Talk:Enlightenment in Buddhism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Buddhism (Rated B-class, Top-importance)
WikiProject icon This article falls within the scope of WikiProject Buddhism, an attempt to promote better coordination, content distribution, and cross-referencing between pages dealing with Buddhism. Please participate by editing the article Enlightenment in Buddhism, or visit the project page for more details on the projects.
B-Class article B  This article has been rated as B-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Top  This article has been rated as Top-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Religion (Rated B-class, Top-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Religion, a project to improve Wikipedia's articles on Religion-related subjects. Please participate by editing the article, and help us assess and improve articles to good and 1.0 standards, or visit the wikiproject page for more details.
B-Class article B  This article has been rated as B-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Top  This article has been rated as Top-importance on the project's importance scale.

Enlightenment (religious) page[edit]

i vote we just remove this page as there exists now an Enlightenment (religious) page which within links to Bodhi and other related concepts...

Needs improvements[edit]

This article needs a lot of improvement. Gantuya eng (talk) 10:55, 16 January 2010 (UTC)

Yes, this article sucks right now. But I'm not sure what purpose this article should serve in relation to bodhi and buddhahood.Sylvain1972 (talk) 17:11, 30 June 2010 (UTC)
I'm increasingly feeling that either this should redirect to bodhi or bodhi should redirect here.Sylvain1972 (talk) 19:00, 1 July 2010 (UTC)


I re-ordered the page into a logical sequence of:

  • Various terms and concepts translated by "enlightenment"
  • Terms describing insight
  • Buddhahood, the way to it, and the differences in opinion
  • Western understanding of "enlightenment"

As far as I know and can see, the word "enlightenment" is often used in a gross way, throwing together different meanings. This does definately not contribute to our western understanding. Careful disentanglement of the different words is necessary, just as the difference between initial insight and full buddhahood - if that exists anyway. Joshua Jonathan (talk) 21:38, 29 November 2011 (UTC)

"Scientific consideration" Literal interpretations[edit]

The article by Paul G. Joseph is speculative:

  • Paul G. Joseph's understanding of "enlightenment" is quite limited, if not nihil. He refers to Schumann, "The Historical Buddha". Schumann refers to Majjhima Nikaya sutra 36, in which the search of the Buddha is described. In this sutra, after having eaten, the Buddha enters the four jhanas, to purify the mind. He then acquires the knowledge of his former lives, the knowledge of the "Passing away and reappearance of beings" (Nanamoli & Bodhi p.341), and the knowledge of the Four Noble Truths. These knowledges 'banish ignorance and darkness', giving way to insight. That's what "enlightenment" is about, not "altered states of consciousness".
  • Paul G. Joseph takes the enlightenment story of Gautama quite literal, as if it is an objective eyewitness-account. It isn't, of course. It's a story, to meant to teach a Buddhist teaching. The story of taking food after a long time of starvation tells us to avoid extremes. The descriptions of the knowledges are part of a standard repertoire of "higher knowledges" supposed to be acquired by liberated beings in the age of Gautama. Warder mentions even ten different of such 'higher knowledges'.
  • Buddhism has a history of 2500 years. To take one story as the normative account of "enlightenment" is to ignore these 2500 years, and the experiences of thousands of people. That's not science.
  • The notion of "enlightenment experience" itself is problematic. See Sharf, Robert H. (1995-B), "Buddhist Modernism and the Rhetoric of Meditative Experience", NUMEN, vol.42 (1995)  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  • The stories about Elijah, Moses, John the Baptist, and Jesus are also stories, not objective case-studies. The story about saddhus et cetera is interesting, but not related to Gautama.
  • The alternative hypotheses are also quite limited, to put it mildly. Aldous Huxley is not exactly considered to be a "scientist".

Paul G. Joseph is quite careless in his assumptions, and pares knowledge of biochemistry to a lack of knowledge of Buddhism and the meaning of "enlightenment", and an utterly naive lack of knowledge of critical textual studies, as any theologists could have told him. This article can't be taken serious; it's mere speculation. The fact that it's published in a scientific journal does not change the fatc that it's speculation. Joshua Jonathan
(talk) 04:51, 26 October 2012 (UTC)

About the publication in a scientific journal, did anyone see the title of this journal. "Medical hypotheses"? I quote:
"Medical hypotheses was therefore launched, and still exists today, to give novel, radical new ideas and speculations in medicine open-minded consideration, opening the field to radical hypotheses which would be rejected by most conventional journals. [...] The journal therefore constitutes a bridge between cutting-edge theory and the mainstream of medical and scientific communication," (my italics)
This is not what we call a reliable source. Apart from that, I agree with Joshua's criticism of the content. Enlightenment is not an experience. This hypothesis by Joseph should not be part of this article. Lova Falk talk 09:04, 27 October 2012 (UTC)

Full awakening[edit]

There is a difference between "is said to have achieved full awakening" and "has achieved full awakening". According to Buddhist tradition, Gautama achieved full awakening. If this is so, cannot be reliably determined; it's an article of faith of Buddhism. And even within Buddhism, there are different viewpoints: "The Buddha and Bodhiharma are still practising" (Harris, Ishwar C. (2004), The Laughing Buddha of Tofukuji: The Life of Zen Master Keidō Fukushima, Bloomington, Indiana: World Wisdom, ISBN 978-0-941-53262-4  p.103) Joshua Jonathan (talk) 11:51, 19 November 2012 (UTC)

There are only 2 types of enlightenment[edit]

@Joshua Jonathan: There are only 2 types of enlightenment in classic Indian Buddhism: nirvana (arhatship) or Buddhahood.VictoriaGrayson (talk) 18:31, 29 August 2014 (UTC)

The term is confusing, isn't it? The modern western understanding seems to be that "enlightenment" is some kind of flashy, intuitive understanding, and instant perfection. It's not. Arahatship and Buddhahood are both the "result" of a graudal path - though M36 does indeed say that "vision arose" of being liberated. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 08:31, 30 August 2014 (UTC)
Advaitins and Zen people think that recognizing the conceptualizing mind is enlightenment. But actually rainbow body (samyaksambuddhahood) is enlightenment. Recognizing the conceptualizing mind is just the first step. One must still do dark retreat etc. VictoriaGrayson (talk) 21:37, 30 August 2014 (UTC)
The whole term "enlightenment" is confusing. Looks like we westerners have changed a verb into a noun. A noun which covers both insight (bodhi, prajna, kensho, etc.) and liberation (moksha, rainbowbody etc). Worst of all: the idea that insight is the same as total liberation, and that insight is the same as the Theosophic notion of "unity of the individual soul/consciousness with the cosmic soul/consciousness". Nevertheless, the term is being used, so it's good to explain the various uses and nuances, and the western misunderstandings.
Regarding Zen: enlightenment as in "recognizing the conceptualizing mind" is not being regarded as "complete liberation", despite the rhetorics by Zennies. At least not by all schools and teachers. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 08:25, 2 September 2014 (UTC)
Joshua Jonathan Tibetan Buddhism never speaks about Bodhi or Kensho. Both are Zen words. So I don't know anything about them.VictoriaGrayson (talk) 20:20, 6 September 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I know. It's a little bit undue to give those terms such prominence here. But it'the tradition i know, so I've explained them here. "Enlightenment" is an unpractical word; it denotes so many aspects of Buddhism. And it suggests an "it", instead of a process and an attitude. Or habit, as in Covey's "Seven habits." Compare: buddha as "the awakened one", or as "the awake one". Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 07:59, 8 September 2014 (UTC)

Even within Indian Buddhist tradition, there are at least two types of Nirvana: Nirvana With Remainder, and Nirvana Without Remainder. Then there is the term Parinirvana, which may or may not be the same in the tradition as Nirvana Without Remainder. There are different interpretations about what these terms imply as well. In sravaka tradition, Nirvana With Remainder may refer to Nirvana in this life while still subject to the five skandhas, while Nirvana Without Remainder may refer to Nirvana after death when the skandhas have been cast off. The bodhisattva tradition gives a different interpretation at times: that Nirvana With Remainder is the incomplete Nirvana of arhatship, whereas Nirvana Without Remainder may be had in this lifetime and refers to complete buddhahood. So even within one tradition (Indian Buddhism) these concepts have a long and kind of complicated history. And even within the same Mahayana sutra, there may be evidence for both gradual and instant paths to enlightenment (buddhahood). So it's best not to make claims like "X is Y" without qualifications. Wikipedia needs to follow relevant scholarship on the matter with care rather than making absolute claims or dismissing entire concepts as invented by the Zen school. If I remember correctly, the Theravada / Sthavira group regards Bodhi as a sudden occurance, whereas the bulk of other Indian Buddhist traditions tended to view it as gradual. As always, proceed with caution. Tengu800 01:02, 9 September 2014 (UTC)

Tone of this article[edit]

I'm not sure that it helps readers of an encyclopaedia to be greeted with an arrogant and high-handed sneer at the word they have just looked up. The whole tone of this article needs to change from the beginning.

-- (talk) 17:26, 17 November 2014 (UTC)

Why? It's a basic misconception. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 08:14, 18 November 2014 (UTC)
Alas, I've rephrased the first sentence. Bets regards, Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 12:10, 18 November 2014 (UTC)
Usually I associate your contributions JJ with thoughtfulness so I'll try and be more moderate with mine [than I was in my initial remark above]. I have just stumbled back to this page; your edit has obviously improved things as I don't see a basis for my ire above, but there are still problems. I'm not sure I understand "It's a basic misconception". If you are saying--as this article seems to be saying--that the word enlightenment is poorly chosen, I would agree but suggest that pointing that out here is unnecessary academic hauteur. Our language is rife with words that fit approximately--and often poorly--with their target concept but we still continue to use them. Someone who arrives at this page is looking for an understanding of an idea and it hardly helps to be (effectively) criticized for using the wrong word right off the bat. The author here also seems to be blowing smoke (forgive me if you are the author) by also spending a large amount of space emphasizing [western academic] confusion about the many different Buddhist terms and interpretations of them. For heavens sake!
"The term enlightenment has become widely used in the West as an approximation for a number of Indian/Buddhist terms that describe the unique state of mind achieved by the Buddha. That state of mind is understood to end the experience of suffering for the individual who achieves it, and Buddhist teachings are aimed at helping all individuals to achieve that state.
"These are of course themselves approximate descriptions of The Buddha's teachings as we in the west have to deal with the difficulties of translating terms from a rather different time and culture, and more particularly, from subtleties of consciousness that only seasoned practitioners may grasp."
I can see that my effort falls short of ideal but at least it gives an answer to the basic question. Bottom line, I don't think that quibbles about the translation of the word or the confusion of the author about what even a good definition means should play a prominent part here. The author's job is to provide something of benefit to the reader and the author's own personal confusion and doubts don't have any place here. I do feel that my comments may be a little more edge than I intend; I hope that there is something of value here.-- (talk) 21:08, 9 December 2014 (UTC)
We probably don't know what "state of mind" the bUddha achieved; we know what the tradition has written about it. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 21:26, 9 December 2014 (UTC)
This is the kind of inclusion in the article that baffles me. What is the purpose of expressing such apparently trivial "skepticism" here? We don't know anything for sure in the current era with all the news coverage we have, so the degree of uncertainty about accepted facts increases geometrically with increasing time elapsed. Do we really need to preface all discussion of the teachings of Jesus, Lao Tzu or Socrates with "scholars are unsure of what he actually said/meant..."? Yes, in a certain context but absolutely not in others where the discussion is aimed at the implications of those ideas and "facts", regardless of how they come down to us.
There is one very troubling possibility for your/the article. Are you questioning whether the state of enlightenment is what it is claimed to be, or that the Buddha achieved that state? I ask that question because the article, in general, seems to take this kind of condescending, academic distance from the topic--the sort of tone that one might expect from an eighteenth century Christian commentator but not here, surely. Given your otherwise sterling contributions and common sense in these pages, I'm baffled by what you appear to be saying, but then again, I'm not clear what you are saying. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:52, 10 December 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── My apologis, I didn't take the time to read your comment thoroughly. See the section on "Bodhi"; Bronkhorst, Vetter and Norman have some interesting comments here. According to them, it is not clear what "bodhi" initially referred to. It may have been as simple as realizing that dhyana "works" in "cooling down" the mind. That's not as elevated as "unique state of mind", but it's also not pure skepticism: dhyana works indeed, as many practitioners can tell. But to present "enlightenment" as something unique creates over-expectations. See for example Robert Sharf's "The rhetorics of meditative experience". Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 04:55, 10 December 2014 (UTC)

Thank you for taking the time to respond. I've just read a little of Sharf and can see the problem. Let me ask you this: if you were visiting these pages looking for information, would you want the view of an outsider trying to look through the windows at Buddhism, or from within, from a Buddhist's own perspective? Sharf is a frustrated outsider who wants to grasp Buddhism from does this article. Not possible. And hence the problems with this article. That's all I feel I can contribute-- (talk) 02:44, 11 December 2014 (UTC)
I can only speak for myself, of course, and I want the "outsiders" information too. I've already read plenty of the "insiders" view - no, that's not correct: I know a lot of the Zen insiders view. For me, it helped to read critical academical accounts of the history of Zen. It put "sudden enlightenment" into perspective. It ootk me years to become sure that "enlightenment" is not just a "flash of insight", but rather takes sustained practice to "come to fruition" in real life. So, maybe both: the "insiders" perspective, and the "outsiders" perspective, to make sense of the "inside perspective" when it's too much inside. By the way, I know quite some long-term practitioners who endorse the critical academical approach. Recognized Zen-masters, who are also professors. Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 12:40, 11 December 2014 (UTC)
The so called "outsider information" (academic study) also captures the "insider information" by systematically studying the subject area and applying scientific method. Jayaguru-Shishya (talk) 12:52, 11 December 2014 (UTC)

Sudden and gradual[edit]

The following sentence in the lead may give undue weight to the gradual path in Buddhist tradition: "It has the western connotation of a sudden insight into a transcendental truth, whereas the Buddhist tradition sees the attainment of bodhi as a gradual path of attaining understanding." JimRenge (talk) 10:00, 19 November 2014 (UTC)

I see your point. Ehm:
"a combination of practices aiming at calming the mind and gaining insight."
Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 14:45, 19 November 2014 (UTC)