Enlightenment: How To Become Spiritually Enlightened

how to become enlightened

Want to know how to become enlightened? Ever wondered what spiritual enlightenment feels like? Sure, it might not happen overnight, but it is well worth the effort.

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 spiritual enlightenment. Perhaps the most powerful way is by practising self-enquiry meditation.

But you have options.

In this guide, I will show you how to become spiritually 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.

Have you read the signs of enlightenment in the link above? Great. Now let’s look at how to become spiritually enlightened.  

What Does It Mean To Become Spiritually Enlightened?

Enlightenment is the peak of spiritual development. There are several paths to enlightenment, depending on your spirituality. Meditation, yoga, acts of compassion, and noble thoughts are all pathways to enlightenment.

But before we look at how to become enlightened, let’s look at what it feels like to be enlightened.  

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.

The difference between unenlightened and enlightened people

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 enlightened, 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].

There are considerable benefits of enlightenment.

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 will show you how to become enlightened through a unique combination of the best Buddhist meditation techniques.

How To Become Enlightened Through 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. 

There are lots of meditation techniques for enlightenment. 

To become enlightened, you need to use specific meditation techniques for enlightenment. You have to use the most important techniques, such as Samatha, Vipassana, and Dhyana and put them together into a specific pattern that becomes a path.  

Sounds challenging? No sweat. I’m about to make it easy. 

There is a clear way in which you can use all the different meditation techniques to achieve complete self-mastery. This is the way how to become enlightened spiritually.

I’ve called that strategy The Path.

 “The Path” will take you from wherever you are to where you want to go. This path is the best way how to become enlightened through meditation. But before you take the first step, you need to ask yourself, Where am I now? 

 To know how to become enlightened, you first need to find what Lao Tzu would call the “impurities of your mind”.  To do this, we will use a quiz.


Enlightenment Quiz 

 Listen: We are all at different steps along the path. 

Maybe you’re near the end and very close to enlightenment. Maybe you’re at the very beginning and have a long journey ahead of you. Either way, you can achieve enlightenment. But we need to start where we are. 

So how do we know where we are right now? Simply complete the quiz below. 

  1. Read through each of the questions in the five groups A to E.
  2. 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”.
  3. Add your score up. 
  4. But don’t worry if you don’t get a high score as you’ll find my guide to how to become enlightened below.  In the end, you will see how to become enlightened.

Group “A” Questions  

QuestionAlwaysRarelyNever
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  

QUESTION

AlwaysRarelyNever
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  

QUESTIONAlwaysRarelyNever
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

QUESTION

AlwaysRarelyNever
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

QUESTIONAlwaysRarelyNever
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? 

 


Your Path To Spiritual Enlightenment Based On Your Quiz Results:

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 to become enlightened through 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 inAt 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 know how to become spiritually 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.

 


What To Do Next

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 to learn how to become enlightened. 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 how to become enlightened. A high score in this category means you are in control of your thoughts and feelings and can silence your mind to 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 scored lowly on 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 how to become enlightened is to cultivate 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 scored lowly on 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 score less than ten on group D:

Group D is all about insight. When you become enlightened, you gain insight.

If you scored highly on group D, it means that you fully understand yourself and aware of the workings of your own mind. You are also in touch with 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.

  • If you scored lowly on group D, practice Vipassana meditation. This will put you in touch with the inner workings of your mind and heighten your self-mastery.

If you scored lowly on 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 the task at hand. 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 scored lowly on 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 scored lowly in more than one group (as most people do) focus on the first group you struggled with. For instance, if you scored lowly on groups A, C and E, focus on group A first before moving on to C and finally E. This is the way to become enlightened.

 


How This Path Helps you Achieve Enlightenment

So, that is how to become enlightened through meditation.

There is a reason for the questions you answered. And for how they are ordered.

The first group of questions is all about your level of calmness and focus of mind.

If your mind is not calm and focused, you will experience all manner of thoughts and feelings. These will interfere with your daily life. And they will prevent you from living in the moment and enjoying life.

So the first group of questions regards calmness and serenity, which Buddhists call Samatha

Samatha is the essential foundation on which all else is built, and it should be your top priority. Beginner meditators can use breathing meditations, mindfulness, guided meditations, Binaural Beats, and other entry-level techniques to quieten their mind and to find calmness and focus.

Once you have achieved Samatha mind, you can then move on to groups B, C, and D.

Groups B and C are about compassion

Groups B and C can be lumped together.

Group B pertains to your feelings about other people, and group C pertains to your feelings about yourself. Both groups are essentially about compassion: Compassion for others and compassion for yourself.

You can increase your compassion by practising two meditation techniques: Loving Kindness Meditation and Karuna meditation.

Having focused and calmed the mind and then cultivated compassion for yourself and others, you will then be in the right mental space to begin to look deeper and to develop insight.

Group D is about insight 

Questions in Group D are all about insight.

Insight gives you mastery over self and also certain extra-sensory perceptions like intuition and clairvoyance. The path to developing insight is through Vipassana meditation.

Group E is about oneness

Once you have achieved calmness, focus, compassion, and insight, you begin to truly enter the deeper stages of meditation. Here, you begin to achieve the Buddhist state of oneness, the state of existing as one with an object, person, or thing.

This is what group E is all about. Oneness can be achieved through the practice of Dhyana meditation and Bhakti meditation.

In the end, once you have scored highly in all the groups, A to E, you will have achieved a state of complete calmness and equanimity, with compassion for all, and you will be able to access the deeper parts of your mind through insight. You will be able to focus your mind to such a degree that you achieve complete oneness, which is the moment you reach spiritual awakening.

dharma wheel in buddhism
dharma wheel in buddhism, which represents cosmic law and order

How To Become Enlightened Through The 6 Stages

If you want to know how to become enlightened, you have to pass through the six stages of enlightenment. 

  1. We dream
  2. We’re awake but mindless / living in our thoughts
  3. We’re awake and present but living through our senses
  4. We’re mindfully awake and have overcome the senses
  5. We achieve oneness
  6. We find spiritual enlightenment

These are the stages of spiritual enlightenment. Where are you at right now? 

 If you want to know how to become enlightened, 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 to become enlightened. Let’s look at that next. 

unalome symbol for enlightenment in buddhism
unalome symbol for enlightenment in buddhism

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:

  1. Sotapanna (stream entrant):
  2. Sakadagami (once-returner)
  3. Anagami (partially enlightened one)
  4. 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 states that the way how to become enlightened through meditation is by understanding and accepting the Four Noble Truths.  

1: Dukkha:  All temporary things and states are unsatisfying. (Dukkha means dissatisfaction and pain). 

2: The Arising of Dukkha: Yet we crave and cling to these things and states, which is the cause of pain.

3: Cessation of Dukkha: We can free ourselves of Dukkha by letting go of attachments. We can still enjoy positive relationships, but we can do so while accepting 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

noble eightfold path in buddhism
noble eightfold path in buddhism

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, which have a significant effect on 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, 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!)

 


Buddhist tips for how to become enlightened  

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.

7: Mindfulness: 

Incorproate mindfulness in all aspects of your life. 

8: For Right Concentration, somly practise meditation. 

 


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. 

 

enso buddhist symbol for enlightenment
The enso is the buddhist symbol for enlightenment

Conclusion

In this guide we have looked at how to become enlightened through 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. 

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By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.