Enlightenment: Who Gets to Decide What It Is?


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The Path to Enlightenment can be a very difficult one for those who have a very specific idea of what enlightenment is. For some, it is the end goal to a life well lived. For others, it is an unattainable state, only reached after death, after suffering on this Earthly plane. For me, enlightenment is an awareness that there is knowledge both within myself and outside of myself that is available for my use.

There are certainly moments in my life when I feel I am more enlightened; they are usually dependent on how much time I am spending alone to introspect and educate myself. I meditate regularly, read, ritualize nearly everything I do from drinking my morning cup of coffee to playing with my children, and simply strive to be a better version of myself everyday; even if just slightly.

Recently, I was told that I wasn’t as “enlightened as I think I am,” which hit me as an odd statement. For one, I don’t tell people that I am indeed ‘enlightened’ because I think that it is a rather nebulous term. Secondarily because, how do they know?! Is our individual level of Enlightenment something that can be judged by others? How much XP do I have to obtain before I can level up to a quantifiable point for others to determine how enlightened I am or am not?

I think Enlightenment feels unobtainable for many because we are using other people’s idea of what it is to appraise it for ourselves. If you by the literal dictionary definitions of enlightenment, there are three:

  • the state of being enlightened (freed from ignorance and misinformation)
  • a philosophic movement of the 18th century marked by a rejection of traditional social, religious, and political ideas and an emphasis on rationalism
  • a final blessed state marked by the absence of desire or suffering.

I follow the first definition because it feels most in alignment with my Soul. Although, I will say that my Enlightenment isn’t an end all be all state. My Enlightenment is ongoing and ever evolving; it occurs over and over again. Every time I learn something new about myself, every time I resist an argument that doesn’t deserve my energy, every time I level up my questioning.

Enlightenment, in my opinion, is a misnomer; it can’t mean the same thing to everyone because we all start and finish at a different place. So many factors have to be taken into consideration; upbringing, line of teaching, religious beliefs or lack thereof. Perhaps a better term for what I am would be, Illuminated. I am lucid, resplendent, mentally depurated and still have room to expand upon that.

No one gets to tell you whether or not you are enlightened; though many will try. It’s my personal belief that if you are telling someone they are not enlighten or otherwise telling someone who they are, then perhaps you yourself are not as enlightened. A big part of becoming enlightened, is realizing that each person is on their own journey and that you don’t have the right to judge that one way or another. What for them may be a new level of knowledge, for you may be something that is second nature.

Regardless, Enlightenment is about pulling each other up, not trying to push each other deeper into darkness. Illuminate the path for those that need a light and are welcoming of it, because I believe that’s what true enlightenment is really all about.

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