Dan74 wrote:Hi Kim,
"Absolute" is a funny word, but I guess once one has deeply realized some truth, then this realization is absolute in a sense that one "doesn't forget".
Once we wake up we are awake, then even while awake there may be some things to clear up and some skills to hone.
The inconsistency you point to is there to some extent, but the stories I have read (like of Hakuin Zenji and Kusan Sunim) involved a number of enlightenment experiences. I guess after each of the earlier ones some subtle clinging still remained which was let gone of at later ones.
In the Buddha's case we know of only one enlightenment but I guess there were insights that preceded it.
I don't want to speculate too much - I don't find it helpful for practice.
As you say, speculation doesn't necessarily help practice, but I'd like to take this just a little further.
Learning in general is an incremental process. Sure, you learn discrete bits of information or skill, but no single bit jumps you into a qualitatively different level of mastery.
Take learning French, for instance. I don't start from zero, because I start with an experiential knowledge of how language functions, and I happen to know a bunch of English words which are also French words. I learn a bit, and I say I can speak French a little bit. I learn a bit more, and I say I speak French fairly well. I learn a bit more, and I say I can speak French very well. I learn a bit more, and I say I can speak French as well as M Sarkozy. I learn a bit more and ...
At what point could I have said simply, 'I speak French'? Which word did I learn to push me across the border from 'can't speak French' to 'can speak French'?
At what point can I possibly say, 'I speak French perfectly'?
Why should the path to enlightenment be any different?
Let me be clear about this: I'm not unhappy with the idea that the path has no defined end point. Our horizons change as we grow, and that's good.
Also, I can take some pleasure in being more
enlightened this year than last year, even if my progress is slow and my achievement is small. It's much more positive than not being able to say anything good about my practice - what, five years' slog and still unenlightened???????? Phooey!!!!!
Edit, to close a verbal gap: Enlightenment, in this view, is a 'relative' term, not an 'absolute'.