Can an intellectually handicapped person be spiritually enlightened?

What I learned in a psychopaedic hospital

True or false? An intellectually handicapped person can be spiritually enlightened.

As part of my writing research, I was once shown through a hospital for the intellectually handicapped. Before visiting the most severely affected patients, the superintendent warned me that I could find the experience disturbing. He said, “I never enjoy going into this room, because when I look into their eyes I see that whatever’s going on in there, it isn’t nothing.”

One patient in particular (I’ll call her Nancy) had about her what I can only describe as a glow. She could utter no words, but she approached, touched my upper arms, and looked directly into my eyes. Her own eyes were filled with joy and love; and connection, as if she somehow recognized me. It was shocking – wonderfully shocking – from someone I might be expected to pity. She had something priceless that I did not have. She left me to return to the others, but her glow remained with her and all the while I was in that room, it connected with everyone around her.

The superintendent commented dryly, “Everyone loves Nancy.”

So, what do you think? Is the statement at the beginning true or false?  

It’s true. Yes, yes, yes, it’s true. Intelligence possesses no fast track to enlightenment. Nor does knowledge. Nor does even an encyclopedic knowledge of the words of the great masters. None of it says anything of our personal spiritual enlightenment and spiritual growth.

So what does? What is enlightenment? 

You’re enlightened when you know your neighbour as another face in the mirror. You’re enlightened when you know yourself as both the creator and the created.  You’re enlightened when you know a trillion invisible streams as a visible ocean. And you’re enlightened when you know that the question of enlightenment has the same answer as the question, “What am I?” 

My friend Tom in the US has just sent me this koan: “I’ll give you an orange,” the student challenged the master, “if you can tell me where God is.” “I’ll give you two oranges,” replied the master, “if you can tell me where God is not.”

For more, visit my website and read the article, the third universal truth.

Next week, I’ll tell you about an experiment  I conducted with a school science class, using a pot plant to identify a suspect.

Yes, a pot plant.

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