Before enlightenment, I chopped wood
and carried water.  After enlightenment,
I chopped wood and carried water.

Zen saying


If we pretend to be more enlightened than we really are, we will miss an opportunity to heal ourselves.  Admitting our limitations can make us feel vulnerable, yet it is very freeing.  We just have to be ourselves as we are now, accepting the mixture of enlightened awareness and human limitation that is in each of us.  Through this self-acceptance, we find a deep peace and self-love.

Shakti Gawain

There are many paths to enlightenment.  Be sure to take one with a heart.

Lao Tzu

If we demand enlightenment, it hides. . . .  All that we can do is make ourselves enlightenment-prone.  We learn to treasure the possibility of awakening in all moments and circumstances.  We learn to simplify and cultivate the receptivity of heart that can be touched by profound understanding.  We learn to listen deeply and discover stillness amid the movement in our world.

Christina Feldman


There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination.  Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.

Anais Nin


Nirvana or lasting enlightenment or true spiritual growth
can be achieved only through persistent exercise of real love.

M. Scott Peck


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Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions
of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.

Thomas Jefferson


You may have expected that enlightenment would come Zap! instantaneous
and permanent.  This is unlikely. After the first "ah-ha" experience,
it can be thought of as the thinning of a layer of clouds.

Ram Dass


To be surprised, to wonder, is to begin to understand.

Jose Ortega y Gasset


Even to be attached to the idea of enlightenment is to go astray.

Sen Sen Ming


Everybody wants to get enlightened but nobody wants to change.
This is the simple, daunting truth that has been staring back at me
from the eyes of countless seekers over the years.  "I really want
to get enlightened," they insist.  "But are YOU ready to CHANGE
now?" I ask.  "What?" is the inevitable response—surprised and
even slightly stunned.  And I repeat, "Are YOU ready to CHANGE
now?"  What follows is always a strange and surreal moment of
ambiguity, confusion, and backpedaling.
"But I thought you wanted to get enlightened... "

Andrew Cohen


Words that enlighten the soul are more precious than jewels.

Hazrat Inayat Khan



Enlightenment means taking full responsibility for your life.


To see the world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.


An enlightenment experience—suddenly seeing reality just as it is—just
means that for a moment one’s personal considerations about life are
gone.  And for a second one sees the universal.  The problem with most
enlightenment experiences is that people hold on to them, treasure them,
and then they become a hindrance.  The point isn’t the experience—it’s
going on with our life.  And any value that experience has is within
ourselves; we don’t need to worry about it.

Charlotte Joko Beck
Everyday Zen: Love and Work



If one wishes to be sure of the road one treads on,
one must close one's eyes and walk in the dark.

Saint John of the Cross

Enlightenment is not about becoming divine.  Instead it's about
becoming more fully human. . . It is the end of ignorance.

Lama Surya Das


To the illumined man or woman, a clod of
dirt, a stone, and gold are the same.

Bhagavad Gita



It's in the entrails of the earth, not on its surface, that you can find
diamonds and gold.  It's in going into the darkness that we find enlightenment.

Robert Scaer


To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one's family, to bring
peace to all, one must first discipline and control one's own mind.  If a
person can control his or her mind, he or she can find the way to
Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him or her.

The Buddha


There is no enlightenment outside of daily life.

Thich Nhat Hanh


If I could define enlightenment briefly I would say it is
"the quiet acceptance of what is."

Wayne Dyer


The real meaning of enlightenment is to gaze with
undimmed eyes on all darkness.

Nikos Kazantzakis


Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water.
The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken.
Although its light is wide and great,
The moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide.
The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected
in one dewdrop on the grass.



You never know where enlightenment may come from.  Be always open,
on the lookout and ready for it.  Usually it is a click, something which falls
into place after a long time of gestation.  The most unexpected event
or person can trigger it off.

Robert Muller


The attainment of enlightenment from ego's point of view is extreme death,
the death of self, the death of me and mine, the death of the watcher.
It is the ultimate and final disappointment.

Chogyam Trungpa


One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,
but by making the darkness conscious.

Carl Jung

Enlightened space, the place of unconditional love, cannot be achieved until
and unless one is willing to be comfortable with paradox and confusion.

Ralph Walker

Do not think you will necessarily be aware of your own enlightenment.




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Going back to the origin is called peace; it means reversion to destiny.
Reversion to destiny is called eternity.
They who know eternity are called enlightened.

Lao Tzu

In this world, aspirants may find enlightenment by two different paths.
For the contemplative is the path of knowledge;
for the active is the path of selfless action.

The Bhagavad Gita

Liberation and enlightenment do not exist outside of your own self.
We need only open our eyes to see that we ourselves are the very
essence of liberation and enlightenment.  All dharmas, all beings,
contain the nature of full enlightenment within themselves.  Don't look
for it outside yourself.  If you shine the light of awareness on your
own self, you will realize enlightenment immediately.

Thich Nhat Hanh


Those who think that any action can lead to their "enlightenment"
are turning their backs on the truth:  they are thinking that there is
a "he" or a "she" there to be "enlightened," whereas "enlightenment"
is a name for the state wherein there is no separate individual at all,
and which is that of all sentient beings, a name for what they are,
but which cannot be recognized by anyone who believes
him or herself to be an autonomous individual.

Wei Wu Wei (Terence Gray)

I was sitting in a train when it happened, crossing the Punjab to Pathankot and reading a book on Buddhism.  And sitting there in that crowded train, with all its heat and smell, suddenly it was utterly self-evident that I did not exist in the way I thought I did.  And this realization brought with the experience which I can only describe as a kernel of popcorn popping.  It was as though the inside came out on the outside and I looked with wonder and joy at everything.  And the sense then was of unutterable relief, of "I don't need to do anything with the self, I don't need to improve it or make it good or sacrifice it or crucify it--I don't need to do anything because it isn't even there. . . ."  There was an immense feeling of release, and with that release came at once, immediately, a feeling that it was release into action.

Joanna Macy

Enlightenment does not consist of pretending to be where we are not;
enlightenment means being in touch with where we are and being willing
to learn what God would have us learn from it.  Sometimes the purpose
of a day is to merely feel our sadness, knowing that as we do we allow
whole layers of grief, like old skin cells, to drop off us.

Marianne Williamson

Enlightenment is one’s leaving one's self-caused immaturity.
Immaturity is the incapacity to use one's intelligence without
the guidance of another. Such immaturity is self-caused if it is
not caused by lack of intelligence, but by lack of determination
and courage to use one's intelligence without being guided by
another. Sapere Aude! Have the courage to use your own
intelligence! is therefore the motto of the enlightenment.

Immanuel Kant


We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark;
the real tragedy is when adults are afraid of the light.



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One of the core meanings of enlightenment is liberation from false and
spurious value attachments that blind you to your true essence.  When
and if I learn that I am ultimately my mind and my manner of using it;
when and if I understand that ego is only the internal experience of
consciousness, the ultimate center of awareness, I am free.

Nathaniel Branden
Self-Esteem Every Day

Enlightenment must come little by little, otherwise it would overwhelm.

Idries Shah


If you seek enlightenment outside yourself, then your performing even
ten thousand practices and ten thousand good deeds will be in vain.  It
is like the case of a poor man who spends night and day counting
his neighbor's wealth but gains not even half a coin.



Enlightenment is not something you achieve.  It is the absence of
something.  All your life you have been going forward after
something, pursuing some goal.  Enlightenment is dropping all that.
But to talk about it is of little use.  The practice has to be done by
each individual.  There is no substitute.  We can read about it until
we are a thousand years old and it won’t do a thing for us.  We
all have to practice, and we have to practice with all
of our might for the rest of our lives.

Charlotte Joko Beck
Everyday Zen: Love and Work

When people ask me about enlightenment I almost always answer by
saying that it’s not what we think it is.  Enlightenment is a mysterious
process, not unlike God, truth, or love.  No one definition is large
enough to encompass it. Each experience is unique—as we are each
unique. Enlightenment—whether you call it spiritual awakening, liberation,
illumination, or satori—means profound inner transformation and
self-realization.  In fact, there are different degrees and depths of
enlightenment experience, stretching from an initial momentary glimpse
of reality all the way to the fullest actualization of Buddhahood,
the fullest form of enlightenment.

Lama Surya Das
Awakening the Buddha Within



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Yes, life can be mysterious and confusing--but there's much of life that's actually rather dependable and reliable.  Some principles apply to life in so many different contexts that they can truly be called universal--and learning what they are and how to approach them and use them can teach us some of the most important lessons that we've ever learned.
My doctorate is in Teaching and Learning.  I use it a lot when I teach at school, but I also do my best to apply what I've learned to the life I'm living, and to observe how others live their lives.  What makes them happy or unhappy, stressed or peaceful, selfish or generous, compassionate or arrogant?  In this book, I've done my best to pass on to you what I've learned from people in my life, writers whose works I've read, and stories that I've heard.  Perhaps these principles can be a positive part of your life, too!
Universal Principles of Living Life Fully.  Awareness of these principles can explain a lot and take much of the frustration out of the lives we lead.



Explore all of our quotations pages--these links will take you to the first page of each topic, and those pages will contain links to any additional pages on the same topic.

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