I like to talk about enlightenment. And yet I find not many like to talk about it. The main reason seems that, when they do, they realize how far they are from an ideal of an enlightened person which they have in their minds. The act of speaking about it brings them face to face about their current state right now, and most are not content.
But what I find as well, is that most don't realize there's a very important aspect to enlightenment which most simply ignore. The aspect is called self-realization. You might think the two are one and the same thing, they are, yet require different things of the individual.
What most associate with enlightenment is struggle, and then sudden change in Seeing or to the nature of How we see.
What this means: a person remains in an unenlightened state until the point where he experiences a subjective, yet irreversibly strong personal realization. After this, the person is irrevocably altered. Because of the view most hold, you find it too laborsome to attempt a construction, or the walking of a path that would lead to this altering state of mind. And yet this view of enlightenment and what it is, or how it comes about, is so rooted in our Western idea of the act of Doing and why we Do something, that we have missed the point entirely.
In Zen, for instance, there is even a so called little Satori (Enlightenment) and big Satori, depending on who you ask. Some would say little Satori does not exist, because there is no small Satori.
When D.T. Suzuiki, for whom the experience of Satori was the center of Zen practice, was asked about Satori, he said it all should attain it if they wish to have a penetrating comprehension of Zen.
When Shunryu Suzuki, also one of the biggest bringers of Zen to the West, for whom Satori was not central to the experience, was asked why he doesn't talk about it, his wife famously yelled, "It's because he hasn't had it!" to which he laughingly replied, "Shhh! Don't tell them!"
Enlightenment and what it is, is very dependent on our perceptions of what we expect the process to be.
But while the conduct of an enlightened person is most likely the same, the way most people think about how Enlightenment happens is oddly skewed.
Why we look at it as something to reach, a goal, is synonymous to our mode of thinking.
We look at it the same way Westerners and Man in general looks at life and his achievements. We begin our journey through the "serious" part of life early. We are thought in grade school that we must work for a future goal. We are then thought in High school that we must work for a future goal. Some reach university where they must then work for a new future goal. And if we are lucky, we then arrive to a place for which we have worked for, and still we find another future goal to work for, but this time we create it ourselves. We do this naturally, because at this point, the program of working for a future goal has been ingrained into the mind. The mind simply continues what it knows. It does things the way it has always done them and functions in this mechanism because the specific patterns of Doing have been established. How else would a mind that functions in such a way view enlightenment, than as a future goal?
It will not view it the way it is. It will not view it as a process, a way of liberation. It will not view it as something which is happening right now, but as something which happens at some future date.
It will view it as a future goal, not as a happening in which the subject is immersed in at this very moment.
He will not have the chance to bask in his own enlightenment, because that will remain a future goal as long as the mind operates in this way. As long as the mind cannot be here, right now, there can be no enlightenment. Because instead of being here now, the mind stays in a kind of semi-enlightened state of "I know that I know. But what I would like to see is myself when I know that I know that I know." Which is, as you can see, a rather ridiculous state of mind!
The realization of the self as being here and now, even small glimpses of it, can perpetuate states of realizing that one is here, now. And that here is where life quivers in its ultimate sense. Here, now, is where realizing the self can bright forth Right Understanding, Right Action, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Thought,... What does this mean?
That Self-realization is the actualization of the enlightened state. Because enlightenment comes, and if one does not realize it in action, in conduct, speech, and becomes the outward expression of it, it will remain in the future. It will remain something which you will eventually do, eventually become, and eventually say.
But when that time comes, what other time will that be, than now?