Enlightenment refers to the “full comprehension of a situation”. It is commonly used to denote the Age of Enlightenment, but is also used in Western cultures in a religious context. It translates several Buddhist terms and concepts, most notably bodhi, kensho and satori. Related terms from Asian religions are moksha (liberation) in Hinduism, Kevala Jnana in Jainism, and ushta in Zoroastrianism.
In Christianity, the word “enlightenment” is rarely used, except to refer to the Age of Enlightenment and its influence on Christianity. Roughly equivalent terms in Christianity may be illumination, kenosis, metanoia, revelation, salvation and conversion.
Perennialists and Universalists view enlightenment and mysticism as equivalent terms for religious or spiritual insight.
Main article: Enlightenment in Buddhism
The English term “enlightenment” has commonly been used to translate several Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese and Japanese terms and concepts, especially bodhi, prajna, kensho, satori and buddhahood.
Bodhi is a Theravada term. It literally means “awakening” and “understanding”. Someone who is awakened has gained insight into the workings of the mind which keeps us imprisoned in craving, suffering and rebirth and has also gained insight into the way that leads to nirvana, the liberation of oneself from this imprisonment.
Prajna is a Mahayana term. It refers to insight into our true nature, which according to Madhyamaka is empty of a personal essence in the stream of experience. But it also refers to the Tathāgata-garbha or Buddha-nature, the essential basic-consciousness beyond the stream of experience.
In Zen, kensho means “seeing into one’s true nature”. Satori is often used interchangeably with kensho, but refers to the experience of kensho.
Buddhahood is the attainment of full awakening and becoming a Buddha. According to the Tibetan Thubten Yeshe, enlightenment
[means] full awakening; buddhahood. The ultimate goal of Buddhist practice, attained when all limitations have been removed from the mind and one’s positive potential has been completely and perfectly realized. It is a state characterized by infinite compassion, wisdom and skill.