awakening myth?

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awakening myth?

Postby daniel p » Tue Sep 07, 2010 6:08 am

Is awakening (in the Buddhist sense) a myth?
It is assumed that many great teachers were awakened. But were/are they really? One is generally discouraged from making enlightenment the focus or goal of one's practice. But occasionally we find ourselves questioning why we are even practicing.There may be some benefit, but if there is no enlightenment then why practice? Why even consider the teachings? Or to phrase it another way, does the path leading to the cessatation of dukkha actually lead to the cessatation of dukkha?
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Re: awakening myth?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Sep 07, 2010 6:23 am

daniel p wrote:Is awakening (in the Buddhist sense) a myth?
Why would one assume that?
It is assumed that many great teachers were awakened. But were/are they really?
In most cases probably a reasonable assumption.
One is generally discouraged from making enlightenment the focus or goal of one's practice.
Why does one practice? The first noble truth and the third noble truth. Why else would one practice?
But occasionally we find ourselves questioning why we are even practicing.There may be some benefit, but if there is no enlightenment then why practice?
Who says there is no awakening? But on the other hand there is a small fringe movement of folks that that seems to think that blabbing about their supposed awakening is a good thing, but is it? Probabnly not.
Why even consider the teachings? Or to phrase it another way, does the path leading to the cessatation of dukkha actually lead to the cessatation of dukkha?
If one actually does the practice, one finds a lessening in one's suffering and increase in wholesome, positive states of mind and all that goes with that. There is no reason to focus on "extraordinary" mind states which are all too easily mistaken for more than they are.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: awakening myth?

Postby daniel p » Tue Sep 07, 2010 6:41 am

perhaps I should emphasise cessatation
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Re: awakening myth?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Sep 07, 2010 6:43 am

daniel p wrote:perhaps I should emphasise cessatation
What do you mean by cessation?
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.

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Re: awakening myth?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Sep 07, 2010 7:51 am

tiltbillings wrote:
daniel p wrote:perhaps I should emphasise cessatation
What do you mean by cessation?


The cessation of doubt would be a good place to start. :sage:
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Re: awakening myth?

Postby daniel p » Tue Sep 07, 2010 8:02 am

By that I mean an absolute end to suffering.
thanks for your reply by the way. I am tring to use this forum to thrash out a few doubts I have, promted by a statement someone (a former monk)
made. Words to the effect "Enlightenment is a Myth!" I have to concede that I could not counter this contention. It's a bit like trying to proove God exists.
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Re: awakening myth?

Postby daniel p » Tue Sep 07, 2010 8:06 am

Doubt is what helps me discriminate.
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Re: awakening myth?

Postby Kenshou » Tue Sep 07, 2010 8:11 am

Surely for every monk who thinks enlightenment is a myth there are 15 who think it isn't, why get hung up over it? If the path makes sense to you and looks like it ought to work, why not try it?
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Re: awakening myth?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Sep 07, 2010 8:12 am

daniel p wrote:By that I mean an absolute end to suffering.
The Third Noble truth is the end of dukkha.
thanks for your reply by the way. I am tring to use this forum to thrash out a few doubts I have, promted by a statement someone (a former monk)
made. Words to the effect "Enlightenment is a Myth!" I have to concede that I could not counter this contention. It's a bit like trying to proove God exists.
Is awakening a myth? By myth, the former monk likely means something not really possible, but a nice story. There is no way to objectively prove that there is awakening.

But the former monk cannot objectively prove his statement.

So, then, why practice?
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: awakening myth?

Postby Reductor » Tue Sep 07, 2010 8:13 am

daniel p wrote:By that I mean an absolute end to suffering.
thanks for your reply by the way. I am tring to use this forum to thrash out a few doubts I have, promted by a statement someone (a former monk)
made. Words to the effect "Enlightenment is a Myth!" I have to concede that I could not counter this contention. It's a bit like trying to proove God exists.


And this was a Theravada monk?

I might expect a prompting statement like that from a Zen teacher, but not Theravada one.

Whatever his reasons for saying so, you are no less obliged to practice diligently, if you wish to know for certain. If, by so practicing, you never realize an increase in peace of mind, or insight or enlightenment, you then might say (at death) "Enlightenment hasn't existed for me!" and be totally correct.

Beyond that you are only grasping at straws where you would be better served by doing almost anything else (like skydiving, for example :tongue: ).
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The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

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Re: awakening myth?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Tue Sep 07, 2010 9:34 am

What helps me when I'm in doubt is to remember the huge amount of happiness shining in the eyes of the experienced practicioners. They are the living witnesses that the path leads to happiness.

Plus, on a more mundane level, meditation has multiple health beneficts, such as anti aging and cardiovascular beneficts.

So even if there was no enlightenment there were still very good reasons to practice meditation abundantly.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: awakening myth?

Postby 5heaps » Tue Sep 07, 2010 10:13 am

daniel p wrote:But were/are they really?

doubt about the truth of the end of suffering is very important. keep working at it. what helps is to study a lot because this allows you to form increasingly sophisticated and precise questions.

cessation is a very radical idea. there are many proofs for it. the most obvious one i suppose is the fact that all our negative emotions are coarse and grasping to self is at their root. anger, jealousy, etc always appears very unitary, unchanging, self-identifying, etc. in actuality they are none of these things. they are made up of many many parts, these parts last only a moment + they are a stream of such moments, and finally they are heavily conditoned/supported by many circumstances thus they have none of the self-powered identity that they seem to have when they demand and control our minds
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Re: awakening myth?

Postby Ben » Tue Sep 07, 2010 10:28 am

Hi daniel p and welcome to Dhamma Wheel!

I'm not sure what your monastic friend was getting at. Perhaps he was expressing his own frustration or perhaps it was a form of 'skilful means' to get his friends to focus on the here-and-now and great task of the eradication of dukkha. Or perhaps he really does feel that enlightenment, for him, is a myth. In which case its just his personal opinion and it doesn't make it right.

One way to answer your question is to say that until one has directly experienced enlightenment, it is still a notion that is taken with some belief, some confidence in the teachings, reason, and as one matures - one's own direct experience. Long standing practitioners will tell you that their experience infers the truth of enlightenment as they slowly but surely walk the path from gross dukkha to nanna (knowledge) and panna (wisdom).

I think its a mistake, as some people do, to conclude that since people within the Theravada generally do not openly discuss their attainment that it is something that is held to be unattainable. Apart from the Vinaya rules which forbid a monk to disclose his attainment to a layperson, it is held to be a significant faux pas in Asiatic Buddhist cultures and claims of attainment are treated with grave skepticism. And rightly so. Personal declarations of attainment indicate evidence of the disease of conceit. The Pali Canon tells us that we will know an enlightened person through the way they behave. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, "An arahant is what an arahant does".

You will find that many Theravadins have enlightenment as their goal. Others will cite the complete cessation of dukkha, while others it is just the path they walk. I don't think it matters what one cites as their goal so long as they are putting one foot in front of the other.
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Re: awakening myth?

Postby Shonin » Tue Sep 07, 2010 11:04 am

The benefits of practice - our own unfolding awakening and steady release from the grip of suffering - can be verified for ourselves and makes Buddhist practice worthwhile, whether there is such a thing as Enlightenment is an absolute sense or not.
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Re: awakening myth?

Postby beeblebrox » Tue Sep 07, 2010 2:03 pm

daniel p wrote:Doubt is what helps me discriminate.


According to Buddhism, doubt is one of the five hindrances (vicikicchā, a lack of conviction based on trust... or "vacillation," so to speak). Don't confuse it with the discrimination of dhammas (or dhamma vicaya... the ability to investigate all of the different states), which would be one of the seven factors for the awakening.

You definitely can discriminate without doubting (i.e., you don't need to have a "doubt" to discriminate about whether your own practice is working or not... because that really should be obvious... as long as you're honest with yourself).

The goal in Buddhism would be Nibbana, which is a freedom from the lust (greed, or passion), ill will (hatred, or aggression), and ignorance (delusion, or misguided awareness, such as doubt, or even a mistaken confidence), all of these which would bind you to the dukkha (according to the Buddha).

If you want to achieve this freedom from the dukkha, then obviously having a doubt about it would be counterproductive (so, that's why it's called an hindrance... if you don't believe that you can free yourself from the dukkha, then you'll never unbind yourself from it). Being non-discriminative with the dhammas also would still be counter-productive (so, that's why the "dhamma vicaya" is one of the factors for the awakening). It's really that simple.

Just for information:

The Five Hindrances:

1- Worldly desires.
2- Anger, ill-will, or aggression.
3- Sloth, torpor, boredom, or lack of energy.
4- Restlessness, worry, or the inability to settle the mind.
5- Doubt, no conviction with the training, or a lack of trust.

Seven Factors of Awakening:

1- Mindfulness, a remembrance of what your goal is (as it relates to the Dhamma).
2- Discrimination of dhammas, or the investigation of your states (as they relate to the Dhamma).
3- Energy, or motivation.
4- Joy, or a pleasure with your practice.
5- Tranquility, get your own mind and body settled, not chaotic.
6- Concentration, don't be distracted.
7- Equanimity, or being unbiased with whatever is experienced.

If you can get rid of the five hindrances, and then manage to bring up these seven factors, then seems like the awakening should be guaranteed, shouldn't it? It's really that simple. I think many people make it way more complicated (or even mystical) than it really has to be.
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Re: awakening myth?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Sep 07, 2010 3:01 pm

daniel p wrote:Is awakening (in the Buddhist sense) a myth?
Sure. It is a story we tell ourselves, but that does not mean it is not true. It is not something that can be proven in objective, scientific terms, but it something we can see played out in our lives and in the lives of others. In a real sense it is rather meaningless and counter-productive to state "I am this and I have achieved that." The Buddha's teachings are not about adding on or credentials of attainment. It is about letting go based upon insight, working with the precepts and cultivating generosity and compassion; it is about how we live our lives. As we do the practice, we find ourselves a little less stingy, and a little less reactive, a bit more generous, a bit more even keeled, able to put some space around our thoughts and feelings so as to not get lost in them. And this does not have to be forced, but it does at times require a great deal of work and seemingly starting over again and again.

Full awakening? I think it is possible. I have met people, seen them over time in action and in unguarded moments, and over time there is transformation, there is something there (and somethings not there) that is remarkable and is the result of the practice.
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: awakening myth?

Postby Goedert » Tue Sep 07, 2010 3:53 pm

daniel p wrote:Is awakening (in the Buddhist sense) a myth?
It is assumed that many great teachers were awakened. But were/are they really? One is generally discouraged from making enlightenment the focus or goal of one's practice. But occasionally we find ourselves questioning why we are even practicing.There may be some benefit, but if there is no enlightenment then why practice? Why even consider the teachings? Or to phrase it another way, does the path leading to the cessatation of dukkha actually lead to the cessatation of dukkha?


Hi daniel.

I have to say something for you.

There is a great differance in the interpretation of awakening in the sects of Buddhism. In the Theravadin contest, no, awakening is not myth but a reality that can be achieved by any human being and deva.

We should avoid "mix" the sects, they appear very similiar supeficially but in deepness they are way ahead different.

As tiltbilings said in another thread, enlightenment is to "lighten up".
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Re: awakening myth?

Postby ground » Wed Sep 08, 2010 2:22 am

daniel p wrote:There may be some benefit, but if there is no enlightenment then why practice? Why even consider the teachings?

Is what is called "life" and are the ordinary experiences therein satisfactory? If you can answer wholeheartedly in the affirmative then there is no reason for practice.

daniel p wrote:It is assumed that many great teachers were awakened. But were/are they really?

If you feel that what is called "life" and the ordinary experiences therein are actually dissatisfactory and there are person who teach you a remedy (valid through your own experience) then I would conclude that they are knowing what I did not know so far. No need to call that "awakened" but if this label is helpful why not apply it?

daniel p wrote:Is awakening (in the Buddhist sense) a myth? ...
Or to phrase it another way, does the path leading to the cessatation of dukkha actually lead to the cessatation of dukkha?

You think that can be proved or disproved by means of discussion/postings?
You can find evidence through reason for the possibility of cessation of dukkha if you investigate into your ordinary experiences. The term "awakening" might be misleading since it is too indefinite.

Kind regards
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Re: awakening myth?

Postby christopher::: » Wed Sep 08, 2010 3:17 am

beeblebrox wrote:
The goal in Buddhism would be Nibbana, which is a freedom from the lust (greed, or passion), ill will (hatred, or aggression), and ignorance (delusion, or misguided awareness, such as doubt, or even a mistaken confidence), all of these which would bind you to the dukkha (according to the Buddha).

If you want to achieve this freedom from the dukkha, then obviously having a doubt about it would be counterproductive (so, that's why it's called an hindrance... if you don't believe that you can free yourself from the dukkha, then you'll never unbind yourself from it). Being non-discriminative with the dhammas also would still be counter-productive (so, that's why the "dhamma vicaya" is one of the factors for the awakening). It's really that simple.

Just for information:

The Five Hindrances:

1- Worldly desires.
2- Anger, ill-will, or aggression.
3- Sloth, torpor, boredom, or lack of energy.
4- Restlessness, worry, or the inability to settle the mind.
5- Doubt, no conviction with the training, or a lack of trust.

Seven Factors of Awakening:

1- Mindfulness, a remembrance of what your goal is (as it relates to the Dhamma).
2- Discrimination of dhammas, or the investigation of your states (as they relate to the Dhamma).
3- Energy, or motivation.
4- Joy, or a pleasure with your practice.
5- Tranquility, get your own mind and body settled, not chaotic.
6- Concentration, don't be distracted.
7- Equanimity, or being unbiased with whatever is experienced.



Nice summary, beeblebrox!

If you can get rid of the five hindrances, and then manage to bring up these seven factors, then seems like the awakening should be guaranteed, shouldn't it? It's really that simple. I think many people make it way more complicated (or even mystical) than it really has to be.


Awakening may be conceptualized in rather mythic and mystical ways at times by Theravadans, such as Buddha Nature is viewed in Mahayana. This may be due to how the suttas sometimes present these ideas.. Perhaps what we call Awakening is simply a cessation of hindrances and the cultivation of Awakening factors.

The only way to know either way is to have a bit of trust and make the effort..! Seems like the worse case scenario would be less suffering, more tranquility, mindfulness, equanimity, wisdom and joy...

:anjali:
Last edited by christopher::: on Wed Sep 08, 2010 3:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
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~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: awakening myth?

Postby Bankei » Wed Sep 08, 2010 3:21 am

Was the Buddha a Buddha?
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