How does a person attain enlightenment?

Answer by Niraj Bidawatka

Jagadguru Srila Prabhupada ki Jay

When one understands that he is not this body, but a spirit soul, and then further comes to understand that the spirit soul is the eternal servant of Krishna, he gets enlightenment. Such an enlightened soul transcends the cycle of birth and death and goes back home, back to Godhead.

The entire Bhagavad Gita was spoken by Krishna to enlighten us about this fact. The last instruction of Bhagavad Gita is mam ekam sharanam vraja: “Just surrender unto Me”. When one gets enlightened that one is a part and parcel of God, one immediately surrenders to the will of the Supreme Lord.

Such enlightenment is possible only through the aegis of a guru, or spiritual master. It is the guru, who enlightens the soul that he is not this body but a spirit soul, which in turn is a part and parcel of God, or Krishna.

Arjuna was enlightened because he accepted Krishna as his guru. In the beginning of the Bhagavad Gita, you will find that Arjuna was babbling like a mad man throughout the first chapter but Krishna did not give him any instructions. It was only when Arjuna surrendered and accepted Krishna as his guru, did Krishna impart the secretive and most sublime knowledge.

So one gets enlightenment only when one approaches a guru. Therefore the Bhagavad Gita states tad viddhi pranipatena (4.34): Approach a guru. The Bhagavatam also states the same thing – tasmad gurum prapadyeta: Surrender to the guru. The Vedas also state tad-vijnanartham sa gurum eva abhigacchet (Mundaka Upanisad 1.2.12): If you want to get enlightenment, then approach a guru.

But the problem is that we do not want to accept a guru and therefore we do not get enlightenment.

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3 thoughts on “How does a person attain enlightenment?

  1. You stated that Arjuna was “enlightened”. I wonder if that enlightenment had any lasting value, as in Mahabharata, Ashvamedha Parva, Anugita Section, Arjuna confides to Krishna that he has forgotten all that Krishna told him at the eve of Kurukshetra battle, and is “curious” to hear it again. Krishna, obviously disappointed with his disciple, then says: “From me, O son of Pritha, you heard a mystery, and learnt about the eternal principle, about piety in its true form, and about all the everlasting worlds. It is excessively disagreeable to me, that you should not have grasped it through want of intelligence. Really, O son of Pandu! you are devoid of faith and of a bad intellect. And, O Dhananjaya! it is not possible for me to repeat in full what I said before. For that doctrine was perfectly adequate for understanding the seat of the Brahman.” (Telang transl.) Instead, Krishna resorts to narrating an “ancient story”, or puratana itihasa, that has very little common with the central message of the Bhagavadgita. Obviously, even rare Vishvarupa darshana had only limited impact on Arjuna as he does not ask for jnana chakshu again. Please comment.


    • Dear Mr. Dahvani,

      Your above mentioned comment does not make any categorical statement and therefore it does not warrant any answer. But still I am replying so as to bring forth the flaws in your comment. Your opening statement is “I wonder if …”. This means that you yourself are not very sure of what you are saying. Therefore your comment has no substantive value.

      You cannot understand the Vedic literatures by your own intellect because your intellect is mundane. Therefore you have to approach a self-realized guru. From your comment it appears that you have either not accepted any guru or you have landed in the clutches of a bogus guru. Hence, I earnestly request you to accept the shelter of Srila Prabhupada so that all your misgivings may be cleared.

      When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had gone to East Bengal, Tapan Mishra approached Him and submitted that he had read all the Puranas, Itihasas, Upanishads, etc. but still he was confused. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu replied that this excessive reading of too many scriptures was exactly the root of the problem. Therefore Mahaprabhu told him to simply chant Hare Krishna

      So once you chant Hare Krishna and take shelter of an exalted Acharya such as His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, all your doubts and misgivings will be cleared. We should not be overly concerned with the position of Arjuna, whether his enlightenment was real or artificial. The entire world knows that Arjuna attained enlightenment after hearing the Bhagavad Gita. So there is no point in speculating and “wondering” whether Arjuna really attained enlightnement or not. In fact, we should strive to enlighten ourselves.

      Niraj Bidawatka
      Editor, The Hare Krishna Revolution


      • I think that the “categorical statement” you demand is evident enough: If the “whole world knows that Arjuna has attained enlightenment” as you state, then why on earth Arjuna himself denies it? Obviously, no answer to this quite startling discrepancy can be given from your perspective…. may be another interpolation…?


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