Throughout my life, I was on a quest for the attainment of enlightenment until eventually I surrendered the need for it. This article was born out of the insights and inspirations I received from my search, and I am guided to share these words with you. However this is only my subjective reality, yours may be very different — and equally perfect.
As a child, I spent countless hours poring over spiritual literature and wondering when I’d be able to find a Bodhi tree to meditate under so I could become enlightened like Siddhartha.
I was not at all clear on what enlightenment meant, but my young child’s mind believed I would become God-like once I became enlightened, and experiences like walking on water or healing the ill would no longer be out of my reach. Of course, I had no clear definition of God either. Raised in a rather lenient atheist family and influenced by whatever limited spiritual literature I could get my hands on, I formed an image of God to be a powerful, omnipotent and indifferent being that resided somewhere in outer space.
I began meditating at a young age inspired by stories of those who attained enlightenment through meditation, or obtained divine guidance in meditations. To me, meditation was one of the paths that would lead me to that enlightened place. For a while, I was fixated on the idea of having an extraordinary divine encounter where an ascended master would either appear as a result of my devotion and share a few pointers with me, or take me into another dimension where all secrets of the universe would be revealed to me. I searched high and low for the extraordinary in different places and engaged in different spiritual practices, but no divine being ever came.
When my awakening occurred, it took me on a journey to go inward and the more I went in, the more I realized the divinity I had been looking for has been inside me all along, and it is inside all of us.
Lesson #1: Enlightenment is the divinity housed within us and expressed through us.
We did not come here to play God, that would be too easy and almost pointless like taking an exam after having been given the answer key. We came here to play non-God.
In Chinese mythology, there is a Lady of Forgetfulness called Meng Po and she serves the realm of the dead. She brews a special bittersweet drink called Five Flavored Tea of Forgetfulness so that each soul, before it leaves the realm of the dead to reincarnate into a new body, drinks the tea of instant amnesia and forgets who he/she was and all the memories are lost. This is obviously a folk story, but it seems this is what happens when we choose to take on the human body.
Within us are the swirling universe and all its mysteries, yet it is much more exciting for us to go on this unpredictable adventure pretending we are mere mortals. After all, how convincing can a play get if the actors are constantly behaving like themselves without acting, drama and an interesting plot full of twists and turns?
Lesson #2: Enlightenment is the dream we are in, the process of dreaming, as well as the realization that we are all the dreamers in the dream and the creator of the dream.
The pursuit of enlightenment can easily be mistaken for an objective, an idea, an experience, or a way of life, but it is none of these things. The great paradox here is that enlightenment is No-Thing. The moment we place words, thoughts, feelings or actions around it, we are distracting ourselves with form when in truth, each one of us, and everything at the core is infinite, unmanifested and formless No-Thing dreaming ourselves to be something.
Enlightenment is not something to be had, found or owned. It has nothing to do with superiority or wisdom, and if one is not careful, he or she can easily get lost in the search for enlightenment while missing the entire forest for the sake of staring at one tree — while having forgotten that in the ultimate reality, there is neither a forest nor trees.