What Is An Awakening Or Enlightenment?
Jeff Carreira, a spiritual guru, defines awakening as “waking up” from a dream-like state, or a semi-conscious state. When we wake up, we become aware of our surroundings and we become aware of ourselves. If we were to extrapolate the term and use it to describe spiritual awakening, essentially, we are in a dream-like state, and what we are feeling around us right now is not real. He proposes that we have no control over the events that happen in our lives and we are not really in control over our bodies.
In comparison, enlightenment is defined as a completely more miraculous experience compared to awakening, as we have to access the deepest parts of ourselves to find out about our real identity.
To summarise, awakening means that we already know “who we really are”, however, enlightenment means that we are still finding out about ourselves and our identity. Therefore, the question of whether we are awake would lead to a dichotomous answer, namely:” Yes/No”. On the contrary, enlightenment is more complicated than that, as it is a journey of self-discovery and the exploration of knowledge.
Consequently, our dream self is just a mirage, which may not reflect our true selves. There is a part of our identity which may be hidden from us and we are unable to access it, yet we are able to sense it as if we are “looking through a looking glass”. Despite this, awakening and enlightenment have some similarities, for instance, having acute realizations of your real identity. What differs is that someone who experiences enlightenment knows his/her identity very well, while the person experiencing awakening does not experience a concrete sense of self without those acute realizations.
Rose Rosetree highlighted some differences between spiritual awakening and enlightenment.
These are the signs of awakening:
- Returning to your religion after having backslidden (eg returning to church and becoming a Christian again)
- Achieving self-actualization in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
- Having a wonderful spiritual encounter when it comes to meditation or prayer.
These are the signs of spiritual enlightenment:
- Your chakras(spiritual sources of energy emanating from your body with healing properties) are working efficiently and they are all in the right order.
- You do not experience any emotional baggage within your chakras.
- Your aura has an intimate relationship with the Divine
- Experiencing joy due to the relationship.
6 Beings on Earth Who Have Been Awakened
Jim Carrey used visualization techniques and neuro-linguistic programming when he was a struggling comedian, giving himself an imaginary $10million check. Soon after, his dreams came true when he received $10 million from the movie, “Dumb and Dumber”. He used to suffer from Major Depression but experienced a spiritual awakening where he felt his ego disappearing from himself, and he was set free.
When Joaquin Phoenix acted as Jesus Christ in the film, Mary Magdalene, he felt himself questioning and exploring his own spirituality. His definition of spirituality can be summed up in this quote:” Being enlightened is willing to constantly work at your life and try to be the most considered, empathetic, thoughtful person you can be.”
Enlightened - Dalai Lama
The first Dalai Lama was Gedun Drupa. According to ancient folklore, Lhamo la-Tsoin, a spiritual entity in charge of the divine lake, Lhamo La, mentioned that she will conserve the genealogy of the first Dalai Lama. They believe that each generation of Dalai Lama was the reincarnation of the former generation and that the first Dalai Lama evolved from the enlightened entities or Bodhisattva to assist other people in attaining nirvana.
Yogmata Keiko Aikawa is a Japanese woman who managed to reach the highest stage of meditation, namely samadhi. Using Aikawa yoga, she plans to help other people achieve samadhi cure illnesses using anugraha shakti. She was the disciple of Hari Baba, and she took on intense training exercises to reach enlightenment on the Himalaya mountains, under the watchful eye of Hari Baba.
Eckhart Tolle’s books on spirituality have been endorsed by many celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Annie Lennox. Eckhart Tolle was raised as a Catholic, but he chose to follow his own religious beliefs instead. After graduating from university, he started to experience a great sense of depression and hopelessness. That led him to search for a sense of meaning and purpose in life, and he had an epiphany. Drawing on Buddhist, Christian, Mystic, and New Age religious beliefs and influences, he proposes that we tend to think too much which causes emotional problems. By abandoning thoughts of the past and future, and living our lives to the fullest in the present moment, we can achieve happiness.
At the tender young age of 13, Vasudev was introduced to Yoga by Malladihalli Raghavendra and he was quite diligent in practicing his asanas and pranayama. When he reached 25 years of age, he experienced some form of spiritual awakening when he was resting on a rock on Chamundi Hill. Hence, he started to deconstruct and analyze his spiritual experience and embarked on journeys around India. As he was keen to impart knowledge about his religious experience to others, he started to dedicate his life to teaching yoga classes and hosted events related to spirituality.
The 5 Stages of Awakening in Simple Words
1. Worldly pleasures
We conform to societal expectations and norms, and we follow the rules blindly without asking why. We turn to external validation and fulfill our desires through material desires, however, we feel empty inside. Our emotions are controlling and guiding our decisions and intuition, but a part of us end up questioning ourselves, and we experience a sense of nagging discontentment. At this stage, however, a crisis in our life may become a catalyst, leading us to enact change.
For example, being discharged or dismissed from employment, experiencing the demise of a loved one, dealing with an unexpected illness, or a close brush with death. You can choose to live in denial and reject your soul’s desire to explore spiritual awakening or you might dive deep into it. Regardless, if you dismiss such feelings, time, and time again, you will start to feel an inner voice prompting you to change your worldview and journey into spiritual awakening.
2. Identity crisis
You start to feel resentful towards society and how the world has shaped your beliefs and worldview. You start to question everything that you used to value and cherish, and start to doubt your own identity. You know that you are desperately searching for answers. Hence, you may discover new information as you go along, and learn more about psychology or different religions.
3. Diving deep
We examine our hearts and search for answers within ourselves. We engage in the studying and analysis of our chosen pathway and suddenly, our awareness has increased. Hence, we start changing the way we lead our lives. As we journey into spiritual awareness, we start to know ourselves intimately. Gradually, we start to place importance on spirituality, stillness, and intuition, instead of satisfying our ego or acquiring material possessions or social status. There are two signs which would occur:
2. Second, we would feel more fulfilled in life. For example, our strongholds, such as physical, mental, and energy barriers would be removed one by one. We feel that life becomes more meaningful and we find happiness in the little things.
4. Cognitive roadblocks
For some of us, we may start to experience challenges and roadblocks along the way. Having to face our shortcomings, cognitive dissonance, and our fallible nature is a tedious task. We have to constantly transform our emotions, thoughts, behavior as well as speech and become more kind, compassionate, and forgiving which is not easy. Moreover, we will face pressures from the external world to go back to our old habits and ways of thinking. We may encounter threshold guardians along the way, coined by Joseph Campbell.
These could mean physical or metaphorical objects which may impede our progress during transitional phases in our lives. Some examples are enemies, our own belief system, and ordeals. We may feel defeated and discouraged as our threshold guardians make us insecure and doubtful of our chosen path. Unknowingly, our ego is trying to take control, as it fears that it may disappear completely in the process. Thus, we are our worst enemies.
You have reached an even higher stage of spiritual enlightenment, on par with Buddha when he first experienced Nirvana. Your heart is filled with indescribable feelings, such as unbridled freedom. You also feel very liberated with joy.
Tests To Find Out Which Stage You Are In
If you are a very spiritual person, terms such as chakras and energies would not be foreign to you. If you are very new to spirituality and spiritual practices, I hope that you have gained a clearer understanding of spiritual concepts, as well as a cheat sheet for you to delve deeper into the subject matter. Spirituality is quite a complex matter, which may seem philosophical and profound at times, with a lot of overlapping theories and analogies. Whether you are a spiritual guru or a complete novice, it is my sincere desire that this article will equip you with more knowledge as you navigate through your spiritual awakening journey.