The phenomenon of "enlightenment" in Eastern spiritual traditions relates to a shift of consciousness from lower states to a higher, divine awareness.
One classic religious figure, the Buddha, was said to have achieved full enlightenment in 500 B.C. while sitting under a bhodi tree in northern India.
Spiritual teachers in India have a long tradition of imparting higher states of consciousness from generation to generation through direct transmission, often beginning with deekshas, or initiations into a lineage of spiritual leaders, both living and dead.
How do these traditions translate into Western society?
Michael Clingerman recently moved to Ketchum from Berkeley, Calif. He said he was confirmed "fully awakened" by avatar Sri Bhagavan, also known as Khalki Bhagavan, at a marble palace at the Oneness University near Chinnai, India, last year.
Clingerman will give a talk about his experience followed by a question-and-answer session on Thursday, Feb. 17, at 7 p.m., at Light on the Mountains Center for Spiritual Living, just off state Highway 75 south of Ketchum. On Saturday, Feb. 19, Clingerman and Ketchum physician's assistant Nanette Ford will offer a $75 "Oneness Awakening Course" at Light on the Mountains with instruction on how to become a "deeksha giver" and further transmit Clingerman's experience to others. The course will last from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Vasudha Narayanan, a religious studies professor at Florida State University, wrote a paper on Khalki Bhagavan 20 years ago after first hearing about him around 1989 when her parents' neighbor in Madras, India, became a devotee.
"About 15 million people around the world think of Kalki Bhagavan as the Supreme Being who will usher in a new age," Narayanan wrote in the paper, which was revised in 2002. "This golden age was inaugurated on Sept. 25, 1995, and will be fully realized in the year 2012.
"The Vishnu Purana and several other sacred texts consider Kalki to be the last incarnation/ avatara of Lord Vishnu. He has descended nine times already (23 times in an unedited version) and the last one for this cycle will be at the end of Kali Yuga, the present degenerate age. Some Hindu thinkers put the beginning of Kali Yuga around 3102 BCE, and since it is supposed to last 432,000 years (according to one reckoning), many Hindus are not expecting Kalki anytime soon."
Clingerman said in an interview that he was born into a Catholic family in Nebraska. He worked in Silicon Valley, Calif., and now owns a furniture business. His father served in the Navy and the family moved around.
Clingerman said he began to question his Catholic faith early on and is a "seeker." "Enlightenment is a permanent state, but not static," he said. "It keeps growing and growing. Once you have an experience of complete awakening, you have a desire to share the experience."
Tony Evans: firstname.lastname@example.org