“Enlightenment means an end to the endless wandering through the dreamlike passageways of life and death. It means you have found your home.” – Buddha
What is enlightenment?
For the simplest explanation, enlightenment is the realisation and getting to know your true inner self. It does not require you to do anything, it does not involve you to be anything and it does not involve any special course or techniques. It is understanding what your true inner self and nature has to offer. Buddha taught “I am enlightened because I have realised that enlightenment is knowing that there is nothing you have to do to be enlightened.”
What Does Enlightenment Feel Like?
“Completely comfortable at peace and at ease in every situation and every circumstance with a sense of true inner freedom, independent of both outer circumstances and internal emotions.” —Lama Surya Das
Many associate enlightenment with having some out of body or heightened experience, an external circumstance that gives us some kind of ‘extra’ or special experience. In reality this could not be further from the truth.
To reach or attain enlightenment is to truly experience, discover and understand who we really are. To be aware of the great light that shines deep within, to be conscious of and delight in the present moment.
“Leave everything as it is in fundamental simplicity and clarity will arise by itself. Only by doing nothing will you do all there is to be done…” – Khyentse Rinpoche
The journey of enlightened
The hardest thing most of us struggle with is present moment awareness. By practising this and being ‘in the moment’ we can start to understand what the great philosophers and thinkers are talking about. Without being present and experiencing the stillness and tranquillity of the moment it is very hard for us to be able to achieve a higher level of awareness and enlightenment. The process of letting go is possibly one of the most difficult things that we have to learn on our journey towards enlightenment. If we realise that everything passes, comes and goes, then we are much better placed to experience life by not resisting all it has to offer. It is our resistance that limits us to lives of suffering and constant craving.
How do I know if I am enlightened?
Enlightenment and awareness may differ from person to person. Enlightenment may show itself when you care more about others than yourself. It may come when you no longer feel the need to justify thoughts in your mind. It may come when you have given up seeking and are comfortable with where you are.
It is in the understanding that you are compassionate, loving and unconditional in everything you do. By seeking to help others and encouraging them to find the way to enlightenment you too will benefit in your journey towards enlightenment.
Practice simply being in a calm, tranquil state. Meditation and yoga are both great ways to practice getting in touch with your inner self. We spend little time just being, we are too busy scurrying around looking for something to do. Just be, don’t do anything, look inside yourself and get to know who you really are.
Stephen Levine in his 1979 book ‘A Gradual Awakening’ writes: “By clinging to things that we think we know or don’t know we block out deeper knowing. By letting go of everything – not through force, not by slaying it, but simply seeing all the content as a passing show, as process and flow – we become the whole of our experience and open to our natural understanding.”
He continues by saying, “The process of enlightenment can occur in two distinct ways. Like the steady growth of a tree towards the forest canopy it pushes its ways up through the undergrowth until it reaches the light. We too can slowly and gradually grow and mature until we come to the realisation that one day we will see the light and attain absolute clarity. On the other hand we may be suddenly woken from a deep slumber by a traumatic event or something that awakens our awareness.
By being completely in the present moment and detached from all things, you are not relying on any external stimuli to be happy. Happiness, peace and contentment are generated from within.”
For the most part we live in a state of separation, we create thoughts and scenarios in our minds that do not represent reality. We create these realities that go toward deluding ourselves. In this world of constant struggle, we suffer, causing ourselves pain, frustration and isolation. To live free and enlightened is to release ourselves from these self-inflicted negative states of mind. We are free to do this at any time we choose, it is merely a matter of choice.