There are a number of good books with biographies of some of the great religious teachers, and these contain a description of how and when these people became “enlightened“. Some books which I can recommend are:
- Living Biographies of Great Religious Leaders, Henry Thomas and Dana Lee Thomas, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, India, 1988
- Mystics, Masters, Saints and Sages – Stories of Enlightenment, Robert Ullman and Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, Conari Press, USA 2001, ISBN 1-57324-507-0
- Dialogues with Emerging Spiritual Teachers, John W Parker, Sagewood Press, USA 2000, ISBN 0-9703659-0-X
When you read the biographies of the lives of some of the greatest religious teachers, you discover than many had only a few great moments in their life, but these moments were significant life-changing events. This sometimes occurs when a person has a Near Death Experience (NDE) or an Out-of-Body Experience (OBE). An experience strong enough to shatter ones normal view of reality and conclusively demonstrate that other planes of consciousness exist.
Descriptions of the lives of some of the greatest saints of modern times (eg Ramana Maharshi, Paramahansa Yogananda, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Meher Baba) would suggest that whilst they had the ability to enter higher states of consciousness, it was not a continuous or permanent state; but perhaps they did gain the ability to access it at will.