What is Enlightenment

Posted: May 22, 2015 in Sidewalk Spirituality

It is an odd question ‘are you enlightened?’ The question is an odd question because it is ill framed. No being can actually say yes to this question. Why? Because when you find enlightenment you realize that it was words, concepts, and ideas that had kept you trapped in the prison of your own mind to begin with. Enlightenment only means something if you haven’t found it yet.

It isn’t a ‘thing’. It isn’t a subject or an object. It isn’t a goal or a place. It isn’t something that you achieve. In all truth, enlightenment doesn’t exist. It is everything and nothing at the very same time. Until you find it, you think it is something. Once you find it, you realize that it’s just a label for something that cannot be described. And so it does not really exist.

Some people may read this as a cop out or an excuse. That an enlightened being should just say ‘yes’ and make it easy for people. I say no – because an enlightened being who is trying to show you the path should also show you just how pointless words, concepts, and ideas – and labels, really are, especially when it comes to what we think enlightenment is.

You have to let go of expectation. Is there expectation in the world enlightenment? We see it to mean liberation, freedom from suffering, nirvana. To exist within the enlightened mind is to see these things, but to also know that they mean nothing. Expectation is a cause of suffering, and it puts whatever you are expecting just beyond your reach. You see this clearly when you find it.

So what is it then? This thing we call enlightenment? How can we use this term to have a valid conversation about what it is and what it isn’t? For myself, I use the term in my discussions and in my writings as a point of reference and nothing more. It is a question of realizing the truth for oneself that makes the truth of enlightenment apparent – and then it fades into greater awareness.

It is everything, because within it you experience God, you see all things as they are, you reside within the essence of infinite love, you resolve towards patience in all things, you walk with wisdom wherever you go. It is nothing because you were always this – you always had these qualities within you, as you, at the core of your being, but your egoic manifestation got in the way.

What is enlightenment really? It is undoing the conditioning that leads to a confused mind. It is opening the heart to the underlying truth all things. It is reaching into the collective consciousness of all beings that have ever been, are now, and ever will be. It is about letting go of the false self created by the ego and returning to your original state as a being of infinite love.

It is all of these things and more. It is none of these things. These are just words used in an attempt to describe that which cannot be put into words. What it is is indescribable. And even then, you must also realize that to be enlightened is not to ‘be’ enlightened. It is to endeavor towards enlightenment in each and every moment of your life, as an action, not as words.

You do not ‘achieve’ enlightenment and suddenly everything goes away. True enlightenment is not the absence of anything – it is simply a shift in perception and orientation that allows you to create space within your mind. You step back from each moment while also stepping forward into each moment, fully aware, or not fully aware, but always knowing that awareness is the key to everything.

And so it becomes a question of conscious awareness, the degree of realization, the level of discipline achieved, and so on. To be enlightened is to see all things as they are and not to get lost in them, caught up in them, or let the weight of them crush you. And if you do, to bring your awareness to it, see it for what it is, and work with it as appropriate within your conscious mind.

There are indeed degrees of enlightenment within the enlightened mind, if you were to place things within the illusory context that this type of a statement actually represents. We all exist somewhere on a continuum of conscious awareness. At one end is division, at the other end is unity. One may have seen the truth, but in a particular moment divide themselves with thought.

One may have oriented themselves towards several aspects of the truth, and then forgotten other aspects, within a particular moment; being aware of the underlying truth, but lost within a particular narrative, until they are reminded, either internally or externally, of their present mind state and their presence on the side of the line that keeps them separate and divided.

Enlightenment is achieved and yet it is unachievable as a thing because it is a choice, from one moment to the next. When one awakens to the truth, deepens into that truth, passes through the eye of enlightenment, and then deepens into the enlightened mind, it is all about the moment, from one moment to the next, allowing things to unfold as they will, as they must.

There is so much more here, so much depth. And even this concept, this things called enlightenment; it has different definitions and meanings to different people. What I have offered you is just a small part of my perception, my orientation to that which I have found within myself. Many times it is a personal expression of understanding that represents a person’s current point on the path.

One person may consider themselves enlightened and yet it is their ego that is making this claim. If you consider yourself enlightened and would simply answer ‘yes’ to the original questions asked ‘are you enlightened?’ then perhaps there is more depth to be explored within your own conception of self – for enlightenment is everything and nothing, and you let go of it as soon as you truly have it.

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