According to the Buddha, being enlightened is being "awake." When you are awake, you recognize the world for what it is-a conglomeration of illusions passing off as reality.
Perceptions are varied; of them all, the perception on the earthly plane is the narrowest. On earth, you perceive only part of the reality. You believe illusions to be the truth. You might wonder what we are doing on earth if this is the case. We are on earth because we need to be here; we need to learn something or experience something here. Otherwise, we would never have chosen to be born on earth.
Think of enlightenment as a chalkboard bearing some writings. On earth, the chalkboard is black and the writing is white, which accounts for the way we perceive things. Owing to the contrast, life on earth appears very real and rational, but feeling this way is not true enlightenment.
If you move into the astral realms, you will realize that the chalkboard has turned gray, while the writing has turned white. You can hardly read what is written because it is not clear. But your perception in the astral is much broader than it is in the physical.
In the higher realms, the chalkboard turns white, while the writing remains white. This is the highest way of perceiving things. In this state, there is no ego, no sense of separation, and no illusion. This is the best place for a soul to be in, where the relative is absent and only the absolute exists. Here, the individual soul reunites with the All.
However, the soul need not remain in the absolute, and it hardly remains in the absolute. It returns to the limited world of the physical, eager to learn, discover, and experience itself. Enlightenment is simply being aware of this process-realizing that the soul is perfect and fully enlightened wherever it is and whatever happens.
Why would a soul want to leave the ideal world of the absolute? Only the soul knows the answer to this question. Possibly, it does so for the joy and experience of realizing itself and reuniting with the All again and again.
Your enlightenment doesn't depend on where you are. Getting into the astral realms need not necessarily mean that you are enlightened. You can get enlightened on the earthly plane itself. Just as you are the only person responsible for your enlightenment, you are also the person who stops yourself from getting enlightened.
Your soul is actually in no need of enlightenment; it is perfect and enlightened. You simply have to submit to the present, be where you are, and do what you are doing...not rush where your ego drives you. The soul has nothing to do with the ego. Hardly anybody realizes this truth in the earthly plane.
You don't have to go to the astral plane to get enlightened; you can get enlightened wherever you are. Moreover, enlightenment is not the highest achievement of your soul. The very process of learning, discovering the nature of the ego, discarding the ego, failing, and so on is not only highly significant, but also perfect. When you realize your own perfection, you are enlightened.
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