The popular view is that in order to become enlightened we have to become something other than what we already are. Somehow what or how we are is inferior and gross. To become enlightened we have to get rid of all our imperfections and change ourselves through some sort of alchemical process into a kind of super-being.
The first and perhaps most interesting angle on this point of view is that it involves a judgement by someone who, in the same breath, is saying that he is not fit to judge!
The essence of Buddhism, in my understanding, is that we are already enlightened but have forgotten that; forgotten who we really are. We have come to think that we are the sum of our life experiences, ignoring the being that lies underneath those undigested residues that we have been unable to let go of and which bind us to the past.
Lets turn the thing around and look at it another way:- if we are already enlightened the task then is to get in touch with who we really are. At least that is part of the task because if we cannot trust our own judgement , we need to go further and come into the awareness of who we are, without judgement. Just gradually, or suddenly take on board a greater awareness of who we are and how we are and accept that without wishing it weren’t so, or were something else.
This then is the first level of enlightenment. Awareness. Just that, awareness!
I am not saying there are not degrees of awareness of enlightenment. I am sure there are but they are an expansion of this first step. A coming into awareness of who we really are, without judgement.
I have seen so many people strive to do their meditations and other practices, often for many years and very conscientiously, in the belief that out of the striving will come a changed person. Unfortunately, what comes out of the searching and struggling is searching and struggling! It seems so much more reasonable to me to believe that being born in a human body in this time and in this place is all the material we need and that what needs fully exploring is what being a human being means. That means if I feel angry then anger is an attribute of being human If I feel happy, fearful, sad, whatever, these are all attributes of being human. If I bash myself up for the one or praise myself for the other, this does not make sense as it is just a state I am in at the moment, not who I am. There is nothing blameworthy or praiseworthy in any of those emotions in themselves. If I can just note how it is without feeding the emotion with the energy of my attachment to it, it will go away as a new state of affairs comes in to replace it. Nothing is static unless we hold it so. Everything in the universe is in motion.
So, to go back to the subject of enlightenment. The main enemy to its revelation, remembrance, in all of us, is judgement and by judgement I mean fixing on, in any examining or qualitative way.