There are no words to describe Enlightenment. We can use concepts to allude to the state of Awakening, to God-Realization, to Self-Realization. That last one, Self-Realization is rather ironic since it’s realizing there is no Self. We can say it is a state of Unity, of ultimate bliss and peace; that it is freedom from suffering. Enlightenment is the end of Ignorance, the end of attachment to senses, and the end of coming to any state of Being.
Liberation from suffering is probably the closest we can come in words. It does not mean pleasure and pain are no longer felt. In reality, they are felt more deeply since there is no resistance. But a particular sensation doesn’t hang around very long because there is no self to cling to it. Beneath all the waves that arise, there is that indescribable sense of peace, but even the word peace falls flat in reality.
Enlightenment does not mean everything in your life works out. It doesn’t mean that all money problems and relationship issues and health challenges suddenly disappear. What it does mean is that the human drama does not block the endless Bliss that is the play of existence. Even Gautama Buddha had to eat, manage relationships, and deal with back problems that would cause him pain. When the back pain became intense and his body could not sit up straight, he would ask one of his disciples to give the discourse while he laid down. You may have seen statues of him in a reclined posture; now you know why he was memorialized in that position.
Why didn’t Gautama just heal himself, or ask one of the many gods, goddesses, or healers who came to him to hear the Dharma to fix his body? Having a perfect physical body was unnecessary for him to accomplish his task of teaching. When you know you are the Dharma-kaya, what difference does the temporary physical vehicle make? On another level, his physical pain also served as a teaching for his students to let go of their attachment and worship of the body.
Enlightenment does not mean you are a Saint. There are Enlightened Saints, but not all Saints are Enlightened and not all of the Enlightened are Saints. As long as the body exists, there is a sliver of ego and a variable personality that interacts with the world, complete with its own quirks and eccentricities. The difference between one who is Awakened and one who is not is that there is no clinging to the ego or personality. The Awakened changes to fit the needs of those around her, to show them Light in a way that they have the possibility of seeing It, to aid in the Awakening of those they meet. Or, sometimes their job is simply to meditate alone and let the Light shine through them, so they may chase people away. Their actions don’t always make sense to those who are watching from the outside. To the average person, the Enlightened may appear aloof, fickle, sometimes cold, and sometimes extremely loving. None of these words adequately describe Enlightenment. It is everything and nothing all at once.
All I or anyone can really tell you is the struggle to Awaken is worth every moment. Each experience you have in this world contains within it the seed of realization. While it is certainly not easy to let go of every last attachment and lay yourself bare before the Light, it is what we were made for. Enlightenment is our Natural State.
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