So when did Shakyamuni actually attain enlightenment?

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So when did Shakyamuni actually attain enlightenment?

Postby ShadedLotus » Thu Jun 18, 2009 3:18 am

In the "Lifespan of the Thus Come One" chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni revealed that he actually had first attained enlightenment in the distant past, as opposed to only forty years prior, as he had taught before. So, if he did attain enlightenment in the distant past, was he born enlightened, or did he have to attain it again?
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Re: So when did Shakyamuni actually attain enlightenment?

Postby thornbush » Thu Jun 18, 2009 5:57 am

As He Himself said it, it was a long time ago, everything else after that were mere expedients to lead all sentient beings towards Liberation. That is the Lotus Sutra's POV.
What matters to me more is what are we doing about it in actuating His Teaching for our own Liberation...
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Re: So when did Shakyamuni actually attain enlightenment?

Postby sraddha » Fri Jun 19, 2009 1:01 am

Hi Shadedlotus,

In Mahayana Buddhism, the person of Gotama, the man who became the Buddha is considered a mute point.

Gotama states clearly in the earliest texts all skandhas are anatma -- or not self-- so then logically, can we say Gotama is the Buddha, or was ever the Buddha? When Buddha states, all forms, feelings, etc. are not self -- can anyone say Siddhartha was the Buddha???

By the same logic, one who practices Anatma -- can you say "I am this form, this feelings are mine, etc."??

In fact, such a statement would be deemed going against the very teachings of Dharma.

Mahayana goes into questioning the true nature of Buddhahood -- not the person. All personalities are phantasmic beings, as waves on the ocean -- they arise and disappear.

The person of Gotama is considered in Mahayana to be one of many phantoms that appear to help guide sentient beings to the Dharmakaya, the true Buddha body. In the same way, our bodies, our personalities too are to be understood in this way.

In this way, the Lotus sutra truly understands the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha -- in particular Anatma. :anjali:
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Re: So when did Shakyamuni actually attain enlightenment?

Postby ShadedLotus » Fri Jun 19, 2009 2:01 am

Gotama states clearly in the earliest texts all skandhas are anatma -- or not self-- so then logically, can we say Gotama is the Buddha, or was ever the Buddha? When Buddha states, all forms, feelings, etc. are not self -- can anyone say Siddhartha was the Buddha???

The idea of "not self" has been really difficult for me to grasp. I thought the basic idea is that there is no distinct, separate "self." We exist as entities, but we are not separate or individual. Like you say, we are waves on the ocean of life, all arising and falling. Each wave is different, but it is not separate from the ocean. Is my understanding wrong?

All personalities are phantasmic beings

Could you expand on this point? I am not sure I understand. Are you saying that we are not actually physical beings?
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Re: So when did Shakyamuni actually attain enlightenment?

Postby thornbush » Sat Jun 20, 2009 1:29 pm

Besides the Lotus Sutra, again He speaks in the Brahma Net Sutra:
http://www.ymba.org/bns/bnsframe.htm
At that time, he contemplated the wonderful Jewel Net hung in Lord Brahma's palace and preached the Brahma Net Sutra for the Great Assembly. He said:
"The innumerable worlds in the cosmos are like the eyes of the net.
Each and every world is different, its variety infinite.
So too are the Dharma Doors (methods of cultivation) taught by the Buddhas.

"I have come to this world eight thousand times.
Based in this Saha World, seated upon the Jeweled Diamond Seat in Bodhgaya and all the way up to the palace of the Brahma King, I have spoken in general about the Mind-Ground Dharma Door for the benefit of the great multitude.

All personalities are phantasmic beings
Could you expand on this point? I am not sure I understand. Are you saying that we are not actually physical beings?

At the noumenon level, there is no Buddha, Mara or anyone.
But this statement can only be understood when one's cultivation has attained that stage of Sages to understand it fully and without falling into the usual trappings of one's unawakened or Mind.
As we are still at the phenomenal level, we are still physical beings, so it's best we remember that before we think ourselves as 'non-existent' which can lead to the wrong grasp of True Emptiness and falling into the error of nihilism, 'an-atman' or 'anatta' does not equal to non-existence but rather impermanence and inherent Emptiness of the 'I', used as an expedient teaching.
As the Diamond Cutter Sutra says:
http://community.palouse.net/lotus/diamond26-33.htm
Subhuti, if anyone should say that Buddha declares any conception of egoity do you consider he would understand my teaching correctly?

No, World-honored One, such a man would not have any sound understanding of the Tathagata's teaching, because the World-honored One declares that notions of selfhood, personality, entity and separate individuality, as really existing, are erroneous - these terms are merely figures of speech.

[Thereupon Buddha said]: Subhuti, those who aspire to the Consummation of Incomparable Enlightenment should recognize and understand all varieties of things in the same way and cut off the arising of [views which are mere] aspects. Subhuti, as regards aspects, the Tathagata declares that in reality they are not such.
They are called "aspects". So I tell you - Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream;
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.

See this expanded admonishment:
http://www.ymba.org/BWF/bwf32.htm#misreading
...most cultivators are still attached to "duality," and have not reconciled essence and marks, existence and non-existence, noumenon and phenomena. That is why they embrace essence to reject marks, noumenon to reject phenomena, Emptiness to reject Existence, and vice versa -- thus creating disputes, doubts and perplexity.

Little do they suspect that there is mutual identity between noumenon and phenomena -- phenomena are noumenon, noumenon is phenomena. If we divide them and consider them separately, phenomena are not true phenomena, noumenon is not true noumenon. This is true also of essence and marks, existence and non-existence and other dualistic dharmas.

For this reason, the Vimalakirti Sutra speaks of the non-dual method to destroy this attachment.
Non-dual means reconciling all things, penetrating into their very nature; it does not mean "one."
This is the true realm of "Mind-Only."
Any other doctrine based on the Dharma Doors of Existence or Emptiness is merely an expedient for teaching purposes.

The Sutras state:
To tire of and abandon "conditioned" virtues is the action of demons. Yet, to be greedy and attached to transcendental, unconditioned virtues is also demonic action.

Ancient sages have also said:
Conditioned dharmas, while illusory, cannot be abandoned if we are to attain the Way.
Although unconditioned dharmas are true, if we become attached to them, our wisdom-nature will not be comprehensive.

It is also stated in the Treatise on the Middle Way:
Because common sentient beings grasp at external forms, the Sutras destroy this attachment with the truth of Emptiness. If as soon as they are free of the disease of attachment to Existence they fall into the error of grasping at Emptiness, there is no medicine that can help them.


As the Prajna Paramita Truth of Emptiness sounds lofty and miraculous, when educated people read this literature, they usually get caught up in the error of "speaking on the level of principle" about everything and look down on those who follow forms and marks in their practice.

Thus, they create the karma of arrogance and self-importance. While they expound the Truth of Emptiness, their actions are entirely in the realm of Existence, as exemplified by the following couplet:
Above, their mouths speak about the totally wonderful,
Below, their feet do not part with even a mote of dust.

In the past, high-ranking spiritual teachers often used the Truth of Emptiness to cure the disease of attachment to Existence. However, the achievements of these masters were genuine, and their teachings were adapted to the capacities and circumstances of the recipients, bringing them actual benefits. This can be seen from the following stories.

One more point to bear in mind: if we speak about the Truth of Emptiness without having attained that stage or at least reached a certain level of achievement in our practice, we certainly cannot convert others, but will only end up in useless arguments and disputes.

Of the two types of attachments, to Existence and to Emptiness, the latter is the more dangerous.
Both the Lankavatara and the Esoteric Adornment Sutras warned:
It is better to be attached to Existence, though the attachment may be as great as Mount Sumeru, than to be attached to Emptiness, though the attachment may be as small mustard seed.


Attachment to Existence leads to mindfulness of cause and effect, wariness of transgressions and fear of breaking the precepts, as well as to such practices as Buddha and Sutra Recitation and performance of good deeds.
Although these actions are bound to forms and not liberated and empty, they are all conducive to merit, virtue and good roots.
On the other hand, if we are attached to Emptiness without having attained True Emptiness, but refuse to follow forms and cultivate merit and virtue, we will certainly sink into the cycle of Birth and Death.

See also: Zero: The Great Bright Store of Your Own Nature
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Re: So when did Shakyamuni actually attain enlightenment?

Postby sraddha » Sat Jun 20, 2009 2:19 pm

ShadedLotus wrote:The idea of "not self" has been really difficult for me to grasp. I thought the basic idea is that there is no distinct, separate "self." We exist as entities, but we are not separate or individual. Like you say, we are waves on the ocean of life, all arising and falling. Each wave is different, but it is not separate from the ocean. Is my understanding wrong?



Do you remember your high school calculus?? Limit as time ---> 0? :smile:

What happens at 0? This is the Dharmakaya! Instantaneous, spontaneous,
immediate
-- NOW! Can anyone say that there is an "eternal being" here? Here it exists???? Here our souls are eternal?

Nope!

This lack of understanding of "0" is the mistake of all other religions except Buddha Dharma.

Indeed, your mind will not be able to grasp this point without realizing it yourself -- :smile:

The untrained mind always wants to settle on some underlying base -- it needs resolution that there is something eternal -- an eternal self, an eternal soul, an eternal this or an eternal that ...once you realize this nature of mind, you try your best to work with it in terms of purifying it.

Not understanding that what they term the "eternal" is, people mistake it to mean something or some being OUTSIDE OF TIME AND SPACE -- this is the wrong view of eternalism




All personalities are phantasmic beings

Could you expand on this point? I am not sure I understand. Are you saying that we are not actually physical beings


The key is understanding what an instantaneous, now "beings" are- comes in an instant, goes in an instant -- that is the true meaning of "Tat -Agatha" -- He comes, He goes -- without being bound by time -- time=0 :smile:
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Re: So when did Shakyamuni actually attain enlightenment?

Postby ShadedLotus » Sat Jun 20, 2009 4:35 pm

Besides the Lotus Sutra, again He speaks in the Brahma Net Sutra...

Thank you so much for that very detailed reply. I am probably going to have to read through it several times before I fully understand it. But it already makes some sense now.

Do you remember your high school calculus?? Limit as time ---> 0? :)

I actually never took calculus, ha. But what you say makes sense anyway.

The untrained mind always wants to settle on some underlying base -- it needs resolution that there is something eternal -- an eternal self, an eternal soul, an eternal this or an eternal that

Yeah, definitely. I think that is why theistic religions are so popular. Life is always changing, and that can be scary. People want a foundation; they want to feel that there is some security in their lives. I can't think of any foundation more secure than an eternal being that controls everything..

The key is understanding what an instantaneous, now "beings" are- comes in an instant, goes in an instant -- that is the true meaning of "Tat -Agatha" -- He comes, He goes -- without being bound by time

Are you speaking of Shakyamuni exclusively or of all life?

Thanks again for all the replies. :)
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Re: So when did Shakyamuni actually attain enlightenment?

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Sat Jun 20, 2009 6:27 pm

Hi ShadedLotus,

Not to undermine these very informative posts, but I'd like to answer in the simplest of terms for a moment.

Buddha Shakyamuni was a "nirma kaya" or the physical body of the buddha. He was a being who had been enlightened eons before taking birth here. But he took a human birth out of great compassion, to teach sentient beings the dharma. The next buddha to do this is named Maitreya. He is currently in Tusita heaven.

There are three "kayas" (bodies of the Buddha). You can ready about them here.

If anatta, sunyata, or any of that is confusing right now, it's my humble suggestion to go ahead and think of it like his teachings are real, and the Buddha was real. For our purposes, in this unenlightened condition, he is was as real as you or I :smile:

Kindly,
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Re: So when did Shakyamuni actually attain enlightenment?

Postby Luke » Sat Jun 20, 2009 8:35 pm

Ngawang Drolma wrote:Buddha Shakyamuni was a "nirma kaya" or the physical body of the buddha. He was a being who had been enlightened eons before taking birth here. But he took a human birth out of great compassion, to teach sentient beings the dharma. The next buddha to do this is named Maitreya. He is currently in Tusita heaven.


That was an awesome link, Laura! Thanks.

That webpage said the following: "The Supreme emanation takes birth in the world as a unique person. Buddha Shakyamuni and Guru Padmasambhava are examples of this kind. They have special forms of body, speech and mind."

So it would seem, at least accoding to Vajrayana Buddhists, that Padmasambhava was also a Nirmanakaya Buddha who appeared before Maitreya. I wonder if there were any other Nirmanakaya Buddhas in our kalpa besides Shakyamuni and Guru Rinpoche.
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Re: So when did Shakyamuni actually attain enlightenment?

Postby sraddha » Sun Jun 21, 2009 3:26 pm

ShadedLotus wrote:
I actually never took calculus, ha. But what you say makes sense anyway.''



That's actually kind of what we are doing during Buddhist meditation. We purify our mind from defilements, one section at a time, through increased samadhi or concentration, until we actually reach time=0.

In the commentaries by Buddhaghosa, this is translated as mind convergence which only the Noble Eightfold Path allows us...other paths only approach 0, but never fully succeed in reaching and dwelling at 0 -- permanently -- this is the 3rd Noble Truth -- the Truth of cessation! :smile:


Yeah, definitely. I think that is why theistic religions are so popular. Life is always changing, and that can be scary. People want a foundation; they want to feel that there is some security in their lives. I can't think of any foundation more secure than an eternal being that controls everything..


Indeed the mind wants this foundation. This is one of the toughest views to overcome, the view of eternality. The other wrong view is the view of annhilationism -- that if there is nothing which is eternal, than that means there is nothing. :smile:

The key is understanding what an instantaneous, now "beings" are- comes in an instant, goes in an instant -- that is the true meaning of "Tat -Agatha" -- He comes, He goes -- without being bound by time

Are you speaking of Shakyamuni exclusively or of all life?

[/quote]

Buddha rediscovers this truth of our natures through the nirmanakaya, or our very human bodies...that essentially we aren't beings doing time, trapped in our views due to ignorance of the true nature of mind and matter-- we can free ourselves -- with the help of the Dharma as expounded by Buddha...by realizing this nature of our mind, we are now partakers of supreme knowledge and are thus "children of Buddha", children of knowing --- and of course children of Buddha will all grow up to be Buddhas themselves one day.:smile:
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Re: So when did Shakyamuni actually attain enlightenment?

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Sun Jun 21, 2009 7:15 pm

Luke wrote:
Ngawang Drolma wrote:Buddha Shakyamuni was a "nirma kaya" or the physical body of the buddha. He was a being who had been enlightened eons before taking birth here. But he took a human birth out of great compassion, to teach sentient beings the dharma. The next buddha to do this is named Maitreya. He is currently in Tusita heaven.


That was an awesome link, Laura! Thanks.

That webpage said the following: "The Supreme emanation takes birth in the world as a unique person. Buddha Shakyamuni and Guru Padmasambhava are examples of this kind. They have special forms of body, speech and mind."

So it would seem, at least accoding to Vajrayana Buddhists, that Padmasambhava was also a Nirmanakaya Buddha who appeared before Maitreya. I wonder if there were any other Nirmanakaya Buddhas in our kalpa besides Shakyamuni and Guru Rinpoche.


Hi Luke,

Your question is interesting! I haven't heard Padmasambhava specifically referred to as a nirmanakya. But he is certainly very, very special and he passed dharmas to our lineage holders.

A nirmanakaya is specifically defined as one who is born human and 're-discovers' the dharma. There is only one per age, and the Buddha of our age is Buddha Shakyamuni. These Buddhas appear when the dharma has been entirely lost to sentient beings. Maitreya won't come here for a very long time.

Kindly,
Laura
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Re: So when did Shakyamuni actually attain enlightenment?

Postby Luke » Tue Jun 23, 2009 2:56 pm

Hi Laura,

Yes, this is a very interesting question! I started a new thread about whether Guru Rinpoche was a Nirmanakaya Buddha or not here:
viewtopic.php?f=40&t=310
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