I have been wondering about enlightenment. How do you know if you have reached it, or if you have not? Do you think you could be enlightened already without knowing it? I know this might be a sort of zen question without a straightforward answer, but I am interested in hearing your comments on it. Thanks!
How do you know if you have reached Enlightenment? Could you be enlightened already? In order to give a yes or a no answer, you would need to first understand what Enlightenment actually means. This is all pretty subjective, but I’ll make three suggestions to start the discussion:
- If we go back to the basics, which is always the first place to look, the Eightfold path’s ultimate goal is to cause the cessation of suffering. So if you are Enlightened, you do not experience suffering.
- The word for “Enlightenment” in Pali and Sanskrit literally translates as “Awake.” What have you awakened from? Mostly, you see things as they really are; the illusory nature of reality is clearly understood by you.
- You have become completely self-realized. You will “be all that you can be.” There are many definitions of this, but in my opinion, this would probably be reached through serious long-term meditation and self-knowledge.
One who has become Enlightened would show a perfect combination of all three of these factors, and any one would have an effect on the other two. There are probably additional factors beyond these three as well.
To go back to your question, I’ve never come across anyone who seriously claimed to be Enlightened, but it seems to me that if you were Enlightened, you would know it. As one with complete self-understanding, you’d have to, wouldn’t you?