A Mini-Map of Enlightenment

During the “Living Connections” conference I was made aware of a poem by Hans Børli. It become clear to me that the poem can be seen as a mini-map of enlightenment. Here is an english translation of the poem:

One thing is necessary

One thing is necessary – here
In this our difficult world
Of vagrants and wanderers:

To take up residence in oneself.

Go into the darkness
and brush off the soot from the lamp.

So that the people on the roads
Can glimpse the light
In your inhabited eyes.


At first a necessity of change has arisen; something has to happen due to the conditions of the world.  There is suffering, a sense of not being at home anywhere. One has to turn inside. This is the stage of metanoia, of changing one’s view, of repenting, and turning to the right path, which is to seek within.

But within there is darkness. One has to work on removing the soot from the lamp in one’s new home. This is the stage of katharsis, of inner purification, which is common to all contemplative traditions.

The third stage is photismos, the awakening of the inner, divine light. This has various meanings, such as understanding ultimate truth and uncovering one’s underlying nature.

The fourth stage, the unification or completion, teleoisis, consists of the light spreading around to other beings, signifying that enlightenment does not happen in any place beyond the world, but in union with other human beings.

As the Zen saying goes:

If you seek small enlightenment, go into the woods, where the temple is.

If you seek big enlightenment, go into the city, where the people are.


So the poem is remarkably precise.