David Chapman, a philosophically-inclined Buddhist'y guy I follow on Twitter, raised an interesting question:
It sure is a reasonable question. But I'd like to go further by ditching the word "practical." Which makes the question, in statement form, Show us some thing this "enlightenment" is good for.
Meaning, the way I see it, how would anyone know whether someone is enlightened?
Substitute a wording of your choice for enlightened, if you like. Spiritually advanced. God-realized. Possesses an elevated consciousness. The point is, well, to be able to point to some characteristic of such a person that distinguishes them from an unenlightened person.
If there isn't any differentiating characteristic, if there's no way to tell whether someone is enlightened, then isn't "enlightenment" just like any other abstraction that fails to point to anything demonstrably real?
Like God or heaven. Or fairy dust.
If someone is enlightened, or God-realized, shouldn't there be some way of telling them apart from other people? If there isn't, then how is enlightenment or God-realization a thing to be sought after?
A baker can bake. An artist makes art. An auto mechanic fixes cars. A teacher teaches. And an enlightened person... what? ... enlights? What the heck does that mean?
I've heard devotees talk about a supposedly God-realized guru in ways like these: He's so inspiring. I feel elevated in his presence. His eyes looked right through me. I had all my questions answered.
OK. There's lots of people who don't claim to be enlightened who merit these sorts of statements. So again, what really distinguishes an enlightened person from an unenlightened person?
If there's no outward characteristic, only a supposedly inward subjective essence, then enlightenment truly isn't good for anything. Each of us already possesses an inward subjective essence. It's called human consciousness.