Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby Shonin » Thu May 13, 2010 1:19 pm

PeterB wrote:Firstly I think its entirely reasonable that on the General Theravada Subforum of a Theravada website debate should at least tend to the Theravada position..


Erm... yes we should expect that tendency. Nevertheless it was a statement specific to Theravada (and some others perhaps) which - without clarification - was presented as generally true of the Buddhist perspective. It is appropriate in that situation to make it clear that this refers to the Theravada perspective and not to Buddhism universally.

If I went to a Mormon website and asked 'What do Christians believe?' and the answer given was 'Christians believe that the Book of Mormon is the word of God', it would be appropriate and helpful to clarify that this applies to Mormons but not to Christians universally.

PeterB wrote:But going back to the examples you gave , The departure point for Paticcasamuppada according to the Canon is Avijja..
How would you see Ecological processes emerging from Avijja ?


You're referring specifically to the 12 Nidanas. I was refering to Pratītyasamutpāda as a general principle of conditionality. Read my reply again.
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby PeterB » Thu May 13, 2010 1:52 pm

I think that the Theravada persective IS to a unique degree the Buddhist perspective.
I realise that you see it differently.
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby Shonin » Thu May 13, 2010 2:09 pm

PeterB wrote:I think that the Theravada persective IS to a unique degree the Buddhist perspective.
I realise that you see it differently.


You seems to be saying that Theravada is the only true form of Buddhism.

I hear exactly the equivalent sentiment sometimes from Mahayana Buddhists and from Zen Buddhists about their own path. I'm not really interested by sectarianism.
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby PeterB » Thu May 13, 2010 2:33 pm

I am saying that the Theravada is to a unique degree the Dhamma of the Pali canon. Which is the only Buddhist source of interest to me.
I realise that you do not share that view.
So either we communicate on this Theravada Forum in terms of the Theravada or we fail to communicate...but on a broader platform.. :)

PS I have no problem personally with liberally expressed open hearted sectarianism.
As i have said before I have enough trouble riding one horse...I certainly cant ride two.
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby Pannapetar » Thu May 13, 2010 3:05 pm

PeterB wrote:As i have said before I have enough trouble riding one horse...I certainly cant ride two.


Unless, of course, these horses are imaginary and the whole sectarian issue is just a good example for clinging to views.

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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu May 13, 2010 3:35 pm

Or the horses are real and that the clinging to views is pretending that they are not. Or another variety of clinging to views... pretending that anyone actually PRACTICES some kind of pan-Buddhism as opposed to supporting it in principle in discussion on websites.
In reality everyone who practices as opposed to giving opinions about practice, practices within one school or another. Everything else is just yakking.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu May 13, 2010 4:25 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:. Everything else is just yakking.
And in circles, at that.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby Pannapetar » Thu May 13, 2010 4:29 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:In reality everyone who practices as opposed to giving opinions about practice, practices within one school or another. Everything else is just yakking.


This is a good example of a hasty generalisation (fallacy of insufficient statistics). In other words, because this is true for some people, it needs not to be true for all people. I am myself a counter example. I do live in a Theravada country, and for this reason my exposure to Buddhism is primarily Theravadan. However, I have participated in Mahayana retreats, read Mahayana literature, have used Mahayana techniques, and I have no particular preference. Not everyone prefers such an approach, but it is definitely possible.

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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu May 13, 2010 4:43 pm

yakety yakety yak. :coffee:
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu May 13, 2010 5:28 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:yakety yakety yak. :coffee:
Possibly, but you might want to be a bit more articulate (and polite) in your response. This is an interesting thread. It certainly has been pushed beyond the OP and it is certainly being pushed beyond perimeters of the the section it is in.

The question: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened? This being a section for discussing the Theravada "enlightenment" - better translated as awakening -, it really should be understood from a generally Theravadin point of view. The answer would simply be; it might possibly be remotely possible, but highly unlikely.

As a way of disproving the point that for there to be awakening there needs to be insight into paticcasamuppada the Buddha's experience was appealed to: Was the Buddha a Buddhist before is awakening? Did he have access to the teachings of paticcasamuppada before his awakening? If one reads the accounts of the Buddha's awakening it was a process and part of seeing of the interdependent rise and fall of his very experience of what he was. Attending to this, he looked deeper, without assumption into the rise and fall of all that he was, finding no thing on which to grasp - no self, no god, no assumptions to be found, the Buddha awoke.

Sariputta was pointed to, having his bit of awakening before becoming a follower of the Buddha, but of course that happened because he was given a very brief accounting of the Buddha's teaching of paticcasamuppada.

Is there awakening outside the Buddha's teachings? I have yet to see well crafted argument for such a claim, and as the OP did, pointing to Mother Theresa really doesn't do it.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu May 13, 2010 5:50 pm

The politeness issue I will concede Tiltbillings.
As to being more articulate though I think perhaps my most eloquent option is simply to stay away from yet another churning of the All Religions Teach The Same shtick as well as its Buddhist variant..the one that says that Koans and Tulkus and The Pali Canon are all saying the same thing..
So I will stay away from the topic. It will of course end up with all the non Theravadins agreeing sagely with other as per usual. While most of the Theravadins take the wiser option and leave them to it.. .but thats OK.
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby Shonin » Thu May 13, 2010 7:16 pm

I think I'm being misunderstood here - I'm saying anything about Buddhist universalism - having not practiced all Buddhist paths to completion (where applicable) I can't compare the effectiveness or nature of the attainment of enlinghtenment wihin each of them. Nor am I suggesting that each school must consider other Buddhist paths to be as valid as their own.

I'm simply saying that 'Theravada' and 'Buddhism' are not synonyms, that interpretations as to the exact meaning of 'enlightement' varies somewhat between schools and thus Theravada cannot and does not speak for Buddhism as a whole. Yes it is a Theravadan forum and yes of course we should expect the Theravadan perspective to be expressed. However that doesn't change the fact that there is no absolute consensus on enlightenment and that Theravada is not the only school of Buddhism, therefore it is entirely valid to clarify that the answer to the OP will vary from school to school (it may vary between different interpretations of Theravada too).

That's all.

The key distinction between the meaning of enlightenment in Theravada and the majority of other schools as I understand is that enlightenment in the former refers to the understanding of the 12 steps of dependent origination, whereas in many or most other schools, enlightenment refers to the attainment of Nibbana/Nirvana. And I think that is actually a more interesting and fruitful question (and perhaps what the OP intended): Can non-Buddhists attain Nibbana?
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby Mukunda » Thu May 13, 2010 8:41 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Mukunda wrote:But the question is "Can non-Buddhist become enlightened?" not "How many non-Buddhists have become enlightened?" Since there was no Buddhadhamma to be taught, hence no "Buddhism", until the Buddha achieved enlightened the answer is most logically, "Yes", since Shakyamuni was not a Buddhist when he became enlightened.
Cutely clever, but not quite to the spirit of the OP, it would seem, but it does make my point that awakening involves paticcasamuppada.


I don't dispute that. The question is "Is it necessary to be Buddhist in order to realize the truth of DO?" And again, the answer is "No". Now, I do think it improbable that those of other religious traditions would realize DO, but it was pretty improbable that a prince turned ascetic would as well.
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu May 13, 2010 8:50 pm

Mukunda wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Mukunda wrote:But the question is "Can non-Buddhist become enlightened?" not "How many non-Buddhists have become enlightened?" Since there was no Buddhadhamma to be taught, hence no "Buddhism", until the Buddha achieved enlightened the answer is most logically, "Yes", since Shakyamuni was not a Buddhist when he became enlightened.
Cutely clever, but not quite to the spirit of the OP, it would seem, but it does make my point that awakening involves paticcasamuppada.


I don't dispute that. The question is "Is it necessary to be Buddhist in order to realize the truth of DO?" And again, the answer is "No". Now, I do think it improbable that those of other religious traditions would realize DO, but it was pretty improbable that a prince turned ascetic would as well.
He wasn't a prince, but assuming some sort of idea of kamma, maybe not so improbable.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu May 13, 2010 8:55 pm

Shonin wrote:
The key distinction between the meaning of enlightenment in Theravada and the majority of other schools as I understand is that enlightenment in the former refers to the understanding of the 12 steps of dependent origination, whereas in many or most other schools, enlightenment refers to the attainment of Nibbana/Nirvana. And I think that is actually a more interesting and fruitful question (and perhaps what the OP intended): Can non-Buddhists attain Nibbana?

Attaining sambodhi, full awakening, is attaining nibbana.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby Mukunda » Thu May 13, 2010 9:02 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Mukunda wrote:I don't dispute that. The question is "Is it necessary to be Buddhist in order to realize the truth of DO?" And again, the answer is "No". Now, I do think it improbable that those of other religious traditions would realize DO, but it was pretty improbable that a prince turned ascetic would as well.
He wasn't a prince, but assuming some sort of idea of kamma, maybe not so improbable.


And that same idea of kamma is working in the lives of others, whether their religious affiliation recognizes it or not.
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby Shonin » Thu May 13, 2010 9:23 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Attaining sambodhi, full awakening, is attaining nibbana.


But sambodhi does not mean the attainment of 12-step dependent origination in all traditions.
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby Anicca » Thu May 13, 2010 10:52 pm

Since there's already a bunch of yakety yak this is perfect chance for me to show my ignorance - y'all tell me -- is this relevant?

Didn't Buddha use the term brahman to mean arahant? :popcorn:
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby Cittasanto » Thu May 13, 2010 11:32 pm

CONTEXT

sorry, but the buddha didn't speak in generalisation when in a specific context, unless he was giving an analogy, similie, or something similar.

after reading some of the last posts I am affraid that participants are limiting the scope of what the Buddha said about certain things (in this case enlightenment,) and extending the scope of this forum too much, the Buddha didn't teach different types of Enlightenment, nor did he restrict his teachings to what wasn't aimed directly in that direction, what one school says is only that schools interpretation, and if this can be (at least infered) to the earlier or theravadin discourses then super, but if not then what is its place here? same goes for anyone saying the Buddha isn't enlightened or the next sammasambuddha isn't enlightened because of not being buddhist, which is philosophically being positedby members, and hate to say it, but the next sammmasambuddha won't arise untill the current teachings are unknown.

this is the answer

the buddha wasn't X because he followed the path of the last sammasambuddha, nor will the next sammasambuddha be buddhist because he followed the (as we know it) eightfold path, there are 'silent buddhas' and they are enlightened just the same amount as a sammasambuddha, as are arahants, the question is thusly answered, NO, simple, what some schools interpretation which has nothing to do with theravada or the early discourses has to say is IRRELEVANT, just because of the context of the question being in the general theravada discussion area, sorry but CONTEXT, don't like myself being quoted out of context and certainly don't like "bitchslapping sessions because of context malfunctions"
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"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu May 13, 2010 11:56 pm

Samma-sam-buddhas and Paccekabuddhas are rare beings that come only about once every 10,000 years or more. For the vast majority of us, the arahant during a dispensation is going to be the way to go. This requires learning and practicing during a Buddhasasana, during a time when the Buddha's teachings are still around and we have that "road-map" to go by. No need to re-invent the wheel and we can use that guide to find enlightenment.

I like the simile of the road map, but I prefer to adjust it somewhat:

Each philosophy, religion, or way of life has a road-map. Each map can only take you so far. It is like having a map of the UK. This map will direct you to any place in the UK. Another person has a road-map of Western Europe. That map will take them any where in Western Europe. Another might have a map of the world and from that map they can find any place, including nibbana (figuratively for the purpose of this simile, not literally).

Now in the same way, some maps will be limited and will direct you to heavenly realms (other religions). This might sound sectarian, but I don't think so. That is their goal after all, correct? Christians and Muslims are not striving for nibbana; they are content with heaven.

And then theoretically it is also possible that some will go astray off the map they were given and might accidentally end up at nibbana (which was not on their map). But such a feat is less likely to occur compared to someone who follows a map directing them purposely and directly to nibbana.
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