Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu May 13, 2010 1:56 am

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.
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 grasshopper » Thu May 13, 2010 2:30 am

Awakening/Enlightenment is the eventual fruition of following and putting into practice the Noble 8 Fold Path, period. It has nothing to do with being Buddhist or identifying with it. All the humans who went onto become Sammasam Buddhas and Pacceka Buddhas were not Buddhist.

Saying that only Buddhists can attain Enlightenment takes away the open-mindedness.

We could extend it to even humans who went onto become Arhats just after hearing a verse. Were they Buddhist until then? I doubt it.

just my 2 cents.
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby Dan74 » Thu May 13, 2010 2:33 am

sounds right to me...
_/|\_
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu May 13, 2010 2:47 am

Could we take out that "Buddhist" word to avoid the rather pointless (in my view) issue of whether or not Gotama Buddha was a "Buddhist", and re-phrase the question to be:

"Can someone who is not following a path that is essentially equivalent to that taught by the Buddha(s) become enlightened?"

To which, again, I would answer:
"According to the Buddhist teachings, no."

We could then argue about what "essentially equivalent" would have to mean, rather than about whether one labelled it "the noble eightfold path", etc...

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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby Ben » Thu May 13, 2010 2:57 am

well said, Mike!
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Heraclitus


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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu May 13, 2010 7:17 am

mikenz66 wrote:
We could then argue about what "essentially equivalent" would have to mean, rather
Mike

Sure; however, do not forget that following the EFP means realization of the FNT, which is an expression of interdependent conditionality, which I have yet to see expressed in other spritual disciplines.
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 mikenz66 » Thu May 13, 2010 8:44 am

tiltbillings wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:
We could then argue about what "essentially equivalent" would have to mean, rather
Mike

Sure; however, do not forget that following the EFP means realization of the FNT, which is an expression of interdependent conditionality, which I have yet to see expressed in other spritual disciplines.

Yes, I agree, but I was leaving open the possibility there may be people who have those insights without knowing that those insights were taught by the Buddha. On the other hand, this hypothetical awakened person would not necessarily be independent of the Buddha Sasana, since it would be quite plausible for them to have picked up the ideas here and there without paying attention to where the information came from.

Sariputta is said to have become a stream enterer on hearing only the two lines from one of the Buddha's disciples:
Of all those things that from a cause arise,
Tathagata the cause thereof has told;

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... 090.html#i


Perhaps someone in the present day, with the right disposition, might see a verse from the Buddha in a book, on a website, or on a billboard, and have a similar awakening...

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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

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

mikenz66 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:
We could then argue about what "essentially equivalent" would have to mean, rather
Mike

Sure; however, do not forget that following the EFP means realization of the FNT, which is an expression of interdependent conditionality, which I have yet to see expressed in other spritual disciplines.

Yes, I agree, but I was leaving open the possibility there may be people who have those insights without knowing that those insights were taught by the Buddha. On the other hand, this hypothetical awakened person would not necessarily be independent of the Buddha Sasana, since it would be quite plausible for them to have picked up the ideas here and there without paying attention to where the information came from.
Who knows? But simply, just because someone claims enlightenment or it is claim of him or her, that simply does not we are talking about the awakening Buddha realized and taught.
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 PeterB » Thu May 13, 2010 9:23 am

Well thats part of the problem isnt it ? The claims made for example about Jesus being a Buddha or Bodhisattva are never made by Christians, even by those Christians like Thomas Merton who know more about Buddhism than do most Buddhists.
Such Christians start from a more honest perspective..to whit that whatever commonalities are to be found between Christianity and Buddhism are not to be found in doing intellectual violence to the world views of those religions.
Not in other words by projecting for example Buddhist views onto the early Christians by refernce to unverifiable speculation about Jesus " travelling to Kashmir " and other proliferations, proliferations that are rejected out of hand by any Christian who is consistant to her or his own Religion.
Respect for another religion is not best expressed by an attempt to reduce it to a previously unrealised version of ones own religion.
There is no difference in describing Christianity as "hidden" Buddhism on one hand, or in describing Buddhism as a forerunner of the full Christian revelation to come on the other. Both miss the point and are mildy insulting.
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu May 13, 2010 10:31 am

Baha'is claim that all religions are one and that Baha'u'llah is the fulfillment of all the prophecies of the next Buddha, the next avatar, the messiah, the second coming. The problem is, however, that the earlier religions have lost the true message over time requiring a new manifestation of god to renew god's word and plan. it is through Baha'i that all other religions can truly be understood. What does not fit the Baha'i paradigm is a later accretion or a corruption of the true teaching of the early manifestations of god. (Sort of like the Lotus Sutra.)

The point is, as Peter pointed out, it really is inappropriate to try to cram other religions into a Buddhist mold (or some sort of meta-mold), no matter how warm and fuzzy it might one feel believing they are all saying the same thing or that they are all leading to same place or that all claims to "enlightenment" are about the same thing, which is all nice warm and fuzzy male bovine coproforms.
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 10:51 am

tiltbillings wrote:The point is, as Peter pointed out, it really is inappropriate to try to cram other religions into a Buddhist mold...


Most people would probably agree. There are some similarities, but there are also differences, and there's a whole field of study that deals with them. I get the impression the direction of thought slowly ventures off-topic after the threadstarter's question was answered quite aptly by Mukunda and grasshopper.

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu May 13, 2010 10:54 am

Pannapetar wrote: I get the impression the direction of thought slowly ventures off-topic after the threadstarter's question was answered quite aptly by Mukunda and grasshopper.

The OP was better answered much earlier than that in this thread.
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: Layman Arahant

Postby PeterB » Thu May 13, 2010 10:56 am

bodom wrote:
"In any doctrine & discipline where the noble eightfold path is not found, no contemplative of the first... second... third... fourth order [stream-winner, once-returner, non-returner, or arahant] is found. But in any doctrine & discipline where the noble eightfold path is found, contemplatives of the first... second... third... fourth order are found. The noble eightfold path is found in this doctrine & discipline, and right here there are contemplatives of the first... second... third... fourth order. Other teachings are empty of knowledgeable contemplatives. And if the monks dwell rightly, this world will not be empty of arahants."— DN 16


Yodsak,

There are no arahants outside of the Buddhasasana.

:anjali:

:thumbsup: The first reply on the thread.
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Re: Layman Arahant

Postby Pannapetar » Thu May 13, 2010 12:04 pm

PeterB wrote:The first reply on the thread: "There are no arahants outside of the Buddhasasana."


Even though this answer has been shown to be self-refuting, since logic dictates that this cannot be the case?

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby Shonin » Thu May 13, 2010 12:12 pm

That answer is true by definition. But how much light does it really shed on the matter?

The major problem in answering this question is that there are so many different interpretations of 'enlightenment'. Enlightenment is Zen may have a somewhat different meaning from the word in Theravada. Even more so for non-Buddhist sects.

Yet is what the Buddha realised in his enlightenment is universally true as he claimed, then shouldn't we expect others to uncover the same truth in other guises and to a greater or lesser extent?
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby PeterB » Thu May 13, 2010 12:36 pm

Shonin wrote:That answer is true by definition. But how much light does it really shed on the matter?

The major problem in answering this question is that there are so many different interpretations of 'enlightenment'. Enlightenment is Zen may have a somewhat different meaning from the word in Theravada. Even more so for non-Buddhist sects.

Yet is what the Buddha realised in his enlightenment is universally true as he claimed, then shouldn't we expect others to uncover the same truth in other guises and to a greater or lesser extent?


It may well be that Enlightenment refers to a different understanding in Zen to that of the Buddhas teachings as recorded in the Pali Canon.
I for one think that is highly likely. Its good to discuss these things, but without over egging the pud..this is the General Theravada subforum... :smile:
Your second point Shonin begs the question outlined above..if the same truth has been uncovered by others perhaps you could point to an example of this ?
In particular could you point to an example in a non Buddhist setting of anything like Paticcasamuppada ?
Pivotal as it is to all Buddhadhamma.
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby Shonin » Thu May 13, 2010 12:48 pm

Theravada subforum or not, there is more than one meaning of enlightenment in Buddhism.

If we assume the question refers specifically to the Theravada meaning of 'enlightenment' then that may narrow things down a little.

PeterB wrote:Your second point Shonin begs the question outlined above..if the same truth has been uncovered by others perhaps you could point to an example of this ?
In particular could you point to an example in a non Buddhist setting of anything like Paticcasamuppada ?


If we take that as definitive of enlightenment then that would be a key question. Paticcasamuppada is basically interdependence - because this arises, that arises.

Deep Ecology, Chaos Theory, and the Yin-Yang principle of Taoism and Advaita Vedanta could all be said to be saying much the same with slightly different terms and scope.

It's also closely related to the philosophical principle of causality.

But if we insist on a specific formulation then (unsurprisingly perhaps) no other philosophy has come up with Paticcasamuppada in those exact terms.
Last edited by Shonin on Thu May 13, 2010 12:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby PeterB » Thu May 13, 2010 12:54 pm

Does "interdependance " actually describe the Theravadin view of Paticcasamuppada ?
What is the basis of Paticcasamupada what is the first link ? Is this the same in Daoism ?
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby Shonin » Thu May 13, 2010 1:00 pm

    It is a name given by the historical Buddha to the arising of samsaric phenomena. It is variously rendered into English as "dependent origination", "conditioned genesis", "dependent co-arising", "interdependent arising".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prat%C4%AB ... tp%C4%81da

Are you referring to the Twelve Nidanas?

If so, then I'm sure that enlightenment is very rare and quite unique to Buddhism.
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Re: Can non-Buddhists become enlightened?

Postby PeterB » Thu May 13, 2010 1:07 pm

Well youve leapt ahead a bit there Shonin.. :smile:
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..
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 ?
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