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Regarding Englghtenment

#1KNessJMPosted 7/20/2011 6:49:07 AM
I've seen this issue, and this specific term, come up a couple of times in various topics recently. That's not a bad thing, but there is a bit of confusion as to what different people mean when they talking about "enlightenment".

I am a Zen Buddhist, among other things (following the Soto sect if you want to get more precise), and through years of education and Zazen practice, I am enlightened.

However, when some people use the term "enlightenment", they don't mean it in a Soto Zen sense (or have a misunderstanding of what we believe about enlightenment). So, to clarify some issues and to further discuss these matters, I am asking the following:

1) Do you believe that it is possible for people to be enlightened?
2) What is your understanding of enlightenment?
3) How did you form this understanding of enlightenment?
4) If you follow a particular philosophy, religion, or belief system, what does that claim about enlightenment?
5) Are you enlightened?

Clarifying where people are coming from on this subject, and what their interpretations of the term and the concept are will make further discussion much easier.

Not to mention I always like to see more Buddhist discussion around here. :)
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Quote of the Week: "He who is attached to things will suffer much."
#2RetrotasticPosted 7/20/2011 6:59:27 AM
A completely enlightened person has become fully one with the Divine and when they die they won't be returning back is my understanding of it. Though I don't think you will find anyone like that posting on here.
#3actarusPosted 7/20/2011 7:00:59 AM
KNessJM posted...
Not to mention I always like to see more Buddhist discussion around here. :)
But this is bad for the harmony, I feel an evil aura. ;-)

You call yourself enlightened but what is the difference between you and me?
What kind of yoga do you use?
How does it feel to be passionless?
Do you care about others?
How can you be Taoist and Buddhist; use they the same Holy books or is your belief a mix of the best elements for you?
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Even the smallest star twinkles in the dark
#4Hustle KongPosted 7/20/2011 7:06:30 AM
I don't know why I always scrunch up my face when someone claims to have achieved satori. No offense intended, of course.

It just seems to me like an awfully bold claim.
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Shooting Game never die.
It prays that the clover of luck be always in your mind.
#5Hustle KongPosted 7/20/2011 7:09:39 AM
I feel like I've had brief moments of "awakening" or kensho, but nothing fundamentally permanent.
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Shooting Game never die.
It prays that the clover of luck be always in your mind.
#6Hustle KongPosted 7/20/2011 7:16:23 AM(edited)
Actarus: Zen/Chan Buddhism is heavily influenced by Taoism. I think when one subscribes to Zen Buddhism, claiming also Taoism seems sort of superfluous.

Of course, I have the unpopular opinion that a Taoist should not actually call oneself a Taoist, but I may have suspect motives there.

Ness: have you read any of Burton Watson's translations? I really like his Chuang Tzu, and his Linzi is also pretty great. Haven't yet read his Lotus Sutra, but the version of that I HAD read was awful dry.

I'm reading the Avatamsaka Sutra right now.
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Shooting Game never die.
It prays that the clover of luck be always in your mind.
#7KNessJM(Topic Creator)Posted 7/20/2011 7:49:43 AM
Ok, much to address here, forgive me if I carry on.....

A completely enlightened person has become fully one with the Divine and when they die they won't be returning back is my understanding of it. Though I don't think you will find anyone like that posting on here.

By your definition, I would agree. However, our conceptions of enlightenment differ.

You call yourself enlightened but what is the difference between you and me?

I don't know you, so I couldn't really say. Maybe many differences, maybe none.

What kind of yoga do you use?

None, aside from some basic meditation postures.

How does it feel to be passionless?

Hard to say. When I am in that state, it's.....well.....how can you describe a lack of emotions in emotional terms? It's like ceasing to be "human" in terms of the idea of humans being separate from other aspects of reality. Like I'm just a rock on the ground, and all is right with the world.

Do you care about others?

Of course.

How can you be Taoist and Buddhist; use they the same Holy books or is your belief a mix of the best elements for you?

The latter, primarily. As far as Buddhism goes, I most closely follow Soto Zen Buddhism, however there are points of dogma that I disagree with. As HK mentioned, Zen is heavily influenced by Taoism, so the two are very compatible. I don't feel that one "religion" has to have all the answers. My view is that the majority of Zen Buddhism is the best way for me to live my life, yet there are some aspects which I do not agree with and dispute. Taoism (in terms of the Tao Te Ching and the writings of Chuang-Tzu, not the cultural religion that arose from it) is a very bare bones philosophy. I wouldn't even call it a religion, per se. So I examine the ideas put forth by both, come to conclusions (for now) on which ideas from both camps I consider to be accurate, and form a belief system largely based on the combination of the ideas that survive.

See why I always say it's kind of complicated when people ask me what religion I am? Mostly Buddhist and also Taoist, but also atheist and secular, and kind of none of the above, all at the same time..... :/

I don't know why I always scrunch up my face when someone claims to have achieved satori. No offense intended, of course.

Oh, believe me, I understand. The point I'm trying to make in this topic (among others) is that there are different concepts of what enlightenment means. If you take enlightenment to mean the more religious concept of satori, then no, I do not claim to be enlightened. My view is actually that Kensho IS enlightenment. That there's no further stage or higher degree than that. It is limited and imperfect, but that's what it is.

If while sitting Zazen, I can achieve Kensho, I have become enlightened. If I practice self-discipline and am true to myself, these experiences will shape my outlook on life, people, and reality from that point forward. I have then learned how to experience states (limited as they may be) of enlightenment. With proper discipline and awareness, I can return to this state whenever I choose. This, to me, is enlightenment.

Ness: have you read any of Burton Watson's translations?

The name sounds familiar....give me a few minutes to go scour my bookshelf and I'll let you know. Personally, I really like Gia-Fu Feng's translations of both the TTC and Chuang Tzu. Part of that comes from a familial emotional connection, however.
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Quote of the Week: "He who is attached to things will suffer much."
#8KNessJM(Topic Creator)Posted 7/20/2011 7:54:14 AM
After looking through my collection of Taoist books, no, I don't have anything by Burton. I have translations (not exclusively of the TTC and Chuang Tzu) by Gia-Fu Feng, Thomas Cleary, and Stephen Mitchell.

The Feng books have a deep emotional significance to me, but overall I'd have to say that I like Cleary's works the best.
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Quote of the Week: "He who is attached to things will suffer much."
#9Hustle KongPosted 7/20/2011 8:01:59 AM
I'd really recommend Watson, then. I vastly prefer him over Cleary. The Linzi can also be found for pretty cheap.

And yeah. I suppose I would consider "enlightenment" to be like a 24-hour satori. I've had plenty of isolated moments of awakening, but I would not call myself enlightened by any means.

I'm also fairly hard on myself.
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Shooting Game never die.
It prays that the clover of luck be always in your mind.
#10KNessJM(Topic Creator)Posted 7/20/2011 8:11:51 AM
I guess it comes down to different interpretations of enlightenment then. I personally don't believe in "constant, perfect enlightenment", so to speak. I believe that's contrary to human nature, and I think it's an impossible standard to try and live up to. If that's the standard for enlightenment, then I'd say not even Buddha was enlightened. But that's obviously not my take on the matter.....
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Quote of the Week: "He who is attached to things will suffer much."