Deepak Chopra
5 min readApr 29, 2024


Photo by Jessica D. Vega on Unsplash

The Enlightened Self: What It Means for You

By Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP, FRCP

Enlightenment is a confusing concept, blurry enough that most people don’t think about it and certainly don’t assume it applies to them. But in many ways it does. If you break down the meaning of enlightenment, every Eastern tradition offers common features despite their differences. To be enlightened means that you possess the following qualities:

· Inner peace

· Silent mind

· Detachment from pain and suffering

· Complete self-awareness

· Bliss consciousness

· Compassion, reverence for life

· Absence of inner conflict

· Expanded sense of self beyond the individual “I”

· Experience of the divine

Different traditions emphasize one aspect over another, but more important is a fact that is often overlooked. Everything on this list is the common inheritance of everyone. We all possess an enlightened self. The only question is how developed that self is. By analogy, homo sapiens has always possessed a higher brain, going back between 200,000 and 50,000 years, but it has taken all that time to use the higher brain for art, music, science, engineering, and mathematics. The raw potential of the higher brain had to develop.

It only seems reasonable to apply the same measure to the qualities of enlightenment. Everyone has had glimpses of feeling blissful or experiencing inner peace. There’s a natural tendency to seek a creative outlet, and no one exists who doesn’t identify with ”I,” the sense of self. If you put these diverse experiences together, they all trace back to an entity we can call the enlightened self.

You might not have considered the fact that you already have more than one self. You have a social self, the face you present to the world and other people. You have a private self, which contains your personal beliefs, habits, likes and dislikes, private thoughts and feelings, and everything else that is intimate about you. You also have an emotional self, a relationship self, an unconscious self, and if you are devout, a spiritual self.

What these various selves indicate is that human beings are multidimensional. Just as the human body can digest a meal, ward off invading bacteria, process visual information, and be pregnant at the same time, the human mind organizes itself on many levels, or dimensions, at once. If a dimension is important enough, a self organizes around it. For a non-believer, there’s no interest in having a spiritual self, while for a devout believer, this might be the most important self of all. A recluse has no need for a social self or a relationship self.

The self you favor gives your existence a major source of purpose and meaning. This simple fact is what divides people over the enlightened self. The vast majority don’t find it important, pay little attention to it, and for the most part, haven’t even heard of it. But that’s not the same as lacking the capacity to be enlightened. As long as humans share a common heritage in self-awareness, the seed of the enlightened self is part of us.

It is your choice whether to develop your enlightened self or not. This is the process known as personal evolution. As a child, you waited patiently while your brain developed to the point that you could walk, speak, and organize your physical activity. Once you went to school, this automatic biological development acquired choice. You had to want to learn to read, for example. The balance of automatic development still brought about changes like puberty that weren’t left to individual choice.

But after adolescence, it became your choice entirely whether to become a mature adult, for example, or to explore a loving relationship. Those are aspects of personal evolution that create a dividing line, because untold numbers of people never become mature adults, instead their behavior remains adolescent or even childish. Sad as that is, countless more people don’t experience a deeply loving relationship.

It would be unjust and wrong to deny personal evolution to anyone. As long as the potential is there, it can evolve. Looking around with this in mind, you see that everyone spends their day making choices that lead in an evolutionary direction or not. In the back of our minds, we all say, I want to be happier. I want to be loved. I want success, and so on.

To this should be added, I want to be enlightened. Once you break enlightenment down into the aspects listed above, wanting enlightenment is the same as wanting anything else that you find desirable. It’s a source of profound misdirection that the whole concept of enlightenment has been shrouded in notions about renunciation and giving up the world. Enlightenment is actually about gaining more out of life.

Other wrong notions have been thrown into the mix. Enlightenment, contrary to popular belief, isn’t exotic, Eastern, religious, or mystical. You aren’t required to have a monk’s personality or to spend years of controlled discipline. Once you realize that the enlightened self is a dimension that you already participate in, just as you participate in society, relationships, and your private inner world, the goal of enlightenment reveals itself as universal. The evolution of consciousness has been an unbroken thread from prehistory to today. Developing your enlightened self is the next step, whose rewards wait to be discovered one person at a time.

DEEPAK CHOPRA MD, FACP, FRCP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego, and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution for the last thirty years. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Digital Dharma: How to Use AI to Raise Your Spiritual Intelligence and Personal Well-Being. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.”