Should I talk about this? This has been a question that I have struggled with in the last couple of months. I felt, and continue to feel, incredibly vulnerable sharing the “this” in the picture.
The “this” is that I had my awakening and am now enlightened, having transitioned about six months back. The transition ended an intense 27-year spiritual journey (33, if you count, my early years dabbling in meditation). At this point, I have spent most of my life meditating, most of those years trying to figure out what enlightenment is. It has been a lonely journey because most folks don’t quite understand the why, fewer folks are on the trip, and even fewer folks make it. One highly respected source says their research estimates that only 0.5% of humanity transitions into this state.
What is enlightenment?
The short version is that enlightenment is a proxy for peace, joy, and happiness.
Our intuition for happiness is entirely off. We search for happiness in the external world, acquiring objects, relationships, and relentless pursuit of activities. We operate out of a sense of lack and fear. The neuroses drive most of our decisions. We are the donkeys driven by the carrot or the stick.
Enlightenment is the realization that our essential nature is happiness. The awakening is when the realization occurs that we are happiness and we don’t need to go into the world looking for joy. ”We are it!”
For years, I disregarded this explanation because of its simplicity. Is this all that enlightenment is? Is that the gist of what Buddha discovered? Isn’t this about reincarnations? Moksha? Finding a grand purpose to my life. The mind got in the way because it likes complexity.
What is the difference between intellectual tinkering and realization, and why are they different? What is this “awakening”?
The following explanation (not mine) is the best explanation that matches my experience. When you are in a dream, the dream world is authentic. It would be hard to understand that the world isn’t quite real. When you “awake” from the dream, you realize you were dreaming, and that world was unreal; you get it. The word awakening is used similarly. Your awakening happens when you know you are peace, joy, and happiness. Your essential nature is not your mind but this deep sense of peace, joy, and happiness.
The equivalent word to awakening in Sanskrit and Hindi is “Bodhi.” Bodhi is derived from “bodh,” which means Gyan or knowledge. Buddha is derived from the word bodh. Thus, Buddha translates to the one who is awakened or has the knowledge. Satori and Kenshō would be the Japanese zen equivalent words for this understanding. This was a complete side note, but I found it fascinating nevertheless :-).
This perception shift is instantaneous, just as your understanding when you awake from your dream.
I will write at length about enlightenment, especially given that I struggled to define it a year back (so stay tuned.)
Why the hesitation in speaking about the transition?
Would this open me up for ridicule? Awakening or enlightenment is the peak of human experience and is primarily equated to wise gurus, and I am just a next-door techie. It is surprising how hard it is to get away from the conditioning of being sensitive to others’ opinions even after transitioning.
The second reason is the realization that enlightenment isn’t binary. It is a sizeable continental land mass with different experiences in different zones, and I find myself relatively early in a particular zone. For gamers, it is like playing an open-world game like Elden Ring; each area opens you up to another region to explore. Thus, I could quietly explore from here to the rest of this body’s years on the planet; there is so much more to explore.
What changed my mind about speaking?
My wife and parents have always encouraged me to share my passion for meditation. They felt that I had something unique to bring to the table.
My journey started with my desire to tackle the grief of my sister's passing. However, as I grew from twenty-something, the trip evolved to tackling life challenges. Handling the stress of daily life, the search for meaning and purpose, succeeding at work, and leading a spiritual life. The journey ended with Spocks passing (more on it later). Over the last 30 years, I have explored countless meditation practices(and other techniques). Just like Edison, I have found numerous ways that didn’t succeed (for me).
However, I felt inauthentic sharing because I couldn’t claim that “I made it” (metaphorically speaking). I had the same struggles as every human on the planet—the same stresses, work-life balance, anger, sadness, etc. My approach to solving these was meditation. Most life coaches I see online are much earlier in their meditation journey but act as experts. What made my approach better than going partying over the weekend or better than approaches from the experts?
My bar for speaking was enlightenment because that meant I solved the “happiness equation” in life. I am staring at my promise now that I have solved the equation.
I called up an uncle for advice. He pointed out that the Buddha faced a similar dilemma six months after his enlightenment. Should he share his insights or go on with a solo journey? The choice was mine to make.
The water came to a boil in the last couple of weeks. I saw a couple of folks exploring their journeys. Some were starting; some had spent years on the path to happiness. These folks were using meditation as a medium to get to happiness.
My biggest realization is that “it doesn’t have to take 30 years”. The journey can almost be instantaneous. Thus, if I could save some of these folks some years, it would be a worthwhile endeavor. This thought fires me.
Thus, here I am.
I hope to share things that worked/failed for me. Though, I can communicate from the wisdom driven by my transition. I don’t quite know what the map of those topics looks like. However, I think I can talk about meditation, joy, happiness, grief, success at work, and being productive (here-be-dragons). My next series of blogs aim to talk through my journey, but I hope to get asked questions to respond to. So if you have questions, please take a moment to comment or enter them on this Google form.
Meanwhile, I will continue to explore the lands of enlightenment. The exploration is fascinating for me. I have found a community of people who have transitioned and feel like a beginner again.
— in peace and joy
PS: Since I wrote this blog, a few people reached out to me asking how to get started with meditation to better manage stress, anxiety, and be happier. There are two starter practices that I recommend. The first is the gratitude habit, this works wonders to make you happier. The second is the Lotus Heart practice, it works really well at the end of a stressful day.