The answer is actually pretty simpler than what most people think.
First of all, any kind of experience or any way of experiencing life cannot be really described.
How will you describe stomach pain? Go ahead and try it… You may say ‘it is very painful; my stomach is really aching as if something is biting it, crushing it or pinching it’.. But this doesn’t really describe the stomach pain. These words do not translate the experience of stomach pain.
But still, the person who hears the word ‘stomach pain’ recognizes what it is. How? Because the person who hears it has already experienced pain before. The word ‘stomach pain’ has been associated with an experience that you are pretty familiar with and there is consensus on it among everyone because almost everyone has experienced stomach pain.
When you look at a tree, what is actually happening is an experience of a certain pattern of sense perception. This experience of perceiving a tree is completely private to your inner world. But as soon as you utter the word ‘tree’, the other person understands what it is. Why? Because the word ‘tree’ is associated with certain kind of visual perception which everyone is familiar with. And there is consensus on it among everyone because almost everyone has seen a tree and used the word ‘tree’ to name it.
All perceptions that happen through our five senses are nothing but experiences. But you can communicate what you are experiencing simply because another person has also experienced these perceptions and we have associated a word for each individual pattern of sense perceptions.
When I say ‘I looked at a beautiful flower on a cold winter morning during sunrise while hearing the sounds of birds’ you get the picture right? But a person who is blind and deaf from birth will not get the complete picture. He only understands how a ‘cold winter’ feels like because that is the only thing he has experienced among a myriad of sense perceptions which are actually conveyed in that sentence.
In fact, your entire life happens only on the basis of conscious subjective experience. You understand that there is an external world only by inference. And only because of certain consensus that exists about this ‘external world’, we are able to deal with practical things in life. That is why we call the external world as ‘maya’ because it is actually an appearance that appears in the conscious subjective experience. This is self-evident. You just need to shift the focus to see it.
A small kid less than one-year-old thinks that an object doesn’t exist as soon as it disappears from its view. Only later, it starts inferring using the intellect that an object continues to exist even after it is hidden from the view. This is called object permeance and is one of the concepts in psychology:.
The same way, a child later develops ‘‘ with which it knows that others also have a mind. Please note that all this have been accomplished only by the inference of the intellect (Buddhi) alone! It is this inferential knowledge, which has become reified or solidified in our mind as time passed by. The nature of Buddhi is to categorize things, and one of the earliest categorizations that it did was the division between ‘me’ and the ‘world’. The reification of this categorization is what ego or ‘ahamkara’ is…. A spiritual practice is nothing but retracing our steps and going back to the source.
When we are talking about enlightenment, we are not talking about a distinct experience but a way of experiencing reality.
How can I explain how it feels like to not to have a sense of separate self to a person who is not experiencing the reality that way?
How can I explain how it feels like to be out of psychological time, to a person who is still trapped in psychological time?
How can I explain how it feels like to live with an unaltered state of consciousness to a person whose consciousness is altered by duality?
I can only give some clues. It feels more authentic than the regular way of experiencing reality; it feels as if a huge load has been lifted off of your shoulders; it feels as if you are weightless; it feels pure, innocent, conflict-less and it really is indescribable simply because most of the people are not experiencing life this way.
But even if you understand all this, it would be only an intellectual understanding. It is self-realization which gives you a direct perception of the truth. Only then you really see it, just like how a person who was blind from birth suddenly sees the world one day after his eyesight has been cured. Whatever he has heard by verbal testimony is now confirmed by his direct experience.
Read the following posts for more about enlightenment and spiritual path: