How can enlightenment be one objective thing?

Acharya Prashant
4 min readMar 27

The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.

Question (Q): Sir, how does a mind that is enlightened look at life? What happens to its thoughts? Does its wiring change in response to fear? Does it change its response to emotions?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Assuming a sufficiently good understanding of the brain and sufficiently developed scientific processes, anything can surely be done with the brain. That involves all kinds of neural rearrangements and the rest of it.

Do we understand enlightenment? Can enlightenment ever be ‘understood’? Even with the best of science, you can only do as much to the brain as you have knowledge of. If the scientist does not know enlightenment, how can he devise a neural circuit for enlightenment? Can there be a scale of enlightenment, metrics of enlightenment? When exactly would you call a person enlightened? To replicate something, one must first define it.

Think of the problems in the identification of enlightenment. Is it an aspect of behavior? Is it a way of being? Is it a particular kind of expression? Or is it just a personal claim?

At the base of it all, the assumptions are that:

1. Enlightenment is something that happens in the brain.

2. Enlightenment is the same thing in the brain for all people. One man’s enlightenment corresponds to the same biological thing in all other men just as headaches or pregnancy do.

3. Enlightenment is something localized in the brain i.e., it can be achieved by changing one part of the brain while letting the other parts remain the way they are.

All of these are tenuous. These are reducing that experience to something objective, like a fracture in the arm. Enlightenment, by definition, is not objective. For all their common-ness, enlightened people show great diversity as well.

How can enlightenment be one objective thing? Krishna dances, Buddha cannot. Jesus won’t fight, Mohammad fights all his life. Kabir sings, Mahavira won’t speak at all. The Zen monk hits his students, the Jain monk can’t think of hitting even an ant. And then, there is so much diversity in the post-enlightenment teachings as well, even as…

Acharya Prashant