How to achieve enlightenment?
A question that we usually ask ourselves in between watching reality TV and during the last 30 seconds before we fall asleep each day.
It’s a big life question and many religious texts and practices have tried to answer it.
You may find that different people answer this question in different ways – drugs and alcohol will definitely get you enlightened for a few hours. Fancy cars and big houses may make you believe that you’ve been enlightened. A local visit to your temple or church may feel like enlightenment is right around the corner.
But what if you want enlightenment right now? Ok…during this lifetime?
Don’t worry – this story doesn’t end with you spending a lifetime under a Boddhi tree in deep meditation. (Although that has worked for others in the past)
The Bhagavad Gita – no, that’s not what you had for lunch at Taj India buffet.
The sacred Hindu scripture, known as the Bhagavad Gita, provides 3 sacred paths to living an enlightened life. If you’re thinking the Bhagavad Gita was what you had for lunch at Taj India buffet last week, you’re sorely mistaken.
The Bhagavad Gita or “Sacred Song” is a Hindu epic that takes place in a mythical holy battlefield. Arjuna, a hero in this battle and a representation of every human soul who seeks guidance, strategizes how to fight his distant relatives on the battle-field.
This epic conversation between Arjuna (enlightenment-seeker – i.e. you) and the God Krishna takes up about 18 chapters of the Gita and is filled with pearls of wisdom about living and enlightenment.
No matter what you think about Hinduism or holy battles, the message of the Gita is universal. The Gita offers up three paths of salvation and enlightenment that you can put in practice into your life today.
The way of action (Karma Yoga) – Karma here is not in the sense of ‘don’t cheat your neighbor today or someone’s going to show up and slash your car tires tomorrow.’ While surely that can happen, we are talking about Karma in the unselfish action sense.
It is a path that states that you should do your duty in life (studying, working, raising children) but not for external reasons; glory, fame, wealth or praise. You do your life’s work without any expectations of a return.
Karma yoga instructs against taking action for selfish personal gain and suggests enlightenment by working for work’s sake.
When you ignore the ‘fruits’ of your actions, you become less attached to expectations, achievements and results. You can work for the sake of work, which Krishna calls divine work, and a sure-bet towards enlightenment.
So, in a nutshell, carry out life’s duties without expectations or seeking rewards.
The Way of Knowledge (Jnana Yoga)
This is enlightenment through knowledge; reading of texts or learning from wise teachers. Ok, I’ll agree with you – you’re right – reading Vishnu’s Virtues is probably a form of Jnana Yoga. So is picking up a copy of my book, Is God Listening? 🙂
Not the strongest form and definitely not recommended by 9 out of 10 gurus, but it’s one way. And many of you are great Jnana yogis as you may consume your fair share of wisdom-filled blogs (including www.tinybuddha.com, www.everydaygyaan.com, http://evolvingbeings.com/), spiritual texts and even read brilliant realized tweets to achieve the realized state.
Other ways include reading holy scriptures, being guided by wise men and women, meditation and even yoga.
Way of Devotion (Bhakti Yoga) This is the way of devotion or faith. It is the way of love, dedication, faith and worship.
If you sing in joy and celebration of a higher power, you’re practicing bhakti yoga.
Same if you’re praising, worshipping, or reflecting upon the higher powers.
This is a practice of love and praise. Constant and fervorous worship.
5 thing you can do to reach enlightenment today.
The Bhagavad Gita offers 3 ways to start on your path to enlightenment.
You can start on the path to self-realization today.
You don’t even have to sit under a boddhi tree for awareness. Or move to the Himalayas or jump the palace gates like the Buddha.
You don’t need to hit rock bottom or end up in your life’s lowest point to start your path to enlightenment.
You don’t need a groom running away at the alter, house foreclosure or income tax audit to help you get to the point of seeking spiritual realization.
1. Start working for the sake of work without minding so much about the results, achievements or goals. Yes, Hindu wisdom would say live a goal-free life. You can have goals in life but don’t expect enlightenment through a constant achievement of goals.
2. Read, inquire, question, learn. Check out practices, books, knowledge and other spiritual paths to start on your own path towards enlightenment. Enlightenment won’t happen overnight but you can start on your path today.
3. Worship, pray, meditate and make a connection with the higher powers in the universe.Some sort of an active spiritual practice can help you start your path to enlightenment.
4. Be a better human. Who knows? Maybe ultimately being enlightened is really about realizing that there’s a higher power that governs the universe. If this is the case, that higher power must be everywhere including within every human. Is enlightenment simply realizing this and being kinder, more loving and compassionate towards others?
5. Attend a rafastarian concert and rock out to reggae music. If you think enlightenment is utter nonsense and have no desire to get started on any spiritual path, I dare you to attend a reggae concert and not come out spiritually enlightened. Sure, it may be a temporary state of euphoria (until the smoke clears) but you’ll have a taste of what enlightenment could feel like.
Will you become an enlightened soul in a life-time?
To learn more about my book on spirituality and resilience, Is God Listening, click here.