Enlightenment could allude to a personal spiritual revelation or a deep insight into the fundamental meaning and purpose of all things. It often includes a sense of communication with or an understanding of the mind of God. Enlightenment signifies the dawning or transmission of pure Light into one’s mind opening up the consciousness, awakening the mind to new realities, filling the mind with profound understanding of spiritual things, and fundamentally changing the nature of a person’s perceptions giving them the sense that they are united with all existence.
Just as a person normally perceives a difference between the world of sleep and the world of wakefulness – such is also the difference between the truly enlightened or awakened consciousness and the regular form of consciousness most of us know.
Numerous descriptions have been offered by people of the moment of enlightenment. To some it was as if an earthquake shook them awake; others describe a great noise like a rushing wind sweeping through their mind; the classic version is the great light exploding around them, blinding them at first but then opening their eyes to reality; one described it as turning off Niagara Falls, standing at the bottom of the cliff and then having the full force of Niagara fall upon them, crushing them into the river out of which they emerged one with all; it has also been perceived as a dynamic force of pure love engulfing the mystic who then could do nothing but be that love as well. It is also classically described as simply opening the eyes and awakening as if from a dream but the dream was regular life.
Enlightenment or Illumination is the English/Latin word for the experience and means simply bringing in the Light. The concept or experience has a fuller definition in other cultures. Words such as Bodhi, Prajna, and Satori, usually translated as enlightenment, express a sense of awakening to one’s true nature, uniting with the cosmic or God, understanding the path to liberation from the mundane world. Such awakening can be partial and require strengthening over time – perhaps over centuries and many lifetimes – leading ultimately to Buddhahood, a state in which all limitations have been removed from the mind and one’s full potential as a human being has been completely and perfectly realized. It is a state of infinite compassion, wisdom and skill.
In the sense that Enlightenment is the ultimate experience of the true nature of a human being, it is not so much that we gain enlightenment from an outside source – we merely come to realize, finally, our true nature and are able to express it. Thus, everyone is already enlightened, they just don’t know it. It is more a matter of clearing away the darkness, or the fetters that keep us locked into the illusion of the world, and allowing ourselves to be free.