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Misconceptions of Enlightenment

Take an inventory of your concepts about what an enlightened person is like.

You may find that you expect that, upon enlightenment, such a person:

gives up sex
gains superpowers
is invulnerable to disease
never gets angry any more
won’t experience physical death
never encounters any misfortune
becomes clairvoyant and omniscient
undergoes a personality transformation
is constantly in some kind of lofty trance
starts seeing angels, God, and the future
goes around blessing everyone they meet
takes on solving all of the problems of the world
senses colors as more beautiful, flavors as more tasty

It’s hard to understand where these concepts came from, or why they are so ubiquitous and automatic in our consciousness. They seem to be the archetypal features of mythical superheroes, with perhaps a few odd leftovers from a Puritanical heritage.

But the list may not necessarily be accurate.

For one thing, any concept of enlightenment that you have will be incomplete. Enlightenment is not a concept. It is something lived. It is Life, living you and living through you. That might be all that you can accurately say about it.

For another, enlightenment isn’t about how you behave or about what your circumstances are.

But the biggest problem with the list is that it reinforces the main misconception about enlightenment: that it is beyond your reach.

Answers From Silence says, “It isn’t something that comes only to legendary historical figures. Your enlightenment is inevitable, and it could even happen in this lifetime.”

And, “I thought that this would make me into something else, and I didn’t know what. But I still get to be a human being. Maybe it is for real now, for the first time, and in the best sense of being human.”

Enlightened people may simply continue to live their everyday lives in society, quietly going about their business, which is probably the same business they were going about before enlightenment. It’s just that now they know who they truly are.

So when your enlightenment comes, don’t expect to give up anything or to gain anything.

Other than everything.

–JC

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