Is Enlightenment Gradual or Sudden?

I am sometimes asked, “Is this growing in awareness, this enlightenment a gradual thing, or is it a ‘wham-mo’ type of thing?”

There are some lucky people who see this in a flash. They just become aware. There are others who keep growing into it, slowly, gradually, increasingly. They begin to see things. Illusions drop away, fantasies are peeled away, and they start to get in touch with facts. There’s no general rule.

There’s a famous story about the lion who came upon a flock of sheep and to his amazement found a lion among the sheep. It was a lion who had been brought up by the sheep ever since he was a cub. It would bleat like a sheep and run around like a sheep. The lion went straight for him, and when the sheep-lion stood in front of the real one, he trembled in every limb. And the lion said to him, “What are you doing among these sheep?”

And the sheep-lion said, “I am a sheep.”

And the lion said, “Oh no you’re not. You’re coming with me.”

So he took the sheep-lion to a pool and said, “Look!” And when the sheep-lion looked at his reflection in the water, he let out a roar, and in that moment he was transformed. He was never the same again.

If you’re lucky and the gods are gracious or if you are gifted with divine grace (use any theological expression you want), you might suddenly understand who “I” is, and you’ll never be the same again, never. Nothing will ever be able to touch you again and no one will ever be able to hurt you again.

You will fear no one and you will fear nothing. Isn’t that extraordinary? You’ll live like a king, like a queen. This is what it means to live like royalty. Not rubbish like getting your picture in the newspapers or having a lot of money. That’s of no value.

You fear no one because you’re perfectly content to be nobody. You don’t give a damn about success or failure. They mean nothing. Honor, disgrace, they mean nothing! If you make a fool of yourself, that means nothing either. Isn’t that a wonderful state to be in! Some people arrive at this goal painstakingly, step by step, through months and weeks of self- awareness.

I’ll promise you this: I have not known a single person who gave time to being aware who didn’t see a difference in a matter of weeks. The quality of their life changes, so they don’t have to take it on faith anymore. They react differently. In fact, they react less and act more. You see things you’ve never seen before.

They see it; they’re different.

from Awareness by Anthony DeMello