What does it mean to be enlightened? How do l know if someone is really enlightened? What are the aspects of the knowledge required to attain it.
From the Bhagavad Gita and other authoritative Vedic texts, we can understand that there are 3 levels of understanding , regarding enlightenment. One being perfect, the next being more perfect, and the third being completely perfect . To be fully enlightened means to know all 3. Being enlightened refers to having knowledge of the Absolute Truth, The Original Cause or God, as he is referred to. He is known by 3 different aspects, which then differentiate, a persons level of understanding, relationship and knowledge.
The first aspect of the Absolute Truth is known as Brahman, ( the Brahmajoyti, Nirvana, the white light, and the great void are other titles for this level of understanding). The Brahman refers to the light rays or the effulgence springing from the transcendental form of the Supreme. Through different mystical yoga practices – such as raising the kundalini energy, at the base of the spine – the yogi, through many years of austerities, control and practice, maybe able to raise there life- force energy, to the crown of the head, pierce the cerebral hole ( known as the crown chakra) and temporarily merge into the Brahmajyoti.
Merging into the Brahmajyoti frees the yogi from the pain, attachment and suffering experienced in the material realm. Upon realising the Brahman, the yogi temporary loses there sense of individuality, and experiences enlightenment of the first aspect of the Absolute truth. These practices are extremely difficult to perform in the modern age, and once having been achieved the yogi returns to the material world.
The 2nd aspect of understanding is known as Paramatma, or surrendering and being fully guided by the Caitya Guru – the Lord in the heart. The paramatma is known as the localized form of God within the heart, who travels everywhere with the living entity in there journeys through the material realm. The Paramatma continually instructs us from within.
This level of enlightenment is reach by practising the 8 limbed system called Astanga Yoga. This is also a very rigorous system, and requires great discipline and resilience. Astanga Yogi’s advance through the 8 steps in a mechanical way from asana,s to pranayama, then advanced forms of steading the mind, then to meditation upon the paramatma within. Once the yogi develops there relationship with the paramatma, they become fully absorbed in Samadhi ,(a spiritual trance) and are totally surrendered to serving him. Paramatma enlightenment contains within it Brahman realization.
The most perfect understanding of enlightenment is known as Bhagavan Realization. Bhagavan is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Bhagavan refers to one who is complete in all 6 opulences – ( strength, wealth, fame , beauty, knowledge and renunciation). All forms and energies stem – both material and spiritual – from his innumerable opulence’s. Coming to know and engage in a spiritual relationship with the Supreme is cultivated through the Bhakti Yoga process.
The primary practice used is the hearing and chanting of sacred mantras , which awaken our dormant love for Bhagavan ( Krishna, Gopala, and Allah are also names for Bhagavan). An example is the mantra – Gopala Govinda Rama Madana Mohana. As a person becomes purified, they start to experince within their heart – through revelation – the non difference between the Supreme Person and his holy names. This process of enlightenment culminates in one seeing the Lord face to face in his personal feature, as they dovetail there life in his transcendental loving service. This is complete enlightenment, containing within it the 2 other realisations, and is the goal of all spiritual paths.