Q: What is it like being enlightened?

Sri Gurudev: When you get enlightened you will know it yourself. It’s very hard to explain that. It’s an experience. It’s like asking, “How would it be when I go into deep sleep?” Can anybody tell you how you would feel when you go into deep sleep? There are certain things that can never be explained by words. But in a sort of gentle way we can give some clues about how you can recognize an enlightened person. Read the The Living Gita, the second chapter, the last twenty slokas. It gives you an idea what to look for in an enlightened person. Arjuna asks this question, “How am I to know who is a person of steady wisdom?” Then Krishna gives a nice list of twenty slokas. The essence of it is that the person will be balanced under all conditions and won’t get affected by any of the dualities. But still, if you want to really know what it’s like, you have to get into that state. Otherwise, it’s like just reading a recipe book: you’ll still be hungry. You have to get the ingredients, cook them, eat and then you’ll know how it tastes.

Q: Is enlightenment achieved through hard work or relaxation?

Answer: Both. You work for it, and at the same time relax. That means you don’t work. If you work you get tired. If you play, you never get tired. Like that, whatever we do, enjoy it. Then you are fully relaxed, you never get tired. And that way your mind is always at rest, peaceful and when your mind is always peaceful, you realize your own true nature. Realization comes, or realization is experienced, through a calm, quiet, peaceful mind.

Q: My mind seems so crazy, so how will I ever be able to know my true nature?

Answer: To get out of that insanity try to know your true nature soon! But, unfortunately, even to know the true nature you need the help of the mind. So, it’s better to make friends with an insane mind and take the help of the insane mind to turn within. Because who is to realize your true nature? When did you forget your Self? Who is that wants to realize the Self? When it gets tired of running after the worldly things for its peace and happiness, the same insane mind turns toward the true Self. And then it’s not going to realize the Self as separate from itself. In that effort when the mind turns towards the Self, it loses its effort, it loses itself and gets absorbed in the true Self.

It’s almost like a drop of water that wants to know the depth of the sea because people have told the drop that, “You are nothing but a drop from the sea. That’s your original place. You have come out of that and you have a limitation called ‘a drop,’ you have to realize your source.” What should the drop do? Drop into the sea from where it came. Once it drops in what happens? It loses the individuality, which is called a drop. The amount of water is there still but not as drop but as the sea. So there’s no drop, there’s only sea. The mind is like that. The sea is the Cosmic Self, or God. The mind came out of that Cosmic Self and got an identity. And then there comes a time when the drop wants to know, realize its source. In that effort it loses itself.

Q: Gurudev, is a person aware of when he or she is enlightened? Is it something that happens all of a sudden? How does one’s life change after that?

Answer: Before you get complete enlightenment, you become physically and mentally lighter and lighter. Before you get light, you have to feel light. So you feel that, “Yes I am elevating. I am lifting up. I am being lifted up.” The mind should be always floating, very light. That’s why I say the aim of Yoga is to take it easy, be easy. When that happens, the mind loses all its desires and feels light and it floats. Then, without any strain, it passes through all the chakras. You don’t have to consciously open each one.

Imagine if you are a heavy person and you want to climb up somewhere. You have to have a ladder to climb step by step. Suppose you lighten yourself and you are so light you just lift up like a balloon. You don’t have to go step by step.

So when the mind becomes that light, it simply floats through all the chakras and you are enlightened. Enlightenment will happen only when the awareness passes through all these different centers. To make that happen lead a simple life totally freed from selfishness. That means to offer everything to God, or to others in the name of God.

  1. If a long-time meditator were to experience a conscious exiting out of the top of his head, dwelling momentarily in a realm of radiant white light, and then also experience actually reentering the body through the top of the head again, could this be considered some level of samadhi experience?

Answer: Yes, it is a sort of good sign of the mind transcending the physical level. But you are still in the mental level. You are still within the mind. Real meditation means even to transcend the mental modifications. So, you are on the right track; it’s a good sign, but that’s not enough. You can continue further.

Q: Is everything happening so we can unfold and become Self-realized? Is that the only purpose for being alive?

Answer: True. The ultimate purpose is that. All other purposes are aimed toward that ultimate purpose. As I often say, every action of yours seems to have an ultimate purpose of finding happiness. Right? You do this and that just to be happy. Why do you even want to help others? Because you find happiness that way. And that’s what you call realizing your own happiness. Self-realization is the ulterior motive behind everything. You may take different paths but ultimately we are all going to reach the same place. Paths are many, truth is one.

So whatever happens, happens to unfold this truth—even the so-called suffering. In fact, it is the suffering that helps you unfold the truth faster. Pampering makes you blind. Most of the great lessons we get only come through suffering. Why do we have a legal holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr.? If he died a normal death probably nobody would bother. Mahatma Gandhi, why is he being glorified? He paid a big price for it. See, it’s all in a tragic state that we get a different truth. Life is like that.

The more the suffering, the wiser you become. That doesn’t seem to be pleasing to the ear, right? But, if you read the lives of various saints, you see they even looked for sufferings. If the pleasure came, they were concerned: “Oh, is it going to make me forget the truth? God, what are you doing to me? I’m in trouble.”

Because the truth is we learn real good lessons only through suffering. Seldom do we learn through pleasure. I’m not suggesting that you go and look for suffering, but, if it comes, know, “Yes, God is gracing me with suffering.” Take everything as God-given for your benefit. Good or bad. Come back to the equanimity of Yoga.

  1. Ever since I read about samadhi in 1988, I wanted to experience it but I am a 45 year-old American householder. Must I become a renunciate first? I meditate and pray daily.

Answer: Enlightenment dawns when you realize that all these labels that you put on are only temporary and you are the one behind everything. That is what enlightenment means. Knowing that you are that all-pervading spirit, appearing as this or that. You said, “I am 45 years-old. I am American.” Who are you really? I am black, I am white, I am rich, I am poor. All these descriptions may change, but what remains the same? The “I” never changes. That is enlightenment. Keep an eye on the never-changing One and make use of the ever-changing things.

Behind all these changes is the unchanging. That which changes is okay. You can keep all those things, make use of them for your convenience, but don’t get caught in them. That is liberation. You free yourself from these identifications and attachments. That is what you call renunciation. Renunciation means well given up. You give up the notion that you are this and that. It’s an understanding. You don’t have to become somebody. You don’t have to get it from somebody. It means to know yourself—who you are really.

It’s not to be given by somebody else. If it can be done by that, all these vgreat masters and teachers, would have given enlightenment to the whole world. They all wanted everybody to get enlightened. Why didn’t they do it? Because it’s not something that somebody gives you. You have to realize it yourself.


– Swami Satchidananda

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