What is enlightenment?

What is enlightenment?


A good way to understand what actually enlightenment is, is to go a little back to the story of the person who was to become the Buddha. Just like many other people, was searching for meaning in life, searching for happiness in life, searching for security in life. Like everyone else, we try and find our security in our material possessions. We still do that, even though we should know better by now.

Many people invested lots of money in the stock market. It all goes and disappears. Some people invest all of their energies in having a family, a good family, but sometimes tragedy strikes that family. Sometimes, people invest all their energies in their work, in their fame. When you look at those headstones, upon death, all that’s left of them are just words. They say: “Were, we now are. As they now are, one day, we will be.”.

So, sometimes, the idea of status and fame, there seems to be just something without a core, something without a true meaning.

The noble search

So, just like many people these days, the person who’s to become the Buddha was searching for something deeper, something meaningful in his life, as we all do. Going to many different teachings, trying many different paths, finding nothing, which had satisfaction. That starts off an understanding about the angst, the underlying pain, the underlying suffering. Even though it might not be exquisite, there’s a sense that there must be something more to life, something deeper to life. Why are we here? Where do we come from? Where do we go?

The stream of the world is always to do more things, it’s always to manage, to control. But the other way is actually to let go, to go within, to be still. Such a difficult thing to do.

What is happiness?

What is happiness? What is the cause of happiness? The law of kamma is actually teaching people about how to be happy. And what is the cause of unhappiness?

Not that happiness and unhappiness descends upon you because of some fate, because of some sort of demon in some sort of heaven realm who always got it in for you. Your happiness and your suffering are under your control.

Don’t go pray to the Buddha to become happy. You’re just wasting your time. Don’t blame him, if you sort of don’t become happy. You got no one to blame, no one to ask favours for. You are in complete control of your destiny. Kamma empowers people.

Anyone can be happy

It doesn’t matter what you have to deal with in life, you can make happiness out of anything. You know, you see these little kids, making a football out of rags, or out of a tin can, they can make happiness out of anything. If they can, why can’t you? It’s up to you. You can make enlightenment out of anything at all.

In the time of the Buddha, some people who were enlightened, they were just poor hunchback street sweepers. You didn’t need to be intelligent to be enlightened. You know why? Because you just needed to let go, to love, to give, to be free. You didn’t need much. In fact, the more you have, the more difficult it was to let go. The meaning of life, is to know, to learn, to understand not the things of the world but understand the things of the heart. The meaning deep inside us. That’s what the Buddha did. Penetrated the deep truths of life. The meaning of life is what enlightenment is all about.

It’s okay to have things. But keep it all balanced. Middle way. Don’t go the way of the world where you just think that amassing possessions, and family to be the be all and end all of life.

What life is all about

There is a spiritual truth to be found out within. There’s enlightenment there, waiting for you. Freedom. Happiness. Bliss that is better than sex. The fulfilment of your own knowledge of the truth, which doesn’t depend on what anyone else says, what’s within any book, which doesn’t challenge other people. One of the signs of enlightenment is you don’t go challenge and say other people are wrong. There’s freedom from all of that. No more pride. No more having to be right. No more worrying of what other people would think of you. No more measuring others. No more measuring yourself. Great freedom of the mind coming from enlightenment.

So this is there for you. This is what life is all about – to find that enlightenment. So this is the internal peace, the freedom of the heart. Enlightenment, find that truth for yourself once and for all. The enlightenment of the Buddha, which led to the enlightenment of so many other beings, and that hasn’t stopped, will not stop, cannot stop. Many more beings will become enlightened, and you are among those beings who would become enlightened, free and happy.

I really mean happy ever after. I know that was a fairytale used to see in the old days, and they went off into the sunset and lived happily ever after. That’s what happens when you’re enlightened go off into the end of samsara. Happy ever after.

“Just as in the great ocean 

there is but one taste 

— the taste of salt — 

so in this Doctrine 

and Discipline 

there is but one taste — 

the taste of freedom”

The Buddha

Suffering in life? Here’s how to transcend it – Wisdom from a Buddhist Nun.

Suffering in life? Here’s how to transcend it – Wisdom from a Buddhist Nun.

This is an extract of a talk given by Ayya Khema on the topic of Dukkha. Ayya Khema (1923–1997) was an international Buddhist teacher, and the first Western woman to become a Theravada Buddhist nun.


Mankind has dukkha. Each one of us has it. But, the wonderful teaching that we have is that there is a way to get beyond it.

There, we have to change our thinking a hundred and eighty degrees.

We are operating on an illusion. It is the illusion of being an individual, an identity.

You can feel it. “That’s me getting up, that’s me being dissatisfied, and it’s me having dukkha.”

The Buddhist great enlightenment explanation was not that dukkha can go away, but this delusion can go away, and then we’re beyond Dukkha.

There are moments when we feel a deep inner peacefulness. When we see a beautiful sunset, a rainbow, we hear exquisite music, watch a happy baby, and we think and immediately make up our minds that the lack of dukkha at that moment is due to the fact that there was a rainbow or a happy baby.

We are externalising. That isn’t that at all. It’s because in those moments, we were totally concentrated on what is happening that we forgot about ourselves. That’s why these moments are without dukkha. But externalising them means that we are in this case, praising the trigger. In other cases, we usually blame the trigger. They are all outside of us. What is happening within us, that’s our life.

We usually try to arrange our outer life so that it is convenient and comfortable, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t do that. But do we arrange our inner life so that it is convenient and comfortable?

Have we ever given that any thought that it is actually possible to do that?

The promise of the Buddha that we can all get beyond dukkha is something we have to take on (with) faith at this moment because we haven’t got beyond dukkha yet. If we take such a promise, all it means is that we’re willing to try. And that’s all the Buddha asked people to do. Try it out. Try out the methods, Try out the instructions, and see whether they help.

We don’t get pass dukkha immediately. Nothing of the kind. Meditation can take dukkha away temporarily, but how long does anyone sit in meditation?

What we need to know and what we need to experience is the possibility that through seeing things in a different light, seeing ourselves in a different light, seeing dukkha universally instead of individually, we have a chance to have a totally different relationship to everything that happens in our life.

“All things are not-self”when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering.

This is the path to purification.

– Dhammapada Verse 279