Spiritual enlightenment is the highest state a person can achieve. It is the divine moment when you become one with the universe. It is like awakening from a dream. Basically, it means being completely freed from our delusional idea of reality [READ: How To Become Free Spirited].
There are many ways to achieve enlightenment. Perhaps the most powerful way is by practising self-inquiry meditation.
But you have options.
In this guide, I will show you how to become enlightened through meditation and other methods. But first, you might like to look at these signs of an enlightened person to see if you yourself are enlightened or if you know someone who is.
How To Become Enlightened
To awaken, you first need to find what Lao Tzu called “impurities of your mind”. To do this, we will use a quiz.
Simply complete the quiz below.
- Read through each of the questions in the five groups A to E.
- Give yourself 0 points for every time you answer “Never”, 1 point for every time you answer “Sometimes” and 2 points for every time you answer “Always”.
- Add your score up.
- But don’t worry if you don’t get a high score as you’ll find my guide to how to become enlightened below.
Group “A” Questions
|You find it easy to focus on one thing
|You are able to quieten your thoughts
|You feel like you have control of your mind
|You are mentally composed
|You finish one task before beginning another
|You are calm
|You live in the moment
|You are good at listening to people
|You rarely forget what you’re doing
|You feel grounded and stable
Group “B” Questions
|You accept other people as they are
|You are calm even when people act negatively
|You are happy around other people
You understand that no one is perfect
|You are tolerant of others
|You enjoy the company of animals
|You appreciate nature
|You feel sad when others are sad and happy when they are happy
|You like to help other people
|You find it easy to forgive
Group “C” Questions
|You are able to forgive yourself
|You accept it when you underperform
You feel positively s about yourself
|You accept your own weaknesses
|You think other people like you
|You have a realistic view of yourself
|You feel proud of your accomplishments
|You give yourself time and space when you need it
|You are willing to put yourself first when you need to
|You listen to yourself and accommodate your own needs
Group “D” Questions
|You are in control of your emotions
|You find it easy to be inwardly silent
|You have mental congruence
|You live simply
|You rarely experience thoughts that surprise or alarm you
|You understand your own feelings and emotions
|You are aware of and listen to your intuition
|You understand your own actions
|You are aware of negative emotions before they become problematic
|You feel you have a good relationship with yourself
Group “E” Questions
|You allow yourself to fully embrace the moment
|You allow yourself to fully enjoy good times
|You feel engrossed in meaningful conversation
|When you have a good conversation, it’s as though there’s nothing but you and the other person
|You are able to fully focus your mind on what you’re doing
|You are able to perceive the beauty in the small things
|If you want to, you can get full engrossed in a good book or film
|At special times you feel one with another person, place, or thing
|You appreciate beauty
|You are able to focus on one thing with absolutely no distractions or thoughts at all
Read through each of the questions in the five groups A to E. Give yourself 0 points for every time you answer “Never”, 1 point for every time you answer “Sometimes” and 2 points for every time you answer “Always”. Add up your score.
The total score is out of 100. What did you score? How enlightened are you?
What To Do Next
If you scored 0 – 30 on the test:
This is the lower range and indicates that you need to spend more time meditating. Also, relax more. If you scored in this range, you might like to try meditations that are suitable for beginners. For instance, guided meditations and binaural beats. Also try simple breathing meditations, which will calm and centre your mind.
If you score 30 – 60:
This is the average range. This is the level of spiritual enlightenment most people are at. If you are in this range, you can focus reasonably well but you also get distracted by thoughts and feelings.
If you scored in this range, practice some of the intermediate meditation techniques. For instance,Anapanasati, Zen walking, and body scan meditation. This will help to improve your focus and to relax your mind.
If you score 60 – 90:
Congratulations. This is a fantastic range to be in. At this range, you are becoming enlightened and are close to reaching spiritual awakening.
This range indicates that you have a high degree of self-control. Plus, your mind is relaxed and focused. If you want to become enlightened, the good news is that you’re nearly there.
If you are in this range, you already live in the moment. And you are usually in control of your thoughts and feelings. Because of this, you often experience serenity and happiness. Try some of the advanced meditation techniques like Dhyana and Osho meditations to improve your score.
If you scored 90 – 100:
Amazing! You are top of the class. You are so close to becoming enlightened. Keep doing what you’re doing.
You have an extremely high degree of focus. You are spiritually aware and accepting of yourself and others. Plus, you live in the moment almost all the time. You are able to embrace and appreciate the fullness of life.
If you scored in this range, you really don’t need to improve very much. Why not use your skills to help other people? Try volunteering, or simply help your friends and family so they can relax and focus and enjoy the serenity and equanimity that you already enjoy.
Did you score under 90 on the test? If so, consider where your strengths and weaknesses are. This will help you to decide what to do.
Follow the tips below t. The test is broken down into different sections, A to E. These sections are designed to test different mental traits. The key to spiritual awakening is to develop the weaker aspects of the mind.
Each individual section (A to E) is marked out of 20.
If you scored less than ten on group A:
Group A is all about your calmness and inner stillness.
Inner stillness is an important part of enlightenment. A high score in this category means you are in control of your thoughts and feelings and can silence your mind and focus. A low score indicates that your mind is full of noise, preventing you from focusing.
Did you score lowly on group A? If so, consider taking steps to become calmer and to focus your mind. You will find it helpful to practice Samatha and to use Binaural Beats and guided meditations to help you to relax.
If you didn’t ace group A, you would likely score lowly on other groups too. Don’t worry about those other groups yet. Focus on creating inner calm. Once you are relaxed, you will be able to focus more. Then, you can move on to more advanced meditation techniques.
If you scored less than 10 in group B:
Part of enlightenment is cultivating compassion.
Group B is all about your relationships with other people as well as to animals and nature. If you are an enlightened person, you will have lots of compassion for other people.
If you scored highly in group B, you find it easy to accept other people and to forgive them for their shortcomings. You most likely enjoy a healthy social life and appreciate other people.
- If you scored less than ten on this group of questions, try practising Loving Kindness and Karuna Meditation, both of which will boost your levels of compassion and your acceptance for others.
If you scored less than 10 on group c:
Group C is all about your relationship with yourself. If you scored highly on group C, it means that you are accepting of yourself, that you recognise both your strengths and weaknesses, and you have a healthy relationship with yourself.
If you are lacking in group C, you might find that you are often judging yourself and have negative thoughts about yourself.
- If you scored lowly on group C, practice both Loving Kindness Meditation and Karuna meditation. This will heighten your self-love and make you feel more positively about yourself.
If you struggled with group D:
Group D is all about insight.
If you scored highly on group D, it means that you fully understand yourself and are aware of the workings of your own mind. You are also in touch with your intuition and have good self-mastery.
If you scored lowly on group D, you may often surprise yourself and find that you don’t always understand your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
- Practice Vipassana meditation. This will put you in touch with the inner workings of your mind and heighten your self-mastery.
Struggle in group E?
Group E questions are all about your ability to be absorbed in the moment.
If you scored highly on group E, you can focus your mind 100% on any task. You are also able to enjoy the moments of your life with absolutely zero distractions. Few people score highly on group E so if you’re one of them, you should be proud!
If you weren’t great in group E, you will find that thoughts and feelings hold you back from being completely engrossed in the present moment.
- If you scored lowly on group E, practice mindfulness and Bhakti yoga practices. These will help you to live fully in the moment and to engross yourself in the richness of life.
If you had a low score in more than one group (as most people do) focus on the first group you struggled with. For instance, if you had a low score on groups A, C and E, focus on group A first before moving on to C and finally E.
The 6 Stages of Enlightenment
You have to pass through the six stages of enlightenment.
- We dream
- We’re awake but mindless / living in our thoughts
- We’re awake and present but living through our senses
- We’re mindfully awake and have overcome the senses
- We achieve oneness
- We find spiritual enlightenment
If you want to get to enlightenment, you have to go through these stages.
Most people fluctuate between the first four stages, infrequently touch on the fifth stage (oneness) and never reach enlightenment.
But here’s the deal: Everyone is already moving between the stages. Therefore, spiritual enlightenment is not a completely foreign concept; it is simply the development of a process we already experience.
Note that the stages of enlightenment that I have written here are different to the Buddhist way.
Buddhism on enlightenment
In Theravada Buddhism, someone who has reached spiritual enlightenment is called an Arhat. There is a process we must go through to get there, just like Buddha had to achieve enlightenment by eventually defeating the Buddhist demon Mara.
Theravada Buddhism states that there are four stages to Arhatship / achieving enlightenment:
- Sotapanna (stream entrant):
- Sakadagami (once-returner)
- Anagami (partially enlightened one)
- Arahant (enlightened one)
This is according to the Sutta Pitaka.
An Arhat is one who has reached spiritual awakening and becomes enlightened. An Arahant, or one who has reached spiritual awakening and spiritual enlightenment, lives in oneness and has complete freedom.
According to the Visuddhimagga (the ‘great treatise’ on Theravada Buddhist doctrine), to move through these stages, we must practice prajna (insight) into Anatta (non-self).
The four noble truths
Buddhism says that to become enlightened through meditation we must accept the Four Noble Truths.
1: Dukkha: All temporary things and states are unsatisfying. (Dukkha means dissatisfaction and pain).
2: The Arising of Dukkha: We cling to things we like, which causes pain.
3: Cessation of Dukkha: We can free ourselves of Dukkha by letting go of attachments. We can still enjoy nice things but we must do accept the transitory nature of reality.
4: The path to the end of Dukkha: Following the Noble Eightfold Path, namely behaving decently, not acting on impulses, and practising mindfulness and meditation, will lead to freedom from Dukkha, and freedom from suffering.
It is possible to sum the four noble truths up in one sentence: “Letting go of all attachments leads to complete freedom from suffering.” Life would be easy if we simply accepted the fact that things change, and if we no longer cling to things. And that is where the Eightfold Path comes in.
The Noble EightFold Path
1: Right perspective: The mind has a predisposition for delusion and over-complication. Buddhists advocate perception of things in their pure and simplest form. See things as they are. To achieve this, practice Samatha Meditation and then Dhyana Meditation (basically focus your mind on the reality of any meditation object). This will have change your perspective.
2: Right Intention: Buddha advocated noble intention, which includes strict adherence to honesty.
3: Right Speech: Speak from the heart and with honesty.
4: Right Action: We must act in ways that do not harm others and which bring about peace and love.
5: Right life: Wherever you are, do the best you can do there. Whoever you are with, do the best you can do for them.
6: Right Effort: This is a combination of four things: firstly, effort to prevent evil in oneself. Secondly, effort to prevent evil elsewhere. Thirdly, effort to bring out the best in oneself. Finally, effort to bring out the best in others.
7: Right Mindfulness: We need to be mindful and live in the present moment with a non-judgmental observation of reality.
8: Right Concentration: The Blessed One said: “Now what, monks, is noble-right concentration with its supports and requisite conditions? Any singleness of mind equipped with these seven factors — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, and right mindfulness — is called noble-right concentration with its supports and requisite conditions.” —Maha-cattarisaka Sutta
Remember, the process towards enlightenment is found in the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum (follow the dharma!)
1: Use Mindfulness for “Right Perspective”: Be mindful to live in the present moment.
2: For “Right Intention” Be Mindful Of Your Desires And Aims
What are your aims and desires? Whatever they are, they should be for the betterment of all. They should not harm any sentient being. They must not be selfish or egotistical.
3: For “Right speech” Use Nonviolent Communication:
Nonviolent communication is communication that is free of judgment and hostility and does not include delusional perspectives.
4: For Right Action, Commit To A Life Of Truth And Love
Right Action must be achieved through mindful choice. You must decide to dedicate yourself to the path of love and peace.
5: For Right Life, Try Loving Kindness
Right life is about helping the people and animals in your life, about helping your community.
6: For Right Effort, focus on the positive
No matter where you are or who you are with, focus on the positives. Be the kindest and most compassionate you that you can be, and try to inspire other people to be the kindness and most compassionate they can be too.
Incorproate mindfulness in all aspects of your life.
8: For Right Concentration, practise meditation.
There are thousands of meditation techniques. And combined they offer myriad benefits, of which one is enlightenment.
Buddhists use meditation to create Kensho and Satori.
“Kensho” means “seeing the true nature of things” according to Philip Kapleau [The three pillars of Zen]. And “Satori “means “awakening understanding” according to Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki [An Introduction to Zen Buddhism]
When we use meditation to become enlightened, we are training the mind to see and comprehend the true nature of the universe. You need to use specific meditations such as Samatha, Vipassana, and Dhyana and put them together into a specific pattern that becomes a path.
Hinduism on enlightenment
In Hinduism, enlightenment is called Dvija, which translates to “Twice born.”
We have all be born once. The first birth is the one we all know about: our birth by our mother’s womb. We were unconscious at this birth. We didn’t make this birth happen. Instead, it happened to us. It was a blessing that was given to us by nature. And we had nothing to do with it. Because we didn’t create that first birth ourselves, we are not in control of it. And because we are not in control of it, it can be corrupted, and often is.
The purity and innocence that we are born with can be robbed from us in one moment.
You’re probably more than aware of the moments in your life that took away that innocence. Because we lost that innocence that was given to us, we have to recreate it. And naturally, to be born again, we first must die.
Your ego, your sense of self, needs to die if you are to connect to your higher self. By dies, we really mean overcome the ego.
When you remove ego, you lose individuality and become one with the universe. This doesn’t mean the self truly dies. It means the self becomes the universal self / the spiritual self.
I like to think of it like water: As water from a kettle turns to steam in the air and becomes one with the universe around it, we too can evaporate like steam, transcend our individuality and become one with the universe.
Detailed Analysis of Spiritual Enlightenment
Enlightenment is the peak of spiritual development. There are several paths to it, depending on your spirituality. Meditation, yoga, acts of compassion, and noble thoughts are all pathways to enlightenment.
In the book Emptiness Dancing, Adyashanti compares spiritual enlightenment to waking from a dream. When you’re asleep, you believe in the reality of the dream. If you think you are going to die in your dream, you will panic in fright because you are so sure that the dream is real. But then you wake up and realise it was just a dream. Same with enlightenment.
Right now, you are living what you think is reality. But according to Alia Crum [assistant professor of psychology at Stanford and director of the Stanford Mind and Body Lab], the mind creates our individual reality. How? By using sensory information and mental phenomena like thoughts, beliefs, and memories. Your mind creates your perception of reality, just as your mind creates dreams.
Researchers believe that reality is created via a combination of three things. Firstly, our senses. Secondly, our knowledge. And finally, our beliefs.
All these things can be misguided.
Inevitably, our knowledge and experience are limited and biased. And our senses only provide limited information about the world. Therefore, the world we see is not truly the world itself.
How To Know If Someone Is Enlightened
Unenlightened people believe their view of reality is absolute. But enlightened people realise that there are myriad ways of interpreting reality.
Therefore, the reality we think we live in is just a dream or conceptualisation of actual reality.
Most people live in fear and stress because they are not spiritually enlightened. Just as they believe their dreams may hurt them, they believe this so-called “reality” may hurt them too. And because they fear being hurt, they feel stressed, just like how they panic in a dream when a monster pounces on them.
When we talk about how to become spiritually awakened, we are really talking about waking from the dream.
Frank M Wanderer, PhD tells us, “Your nighttime sleep is only different from your daytime sleep in that in the night your dreams are less active. During the day, you imagine an entire world around you, and you play an active role in that dream.” [read more].
Buddha said, “I have only one thing to teach: suffering and the end of suffering.” (According to Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, this famous quote is a simplification of what Buddha actually said, but it serves the purpose for this article).
Life is full of suffering. A great deal of our time on Earth is spending fearing, fighting, avoiding, or confronting pain and suffering. Suffering is caused by the ego according to Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard.
The ego perceives itself as a separate entity to the “outside world.” It takes sustained mental effort to create and maintain the delusional perspective of ourselves as an entity separate from the outside world.
Buddhists view this duality, the idea of an “I” separate to the outside world, as the highest form of ignorance.
Duality is the chief form of suffering. When we perceive ourselves as a separate part of the world, we become attached to other separate parts of the world, such as the people in our lives.
More specifically, we become attached to them precisely as they are. But everything and everybody is impermanent. Life changes. When we become attached to something we wish it were permanent. We wish it would never change. But inevitably this will cause pain because life is transitory, and everything changes.
Overcome your ego, and you achieve oneness. And that is what enlightenment is all about. It is about achieving oneness, overcoming ego, and ending suffering.
In this guide, I through a unique combination of the best Buddhist meditation techniques.
In this guide we have looked at becoming enlightened via meditation and other methods.
We have seen how different meditations train the mind in different way. And we have learned to use meditation for our own individual enlightenment.
I hope you enjoyed this guide. If so, please share on social media.
Giving Is Caring
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison