What is this thing called Enlightenment?

Santhip Kanholy, on TED, said, “Enlightenment is an actual experience which changes the perspective and perception of the individual, which has been touted in all the ancient religious scriptures spanning all global cultures. Buddha is considered to be enlightened. So is Jesus. Thus all major religions have sprung from individuals who have experienced enlightenment.”

I admit that I was surprised when I saw the embedded video in this post of a group of Americans searching for and finding their own form of enlightenment in China.

The popular stereotype about someone searching for change and enlightenment fits the plot we find in Eat, Pray, Love, a best seller that was made into a movie with Julia Roberts, where Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir takes her to Italy for pleasure, India for enlightenment and Indonesia where she discovers love again—repeatedly, it seems.

In the following video, we follow a group of Kung Fu and Tai Chi students from the U.S. in search of Kung Fu wisdom in China.

While in China, they visit Chinese families, schools, temples and universities. They travel through both ancient and modern China visiting Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai.

They also climbed two of the five major mountains of China, Songshan and Yellow Mountain.

After surviving personal conflicts and emotional struggles, the group returns to America as Elizabeth Gilbert did in her journey—to be compassionate and harmonious with others and the environment.

Of course, finding harmony might not have worked out for Gilbert because  in a 2015 article for The New York Times titled “Confessions of a Seduction Addict,” Gilbert wrote that she “careened from one intimate entanglement to the next—dozens of them—without so much as a day off between romances.” She acknowledged, “Seduction was never a casual sport for me; it was more like a heist, adrenalizing and urgent. I would plan the heist for months, scouting out the target, looking for unguarded entries. Then I would break into his deepest vault, steal all his emotional currency and spend it on myself.” After reading what Gilbert wrote for the NY Times, I think it is arguable that Gilbert never found the enlightenment she was searching for, but her memoir did make her famous and wealthy.

However, in three weeks, the group that went to China for enlighten went places few foreigners have seen and maybe that adventure and discovery was a form of enlightenment all by itself.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

IMAGE with Blurbs and Awards to use on Twitter

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4 Responses to What is this thing called Enlightenment?

  1. Debbie says:

    Lloyd, it’s really interesting to read this about Elizabeth Gilbert. I did not like the book nor the movie, In fact, I found it quite offensive the way she trapsed from country to country in an egotistic search for fame – it seemed to me she was never seriously searching for food, enlightenment, or love.. she was simply searching for her own fame. to characterise one country as a place to either eat, or pray, or love, seems incalcuably shallow.

    • I think Elizabeth Gilbert’s fame was fed by others who think the grass is always greener on the other side of the ocean or mountains or desert like she once did. I suspect she doesn’t think that way anymore. Instead, she seems to have managed to fool herself into thinking—-and it could be true—-that she has some sort of an addiction for sex and love-a-first-sight (that seldom lasts unless there is something there that is allowed to develop into a mature, longer lasting love and friendship) and that’s why drives her.

      Then when the dissatisfied, spoiled (my thinking—these fans have too much money and time on their hands and are probably shallow people who think more about themsevles than the others they are hurting) who made Gilbert rich and famous get wherever they are going as they chase the fantasies Gilbert gives them through her memoir, they discover that it’s either worse or the same most of the time and even if it seems better, what they think is better won’t last. Gilbert’s own lifestyle reveals someone who is a mess and she will probably never find whatever she was looking for even if she knew what that was.

      When that happens, well, they can always go to a doctor and get an antidepressant. I know someone who did this Gilbert thing decades ago—left her husband when she was in her late 30’s dreaming of finding Mr. Perfect. She never did. Now she’s in her mid 80s. Once when we were talking she admitted that she never thought it would turn out the way it did.

      In short, Gilbert is a dysfunction addict and her specific addiction appeals to too many other people. It’s scary.

      • Debbie says:

        or perhaps its all just another clever marketing campaign. either way, she’s still dysfunctional. and a poor writer, as far as i am concerned. i could never understand why that book was so popular.

      • I think she tapped into a zeitgeist for a segment of readers—probably avid readers of Harlequin romance formula novels and/or the 50 Shades of Grey crowd—-in other words bored people looking for the impossibly, perfect romance where the perfection never lasts.

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