I apologize for pulling a thread out of the mire and giving it CPR, but I haven't been able to meditate without thinking about how I would answer this question. Whether that’s my ego pushing me to find pride in my uber geniusnessity
or some sense of duty that I don’t understand yet, I hope this will help my mind to be still. Sorry for the length and wandering somewhat off topic.
This question is literally impossible to answer because of exactly what has been said, "The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao." The opposite of enlightenment, however, is suffering.
I struggled with the concept of enlightenment a long time because I was once Baptist, and enlightenment seemed like the same BS that any system of control would contrive, making the have-nots look for something beyond what is available. Philosophy and religion, however, have always been passions of mine, so I pressed on to try and understand what others believe and why. I’ve read everything from the Qur’an to the Satanic Bible, and have found that there were reasons why all of these ideas were written down. They were never meant – at least at first – to be systems of control; they were meant to be pointers. If one is able to get past what is being said and see the intention of the writer, one can uncover so much more. That being said, I must acknowledge that some – if not all readers – will not
truly read what’s written, but compare what was
read against everything thought to be truth, filter the information through years of programmed habits and beliefs, and ultimately judge and dismiss what is felt to be appropriate without further thought. I know this because it is exactly what I have done with most of the replies in this thread. (No, I am not enlightened.) This is what I do every time I read something… or when I see, hear, taste, smell, or feel something. And this is normal. It’s just what we’re wired to do.
Our egos, that which takes chaos and creates a story, create barriers between ourselves and others. It also creates barriers to keep us from inner peace. The long and the short of it is that we’re all insane and we stick so tightly to our insanity that we are willing to defend, fight and even kill to keep our insanity intact.
So, if I must give an answer, I guess my short answer is: Enlightenment is the realization that what you've been programmed to believe may not be completely correct. And I'm not talking about religion. I'm talking about every aspect of our lives.
You have no doubt heard this statement in one form or another, and some of you might think that the ego must be killed in order to reach enlightenment; however, this cannot be done and will cause much more suffering than you can imagine. Our egos can create havoc, but can keep us safe in other situations. The trick is to watch the ego to try to understand why thoughts arise. Watch and see how the ego ties itself to time to create suffering. Example: I, myself, have sat alone and gone through depression, addiction, shame spirals, anxiety about the future, and on, and on. Even to the point where I was making myself physically ill. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we hold on to the anger for hours after a person does something as small as cut us off in traffic? We do it because we need to believe that we are noticed and justified in this technicolored dream we call life.
Honestly, I believe it’s easy to be enlightened. Just take a breath and be curious about how your body feels. Can you feel the life that has always been there? Maybe you notice a tingling in your hands. If you’re interested, you’ll notice a change almost immediately; however, as with all learning curves, there are times when you fall down. This will happen all too soon. You’ll notice that what you were reaching for was given and quickly taken away. This happens because we start with curiosity, but our ego sneaks in and creates a definition for this state. Some give up, some continue on to find that there might be much more falling down than they ever imagined could be possible. Most give up after finding this out.
If curiosity is still the driving factor, then progress can still be made; if personal gain is the interest, desire will bring about failure. And grasping for something you don’t understand hurts. It hurts much worse than I thought it could. I lost 6 months of my life trying to suppress this desire with whatever I could consume, which obviously made me even more confused. Luckily, I have an incredible support system and my family set me back on my feet. I’ve since realized how much meditation can offer by leaning into support. Not out in the world, but in myself. If you don’t care for anything I’ve written, fine. Please, though, try to use this: We are more often than not leaning into a problem, which opens the door for more problems, more suffering; however, there is a medium of support within each of us. It has always been there and it will always be there. When this is found, do not try to grasp it like we do with everything else in our lives! Just let it be support. The more we try to hold to this support, the more it will slip away. It's like trying to grab fog. You can see it, but when you go up to it, it's not as noticeable, and you definitely can't get a handle on it. Just let support be support and you will find enlightenment.
We can’t do
anything to make enlightenment happen. You can read 1000s of books. You can talk to the smartest people in the world. You can meditate in a monastery for a year, but if you don’t allow yourself to just be, then you will never understand what could be. Relax. Breathe. Watch your thoughts, but do not shun them. Be aware of your interactions, both internal and external. Above all, though, remain curious. Listen to EVERYONE! I believe djkjr
was trying to say, “Everyone can teach you something if you’re willing to listen.” Once you’ve decided that enlightenment is this or that, or judge others on their view of enlightenment, then you have completely negated it. I know because I was briefly allowed to see pure inner peace and I’ve had it taken away.
The doorway to enlightenment cannot be approached through desire. You have to approach it through curiosity and allow yourself to go through it. If you ever think, “Wow, I rule!” Or become addicted to the feeling, you’ll be jerked right back out.
It’s confusing because I’m sure most of us think of enlightenment as walking around in a daze of happiness; however, enlightenment doesn’t provoke happiness, or put you on another plane of existence ("Chop wood, carry water"). In fact, happiness can be another form of suffering. When you reach certain levels – and you will if you keep getting back up - you’ll realize that inner peace is so much greater than happiness. Perhaps you will be able to allow it to become joy, perhaps ecstasy, but you can’t want it!
I apologize if I’m not being clear, but enlightenment is extremely confusing, and a tricky concept. It's available right now, but you can wait a lifetime to see this, if you see it at all. It’s one of the easiest things you will ever achieve in your life when you allow it to happen, but it’s so hard because you can’t do anything to make it happen
. There is no penance or steps you have to endure. Some can snap into it, most will have to work.
Remain curious and positive. Breathe. Don’t hold onto emotion. Don’t create stories about so and so and how they're ruining your life. Realize that you and only you can allow emotion to take hold. You are in control.
As many religious texts say, “Look at life as if looking through the eyes of a child.” Above all… enjoy! If there is a god (jury's still out), then I doubt it would create all of this for us to be miserable.
Because I have needed help so many times, please feel free to email me if you need a road sign to point you, hopefully, in a good direction.