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Thread: Why do people make public claims to Enlightement?

  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by philg View Post
    I think I use 'enlightenment' because I opted for Buddhism as an understanding of what happened to me afterwards, and because I used mainly Buddhist meditation techniques in the lead up, and in the context of the terminology that came with those techniques.

    I personally think that the term 'mysticism' is loaded with its own history and context, so isn't quite the word I would use. Maybe I could invent a word like 'grok' in 'Stranger in a Strange Land'?
    I agree that 'mysticism' is a loaded term. Do note though that in the wikipedia ariticle (Scholarly approaches of mysticism) it makes a clear distinction between 'mysticism' and 'mystical experience', that being:
    Scholarly approaches to mysticism include typologies of mysticism, and the explanation of mystical states. Since the 19th century, mystical experience has evolved as a distinctive concept. It is closely related to "mysticism" but lays sole emphasis on the experiential aspect, be it spontaneous or induced by human behavior, whereas mysticism encompasses a broad range of practices aiming at a transformation of the person, not just inducing mystical experiences.
    Never the less I am sure that 'mystical experience' is probably just as loaded a term.
    This quote says "['mystical experience'] lays sole emphasis on the experiential aspect, be it spontaneous or induced by human behavior" which seems to be alot of what you are up to.

    So....if we can for the moment drop the bias that 'mystical' brings to the conversation it does seem that you are indeed finding common ground for what are usually/often called 'mystical experiences' and discussing them under the name of 'enlightenment'. Just to clarify this, I think that you would say that St John of the Cross or William Blake had experienced (attained?) 'enlightenment' whereas others might say that they had experienced 'mystical experiences'. I have no problems with this (if this is what you are doing). I'm just trying to clarify what you are doing so that any discussion that people might want to bring is more to the point of what you are doing.

    chownah

  2. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by philg
    I think I use 'enlightenment' because I opted for Buddhism as an understanding of what happened to me afterwards, and because I used mainly Buddhist meditation techniques in the lead up, and in the context of the terminology that came with those techniques.

    I think it might be helpful if you could describe the actual experiences you had which made you think you were enlightened, Phil. Otherwise it's all rather vague.


  3. #23
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    Hi Chownah (and any others interested)

    I like your perceptive comments as they help to clear in my mind ideas which are pretty tricky to communicate. I think I am attempting to tease out that which is fundamental to the human experience, which is available to everyone as an ability developed on an evolutionary timescale, but which is made difficult to achieve by the cultural contexts we find ourselves growing up in. Our far ancestors, without our distraction-rich environments, would have had less trouble slipping into somewhat 'mystical' experiences.

    Having said that, my next argument is that there are many different types of mystical experience, working at different levels, much as there are many recorded types of experience arising from Buddhist meditation- insight, mindfulness, and so on. There would have arisen many different responses to such experiences, depending on the particular cultural context of each individual. My own experience is of waves of mini-insights, or mystical experiences, building up then fading away over a number of years before the big one, which arrives unheralded and like an unstoppable tsunami.

    This particular manifestation of mysticism is the one I'm particularly interested in, as it has life-changing characteristics which, on reflection afterwards by the individuals concerned, leads to novel ways of seeing what the world is all about. Providing there is no resident local 'expert' ready and willing to provide their own view of things. I'm starting to think that, as societies became more complex, they needed conformity of world view to compete with others, and consequently those societies who could hijack the mystical observations became more successful. Particularly when understandings coalesced into religions.

    Which brings us back to the present. We are in a time where, say, meditation programmes are freely available, but without the traditional sanghas to modify experiences. There is also the increasing availability of alternative techniques based on other belief systems, and those based on scientifically developed therapies, drugs, electromagnetic stimulation, and so on, again pushing forward the ability to change the brain in different ways, maybe even triggering the so-called 'god area'. Which raises an intriguing question. What will happen to people who are able to stimulate the brain to bring about mystical experiences, without having a corresponding supportive context?

    My own books are to both raise the issues I am talking about here, and to offer the somewhat safer alternative of traditional Buddhist meditation programmes, but placed within a modern context. I really do think that we can all develop practices which can lead to 'mystical' experiences of different types, and even to those I describe as 'enlightenment', as a matter of course. Not as any sort of replacement for traditional Buddhism, but one for those not wishing to go along those lines. Hope this helps to clarify some of my thinking for you.

  4. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by philg
    My own experience is of waves of mini-insights, or mystical experiences, building up then fading away over a number of years before the big one, which arrives unheralded and like an unstoppable tsunami.

    Again, perhaps you'd like to share a few more details of this.

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    philg,
    Here is a resource you may find of interest. It is a thread called "Boris: In the caves of withdrawal from the world" and can be found at:
    https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph...78&hilit=caves

    It is a collection of excerpts of writings from a really wide collection of aesthetics and others who have more or less retreated from the social world and some discussion but not alot of discussion....mostly just presentation of excerpts. It should be noted that in this thread "withdrawal from the world" can mean either a physical withdrawal (hermit, monastary,etc.) or a mental withdrawal. You will likely not be interested in alot of these excerpts but I thought I'd mention it in that there may be some that interest you....if not then sorry for the distraction.
    chownah

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aloka View Post
    I think it might be helpful if you could describe the actual experiences you had which made you think you were enlightened, Phil. Otherwise it's all rather vague.

    Wow, do I wish I could! Not possible in a post really, as there is no adequate language to describe what happens at the time. The sense of timelessness and unity that are often spoken of were only there after the event, which, arising from no conscious thought whatever, ended as soon as thought returned. What I can say is that there was an overwhelming sense of belonging, happiness and completeness in the immediate aftermath. The feeling of laughing at yourself as if you had been puzzling over the last clue in a crossword for many years, and now that you finally see it, you fail to understand how you could possibly not have seen it for all this time, and all you can do is laugh.

    I had experienced other moments of insight, when things seem to click into place afterwards, but nothing had prepared me for such an overwhelming moment, with such an emotional dimension. But it's always going to be somewhat vague, especially as I am not interested in attempting to translate my memories into Buddhist enlightenment jargon. I've read all that stuff over the years and find it so esoteric and embedded in another culture that all translations into English are severely lacking in clarity. It takes years of sitting in discussion groups, as I have done, to make any headway on shared understanding of many everyday aspects of Buddhism, much less those relating to the actual enlightenment experience.

    In the book I tend to send the reader towards glimpses provided by some of the great mystical works of art humanity has produced, or to the writings of the great mystics and prophets. Or any great works, really. I try not to push my own experiences on others, since it is not what the book is about, nor to push the traditional Buddhist jargon of enlightenment. Again, not what I am after. For me there was no 'thing' to describe, no revealed knowledge made clear. No God talked to me, no heaven or hell revealed itself, no spirit guide appeared, so to all intents and purposes, nothing happened. Yet everything changed in that instance afterwards, when I started thinking again.

    Sorry if this is vague and unhelpful, but I've learned over the years that it kind of goes with the territory. After becoming interested in Buddhism I quickly understood not to speak of such past experiences, as the available language in that particular area was not readily accessible, and was full of pitfalls and misunderstandings. On the other hand, the aftermath is much more accessible and more open to description and discussion.

  7. #27
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    Philg, I've been following this discussion for a while now. I think I can understand where you are coming from: your assessment of your own experience and a wish to share that with the world. It's a reasonable goal to set.

    My difficulty lies in accepting that as 'enlightenment' in the sense that was attributed to the Buddha all those years ago.

    This is a Buddhist discussion forum, as you know, so you are addressing people who think of enlightenment in the traditional sense, more or less, depending on the individual's progression along the path. And you, too, have said you have structured some of your writing on the Satipathanna Sutta, and you are trying to offer an alternative to traditional Buddhist teachings.

    I wouldn't like to think of myself as a 'traditionalist', and I do think I have my feet planted very much in the 21st century. In the present moment, as far as I can do.

    But I don't think there is a way to Buddhist enlightenment without the personal commitment -not only to meditation -but also to the way of life, the Noble Eightfold Path. Studying and really understanding what is meant by Right Speech, Right Thought, Right Action and the others. Understanding the conflicts that arise and how they may be resolved.

    In meditation, there are levels of achievement, the Jhanas . These have been recognised by some of the practitioners down the ages and are described in the Suttas. I don't see them as doctrine, but as confirmed records of that which occurs.

    I have come across people on Buddhist chat groups and forums who feel they have achieved these different levels. Due to a lack of knowledge and a lack of guidance, they interpret feelings of joy and rapture as meaning they have reached enlightenment.

    It would be wrong of me to aim such a thought in your direction, but I feel I must ask "What makes you think you have reached the highest level?" For until you reach a place where you no longer have attraction or repulsion, delusion, longing, discontent, grief, pain or suffering, I would think you've not yet arrived at your destination.

  8. #28
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    Woodscooter,
    Are you familiar with the concept of the paccaka buddha (Pali)? It is someone who attains enlightenment without hearing the buddha dhamma.....sort of figures it out by herself.

    I think that people who hold tightly to the buddha dhamma will not see many paccaka buddhas as having existed while someone who holds loosely to the buddha dhamma will see them everywhere.

    Also, I think that the buddha talked about the possibility the existence of other paths which could lead to enlightenment but that these paths would all contain certain elements of the buddha dhamma. I can not remember what sutta this was from and maybe someone can find it. I'll do some looking today and see if I can find it. Until then everyone should just consider it a rumor.
    chownah

  9. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by chownah View Post
    Are you familiar with the concept of the paccaka buddha (Pali)? It is someone who attains enlightenment without hearing the buddha dhamma.....sort of figures it out by herself.. etc
    Hi chownah,

    Woodscooter's post was addressed to Phil and I'm not at all sure what your comments to him have to do with the topic "Why do people make public claims to Enlightement?" or with Phil (who I think is married and used to attend a Triratna group) and his book, but here's a definition of paccekabuddha from the glossary at the Access to Insight :

    Private Buddha. One who, like a Buddha, has gained Awakening without the benefit of a teacher, but who lacks the requisite store of pāramīs to teach others the practice that leads to Awakening. On attaining the goal, a paccekabuddha lives a solitary life.

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/glossary.html#pq
    ..and from a buddhist dictionary:


    Pacceka-buddha: an 'Solitarily Enlightened One'; or Separately or Individually =pacceka Enlightened One renderings by 'Silent' or 'Private Buddha' are not very apt.

    This is a term for an Arahat see: ariya-puggala who has realized Nibbāna without having heard the Buddha's doctrine from others. He comprehends the 4 Noble Truths individually pacceka independent of any teacher, by his own effort.

    He has, however, not the capacity to proclaim the Teaching effectively to others, and therefore does not become a 'Teacher of Gods and Men', a Perfect or Universal Buddha sammā-sambuddha. Paccekabuddhas are described as frugal of speech, cherishing solitude. According to tradition, they do not arise while the Teaching of a Perfect Buddha is known; but for achieving their rank after many aeons of effort, they have to utter an aspiration before a Perfect Buddha.

    https://what-buddha-said.net/library...ary/dic3_p.htm

    please.

  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by chownah View Post
    Woodscooter,
    Are you familiar with the concept of the paccaka buddha?
    Well, yes, but you are not adding anything of value to this discussion thread by referring to pacceka. It's a diversion.

    I am interested in hearing why someone who has truly achieved enlightenment would still have a sense of self, of achievement, of the world. Why would they feel motivated to announce their achievement publicly to the world?

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