Entering the light
Enlightenment is a term especially common within Buddhism, Hinduism, Yoga and Tantra, but the idea of 'seeing the light' is a common expression in most cultures implying that the seer has realised something of importance.
What enlightenment means in an ultimate sense is to know the nature of existence or the meaning of life. This may sound far fetched and even irrelevant in terms of day to day living, work, paying bills, keeping up with people, gossip and struggling to survive.
This survival struggle is punctuated by moments of learning, pleasure and perhaps real joy. But so often these moments are the result of external things happening. For example people feel good on payday, they feel great if they won the lottery, they feel great when they fall in love. So in order to be happy and in order to feel like a normal person, there is a dependency on external circumstances.
This dependency is what is referred to as suffering and the majority of the world's people are trapped in some form of suffering. The rich and powerful are trapped in suffering by their need to retain their status, the middle class trapped in suffering by their struggle to survive in the marketplace and the poor suffering their dispossession.
Humanity is trapped in a suffering which is mostly of its own creation and we're not talking about the temporary suffering caused by natural disaster and loss. The primary suffering of all people is the juggling act that we go through to maintain a semblance of well-being and happiness amid injustice when in truth they are not particularly happy.
Civilisation is built on the idea that we can be happy and comfortable simply by manipulating our physical world and other people. This clearly doesn't work as we are making a real mess of the world to the point that we are teetering on the edge of extinction and the level of suffering never before seen.
“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another.” ~ Immanuel Kant, “What is Enlightenment?” (1784)
Enlightenment is touted as being the freedom from suffering and to the enlightened this is true. But to the person trapped suffering, it's just another idea and one which may threaten their concept of life or is just something else to do and therefore not worth the trouble as they are so busy trying to maintain what they see as life.
So just think, you are in a dark place, you cannot see much, therefore you cannot see your surroundings. Then the lights come on and you begin to see your surroundings - this is the process of enlightenment. Then as your eyes adjust to the light, you notice more detail and the enlightenment progresses.
Enlightenment can be factual knowledge, the simple act of learning how to bake a cake is in fact a small degree of enlightened, but in a spiritual sense enlightenment is about expanding perception and developing a much more stress-free and intimate knowledge of existence.
With this knowledge, one is able to create a more stress-free lifestyle that is less dependent on external phenomena. One still needs to eat and the way the world is shaped, one may still need to earn a living, but worldly activities become less bothersome.
The process of enlightenment is incremental and is facilitated through simple relaxation or meditation. It is through relaxation that one begins to take life less seriously which allows for an expansion of awareness. There is less need for judgement and less need for people to behave as you want them to behave, so there will be less need for gossip and interfering in other people's lives is at the same time you become less reactive to other people's demands and expectations.
The process of enlightenment is about becoming more sensitive and perceptive of life but with the ability to choose whether or not to be influenced. In other words, your ability to respond to life increases and you come to realise that you have a conscious choice as to how to behave or act in the world.
Those who are more enlightened are naturally happy and joyful, they are less bound by economic and social restraints. The nature of existence is more apparent although not necessarily understood at an intellectual level, but the enlightened will live in greater harmony with nature because in essence the substances that makes up our bodies are simply borrowed from the earth.
Enlightenment in a spiritual sense is a growth of intuitive awareness or consciousness enabling direct connection with the divine principal providing the ability to become one with all life. What does self realization mean?