When we think of Buddha then we have the historical Buddha and his wonderful, fascinating life story and we have the general term “Buddha” for enlightened beings which have experienced “self-realization”. Here I want to speak about this generally used term and the nature of such beings.
The normal human being identifies itself with its human body, its human appearance, characteristics, etc. “When I look into the mirror then I see a human being, so I have to be this human being.” It is indeed a matter of perception and self-conception. If you grow up in the Indian culture, then you perceive and understand yourself as an Indian. If you grow up in Italy, then you see yourself as an Italian. If an African baby is raised in China, then it understands and perceives itself as a Chinese. If a human baby is raised among a pack of wolves, it will perceive itself as a wolf.
So identification is normal, good and necessary but at the same time relative, limiting and also something to question.
I remember one funny movie where a Muslim discovers that he is in reality a born Jew. What do you do in such a case where your identification is not clear, where you have to choose among contrary identities?
Or another story: It is narrated that once Shiva was incarnated as a pig, being happy with his pig family. Everything was fine until some gods decided to wake him up from this strange identification “Shiva, you are a god! Come back to where you belong!” and Shiva answered “Hey, I am happy! I love my family!” Then the gods killed all the pigs and made Shiva return and then he understood that it was an illusionary identification.
So identification can cause suffering, can be wrong.
Therefore the spiritual masters have been teaching from time immemorial that the only way to “escape” the suffering of the world and to find real peace is to identify with your true self, with your real being and for this reason it is also called “self-realization”.
So what is the true self if it is not what you see in the mirror?
What you see in the mirror are the present cloths your true self is wrapped in to be able to express itself in the material world and to take part in the adventure called life.
So your true self is the eternal spirit, immortal and so flexible that it can adopt all forms of appearance, from one incarnation to the next one. It is your immortal spirit who is able to identify with all and everything it likes to or thinks that it is right, natural. It is somehow the same when you are a king and you have countless costumes which represent countless roles and every time you put on a costume you forget about being the king and you identify with your role. So maybe one day you wear the costume of a beggar and feel how hard it is to have nothing to eat, no money at all, etc. But on the other day you wear the costume of a clown and it seems that your whole life is just fun. And so on… In this way you gather a lot of different experiences but in the end you have to remember that you are the king, the immortal spirit. And in fact in this way life works. We experience ourselves in so many different roles, we grow in our experiences and on the spiritual path we learn that we are something beyond these roles, kings and queens, immortal spirits.
When we live our roles, then we experience good things and bad things. The good things make us happy and the bad things make us suffer. But when we know that it is “just” a role we play (for some good reasons) and that we are in fact something beyond these roles, something independent, something greater, then suffering reduces or vanishes completely, inner peace unfolds and an inner happiness realizes. The whole drama of life becomes easier to bear and you know that it is more a (serious) stage play than something absolute. And you know that there exists a higher form of reality, the reality behind the stage play and that this reality is completely different from that what you think is real. This is an aspect of enlightenment, of self-realization.
So someone who can be called a Buddha has stopped the relative identification with his appearance, with his role and with this he has become independent from the connected suffering and the limited experience of happiness. He has raised himself over duality, identifying with the primary spirit, the Great Spirit, the cosmic spirit. This process of uniting with the divine spirit is called enlightenment as it can be witnessed as an illumination of the microcosm. The nature of spirit is light and when the spirit enters the body then the body is illuminated. These are processes of the energy system. The term “inspiration” originally means the same – the entering of the spirit in the body – and with this having great ideas or a deep understanding of a problem.
So the unity or enlightenment has happened and the practitioner experiences his higher nature as pure spirit. A spirit who lives in a human vehicle. This unity connects the practitioner with the “background” of creation, the underlying divine, all-embracing spirit. You can call this Nirvana, Akasha, Great Spirit, God, cosmic spirit, etc. It is the cosmic consciousness which has now integrated itself in the microcosm, – the direct connection to the primary spirit, to Akasha. And in this consciousness you find the deepest inner peace, total clarity, completeness and absolute perfection. It is the perfect state of total balance, of just being.
So, on the mental level you experience this state of absolute perfection, total peace, unity, the qualities of Akasha. And the enlightenment has certainly further effects on the soul, on the whole personality as all your centers flourish in their divine state. So wisdom, love, compassion, understanding, peacefulness, inner joy and happiness, etc. unfold in mind and soul and show up in a corresponding behavior. This is self-realization.
Then you are a temple of God, a perfect being, completely developed, a representative of the divine spirit, a true divine authority in creation.
Then you take part in this (material) world (of duality) but you are no longer part of its nature. Like Jesus said. You are centered in your cosmic nature and you take part in its abundance and happiness. And certainly you can take part in the relative and limited experiences of happiness and suffering of this world but you are not bound to it and you are not enslaved by them. You are free, liberated.
You are a Buddha, a messenger of the cosmic spirit.
PS: It can be a useful meditation to imagine yourself in this special state of perfection where you take part in the cosmic consciousness, totally enlightened with the divine spirit, experiencing the wonder of unity… And when you are ready, open then you might experience it. The grace of the cosmic spirit is with those who are true, open and dedicated in love.