What does the word "enlightenment mean to you?

 Bryan (@Substratum)3 years, 11 months ago

If you were brought up to believe in God and for whatever reason you suddenly have the realization that “there is no God”…you feel freed from an illusion, you feel enlightened. Yet if you have been living with no belief in God and suddenly something happens that “opens your eyes ” to the realization that God exists…you feel freed from your former blindness to “reality” and you feel enlightened. So enlightenment is not the result of adopting any particular belief. It seems mostly to be a word we use to describe an experience of transition “from the darkness to the light”. It seems to be an experience very similar to when we suddenly realize that someone has been lying to us…and, interestingly, we experience it the same way at the moment of excited “realization”…even if our realization is wrong…even if they weren’t actually lying but we had the experience of “knowing” they were. So what is enlightenment?  

June 8, 2015 at 11:08 am
Brianna (29) (@briannabbycks) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

Great post.

I definitely agree that enlightenment is often perceived as a moment when you experience a transition from “darkness to light,” or that it is when your consciousness is becoming elevated.

By far I believe that enlightenment is never an achieved destination, but a constant process or even a way of light. I believe that the process of enlightenment occurs whenever the ego is divided from the spirit. 

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Bryan (104) (@Substratum) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

I don’t disagree with you…and yet…what if your perspective suddenly changed and it seemed clear to you that “enlightenment is a distinct destination that you either arrive at or else you are nowhere, in the dark…or what if you had the sudden realization that elevated consciousness is really just excited neurons in your brain and come to believe that the only true enlightenment is to stop thinking and analyzing and just “Be”…or what if you suddenly recognized that your ego and your spirit are just concepts held in your mind which keep you blinded to the fact that you are already whole and perfect as you are…it seems to me that regardless of what the particular ideas are, it is the experience of transition from one way of seeing to another that we experience as “enlightenment

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InMyMind (1) (@theplasmashaft) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

“By far I believe that enlightenment is never an achieved destination, but a constant process or even a way of light. I believe that the process of enlightenment occurs whenever the ego is divided from the spirit. “

 I agree completely with you completely – I was about to write a similar reply. I believe that some people may be under the misconception that once they “achieve” enlightenment, they will somehow enter some godlike state. In my opinion, again, no one who is considered enlightened by others, would consider themselves so.  

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Peter (116) (@Gismo) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

I agree with the perception that enlightenment is connected to some sort of transformation/transition, in my search for “it” I’ve stumbled into complete bewilderment regarding the confines of my existence, so I’m currently just trying to accept not knowing and focusing on being happy..I feel that it’s a subjective world you live in anyway so if you believe there’s a god, then you’re right if you don’t then you’re right as well (you create your own experience of existence) – it’s not really likely that you will get an absolute answer to that question anyway, at least not in this life, so for the duration of this experience I say go with whatever makes your experience of life better.. oups sorry for weaving OT, I guess enlightenment to me is some sort of relaxed state of mind being able to embrace whatever emotion/experience that comes my way with grace and gratitude, leaving the past behind and being present in any current moment..

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Bryan (104) (@Substratum) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

Yeah I’m right there with you with searching for “it” and then stumbling into complete bewilderment”. The idea that enlightenment is ” a relaxed state of mind”..” grace and gratitude”, letting go of the past and being present…seems to me to be consistent with the actual work or practice of “”Being” enlightened…because enlightenment is no particular thing …it is maybe just a transition from the “darkness” of rigid beliefs to the “light”

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GarrettMc (59) (@GarrettMc) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

Enlightenment has got many definitions so you really just have to pick one and stick with it. The one I personally use is from the Tao Text Ching which defines enlightenment as the recognition of one’s own insignificance. 

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Bryan (104) (@Substratum) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

It just seems to me that no matter how significant the idea that is associated with an experience of “enlightenment” the idea  is always relative …if you change your mind regarding the idea, do you “lose” the experience of enlightenment?

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GarrettMc (59) (@GarrettMc) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

I don’t think you can lose experience by not labeling it, or labeling it incorrectly. Just because I associate the word enlightenment with a certain experience  doesn’t mean I can no longer experience your definition of enlightenment. I might just call it a different word. Don’t rely on language to describe an experience which transcends language because it will just result in unnecessary confusion. At the end of the day words are just abstract sound vibrations which humans convert into meaning. Nothing more. 

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Jordan Bates (4,617)A (@bashfulkoala) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

Traditionally, “enlightenment” has referred to the transcendence of suffering — that which makes one feel as if one is perpetually floating a couple of inches above the ground. Various traditions insist that this is brought about by a realization of one’s “true nature,” which typically refers to a realization of the essential sameness of one’s being and the being of the entire universe. It was said by some Zen master whose name escapes me that once one has come to this realization, there is nothing left to do but have a good laugh.

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MayaLuvsKaya (130) (@MayaluvsKaya) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

to bring to light….. those who know it do not speak it.

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Bryan (104) (@Substratum) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

I know the cliché…and yet it seems rather egotistical and self-concealing to me. It implies that anyone who has ever spoken about enlightenment actually know nothing about it?

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MayaLuvsKaya (130) (@MayaluvsKaya) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

It is ironically egotistical but I do think it is important to think about. I think it really speaks more to the fact that experience is not easily translated into language. Especially the experience of enlightenment. Also experience is 100% reliant on the individual. Enlightenment is something felt and experienced so anyone saying that it is this or it is that is only speaking to their own experience. I feel the phrase I used actually gives room to all selves instead of narrowing the self into a box that has been previously defined. To me enlightenment is too real to translate into the illusion of language. The phrase DOES NOT mean those who spoke ABOUT enlightenment did not feel enlightened, it simply means they never spoke it.

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Bryan (104) (@Substratum) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

Yes…and then it occurs to me that there are many times when I don’t want to try to translate a “realization” into words because it requires conceptualizing the experience…just the way our brains work…and the end result is we have a concept or belief we can communicate at the same time we have lost our authentic connection to the experience….

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MayaLuvsKaya (130) (@MayaluvsKaya) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

Exactly.. I just rather enjoy the experience that try to translate it. But that’s just me.

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Mallikarjuna (0) (@Mallikarjuna) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

being in the present always 

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philip (78) (@phiswe) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

Remember the Zen saying:

Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water

After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water

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Daniel (0) (@LifeByDesign) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

Everything is relative.  I think of enlightenment like a tree… A new branch with new possibilities.  New wisdom, understanding, and way of looking at things.  The old branches are retired and only understood from its original context from a past reality.  New reality, new context, new branch reaching out from the darkness– into the light.

After a major enlightening episode I feel really… Dumb!  The one thing that I know, is that I know nothing!  Awesome!

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Bryan (104) (@Substratum) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

That IS awesome…and “light”…thanks. 

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SoulPerfection (25) (@soulperfection) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

The realization that YOU ARE GOD.

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private (0) (@private) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

enlightenment is, among other things, the realisation there is no you or i, we are all as one

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Anonymous (2) (@) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

I experience it not really as light and dark but like going from a small cramped space to a large open space. 

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Bryan (104) (@Substratum) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

Well let me guess…you love being outdoors and, even though you love people, you feel uncomfortable in the middle of a crowd? 

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gostamos (1) (@gsampaio) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

The word enlightenment refers to a particular state of consciousness. To achieve it, you obviously experience a transition, but not every transition is enlightenment. In fact, when you are enlightened, you realize that everything is in permanent transition. You understand the most deep levels of non dualism of life, the universe, and everything that has ever existed. You understand that everything that has ever existed is just form, and emptiness is form as well. When you are enlightened, you also realize that these are but words, words that try but never actually effectively describe the state of enlightenment. They may serve as a starting point, just like ambition, but when you get there, you see there are no words, you see there are no ambitions. It’s very hard to explain what enlightenment is; the good thing is, though, that when you reach it, you know what it is. And everything you’ve ever read about enlightenment resonates inside your head with a now different meaning. Now you see it.

Each person’s enlightenment is different, because they transition from different things. So their attempt to describe the experience of getting there may not be super useful for everybody, because everybody is different. But what you reach, that is the same for every single one of us, and that’s why you get other people’s attempt to explain it when you get there. By developing full compassion, you can understand everyone’s point of view, including that of other living beings or even inanimate things to be found in Nature, in everything outside of you, which is actually you.

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Bryan (104) (@Substratum) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

You seem to believe that you ARE enlightened. “If you experience it, it’s the truth. The same thing believed, is a lie.”

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gostamos (1) (@gsampaio) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

I doubt you can ever judge whether someone is enlightened or not, unless you have, in fact, achieved such a state.

In other words, there are situations in which you cannot determine whether someone believes or experiences something. In fact, if I were to steal a definition of enlightenment given by Buddha, you couldn’t tell if those were my words, or just words I believe in. Words and any other manifestation of your inner experience are fragile and never fully encompassing (simply form). Especially when you talk about enlightenment.

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Bryan (104) (@Substratum) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

What is the difference between the unenlightened person and the enlightened person?

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gostamos (1) (@gsampaio) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

Everything about existence carries Buddha nature, enlightenment, with it. An enlightened person is someone who is able to see it, who experienced enlightenment consciously. That’s why you speak of higher consciousness. Now the person is both conscious of everything and unconscious, because his thought no longer alters existence. He has no desires, no thoughts (the absence of consciousness and desire is a product of enlightenment, as I said before, you first need the desire and the consciousness to then realize it does not exist). 

The documentary Compassion and Wisdom: A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life walks the viewer through the life of a Bodhisattva, a person who transcended suffering and existence, if you will, but who maintained a little resistance towards the higher consciousness (i.e. has envolved himself in the “games” of society) in order to be able to live through daily life, in a way to be able to show other people the way to enlightenment. It may help you to understand the difference between the unenlightened person and the enlightened person, but it is probably better to watch under other circumstances.

I don’t think that this question you’re asking is going to bring you the most revealing aspects about enlightenment or the most fruitful advice for your life. Rather, I believe you should read from people who experienced it (Shunryu Suzuki, Chögyam Trungpa, Alan Watts…). These people have distilled their experiences into understandable things for every person who is willing to accept them. They also talk about enlightenment and how to get there, all through metaphors. You only have to find the metaphors that resonate the most to you. When you do become enlightened, you see every single thing about existence as a metaphor about enlightenment. That’s buddha nature. You just needed someone to first be able to interpret it to you, à la your way.

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Bryan (104) (@Substratum) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

Well thanks for your contribution. It is enlightening regarding the perspective of what enlightenment is not. Mostly what you have communicated is your belief that you are enlightened and that I am not. You speak from assumptions rather than knowing. What do you know of me? Nothing. You judged who I am based upon your interpretation of the question I asked. Since you assumed you already knew the meaning of my question, you didn’t bother to pay attention to what it actually asked. So, simply to inform you…not that it matters:you don’t know me and you did not answer the question. Even so, I appreciate that you gave me your time and positive intention. Thanks.

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gostamos (1) (@gsampaio) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

I’m sorry if I offended you. But I don’t care if I know you or not, my answer was not in any way related to you, it was an explanation of what enlightenment means to me—that was the question, I suppose—while the only one putting yourself in the equation was you.

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Bryan (104) (@Substratum) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

The fact that your answer was not in any way related to me is an accurate observation. I didn’t “put myself” in the equation, I AM in the equation because I asked/ created the question. Clearly you were not talking to me, but it begs the question, “Who then were you talking to?” 

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gostamos (1) (@gsampaio) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

I was talking to you about something that does not have anything to do with you, with you being enlightened or not, but rather with what enlightenment is. I don’t get where you wanna get with this.

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Bryan (104) (@Substratum) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

I want to “get to” some insight regarding the question of what enlightenment actually is, and what it is not. I made the distinction in my original post that the experience of enlightenment does not depend on any particular belief …to the extreme that one person accepts “God” and feels enlightened while another rejects “God” and feels enlightened.  So obviously it isn’t the “what” of the experience that matters. If you read the replies you might notice that many people ignore the actual question and respond mechanically…like a human stimulus-response machine…they simply “play” the record in their head labeled “Enlightenment”. Obviously they are not able to be attentive…they are unresponsive, not-awake…they are living from within the space inside their own head…and they don’t understand what other people want from them. Those people certainly HAD an experience of enlightenment…they woke up, and then they fell asleep. Everyone does the same thing. It’s important to know what enlightenment is and what it is not. So where I wanna get with this is I want you to wake up. If you were awake you would know that everything you say to me has to do with me.  

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gostamos (1) (@gsampaio) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

“enlightenment is not the result of adopting any particular belief”. That is correct. But enlightenment is not just any experience of transition. If you say enlightenment, especially in this website, people will obviously assume you’re regarding the experience of awakening from Buddhism. Starting to believe or disbelieve in God is not enlightenment in that sense of the word. And you have no right to say those people are just playing response machines, that they are not attentive, that they are plain not-awake living from within the space inside their own head… You asked wtf is enlightenment, I gave you my definition. Everything I say to you has to do with you? That’s true for enlightened people, just like every fart I give has to do with your grandmother. It doesn’t mean you should be egocentric. If you want, you’re free to try to understand my anwers. I am not going to give further explainment because you’re definitely not interested in hearing it but rather at shooting at me. And no, I don’t have to wake up to you. If I ever meet you, then you may receive a more personalized teaching of Buddhism’s path to enlightenment. Meanwhile I’m going to post answers on this forum for everyone to read, and that everyone is free to interpret.

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Bryan (104) (@Substratum) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

Waking up was just a suggestion…obviously you don’t have to .

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Sarcastic Roach (56) (@sarcasticroach) 3 years, 11 months ago ago

I believe that “enlightenment” is the moment in your life when transcendence occurs… This must happen to every spiritual being to progress along the way to God. A “level upup” to use a more contemporary term.

Each of the cells of God must ‘evolve” up through the levels or planes of existence (vibrational states). These worlds are each unique, yet dependent and faded together into a journey from physical reality (our current and infancy level), along an ever higher tapestry of all consciousness, ever, forever…until it reaches the highest of highs…The CEOs corner penthouse suite… The “qualified personnel only” room accessable only to God, the Supreme Creator of all and forever….the ultra-purest of omnipotence, Holy highest heaven of hella high Heavens. Gods private Bedroom…

10s of 1,000s of incarnations of each spirit cell must occur to teach every cell everything there is to experience…All that is good, All that is evil. Only then can the spirit cell reunite into the most praised and exhaulted one of our miniscule spec He who is I.

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