There is no single agreed-upon definition of the word “enlightenment.”
For me, “enlightenment” refers on one hand to an attainable shift in conscious experience that is described in Zen and other traditions: a shift toward a more fluid, nondual, stable, mindful, accepting awareness—a lasting realization of Satori, in other words.
On the other hand, I also once rapped the words, “Find your own satori,” indicating my belief that people should define “enlightenment” for themselves. For me personally, enlightenment means affirming existence, realizing we are living in a kind of “sacred,” sublime wonderland, and treating life as an opportunity to create, adventure, enjoy, and learn as much as possible.
What does “enlightenment” mean to you?
Hi Jordan :)
You know what’s funny? I visited my friend in Vegas over the summer and we hiked Mt. Charleston, this beautiful, amazingly lush place. My friend and I were doing acid and it hit when we got to the top. And at the top of the mountain we met this chick…she was sitting by herself, possibly meditating, and she kindly asked us to turn our music off, which we did. We then got to talking to her, and then she asked us that same question… “What do you guys think enlightenment is?” And I just remember seeing her, against the backdrop of the mountains and the trees and the sky, everything kind of glowing and vibrating because of the acid, and I couldn’t help thinking she was some kind of mystical angel/world traveler/guru girl. I felt like I was in a scene from an ancient sacred text talking to a saint of some sort. And me and my friend and the rest of the girls in our group all answered her… and we had a conversation about it. It was awesome and completely unexpected to say the least.
Anyways, back to your question. I think enlightenment, if I were to put it to one word, is understanding. Like complete understanding about the “true” nature of reality (ugh I even hesitate as I type that), understanding about people, about the way life is, about the interconnectedness of it all. And being at peace with that understanding. I also think enlightenment is something that you find within yourself, not without…
I too have been rapt by the question, and after my own journey for an answer can only offer what I finally feel is right. I had the great fortune to be friends with a man who introduced me to zen, buddhism and the concept of enlightenment -His father is enlightened and is a vital part of a Buddhist community, and I’ve also had the fortune to discuss this with him. Now, before I go on, it’s easy to read all these words like “enlightened” and “True Nature” and it paints a very flowery, hippy, airy picture. Alan Watts’ The Way of Zen does a great job of contextualising these properly. My friend, his father, and the buddhist community are very sharp, present people. It’s their way that they don’t hold beliefs, and as a result rarely fall into anything bullshit, in fact it’s often a component of their various business successes.
Anyway, enlightenment to me is “sitting to sit”… in part
Let’s unpack that sentance, because what does that even mean, right? It means whatever you’re doing, do it. It’s 100% totality with the thing, but also it’s realising that asking the question is to completely miss the point. What I get from that, in a very ill fitting nutshell, is that it’s just doing what you want to do for no other reason than you want to do it. Ideas aren’t vital like food and water are vital, they aren’t worth experiencing any devaluation in health – including mental. Alan Watts says “why do who bang our heads against a wall repeatedly? Because it feels so damn good to stop”, banging our heads against the wall is traps like ego, stopping is enlightenment. Bliss through peace. Like a great load off, because you realise there was no load at all. True appreciacion of being.
Okay, so i tried to keep from the flowery language as much as I could, but it’s pretty damn hard on this site, haha. Let me know how your search for an answer goes.
I feel that enlightenment is our true nature, it is the return to our original self. If you peel off, transcend the layers of your collected self, one will uncover an essence, a core being, there is no time involved. This essential self is boundless perception, endless creativity and pure bliss. Being enlightenment is is a choice in the now, a state of being repeatedly chosen. When returning home becomes the priority, the natural point of action, one can settle in this space and just enjoy the play.
Enlightenment means living fullness of life, enjoying happiness or bliss 24 hours a day, every day. It means enjoying 200 percent of life—100 percent of the inner spiritual content of life along with 100 percent of the outer material value of life. It also means gaining the full support of natural law, which allows you to effortlessly fulfill your desires.
Enlightment doesn’t means we will become super humans or will have a tiara shining above our heads. It simply means living in today’s world’s reality and facing obstacles with courage and hope and with the faith that universe will support us.
To have englightenment for me is a path, not as an adjective as we sometimes tend to used this therm. I consider it has a hole, but a hole of equal significative feelings and situations. If i exist and my existance is determined of my presence, the things i see, the things i feel, i touch, the ones i love, and yet, the others that also can see me, talk to me, listen to me, touch me, feel me, smell me and love me or hate me. For those i never even met i do not existe that is a fact. For them, and them for me, we are just a concept of an anonimous number or identity of species we can’t even track because is constantly changing every second people in the world born and die.The confusing part to me is when i hear enlightnment definitions that make me chase things to be a selfimproved version of me, but at some point i find the lack of selfimprovement of me among the others and the others with themselves and to me. Basically, i can see it as a wish inside me of the species evolving in harmony and at a crescent velocity and gagning councious of what we need to chase that will make a diference for us to prosper to the future, and that is also good news. I am still thinking about so many factors that can determined a path to enlightnment that fits us all, but at some point too i can relate to the ultmiate intimate feeling that enlightnment is an unique path to everyone as selfish as we can imagine it, in a marvelous and beautifull way of selfiness, and that is chasing inner happyness.
Enlightenment at its simplest must be a positive elevation of one’s perspective, such that your experience of reality is now somewhat more expansive. In other words, for me it definitely describes some kind of vertical shift, rather than a lateral one, so to speak. The daily experience of life takes on something more, that distinguishes it from the place your mind was before.
As to the definition or understanding of “positive”, it could be left to general terms (to avoid a huge ethical tangent) and still be pretty helpful: a quality, of weakening sources of harm and strengthening sources of healing, growth, or recovery.
Enlightenment is the human being’s emergence from his self-incurred minority. Minority is inability to make use of one’s own understanding without direction from another. This minority is self-incurred when its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another.
It means moving out of mind’s superficial boundaries and experiencing the true expansiveness of life way beyond physical limitation as normally perceived through physical body. Becoming aware of the true potential that nature holds, and realising it is boundless and attainable without struggle or effort, but by simply being who you are
I think enlightenment is the state of awareness which allows for a deep perspective to arise giving profound insight to every moment of our experiences and can manifest when certain supporting conditions are developed and maintained as a by-product of particular lifestyle.
Hi Jordan, your original definition covers it pretty well and reading through the responses I think it’s safe to say that the people involved in this discussion have really contemplated enlightenment and have put in an effort to grasp it’s real meaning. I do think it’s important to develop (as best as we can) a finite definition of enlightment though. Otherwise it runs the risk of developing the same issue that the word spirituality has, in that it’s so loosely defined and so varied in it’s definition that’s it’s practically lost it’s meaning.
It’s a slippery subject since we struggle to define things we haven’t experienced and experiencing enlightenment isn’t exactly a walk in the park (even if an enlightened person might use walking in the park as a metaphor to describe enlightenment). On the other hand I recognize that it’s one of those concepts that can get lost in the dogma if it’s too concretely defined and lead to people blindly following the steps to arrive at enlightenment without having any understanding of the meaning behind the steps.
It seems like the important point is to realize that enlightment lies somewhere between two extremes. Not on either side of the line but sitting calmly on top of it.
It begins with the understanding that we are not humans who have a soul; rather, we are souls having a human experience to fulfill a spiritual curriculum. We are at our core comprised of the energy called, “loving.” So enlightenment is about becoming more aware of our nature as loving beings. It involves: learning how to surrender, or let go of anything that disturbs one’s peace and eliminating our illusions of separation. Finally we can revel in the deeper understanding that we are truly loving, peaceful, compassionate, and joyful beings. This level of understanding is referred to as the Authentic self.
I have carried out amateur studies of various religions (at a very basic level) I tried to find some common themes , grasp the fundamentals and try to club together these ideas on the basis of my knowledge and experiences , and I came up with this concept of Enlightenment:
An enlightened being can see the real nature of everything , and know that there is duality in our way of existence :
that we are seperate from each other , but at the same time ‘One’ is no different than the so called ‘other’.
Hence, the universe for the enlightened one would be just parts of the universe interacting with each other. And he can percieve these interactions on different ‘planes’ / ‘dimensions’ which normal humans couldn’t, something that transcends human logic . Since he can see the universe in a similar way like Neo could see how everything in the matrix was data , he is not affected by petty things. So he won’t hate anybody nor be attached to anyone. He could handle the so called pleasures and pains in life with equanimity.
I assume that a person reaches a point when he becomes enlightened . At this point in time , he gets the ability to access the whole knowledge base of the universe ,as he is finally one with the universe/ nature.
Now , if enlightenment is really such a superhuman state and this earth has seen many such enlightened beings before e.g Buddha , then what is this cosmic knowledge and have they shared it? The reason maybe that such knowledge could not be understood by normal human beings, maybe our language can’t really express this kind of knowledge, or such knowledge is beyond normal human sensory perception and can only be experienced but not expressed.
So maybe that is why such beings didn’t share the knowledge but shared the path to reach enlightenment e.g various meditation practices , principles to follow in life, knowledge about trancending the karmic cycle etc.
If enlightenment is a human state of being instead of superhuman state of being as interpreted above , then I think it could be like this:
An enlightened human being would have a higher state of consciousness , ability to disect his thoughts and emotions and introspect about their sources, always in a state of bliss,compassion towards all lifeforms , in harmony with his own self as well as mother nature, has conquered his mind and body so that he can channel his energies at will.
But now I think these are just symptoms and not realy the definition.
It is the end of the story and the revelation of all that which is.
It is impossible to put in words as they do not convey enough power or meaning to fully “explain”, which in itself is also impossible. Enlightenment cannot be explained, it can only be experienced.
The closest words can get through this story, is this;
You, and everything you have ever done, seen, felt, experienced, everything you hold dear to your life, is your “story”, it is ego. Enlightenment is death of you and of this “story”. It is the revelation that it indeed is merely one story in an absolute infinity of stories. When this revelation arise, “you” trancend, yet there is nothing to trencend from. The revelation that “you” are all that which is, and all that which is – is “you”. This releases the bonds of the ego and consciousness can be.
Enlightenment, just like any word, has no objective meaning. We look to dictionaries to get some consensus, but all of us focused on the topic have our extra layer which is attainable in our own opinion.
Real quick, check the official definition. It is useless. Synonyms are much more instructive.
I see personal enlightenment as understanding all things in existence are kin. We all have the same basis for existing and owe all of our consciousness to the massive, complicated, mash up and evolved forms of molecules and cells which create a path for our entire body to work together. Quantum soup creates protons, neutrons and electrons which create atoms which create molecules which create DNA which instructs bacteria on how to create cells which create organs which work together to make a human which create society which together create all of the amazing fabrications surrounding us by exploiting the laws by which atoms, molecules, bacteria, cells and organs work.