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?

For more articles that break the mold Subscribe to Illuminated Mind.

Be Your Own **** Boss

Get everything you need to finally leave your job for good. Including a detailed field guide, daily steps to freedom right to your inbox, and detailed case studies.

Learn more

The first few weeks of the Job Escape Kit has already produced some outcomes I’d never thought I’d see in my whole career.” ~ Nick Burk

Previous post:

Next post: