Enlightenment is one of those terms that has many layers of meaning. In the strictest sense, enlightenment simply means gaining some new insight or new knowledge. But from a more spiritual sense, enlightenment usually means realizing a new level of awakened divine consciousness. Often when we think about enlightenment, the Buddha comes to mind, mainly because the word Buddha translates into “the enlightened one.” But for the Buddha, enlightenment has nothing to do with knowledge or intellect and everything to do with being liberated from the illusion of suffering.
For those on the path to spiritual and personal empowerment, gaining a sense of enlightenment is considered a major achievement, but there are many degrees and versions of what that could be like for us. The most important thing to remember about enlightenment is that any step taken toward individual authenticity, personal empowerment, spiritual understanding, and freedom from suffering is a liberating step. There are no wrong answers when it comes to discovering and experiencing a new connection to your Higher Self and to Divine Source. All paths are worthy.
Enlightenment comes as we begin to open ourselves to new possibilities, usually by quieting the busy mind long enough to free ourselves from past hurts and future fears. We may have an epiphany or a deep “aha” moment that can range from getting a new idea on how to complete a task we are working on, to experiencing a moment of significant spirituality. In all cases of enlightenment, from the smallest eureka moments to major awakenings – having an enlightened experience is touching the spirit within you; a glimpse of your higher self.
“Enlightenment is, in the end, nothing more than the natural state of being” — Adyashanti
There is a natural progression of enlightenment that occurs as we continue to expand our consciousness to higher levels. You will begin to feel these three phases organically while continuing your practices of spiritual awakening. Most enlightenment experiences happen within the first stage.
- The first stage of an enlightened experience is the “I am that” experience. These enlightened occurrences are specific to us with some type of individual realization. Within the first stage, many “aha” moments may have to do with a personal experience or it might be related to something you are trying to achieve. You may have a creative explosion or a deep insight about your past. The first stage of enlightenment is highly personal and many times will fuel the spirit with a longing for more.
- The second state of enlightenment is a major leap in spiritual awakening and it is the “You are that” phase. This second stage is a widening expansion of the spirit to recognize the divine in the other. As individuals begin to adopt intensely focused metaphysical or spiritual practices, this second phase may spontaneously emerge due to a new level of openness.
- Finally, the third state of enlightenment is the profound moment when we realize “All of this is that”, where this is no distinguishing separateness from us and the entire Cosmic Divinity – it’s ALL the same! Intellectually, this concept is easy to grasp but to awaken to it, experientially, is indeed the highest form of enlightenment. This third stage of enlightenment is the Buddha nature, a representative of enlightenment itself, and it is very likely that someone experiencing this third state of enlightenment will also experience something like it; bliss.
So, there are many degrees and varieties of experiences when it comes to enlightenment. Experiencing enlightenment can have a significant impact on someone’s life, or it could simply give a person a slight pause. Additionally, even though enlightenment expands in meaning and purpose the more it is experienced, that does not mean that anyone at any time might not experience a full blown stage three enlightenment at any moment in their lives. The Apostle Paul’s account of his conversion on the road to Damascus is a prototype example of this (Act 9:3-19).
Enlightenment is always going on, it is infinite and always flowing, like the energy of the sun. We all have equal potential to experience enlightenment, and there is no exact formula for getting it. Clearly an open heart and mind appears to be a catalyst for many enlightening experiences, but enlightenment, like love, is. It will come to you when you call it, either intentionally, or not.