Enlightenment is Overrated

photo by Wonderlane

I admit it. I am Enlightened. (If I was going to take the Zen approach, I might say I am Enlightened because I know there is no such thing as Enlightenment.) I’m not afraid to admit that I have “reached” Enlightenment. I think far too many people shy away from talking openly about being Enlightened because it’s such a taboo subject. After all, isn’t Enlightenment something reserved for sages and mystics?

Enlightened people aren’t simply sages though; they’re people like you and me. We wear regular clothes, we work regular jobs, we eat, drink, sleep, and go to the grocery store just like everyone else. You don’t have to be a celibate monk living in a monastery to be Enlightened. Placing Enlightenment beyond yourself just perpetuates the idea that you will never reach it.

I think part of the allure (and taboo aspect) of Enlightenment is the fact that it is so mysterious. Ohh, he’s enlightened, he must be above everyone else, seems to be a commonly held superstition. People think that becoming Enlightened brings you further away from reality. You completely transcend it and dematerialize. Poof. He was enlightened. And then, he disappeared. (Sounds more like David Blaine to me.)

Part of the problem is Enlightenment can mean many things. Bringing light to dark places, bringing clarity, and perceiving the truth are a few different interpretations. But ultimately, Enlightenment is understanding your true nature. It’s the realization that you are not a separate ego, you are the eternal, unbounded energy of the universe.

That’s is a pretty powerful realization. And while I wholeheartedly believe in the value and merit of attaining Enlightenment, I think in some ways it is vastly overrated. That’s because people think Enlightenment means the end of their problems, the end of the struggles of living.

People want their mystics and masters to be free from the same struggles that make them want to escape life. They want Enlightenment to be a panacea for their problems. They don’t want their masters to have the same troubles they have, they want them to be beyond them. They see Enlightenment as some grandeur state where the struggles of life no longer exist.

The great Enlightened masters (Christ, Buddha, Moses, Lao Tzu, and many others), did not become Enlightened and retreat into a cave. They did not merely transcend their egos. They became great big egos. They engaged life completely and fearlessly and shook the earth from its very foundation. They did not seek Enlightenment as an escape from life, but as a means to live more completely.

Many people seek Enlightenment as an escape from life. And while Enlightenment can do many things, there are some things it cannot do:

  • Your realization that everything is non-dual will not break all of the previous self-limiting and fear-based beliefs you have with yourself. Breaking those agreements will require hard work and perspiration to change.
  • Wearing a Buddha necklace or getting a tattoo of the Yin and Yang will not stop you from having to solve real problems, like how to deal with the job you can’t stand.
  • Enlightenment will not solve your relationship problems with others or with yourself. It won’t make your husband any less barbaric, and it won’t lessen the wrath of your wife’s PMS.
  • It will not get you out of debt or free you from financial struggle. It won’t stop you from making stupid decisions, like buying an HDTV on credit, after you just missed your mortgage payment.
  • Transcending your ego will not make your ego disappear. You will still have to deal with ego-based desire and suffering.

Reaching Enlightenment will not turn you into an invincible ball of energy high above the world and all its troubles. It will not make you immune to the sometimes callous and careless words of others. Perceiving the truth of the Yin and Yang, the Diamond Sutra or the Bhagavad Gita will not make all of your problems go away.

Despite all the things that Enlightenment can’t do, there are certainly many benefits to “achieving” it. Most importantly, it will help you understand your true nature and help you find peace in your heart.

While Enlightenment can’t solve all your problems it certainly can help you realize:

  • Death and birth are an illusion. (But someone poking you in the eye still might hurt.)
  • Life is a dream with the brain awake.
  • Beliefs are subjective. Something is only true if you believe it is. (Except maybe gravity.)
  • Life is essentially one, everything is consciousness.

With these realizations you can:

  • Know that you are eternal and there is no reason to fear death, or anything for that matter. Essentially, if you are experiencing fear, there’s a bug in your consciousness.
  • What you do to others, you are really doing to yourself.
  • You know yourself through the difference of others, you perceive in others the reflection of yourself. Ie. if you think everyone else is an asshole, it just might be you.
  • Because we are all one, compassion and love become the highest principles.

Reaching Enlightenment doesn’t mean your soul shoots out of the top of your heart and you become omniscient. Enlightenment can help solve some of the toughest problems of life. But it is not a means of escape from life.

In reality, enlightenment brings you into a deeper, more intimate relationship with life.

Rather, Enlightenment means dropping into your body more completely. It means living life more fully, passionately and fearlessly.

Enlightenment isn’t about becoming omniscient and escaping life. It’s about living with verve and passion. Am I the only one that’s noticed people put Enlightenment above themselves, out of reach? What do you think, do people have the wrong idea about Enlightenment?

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Jarrod - Warrior Development July 22, 2008 at 5:00 pm

Enlightenment is whatever you want to call it. Like every other concept in the book.

I certainly agree that the process of improving is more important than any state during.

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nobdoy@gmail.com March 25, 2013 at 1:42 am

There are no states, experience, observer or observed, subject or object. Enlightenment is truly silent.

Alexander M Zoltai July 22, 2008 at 5:30 pm

Great article!

What you call enlightenment I have called detachment:

~ Alex

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nobdoy@gmail.com March 25, 2013 at 1:40 am

This is illumination, detachment, but not complete enlightenment. You are right, there is no enlightenment, there is also no consciousness, or energy. This is all illusion, to completely rid the mind of mind and all illusion is enlightenment, this means no more work, no more birth or death in either existence or nonexistence. You have more work to do if you are illuminated, living in oneness or consciousness. This is still a perception, there is also nonperception, in reality, there is neither perception nor nonperception. nothing ever happens in reality, nothing changes. Freedom from perception, nonperception, oneness and duality, thought and feeling, everything and nothing, is enlightenment.

Evelyn Lim | Attraction Mind Map July 22, 2008 at 6:23 pm

Jarrod is right. Enlightenment means different things to different people. But one thing is for sure and you are right to point it out, enlightenment also means being able to deal with, and not escaping, everyday problems and the transcending of the ego.

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John Rocheleau - zen-moments July 22, 2008 at 7:20 pm

I suppose we can talk about enlightenment as a mental concept like this, and then, as others have said, it can be anything you want it to be according to your experience of the term.

But there is also an experiential enlightenment or merging with the essence of existence. This event really does bestow gifts, it holds immense power, and it does relive suffering and confusion.

Words :-)

John

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Sara at On Simplicity July 22, 2008 at 7:56 pm

You really nailed all the stereotypes. I enjoyed your idea that enlightenment isn’t an escape from life and struggle, just from fear.

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Marelisa July 22, 2008 at 8:06 pm

“It’s the realization that you are not a separate ego, you are the eternal, unbounded energy of the universe.”

I think there’s a big difference between mental knowledge and inner knowledge. I think a lot of people can accept the concept that everything is one, but they haven’t actually experienced oneness. While those people who manage to experience oneness still have everyday hassles, they perceive and react to these hassles in a way that is much different than those who haven’t experienced oneness.

I do agree that you should see enlightenment as something that can be achieved.

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Alan June 30, 2013 at 2:10 pm

The question is: How can you manage to not perceive oneness?

Jonathan July 22, 2008 at 9:47 pm

@ John: I think you really nailed it when you said mental concept. Enlightenment can mean anything. In the traditional sense, at least in the buddhist sense, it means to be awakened. To see clearly. I think the more clarity that is brought to Enlightenment, the less people will shy away from it.

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Jonathan July 22, 2008 at 9:48 pm

@ Sara: Totally. Enlightenment can help you transcend fear and better deal with your troubles. But it won’t make them disappear.

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Jonathan July 22, 2008 at 9:49 pm

@ Marelisa: I think that’s really the difference. Expecting Enlightenment, or spiritual attainment to take the struggles and pains of life away is seeking escape, not truth. =)

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ZHereford July 23, 2008 at 5:59 am

Enlightenment occurs when we experience all that it means to be human – joy, suffering, loss, love, pain, compassion etc. and are still able to achieve clarity and put life and its struggles in perspective.

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Jonathan July 23, 2008 at 7:12 am

@ Z: I think that’s a great point. It’s about integrating the positive and the negative experiences, not trying to trade one for the other.

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Ken | Destiny Building July 23, 2008 at 8:06 am

Yes, we can be “enlightened” and still be human. We can perceive that we are one with all things and still misplace our car keys and be otherwise far less than perfect. Excellent post Jonathan!

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nobdoy@gmail.com March 25, 2013 at 1:46 am

These are all imaginations, perceptions, and ideas coming from the mind. These words are far removed from reality. Oneness is nothing else but duality, as dark is the absence of light, and cold the absence of heat. Understand that all of it is illusion. Freedom from all concepts, words, ideas, thoughts, perceptions, and not concepts, words, ideas, thoughts, perceptions is something like enlightenment. One can only say what enlightenment is because once one says enlightenment is, one is a liar and only pointing to enlightenment with symbol.

nobdoy@gmail.com March 25, 2013 at 1:47 am

These are all imaginations, perceptions, and ideas coming from the mind. These words are far removed from reality. Oneness is nothing else but duality, as dark is the absence of light, and cold the absence of heat. Understand that all of it is illusion. Freedom from all concepts, words, ideas, thoughts, perceptions, and not concepts, words, ideas, thoughts, perceptions is something like enlightenment. One can only say what enlightenment is not because once one says, “enlightenment is,” one is a liar, at least is inaccurate, and only pointing to enlightenment with symbol.

D July 23, 2008 at 8:39 am

Are those who write internet articles about being enlightened truly enlightened?

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ed September 16, 2010 at 2:21 pm

why not?

Yes, 90% of the time people claiming to be enlightened probably aren’t, but some are.

nobdoy@gmail.com March 25, 2013 at 1:48 am

These are all imaginations, perceptions, and ideas coming from the mind. These words are far removed from reality. Oneness is nothing else but duality, as dark is the absence of light, and cold the absence of heat. Understand that all of it is illusion. Freedom from all concepts, words, ideas, thoughts, perceptions, and not concepts, words, ideas, thoughts, perceptions is something like enlightenment. One can only say what enlightenment is not because once one says, “enlightenment is,” one is a liar, at least is inaccurate, and only pointing to enlightenment with symbol.

Amarendra July 23, 2008 at 10:37 am

Hi John, your passion to bring ‘clarity’ to enlightenment is commendable!

An observation. In your statement “And while Enlightenment can do many things, there are some things it cannot do”, the “CANNOT” seems to be dangerous, and probably NOT accurate.

It contradicts your “Enlightenment CAN help solve some of the toughest problems of life.”

For example, breaking those self-limiting beliefs is actually EASIER. And, Enlightenment CAN make your husband less barbaric, or CAN lessen the wrath of your wife’s PMS.

I guess instead of “CANNOT”, you probably meant “MAY NOT”:-)

Though, I do get your message: “Enlightenment is NOT a panacea for their problems”.

Thanks for an “enlightening” post!

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Jonathan July 23, 2008 at 10:47 am

@ D: Who knows. You’d be surprised at how many Monks are online these days. =)

@ Ken: Totally. Enlightenment will not make you any less forgetful, or clumsy. It can make the experience more enjoyable though.

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4 Mind 4 Life July 23, 2008 at 11:37 am

Finally, someone had the balls to write a quality article that made enlightenment seem normal and attainable. Most blog articles about enlightenment make it seem as if you need to be a superhuman to become enlightened OR when you do become enlightened, you instantly become an unapprochable, mythological creature that is psychic and has super powers…haha [maybe I went a little overboard]….

I really liked how you debunked some of the myths (i.e. wearing a “yin yang” necklace, etc.) I totally agree that the more people become open to the idea rather than shying away from it, the better.

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Tom Volkar / Delightful Work July 23, 2008 at 1:21 pm

Enlightenment can be a bitch. Here’s what I mean. Once there, one simply can’t go back to an ignorant state of being. It can be challenging to live in an enlightened state because we are then compelled to face our own bull and do something about it. Perhaps I’m not truly enlightened if I still struggle in this way?

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ed September 16, 2010 at 2:26 pm

lol… ignorance is bliss.

maybe your way of looking at it is wrong way. you should enjoy the struggle, it’s the reason why all the good sensations exist.

Duff July 23, 2008 at 3:41 pm

I think you are correct in that most people’s understanding of enlightenment is “wrong view”–that realization and liberation will not necessarily solve worldly problems.

But I disagree that enlightenment is overrated, given that almost nobody is really going for it hardcore, practicing 2 or more hours a day of very concentrated Vipassana, going on 1, 2, and 3 month retreats or more, etc.

Very few people are awake, although there are more enlightened masters walking around (especially in Boulder) than I once realized.

I’m curious by what measure exactly you have deemed yourself enlightened? Have you had a stable realization of non-dual reality confirmed by a teacher in an established lineage? Have you mastered the 8 Shamatha Jhanas? Or are you using the term much more loosely to indicate something else?

Curiously yours,
~Duff

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Michelle July 23, 2008 at 5:32 pm

Jonathan, such an Enlightened perspective!! Christians believe that, not only was Jesus Christ enlightened, but, he was the Son of God. And in order to believe this, people removed Christ from the human experience of sex, marriage, procreation, lust and even being breastfed as a baby! This correlates with your assertion that most believe being “Enlightened” is being “above” human experiential living!! However, one can only become Enlightened by moving thru the human experience, consciously. I would love to talk more on this subject! I am inspired by you!

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Evan July 23, 2008 at 9:57 pm

I remember a zen student being told by a Roshi: I have haemorrhoids, these things don’t change.

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Parthon July 23, 2008 at 10:00 pm

Thanks for the awesome post Jon, it made me realise that I was already enlightened rather than chasing some impossible ideal.

Just giving up fear, hate, judgement and predjudice, feeling love and compassion for all others and bringing light and passion into the world is all it takes. Not to be some grand poobah on a mountain somewhere. :)

Thanks so much for that insight.

also for Duff: doesn’t having a measuring stick for enlightenment cause it to be created as an external ideal aside from yourself, which was the exact problem discussed by Jon? :P

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Jonathan July 24, 2008 at 8:59 am

@ 4 Mind 4 Life: Dude, I’m cracking up right now. You totally crushed everyones dreams that wanted to become a mythological enlightened dragon.

@ Tom: Yeah, it sucks doesn’t it? All in all, I don’t think I’d have it any other way though.

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Jonathan July 24, 2008 at 9:09 am

@ Duff: I think it’s a common misconception that you need to pursue enlightenment as a full time job. Enlightenment is something that you should seek with a fire under your belly, but it shouldn’t be an obsession. If that’s what you’ve made it, you’re missing the point.

There’s a good Koan that describes this:

The student asks the master how long it will take him to reach enlightenment if he practices meditation for 4 hours a day.

The master replies “10 years.”

Then the student asks him how long it will take if he meditates for 8 hours a day.

The master responds “20 years.”

The measure I suppose that I’ve deemed myself enlightened is that I perceive the true nature of reality, specifically being, the non-dual nature of reality. That is it. I don’t have a master of which I’m under tutelage. I don’t have any sort of identification with a particularly Monastery or Temple. After all, Buddhism is the religion of non-religion. I take that very seriously.

As far as measurement goes, our whole frustration is caused by maya. Maya meaning matter, meter, or measurement. We’re trying to compare, judge and measure that which is beyond measurement. There is no yardstick for Enlightenment, because reality itself is beyond measurement. =)

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Jonathan July 24, 2008 at 9:10 am

@ Michelle: You really nailed it with that one. Christians pedestalized Christ and said “Okay, you can be Enlightened. But that’s it. We can’t go around having everyone think that they’re the Son of God.”

@ Evan: Damn, that was priceless. Thank you, I’ll never forget that.

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Bengt July 24, 2008 at 11:31 am

I got a tad disappointed when I read that “Reaching Enlightenment will not turn you into an invincible ball of energy high above the world and all its troubles.” :-)

You wrote a great explanation: “Enlightenment is understanding your true nature. It’s the realization that you are not a separate ego, you are the eternal, unbounded energy of the universe.” To me enlightenment has nothing to do with religion, you can reach it anyway.

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Yogi Zen Dude July 26, 2008 at 10:32 am

There are a vast array of levels of enlightenment. The more enlightened one becomes, through conscious effort, the more one lives in bliss consciousness, seeing God in all souls, seeing God everywhere. Nothing can disturb there peace, once fully enlightened/realized.

Realizing God/Love in any situation, brings bliss.

And so we practice this.

Blessing’s of Peace…Love…Joy…And Infinite Abundance !!!****** =)

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nobdoy@gmail.com March 25, 2013 at 1:52 am

read your own writing, this thing you speak of can never be practiced, that is why so few people reach it. it is only attained effortlessly. Those who reach never attain.

Tom Stine July 28, 2008 at 7:29 pm

As someone who also writes about this enlightenment/awakening stuff, I found lots of head scratchers in your post. I think that, fundamentally, the thing that gives me pause is this statement:

“Your realization that everything is non-dual will not break all of the previous self-limiting and fear-based beliefs you have with yourself. Breaking those agreements will require hard work and perspiration to change.”

To be honest, this statement runs counter to my experience and that of others. When the realization of no-self dawns, not merely an intellectual understand, but a true realization, beliefs disappear. As Ramana Maharshi pointed out, the belief in a separate “me,” what he called the I-thought, is the root of all other beliefs. When it drops away, all beliefs are suspended. They might still arise, but they cannot be believed again. If they arise again, then the I-thought has returned.

To be awake, one would need to be free from the identification with belief. So, in a sense, the definition of enlightened would be “free from believing any thought.” So, I would have to disagree with your statement.

I think the key word here is realization. What you describe in this post is, for me, more of an intellectual understanding which isn’t a realization. That’s how it appears to me.

That said, I have to agree with much of what you say elsewhere in the post. Enlightenment is, truly, no big deal and quite ordinary in a certain sense. But it does have incredible power to transform. But on its terms and by its agenda.

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nobdoy@gmail.com March 25, 2013 at 1:53 am

This is correct. Complete Freedom from thought, belief, consciousness itself, and itself itself.

Jonathan July 28, 2008 at 7:46 pm

Tom,

Basically what I was trying to say is that their are ego-level agreements and beliefs you have and their are cosmic level beliefs (enlightenment level beliefs).

Changing fear-based and self-limiting beliefs on an egoic level can be helped with enlightenment. But it does not make them go away completely all at once. Those are deeply ingrained habitual beliefs that take time to change. Again, that’s on an egoic level. I think transcending the ego is important as well, and more merely identifying solely with the go. But you have to transcend and include the ego, not merely deny it.

I hope that clears things up a bit as to what I meant on that point. Perhaps I should have been a little clearer there. =)

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Takuin Minamoto July 28, 2008 at 8:43 pm

Hi Jonathan. I’m a first time commenter and visitor. Nice to be here.

Like Tom, I also write on this subject. I find difficulty here with the language being used. Not necessarily due to any short-coming on your part, but it may be helpful to go into these things step by step.

Basically what I was trying to say is that their are ego-level agreements and beliefs you have and their are cosmic level beliefs (enlightenment level beliefs).

Are there different kinds of beliefs, or is there just belief? What is a cosmic level? Isn’t the idea of cosmic levels as a different kind of belief still the movement of the ego decided what is what? One is not asking these questions in order to get an answer, but to unravel the statements. If there is truth, it will not come through the words, but when the words are seen through. Knowledge has nothing to do with what is being asked.

Changing fear-based and self-limiting beliefs on an egoic level can be helped with enlightenment. But it does not make them go away completely all at once. Those are deeply ingrained habitual beliefs that take time to change.

Are you saying that through enlightenment one can change their beliefs to non-fear based or non-self-limiting? If one is there, completely empty, is there a need to change anything?

Is there non fear based, or non self limiting? Or is the fact the fear or the belief or whatever it is?

Beliefs on an egoic level can be helped with enlightenment? So therefore, enlightenment itself is a movement of the ego? It is the ego that says, things should change, be different from what they are, etc. It is a movement of thought; a movement of the past. In enlightenment, is there a need for the past at all? Is there a need for change at all?

And if there is to be a change, who is the entity that is going to move to make the change?

I am not actually asking for the answers here. But can one see the questions here, sit with them, and go deeply into them without the conclusion of the self or the ego?

The only thing one can do is find out for themselves. If anyone wants to really go into these things, it is all so fascinating. Approach it with all of your vitality.

Thanks for such an interesting post, Jonathan.

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nobdoy@gmail.com March 25, 2013 at 1:54 am

good.

Davidya July 28, 2008 at 10:19 pm

Interesting article but I don’t consider it a very good example of what “enlightenment” means. You do make a number of valid points about the many misunderstandings about it, but go on to perpetuate others. For example, full enlightenment IS about becoming omniscient. Quite simply, you become knowledge itself.

It is true that anything you know about enlightenment is ALWAYS wrong because enlightenment has nothing to do with concepts. It is about being.

It’s very important to see enlightenment as a process, not a goal. It is a natural form of human development. As such, we go through a series of openings or awakenings in the process of enlightenment. A process that does NOT end. The very fact that you refer to enlightenment as “overrated” indicates that you are either not or are in the early “dry” stage. Some of your description is that of mental illumination (per your blog name) and detachment. These are symptoms of approaching waking, perhaps of jiva waking, but not a true awakening. True awakening has nothing to do with mind or experiences but is rather a becoming.

The way you use the word “ego” also implies this, but some use the term more loosely. The way it is typically understood, the ego dies in awakening as it is the mental idea of being separate. Certainly, as you observe there can be some trash to take out after the fact, but it simply needs to be seen. The identity does remain but gradually recedes into a less and less prominent role. A big hunk of it passes around the time of the second waking.

It’s true that an awake person still has an identity that still has a mundane life. There are still apparent problems. But that is from the perception of the unawake. For the fully awake, the perception of what is “happening” is completely different. All of it is happening inside a “dream” inside themselves. When you wake up from a dream, how big a problem do you find the events in your dream? This is such a minor part of the reality being experienced that flows with perfection and purpose.

You mention none of the freedom, bliss and peace of established first awakening. That alone makes concepts of enlightenment way under rated. You mention none of the heart process that follows that. And none of the Oneness that dawns in full enlightenment.

As Shankara said, you are selling a diamond for the price of spinach.

Certainly you are welcome to your opinion. But don’t sell yourself short. There is a LOT more to this than you describe. If you decide you’re “there”, you can get in the way of where it’s really going.

First awakening is pre-kindergarten in terms of understanding reality. Just the beginning.

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Davidya July 28, 2008 at 10:32 pm

@Tom V
It’s true that once you awake, you cannot go back. But the struggle some experience at first is temporary. A good teacher can help smooth the way.
Rather than saying not “truly”, perhaps just not fully. Be patient, the process can take time but it’s well worth it.

@Duff
There are a LOT more people awake now than there used to be and it’s accelerating. You noticed a bit of that in Boulder. It’s also worth observing that meditation will not bring you to enlightenment. It can help prepare the ground, but waking is a very different thing. It is the Self waking to Itself, not the individual doing anything. Often, the concepts around this can be the last barriers to being it. Waking is an allowing, not a doing.

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nobdoy@gmail.com March 25, 2013 at 1:55 am

yes, relax and awaken, there is nothing to do, no doer to do it, no it to be done. there is only peace, silence.

Jonathan July 29, 2008 at 9:04 am

@ Takuin: You’re absolutely right, a belief is a product of the ego. I should have been more clear when I stated “cosmic belief.” What I really meant was perceiving the true nature of reality. In other words, knowing.

In response to your second comment, I’d have to say that you are right again. In emptiness, there is no need for change. Everything is complete in no-thing.

But when we perceive that the dream is an illusion. Do we merely transcend the dream and stop dreaming? Absolutely not. We merely create a different kind of dream. We still have the ego, but we see beyond the ego. But the ego is still a vehicle for the creation of your personal dream and your personal story. It is in that non-identification, but still embracing your character in the dream, that you can change the beliefs of your character, the agreements that you have. In that sense, within the dream there are fear-based beliefs and self-limiting beliefs. All the while, knowing that this is a dream, you don’t react to these beliefs, you witness them and can change them at any time.

I could have gone into this more in depth in this article, but what I really wanted to focus on was being okay with talking about enlightenment, being okay with even saying you perceive the true nature of reality. It’s the whole taboo against knowing who you are that is the death of awakening. That’s what I was trying to bring perspective to here.

Thank you Takuin for your very thoughtful comments. It’s discussion like this that I live for. =)

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Jonathan July 29, 2008 at 9:15 am

@ Davidya: You are right, I think, in a sense. Enlightenment is about being omniscient, but perceiving the illusion of the dream, doesn’t make the dream go away. In that sense, you still accept your ego, your character if you will in the dream, but you don’t identify with it. What I meant about not being omniscient is that your avatar is not omniscient. The Self is however, fully omniscient.

You are absolutely right in your other points. Enlightenment in some senses is underrated. I merely wanted to point out the fact that enlightenment is not to be sought as an escape from life, as many seek.

I didn’t mean to sell a diamond for the price of spinach either. I could have spoken extensively about the transformation of consciousness and beauty that enlightenment brings. But that was not the purpose of this article, that is for another article. Also, I think others have fully covered this subject elsewhere. I don’t want to beat a dead horse.

What you said about the perception of problems is true. In a fully enlightened stage your see through knowledge (maya), you see through drama. You don’t react to it or identify with it. However, you can still choose to accept the role of a character (ego, avatar) within the dream and play the game of the dream. Play the game of a character with problems, troubles, joys, sorrow and bliss. Playing the game is what life is all about anyway, is it not? =)

Thank you for your wonderful comments Davidya.

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Davidya July 29, 2008 at 3:38 pm

Jonathan
Thank you for the well considered response. Also good to see your responses to Tom, Takuin, and some others earlier on. I hope your readers do read the comments as well to get a fuller picture around this huge subject. Really, its a bit of an art to blog about something so vast, abstract and foreign to many people.

The point you emphasized to Takuin was valid. There is a stigma to talking about it that clutters the airwaves. Partly this is it’s fundamental threat to the ego. And partly historic. Until recently, awakening was fairly rare and seemingly exotic. And comments such as Yogananda’s about anyone who says “I am awake probably isn’t” are almost a mantra in some circles.

I was “outed” unintentionally to a group of friends and the first response was the quote above. But the second person brought an openness and the resistance dissolved. Indeed, that openness lead her to awaken that evening.

People are awakening in much larger numbers now and gradually are finding ways to speak about it and become more open. Its as if they are coming out of the woodwork now. (laughs) Thats a good thing as its nice to have a support network when reality changes.

Another factor to note is that many people who awake reject the word enlightenment as a descriptor as it never has anything to do with the concepts the word carries with it.

I still consider the way you use the term “ego” to be sloppy. The egoic idea of separateness dies with awakening. The individual form remains, in the dream as you mention. Its increment of wholeness retains an identity for a time, then that dies with Unity. Then there is simply a personality or role in the drama. To use one word to cover all values of individual is to lead to misunderstandings and conflict with valuable teachings.

Perhaps other articles on your blog would satisfy more. This was simply the one that arose. It’s pretty funny to have you describe writing about the beauty of enlightenment as flogging a dead horse. (laughs) I also would not define Maya as knowledge. When sattva is enough, Mayas illusion is seen through and it becomes a ladder to knowing. But Maya remains the dream, a consequence of knowledge but not knowledge itself.

It also appears that your description of the dream to Takuin and myself is a little off. To me, playing the game is not what life is about. Rather it is about stepping out of the game and into reality. Letting the game take care of itself.

But you are brave to step out as you have. As we express through something like a public blog, our growth and process are displayed, our insights and blind spots. But that encourages others to come forward as well.

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Duff July 31, 2008 at 4:01 pm

You said:
The measure I suppose that I’ve deemed myself enlightened is that I perceive the true nature of reality, specifically being, the non-dual nature of reality. That is it. I don’t have a master of which I’m under tutelage. I don’t have any sort of identification with a particularly Monastery or Temple. After all, Buddhism is the religion of non-religion. I take that very seriously.

That’s a great way to delude yourself. You might be seeing reality clearly, but you might also be completely full of shit. I speak from personal experience on this one.

Having a teacher or at least a sangha confirm your attainments can help you to keep from bullshitting yourself. There are many blind alleys on the path. I’m grateful for my sangha (literally “spiritual friends”) who have kept me from developing a too large spiritual ego, and for pointing me in the right direction when I got lost and thought I was “done.”

Yes, Buddhism is a practice, not merely blind faith (or at least that’s how I think it should be). But that doesn’t mean realization lacks intersubjective truth that can be objectively verified.

I recommend checking your attainments and experiences against an accessible enlightened master, e.g. Daniel Ingram (http://interactivebuddha.com) before claiming total realization publicly.

You also said:
As far as measurement goes, our whole frustration is caused by maya. Maya meaning matter, meter, or measurement. We’re trying to compare, judge and measure that which is beyond measurement. There is no yardstick for Enlightenment, because reality itself is beyond measurement. =)

Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that if we are craving something that is not present or averse to our current experience, this is the source of suffering No, in the sense that there are lots of helpful yardsticks for enlightenment. One shouldn’t be obsessed with enlightment, yet you can get really far with obsession, and most people’s problem isn’t obsession, it’s not giving enough effort and discipline. Most people I know don’t believe anything resembling enlightenment is possible for them, so they don’t practice (formally or informally) at all.

Once again, I must insist that enlightenment is NOT overrated–it is highly underrated and thought to be impractical or unimportant by nearly everyone, and I believe complete realization of one’s true nature is one of the most important things one can do in a lifetime (and it is attainable by many more than we realize).

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Tom Stine July 31, 2008 at 5:44 pm

@Duff…. Fantastic comment. I couldn’t agree more that for most people, “enlightenment” is under-rated. So many people in the spiritual world are so content to dabble, to play around, to get a little goody here or a little feel good something there. But enlightenment? Impossible, they say.

But then you bump into an Adyashanti, who likes to say, “I invite you take the idea of awakening in this life time seriously.” And I take it very seriously. What’s the point of the whole spiritual thing if not awakening? None that I can see. Because no feel good trinket will ever compare.

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Duff August 6, 2008 at 1:15 pm

@Tom As a self-confessed dabbler at times, I totally agree with the sentiment that really going for full awakening is under-emphasized, excpet for a few shining lights like Adyashanti. Even amongst western teachers and spiritual communities, few will talk of their attainments and encourage others to really go for it. There is too much emphasis on 1-minute enlightenment, “enlightenment for busy people,” and so on.

Jonathan has a point in that one can also overemphasize awakening. When you wake up, you wake up to your life and the world exactly as it is, nothing special. But it’s still paradoxically the most important thing you can do, in my opinion.

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Jonathan August 6, 2008 at 3:04 pm

@Davida: I think you’re right on my sloppy use of the term ego. I basically meant that to be termed your character, or avatar within the dream.

@Duff: I kind of see your point about verifying your awakening. But to me, that’s essentially just another part of consciousness echoing your confirmation. I already hear that echo. I also wasn’t trying to be vain or self-centered when I publicly claimed enlightenment. I just wanted to show other people that you can talk about it.

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axel g August 8, 2008 at 4:47 am

“Value truth and reality over appearance and opinion”

Rudolf Steiner

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Lola Fayemi / Nourishment for your spiritual awakening August 8, 2008 at 9:49 am

Great article and very liberating too. Many people associate enlightenment with perfection or superiority and believe that they would be problem-free if enlightened. I used to be one of these people and still am on certain days.

Personally, I believe there may even be more “struggles” on this path, it’s just our attitude towards them that changes. This is definitely the path for avoiding life.

In love, light and abundance x x x

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Seamus Anthony August 13, 2008 at 10:39 pm

Right now it is raining outside here where I live but the sun is shining through the rain, so I can see each drop clearly, and I can feel the warmth of the sun on my skin.

If I want to go outside and get amongst it then the sun will continue to warm my face, but the rain will get me all wet (just like it would if the sun wasn’t shining).

Oh, and come to think of it, the cool of the rain will probably negate the warmth of the sun … And I might have to squint … But anyway …

Just trying to put a poetic spin on the post, which I agree with. Go the ordinary enlightenment and don’t take it all too seriously folks! Heads have been known to disappear up-

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Ozehro August 20, 2008 at 9:36 am

let me ask you a question. if you pinch your self, do you feel pain?
if yes you are not enlightened, if no then you maybe right.What enlightenment in Buddhism refers to is the complete understanding of the self notion. we do so much in the interest of ourselves all the while not quite knowing what self is.lol. even something as moving your thumb cannot be claimed as self. when I move my thumb I can move it, but I have no awareness of the processes that took place.

all the complexities of the muscles, blood cells and mitochondria are controlled by processes, independent of what I experience as self. It’s like there’s a batch file, in my brain for motion and I just click it. same goes for emotions, motives and desires! but even when I know how limited freewill is, I still can’t break through the idea of the self notion. and this attachment to independent processes cause much suffering. enlightenment is a goal which hopes to solve this by gaining the complete understanding of the self notion. and I’m sorry but you do not sound like such a being.

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Stillborn August 25, 2008 at 10:54 am

Hi, my name is Stillborn and “I am” “Enlightened”. And umm, I’ve been this way for like….EVER!!!! Much appreciation for the open discussion but it should be recognized that this (blog, essay, discussion) is nothing more than the very subject of discussion. How hilariously ironic, all this back and forth presumably to dispel the ignorance which presumably prevents the realization of “ones” “enlightenment”. The only bit of accuracy to be gathered here is that “there is no such thing as enlightenment”! The rest is just superfluous mentation in wonderland by conceived individuals looking to conceive ways of reconciling with their conceptions. If there is an enlightened one here “experiencing the oneness” then surely he knows that there is no one of thing for all this “discussion” about “enlightenment” to apply to!!

with umbral luminance
stillborn

for further discussion you can email his enlightenedness at johnnyglideright@gmail.com

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Bhavesh August 26, 2008 at 12:45 pm

I have some diagreement with the author. Often we progress in our self development far enough that we begin to think that we are “enlightened” like Jesus, or Buddha or Krishna. But we are not there, yet.

It’s one thing to “think” that we are enlightened and another to “know” that we are or to Live enlightenment.

One of the things that Enlightenment implies is that you have truly transcenceded your Subconscious beliefs – in fact, you have no Unconscious beliefs. And once you have achieved that state they either don’t form or they dissolve quickly. This is one of the key points on which I disagree.

Sure you will have Conscious Beliefs that you form because we need them to function in the world.

Enlightenment also means that you will have “answers” to the following questions, and more questions like them. To the point where you have no need to ask these questions. Not intellectual answers but a deep knowing of the anwers:

– How is it possible for the One to exist without there being Another?

– What was there before the big bang? If there was Nothing, how did Everything come out of Nothing? If Everything came out of nothing, how could Nothing be Everything?

– Why do we exist? Is it possible not to exist? What is existence?

In the end, the Enlightened Ones have to live with the fact that language, even thought, cannot explain the Turths that they Know. Because thoughts exist only in the Dual Universe, not in the Oneness where the truths come from. They can only Live that truth.

This is why the Enlightened Ones don’t talk much about enlightenment. It’s not something to talk about. It’s there to live. You can try, but never will be able fully explain yourself.

And they don’t feel the frustration of not being able to express the Truths they know. :-)

The enlightenment that’s being referred to here is more like constantly living in the Present – called Samadhi is Sanskrit. Or being permanently in a transcendant (meditative) state, for example. This is a skill and the more we stay in that state, the more joy we feel. The more connected we become to the One. The more One we become, that is.

Yet, this is a practice on the way to Enlightenment, not Enlightenment itself.

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Lobster September 2, 2008 at 3:08 am

You might find the qualities ‘Beyond Enlightenment’ of my site of value. People sometimes get caught in a position of awareness or a God realm. This of course is a state of being more awake; like dreaming with the light on . . .
Being one thing or in a condition, even a condition of being ‘awake’ may entail some notion of difference or attainment.

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Cody McKibben September 10, 2008 at 4:03 pm

Just came across this one, but this is a great post Jonathan!

Your discussion of enlightenment here makes me think in the following terms: life is a series of decisions between fear and love. This is something I struggle a tremendous amount with—I want to choose love, but I know I act out of fear very frequently. I’m currently reading the book Love is Letting Go of Fear by Jerry Jampolsky, which is a great document that puts the fear versus love concept in simple terms.

Thanks again for sharing your insights, as usual.

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Ariel - We Are All One September 22, 2008 at 2:27 am

While it was amusing in the beginning to hear an “I” claiming to be enlightened, the post itself was bang-on fantastic. It is so true that people have a lot of misperceptions about what enlightenment is and what it isn’t. There’s also this idea, like you said, that enlightenment is some far off difficult to attain state, when it’s simply the realization of your natural state, of who you truly are, and who you were this whole time.

The idea of attaining enlightenment reminds me of people who try to get into the Now moment… WHILE they’re already in the Now. =)

But yeah, the realizations that you mentioned are some of the main realizations that occur. Not just intellectual beliefs, but somehow a deep knowing, almost on a soul level, that the universe is the way it is. It’s stunningly apparent upon awakening.

Ariel

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Deniro September 28, 2008 at 7:00 pm

An excellent post. Dont take it seriously peeps for your own good.
You just see reality for what it is. A brand new you in a brand new world , but nothing really has changed in the outside.

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Deniro September 28, 2008 at 7:14 pm

I must add,its the universe getting conscious of itself. After all those crying and sufferings (in my case), the knowing is that it is as if it wasnt even you who was going through that. Very mind blowing, yet it seems like its nothing also. I agree 100% with the post.

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Padma October 25, 2008 at 1:39 am

I couldn’t disagree more. There is a difference between knowing the truth and seeing the truth. You can’t break the cycle of death and rebirth from simply understanding, you can only break it by becoming truly enlightened.

Those who know, do not talk about it.

Those talk about it, do not know.

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Lacey M. January 18, 2009 at 9:37 am

Awesome article!!!
I would love to read more of your writing!

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laotsey taotsey February 8, 2009 at 10:14 am

I am enlightened by the Sun.

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Ron February 19, 2009 at 5:13 am

There are different levels of enlightenment. Once you have crossed that barrier, it’s as if you open a door to a whole new “reality”, dimension, whatever you want to call it.

It is definitely very easy to fall back to previous challenges ( Your mind breaking the peace, being affected by the world around in a positive or negative way).

This is when different practices come into place. First you will have the practice (as the actual techniques, exercises…Yoga meditation…), then you will have the practice that can happen every second in your life. At work, at home, on the street, with friends, with your lovers…

The more you distance yourself from your mind, the clearer the picture gets, the more energy you get that isn’t wasted in redundant thought processes, thus the deeper the level of your enlightenment.

But it does take a lot of work. And being conscious about your emotions, your thoughts, your feelings…

Cheers ;)

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Sarah May 4, 2009 at 7:40 pm

When I read this, I felt for the first time, “Oh, my! Another part of myself has also discovered these things!” And I felt so hopeful that maybe more and more people will “wake up”.

A question I have for you – and maybe you’ve already answered it, but I haven’t read it yet
– is this: Is Enlightenment a fixed state that you never leave once achieved, or can you experience it in fits-and-starts at first, which is, what I think is happening with me.

I’m new to this.

I also noticed that you’re reading Everyday Raw, which I also own. I’m about 80% raw for about 9 months now.

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Eric Carter June 8, 2009 at 12:16 pm

Thank you very much for posting you experience and insight. I loved how you chose to bring out the point that enlightenment is everyone’s equally! I also liked how you described the compassion of a non-dual nature.

One thing I would like to gain clarity on, is language. I feel there is a difference between being enlightened and having realized the Self, your Essence. I feel when someone takes their knowledge of the Self and applies all that efficiency. They gain enough rest in the nervous system to live in the Self 24 hours a day. This person would witness sleep and dreams because the nervous system is functioning so efficiently (they become enlightened 24/7) never shaken out of This Reality.

When one is functioning from this place they are content in a way this world cannot touch. This person is in bliss from the simplest of things, therefore they make better decisions and would probably not feel the need to buy some crazy T.V. or miss their mortgage for that reason. I believe that in this state all these “problems” you talked about above would slowly cease. Your “karma” (if you will) would evaporate and one would be open to create from a place of all-possibilities.

Enlightenment is enjoying all this dynamism from a place that is everpresent, non-judging and full of color and vivid wordlessness that does not sleep. Pure Intelligence as an all-time experience is not overrated, however this experience is rare. If someone has experienced “enlightenment” and they feel it is overrated I encourage them to break their own boundaries and push the envelope of their capacity. Do not settle. Opposite from a world of rationale, boundaries, definition and intellect is a world of heart a world of imagination and wonder. When we learn to operate from our place of infinite intelligence and not constantly react to the world around us, a whole new dimension opens to us!

Really, thank you for being a catalyst for a growing awareness!!

Eric Carter

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random dude June 15, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Thanks for your view of enlightenment. I didnt wanna read it and started reading it with a, sort of, pissy attitude just because of the thread name, Enlightenment is Overrated. But you hit the nail on the head. It is really cool to see a sort of cynical response to the steriotypical view of enlightenment. It cant be found in a book, or set out of reach. The more you “want” it, the less you have it. No one can tell you what it is, or how to find it. it is what it is. nothing more nothing less. Thanks man.

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Larry August 2, 2009 at 7:24 am

I was once trapped in a cave for the better part of two days until rescuers managed to dig me out of the hole. And that’s all I really need to say.

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Rienk Kroese September 29, 2009 at 7:42 am

I could say any number of ‘wise’ things, but this is all i want myself to say: “Stop trying, just do or don’t”

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Ross March 6, 2010 at 6:32 am

Who are you?

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Ross March 6, 2010 at 7:16 am

I don’t believe you’re enlightened.

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John E March 28, 2010 at 5:02 am

I scratch the itch to feel as one.
The itch is gone as I am one.

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Steven Sadleir July 23, 2010 at 9:59 am

This might also be of interest

Here is the link to “Christ Enlightened eBook:”
http://www.selfawarenessproducts.com/ChristEnlightenedEbook/ChristEnlightenedEbook.pdf

Here is the link to the “Intro to The Lost Teaching of Jesus Course:”
http://www.selfawarenessproducts.com/LostTeachingsofJesusCourse/LostTeachingsofJesusIntro1.mp3

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Seeps September 3, 2010 at 8:12 pm

I’m enlightened and its been hell my life crumbled. After two visits to the phyce ward, I realize theres something more, I Must do. Im looking for knowledge and direction.

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jian October 5, 2010 at 11:15 am

i like your writing, few questions:
1. did you reach your enlightenment around age 29
2. who have found that are enlightened
3. what you think about astrology
4. what you think about 2012

thanks

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jian October 5, 2010 at 11:17 am

and for those who are interested in this topic, please check out a video called:
“The words of my perfect teacher”

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Priyank October 9, 2010 at 6:32 am

I appreciate the article very much! I fully agree with what is written and want to add the following:
Will power is “endurance toward enlightenment”.

If I believe that I can get enlightened then I must exert my Will power all the time to reach the state. Exerting the Will power will lead me to realize that I am beyond this body, emotions, and mind. I am the controller of it, I am someone else residing in this body, so keep exerting Will Power for Enlightenment.

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Jian October 11, 2010 at 3:27 am

I think enlightenment is not overrated, you need to realized that you are not completely in control of it, just like your birth and everything that is happening(the things around you). It’s only an idea, in Buddha’s story, when he reached enlightenment, it was 7 days of bliss(debatable), but even 7 days is not much in a lifetime. what happens after the 7 days? There are Diamond Sutra and Heart Sutra which may offer you some ideas

bubba February 3, 2011 at 1:50 am

you are not enlightened.

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Laurean May 4, 2011 at 1:08 pm

“It’s the realization that you are not a separate ego, you are the eternal, unbounded energy of the universe.”

Reaching enlightenment is a PSYCHOLOGICAL process, the consequence of not identifying yourself with your feelings, thoughts etc. There is no realization, there’s just pure awareness. You my friend are an idiot. Not that it would matter in the end.

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ShannonFisher September 8, 2011 at 5:35 am

Hahaha, I agree. I was tempted to not look at this when i read the title, but i am definitely glad i did. Thank you, this helps a lot.

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rideforever November 10, 2011 at 1:26 pm

There are lot of folks out there who have had a minor realisation, or a stuck in a conceptual idea of enlightenment … and who talk this way.

“No, it’s nothing special … you still have problems in your life, bla, bla”

I don’t know where you are – but it’s not the same place as Buddha, Bodhidharm, Osho, Mahavira, Krishnamurti.

Frankly you are quite stupid to talk the way you do.

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affiliateregz January 29, 2012 at 1:49 pm

@rideforever Your so right. One who is enlightened would absolutely not be affected by the words of others. The author claims otherwise. This guy isn’t enlightened. I agree with a couple of pints the author made by his best point is that enlightenment is achievable by all. Sad truth is that it won’t be achieved by most

rideforever November 10, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Certainly in every era each seeker is faced with a sea of people claiming to be ‘seekers’ claiming to have found ‘it’ … all who compromised themselves at some point.

This is always the way. In Buddha’s time and before, and now.

Truth. Well you get what you ‘deserve’ … the pressure to compromise is everywhere. A vast ocean of darkness … can you hold a flickering candle against that vast ocean … because that is the job.

If you are looking for a crutch, if you are looking for a place to lay down and rest because you can’t feel the light deeply enough … there are many inns on the road, each of them will offer companionship in your encampment of compromise. If that is you, you have come to the right website.

In this era and this culture : war is peace, death is life, ignorance is enlightenment.

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RienkKroese January 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Pretty. :)

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dictator February 26, 2012 at 4:35 pm

 What a dishonor you have done to all the readers of this article interested in enlightening themselves through meditation practice. Realize that you have given spiritual seekers a excuse not to seek truth, a excuse for them to use when they have no motivation to quit They will say “it’s overrated anyway”. My friend this is just horrific.
 
 You should consider to remove this article off this website, misinformation plagues the internet heavily already so do your job a remove this at once.
 
 Honestly you are just spreading darkness. I am just in shock to see the title of this article. Friend I am only 18 and I have realized all those positive aspects of enlightenment you speak of long ago and I know in my soul,heart and  mind  there is more to enlightenment than this. Perhaps you have just tasted the beatitude of enlightenment…I don’t know.
 
 Just think about all the people you have made stop in the path of truth, after only taking a few steps of it yourself.
 
 I say a few steps because you hold no reverence for it.

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Alex Smart March 4, 2012 at 5:54 am

Love life, share your heart with others, and break through the bars of this monetary and economic system. Enlightenment, to me, means not being a slave to man made materialism,  while using science & technology to allow other souls to be free rather than enslaved. Work to make the world a better place,  &not to perpetuate useless so called profits via sacrificial wars,. Be one with nature, Be one with nature. 

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KrishnaAlpha March 6, 2012 at 4:50 pm

when one reach enlightenment, you become totally neutral, and you become wise and all knowing, but you are not all powerful. it is why Buddha didn’t free every being from suffering. you will not fear death nor fight it when it comes. you will see that everything is you and you are everything. if you cut a tree you also cut yourself: like Jesus said: “once you know the truth you will love your neighbor just like you love yourself. learn more at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68KgIISSSas

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Namesareforflirting May 15, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Totally agree. It’s not about reaching a state of bliss where you don’t feel any bad feelings anymore. It’s being the one who feels both, all the time. You are the one who contain all the possibilities of likes and dislikes.
But I have to say, it makes every day a new one, every thought is new, dreams are new, and they all give a deep understanding and learning experience about yourself. Getting to know yourself on the core level makes you fall in love with yourself. You can take a taxi home alone from the club at 2am, not giving a sh*t about who was there or who you’d have met, because the only person you really need, the person you love before you love anyone else, is right here with you.. yourself. And you’re free to do anything you set your mind to, nothing to stop you. BUT, you still have to work as hard as anyone else to get there.
The enthusiasm you feel can be compared to the joy you feel when travelling, your apartment in the dirty street feel like a 5 star hotel, the city outside you know too well feels like when you step out of the hotel first day on your travel. And you appreciate the clothes and things you have because they keep you warm and utilize your life, and you wouldn’t need new ones before these things you have actually break.
 
One more thing, very few people will reach enlightenment through meditation. Your real life is the way. I say, keep your freaking thoughts! Become completely wrapped up! Stop closing your eyes. HERE, NOW, this is your life, Face it. Live it, as truthfully and honestly as you can, when you reach the core of what your life is and you realize, there is no enlightenment to save you, there is no other person to save you, and if you realize that it’s not the life you want, Then, emotions are born. True emotions, about what you want, and you, again, Realize, you have only yourself to do it. “Self-realization.” Trust yourself, however weak you are, accept it. You Still only have yourself. You will need yourself, and when asking yourself, “yourself” is going to answer, through emotion.
It’s not going to happen with you and the help of a book and 100 hours of fighting your “ego”. The “ego” is also you, you know… unenlightened, enlightened.. it doesn’t matter, it is all still you. There is no enlightenment in the sense of something that can be reached, it’s of false to be stripped. The false, you create out of fear, so face your fears. They wont go away by anything other than facing them, first by reasoning with yourself, then in the real world.
I’m talking big here, not just doing that one small thing you fear and then going back to your old environment. I’m talking breaking new ground not knowing if you will ever see anything you currently know ever again. “Surrendering” to yourself and to the world. (All the popular words fit in here…)The only one you cant fool is, yourself. It will happen through your own realizations. Stop searching everywhere around you..career, romance, spirituality… Just STOP. Be honest with yourself, the impossible is the key. You can do it. ;-)
 
When you are truly honest with yourself, not covering one bit up (not keeping any of the comfort), after some time (i’d say about one month) you will notice something is different in you, no more stride against yourself, more of a serious emotion that you are who you are, and that you will not back down, whatever comes in your way. After following through on these truths, after some time, real joy will sip into your body, and it will grow as you do. If you don’t follow through, you recess, because you let fear(comfort) cover it up again.
 
Only my five cents. Jeanette
 
 
 

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Namesareforflirting May 15, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Totally agree. It’s not about reaching a state of bliss where you don’t feel any bad feelings anymore. It’s being the one who feels both, all the time. You are the one who contain all the possibilities of likes and dislikes.
But I have to say, it makes every day a new one, every thought is new, dreams are new, and they all give a deep understanding and learning experience about yourself. Getting to know yourself on the core level makes you fall in love with yourself. You can take a taxi home alone from the club at 2am, not giving a sh*t about who was there or who you’d have met, because the only person you really need, the person you love before you love anyone else, is right here with you.. yourself. And you’re free to do anything you set your mind to, nothing to stop you. BUT, you still have to work as hard as anyone else to get there.
The enthusiasm you feel can be compared to the joy you feel when travelling, your apartment in the dirty street feel like a 5 star hotel, the city outside you know too well feels like when you step out of the hotel first day on your travel. And you appreciate the clothes and things you have because they keep you warm and utilize your life, and you wouldn’t need new ones before these things you have actually break.
 
One more thing, very few people will reach enlightenment through meditation. Your real life is the way. I say, keep your freaking thoughts! Become completely wrapped up! Stop closing your eyes. HERE, NOW, this is your life, Face it. Live it, as truthfully and honestly as you can, when you reach the core of what your life is and you realize, there is no enlightenment to save you, there is no other person to save you, and if you realize that it’s not the life you want, Then, emotions are born. True emotions, about what you want, and you, again, Realize, you have only yourself to do it. “Self-realization.” Trust yourself, however weak you are, accept it. You Still only have yourself. You will need yourself, and when asking yourself, “yourself” is going to answer, through emotion.
It’s not going to happen with you and the help of a book and 100 hours of fighting your “ego”. The “ego” is also you, you know… unenlightened, enlightened.. it doesn’t matter, it is all still you. There is no enlightenment in the sense of something that can be reached, it’s of false to be stripped. The false, you create out of fear, so face your fears. They wont go away by anything other than facing them, first by reasoning with yourself, then in the real world.
I’m talking big here, not just doing that one small thing you fear and then going back to your old environment. I’m talking breaking new ground not knowing if you will ever see anything you currently know ever again. (You still will, it’s a small world…) “Surrendering” to yourself and to the world. (All the popular words fit in here…) The only one you cant fool is, yourself. It will happen through your own realizations. Stop searching everywhere around you..career, romance, spirituality… Just STOP. Be honest with yourself, the impossible is the key. You can do it. ;-)
 
After honesty, you are in the right mind to take on career or romance, and it wont be the same answers anylonger, because without fear, you look at things differently. 
When you are truly honest with yourself, not covering one bit up (not keeping any of the comfort), after some time (i’d say about one month) you will notice something is different in you, no more stride against yourself, more of a serious emotion that you are who you are, and that you will not back down, whatever comes in your way. After following through on these truths, after some time, real joy will sip into your body, and it will grow as you do. If you don’t follow through, you recess, because you let fear(comfort) cover it up again.
 
Only my five cents. Jeanette
 

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dlarsenn November 14, 2012 at 10:38 am

all the comments about ‘reaching.’ there is nothing to reach. drop everything and then who is going to drop the dropper?
a better term is realization. the realization to be prior to all.
i claim existence but cannot be conceptualized becasue i am prior to the thought. consider that for a momment. don’t YOU have to be prior to the thought for it to be experienced? if you are prior to the thought and cannot be conceptualized, then you are not an object. and if not object, then not subject to time.
what to see is that conceptualization has no author. thinking but no thinker. ask this to yourself: what’s the next thought? what’s the next thought? there is never an answer. the mind is quiet (feels kiinda good hey?). why, becuase an idea asks the question. you are not the thinker. the mind is in the painting. you experience thought like you experience phenomenon through the senses. you do nothing to see, hear, taste, touch, smell or THINK. you are powerless. the powerless witnessing of manifestation.
what appears as reality (object) is actually the unreal. like a cartoon. flip the pages, the cat changes positions, but nothing actually happens. there is no ‘doer.’ that’s why jesus said forgive them for they no not what they do. all happens spontaniously, by grace.
consider all that appears to happen an accident. there has to be a witness to experience the accident. like standing on the corner BEFORE a car wreck. but there is no one there, only witnessing. there are non nouns.
what am i, what am i. inquire until it is seen that no on is inquiring.
when man sees that man is an idea there will be peace on earth. for if no thought, identify the enemy.
a young boy aksed socrates: if i am not the thinker, what should i do? the reply: just go on thinking that you think.

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zulu November 26, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Well, you’re right and wrong at the same time. progress in terms of enlightenment actually brings powers that you havent had before. for example it is likely that you will have visions of the future. another thing that is happening to me right now is that I recently received the ability to see through material things (like the matter actually becomes transparent. its really weird and amazes me all the time when i do that) im sure there are a lot more powers (check out siddha). Of course thosr powers are given to u to use them in the moat responsible way

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rideforever February 10, 2013 at 11:19 am

Certainly there is something to do, perhaps you can only say “there is nothing to do” once you have done it.

Thoughtless awareness may be a breakthrough but it is not the end, just the end of the beginning.

Thinking is an important tool.

Most people appear to be trapped on the surface.

But how deep it goes is unknown, it is deepening all the time as the developments of Buddhism demonstrate.

Inaction or “peace” is another hiding place, like those above.

“We are threatened by the Now.”
“Now is definitely Now.”
“We experience fantastic precicion.”
Chogyam Trungpa

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SocietyHigh March 31, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Enlightenment is free from desire. It is at peace within and creating through that peace without. It is also joy, love, equality, etc. Enlightenment can be a broad definition. However, enlightenment isn’t something that just appears.. one must understand and practice these things to maintain the energy.

I also read the comments about BELIEF. Lets define belief: “1) An acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists. 2) Something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion or conviction.”

Therefore belief has nothing to do with enlightenment as believing something is not real fact or experience. Believing is only accepting something because everyone else is saying it or accepting it.

Lets talk about KNOWLEDGE. Knowledge is knowing through the senses of touch, feel, hear, smell, or taste. This is the only way you can ever experience and truly know the truth. That is knowledge. Experience. Feeling. Understanding. Therefore, to be enlightened one must know they are accessing different energies through their experiences.

To me, knowledge of facts and science plays a major role in enlightenment. Knowledge of self, the world, nature, earth, history, science, metaphysics, truth behind religions, language etc etc all lead to enlightenment.

P.E.A.C.E.

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Conor April 23, 2013 at 7:47 pm

So what your saying is that the American misconception of enlightenment, which most of us believe is true ‘enlightenment’ is overrated.

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dave May 30, 2013 at 11:07 pm

To understand enligtenment it is best to apply a definition rather than immediately
begin with a description! I will not rely on the Buddhist approach since it uses
a description although the Arupa Jhanas come closest in meaning however disconnected
from Nirvana.

It is preferable to employ the meaning from contemporary Hindu mystics who by various
accounts/appearances manifested a higher order of Spiritual development namely:
Maharishi Yogi of TM fame, Swami Yogananda of Self Realization Fellowship and
Swami Muktananda of Siddha Yoga.

For simplicity will confine my remarks to the lowest level of Enlightenment which has
been called in order from the mystics mentioned above: Cosmic Consiousness, Christ
Consciousness and Self realization.

To realize the Self as pure bliss consciousness through all experiences
of wakeful, dreaming and deep sleep states, that is Cosmic Consciousness.

Consciousness is the supremely independent divine Energy that creates, pervades and
supports everything in the cosmos.

Whereas the mortal man is conscious throughout the body, the Christ man is conscious
throughtout the universe which he feels as his body.

In this state, the enligtened being no longer identifies with the changing
mind/body/universe but becomes bliss consciousness that lies beyond all suffering.

Suggested reading:
Play of consciousness – Swami Muktananda
Autobiography of a Yogi – Swami Yoganada
Transcendental Meditation – Jack Forem

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Michael June 12, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Has anyone ever actually personally been next to an enlightened person when they’ve died? I’m not any more or less enlightened than anyone else I’ve met (that I know of), and I’m scared shitless of dying. I think the big E is just another elaborate story people comfort themselves with in order to escape admitting that, in most cases, you’re going to die scared shitless, whether it’s slow or fast coming, and unless you die in your sleep or pretty quickly in an accident you don’t see coming, it’s probably gonna hurt like hell leading up to it too. My grandmother died of lung cancer in a hospital in her mid-eighties – I really don’t think she “didn’t have access to the right teachings” to escape that through understanding or that she should’ve turned right and instead she turned left somewhere along the way. There is no skipping over challenges or getting past them, until you really are past them, and then there just might be nothing at all.

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dave June 30, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Speaking for myself as a 40 year meditator, I can certainly lend credence to the possibility of enligtenment. The specific relevant experiences that have occurred in my life cannot easily be put into words. Since the majority live our their lives alternating between the usual 3 states of conscousness: waking, dreaming and deep sleep without access to higher states then it is difficult for them to imagine what lies beyond.
An analogy would be to live ones life under a dark cloud cover and coming to believe that whatever light comes thru the clouds is all that is available to be experienced (happiness) in this life! As the clouds are thinned and holes appear the meditator develops a deeper appreciation for higher stages or levels of development. There are three stages leading up to enlightenment based on my reading/experience and if anyone wants more in-depth information feel free to contact me.
Fear can be managed in ones life but not without some serious reflection and proactivity. Fear can be thought of as being caused by uncertainty combined with attachment. With discipline then it is possible to minimize fear via detachment and either accepting uncertainty or reducing/eliminating it thru knowledge.
Beyond mere happiness lies Bliss – concentrated, continuous and non-localized joy! Be in Bliss!

Dc September 24, 2013 at 3:05 pm

To know that you will never experience suffering again, short of being water boarded, is pretty life changing. The fact that you cite Pms as a potential agititant suggests that you probably don’t know how to properly meditate, much less are you “Enlightened .”

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Tom January 4, 2014 at 7:00 am

Enlightenment is the realization that all thoughts, ideas, beliefs,arise and subside in consciousness .This consciousness is what we trully are. The idea of who you think you are is nothing more than a belief presently arising in consciousness at this very moment.There is no you to ever get this . Never the less there can be the realization of it.
“There is no dreamer, There is no dreamed, There is only the dreaming”
– Ramesh Balsekar

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Luke Paakh January 8, 2014 at 8:52 am

Your post may or may not be about enlightenment, I really don’t know a great deal about all of the traditions that use the term, but please don’t give up on the idea that you can truly escape from suffering. I stumbled onto your blog because I’m trying to research some experiences I’ve had recently that has really shown me the fundamental truth behind dukkha or suffering. The four noble truths explain it very well I think: 1. There is suffering. 2. Suffering is caused by craving (or wanting of any kind). 3. You can escape dukkha. 4. The way to escape dukkha is to stop craving through following the 8-fold path (or whatever works for you).

I know many traditions talk about enlightenment as finding some kind of truth and understanding about the universe, but the question is, if it doesn’t stop suffering, then what’s the point of it? The buddha was asked many times about metaphysical questions, and he always referred people back to that question. Has this pursuit stopped your suffering? If not, abandon it and focus on the deeper cause of your suffering. I know I’m just some guy posting on your blog, and you don’t have any reason to believe me. There are many posts here, so you probably won’t even see this, but I just wanted to let you know that it really IS possible to stop that negativity that makes you feel weighted down in life. If you give up on that, then you are missing out on a great possibility.

I know how difficult it is to believe (I didn’t believe it myself until very recently), but consider how malleable our brains are! You can achieve complete self-control through constantly monitoring the emotions flowing through your mind and accepting them. Accept that the world has created these emotions in you, and whether they are justified or not, whether you seem to feel better having them of not, allow yourself to disconnect from them and let them be. Doing this has led me to the most amazing state of mind. It came in a flash flood of pure relief and joy. I have slipped in and out of it over the past few days as I try to get a grasp of what it is, but I truly believe enlightenment – in all the cliched ways we’ve made it as a culture – is possible. I won’t claim the title for myself, but I feel like I can see the path there clearly. Use that knowledge you’ve already gained to see the truth in this. Don’t give up on it, please!

Also, forgive me if this post sounds conceited. I really just want everyone to know what this feels like. I don’t know how else to try to convince people other than saying I’ve achieved what I previously thought to be impossible, and it wasn’t as hard as I thought. I’ll let you judge for me. If I’m speaking in a way that causes any discord, please delete this message.

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Faye January 22, 2014 at 9:55 am

The journey of enlightenment is not for everyone because full-enlightenment calls for self sacrifice and giving up the desires of this world we see .. and that’s alright, because it’s the choice of the enlighten one, to suffer for the care of the unenlightened … yet the journey of enlightenment calls for choosing the way of Positive energy over ways of negative energy … and if one choose Positive energy, then this world will see you as an enemy and treat you in a very hateful manner … because for some time, this world had fallen into hands whom formulate the very powers and principalities of the atmosphere in support of feeding their forces of negative energy .. and they had done a very good job .. because every negative deed of war, hatred, violence, prejudice, adultery, pedophilia, and every negative thought supports the negative-energy-field of this world ..

Nevertheless … I consider full-enlightenment is simply a journey which has advanced a consciousness into hidden truth not only in matters of this world … but truth in matters of the celestial world beyond the veil, a world where an enlighten consciousness were to ascend …

But such a truth, this negative field of energy has also acted as a field of forgetfulness .. and a field which hinders the Positive Light signals which could transit up an individual which had finished the course of enlightenment …

So a new plan had been put in place .. this includes a High Frequency energy Shift over into a Positive energy field sustained by a Positron grid which is that salvation plan for all people … and then simultaneously follows the ascension of the Enlighten ones into the celestial worlds beyond and above .. ..

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dave April 12, 2014 at 7:58 pm

For those interested in advancing quickly toward Self-realization (where the mind merges permanently into universal consciousness) then it is most helpful to treat this level as a project and break it down into manageable stages. It is easy to speculate about this state and how it will affect one’s life but how to advance is another issue altogether. With stages then one can begin to enjoy the amazing benefits as well know where they are on the path.
Stage 1: The pure body (nervous system).
Removing stress deposits from the system via deep meditation (samadhi) and various
other approaches (ex. yoga, diet, meditation into sleep, ayurvedic supplements, etc.)
Benefits: Body of joy, thinking at deeper level at speech center of subtle body,
excellent health, etc.
Stage 2: The pure subtle body – body of dreams (chakra/nadi body).
Removing emotional deposits and other blockages to the chakra/nadi system.
Benefits: Love outflowing, aware of chakras/powers thereof, level of thought at speech
center of causal body, witnessing dreams, etc.
Stage 3: The pure causal (intellectual) body. Body of deep sleep.
Removing deep desires, attachments.
Benefits: Continuous blissful awareness thruout day/night, next level of thought,
witnessing deep sleep, etc..
Stage 4: The pure blue pearl/nimita body: Body of intuition.
Merging into 4th body.
Benefit: Enligtenment/cosmic consciousness – conscious thruout universe.

This is only subjective enligtenment not objective enligtenment!
Buddhism places too much emphasis on the Mind, insight so in neglecting the purification of the body then this can explain why I have not noted any contemporary enlightened buddhists.??

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Jaromy Barker July 26, 2014 at 12:19 am

Things to remember when pertaining to enlightenment, it is the highest level of life. It is not only being one with everything but also realizing that the world is exactly how it seems only to the beholder. I’ve noticed a lot of people claiming to be enlightened beings, but for my own path I cannot believe it. Let’s not forget that Buddha himself said “if you meet a Buddha, kill him.” Why kill him? For reaching the end of his learning capabilities and to allow them to pass happily and peacefully.

The enlightened before us were not this way because they chose it, they were this way because they strived for it and others saw it in themselves.

When I reach that point, I want to help the world, not claim myself as overrated.

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Michael D Larkin September 11, 2014 at 2:20 am

Hi, the above article “Enlightenment is Overrated” rings true to me. This means that I consider myself to be enlightened also. It has taken many years to understand and speak about and I would like to make more contact with other enlightened people; the going is hard when practically nobody gets what you say, or believes the enlightenment thing.
There is so much paradox, meaning that so many issues often can be both right and wrong or true and false all at once. I have one friend only, recently met here in Australia, who is also enlightened but who has rarely spoken of it, and never to another enlightened person face to face. We are both older and retired men who met via the Australian Mens Shed Online.
Cheers Mike

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Virginia October 5, 2014 at 5:40 pm

I am so sorry if I offend you but I am not sure you are describing enlightenment but rather a major step in it’s path. Enlightenment may only be achieved when you are truly free from all desires. Even the desire for enlightenment and GOD. The feeling you are left with is a similar yet deeper and permanent version of the momentary peace you get when your EGO gets what it wants and hasn’t yet birthed it’s inevitable disappointment in it’s achievement. It is a peace like nothing of this world can bring. It sounds like you are describing an important step on the path to enlightenment but there are still desires within you. You still have not realized that ALL desire will eventually lead to EGO suffering. Sounds like you are well on your way. Just wait. It will come and it is…well it just IS. It’s a very true and very deep peace.

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meehocz October 24, 2014 at 3:38 am

You’re right man. I was thinking about getting some enlightened tattoo (I don’t have any tattoo yet), but after a while I realized, what it would be for. So I googled “why should i have a tattoo when i am already enlightened” and I found this article. I really agree – I am enlightened, so what. Who cares?

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Gail October 24, 2014 at 11:57 am

I enjoyed your article and certainly agree. Something of great significance happened to me a couple months ago and I’m not sure how to explain to others or if I even should although I’m more clear on that now. I know I reached enlightenment but at first I wasn’t sure if it was that or self-actualization and started checking into it. Much of what’s out there seems to be folks who intellectualize about it but haven’t experienced it. From what I’ve learned, it’s different from self-actualizing although it is part of it. I’ve also found that there’s a whole lot more people trying to reach enlightenment which is good. There’s a lot of awakening of sorts going on. But to get back to actual enlightenment, I can’t disagree with most on ‘how’ to get there but only because I know it can be different for each person. I t happened for me without trying to achieve anything other than working to resolve some residual issue of anger that kept coming up in dreams. I can’t say that it was really that effortless because i had some fairly rough times through life to deal with and over time with breaks in between have had to work at resolving lots of issues. I had just started meditating again after a 20- 30 years of absence from it and do have a lot of knowledge about energy fields, etc. I was in a place where I had a lot of understanding about things and felt really good – like I had all my ducks in a row finally in my outer life. Then it was like some kind of total inversion. Everything became crystal clear looking from the inside out. It’s like I can ‘see’ things, inwards, outwards, backwards, forwards, upside down or whichever way they can possibly go. I’m an obvious self-study and don’t feel the need to go in search of some guru at this point but would like to find others that can relate. It appears there is more to experience and learn – maybe different levels, other dimensions, etc. Presently I’m thinking maybe another form of meditation?

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Shaun October 26, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Great article. I have battled with my realized perception of being “enlightened” with the everyday hard knocks of life and it’s bullshit for years.

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