Claims of Enlightenment...

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby Cittasanto » Wed May 09, 2012 8:18 pm

Ok I have been thinking about this recently due to the recent bout of claims of attainments, and am wondering why members find such claims inappropriate (or which ever word you prefer)?

Personally speaking, it isn't the claim of an attainment that bothers me (unless it was a monastic) it is other things, a question that often springs to my mind is "why claim attainments to complete strangers on a forum you just joined?" or "what are they trying to prove, or get?"
I feel one shows attainments by the way they act via body speech and mind, not by stating them, however that doesn't mean they wouldn't, just it would be at an appropriate time. (just to note the patimokkha rules are for monks, and not lay people so such claims are not impossible to hear but the right occasion and truth is the point of the rules as I understand them)
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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: Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby retrofuturist » Wed May 09, 2012 8:32 pm

Greetings Cittasanto,

The issue of "attainments" is a bit inverted because it infers an "I" who can "attain" something, and an "attainment" would be a result of updana (appropriating).

Conversely, the Dhamma is about setting aside appropriation, so it's actually about how much of the burden can be laid down, as compared to what can be picked up.

For many of the "claims of enlightenment" made online, it's clear that the "attainment" (whether they believe it to be true or are just pulling your leg) is yet another accumulation... something else that has been picked up. Simply reading what is said, it is apparent that those burdens which would need to be laid down, in order for the claimed "attainment" to be a reality, have not been laid down.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby Cittasanto » Wed May 09, 2012 8:42 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Cittasanto,

The issue of "attainments" is a bit inverted because it infers an "I" who can "attain" something, and an "attainment" would be a result of updana (appropriating).

Conversely, the Dhamma is about setting aside appropriation, so it's actually about how much of the burden can be laid down, as compared to what can be picked up.

For many of the "claims of enlightenment" made online, it's clear that the "attainment" (whether they believe it to be true or are just pulling your leg) is yet another accumulation... something else that has been picked up. Simply reading what is said, it is apparent that those burdens which would need to be laid down, in order for the claimed "attainment" to be a reality, have not been laid down.

Metta,
Retro. :)

Image
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"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: Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby suttametta » Wed May 09, 2012 8:54 pm

It is a matter of wisdom. In an age of self-proclaimed messiahs, gurus, avatars, buddhas, bodhisattvas and arahats (not that some are not), it tends to help with credibility if it is someone else from one's lineage who vouches for it. There are those who don't think this is possible and only oneself can be the judge. Buddha said it takes a long time to know someone well. What one should come to know about the purported enlightened being is whether they ever demonstrate behavior characteristic of the poisonous emotions. So two factors are at play, whether the person has been in a group for a long time, and whether they have demostrated the elimination of their own samskaras. Then, one can ask such a person, "are you enlightened," and you probably won't get an affirmation, but you can tell by the look in their eye, so to speak. At that point, if you ask questions about the path and dhamma, that person should be able to speak very naturally and spontaneously with words that do not contradict the Buddha.
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Re: Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby Goofaholix » Wed May 09, 2012 9:13 pm

Cittasanto wrote:"why claim attainments to complete strangers on a forum you just joined?" or "what are they trying to prove, or get?"


That's it in a nushell for me.

In the words of Ajahn Chah "We don't have to advertise".

Why do they need the endorsement or affirmation odf strangers? It's a bit like someone claiming to be a billionare and then asking for money.
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Re: Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby BKh » Wed May 09, 2012 9:19 pm

Part of the problem comes from differing concepts of what it means to be enlightened. For example...

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/gue ... ain/Arahat

So, for example, if you believe that you could still commit actions based on greed hatred and delusion and be fully enlightened, there are lots of people (especially here) who are going to have a problem with that.

I think there is also a view among westernized Buddhism that personal experience trumps all. Therefore if "my personal experience" says I'm enlightened, then I'm enlightened and it doesn't matter what it says in "your old books."

Additionally, many claims of enlightenment experiences sound really close to the experience of people in the extreme manic phase of bipolar disorder. It doesn't mean that they are, but to many people it just sounds more like mania than enlightenment.
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Re: Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby Modus.Ponens » Wed May 09, 2012 10:04 pm

I see nothing wrong with claims, be they of arya or jhana. Of course, someone who comes here and the first thing they do is to say "I'm enlightened, but I need to go further into nirvana", or something like that, is not a credible person/claim. But if the claim is done apropriately (right timing, etc.) I think one should welcome it and, if skeptical, analyse it without disdain.

Think about it. This is the largest Theravada forum on the internet. Don't you think, eventualy, aryas would frequent this forum?

One more thing: the Buddha said to compare the teachings of others with his own and, if it agrees, then it is an authentic teaching. I do that when hearing Ajahn Chah. He sometimes spoke of god and it doesn't agree with the teaching of the Buddha, but I still think he was an arahat. This is to say that we all can do the same with arya "claimers" and not expect them to be perfect.
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: Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby Alobha » Wed May 09, 2012 10:12 pm

Cittisanto wrote: "why claim attainments to complete strangers on a forum you just joined?" or "what are they trying to prove, or get?"


I have been asking myself that yesterday, too. One possible explanation is a psychological disorder. For example, there are specific personality disorders where it is typical for the persons who have them, to present an extremly enhanced self-esteem to others. They then also always look for admiration and acknowledgement. Besides that, they have an extremely strong feeling of importance, hoping that they can aquire or thinking that they deserve an exceptional social position. They also often have megalomanic thoughts / perceptions, while their perception for reality is often blurred towards what fits their megalomanic ideas. Megalomanic ideas are also common in schizophrenic disorders (and megalomanic ideas are actually way more common than visual hallucinations in schizophrenic disorders). None of these have to mean that the person must be intentionally untruthful but on the other side: wanting fame, acceptance or power over others by an exceptional position is not uncommon in the world of Samsara, is it?

As for the right time and right intention: The Buddha talked about this and i can remember that there's a rule against it in the patimokkha, isn't it? Does the patimokkha specify a right time for such claims or explains any exceptions where talking about achievements would be of benefit? While laypeople are not bound to these rules, their wisdom and the reasons why these rules exist, still apply.
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Re: Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby rowboat » Wed May 09, 2012 10:40 pm

The website Reddit has a Buddhism sub-forum so I went over for a look and found a survey of members with a result showing 70 people claiming to be enlightened. Seventy. I'm just saying.... :smile:

After a quick search, here are the results, or rather, a thread about the results where I saw the 70 number, and which has a link to the survey results, which I've never bothered to look at: http://www.reddit.com/r/Buddhism/commen ... iscussion/
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That the rain will not sodden it.
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Re: Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby Cittasanto » Thu May 10, 2012 6:09 am

Alobha wrote:As for the right time and right intention: The Buddha talked about this and i can remember that there's a rule against it in the patimokkha, isn't it? Does the patimokkha specify a right time for such claims or explains any exceptions where talking about achievements would be of benefit? While laypeople are not bound to these rules, their wisdom and the reasons why these rules exist, still apply.

There are two rules, a Parajika and a Pacitia.

like many rules they specify the negative, what not to do. and it is left up to interpretating the origin stories and texts to decide when it is something which can be done.

I agree in principle that the rules to an extent do apply, but not in all cases, sometimes it is more a case of the spirit of the rule can be used to strengthen the lay precepts, at other times they are not applicable to lay life.

Here, in this on-line community, I think the right time is after getting to know the members here, to use myself as an example, I have been here from the start, and everyone knows me to one degree or another, if I made such a claim (which I by no means am) this would still be rightly treated with suspicion (or replace with what ever word you find more appropriate), because members know me, they are better equipped to poke and note anything which they see as out of tune with the claim, and because I know the members I am better equipped to take what they say without jumping to conclusions, such as they don't practice, they study the tradition, or whatever else could be concocted, as has recently been seen.
as the Buddha says
Khaggavisāṇa sutta: A Rhinoceros! - Sn1.3 says wrote:13. “Addhā pasaṃsāma sahāyasampadaṃ, Seṭṭhā samā sevitabbā sahāyā;
Ete aladdhā anavajjabhojī, Eko care khaggavisāṇakappo”.

We praise the fortune of spending time in friendship, excellent is a year of association with friends;
this is enough time for friends to see each others faults, then it is suitable to travel like a solitary rhinoceros!
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"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: Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby Volcommerce » Thu May 10, 2012 6:30 am

Regarding any claim of enlightenment,

The words and information of the individual claiming such a profound statement should be analyzed for depth and consistency with the information the teachings of other ''spiritual masters'' he has identified his or her supposed experience with.

If this individual has indeed followed such a path, his or her expression would not be spoke 'from the ''side of his mouth,'' his or her understanding should be able to display any and all direct wisdom, insight and confirmation of the enlightened experience and wisdom other ''masters'' have attained.

This individual will not have necessary considered the effect, ''concern,'' and certainly not the ''admonishment,'' of others, in fact, the medium of his explanation should not be considered to have any influence on his experience. The thought, ''how do an an enlightened person express this profound experience?'' cannot be a thought expected of a realized being, I believe it is more indicative of the personal desire of others to consider the information pertaining to the manifestation of this person, rather than the actual experience and condition that have motivated this person's experience, which should be the basis of all consideration, including the knowledge, wisdom and understanding of enlightenment .
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Re: Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby tiltbillings » Thu May 10, 2012 6:33 am

Volcommerce wrote: . . .
Would you mind saying that all again clearly and concisely.
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: Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby Cittasanto » Thu May 10, 2012 7:44 am

if I am understanding you correctly?
The Buddha expressed that very thought, and almost didn't teach because of it!
His words were in line with his actions, and his enlightenment was completely expressed by his acts of body, speech and mind!

Volcommerce wrote:Regarding any claim of enlightenment,

The words and information of the individual claiming such a profound statement should be analyzed for depth and consistency with the information the teachings of other ''spiritual masters'' he has identified his or her supposed experience with.

If this individual has indeed followed such a path, his or her expression would not be spoke 'from the ''side of his mouth,'' his or her understanding should be able to display any and all direct wisdom, insight and confirmation of the enlightened experience and wisdom other ''masters'' have attained.

This individual will not have necessary considered the effect, ''concern,'' and certainly not the ''admonishment,'' of others, in fact, the medium of his explanation should not be considered to have any influence on his experience. The thought, ''how do an an enlightened person express this profound experience?'' cannot be a thought expected of a realized being, I believe it is more indicative of the personal desire of others to consider the information pertaining to the manifestation of this person, rather than the actual experience and condition that have motivated this person's experience, which should be the basis of all consideration, including the knowledge, wisdom and understanding of enlightenment .
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"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: Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby Volcommerce » Thu May 10, 2012 8:34 am

Hey citt,

Can you clarify what thought the Buddha almost didn't teach because of?
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Re: Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby jackson » Thu May 10, 2012 10:17 am

Greetings Volcommerce,
I believe Cittasanto is referring to the Ayacana Sutta, which can be found here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn06/sn06.001.than.html
Best wishes,
Jackson
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Re: Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby Cittasanto » Thu May 10, 2012 8:51 pm

jackson wrote:Greetings Volcommerce,
I believe Cittasanto is referring to the Ayacana Sutta, which can be found here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn06/sn06.001.than.html
Best wishes,
Jackson

Thank-you Jackson, although I was thinking of the Vinaya version, which is the same for purposes.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"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: Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby SDC » Thu May 10, 2012 9:39 pm

Cittasanto wrote:"what are they trying to prove, or get?"


Attention.
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Re: Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby Cittasanto » Thu May 10, 2012 9:41 pm

Would everyone agree to this as a general cover all of what these claims looks like?

New members making claims of attainments to complete strangers on a forum looks like trolling, or something else for the poster let go of, at best, and possibly may also look like “grandiose beliefs” which are characteristic of a psychological disorder, at worst.
Any claims, here on this forum, are gauged by the Buddhas Teachings, and not from elsewhere, and just because the correct words from Theravada or Buddhism in General are being used does not mean they are being used in the same way as found in the teachings the Buddha gave. An example of this is Dhammaoverground.
There is nothing to get by making claims, so good questions to ask is “why advertise a good thing?” and, “is this the right time and place?”
Advertisements for products which cost money and benefit the poster are against the terms of service and makes any claim dubious.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"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: Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby Alobha » Thu May 10, 2012 9:42 pm

SDC wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:"what are they trying to prove, or get?"


Attention.


:goodpost:

Also:

Dhp Chapter 5 wrote:"Let both laymen and monks think that it was done by me. In every work, great and small, let them follow me" — such is the ambition of the fool; thus his desire and pride increase.
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Re: Claims of Enlightenment...

Postby SDC » Thu May 10, 2012 9:49 pm

A good quote from Venerable Ñanavira:

Only if you are not quite convinced yourself will you be anxious to convince others: you are seeking confirmation. Those who know don't speak.
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