by Jill Lowy
Do you see the light? Enlightenment is one of those terms that mean a lot of different things to many different people. In the Yogic, Buddhist and Mystical traditions, one of the primary goals in meditation is enlightenment. Enlightenment is notably characterized by the story of the Buddha. Before Buddha was the Buddha, he was known as Siddhartha, which very interestingly means, “One who achieves his aim”. The story goes that Siddhartha was a prince having been born into a royal family. He was raised in wealth and luxury. He knew very little about life outside of the palace or about the lives of the common people. When he became older, he wanted to learn more about his kingdom and the people who lived there. He began to travel and learn about the pain and suffering of the many people around his village. He became disillusioned about the life of royalty and began to search for truth. He learned various meditative practices and after many years, experienced enlightenment. Enlightenment is basically the English translation of the Buddhist word, bodhi; which also means to awaken or to know. Buddha means “One who has awakened”. To be awakened is to become completely transformed to the ultimate level of reality where there is no dualism, no pleasure or pain, no suffering and no ego. One has become liberated and no longer tied to the wheel of samsara or the cycle of birth, suffering, death and rebirth.
The Yogic tradition also embraces the goal of enlightenment. Patanjali, who is considered the Father of Yoga, maintained that the final goal of yoga was liberation from samsara through moksha. Moksha is derived from the Sanskrit root, muc which means to “let loose” or “release” and is the liberation from all illusion, suffering and pain. Moksha is the release from the worldly conception of the self or the ego, and the realization of the true nature of the self (self-realization). It is an experience of bliss and joy that is no longer tied to pleasure and pain, and where normal duality is transcended through union with God/Spirit. Patanjali outlined an eightfold process whereby the Yogi can achieve moksha through purification and meditation. The final steps consist of deep meditation into Samadhi where the individual transcends the limitations of the ego and merges into the Infinite source of all being.
The mystical practices of many different religious traditions talk about enlightenment. Enlightenment is derived from the Latin word, illuminare which means “to make light” or in our case, “to make light within”. Enlightenment is considered a mystical experience whereby one perceives inner truth or divinity. There are many different accounts on the experience of enlightenment. From Christian mysticism, where enlightenment is the experience of direct union with God (Of course, Jesus; St. Paul ,St. John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Kempis….) to Quaker mysticism where one experiences the inner light of God within the soul, to the Hermetic Tradition where initiates are taught to expand their consciousness to God consciousness, to the mystical revelations of the Sufi Tradition, to the Kabbalistic mysticism of the Jewish religion and to the Taoist mysticism of Lao Tzu.
In my own meditative practices, I have had many experiences of illumination. In deep meditation, I can actually see through my inner eye or vision, a subtle light that illuminates from within. It is like someone has turned on a light bulb inside my head which radiates all around me. (It’s interesting that many Christian saints are depicted with halos around their head indicating the divine light) There have been meditations where I have experienced this light and later opened my eyes thinking; ‘maybe it is the sun shining in through the window’. But it was not the sun or any kind of exterior lighting, but the inner light. I have spoken with many mystics who also have experienced this inner light. I think it is connected with the process of enlightenment, but not the goal of enlightenment. Although I have had many mystical experiences, I have not experienced the bodhi of Buddhism, the moksha of Yoga or the divine union with God in Christian mysticism. I do know that this experience exists from deep within my soul, but I have not experienced it directly. So I think that enlightenment is really a process. Through different meditative, mystical and religious practices, we can come closer and closer to the real goal. And that goal is actually not a goal at all (although a goal while you are going there), but is the realization of All that is or Divinity or what the Hindu’s call, Om Brahma Smi, translated, “I am one with God”.
For a complete listing of Christian mystics, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_mystics, also see: http://www.rainbowbody.net/HeartMind/Yogasutra.htm, http://www.katinkahesselink.net/other/enlightenment.html, http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/m/mysticism.html.
About the author:
Jill Lowy was born near Chicago, Illinois. She received her BA Degree from Wisconsin University, MA Degree in Psychology from Illinois Institute of Technology and a Master’s Degree in Divinity from Andover Newton Theological School. She was initiated into the Spiritual and Esoteric Arts at Lotus Temple. She was also initiated into Kriya Yoga under the lineage of Paramahansa Yogananda. Jill has been practicing and teaching Yoga and Spirituality for many years. She has given many lectures and workshops. Her recent book To Jill with Love, Memoirs of a Modern Day Mystic contains stories of spiritual inspiration after being initiated into the mystical arts. Her first book Yoga and the Art of Astral Projection is about how the discipline of Yoga can help one to experience astral projection and expand one’s consciousness towards self- realization Jill currently resides near Denver, Colorado with her boyfriend, Paul in the Rocky Mountains. She works as a Counselor and her hobbies include: hiking, motorcycle riding, traveling, skiing, swimming, scuba-diving, and Tai Chi.