What is Enlightenment?

Whether you're exploring Buddhism for the first time or you're already on the path, feel free to ask questions of any kind here.

Re: What is Enlightenment?

Postby Andrew108 » Sat Apr 12, 2014 3:04 pm

Gwenn Dana wrote:I wanted to add here "nature spits you out yet there is nothing that could be spit out".


I like that.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
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Re: What is Enlightenment?

Postby Morgan » Sun Apr 13, 2014 5:10 am

Thank you for asking this question -- I've had similar thoughts, but from a different angle. It's been good to read the replies on this thread.

I don't want to hijack the thread, but I feel that if I make this question a separate post, it may be merged back here anyway. (Mods, feel free to split this if necessary.) It also has to do with the nature of nibbana. In addition it might have to do with spirit influence (I can get into that in my Intro), but that's really an aside.

The question is whether duhkha is equivalent to life itself. Thus when we speak about the "cessation of duhkha", does this necessarily entail the cessation of life? I basically have no Dhamma teacher and so I don't have anyone I know, who knows what they're talking about, who can really answer this question for me. :P Because it's really easy to get caught up in the idea that nibbana means the end of worldly existence, I've been having a hard time studying my Buddhist materials. I mean, I open them, I hit the next mention of "sentient being," and I'm turned off because of the implication that "non-sentient" beings' lives are worth less.

I also know that not everything I'm reading is necessarily intellectually honest. This is in regard to upaya, and the concept that what I'm reading isn't necessarily true, but it is written in order to further the reader on the path to nibbana. I'm also not sure I want nibbana, if attaining nibbana means the end of life itself. It doesn't help that I have read exactly nowhere, a definition of nibbana.

Like some other people on this board (I've been reading backposts), I've had to deal with what is basically chronic emotional pain. Defeating this pain is the main reason I initially devoted attention to Buddhist study, in my University years; at this point, with therapy and medication and ongoing study, I'm managing it pretty well. But given this, I know that life isn't all sunshine and roses, but it has pleasant points to it nonetheless. Especially if one can get clinging and fear under control (which may take a lifetime or more), it can be really good. What I'm doing doesn't stop all the symptoms, but it does make them easier to handle.

I'm just not sure if this specific path is the one I want to be on, at present. I've studied it for about a decade now, off and on. But at this point I'm also looking at Daojiao (Daoism/Taoism). I know there's a syncretic point to this where Buddhist and Daoist ideas merged -- I know about Ch'an and Zen, and have some materials on Huayan. I'm just trying to reach a point of clarification as to similarities and differences between the paths, because I know they diverge at some critical points as well -- for example, in the importance of intent-in-action (karma) versus wu wei, or acting-in-nonaction. Or, the ideal of lengthening life (as life is seen as a good thing) as versus wanting to be freed of duhkha, in whatever manner -- which stances seem to me to indicate radically different attitudes towards the problem of existence.

Most critically for this is that I'm trying to figure out a path going forward. I've been recommended to take Shaolin Gongfu (Kung Fu) by my current Qigong teacher, as preparation for Baguazhang or Tai Ch'i training (I'm interested in both, but that's probably because I don't know enough about either). I'm having a bit of hesitance here, though, because I did also train in Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido for several years, and left because of the religious dictates of the teacher...which were, of course, Buddhist. I'm thinking Shaolin training may be a bit different than the ultra-nonviolence of that form of Aikido. But really, I don't think I've been in contact with any Buddhism which wasn't extremely nonviolent.

Anyhow! I've got to go -- maybe I can work on that Intro, later. Thank you for listening -- I'm hoping that this issue as to whether duhkha is equivalent to life, actually has an answer! :)

See you around,
M.
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Re: What is Enlightenment?

Postby dude » Sun Apr 13, 2014 5:32 am

There is suffering until suffering ends, but the closer you get to nirvana the less you suffer.
A Bodhisattva sees suffering as the path to enlightenment by way of expiating karma.
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Re: What is Enlightenment?

Postby Morgan » Sun Apr 13, 2014 5:46 am

Agh. I meant to ask whether samsara was equivalent to life itself, sorry.

@ Dude: But is the end of suffering, the end of existence?
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Re: What is Enlightenment?

Postby dude » Sun Apr 13, 2014 6:26 am

Morgan wrote:Agh. I meant to ask whether samsara was equivalent to life itself, sorry.

@ Dude: But is the end of suffering, the end of existence?


At that point it's up to you. You're free to do what you want.
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Re: What is Enlightenment?

Postby Gwenn Dana » Sun Apr 13, 2014 8:00 am

Morgan wrote:The question is whether duhkha is equivalent to life itself. Thus when we speak about the "cessation of duhkha", does this necessarily entail the cessation of life?


No. IMHO that's a misunderstanding of the first noble truth. It only says "in life, there is suffering". Now saying "no life, no suffering" is a mere, useless (and even wrong) inversion. Then there's no eightfold path to walk. But there is. The first noble truth in my understanding means: "When life emerges, then obviously also suffering emerges, since it can be observed that there are people who suffer. Now let's see whether one can do something about that." The first noble truth is not absolute, it leaves room so with time things will be able to change for particluar beings (although if you observe all beings, there probably will still be some who suffer). Ending suffering for all would then be the goal for a Bodhisattva.

But it also depends on your definition of life. If you mean "physical life", then no. If you mean "life" more genearally as "emerging phenomena", then there is some truth to that, since death of thoughts, and death of the subtle beings you call into existence by identifying with thought is necessary. A Hindu would probably hunt Kali through there or praise Shiva to rest the mind in a blank slate of peace.

Best wishes
Gwenn
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Re: What is Enlightenment?

Postby Andrew108 » Sun Apr 13, 2014 8:09 am

Morgan wrote:Thank you for asking this question -- I've had similar thoughts, but from a different angle. It's been good to read the replies on this thread.

I don't want to hijack the thread, but I feel that if I make this question a separate post, it may be merged back here anyway. (Mods, feel free to split this if necessary.) It also has to do with the nature of nibbana. In addition it might have to do with spirit influence (I can get into that in my Intro), but that's really an aside.

The question is whether duhkha is equivalent to life itself. Thus when we speak about the "cessation of duhkha", does this necessarily entail the cessation of life? I basically have no Dhamma teacher and so I don't have anyone I know, who knows what they're talking about, who can really answer this question for me. :P Because it's really easy to get caught up in the idea that nibbana means the end of worldly existence, I've been having a hard time studying my Buddhist materials. I mean, I open them, I hit the next mention of "sentient being," and I'm turned off because of the implication that "non-sentient" beings' lives are worth less.

I also know that not everything I'm reading is necessarily intellectually honest. This is in regard to upaya, and the concept that what I'm reading isn't necessarily true, but it is written in order to further the reader on the path to nibbana. I'm also not sure I want nibbana, if attaining nibbana means the end of life itself. It doesn't help that I have read exactly nowhere, a definition of nibbana.

Like some other people on this board (I've been reading backposts), I've had to deal with what is basically chronic emotional pain. Defeating this pain is the main reason I initially devoted attention to Buddhist study, in my University years; at this point, with therapy and medication and ongoing study, I'm managing it pretty well. But given this, I know that life isn't all sunshine and roses, but it has pleasant points to it nonetheless. Especially if one can get clinging and fear under control (which may take a lifetime or more), it can be really good. What I'm doing doesn't stop all the symptoms, but it does make them easier to handle.

I'm just not sure if this specific path is the one I want to be on, at present. I've studied it for about a decade now, off and on. But at this point I'm also looking at Daojiao (Daoism/Taoism). I know there's a syncretic point to this where Buddhist and Daoist ideas merged -- I know about Ch'an and Zen, and have some materials on Huayan. I'm just trying to reach a point of clarification as to similarities and differences between the paths, because I know they diverge at some critical points as well -- for example, in the importance of intent-in-action (karma) versus wu wei, or acting-in-nonaction. Or, the ideal of lengthening life (as life is seen as a good thing) as versus wanting to be freed of duhkha, in whatever manner -- which stances seem to me to indicate radically different attitudes towards the problem of existence.

Most critically for this is that I'm trying to figure out a path going forward. I've been recommended to take Shaolin Gongfu (Kung Fu) by my current Qigong teacher, as preparation for Baguazhang or Tai Ch'i training (I'm interested in both, but that's probably because I don't know enough about either). I'm having a bit of hesitance here, though, because I did also train in Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido for several years, and left because of the religious dictates of the teacher...which were, of course, Buddhist. I'm thinking Shaolin training may be a bit different than the ultra-nonviolence of that form of Aikido. But really, I don't think I've been in contact with any Buddhism which wasn't extremely nonviolent.

Anyhow! I've got to go -- maybe I can work on that Intro, later. Thank you for listening -- I'm hoping that this issue as to whether duhkha is equivalent to life, actually has an answer! :)

See you around,
M.


Interesting post. I hope you can hang around here and contribute to discussions. I'm sure some of the things people write here will resonate with you.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
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Re: What is Enlightenment?

Postby Wayfarer » Mon Apr 14, 2014 2:29 am

Morgan wrote:The question is whether duhkha is equivalent to life itself. Thus when we speak about the "cessation of duhkha", does this necessarily entail the cessation of life?


That is a point that comes up here frequently. Many people would reply in the affirmative, but I don't agree. I understand it to be 'the cessation of the sense of oneself as a separate entity'. In that sense, the self 'dies' - but this is like what the mystics have called 'dying to the known' or 'dying to the self'. I am sure it is a profound process and one which very few will ever go through. And it is essentially 'religious' in some profound sense, not simply an intellectual process.

(If you're philosophically inclined, there are parellels with Schopenhauer's notion of 'the Will', which is 'a mindless, aimless, non-rational urge at the foundation of our instinctual drives' which drives all living beings. Schopenhauer recognized that what he termed 'ascetics and mystics' are those whose aim is to dissociate themselves from 'the will' in that sense.)

I think in modern culture, we don't have any kind of analogies or ways of conceptualizing the idea of higher realms or domains of being whereas in all the pre-modern cultures, there was the understanding of 'the great chain of being', which we generally now have abandoned in favour of scientific models which are necessarily uni-dimensional.
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Re: What is Enlightenment?

Postby oushi » Mon Apr 14, 2014 11:47 am

Morgan wrote:The question is whether duhkha is equivalent to life itself. Thus when we speak about the "cessation of duhkha", does this necessarily entail the cessation of life? I basically have no Dhamma teacher and so I don't have anyone I know, who knows what they're talking about, who can really answer this question for me. :P Because it's really easy to get caught up in the idea that nibbana means the end of worldly existence, I've been having a hard time studying my Buddhist materials.

As I understand it, dukkha is stress in a physical dimension. Of course stress is a mechanism that makes our muscles work, but beside that, there is also a stress triggered by intention, which is based on desire for becoming. In other words, mind uses stress to make our body accomplish its goals. Cassation of dukkha is cassation of intention based stress.
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Re: What is Enlightenment?

Postby pensum » Mon Apr 14, 2014 12:44 pm

Gwenn Dana wrote:Is there a belt color system for enlightenment then?

Best wishes
Gwenn

Yes, for that essentially is what the bhumis are, each level of realization having a corresponding set of signs and accomplishments. See Patrul Rinpoche's Guide to the Stages and Paths of the Bodhisattvas, http://www.lotsawahouse.org/tibetan-masters/patrul-rinpoche/stages-and-path. There are also the four stages of Mahamudra, the four visions of Dzogchen, etc. All with precise descriptions of the corresponding signs and understanding in order to clarify precisely what level of realization one has attained.
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Re: What is Enlightenment?

Postby kirtu » Mon Apr 14, 2014 3:14 pm

Morgan wrote:The question is whether duhkha is equivalent to life itself.


Duhkha and ordinary life is synonymous with suffering. Actually synonymous implies a duality. Duhkha and ordinary life, even ordinary life free of pain and gross suffering, is exactly the same thing. Duhkha and ordinary life are non-dual. Duhkha and life as an Arya Bodhisattva (a being who is on the stages of enlightenment but not fully enlightened) is also non-dual. Until we are fully enlightened our life is subject to suffering. As long as we have the aggregates (form, feeling, perceptions, volitions [sort of a mixed bag of habitual tendencies], and consciousness) we will have suffering. All the three realms (formless, form and our desire realm) are just forms of suffering. The Mahayana asserts that even Arhats experience a subtle form of suffering.

Thus when we speak about the "cessation of duhkha", does this necessarily entail the cessation of life?


No. Individual moments of suffering arise, are experienced and end. However life does not end because the life forces and karma are not exhausted. If a person became fully enlightened during their lifetime they would not die because their life force was not exhausted.

Kirt
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"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
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Re: What is Enlightenment?

Postby Lindama » Mon Apr 14, 2014 4:47 pm

Enlightenment doesn't leave a trace.
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Re: What is Enlightenment?

Postby shel » Tue Apr 15, 2014 4:37 am

Trace of what?
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Re: What is Enlightenment?

Postby Lindama » Tue Apr 15, 2014 5:19 am

you figure it out...
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Re: What is Enlightenment?

Postby shel » Tue Apr 15, 2014 6:43 am

But that would leave a trace. :tongue:
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Re: What is Enlightenment?

Postby dude » Tue Apr 15, 2014 8:10 am

Life never ceases.
It never started.
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Re: What is Enlightenment?

Postby Gwenn Dana » Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:49 am

Instant weight loss.
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