What is Enlightenment?: Putting an End to Suffering

In many Eastern religious traditions, and through many spiritual groups in the West, we are told that Enlightenment is the greatest thing which anyone can achieve. In Buddhism, Enlightenment brings about the end of suffering, an outcome which I am sure every person on this planet would love to experience.

There are many myths and legends surrounding Enlightenment. Those who have ‘achieved’ it are said to gain mystical powers, and to become Enlightened in the first place, they had to become a monk or sit meditating for days on end. These stories perpetuate an elitist view of ‘Enlightened beings’. They are seen as characters larger than life, and in many cases exist in a league beyond the realm of normal humanity.

To dispel these myths, we need to understand what ‘Enlightenment’ is. This grand achievement is often made synonymous with the realisation of ‘Truth’ or of our ‘True Self’. The idea that something is ‘True’ means that it will be exactly that in every situation and for every person, regardless of where they are or what they are doing. This means that regardless of whether people believe that they are ‘Enlightened’ or not, they must still be their ‘True Self’, else this would not be ‘Truth’.

From this idea then, we can conclude that every person on this planet is already ‘Enlightened’ and living in Truth. What is it then which distorts the Truth? The answer is our minds. In our heads, we all have different views of what reality is like and how reality should be. These ideas, which we hold so dear to ourselves, distort the real nature of existence, which in turn leads to our suffering. The core of this web of concepts is our beliefs about our identity. The entire world is seen in relation to who we are, and is characterised by these ideas. Our Enlightenment is therefore veiled by the limited identity which we impose upon ourselves.

How then can we dissolve this identity?

Firstly, it is important to realise that this ‘ego’ is not real. It is an illusion created by though and that alone. We have been and always will be our ‘True Self’, it is just that thought creates a false distance between who we think we are and who we actually are. This distortion is perpetuated by the attention which we give it, and attention is the food upon which it thrives. To finally dissolve the mind, the attention must be relaxed and dropped into the ‘heart’, or our sense of existence (I AM presence). By relaxing the attention in this feeling of being, what might be termed ‘self-abidance’, we detach our feeling of existence from the illusory thoughts we have about ourselves. The mind becomes weaker, and who we really are is revealed. It is important to note that this is not a technique or an action, it is simply the letting go of the dependence of thought in order to abide as who we really are.

The moment we rest our attention in our sense of being, we realise our Enlightenment. Who we really are, our ‘True Self’, can never be conceptualised through thought or seen with attention. The moment we sacrifice our minds to reside in being, we become our ‘True Self’. With the mind gone, Reality no longer contains imperfections or problems, as these were creations of the mind. Pain is experienced, but no longer suffered. The whole world is accepted because there is no longer any resistance against it, and is seen to be only the Self.

This is the promise of religions and spiritual groups throughout the ages, and is available right now, in this very moment, within our own hearts. Stop searching the world for your happiness, and find it right now within yourself. The Self is all you will ever need.

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