There’s something very strange about the sense of “I” each of us has. Have you never wondered why you feel to be the person you are and not someone else? Who decided you should be you? And if you were someone else, you wouldn’t realize it, probably.
There are a (relatively) few people who have lost this sense of “I”, some after much searching for the answer to this riddle or to some other universal question, but in many cases just suddenly and unexpectedly without any searching at all. They say this relieves them of worries, hopes, fears and regrets - in other words, they no longer suffer - and gives them freedom; they now understand that they are not a person: that person they thought they were was just a tiresome, restrictive illusion, and they call this new state of affairs liberation or enlightenment.
You cannot get this liberation by looking for it, they say, because your idea that you don’t already have it is part of the illusion, so looking for something you already actually have makes no sense and gives no result. You only need to realize it.
No paths lead to it, you cannot get nearer to it just because the idea that you are not already enlightened is an illusion. A “person” never becomes enlightened, because enlightenment entails the loss of the illusion of being a person. There never was a person .
Enlightenment doesn’t result in a life free from pain and problems, because the body/mind organism you have been used to thinking of as yours is still living the human game, of which pain and problems are an intrinsic part. There is no person but there is still a body with its associated thoughts and feelings we call the “mind,” and apparently its character is usually little changed by the transformation. It is just no longer a personal possession. To outward appearances, it seems the same as before, but the subjective experience is radically different.
To add to the fun, enlightenment appears to bring the realization that there is no such thing as free will. Life happens, normally we think we are controlling our little bit, at least to some extent; but this, too, is part of the illusion. And you don’t need enlightenment to realize that not having any free will is a distinct possibility, because it is impossible to demonstrate that you could have done something differently at the time you did it. If something can never be demonstrated, it is probably just an assumption and not true at all, but that doesn’t stop most people from believing it, because belief in free will is one of the important aspects of the game of being a human on planet Earth. I sometimes try to imagine what life would be like if everyone knew they had no free will.
Absence of free will means, of course, absence of any agent capable of exercising it. This alone reduces our personhood to very little – a completely passive thing, obviously not a person in any meaningful sense of the word.
Philosophers of every persuasion have had something to say about free will, so it seems that a little thought will give us pause and cause us to wonder if we really have such a faculty. Here is a link to a discussion of the matter of free will in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
The great majority do not wish to apply their thinking abilities to these tricky questions, they just prefer to get on with life as they believe it to be normally lived. My wife is a good example: when I ask her to show that she really has free will, she cannot, or she will assert that merely saying she is going to do something and then doing it means she has free will. Anyway, she believes she has it and that's enough for her! She, like most, wants to use thinking to work out how to play the game more successfully, not to question the whole setup. Thinking too closely may seriously interfere with the rules of the game!