come to the very end of its existence. It says, "Now there is darkness," and it goes out of existence. Now the darkness has become full and complete. But the last statement of the dying flame was known by the flame:
the darkness was not complete because the flame was there, the light was there. The darkness was conceived of by the light.
The light cannot really conceive of darkness; the light can only conceive of its own limitations, and beyond that is darkness. The darkness was coming nearer and nearer and the light was going to die.
It could make its last statement, "I am going to die," and then the darkness was there. The darkness had been coming and coming and coming; then the light made its last statement and dropped, and the darkness was complete. So the statement was true, but not the truth.
There is a difference between true and truth. Truth is not a statement. The flame has gone and darkness is there; this is truth. Now there is no statement: darkness is there. The statement was true, it was not untrue. It was true: darkness was coming, enclosing, encircling. But still, the statement was made by light, and a statement made by light about darkness can, at the most, be true - not truth.
When the mind is not there, the truth is known: when the mind is not, the truth is. And when the mind is, you can be more true, but not truth; you can be less untrue, but not truth. The last statement that the mind can make will be the least untrue, but that is all that can be said.
So between enlightenment as conceived of by the mind and enlightenment as such, there is much difference, though it is not great. With a dying flame, there is not a single moment before it will die. Then the flame dies, and simultaneously the darkness comes. There is not a single moment between the two conditions, but the difference between them is great.
A dying mind will see visions in the end - visions of that which is coming. But these will be visions conceived of through metaphors, pictures, archetypes. The mind cannot conceive of anything else; the mind is trained in symbols, nothing else. There are religious symbols, artistic symbols, aesthetic, mathematical, and scientific symbols, but these are all symbols. This is how the mind is trained.
A Christian will see Jesus, but a mathematician who is dying, a mind that has been trained nonreligiously, may see nothing in the last moment but a mathematical formula. It may be a zero or it may be a symbol of infinity, but it will not be Jesus, not be Buddha. And a Picasso dying may just see an abstract flow of colors at the last moment. That will be the divine to him; he cannot conceive of the divine otherwise.
So the end of the mind is the end of symbols, and at the end the mind will use the most significant symbol that it knows. And after that, because there is no mind, there will be no symbols.
This is one reason why neither Buddha nor Mahavira talked about symbols. They said that there was no use talking about them since they are all below enlightenment. Buddha would not talk about symbols, and because of this he said that there were eleven questions that should not be asked to him. It was declared that no one should ask these eleven questions; and they should not be asked because they could not be truly answered: a metaphor would have to be used.
Buddha used to say, "I would not like to use any metaphor. But if you ask and I do not reply, you will not feel good. It will not be gentlemanly; it will not be courteous. So, please, do not ask these questions. If I reply to you it will be courteous, but untrue; so do not put me in this dilemma. As far as the truth is concerned, I cannot use a symbol; I can use symbols only to approximate non-truth or approximate truth."
So there will be persons who will not use any metaphors, any visions. They will deny everything, because truth conceived of by the mind cannot be enlightenment itself; these are two different things.
The conceptions of the mind will go when the mind goes, and then enlightenment will be there, but without mind.
So the enlightened personality is without mind - a no-mind personality, living, but without any conceptions; doing, but not thinking about it; loving, but without the concept of love; breathing, but without any meditation. So living will be moment to moment and one with the total, but mind will not be there in between. The mind divides, and now there will be no division.