The Effects of Enlightenment

When you have directly experienced what you really are, you have had an enlightenment experience.

“Directly” means that the senses and the mind are not involved. You can think of this as the mind being by-passed—there is no figuring anything out, no reasoning or remembering. You simply know because the knower (you) and the known (you) are the same, and there is no awareness of anything else. This state of self-realization is referred to as a direct experience, direct perception, or direct knowing.

This enlightened state usually ends within less than a second, and you are back in your body sensing the call of maya (illusion) again. But you will have been affected by the experience and will always remember it. You may even be able to bring this state back by remembering it.

Does having an enlightenment experience mean that you have no ego?

While you were having the experience, during that fraction of a second, it is fair to say that you had no ego. But with the return to “normal”, the ego reasserts itself, and your enlightenment experience is now a memory.

The return to normal will probably not be total and instantaneous, but you are changed. You expect to remain changed, and to some extent you do, but maya’s influence is a powerful thing, and though you remember the experience, much of how things were before the Big Event slowly creep back into your consciousness and into your life. What you may have once believed would be something permanent and final in its effect, turns out not to be. A direct experience doesn’t leave us in an enlightened state that persists from that moment on, so it’s not really over yet.

Final Form Teachings

The expectation of finality is a result of “final form teachings“—we are taught something by being shown, or told, what the end result will look like. Once we have had an experience that seems to fit the picture, we assume that we have reached the final goal. We don’t realize that our minds have created erroneous preconceptions and expectations, and that the actual final form is down the road and we have only just begun.

Because of these expectations, it is easy to fall into thinking of enlightenment as an all-or-nothing situation. This is how most of humanity has been taught to think about everything in this age. But nothing in this life is all-or-nothing. Neither is enlightenment.

Enlightenment, for all but a very rare few (who probably had direct experiences at some earlier point in time), is an experience that passes but leaves its mark. We are affected by this experience in a positive way. Once experienced, it is almost impossible to leave it alone, and we continue to seek it again and again until we are able to remain in this state. We are driven to do what we must to get it back and to sustain it.

A permanent state of enlightenment
takes place by degrees.

So long as there is thought or form, there is ego. No one with a body, even a subtle body—astral, ethereal, or causal—is without some degree of ego.  So the next time someone calls you on the carpet for having an ego, thank them very much for sharing and go on with your day knowing that you can become enlightened, have a mind (your critic certainly does), and still function.

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Durga Ma

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Enlightenment and Ego

In teachings on enlightenment, the word ‘ego’ is inadequate. There are no single words in English for the Sanskrit from which the word ‘ego’ has been derived.

In the West, we use the word ‘ego’ to refer to a number of things: a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-worth, someone with an overly high opinion of himself, one’s ability to discern “reality”, the sense of personal identity, and so on. On the other hand, when someone in the spiritual community refers to another person as having an ego, he is usually saying that he has identified this other person as unenlightened. This would seem to indicate that the person making this assumption is self-identified as enlightened.

The Sanskrit words from which the term ‘ego’ has been derived and applied to teachings on enlightenment, are asmita and ahamkara.

“I Am”

Asmita is the sense of self, “I am”. If you have a sense of yourself, you have an ego. The implication is that if you do not have a sense of self, you are enlightened, if you do, you’re not. (True or False?)

“I Do”

Nesting atop one’s sense of self is the sense of oneself as an actor, a doer. Ahamkara is the sense of oneself as the doer of action, “I do”, “I am the doer”. If you have a sense of yourself as a doer of actions of any kind, you have an ego so you are not enlightened. (True or False?)

Seeing yourself as being a doer of action (ahamkara) is what separates you from the Real. All action occurs in nature. You are not nature. You are You. In order to get to this point of misidentification though, you must first have a sense of yourself as existing (asmita). But who or what is having this sense of existing and doing? When you directly perceive the answer to this question, you have had an enlightenment experience.


Atman, ‘I’, or ‘self’, the individual, which is not ego, is the basis upon which ego relies. Atman is used to refer to the self in both the deepest sense of the divine individual that you really are, and you as an individual in the everyday sense. This tells us something important: enlightened or not, what you really are is still what it is in either case.

In the stack-up below, Atman is used to indicate the divine individual beyond body and mind, the Real You:

Ahamkara — I do
Asmita — I am
Atman — I

This stack-up constitutes the core of the mind. The mind is dependent upon this core for its very existence. Relying on consciousness (chitta), the individual mind, with its ability to record and file into memory all the innumerable things that enter (manas), and to make distinctions among them (buddhi), builds itself upon this core. Ergo, without an ego, there is no mind. That being the case, it’s fair to say that, according to the usual assumptions about enlightenment and ego, if you have a mind, you are not enlightened. (True or False?)

So, what is enlightenment, anyway? We’ll talk more about that in the next installment on Enlightenment. Until then, consider your answers to the “True or False” statements. What do you think?

True or False

If you have a sense of self, you are not enlightened.
True or False?

If you have a sense of yourself as a doer of actions, you are not enlightened.
True or False?

If you have a mind, you are not enlightened.
True or False?

Until next time …

Namaste (I bow to the Divine One that you really are),
Durga Ma

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Guided Meditation for Self Realization – Durga Ma.

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Enlightenment – The state in which desires and attachments are extinguished in the Joy of Truth.

The word ‘enlightenment’ came into popular use in the eighteenth century as the use of reason, the capacity for logical, rational, and analytic thought, to scrutinize previously accepted thinking and beliefs.

If you look up ‘enlightenment’ in a dictionary, you’ll find diverse definitions ranging from having knowledge or understanding about a subject or situation, to the state of having attained spiritual knowledge or insight. In most spiritual schools of thought and practice however, enlightenment has a more specific meaning. In some, enlightenment is liberation from the cycles of rebirth; in others, enlightenment is insight, wisdom, awakening, or even open-mindedness.

Considering all this, and everything in-between that hasn’t been mentioned, it would be fair to say that ‘enlightenment’ means different things to different people. For our purposes here, we will use the word ‘enlightenment’ to refer to the state in which desires and attachments are extinguished in the Joy of Truth.

Enlightenment – To make luminous, to shine or lighten.
Origin, Old English.

There are some who believe that enlightenment is either all or nothing—you’re either enlightened or you’re not, there’s no in-between about it. Others say that enlightenment unfolds by degrees. Can they both be correct?

Direct Experience

When one has had a direct experience, one has had an enlightenment experience. By direct, I do not mean having an intuitive ah-ha or being psychic, I mean the mind is not involved. There is no via, no means of reaching this state. It cannot be reached by the mind. The mind can know about direct experience, or remember a direct experience, but the mind is not only useless to direct experience itself, it is an obstacle. It is the Real You, which exists in the non-dual reality of the Absolute, who Knows. In this situation, the senses and the mind are irrelevant and effectively nonexistent.

It is tempting to assume that anyone who has had such an experience is an enlightened being. In a way, this is true, but it is only true in a limited context. An enlightenment experience occurs in a fraction of a second, and its effect will fade to some degree over time. Even so, one is changed by the experience. When one continues to have direct experiences until the effects become the norm rather than the exception, the term “enlightened” becomes the obvious descriptor.

Enlightenment – Direct experience, direct perception,
direct knowing.

In advanced stages, Truth shines of its own light. And I mean that literally. Unlike our situation here in this world, it does not require the reflection of light in order to be perceived, but shines of its own light—it is known, perceived, directly. The dual situation of reflected light and the darkness of shadow does not exist in the Absolute.

Ultimately, there is union with the Absolute; there is nothing (no thing) to experience or perceive. There is no sense of yourself knowing, perceiving, or experiencing anything. All there is is Joy.

Enlightenment – When the “you” that you think you are,
gives way to the “You” that you really are,
all knowing is direct.

Becoming Enlightened

So how do you become enlightened? Is there something you can do to have an enlightenment experience? Or does it just happen if you’re lucky or have enough good karma? Does enlightenment happen all at once or by degrees?

All of the above. There are no limits to the possibilities in this life, or to the potential in each of us. You can do techniques designed for the purpose, you can meditate, or you can just sit under a tree and hope for the best. Enlightenment can be attained through your own efforts or it can happen when you least expect it.

What you can do is set the stage and create conditions conducive to enlightenment. You can do this most effectively by establishing a meditation practice. When you’re not meditating, you can add knowledge and inspiration by reading the teachings of those who are enlightened or who have had enlightenment experiences.

However you go about it, keep in mind that having an enlightenment experience is not the end of the line, but the beginning of an amazing adventure into internal affairs.

Durga Ma

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YouTube videos on Enlightenment:
Durga Ma – Guided Meditation for Self Realization
Nirmala Devi – Steps for Enlightenment or Self Realization