The simplified concept of Buddhist enlightenment.
What is the (simplified) Buddhist concept of enlightenment?
Simply put — Enlightenment is the cessation of suffering and the attainment of Nibbana.
Now, let’s dissect this a bit more. In the Buddhist world, we see the world through consciousness which passes on from one life to another — Reincarnation.
The cycle of life and death — Samsara. The concept of heaven and hell is very much a part of the Buddhist cosmology as well as other realms.
The first noble truth of Buddhism is that life is suffering. Which is a very loose translation from the pali word “Dukkha”.
I heard one monk said that life is unsatisfactory more so than suffering. Life is inconvenient so to speak.
Why? because ultimately we have very little control over it. In the micro, we have some form of “control” but in the macro, we have no control.
When Siddartha (the buddha-to-be) went out of his palace for the first time he saw four things that changed his life forever.
He saw old age, sickness, death, and a monk. You can imagine how he would feel seeing all of this at once for the first time.
His father, the King, had done everything to hide those elements of life from him but Siddartha’s curiosity was too strong.
After realizing that life is transient, fragile, and ends in death he felt profoundly sad. He could not accept that this was the fate that each one of us has to go through.
The monk he saw inspired him to give up his worldly life and pursue the cessation of suffering. The end of the endless cycle of life and death.
It took him 6 long years of struggle to find the correct way to attain enlightenment. After those 6 years, it took him an additional 45 days to finally reached the state of Nirvana.
What is enlightenment? And what is Nibbana?
Enlightenment is not only the state of mind where you have transcended the worldly mundane life, it’s also the end of reincarnation and therefore the end of suffering.
A person who has reached enlightenment will not go to hell, heaven, earth, the animal kingdom, or any other realm.
A person who has reached enlightenment will not cease to exist in a nihilist way. He would just attain Nirvana.
What is Nirvana? Growing up half Asian, I was always a little bit annoyed that nirvana, in the West, was seen as a form of paradise.
Heaven/Paradise is a place where the enjoyment of the five senses is at their pinnacle whereas in Nibbana the five senses and the ego don’t exist anymore.
Nibbana is hard to explain unless you have attained it or very close to attaining it.
Therefore, I will only quote the Buddha and talk to you about it from my humble interpretation and experience with meditation.
The Buddha said that explaining Nibbana to someone who has not to attain Nibbana is like explaining colors to someone who has been blind since birth or trying to explain sounds to someone who has been deaf since birth.
As you can see from those analogies, it is possible to try to describe but impossible to fathom unless you have experienced it.
However, you can experience some “level” of Nibbana when you have meditated for a while. Obviously that’s nothing compared to the full attainment but you can start to understand, on a deep subconscious level, the “appeal” of the cessation of suffering.
As human beings, we believe that we are individuals and unique entities but truth be told, that just an ego construction of the mind.
That ego is born out of desire which is the second noble truth of Buddhism. Desire is the cause of suffering.
Desire/Craving is what keeps us in the cycle of life and death. Enlightenment is the end of craving and therefore the end of suffering.
It’s hard for us human being to fathom that there is no being, there is no self, there is no me, there is no spirit.
It’s just mind and matter — Nama and rupa. The oneness of it all is hard to grasp but meditation gives you a glance.
That glance is small at the beginning and grows more and more over time and practice.
The Buddha used to say that old age, sickness, and death are the greatest teacher which means that suffering is the greatest teacher.
Meditation is the way out of this suffering and enlightenment and Nibbana are the end result.
That’s one reason to meditate but I’m sure most of you won’t meditate for the realization of Nibbana or the end of the cycle of life and death.
I am sure a lot of you don’t even believe in reincarnation. Believing is not important. The practice of meditation has always been pragmatic and very practical.
Meditation has helped me so much in life and has helped countless people since time immemorial. I just hope that through the story of the Buddha, some of you can find the inspiration and some relief.
I think we all have days where we think to ourselves — What’s the point of all this? It can a be scary thought. Generally speaking, it happens to me when everything is going well in life. And this thought comes running through my mind.
What’s the point? We are all dying. Sounds pessimistic and dark but it’s actually a good thought and very factual. Death is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
Why? Because there is a way out. When I meditate I do not aim for enlightenment. Or else I would have probably ordained as a monk.
When I meditate, I seek solace, peace, and clarity. I seek to let go and embrace the facts of life and find ways to deal with the life and suffering that I have in the most wholesome way possible.
I hope that you understand that all I have written are just words. It is just a story, an opinion, a text. Those are empty words unless we put them into practice and find out the truth for ourselves.
It’s important to be detached from our own opinions and not let ego get in the way of seeking the truth of how we can transcend life and find peace, joy, and wisdom for ourselves and others.