I believe that enlightenment is a fluid state, one which a person naturally will transcend to and descend from over the course of their journey.
If one were to reach a permanent state of enlightenment—be it moksha, nirvana, whatever term may be used—one would have to shed their mortal coils and become one with the ether, simultaneously everything and nothing at all.
Many gurus are able to travel quite freely between the state of enlightenment and mortality, but as long as one dwells in a physical body, one cannot fully detach themselves from its base urges.
Allow me a moment to define what I mean by mortality as an opposite to enlightenment. I chose the word mortality as it is so closely entwined with the concept of death.
When I did my yoga teacher training in Vancouver, I learned one becomes enlightened, one steps out of time and space as we know it. There is no fear of death, as death is a construct as much as time and space.
When one is mortal, one is ignorant, afraid, selfish, and harmful. When one is enlightened, they transcend that suffering and move beyond into the infinite empathy which erases the borders between us.
That last sentence is also why I believe enlightenment to be a state. If a mortal person talks to an enlightened being, the enlightened one must descend back to an individual state to function in coherent dialogue.
“Guru, why am I not happy?” one may ask. To respond to that question, the guru must acknowledge a degree of separation between them in order to address the knowledge which, although inherent, is not mutually understood.
There is also the issue of bodily functions, such as hunger, fatigue, and elimination. In order to acknowledge that one’s body has needs, a person must make the distinction that it is their specific body that must use the washroom or replenish energy with food and rest.
Make no mistake, bodies are animalistic properties. They are wired for corporeal survival, which means that they are constantly seeking base fulfillment and do not have a limit on their consumption of the means to that fulfillment, be it too much sleep, too much eating, too much pleasure, etc.
It is our duty as the inhabitants of these bodies to regulate their intake, exercising moderation to keep ourselves balanced and well. One who is detached from their sense of body cannot maintain that balance and wellness.
To me, a person who is as close to enlightenment as a mortal can be, is one who recognizes that seeking enlightenment is a lifelong journey.
B.K.S. Iyengar acknowledges that he feels pain, that he is imperfect, that he is still learning along with the rest of us.
We can strive to live by the principles set out by the yogic journey, aiming to live our lives fluidly moving in and out of the state of enlightenment.
To presume that we can ever reach a constant state of enlightenment and continue to live on this Earth, however, seems like an idealistic imagination of the ego which only serves to keep us from attaining it in any form at all.