Spiritual Enlightenment – Is it a Myth or Real?

What the hell is this spiritual enlightenment or spiritual awakening? Can you come up with one definition that everyone in the world will agree with? Many words have been associated with it: Moksha, Mukthi, Brahmajnana, Atmajnana, Nirvana, Bodhi, Kensho, Satori, Samadhi, Kevali, Kaivalya, Salvation, union with God etc. Many of them have different definitions, paths (practices) and theories.

But, one thing this enlightenment implies is that it is the purpose of the human life…For example, Indian tradition lists four main pursuits of life; virtue (dharma), wealth (artha), pleasure (kama) and enlightenment (moksha)… Modern psychology has another word for whatever the human life is progressing towards; it is called self-actualization, which is similar to the concept of enlightenment in many ways.


When I went through a spiritual transformation myself, I found that whatever that happened to me agrees with one aspect which is almost present in all these traditions. It is the liberation from the identification with your self-concept. It literally destroyed the psychological boundaries between me and the world. It resulted in a drastic reduction of self-referential thought and emotional reactivity and made me peaceful forever. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing I can do to add more to who I am…. It is, with no doubt, a complete irreversible transformation which left me complete and fulfilled in the present moment. I had blissful epiphanies for a couple of months when I was going through this transformation.  I felt like I was out of a prison. After that, I didn’t think about enlightenment for at least three years.. The life went on like a comfortable and joyful train journey.

Read my story of spiritual seeking, prior to this transformation: The Journey of a Seeker

But there are other concepts which are associated with enlightenment and mentioned by many of the enlightenment gurus we have seen so far…  Here is a list of some of those concepts:

  • Being enlightened is like being in ecstatic bliss 24/7.
  • Once you are enlightened, you will remember your past lives.
  • You radiate some kind of energy which can be felt by people near you.
  • You can recognize another enlightened person by sight.
  • You don’t have any cravings or ego anymore… You are just pure consciousness with no thoughts, no cravings, and no ego!
  • If you want to die, you can do it by your own will and by causing no pain or damage to the body.
  • You can see auras of other people.

Nothing like that ever happened to me after the transformation and it has been three years now. But some people used to say that I was the happiest person in the world. I had a smile in my face whenever I met any of my friends and I looked happy and full of energy all the time. But I did face challenges and even went through some suffering time to time. They were not at all felt personal and left no trace in my psyche but they did give me a hard time.

Another thing that is noteworthy is that I felt like I was born again. This is consistent with the concept of ‘dvija’ in Indian tradition. In a couple of months after transformation, I was left with no motivation. I felt like there is nothing more to do with this life. So, I had to create a motivation that would give me a direction for life.  For the time being, I decided to perform as well as I can at work.

But I noticed that when it came to social behaviour, I made no attempt to impress others, influence the behaviour of others or even gossip with others, which affected a few things in my life. I was running a family. So, it was very important for my dependants that I influence other people to get things to happen the way I wanted them to happen.  For example, I needed to get promoted soon so that I could take care of my family in a better way. Because of these demands, certain things began to change. I had to consciously create a subtle ego and personality. I also had to choose a mission for my life, (not a goal that I want to reach but a direction I want to go towards) which will keep me motivated to do things in life. These changes happened very gradually and soon I realized that I had been relearning certain things in life as a total new born. My brain was creating fresh associations with each stimuli and experience.  I started to get classically conditioned all over again. But all of this happened very consciously and I could see those changes for what they were. I also noticed that my genetic factors were intact and they still influenced the way I thought and behaved.

Around May 2016, I bought a book called ‘Psychology’ 5th edition written by Robert A. Baron and Girishwar Mishra. Learning psychology changed a lot of things. It was very interesting to learn about why people behaved the way they did and it offered a lot of new insights to my own transformation. (I was also using cannabis everyday during this time). At the same time, I also suffered from Insomnia because I always felt energetic and I could never get myself to sleep so easily. Sleep deprivation, vigorous study of psychology and hard work at office caused me to be active all the time. My highest record was set when I was awake continuously for 45 hours with maximum activity.

I started seeing many connections in totally disconnected happenings of my life in the past .Things were happening so fast that I was not able to keep myself balanced. It was like riding in a roller coaster most of the time.  Every bit of my body and mind was throbbing with energy. The valence of my emotions kept changing every hour. It would be miserable for an hour; then I would feel peaceful as if nothing had happened, for the next hour.

I started behaving like a lunatic and things got worse. Soon I left my job and went to my parent’s home. The roller coaster continued and I was admitted in a psychiatric hospital for 10 days. The doctor prescribed haloperidol and chlorpromazine. (They are usually prescribed for schizophrenia. But I know the symptoms and I was not schizophrenic. ) The doctors didn’t even bother to talk to me or counsel me. And, there was a serious side effect with these tablets; they cause Akathesia, the worst disorder one could ever get. If you have akathesia you cannot sit still or stand in one place for more than 3-4 minutes. You will always have an urge to keep moving your body. I suffered from akathesia for more than a month. It was cured by taking trihexphenydil  and clonazepam (The doctors were not helpful. I had to search in Wikipedia to find out which antipsychotic drugs were causing the problem and just skip them).

These symptoms that I underwent is actually known as spiritual crisis which was listed first in DSM-IV ( Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). They are supposed to be diagnosed and treated differently. But usually, a lot of psychiatrists who are not aware of this treat these symptoms as indications of a regular mental disorder.

Now, I feel like I have become a grown up boy in this new second birth. (I am talking about ‘dvija’; not about a previous incarnation). I have a better clarity of what exactly happened in me in the last three years. U.G Krishnamurti went through a similar transformation in his life and he used to call it a ‘calamity’. Also, he has said in his interviews that he had to learn certain things from scratch as well. I haven’t read his books much, but the word ‘calamity’ actually suits what I went through.

After I was cured from Akathesia, I settled down in my new job and everything became fine. Life is beautiful now. As far as my subjective well-being is concerned, there is no way it can be any better than this. I am not seeking anything anymore (as I already feel complete and liberated) but I am still interested in this concept of enlightenment and find out the neural correlates of it in the brain. I cannot do this alone. But my mission is to contribute towards a scientific research on human transformation. I spend my time reading psychology journals, science papers and articles, writing blog posts, reading about the awakening experiences of others etc.

My life is now full of awe and curiosity, and this awakening seems to be deepening; I see no limits for the depth. Whether this is enlightenment or not doesn’t matter to me. If someone says that this is enlightenment, I would probably say ‘oh, I see’… If they say I still have to work towards another shift called ‘enlightenment’, I wouldn’t bother about it. Because, anything beyond this will be an unnecessary luxury.

Even though I personally don’t have to worry about it, I still have to study about enlightenment and compare my experience with other authentic awakened people so that I can contribute something to the scientific research. I began to search in forums and Quora for personal testimonies of awakening. I found out that most of the testimonies are similar to my own awakening and it is very common as well. I also found that there is no scientific evidence for paranormal powers in spite of thousands and thousands of studies conducted on alleged psychics so far. A guy called James Randi even challenged people that he would offer millions of dollars to any person who proves he has such powers. Many people volunteered but nothing was proved.

I am not saying that nothing paranormal exists; I am just saying that I don’t know.. There is no evidence, I have no first hand experience and I don’t believe in ‘believing’ anymore!

At the same time, there are always cult movements showing up which cause a lot of controversies. Some of them do offer useful guidance towards self-realization, but they are often mixed with the authority’s own opinions. In some cases, there have been even abusive behavior towards the followers. If a public science of spiritual awakening is created and a way to recognize awakened people with brain imaging technology has been established, then all these problems will be solved.

At this point, all I can say based on my own experience is that freedom from self-concept does exist and it does liberate you and make you peaceful and free human being. Most of the people call this enlightenment. But a few people claim the ever-bliss, paranormal spiritual awakening as enlightenment. Whether such a thing exists or not, I don’t know yet.

As a young scientist, I want to take this very carefully and step by step. Even If I don’t manage to get the public attention in my lifetime, my findings and theories will remain in my blog forever, so that people can read it even after I am gone.





Author: Shanmugam

I am a blogger and I was a spiritual seeker. I had a tremendous awakening experience in July 12, 2014 on a Gurupurnima day in the presence of Sadhguru but I wouldn’t call that as spiritual enlightenment. But it did free me from many things and changed many things.

14 thoughts on “Spiritual Enlightenment – Is it a Myth or Real?”

  1. What a beautiful post. The possibility of a science of enlightenment also intrigues me. I was watching a video this morning where someone compared spiritual transformation with adolescence. It is like a further developmental stage. Whether large numbers of people will ever go through this stage, I do not know. After all, genuine evolutionary change can take hundreds of thousands of years.


      1. The video is an interview with Philip St. Romain on his experience of Christian kundalini. It is a long video, and the sound quality is not very good. (Turn down the bass and turn up the treble on your sound if you can.) At 56:43 Phil discovers Bernadette Roberts’ books on no-self. At 1:06:32 he talks about how his prayers began to change. The crown chakra began to hurt, as the energy went into the tightness there. His attention was drawn to sensations of intense heat at the top of his head. Finally it began to open. It felt like a cool breeze pouring into him from his crown. By the end of the summer, it was open. At 1:12:08 he says he had now learned about chakras from other people and from books. At 1:15:38 he compares this learning with an adolescent learning about adolescence. At 1:16:13 he says: “Adolescence is a good analogy to the kundalini process.” Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMgOHodxKSU


    1. Do you mean a review about Sri Bhagwad Purana? No bro.. I am not much attracted to Puranas.. I studied a lot of puranic stories when I was a boy but I moved on to more deeper topics after that. From what I have seen, the focus of Puranas is in glorifying a particular personal deity..


  2. I just read 4 of your posts in one sitting. There is a lot in common that i share with you when it comes to subjective experiences, especially the part related to suffering. I had experienced akathisia too, which lasted for 2 weeks. The doctor diagnosed me as having bipolar disorder when i never had any manic or hypomanic episodes. prior to that i was taking thyroid medications, a bunch of antidepressants, sleeping pills etc for over a year under a different doctor to treat my depression and insomnia but it was not working. The new doctor stopped all my prior medications and started the bipolar ones, and i spent 2 weeks in agony and torment like you have described. eventually i stopped those medications and later on had treatment from CMC vellore. This was almost a decade ago, i was studying electrical engineering in iit madras back then. lost several precious years due to wrong diagnosis and treatment. I have been better since then, got addicted to alcohol twice though for several months due to highly stressful events.

    I am greatly interested in spirituality but have not made much progress in it. My family is deeply religious and i underwent the same religious training that most children have to go through in such an environment. But i never believed in everything that was told to me. I went to a catholic school where a different concept of god was taught and the aesthetics were very different compared to hinduism. I read an abridged version of the bible when i was 10. Since i am a bengali, i had already been exposed to core ideas of ramakrishna and vivekananda by then. I was learning simple magic tricks from books as well during that time. Couple of years later i started to read books written by prabir ghosh. He is the james randi of india and had been busting godmen for several decades. He was a big influence for me, and i learned about skepticism. During teenage years i read works written by vivekanada, the bhagavad gita and “kathamrita” and found interesting ideas, some cheesy stuff and some things which was beyond my comprehension then(even now). After that college happened, and i never did any serious study of indian philosophy. I gradually became disgruntled with religion and became a nihilist during college years. Of late now i have started reading western philosophy. but progress is quite slow due to work and personal commitments.

    Sir, you seem to have significant amount of knowledge as well as understanding on the topic of spirituality. I would like to stay in touch. The notion of having scientific studies to verify spiritual claims is needed, and it’s being done across the world, though i believe it to be quite infrequent. however there are problems in the ways many of the studies are carried out, plus the devices and equipment costs a lot of money. In the end all these scientific experiments might not be able to solve the puzzle. very little is still known about our brain. That these scientific experiments might ever be useful is based on a reductionist model of the brain where each part carries out specific function(s). this might or might not be the case.


    1. Thanks for sharing all this, It is very interesting to know.If you are looking for spiritual progress, then I would suggest trying Osho’s witnessing.. It is a very powerful technique.

      You can stay in touch with me through Quora. Here is the link to my profile: https://www.quora.com/profile/Shanmugam-P-12

      Yeah, I agree with you regarding the complications in doing scientific research on spiritual claims, but that is the only direction to go for to add authority and appeal to spiritual teachings. Things will happen very slowly and it may take another 100 years to see a substantial progress in this. But it is very important to raise the awareness on this now and keep the process going.

      Liked by 1 person

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