Many people—especially those who have read Chuan Deng Lu --tend to indulge in wild reveries centering on the subject of “the weird manner in which ‘enlightenment’ taking place in a particular practitioner”. Some have even arrived at the conclusion that ‘enlightenment’ must have been a deep mystical experience for the practitioner who underwent it. “On getting enlightened,” some said; “the practitioner involved would ascend to heaven on a puffy cushion made of multicolored clouds.” “Having secured enlightenment,” so said others; “the practitioner would be borne by a magic power up to a lotus throne where the multitudes were waiting to acclaim him a living Buddha.” Of course, suchlike utterances originated with some deluded minds.
Just as Vajra-Prajna-Paramita Sutra points out, “whoever turns to me for help while he is struggling for seizing some gains or whoever turns to me for beseeching me to bestow on him some propitious remarks, should be deemed as one deliberately lending himself to knavery. In that case it is absolutely out of the question that he should be favored with an insight into the origin of the manifestation of all aspects of existence.” For a lay person, enlightenment finally attained by a pious and hardworking practitioner should be duly regarded as a miracle. But for a pious and hardworking practitioner, attainment of enlightenment is an occurrence which is nothing out of the ordinary. Individual practitioners differ in karmic bonds. Consequently enlightenment grasps them in different ways. For some, enlightenment might come very abruptly just as in those cases which are recorded in Chuan Deng Lu. In those cases, the spiritual outlook of each of the protagonists took on an abrupt change for the better indeed. However there have been those individual practitioners who had experienced numerous minor—and yet explicit—enlightenments before they secured a major and decisive one on the basis of all the previous secondary successes. Still there have been such individual practitioners as had experienced a long continuum of almost unperceivable progress in the form of infinitesimal bits of enlightenment before the advent of their ultimate enlightenment which, strange to say, they themselves might not be even aware of.
To sum up, attainment of enlightenment is not an occurrence which can be pre-arranged or pre-planned. In most cases, karmic bonds can wax crucial as a decisive factor in maneuvering the arrival of enlightenment in a particular practitioner, though karmic bonds need to generally work in conjunction with a particular practitioner’s virtues and self-cultivation merits. In the absence of the latter, the occurrence in him of enlightenment is simply inconceivable. In pushing ahead with his self-cultivation, a practitioner must refrain from letting himself become obsessed with the expectation that he can attain his enlightenment in the shortest possible time. Otherwise he would be readily entrapped in psychosis as that might happen in some cases of extremity. Incidence of psychotic disturbance is not infrequent with the multitude of practitioners. A lack, in a practitioner, of long established virtues and of very sound spiritual foundation to underpin his severe self-cultivation effort is the basic cause leading to most cases of self-cultivation-induced psychosis. My earnest advice to Chan practitioners with regard to ensuring safety in self-cultivation is this: “Be pragmatic and be calm!”(From My Heart My Buddha)