Unfortunately, the answer to ‘How long does it take to get enlightened’ depends on who you talk to. And there are many differing answers. So, even if there was a ‘correct answer’ it would be lost in all the apparent confusion.
And because there are so many conflicting answers, it must lead us to the conclusion that there is no ‘one answer that fits all.’
In this post, I’ll share different thoughts on how long it takes to get enlightened…. However, before we get there, shouldn’t we make sure we are talking about the same thing?
So, before continuing, please take a moment to consider what you think enlightenment is.
How Long Does It Take To Get Enlightened?
Some people seem to achieve spontaneous enlightenment, while others spend their whole lives seeking and never attaining it. Traditional Zen training teaches it takes 20 years. Others preach the number of 10,000 hours of meditation. The Buddha searched for 6 years and then sat in meditation for 49 days before becoming enlightened. And the bible tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is already within us….. and that means that it can take ‘No-Time’ to get what we already possess!
What Is Enlightenment?
I asked you ‘what you think enlightenment is’ because there seems to be a lot of misconceptions about what happens when we become enlightened. Therefore, we should figure out if we are talking about the same thing before you can decide how much of a hurry you are in to get there…. because, maybe, just maybe, it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.
According to Vocabularly.com “The word enlightened comes from the Latin prefix en meaning “in, into” and the word lux meaning “light.” Combine these meanings — “into the light” — and you’re describing what it is that characterizes an enlightened person: a sense of clarity and understanding. People often seek to be enlightened spiritually, by taking pilgrimages, meditating, or looking to spiritual gurus like the Dalai Lama.”
Many people have the misunderstanding that becoming enlightened will be an end to all their problems. They seek it for the selfish reasons of wanting to live in unending bliss, happiness, and peace.
This desire is coming from their ego-mind, they’re wanting to have fewer problems and live a better life….. and there is nothing wrong with this, however, that’s not enlightenment!
Enlightenment is not living in eternal bliss. And it’s not being ‘reunited’ with God. After all, you are already ONE with God, so how can you ‘unify’ with that which you already are? The “I AM.”
Instead, you just need to realize that which you already are, or ‘BE-COME’ (not seek, not go out and get, not fight/struggle/compete for…. but simply BE-COME that which you already are.
And if this is what you are after, you just have to choose to remember that “I AM” in every moment. If you can live this as your truth, you will begin the process of dissolving the veil of illusion (separation) and enlightenment WILL become your reality.
“As God is omnipresent in the cosmos but is undisturbed by its variety, so man, who as a soul is individualized Spirit, must learn to participate in this cosmic drama with a perfectly poised and equilibrated mind.” – Paramahansa Yogananda
……. the mental noise, the confusion, and all the doubts that have kept you from the truth of your divinity will disband….. until only a clear light remains…. that which you truly are.
How Long Does it Take to Get Enlightened?
Enlightenment or ‘Self-Realizion’ doesn’t take time…. ‘It takes Knowing.’ There are no set steps along the way where 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = enlightenment.
Therefore, it can take forever, or no time….. both are true.
However, when we believe that we must progress from this stage to the next, overcome obstacles, and grow spiritually, we are ‘trying to become enlightened’….. and in doing so, we are getting in our own way.
Doing more in the mistaken belief that we are somehow ‘not yet worthy to receive the elusive goal we seek’ implies that we feel we are not yet adequate to receive the prize, so we will not get it!
Sadhguru is a spiritual teacher whose opinion I respect, and this is what he has to say about how long it takes to get enlightened:
“It takes time because you do not give in all at once; you give in by installments. So whether you want to go by small installments and take 100 lifetimes, or you want to do it today is your choice. How long it takes simply depends on how intense is your longing to know.
“If you can casually ask ‘what happens after death? What is the source of my creation,’ that means you do not know the immensity of the question. If you want to know the truth like some entertainment, it will not happen.
If you want it in such a way that that is all you want, then it is just a moment away, because what you want to know is within you. What is within you cannot be denied to you by anybody except yourself. So, you just have to get yourself out of the way. Either you go in installments or you just go once.”
It will take us as long as we take, and that is the gift that ‘life is’ for our eternal souls. And the truth is that our soul is in no hurry to end this experience, this game, this particular life.
Will Meditation Help Me Become Enlightened More Quickly?
I’ve written quite a few posts about different aspects of meditation recently. And based on the research and my twenty-five-plus years of personal experience, there are no absolutes that suit everyone when it comes to meditation.
However, that’s not a bad thing! Because isn’t that the way of life? We all like different foods, learn in different ways, prefer different environments, and enjoy different movies…. We are all unique, and therefore it stands to reason that there is never going to be a single answer.
Many spiritual traditions teach that meditation is the shortest path to enlightenment. Many believe that it’s a state in which one can permanently experience peace while remaining alert.
However, peace is only possible when a person reconciles the opposites within, (the dualistic nature of all things) and sees things as they are, and has no attachment to anything. They know that the way things have been, the way things are, and the way things will be, is all ok.
And meditation is a great tool for helping us to come to this important realization. It helps us remain centered and balanced in all things, and through this, we realize that no matter how life unfolds there is never any reason to lose our cool.
Practical Steps You Can Take To Progress On Your Spiritual Journey
Following are some concrete steps, techniques, and practices that you can follow to help you progress on your spiritual path and to gain a better understanding of enlightenment:
- Cultivate Self-Awareness: Start by developing a daily practice of mindfulness and self-reflection. It’s easy to set aside just a few minutes each day to observe your thoughts, emotions, and sensations without judgment. This practice helps to increase self-awareness and deepen your understanding of your own inner landscape.
- Explore Meditation: Meditation is a powerful tool for calming the mind, cultivating inner peace, and gaining insight. You can begin with a simple mindfulness meditation, focusing on your breath or a chosen mantra. You may begin with maybe only 5 minutes and then gradually increase the duration of your practice over time, up to 20 or 30 minutes. If one technique doesn’t suit you, consider exploring different meditation techniques such as loving-kindness meditation or transcendental meditation until you find one that resonates well with you.
- Study Sacred Texts and Teachings: Engage with the wisdom of spiritual traditions by studying sacred texts and teachings. Explore the writings of spiritual leaders, philosophers, and enlightened beings who have shared their insights on the nature of enlightenment. Some recommended texts include the Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Ching, Dhammapada, and works by spiritual masters like Ram Dass, Yogananda, and Thich Nhat Hanh.
- Seek Guidance and Community: It’s great if you can connect with like-minded individuals who are also on a spiritual path. So, seek out teachers, mentors, or spiritual communities that resonate with your beliefs and values. Attend workshops, retreats, or satsangs to deepen your understanding and receive guidance from those who are more experienced than you.
- Practice Compassion and Service: Enlightenment is not just about personal growth; it also involves extending compassion and kindness to others. Therefore, engaging in acts of service, volunteer work, or random acts of kindness will help to cultivate a sense of interconnectedness as well as contribute to the well-being of others.
- Embrace Solitude and Silence: Create space in your life for solitude and silence. Taking regular breaks from external distractions to cultivate inner stillness is important. Spending time in nature, going on mindful walks, or engaging in contemplative practices that deepen your connection with the present moment and your own inner wisdom are all very beneficial to your journey.
- Cultivate Gratitude and Joy: Develop a sense of gratitude by regularly reflecting on the blessings in your life. You can cultivate joy by engaging in activities that bring you happiness and fulfillment. And by nurturing positive emotions, you create a fertile ground for spiritual growth and a deeper sense of connection with the world around you.
Remember, the path to enlightenment is unique for each individual. These practices are meant to serve as guidance, and it’s important that you explore a combination of different techniques to find what resonates with you personally. Please remember, if you remain open-minded, patient, and compassionate with yourself you will progress easier and more quickly on your spiritual journey.
Are There Any Potential Risks To Seeking Enlightenment Alone?
It’s also important to consider the potential risks and challenges associated with seeking enlightenment without proper guidance. Embarking on a spiritual journey without the support of qualified mentors or teachers can lead to confusion, lots of wrong or misleading information, and even mental and emotional harm. However, this does not mean that it is necessary to have the support of a more experienced teacher, because, after all, there are many paths to enlightenment!
Without the guidance of experienced practitioners, you may encounter difficulties in navigating the complexities of a spiritual path. Unfortunately, there are many ‘teachers’ out there teaching how to reach enlightenment, but they have yet to achieve it themselves…. therefore, it pays to be discerning about whose advice you follow.
I’m not saying these things to scare you. Rather, by making you aware of any potential risks, you will be empowered to make better decisions and seek out reliable sources of guidance that will make your journey easier.
Finding qualified mentors or teachers who can provide the necessary support, wisdom, and expertise will help ensure a safe and balanced spiritual journey. Enlightened mentors can offer valuable insights, provide practical techniques, and help individuals understand the nuances of their experiences.
They can also help you to recognize and navigate potential pitfalls, encourage self-reflection, and guide you toward a deeper understanding of yourself and your spiritual aspirations. And all of this means that you can approach your spiritual journey with greater clarity, more discernment, and with a greater chance of success.
“Buddhists who are convinced that there is such a thing as enlightenment and that they have the potential to realise it, and who are following the path to that realization, give little time to speculating on how long it will take. Seven days, seven months, seven years, seven lifetimes – however long it takes, there is no alternative route.”
What does this mean for you and the way you live your life?
It means that I don’t know how long it will take you to reach enlightenment, and neither do you.
And the harder you try to figure it out, the more bogged down in confusion you are going to become.
Therefore, the only wise and sensible thing to do is to get on with living your life in a way that aligns with your soul’s desires…… and if you do, you will, one day, sooner or later, find that you have ‘accidentally’ become enlightened.