Enlightenment Intensives were devised by an American spiritual teacher named Charles Berner (1929–2007), also known as Yogeshwar Muni. Berner had been developing the use of interpersonal communication processes for personal growth during the 1960s. He observed that those who tended not to make much progress in their personal growth would be those who did not actually know who they were – that is, they were “identified” with their false self-images or egos or personalities, unaware of their true inner being. Traditional techniques for experiencing self-realization, such as the ancient yogic method of self-enquiry using the question “Who am I?” (as taught in the Twentieth Century by Ramana Maharshi), were too long term for the average Westerner seeking personal growth.
The inspiration for Enlightenment Intensives came to Berner one sunny Spring afternoon in 1968.
“I had four or five hours one afternoon with nothing to do. I was in the Santa Cruz mountains in California, staring at the trees in a nice quiet area … Suddenly the whole idea of the Enlightenment Exercise occurred to me and moments later it occurred to me to use the format of a Zen sesshin [intensive meditation retreat], but to call it an intensive. So essentially the basic outline of both the Enlightenment Technique and the Enlightenment Intensive came to me at that time. And what source it came from I know not but it wasn’t a process of sitting down and figuring it out. It occurred to me in one moment. I was just reflecting on this problem on this beautiful spring afternoon and suddenly it came to me: why don’t we take the age-old question of ‘Who am I?” which is at least 7,000 years old, and combine it with the communication techniques that I had learned? And thus was born the Enlightenment Intensive.”
The first experimental Enlightenment Intensive was held in the Californian desert soon afterwards. Berner went on to run dozens of Intensives over the next few years, gradually refining the format, the rules, the technique and so on. Having optimized the retreat for the “weekend truth-seeker”, he also trained others to lead Enlightenment Intensives in the same manner. His 99th and last Enlightenment Intensive was held in Berkeley in 1975.
Enlightenment Intensives are now held in many countries around the world. You may have noticed there are also numerous derivations of the Enlightenment Intensive which include some alteration of the format or technique and go by different names. For example, Berner taught members of the Rajneesh the Enlightenment Intensive format and it is now used extensively in their organisation. Enlightenment Intensives can be offered as a “stand-alone” process, outside of any tradition or movement or organization.