What Is Enlightenment?
Enlightenment is a journey to light the light within
On the night when the Buddha attained Enlightenment, he said, ‘Ignorance was destroyed, knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed, light arose — as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, and resolute.’ As an enlightened soul, he started understanding the truths of life, from identifying his sufferings and the origins of it to the cessation of suffering as also the path that leads to the cessation. It was the Enlightenment obtained under the Bodhi Tree that transformed him from Prince Siddhartha to Lord Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. It empowered him not just with knowledge, but with Realization, so that worldly troubles could not affect him anymore.
Over the centuries, Enlightenment as a concept travelled across the globe. French philosopher Voltaire vouched for the three values of Enightenment- reason, skepticism and individualism. Enlightenment became the core propeller behind the reshaping of European society where ideas like liberty, equality, human rights became the base of all ideas. This also brought in a marked change in the lives of the downtrodden and discriminated individuals, especially the slaves and the middle classes. These groups understood the value of rights and fought for them, albeit peacefully. The transformative moment of awakening brought about a gradual process that liberated not just physically but also the bonds of minds. These ideas today form the foundations of modern democracies.
The values of Enlightenment also gave rise to the ‘Age of Reason’ between 17th and 19th century, a period marked with path-breaking scientific, philosophical and political discourses. Here customs and traditions were overturned and more progressive ideas like tolerance and individualism, and scientific endeavours were promoted. This led to discoveries and inventions leading to the modern world where we live in today. English philosopher John Locke described the human mind as a blank slate where the experiences of life create the individual character of the human being. According to him goodness and other attributes are all acquired in life. With this understanding, we can reach out to the path of Enlightenment by proactively working in that direction.
Enlightenment is akin to a room that is without light and is completely dark. We cannot see anything, and through Enlightenment one can switch on the light. Here we realize that we are not the body that dies, the mind is nothing but a bundle of thoughts and the ego is an illusion, we are the Divine Soul, a Spark Of Unique Life. When we transcend the mind, when we still the mind, we are in the state of thoughtlessness and Consciousness. It is in this state, when the intellect is activated, that we can realize the truth. The journey of self-discovery or personal growth starts when we desire the Divine or Liberation. When we are a Mumukshu or we become a Jigyaasu, a seeker, only then can we become a true Yogi, one who lives in a state of Yoga. As we continue to tread on the path to this discovery, we can become a Gyaani, one who has the wisdom. The final stage is when we feel awakened and are one with the Buddha. But nobody can make us enlightened. We have to light our own light. As the story goes — it was Buddha’s last day in this mortal world. Ananda was his cousin and also the closest disciple. He was crying and weeping. Ananda was not yet enlightened. He said to the Buddha, “You are a spiritual Guru and a beacon to me and all us on this journey of enlightenment. What will happen to us? Who will show us this light now?” Buddha just opened his eyes and said, “Appo Deepo Bhava”. He said, “Just be a light unto yourself. Nobody can give this light to you.” We all have to move towards this Divine light that is hidden in each one of us.
Once you have attained the state of Enlightenment or Illumination, there is Realization, which will lead to Liberation, freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth and Unification with the Divine. By doing so, we are liberated from the triple suffering on earth and from the cycle of death and rebirth. The journey of self discovery makes us realize that the ego is a false identity, the mind is our biggest enemy and the body, who we think is me, is not me. The body comes later.
Therefore, the path to Enlightenment is a path that helps us overcome the myth, it helps us overcome our ignorance and realize the truth. It evolves us to become one with the Supreme Divine or SIP- the Supreme Immortal Power that we call, God.
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