Finding a proper definition for spiritual enlightenment is quite hard. In fact, it is not really possible at all. Every person will have their own individual experience and understanding of what it is.
So what is spiritual enlightenment then?
To define it broadly, it is your own inner realisation that you are a divine infinite being living this life in this body with this mind, but that is not who you really are.
Enlightenment has had many religious and historic connections throughout the years and you can read more about it here.
The idea of enlightenment is that a light gets to shine on what was previously dark. Its not that is was not there. It is simply that it remained unseen.
Electricity has been available to mankind since pre-historic times. Its just that we did not know how to harness it.
When you get to ‘see’ it you get to harness it. This analogy can be useful in understanding spiritual enlightenment.
We get to see, or at least peak into the divine power that has always been inside of us.
Enlightenment is when a wave realises it is the ocean.– Thich Nhat Hanh
Expressing in words the magnitude of this inner realization that we have come to define as enlightenment, almost always fails to fully explain the conviction and experience of having that profoundly connected feeling.
And that feeling of connectedness is not an emotion. It is very much beyond that.
The idea of enlightenment is often misunderstood as a goal or a state of mind that you have to reach in order to be truly spiritual. The idea of enlightenment is multidimensional and offers us some great insights into life and our own spiritual path.
To better understand what enlightenment is, let’s look at 5 great insights about what it might mean.
The first insight is that enlightenment is a higher awareness. This higher awareness is an awareness of something higher or beyond ordinary everyday awareness.
Becoming aware of the existence of a dimension of life beyond the mundane is already an enlightenment.
We all experience life through our sense and for the vast majority of people their experience of life is confined to the sensory.
There is, however another level of life; a level that is beyond the mere sensory experience. God, soul, spirit – call it what you will is that presence deep within you that’s your constant companion in life. In fact it is the essence of who you really are.
Knowing others is wisdom.– Lao Tzu
Knowing yourself is enlightenment.
This higher awareness is about recognizing that you are not just a physical being with the occasional spiritual experiences, but that you are in fact a spiritual being having a human experience.
This awareness will help you to see past most of the mundane daily struggles that keeps so many people bogged down in an unhappy life. Whenever you are aware of this higher power in your life, you are in an enlightened state.
By turning your thoughts to God, you automatically turn your thoughts inwards and become aware of God’s presence in your life.
Enlightenment, joy and peace can never be given to you by another. The well is inside you.
2. Everything Is The Way It Is
The second great insight into enlightenment is that the world is the way it is because it is the way it is. Everything else is what you make it up to be.
Happy – sad, good – bad, little – lot ec. are all experiences that you define and create.
At the highest levels of enlightenment these things have no bearing on anything because you know that everything is the way it is and that at your core you are an eternal being here to experience the human condition.
You are the universe, expressing itself as a human for a little while.– Eckhart Tolle
Enlightenment has been described as the quiet acceptance of everything.
When you realize that everything in this universe happens according to divine law, you will have the insight that things don’t just happen and that there are no mistakes in this perfect system.
We tend to strive only for ‘perfection’ and when things don’t work the way we want them to, we tend to call it ‘bad’.
The truth is that underneath our shallow perceptions there is something bigger and greater at work and this is why all the great sages were able to remain at peace in the face of great challenges.
They knew that in this world nothing ever goes wrong. When Jesus was crucified he was able to forgive, knowing that even that was part of the perfectly orchestrated universe.
When things don’t seem to be working for you, maybe there is something else that is working.
The purpose of leading a more spiritual life and the pursuit of enlightenment does exactly that. Its aim is to help you “see” what IS and not what you think.
Enlightenment or awakening is not the creation of a state of affairs but the recognition of what already is.– Alan Watts
Everything that you currently perceive as being bad, wrong or less than ideal in your life is not that at all. It is simply your perception of what is.
Knowing that can help you transcend it. This is how spiritual masters can transcend even the worse of mental, emotional and physical conditions and still be filled with joy.
3.Being At Peace
The third great insight into enlightenment is probably the most important. This insight is that every time you are at peace you are enlightened.
Inner peace, although it has very little value in our culture, is probably the most important thing anyone of us can have in our lives.
With a sense of inner peace you are truly happy and content with your Self. In this state your mind is quiet and you are connected to God. God and peace is synonymous and when you have inner peace you have God awareness within.
Inner turmoil suffocates your spirit and builds a wall around your consciousness that prevents you from living from your higher self and seeing life with a greater sense of clarity.
Enlightenment is within your reach. It’s not something to attain but rather something you connect with. It’s a state of being where you are united with your true spiritual origin – it is when you are connected with God.
When you become more spiritually enlightened you start to crave that sense of inner peace. Not just because it feels good.
You crave inner peace because in that mental, emotional and spiritual place of peace you are more connected to Source.
I used to think it was crazy how some people could meditate for 3 hours. I used to think how hard it would be and what a great “chore” that would be.
The realisation came that it was not out of duty or that it was a chore. The bliss, connectedness and sense of inner peace makes it an absolute joy.
When you are at peace and you are free (to some extent) from the demands of everyday life you can transcend the everyday.
Problems, challenges, fears and worry seem to fade into the background. For me this is one of the real and tangible differences that growing towards spiritual enlightenment bring to our lives.
4.Enlightenment is Not An Achievement
When you start to mingle in spiritual communities – especially online you quickly see how the “achievement” of enlightenment has become some big ego trip for many.
Enlightenment is not some goal to be achieved. In fact, there is no real goal in the sense that you will “get” something.
Every level of spiritual enlightenment only leads you to the next and there is always another deeper and more profound level of connection and understanding.
The word enlightenment conjures up the idea of some superhuman accomplishment, and the ego likes to keep it that way, but it is simply your natural state of felt oneness.– Eckhart Tolle
In many ways the ego is the only thing that stops all of us from being spiritually enlightened.
The ego wants to be important, it wants you to be the best, the most significant and most of all it wants you to be above others.
People who claim to have achieved spiritual enlightenment are usually full of it. How do they know ?
Enlightenment is ultimately an experience of the soul in this body. While there are common experiences it will be unique and different for every one.
The pursuit of spirituality, higher consciousness and enlightenment should never be driven by a desire to achieve something. If you are looking for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow then you will probably be very disappointed.
It is not a race to a finish line. Its a stairway that just keeps going. Every step you take gives you a better view. The higher you go up this staircase the better the view gets and the better the view gets the more you want to see.
5. Growing Out of This World
When we want to achieve something our natural instinct is that we have to “get” stuff. This can be information, resources, people ec.
Most people make this mistake as well when it comes to their pursuit of spiritual enlightenment.
This process as you move up this staircase is not about getting anything. It is much more about “losing” things.
Habits, beliefs, expectations, learnings and even people.
Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity.– Immanuel Kant
Its not so much about discovering and learning who you are as it is about unlearning who you are not.
We come into this world knowing exactly who we are and where we truly come from, but we soon start our education in how to be a human in this time and space.
We are handed a plethora of ideas and beliefs about ourselves and life. Almost all of them are false. Not false in the sense that you are living a lie but false in the sense that it is not who you really are at the highest level of existence.
And so it should be. Life is a spiritual journey and a process of unfolding. You do not grow into this world but rather you grow out of it.
As you become more spiritually awake you start to ‘shed your skin’. All those things that you always thought was so important starts to fade into the background.
The ‘needs’ of your highest self become the dominant focus of your life and not the ego driven pursuits that seems to dominate our societies.
All the ways you use to define yourself as a person in this life becomes almost irrelevant.
You start to identify yourself more for who you are at the highest level of consciousness which in the end always comes down to love.
If your essence is love then this ‘shedding of your skin’ is about losing everything that removes you from divine love.
6. Enlightenment Does Not Change a Thing
So many people peruse all sorts of spiritual quests to escape something. For many it is addictions, traumatic experiences, being confronted with death or even just severe unhappiness.
The good and the bad news is that spiritual enlightenment will not change a thing about your life.
You will still do everything you always do.
What changes is the way you do it. What changes is your understanding of your place in everything and how your perceptions really dictate everything you think and feel.
You can read these things and know it intellectually but until and unless you can truly practice and live it you will not truly know it.
You are not really in this world. The world is in you. Everything you see and experience is nothing other than your own interpretations – filtered through your own beliefs and interpreted by your mind.
You do not see with your eyes but you see through your eyes. Your eyes simply reflects light unto the brain. It is the mind that does the thinking and the mind is the products of 2 million years of learning how to ‘be’ in this world.
When you travel to many holy places in India and Asia where you see monks living seemingly drab lives you, you often wonder what its all about.
I always come back to this powerful Zen proverb (that is often attributed to the Buddha) that says: Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.
If the measure of your life is driven only by the ego you will spend a lifetime suffering in comfort. Th ego can never be satisfied and you will be consumed by the monster called More.
A Final Word on Spiritual Enlightenment
I strongly believe that life is not to be squandered contemplating only that which is beyond this life.
Yes, there are people making a living studying this and that is absolutely an exception but the point is that you still have to live your life.
You do not need to become a monk to discover your own divinity. You do not need to become a monk to have any level of enlightenment.
In the end, having a deeper understanding of your life and who you really are will give you a deeper and richer experience of life