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Our email address is editor @realization.org.

Copyright 2001 Realization.org.


What Is Enlightenment?

Definitions sent by our readers.

Photo by Jacques De Schryver


IS IT POSSIBLE to write a definition of enlightenment that:

  • is consistent with definitions in major traditions, and

  • describes actual enlightened people?

How about:

Enlightenment is the state in which you are permanently free from identification with your ego. This means you are free from the normal compulsion to fantasize continuously about people, situations, and objects. You act and think without feeling like a doer or thinker. You have no anxiety. You usually have no thoughts. There is a profound change in your sense of what "I" means. When these things become habitual and effortless, you are enlightened.

We're not completely satisfied with this definition -- the phrase profound change in your sense of what "I" means is particularly weasely -- and we're hoping you can help us improve it.

Please send your definitions to letters@realization.org .




Here's a good description of enlightenment from a book by Osho called The Book of the Books, Volume IV (page 109):

Enlightenment is not a thought nor a feeling. In fact, enlightenment is not an experience at all. When all experiences have disappeared and the mirror of consciousness is left without any content, utterly empty, no object to see, to think about, to feel, when there is no content around you, the pure witness has remained, that is the state of enlightenment.

Judy Liu

. . . . . . . .

Shinzen Young gives a good definition in an article you linked recently, How Meditation Works:

So Nirvana is what life feels like to a person for whom:

  • No matter how assailed, anger need not arise.

  • No matter what the pleasure, compulsive longing need not arise.

  • No matter what the circumstances, a feeling of limitation need not arise.

Bobby Brusher

. . . . . . . .

To me, enlightenment is a state of perfect mental health. In this sense, I believe that we are all born enlightened, but we gradually lose it, largely due to the abuse (I use this term broadly) to which we are all subjected as children by our families and culture in general. To regain our enlightened state is not to destroy the ego; rather it is to heal the ego so that one knows that one is a part of God and God is love. Becoming enlightened means becoming as a little child. I agree with Carl Jung who wrote, "One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious."


. . . . . . . .

For brevity, its hard to beat professor Juan Mascaro's statement about Nirvana, which may be the same thing, stated in his preface to the Penguin edition of the Dhammapada which he translated: "Nirvana is the natural and inevitable result of the extinction of desire." (Desire, here, is of course the Buddhist concept of tanha, i.e. self-centered craving). I personally like the conjoining of natural and inevitable -- kind of scary and wonderful at the same time!


. . . . . . . .

I love simple questions! : D Here goes: enlightenment is the awareness that you and everyone and everything around you is spiritual in nature. You are all connected. You and everyone and everything are manifestations of the deity into the material. The purpose of life is improvement --to make people more loving, helpful, kind, and compassionate. The hard lessons that you experience are the teachings that you need. Deity (however you define it) is infinite love. Hope I cleared things up! : D


. . . . . . . .

Enlightenment is the gradual or sudden Recognition of what Reality is, and of who we are, at a fundamental, essential level. This realization or "awakening" is the simultaneous and irrefutable recognition of both:

  • the finite nature of all things, and

  • the inherent completeness of Reality manifesting within the Infinite Present.

Metta Zetty

. . . . . . . .

The Buddha explained what enlightenment is in the first talk he delivered after he got Awakened, the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta. He says that Awakening is understanding the Four Noble Truths. In other words, it's understanding that we make ourselves unhappy by wanting things, and understanding how to stop that process.

Bhikkhu Bill

. . . . . . . .

Enlightenment is the realization of the truth of the fact that Advaita (nonduality) is not a state where you can take shelter escaping Dvaita (duality) but rather it is unconditional acceptance of the totality of duality with all the consequences . . . THIS IS ADVAITA . . . THIS IS ENLIGHTENMENT . . . THIS IS REALIZATION.

Biharilal Shah


Photograph copyright 2000 Jacques De Schryver

This page was published on December 5, 1999 and last revised on April 10, 2000.

Copyright 2001 Realization.org. All rights reserved.