What Is Enlightenment? Breaking the Cycle of Death and Rebirth
by Lama D, faculty at the School of Consciousness & Spirituality, NewEarth University (NEU)
(Note: gratitude to the author for including his photos and graphics from his private collection.)
Many people ask me how to raise spiritual awareness. Others ask me if “Ascension” is the same as “Enlightenment”. Well, it all depends on your goal. In this article I will explain the Structure of the Universe and the Laws of Nature. When you understand the rules of the game you will better know how to achieve your goal.
“Enlightenment” is a very great achievement for a soul. It means your soul moves out of the physical realm forever. To do this requires a great deal of luck, accumulated virtue, and effort. As you ascend to higher levels of being, your life becomes sacred, blessed, lucky, your dark tendencies dissolve, negative thoughts and emotions do not plague you. You become happier. “Ascension” is different. Ascension means you move up to higher levels within the physical realm. Ascension can happen for an individual, a family, a group, a society, or even a whole planet. Who will ascend and who will not depends entirely on that individual’s circumstances, luck, and effort. Only God knows this. We cannot judge anyone else.
We live in a magnificent multi-dimensional world. What we call “God” is Pure Universal Oneness, the Laws of Nature, the pure mind of love that came before all religions. It is the “Great Spirit”, the ever-expanding “Being” and creator of dimensions. Some Buddhists call it “Amitabha”, the original source Buddha millions of years ago. He shows the way, but he cannot do it for you. Your responsibility is to uplift your own spirit. I am very happy to be here and to have this opportunity.
You are the creator of your own reality. Uplift your consciousness. You can’t be a victim. You are never alone. Unite with other people. Be someone who uplifts everyone around you. Death does not exist. Death just means our eternal soul moves from one place or time to another. Face the issues in your life, even the harsh, uncomfortable realities. This will hasten your freedom and happiness.
What Does It Mean to be Enlightened?
Enlightenment is an “Awakened” state of being where you enjoy divine happiness all the time. It is called “Sangha”, and when you achieve it, it is yours forever. Enlightenment means your body, mind, and thoughts are pure. You live as a higher being beyond the physical world in Paradise, and you do not need to be reborn into physical life.
Samsara is the physical realms of the matrix in which we experience the cycle of birth and rebirth over many lifetimes. Life in the physical realms is characterized by delusion and suffering.
What are the Six Realms of Samsara?
This is sometimes called the physical realm or the Matrix. This realm is guarded by a terrible demon. The six realms of Samsara are 1) the Deva realm of Gods, 2) Asura Demi-God realm, 3) Human realm, 4) Animal realm, 5) Hungry ghosts realm, and 6) the Hell realm. These can be seen as physical locations, metaphor, or other multi-dimensional realities.
What are the activities that bring one to enlightenment?
We work to train the mind. We mindfully observe our thoughts. Chanting sacred syllables with specific visualizations is a powerful tool to purify the body, mind, and thoughts. We can study the Three Jewels as a starting point.
What are the qualities of an enlightened being?
Enlightened beings have excellent health and emotional equanimity. They can perceive higher dimensions, time, and space. Like a celestial being or a god, these beings have no selfish interest, only the wish to bring benefit for others. An enlightened person can choose to remain in Paradise, or be reincarnated as an evolved human. Their words are spiritual and powerful.
Every tradition has its own concept of enlightenment, and these are compatible with Buddhism. An ascension event to 4D, 5D, 6D, etc. can take place for individuals or groups of embodied souls within Samsara, but this is not enlightenment. Enlightenment means you exit Samsara and the physical plane, forever free to live as an etheric being. This requires extraordinary personal effort and a unique achievement reserved for very few souls. Other terms for this great achievement are nirvana, moksha, and mahasamadhi.
The six realms of Samsara are depicted in a Bhavacakra or “Wheel of Life” in Buddhist cosmology. The terrible demon Yama represents the power of fear. He holds the six realms entrapped in magic so that no soul can exit. All beings are born, they live, and die within the confines of these six physical realms. Beyond this world lies the infinite realm of Paradise for Enlightened Beings who are “awakened”. Buddhism teaches tools to purify the mind, body, and habits, in order to achieve Enlightenment. Then we can exit the world of Samsara and ascend to the higher realms of joy.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ENLIGHTENED?
Enlightenment is a state of being where you enjoy divine happiness all the time. It is forever. Enlightenment means you live beyond the physical world in Paradise. You become a celestial being or a god with vast abilities to help living beings. You are free to choose to have a body and live in the physical universe, or you may remain a spirit.
What is Paradise? Beyond the six realms of samsara lie the higher realms of infinite dimensions of joy and freedom. In Buddhism, Paradise is “Zshingkham”, the realm for enlightened beings. Paradise is beyond the physical world, beyond the 6 realms of Samsara and suffering.
There are many layers, realms, and dimensions, ruled by the universal laws of Nature, which is essentially vibration. That which vibrates at a higher frequency moves up to the next dimensions, and the lower vibrations are removed. All things are in a continuous state of transformation. Impermanence is the concept that the universe is constantly in flux and changing. So, what is here today might be gone tomorrow. Nothing is forever. Our physical bodies, our society, our human belief systems, and our thought networks all move around in different shapes. They change color, dissolve, and transform constantly. This happens on a cellular level, individual level, a society level, even a planetary level. Everything is interconnected. Everything finds a new balance.
In Buddhist monastic study there are three levels to the conceptual training. These represent a continuum of advanced visualizations, rather than separate lineages.
Hinayana begins training the pure mind with limited thinking power. No essence of negatives, we never destroy other life, we are not focused on helping others
Mahayana uses high thinking power and expanded world view. Everyone is our Mother. We use our pure mind to offer powerful assistance to all of life.
Vajrayana represents the highest thinking power of the most expansive world view. All is divine God. We become like a Boddhisattva, or Buddha nature.
WHAT IS SAMSARA?
In Buddhism, Samsara is the six physical realms in which we experience the cycle of birth and rebirth over many lifetimes. Sometimes called “the 3D matrix”, life in the physical realms is characterized by delusion and suffering. This is due to three primary factors: 1) Human limited bandwidth of sensory perception of the five senses and skewed interpretation of the senses. 2) emotional distortions, bad habits, and negative tendencies in the individual and the environment. Shared ignorant beliefs and values, such as the belief in the independent ego nature of the SELF, and the value of money, cause great confusion and unhappiness. 3) Our expectations effectively create a vibrational field that invites the same misunderstanding to repeat in a never-ending cycle. Altogether these factors create and augment stress, disease, pain, and bind us to unhappiness. Our highest path is to resolve these issues and exit from this world.
The center cycle shows the real seeds for Samsara. A rooster signifies huge desire, which produces greed and selfishness. The serpent is anger, never giving a thought toward the positive, inclined to make snap reactions that destroy his own happiness and that of others. The pig is ignorance and dullness, always thinking about itself. These three forces work together to bind us in an unending cycle of entrapment. If a person’s mind is inhabited by these qualities and chooses to do these activities, then they have no possibility to achieve enlightenment. They will be forever in Samsara, always sinking down into lower and lower realms.
The outer center circle depicts the twelve links of dependent origination. These are the destructive emotions of attachment and anger rooted in ignorance. Ignorance as a blind person is the first of the twelve steps, giving rise to karma, depicted by a potter, which leaves imprints on consciousness depicted by a monkey, and continuing the cycle to aging and death.
How Can We Move Beyond the Six Physical Realms of Samsara?
The best way to escape the Matrix of Samsara is from the Human realm. As a human being, we can learn the rules of Nature and do activities to rise above Samsara, then it’s very easy. If we make special effort to study and follow the Buddha’s teachings, then we can avoid Samsara to enjoy happiness within this life.
THE SIX REALMS OF SAMSARA
The six realms of Samsara represent levels of being in the 3D physical world. One can see them as different worlds, however they often exist within the same reality. They are all temporary.
Deva Realm of Gods
Asura Realm of Demi Gods
Hungry Ghosts Realm
Dewa Realm of the Gods
This realm offers pleasure, ease, and the illusion of eternal happiness. Galactic beings from all over the physical universe gather in to enjoy elite entitlement and sophisticated luxury. If you like power, wealth, and status, this is your realm. Sounds very tempting, right? However, this temporary realm is the most dangerous. If these beings allow their pride and vanity to grow, then at the end of their time, they will fall back down into the lowest realms of the Samsara wheel of life. A life of pride leads to a rebirth in Hell or the Animal realm.
Greedy, selfish people often find themselves in this realm because they always wanted more in a previous life. They may have been a little bit generous, but they still hoarded and kept much more for themselves. They feel entitled to special treatment, justifying their unlimited desire and greed to own everything.
The Asura Realm is the World of the Demi Gods
This realm is where tricky, selfish, egotistical, cunning beings live. If your goal is to develop your strategic power over others, or engage in galactic trade, this may be the perfect realm for you. You are competitive, small-minded and cruel. You are jealous of the fruits enjoyed by the elite realm above. You strive to attain them, but can somehow never join the club. In this realm you enjoy ego-manipulation and naughty in-fighting with the other Demi gods. Do you know anyone selfish and tricky like this?
The human realm is humble existence. However, it is the best realm for spiritual cultivation. If your goal is to cultivate love in your heart and purify your mind, you are lucky to be born here. Humans can do activities to raise our vibration. We can study, think, reason, and plant seeds of goodness in the environment around us. It doesn’t really matter our level of birth. Some people are wealthy, others are poor. Some are beautiful and perfect. Some are born into a happy family, and some are miserable. This all depends on our Karma and the virtue of our previous life activities. In the human realm we can’t exactly control our problems. We can’t hide, and we cannot run away from them. Sometimes the same problems repeat over and over. Human life is the best opportunity for spirit advancement because we can learn, observe, face our problems, and work through them by planting seeds to raise our own vibration.
The animal realm is for those who led lives of ignorance and weakness in the past. The life of an animal is difficult, as they are hunted and eaten without a moment of rest. Some animals must work very hard without food or water. Animals may be born over and over with a dull nature. This can be a kind of bad luck from a previous human life in which they never considered doing actions to benefit others. Some animals are born with good honor. Some may be very comfortable, especially if they have a rich master. Perhaps in a previous human life they showed kindness to someone. But if they showed kindness with an expectation for a selfish reward, they may be reborn as an animal. Do you know anyone self-centered like that?
Hungry Ghosts Realm
This realm is a stinging payback, a curse for selfish people. Maybe in your previous lifetime you were a small-minded, self-centered thief, robber, or computer hacker. So, in your next life you might find yourself in the Hungry Ghosts realm. Life here is terribly uncomfortable. Hungry Ghosts can never get anything they need, even a drop of water. Whatever they do get, they can’t take it in. Their throat is so tiny, neck so thin, stomach and intestines so malnourished they cannot digest. For eons of time, eating and drinking is impossible, as nothing passes through the throat. People who live selfishly may find themselves the Hungry Ghost Realm. Please be careful.
The Hell Realm
Hell is the lowest punishment, the most uncomfortable world, very hot and full of fire. Yet at the same time it is also freezing cold and icy. There are dangerous burning molten rocks, flames, cauldrons of boiling bodies, and streams of lava. Yet you feel icy cold and uncomfortable. Hell is the realm for people who were selfish, cruel, heartless killers in their previous lives. If this is you, then Hell is where you belong. Hell is the lowest, most terrible realm, and it lasts forever. There is no way out.
Samsara is Stressful.
The six realms of Samsara offer us obstacles and problems in the physical world. Do you like these six worlds? Perhaps if you love stress, you can stay here forever. You will suffer pain, birth, and death over and over. To end stress and problems, you can do positive actions to resolve your problems, to rise above Samsara. If you raise your vibration, you can get where you want to go. When you are sick and tired of all these problems, you will make changes in yourself, in your mind and your actions. I invite you to consider this very carefully. When you are good and ready to do that, I am here to help you.
What is Paradise? The World for Enlightened Beings is Beyond Samsara.
Paradise is infinite, far beyond and above the Six Physical Realms of Samsara. In Paradise, there are no obstacles and no stress. These are spirit beings who live in higher realms of unlimited joy. They watch over the other realms, and help everyone raise their level of vibration. Enlightenment is beyond the physical realm. To get into Paradise we must purify our body, mind, and thoughts. Then we can raise our frequency until we go to Paradise forever.
WHAT ACTIVITIES BRING ENLIGHTENMENT?
To plant seeds for enlightenment means we do positive activities without any expectation of reward. We help others, we have sympathy for other living beings. We respect the higher celestial beings and appreciate the benefits they bring (Dharma work). We chant sacred mantras and words of the Buddha with special visualizations to powerfully purify the body, mind, and thoughts. We read the scriptures to learn directly from the Buddha to learn how he did it. Here is the Buddha’s first sermon after his awakening, where he explains his process. Read it to discover how he saw through the matrix, purified his mind-body-spirit to exist in a higher real forever.
Our experiences in life are a projection of the mind. To achieve enlightenment, we must train our mind: The mind is reflected in our thoughts, our tendencies, our habits, our expectations, our sensory perceptions, and our cognitive functions. The main focus is to purify the mind, because it is both the cause of unhappiness and the solution to our freedom.
In Buddhism we need to plant good seeds to receive good fruits. Humans have the power to do good actions, to cultivate good habits and build virtue by facing our problems and learning positive thoughts. In this way, we can eliminate stress and problems during this life. It is far better to resolve Karma in the very moment it shows itself as an issue or problem. This brings enormous peace to your life.
The Three Jewels
Studying the Three Jewels is the first starting point for avoiding Samsara. We can rely on the three jewels: Sangye, Dharma, and Sangha.
Sangye, the Buddha, is our teacher. He teaches how to avoid negative activities and negative thoughts, how to achieve a positive mind and positive activities all the time.
The Dharma Path is Chö, the way into Paradise. Dharma means we refine our mind, to remove negatives and find our pure mind inside it. Actually, our mind is born pure. But unfortunately, pure mind is covered by negative thoughts. Dharma or Chö teaches us to observe and clear away negative tendencies like ego, jealousy, greed, selfishness, ignorance, and delusion.
Sangha – Sangha is the physical body, which we refine by doing the Dharma practice. We sacrifice our life for the Dharma. We do actions that bring benefit for everyone. That is called the Sangha of the three jewels. Without the three jewels, nobody can avoid Samsara, and no one will achieve enlightenment.
QUALITIES OF AN ENLIGHTENED BEING?
An enlightened being is like a celestial being or a god. These beings have no selfish interest, only the wish to bring benefit for others. An enlightened person can choose to remain in Paradise. Or they can be reincarnated as an evolved human. In that case they will have the body of a human, but their mind and activities will be vastly higher and sacred. Their words are spiritual and powerful. Everything they do or say is only for the benefit of all living beings. For example, by external appearances, the Dalai Lama is a human being. However, inside, his thoughts and views are not for himself, but all for the people. His way of thinking is only to assist all living beings.
Enlightened beings can perceive higher dimensions, time, and space. All human beings have the ability to perceive higher dimensions and expand their sensory bandwidth. However, this is rarely cultivated. For most people great training is required to clear the emotions, purify the body, and train the mind toward positive thoughts. At a certain point on this path, the intuition opens, and a person is able to function on a higher level of happiness and perfect equanimity. Their perception is complete and unblocked. One can recognize these people because they are healthier in body, stable in mind, and happy all the time. To get to this point takes dedication and discipline, and commitment on a level akin to special purpose military training or advanced monastic study.
EVERY TRADITION HAS ITS OWN CONCEPT OF ENLIGHTENMENT
In Buddhism, Enlightened beings are called the “Awakened Ones”. This is called “Sangye”, the achievement to exit Samsara and the physical plane forever, to live as an etheric being. This requires extraordinary personal effort and very unique attainment reserved for very few individuals.
Various Buddhist lineages see the enlightened realm differently. Nirvana, for example, is a Buddhist Paradise for a very high level of practice, but it is not perfect. Those living in Nirvana can enjoy peace forever, free of the cycle of death and rebirth. They are free to enjoy Nirvana for themselves, but they have no broad mind, no courage, and no power to help others. In this realm, they stay in Nirvana for a long, long period, but it is not full enlightenment. If they wish to reach full enlightenment, they can come into a human body to practice and train in a Dharma life, and then can ascend into enlightenment. Or they can stay in Nirvana forever with no need to come back to a body.
Every tradition has its own concept of enlightenment, and these are not incompatible with Buddhism. Some traditions refer to “Moksha” or “Mahasamadhi”. These terms also mean permanent ascension into the spirit realm in which the soul leaves the body at the end of one’s life and does not have to return to the physical realm. Only the highest Mahasiddhis (evolved practitioners) can achieve this level. However, since these are not Buddhist terms, I cannot comment.
What is Ascension to 4D, 5D, 6D?
Some traditions refer to “ascension” into higher dimensions. Higher dimensions are also ruled by the Universal Laws of Nature. Buddhism does not assign numbers 1-12 to the levels, however, this concept is consistent with Buddhism. An ascension event to 4D, 5D, 6D, etc. may take place for an individual or a group of embodied souls within Samsara. This is a great and happy event. But this is not enlightenment. “Enlightenment” means an individual soul leaves the physical plane to live as an etheric being forever.
The multi-dimensional universe is infinite. Spiritual growth never ends. There is co-vibration of each dimension with all other dimensions; and there is co-vibration within the universal system as a whole.
In reality, the universe is a continuum of levels of infinite layers in constant expansion. We use diagrams, numbers, and even the six realms as metaphors to help simple folk understand the basic structure of the universe. We can even draw a picture of the universe in 2D or 3D as you see above. However, that doesn’t mean we understand it. I am trying to explain it to you in words and concepts, however the multi-dimensional universe is incomprehensible for humans.
Enlightenment is an “awakened” state of being in which a human being permanently exits Samsara, the physical world of the cycle of death and rebirth. This is the highest achievement available for a human being. Human life is the best of all the realms for spiritual development and awakening. With a human life we can purify our mind. We can do actions that build virtue for the present and future. With a human body we can do Dharma, and we can create good Karma for the next life. If we try, we can even achieve the goal of enlightenment via this human life. These are the rules of the game. We all have a great good fortune to be born in the Human realm. We are able to do everything which is good for the next life. Please, don’t misuse this opportunity. Thank you.
Lama D brings a unique integration of strict Buddhist monastic training, ancient cultural wisdom of Bhutan with decades of teaching, healing, challenging political activity, and deep equanimity. He teaches over 8,000 students in Bhutan every day on social networking. His groups are called “Seeds for Paradise”. In his classes he explains the Laws of Nature in “Dharma talks” using creative metaphors and non-traditional words. Lama D teaches by example how to be almost stress-free, to live at ease and non-reactive in the moment. He teaches practical skills including meditation, how to balance the mind, and how to live in the modern world without creating Karma. A graduate of Simtokha Dzong and Tango Buddhist Institute in Bhutan, Lama Dungtsho earned his Master’s degree in Buddhist philosophy. He performs and teaches visualizations and chants for healing and protection. His formal title, Lama Dungtsho, means “Tibetan Doctor”. Lama D’s training and experience give him a wealth of knowledge, merging ancient wisdom in modern times. Unlike many Lamas, he has been forced to surmount complex life challenges of relationships, parenting, money, and chaos of society, while living the pure Dharma. Lama D is a member of the faculty at the School of Consciousness & Spirituality at NewEarth University. He lives with his wife, Srijana, at Keramas Sacred River Village in Bali, where they offer transformational healing retreats.