Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

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Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby Sko » Fri Feb 21, 2014 12:24 am

For some reason I've been having a bit of cognitive blockage when trying to draw conclusions about the three concepts mentioned in the thread title, so I was hoping maybe some kind Dharma Wheels users could clear some things up for me!

From what I understand, Nirvana is elimination of the five skhandas and thus removal from samsara. That may be a shallow summary of it. But judging from what I understand, I can't figure out how that ties in with Enlightenment and Buddhahood. Is Buddhahood achieved once you're completely liberated from samsara/reach Nirvana? If so, is Enlightenment a preliminary requisite to Buddhahood? Or is Enlightenment mutually inclusive with Nirvana? If that's true, then what's the functional difference between a Buddha and a Boddhisattva if once you become Enlightened you reach Nirvana even though Boddhisattvas renounce Nirvana? I apologize for the cascade of questions.

Thank you all for viewing this.

:namaste:
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Re: Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Feb 21, 2014 12:46 am

My answer is, we can't figure this out on the verbal or intellectual level, it is not conceptual or intellectual. That might sound like mystification, but it is nevertheless the case. What we see and comprehend is always a function of our level of development. Two people look at the same situation, and see something completely different, depending on what they bring to it. That is why there is an emphasis on purity of perception and development of concentration. We - the 'uninstructed worldlings' - don't see things as they are, because of many subtle hindrances and conditioning factors. We see what we want to see, or what our conditioning tells us to see, and so on, even if we are looking at the same situation as the Enlightened.

So, as is said in every school of Buddhism, what a Buddha sees and knows is something profound, deep, hard to fathom, and percievable only by the wise. It is not something that can be summed up in words and concepts. That doesn't mean it can't be understood, but that the process of understanding it is also a process of inner transformation. There isn't any understanding apart from that transformation, and no transformation apart from that understanding. That would be my way of expressing it.

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Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
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Re: Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby Zhen Li » Fri Feb 21, 2014 1:07 am

Maybe it would help to understand the terms being used. One of the problems is that people are introduced to Buddhism without it being fully translated. I am working on a translation project that should help to remedy this by having all such terms translated from the start. But maybe the following will help:

Enlightenment comes from the word bodhi, which actually means awakening. It comes from the root budh, awaken.

Buddha is the past participle of budh, which thus in English means awakened. If it is being used to describe someone/something, it is translated as Awakened One.

Nirvāṇa means extinguishing, or cessation, just like you would extinguish a flame, or make it cease to flame.

The Awakened One is therefore one who has achieved awakening. Awakening means seeing the four noble truths directly: Suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path to the cessation of suffering.

One who has attained cessation is one who causes both the skandhas (aggregates) and kleśas (defilements) to cease. Thus ending the causes for continued rebirth.

One attains cessation by achieving awakening: seeing the four noble truths directly, and by seeing the causes of suffering that knowledge allows them to cease producing the further causation of suffering. They thus cause the defilements to cease. Thus that person is called a Foe-Destroyer (Arhat) since they have destroyed their foes, the defilements. Still having the aggregates and karma to be worked out, one has attained Cessation with Remainder. When both body and mind have ceased to continue, and the aggregates and karma no longer need to be worked out, one attains Cessation without Remainder.

Let's see if I can use this framework to answer your questions:
I can't figure out how that ties in with Enlightenment and Buddhahood. Is Buddhahood achieved once you're completely liberated from samsara/reach Nirvana?

No, being an Awakened One is not the same as achieving cessation. One who achieves awakening when there is currently no Buddhist dispensation in the world is the Awakened One of that era. After that, all who achieve awakening without vowing in the future to themselves become an Awakened One will become a Foe-Destroyer. You attain awakening prior to being completely liberated from Samsara. If you make the vow to become an Awakened One, you will put off full cessation until after that time, and engage upon the path of the Awakening Hero (Bodhisattva) which may take many eons. However, you may very well be awakened during that time, and may achieve cessation (at what is called the Seventh Level of the Awakening Hero's path), but due to one's vow, one doesn't enter Final Cessation (parinirvāṇa) until in the future one attains the state of an Awakened One. The full awakening of an Awakened One is called Unexcelled Perfect and Complete Awakening (anuttarā-saṃyak-saṃbodhi), which is more extensive than that of a Foe Destroyer.

The state of a Foe-Destroyer is much easier to attain, and can be done in one life, whereas the state of an Awakened One takes many lives to work out. This is why it is important for some to make the vow to become an Awakened One in the future when there is no dispensation in the world, or in worlds where there is no current dispensation.
If so, is Enlightenment a preliminary requisite to Buddhahood?

Yes, to be an Awakened One, you need to achieve awakening. This is why I believe it's so important to have these terms translated - it becomes apparent when it's in English.
Or is Enlightenment mutually inclusive with Nirvana?

Awakening causes cessation, but not if you vowed to delay cessation until you attain the state of an Awakened One.
If that's true, then what's the functional difference between a Buddha and a Boddhisattva if once you become Enlightened you reach Nirvana even though Boddhisattvas renounce Nirvana?

An Awakened One has already achieved that state, and an Awakening Hero (Bodhisattva) is aiming for that state. Awakening Heroes only renounce individual cessation, they aim for the state of an Awakened One out of compassion for the suffering of all sentient beings - they want to teach others so they can relieve them from suffering. When they achieve the state of an Awakened One, then they can achieve Final Cessation, just like the Awakened One in this era, Shakyamuni.

There is more to it, but it's best to take it one step at a time.
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Re: Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Fri Feb 21, 2014 4:13 am

:good:
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby Sko » Fri Feb 21, 2014 4:13 am

Wow! Many thanks Zhen Li for your lingual/etymological standpoint. That really helped me out a lot, despite the complexities far beyond basic Buddhahood, Boddhisattvahood, Nirvana, and Enlightenment. Even though what you said is a little thick ( :tongue: ) I learned a lot from your message.

Thanks again, jeeprs and Zhen Li.

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Re: Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby odysseus » Fri Feb 21, 2014 7:19 pm

Sko wrote:Or is Enlightenment mutually inclusive with Nirvana? If that's true, then what's the functional difference between a Buddha and a Boddhisattva if once you become Enlightened you reach Nirvana even though Boddhisattvas renounce Nirvana?


One who is enlightened or has a glimpse of enlightenment will know Nirvana automatically. A bodhisattva postpones his complete enlightenment to help people in this life, but he will probably go to Nirvana when he dies. Full enlightenment is a gradual process but one can enter Nirvana at any time.

There is only one historical Buddha at the same time, therefore Shakyamuni completed his enlightenment to benefit people since there was no other Buddha in the world. Bodhisattvas does´nt need to become completely enlightened to help others since the heritage of Buddha is still around but a bodhisattva knows Nirvana.
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Re: Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby JamyangTashi » Fri Feb 21, 2014 8:46 pm

There's an interesting read covering some of these topics in an essay called Arahants, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi.
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Re: Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby odysseus » Fri Feb 21, 2014 9:01 pm

odysseus wrote:Full enlightenment is a gradual process but one can enter Nirvana at any time.


Sorry, I meant an arhat or bodhisattva can enter Nirvana anytime.
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Re: Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby cdpatton » Sat Feb 22, 2014 3:58 am

Sko wrote:For some reason I've been having a bit of cognitive blockage when trying to draw conclusions about the three concepts mentioned in the thread title, so I was hoping maybe some kind Dharma Wheels users could clear some things up for me!

From what I understand, Nirvana is elimination of the five skhandas and thus removal from samsara. That may be a shallow summary of it. But judging from what I understand, I can't figure out how that ties in with Enlightenment and Buddhahood. Is Buddhahood achieved once you're completely liberated from samsara/reach Nirvana? If so, is Enlightenment a preliminary requisite to Buddhahood? Or is Enlightenment mutually inclusive with Nirvana? If that's true, then what's the functional difference between a Buddha and a Boddhisattva if once you become Enlightened you reach Nirvana even though Boddhisattvas renounce Nirvana? I apologize for the cascade of questions.

Thank you all for viewing this.

:namaste:


I would just add that Nirvana is the destruction of the klesas -- the afflicting mental states -- and so it is a state of pure happiness, since all the obstacles to that happiness are gone. Parinirvana is what you have in mind when you say it is the elimination of the five skandhas. But in this case it is really the end of any further cause for another existence after the present one is complete. That is, it is the end of the karmic cycle. This can be an idea that doesn't make sense to those whose basic assumption is that there is no afterlife. It doesn't sound like anything special. But if you're assumption is that you're trapped in an endless cycle of rebirth, then it represents the final escape. The way these two things are achieved is by the elimination of the root ignorance that spawns all the klesas and karma of delusional mentality.

And that is where the connection to bodhi lies. Bodhi is the elimination of that root ignorance. Nirvana is the result after that takes place.

A Buddha is special case. He was a bodhisattva who has spent an unimaginable number of lifetimes to bring about the Dharma at a time when the Dharma is not being taught in the world anymore. Buddhas are sort of like Dharma avatars who appear to reintroduce the way to liberation to the world. This is the ultimate act of altruism--the greatest possible gift that can be given.

This may sound strange if you've been taught in a tradition that today talks about anyone becoming a Buddha at any time. Originally, anyone could become an arhat, but not a Buddha. Buddhas appear ages apart from each other. An arhat experiences the same Nirvana as a Buddha. But the arhat couldn't have done it on his own without encountering the teachings of a Buddha. Buddhas awaken themselves spontaneously through the bodhisattva career. The way many modern teachers talk about Buddhas is roughly equivalent to becoming an arhat, I would guess.
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Re: Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby dude » Sat Feb 22, 2014 5:47 am

" Full enlightenment is a gradual process but one can enter Nirvana at any time."

Do you guys have any references from the sutras or commentaries for these statements, or are they your own ideas?
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Re: Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby odysseus » Sat Feb 22, 2014 6:37 am

dude wrote:" Full enlightenment is a gradual process but one can enter Nirvana at any time."

Do you guys have any references from the sutras or commentaries for these statements, or are they your own ideas?


General descriptions of the bodhisattva´s way and arhat´s enlightenment suggests so. Maybe Nagasena´s words about Nirvana will ease your mind (?). Look around...

http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/sbe35/s ... m#page_106
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Re: Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby odysseus » Sat Feb 22, 2014 10:04 am

More about bodhisattvas and such:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/bb/bb18.htm
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Re: Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby dude » Sat Feb 22, 2014 9:59 pm

7. The king said: 'Venerable Nâgasena, do all men receive Nirvâna?'

'Not all, O king. But he who walks righteously, who admits those conditions which ought to be admitted, perceives clearly those conditions which ought to be clearly perceived, abandons those conditions which ought to be abandoned, practises himself in those conditions which ought to be practised, realises those conditions which ought to be realised--he receives Nirvâna.'

'Very good, Nâgasena!'

Is this proof of your assertion?
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Re: Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby odysseus » Sat Feb 22, 2014 11:51 pm

dude wrote:Is this proof of your assertion?


What proof do we have except scriptures and our own realisations? You can have sudden enlightenment also but it takes more to be a Buddha.
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Re: Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby dude » Sun Feb 23, 2014 12:02 am

What I'm asking is whether this scripture passage affirms your assertion.
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Re: Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby JamyangTashi » Sun Feb 23, 2014 2:28 am

Zhen Li wrote:Awakening causes cessation, but not if you vowed to delay cessation until you attain the state of an Awakened One.

If that's true, then what's the functional difference between a Buddha and a Boddhisattva if once you become Enlightened you reach Nirvana even though Boddhisattvas renounce Nirvana?


An Awakened One has already achieved that state, and an Awakening Hero (Bodhisattva) is aiming for that state. Awakening Heroes only renounce individual cessation, they aim for the state of an Awakened One out of compassion for the suffering of all sentient beings - they want to teach others so they can relieve them from suffering. When they achieve the state of an Awakened One, then they can achieve Final Cessation, just like the Awakened One in this era, Shakyamuni.


This seems to be saying that Awakening can occur without being an Awakened One? As a related question, if Awakening can occur without cessation, then why does an Awakened One need to achieve cessation in order to teach? Wouldn't the more compassionate choice be for an Awakened One to continue to renounce Final Cessation in order to have more opportunity to teach?

Also related, how should a practitioner decide whether to form an intention to become a Foe-Destroyer or to become an Awakening Hero?
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Re: Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Feb 23, 2014 2:51 am

Nice to see someone using my translated terminology, haha. I'll try to reply remembering what I used.
JamyangTashi wrote:This seems to be saying that Awakening can occur without being an Awakened One?

Yes, Awakening without being an Awakened One is being a Foe Destroyer. The Awakening of an Awakened One is called Unexcelled Perfect and Complete Awakening.
JamyangTashi wrote:As a related question, if Awakening can occur without cessation, then why does an Awakened One need to achieve cessation in order to teach?

Awakening can't occur without cessation. If you are fully awake to the Four Noble Truths then cessation follows. You may be confusing cessation without remainder, which doesn't follow if you have taken the vow to become an Awakened One, i.e. become an Awakening Hero.
JamyangTashi wrote:Wouldn't the more compassionate choice be for an Awakened One to continue to renounce Final Cessation in order to have more opportunity to teach?

No need. Once the dispensation of an Awakened One is in the world, it flourishes, regardless of whether he is still present. In other words, it makes little difference.

There's a multifaceted longer answer, but for that you'll have to read the Nirvana Sutra.
JamyangTashi wrote:Also related, how should a practitioner decide whether to form an intention to become a Foe-Destroyer or to become an Awakening Hero?

This is usually said to come down to compassion.

Someone who practices the path of the Foe-Destroyer will reply that there is no point in aiming to become an Awakened One on the path of the Awakening Hero because the dispensation of an Awakened One is already in the world, so there is no need for another Awakened One. But those who follow the path of the Awakening Hero will say that eventually the dispensation of the Awakened One in this world will pass away, and then they will need an Awakened One again, even if it takes many aeons, and those beings who exist all that time in the future will just be the same beings suffering now in future lives, so they're not just distant strangers, many of them have even been our mothers in past lives.

Also, it's not the end of the road if you choose the path of the Foe-Destroyer and achieve the fruit of that path, i.e. cessation with remainder. If you form the intention to switch paths then, you can put off cessation without remainder (final cessation). However, if you are on the path of the Awakening Hero, there is a certain point at which your progress is irreversible, and there is both no retrogression and no declining to the aspiration of a Foe-Destroyer. If you have made an Awakening Hero vow in your past life, you may already have a lot of inertia behind your motivation and merit that will push you towards the path of the Awakening Hero.

Hope that helps,
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Re: Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby JamyangTashi » Sun Feb 23, 2014 4:39 am

Zhen Li wrote:Also, it's not the end of the road if you choose the path of the Foe-Destroyer and achieve the fruit of that path, i.e. cessation with remainder. If you form the intention to switch paths then, you can put off cessation without remainder (final cessation).


So this is saying that once cessation with remainder is achieved, then cessation without remainder is a choice after that point? In other words, even after cessation with remainder occurs the process of rebirth is not necessarily ended but the option of ending it becomes available? At this point, all future births would be as a Foe-Destroyer/Awakening Hero from the beginning?
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Re: Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Feb 23, 2014 4:51 am

JamyangTashi wrote:So this is saying that once cessation with remainder is achieved, then cessation without remainder is a choice after that point? In other words, even after cessation with remainder occurs the process of rebirth is not necessarily ended but the option of ending it becomes available?

Yes, but it has more to do with the presence of the intention to continue being reborn than it does with there being an option by default. I.e. if you don't make the Awakening Hero vow then you will enter into final cessation.
JamyangTashi wrote:At this point, all future births would be as a Foe-Destroyer/Awakening Hero from the beginning?

There is no reason why a Foe-Destroyer would form the intention to be reborn again unless it was because he made the Awakening Hero vow. So if someone attained cessation is reborn, they are doing so as an Awakening Hero.

And it wouldn't be "from the beginning" of the Awakening Hero's path. There are 10 Awakening Hero Levels (Bhūmi). The Foe-Destroyer who enters onto the Awakening Hero path would enter onto the 8th level. Awakening Heroes on the 8th level and upwards are those who have attained cessation.

If you're interested in the 10 levels, the Wikipedia article is getting pretty good, and would be a thorough exposition:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bh%C5%ABmi_(Buddhism)

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Re: Nirvana, Buddhahood, and Enlightenment

Postby odysseus » Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:08 pm

dude wrote:What I'm asking is whether this scripture passage affirms your assertion.


No it´s not enough. But there are various sources that has told this. If it´s incorrect someone will clear it up or I will realize it myself.
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