I am well aware that almost no one would agree with me about ‘enlightenment’. The word is used by some who consider it to be about being nice, always positive perhaps doing some yoga occasionally. The followers of Guru Maharaji believed that he imparted it to them more or less just by touching them. I knew one quite well and he, the guru and I were all at the 1971 Glastonbury Fayre. Almost everyone agrees that Buddha was enlightened. If enlightenment is what I know then he possibly was not which I realise is ‘heresy‘ but will explain. I do not mind throwing in a bit of eastern language and understanding into the mix. Perhaps it is easier to say that our world is filled with illusion, maya than filled with ‘fake news‘. That truth and justice, dharma, are obscured by these illusions rather than suggesting our world is corrupt and unjust. Well an enlightened person is merely able to see through these illusions or deceptions to the stark facts. Some people who consider themselves enlightened have complained to me that I am negative and that I do not see the goodness in this world. I will try to redefine the term but can start with the wikipedia definition:
“Enlightenment refers to the “full comprehension of a situation”. It is commonly used to denote the Age of Enlightenment, but is also used in Western cultures in a religious context. It translates several Buddhist terms and concepts, most notably bodhi, kensho and satori. Related terms from Asian religions are moksha (liberation) in Hinduism, Kevala Jnana in Jainism and ushta in Zoroastrianism.” Wikipedia
I agree with the first sentence but also think we need the Buddhist definition:
“The English term enlightenment is the western translation of the term bodhi, “awakening”, which has entered the Western world via the 19th century translations of Max Müller. It has the western connotation of a sudden insight into a transcendental truth. The term is also being used to translate several other Buddhist terms and concepts used to denote insight (prajna, kensho and satori); knowledge (vidhya); the “blowing out” (Nirvana) of disturbing emotions and desires and the subsequent freedom or release (vimutti); and the attainment of Buddhahood, as exemplified by Gautama Buddha.
What exactly constituted the Buddha’s awakening is unknown. It may probably have involved the knowledge that liberation was attained by the combination of mindfulness and dhyana, applied to the understanding of the arising and ceasing of craving. The relation between dhyana and insight is a core problem in the study of Buddhism, and is one of the fundamentals of Buddhist practice.
In the western world the concept of (spiritual) enlightenment has taken on a romantic meaning. It has become synonymous with self-realization and the true self, being regarded as a substantial essence being covered over by social conditioning.” Wikipedia
Clearly this requires a deeper understanding of the Buddhist terms because ‘enlightenment‘ seems to be used to cover various quite different words and concepts:
“Satori is a Japanese Buddhist term for awakening, “comprehension; understanding”. It is derived from the Japanese verb satoru.
“In the Zen Buddhist tradition, satori refers to the experience of kensho, “seeing into one’s true nature”. Ken means “seeing,” sho means “nature” or “essence.”
Satori and kensho are commonly translated as enlightenment, a word that is also used to translate bodhi, prajna and buddhahood” Wikipedia
“Bodhi (Sanskrit: बोधि; and Pali) in Buddhism is the understanding possessed by a Buddha regarding the true nature of things. It is traditionally translated into English with the word enlightenment, although its literal meaning is closer to “awakening.” The verbal root “budh” means to awaken” Wikipedia
“Paññā (Pāli) or prajñā (Sanskrit) “wisdom”, is insight in the true nature of reality, namely primarily anicca (impermanence), dukkha (dissatisfaction or suffering), anattā (non-self) and śunyatā (emptiness).” Wikipedia
I will try to relate these terms to the experience and find out what is so hard about achieving this and what is ‘awakened’ or why that term is used for seeing the true nature of something. Here I would point to the word we have – ‘clairvoyance’ – and although I know we can all develop this ability a bit, or at least use it more often, for one reason or another some people are born particularly clairvoyant and others scoff at them and the mere thought that it is not just an elaborate con. It may well be the case with a lot of them as with many of the so called enlightened masters too. Hard to say if you cannot see yourself and actually experience it. But clairvoyance is much closer to this than ordinary sight. It is also the ability to see the spiritual behind the physical and to communicate with it. Most natural clairvoyants I have known were kind and gentle people born with this peculiar ability. But they did not use it to look at the whole world and many were quite timid, almost unwilling to look too deeply at it.
I remember in the sixties a strange statement was put out that some master had claimed that all was illusion and that even a washing machine was an illusion. It seemed at the time that they were suggesting that everything was maya except some lama sitting in a lotus position in some Himalayan retreat or Buddha under his bodhi tree. In reality compared to the woman washing a sari in a river by beating it against a rock our washing machines are an illusion. Quite apart from the pollution and destruction of nature required to make the thing, something done to make money not wash clothes, we plug it in to our pollution, nature destroying electricity supply and process our clothes with a large dose of chemicals which are also produced without much care for the environment. We then release this toxic brew into our rivers and seas where it wreaks further havoc. Unless we believe what it says on the packet and use non-biological and natural detergents we can scarcely claim our clothes are ‘clean’ at the end of this process. This is the kind of thinking that strips away the illusions that surround the innocuous washing machine. When extended to the world we live in it becomes clear that it is not at all what it claims. Education is not always education but brainwashing. Religion is not necessarily religion but often some form of possession. Some foods we prize are poisonous us in the long run. Even if we live in a ‘democracy’ we do not have much say in what we do with our lives. Our farms could be seen as concentration camps for animals and the great polluters on the planet. For all our posturing we are not really trying to alleviate poverty or cleaning up our oceans and atmosphere……………
If for example seeing like this was enlightenment it is not what most seekers are looking for. It does not lead to sitting serenely contemplating paradise but sitting, seething at the hell we are creating. ‘Buddha’ did not write anything but we do have records supposedly left by his disciples. He was a man from a wealthy family who left them and went to live as a hermit and who wanted to understand why disease and death were so prevalent. If you try to find his actual words you will find them dwarfed by comments about what they mean. This is all maya. A good example if you want to see this is here:
One of the teachings closest to his heart apparently and which is recorded as a conversation he had with one of his disciples is called the Diamond Sutra. But reading this starts those alarm bells ringing again and I will explain why. All over the internet these days are the sayings of Osho. I had friends who studied under this ‘guru’ in India and gave me a book he had written ‘Neither this nor that’. This is the infamous Bhagwan with his fleet of Rolls Royces. It is classic guruism in that it sends students all over the place, never really answers anything and hides behind this exterior of a smile. What is enlightenment? – it is neither this nor that. But we should expect this subject above all to be cloaked in many layers of illusion, if not downright lies. Those that recite the words faithfully and put them on site after site believe that they are enlightened and one must sympathise with their predicament. They have invested heavily in their gurus. It is not easy to break free and to open one’s eyes to one’s own stupidity and gullibility which are really the human condition thanks to the ridiculous education and religion we receive.
The Diamond Sutra. If you wish to read it you can. I will only put an extract here to explain my discomfort with suggesting that these are the words of an enlightened man rather than a guru who relied on his disciples to keep him in his dotage. If I am falling into Bhagwan’s trap that it is neither this (Buddha) nor that (Bhagwan) so be it. I will at least explain what it really is, however that can only be my opinion. We have to find out what it is for ourselves and to do that we need our eyes open, only to find that this is all it is anyway. But it is exceedingly rare all the same.
” Hidden for centuries in a sealed-up cave in north-west China, this copy of the ‘Diamond Sutra’ is the world’s earliest complete survival of a dated printed book. It was made in 868. Seven strips of yellow-stained paper were printed from carved wooden blocks and pasted together to form a scroll over 5m long. Though written in Chinese, the text is one of the most important sacred works of the Buddhist faith, which was founded in India.”
Warning: Buddha lived 1300+ years before it was even written but let us assume it was faithfully handed down by those who memorised every word and had them handed down by a reliable witness.
“What is a sutra? The word comes from Sanskrit, the ancient and sacred language of India. It means a religious teaching or sermon, and is most often used to describe the teachings of the Buddha. Sutras preached by the Buddha were committed to memory by his disciples and passed down from generation to generation. The illustration at the beginning of this ‘Diamond Sutra’ shows the Buddha expounding the sutra to an elderly disciple called Subhuti. The sutra answers that question for itself. Towards the end of the sermon, Subhuti asks the Buddha how the sutra should be known. He is told to call it ‘The Diamond of Transcendent Wisdom’ because its teaching will cut like a diamond blade through worldly illusion to illuminate what is real and everlasting” http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/sacredtexts/diamondsutra.html
It sounds promising like the pickaxe Book of Enoch.
This is what I heard.
At one time the Buddha was staying in the Jeta Grove, near the city of Sravasti.
With him there was a community of 1,250 venerable monks and devoted disciples.
One day before dawn, the Buddha clothed himself, and along with his disciples took up his alms bowl and entered the city to beg for food door to door, as was his custom.
After he had returned and eaten, he put away his bowl and cloak, bathed his feet, and then sat with his legs crossed and body upright upon the seat arranged for him.
He began mindfully fixing his attention in front of himself, while many monks approached the Buddha, and showing great reverence, seated themselves around him.
After a time a most venerable monk named Subhuti, who was sitting in the congregation, rose from his seat.
He uncovered his right shoulder, placed his right knee on the ground, and as he joined his palms together he respectfully bowed and then addressed the Buddha:
“Most Honored One, It is truly majestic how much knowledge and wisdom your monks and disciples have been given through your most inspired teachings! It is remarkable that you look after our welfare so selflessly and so completely.”
“Most Honored One, I have a question to ask you. If sons and daughters of good families want to develop the highest, most fulfilled and awakened mind, if they wish to attain the Highest Perfect Wisdom, what should they do to help quiet their drifting minds and help subdue their craving thoughts?”
The Buddha then replied:
“So it is as you say, Subhuti. Monks and disciples have been favored with the highest favor by the Buddha, the monks and disciples have been instructed with the highest instruction by the Buddha. The Buddha is constantly mindful of the welfare of his followers. Listen carefully with your full attention, and I will speak to your question.”
“If sons and daughters of good families want to develop the highest, most fulfilled and awakened mind, if they wish to attain the Highest Perfect Wisdom and quiet their drifting minds while subduing their craving thoughts, then they should follow what I am about to say to you. Those who follow what I am about to say here will be able to subdue their discriminative thoughts and craving desires. It is possible to attain perfect tranquility and clarity of mind by absorbing and dwelling on the teachings I am about to give.”
Then the Buddha addressed the assembly.
“All living beings, whether born from eggs, from the womb, from moisture, or spontaneously; whether they have form or do not have form; whether they are aware or unaware, whether they are not aware or not unaware, all living beings will eventually be led by me to the final Nirvana, the final ending of the cycle of birth and death. And when this unfathomable, infinite number of living beings have all been liberated, in truth not even a single being has actually been liberated.”
“Why Subhuti? Because if a disciple still clings to the arbitrary illusions of form or phenomena such as an ego, a personality, a self, a separate person, or a universal self existing eternally, then that person is not an authentic disciple.”
(rattuos: Well the first alarm bells are already ringing)
“Furthermore, Subhuti, in the practice of compassion and charity a disciple should be detached. That is to say, he should practice compassion and charity without regard to appearances, without regard to form, without regard to sound, smell, taste, touch, or any quality of any kind. Subhuti, this is how the disciple should practice compassion and charity. Why? Because practicing compassion and charity without attachment is the way to reaching the Highest Perfect Wisdom, it is the way to becoming a living Buddha.”
“Subhuti, do you think that you can measure all of the space in the Eastern Heavens?”
“No, Most Honored One. One cannot possibly measure all of the space in the Eastern Heavens.”
“Subhuti, can space in all the Western, Southern, and Northern Heavens, both above and below, be measured?”
“No, Most Honored One. One cannot possibly measure all the space in the Western, Southern, and Northern Heavens.”
“Well, Subhuti, the same is true of the merit of the disciple who practices compassion and charity without any attachment to appearances, without cherishing any idea of form. It is impossible to measure the merit they will accrue. Subhuti, my disciples should let their minds absorb and dwell in the teachings I have just given.”
“Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Buddha be recognized by means of his bodily form?”
“No, Most Honored One, the Buddha cannot be recognized by means of his bodily form. Why? Because when the Buddha speaks of bodily form, it is not a real form, but only an illusion.”
The Buddha then spoke to Subhuti: “All that has a form is illusive and unreal. When you see that all forms are illusive and unreal, then you will begin to perceive your true Buddha nature.”
Subhuti respectfully asked the lord Buddha, “Most Honored One! In the future, if a person hears this teaching, even if it is a only a phrase or sentence, is it possible for that person to have a true faith and knowledge of Enlightenment awaken in their mind?”
“Without a doubt, Subhuti. Even 500 years after the Enlightenment of this Buddha there will be some who are virtuous and wise, and while practicing compassion and charity, will believe in the words and phrases of this Sutra and will awaken their minds purely. After they come to hear these teachings, they will be inspired with belief. This is because when some people hear these words, they will have understood intuitively that these words are the truth.”
“But you must also remember, Subhuti, that such persons have long ago planted the seeds of goodness and merit that lead to this realization. They have planted the seeds of good deeds and charity not simply before one Buddhist temple, or two temples, or five, but before hundreds of thousands of Buddhas and temples. So when a person who hears the words and phrases of this Sutra is ready for it to happen, a pure faith and clarity can awaken within their minds.”
“Subhuti, any person who awakens faith upon hearing the words or phrases of this Sutra will accumulate countless blessings and merit.”
“How do I know this? Because this person must have discarded all arbitrary notions of the existence of a personal self, of other people, or of a universal self. Otherwise their minds would still grasp after such relative conceptions. Furthermore, these people must have already discarded all arbitrary notions of the non-existence of a personal self, other people, or a universal self. Otherwise, their minds would still be grasping at such notions. Therefore anyone who seeks total Enlightenment should discard not only all conceptions of their own selfhood, of other selves, or of a universal self, but they should also discard all notions of the non-existence of such concepts.”
“When the Buddha explains these things using such concepts and ideas, people should remember the unreality of all such concepts and ideas. They should recall that in teaching spiritual truths the Buddha always uses these concepts and ideas in the way that a raft is used to cross a river. Once the river has been crossed over, the raft is of no more use, and should be discarded. These arbitrary concepts and ideas about spiritual things need to be explained to us as we seek to attain Enlightenment. However, ultimately these arbitrary conceptions can be discarded. Think Subhuti, isn’t it even more obvious that we should also give up our conceptions of non-existent things?”
Then Buddha asked Subhuti, “What do you think, Subhuti, has the Buddha arrived at the highest, most fulfilled, most awakened and enlightened mind? Does the Buddha teach any teaching?”
Subhuti replied, “As far as I have understood the lord Buddha’s teachings, there is no independently existing object of mind called the highest, most fulfilled, awakened or enlightened mind. Nor is there any independently existing teaching that the Buddha teaches. Why? Because the teachings that the Buddha has realized and spoken of cannot be conceived of as separate, independent things and therefore cannot be described. The truth in them is uncontainable and inexpressible. It neither is, nor is it not. What does this mean? What this means is that Buddhas and disciples are not enlightened by a set method of teachings, but by an internally intuitive process which is spontaneous and is part of their own inner nature.”
“Let me ask you Subhuti? If a person filled over ten thousand galaxies with the seven treasures for the purpose of compassion, charity, and giving alms, would this person not gain great merit and spread much happiness?”
“Yes, Most Honored One. This person would gain great merit and spread much happiness, even though, in truth, this person does not have a separate existence to which merit could accrue. Why? Because this person’s merit is characterized with the quality of not being merit.”
The Buddha continued, “Then suppose another person understood only four lines of this Sutra, but nevertheless took it upon themselves to explain these lines to someone else. This person’s merit would be even greater than the other person’s. Why? Because all Buddhas and all the teachings and values of the highest, most fulfilled, most awakened minds arise from the teachings in this Sutra. And yet, even as I speak, Subhuti, I must take back my words as soon as they are uttered, for there are no Buddhas and there are no teachings.”
There are 32 chapters of this. Enjoy. My difficulty is whether this is a faithful recollection of an actual conversation with the Buddha or made up many years later. If you want enlightenment reading this sutra will not help you, of that I am certain. Reading what I write might not help you either but practising clairvoyance may well and it is easy to do. What you need to do is to get to a level where it becomes reliable and accurate which may take many years but is well worth the effort and wait. But of course that is not enlightenment, just a very useful tool. When I found my third eye in the Thames I was told that this was the way and day of my enlightenment. Perhaps looking deeper at that statement is helpful. I used my natural clairvoyance to listen to some instructions. If your clairvoyance ever asks you to do something violent or destructive pack it in. that is schizophrenia and there is a thin line between that and real clairvoyance or clairaudience as far as the practitioner is concerned. There are dangers here, but so there are with learning to drive. My instructions told me that a treasure was to be found near something purple. I looked but could see nothing valuable in the mud. I nearly despaired and gave up especially when I attracted the attention of a group of thugs making their way out to me but saw some purple plastic and scooped up the mud and gravel next to it into my bucket. It was a few days later that I cleaned it and found the eye. So the way of it was trust, not being deflected from my purpose and not judging what I collected until a later time when it would be recognisable as valuable. This is all about gaining knowledge and finding what is hidden. For you I am sure it will be different. If we are to believe the story of the Buddha’s enlightenment it was different:
“Raised in a life of privilege and luxury and protected from all knowledge of pain and suffering, young Prince Siddhartha Gautama at the age of 29 is said to have left the family palace to meet his subjects, at which time he was confronted with the reality of human suffering.
Having been confronted with the Four Passing Sights, (a sick person, an aged person, a corpse, and a holy man) and greatly troubled by them, the young prince renounced his life, then left his home and family to discover the truth of birth and death and to find peace of mind.
He sought out one yoga teacher and then another one, mastering what they taught him and then moving on.
Then, with five companions, for five or six years he engaged in rigorous asceticism. He tortured himself, held his breath, and fasted until his ribs stuck out “like a row of spindles” and he could almost feel his spine through his stomach.
Yet enlightenment seemed no closer.
Then he remembered something. Once as a boy, while sitting under a rose apple tree on a beautiful day, he had spontaneously experienced great bliss and entered the first dhyana, meaning he was absorbed in a deep meditative state.
He realized then that this experienced showed him the way to realization. Instead of punishing his body to find release from the confines of the self, he would work with his own nature and practice purity of mental defilements to realize enlightenment.
He knew then that he would need physical strength and better health to continue. About this time a young girl came by and offered the emaciated Siddhartha a bowl of milk and rice. When his companions saw him eating solid food they believed he had given up the quest, and they abandoned him.
At this point, Siddhartha had realized the path to awakening was a “middle way” between extremes of the self-denial he had been practicing with his group of ascetics and the self-indulgence of the life he had been born into.
Under the Bodhi Tree
At Bodh Gaya, in the modern Indian state of Bihar, Siddhartha Gautama sat beneath a sacred fig (Ficus religiosa) and began to meditate. According to some traditions he realized enlightenment in one night.
Others say three days and three nights; while others say 45 days.
When his mind was purified by concentration, it is said he acquired the Three Knowledges. The first knowledge was that of his past lives and the past lives of all beings. The second knowledge was of the laws of karma. The third knowledge was that he was free of all obstacles and released from attachments.
When he realized release from samsara, the awakened Buddha exclaimed,
“House-builder, you’re seen! You will not build a house again. All your rafters broken, the ridge pole destroyed, gone to the Unformed, the mind has come to the end of craving.” [Dhammapada, verse 154]
Released from ‘samsara’?
“Saṃsāra is a Sanskrit word that means “wandering” or “world”, with the connotation of cyclic, circuitous change. It also refers to the theory of rebirth and “cyclicality of all life, matter, existence”, a fundamental assumption of all Indian religions. Saṃsāra is sometimes referred to with terms or phrases such as transmigration, karmic cycle, reincarnation, and “cycle of aimless drifting, wandering or mundane existence”. Wikipedia
So we must make up our own minds on this and everything. It appears that Buddha achieved enlightenment on his own and saw it as release from rebirth and from craving physical things while opting for a middle way between asceticism and material life. Personally I have not seen my previous lives and my opinion has always been that this is my only life from which I have done all my work in the past, now and to come. But certainly in my case I had guidance from a spiritual source, My main source has been myself at the end of my life, one I have communicated with since childhood but only realised was ‘me‘ when I was about 40.
The sutra comes across as classic guruism. Gurus love to explain to their disciples that they understand impossible concepts and this concept that you must have no attachments or cravings or ego to see reality is classic and widespread however the people who tell us this clearly do have attachments, cravings and often inflated egos. One thing that certainly comes across is ‘ego’ above. How can they have compassion and charity if all form is illusion. The begging bowl is physical and unless someone works to put something in it for the beggar, he or she will die of starvation. They are the ones who earn merit.
I have known quite a few gurus and that has certainly opened my eyes but not in the way they say they can. Most have had many followers slavishly obedient for a few years and most disciples have kept the gurus in a style to which they wish to become accustomed. They are not Buddha but from my perspective he comes across just like them. When the guru is dead the sects can take on a life of their own. The guru is deified and must never be questioned – well how can he be questioned when he is dead? And there are female gurus who are no different. It is when they meet someone with their eyes open that they become uncomfortable. I like Buddhists – they have all been well meaning and calm people that I have met, some very knowledgeable. But they do spend their lives chasing illusions and fantasies. Much of the maya has been created by them. One of these is levitation. That is a sign of bilocation – the physical body does not levitate but the spiritual apparition can. I wish the practitioners of this were a bit more honest about it. Buddha above says there is huge merit in passing on his sutra – well the opposite is true for passing on nonsense.