Doubting Enlightenment

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Doubting Enlightenment

Postby Laurens » Sat Jan 30, 2010 11:49 pm

Hello all,

When it comes to it we essentially have to take other people's word on enlightenment. There is no evidence that we are pursuing something real.

Is there really such a thing as enlightenment?

Why do you believe that?

**DISCLAIMER!! I personally am not having such grave doubts myself, but I thought I would post the question, to see if it ends up with any interesting discussions**
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

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Re: Doubting Enlightenment

Postby rowyourboat » Sun Jan 31, 2010 12:57 am

I believe it because I see progress in that direction in my own mind
With Metta

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Re: Doubting Enlightenment

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Jan 31, 2010 1:14 am

Like RYB says, progress in myself. But also the Tipitaka, teachings of the Buddha. The spirit and the letter of the teachings show the stamp of one great genius. I don't think any other scholar at that time or after him could have produced such profound teachings without being fully enlightened. Scholarly knowledge, especially at that time could not have produced such genius.
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Re: Doubting Enlightenment

Postby Laurens » Sun Jan 31, 2010 1:20 am

rowyourboat wrote:I believe it because I see progress in that direction in my own mind


How do you define that progress? Against what is it measured?

(Apologies, I am going to assume the role of a relentless questioner for the sake of this topic)
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

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Re: Doubting Enlightenment

Postby Goofaholix » Sun Jan 31, 2010 1:25 am

Laurens wrote:Is there really such a thing as enlightenment?

Why do you believe that?


Do you need to believe that?
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Doubting Enlightenment

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Jan 31, 2010 1:27 am

Laurens wrote:How do you define that progress? Against what is it measured?


(hope it's okay to answer since I agreed with RYB)

One way could be based on evidence of going from right to left in regard to:

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Re: Doubting Enlightenment

Postby Laurens » Sun Jan 31, 2010 2:07 am

Good answers so far :)

You mention the Brahma-vihara, does that equate to enlightenment? Or can one have those qualities and be unenlightened?

How does one tell between the near-enemies and the Brahma-vihara? Is is plausable that one could delude oneself into thinking that the near-enemies are the real thing?
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

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Re: Doubting Enlightenment

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jan 31, 2010 2:59 am

Greetings Laurens,

Laurens wrote:When it comes to it we essentially have to take other people's word on enlightenment. There is no evidence that we are pursuing something real.

Is there really such a thing as enlightenment?

Why do you believe that?

At any moment when there is suffering, there is the presence of greed, aversion &/or delusion.

There are times when these three factors are not present, and accordingly, at those times, there is no suffering.

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: Doubting Enlightenment

Postby Guy » Sun Jan 31, 2010 3:14 am

Laurens wrote:Is there really such a thing as enlightenment?


There is no such "thing" as enlightenment. There is nothing worth clinging to.
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: Doubting Enlightenment

Postby Chula » Sun Jan 31, 2010 4:29 am

I think this sutta answers your question:

MN 27: Cūḷahatthipadopama Sutta - The Shorter Discourse on the Elephant Footprint Simile
"This, too, is called a footprint of the Tathagata, a scratch mark of the Tathagata, a tusk slash of the Tathagata, but a disciple of the noble ones would not yet come to the conclusion, 'The Blessed One is rightly self-awakened; the Dhamma is well-taught by the Blessed One; the Sangha of the Blessed One's disciples has practiced rightly.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Until we actually attain Arahantship, we only get footprints and scratch marks alluding to the elephant (the Buddha's Awakening). This is why saddhā (conviction) is essential for progress in the practice.
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Re: Doubting Enlightenment

Postby pt1 » Sun Jan 31, 2010 4:36 am

Laurens wrote:Hello all,

When it comes to it we essentially have to take other people's word on enlightenment. There is no evidence that we are pursuing something real.

Is there really such a thing as enlightenment?

Why do you believe that?

**DISCLAIMER!! I personally am not having such grave doubts myself, but I thought I would post the question, to see if it ends up with any interesting discussions**


On the subject of doubt - might be useful to remember that doubt is just another akusala dhamma that arises based on conditions and ceases when these conditions change. As such, it bears the characteristic of anatta, meaning that its arising and ceasing are fully impersonal. So, it will keep happening as long as akusala tendencies are not eradicated (in particular, that of vicikiccha - skeptical doubt, eradicated at stream-entry), whenever the conditions are right for it to arise/cease. Believing on the other hand, (provided it's not just attachment in disguise) as a kusala dhamma (saddha, also translated as confidence) arises I think only in moments when the right view (wisdom) is present.
retrofuturist wrote:At any moment when there is suffering, there is the presence of greed, aversion &/or delusion.

There are times when these three factors are not present, and accordingly, at those times, there is no suffering.

This sounds very much like the abhidhamma definition of kusala/akusala cittas:
-when a citta arises with the roots greed, aversion and/or delusion - it is akusala,
-when a citta arises without these roots (so with roots non-greed, non-aversion and non-delusion) it is kusala.

However, I'm not sure what you mean by saying that there is no suffering when kusala cittas arise? I.e. I was under the impression that arising of all conditioned dhammas is dukkha by definition because they are conditioned. So even the arising of wisdom, or metta for that matter, is dukkha. So, in terms of the first noble truth, dukkha would have to do with all conditioned dhammas, kusala or akusala.

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Re: Doubting Enlightenment

Postby Dan74 » Sun Jan 31, 2010 5:32 am

Since defilements are dependently arisen, when conditions that give rise to them end, so do the defilements. I think most of us here have seen this work to some extent in our lives, so why could it not work till its completion?

In the end it's down to ignorance. Once we see into the whole charade, the house of cards that is the notion of the self that gains and loses, collapses and with it the rest of the chain.

I'm convinced. The rest is up to us - do we really want to? To me, that's the $1mil question rather that the existence or possibility of enlightenment.

It's sort of like a smoker asking is it possible to give up smoking. Is it possible to give up all attachment?

Yes, if you really mean it.

_/|\_
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Re: Doubting Enlightenment

Postby Guy » Sun Jan 31, 2010 5:35 am

Dan74 wrote:I'm convinced. The rest is up to us - do we really want to? To me, that's the $1mil question rather that the existence or possibility of enlightenment.

It's sort of like a smoker asking is it possible to give up smoking. Is it possible to give up all attachment?

Yes, if you really mean it.

_/|\_


Good simile! :thumbsup:
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: Doubting Enlightenment

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jan 31, 2010 5:50 am

Greetings pt1,

pt1 wrote:This sounds very much like the abhidhamma definition of kusala/akusala cittas:


Yes, it is a key component of the Abhidhamma theory but "the roots of good and evil" as they're also known, also frequently found in the suttas.

pt1 wrote:However, I'm not sure what you mean by saying that there is no suffering when kusala cittas arise?


Well, I can't really comment, as I'm not an Abhidhamma expert.

pt1 wrote:I.e. I was under the impression that arising of all conditioned dhammas is dukkha by definition because they are conditioned. So even the arising of wisdom, or metta for that matter, is dukkha. So, in terms of the first noble truth, dukkha would have to do with all conditioned dhammas, kusala or akusala.

I would suggest it's only the impermanence of those states which makes them unsatisfactory. If mind-states were continually positive, I don't think existence, rebirth or any of that would be a problem.

I am aware of the three-fold classification of dukkha, but I think that when someone refers to dukkha generally, without qualification, they are referring to the first of these three classifications, rather than all three...

http://www.beyondthenet.net/dhamma/unsatisfied.htm

... and even if that's not what they mean, I'll clarify by saying that's what I meant. :tongue:

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: Doubting Enlightenment

Postby rowyourboat » Sun Jan 31, 2010 8:53 am

Laurens wrote:
rowyourboat wrote:I believe it because I see progress in that direction in my own mind


How do you define that progress? Against what is it measured?




Ahh, here is an important question. Without knowing the answer to this it would be difficult to know if the mind is headed for enlightenment or not. If a person's craving, aversion and delusion keep getting less, then that is a mind headed for enlightenment. This is a basic/fundamental fact of 'sutta' Buddhism as much as abhidhamma. If you ask the Buddha is standing on one's head and meditating good for you or bad for you, he would probably say 'if it reduces craving, aversion and delusion, by all means...' He has said this in regards to suitable dwellings, even suitable donors of requisites, villages to depend on etc -stay with them (even follow those donors around it is said in the sutta!) if by their proximity there is reduction in craving, aversion and delusion.

Apart from this there are other measures: the growth of ethics, unification of mind and insight for example (the 3 trainings). One could use the 10 fetters or the 5 spiritual faculties.

with metta
With Metta

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Re: Doubting Enlightenment

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Jan 31, 2010 11:13 am

If enlightenment is a result of incremental 'reduction in craving, aversion and delusion', can one flip from 'unenlightened' to 'enlightened' or can one only, un-dramatically, progress from 'less enlightened' to 'more enlightened'?
If the former, how can the flipping point be defined?
If the latter, the answer to the OP is negative, simply because there is no definable state of enlightenment. (I know Guy already said there is no such thing but he didn't give a reason; maybe he has a better reason than this one?)

:meditate:
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Re: Doubting Enlightenment

Postby appicchato » Sun Jan 31, 2010 11:42 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:...because there is no definable state of enlightenment.


How about 'the complete eradication of greed, ill will, and delusion'...otherwise (or sometimes) known as liberation...?
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Re: Doubting Enlightenment

Postby Dan74 » Sun Jan 31, 2010 11:46 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:If enlightenment is a result of incremental 'reduction in craving, aversion and delusion', can one flip from 'unenlightened' to 'enlightened' or can one only, un-dramatically, progress from 'less enlightened' to 'more enlightened'?
If the former, how can the flipping point be defined?
If the latter, the answer to the OP is negative, simply because there is no definable state of enlightenment. (I know Guy already said there is no such thing but he didn't give a reason; maybe he has a better reason than this one?)

:meditate:
Kim


My understanding is that enlightenment itself is not gradual being the eradication of ignorance, the root cause of defilements. But the removal of defilements leading to clarity and insight and ultimately to liberation, this is gradual.

In my tradition some talk about shallow and deep enlightenment, multiple "enlightenments" and also cultivation after the enlightenment to remove residual karmic habits.

For instance one could abide in a peaceful and pure state, unmoved by the worldly winds, untainted by the "dusts" of the world, but in a way still remain attached to this state and as not as able to meet the circumstances in the most skillful (compassionate) way. So there is another step of letting go even of that and abiding nowhere.

_/|\_
_/|\_
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Re: Doubting Enlightenment

Postby Stephen K » Sun Jan 31, 2010 1:03 pm

There is, monks, an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned.

- Ud 8:3; 80-81



The Story of the Turtle and the Fish

To illustrate this error the Buddhists relate the story of the turtle and the fish. There was once a turtle who lived in a lake with a group of fish. One day the turtle went for a walk on dry land. He was away from the lake for a few weeks. When he returned he met some of the fish. The fish asked him, "Mister turtle, hello! How are you? We have not seen you for a few weeks. Where have you been? The turtle said, "I was up on the land, I have been spending some time on dry land." The fish were a little puzzled and they said, "Up on dry land? What are you talking about? What is this dry land? Is it wet?" The turtle said "No, it is not," "Is it cool and refreshing?" "No it is not", "Does it have waves and ripples?" "No, it does not have waves and ripples." "Can you swim in it?" "No you can't" So the fish said, "it is not wet, it is not cool there are no waves, you cant swim in it. So this dry land of yours must be completely non-existent, just an imaginary thing, nothing real at all." The turtle said that "Well may be so" and he left the fish and went for another walk on dry land.

http://www.beyondthenet.net/dhamma/nibbanaTurtle.htm
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Re: Doubting Enlightenment

Postby Guy » Sun Jan 31, 2010 1:14 pm

Hi Kim,

Perhaps this is just a case of semantics but the point I was trying to make was that Enlightenment is not a [conditioned] "thing" to be grasped. It is the unconditioned state to be realized when we let go/give up/renounce all forms of craving/clinging. This is by no means an absolute statement, it is just a way of looking at Enlightenment that I have found helpful in my own practice since it helps counter-act the overly goal oriented way of thinking that many of us (including myself) suffer from. Enlightenment can also be referred to in the positive sense as "Ultimate Happiness" as well as other phrases which other people may find to be a skilful way of looking at it.

On the other hand, I'm not Enlightened yet so I may be way off! I suspect that when we "get" Enlightened such semantics will just be completely trivial.

With Metta,

Guy
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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