Is there a difference between liberation and enlightenment?
There can be many conceptual ideas about what enlightenment means, often with an assumption that it is an end result beyond which there is perfection, and no further work required.
In my article “What is Liberation?” I defined liberation as the freedom from desire to do those things which are motivated by ego, and the fruit of embracing universal love. I suggested that observing our motivation in everything we do, to see whether it is motivated by love or ego, will lead us naturally to a sense of liberation. This is something we can realistically start putting into practice as soon as we decide to do so, and increase through continued practice. There can be no misunderstanding about it suddenly “happening to us” while we are out walking or meditating. If enlightenment happened that easily, randomly or quickly it would be commonplace.
The more we practice, the greater becomes our sense of liberation. We begin to be freed from concerns about how others see us, whether we are superior or inferior, and begin to see that is all illusory nonsense. We are freed from concern about material possessions beyond what is necessary for a simple fulfilling life. The love in our hearts is a source of contentment.
Love vs Ego
It is not so much a case of love vs ego; to say love vs ego implies struggle and there is no struggle in actions motivated by love. Instead it is a gradual and natural letting go of ego as love begins to predominate in our actions and thoughts. In love ego cannot maintain its grip and so naturally diminishes; the more this happens the easier and more satisfactory life becomes.
Inevitably there will be times, especially when faced with difficult challenges in life, when it is difficult to maintain this practice. At these times there can be a tendency for the ego to gain strength temporarily and cause unnecessary struggle in our lives. This is natural, we should not feel that we are failing but simply be aware of what is happening and ask ourselves how best we can return to thoughts and actions motivated by love.
Whilst liberation is not something that suddenly happens to us while meditating, there is benefit in meditation. Meditation on compassion can be particularly useful in the cultivation of action motivated by love. There are many ways of meditating, and even many variations of compassion meditation, my version can be found here. For those wishing to learn more about meditation Matthieu Ricard has written an excellent book called “Why Metitate.”
A talk on the ongoing nature of human development can be found here:
A talk on the benefits of meditation can be found here: