We come across the word ‘Enlightenment’ on every spiritual website, in nearly every magazine looking into spiritual issues; it is the single aim of some main religions and from what we hear about it, it would seem to be regarded as the ultimate state of mind for many of us who look for some peace in this busy world of questions and struggles. But what is it?
First, we know Buddhism centres on achieving this state, the word Buddha meaning ‘Enlightened One’. When asked who or what he was, The Buddha is said to have replied simply “I am awake!”. Requiring a lifetime of practice and inner devotion and the learning of ancient stories and traditions, many believe one must live as a Buddhist to even come close to understanding the teachings; and yet the Buddha himself is reported to have said simply “To find a Buddha, you have to see you own nature. Whoever sees his own nature is a Buddha...”
Likewise the Bhagavad-Gita, the holy book of the Hindus, describes Krishna teaching Arjuna about the realisation of ‘The Supreme Personality’. Krishna stated the following: “Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt…I am the Supersoul, seated in the hearts of all living entities. I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all beings… By becoming fixed in this knowledge, one can attain to the transcendental nature like My own.”
The Bible is more familiar to many of us in the west, but when taught at school of its contents the true meanings of some of the important teachings are usually overlooked, such as “the kingdom of God is within you… ye shall know that I [am] in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. …I and the Father are one. …'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”
We can see here the obvious constant through all of these teachings, that there is the realisation one can have that all is indeed within one’s own awareness, one’s own being, and one can realise or become the living truth, the Supersoul or Supreme Personality or The Enlightened One. And more importantly this experience is available to all, and not just those who live in monasteries or give away all their belongings.
And how do we do this? What great feat must we perform or penance must we endure in order to become what has been called ‘God-Realised’ and to be released from the suffering of the world?
The above teachings describe simply going within, within one’s own nature to the part of yourself which you refer to as ‘I’; hence this has also been called ‘Self-Realisation’. In this space there is often very little feeling, which is why it is so hard to remain in it for any length of time, but it is here in this place that a person begins to feel complete, aware that all they need is right here and now and they need nothing beyond what they are experiencing, whatever this may be.
As time passes and situations come and go, and the more the person practices holding onto this place where they are aware that they exist, the more they come to see that this space is all that exists. They see all else comes out of this strange stillness which they call ‘I’, and which appears to be within their own body. In this place ‘I’ come to know that all that I experience is within my own being, but more than this, my own being is not just the body with its arms and legs which I live through here, but the entire experience is within my own mind, my consciousness. The body I have is indeed within this, but also are all the trees, the birds, the cars, buildings, people, animals, in fact everything I experience is within this being I call ‘I’. Nothing exists without my being here, and I have nowhere else to go. When I am not, there is nothing left to be or be known. I am indeed God-Realised. I am The Living Truth, The Supersoul, The Supreme Personality, The Buddha, but not because I am special, but because ‘I am awake’.
“Whoever sees his own nature is a Buddha" “They are flawless like Brahman, and thus they are already situated in Brahman." "Be still, and know that I am God… the kingdom of God is within you". You can see these teachings are not so different, and they are also not beyond your reach in the sense of Self-Knowledge. The fact is they are all about you, about your own truth which is within you. There is no need to keep debating and wondering what it is or what’s it all about. Simply to practice being aware of where you are and of what you are feeling is enough to put you in touch with your self, the source of all existence, and here you too can find Enlightenment. It was here all the time.