So, you think you’re enlightened?

One of the big downfalls that often happens on the path of self-improvement is a bloated sense of pride. Certainly, it helps to look back and gain confidence from what we have achieved so far. However sometimes, after a nice experience or a good spell in life, we can even feel that we have somehow figured everything out on life’s journey, and this kind of complacent feeling can easily lead to our downfall.

Where there’s an up, there’s a down

One of the reasons it is important not to be over elated about any progress you make, is that this idea can be very easily shattered by outer circumstances. One common thing that happens is when someone goes to visit some old friends or relatives, and finds themselves repeating the same negative cycles of behaviour that used to happen before they embarked on their self-improvement journey, despite all the progress they thought they made! A friend told me something humorous she read recently from one of Eckhart Tolle’s books: “If you think you’re enlightened, then go and live with your parents for a week.”

If you attach too much importance to the good times, you’ll attach too much importance to the bad times too, and believe that all your efforts so far were for nought. When it comes to evaluating inner progress, our human mind is a notoriously bad judge. The best thing is just to keep an even keel throughout both good and bad times.

Inner growth and humility go together

Something very interesting happens to people who progress along the road of self-discovery. They may start out by thinking they will obtain these things like ‘inner peace’ or ‘enlightenment’ – however, as they begin to escape from the confines of the limiting mind and live more in the heart, they feel a greater sense of kinship and connection with the world and with their fellow human beings. The focus of everything they so slowly changes from a selfish one to one more geared towards making the world a better place – even their pursuit of enlightenment. Hence when the Buddha sat down at the bodhi tree he vowed to obtain enlightenment not for himself, but for all sentient beings. Real inner growth always goes hand in hand with an increased sense of humility and selflessness. Conversely, an exaggerated sense of pride about one’s achievements tells you quite a lot about the ‘quality’ of those achievements in the first place!

Always have the attitude of a beginner

No matter how far advanced you are along the road of self-discovery, it always pays to have the attitude of a beginner. Every day is a new day, every morning ripe with new possibilities for self-discovery and self-expansion. My own teacher, Sri Chinmoy, meditated for almost seventy years and reached very high levels of meditation, yet he always described himself as ‘the eternal beginner’. No matter what he achieved, every achievement was merely a launchpad for the next step.

“When we start our journey, the first step forward is our goal. As soon as we reach this goal, we achieve perfection. But today’s goal, today’s perfection, is tomorrow’s starting point; and tomorrow’s goal becomes the starting point for the day after tomorrow. Continuous progress is perfection.” – Sri Chinmoy

Having the attitude of a beginner allows you to live in the moment, and get joy from the adventure of self-discovery, instead of anticipating an end result.

Photo: Sopan Tsekov, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries

8 thoughts on “So, you think you’re enlightened?”

  1. I enjoyed this article because it really touches on the challenge… the catch 22 of a spiritual path:

    “If you think you’re enlightened, then you’re not.”

    The mere act of applying that label to ourselves shows that we’re not living in the present, but rather, the past.

    So in reality, the only time we can be enlightened is when we’re not aware that we’re enlightened.

    And ironically, this happens to us more often than we realize – by sheer virtue of the fact that we don’t realize it’s happening.

    When we immerse ourselves into those moments of presence, that is our true enlightenment. Maybe it’s for just a moment or a few minutes… in my experience it’s difficult to maintain that state for extended periods of time. After all, I do have “parents” (or another way to look at it is – being human in our society).

    But I do know that each and every moment of presence lays the foundation for more presence. Each one is another opening to let the light shine through.

  2. I’m in agreement with Chris. If there’s any sense of achievement or striving within our spiritual development, then enlightenment eludes us.

    The more I move forward on my spiritual path, the less I find myself caring about concepts such as “enlightenment.”


  3. Yes, Shane i am moved by this article. EGO plays its tricks everytime you are on the path of self realization.Awareness is the key.
    It was wonderful to read this article!
    God bless you!

  4. This post is such a good reminder of the never ending journey that personal development. So many people start to better themselves in order to get somewhere, to arrive. Then they realize that where they’ve arrived at is just the starting point for the next journey.

  5. Excellent post and something I have been thinking about lately. It seems that “Enlightenment” is often held out to us like the carrot and the stick. Do this practice and you will receive the “ultimate gift” and you will live happily ever after. It is presented as another “thing” to have along with all your other prized possessions.

  6. It’s true. When ur in that state of mind, there’s out of words to describe since you are no longer you. There’s no need to discuss about this subj anymore :P.

  7. I said “If you think you’re enlightened, then go and live with your parents for a week” — Eckhart Tolle quoted me.

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