Who Gets Enlightened?

There is a question about “who” gets enlightened that seems to devolve into illogic. But there is an explanation that resolves this problem. (This isn’t my explanation, by the way – it’s all strictly Vedanta. I’m not making this up.)

First of all, “who” are we talking about? Not awareness. Awareness doesn’t get enlightened, since awareness is all there is, unchanging, and already complete and full. Nothing is going to change there. Awareness is who I am, and nothing about that changes with enlightenment.

So it must be the apparent person who gets enlightened – the one who feels bound and is suffering. In the apparent intellect of an apparent person, there is a knowledge that is gained whereby the identity, or location, of the “I” is seen or known to be identical with awareness, and not with the apparent person or intellect.

I’ll say that in a simpler way: The person figures out that it is not really a person, but is really awareness.

Now here’s where it seems illogical. If a person figures out that its existence is unreal, and its being is really awareness, then who remains to know this? It seems on the surface that the realized person would be “gone,” the intellect would be gone. These things have become subsumed or dissolved back into awareness where they came from, leaving no one here to be enlightened.

Here’s another way of saying this: How can this dissolving be known? There has to be an intellect here knowing the dissolving, but how can that be, if the intellect has dissolved? There seems to be an error in the logic.

But leave it to Vedanta to sort it out.

The solution is simple: The apparent person doesn’t go away! The person and intellect that appeared
before this knowledge took hold continues to appear after the knowledge takes hold. Enlightenment, or the knowledge that I am awareness, does not remove the apparent world.

The knowledge informs the apparent intellect about its true place in the scheme of things. That's its whole job. The intellect gets clear on the fact that it is not actually real (since only awareness is actually real), and that therefore any idea of “I” must not belong to it. It is apparently known in the apparent intellect, or reflected awareness, that the “I” can only possibly belong to awareness alone.

So this realization does not wipe out the apparent person, it only shifts the identification of who I am to the real one, away from the false one. The false one remains, with apparent knowledge.

I hear this question all the time – who is left to be enlightened? The question casts doubt on the whole idea of enlightenment, seeming to suggest that there is no such thing, or that it’s impossible – that anyone claiming to be enlightened is lying. But if you look at the question through the lens of this knowledge, you see that it’s only a conundrum when we are stuck in the notion “I am this person.”

The shift in identification is what enlightenment is. It is knowing with certainty that I am unchanging, unlimited, unbound awareness, and that all these objects appear in me.

How is this shift made?
Vedanta! Vedanta explains all the ins and outs of how this is done. Please see my Vedanta page for more information.