One definition of enlightenment is: the realization of spiritual or religious understanding, or, especially in Buddhism, the state attained when the cycle of reincarnation ends and human desire and suffering are transcended. When I was in my 20s, a member of a spiritual group, meditating every day, I figured it wouldn’t be too long before I became ‘enlightened.’ Oh, my. You’re probably laughing at me—or, as my daughter says, you’re laughing with me, right?
I was recently reading from Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda’s telling of his journey to enlightenment and becoming a spiritual master, guru to many people around the world who personally knew him before he died in 1952, and to who-knows-how-many more persons he visits from the spiritual realms. (He was often visited by enlightened masters, including Jesus Christ, while alive and tells these stories in his autobiography.) He recounts being a baby, frustrated by visions of his past lives and wanting to talk with his mother and others about them, but he couldn’t yet speak. I read his book the first time in my mid-20s and couldn’t stop thinking about his story for years. Ultimately, it was his friendship with God that caused me to consider God my friend, too.
The qualities of a spiritual master include becoming a being of light who chooses to stay on Earth only to love and guide spiritual seekers, for nothing else of the world holds any interest for them. As a young man, P. Yogananda met a master, Swami Pranabananda, who could be in two places at one time—wherever his body was and also with a disciple in need. What a great love this is, this choosing not to go to the Divine–perhaps their last longing–but staying to serve others. Ultimately, it is the masters’ deep and abiding love for the Creator that brings about the final at-one-ment.
For more information about Paramahansa Yogananda, contact the organization he established, the Self Realization Fellowship, in Los Angeles, Ca, before his passing. For an unforgettable summer read, you can pick up his autobiography at nearly every bookstore.