15.18 – Enlightenment that is universal, beneficial and non-imitable
Is enlightenment the vision of a dazzling light or the pulsation of a mysterious current through our body or the state of mystic withdrawl from the world?
No, declares Gita wisdom. Enlightenment essentially means understanding where to direct our heart’s longing for love and directing it accordingly. The Bhagavad-gita (15.18) states that the enlightened offer all their heart’s love to Krishna, understanding him to be the supreme person, the highest truth, the ultimate reality.
As compared to popular notions of enlightenment, the Gita’s definition is far more universal, beneficial and non-imitable. Let’s see how:
Universal: Love is the deepest thirst of all living beings. By explaining how enlightenment fulfills this universal thirst, Gita wisdom makes enlightenment intelligible and accessible for everyone, rejecting thereby the idea that it is meant for a select few.
Beneficial: Love, when misdirected, becomes the cause of our greatest sufferings. If enlightenment didn’t address our need to love and be loved, what would be the benefit of becoming enlightened? By explaining how the enlightened directing of our love towards Krishna will make us eternally, supremely and completely happy, Gita wisdom shows how enlightenment is practically beneficial.
Non-imitable: Gita wisdom explains that the enlightened express their love for Krishna by serving him and fulfilling his mission in this world. Krishna’s mission is to make all living beings eternally happy by reviving their dormant love for him. Therefore, the enlightened give up all worldly pleasures that militate against Krishna’s mission. So, we can recognize the enlightened by observing their characteristics: the values, purposes and activities of their life. As these cannot be imitated for long, pretenders soon become exposed when subjected to scrutiny. Additionally, these characteristics also provide us parameters for evaluating our own progress on the path to enlightenment.
Understanding enlightenment thus can inspire us to march confidently and enthusiastically along the Gita’s pathway to enlightenment.