What Would the World be Like if Everyone Was Enlightened?

Woman meditating on the beach.

Would it be heaven or hell, or just freaking boring?

With so many people striving toward enlightenment, what would happen if one morning we all woke up enlightened?

It’s such a funny thing to contemplate. And to really contemplate it, you would have to have some kind of idea of what enlightened people are like, in order to extrapolate that out into the world in general.

The thing is, I don’t think enlightened people are like anything in particular.

Sure, we have images of ever-loving gurus, so benign it makes you want to cry. Or perhaps we imagine them to be above it all, detached, as though life doesn’t really get to them anymore. But what do we really know about the average enlightened person? Not the ones who end up in the limelight.

Since I’ve never knowingly met an enlightened person in real life, I have primarily myself to go by. The few (very few) enlightened people who have connected with me through this site have reported having different experiences than I do. I doubt there is one kind of enlightened person. Some of us are loud, and some are cranky, and some are more detached and some are so demonstrative and loving and exude a river of sweetness. And some are just, well, normal.

If awakened people were like me, the world would be really quiet. There would be precious little to talk about, and most things would just be known telepathically.

My daughter and I are like this. When I sent her to kindergarten, she was very disturbed that people didn’t just know what she wanted or intended. I had to actually coach her at that point to verbally express her needs or wants because she was not accustomed to having to do that. When she became a teenager it started bugging her that we didn’t speak out loud, so she requested we have verbal conversations instead of just communicating telepathically at tea time or over dinner. So perhaps in a world of enlightened people, conversation would be something fun that we did on purpose, as a novelty.

But not all enlightened people are telepathic. Some enlightened people may not care at all about material things and be quite Spartan, but I love luxury. I love beautiful clothes and fine bed linens. I am sensual and adore textures and colors and scents. I’m celibate, so there would be lots of affection, but no sex.

So, what exactly are enlightened people like?

Some people imagine that once you see the illusory nature of self and of life, that you lose your motivation. That can happen, but in my experience it is just a phase. It might even last a few years. But the will to engage with life returns, and you are able to take it all very seriously, even though you know it is theater. You are an actor, so you act in good faith and with your whole being. There is nothing to disdain here, nothing to hold yourself separate from. Good actors really get into their roles. They are not above the role, they get deep into the character, without judgement or reserve. They make it real. So you go from believing it’s real, to discovering it’s not real, to making it real…on purpose.

I doubt it would be boring because we would all still be our different, interesting, weird and ordinary selves, but I don’t think it would be heaven, either. The world would be full of newly awakened people! There is nothing so annoying as a fledgling Buddha. People would be wandering around en mass, blissed out, going on and on about their no-self. There is definitely a cute, but awkward stage in the process.

“Oh, look honey, Jane just discovered her no-self.”

Adorable. Get the camera.

Maybe it’s a good thing we only seem to wake up a few at a time.

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