What is enlightenment? It's a state of mind that’s different for everyone. To a child, it will probably be an ice cream cone (especially one with sprinkles) that's dripping on their hand in the summertime. To you or me, it's likely to be something else.
Enlightenment is absolutely wonderful, but it's difficult to describe entities that are tied to emotional experience in terms that are better suited for material things. We generalize when we talk to others about emotions, but people usually understand us when we do: When we talk about something such as pain, for example, everyone can relate.
But how do you describe an uncommon state of mind? Can you call enlightenment bliss? Can you call enlightenment happiness? Those things are true about enlightenment, but enlightenment comprises more than what those terms imply. Some would say it would be futile to try to describe enlightenment. But I don't believe that.
I regard enlightenment to be a reasonable goal that can be obtained by a practitioner seeking to be self-aware who is pursuing goals, doing things to improve, and exhibiting excellent behavior. That might serve as a clinical definition of sorts, but I could also try to define enlightenment in a more spiritual sense. I could say that enlightenment is the result of serving the purpose of my existence, which would be ending my own mental suffering and then contributing back to the collective good of fellow humans and other creatures.
I journey towards enlightenment, but I get lost on the path at times. I can get to a point where I feel that I can't do collective humanity much good unless I work on myself, and my work on myself might stagnate. Or I might become paralyzed by regrets about my past. Thankfully, neither situation is the case for me right now, in part because I take a certain healthy pride in seeking my own betterment and I’m grateful for the very desire to improve.
At this stage of my life, I consider enlightenment to be the act of totally being in the present moment. And I'm very relaxed and calm when I'm doing things such as breathing properly that enhance my present moment enlightenment experience.
Anxiety can take me away from such a state. But if something catastrophic was happening to the degree that anxiety was warranted, my present moment enlightenment experience would lessen my stress and help me deal with related problems.
Yet, again, enlightenment just can't be defined in the same way that a material object can. No matter how eloquent I could become over time, there's no way I could describe it in a way that would not lend itself to potential confusion. And any such attempted description would be particularly confusing to anyone who had not come to any degree of a state of enlightenment. But I'll attempt a relatively simple description anyway, although the description will be somewhat inadequate: Enlightenment is reaching a space in your mind in which you are consistently happy and consistently making choices that are beneficial to yourself, your community, and your planet.
Inherent in enlightenment is a person’s beginning to figure out what it means to be compassionate and nonviolent. The journey to that type of consciousness takes a long time, and we humans have ways to rationalize our lack of compassion toward not only other human beings but also other creatures. Whether we acknowledge it or not, when we eat the flesh of an animal, our diet contains violence. That doesn't necessarily mean that a person needs to feel guilty or sinful when eating meat. But it does mean that a creature had to surrender its life for that person to eat.
There's no nonviolent way to kill a creature. There are ways that are more compassionate than others to kill creatures, but the creatures die nonetheless. I don't think that a person needs to be vegan to find enlightenment. But I do think that people who eat the flesh of animals should do a lot of extra compassionate things to try to create balance and harmony in their subconscious minds.
I believe that it's noble for human beings to pledge to themselves that they will not inflict violence on other humans. Not doing so would entail not hitting children, not voting to send soldiers off to war, and working our asses off to find nonviolent solutions to all conflicts. Yet it would not mean that we could not defend ourselves if people came to attack us at our front doors.
To expand on my insufficient and incomplete definition of enlightenment, I believe that it entails recognizing things that matter in life. There are universal things that mentally and morally well-balanced human beings regard as important: They include finding love, finding peace, sharing wisdom, and having the desire and ability to reach out to others, especially the elderly and those who are weak, frail, ill, or injured. And enlightened people understand how important such things are.