What does it mean to experience "Enlightenment" and how is Enlightenment different from Self Realization?
Enlightenment is the cessation of all suffering. It is the final extinguishing of identification with the ego as who/what we are. We release the karma, desires, and inner conflict which our soul brought into this Earthly playground to work through.
Enlightenment is the great graduation of ones spiritual journey where there is no more clinging to any limitations on any level. There is nothing but God in all directions and dimensions. The God source is our main #1 relationship that is found everywhere, in every person, every situation and in each thought, feeling, and perceived identification with the ego/mind.
The enlightened state is our final awakening to live 24-7 in our natural divine intelligence. This is a deeper wisdom that is inherent in every atom in the Universe. The connection to this akashic field spontaneously manifests on its own accord with enough spiritual growth is reached, we just "pop".
Some say to try to become enlightened or say you are enlightened is a joke, because there is nothing one can do to become enlightened, and nobody to become enlightened since its a relinquishment of who you think you are. The only thing to do other than be silent and do nothing, is to practice total surrender the deepest source of your being and continuously merge with all that is.
The great sages all say enlightenment is beyond the Mount Everest peak of spiritual consciousness, which can only be reached after years (or lifetimes) of being immersed in self realization. The new age movement on the planet describes it as living in 5th Dimensional consciousness.
I would like to define self realization as the continuous realization that you are pure consciousness, an infinite eternal spiritual being that is connected with the infinite intelligence found in all beings throughout the Universe. Within this spiritual awakening is the understanding, feeling and knowing that nobody was ever born and thus nobody will ever die.
In the self realized state, the small demanding egoic self lets go of it all, and dissolves into the greater cosmic God Source Self. Before one is fully enlightened, consciousness will fall back into identification with the mind/ego many times. This is like a spiritual litmus test, which also builds spiritual strength for the final and full release of the ego.
In the final approach towards Enlightenment one remains in a state of Samadhi, which in essence is a self realized state which lasts for months at a time. Eventually, the soul will reach its climax of spiritual growth and be karmically pulled to return back to it's egoic games of limitations and separation for deeper lessons. The soul falls out of the euphoric state of samadhi consciousness for three reasons.
1. There are unfinished samskaras (unconscious karmic patterns) which act like fertilizer for the souls growth, and provide the essential nourishment needed to launch the soul further into enlightenment.
2. The soul's reverence for God needs to be strengthened. It pretends to be identified once again with the limiting beliefs of the ego/mind to create more desire to be free from the egoic world of desire, ego and suffering (samsara).
3. The bonds with the ego/mind need to be weakened through more suffering, so that the spiritual journey and divine God source connection can take precedence.
Deeper Clarification for the Sincere Spiritual Seeker
Enlightenment is a never ending exploration of all divine aspects of the Self. This means in order to continue exploring infinite levels of spiritual enlightening consciousness, we require a very thin layer of ego to be allowed. This thin ego provides access for the 3rd side of the coin, gifting us the infinite spiritual exploration.
Many believe that our final enlightenment is the graduation from over-identification with the ego, and then you're done! However, for life to be worth living after enlightenment, there must always be something to cause an expansion of consciousness. When one falls in and out of samadhi consciousness many times, one realizes that real freedom comes from the eternal release of the ego. Expansion of consciousness is only possible by letting go of who we are, and not destroying the ego completely, nor remaining only in unified source consciousness. Infinite growth is found on the 3rd side of the coin, where the perpetual merging between these two realms of ego/source meet as one.
The ego is never completely removed, as there would never be an I-dentity to realize there is only one consciousness, the same consciousness found within all people, places and things. So ultimately, there is no real end to the experience of "enlightening" oneself. The more you can accept, relax and appreciate that you're here to play the game of being a separate self, individuated as a body and mind, the more enjoyable the journey towards awakening is.
It is celebrating every moment of the day with the feeling of being intimately connected to the entire Universe, as if it is a living, breathing, conscious intelligence that loves you unconditionally. It is surrendering to this truth everywhere you are.
Enlightenment is the infinite process of peeling back the many layers of the ego to experience your true radiant Infinite Self. It is a process of opening to your innermost being, and as a result to the entire Universe! It is a surrendered reaching towards the center of "you", passing through the mind's spiritual cyclone.
If we continue going deeper into our meditation practice of inviting the mind to stillness, we will go beyond the mind's apparent insanity and find that there is a deep silence at our core. At the very essence of our innermost being is where our true spiritual knowledge resides. This is the Source of our true reality and the creation of the entire Universe.
As we continuously rest deeper into the quiet peaceful still center in the heart of our innermost being, we will eventually awaken to the Divine being we truly are. The longer we can abide in this center, the faster we'll find our Self manifesting a rich life, full of depth, meaning, clarity, love and abundant with bliss.
Just look Inside at your Infinite Nature. There exists a divine energy inside you that is connected to the Infinite Source of this Universe. This Source is ALWAYS available to you, if you are open to it. The moment you have a tiny glance of your infinite nature, you see that you are The Divine. You are the Source of Love itself. There is nothing greater than knowing this.
The Universe is a conscious field of energy that is constantly supporting you in awakening to knowing the Truth. Simply ask yourself, "What am I...really?" If you answer this with thoughts or beliefs about yourself, you just arrive at a thought about what you are and cannot truly see your Infinite Nature. The infinite is beyond words, ideas and concepts. You need to simply BE WITH WHAT IS, and the Source will one day, suddenly pour into you.
Remember, nothing that happens is by accident. Even your decision to read this article is not an accident. The Universe is a highly intelligent field of information that penetrates every thought, emotion and experience. This means each experience we have in life has to be the "right experience". God never makes mistakes, and every lesson you are here to learn is being provided to you through these human experiences. The Universe is constantly giving us assistance to wake up if we are willing to pay attention and listen.
Your apparent problems and personal issues in life are like particles of sand stuck in between your toes. Depending how you move through life they will either grind at you or massage your feet. Your enemy is your greatest teacher in deep disguise. Just sit back from this person and imagine if they were God in disguise, what would be the big lesson they are trying to teach you.
When we approach everyone in our life with a childlike curiosity we become receptive to learning what we are here to learn. Life has a greater wisdom for you than you can conceive of because the entire World is designed to awaken, enlighten, heal and empower you. Everything is connected to a cosmic intelligent web of energy, love and information in between every atom in this Universe.
On the path you'll naturally discover the secrets to having a spiritual awakening. An exponentially increasing flow of amazing enlightening insights will happen to you. They manifest the very moment you let go and dive deeper into trusting this Infinite Source of Intelligence. When you do you'll notice your body becomes very relaxed, empty, soft and open to almost every possibility that comes its way.
As you become more patient with life (and wiser) you'll naturally create more time to explore your inner world. By practicing quieting your mind with meditation everyday you'll begin to go deeper into your being...truly exploring your heart, mind and soul. If you feel you've already done this, you haven't. The inner world is an infinite exploration. Once we have an idea that we "know it all" we become imprisoned in the Ego's realm of illusion.
To see an instant shift in your consciousness, focus on what is working in your life, instead of what isn't. If a certain problem or issue keeps arising in you and will not go away, sit with it. Face it directly. Write about it. Talk to it, then talk about it with someone else. Listen to the mental chatter that's constantly in your head. It is pointing towards the answers if you follow with curiosity. They are re-occurring because of unlearned life lessons from ignored past issues that were there to awake you to realizing the infinite being you really are.
As you experience your issues, notice the depth and/or shallowness of your breath. Simply observe. Do not judge anything (especially yourself). Learn to simply be with what is happening on the inside, on the outside and witness.
Whenever caught in the experience of suffering, remember that it is the mind attached to one particular thought. Once you let go of this thought then profound peace prevails.