Enlightenment or Self-awakening

I stumbled upon this write-up in my archives.

This word: “Enlightenment” has always intimidated me…it has given me visions of rising up into a different world, a sphere beyond my reach and therefore I have been trying to understand it for many years now.

Buddhist interpretation of the word… “the awakening to ultimate truth by which man is freed from the endless cycle of personal reincarnations to which all men are otherwise subject” is quite overwhelming.

Then I read about self-awakening: the truth that lies within us, the emotions that guide us toward our goals, that define the purpose of our life. And I arrived at some conclusions.

Enlightenment is not just spiritual, not just a state of transcendent divine experience, which aims at liberation from self, craving, suffering and rebirth. It is the ability to comprehend ourselves, it is the power to peer into our hearts and minds and reach that state of spiritual bliss, which may or may not lead us to salvation. Within us lies a light, a light of thoughts, a light of sanity, of ethereal happiness the light that liberates, which may become divine at some point of time, if we make an effort.

Enlightenment is self-realization…knowing your true self, which may be different from the self you have been portraying to the world.

“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment” –Laozi.

How much you know about yourself? It takes us almost whole of our life to know what lies in our heart and mind; as it keeps on changing.

There are stages when we don’t know what we want. If we are smart enough to figure out, one fine day we realize that our passion is not what we have been pursuing. What we like as teenagers, we may not feel comfortable with, as we grow up.

Our taste for food, our aesthetic sense, our likes and dislikes, our friends, our perspective on life changes and we move beyond the world of appearances. We feel enlightened when our intuition starts guiding us, when we can take mature decisions, when we take pride in our achievements.

So enlightenment begins with plunging into our hearts, analyzing our thoughts and reflecting on the kind of life we have been leading.

Slowly we realize we need another kind of enlightenment: Enlightenment is to know and understand people around us.

How little we know about people around us! This culture of adopting a non-interfering attitude makes us strangers to each other, getting immersed in the sea of our own plans and pains.

Is spiritual enlightenment of any use in such a scenario? Aren’t we too selfish to crave for it?

Can we really attain it if we are oblivious of the suffering around us?

To my mind, real enlightenment comes from helping mankind, from wiping out abuse, discrimination, violence and exploitation around us. Enlightenment doesn’t make us a better person if we seek it just for us. It doesn’t erase our desires or may put an end to our own suffering. In fact it is the suffering that ennobles us.

“Enlightenment, joy and peace can never be given to you by another. The well is inside you.” – Thich Nhat Hanh.

Is enlightenment beyond the reach of common man? I don’t think so.

Would you like to be enlightened in the real sense of the word? I would love to hear from your side.

© Balroop Singh

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59 thoughts on “Enlightenment or Self-awakening

  1. Wow. That’s a lot of deep thought and hard to write a concise reply in a comment, but I do think when we stop focusing on “me” and shift our thought process to “us” we’ll find enlightenment through others. For too long we’ve been a “me” generation. I remember a different philosophy and thought pattern from others when I was younger. I also think there’s a lot of good out there. Sometimes, we just have to step out of our comfort zone and look deeper to find it.

    1. I got acquainted with the “me” generation quite late in life, as my upbringing was guided by eastern values of care and sacrifice. Deep-rooted values refuse to dissipate though I have tried to focus on self-love now. 😊Thank you Mae for a thought provoking response. Love it.

  2. I agree with Mae. Hard to write a comment on something that is often beyond words and comprehension. I think, for me, there are two, maybe more, definitions for this word. One is the simple acquisition of knowledge that brings the potential for epiphanies and growth. The other isn’t as easy to explain since I think it’s aspirational more than a state of being (for most of us). To me, enlightenment falls more in the Buddhist vein of thinking, that self-awareness ultimately extends into a collective sense of self, where there’s no difference between self and other, self and creation. A place where one is truly self-less and indistinguishable from the all. 🙂 Have I achieved that place? (Snort) Not at all, but I think we can get glimpses of it. Great post, Balroop. You’re making me think first thing in the morning. Lol.

    1. Your philosophical thoughts passed over my head and then I had to read again and think 🤔 Though I have always scoffed at Buddhist line of thinking, I wonder how people get influenced by extreme line of thought that separates them from society and life. Thank you for sharing your insights Diana. Still thinking 🤔

  3. Well said, Balroop. It is inside of us to understand ourselves, but the people and world around us. We need those quiet moments to find that within. I love this post.

  4. To me, it all begins with self-awareness – Brutal, honest, and loving self-awareness. Enlightenment is such a big word and like you said, makes one think of entering another dimension. In truth, it is fully immersing yourself in the reality of time and space now. Great post with lots of food for thought. Thank you for sharing, Balroop.

    1. I like that thought Jan – immersing in the reality of time and space is definitely the answer to understanding enlightenment, which is a long journey. Thank you for your valuable contribution to this post.

  5. I think the non-interfering attitude you speak of, is more a sense of self-preservation. All to often, we hear of people being attacked for looking at a person in a supposedly ‘wrong’ way, when in fact they may have just been trying to build up the courage to offer help.
    Society has changed. Those who actively seek help, find it, while those who wish to help build protective walls to stay alive.
    We can reach out through safer methods; charity groups, feeding the homeless, organizations who protect both parties.
    Enlightenment shouldn’t come at the cost of our own safety, rather it can be a communal effort- and maybe, stronger for it ❤

    1. Those are some practical solutions to real enlightenment Jacquie, only if people think in terms of welfare of the people. Self-actualization reigns supreme in the modern world. Self-awakening takes a back seat. Thank you for sharing your thoughts dear friend.

  6. A powerful post Balroop — I started to write a response and as so many said, it’s hard to respond in one or two sentences. Perhaps, seeking it is what keeps me separate from achieving something that cannot be achieved – it can only be lived. Enlightenment is not a destination. it is not a ‘thing’. It is not a path. It is the breathing into and exhaling out of and into – love – so that I constantly walk in the awareness that, I am. You are. I am you. You are me. We are one. ❤

    1. Wow! I love that thought Louise… ‘not a destination,’ just like we say for happiness! I wish more people could think that “we are one.” Despite the awareness, turning a blind eye is the real malaise! Thank you for adding your profound thoughts to this post dear friend. Stay blessed.

      1. Hi Balroop — today I completed a spread in a new art journal I’ve started. I’ve titled it: A Book of Awakening. The quote I wrote for the first spread is: Enlightenment is not a one way journey through the darkness into the light. It is a continuous choosing to walk in the darkness believing in the light, even when you can’t see it.” thanks for your inspiration. ❤

  7. A very deep and thought-provoking post, Balroop. Enlightenment can mean so many things to different people. I think you hit the mark when you say that we need to be more aware of those around us and their plights. I have found the internet and social media to be, at times, a source of that connectivity, and yet the cause of distancing ourselves from those closest to us. As an example, think about how many times we have witnessed people “out” with their freinds, sitting at the same table, yet everyone is looking at their phones.

    1. I agree with you Mark, enlightenment can be defined according to one’s own understanding. I would prefer a definition that focuses on enhancing my personality, gathering positivity from the circumstances and disseminating it through my kind gestures. Thank you for adding the most visual example of self-absorbtion.

  8. Balroop, you have chosen a word that seems to be used for different meanings in various religions and philosophies.
    I have also had a feeling of mystique being built around it. Thich Nhat Hahn quote sounds very true as philosophy.
    I looked it up and it means “ Full comprehension of a situation.”.
    Well, that is one dictionary.
    I love your post and understand why you want to feel clearer.


    1. It may have different meanings Miriam, but I associate it with self-awakening and I would continue to follow the path that I‘be chosen. Thank you for coming over to understand this term. 😊

  9. Rich food for thought here, Balroop… I love the quote: “Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment” –Laozi. It is both wise, enlightening and should be part of our ever-growing/changing lives. A fine post!

  10. Thank you for sharing authentically and embracing this part of your journey. This realization is profound. Self inquiry and asking ourselves deeper questions help us along this path. 💛🙏💛

  11. Such a thoughtful post, Balroop! Interesting topic requiring deep introspection. I love the way you described enlightenment, how you see it: “…real enlightenment comes from helping mankind, from wiping out abuse, discrimination, violence and exploitation around us. Enlightenment doesn’t make us a better person if we seek it just for us.” PROFOUND. I agree.

    Honestly, I have days where I feel close to enlightened (especially in my fifth decade that I’m in now) but the next day I return to feeling immature and surviving. Craving pizza, so to speak. So it’s a JOURNEY to me. Wonderful post, Balroop. Thanks for getting me to dig deep today. Hugs.

    1. You have summed up aptly Lisa… yes, it is a journey and it continues till the last step we take. Thank you for finding this topic interesting. Sometimes introspection helps us in understanding how much life has taught us. 🤗❤️

  12. Thoughtful, Profound, Beautiful.. Till we know our own selves, till we get to love ourselves, we can’t know, can’t love others.. If we all love and respect ourselves, we’ll automatically start loving and respecting all around us.. Awesome piece.. Worth serious thinking and re-sharing.. Reblogged it dear.. 🙏🏼😇🤗💕

  13. For me, enlightenment is the realisation that there are creatures around you who beg for your attention and service. Enlightenment is not the realisation that you need to look at your face every morning and serve yourself.
    Let’s deny ourselves and look at the face of our neighbours. I believe that’s the ultimate enlightenment.

  14. What a wonderful post to stir our thoughts, Balroop. Enlightenment to me is becoming aware of those around us and providing assistance in any way that is possible for us. It is the act of stepping away from ourselves and into a world of various cultures and understanding what others are enduring. We can enlighten others by sharing the knowledge we have obtained. Pure unselfishness. You have said it well in this paragraph that parallels with how I feel:

    “To my mind, real enlightenment comes from helping mankind, from wiping out abuse, discrimination, violence and exploitation around us. Enlightenment doesn’t make us a better person if we seek it just for us. It doesn’t erase our desires or may put an end to our own suffering. In fact it is the suffering that ennobles us.”

    As others have mentioned, this is a deep subject to reply to in a concise manner. Thanks for opening up the dialogue. It has been enlightening. 🙂 🌷

    1. I am glad this post could stir your thoughts Lauren, your insights are profoundly perfect to understand real enlightenment. Thank you for adding so much value to this post dear friend. Love and hugs.

  15. Interesting read. Enlightenment has always been used either in the context of spirituality or religion. While you have certainly explained it here. I feel enlightenment in real day to day life is more pertinent and helpful. There is a word being used in Jainism which denotes enlightenment – Kevli. It may not directly mean enlightenment but it certainly is closer.

    1. I feel spiritual enlightenment is a mirage, which has been created by empty minds. What is the use of such an enlightenment that is self-serving? Wouldn’t you call it selfish?

      1. My point is that we cannot know everything. We can transition to a higher concious level. We have so many examples of people who claimed to have reached. There are many Guru in this context who have duped people. Not to say that this is the best example of enlightenment

  16. This is a thought-provoking post, Balroop. As many responded, it would take an essay to address both concepts. They seem to cover different scopes of studies. I first learned of the word enlightenment when I was a grade school student at a Buddhist school and learned the spiritual enlightenment of Buddha. Then I learned a different context of the enlightenment period in history that referred to society versus spirituality. When I studied counseling, I learned that when a person is asked, “Who are you?” That person may say who he was according to what he has been told or expected to be all his life. I think one could achieve self-awareness when he frees himself from others and “himself,” understands and accepts without the defense, his own strengths, and weaknesses, his actions, responsibilities to himself and others… and more…

    1. To me, self-awareness is the first step to explore enlightenment, which has many dimensions Miriam. You are so right in referring to the question – who are you? Only when we find an answer to this simple question, do we understand how complex are these words. Freedom from self? That would take a person into new realms… even an essay would be insufficient but who likes to read such dry books? 😊

      1. You’re right, Balroop. Needless to say that we are complicated. I tried to live to other’s expectations for a long time until I told myself I didn’t need to prove to even myself. 😅

  17. What a thought-provoking post! I think enlightenment is not beyond common people, but we have to want it. We have to seek out wisdom of our ancestors and wisdom in our faith’s scriptures, and we have to be able to look at ourselves without flinching. That all takes effort and a desire to make the effort. Good post!

    1. What a beautiful thought PB, seeking past wisdom could really help to understand self but very few people feel the need, as modern wisdom is considered to be superb! Thank you for contributing such a valuable point. 😊

  18. I feel the word enlightenment is about rising up into a different world… a world where the Human identity awakens to realise he is without a doubt Divine and Enlightened experiencing self awakening to its truth, its unity, its harmonic essence❤️ thanks for an inspiring post Balroop, much love❤️

  19. Enlightenment seems to be an empty concept to me until I can find a tool to use it. Your definition thus Pfizer helping others thus comes closer to my conception of this spiritual term.

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