What is Enlightenment?
It is the conscious direct knowing of the SELF. You could also say it is the direct experience of the absolute truth. People awakened to direct knowing of the SELF exclaim, "Aha!" or "This is It!," or "Oh my god!," or "It's me! It's always been me!" It's often described as the experience of union or oneness.
If you ask 1000 people to describe enlightenment, you'd get 1000 different responses ranging from ignorance, uncertainty, preconceived ideas to presentations filled with clarity, truth and direct knowing.
Pointing at the Moon isn't the Moon
Zen masters say that 'pointing at the moon isn't the moon,' which is to say that the idea or words describing enlightenment shouldn't be confused with the thing itself. To know what enlightenment is, you have to directly experience or know it for yourself. The Western Zen Buddhist meditation teacher, Philip Kapleau, translates the Japanese word 'satori' into the English word enlightenment. Satori means 'Instantaneous Awakening'. It is the elevated state of self realization that Zen meditators and Enlightenment Intensive participants aim for. Zen Masters poetically describe it as 'Opening the Minds Eye' or 'Awakening to your True Nature.'
Direct Experience is Enlightenment
Words are always inadequate to convey the meaning of enlightenment. Enlightenment is the conscious direct knowing of the Self. Self enlightenment is the direct experience of the truth of you. Direct knowing does not come about through any process such as by seeing, thinking, believing, deciding, reasoning, feeling or by any other way. It is direct, raw, genuine and authentic.
If you're hungry, why eat the menu?
Reading the menu in a restaurant NEVER fulfills your hunger. To satisfy your hunger you have to eat the Real Food. At the Enlightenment Intensive Retreat the enlightenment experience or direct knowing is always the main feast on the menu. Why eat the menu when you can eat Real Food?
What Do Others Say about Enlightenment?
Charles Berner (originator of the Enlightenment Intensive)
Enlightenment is impossible to define. It can't be done. But we can take some words and point in that direction. I use direct experience as the definition of enlightenment.
It is difficult to understand what direct experience is because the word "experience" denies what we're trying to say. If you could have an experience that was not an experience, but nevertheless ended up with what that was, then this would be an enlightenment experience. Enlightenment is not really an experience at all because experience is always a process, something that takes place. Logical thinking, reasoning, remembering; these are indirect experiences by the way I've defined the term because they occur through a process.
Source: The Transmission of Truth; Chapter 1, What is and is not Enlghtenment