“To know yourself as the being underneath the thinker, the mental noise, the love and joy underneath the pain, is freedom, salvation, enlightenment.”
Enlightenment, the Holy Grail, if you will, of spiritual seekers. It is the endgame of the serious student. Gautama Siddharta, later known as the Buddha, is probably the most well known person to have reached enlightenment. Born a wealthy prince c. the 6th-4th centuries BC in what is now Nepal, Gautama was shielded from the sufferings of the world such as sickness, old age, and death. His life would change however. At the age of twenty-nine he asked to be taken through the city. His father agreed but had all the sick and elderly removed from the streets. Gautama however, saw an old man and was told about old age. Afterwards he took more trips outside the palace. He saw sick people and even corpses on these excursions. Gautama decided to leave the palace and entered the forest where he studied meditation for the next six years. He vowed that he would sit under a tree until he found the state beyond birth and death. Mara, the god of desire attacked and tempted him, after two nights he finally reached enlightenment, understanding the four truths: Suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path to the cessation of suffering.
One doesn’t have to be a Buddha to reach a state of enlightenment though. This begs the question: What is enlightenment?
To be spiritually enlightened we must passionately strive to awaken spiritually, gain precise knowledge of our true nature with God. We must obtain knowledge of what we need to do to allow our inherent potential to awaken spiritually, for we are a part of God. There is no separation, but we identify with incorrect mental states and outside conditions. This sustains the illusion of independence from God. If we can fix this incorrect perception, we can align our awareness to its correct state. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that we are mortal beings, we, and God are one.
So, what can we do in our striving to reach enlightenment? Spiritual awakening can be gradual, with small insights coming before discoveries, or they may occur instantaneously. In order to be more receptive to these insights we can practice meditation to clarify our awareness, we can live an orderly life, practice mental calmness, emotional peace, rational thinking, enthusiasm, and self-discipline. To grow spiritually, we must practice compassion, be truthful and honest, we can cultivate healthy habits and practice meditation.
Some of the positive results we receive from walking this path are: Improved imagination, improved thinking, and ultimately, the liberation of consciousness. So we can take small steps to enlightenment and break up our journey. Be happy and give love. To be a loving person you must accept where you are in life, and accept yourself as you are. Understand that your self-deprecating thoughts aren’t true, you must accept others as they are, and don’t believe the opinions of others. “The enlightened person doesn’t measure success because there is no failure.” God neither rewards or punishes. Your experiences go hand in hand with your actions and state of mind.
Some obstacles to spiritual growth are: Addictions, laziness, emotional unrest, and doubt and confusion. So, we can work on alleviating these qualities from our lives.
The Yogis practice Samadhi, a superconscious state that may be cultivated to purify the awareness and mind. The Samadhi state can be reached when the mind is calm, thoughts cease, and the emotions are settled. There are a couple of things we can do to become aware of our true nature. One is to use our intellect and intuition to learn the differences between ourselves as the observer, and our normal state. The second is again, practicing meditation to the level of superconsciousness.
Then there are epiphanies. An epiphany is: “A small awakening where your mind stops thinking and you know and feel something beyond logic.” Thinking bigger: “Enlightenment is the direct perception of knowing the nature of the world in one great epiphany.” Another way of describing it is: The moment of realization that what is within is that which is without. It is a sense of wonderful expansion that includes everything in the cosmos.
Charles A Francis, the co-founder and director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute has come up with a list of the twelve qualities of an enlightened person.
Enlightened people are: Happy, peaceful and serene, loving, kind and compassionate, not self-centered, emotionally stable, patient and understanding, humble, insightful and open minded, have inner strength, have leadership skills, mindful of health, and committed to spiritual practice.
So there you have it. Enlightenment is something we can all strive for. I’ll close with Paramahansa Yogananda’s eloquent description of enlightenment:
“Imagine a bottle full of water, sealed by a cork, and thrown into the sea. Now imagine that cork is opened and the water inside the bottle has merged with the sea. The bottle is our body. The water within the bottle is the soul. The cork is the ego, the ignorance that makes us believe that we are different from the cosmic energy around us. The sea is the cosmic energy, differently called God, Supreme Source, etc.
Enlightenment happens when the cork is opened. The merging of the water within the bottle with the sea is the experience of expansion of cosmic oneness.”
May you always be
Safe and Comfortable