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Is There Such Thing As Enlightenment?

Byron Katie believes there’s no such thing as enlightenment. Find out what we can do to truly evolve.

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Woman levitating in the fall

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I recently read a story on The Huffington Post titled, “There’s No Such Thing as Enlightenment.” It was a blog post by Byron Katie, a well respected thought leader and the founder of The Work, Author of Loving What Is and A Thousand Names for Joy.

Now you can imagine that the title alone had many raising eyebrows.

Katie said, “People think that they need to get ‘enlightened’ in order to be free, and nobody knows what enlightenment is. Yes, it's in the sacred texts, and yes, this guru or that lama says he has attained it, but that's just a concept; it's the story of a past. The truth is that there's no such thing as enlightenment. No one is permanently enlightened; that would be the story of a future.”

Is enlightenment just a concept? A story of the past? It’s hard to accept that all the gurus and saints of our time were mere “stories” and mislead their (sometimes millions) of devotees simply by the power of suggestion. Could all the stories about enlightened beings and their radiant energy and wisdom just be a fairytale?

It’s also true that people are becoming their own gurus these days. Enlightenment is not so much about idol worship or searching for a master teacher to pass down the ancient wisdom secrets. We have YouTube for that, right?

There’s something to be said about the in-person, face-to-face passing on of sacred knowledge and energy, but what about the millions of people who don’t have access to spiritual teacher? Are they simply doomed with no hope for enlightenment? As silly as it may sound, can someone learn the secrets of enlightenment from YouTube or a book?

The answer is complicated, because enlightenment has always been an inward journey. There is also said to be “levels” of enlightenment and what do those look like? Yes, there can be guides to help us along the way, but Byron’s view is that enlightenment is a momentary experience and a mastery over your own internal “story.”

Becoming more conscious and taking responsibility for the stories we create in our minds as “true” is a potential block toward spiritual evolution or even “more peace” (to simplify things).

As Katie puts it, “There's only enlightenment in the moment. Do you believe a stressful thought? Then you're confused. Do you realize that the thought isn't true? Then you're enlightened to it. It's as simple as that. And then the next thought comes, and maybe you're enlightened to it as well, and maybe not.”

Is it really that simple, Katie? Really?

It’s a step in the path toward getting in control of one’s thoughts, feelings and actions. It’s a concept that is definitely freeing (not holding on to any one perspective the “story” we tell ourself).

But is that all enlightenment is? A present moment awareness of a false story?

Either way, Katie has a point about the power of investigating your stressful thoughts.  “We can't help believing our thoughts until we question them,” says Katie.

Enlightened or not, stressful thoughts are definitely not doing you any service, nor taking you towards spiritual growth in any way. That is, of course, unless you become aware of them and ask yourself “are they really true?”

Do you believe in enlightenment? Tell all below.


Bess O'Connor

Bess O’Connor, a certified Ayurvedic and Holistic Health Practitioner, explores the heart of health at the core of alternative medicine, massage therapy, conscious movement, nutrition, meditation and other healing traditions.


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