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Enlightenment: Are We There Yet?


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?

7 comments to Enlightenment: Are We There Yet?

  • JJ Simon

    How do you know if you have reached it, or if you have not?

    This kind of question implies a destination or event that is “ENLIGHTENMENT” people have enlightenment experiences but that doesn’t mean they are fully enlightened; having seen through the illusion of self and other and exhausting all habitual patterns.

    The Idea of the “I” becoming Enlightened is a trap for a couple of reasons the first being that no-one becomes Enlightened because Enlightened mind is our fundamental nature. Buddha mind is our natural state of mind so we don’t become it, we are it; but we don’t understand that!, because we are fundamentally confused hence ignorance as being the root of suffering.

    Another reason for this being a trap is that once the true nature of mind is realized as complete Awareness or wakefulness then there is no “I” to claim that Enlightenment.

    All of this requires real work on our part. The path is the continual breaking down of habitual barriers that keep us from seeing our true nature, Buddha Mind.

    I tell myself ‘Just keep looking and when you think you’ve seen; look deeper’

    Good luck,

  • steve

    the book “eight mindful steps to happiness” by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana states”as your mindfulness improves,you naturally begin to observe factors of enlightenment -the qualities of mind necessary to achieve the goal of the path.The Buddha practiced for many lifetimes to reach the utmost perfection of these factors in order to become a Buddha.The Seven Factors of enlightenment are mindfulness,investigation,effort,joy,tranquility,concentration,and equanimity.You have been cultivating these factors all along.As your mindfulness improves,they simply reach a higher level.The Seven Factors of Enlightenment are traditionally presented in the order in which they arise ,because the development of each factor leads to the next.”

  • Aum.

    There are no problems, only solutions. New states of being.

    You see, the only real answer to this question is the question that I, personally can give you. All other verbalization and allures of grammar won’t change the fact that everything you will read or hear, will always be somebody else’s opinion.
    Thus, assuming you think that you should take someone’s opinion, is usually depended on what other people think about that person..
    So who’s opinion do you take for truth? A stream of consciousness, a trend of culture, a specific person or community in the structure of society that you are binding your self to?
    Is he a professor? in what field?
    Is he a respected Guru? in what craft?

    While all you really need to do, is form your own opinions.
    seeing that if there is no absolute truth, then this very saying is Truth. Anything you believe in will always be true for you.
    So what do you believe?

    I Am Awake.
    Look and speak in the direction of where you want to be, and never against speak of the direction which you have come from, and the universe will present a path for you to walk easily into your new reality.
    We are, all that we have thought.

    I look through the net of All life. Co-evolving memetic structures of matter and energy, illusiions of mathematical harmonies existing before causality. convergence out of chaos. behavioral patterns and cultural stream moving through the planet, through the street.
    Disenchanted from the Matrix of televised culture, realizing that I a the stream!
    Attracting similar vibrations, repeating, entertaining a thought and empowering a stream of consciousness to to manifest reality. In action, co-creation and seeing the abundance of opportunities always presenting themselves through one’s own selective bias of reality.

    But this is primitive society. Our News are almost never new, or novel. They are regurgitated statistics of repeated histories, and almost always negative to a hypnotic extent. The mainstream collective consciousness featured film.
    Having 6.5 billion people alive on the planet, and thousands of people starving to death each day, how can a pop-star gossip story be of any concern to anybody?
    Is he pertinent to your life, in any way..?
    I mean, How many people do you know personally and really care about?

    The Internet will save us all.
    But the matrix is going deprogram it self more. The cultural-singularity will be the basis for the technological one.
    The phase of Spiritual singularity is already upon us. having figures like Madonna promoting Kabala, and mainstream blue collars doing yoga.
    As the web of life get more rooted to it self, Information converges and the phase of change accelerates. All of history is the shock-wave of of the eschatology of Omega. we are the omega point, a wave in it.

    If you look at it closely, there is no where else but now. Thought about the past, or the future are always happening in the present. some want to make hell of it, others may choose to make heaven of it.

    Look at your hands. These are the hands of a God.
    So Now. what are you doing?

  • Lee

    I agree with JJ. There is no destination and there is nothing to believe in. I have never heard a true teacher say they are enlightened and I’ve been told if I ever do I should run away from that person… and my experience says that is true. Seeing clearly comes and goes and the longer I train the easier it is to be open and present. A problem for some is that they may have an ‘experience’ and become hung up in trying to get back to have it again…and hence they are caught in another attachment. I learned a long time ago to let the word enlightenment go … it was for me a trap that allowed the ego to keep playing with itself…

  • Simran

    I have been very fascinated with enlightenment lately, reading everything about it, buddhism, buddha,etc. I have also had many thoughts similar to Gasho’s response..I worry that I won’t reach enlightenm,ent simply because the desire to do so is another attachment and obsession. The problem is, I feel that where I live and everything connected to my life right now, I am surrounded by people who don’t get it..I would like the experience of living in a monastery, just to be in a place where this is supported..but I also don’t know where to start..I want to try to reach enlightenment on my own. I think I had an experience when I was a child, but I have forgotten it because I have become very caught up in every day crap.

  • jonsul

    I cannot know when I will reach enlightenment, I can only trust in mankind’s natural desire to better himself and the world. When I reach enlightenment, it will not be a conscious effort to achieve it. I can only focus on becoming a better being, it will come when I am ready.

  • Anonymous

    you will know because you will be in a constant state of meditation, your deepest most inner state will be your only state