What is Enlightenment?
There are so many ways to explain what enlightenment is. There are so many ways to look at it. Gautama Buddha says that it’s the end of suffering. And he’s right—after enlightenment, there’s no more suffering. This explanation of enlightenment is probably the best in terms of understanding and being able to relate to it. Because you know when you’re suffering, and enlightenment is when you no longer have that anymore. Another way to look at enlightenment is—there’s no more ego. In other words, there’s no more, “I am something.” There’s no more, “I am something special,” and there’s no more, “I am something not special.” There’s no more, “I am intelligent… I’m worthy of respect… I am a royal… I am athletic.” So when the ego is gone, or the “I am something” is gone, what do you feel? Well, based on that logic, if you’re not something, then you feel like you are nothing. It’s very simple! If you’re not something, you are nothing. So when there’s no ego, when the person is egoless, they will feel, “I am nothing.” Now, in the English language, when you say, “I am nothing,” that creates an implied meaning of inferiority. But nothing cannot be inferior. Only something can be superior or inferior. But nothing can’t be inferior.
So when the ego goes, then you feel, “I am nothing.” Now, does nothing try to impress others? Only something or somebody can try to impress others. But nothing can’t try to impress anybody. So when you feel like you are nothing, that’s the end of trying to impress others. That’s the end of attention-seeking and needing approval.
And when the ego is there, or the person feels like, “I am something,” that’s where all the suffering lies. When a person is rude to you and you are something, then you will be offended. But if that person is behaving in a rude manner when you feel you are nothing, now will you be offended? Will you be thinking about it two minutes later, “Oh, why was that person behaving like that, offending me?” The only way you can be thinking like that is when you think you are something.
So, one method on the path to enlightenment is to try to be nothing. And in more practical terms you try to be humble. A humble person is a kind of small. Take the judgement out—in the English language, ‘small’ is bad, but take that out. A person who is humble is small.
You can shoot an arrow at a balloon, but you can’t shoot an arrow at a mosquito, from 10 metres away! When you’re small, it’s very hard to be hurt. Now, it is the fear of being small, or humble, that stops us from striving towards being small and humble. It’s the fear of being small that makes us try to impress others with our wealth and our success. So, one method to attaining enlightenment is being humble. Make the ego small.
Now, to be small is not easy, because that means you have to be able to not care about other people’s judgements of your failure. So if you have only one dollar in the bank, and you tell someone this, you don’t feel inferior.
So another way to look at enlightenment is when you’ve got no more ego, or you are nothing. What does “I am nothing” feel like? It is the most beautiful feeling you can imagine on the planet. Because you see—if how strongly you feel “I am something” creates the most suffering, so the other end of the spectrum, “I am nothing,” creates the most beautiful feeling. It’s like Martin Luther King’s speech, free at last, free at last. Free of this fear, this slave to ‘something’.
Now, that leads to the next way of looking at enlightenment—which is the realization that you are not the body and the mind. You are beyond the body and the mind. The body and the mind serve you but are not you. They are your screwdriver and spanner, you use them, but they are not you. They are your tools, not you.
So when a person attains enlightenment, they feel this is God’s body, God’s mind. It’s not mine. So your body and mind are actively serving God because God is the owner, God is the landlord. The landlord can use the property how the landlord wishes. So God can use the body and the mind how God chooses.
So when you have that perspective, that knowing, that you are beyond the body and the mind, or not the body and the mind, what remains is enlightenment. That doesn’t mean that you can’t wear makeup anymore in your life. It doesn’t mean you can’t do bodybuilding and keep fit. But it means when you wear makeup, you’re just having fun. You’re an artist! You’re not wearing makeup so you can have people whistle at you in the street!
When you see yourself as not the body and not the mind you can never look at yourself and feel ugly. That can never happen anymore. Do you know how many people look at themselves in the mirror and feel ugly? Nearly everybody. Even a supermodel or Miss Universe feels ugly. As soon as they look in the mirror they think, “Oh, my nose can be a slightly better shape.” Even Miss Universe will feel like that.
So after enlightenment you never ever feel you’re ugly. You look at yourself and you feel, “Wow…” Everything about you is beautiful and everything looks beautiful to you. So you drop trying to make yourself pretty and to impress others. That’s tiring, that’s a lot of energy wasted. You save money too—trying to make yourself beautiful is very expensive.
Enlightenment can also be defined as the experience that you’re not separate from God, you’re one with God. And because God feels so good, therefore you feel so good, because you’re not separate. Whatever God feels, you’ll feel in you. So you’ll feel great. You will feel so much enthusiasm, because God feels enthusiastic about life, about her work. God’s excited. You’re excited.
Another way to look at enlightenment is love. When you are enlightened, love just arises. Out of nowhere, you’re just full of love. You love everybody. You can not love everybody. Even if someone hates your guts, you still love them. It doesn’t mean if someone says, “I hate your guts,” that you say to the person, “I love you.” But inside you there’s openness, there’s love towards them, in your heart. You can never close yourself, you can never close your heart to anybody. So, you’ll love everybody, even someone who hates your guts.
I can go on and on about what enlightenment is, but these are the essentials.