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Enlightened person

What Are The Characteristics of an Enlightened Person according to Bhagavad Gita?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The transformation of enlightenment does not occur as a shift of behavior. Instead, one’s attitude, way of thinking, and motivations all change. Krishna speaks of desire and how those who are enlightened are not driven by such worldly pursuits:

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 55 in Sanskrit:

श्रीभगवानुवाच |

प्रजहाति यदा कामान्सर्वान्पार्थ मनोगतान् |

आत्मन्येवात्मना तुष्ट: स्थितप्रज्ञस्तदोच्यते || 2.55||

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 55 (in Sanskrit)

When he casts off all desires emerging from the mind, O Arjuna, content in oneself with oneself, then he is called one with firm wisdom. ||2.55||

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 55 (English Translation)

If desires were the natural state of the true self (Atma), you’d never be able to get rid of them. Desires do not belong to Atma. The conscious entity which is your essence does not possess desire. 

Desires belong to the mind and our mind is subject to change. So desires that arrive in the mind can be removed from the mind. 

So, how does one get rid of desires?

You get rid of desires by becoming content with yourself.

The irony of life is that every day we seek peace and contentment, so we engage ourselves in all kinds of activities even though the ultimate source of that contentment is within. People may have heard this before, but do align with the message? Most people spend a lifetime seeking contentment in all the wrong places. 

Enlightenment does not result in the cessation of the natural activities of the mind. The mind itself cannot become fixed and unmoving, but your wisdom can. An enlightened person acts like a regular person but is not motivated by raga or dvesha

For example, a master who chops wood and carries water was previously driven by desire. Now that he is enlightened, the master continues to chop wood and carry water but is no longer motivated by desire. Instead, he is motivated by a sense that it needs to be done. The enlightened person eats when they are hungry and sleeps when they’re tired. They don’t perform actions if they don’t feel the need.

How Does an Enlightened Person Respond to Fear or Anger?

दु:खेष्वनुद्विग्नमना: सुखेषु विगतस्पृह: |

वीतरागभयक्रोध: स्थितधीर्मुनिरुच्यते || 2.56||

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 56 (In Sanskrit)

Whose mind is undisturbed by pain, and free from longing for pleasure, who is free from desire, fear, and anger, that wise person is one with firm wisdom. ||2.56||

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 56 (English Translation)

Pain is a physical sensation, and suffering is your negative response to that physical sensation. 

When you’re enlightened you can experience something without being disturbed by it.

The enlightened person is free from attachment. They are not expecting any sensation to last forever. Sensations come and go, but your true self-consciousness remains unaffected. One who is content with themself is vast and complete. And no one can rob you of your true self.

Having discovered that true self as being uninterruptible contentment, nothing can threaten you. 

Normally, when there is a threat we either respond with fight or flight. When you get angry you want to resist the threat. If you are scared then you run. 

If you’re not threatened, why would you respond in with anger or fear?

You get angry when you feel personally threatened. It’s unlikely that you would feel threatened by the insults of a 3-year-old. But what about a 33-year-old? For an enlightened person, it shouldn’t make a difference.

When you are bigger than the situation then the situation cannot threaten.  When you recognize your own boundless, limitless nature you become so big inside that nothing can possibly threaten you.

How Does An Enlightened Person React to Pleasure and Pain?

य: सर्वत्रानभिस्नेहस्तत्तत्प्राप्य शुभाशुभम् |

नाभिनन्दति न द्वेष्टि तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता || 2.57||

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 57 (In Sanskrit)

One free from attachment in all situations, whether receiving the pleasant or unpleasant without rejoicing or despising, his wisdom is firm. ||2.57||

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 57 (English Translation)

When an enlightened person receives something they do not become elated, and in contrast, when they experience something unpleasant they do not resent it. It is inevitable in life that you will receive many good things that you don’t deserve and bad things that you don’t deserve.

The enlightened person gracefully accepts whatever happens in life as being the natural unfoldment of karma. If something good happens or if something terrible happens, both are natural unfoldments of karma. They know that the true source of contentment is within.

When something good happens it doesn’t add. When something bad happens it doesn’t take away from them. Atma is already full and complete and is your true nature.

How Does an Enlightened Person Withdraw?

यदा संहरते चायं कूर्मोऽङ्गानीव सर्वश: |

इन्द्रियाणीन्द्रियार्थेभ्यस्तस्य प्रज्ञा प्रतिष्ठिता || 2.58||

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 58 (in Sanskrit)

When he withdraws, like a tortoise withdraws all its limbs, his senses from all sense objects, then his wisdom is firm. ||2.58||

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 58 (English Tanslation)

When a tortoise feels threatened, it withdraws all of its limbs. Similarly, an enlightened person withdraws the sense organs (sight, hearing, taste, touch, sound, and mind) from sense objects (sources of pleasure or pain). 

The withdrawal of the enlightened person is the absence of dependence on external objects. 

Conventionally, people depend on external people and objects for their happiness and contentment. The enlightened person is free on external objects and people for their happiness.

The other part of the metaphor is this: when a tortoise is threatened, it doesn’t run away. It just withdraws its limbs and is perfectly safe and content without fleeing. In the same way, the enlightened person when threatened does not need to run away.

What the Gita Teaches Us

An enlightened person does not behave differently. They are not impacted by the outside world because their wisdom is firm in their mind. They overcome all desires by recognizing that the source of true contentment exists within. And they understand that sensations come and go, and do not let disturbances control them. By withdrawing, the enlightened person is free from dependence on external people and objects.