What a charged, abused and misused word!
Enlightenment belongs to this category of “word-containers”, which can mean anything and nothing, given that, over the course of many many years, people have attached to them so many different – often contradictory – meanings.
So, my first job here – also to remain faithful to the spirit of one of the most legendary and significant forefathers of mine, personally, as well as in the context of the work I am trying to do in this series of posts – is to give you my definition of enlightenment.
Here goes, Friend:
Enlightenment Is The Realisation Of One’s True Nature Or True Self
One can prepare this self-realization – which a lot of people often refer to as spiritual awakening – and approach it gradually and step-by-step (which is what happens in most cases) until the time of its occurrence or…
One may be totally unprepared for it, and yet have it inflicted upon oneself in a thunderous moment of radical transformation.
Over the millennia of human history, there have been quite a few individuals who have experienced such a momentous passage to a state which it is not easy – in fact, it is rather impossible – to talk about or, in general, to get to know.
Some of these individuals were founders (inadvertently?) of major religions, which have critically and largely shaped – and are still shaping – the fate of our human world.
Others were spiritual teachers of profound impact, but to a relatively more limited scale than the former.
And others are still actively servicing the world, as I am writing these very lines.
Now, if you study the life and teachings of these special beings, you can draw some very useful conclusions with relation to this mysteriously transcendental notion of enlightenment.
I will share the three most important of these conclusions, according of course to my judgment, in this post.
The first one is:
It Is Impossible To Talk About Enlightenment
I already alluded to this one a bit earlier.
Enlightenment cannot become an object of knowledge.
Rather, it is something that falls under the category of “pure experience”.
And, in fact, even this term is misleading.
ANY Words, Any Intellectual Concepts, Used To Describe Enlightenment
Are Wrong, Misleading Or, At Least, Inadequate
You see, the term “experience” implies a need to introduce an “experiencer” (a subject of experience) and something to be “experienced” (an object of experience).
And with this… we are back in the realm of duality, which is the quickest way to describe the “pre-enlightenment” state.
But, in reality, true mystics / enlightened beings assure us, this “experience” is akin to the conscious realization of an individual’s unity with the whole Universe.
And when we talk about “unity with the whole Universe”, don’t misunderstand this for some kind of of a certain individual who begins to feel as “part of a big system” or “a cog in a big machinery”.
No, no, no.
What we are talking about here is the overwhelming and unmistakable sensation that:
You and Everything
Are (IS) One And The Same Thing
And this is an Experience that could have neither a Subject nor an Object…
Moving on, now, to the second important conclusion on the “nature” of enlightenment:
There Is A Distinctly Unique Way To Enlightenment
For Each Individual Heading Towards It
There are no two paths to enlightenment or spiritual awakening that are identical.
Each spiritual seeker must go their own way.
For some – perhaps for most – it will be a gradual, quite likely a painstaking, winding and sinuous way.
In these cases, one could find a solid helping hand to be of immense help.
Of course, eventually each one has to walk oneself one’s own way to self-realisation.
Then again, probably for fewer individuals, enlightenment arrives in the form of an immense shock, one that, quite frankly, redefines the whole idea of what a “shock” is for the one going through it.
But even these two loose categories fil miserably to do any proper justice to the uniqueness of each one’s experience in this regard.
So, to once again quote Socrates, the one thing you can definitely know about enlightenment is… that you can never know how to “get” to it – or, better, how to prepare yourself for “It” to find you.
And here we once again come face to face with the unsolvable problem of the insufficiency of human language to describe events and things that overwhelmingly transcend it.
Yet, there is one thing I could say with quite some certitude:
The More You Occupy Yourself With Spiritual Matters
And The More Earnest, Persistent And Patient You Are
In Your Spiritual Awakening Journey
The Stronger Your “Invitation To Enlightenment” Becomes
Last, but not least we have:
Enlightenment Comes With An Annihilation
Of The Self-Image You Were Holding Onto Prior To It
And, in all frankness, that is the truly scary thing about enlightenment or self-realization.
Here, I have the feeling – more like a strong conviction, actually – that there’s a lot of misunderstanding and – willing or unwilling – misinformation.
It is not that enlightenment involves you passing to a “higher state of consciousness” or you performing a “transcendence” of your “lower self” and finding yourself “reconciled” and “aligned” with a brand, new “higher self”.
The thing with enlightenment is that any previous idea or experience you were holding onto about who you, supposedly, were is eradicated.
Destroyed for good, and discarded.
Words can barely scratch the surface of the immenseness of the impact of such a conscious realization.
We are not speaking about a literal death of your old self, of course.
But it is true that this “experience” – again, quotation marks are necessary here – is as close to it as it gets.
To put it slightly differently…
These Are The Rites Of Your Initiation
To Your One And Only Truth
And every true spiritual tradition – unfortunately, there are only very few such left, and they are usually found in the margins of organized religion or even completely outside of it – respects such rites and encourages everyone adhering to it to undergo them.
Having said all this… let’s close this post on a more optimistic and happy note.
Enlightenment Truly Is
A Response To A “Cosmic Invitation“
To Return Home
And, no matter how hard the way back home may be…
The sweetness and fulfilment when you actually arrive there are incomparable to any other feeling!
Of course, this is only an analogy; one that unavoidably cannot capture the magnificence and grace of what is at stake here.
But what you can be sure about is that all mystics, all Enlightened Beings confirm to us – each one, of course, in their own unique way – that what lies on the “other side” of spiritual awakening or self-realization is the pure, unfiltered Bliss of Existence, and the Living Awareness that absolute Truth and Happiness lie beyond the superficial polarity of Good and Evil.
Until next time,
The time is – has always been – NOW!