‘What is Enlightenment’ is one of the most misunderstood terms in the spiritual realm. This misunderstanding is primarily due to the fact that the origins of spiritual development processes can be found in Eastern philosophies and religions.
I would like to start with a quote from Buddha:
- Don’t believe anything because a wise man said it.
- Don’t believe anything because everyone believes it.
- Don’t believe anything because it’s written.
- Do not believe anything because it is considered sacred.
- Don’t believe anything because someone else believes it.
- Only believe what you have recognized as true.
And Buddha again:
Your doubts are well founded. Hear my instruction: Do not believe anything by mere hearsay. Do not believe in traditions because they are old and have come down to us through many generations. Don’t believe anything based on rumors or because people talk a lot about it. Don’t think just because you have been given the written testimony of some ancient sage. Never believe anything because speculation speaks for it or because a long-standing habit leads you to believe it to be true. Don’t believe in the sheer authority of your teachers and clergy. What, according to our own experience and investigation, corresponds to your reason and serves your well-being and salvation like that of all other beings, accepts as truth and lives accordingly.
In Buddhism, enlightenment is the translation of bodhi, a term from the Pali language that literally means “wake up”.
The Advaita-Vedanta teaches the essential unity of the individual soul (Atman) with the God soul (Brahman).
What is Enlightenment?
The greatest fulfillment, the greatest joy, the answer to the deepest mysteries in life, are all resolved by attaining to the state of Enlightenment. This post will not only discuss the question of – “What is Enlightenment,” but also more importantly provide an opportunity for us to discover the reality behind these words.
There are three fundamental age-old questions that any person can ask. They are:
- ‘What am I doing here?’
- ‘What is the main purpose of my life?’
- ‘What is the greatest goal that I can strive to achieve?’
Science, philosophy, religion and other systems of thinking have all sought, throughout the ages, to address these mysteries. Many people have even concluded that these questions simply can’t be resolved. We must at this point categorically state that this is no longer the case.
To discover this for ourselves we need to have access to the deepest and most profound form of meditation. This allows us “to know without thinking” and to “travel without moving”. However, as we will discuss later on, even with the right meditation, progress is not possible without an experienced Master.
When we talk about ourselves, what are we referring to? We often use terms such as “I think” or “I feel”, but what is the “I” that we are referring to? The identities of who we are and what we believe are based upon our physical form, our thoughts, feelings, memories and names given to us. All of these things are “inherited” from a variety of sources such as our environment and those with whom we come into contact.
However, we grow taller, we re-evaluate our views, our feelings change, and our thoughts change. All of this represents our “sense of identity” or “sense of self”. We can refer to it as an “illusion”, in that it is constantly changing. Our True self, discovered on enlightenment, does not, never has, and never will change. The mind and the emotions cannot become enlightened, and can’t assist us in realising this state. This now rules out 99.9% of all systems of meditation being of use to us in this quest!
The word “Enlightenment” has been greatly misunderstood and its true meaning lost and confused over the years. We therefore need to be absolutely crystal clear about what we in Meditation Unlimited mean by Enlightenment. The best way of doing this is to look at a number of realizations that are made on attaining this state.
We find that the “self” that we had prior to Enlightenment was only an illusion.
Enlightenment is the permanent realization of our true unchanging identity. This is our True Self as opposed to the “sense of self”. On realising this True Self, we discover the following:
- We have never been born.
- We have never died.
- We have always been, and we always will be.
- We find that there is no beginning to us.
- We find that there is no end to us.
- We realize that ultimately there is no such thing as reincarnation.
- We discover that gender is completely irrelevant, both men and women are capable of Enlightenment.
- We discover that the mind is intrinsically unconscious, and, that only ultimate truth is real because it has no cause other than itself, it has always been and will always be.
- We realize that the ultimate truth is absolute love.
Let’s be clear that as long as we are only able to identify with the “sense of self,” then none of these realizations are possible and we have not attained to the state of Enlightenment.
Enlightenment is our natural state, when we have reached our complete potential as human beings. Without such awareness the key questions to our existence remain unanswered. A good analogy is to liken our nature to that of the ocean, but apparently trapped in a bottle. There is always a sense that there is more to be discovered, a sense of unfinished business. When we attain to enlightenment we discover that we are and always were the ocean. The bottle is our “sense of self”, the ocean the Self.
The Master and The Light
Enlightenment can only be achieved through a True Spiritual Master. The validity of such a Master is their ability to reveal this extraordinary state to others at will. The key word here is “reveal” as opposed to discuss! Such true Masters are extremely rare and practically never conform to people’s ideals and romanticism’s about how they should teach and what they should teach. And some would say, “why should they?”
The True Spiritual Path has to concern itself with the revelation of the actual “Light of Truth”. This is not a physical light, an imagined light, a light of knowledge, but a transcendental revelation which allows access to higher levels of consciousness. We can perceive this as a brilliant radiance witnessed for the first time in our meditation. For the first time ever we are able to witness this energy which is the actual cause of this physical universe. This Light has been written about throughout the ages in various texts, but here we are referring to a revelation, and not an interpretation of the word “Light”!
For a path to be considered “Spiritual”, this revelation of Light must take place. Without this revelation it becomes merely “a path or journey”. So the practice of this unique meditation is vital if we are to have even the possibility of attaining to Enlightenment. Enlightenment however, is not, and can never be, an automatic result of meditating. Much depends on the perseverance of the meditator, the revelation of the Light and the patience and willingness of the Master
Ultimate Truth is Infinite
All experiences can only occur where there are two things present. In other words any experience requires duality. The Ultimate Truth is by its nature infinite, absolute, undivided and hence a total unity. Enlightenment is not the Ultimate Truth in itself, but the state through which it is realised. Enlightenment is therefore when we finally discover the ability to “be”.
The mind is intrinsically unconscious and can never have any knowledge of Truth. The Ultimate Truth once realised cannot be lost. It has nowhere to go since it is absolute. We cannot touch on infinity or be enlightened for a few minutes. There is also no such thing as “gradual Enlightenment”. People who teach these things do not know what they are talking about; they clearly do not have this state themselves!
By thinking we can only understand limits, and only work with beginnings and endings. All forms of thinking work by comparing and contrasting. When we have only one thing, then there is nothing to compare to and nothing to contrast with!
Consequently we need to employ an entirely different means of “knowing”. Meditation, using the process of revelation is the only medium through which this truth can be discovered.
Many words such as “meditation, truth and enlightenment” are often defined in the vaguest possible terms and can mean practically anything! Meditation as discussed here has little to do with meditation as it is commonly recognized. Yes, both involve physically sitting still, but that is where the similarity ends! In this meditation we are not concentrating on anything specific, but rather sitting quietly and allowing the Light to fill our vision. Even the most experienced breath or mantra meditators will find this quite different. Now we are able to meditate for hours or even days at a time, which previously would not have been possible.
We need to be alive and have a vision of all of this creation at once. This can only occur with this very special meditation which is the means through which we can “prepare” ourselves for this final state. We cannot die unenlightened and then expect to continue to Enlightenment at some later stage. It’s a nice idea, which in part accounts for its popularity!
The Ultimate Truth cannot be challenged by any form
This Truth is absolute and totally unaffected by anything that demonstrates structure. It exists independently of our thoughts, feelings and even our intuition. It cannot be attacked, and therefore does not need defending. Religious systems and religious wars that advocate the defence of the ultimate truth are totally misguided. The truth is also completely unassailable and impregnable, since it is the cause of everything.
Truth makes no judgements, it does not converse, and it does not talk to people. Conversations with “spirits, deities or astral mediums” are merely “thought forms” in people’s minds. As such, all these things have nothing to do with the Ultimate Truth, which does not involve itself in creation in any way. It is forever free and detached from all activity.
Then comes up the question in mind what is enlightenment? The Enlightenment means the complete transcendence of all levels of consciousness from the physical to the purely spiritual. There are no maps for us to consult. Imagine trying to navigate, blindfolded, to a specific address in another city in another part of the world with no assistance whatsoever! The meditative journey is a million times harder than this because without a proper Master we can only have access to the physical realm!
In order to transcend creation we have to become it. We achieve this by having access to greater and greater levels of consciousness. As we go deeper and deeper into creation, even spiritual light, the very basis of creation is transcended.
For the person seeking Enlightenment, it is absolutely critical he finds someone who has enlightened other people. That person should be able to meet the Master and he should be able to meet others who have attained Enlightenment. Anyone who is unable to demonstrate this should not be taken seriously.
How to Reach Enlightenment?
Enlightenment is not unknown to most of us. There are always moments in life when we can have small enlightenment experiences, so-called satoris. Then a feeling of happiness flows through us, we feel a pleasant bliss, suddenly the fear that usually accompanies us has completely disappeared and we have the feeling that we can embrace the whole world.
If you want to understand what is enlightenment, look at small children or think back to your own childhood. This glow in the eyes, this liveliness, this zest for life, this wealth of imagination, creativity, selflessness, love and gratitude can only be found in children if they have parents who take care of them lovingly, caringly and responsibly.
It was the greatest mistake that the enlightened people were repeatedly given superhuman properties. For most people, this led to the idea that enlightenment is in a way out of reach of ordinary people. It also led to the idea that enlightened people move outside of human spheres, that is to say they are at home in another dimension.
So enlightened ones like Jesus, Buddha, Osho and whatever they were called were surrounded with a glow of light. But they were people like you and me, even if many don’t want to admit it. Instead, there is often a duality in which on the one hand the enlightened are depicted in a totally exaggerated manner and on the other hand the contemptuous look down on normal people.
Enlightenment is nothing more than our normal state, which nature gave us in the cradle. But since we act our whole life against our own nature, we have moved quite far from this normality. We can’t even imagine what this normality feels like. Instead, we take refuge in sex. There we find the bliss, which corresponds approximately to our normality, for at least a few seconds. And because every orgasm is so breathtaking, we are drawn there again and again. Instead, this sex energy can be used to reach enlightenment.
Meditation is the Key for the Enlightenment
It doesn’t matter what form of meditation you sink into to achieve spiritual progress. Even if the different forms of contemplation, including meditation, autogenic training, Zen, the Christian form of prayer and other forms of contemplation, are different in their application. They all lead to the same goal. The only thing that matters is the depth of the sinking.
If you take a closer look at the tradition of Christian meditation, you can see that it is not that different from Hindu or Buddhist forms of meditation. If in Hinduism Hindu gods like Brahma, Krishna or Shiva are worshiped, the prayer of the Christians applies to a monotheistic god. If the Hindu prays his mala, the Christian prays his rosary. When the Hindu sings his religious songs, also called kirtans, the Christian sings his Christian chorals. Both the Hindu / Buddhist monk and the Christian monk are bound by celibacy.
Christian meditation teaches the ability to relate to God. This is done by praying, singing or quietly sinking into God. The meditation can be done alone in silent personal prayer or in community. One form of meditation in early Christian monasticism was through constant repetition of prayers and breath control, by focusing on the truths of the faith, praying psalms and scriptures.
It is not about understanding individual words, but about the attitude of devotion, the willingness, the trust. One can compare the constant repetition of a prayer and the simultaneous effect on the breathing while praying with the Hindu mantra meditation. Immersion in breathing is also known in Hinduism and Buddhism. Perhaps it is not always aimed for, but usually arises all by itself (unwanted).
The three pillars of enlightenment (holiness) in all religions are abstinence, ethical perfection and contemplation. By contemplation I mean a sinking, a concentration on a real or ideal object of concentration until one merges with it. The depth of concentration, the sinking, is the decisive factor. So you can meditate like Buddhists practice it or you can delve into prayer. In the end, both boils down to influencing breathing and thus physiology.
So when it comes to praying, it is not the turning towards God that is decisive, but that the concentration on God influences breathing, albeit unintentionally. And so prayer is also a form of meditation. One can assume that the Christian saints delved into prayer just as intensely as the Indian yogis did during meditation. Christian prayer is actually not very different from Buddhist mantra meditation.
In both cases, short prayers or mantras, which are the same thing, are repeated over and over again. The mind gradually calms down, breathing deepens and more oxygen is absorbed by the lungs. The lungs in turn give more oxygen to the blood. And the blood transports more oxygen into the brain. And that leads to changes in the brain. Messenger substances and hormones are activated, which have healing effects for the whole body.
In other words, we learn to breathe healthy again through prayer or meditation, because we have forgotten it in the course of our lives. We usually breathe too shallowly instead of breathing deeply into the oxygen. And that is changed by meditation as well as by prayer towards natural, healthy breathing.
With individual Christian saints like Teresa v. Avila experiences mystical experiences. Christianity means the experience of unity with God, with Christ. These ecstatic mystical experiences are also known in the Eastern tradition. Many yogis, wise and enlightened have experienced it. Some also achieved these states through prayers in the form of mantra meditation, others by observing their breathing or by concentrating on the third eye. Many of these enlightened people were also considered saints.
Essential Read: 5 Meditation Techniques for Creating Balance in Life.
During meditation, you focus on breathing and observe how the breath naturally flows in and out. Under no circumstances should you rate or influence breathing in any way. Likewise, the focus of the mind’s eye can be between the eyebrows, the third eye. You can combine meditation with a mantra, which you quietly say to yourself in the rhythm of your breath.
If your thoughts drift away before meditation and lose yourself in the restlessness of everyday life, you can detach yourself and devote your attention to meditation again. One actually only speaks of meditation when the concentration is unbroken, i.e. it only merges with the meditation object, and the mind no longer wanders. On the other hand, if the mind wanders off again and again and has to be concentrated on the object, one speaks not of meditation but of concentration.
So the crucial point in meditation is not the breathing itself, but the concentration on the breathing. Even if your breathing is shallow and hectic, you shouldn’t try to influence it in any way. So it is about bringing the mind to rest, detaching itself from restless thoughts, so that you can concentrate fully on meditation. This is the only way to benefit from meditation. This is the only way to gradually calm the heart and breathing. This is the only way to gradually develop the bliss of meditation. Meditation is not possible until you have mastered the art of total concentration.
After a while the meditator will notice how his attention becomes more intense. He finds more and more peace and breathing becomes deeper and more balanced. Then every breath becomes a source of new life energy. The lungs absorb oxygen and transport it into the blood. This converts the dark venous blood, which contains all sorts of toxins, into red arterial blood, which supplies the cells of the body with new energy. A calm heart and a calm breathing are the prerequisites for a perfect concentration.
Essential Read: The Complete Beginners’s Guide to Raj Yoga Meditation.
Through meditation we succeed in directing the senses inwards from the external stimuli. Our whole concentration of breathing applies. If our attention is diverted from breathing, as soon as you notice it, you gently turn it back to breathing. This gradually calms the breath and the heart. Slowly and calmly returns. Due to the increased supply of oxygen, the body cells are charged with energy. You feel refreshed and supplied with new vitality. The slow heart activity also gives the other organs a break. Slowly but surely there is more and more peace and deep relaxation. Breathing becomes calmer and deeper.
Gradually, a meditative state spreads throughout the body. Some notice that a tingling sensation spreads through their bodies. Of course, this tingling does not occur overnight, but usually only after a few weeks of regular meditation. As meditation progresses, the meditative state becomes more and more intense.
On the one hand you are wide awake and notice everything that is going on around you, on the other hand you have withdrawn your senses from the outside world. One takes notice of the outside world, but rests so deep inside that one hardly pays attention to the external stimuli. One rests inwardly in a calm, blissful, cozy and energetic atmosphere.
As stated throughout this post, information alone is of no benefit to us. It’s like being presented with the finest most mouth-watering menu – but where’s the food? Meditation is the food, information merely the menu! The Spiritual Path therefore requires a combination of information and meditation.
Many of the statements here will be challenging. These words should make us ask serious questions and at the same time give us comfort that the purpose of our lives can finally be revealed.
These questions can be answered by enlightened people, who come from all walks of life. They are real people, who can be met in person and can validate everything we have discussed. What is required is for us to have a sincere attitude and the determination to co-operate with the Master and practice meditation, to discover this reality for ourselves. Then we will know what it is to be Enlightened and its significance for the world at this time.