Enlightenment … is not a light bulb moment

I had some friends over for dinner on Saturday and as often happens when I’m surrounded by fellow happy hippies, the conversation eventually turns to spirituality and enlightenment … essentially, what the f**k is enlightenment and how do we know when we reach it.

People often talk about the ‘big bang’ theory of enlightenment. That it hits you. And you know. But I disagree.

The Free Dictionary describes enlightenment as “A blessed state in which the individual transcends desire and suffering and attains Nirvana.” Sounds pretty good right?!

But let’s look at this from a practical view point. I’ve gained some of my biggest life lessons from my own suffering, my own challenges. My desire to succeed, and support others to do the same, helps me to achieve change in the areas of human rights that I believe in most. So part of me quite likes desire and suffering.

Enlightenment to me is like this mystical place where suddenly you no longer see the problems of the world, you can respond to everything in a calm, empathetic way and that fire of anger never rises in your belly again. That also sounds a bit like being numb.

Having said all of that, as Jonathan Mead on his site Paid to Exist says:

“The great Enlightened masters (Christ, Buddha, Moses, Lao Tzu, and many others), did not become Enlightened and retreat into a cave. They did not merely transcend their egos. They became great big egos. They engaged life completely and fearlessly and shook the earth from its very foundation. They did not seek Enlightenment as an escape from life, but as a means to live more completely.”

So I think the Free Dictionary may be wrong … or my assumptions about what Nirvana is may be wrong.

Either way, I’m not hanging around waiting for some kind of light bulb moment, or big enlightenment bang. I’m gonna do what Buddha and his mates did … and go shake the earth!