What is enlightenment?

Kant foucault.info/documents/whatIsEn … nt.en.html both had a bit to say on the matter. What do you think?

#-o i can’t remember the name of the mute scientist in the wheel chair for some reason, can you give me a hand ? he had some stuff on mind states ( enlightenment being one of them) and i want to try and find the site.

Stephen Hawking.

To be spared of a burden, as in “taking the weight of a thought off of oneself.” To make “lighter.”

Or, to shed light on a matter, thus giving greater clarity to thinking.

Other than that, the term is used in fortune-cookies and self-help new age pseudo-philosophy in the bookstore, section five, third shelf.

Monks liked to use the term alot. What they meant, but did not say, was “holy shit…I just thought of something profound! Now I am smarter.”

What they wanted to say was “now I am better than you because I have a knowledge that you do not. So fuck off with your ignorance, ye unenlightened one.”

Enlightenment could mean many different things. According to buddhism enlightenment is the state of full awareness of ones surroundings. To break the one-way glass covering the truth about reality and see what’s on the other side, and most importantly understand it.

I am buddhist so i share basically the same belief. The difference that I have is that I believe that part of being enlightened is realizing that enlightenment is impossible. If you did manage to see reality as it really is then it would take more than one persons lifetime to understand it all. One person could not possibly become aware about everything, but it’s much better to try and become aware about as much as possible than live in the dark.

Didn’t Marx want to say the same thing when he came up with his theories?

I’m surprised this thread didn’t take off. How about I add my definition of enlightenment, which is ‘coming to a true understanding of the world.’

I generally think of the Enlightenment as not an “awakening from the slumber of tradition and the past” (I believe Kant said something to that effect), but rather understanding and accepting these things and looking them in the face as an equal, or at least as a part of it. “That man is not just the measure of all things, but also the source for economic well-being, political stability, and social development,” would be Tu Weiming’s stance on the Enlightenment mentality, and I think it is a fair position to take.

I do think that the Enlightenment represents the awakening of humans to the realization of their potential for global transformation. Both for good and for ill.

Since I can’t get Tu’s essay “Beyond an Enlightenment Mentality” for free (though JSTOR has it, and I’d recommend it as an interesting counter-point), but I can post an except from a speech he gave that deals with the essence of that essay:


told “The word enlightenment means finding the truth clearly after clarification of all the doubts. This can happen in any branch of knowledge. But this word is generally used in spiritual knowledge. Gita is the enlightened knowledge of Upanishads. My divine knowledge is the enlightenment of Gita. The enlightenment means that the torch light is put on and the illusions disappeared.

The truth is perfectly revealed and all the doubts are cleared, when the soul and the intelligence are simultaneously convinced by the divine knowledge which analyses the spiritual concepts in coherence with the scriptures. The enlightenment comes resulting in the determination that leads into practice. Thus practice is the sign of enlightenment. The enlightenment of Gita is the realization of the essence of Upanishats which is the concept of the human incarnation.

In Veda, it is mentioned that God entered the world for real enjoyment (Tadevanu Pravasat). This point is clearly elaborated in Gita because everywhere in Gita, Krishna has stressed that He is directly Lord. The essence of Upanishats is this point only but it is stressed with full clarity in Gita and this is the enlightenment of Upanishats through Gita. In Gita it is mentioned that the Lord will come again and again whenever there is requirement. This point is stressed with full clarity in My divine knowledge and thus Gita is enlightened through My divine knowledge.
At the Lotus Feet of His Holiness Sri Dattaswami

Let’s go with:

Balancing at least 51% of your Karma

Attaining full mastery over body, thought, and emotion.

Growing a kewl beard.

The inner meaning of the word ‘Karma’

The Gita says that the meaning of the word Karma has very deep sense (Gahanaa Karmano Gatih). This world is called as creation. Creation means work like explanation etc. Karma means work. Therefore this world is a form of work only. Work is a form of energy. Energy is dynamism or action or work. Matter is energy. Heat, sound etc. are forms of energy. Therefore the world which consists of space, matter, light, heat, awareness etc. is essentially energy or work only. Space is a form of energy. Awareness is also a form of energy. Therefore all this creation is work only. Work needs the worker. The worker is God. God is the creator and creation is His work. This entire world is said to be the dance (work) of Shiva. This entire world is just a game (work) of God.

Therefore you should realize that any part of this creation is work or dance or game of God. The working material (matter) is also a form of His work only. The forces in this creation are again His works only. Thus you should realize that every part of His creation as the work of God and thus we should constantly remember God. When you see an object, the object is His work. The process of seeing is His work. The subject (yourself), who is also an object for others, is also work of God. If you analyse yourself, you can realize that you are entirely His work only. The matter of your body, working forces like heat, circulation force of blood etc. are also His works. Awareness is His work. The basic form of your awareness which is energy is also His work only. Knowledge is the work of intelligence. Devotion is the work of mind. Service is the work of your body. Sacrifice which is a process of leaving something is also a work.

Therefore whatever you understand is work and understanding itself is work. The word Karma is frequently repeated in the Gita. There is nothing like static condition. Even in a static stone, the molecules, atoms and subatomic particles are rotating, vibrating and spinning indicating essentially the work only. The Gita says that work should be found in static state (Akarmanichayah). The Gita also says that you should find no work in the work (karmanya karma yah pasyet). What does this mean? This means, you should not think that the work is the work of itself. You should find the worker who is doing the work. You should not think that the work is going on by itself. The work is done by somebody.

I’m voting with Impious: Seeing things as they really are.


Indeed the work is going on by someone – and in some cases it affects someone else. That 51% thing was the criteria to become an ‘ascended master’ in some newage thing I read, but I took it to mean that ‘karmic ties’ – in other words, the connections/communications with other people-- can be balanced in such a way so that the ‘work’ (which in this case is definitely usually not seen as work) is in maintaining karmic balance.

This is all sounding a little arcane though…

Any thoughts? Does what I’m saying make some sort of sense?

…Kant-" Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another."
…I understand.–The ego as a primal survival defense tool is fearful. This fear percieves enemies. This fear produces a closed or contracted life. It is this contracted life that is the antithesis of enlightenment.
…The ego is responsible for all human suffering.

You must first understand the theory of krama;

Cycle of Deeds

The human being is entangled in the cycle of deeds called as karma chakra. The thought in the mind is the seed, which grows and generates action. The action certainly gives its result. Even if you escape the result of your action in this world you cannot escape from it in the upper world. In fact the result in the upper world is very severe due to the compounded interest due to the delay in getting the result. Therefore blessed are those who are punished in this world itself. Jesus says “It is better to punish yourself for your sin in this world itself than to fall into eternal hell”.

The punishment reduces the thought (which caused the deed) to the state of a tiny seedling. However the punishment cannot destroy the thought completely. The thought exists in a very minute called the state of subconsciousness. Even you are not aware of your subconscious thought. When the soul comes from hell to the earth and enters a new human body, the child contains all the qualities or thoughts of previous births, hidden in the subconscious state. Therefore the child is unaware of anything and appears to be the most innocent and sacred. In the child the thoughts are like seeds that have not germinated. Whatever may be the external atmosphere in which the child grows; those strong thoughts will certainly germinate and grow up to be tender plants if not strong trees. But if the external atmosphere is favorable, the strong thoughts become trees, and weak thoughts will become plants. These germinated thoughts will result in corresponding actions. The actions will give their own fruits whether here or there.

The fruits are the punishments, which will again reduce the thoughts to seeds. This is the cycle of the deeds. When it is said that you are enjoying the fruit of the action of your previous birth, it has to be understood in the context of this cycle. The action of your previous birth was punished in hell and has reduced your thought to the form of a seed. In this birth the seed grows and results in its corresponding action. Such action can give you its result in this world if you are captured here itself. The judicial system in this world also functions under the direction of the Lord only. If you have escaped the judicial system in this world, it too is by the will of Lord alone. The Lord might have judged your case and might have given you a chance of transformation. Sometimes you are punished wrongly in a case. Do not abuse the court or God.

Perhaps you are punished for some other sin. Do not think that you have escaped a punishment that you deserve just because the court finds you ‘not guilty’. Perhaps God is directing you for a severe punishment in hell, which cannot be provided by the court here. Therefore do not think that you have fooled the court or that the deity of justice is blind with a cloth tied on her eyes. Even this court is functioning according to the will of the Lord because the Lord governs everybody and everything in this world. Therefore do not blame God or do not say that God does not exist if some criminal escapes punishment of human courts.

Destroying the Seed

Now the main point is how to escape from this cycle? You cannot escape from this cycle by preventing the deed or punishment. If you are tied with a rope, you will not do the deed as long as you are tied. You will do the deed as soon as you are released from the rope. You may escape the result of your deed here by someone’s recommendations, but you cannot escape from it in hell. The only way to stop this cycle is to destroy the thought which is the initiating seed of this cycle. How to destroy it?

The seed is a thought which is a living property (sentient property) or a property of life. If it were an inert property like light or heat, it could be prevented by physical methods. Only knowledge, which is another living property, can destroy this thought. Only a diamond can cut another diamond. The wrong knowledge, which generates this sin, is dangerous. Ignorance, which is zero, is better than wrong knowledge, which is minus (negative). Therefore only righteous knowledge can destroy wrong thoughts. You can differentiate the right knowledge from the wrong knowledge through careful, patient analysis and discrimination. The knowledge of God alone can create devotion in your mind and develop it. Thus by knowledge alone can you get rid of this cycle and attain and please God. Shankara says “Jnanat eva tu kaivalyam”, which means that knowledge alone can give salvation. Jesus preached the same spiritual knowledge throughout His life.

Clever, sophist. Very clever.

You think simply that filling the balloon with hot air causes it to become “enlightened”, but this is because you are failing to consider that while the balloon appears to be lessening gravity’s effect as it “rises up”, the mass of the balloon is still the same, so it has the same weight. The weight is the degree of gravitation force on an object, regardless of whether or not it rises.

Boring, cynic, very boring.


You’re talking absolute crap. A man who has spent the last three months propagandising how science is going to save us all doesn’t even understand the difference between weight and mass.

There seems to be some confusion here.

By enlightenment do we mean the religious ideal (which many have spoken to)
or do we mean 18th century philosophic ideal (which the OP seems to have meant).

In answer to the OP, I think getting people to think is a good ideal, but to ignore previous philosophic work is foolish. In practice, this means teaching old schools of philosophy to young people so they know what has been done before them, and either accept or refute it. Then they will be educated to handle further questions on their own. “We only see as far as we do because we stand on the shoulders of giants.”

EDIT: Note, the need to study past philosophy applies only to ancient philosophy and the philosophy of the schools. There is no need to confuse oneself with the empiricists or those based on them. :wink:

Thank you.