Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
View your shopping cart Shopping Cart | My Account | Help | Become a Fan on Facebook Become a Fan | Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us | Watch Us on YouTube Watch Us | Subscribe to our RSS Feeds Subscribe
Browse ProductsAuthorsArticlesBlogsEncyclopediaNewslettersAffiliate ProgramContact UsBooksellers
Advanced Search
LLEWELLYN JOURNAL
Article Topics
List of Articles
RSS Data Feeds
Mission Statement
Use of Our Articles
Writers' Guidelines

Email Exclusives
Sign up to receive special offers and promotions from Llewellyn.

Get the Latest Issue of New Worlds

September/October Issue

New Worlds Catalog

Get the FREE app for your tablet and mobile device. Now available in the iTunes Store and the Google Play Store

Also available as a PDF File.

Click for more information about New Worlds or to receive issues via mail.


The Llewellyn Journal
Print this Article Print this Article

6 Truths About Enlightenment

This article was written by William L. Mikulas PhD
posted under Self-Help

zen

Throughout recorded history, and all around the planet, people have reported touching and dwelling in an enlightened state of consciousness. This very high state goes under many names, including enlightenment, cosmic consciousness, consciousness without an object, and at-one-ment. The journey to enlightenment also has many descriptions, including awakening, being reborn, liberation, and returning to the source.

Despite the differences in conceptualizations, mystics of all traditions discovered the same enlightened consciousness—and this mystical perspective is a central aspect of all the world's major religions. For Buddhists and Hindus, awakening is the primary purpose of human existence.

Over time and place there evolved many descriptions of enlightenment and practices to facilitate awakening; we are now at a unique time in history when we can finally put together all the pieces into a comprehensive and integrated understanding of enlightenment. Let us review what we now know.

  1. Nothing you can say about enlightenment is true.
    Whatever one thinks or says about enlightenment is distorted by one's language and culture. This is primarily due to non-dual enlightenment being pushed into limited language categories and being thought about dualistically.

    For example, is enlightenment spacious? No, because that assumes a difference between spacious and not spacious, and enlightenment is beyond such dualities and beyond time and space. Is enlightenment blissful? No, because that assumes some entity that is experiencing bliss—and enlightenment is beyond such a duality.

    In Taoism, the fundamental ground is referred to as the Tao. The primary book of Taoism is the Tao Te Ching, which begins as follows: "The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal Name."


  2. Conceptual understanding of one's enlightenment comes through one's personality.
    Conceptual understanding is the knowing of words and logic. But the knowing of enlightenment is a different type of knowing, called insight in Buddhism and related to the counsel of the Holy Spirit in Christianity. This insight knowing is not conceptual and it alters one's being in ways conceptual knowing usually cannot.

    Now, when one later thinks about an enlightenment experience, then the insight knowing is converted into personal level conceptual knowledge. This personal knowing depends on one's personality, which is influenced by their culture and language. Thus, a theistic person may think about the awakening experience as becoming one with God, while for a non-theistic person it might be a blending into pure consciousness. Similarly, enlightenment has been expressed in terms of religion, philosophy, mathematics, poetry, and music.

    Many of the great teachers of awakening stressed that their descriptions of the enlightened state are grossly inadequate and not be taken literally, but rather taken inspirationally. In Zen, a popular example is a finger pointing at the moon. The finger is not to be focused on; it is pointing toward what is important.


  3. Everyone is always already enlightened.
    There is nothing you can do or have to do to become enlightened; it is already the case. This is a very high spiritual teaching in many of the world's major spiritual traditions.

    Most people on a path to awakening hope that sometime in the future they will acquire enlightenment, but this is based on two false assumptions which significantly impair awakening. The first assumption is that somehow enlightenment is separate from you; you don't have it yet. But, the enlightened state is non-dual and not separate from anything (yourself included). The second assumption is that enlightenment will occur in the future, somehow being limited in time. But, enlightenment is outside of time and space and not time-limited.

    Awakening consists of uncovering the enlightened level of consciousness, and this level is always already here and now.


  4. You will never be enlightened.
    Sorry, it cannot happen. Awakening involves getting beyond your personal self, into a conscious domain that includes your personal self and personal reality, but includes much more as well.

    There is no problem with having a personal level self; it is very functional. The issue is identifying with this personal self and believing that is all you really are. Awakening involves dis-identifying with this small self and moving into a larger conscious domain. A very common mistake is believing that one has to kill or undo this personal self in order to awaken. Such an approach is very harmful.

    The personal level self should be honored and worked with so one's personal life is more effective and happy. Awakening includes dis-identifying with this self and understanding it from a broader perspective.

    The biggest trap for people on a journey of awakening occurs when the personal level self converts the awakening into a self adventure. Now it is this small self doing things to add enlightenment to its credentials. This will never happen.

    Putting together principles 3 (that everyone is always already enlightened) and 4 (that you will never be enlightened), we see there is nothing you can do to become enlightened. So what is one to do? This leads to a very important apparent paradox: you must utilize basic practices of awakening until you get to the point where you insightfully realize you did not have to do anything to be enlightened (though you had to do the practices to get to this knowledge).


  5. There is a universal set of practices for awakening.
    Although there is no agreement among descriptions of enlightenment, there is agreement about how to awaken. That is, beyond issues of beliefs and devotion, what does one do to facilitate awakening?

    The answer is: order one's life along moral and practical guidelines, quiet the mind, increase awareness, open the heart, and decrease attachments. I call these universal somato-psycho-spiritual practices because they improve physical health, psychological functioning and happiness, and spiritual awakening. (There are, of course, many other valid practices and paths.)

    Thus, people who have little or no spiritual interests can use these practices to simply make their lives healthier, happier, and less stressful. Awakening will naturally occur as a by-product.

    Exactly how to do some of these practices is described in detail in my recent book Taming the Drunken Monkey.


  6. Awakening is usually gradual.
    For most people, awakening is a gradual process. One wakes up a little, and then falls back asleep. Each time one wakes up, one may stay awake longer and fall asleep less frequently. Awakening helps clear out obstacles to further awakening.

    Occasionally, some people make a big jump in awakening, and some people come to dwell in the awakened state fairly permanently, but one should not become attached to such phenomena as goals.

    Rather, one fully lives in the here and now, which includes spiritual practices. Then one gradually awakens at a pace that is optimal for one's own spiritual growth.

William L. Mikulas PhD
William L. Mikulas, PhD (Pensacola, Florida) is the author of numerous books and articles on interfacing Western psychology and Eastern wisdom and health traditions. He has been a college professor for 40 years, during which he earned many awards for...  Read more

RELATED PRODUCTS

Taming the Drunken Monkey
Taming the Drunken Monkey
The Path to Mindfulness, Meditation, and Increased Concentration
William L. Mikulas
$16.99 US,  $19.50 CAN | Add to Cart

Please note that the use of Llewellyn Journal articles
is subject to certain Terms and Conditions

While Llewellyn's Classic Tarot has my name on the cover, I did not so much design this project as direct it. Llewellyn wanted a deck that was designed to be faithful to the traditional tarot images, symbols, and meanings recognizable to most modern tarot readers and students. Creating a faithful yet new expression of timeless tarot imagery is... read this article
The Union Screaming House: The Haunting Continues...Long After the Doors Are Shut
365 Ways to Attract Good Luck
The Oracle of the Angels
Tarot: Group Dynamics Spread
Evolutionary Astrology: What the Moon's Nodes Mean in Your Chart

Most recent posts:
Part 1: Why is Satan in the Grimoires?
Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Aaron Leitch, author of several books, including Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, The Angelical...

A Spread About You
This spread, called Alive, Dead, and Undead, is from the Vampires Tarot of the Eternal Night book. It was created as a companion to the deck and thus...

A "Thank You" to BKS Iyengar
BKS Iyengar passed away today. In the midst of a frantic morning I heard the news and suddenly paused, realizing the great impact one person can...





Easy Tarot Reading Easy Tarot Reading
The Process Revealed in Ten True Readings

By: Josephine Ellershaw
Price: $14.95 US,  $16.95 CAN
$10.47 US,  $11.87 CAN On Sale!
Llewellyn's 2015 Astrological Calendar Llewellyn's 2015 Astrological Calendar
82nd Edition of the World's Best Known, Most Trusted Astrology Calendar

By: Llewellyn
Price: $14.99 US,  $16.99 CAN
Llewellyn's 2015 Witches' Datebook Llewellyn's 2015 Witches' Datebook
By: Llewellyn
Price: $10.99 US,  $12.50 CAN
Llewellyn's 2015 Daily Planetary Guide Llewellyn's 2015 Daily Planetary Guide
Complete Astrology At-A-Glance

By: Llewellyn
Price: $12.99 US,  $14.95 CAN
You Are the Answer You Are the Answer
Discovering and Fulfilling Your Soul's Purpose

By: Michael J Tamura
Price: $16.95 US,  $19.50 CAN