I have had some conversations with a new housemate of ours, and it has helped clear up a question for me.
What is the difference between Enlightenment and God realization? There seems to be a difference in how it is expressed, which in turn may reflect a difference in experience.
He had a two-day Enlightenment experience at age 17, and describes it as a fully transdual experience, with a sense of completeness and equanimity, fully liberated from the habitual patterns of the small self and thus from suffering. The physical world appeared the same as before, although now without the filter of the personality – the likes/dislikes and ideas.
I had a similar experience about the same age, but with a different flavor. I experienced the whole physical universe as consciousness – as God, Spirit – and I am that consciousness. There was tremendous joy, bliss and gratefulness – and a sense of everything – without exceptions – being God. It was a fully transdual experience – embracing all dualities including existence and nonexistence – completely impossible to express fully in words. I also became very sensitive to my surroundings, which was very uncomfortable in many circumstances – especially when being around people with strong resistance to their experiences. When I was alone, there was complete and cosmic bliss and joy. When with others, there was sometimes great pain – also because there was nobody to share these experiences with. In periods, there was a stream of awareness 24 hours a day, even in deep sleep. And there was a barrage of insights, described in many of the spiritual traditions of the world. This may have been a taste of God Realization, and definitely without the liberation from suffering (although I did experience even the suffering as God and bliss).
In both cases, it was a fully transdual experience. A complete experience of Oneness of everything, embracing the absolute and relative.
In the first case, there was great liberation and equanimity, without any experience of the physical universe being consciousness or God, Buddha Mind, etc.
In the second case, the universe was revealed as consciousness and God, and there was great bliss and joy, but also a great deal of suffering through the small self. There was no complete liberation. This is probably mostly due to the absence of any preparation – it came out of the blue (I was a die-hard atheist at the time). When it occurs more gradually, and after a longer period of practice and preparation, I am sure the liberation aspect can be there as well.
It seems that there could be a combination of the three as well – liberation, Enlightenment and God Realization. And it can definetely be deeply grounded, experienced as ordinary, and lived more fully in everyday life.