What is Enlightenment?
Enlightenment is not a mystical or supernatural state but an unending process of discovery of the natural within us. It’s the part of our nature about which we are not conscious and it can be explained in terms of biology and science. It is a wrong notion that biology and spirituality, as well as science and the sacred, are entirely different domains of experience and one cannot be explained by the other.
Enlightenment is not a point but a process which begins even before we are born. From the conception to becoming an adult, we go through the evolutionary stages of the universe’s emergence. If we continue to search further and succeed, we will experience Nothingness (pure consciousness) itself and released into its timeless and nameless womb. The womb of Nothingness is the source of all that exists and possible.
During the process of enlightenment our consciousness expands, bringing more awareness and knowledge. Eventually during this process of expansion, consciousness transcends knowledge and we come to persistently live in a state of non-knowing and yet we are fully aware. In Non-knowing is the direct experience of existence without the aid of thinking and reasoning mind.
All of us are enlightened at some level however there are always more levels of enlightenment to experience. Abraham Maslow’s self-actualization and Carl Jung’s individuation are stages of enlightenment, as are Buddha’s Nirvana and Raman Maharishi’s abiding in the eternal non-dual Self. But the process doesn’t end there. If we explore Sri Aurobindo’s teachings and the experiences of Mother of Pondicherry and UG Krishnamurti, then a different picture of enlightenment emerges. This experience of enlightenment is body and matter based. These teachers talk about divine materialism or the salvation of the body, where matter becomes conscious.
In essence, enlightenment is a natural and endless process with no point of beginning or final arrival. A problem develops when we think that our own or someone else’s enlightenment is final and accept ourselves or someone else as the authority. When we proclaim ourselves Gurus or become blind followers of some other self-proclaimed Guru, the process of enlightenment stops. We may bask in reflected glory and feel elevated while the Guru is alive. However, once the Guru is gone our enlightenment also comes to an end. Instead of doing the hard work of learning, understanding, practicing and experiencing, we waste time waiting for something to happen.