"It was during lunch that I had the most amazing experience of my life. There came a timeless moment at which I just knew who I was. It was as if I had always known it, but had simply forgotten. It was so obvious, yet so marvellous! I started laughing uncontrollably, until a passing Monitor got me to communicate it to her. As I did so, I understood why communication is the key to this process. In communicating, that moment of knowing returned, leaving me so awestruck and humbled by its reality that my rational mind could never deny the experience."

what is enlightenment?

the eternal and unchanging truth

Enlightenment is known by many names, among them Self-Realisation, satori, kensho, Illumination and Spiritual Awakening. It is a shift of state of consciousness in which a person transcends all thoughts, feelings and beliefs to apprehend the true nature of reality. This shift of state, where a person is suddenly conscious of what is true by becoming one with it, is often referred to on Enlightenment Intensives as direct experience of the Truth, or of the Absolute. In this context these terms refer to the eternal and unchanging truth which underlies all apparent reality; the way things actually are regardless of whether one likes it or not, wants it or not, agrees with it or not. Enlightenment is literally indescribable and can never be fully conveyed through words. No matter how much a person may have read or heard about enlightenment, only their own inner experience of it will finally reveal to them what the Truth really is.

direct and indirect experience

Knowing the distinction between direct and indirect experience is the key to understanding enlightenment. Direct experience of Truth means consciousness of the Truth through no process. Seeing, believing, hearing, perceiving, understanding and concluding are all examples of processes. People uncover many levels of truth in their life using processes, but all processes can ever provide is an indirect awareness of reality. The awareness is indirect because there is a subject/object differentiation operating. For example, when a person realises something, there is a separation between the person (subject), what it is that they realised (object), and the process of realising they engaged in. When the Truth is experienced directly on the other hand, it is known instantly and completely without being filtered through the separate distinctions of subject, object and process. This is the state of Oneness. In this moment of enlightenment, of union with the Truth, there is no doubt involved whatsoever. With direct experience the person knows for absolute certain what the Truth is. It is an entirely different internal experience to anything else and it cannot be arrived at through any amount of intellectual, emotional or academic effort.

All indirect experiences, including all thoughts, feelings and beliefs of any kind, no matter how profound or meaningful, are impermanent and will fade or change over time. In contrast, once a person knows the Truth directly, then they know it in a way that is never lost and not subject to change in the same sort of way. What a person discovers through direct experience remains always accessible to them. Being conscious of the Truth in this way can be deeply transformative in very positive ways, if the person is prepared to allow what they have discovered to influence them and their lives.

the moment of enlightenment

Whenever it occurs, a direct experience is a complete interruption to a person's normal conscious experience. All distinctions of any description, all orientation points vanish. The person has for however brief a moment, surrendered unconditionally to the Absolute Truth and entered into total union with it. In this union a person will no longer be conscious of themselves as a separate entity. Their identity as an individual will no longer exist in the same way that a drop of rain loses its separate identity when it meets the ocean. Their state of consciousness has radically changed and they and the Truth of how things are, are now identical. This union may only last a fractional second but can be literally mindblowing for the individual.

As soon as the person is no longer in union with the truth, they will be aware of themselves separately again. Once this happens, they will often be able to communicate something about what it is that they experienced the Absolute Truth to be. This can be incredibly difficult to do as enlightenment is ultimately beyond words - the only way for someone to genuinely communicate their experience of Truth is to let someone else see them in that state. But even without this there may be some words which are now deeply meaningful to the person or they may feel emotionally moved and tearful or have a new understanding of how things actually are, and these, along with their complete authenticity and utter certainty of the Truth, will get across very powerfully a sense of what they discovered.

There is a common recognition among those who have had an enlightenment experience that what they had been looking for was inside all along, but they had not noticed it until now and they can often be surprised, humbled or amused by this. Typical comments range from "It's so obvious!", "I always knew this but somehow I had forgotten", "How could it be anything other?" to "It was here all along, how could I have missed it?" Sometimes the realisation that what they had been seeking had always been there, can cause people to laugh uproariously. Some people are left with a sense of the utter ordinariness of the Truth while others are left in a blissful high energy state. The effect on an individual of finally discovering the Truth is unique to them, but is commonly accompanied by a sense of inner peace and fulfilment, quiet certainty and love.