Can You Become Enlightened?

Do you think you can become enlightened?”

Only once in my life have I been asked this question.

The year was 2005. I was on a week-long meditation retreat at a Zen monastery west of Portland, OR. Zen meditation was my latest pursuit in a spiritual journey that had occupied nearly half a century.

It was 3:30 in the afternoon and our regular meditation had been interrupted by a daily talk from the abbot of the monastery. I had been up since 4:00 a.m. and the hours in deep meditation left me in a foggy state.

The abbot began his talk with the question: do you think you can become enlightened?

As I heard this, I felt a sudden jolt of energy course through my body. It was as if I had just touched a high voltage wire.

I became dizzy and disoriented.

Of course not, I thought. I can’t become enlightened. Only the great ones like Buddha and Jesus can become enlightened. But not an ordinary person like me.

Then a voice inside me asked: Then why are you here?”

I had no answer.

For half a century I had been on some kind of “spiritual” journey, looking for something that I did not have. And if anyone had ever asked me over these five decades what I was trying to attain, I would have had no answer for them. I had no idea what I was doing!

In looking back over a half century of seeking, I have to wonder: if I had known earlier in life what I know now, would I have gone about it in a different way?

From early on there had always been a tug, some inner nudging that kept me looking for something I knew was important. Sometimes it was as blatant as a voice in my head. Other times it was just a subtle inkling, a nudge, an intuition of a direction I should take.

But at no time did I ever develop a clear understanding of what it was that I was trying to do. Not until now, in my mid-sixties, did I think of this as a search for enlightenment.

What if I had known? Would it have made a difference?

What if I had had a clear picture of the enlightened state?

What if I had had some road map that would give an idea of what the journey was likely to entail?

Would I have been more focused? Would I have been more efficient in the deployment of my time and energy?

I will never know.

But I do know this; today it is possible for people to wake up in a fraction of the time it took me. And I want to help them do this in any way I can.

Return to Meet the Author

Scroll to top