When I was younger, I remember praying to reach enlightenment. The idea of this mystical state of being where you were finally free from all the troubles of the world.
I realize now as I have aged that enlightenment in the form I described above doesn’t exist or rather it shouldn’t exist, not in that form anyway.
In chapter 33 the Tao Te Ching explains what I believe to be the truest form of enlightenment.
“Those who understand others are intelligent
Those who understand themselves are enlightened”TTC 33 (Lin)
I have thought for sometime now that enlightenment was more a state of illumination into ones own honest problems and the understanding of how to solve them.
In this understanding there is not a feeling of absolute bliss for some magical state of being that has taken over, but more of an understanding that something must be done or something must be accepted, either way it takes great resolve and can be a painful process.
That magical enlightenment I believed existed where all my problems disappeared has turned into an understanding that we can finally see all that we have issue with in this world as a problem of our own making, as our own responsibility to deal with.
I used to believe that Enlightenment meant someone or something else handled all the troubles in my life so that I could sit back and laugh and have a good time. I am seeing now that this is not so. Lao Tzu made this same assumption.
“Those who overcome others have strength
Those who overcome themselves are powerful
Those who know contentment are wealthy
Those who proceed vigorously have willpower”TTC 33 (Lin)
The gift of understanding enlightenment as the proceedings of our truest power, our greatest strength is what I believe Lao Tzu is referring to here.
Where in we do not simply float happily above the world no longer bothered by troubles or human flaws, rather we find our truest power in overcoming ourselves. Overcoming our faults or shortcomings.
I realized this while making amends to those I had wronged in my life through my addiction. It wasn’t that suddenly everything was better and life was somehow rosie, it was only that I made a choice to deal with myself head on and overcome my past so that I may use it to improve my present.
I found true freedom in this way. I found an enlightenment of my spirit. An enlightening of my entire life.
When I finally shined a light on the places in my life I had been avoiding real power was able to come forth. Power that exists for all of us inside every difficulty and it wasn’t some easy, breezy feeling. It was a gut punch but also a friends hand on my back helping me up.
We become wealthy when we realize our life is already full regardless of how it may look to someone else.
And our willpower is available when we fear that we cannot continue. Again that is not what I saw enlightenment as I didn’t think will power would be necessary but I see now that without overcoming something challenging and having to push yourself past what you believed you could achieve we cant enjoy the exponential growth of the spirit that lies with in us.
Which brings me to the last lines of the chapter.
Those who do not lose their base endure
Those who die but do not perish have longevityTTC 33 (Lin)
“Base” here in my opinion is referring to our root in spirit. A root in a deeper more powerful place than the physical realm can hold.
Those who know they have a base that is eternal do not fall in the face of challenge, because they know that no challenge on earth is as lasting or as powerful as our connection to spirit.
When we live with a life fully connected to this base then death does not hold us any longer . There can be no wiping away of who we are if we live fully connected.
Having overcome ourselves by connecting to this inner power. We root ourselves to eternal life and as we allow all we have been to die, our most authentic selves step onto the eternal stage and can shine forever as we have enlightened our being.