"If you think you are enlightened, go home for Thanksgiving." -- Ram Dass
We sometimes say that some people are enlightened, but do we really know what that means? We might say that because they are kind, loving, and insightful. While these may indeed be qualities of an enlightened person, it's hard to be sure unless we ourselves are enlightened.
I've been on a spiritual path most of my life, and in my experience I've seen how people are transformed through spiritual practices. Here is a list of qualities that most of them attain. This is not a comprehensive list, but I think it contains some of their most prominent qualities.
Keep in mind that there are varying degrees of enlightenment. That is, everyone is at a different point in his spiritual development, and some may be more enlightened than others. Also, these qualities can be possessed by both men and women. Enlightenment is not exclusive to either sex.
The enlightened person is happy and joyful. He has a cheerful disposition most of the time, and is willing to share that joy with others. He is always optimistic that all challenges have a resolution. Even though the resolution may not be the most desirable, he is confident that he is capable of being at peace with it.
2. Peaceful and Serene
The enlightened person is peaceful and serene, because he is free of fear and other unwholesome emotions. He can see that the human condition reaches beyond this physical existence, so he no longer has a fear of the unknown. He is free of worry because he understands that freedom from suffering comes from within, and not from material possessions.
3. Loving, Kind, and Compassionate
The enlightened person is loving, kind, and compassionate for two main reasons: 1) he genuinely cares about other people, regardless of whether they care about him, and 2) he knows that other people provide him with the spiritual nourishment he needs to continue growing. Therefore, he remains spiritually open to everyone.
4. Not Self-Centered
The enlightened person is not self-centered, because he has lost the sense of a separate self. He can see the interconnected nature of our existence. To him, this is not just a concept, but a reality. He realizes that all physical manifestations (humans, animals, plants, etc.) depend on each other for their survival.
5. Emotionally Stable
The enlightened person is emotionally stable because he no longer has an ego that needs validation for its existence. He is not hurt because there is no ego to hurt. He does not get angry because he is understanding and compassionate toward those who are not as far along the spiritual path.
6. Patient and Understanding
The enlightened person is patient and understanding because he appreciates how our ignorance creates our own suffering. He understands the challenges of achieving enlightenment, so he doesn't condemn people for their missteps.
The enlightened person is humble. Since he knows his place in the universe, he doesn't need validation from others. Therefore, he has nothing to prove to anyone, including himself. His humble nature allows him to be kind and gentle, and be open to everyone he encounters.
8. Insightful and Open-Minded
The enlightened person is insightful and open-minded. He is able to see the world with great clarity, without attachment to preconceived ideas about people, places, and things. This enables him to observe the world without jumping to conclusions. Belief and intuition are replaced with clarity of vision and understanding.
9. Inner Strength
The enlightened person has great inner strength. He has learned healthy ways of connecting with the sources of spiritual nourishment -- through healthy interactions with people, and within. He no longer has a need for the power struggles that most of us engage in.
The enlightened person is a leader. Having awakened to the point of understanding the nature of suffering, he realizes his duty to help other people find freedom from suffering. He leads by example, rather than control. People follow him because of who he is and what he stands for. They want to be more like him.
11. Mindful of His Health
The enlightened person is mindful of his health -- physical, mental, and emotional. He knows that his mind, body, and spirit must be in harmony in order to maintain his spiritual condition. He has developed an understanding of physical and mental health, and doesn't blindly depend on others for his health. He is mindful of the nutrients and substances he puts into his body.
12. Committed to His Spiritual Practice
The enlightened person never forgets how he achieved enlightenment. He is also aware that it takes continuous effort to remain that way. It takes a great deal of spiritual nourishment to help others along their path, so he's aware that he needs to replenish his spiritual strength on a daily basis. Otherwise, he'll lose his effectiveness as a spiritual messenger.
Overall, the enlightened person is mindful of himself, and the world around him. Furthermore, he is curious and willing to continue learning. He is aware that even though he can see with great clarity, developing an understanding of the true nature of our existence takes time to observe and investigate.
This is not a comprehensive list of the qualities of an enlightened person. But I think these are the most prominent. My purpose for examining these qualities is to give us a compass to guide us in our spiritual journey -- a vision of the path that lies ahead.
From this list, it seems clear that enlightened people live rich and fulfilling lives. Those who achieve any measure of enlightenment do so through some form of daily meditation practice, a willingness to let go of old views, and a commitment to helping others find peace. It takes work and dedication, but it is well worth it.
Best wishes on your spiritual journey!