Thursday, October 2, 2008

Elusive enlightenment

Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya,
at the place where Buddha attained
enlightenment 2,500 years ago. It is 52 meters high.

Question: (unedited)
Hello, I have somewhat of a broad knowledge of enlightenment, but I have found that there are so many different paths of purification that can be followed to attain enlightenment, that I a little confused as what the best past is. I know that enlightenment is not really "a path" because it is here and now, however it seems that certain things can be done to increase the likelihood that someone can be enlightened. So, what I would like is your suggestion or suggestions on what the best path to follow is, and preferably a book or online source that outlines the path. I have found vipassana meditation to be very useful. I have also read that the tantric path is for people who want to achieve enlightenment "quickly." What would you suggest I do/read? thank you!

My comment:
Thank you for asking me. I am using "Buddhist Dictionary" by Nyanatiloka as reference. I find this book to be a very handy and "quick-reference" guide. Ven. Nyanatiloka was a very learned German monk.

First, let us go to the basic. The Buddha's language for enlightenment is "Bodhi", meaning "Awakenment, Supreme Knowledge". "Through Bodhi one awakens from the slumber or stupor (inflicted upon the mind) by the defilements; and comprehends the Four Noble Truths."

"As components of the state of Enlightenment and contributory factors to its achievement, are mentioned in the texts:
the 37 things pertaining to enlightenment, namely:

the 4 foundations of mindfulness
the 4 right efforts
the 4 roads to power
the 5 spiritual faculties
the 5 mental powers
the 7 factors of enlightenment
the 8 fold path."

As you can see, the above is a very scholarstic and dry explanation of "enlightenment". It makes an average person very confused. I certainly am confused. How does one know that one has attained all the 37 "requisites of enlightenment"?

The other way of looking at "enlightenment" is its ultimate result, that is Nibbana. When we talk about enlightenment, we will definitely have to refer to the accompanying result, i.e. Nibbana (or Nirvana in Sanskrit). Nibbana means extinction of desires, and complete eradication of the 3 roots of defilements of greed, hatred, and delusion. Without any trace of these defilements, there will no longer be any clinging to future rebirth. Without birth, one will not be subject to the dictates of this unsatisfactory existence. One is no longer subject to conditions. One's existence is free from conditioning.

My interpretation will be that if one is enlightened, one will have completely eradicated the 3 roots of defilements. One will be completely free of greed, hatred and delusion.

Another aspect of looking at enlightenment is through the progresive achievement of the 4 stages of sainthood. When a person attained the 4th stage he would have become an arahat, the holy one who had eradicated all the "10 fetters".

As you can see from the above explanation, "enlightenment" is a very tall order. It took the Buddha countless lives through countless aeons to attain full enlightenment. It is very difficult to achieve this in this life-time.

Vipassana meditation is the method towards purifying the mind to comprehend the true nature of this existence. It is the path towards our long journey to liberation. You can find a lot of literature in the eBook Library of the website

I hope my comments help in your search for liberation. If you need more comments, please come back.

Smile from justinchoo :-)

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