How Do You Know When You Are Enlightened?

Student: When enlightenment comes, you dissolve into nothing, and that's what it is. You would know, because you would not know anything.
Student:To receive blessings to become enlightened, we have to give up relationships with our loved ones and with those we choose to be near and dear. Maybe it's a Western idea; if you want to become enlightened, you must stand alone, leave your spouse and children behind, and that is sad to me. You have left everything that you like or been committed to behind. Or you kick them out? You have to sacrifice them.

Rinpoche: The fact that it is not true bears no relationship to the way that you think it is. Many in the West are ripe for transformation, but cannot, because they were indoctrinated into strange ideas about what enlightenment is, or how you will be, how you will feel once enlightened. There you are: enlightened, poof! You disappear! I see bits and pieces of valid path here that have become fearful instead of balanced and careful.
Student: Part of me was pounded by hearing from others, “You cannot get there. You are not supposed to. Only Jesus could do that. You cannot.” or you are bad if you try. It's illogical. “I wanted to be like Jesus” when I was a kid. “That is blasphemy. Don't do that or tell anyone.”
Rinpoche: These form your present attitudes regarding enlightenment. You feel or you think that, but it is not true. You think that you are not permitted to become enlightened. This is painful, and causes you to go around looking for a way through, a little answer here and there. You try to put it together out of principles from inside and hints from outside sources. This is an obstacle. You want the sacred quality to arise in you but as soon as sacredness touches your inner process, you feel unworthy.
Student: My intellect knows that this is erroneous, but it seems that to be enlightened is “to be perfect.” Since I feel that I could never be perfect, therefore I can never be enlightened.
Rinpoche: So, it is like a hot potato flipping it from hand to hand, “But I want to be perfect. Oh, that's impossible; I'm not perfect. Put it back over here. I should be perfect.”

In addition to other wrong conclusions, many spiritual seekers crave the feel-good feeling and do not actually want to change or transform; only
feel good all of the time. Who is willing to set aside grasping after feel-good feelings and do spiritual transformation?
You practice because you are suffering, because you want to feel better, of course. However, at a certain point, after becoming enthusiastic about the possibilities, meditators are no longer so invested in the feel-good feeling. The sensualist, the spiritual sensualists will drop out.
We talk about peace quite often and how wonderful peace feels. However, peace is a result of closure of suffering, and not a spiritual/sensual feel-good feeling. After enlightenment: peace... yes, but it is not a goal in itself. What some are seeking is an answer to their self-assessment, “How do I feel? Am I having a good day? Am I happy enough?”
Surprisingly, I find many Western people who only meditate when they feel good, whereas, in the Orient, it is quite the opposite. As soon as Tibetans do not feel good, they begin more meditation. In general, when they, or someone in the family is sick, they meditate and pray! However, in contrast, many non Orientals, when not feeling well or happy, even suffering from the sniffles, do not meditate that day. Perhaps this attitude comes from thinking that the purpose of spirituality is to feel increasingly
good, and that will be enhanced to the point of enlightenment.
Student: What about the moments in meditation that feel blissful and joyous, or very alive? They do not even have to be in meditation, just little moments. That is what I picture as enlightenment: able to have that all the time, connected and feeling bliss of joy. That is a feel-good feeling, but on another level, right?
Rinpoche: Yes, you are saying it but you are not doing it. If the process to the enlightened state depends upon a barometer of the feel-good feeling, you will never achieve enlightenment, or it will be a very long time until you change your attitude. Then you can get back on the path to actual transformation.


  1. Beautiful. When I don't "feel good", I find peace in meditation. I find peace in hearing, or rather, reading these words. I am grateful for these teachings, I am inclined to meditate more, be more aware and responsible, to rely on the meditative experience more so than too fixated in theory, as I do not wish to compromise my 'now' thought and feeling awareness of the moment through confusion in dogma, or feelings.. The Buddha, Dharma and sangha give me strength. Thankyou.

  2. I have now been meditating for nearly 3 years. Shortly after I started, I experienced a complete and total falling away of everything. There was no more me, my sense of self was gone, disolved into nothing. It happened quite by accident, but the timing could not have been any better, especially since it was a moment in my life when things were falling apart.

    Now I meditate almost every day. The only times when I do not meditate are when I am in excruiating pain (I live with Chronic Pain), have not slept enough or I am sick with something like a fever. At the end of my 1/2 hour of meditation, I touch on the state of "no self" for a brief moment. It keeps me coming back again and again.


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