shaman, spiritual, spirit, Enlightenment

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Spiritual enlightenment is a state of awareness that transcends the ordinary self and connects with a higher reality. It is often associated with a sense of peace, joy, and harmony with the universe. But what is the relationship between spiritual enlightenment and self-transcendence? self-transcendence is the ability to go beyond one’s personal boundaries and limitations, and to experience a sense of oneness with others and the world. In this article, we will explore what spiritual enlightenment is, how it is related to self-transcendence, and how they can be cultivated through various practices and disciplines.

What is spiritual enlightenment?

This is a question that many people ask, but few can answer with certainty. Spiritual enlightenment is not a fixed state or a goal that can be achieved. It is a process of awakening to the truth of reality and oneself. Spiritual enlightenment involves transcending the ego and the illusion of separation, and realizing the interconnectedness of all things. Spiritual enlightenment also means cultivating compassion, wisdom, and peace in one’s mind and heart. It is not something that can be taught or learned from books. It is a personal and experiential journey that requires practice, dedication, and openness. Spiritual enlightenment is not exclusive to any religion or tradition. It is a universal potential that anyone can access, regardless of their background or beliefs.

How does one know they are enlightened?

This is a question that many people have asked throughout history, but there is no definitive answer. Enlightenment is not a state that can be measured or verified by external criteria. It is a subjective experience that varies from person to person, and from moment to moment. Some possible signs of enlightenment are:

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  • A sense of peace and harmony with oneself and the world
  • Detachment from worldly desires and attachments
  • Recognition of the interconnection and interdependence of all things
  • compassion and kindness towards all living beings
  • Freedom from fear, anger, greed, and ignorance
  • A realization of one’s true nature and potential

However, these signs are not conclusive or permanent. One may experience some or all of them at different times, but they may also fade or disappear. One may also experience challenges, doubts, or difficulties along the way. Enlightenment is not a destination, but a journey. It is not something that one achieves once and for all, but something that one cultivates and practices every day. It is not a matter of knowing, but of being.

Enlightenment and self transcendence

The relationship between enlightenment and self transcendence is a complex and fascinating topic that has been explored by various philosophers, mystics, and scientists throughout history. Enlightenment can be defined as a state of heightened awareness, insight, and wisdom that transcends the ordinary limitations of the mind and the ego. Self transcendence can be defined as a process of going beyond one’s self-interest, identity, and attachments to experience a deeper connection with reality, others, and the divine.

Some thinkers have argued that Enlightenment and self transcendence are closely related or even synonymous, as both involve overcoming the illusions and delusions of the ego and realizing the true nature of oneself and reality. For example, in Buddhism, enlightenment is achieved by following the Noble Eightfold Path, which leads to the cessation of suffering and the attainment of Nirvana, a state of peace and bliss that transcends the cycle of birth and death.

In Hinduism, enlightenment is attained by realizing one’s true self (Atman) as identical with the supreme reality (Brahman), which is beyond all forms and attributes. In both traditions, Enlightenment is seen as the ultimate goal of human existence and the source of liberation and happiness.

However, enlightenment and self transcendence are not exclusive to Buddhism or any other specific religion or philosophy. They can be understood as universal human potentials that can be cultivated through various practices and experiences. According to Cloninger (2004), self transcendence is a personality trait that involves the expansion or evaporation of personal boundaries, which may potentially include spiritual experiences such as considering oneself an integral part of the universe. Self transcendence is distinctive as the first trait-concept of a spiritual nature to be incorporated into a major theory of personality (MacDonald, 2000).

Self transcendence is also related to character strengths, which are manifestations of spiritual life (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Character strengths are positive traits that reflect moral excellence and human flourishing. They are organized into six broad virtues: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. The virtue of transcendence encompasses those strengths that connect us to something larger than ourselves, such as appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, humour, and spirituality. These strengths can foster meaning-seeking, self-transcendence, and well-being (Wong, 2016).

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One way to illustrate the connection between enlightenment, self transcendence, and character strengths is to look at the lives of spiritual exemplars, who have demonstrated remarkable levels of wisdom, compassion, and service to humanity.

For instance, Mahatma Gandhi was a leader of the Indian independence movement and a champion of non-violence. He was inspired by his Hindu faith and his interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text that teaches the path of selfless action as a way to attain enlightenment. Gandhi practised various disciplines such as meditation, fasting, and celibacy to purify his mind and soul. He also devoted his life to fighting for social justice and human dignity. He exemplified the strengths of courage, humanity, justice, and spirituality.

Another example is Mother Teresa, who was a Catholic nun and a founder of the Missionaries of Charity. She dedicated her life to serving the poorest of the poor in India and other countries. She was motivated by her love for God and her desire to serve Him in His distressing disguise. Furthermore, she expressed her gratitude for being able to share in the suffering of Christ through her work. She also radiated joy and hope to those who were in despair. She embodied the strengths of humanity, temperance, and transcendence.

Other thinkers have suggested that Enlightenment and self transcendence are different or even opposed concepts, as they imply different ways of relating to oneself and reality.

For example, in some Western philosophical traditions, enlightenment is associated with rationality, science, and humanism, which emphasize the importance of human reason, autonomy, and progress.

In contrast, self transcendence is associated with spirituality, mysticism, and religion, which emphasize the importance of faith, surrender, and devotion.

With this view, enlightenment is seen as a way of empowering and improving oneself and society, while self-transcendence is seen as a way of escaping or denying oneself and reality. However, this view may be too simplistic and dichotomous, as there are also perspectives that suggest that both enlightenment and self transcendence can be complementary and interrelated aspects of human development and wellbeing.

For instance, Viktor Frankl (1963), a pioneer of existential psychology, proposed that self-transcendence is the essence of spirituality and the highest human need, as it involves expanding one’s boundaries beyond the self and finding meaning in relation to something greater than oneself. He argued that self-transcendence can foster Self-actualization, which is the realization of one’s full potential and authentic self.

Similarly, Abraham Maslow (1971), a founder of humanistic psychology, revised his famous hierarchy of needs to include self-transcendence as the ultimate stage beyond Self-actualization. He defined self-transcendence as “the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos” (p. 269). He suggested that self-transcendence can bring about peak experiences, which are moments of intense joy, awareness, and connection with a higher reality.

Moreover, some recent studies have indicated that character strengths such as wisdom, curiosity, love, gratitude, hope, and spirituality can be manifestations of spiritual life and facilitate both self-transcendence and wellbeing (Peterson & Seligman, 2004; Wong & Roychowdhury 2016). These studies indicate that Enlightenment and self transcendence are not necessarily mutually exclusive or antagonistic concepts, but rather can be integrated and harmonized in a holistic approach to human flourishing.

These examples show that enlightenment and self transcendence are not abstract concepts, but concrete realities that can be realized through various paths and practices. They also show that character strengths are not mere attributes, but expressions of spiritual life that can enhance our wellbeing and contribute to the common good.

The relationship between enlightenment and self transcendence is not a simple or straightforward one, but rather a multifaceted and dynamic one that reflects different perspectives and values. There is no definitive or universal answer to this question, but rather various possible answers that depend on one’s philosophical, religious, or personal preferences.

However, one thing that can be said is that both Enlightenment and self transcendence are important aspects of human experience that can enrich our lives and expand our horizons.

How to attain spiritual enlightenment

Spiritual enlightenment is a state of awareness and connection with the ultimate reality of existence. It is not something that can be achieved by following a set of rules or rituals, but rather by cultivating a mindset and lifestyle that fosters inner peace, compassion, and wisdom. Here are some steps that can help you on your journey towards spiritual enlightenment:

  • Meditate regularly. Meditation is a practice that helps you quiet your mind and focus on the present moment. It can also help you access deeper levels of consciousness and intuition. Meditation can take many forms, such as mindfulness, mantra, visualization, or breathing techniques. Find a method that suits you and practice it daily for at least 15 minutes.
  • Study various spiritual traditions and philosophies. Spiritual enlightenment is not limited to one religion or belief system. You can learn from different sources of wisdom and inspiration, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or any other spiritual path that resonates with you. Read books, listen to podcasts, watch videos, or attend workshops and seminars that expose you to different perspectives and teachings.
  • Practice gratitude and generosity. Being grateful for what you have and giving to others are powerful ways to cultivate a positive attitude and a sense of abundance. gratitude helps you appreciate the beauty and wonder of life, while generosity helps you share your gifts and talents with the world. You can practice gratitude by keeping a journal, saying thank you, or expressing your appreciation to someone. You can practice generosity by donating money, time, or resources to a cause you care about, volunteering for a community service, or helping someone in need.
  • Be mindful of your thoughts, words, and actions. Everything you think, say, and do has an impact on yourself and others. You can choose to be mindful of how you use your energy and influence in the world. You can choose to be kind, honest, respectful, and compassionate in your interactions with others. Also, you can choose to avoid negative emotions such as anger, fear, jealousy, or resentment. Furthermore, choose to focus on positive emotions such as love, joy, peace, or happiness.
  • Seek guidance from a mentor or teacher. Sometimes it can be helpful to have someone who can guide you on your spiritual journey. A mentor or teacher can offer you advice, feedback, support, and encouragement. They can also challenge you to grow and learn from your experiences. You can find a mentor or teacher in various ways, such as joining a spiritual group or community, taking a course or class, or reaching out to someone you admire or respect.
Further reading

If you are interested in exploring spiritual enlightenment, you might want to check out some of these weblinks that offer different perspectives and insights on this topic. Whether you are looking for a practical guide, a philosophical discussion, or a personal testimonial, these weblinks can help you expand your understanding and awareness of spiritual enlightenment.
This weblink provides an overview of what enlightenment means in Buddhism, as well as some common misconceptions and challenges that arise on the path to enlightenment. It also offers some advice on how to practice and cultivate enlightenment in everyday life.
This weblink features an article by Eckhart Tolle, a spiritual teacher and author of The Power of Now and A New Earth. He explains what enlightenment is not, and what it is in essence. He also shares some pointers on how to recognize and access the enlightened state of consciousness within yourself.
This weblink is a collection of articles, videos, podcasts, and events from Science and Non-duality, a platform that explores the intersection of science and spirituality. You can find various perspectives and approaches to enlightenment from scientists, philosophers, mystics, and artists.
This weblink is a blog post by Dr. Lisa Firestone, a clinical psychologist and author of Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice. She discusses what spiritual enlightenment is from a psychological perspective, and how it can benefit your mental health and well-being. She also suggests some steps to achieve spiritual enlightenment based on her own experience and research.


Cloninger C.R. (2004). Feeling Good: The Science of Well-Being. Oxford University Press.

Frankl V.E. (1963). Man’s Search for meaning: An Introduction to logotherapy. New York: Washington Square Press.

MacDonald D.A. (2000). spirituality: Description, measurement, and relation to the five factor model of personality. Journal of Personality 68(1):153–197.

Maslow A.H. (1971). The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. New York: Viking Press.

Peterson C., Seligman M.E.P. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. Oxford University Press.

Peterson C., Seligman M.E.P. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. New York: Oxford University Press.

Wong P.T.P., Roychowdhury D. (2016). meaning-Seeking self-transcendence Well-being. In A.S. Waterman (Ed.), The Wiley Handbook of Personal Construct Psychology (pp. 192-205). Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.


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