Thread: Is it possible to be enlightened?

  1. #1
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    Is it possible to be enlightened?

    So im reading this book by steve hagen: buddhism plain and simple. In it he uses an idea to explain the state buddhism strives to attain by showing a picture that is hard to see what it resembles. However after a while you suddenly realize what it is (a cow) and when you see it it´s impossible to see it in another way. And seeing things clearly like this is like being enlightened.
    But I dont see how that is possible to be enlightened, to see clearly all the time. I find that confusion is part of the human existence. The smallest to largest experience in life, from finding a toilet in a restaurant you never visited to an relationship, or maybe a humans lifespan even. Let me try to explain:
    1. You are in control/understand the situation. But something happens (you are shown steve haagens picture, or you sit in a new bar and need to pee) and you want to solve/understand it.
    2. You are then thrown into confusion, your subconscious try to connect to memories etc (visual memories of pictures for the image, or memories of where bars usually have their toilet).
    3. Then you understand suddenly (see the picture or find the toilett)
    4. After that you return to reality to use your insight (keep on reading/tell a friend, or go to the toilette)

    Its the heros journey in most of stories ever told. What I am trying to say is that confusion is natural and you cannot experience reality without it. You cannot know where the toilet in a bar is without first being confused. So I cannot see how being enlightened is possible if it means that you are not confused. That you do not act on your confusion. I guess as close i can understand is that you minimize the confusion by being aware of distractions and see through concepts, feelings.

    Just a thought. What do you think?

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    Enlightenment, in that example, is the moment you see the shape as a cow. You can't then un-see the cow, even if you try. You carry on seeing a cow, even though the moment of experiencing the cow for the first time has passed. That's enlightenment: an instance of seeing thigs as they really are. You only need stay in the moment of enlightenment for that length of time. Once it has passed, that's it. You can get back to it, but what's the point? There is only one time you need to see things for the first time, and then you can get on with the rest of your life.

    Of course you are often confused, by your definition, by the everyday stuff of life, but you are never confused again about the bigger picture, what everything is really about. You are still you, and the world is still the world, but you will always see cows.

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    Forums Member Kodo308's Avatar
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    you might find it more helpful to contemplate the qualities of a buddha in understanding what an enlightened mind is, how it manifests. Or even just considering the 4 kayas & the 5 wisdoms. Both of these are ways of talking about the experience of a mind freed from delusion.

  4. #4
    Hello shaihulud

    Its really good to see you again.

    Enlightenment (Nibbana/Nirvana), is sometimes described as the ending of greed, hatred and delusion, but as I'm not enlightened myself, I can only imagine what that must be like!

    There's a book by Ajahn Amaro and Ajahn Passano called "The Island - An Anthology of the Buddha's Teachings on Nibanna"

    http://www.amaravati.org/dhamma-books/the-island/

    The book has an introduction by Ajahn Sumedho, which I think is well worth reading. Here's a separate link with just the introduction:



    A difficulty with the word Nibbana is that its meaning is beyond the power of words to describe. It is, essentially, undefinable.

    Another difficulty is that many Buddhists see Nibbana as something unobtainable—as so high and so remote that we’re not worthy enough to try for it. Or we see Nibbana as a goal, as an unknown, undefined something that we should somehow try to attain.

    Most of us are conditioned in this way. We want to achieve or attain something that we don’t have now. So Nibbana is looked at as something that, if you work hard, keep the sila, meditate diligently, become a monastic, devote your life to practice, then your reward might be that eventually you attain Nibbana—even though you’re not sure what it is.

    Ajahn Chah would use the words “the reality of non-grasping” as the definition for Nibbana: realizing the reality of nongrasping. That helps to put it in a context because the emphasis is on awakening to how we grasp and hold on even to words like Nibbana, or Buddhism, or practice, or sila, or whatever. It’s often said that the Buddhist way is not to grasp. But that can become just another statement that we grasp and hold on to. It’s a Catch 22: No matter how hard you try to make sense out of it, you end up in total confusion because of the limitation of language and perception.

    You have to go beyond language and perception. And the only way to go beyond thinking and emotional habit is through awareness of them, through awareness of thought, through awareness of emotion. “The Island that you cannot go beyond” is the metaphor for this state of being awake and aware, as opposed to the concept of becoming awake and aware.

    In meditation classes, people often start with a basic delusion that they never challenge: the idea that “I’m someone who grasps and has a lot of desires, and I have to practice in order to get rid of these desires and to stop grasping and clinging to things. I shouldn’t cling to anything.” That’s often the position we start from. So we start our practice from this basis and, many times, the result is disillusionment and disappointment, because our practice is based on the grasping of an idea.

    Eventually, we realize that no matter how much we try to get rid of desire and not grasp anything, no matter what we do—become a monk, an ascetic, sit for hours and hours, attend retreats over and over again, do all the things we believe will get rid of these grasping tendencies—we end up feeling disappointed because the basic delusion has never been recognized.

    This is why the metaphor of “The Island that you cannot go beyond” is so very powerful, because it points to the principle of an awareness that you can’t get beyond. It’s very simple, very direct, and you can’t conceive it. You have to trust it. You have to trust this simple ability that we all have to be fully present and fully awake, and begin to recognize the grasping and the ideas we have taken on about ourselves, about the world around us, about our thoughts and perceptions and feelings.

    The way of mindfulness is the way of recognizing conditions just as they are. We simply recognize and acknowledge their presence, without blaming them or judging them or criticizing them or praising them. We allow them to be, the positive and the negative both. And, as we trust in this way of mindfulness more and more, we begin to realize the reality of “The Island that you cannot go beyond.”

    When I started practicing meditation I felt I was somebody who was very confused, and I wanted to get out of this confusion and get rid of my problems and become someone who was not confused, someone who was a clear thinker, someone who would maybe one day become enlightened. That was the impetus that got me going in the direction of Buddhist meditation and monastic life.

    But then, by reflecting on this position that “I am somebody who needs to do something,” I began to see it as a created condition. It was an assumption that I had created. And if I operated from that assumption, then I might develop all kinds of skills and live a life that was praiseworthy and good and beneficial to myself and to others but, at the end of the day, I might feel quite disappointed that I did not attain the goal of Nibbana.

    Fortunately, the whole direction of monastic life is one where everything is directed at the present. You’re always learning to challenge and to see through your assumptions about yourself. One of the major challenges is the assumption that “I am somebody who needs to do something in order to become enlightened in the future.” Just by recognizing this as an assumption I had created, that which is aware knows it is something created out of ignorance, out of not understanding. When we see and recognize this fully, then we stop creating the assumptions.

    Awareness is not about making value judgments about our thoughts or emotions or actions or speech. Awareness is about knowing these things fully—that they are what they are, at this moment. So what I found very helpful was learning to be aware of conditions without judging them. In this way, the resultant karma of past actions and speech as it arises in the present is fully recognized without compounding it, without making it into a problem. It is what it is. What arises ceases.

    As we recognize that and allow things to cease according to their nature, the realization of cessation gives us an increasing amount of faith in the practice of nonattachment and letting go.

    Continues at the link:

    http://www.abhayagiri.org/reflection...nnot-go-beyond



    Hope that helps a little

  5. #5
    Forums Member Kodo308's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aloka View Post

    There's a book by Ajahn Amaro and Ajahn Passano called "The Island - An Anthology of the Buddha's Teachings on Nibanna"

    http://www.amaravati.org/dhamma-books/the-island/

    The book has an introduction by Ajahn Sumedho, which I think is well worth reading.
    I'll second that recommendation; it's a wonderful book.

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    Thanks for all the answers :) And thanks Aloka for the welcome back. Yea it´s been a while :)
    I like your idea Kodo. And really good text Aloka:

    continuing from Kodos idea and then from the Ajahn Sumedho text:

    "Awareness is not about making value judgments about our thoughts or emotions or actions or speech. Awareness is about knowing these things fully—that they are what they are, at this moment. So what I found very helpful was learning to be aware of conditions without judging them. In this way, the resultant karma of past actions and speech as it arises in the present is fully recognized without compounding it, without making it into a problem. It is what it is. What arises ceases"


    Will check out that book, after this one.

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