When he walked the Earth, what was it the Buddha understood that enabled him to stand above the stature of Man and become a Spiritual being?

Simply put, spirituality is what we call the state of inner understanding. A spiritual man doesn’t have to prove his spiritual stature, it speaks for him. He has attained a state of calmness that comes natural, through understanding, or Enlightenment. As natural as we may find this state, it requires cultivation. For, just as we must attend to a flower after it has sprouted, we nurture Understanding, maintaining that state of transcendent consciousness, allowing a raised sense of being to bloom after it has taken root.

So, when does a man attain enlightenment? What was it the Buddha achieved that made him a spiritual guide to one-fourth of the human race?

In Siddhartha, Herman Hesse posed a question when the Brahman-turned-seeker explained to the Buddha why he could not become a follower. Siddhartha spoke to the Enlightened One, stating in a most reverent and entreating way, the following:

“I have not doubted for a single moment that you are Buddha. . . You have found salvation from death. It has come to you in the course of your own search, on your own path, through thoughts, through meditation, through realizations, through enlightenment. It has not come to you by means of teachings! And–thus is my thought, oh exalted one. . . You will not be able to convey and say to anybody. . . in words and through teachings what has happened to you in the hour of enlightenment! The teachings of the enlightened Buddha contain much. . . But there is one thing which. . . these so venerable teachings do not contain: they do not contain the mystery of what the exalted one has experienced for himself, he alone among hundreds of thousands.” [italics added]

So, when does a man attain enlightenment? As the Buddha taught, only the one who has attained it knows.




13 responses

  1. Lovely. I believe we see glimpses of it when we meditate. But to maintain a state of enlightenment when interacting with the world is a huge challenge. Most of us cannot afford the amount of practice it would take to be able to do this. Fortunately even those tiny glimpses give us the calm we need to go back out and face the world! Peace.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Very true. These few words do little justice to what I’ve learned since I wrote this in 2010. Especially, the writings of Alan Watts, have made me aware of how little we understand the Buddhist teachings. Buddha’s silence is the one sure thing I got right. It is a state of being that can’t be transmitted in words. Once spoken, it loses its meaning.

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  2. Excellent, Pablo…this opens up a very personal way of defining spiritual “attainment”. Does a person necessarily know that they’ve attained enlightenment? Or do they just subtly turn a corner in how they view everything that’s been around them all along and neglect to label it as an experience of enlightenment? There’s a movie called Amongst White Clouds that follows a western seeker who travels to the mountains of China to interview various hermit monks. One of them is known to be so advanced in his practice that he is “on the verge” of enlightenment. When the filmmaker reaches this man’s home, he asks him straight up, “Are you enlightened?” The man thinks about this for a spell, then laughs and simply replies, “Are you?”

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    • That’s about it. How do you answer that? With another question, or a completely irrelevant answer like the one you mentioned. I’ve always thought of enlightenment as a state of calmness, understanding and standing above the fray. A tai chi dance as you walk through life. Maybe. I’ve still got a lot to learn.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. No disrespect intended whatsoever, but I don’t really buy into “enlightenment”. If anything it’s just another word for one of the thousands upon thousands of emotions and mixed emotions people experience in their lives. Such states of being are far too abstract and complex to be quantified or labelled. Enlightenment if anything isn’t a matter of “yes” or “no”; like all other states of being it exists in fractures, in parts of the whole we call our consciousness, only ever as real as we define it to be. Mind you this isn’t really my field of expertise (ha-ha, what is?) but that’s just my two cents on the matter.

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  4. You will become enlightened when you realize that you will never be enlightened – and no I don’t mean to sound coy or facetious. I’m dead serious. The Tao that can be named is not the Tao – etc. are all self-contradictions – have you ever asked yourself why? What is it about “The Liar’s Paradox” that keeps cropping-up in many of the most enlightened Eastern philosophies? Why is it that Western philosophy (especially formal logic, but also more generally) abhors contradiction (in Noson Yanofsky’s The Outer Limits of Reason, he claims contradiction is physically impossible in this reality – what hubris! – and what, excactly, would a physical contradiction even look like? Explore that!). I hope to have kicked your brain. I hope you achieve enlightenment.

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    • Thanks for that. As you you say, when we realize it is unattainable is when we attain it. I’m working on an update to this piece. I never understood what Hesse’s protagonist’s question to the Buddha meant, or if Hesse himself understood what he was asking. I think I know now, and will try to express it, once I find words to explain the unexplainable.

      I first learned about the Liar’s Paradox in a little known book Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me by Richard Fariña. In it, Gnossos Pappadopoulis, the main character, read a note that said “The sentence on the other side of this paper is a lie.” He turns it over and reads, “The sentence on the other side of this paper is true.” I never knew there was a name for it. That silly novel may have started me on my quest for truth at the very early age of 15.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good luck buddy. I’m still working on a book that is the fruit of my enlightenment experience and it happened almost five years ago! My chaos druidry blog is an amusement but there is a lot of my insight there too on the nature of chaos/order and reality as a whole… it’s tough to ‘know’ a pattern that underlies the deepest structure of reality and yetbe utterly unable to explain it in a simple way… ugh. Good luck again because telling others is probably the hardest part..

        Liked by 1 person

        • I think this is where the Buddh’s refusal to describe what Enlightenment is comes into play. Alan Watts explains that once you say it, it’s gone. It’s an unutterable thing. Impossible to explain, so don’t try. If you think you can describe it you don’t have it. If it is unattainable, how can you explain what you haven’t got? The paradox of the Tao.

          Liked by 1 person

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