What Is Enlightenment? – A Step by Step Process To Get Enlightened
Warning For Readers: If you are a relative beginner in this self-actualization pursuit, enlightenment work can be too advanced or theoretical to get into. Everyone is at different stages on this journey.
As a beginner, you might want to read my other articles and videos that are more “brute” self-help. If you are radically open minded, then be my guest. Just make sure not to confuse yourself.
So you wanna become enlightened, eh?
Before we start, you need to learn what enlightenment is. Because the chances are that you have many misconceptions and prejudices about enlightenment.
Even after you get the textbook definition of enlightenment, it is all too easy to delude yourself and go back to low conscious living.
Also one of the difficulties of getting enlightened is that even if your theoretical foundation is solid, you have to directly experience this “enlightenment” yourself. This is called empirical investigation.
Otherwise, it will have zero effect on your life. Just reading books and articles won’t do. Hopefully, this will get you to see enlightenment pursuit as a serious endeavor which you’ll have to practice for over a period of time to attain it. (as with everything in life)
But the rewards and the benefits of enlightenment is going to be unlike other. The results are going to be massive. It is not going to be some cool little pleasurable activity, it will be the eradication of all negative emotions and learning to have a peaceful mind permanently.
What is Enlightenment?
First, let’s be very clear what we’re talking about when we speak of enlightenment
What Enlightenment Is:
- A sudden massive shift in awareness where one becomes directly conscious of one’s ABSOLUTE nature.
- “You” and “the world” merge, erasing the physical distinction between self, other, and world.
- The realization that you are reality itself, and not merely a “self” inside of reality.
- The realization that “you” do not exist, and never have existed.
- An experience beyond all experience.
What Enlightenment Is NOT:
- A meditative state
- A vision or an energetic experience
- A psychedelic experience
- A belief, a model, a theory, a concept, an idea, an ideology, a rational knowing, a philosophical position
- A psychological change
- Emotional mastery
- The cure to all your bad habits and evil ways
- A form of self-improvement or self-help
- Understanding of everything under the sun (omniscience)
- Depersonalization disorder
- Existentialist philosophy like Sartre, Nietzsche, Camus, Heidegger, or Kierkegaard
- Religious faith or positive thinking
- An OBE (out-of-body experience)
- An NDE (near-death-experience)
- Lucid dreaming
- Becoming a good human being
- The end of personal growth and development
- The end of existential investigation (there are more insights to be had than just one, so don’t get cocky)
- Buddha-hood or mastery
- A shiny achievement to put in your trophy case
What this basically means is that YOU are deeply confused about who you think you are. Right now you think that you’re a human being, sitting there, reading this text on your screen.
This is false.You are in fact not that thing at all. What we have here is a case of mistaken identity. You think you’re a body, but you’re not. You think you’re a mind, but you’re not. You think you’re an entity living inside your head, but you’re not. You think you are a physical entity but you are not!
Take a moment to seriously consider the magnitude of my claim. IF I happen to be right, and you happen to be wrong, then what that means is: you are NOT a human being or even a physical entity! Not metaphorically-speaking; not as some philosophical curiosity; but literally!
How could such an outrageous thing be possible?
This becomes easy to intellectually understand when you realize that all beliefs you hold are groundless and indoctrinated to you by society and culture. Let me illustrate.
“Thought is always saying that thought didn’t do it.” — David Bohm
Recall how you’ve met people in your life who you knew were indoctrinated from birth with silly religious beliefs about Jesus and all sorts of other nonsense. Recall how little children believe that Santa Claus exists because they don’t know any better. Recall how terrorists believe they are killing civilians in the name of Allah and will go to heaven with 72 virgins waiting for them. Recall how racists insist they are right for persecuting minorities.
Recall how little children believe that Santa Claus exists because they don’t know any better. Recall how terrorists believe they are killing civilians in the name of Allah and will go to heaven with 72 virgins waiting for them. Recall how racists insist they are right for persecuting minorities.
Well… here’s something you’re not gonna like hearing: that same delusion mechanism which existed in them is operating FULL-FORCE within you right now! Yup! You too have been indoctrinated by ignorant parents and teachers from birth into believing a fairy-tale. Except, in this case, the indoctrinated idea was: you are a human being.
PS: You can not truly understand this truth before having a direct experience yourself. It probably just sounds gibberish if you have never seriously meditated and inquired about your own self. So, remember to keep an open mind.
A Thought Experiment To Open Your Mind:
Just imagine for a minute that when you were born, your parents reinforced the notion in your mind that you are a physical entity with physical attribute like: size, shape, color, location, temperature, feelings, emotions, thoughts, sensations, a body, a brain, eyes, feet, arms, legs, etc.
They told you that you are a human being just like them, and they gave you a cute cuddly name to seal the deal.
But! Since you didn’t know any better, you simply accepted this whole idea on PURE FAITH!!!!!
In fact, there is zero evidence that you are a body or a mind!
All evidence that you currently have of being a body/mind is not true evidence at all, it’s just stories and backward-rationalization designed to reinforce the utterly groundless notion that you are an entity which has form.
In truth, you’re like the invisible man who had to put on clothing in order to see himself in the mirror.
The you, you’ve always believed you were — just like Santa Claus — is merely an idea.
Now, in this work of “self-observation”, you will discover — for yourself — what you REALLY are.
“Okay” you say. “So what am I then if I’m not a human being or a physical object?”
“Illusion is needed to disguise the emptiness within.” — Arthur Erickson
The problem is that you cannot know what you are rationally or logically because the mind is the source of the confusion.
See…. No matter how cleverly or deeply or long you think, all the mind can ever do is symbolize stuff. It can only create maps and models. But you are not a symbol or a map or a model! You are not an idea or a thought! So you have to directly experience what you are. This MAY take months or years of very careful self-investigation.
So what is this mysterious “essential you”?
Let me spoil the surprise because otherwise, you will waste YEARS searching in the wrong places, thinking you’ve found yourself when you really just found another false belief.
What Are You Existentially?
- You are pure empty awareness or consciousness
- Pure awareness has no shape, size, weight, volume, limit, or location
- Pure awareness is like nothingness because it is a no-thing. It is a non-object. It is the “thing” that allows things to be noticed
- Consciousness exists independent of the physical body. Because the physical body exists only inside consciousness.
- You are not located in space because you are infinite and ever-present
- You are not limited in size or shape because you are infinite and without boundary
- You are NOT an idea of nothingness. Any idea you have of nothingness is wrong.
- You are nothing and simultaneously everything
- You are the entirety of reality
- You are eternal — outside of space and time. You existed long before the Big Bang occurred.
- You are like an empty transparent dimension within which all reality and sensory phenomena occur
- You are God or Absolute Infinity
- You are Nothing, and yet you exist
- Existence and non-existence are illusions
- Space & time are illusions
- Life and death are illusions
- The distinction between “real” and “unreal” is an illusion
So… as directly as possible now: the entity who thinks it’s reading this sentence does NOT exist!
Again, please try to fathom the magnitude of what is being said. This is extremely radical (but nevertheless true).
Since you are pure awareness, all your focus goes toward shining “light” on sensory phenomena so it’s really hard to “see” yourself. Pure awareness is very subtle, which means you have to develop extraordinary mindfulness abilities to “see” yourself.
“But Arda?! You can’t be serious! This sounds like a crazy New Age hippy conspiracy!”
Let me assure you it’s not. I am no hippy. I’m probably more rational and logical than you are. But I do recognize the limits of logic and rationality.
The problem here is that you’ve been so brainwashed by society that what I’m telling you right now sounds crazy.
That’s okay. Just keep your mind open to the possibility that what I’m claiming can be directly verified by you. Nothing here has to be believed. But you do have to be willing to take it on as a temporary hypothesis to be verified or falsified.
Step-By-Step Process To Become Enlightened
- Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit alone. (You don’t need to sit cross-legged.)
- Turn off your smart phone and disconnect from all distractions
- Set a digital timer for 60 minutes
- Now sit silently and start to genuinely wonder: “What am I if I’m not the body?”
- Do NOT meditate!
- Sit and carefully observe your direct experience.
- Notice that direct experience is THE ONLY THING you have of reality. Nothing else is real. Realizing this should make you very “present”.
- Try to locate yourself within direct experience.
- Be very specific and clear with yourself: What are you? Are you a foot? A hand? A face? A mind? A brain? The envelop of the skin? The picture of yourself in the mind’s eye? A feeling in the chest?
- Notice that anything you might point to as being “your true self” cannot be true, because that’s just another experience arising.
- Here’s the logic of it: Firstly, if it isn’t constant, if it fades in and out throughout the day, it cannot be you.
- Secondly, you are observing it, so it cannot be you because “you” are the one doing the observation.
- So again, WHAT ARE YOU?
- Open your mind to the possibility that you are mistaken about being a human body or mind.
- Just sit there and keep genuinely wondering about what you really could be. Try to locate the one who’s perceiving things.
- Do not philosophize or come up with theories. Focus 100% on what your direct experience is telling you. This is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL! The bulk of the work happens right here at this step. You have to slowly become aware that all your thoughts and ideas and feelings about “you” are not really you.
- They are just symbols and stories. For example: notice that the image of your body that you have in your mind is NOT actually your body! It’s just an image! And the same goes for the feelings that make up your body. Those feelings are real, but they are not actually you!
- As any theories arise of what you think you are, notice that what that is, is a thought! And no thought can be you because you are the one perceiving the thought, and also because your existence does not depend on any particular thought’s existence. Notice you don’t cease to exist in between thoughts.
- Just sit and keep doing this for 60 minutes without getting distracted in irrelevant thoughts.
- As your mind wanders off track (and it will wander a lot) don’t beat yourself up. Just bring your focus back on the self-observation.
- After 60 minutes, stop and notice what happened. Notice if your mind feels “elevated” or more aware.
- Frustration and confusion are OF COURSE going to arise. Do NOT be discouraged by frustration or confusion. Believe it or not, these are signs of progress.
Do not expect instant results. You must be very methodical and patient like a crocodile.
Important: Repeat this process every day for at least 60 minutes for the next few months. Be very patient.
It will take several months just to start to get your bearings straight. And by that, I don’t mean you will become enlightened. I mean you merely begin to realize the magnitude of your ignorance.
In this time span of 3 months — let’s say — you will get a strong sense that it really isn’t possible to locate yourself.
This may seem like you’ve failed, but actually, this is a huge advance. Now you’ve finally started to realize that you’ve never really met yourself before. Now the journey towards enlightenment can begin in earnest!
Just keep doing the process without discouragement. At some point, your mind will crack and you will surrender to the realization that there’s no one home.
That life has always run with you.
And BAM!! Enlightenment has occurred!
Notice, I did not say YOU got enlightened. Rather, enlightenment has occurred.
So who got enlightened? No one. Because there is no self.
Tips For Self-Observation:
- Don’t just do this process mechanically, you MUST be genuinely curious about the truth of what you are.
- Try to establish a daily habit of self-observation. You need to build consistency and momentum.
- Be very careful about coming up with theories about what you are. We don’t care about theories here. Every theory is NOT it. We only care about direct experience.
- REPEAT: ALL THEORIES AND IDEAS ARE DISTRACTIONS!
- Spend time asking yourself who you really believe that you are under the conventional worldview. Are you a body or are you the owner of the body? Are you inside the skull? If so, where exactly? The point of doing this is so you’re clear and honest about your present beliefs, even if you intellectually know they are false. It’s very important to get clear what exactly your false beliefs are.
- Do not be vague in your answers to the query of What are you? It’s vital that you be precise and specific. Answers such as, “Well, I dunno, I’m just in the skull somewhere.” are NOT GOOD ENOUGH!!! What EXACTLY are you identifying with? Hint: it will either be a thought, a body sensation, an emotion, a visual perception, or a combination of the above. But all of those cannot be the true you because they are not constant.
- Create an active sense of doubt that you are a human being or a physical object
- Any belief, thought, or idea about who you really are is automatically FALSE! Drop it.
- Any sensory experience about who you really are is automatically FALSE! Drop it.
- All scientific theories or models are automatically FALSE! Drop it.
- All spiritual, New Age, or religious ideas about who you really are, are FALSE! Drop it.
- You are NOT a visible object or “thing” so stop looking for yourself like you would look for a missing dog.
- You are NOT located in any area of space, so stop looking for yourself as a point or hidden object somewhere.
- You are NOT located inside “your” head
- You are NOT located inside “your” body
- There is nothing magical to discover in this process. You are not some kind of unicorn or fairytale creature.
- There is nothing hidden. Everything you see before you is exactly what there is, nothing more, nothing less.
- It is not possible to find yourself, so this process is futile. But you need to realize that through doing the process. Not by believing me.
- You will get VERY frustrated during this process and want to quit. Just accept the frustration and keep going.
- This process will surface deep emotional issues from our subconscious mind. You will experience emotional turmoil and anguish. Just accept it and keep going.
- You will feel depressed at times. Just accept it and keep going.
- Your mind will use every excuse in the book to distract you and get you to stop looking. Stay vigilant to all these tricks and keep looking. DO NOT GET TRICKED INTO STOPPING!
- The truth of what you are is ever-present. It is always HERE and NOW. You don’t need to go anywhere or do anything to see it. You are you right now!
- Be prepared for this self-observation process to take several years if necessary.
- Understand that enlightenment happens always only in the NOW. Never in the future. You can be enlightened RIGHT THIS SECOND! You don’t need to wait 3 years. Always intend to become enlightened right now!
- Enlightenment/Truth is NOT an emotional state. Enlightenment is occurring always, even when you’re watching TV or sitting on the toilet.
- Meditation is NOT enlightenment.
- A psychedelic high is NOT enlightenment.
- A powerful energetic experience is NOT enlightenment.
- A vision or hallucination (however real it may feel) is NOT enlightenment.
- Enlightenment is what’s absolutely true without ever changing.
- Don’t forget the possibility that you may not be a thing!
- Don’t forget the possibility that there might be nothing to find.
- There is no you to become enlightened. When this is realized, that’s enlightenment!
A HUGE HINT:
The thing you’re looking for but aren’t finding… THAT’S YOU!!! Don’t expect it to have any attributes. Don’t expect the mind to have anything whatsoever to latch onto.
You cannot grab NOTHINGNESS by the collar.
You can only realize you’re already it.
Think of it this way: you are looking for a needle in a haystack, but this is no ordinary needle. In this case the needle is literally the realization there was no needle to begin with.
As I’ve discussed already, you can not understand this truth unless you experience it directly. So get started with a meditation practice, commit to it and realize this truth for yourself.
The effect will be zero if you merely believe or dis-believe me. You have to go out there and make your own investigation.
Best Self-Observation Questions:
- What am I?
- What am I — RIGHT NOW — in my direct experience?
- Who is aware of reality?
- Who is aware of me?
- Who is perceiving?
- Who is the owner of the body?
- Who is the owner of the mind?
- Who is feeling pain?
- Who is asking all these questions?
- What was I before I was born?
- What am I when I’m in deep sleep?
- What could I be if I’m not the human body/mind?
- What connects and unifies all of my different senses?
- What is true independent of ever-changing sense experience?
- What is true independent of my life and my death?
- Why do I believe I’m the body?
- Why do I believe I’m the mind?
- Where to do thoughts arise from?
- If I’m the body, what is everything else that I’m seeing?
- Why do I trust my feeling that I’m the body? Is a feeling really evidence of TRUTH?
- Why must I be an object?
- What if the “perciever” has no attributes or properties?
- When I close my eyes, where did the world disappear to?
- Where is sound occurring?
- Where are thoughts occurring?
- Where are body sensations occurring?
- What is the relationship between physical body sensations and my visual field?
- What if I don’t exist?
- What if I can’t locate myself because I am “empty” or without form or attribute?
- What if I’m addicted to looking only for objects or perceptions, but my true nature is neither of those?
- What if I’m just an idea?
- What if my entire paradigm of physical reality is just an idea?
- Could my body and brain just be ideas?
- Is any physical object actually permanent according to direct experience?
- What distinguishes one object from another?
- Do boundaries between things really exist, or are they ideas?
- What would happen if I stopped distinguishing existence from non-existence?
“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry on as if nothing had happened.” — Winston Churchill
How To Tell If You’re Enlightened:
This is very simple. Answer the following questions honesty:
Did a major shift in awareness occur?
Are you absolutely clear now of what you are?
Are you the physical human body you’ve always thought you were?
Do you feel infinite, without boundaries or location?
Do you actually understand, or are you in a temporary meditative high?
If you answered: “YES! NO! YES! YES! I UNDERSTAND!” then there’s a pretty good chance you’re enlightened.
If in doubt, find an enlightened master to help you verify the depth of your realization.
Don’t get over confident, remember, there is more than one enlightenment breakthrough to be had. You ain’t gonna become a sage with just a few years of self-observation.
Is this enlightenment thing worth the struggle?
“It ain’t what you know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
— Mark Twain
Related Article: Stoicism & Buddhism: Similarities and Differences
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Thank you 🙂