What is enlightenment?

We see it often, we’ve heard about it, we see claims of being enlightened but what does it mean? What is being enlightened?

Dictionary.com defines it as

to give intellectual or spiritual light to; instruct; impart knowledge to:We hope the results of our research will enlighten our colleagues.Archaic. to shed light upon.


To enlighten means to shed light upon and that is something that we can all understand because that means to impart knowledge about or help others to understand something and this something can give intellectual or spiritual knowledge to someone else. The person claiming to be enlightened is saying that they can impart this knowledge.

Ok, so now we understand what it really means, which is important but how do we know if someone is truly enlightened on a particular subject? Well, they must be well educated in the subject at hand, obviously, to be able to impart knowledge on the subject. This could mean having studied a subject at an accredited school or having gained that knowledge through direct sources like living within them for a long period of time. This is often called honorary in cases like PhDs.

Anyone can become enlightened on a certain subject or gain enlightenment. It really just means knowledgeable. So, what is spiritual enlightenment? It means being spiritually knowledgeable, which means relating to the spirit or to the soul. In other words, we are now dipping into theologies, belief systems, and often of faith and religion.

On the way to becoming truly educated or enlightened, one first comes to learn and understand that there is no one way. There is no one right way to do things, to go about things, or to understand things. Humans are a widely varied people when it comes to beliefs, perspectives, cultures, and so much more. Designating your way as the one right way is called ethnocentrism by anthropologists and it is not a positive thing. It means that you judge all others by your own beliefs which are largely created of cultural and regional norms and expectations which have no place in the judgement of those outside of that culture or set of norms. You cannot be truly enlightened and ethnocentric at the same time.

There are many ways to reach enlightenment personally but the one thing that all truly enlightened people have in common is that their finger is not pointing without but within. They question everything, including and especially themselves. The path to enlightenment never ends, there is no end to this journey and it is not a race because there is no finish to reach. If someone is consistently pointing a finger at others rather than at themselves, if they are more concerned with what others are doing than with what they are doing, they are not enlightened. They are still at a very early part of this path towards knowledge and there is nothing wrong with that because how far we are into a path is a matter of perspective, isn’t it? We may be 5 feet in, which is farther than someone two feet in but certainly just the beginning to someone 50 feet in or 100 and what we are speaking of is a path with no defined measurement. We have no way of truly knowing how deep into this path we are because knowledge is infinite and we are not.

Glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goal and not in reaching it.

  • Ghandi

If you want enlightenment, stop following in the footsteps of others, begin your own path, find your own way, and seek out knowledge yourself.