By the end of this blog, you will know what enlightenment is and isn’t. More importantly answer the question ‘is enlightenment possible?‘
Having spent a good part of the last 10 years wanting to be enlightened I realised a few things. And none of them are what I expected enlightenment to be. I searched through books, YouTube videos and even signed up to courses that claimed to teach me how to achieve enlightenment. I know, and here I am writing a blog on that same subject.
The irony is real, however, please bear with me just a moment.
Before we go any further, I think it would be a good idea to define what enlightenment is.
What is enlightenment?
Dr David Hawkins, the author of numerous books and the audio series The Highest Level of Enlightenment, describes enlightenment in his book ‘Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender’ this way:
“Enlightenment is not something that occurs in the future, after 50 years of sitting cross-legged and saying “OM.” It is right here, in this instant. The reason you’re not experiencing this state of total peace and timelessness is because it is being resisted. It is being resisted because you are trying to control the moment. If you let go of trying to control your experience of the moment, and if you constantly surrender it like a tone of music, then you live on the crest of this exact always-ness.
Experience arises like a note of music. The minute you hear a note, it’s already passing away. The instant you’ve heard it, it’s already dissolving. So every single moment is dissolving as it arises. Let go of anticipating the next moment, trying to control it, trying to hang on to the moment that has just passed. Let go clinging to what has just occurred. Let go trying to control what you think is about to occur. Then you live in an infinite space of non-time and non-event. There is an infinite peace beyond description. And you are home.”Dr David Hawkins
On that basis, we are already enlightened. All we need to do is learn to let go. By letting go of the longing to be something, the attachment to this moment or to items and things, we then may have a moment of enlightenment. It is not about ‘getting to’ a place of blissful enjoyment, deep wisdom, and unconditional love. Because underneath all the noise of opinions, concepts, distractions, and conditions, you are left with a blank canvas that is already enlightened.
Throughout our life, we move further away from this state of awareness. The more we get fixated on what we want, or what we dislike, the more we get caught up in feelings that often lead to actions an enlightened person would not take. The more we want life to be different from the way it is in the present moment, the more anguish and turmoil we feel.
Granted, knowing that doesn’t actually help much.
Is enlightenment possible?
Perhaps you look at monks and see them as loving humans living in the moment. Something arises that would make you angry, but they seem to be able to deal with it and remain calm. The thing is, it’s not just ‘remaining calm’, it’s beyond that. It is one thing to be stoic and endure whatever is happening; it is something quite different to be able to engage with every occurrence in a meaningful, wise, heartfelt way.
Enlightened people can engage with an open heart, understanding and compassion, and very often improve a situation by saying a few words or simply being present. Even in the most difficult of circumstances.
Okay, so now we know we are all enlightened at our core – despite that, not everybody is able to remain calm, present and loving in all situations. Let’s face it, most of us find it difficult not to flip the middle finger, shout, or at least utter a few choice words under our breath when somebody cuts us up on the road.
I presume you are reading this article because you, like me, get annoyed and frustrated and sometimes make situations worse because of that, which results in you feeling quite dreadful.
Why do some appear people appear more enlightened than others?
If we are all enlightened at our core, what actually makes the difference between those monks and regular people like you and me?
The difference is in our actions. You and I, and everybody else, have on more than one occasion been kind to somebody even when perhaps they did not deserve it.
At that moment we were truly enlightened. We were acting as enlightened beings if there was such a thing. On that basis, when we are making situations worse, then we are not enlightened. It’s really quite simple, it doesn’t even take a lot of thinking about.
So, to “achieve enlightenment” is impossible because you already are enlightened. What you really want to do is continually act, and make each action one you perceive an enlightened being would make. Simply, don’t be an arsehole. Or, perhaps a better way of putting it: don’t create pain for yourself or others with actions you take.
Enlightenment is not a state you can achieve and then exist in wondrous bliss forever after. It is not a goal you reach, not the end of a race. It is a moment by moment choice that you make based on the present circumstances.
So now you know: if somebody cuts you up in traffic, even if they have made you late for your appointment, you will respond skilfully with wisdom rather than anger. You will remember that you are not perfect and that you have made mistakes while driving as well. You will be mindful that it was not deliberate, and strive to not take it personally. You will be forgiving. You will be enlightened.
Here are a few facts about enlightenment as far as I can understand –
Enlightened being: Does not exist. You cannot be an enlightened being. You are enlightened if you are in that present moment aware of your awareness.
Enlightened action: a skilful, wise action that causes the least possible harm based on complete awareness of the situation.
So, to reiterate, enlightenment is not a finish line you can get to. It’s not about working on yourself until at some point you become enlightened. It is a constant choice and constant action.
When you choose to wake up and see multiple perspectives, see beyond your ignorance of opinion and your firm beliefs (that may or may not be right). When you understand that life is not black or white, and that there is very rarely a simple right and wrong.
When you make those conscious choices to be wiser and more circumspect, and in every given moment you use this deeper understanding and approach life with a congruent heart and mind, with the intention of love and kindness not only to humans, but also animals and nature. That is when you are being an enlightened individual.
If you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention.Tom Peters
Don’t get too attached to this newfound enlightenment, because it will come and go. You will mess up, get annoyed and make bad decisions. You’re only human. Ultimately you can only do your best to be enlightened in your intentions and actions as often as you can. Remember to be kind to yourself when you mess up. Punishing yourself would not be an enlightened action. It is as much about being kind and understanding to yourself as it is to the external world.
Here are some pointers to how you can increase your enlightened moments.
- Read books.
- Spend time alone.
- Learn to do nothing.
- Observe your thoughts without becoming them.
- Understand more and condemn less.
- Open your heart.
- Include rather than exclude information.
- Study mindfulness.
- Enjoy your own company.
- Appreciate criticism.
- Don’t be an arsehole.
- Love unconditionally.
- Drop into awareness.
- 3 Quick Ways to Find Inner Peace and Happiness When Feeling Stressed
I really hope this helps you. Enlightenment is a concept that is very subjective, and this is my view of it. If it feels right, it warms your heart and creates less pain and more kindness to you and the people around you, then to me that is enlightenment.
Here you can see the confusion that the ego has with wanting to be something that does not exist. How can it want something that is not there?
Confusing, isn’t it.
Wisdom starts in confusion according to Confucius. On that basis, if you are more confused about enlightenment now, you are probably more aware and therefore likely more awake.
If there is one thing I would like to help you understand, it is this. Stop chasing enlightenment. It is not somewhere to get to, it is not something you can become. It is no more real than the taste of your food that gives you a glimpse of an experience. You cannot become that taste.
The plan is to revisit this article over the next few years because I’m sure my understanding of will change. At the moment there is still a little bit of me that longs for the deeper wiser life.
Found this video by Rupert Spira
I’m not sure if this answers the question ‘is enlightenment possible?’ And it might even leave you more confused. However, take heart in knowing that confusion will lead to more understanding over time and the deeper your understanding the more enlightened you will be.
Another great read on another website I found: What Does It Feel Like to Be Enlightened?