The Buddha said:
Seeing the way is like going into a dark room with a torch. The darkness instantly departs while the light alone remains. When the way is attained and the truth is seen, ignorance vanishes and enlightenment abides forever.
Once you have arrived home, this is what the Buddha calls samadhi. In this stage, only awareness remains. The surface of the mind is still, reflecting only that which is. However there are stages before reaching samadhi.
Before samadhi, before coming home, you get a glimpse of the stillness. A glimpse of peaceful existence without the conflict and torment created by the mind. This is what you will find through meditation. There will be a gap in the process of thought. A quiet space where you are sensitive enough to find peace. There is a taste of enlightenment. Those moments erase the doubt that you have had that your efforts may be in vain. Those moments of stillness contain the peace that you have been desiring through all of your efforts in life. Those moments affirm the realization that desire is futile.
You begin to learn what creates the gap, becoming in tune with your environment and the inner world. The state of peace exists within you and always has, but now you are learning how to access it. You’ll come to find that stopping the mind is not an easy task. Many layers of learned nonsense need to be recognized and fall away for you to come back to this state. Many have given formulas for coming to this state, however the way of each person is individual. The Budddha gives the eightfold way. Patanjali gives yoga. Lao Tzu gives Taoism. You will take in Buddha’s lessons of his own experience, however you will come to a point where the lessons must come from the own self. The self will guide you back to its natural state as long as you understand where to look. The lessons of the Buddha will direct you but the rest of the inner tuning will be internal. As long as a trust is developed. As long as there is not a doubt that this state is possible. The first gap will begin to dispel doubt.
Once you understand how to create the gap for your own self, you will practice keeping yourself in the gap, out of the mind. You will own the ability to do this. There will be days that are easier and days that are harder, however you will have the skill. You will notice what is creating it and what is preventing it. You might notice a desire arising that is preventing peace, and the awareness of the desire will dissolve it. You might notice inner chatter that is preventing peace, and the awareness of the chatter will quiet it. It will all be a result of awareness. However in this stage, there will still be some effort. The effort will come in remaining aware at times.
The gaps of stillness in the mind will become more frequent, however there still may not be bliss within the gaps. The gaps may just be of non-suffering. The mind creates suffering. No-mind takes away suffering, but does not create bliss. Bliss, enlightenment, is born out of non-suffering. It blossoms out of the stillness. It cannot be said what will spark the bloom of bliss for you. It may be the blue sky, or birds singing, or the feel of soft fabric on the skin. It might be the feeling of one-ness with the world around you. But it will be a feeling of no conflict. The feeling will be that all is right with the world. The feeling of god, what the Buddha calls dhamma.
In Buddhism there is no god, not a man in the sky to pray to. For Buddha there is dhamma, the law of nature. Enlightenment is a surrender to the law of nature. All that is in this moment is all that there should be. It is perfection, even in its imperfection. The mind does not like to exist there. The mind likes to rewind to the past of nonexistence and the future of nonexistance. The mind likes to fight with dhamma, and enlightenment surrenders beautifully and peacefully to dhamma.
You will begin to feel so blissful in this state that you will become indifferent to the idea of enlightenment. This is when enlightenment occurs.
It seems that enlightenment is accompanied by a pinpointed moment. However keep this from your mind as it will distract you from your experience of samadhi. You might fear the moment or anticipate the moment and it will distract you. Simply stay with your experience of acceptance of dhamma. If a time comes that you experience the moment, this is good. However even then it will be no different.
People ask what comes after enlightenment? The same that came before it. Meditation. You will remain in your meditation with peace and with bliss because you will know exactly how to stay in meditation. You will be so skilled and so practiced at staying in the gap between thoughts that there will be no more effort. You will become so attuned with this state that you will not need to leave, and you will know always of its existence.
Now when you use the mind, it will be as a tool. The mind will not use you. Even an enlightened person uses the mind. The Buddha used the mind to write his sutras. However when he is done with the mind he puts it away. The process is dropped. When he uses the mind it is not like you use the mind. It is used with awareness. It does not create waves and ripples that distort the surface. The mind is used carefully, and avoids disturbing the peaceful surface. And then it stops.
You might now desire this state. In a way the desire is good. It is leading you to make the efforts, to start on the path. However, realize that the desire is also the barrier. The mind is always searching and achieving. Once you realize that all of your fulfilled desires have not led to happiness, you will desire enlightenment. This is the last desire to rid yourself of. You cannot desire enlightenment because it is something you already have, you are just unaware. You are too distracted to feel it. To desire it is simply another distraction. Another wave on the surface of your mind. There is no need to desire what is already there. All of your life you’ve been fighting with dhamma because you want to feel bliss. You want to control the surroundings to feel happiness. However you don’t realize why you do this. Once you realize that bliss already exists, only when you are accepting of what is, you will let go. You will be enlightened. There is no need to desire this, only to become aware of this. Then there is samadhi, then there is bliss.
The last step in the eightfold path is right samadhi. If there is right samadhi, there is a wrong samadhi. The Buddha says to be in right samadhi. In this enlightened state you are aware. You are living in the world with awareness. This can be done in other ways. Some have taken samadhi to an extreme point, the opposite of what Buddha means by samyak or “right”. Samyak means in harmony, and an extreme state is not in harmony.
There are people who avoid life and remain removed in a blissful and unconscious state. This is even revered in some places, these people being seen as holy people. However the Buddha warns against this. Removing yourself from life in order to be unconscious in samadhi is not right, it is not in harmony. The Buddha wishes for you to be blissful and be within the world, finally now in samadhi, enjoying the life that was meant for you to experience. It is tempting when you find bliss to then be removed. To delve further into bliss and be unbothered with all of life, however then you miss all of life. To be in right samadhi you are experiencing bliss in all of life.