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What's It Like To Be Enlightened?
A Guide To Your Experience
Of Full Enlightenment
This Is Enlightenment
Closer Than You Think
Enlightenment is closer than you think. It's always right in front of you. It’s inside, above, behind, and all around you too. The entire field of your experience is a field of enlightenment. There is not a single hair, a speck of dust, or a sliver of your experience that is ever outside of enlightenment.
If enlightenment were an ocean, then the objects in your world would be its waves. Waves are not separate from or other than the ocean. They are expressions of it, you could say. Likewise, your everyday world and the things in it are not separate from or other than enlightenment. They are displays or expressions of it.
So despite appearances, you are never actually apart from enlightenment. If you are searching for it, it’s right here. Even as you look for enlightenment, you always look right at it. It's at once hidden and fully revealed in the very experience you are now having.
The Perfection Of Enlightenment
In enlightenment, everything is perfect exactly as it is. The whole field of experience shines with unwavering perfection. This perfection is fully intact, and it’s not created or sustained through any effort of the self. What is already is perfect. This perfection is invisible outside of enlightenment. But once you find enlightenment, the natural perfection of all experience becomes visible in an instant.
Is a buttercup a weed or a flower? The answer depends on your perspective. There are many plants that could be considered either weeds or flowers: buttercups, clovers, dandelions, and daisies. Ordinarily, these plants are classified as weeds, and we are oblivious to their manifest beauty. Yet, if you take a moment to notice them, you will recognize how beautiful they really are. In this way, the same plant can be seen as an ugly weed or a beautiful flower, depending on how you look at it.
The same is also true of your life. Is this moment an ugly weed or a beautiful flower? Like the buttercup, clover, dandelion, and daisy, your life doesn’t need to be changed in order to become something beautiful. It already is beautiful just as it is. Although this beauty is hidden from you before enlightenment, with an enlightened "perspective" you are able to see it. With enlightenment, a beauty and perfection that never fade become visible in all of life.
The Happiness Of Enlightenment
We all search for happiness, and enlightenment is the culmination of this search. You could say that the happiness of enlightenment is ultimate happiness. It is the greatest and most fundamental happiness there is. It is a happiness within which there is no need for more happiness. And it is a happiness that is intrinsic to all things.
In a way, ultimate happiness is so big that no self can contain it. It can’t fit into you any more than the whole ocean can fit into a single fish. Like a fish, you are too small at first. But with enlightenment, you let go of your small self and become inseparable from all of this—the whole “ocean” of life. As all of this, you are big enough for ultimate happiness, and you realize that it is your nature.
Ultimate happiness is not known outside of enlightenment. Outside of enlightenment, ultimate happiness will always lie beyond your reach. Whatever non-ultimate happiness you find, on some level you will always be left wanting more. Therefore, you will never be able to overcome your unhappiness, unless you find enlightenment.
Your Innermost Experience
We all have an innate need to find enlightenment. There are some of us who not only recognize the need for enlightenment but prioritize it.
At the same time, there is a way in which even now—even outside the enlightened state—you are already in touch with enlightenment. You are already in touch with it on a deeper, non-conscious level. And it is because you are already in touch with it on a deeper, non-conscious level that you seek it out in the first place.
This continuous, deeper connection with enlightenment makes you constantly feel as though there is something else, something different, something better, something more. It engenders your life with an underlying sense of dissatisfaction and incompleteness that nothing seems to take away. And it guarantees that on some level you will always be restless until you rest in enlightenment, having made the enlightened reality that you are already in touch with, on an innermost level, outwardly real for you.
Enlightenment Is Natural
Sooner or later, the reality of enlightenment will become obvious and undeniable to you, as long as you seek it out. Of course, as you begin your spiritual search, enlightenment isn’t obvious or undeniable to you yet. Understandably, you might have doubts about whether it exists. Or, even if you believe it exists, you might have doubts about your ability to ever find it. However, it does exist, and—as already explained—there is something deep within all of us that knows it, even if at times this knowing feels faint or far away.
Enlightenment is not a special state reserved for the spiritual elite. Anyone can find it. Furthermore, finding it should not take lifetimes, decades, or even very many years. There is no practical reason for this.
Many of you have already had glimpses of enlightenment at some time in your life, perhaps in childhood. Many people get glimpses of it on their first spiritual retreat, in a single session with a spiritual teacher, or at home just contemplating a spiritual book. Although a fleeting glimpse is not the same as a persistent experience, most people start with glimpses. In time, those glimpses become permanent or stabilize. These sudden glimpses suggest that there is no impenetrable barrier between you and enlightenment. Experiencing it can happen spontaneously, even when you aren’t looking for it. And if you do look, you will find it.
Not only should the spiritual search not take long, but it shouldn’t be particularly difficult either. Why should it be? There is no reason why the search for enlightenment can’t be a relatively easy, even enjoyable process. Remember what your goal is. You aren’t trying to master esoteric texts or techniques. You don’t have to change your name, adhere to a special diet, or adopt a new lifestyle or culture. You don’t need to become a saint (nor will enlightenment make you a saint). You are simply seeking to glimpse what is already here—and what you already know on an innermost level—and you are attempting to make that glimpse stick. The enlightenment you are looking for already dwells within you. So the experience of it is always well within your reach.
Finally, as extraordinary as experiencing enlightenment might sound, it actually becomes quite normal. In time, you adjust to it, as you do anything else. The fact that you experience it ceases to be a big deal. Sooner or later, you will even fail to remember that there was ever a time when you didn’t experience it. And, for all practical purposes, you will forget that there is any other way to be.
The Forms Of Enlightenment
As you have no doubt noticed, this book is about enlightenment. However, it’s not about just one form of enlightenment. It’s actually about more than one form.
So far, we have touched on what could be called the full or complete form of enlightenment. But there is also another form of enlightenment, a partial or incomplete form. In fact, there are two primary kinds of partial enlightenment. Section I explores the first kind of partial enlightenment. Section II explores the second kind of partial enlightenment. Finally, Section III explores the full form of enlightenment. So, altogether, there are three different “enlightenments” explored in this book—two partial and one full.
The partial or incomplete forms of enlightenment happen to be much more well known and widely experienced than the full form. More than ninety-five percent of the spiritual teachers today teach partial forms of enlightenment. They are not actually offering the full form of enlightenment. As spiritually developed as these teachers may be, generally speaking, they haven’t the faintest idea that their form of enlightenment is only a partial form and that an entirely different form of enlightenment is possible—the full form.
Unfortunately, the same can be said of their students. They have no idea that the form of enlightenment that they are pursuing as students of these teachers is a partial form rather than the full form. They may be yearning for the full form, but instead they are seeking—or, in some cases, experiencing—a partial form without realizing it. Like their teachers, they can’t tell the difference between the full and partial forms of enlightenment.
By familiarizing yourself with the different forms of enlightenment, however, you will be able to distinguish them from one another. It’s very easy to mistake the experience of partial enlightenment for full enlightenment. In fact, it’s virtually inevitable, unless you know the difference between them. By the end of this book, you will be able to recognize the difference between partial and full enlightenment.
With that said, if what you seek is not full enlightenment but instead one of the partial forms of enlightenment, you are free to do so. You should search for, find, and live out whichever form of enlightenment you consider to be most meaningful and worthwhile. This book will help you to do that, regardless of which form you seek. In the chapters that follow, I attempt to describe each of these forms of enlightenment—both the full and the partial forms—in a way that someone who is experiencing them would easily recognize and accept. At no point do I disparage any of them.
At the same time, you shouldn’t give your life to a form of enlightenment you don’t ultimately want. If you seek full enlightenment, then you don’t want to mistake one of the partial forms for the full form. And you don’t want to spend the rest of your life in a partial form thinking that you have arrived, when you’ve only made it partway to the destination you really long to be.
So, if you are seeking enlightenment—whether in a partial or full form—after reading this you will clearly understand what you are looking for and what you should avoid. As a consequence, you will be able to find enlightenment much more easily, quickly, and reliably. I sincerely hope this book helps you on your journey to enlightenment, no matter what form you seek.