Many of us get drawn to spirituality when we come to the conclusion that the permanent happiness and peace we seek in the outside world is impossible to find. We hear that inner peace is possible only when we start turning inwards rather than outwards and once we do, the path to “ Enlightenment” begins.
One issue we may get stuck on though, I know I certainly did in my earlier years is not knowing what enlightenment is or knowing when we have arrived. When we understand though it simply means recognising what we are as opposed to what we are not without any doubt, that is enlightenment.
So what are we? We all start off feeling we are a person in a world then through practices like Self inquiry for instance, we can directly see for ourselves that in fact we are not the body because we are aware of it, we are not the breath, not the thoughts, not the feelings, not the ego etc. we see directly that no matter what we used to think we were is not the case because all experience is objective, it’s coming and going yet we remain unchanging and still.
There are so many ways to come to this realisation which I won’t get into but once this understanding is intellectual knowledge, that is Enlightenment but there is one problem….
Imagine or a moment you grew up beggar, your whole life consisted of collecting cans for money, begging, going through garbage cans for food etc..now imagine on your 40th birthday you were told in fact you were a prince of a wealthy country and your entire life has instantly changed.
This would be great news but it would take time for this new understanding to be integrated into your thoughts, actions and how you carry yourself. You may be a prince but you still talk and act like a homeless person because that’s all you’ve ever known for 40 years.
You may still see cans on the road and have an instinct to pick them up for change even though you have more many than you’d ever need now.
My point is, if we’ve lived our life feeling we are a person in a world then we come across enlightening knowledge and through investigation have found it to be true without a doubt, we are going to go through a period of cognitive dissonance where our intellect has realised one truth but our body and mind is still living out an old “ truth”
When we pull out the plug on a fan that is running, even though we’ve cut the power, the fan continues to spin for a while. In the same way, when we replace old beliefs with new, enlightened truth our body and thought patterns will still act as they used to until the new knowledge gradually filters through our system.
Enlightenment is just the beginning because once we understand that what we truly are is what there is, it takes time for our thoughts and actions to align with that truth. The more we remember what we truly are and it’s reflected in our actions through, kindness, acceptance, compassion etc the more peace, contentment and joy will appear in our lives as a result not because we are learning to be loving , but rather all the old, false patterns are removed and we can finally be what we are by default which is loving, open and compassionate. This way of living and being feels good because it’s natural, we’ve stopped living a lie, maintaining a lie can be exhausting, we are now living in truth.
Enlightenment is realising you are not the body or the mind. The body and mind you thought you were eventually gets the benefits of a calmer, contented life regardless of circumstances once this understanding moves from the head to the heart at which point the body still sees separate people in a separate world but is no longer fooled by the illusion. In a dream all appears separate but it’s underlying reality is always one and you are that underlying reality.
Hope this helps someone on their journey.