Enlightenment in 3 quick and easy steps

Discussion in 'Eastern Philosophy' started by Fork, Jun 14, 2013.

  1. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Wynn made a very good post about the qualities of Arahants (the early Buddhist term for enlightened individuals) at #148. The references in that post are among the most authoritative ancient sources describing what the early Buddhist community's understanding of enlightenment was.

    I posted my own views at #181 and #198. They were intended as little more than a simple paraphrase of some of this material.

    Obviously not all present-day Buddhist traditions understand these things in precisely the way that the early community did. There have been many doctrinal developments since. The Mahayana generated an elaborate Buddhology, elevated the Bodhisattva ideal, and downplayed the Arahant. Ch'an/Zen kind of merged Buddhism (mostly Mahayana's Yogacara philosophical/meditation tradition I think) with native Chinese philosophical Daoism, and arrived at new understandings of their own. I'm not a student of Zen, so I will leave the explanation of how they understand enlightenment to them.

    And even more obviously, the idea of 'enlightenment' isn't unique to Buddhism. It's found in other traditions as well, such as Hindu Vedanta. In fact, there's a whole variety of Vedantic understandings of enlightenment, depending on which school of Vedanta one adheres to. Again, I'll leave explanation of that to the Vedantists.

    Broadly speaking, the idea of 'enlightenment' is kind of indicative of the whole 'gnostic' tendency in religion, where the religious path is conceived of as learning some transformative truth. We find versions of this kind of idea all over the world, in the West as well as the East.

    So there probably isn't any single consensus as to what 'enlightenment' means. That's going to be a function of which tradition we are talking about, and each tradition's understanding will depend on how they conceptualize the transformative gnosis that they seek.
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  3. Lakon Valued Senior Member

    Fair enough. I have to repeat, and to continue to point out that I don't know much at all about Buddhism, nor did I think that this thread (or it's recent developement) was intended with a specifically Buddhist flavour in mind.

    Not only in eastern ones. As I've tried to show on many previous posts, it is quite common in Western religions, philosophies, ancient and modern, literature, poetry (especially poetry IMO).

    Yes .. well said.

    Again, well said. Taking it all into account, I would still find it somewhat .. presumptuous .. I suppose (not to use stronger terms that might be taken offensively though not meant that way) for someone to stand up and say to others .. "I am enlightened"
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  5. Lakon Valued Senior Member

    Continuing upon the premise that this thread is not restricted to Buddhic enlightenment (whatever that is), I mentioned in my post just above, that enlightenment (whatever that is) can also be found in poetry. I have been particularly fond of the English poets of 'The Lakes' era, and particularly of the nature poet, Wordsworth. Here's passage of his that sends me spinning;

    Background, Wordsworth and two others are ascending a mountain at night and are reaching the top, cloudless area

    Note the bolded lines, and then the underlined ones within those. Can anyone here say this is not from an enlightened mind ? I would not discount the probability that similar sentiments and ideas as the following, exist within Buddhist thought ..

    When into air had partially dissolved
    That vision, given to spirits of the night
    And three chance human wanderers, in calm thought
    Reflected, it appeared to me the type
    Of a majestic intellect, its acts
    And its possessions, what it has and craves,
    What in itself it is, and would become.
    There I beheld the emblem of a mind
    That feeds upon infinity, that broods
    Over the dark abyss, intent to hear
    Its voices issuing forth to silent light
    In one continuous stream; a mind sustained
    By recognitions of transcendent power,
    In sense conducting to ideal form,
    In soul of more than mortal privilege.
    One function, above all, of such a mind
    Had Nature shadowed there, by putting forth,
    'Mid circumstances awful and sublime,
    That mutual domination which she loves
    To exert upon the face of outward things,
    So moulded, joined, abstracted, so endowed
    With interchangeable supremacy,
    That men, least sensitive, see, hear, perceive,
    And cannot choose but feel. The power, which all
    Acknowledge when thus moved, which Nature thus
    To bodily sense exhibits, is the express
    Resemblance of that glorious faculty
    That higher minds bear with them as their own.
    This is the very spirit in which they deal
    With the whole compass of the universe:

    They from their native selves can send abroad
    Kindred mutations; for themselves create
    A like existence; and, whene'er it dawns
    Created for them, catch it, or are caught
    By its inevitable mastery,

    (From, The Prelude, Book 14th, Conclusion)
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  7. Stoniphi obscurely fossiliferous Valued Senior Member

    My home gym is lined with full - length mirrors so I can check my TKD stances as I do my kata every day. I love my gym, mirrors and all.

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    Not to me.

    Meditation is a regular intellectual exercise one engages in with purpose. The simplest meditation is to sit down for 15 - 20 minutes every day at a regular time and just breathe as I described above. No attachment to passing thoughts, only attending to the breath. You set a kitchen timer to mark the end of that time unless you wish to meditate longer or free - form. Advanced practitioners are able to meditate while doing other things, like walking or doing chores. Sudo practitioners greet with 1 hand so as to continue working with the other and are encouraged to meditate while working.

    Many Zen practitioners equate "enlightenment" with "satori". It is a sudden, abrupt and permanent change in ones world view. It is an understanding on a base level that goes beyond the intellectual which changes ones outlook on life and their place in this world. Salvador Dali described enlightenment as "permanent revelation". It is a profound and life - altering change in perspective that arrives after quite some time spent in consideration, study and meditation.

    It can be "trivial" or it can be "significant". Some believe that there is just 1 single "enlightenment" that arrives like birth or death - POW! - now you are enlightened, here's your sign. Others (like self) believe that there is no limit to the number of 'lesser' enlightenments one can experience


    You have just come to work for the construction company I run. You have never worked in construction before. I show you a roofing nail and tell you what it is, what it is used for and how it is applied. I suggest that one must be careful when installing same, that this is not as easy as it may appear and will require practice to master. You believe you understand roofing nails and their application.

    When you fill a belt nail pouch with roofing nails you find that they have significant weight when in usable bulk. As you climb the ladder you note that they make the belt catch due to the bulge and constantly carrying that extra weight gives you a lower back ache. Every time you turn your body, the hammer hanging on your belt whacks you in the knee. After a few hours of hammering roofing nails in, you have hit your thumbs with the hammer a few times so your hands hurt, your pants are wearing thin at the knees because you have been crawling around on shingles covered with gravel, you have fibre glass needles stuck in your hands and legs, tar dirt in your eyes and a bad sunburn from being on the roof all day. Then it begins to rain and you get cold and wet. You must continue nailing them in though, as the roof will leak without the shingles attached. When you finally climb down the ladder you slip on the wet aluminum and fall the last few feet, bruising your butt and losing your dignity as your fellows laugh at your misfortune. You stand up and take a step, firmly stepping on a point-side-up nail that rips right through the bottom of your tennis shoe and deep into the meat of the ball of your foot. You have to sit down in the mud and pull it out before you can do anything else. Finally you go home.

    The next morning you show up for work. As you stand there with the rest of the crew, I assign tasks to each laborer. When I get to you, I hold up a roofing nail without speaking. Your response is an enlightenment, a permanent change in you and how you see your world.
  8. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    The story goes that when the Buddha became enlightened, he got up from under the bodhi tree, and said to the first person he met on the road: "I am the rightfully self-awakened one!"
    The man looked at the Buddha in disbelief and went his way.

    After this, the Buddha was disappointed and wanted to keep all his enlightened knowledge to himself, thinking that nobody aprpeciates him anyway. But then, so the story goes, a deva appeared and asked him to teach the Dharma for the welfare of all living beings. Which he then did.
  9. Lakon Valued Senior Member

    Very cool. So according to what you believe, it can be many things, trivial or significant. That gets us somewhere.
  10. Lakon Valued Senior Member

    So obviously, the Buddha would have judged his own experience as being most significant (as opposed to the trivial kind, above).

    Using it for the welfare of all living beings was most virtuous.
  11. Lakon Valued Senior Member

    PS - a long time ago I came across a Zen Buddhist (?) koan that I thought was most wise. It was about a monk carrying a woman across a river .. or something .. and another monk deigning on him for carrying her .. to which the first replied 'you are now carrying her' .. or something ..

    It stuck in the back of my mind as been quite deep (the koan, not the river)

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    Have looked for it but can't seem to find it. Does anyone know of it ?
  12. elte Valued Senior Member

    Prior posts seem to support the idea that what is considered enlightenment varies from culture to culture, which seems accurate.

    Furthermore, probably attaining the "Enlightenment" isn't possible. We'd have to be perfect to be able to attain it, but if one is perfect, he/she can't ever attain it because of knowing and understanding everything already. (One can't attain something if one has it already.)
  13. Ogdon Banned Banned

    Enlightenment occurs when you get rid of the junk programming in the brain by asking "what am I?" and exploring your brain for false beliefs such as heaven, hell and the 'I'.

    To know what you are read the link on page 3 of this thread which is on the falsity of being.
  14. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Google "two monks carry a woman across the river" and you'll find plenty of versions of the story.

  15. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Again, I don't think it makes much sense to talk about enlightenment without regard to the various definitions of understandings in different sources.

    Sure, the word, and the general sentiment of "enlightenment" are mentioned by many - but they mean different things.

    Actually, there is quite a bit of connection between the Romantics and the general Western understanding of Buddhism. And this connection is sometimes quite misleading, leading us to believe that the Romantics and Buddhism have similar things to say - when in fact they do not.

    Many Westerners, when new to Buddhism, are struck by the uncanny familiarity of what seem to be its central concepts: interconnectedness, wholeness, ego-transcendence. But what they may not realize is that the concepts sound familiar because they are familiar. To a large extent, they come not from the Buddha's teachings but from the Dharma gate of Western psychology, through which the Buddha's words have been filtered. They draw less from the root sources of the Dharma than from their own hidden roots in Western culture: the thought of the German Romantics.
    Like so many other products of modern life, the root sources of Buddhist Romanticism have for too long remained hidden. This is why we haven't recognized it for what it is or realized the price we pay in mistaking the part for the whole. Barring major changes in American society, Buddhist Romanticism is sure to survive. What's needed is for more windows and doors to throw light onto the radical aspects of the Dharma that Buddhist Romanticism has so far left in the dark.

    The Roots of Buddhist Romanticism

    The whole essay is really worth reading, and will probably answer many questions of yours.
  16. Lakon Valued Senior Member

    I agree that getting rid of junk programming is important. There's so much of it today.

    I haven't seen the link - I'll take a look at it.
  17. Lakon Valued Senior Member

    (1st para) Yes, it seems accurate and it's good to see that we are getting closer to a consensus on this.
  18. Lakon Valued Senior Member

    Thanks. I love this koan, as much as I do this one, which I cme across some time ago.

    57. The Gates of Paradise
    A soldier named Nobushige came to Hakuin, and asked: "Is there really a paradise and a hell?"
    "Who are you?" inquired Hakuin.
    "I am a samurai," the warrior replied.
    "You, a soldier!" exclaimed Hakuin. "What kind of ruler would have you as his guard? Your face looks like that of a beggar."
    Nobushige became so angry that he began to draw his sword, but Hakuin continued: "So you have a sword! Your weapon is probably much too dull to cut off my head."
    As Nobushige drew his sword Hakuin remarked: "Here open the gates of hell!"
    At these words the samurai, perceiving the master's discipline, sheathed his sword and bowed.
    "Here open the gates of paradise," said Hakuin.
  19. Lakon Valued Senior Member

    A very interesting and informative post. Thanks.

    I've downloaded the page - doesn't look beyond my attention span

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    so I'll read it soon.

    What came first, the chicken or the egg ? It often gets murky to argue who first came up with this or that noble thought.

    For example, scholars of modern and ancient literature - fiction, adventure, etc - often remark that there's been nothing new conceptually, since Homers Illiad and Oddysey.

    (tried several time to post this - connection wenr dead, apologies if it appears more than once).
  20. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    It's not an issue of who first thought of what. It's an issue of what questions one asks, what answers one gives, what goals one actually reaches.

    I think that the various Buddhist schools, including the modern developments in Buddhism, are asking different questions, giving different answers, and their attainments differ.

    I sometimes get accused of being a dusty conservativist living in the past. But it is actually not that important tome to hold the traditionalist view per se. It's simply that the traditionalists are asking quite different questions, are interested in different things than the modernists, and they are giving quite different answers to the standard questions.
    I'm not interested in what modern Buddhism has to offer; not because it is modern, but because the questions it asks, the way it answers standard questions, and the attainments it offers are not relevant for me.
  21. Stoniphi obscurely fossiliferous Valued Senior Member

    ...and that is your choice of attachment. "Could you be more vague?"

    Buddhism claims the origination of psychology. If this is so, ^ appears to be a circular statement that points back at itself. Everyone who speaks or has spoken for the Buddha has filtered his words. If one studies many differing perspectives of anything - "Buddhism" included - one can discern a basic set of statements/directives/guidelines/etc that are common to most, if not all. Each of us must choose what set of life guides to engage according to our unique situation.

    I can state that my Zen practice is very beneficial to me.

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  22. Lakon Valued Senior Member

    Go figure. It's what I've been saying (or trying to), for some time.

    I'm glad you finally listened

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  23. Lakon Valued Senior Member

    Wynn, I've had a good look at the article. Quite extraordinary and informative. Thank you for it.

    What next ? Who got what from who ? What does it profit ?

    Personally, I am intrigued that Palto, in the Socratic dialouge 'The Cratylos' refers to 'the ancient wise ones' of some 3,000 years before him. I don't mention this to aggrandise Greek thought. Only to display my personal view that civilised humanity is far far older than what is currently believed.

    Our echos roll from soul to soul, and last forever, and forever .. Alfred Lord Tennyson

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