Many of us explore spirituality with the hope of discovering something meaningful about the nature of our existence. Through meditation practice and rituals, we may begin to approach greater self-knowledge and understanding over time.
This concept of “awakening” or “enlightenment” is a major element in many world religions. And while these religions can vary greatly in their teachings, many times we are surprised at how similar their messages really are.
Here are four not-so-different thoughts on “awakening,” taken from several prominent spiritual traditions – showing that some themes of human spirituality overstep philosophical and cultural differences.
1. One who knows others becomes wise, but one who knows himself becomes enlightened. (Lao Tzu, Taoism)
This Taoist thought reflects a viewpoint shared by many religions – that a person’s awakening must begin from within. Spiritual teachers can guide us, but ultimately we are the ones who have to walk through the door of enlightenment.
2. If wakefulness is always maintained, then dreams pass away naturally. When the mind ceases to discriminate, all things become as one. (Buddha/Buddhism)
Buddhism values meditation and mindfulness as ways to approach enlightenment – a mindset shared by numerous traditions. When we practice real awareness and look beyond the distractions of our modern world we can recognize a basic truth – that we are something more than just physical beings… we are spiritual creatures as well.
3. Those who meditate on the ruler of all things – whose form cannot be seen and whose essence cannot be known – pass through the fog of illusion into the sun of enlightenment. (Bhagavad Gita, Hinduism)
Hinduism also places an emphasis on frequent meditation and looking within oneself to realize that there is something greater in the universe and that we are a part of it. Like many religions, Hinduism stresses that reflection, prayer and fellowship with those around us will lead us away from ignorance and unknowing.
4. When life’s trials are at an end, and one is awakened, everything appears differently. This is attained by those who have overcome ignorance through knowledge. They have realized that life is no more than a dream. (The Gospel of Truth, Christianity)
In Christianity enlightenment is viewed as the end of a path, a destination reached through prayer and self-examination. In similarity to some other well-known traditions, Christianity views enlightenment as a place of peace and understanding, echoing the idea that we can never fully see the impact of our lives until we have moved further down that path.
These quotes are arranged in no particular order other than the length of each quote (from shortest to longest). Of course, each religion will deviate from another on a variety of specific and general concepts, and we encourage celebration of these differences. However, it is fascinating to mark and observe the instances in which, despite barriers of race, language, history, and culture, it is possible to find a common thread between these rich tapestries that are the world’s religions.