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Enlightenment Superpowers

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"I found true freedom. I am no longer bound to this earth by worldly desires. I have entered the void."

Some heroes train non-stop to develop Charles Atlas Superpowers, often using Training from Hell to attain herculean feats of skill. But... will defeating a dojo full of ninjas while blindfolded and bound in chains reveal the meaning of suffering? How many miles have to be run over liquid magma without breaking the surface before the purpose of life unfolds?

The master of Enlightenment Superpowers knows.

After years of spiritual introspection, countless hours of intellectual debate, searches both academic and personal, the mysteries of existence begin to unfold. A sudden revelation reveals the secrets of the universe in a flash of (divine?) lightning. It doesn't have to be tied to any one religion; it's entirely possible for the revelation to be fathomable by an atheist or secular character. Maybe it's all that meditating that unlocks the full use of the brain or makes it gain critical mass, giving practitioners Super-Intelligence or Psychic Powers like: Astral Projection, access to past life memories and skills, levitation, and Aura Vision courtesy of their Third Eye chakra.

Physically, since All Monks Know Kung-Fu, their mental harmony and discipline means they can likely control their body's autonomic functions... possibly even unlocking Healing Factors, iron durability, incredible longevity, surpassing biological needs, Super-Strength, and Ki Manipulation.

Because Magic Is Mental, these two tropes often overlap: the best wizards are the wisest and the smartest.

Characters with Enlightenment Superpowers usually know some type of Functional Magic courtesy of their training, though it's entirely possible they can't cast any magic at all (or both sets of abilities are independent but related). To use a computer metaphor, their abilities don't come from using cosmic cheat codes, but thanks to discovering (or creating) the help file and user manual. Basically, they have learned to harness all of their human potential. Bonus points if they're also bald.

Interestingly, not all characters with Enlightenment Superpowers are good. It's sometimes the case that they decide that Might Makes Right and as the strongest, they can do as they please or they develop a much weirder philosophy. Generally characters who achieve this enlightened state are highly grounded, hard to upset, and very moral. Still, Beware the Nice Ones, because they have a Meditation Powerup.

Compare and contrast Power Born of Madness where the madness may or may not be considered enlightenment. Expect to see this overlap with Japanese Spirit a lot.

Despite the name, has nothing whatsover to do with Romanticism Versus Enlightenment.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Attack on Titan, Mikasa describes her Ackerman blood awakening in terms similar to an epiphany; one minute, she was cowering on the floor, and the next, someone told her to "fight", and she realized that she could do anything. Her words. She never lost a fight after that. More darkly, Eren theorizes that this was the moment her human self died.
  • Zanpakuto-based abilities are this in Bleach. Zanpakutou represent the user's specific talents and strengths, and you must form a bond with them to access all of your hidden powers. The problem is that they also represent your faults and weaknesses, too, and the parts of your personality you don't want to acknowledge.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, the Transparent World is introduced as such when Tanjiro first seeks it, recalling how his father Tanjiro had attained such a perfectly balanced attitude between being peaceful and being ready to fend of any threat against his family at a moment's notice. The first visual cue of the ability is portrayed as a literal universal transparent void of space, where Tanjiro can see through everything which is also in slow motion. Akaza sees it as achieving the pinnacle of martial arts, admitting not even he attained that level.
  • Dragon Ball: Subverted. According to Toriyama, Tien has achieved enlightenment and should have godlike powers, but the evil influence of the Crane Hermit prevents him from ever using those powers to their full potential.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Alchemy is performed by Geometric Magic that ranges from complex designs of blueprints for specific transmutations to a simple circle if you're skilled enough. Alchemists who perform human transmutation and enter the Gate of Truth and survive whatever body part it rips from you gain enough knowledge of alchemy that they can perform complex transmutations by clapping their hands, forming a circle with their arms and filling in all the details mentally.
  • Jujutsu Kaisen: Jujutsu sorcerers and even some cursed spirits can rapidly grow stronger by gaining insight into themselves in special moments either by being at the point of death, or hitting a Black Flash. Doing both exposes them to the core of cursed energy which allows them to evolve to a higher level in combat.
  • Senjutsu from Naruto works like this by requiring the user to be In Harmony with Nature and combine the physical and spiritual energy found in the body with natural energy found outside it in nature. Senjutsu itself appears to predate ninja, given how the Elder Toad actually taught a form of it to the Sage of the Six Paths and his brother back when he was a young toad and they young adults, so they could stand against their mother (though this is shown only in the anime, which expanded on their backgrounds.)
  • Subverted in One Piece, where according to Word of God a human who eats the Human-Human Fruit (the fruit that turned Chopper into a human/reindeer hybrid) would achieve spiritual enlightenment but physically would gain nothing but the weakness of a Devil Fruit User.
    • At least with the normal Human-Human fruit. Former Fleet Admiral Sengoku ate the Human-Human Fruit... Model: Daibutsu, allowing him to turn into a giant golden Buddha-like being that can produce powerful shockwaves (though it's not clear whether or not he's attained enlightenment). Alternatively, there's Luffy once he Awakens his Devil Fruit, the Human-Human Fruit, Model: Nika, which grants the power of Toon Physics.
  • One-Punch Man: Protagonist Saitama gained the strength to destroy any opponent in a single punch after doing a far from superhuman 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats and 10 km running, every single day for 3 years, at which point all his hair fell out and he "became strong". Both details evoke practices in Zen Buddhism.
    • It's later revealed that this workout program didn't exactly give him the physical strength, but rather his determination in being the strongest through the dedication of this workout was so powerful that he broke through his natural limiter, allowing him to go stronger indefinitely and thus becoming the immensely powerful figure we know him as now. This form of transcending human limitations through mental fortitude, along with Saitama's rather lax and detached attitude regarding his day-to-day aspects (barring Rule of Funny) and his Simple-Minded Wisdom, provide several examples that Saitama may have achieved some sort of enlightenment, at least partially.
  • After years of contemplation, fallen Buddhist monk Anji of Rurouni Kenshin learned the principle that allowed him to develop the Futae no Kiwami attack, a powerful punch that can turn rocks into dust.
  • In the manga version of Sailor Moon, reaching enlightenment on themselves is how Minako passed from her Sailor V form to her initial Sailor Venus transformation, the other Senshi got the Super form and Artemis obtained the ability to change in human form and, being her partner, obtained Minako's Super transformation.
  • Virgo Shaka of Saint Seiya lives in a setting full of Charles Atlas Superpowers but thanks to his Enlightenment Superpowers is one of the most feared, dangerous adversaries imaginable. He can create deadly illusions that will Mind Rape enemies from miles away, send them to Hell (or Heaven!), destroy their senses rendering them comatose, and even be more dangerous dead than alive. It helps that he's the reincarnation of a Buddha.
  • All the shamans in Shaman King have this to some degree. Hao, the most enlightened and powerful of all, decided that to create utopia all the ignorant humans have to die, leaving only shamans to populate the world.
  • That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime: In most cases, Skill acquisition and evolution is tied to the personal growth and revelations of their owners. While it is possible to be born with certain Skills or gain them through Evolutionary Levels, the only way to unlock Unique and Ultimate Skills is through this method. Even Otherworlders who gain Skills from crossing over usually need to have some sort of powerful inner desire at the time in order to be granted a Skill to reflect this. Training can hone your mastery of a Skill, but it alone won't cause you to gain one.
  • Food Honor in Toriko is this, and is an important part of Toriko's training for the Gourmet World. It involves a rigorous training which focus on "honoring" the food by respecting it when eating. If successful, the trainee can eliminate useless moves when cooking and even fighting. Related is the Food Inmmersion, in which showing gratitude to the food you consume will allow you to grasp its full nutritive capabilities, so much that Toriko had to be truly grateful to every meal he ever had in order to draw the Bubble Fruit and eat it.
  • Variable Geo: Yuka achieves this state during the final episode, when she faces Damian's Superpowered Evil Side again. She enters an almost Zen-like calm, which enables her to instinctively evade his attack and counter with a pirouetting backhand that sends him flying across the room. And when he tries to kill Siritahi, Yuka saves her by channeling all her energy to unleash Soryu Gekki.

    Comic Books 
  • Bone:
    • The dragons spend most of their time meditating on the Dreaming in hopes of maintaining the cosmic balance of the universe and achieving spiritual enlightenment. This grants them loads of nifty Psychic Powers, most notably the ability to astrally project into other people's dreams.
    • There's also the Order of Veni-Yan, an monastic order of holy warriors who attempt to research and understand the nature of the Dreaming through meditation. Like the dragons (though not to the same extent in power), this grants them the ability to astrally project themselves into and guide people's dreams (such as when a group of Veni-Yan monks help a troubled Thorn make contact with the Great Red Dragon in her dreams so she can gain aid on her Coming of Age Story).
  • David X in Casanova went into meditative seclusion as a performance artist. Twelve years later, he emerged as a low-grade Physical God.
  • The DCU:
    • At least one story implies that the Reality Warper powers of fifth-dimensional imps like Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite is possible because they know the Anti-Life Equation. In another arc, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner returns from beyond the Source Wall with the Life Equation embedded in his head, which also gives him Reality Warper powers.
    • One Crisis Crossover introduces a Superman from an alternate universe where he was raised by Tibetan monks. Through meditation and enlightenment, he's learned finer control of his powers, adjusting his solar radiation absorption to absorb other forms of radiation being one of his new abilities. Another is grasping a Beam-O-War between two other Supermen like ropes made of energy and using it to pull them both to the ground. According to him, any Superman is capable of achieving his level of enlightenment in their powers.
    • Inverted in All-Star Superman, which posits that Superman has reached enlightenment because of his powers, not the other way around. It's implied that anyone with his powers would experience this, as demonstrated when Lex Luthor temporarily gains them and has a Heel Realization:
      "This is how he sees all the time, every day. Like it's all just us, in here, together. And we're all we've got..."
    • The Flash: Johnny Quick and his daughter Jesse both gain their Super-Speed from reciting a formula describing a 4th-dimensional object while attempting to imagine said object. Later retconned into being their ways of accessing the Speed Force.
    • The Great Ten hero Thundermind is a Buddhist who gains Superman-level powers by reciting a mantra.
    • Shazam!: On one occasion, Dr. Sivana, longtime enemy of Captain Marvel, breaks out of Cardboard Prison by reciting a mathematical proof that allows him to walk through the wall.
  • A good half of Kalimán's powers came from his intense mental and spiritual training in the orient. The other half? Sheer badassitude.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • The Contemplator, one of the Elders of the Universe. His study of meditation, philosophy and mental/spiritual development gave him powers such as telepathy, mental domination of others, precognition, telekinesis, levitation, and astral projection.
    • Captain Marvel (Marvel Comics): Mar-Vell gains the power of Cosmic Awareness when the entity Eon puts him through a trial to fight his inner demons and achieve enlightenment.
    • In Ultimate Fantastic Four, this is theorized in-universe by the Mole Man to be the source of Sue's invisibility powers, on the premise that the accident somehow enlightened her mind to replicate meditation techniques to avoid detection.
    • The Unbelievable Gwenpool: Bordering on Power Born of Madness, but this is how Gwenpool gains superpowers. She starts out as a depressingly average nerd stuck in the world of comic books getting by on pure Genre Savvy, then through some convoluted events she thinks her worldview through to its logical endpoint and gets enlightened about everything (even what she thought was real life) being a comic book, and this gives her the power to... abuse the medium conventions. Think Frame Break, use of various Ninja Props, possibly Perspective Magic, and so forth. You might guess her morality is pretty brightly colored thanks to this. (Good vs. evil? Not really. Be interesting, or your book gets cancelled and you end up as C-List Fodder.)
  • This is a large part of the premise of the Charlton Comics character Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt. When he isn't simply employing a Charles Atlas Superpower or two thanks to advanced martial arts training, his access to a set of "ancient scrolls" helps him to accomplish outright superhuman feats. His Watchmen counterpart/expy, Ozymandias, doesn't quite fit the archetype, but two later versions of the character, in Kieron Gillen's Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt (2019), play the idea up; "Cannon" develops dimension-shifting abilities from first principles, while "Thunderbolt" is functionally a god on his home ground (far surpassing even a Doctor Manhattan Expy).
  • Zora from Powers is an inversion. By rejecting all spirituality and realizing she is "her own god", she gains godlike powers.
  • The Green Lama, as more recently resurrected in Project Superpowers, gained his ability to fly through years of studying the mystic ways of the Buddhist Guru in Tibet.
  • In Spawn, Harry Houdini discovered real magic in a moment of extreme focus required to pull off one of his escapologist tricks.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Ranma Saotome gains one of these in the Ranma ½ fanfiction The Ultimate Technique.
  • In Scar's Samsara, characters can become spiritually attuned by gaining enlightenment, unlocking elemental powers.
  • In the Naruto fanfic War of the Biju, Hyuga Hinata gains a higher level of the Byakugan called the Keihatsu Byakugan aia enlightenment.
  • The Games We Play: The more he masters his Supernatural Martial Arts and his Elemental Powers, the more Jaune understands about the world around him and the forces that create it, which further feeds into his grasp on his abilities. He even literally gains Skills called "of the Enlightened". This is particularly evident with "Ohr Ein Sof", which grows stronger not based on any stat, but on his understanding of Self and Emanation.
  • The Five-Step Path from the works of FanOfMostEverything straddles the line between this and Power Born of Madness. The Path is a magical/psychological technique unique to earth ponies that allows them to become aware of their status as cartoon characters, and by embracing that status, do as they wish without being hindered by logic or verisimilitude.
  • In The Butcher Bird, Six has a variant of these, being able to exploit his Devil Fruit ability to align himself with what is heavily implied to be the Universal Wave Function and thereby gain an understanding of his role in the universe.
  • In Point Me at the Skyrim, Antares' connection to her power-granting entity the Fragile One gives her key insights and warnings on various threats. It's not uncommon for her to ask it questions every once and awhile.
  • The protagonist of With This Ring is pulled into a Fusion Dance with the universal embodiment of Avarice, and has to recognise and accept all of his own desires as part of the process of surviving and separating again. In the aftermath, he finds that he is continually aware of all his desires and how they relate to each other, allowing him to channel the orange light of avarice without the usual danger of being overwhelmed by short-term thinking. In fact, he is nigh immune to any external attempts to control his emotions. He also gains a form of empathic vision, being able to perceive the emotions of others and the experiences associated with those emotions. Other characters are later shown to have developed equivalent enlightenment with other colours, such as Guy Gardner with the green light of willpower.

    Films — Animated 
  • Kung Fu Panda: It's played with in that the big secret is that there is no secret superpower you get for reading the Dragon Scroll, and that's the point. If anyone was worthy of reading the Dragon Scroll, then they already had all the power they'd ever need and the only thing stopping them would be their own hang-ups. This is especially prominent with Po, who repeatedly demonstrates that he's quite intelligent, tough, and agile when he puts his mind to it (usually to get food), but his low self-esteem and unconventional way of learning causes him to repeatedly self-sabotage until he finally internalizes the lesson, allowing him to put his hidden talent to use and defeat the vastly superior Tai Lung through Awesomeness by Analysis, good tactics, and slapstick comedy.
  • Kung Fu Panda 2: Attaining inner peace grants such abilities as being able to catch cannonballs with your bare hands. Played for Laughs when Shifu claims that the "great trauma" that allowed him to attain inner peace was Po being named Dragon Warrior in the previous movie.
    Shifu: Po, the day you were chosen as Dragon Warrior was the worst day of my life.
    [cue Po's completely unamused "God, not this again" face in contrast to Shifu's completely serious Thousand-Yard Stare]
    Shifu: By far. Nothing else came close. It was the worst, most painful, mind-destroying, horrible moment—
    Po: Okay.
    Shifu: —I have ever experienced. [hugs himself and shudders]
  • In The LEGO Movie, Emmet comes back as a Master Builder, able to whip up any zany LEGO contraption on the fly that he can think of, after his brush with the real world, Finn, and his dad, The Man Upstairs. He immediately puts it to use to save the day.
  • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part: Just like how Emmet's brief time in the real world made him a Master Builder, Lucy's experience in the real world affected her as well. When she enters Undar of the Dryar, she transforms the real world environment into LEGO, giving everyone full movement.
  • In Toy Story, after Buzz accepts that he's a toy, and Woody accepts Buzz, Buzz and Woody reach Andy in the end by Buzz gaining the ability to fly as an 11th-Hour Superpower.

    Films — Live-Action 
Examples by creator: Examples by work:
  • Doctor Strange (2016): Stephen Strange visits a monastery in Nepal in order to heal his damaged hands and has to spend months learning introspection and opening his mind before he can even attempt proper magic. His mentor finally just drops him off on Mount Everest so that he will learn to open a portal before he freezes to death. It works.
  • Everything Everywhere All at Once: Jobu Tupaki was forced to open up her mind into the multiverse. Realizing how meaningless everything was in the grand scheme of things drove her insane, but it also transformed her into a Reality Warper. She forces Evelyn to relive the same experience, which causes her to gain the skills of her countless alternate counterparts, making her just as much of a Reality Warper.
  • In Lucy, the main character encounters a drug that unlocks steadily greater percent of her brain, giving her control first over her own body, then finally over matter and time.
  • The Matrix:
    • Neo. The many Buddhist and Christological allusions for Neo throughout the series range from subtlely added to pounding in your ears with its Sanskrit-based musical score in the final movie. When he becomes The One, he becomes a Reality Warper because he understands the underlayer of the Matrix. Outside of the Matrix, Neo's powers to force enemy Machines to explode seems more technological, attributed to how he is differently wired than other humans in regards to the Matrix and the Machines. He effectively cracked into Sentinels wirelessly, thus interrupting their actions. The ability is limited in scope and range, worked only on Sentinels and their bombs, and tired Neo greatly in the final battle on his way to the Machine City.
    • All of the disconnected humans who reentered as Zion operatives use this to bend and break the physical laws within the Matrix, but it had its limits.
    • The Oracle and her weird count because "There is no spoon" — that is, they mastered simple forms of Reality Warping by comprehending that reality is an illusion.
    • Then there's Smith, the computer virus version of this, managing to infect disconnected humans. Luckily, he was defeated before finding out whether he could spread in the real world the way he did inside the Matrix.
  • In The Men Who Stare at Goats, the training doctrine of the New Earth Army was designed to trigger this. The soldiers were supposed to gain the powers of remote viewing, invisibility, walking through walls and the sparkling eyes technique while delving into Eastern mysticisim.
  • The Sphinx from Mystery Men is a parody of this character type; his superpower is "being terribly mysterious" and he speaks entirely in Ice-Cream Koan. He's also a straight example, since he really can slice guns in half with his mind as he claims.
  • Lamont Cranston in The Shadow learned how to "cloud men's minds", among other abilities. The end of the film implies that this training is used to unlock a normally-unused part of the brain. When Shiwan Khan gets that part of the brain removed by a surgeon who works for the Shadow, he can't Mind Control people anymore.
  • In Star Wars, the Jedi are famous for this, especially Jedi Master Yoda and later on, Luke Skywalker. The connection to the Force allows abilities such as My Significance Sense Is Tingling, the ability to heal, and for those who fall to the influence of The Dark Side, Shock and Awe.

  • Neal Stephenson pulled this trick in Anathem, suitably foreshadowed by monks who do know kung fu.
  • Rjurik Davidson's Caeli Amur stories has the philosopher-assassins such as Kata. They spend as much time hanging out in posh coffee-houses and university lectures as they do killing targets, but it's time spent well as all those debates over that world's equivalents of Aristotle, Descartes and etc. gives a philosopher-assassin superhuman fighting skills and control over their own bodies. Contrast this to Deepgate Codex, in which the assassins have superhuman abilities because of a lobotomy.
  • In Coiling Dragon, when high-ranking magi and warriors meditate and gain insights into the elemental Laws (how the elements and elemental magic work), they develop unique abilities. Linley's "Profound Truths" of the Wind either speed him up or slow down his opponents, and his Earth abilities use vibrations to either defend him from attacks or to bypass an opponent's armor and damage their internal organs.
  • Constance Verity Saves the World: The Most Perfect and Humble Yogi Atheeva the Exalted had somehow learned to burn holes in a wall by staring at it hard enough.
  • The mental/physical Schools of Dune exemplify this, especially the Bene Gesserit, who have attained complete control over their own bodies as well as other abilities that cause people to consider them to be "witches". It's downplayed because some of it is done by ingesting the Spice. The members of these schools didn't see themselves as superpowered, simply enlightened enough to benefit from the training. The Kwizatz Haderach is the one whom they considered superpowered, and every generation or so there would be another enlightened further beyond.
  • How to Be a Superhero describes "Becoming One With the Cosmos" as one source of super-powers, though the reader is warned not to Become One With New York City and turn into a massive pile of shit as a result.
  • Jedi Academy Trilogy: A variation in I, Jedi. Trainee Jedi Corran Horn has been unable to use telekinesis, a power which comes easily to most Jedi. He thinks he might be able to break through a mental barrier if he tries to do it with a huge rock, closing his eyes and really focusing. He pictures the rock rising up into the air, opens his eyes... to find the rock has stayed where it was, but everyone else is staring up in the air. He learns that his family have always been poor at telekinesis, but gifted at making illusions.
  • Journey to Chaos:
    • In Chaotic Philosophy, there exist levels of enlightenment. The first of which is plain old magecraft which can be learned out of a book by anyone that can read, or anyone with a teacher.
    • Any mortal spirit can become a Razor Spirit with "spiritual forging", which is basically long periods of meditation based on an ideal. This grants certain abilities and can make ones that the user already possesses stronger.
    • A vision quest inside Dengel's Cehian Lair grants Eric great wisdom and understanding about the immediate underlayer of reality and the true nature of magic.
  • In Journey to the West, many of Sun Wukong's powers, including the shapeshifting, the ability to summon duplicates of himself, and the ability to leap large distances in a single bound, were gained as side-effects of studying the secrets of the universe under the Taoist sage Puti Zhushi—himself based on the Buddhist sage Subhuti. Puti eventually asked him to leave when he realized he was more interested in the superpowers than the enlightenment.
  • All the alleged gods in Lord of Light have this as the source of their Psychic Powersthen they augment them even more with Sufficiently Advanced Technology.
  • In Time Scout, this is hinted to be the source of Ianira's Psychic Powers and explicitly stated to be the source of Jack the Ripper's.
  • Twelve Days: Through meditation, Madame Gupta has gained Super-Strength, the ability to move in just the right way to effortlessly win every fight, and the ability to catch glimpses of the history of people and places. With her help, Terry gains similar abilities, although he isn't as powerful as she is.
  • A major element in Way of Choices called cultivation. Though part of it is forming a link to a fated star, absorbing an energy called starlight and converting it to Essence (essentially ki). After the initial steps though, it seems to be less about enlightenment than amassing as much Essence as possible.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Rand was always a scarily powerful Channeler, but it was plain that the rigors of his role and magic were taking a terrible toll on him, nearly driving him to insanity and nihilism until he has an epiphany at the end of Book 12 which brings him close to what might be called enlightenment, making him a messiah in truth as well as title and dramatically amping up his powers (though he's still weaker than the Big Bad, who's an actual god). His Evil Counterpart Moridin has what could be classed as an evil version of this- a true nihilist, he's the closest of all mortals to the Big Bad's goals and methods, and as such is (for most of the series) the only one allowed to access his special magic system, the True Power. The True Power, though not any stronger than the One Power (which fuels most magic-users), is exempt from some of its restrictions and can do things it can't.
  • In The Witchlands, everyone living on the Fareastern continent can connect themselves to magic through intense study, in contrast to Witchlands, where it works on Mage Species rules. No'amatsi, who came from Fareast, were once able to do so as well, but seem to have lost the how-to over the centuries.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A one-time foe on Angel: a girl who combined this with removing her own eyes, to gain the ability to see a second or so into the future. This is a useful ability in an assassin.
  • The Artifact which the plots of seasons 1 and 2 of Eureka revolves around is a conduit for the Akashik Field, the universal repository of all knowledge. The two characters who come into contact with it, and aren't immolated by it, gain access to new powers. Both end up showing telepathy, and one gains instant regeneration powers and telekinesis.
  • Inverted in Game of Thrones by Thoros of Myr. He is a red priest, was raised in the temple of the Lord of Light. He was a Dirty Old Monk who never believed, and viewed his assignment to convert Robert Baratheon as a way to escape the temple. However, when his friend Beric Dondarrion was killed while they were trying to apprehend Gregor Clegane, Thoros prayed over his body and Beric rose from the dead. Thoros' suddenly manifested magical powers resulted in him undergoing a spiritual awakening, and by Season 6 he had sucessfully converted the entire Brotherhood Without Banners and convinced them to march on The Wall to fight the White Walkers, beliving them to be servants of the Great Other.
  • Stargate SG-1 takes this approach: the closer one gets to Ascension (sort of a parallel for enlightenment, and somewhat based on Zen Buddhist belief), the more power over nature one gains. People on the cusp of Ascending were shown to gain psychic powers, heal people, etc., and fully Ascended beings had complete control over the natural universe. However, the downside is that no one can remain on the cusp of Ascending for a long time. It then becomes a Die or Fly case, in which the person must Ascend before their body dies. McKay in Stargate Atlantis manages to come up with an alternative solution just before his body expires.
  • Adam McArthur of The Visitor (1997) has learned a lot during his time in alien custody. Once an Episode, he teaches one of his Enlightenment Superpowers to someone.
  • In Warrior of Love Rainbowman, out of control wrestler Takeshi Yamato, goes to India to learn discipline. He almost dies on the way, but he's saved by the guru Daibadatta who teaches him enlightenment and the power of 7 different superheroes.
  • In the third season of Xena: Warrior Princess, Xena travels to the kingdom of Qin to avenge the murder of her one-time mentor Lao Ma. Lao Ma's understanding of Taoist philosophy let her wield awesome telekinetic powers. She tried to teach these to Xena, but failed. Captured by her enemies, betrayed by her closest friend, and facing execution, Xena flashes back to her time with Lao Ma, and achieves the level of understanding necessary to unlock the same powers within herself.

    Religion & Mythology 
  • Known as siddhis in Hinduism, supernatural powers achieved through meditation and other spirit-refining practices. The list of siddhis differs depending on the source, and range from simple freedom from human needs and suffering up to things like shapeshifting, teleportation, and telepathy, and from that up to omniscience and outright Reality Warping.
  • Practitioners of Taoism could attain super-powers including elemental magic, superhuman strength and speed, nigh-invulnerability, flight, no longer needing to eat or drink, shapeshifting, immortality—hence those who achieve these powers being called Xian (Immortals), and even attaining divinity by cultivating their qi through meditation and other exercises.
  • Likewise known as ṛddhi powers in Buddhism, which varies between sources but includes things like flight, teleportation, and going unimpeded by natural barriers (walking on water and passing through walls and ground).

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Old World of Darkness and Chronicles of Darkness:
    • In Mage: The Ascension and Mage: The Awakening, the eponymous Mages get their reality warping magic thanks to what is usually an out of the blue epiphany regarding the nature of reality called Awakening. This epiphany is natural, but has little discernible rhyme or reason or blood connection. The less powerful Thaumaturges potentially (it's complicated) derive the ability to use magic not from innate supernatural connections, but from intense and prolonged spiritual and occult study, which under the right circumstances can also an Awakening in some people. Of course, this being the Worlds of Darkness, spiritual enlightenment doesn't necessarily require morality.
    • In Vampire: The Masquerade, even the damned can find Enlightenment Superpowers. Saulot, a founder of one of the (now defunct) thirteen vampire clans, traveled to the Orient and studied under enlightened supernaturals, returning with mystic healing powers of mind and body... as well as a Third Eye all his children would inherit.
    • The successor, Vampire: The Requiem, has its own version. The Ordo Dracul is a covenant devoted to transcending the vampiric condition, just like their founder Dracula did. By studying and meditating on their condition, they gain access to Coils of the Dragon, powers that lessen their reliance on blood, allow them to pass as human, or give them a greater resistance to the unpleasant stimuli that often harrow other vampires.
    • Saulot studied under the Wan Kuei, the so-called Kindred of the East, who pursue various paths to enlightenment, seeking transcendence of their accursed state. The further along their chosen path they are, the stronger their abilities become, both natural and supernatural, with the most enlightened being vastly powerful beings on par with the eldest active Western Kindred, and just about able to hold their own against their clan founders.
  • In the obscure game In Dark Alleys, which can best be described as "The Matrix meets J-Horror meets KULT", people with a powerful enough force of will and a clear enough understanding of reality (long story short, it's all in your mind) can break the laws of physics at a whim.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons:
    • One type of bonus that can be gained in 3rd Edition is an "insight bonus". Highly advanced beings who have such a bonus naturally (at least in their armor class), and not just because of some spell, are presumably examples of this trope; they include at least Demon Lords and Archdevils and the members of a Council of Angels, with the latter having higher such bonuses.
    • Also, Monks: spend enough time meditating and punching things to death, and you too can teleport or ignore disease and aging!
    • Paladins gain powers from the gods based on their adherence to a moral code. However, they don't have to worship a god itself to gain these powers.
  • In RuneQuest/HeroQuest's Glorantha setting, Mystics can gain supernatural powers if they stop searching for enlightenment and get distracted. Many mystics are only being dedicated long enough to get the really good distractions. (See Buddhism under "Real Life", below.)
  • Exalted:
    • The basic idea of charms is that its user knows well enough how to manipulate the Essence of the world. Exaltation speeds up this progress and helps with not dying in the training, but anyone can theoretically achieve Enlightened Essence if they have the conviction.
    • Supernatural Martial Arts mean that you're enlightened to the Essence of your own body. The majority of sifu have enlightenment theme about them, but the Sidereals take the proverbial cake.
    • Then there is Sorcery, which means that you're enlightened enough to know the innermost workings of Essence motes so that you can break the law of physics. To put it in a comparison, mastery of charms puts you on the level of mechanics, but mastery of Sorcery puts you on the level of theoretical physicist.
    • Exalts raise their permanent Essence score through meditation and discipline, giving them access to more power and beefier Charms.
  • In Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, Jasmine Apocynum saw the truth beyond the lie of the world, the True Thing underneath the tales of blood and bone and wood and dirt, after being hit in the head by a dodgeball. She saw that for just a moment, and then it went away. She became or expressed becoming a Rider of the Bleak Academy, which is sometimes a metaphor for bodhisattvas when it's not a metaphor for death. Afterward, she gained the ability to pull people's hearts out and reshape the flesh into a seething void of night, or a giant mecha. This is eminently logical, sensible, and sane.
  • Legends of the Wulin has Enlightened Chi, which can only be gained by committing virtuous deeds in accordance with religious or philosophical moral codes. Everyone worth mentioning in the setting has Chi, though, this just makes some of your Chi more useful than normal.
  • Mages in Shadowrun can gain a greater understanding of the nature of magic through initiation, which allows them to learn to use magic in ways they couldn't before (e.g. altering their astral signatures, making them more resistant to hostile spells, or invoking more powerful spirits). Initiation also raises the cap on the Magic attribute, which not only allows them to become more powerful, but also offsets the reduction of the attribute from Essence loss. Technomancers have a similar technique called submersion, giving them a greater understanding of the Deep Resonance.
  • The Secrets of Japan supplement of the Call of Cthulhu RPG has a very dark take on this trope - it's a Cosmic Horror Story, you see. The Cthulhu Mythos skill (which measures how well the character grasps the true sanity-blasting nature of the universe and reduces maximum sanity the higher it goes) is even renamed Satori (Enlightenment).
  • Although it is clear that genetics plays a deciding factor in developing Psychic Powers in Rocket Age it also seems that without a good deal of spiritual introspection they won't develop very far, if at all. One Martian faith, the Society of Eternal Bliss, even places psychics at the top of the reincarnation ladder and treats them as gods simply to give them the time to meditate and develop their abilities.
  • In Pathfinder, several Deities of Human Origin obtained their divinity through these. Nethys, god of magic, became both divine and irretrievably insane when he developed the power to witness and understand all things; while Irori, the Master of Masters, claims to have gained divinity through physical and mental self-perfection and serves as an exemplar to all Monks who follow the same path.
  • Swedish horror game KULT has humanity under a state of ignorance. What are they ignorant about? That humans are actually suppressed gods and your character's goal is to achieve enough enlightenment (either through good or evil action and understanding) that they can "Awaken" and reclaim their godhood.

    Video Games 
  • Played with in Bloodborne where imbibing the Old Blood can have some rather... interesting effects on a person's body and mind... While most people do not have enough Insight and subsequently turn into incarnations of their own "beastly idiocy," those who delve deeper into Yharnam's secrets may find themselves on a whole new plane of existence. Provided their sanity can take it that is.
  • The Monk in Diablo III. S/he comes from a land far to the east, and has practiced their mind and body in service to the gods, especially Ytar. This manifests both in their ability to lay waste with their bare hands by channeling different types of holy power. They even have a skill called "Enlightenment" which greatly reduces the damage they take and allows them to teleport.
  • This is how Prince Poo in EarthBound (1994) gets two critical level ups. Coupled with a Journey to the Center of the Mind, it's also how Ness gets his biggest level up of the game going into the Grand Finale.
  • Many Shoto Clones in the Fighting Game genre get backstories like this, most notably the Street Fighter characters Ryu and Akuma/Gouki.
  • Great Tiger of the Punch-Out!! series, especially in the Wii version where he's able to generate holographic clones, teleport and constantly floats above the ring.
  • The Monk class in the MMORPG Dungeons & Dragons Online use ki to charge their attacks, leap great distances, heal friends or curse enemies. One variant can even kill in a single ki-juicy punch. The religious aspects of DDO gameplay, compared to its tabletop counterpart, are very watered down for Monks and other classes, however.
  • In the Fate/stay night visual novels, the teacher Kuzuki is one of the evil types - his perfect balance within himself and the world (even Saber expresses her surprise at his "perfect breathing") combine with an extremely esoteric martial arts style to enable him to hold his own even with a Servant in hand to hand combat, though he is not particularly concerned with the traditional trappings of enlightenment.
  • This is Miyamoto Musashi's whole deal in Fate/Grand Order. It's why she's called the 'Flower at the Apex of Heaven', why she's important enough to be a powerful Servant despite having virtually zero Older Is Better advantages, and why the Servant system itself has an imperfect hold on her. Long story short, one of the central planks of the real-life Miyamoto Musashi's philosophy (as expounded on in his famous Book of Five Rings) was applying Buddhist principles to swordsmanship, in the belief that martial perfection could help you attain spiritual perfection and eventually the blissful nonexistence of nirvana. Our Musashi is well on the road to enlightenment, giving her swordplay otherworldly power and making it difficult for reality to determine whether she exists or not (which is why she keeps hopping between timelines as a Non-Linear Character).
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • The Greybeards in Skyrim are an order of monks who devote their lives to studying the Thu'um, which is the reality warping language of the dragons. This regimen is the only way mortals can learn and master the Thu'um and it takes years of meditation to even master one word. The Dragonborn doesn't have to go through this because he/she isn't an ordinary mortal, but rather the spirit of a dragon inhabiting the body of a mortal.
    • Though, to date, they have only been hinted-at in-game or have been mentioned dripping in heavy metaphor, there exist several "ascended" metaphysical states in the ES universe. (Each has been further fleshed out by developer supplemental texts.) The first of these states is CHIM, where one becomes aware of the nature of Anu's Dream but exists as one with it and maintains a sense of individuality. (Dunmeri Physical God Vivec claims to have achieved this level, while Mankar Camoran in Oblivion claims that the Deity of Human Origin Talos has also achieved it.) Even these works don't make it clear exactly what CHIM is, though the ES lore community posits that it is the realization of being a fictional character in a fictional world, followed by learning how to act as a player and hack the game to gain access to out-of-universe abilities (ex. Save Scumming, Pause Scumming, use of the Master Console, use of the Construction Set Level Editor, etc.), with the further state o Amaranth being taking CHIM to the point where you cease to be a hacker and become a developer for your own game. Take, for example, Vivec's explanation of what happens when he "dies", which sounds suspiciously like reloading a saved game:
      Vivec: "When I die in the world of time, then I'm completely asleep. I'm very much aware that all I have to do is choose to wake. And I'm alive again. Many times I have very deliberately tried to wait patiently, a very long, long time before choosing to wake up. And no matter how long it feels like I wait, it always appears, when I wake up, that no time has passed at all."
    • Dagoth Ur as the Sharmat meanwhile achieved a warped version of this. Rather than recognizing that he's part of Anu's dream and maintaining individuality, Dagoth Ur deluded himself into thinking Anu's dream is his dream. And because he's empowered by the Heart of Lorkhan, his delusion is infectious and is warping Anu's dream in Dagoth Ur's image.
  • Along with the brand new Mantra Reactor installed in him (which allows his body to physically handle the power), this is how Asura from Asura's Wrath obtains the power to become Asura the Destructor and take down Chakravartin once and for all.
  • The Pokémon Darmanitan is capable of changing its form if it has the ability Zen Mode. When its health drops below 50 percent, its stats change from a Glass Cannon to a Mighty Glacier (as well as increases in base stat total) and its type changes to Fire/Psychic and its physical attack and special attack are swapped.
  • Emperor Shaohao, introduced in the backstory for World of Warcraft Mists of Pandaria, purged himself of anger, hatred, doubt, despair, fear, and violence and sealed their physical manifestations away beneath the earth. Using his new-found power, Shaohao cloaked his land in a mist shield that protected it from the Great Sundering. It's downplayed because Shaohao was not able to expel his pride and it was his pride which powered the mists.
  • As of Soul Calibur V, Kilik has reached enlightenment, which accompanies a switch from a staff fighting style to mimicking every male fighter's style at random. The details of how this occurred are only available in the official Soul series artbook, but the line he delivers when performing any Critical Edge move makes it clear.
  • In Tekken 7, top-tier character Leroy Smith was partially blinded and almost killed by a gang war, he was rescued by a merchant vessel and taken to Hong Kong where he spent 50 years mastering Wing Chun. All that learning pays off when he find outs the gangs of New York still controlled it. After squishing them, he's going to spread his message of love, peace and funkiness to the Mishima zaibatsu and the way of the fist.
  • Seekers in Dragon Age possess the same powers as Templars without the need for lyrium by going through a year of hard training and meditation, followed by a final vigil. In truth, they are made Tranquil during this vigil without their knowledge, then commune with a Spirit of Faith, giving them emotions and their powers. Faith still plays an important role, since strong faith is needed to attract such spirits in the first place.
  • In Persona 4, when in the TV World, the characters are confronted by their shadow selves. These are the manifestations of all their unwanted, hidden emotions. When rejected, the shadows will go One-Winged Angel and try to kill them. Only by facing themselves and accepting their flaws will their shadow transform into a Persona. Working to overcome their flaws and improve themselves allows the Persona to evolve into a more powerful form. A darker example would be Adachi, who gains his Persona by embracing his depravity.
    • Persona 5, in accordance with its theme of rebellion against social corruption, has characters earn their Personas by recognizing the corrupt systems around them and awakening to their inner urge to rebel against it. This is demonstrated with many characters like Yusuke, Makoto and Haru, all of whom are in denial about being victims of their oppressors until they eventually finally recognize it, granting them Personas.
  • Nexus Clash has the Transcended character classes. While characters who Ascend to become angels or Descend to become demons get their power as a gift from their respective Elder Powers, Transcended earn their power through study and meditation. It also means they cannot lose access to their powers like an angel who does too much evil or a demon who does too much good. Nexus Champions and Conduits take the enlightenment theme furthest, developing their powers from a deep understanding of the Eternal Recurrence nature of reality.
  • Zenyatta from Overwatch is a Warrior Monk originating from a religious sect comprised of fellow Omnics who sought spiritual awakening following the Omnic Crisis. He's able to do some very unusual stuff compared to other heroes — floating everywhere in a Levitating Lotus Position, firing "orbs" that can heal, cause, or amplify damage, and "transcending" into a state of tranquility where he becomes invincible and heals everyone around him — which is all implied (but never concretely stated) to be a result of said enlightenment.
    • Sigma's gravity powers are a much darker example of this trope. Being exposed to the energy of a black hole in a very specific way granted him with a new understanding of the universe which he uses somehow to warp gravity, but it also gave him a thorough Mind Rape, which allowed Talon to step in and convince him that they are benefactors of human advancement, and manipulate him to use his powers to fight with them. In moments of clarity he realizes what Talon made him do and he is shocked by it. But they never last long enough for him to stand up against Talon.
  • A pretty common theme in Touhou, with the most notable example being the Taoist faction, who specifically seek enlightenment and Ascension To A Higher Plane Of Existence in order to gain the super powers that comes with it.
  • In one of the many endings of Stories: Path of Destinies, Reynaldo attains spiritual enlightenment in the final battle and decides to just sit down and meditate, causing a wave of calm to wash over the battlefield. Or to be more exact, a random enemy soldier comes across him and cuts his head off.
  • In Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance, Goldion the Demon Fist became more powerful than most Overlords despite not ruling a Netherworld himself. As Zeroken describes it, Goldion had become the Overlord of the Netherworld in his own heart. Goldion managed this by achieving inner peace and pushing the evil out of his own spirit — an even more notable achievement since he's a demon, and most demons in this series are naturally inclined to evil thoughts. Zeroken eventually achieves this as well by overcoming his own cowardly nature. After Zeroken becomes the Overlord of his own heart, he gains an Overload ability of his own.
  • Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story: The third and final sage, Chakron, has meditated for so long (1000 years, to be exact) that he's become Nigh-Invulnerable. His Defense is so high that even Mario and Luigi's strongest special attacks, even the one they need to beat him, will deal zero damage to him. Also, looking in the game's files reveals that his Power, Defense, and Speed are all 999, and his HP is 9,999.

  • The story behind Supernatural Martial Arts of El Goonish Shive. Not unlike the great masters of old times, sensei Greg was a martial artist who concentrated his mind on an issue not related to anything in this world at all, for hours and hours, without a pause, until everything became clear. Yes, he invented the new style and one more approach to his world's Functional Magic. That being sensei Greg, this means he watched anime for 168 hours non-stop after a bad breakup and, accordingly, created "Anime-Style Martial Arts".
  • Sarin the shapeshifting wizard of The Dragon Doctors explicitly says she has these in Chapter 21 when captured by a demon who orders her to work for it, hence why she never throws a fireball or uses other offensive magic. Mind, this doesn't mean she's a pacifist and can seriously injure or even theoretically kill someone (being an experienced knife-fighter from when she was a kid), but she's vowed to only do so with her own two hands.
  • Girl Genius: Sparks that manage to collect and absorb energy from another dimension can effectively become demigods if they learn how to avoid the usual Phlebotinum Overload. The Other manages to accomplish this feat without even needing an external power source, using her understanding of the universe to gather the energy needed by focusing her mind alone.
  • Skin Horse: Oracle, a sentient Speak'n'Spell, gained powers from having an "enlightenment module" installed. These powers include transcendental levitation and astral teleportation.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons has a lot of variants of this trope, as many of its Supernatural Martial Arts are based in meditation and understanding yourself and the universe, but the most sought-after and prime example is the concept of Royalty. To be Royalty is to lose all identity and become a being of pure action, unrestrained by things like “effort” or “conscious thought”. This self-negating principle means that the harder one tries to achieve Royalty, the harder it becomes to reach. Those who have obtained Royalty have spoken the seven syllables of Royalty ("YS ATUN VRAMA PRESH"note ) and have come to understand the secret name of God (which is "I", but simply knowing the name does not mean understanding it) and can thus shape reality through will alone and turn the Wheel on its side. At least three people in the history of Creation (outside YISUN themselves) are known to have obtained Royalty.

    Web Original 
  • Rebecca Stone of the Whateley Universe. A kindly woman who learned the way of the Tao in the 1800's and is now acting as a mentor for Bladedancer. Rebecca was a nurse and is more focused on healing arts and magic than on being able to fight supervillains.
    • According to Mephisto the Mentalist, at least some of the Ancient Conspiracies/Traditions are led by Masters who have such powers, and will teach the more basic ones to their more trusted agents. The White Monks (who are explicitly presented as an Expy to the 'Enlightened Brothers' who taught Lamont Cranston the secret of "clouding men's minds"} send such empowered agents to help inspire the helpless and bring order to the world, while The Red Monks send out their counterparts - such as Mephisto himself - to sow chaos and inspire self-reflection and personal growth, even though both have the ultimate goal of uplifting humanity to a better state (just with very different ideas of how to accomplish it).

    Western Animation 
  • On Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Batman (trapped and buried in a coffin) demonstrated he could use Astral Projection and body possession thanks to his time training in meditation.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • A guru reveals to Avatar Aang that, through spiritual enlightenment and releasing his chakras, he can control the Avatar State and go in and out at will. Before this point, Aang can only go into it if he's scared, angry, or psychically aligned with a vengeful water god.
    • All Air Nomads could bend due to their spiritual nature. This was just Word of God at one point but was made canonical by the tie-in novel The Rise of Kyoshi . Kyoshi’s mother was actually a rogue Airbender Nun who lost a lot of her power when she became an outlaw.
    • One of the few non-Avatar characters who achieved enlightenment was Iroh, who absorbs the philosophies of the four nations and gains the ability to see into the spirit realm, and in the sequel, cross over to it and retain his form and consciousness after his death. But really, his enlightenment was more about the pursuit of knowledge, the detachment from worldly desires like conquest and glory, and achieving spiritual balance, which is the true source of his power.
  • The Legend of Korra
    • A major theme in the first season is the inability of Avatar Korra, the new Avatar and Aang's reincarnation, to access the spiritual powers associated with being the Avatar. She focuses on the physical side of bending, much to the dismay of her mentors.
      Korra: I haven't ignored [the spiritual side of bending], it just... doesn't come as easy to me.
    • A villainous example happens in the season finale of Book 3, where Zaheer achieves the power of flight after the death of his lover P'li severs the last of his earthly bonds. He provides the page quote for this trope.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Twilight Sparkle's lessons about friendship eventually build up to her obtaining her alicorn form, which she obtained by realizing how much her friends meant to her and completing Star Swirl the Bearded's unfinished masterpiece spell.
  • Professor Paradox of Ben 10: Alien Force was the victim of a time travel experiment gone horribly wrong, trapped in space-time limbo with nothing to do but go insane. After enough eons of this, however, he became Bored with Insanity and turned, in his words, "sane, very sane." So sane, in fact, that he learned to see all of existence as it really was, gaining the power to manipulate space-time so he could travel through it.
  • The Dragon Prince: Magic in this world can only be done by those who have some connection to one of the Primal Sources (also called arcanums): Sky, Earth, Ocean, Sun, Stars, and Moon. Magical beings, such as dragons and elves, are born with an innate connection to their race's arcanum, but Humans are not. They need to use Primal Stones; rare magical items that contain the power of a primal source (or a gemstone with a connection to such a source, such as a Moon Opal; but gemstones are single-use items). The lack of primal magic has led some humans to use Dark Magic, which drains uses a magical being's essence, to replicate magic. Callum, refusing to use dark magic after destroying his Sky Primal Stone, attempts for forge his own connection to the sky arcanum, something believed to be impossible for a human. After a vision quest, where in part he was the sail of a ship he was traveling on, he gains the understanding of the Sky Arcanum and the ability to use sky magic without a primal stone. Later on, he manages to forge a connection to the Ocean Arcanum as well. This ability isn't exclusive to humans, either; Aaravos, a Startouch Elf, is shown having connections to the other five arcanums, allowing him access to all magic, including Dark Magic.
    • Implied to be an even more extreme case with mage wings. Unlike spells such as aspiro, a sky mage cannot conjure wings simply with runes and an incantation alone. Only a rare few Sky mages can manage to cast mage wings, an ability said to be even rarer than a skywing elf being born with natural wings.
  • Xavier: Renegade Angel: Parodies this (among other tropes) with the titular Xavier claiming he has the power to blow people's minds with his philosophical insights thanks to the teachings of Chief Master Guru.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Enlightenment Superpower


Kung Fu Panda 2

By achieving inner peace, he renders the explosive power of Shen's cannons useless by deflecting every ball hurled at him.

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