This is the third article in the series on enlightement and self-mastery. In Part 2 of this series, I tackled the issue of why one should go for enlightenment and if it was our choice. In this article, I will discuss what I think enlightenment is.
In the article, Self-Mastery and Enlightenment Demysified, I gave a model and gave a physiological connection to the enlightenment process. In this article, I will elaborate more on this topic and discuss what my idea of enlightenment is.
Further, my friend Jonathan Mead wrote an article titled, “Enlightenment is Overrated.” It is a very interesting article and I suggest you head on over there to read it and other interesting articles on his site. This article picked my interest and I decided to finally write this article and add to or complement his material.
He has clearly nailed down the misconceptions that people held of what it is to be enlightened. These misconceptions, out of many other reasons, are responsible for the many enthusiatic spiritual seekers being cheated by many false gurus. He also stated what he thought to be enlightenment. His definition is very close to my definition here. A True teacher will point you inward and ask you to improve yourself rather than worship him/her.
To Live In Light
As far as I am concerned enlightenment means “to live in light.” To see everything clearly as it is and not color what is seen by our mental conditioning and emotions. To know in your being, in your every atom, that you are one with everything. Since you are one with everything, you don’t need to indulge in emotional dramas. You are free from emotional dramas, so you can fully, unconditionally, passionately love everything and everyone without expecting anything in return. It does not mean that you don’t have emotions and that you become a stone wall. No, in fact you can feel those emotions even more fully. You can experience true empathy and compassion. If you want to indulge in emotional dramas once in a while, you can make that choice, since you will have control over your emotions. Those emotions won’t have a hold over you.
Definition of Enlightenment
My definition of enlightenment is, “Be liberated from the mentally created emotional attachments and live a life of unconditional love and oneness with everything.” This means that you have gone beyond the state of functioning out of fear of failure or success, or living expecting something to happen in the future. You are living your life completely in the moment, fully experiencing whatever is happening, without mental judgments. I feel that all attachments, whether negative or positive, arise because of judgments. A negative attachment arises because you judge that you don’t like someone or something, and a positive attachment occurs when you make a judgment that you love someone or something. Some people call living in this state, of being liberated from mental attachments and judgments, as Living from the Heart or Heart Centered Living. I call this also as having achieved Self-Mastery. Enlightenment is nothing esoteric.
In the article, “Enlightenment is Overrated,” Jonathan says that Buddha did not lead a monastic life, but lived in the world. We should realize that Buddha tried to escape from the realities of life. He wanted to find enlightenment, and left his wife and son to lead a monastic life. Until he left all the mental attachments, including his attachments to all practices and to his attachment to enlightenment itself, the self-realization did not dawn on him. He realized that the attachment was not physical, but a mental concept. Until we let go of those mental concepts that keep us attached to objects of this world, we cannot truly be detached, we cannot be truly liberated and enlightened.
Story of King Sikhidhwaja
To illustrate this, let me tell you a story, from Yoga Vasishta (pronounced, yOga vaSishTa — see sanskrit transliteration scheme), of king Sikhidhwaja, who wanted to be enlightened. Yoga Vasishta is part of the great epic Ramayana (pronounced, rAmAyaNa) in which Vasishta, the preceptor of Rama (pronounced rAma) taught him about enlightenment. Vasishta told Rama the story of king Sikhidhwaja in an attempt to persuade Rama not to renounce the kingdom in an attempt to find enlightenment.
Now coming to the story, some guru told Sikhidhwaja that he should be detached from everything to be enlightened. So, he decided that to be detached meant to renounce everything. On a whim he decided to renounce his kingdom and go off to the forest to meditate in order to find the ultimate truth. His wife Chudala (pronounced, cUdAla), an enlightened being herself, tried to dissuade him from renouncing everything. She tried to convince him in every possible way that one should not shy away from one’s responsibilities and why physical renunciation is not the way to go about it. However, not realizing that his wife was an enlightened soul, he only saw a woman well adorned in gold ornaments and enjoying a royal life. He did not realize the level detachment in her. Unconvinced by his wife’s advice, he left the kingdom and all the wealth to his wife and went off to the forest wearing saffron robes. He built a nice little hut for himself, with a nice wooden cot to sleep in, and a few vessels he could eat in.
He told himself, “Now that I have renounced the kingdom and all the wealth, I can meditate and be enlightened.”
However, he kept thinking of his wife and kingdom without being aware of it. To his frustration, he did not make any perceivable progress toward the so called enlightenment.
He thought, “It may be because I am still sleeping comfortably enough on a wooden cot. Duh! How could I not see this! My attachment to the cot is causing this problem.”
He threw away the cot and started sleeping on the floor. Still nothing happened. His mind was still wandering. He gave up his hut and started sleeping outside in nature. He gave up his copper vessels and started eating on leaves. But, nothing happened. Finally, he became very helpless.
He felt, “I renounced everything and nothing happened. No enlightenment. I am feeling the same as I felt when I was a king and rich. What do I do? I am helpless.”
Being an enlightened sage and connected with the entire universe, his wife Chudala sensed his predicament. Using her powers or siddhis she took the form of a male sage named Kumbha Muni and appeared before Sikhidhwaja who was a mental and emotional wreck. All the experiences he had in the forest cleansed his mind, and he was mentally and physically exhausted. So, he was ready to listen. After a long discussion between them, Sikhidwaja came to realize that the seat of illusion was the mind and not the object that was being perceived. The attachment was created by the thoughts upon physical contact with the objects of the world and not the objects themselves. He realized even though he had given up everything physically, he never gave up the thoughts that bound him to those objects. He realized that the state of enlightenment was the state of detachment to those thoughts that bound him to the objective world and that was the true liberation.
Thus, enlightened he went back to his kingdom and ruled it for many years along with his wife, with unconditional love, and passion in everything he did. When he ruled thus the kingdom flourished more than ever before.
Enlightenment is a State of Being
Enlightenment is, therefore, a state of Being, nothing esoteric, your true nature, wherein you are free from constricting mental concepts that create attachments to thoughts that bind you to the objective world.
I hope that this article picked your interest and helped in your contemplation. What is your definition of enlightenment? After all everything is a model until we experience it by ourselves; after that there is no need for any model.