Spiritual enlightenment is a seemingly elusive concept to many. Also called self-realization, it is often described as the release from pain and suffering and a realization of the self within the Self.
True enlightenment is a selfless path and the journey, and the goal, is interpreted differently by various teachers and linages.
In this article we’ll take a look at:
- What is spiritual enlightenment?
- What does enlightenment look like for you?
- Noteworthy teachers to help you on the spiritual path
- Resources for spiritual enlightenment
What is spiritual enlightenment?
There is no doubt that it is pretty hard to define what spiritual enlightenment is. The spiritual path is not always a linear one and for many the process of enlightenment will be a constant daily practice.
What is clear is that spiritual enlightenment is a big part of yoga, setting it apart from other physical modalities such as Pilates. Some say that enlightenment is a specific state that we arrive at while others believe that it is a daily practice.
Spiritual awakening is considered to be a profound experience where the individual experiences an awakening of inner growth, transformation, and a deep-rooted connection with the universe/the divine.
Spiritual awakening is a sense of oneness with all of life and can be a life-changing experience. It is thought that enlightenment is a result of the journey into life’s biggest questions, such as “Who am I?”.
It is a term used to describe an awakening, and it is also labeled as spiritual awakening, salvation, self-realization, liberation, and within Buddhism, Nirvana. In the yoga traditions, spiritual enlightenment is interchanged with Samadhi, Kundalini awakening, and Moksha. Despite having many names, the experience is considered to be the same.
Spiritual enlightenment is considered to be a shift in consciousness and acknowledgment of the interconnectedness of all beings. A deep sense of joy and connection with the divine is also associated with enlightenment.Enlightenment can vary depending on the individual and while some will experience it in a subtle way, for others, it will be life-altering.
The experience of spiritual enlightenment is generally the result of following a spiritual path but some experience it spontaneously. This also alludes to the fact that enlightenment can be an instant thing or a more protracted process that unfolds over time.
Spiritual enlightenment is generally a transformational experience that can lead to a greater sense of purpose. It can also lead to a depth of clarity in one’s life. As a result, there may be a shift in the core values of one’s life and a deeper sense of compassion for all living beings.
Those who have used things such as prayer, yoga, and meditation to embark on the quest for enlightenment will likely continue to use these tools in their everyday. It is important to stay with these practices, including honesty to one’s self to remain in control of ones’ ego – there are many reports in current times of gurus abusing their power.
Enlightenment tends to be a gradual process, often taking many years, requiring patience and consistency.
Grasping at enlightenment is not the point!
If enlightenment is an everyday practice, then what are the techniques?
Self-awareness is a big one – being able to be a witness to emotions and feelings. It is about acting from a place of love, compassion and non-judgment.
The everyday spiritual path of enlightenment is a mindful one. Expect to relinquish expectations and practice non-grasping. A good way to look at the everyday practice of enlightenment is Patanjali’s Eight Limbed system, specifically the yamas and niyamas.
Yamas – ethical standards or restraints
- Ahimsa – non-violence
- Satya – truthfulness
- Asteya – non-stealing
- Brahmacharya –sexual restraint
- Aparigraha – non-covetousness or non-possessiveness
Niyamas –inner observances
- Sauca – cleanliness
- Santosa – contentment
- Tapas – heat or spiritual austerities
- Svadyaya – the study of the self and of the sacred scriptures
- Isvarapranidhana – dedication or surrender to God
With these things in mind as we live our daily lives, committed to the spiritual path, one can head towards enlightenment.
Whether you are a Christian or not, a good example of an enlightened being is Jesus and he reminds us that both suffering and enlightenment are intertwined.
The Buddha is famous for being enlightened and finding his self-realization underneath the Bodhi tree. This spiritual enlightenment is called Nirvana.
There are many modern teachers of the spiritual path but a good place to start is by taking a look at the following:
Are you enlightened?
Chances are you’re still working on it but here are some of the main qualities to look out for as you find success on the spiritual path.
- You don’t shy away from uncomfortable emotions. You embrace your vulnerability and sit with your whole human experience.
- You act rather than react. When things happen that may cause anger or frustration or sadness to arise you harness the ability to not get drawn into negative energy and see the situation for what it is.
- You embrace oneness. You are hyper-aware of the energy that connects all life force. You are compassionate to all beings and to the planet, knowing that you are one and the same.
- You act with compassion. Acting with compassion for all living beings including yourself is a central facet of the spiritual path.
- You embrace present-moment awareness. Living in the movement can help to free you from the anxiety associated with the future and depression which can be associated with the past.
- Your consciousness shifts. This results in a heightened sense of peace and a deeper understanding of the spiritual path and the ego.
- You question your beliefs. Your curiosity is awakened, and you may begin to question your core values. This often results in a deeper understanding of yourself. You begin to sense the subtle energies of the body, such as prana, kundalini, and chakras. This can lead to a more appreciative attitude to life.
- You are more aware. This can manifest in many ways, including a deeper awareness of your connection to nature and increased empathy.
- You are more mindful. Spiritual awakening might mean that you are more mindful in your everyday actions. Mindfulness also helps us to be more in the present moment and learn to observe situations, feelings, thoughts, and emotions without judgment.
- You are sensitive to the energy of others. You may find that you feel the energies of others more prominently. You find yourself not being drawn into the negative energy of others as readily as may once have been.
- You feel detached from possessions and emotions. Spiritual enlightenment is associated with not having any attachment to material possessions or emotions as they are thought to lead to pain and suffering. This is also associated with non-grasping.
- You feel connected to a higher power. This could be God, the divine, the universe or simply a greater purpose. This can also lead to a greater sense of fulfillment.
- Your meditation practice is more profound. You may experience a sense of being centered and a deep sense of joy. You may also experience improved concentration within your practice and your daily life.
- You feel inspired and creative. This is a sign of realizing true potential through deep spiritual insight.
- You are aware of your negative habits. Also known as samskaras, negative habits can inhibit the spiritual path. They can range from negative self-talk to addictions. By recognizing negative behaviors and working to change them you are working towards transformation.
- You are less driven by ego. Ego is driven by a sense of separation which is the opposite of spiritual enlightenment and the sense of oneness.
- You seek inner peace. Seeking out contemplative practices such as prayer, meditation, yoga and seva (service to others) are all facets of moving towards enlightenment. These practices also aid the feeling of calm and contentment.
- You are seeking your dharma. Wanting to follow your life’s mission or your unique calling is part of the spiritual journey of awakening. It is an alignment with your deepest self.
- You harness the miracle that is life. You have a desire to live a more meaningful and purposeful life. This could be in the form of seva (service) and helping others.
Spiritual Enlightenment Roundup
Spiritual enlightenment is not a one size fits all process. It can come in many forms depending on the individual.
The journey of spiritual enlightenment can be challenging and difficult, but it is the ultimate process of transformation and self-improvement as well as enlightenment.
The spiritual path can help you to understand your true nature and your connectedness with all things and beings around you.
Spiritual enlightenment is open to anyone but the journey of self-discovery often requires hard work, dedication, and a good teacher.
Books on spiritual enlightenment
There are many books of spiritual enlightenment but a good place to start is with:
The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz
A New Earth – Eckhart Tolle
Living Buddha, Living Christ – Thich Nhat Hahn
Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion – Sam Harris
The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself – Michael Singer
Light on Life – B.K.S. Iyengar
The Art of Happiness – the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler
If you’re interested in finding out more about the spiritual path, then why not check out Patanjali’s Eight Limbs?