What’s the Point of Life After Total Enlightenment?

When the mind is somber, broad daylight gives birth to demons and evil spirits. When the mind is clear, a dark room has its blue sky. That which is self-concious and ulterior is far from the Truth. That which is Mindless, is near.” – Taoist poem.

There’s a common saying in Zen that says after Satori (Enlightenment, there sits the ordinary old man.

Something extraordinary happens through Enlightenment, but nothing at all. Vedanta — the philosophy Buddhism originates from — translates to “the end of knowledge.”

If Enlightenment is the end of knowledge, the end of struggles and the end of suffering, what is left in life? What is there left to do after the struggle is gone? After all, isn’t part of the beauty of life the struggle, the tears, the heartache and finding healing and peace through it all?

If there’s nothing left to do, if there’s nothing left to strive for, what’s the point of living? What’s the point of living when life itself has no point? What’s the point if the game of life isn’t worth playing?

There is a point though; the creation of your story. The only difference is after Enlightenment and the realization of One Taste, we no longer identify with the drama.

But detachment does not mean not participating. It’s not an escape from life; it’s simply creating your story with the awareness that you are not the story. It doesn’t bother you when your life takes a wrong turn or when something goes awry. In the same way you can celebrate when something wonderful in your life happens, but you don’t get attached because you realize that your story is not you.

Everything in life is a story. The evolution of the Universe, from unconscious matter to becoming conscious, is a story. The Eros of human consciousness, how we evolve from duality and separateness to Enlightenment and union, is a story.

The search for meaning and beauty outside ourselves, and realizing that happiness can only come from within, is yet another story. We turn even the most mundane things (like washing the dishes) into a story. We have all sorts of feelings about everything and we use those feelings and associations to mold our story. Life is a series of stories.

In The Voice of Knowledge, Don Miguel Ruiz makes the point that we are all artists. We are all constantly dreaming, constantly creating and molding our stories. Based on the investment of our beliefs, we shape our story. Since we’re always perceiving new things and events, we filter some out and accept other information and ideas based on how it aligns with the story we want to create.

Like Ruiz, I think it’s a much more powerful paradigm to see ourselves as artists and not “just people.” Even if you don’t think you’re the “creative type,” you are creating all the time. You can’t not create. Every time you breathe, move, or open your mouth, you are creating.

Not Living an Accidental Life

Have you ever taken a step back and just observed life, while thinking “How the hell am I here?” It’s in that stupefying moment you realize that you’re the architect of life, but there’s no blueprint. We have this mysterious internal compass, but beyond that we’re on our own. We have to fend for ourselves and make things up as we go along.

We have to take control and steer through life the best we can. What’s most is that we take the wheel and don’t live on accident. What matters is that we don’t give up our power and relinquish the ownership of our minds.

We have to realize the power of:

The Beautification of Your Mind

There is a lot of credit (and merit) given to creating a beautiful space. We spend inordinate amounts of time decorating our homes, buying new clothes and products in the effort to make our lives more desirable.

But not much credit is given to the beautification of our minds.

We adorn our homes and spaces with expensive things. We often associate the value of our lives with the value of our possessions. Once we buy or obtain the object of our desire, within a few days or hours we’re thinking about our next purchase. The illness of materialism has a stranglehold on us; we are always in need of our next fix.

The reality is that this search for the beautification of our bodies and our spaces will never satisfy us. We have more luxury and more convenience than a lot of Royalty had a few hundred years ago. In fact, royal servants now have more luxury than the same Kings they served a few hundred years ago. Obviously something is seriously wrong. Our value system is distorted. If internal wealth is the greatest asset you can have, why is it so overlooked? Because you can’t see a luxurious mind. You can’t brag to your friends about it. You can’t say “Hey Jim, look at the shiny mind I’ve got. Your internal space looks like a pile of shit.

So if we can Feng Shui our external space, can we Feng Shui our minds?

I think so. It’s something I’ve been personally vying for.

As I said earlier, the problem with creating a luxurious inner space is that you can’t exactly see a beautiful mind. You can’t measure it, you can’t compare it. Paradoxically, I think this misconceived “flaw” is its most attractive quality. Our obsession with measurement quantification seems unhealthy at best, anyway.

Creating a beautiful mind is about placing permanent fixtures of beautiful ideas in the corners of your mind. It’s about cleaning the cobwebs of self-limiting beliefs. It’s about creating the auto-response to be impeccable with your word, and to not ever use your mind against yourself. It’s about coming to terms with your practical mind, and creating a relationship between your head and your heart. It’s about taking ownership of your mind, and realizing that that is the most powerful and precious gift that you have.

The Tyranny of Monotony

If you’re at all like me, it’s easy to see yourself as an artist for a little while. You might last a few hours or a few days. But then the routine and monotony of life sinks back in. Everything seems to be a repeat of the day before. Every day seems exactly the same.

I’ve found that the best way to combat slipping into the black-hole of monotony is by realizing each moment is brand new. Past and present are illusions. Even if you feel like you’ve been doing the same thing, you really haven’t. This moment is all there is and each time you do something, it’s for the first time. Actually, it isn’t even the first; that would imply that there’s a second and a third. Rather this is the only time you’ve done whatever you’re doing now, and it always will be.

Each moment, each day, we write another page in our story. It’s hard not to get caught up in the routine of life. Each day seems the same and we take for granted our artistic power. We put off the beautification of our minds. Another day, we think. Maybe tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes.

The truth is, if we don’t keep ourselves present and realize that with each day we are creating, we will never get to it. We’ll wake up 10 years later and wonder what the hell happened.

We can choose to make our stories a masterpiece, or mediocre. But the point is that we choose now. If we put off our choice, we give up our power. I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to put it off anymore. I can’t betray myself any longer.

I admit I don’t have all the answers, and I haven’t quite figured out how to completely resist reverting into a routine. What can we do to make our lives more like a work of art, and less like a colorless repeat of yesterday? I would personally love to hear your thoughts on how you remember the artistry of your life and how you resist living uniformly.


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82 Comments on "What’s the Point of Life After Total Enlightenment?"

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Daniel Richard
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Heya Jonathan!

Liked it about Beautification of our minds, and not comforting ourselves back to a routine life.

What I do is to go show some kindness in other’s lives, through making new jokes or finding some fun stuffs (playing pranks) or say the next interesting words that encourages others.

We are definitely not living an accidental life. Thats a certain which we could help inform more people about. :)

Daniel

Shilpan |  successsoul.com
Guest

Jonathan,

Our biggest folly is to believe that happiness exists outside in physical things. You have put that in beautiful words, “There is a lot of credit (and merit) given to creating a beautiful space. We spend inordinate amounts of time decorating our homes, buying new clothes and products in the effort to make our lives more desirable.”

We mortgage our freedom to accumulate these things that can only imprison our mind later.

Shilpan

michelle
Guest

Very enlightening indeed. I find that the moment that I don’t know something that I thought I did know is quite enlightening, it lifts the veil of my own deception to reveal the bright light of truth.

I also have a favorite expression “Accidental Destiny” because there really are no accidents.

Great post, Michelle
The Soul Coach
http://www.smartcareerchanges.com

Writer Dad
Guest

“The truth is, if we don’t keep ourselves present and realize that with each day we are creating, we will never get to it. We’ll wake up 10 years later and wonder what the hell happened.”

Well said. Too many people simply survive when they should really be living.

Kris
Guest

I’ve always wondered about this. I enjoyed your examination of this question.

I particularly liked the idea of fighting monotony with the realization that each moment is brand new. That’s a cool thing to meditate on.

I also liked the idea of “beautification of the mind.”

Maybe I can use the mindfulness focus to help me keep from latching onto arguments with my mom.

Thank you!

Evelyn Lim
Guest
I appreciate your honesty when you said “I admit I don’t have all the answers, and I haven’t quite figured out how to completely resist reverting into a routine.” For myself, I guess it is a question of focus. When I wake up in the mornings, do I choose to observe that brilliance of the sunshine today is different from that of yesterday’s? Things may appear to be the same but in reality, something has shifted. The daily activities may appear routine but within the pockets of time, there is greater joy, peace and beauty. It is how I live… Read more »
Annie Binns
Guest

Jonathan,

What if our actions are routine and monotonous, but our mind takes in these actions with a freshness and enjoyment and newness each and every time?

Just as we can say that materialism is pretty much pointless, can we also say that trying not to live uniformly is a wasted effort if it doesn’t come naturally? I, for one, feel blessed to have some routines, and it allows my mind to be free of having to always “experience” life and instead, just “be” life.

I love the idea of being able to feng shui my mind!

Annie

Seamus Anthony
Guest

Great post dude. My blogging partner Steve wrote a cool article about our ‘Ego and the Inner Story’. http://tinyurl.com/egostory

Zendad
Guest
I do agree that struggle is what makes life worthwhile. Scars (emotional and physical) are proof that you’ve been places and done things. Proof that you’ve left your safety zone and put yourself out there and had some struggles. As for Feng Shui of the mind, it’s a great way to summerize Zen and ensuing Enligtenment, kudos! I like the idea of arranging thoughts, memories and experiences to create positive energy. The only thing I’ll add is that although I do try and live in the moment, I still have those “how the hell did I get here?” moments. I… Read more »
Tom Stine | Life Coach
Guest

“What matters is that we don’t give up our power and relinquish the ownership of our minds.”

So, who owns your mind? I’m fairly certain that “I” don’t own mine. To be honest, I’m not even certain I have one. ;-)

You mentioned that the key is that we “no longer identify with the drama.” I would suggest that the reason an enlightened one doesn’t identify with the drama is because there is no identity in the enlightened one. “He” sees no “he.” There’s no person to identify wiht anything.

Just some thoughts for the middle of the week. Be well. :-)

Jennifer
Guest

This is so crucial: “What’s most is that we take the wheel and don’t live on accident.”
I did live on accident for a long time. It’s no way to live (if you can call that living).

Glen Allsopp
Guest

Excellent stuff, made sure you were in my feed reader then checked out your other work!

Cheers,
Glen

Jarrod - Warrior Development
Guest

I’m with Tom on this one.

There is nothing for drama to stick to. After all drama is what we create when the mind and emotions run wild.

When there is no drama to be stuck on then monotony doesn’t exist as everything is new.

Cedric
Admin

@ Michele, absolutely. Accidental destiny is the enemy of a life worth living.

@ Annie, I really like your approach to this. I guess it’s not routine that I want to fight, but the negative associations that can be attached to routine. Like there never being any surprises. If I had my whole life completely mapped and plotted out, I might as well die right now.

Jenny Mannion
Guest
Wow I LOVE the quote “So if we can Feng Shui our external space, can we Feng Shui our minds?”. I believe it is CRUCIAL to Feng Shui our minds. I try and remember the artistry of my life by remembering how multi-faceted it, and I are. I have goals in all aspects of my life and when one is meeting with resistance I “let go” and move onto another aspect that needs attention. I nurture MANY different interests… some I do with friends, some with my family, some alone and some with my kids…. I always want to be… Read more »
Stillborn
Guest
To all comers, Respectfully injecting, outside of the idea of “enlightenment”, it can’t seem to be found anywhere. Therefore it must be deduced that this mythical, spiritual tooth fairy parading around under the guise of blissful oneness and self knowledge, cleverly marketing itself as “total” or “final”, is just what it appears to be, a myth, illusion of the finest grade! Clearly the titular question here is rhetorical, for the very notion of there being something post “totality”, is an inference so ostensibly inviting (akin to having your cake, and eating it too) yet so fundamentally flawed that its unconscious… Read more »
Alex Kay
Guest

Personally, I don’t believe that there exists a “total enlightment”. It’s a path, not a goal. Interesting post!

Shulamit
Guest

Yes, we awake in degrees. Some awakenings are bigger than others though and can seem like the goal. As long as we question or have to remind ourselves of what we know, we are not living there yet.

Davidya
Guest
Hi Jonathan While you make some interesting points, I’ll have to agree with Tom and Stillborn. From where I sit, you are mixing different levels of consciousness which have very different realities. Firstly, detachment is not “total enlightenment”. It can arise before any waking. The ego drivers are falling way but the cosmic or divine drivers may not have kicked in yet. This is not the nature of enlightenment but rather a transition towards. Monotony is mind absorbed in doing. It has nothing to do with enlightenment. There is nothing monotonous about bliss and love. It would also suggest that… Read more »
Shulamit
Guest
Brilliant stillborn! Of all the comments yours is the most spot in. Do you live this or is it an intellectual knowing for you? I had a satori kensho enlightenment experience a few years ago that told me very directly that there is only THAT and THAT is LOVE and I am THAT and there is nothing but THAT. I searched to understand what happened to me since it was disorienting. Ramana maharshi left the world for 10 years and meditated, echart told lived on the street for 2 years. I had already had experiences of awakening so for me… Read more »
Cedric
Admin
Davidya and Stillborn, You’re absolutely right! I am definitely mixing different levels of consciousness. Consciousness is a spectrum, not a fixed point. When you transcend one level of consciousness, you don’t eliminate the previous, you move beyond it and include it. I agree also that there is no “doer.” There is feeling, but no one is feeling. There is seeing but no one sees. “I” would say, however, that you can choose to pretend that you are a character in a dream. Or an actor in a play. If “you” choose to accept that character, then you can choose to… Read more »
Ariel - We Are All One
Guest
Definitely some good points raised by all, particularly the ones about there being no doer. Nevertheless, despite the fact that nothing outside of us is “real” or can ever make one happy, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. Despite seeing everything as perfection, Jesus still healed the sick. Regardless of knowing that the One truly can not die, Mother Theresa still went and served the poor and hungry in Calcutta. So while the understanding ultimately that there is no doer is in alignment with the absolute, that doesn’t mean that nothing should be done in the first place. “The… Read more »
Tom
Guest

Nice essay Jonathan.

I am surprised it has not been obvious that after enlightenment comes “service to others.” I believe this IS what Buddha did after his enlightenment–as did many before and after…

Thanks again and save all beings from suffering,

Tom

Evan
Guest
Hi Jonathan, Life is not the same as struggle. And struggle is not the same as hard work – the right hard work is a pleasure. In my experience there is much outside ourselves that is real. Those who don’t think so are yet to walk through a wall in my observation. (Is this really just my limitation. I am not disagreeing with their experience only their expression of it.) After enlightenment we are more of an individual as well as less. The disciples of Jesus and the Buddha were in no danger of confusing either of them with anyone… Read more »
imnotreal
Guest
nice i really like it i do dissagree about the accidental life tho. if you try to stear or force your way through life i think its harder to see the bueaty in the small things like washing the disshes. i might be missunderstanding you but i think going with the flow of life makes it easier to feel the bueaty of all of life and all aspects of it. when i say flow i don’t mean like go with everyone elses idea i mean like go with how you feel is right idk if thats what you were trying… Read more »
Øystein
Guest
Jonathan I really enjoyed your post, and I have thought a lot about this myself. Somehow there arose a point where I no longer focus on going anywhere or becoming something else than what I am in the moment. I know I will become what I will be anyway. The strugle you talk about, I think it may be nessessary for a while. Have you ever walked in the mountains? If you have experienced it you will know that as you aproach the summit there ka be several times where you think you are about to reach the top only… Read more »
axel g
Guest

What’s the Point of Life After Total Enlightenment?

Well, I wouldn’t mind flowing with life like water in a stream…

What I find interesting is what it takes to realize enlightenment?

Who sets out on such a quest and why?

I believe that unhappiness and dissatisfaction act as triggers…

Kathy
Guest
Jonathan: you asked how we remember the artistry of our life and resist living uniformly. For most of my life, I resisted uniformity, but have finally decided that structure is ok. I’ve found that routines free my mind of clutter and embrace them lovingly. Turning off the ticker tape of to do’s allows more room for the creative ideas and passions to flow. One way I resist living uniformly (or not allowing myself to get in a rut) is through cooking. Food, with the endless combination of flavors, colors, aromas, and textures allows creative pursuit each day that I choose… Read more »
NewssyLee
Guest

Thanks to you

Brian
Guest

There is no life after Enlightenment – when you have transcended every pain, every fear, every instinct, even the desire to breathe is ‘let go’ and you cease to be in form. This is not suicide, but transcendance. Not that I know anything, but I would guess no more need to reincarnate after enlightenment. The greatest teachers teach nothing, do nothing and are nothing. they literally are no thing! lol

Don’t worry, it’s not nihilistic, we all have a few thousand lifetimes of work before we get there! lol

Lissa Boles
Guest
Really interesting piece. Beautification of mind will naturally be impacted by what we ‘think’ is beautiful, but as a metaphor I love it. And I have a monkey wrench thought to throw in here about routine/monotony… Resistance to monotony and routine is actually a reaction of the ego to being usurped. You could even go so far as to call it addition to novelty (which will really mess with ye old Beautification of the Mind). Far as I can tell, routine and monotony is as much a place of beauty, peace and breakthrough as the rest are, and an unusual… Read more »
Shulamit
Guest
I see resistance to monotony the opposite of usurpment. beyond emptiness is the Devine that is our source of beingness and it is expressing through the vehicle that we each are. We are each in the present existence for a reason and this expressing makes itself known as a creative force. In me I experience pain when I get my ego small self and its limiting beliefs or mind tendencies in the way of this Devine force. Creativity wants to be expressed in each moment and reminds us by a Devine discontent. When I honor that force I live more… Read more »
Vern at AimforAwesome
Guest
I just found your blog – and it’s great reading. I’ll grab your RSS in a second. I liked what you said here… I’ve found that the best way to combat slipping into the black-hole of monotony is by realizing each moment is brand new. Past and present are illusions. Even if you feel like you’ve been doing the same thing, you really haven’t. This moment is all there is and each time you do something, it’s for the first time….Rather this is the only time you’ve done whatever you’re doing now, and it always will be. If you notice… Read more »
Marco
Guest
Hi, nice blog. I want to make a comment too. Enlightenment, what it is in itself cannot be explained properly. Explanation is a partial aspect. And it holds purpose. Isn’t the unhappiness in it’s most profound state institutionalized in the identification with partialism as supposed holder of ground and center. Isn’t this the illusion called I, the great divider? Without this, everything is a constant flow of expression, there is no reflection and therefor no partialism. But without the division what’s the purpose of continuation, that’s the question of this piece of work right? Life without a purpose, a life… Read more »
Mimi
Guest
Very interesting topic. Good points made by all, and all in all everyone has a great hold onto what life is about and how to go about it. To be alive is the greatest gift of all, and how one CHOOSES to live their life is unto his or her own accord. If you are AWARE you are alive, with a mind, a life and a world to play with than you can live a life however you would like no matter the circumstances. Well written Jonathan, once it is all said and done you have the choice to be… Read more »
Brother Brit
Guest
Namaste Jonathan, Well written article with truthful information. It was once said, “It is easy to be mindful, but it is hard to REMEMBER to be mindful.” Ideas for remembering to be mindful: 1) Tie a string around your index finger. This really works! People will ask you what you are trying to remember. Since you are trying to remember to be present, it often starts great conversations about being present. 2) Wear a Mala (a bead necklace used in Buddhism with 108 beads plus a guru bead) on the outside of your clothes. Take it off only to shower… Read more »
Conrado
Guest

The enlightenment is just half the road.
Please, check this out:
http://itisnotreal.com/Hunting%20the%20I.htm

Kaushik
Guest
Great thoughts, Jonathan. Today’s conventional wisdom tell us there is a big-bang event called enlightenment and we should strive for it, and we have a false identity and so on. It’s funny that the same people who tell us to drop assumptions and beliefs, encourage us to build all sorts of nonsense around enlightenment. Maybe it’s true, but it’s not true until it is true for you. I like the words awakening or flow because they indicate a continuum, and something available to everyday people and not just the spiritually-obsessed. Why should we live in flow? We can continue to… Read more »
Dan Adrian
Guest
Great post! Great topic too. I must admit I am still left with the same questions after reading it, but hey, there is time to answer them all. After all, we are forced to live this seemingly pointless life – the least we can do is understand why we live it. I sometimes look around in a room and say to myself – “what’s this??” – I find it all so strange and weird and pointless. There can be so much beauty in some things, and especially inside oneself – the energy inside that makes you feel alive and vibrant… Read more »
Marshall Woody
Guest

Conversations With God…by Neale Donald Walsch. Hands down, the best book I’ve ever read. This has more than helped me with some of the same issues.

Tobias Mixer
Guest

I think this article is so fitting and right where I am looking at things. Thank you for taking the time to grapple and grasp such an intensely beautiful calling.

Cheers

John Deere
Guest
Spiritual people hope to escape the search by searching. How can one find something with the act of looking for it, to find something you must undergo the act of finding it, the mistake most make is that the act of looking can lead to the act of finding. I don’t know how many ‘enlightened’ people of whom I’ve heard who ever said something like “we are not the story” isn’t part of enlightenment becoming one with everything? if you are one with the story of your life then you are that story. Any thing you mind comes up with… Read more »
soir
Guest

To “write your own story” is a beautiful way to see life and experience it, because it is OUR story (individually). A story written with detachment and Love, using the pen of Consciousness to guide it’s poetic content.

StevenCundiff
Guest
Vern the whole idea of “being in the Present” is just a tool that helps people who are deeply absorbed in their own movie to take a step back and realize its just a show on a screen that they got absorbed in. Being in the present moment is a means, not an end. becuase only when you are in the present moment can accomplish the true result these people are seeking, and that is to simply be self aware. And oh my God if I had not spent ten years of my life wasted on some grandios picture of… Read more »
StevenCundiff
Guest

not so brian, not a thousand lifetimes away, its only one breath away, sometimes less

StevenCundiff
Guest

when you wrote this post you were in a delusion of words and sound without even the faintest clue of true and simple realization….to achieve this…read your words from above…but then suddenly switch your focus from the words to the white space between the written words…be that stillness in the space…then when your mind moves again observe it from that still place are you will have achieved “Enlightenment” lol….but be careful, nothing special will actually happen hehehe.

nefertiti.totonaca
Guest

Wow, this is what I was looking for… This last Saturday I suddenly reached enlightment, and I was precisely wondering today: WHAT IS NEXT???… I feel really grateful that I found this post! :)

Jr.
Guest

You put into words what I have been pondering about for years. Great post! This is exactly what I needed to read.

Justmehere
Guest

What’s the point of life after enlightenment? I’d say there is none. That leaves only one option: to SEE (the beauty)–with the I (the “eye”) and to LOVE, the only “thing” that has no opposite.

Justmehere
Guest

What’s the point of life after enlightenment? I’d say there is none. That leaves only one option: to SEE (the beauty)–with the I (the “eye”)–and to LOVE–the two sides of the same coin (love and beauty)– which is all that remains when all the opposites have been folded back into themselves.

Meghan Kerner
Guest

I have been enjoying reading about this topic, because it is interesting to see how people talk about something that can’t really be talked about with the language we have at hand. Often this topic seems trite when put into words, but I like the feeling and intention behind this post, Jonathan. I am happy that you are writing about this topic and that you are enjoying the life (the story) that you are creating for yourself.

Marcanthony
Guest

But how do you reach TOTAl enlightenment, to say this means that you know all things that have been and will ever be, and as anyone who has stared into infinity before knows this is inprobable.

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