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The concept and ramifications of Enlightenment.

CheezyCheezy Registered User regular
edited February 2010 in Debate and/or Discourse
One of my friends just finished taking a class on Eastern religions and one is now taking a seminar on Zen Buddhism. We were talking about Eastern religions in generals and the topic came to Enlightenment. I asked them what happens if you achieve the state outside of the Sangha (the Buddhist community). Both seemed to say "If you were enlightened you wouldn't care if other people knew." I thought this was incongruous with the establishment of Buddhism in the first place, but I didn't say anything since the fellow who said it was adamant that because he had taken a class on Eastern religions, he had more authority on the topic.

Instead, I'll ask the good fellows of D&D and their rather large brains what to make of the topic.

Let's say a hypothetical hermit (Zarathustra?) achieves a state of enlightenment, how would they know or how would others know? If it is a truly internalized state that can't be communicated except through direct experience, how can the supposed enlightened know they are enlightened? What makes it any different than a combination of schizophrenia or narcissism? How can a person know if the enlightenment they experience is the same as the Buddhist concept?

Also consider Plato's Republic. Is the Form of the Good the same thing as Enlightenment?

What actually happens if you achieve these states? What actually purpose does achieving these states have?

What does the enlightened do with their lives? What do they do if they achieve it inside the Sangha? What if they do it outside the Sangha? What if they don't believe in reincarnation?

Let's say that Aeschylus and Plato were correct in their thinking about achieving wisdom through suffering. What happens if some down and out fellow in Appalachia achieve s this state through no effort on his own? What function would it serve for this fellow? What if it were some random child? How would their society react?

Why does it seem that those who achieve a state of enlightenment tend to die, usually surreptitiously at the hands of other humans (Read: Caesar, Gracchi Brothers, Jesus, Lincoln, Joseph Smith, Emilio Zapata, Huey Long, JFK, Malcolm X, MLK, RFK, Ghandi, John Lennon, Bill Hicks, Carl Sagan, Tupac Shakur, Mitch Hedberg, and many more!)?

I apologize for the rather large inundation of queries, but I think these are all legitimate questions for what most civilizations consider to be the peak experience of humanity. However, please see fit to answer any or none of them.

Cheezy on

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    BarkeepBarkeep Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    One of the big differences between say, Zen, and more "orthodox" Buddhism has in my experience been that the "orthodox" schools treat Awakening in a much more concrete fashion. Remember that the whole point of Buddhist practice is to escape the unsatisfactoriness and pain of normal life. The causes of this is often broken down to the three unwholesome roots: anger, greed and delusion. So, getting rid of these three characteristics completely will lead to Awakening, but it also gives us a tool of assessing other people and their claims of spiritual greatness.

    And as to your question of what it's all good for, think of it like this: An Awakened person can, for example, never get angry or distrought over something. He's (supposedly) completely free and at peace.

    And the texts certainly say it's possible to Awaken outside of the sangha. There's even a specific category for them, the paccekabuddhas (the "lone" or "silent" buddhas).

    Barkeep on
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    CheezyCheezy Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    But what if the supposed enlightened is judged by those who harbor the three unwholesome roots?

    So they are free and at peace, but they still have to live for quite a while, right? What do they do with the rest of their life? Do they go and try to teach people how to be enlightened or what?

    Cheezy on
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    DmanDman Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    I recall hearing about some research done on this. Check out the happiness segment (it's from national radio and this particular segment won an award)

    http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/archives/05-06/may27.html

    I believe they determined Buddhist monks who had achieved some level of enlightenment to be objectively happier than most people on earth.

    Dman on
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    QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Man, I became enlightened a few days ago.

    Recipe as follows:
    Take this, then watch this.
    The universe! It's all just iterations of a fractal-forming equation!

    How are we defining enlightenment? An intimate realization of a profound truth? Does the truth have to be applicable to human society? Does it have to help make you happy or at peace?

    Qingu on
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    Iceman.USAFIceman.USAF Major East CoastRegistered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    Man, I became enlightened a few days ago.

    Recipe as follows:
    Take this, then watch this.
    The universe! It's all just iterations of a fractal-forming equation!

    How are we defining enlightenment? An intimate realization of a profound truth? Does the truth have to be applicable to human society? Does it have to help make you happy or at peace?

    I think you're on the right track.

    Step 1: Define enlightenment
    Step 2: ?
    Step 3: Profit!

    Also, Huey Long was not enlightened by any definition.

    Iceman.USAF on
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    Bionic MonkeyBionic Monkey Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited February 2010
    Cheezy wrote: »
    But what if the supposed enlightened is judged by those who harbor the three unwholesome roots?

    So they are free and at peace, but they still have to live for quite a while, right? What do they do with the rest of their life? Do they go and try to teach people how to be enlightened or what?

    They do whatever they wish. I can't think of it at the moment, but there is a term for those who have become enlightened, but either cannot, or will not teach others.

    Bionic Monkey on
    sig_megas_armed.jpg
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    mrt144mrt144 King of the Numbernames Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    I went to a seminar and ate a ton of pho. That is when I had my enlightenment that pho is pretty much the eel's ankle.

    mrt144 on
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    JepheryJephery Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    I can't tell you what Enlightenment is because the Buddhist themselves have multiple sects with different interpretations.

    What I can tell you is that Buddhism is the only major world religion that has never caused a religious war.

    Focusing on achieving your own Enlightenment is a lot better than trying to make sure everyone shares the same outlook on life as you do.

    Jephery on
    }
    "Orkses never lose a battle. If we win we win, if we die we die fightin so it don't count. If we runs for it we don't die neither, cos we can come back for annuver go, see!".
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    Raiden333Raiden333 Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    I forget who told me this, but I like it...

    A man sought enlightenment all over the world, but never found it. Finally, he was told of a man who knew enlightenment who lived on the mountain near a small rural village. He immediately set out to find the man.

    Eventually, he caught the man on a mountain trail. The man looked old and haggered, and was stooped almost to the ground carrying a heavy burden on his back from the village back to his home. He was walking very slowly, struggling with his burden, and appeared to be in some pain.

    "Excuse me, sir!" the seeker called after him. The old man turned his head slowly and looked at him.

    "I have heard you have reached enlightenment. What is it like?"

    The man takes his burden off his back, sets it down, and stands up straight. He appears 20 years younger, and looks like he's never been happier in his life.

    Seeing this, the seeker understood enlightenment, but one question still bugged him.

    "But you are still here. What comes after that moment of enlightenment?"

    The man, still not saying a word, puts his burden back on his back, once again straining under the weight of it, and continues slowly trudging back up the mountain.

    Raiden333 on
    There was a steam sig here. It's gone now.
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    QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Jephery wrote: »
    What I can tell you is that Buddhism is the only major world religion that has never caused a religious war.
    Ahem.

    Well, Pakistan and the BJP and whatnot. But for the most part, it counts too.

    Qingu on
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    CheezyCheezy Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    Man, I became enlightened a few days ago.

    Recipe as follows:
    Take this, then watch this.
    The universe! It's all just iterations of a fractal-forming equation!

    How are we defining enlightenment? An intimate realization of a profound truth? Does the truth have to be applicable to human society? Does it have to help make you happy or at peace?

    How about all of those (and sticks around when you're sober)?

    Cheezy on
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    OctoparrotOctoparrot Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    Jephery wrote: »
    What I can tell you is that Buddhism is the only major world religion that has never caused a religious war.
    Ahem.

    Well, Pakistan and the BJP and whatnot. But for the most part, it counts too.

    Can you spell that out for me, Qingu?

    Octoparrot on
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    QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Octoparrot wrote: »
    Qingu wrote: »
    Jephery wrote: »
    What I can tell you is that Buddhism is the only major world religion that has never caused a religious war.
    Ahem.

    Well, Pakistan and the BJP and whatnot. But for the most part, it counts too.

    Can you spell that out for me, Qingu?
    There are Hindu nationalist elements in India who are belligerent towards Pakistan, who arguably necessitated the existence of Pakistan itself by brutalizing Muslims (though this went both ways), and the BJP are a bunch of cocks, from what I understand. But none of those things amount to what I'd consider a "religious war."

    Qingu on
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    BlackDragon480BlackDragon480 Bluster Kerfuffle Master of Windy ImportRegistered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    Jephery wrote: »
    What I can tell you is that Buddhism is the only major world religion that has never caused a religious war.
    Ahem.

    Well, Pakistan and the BJP and whatnot. But for the most part, it counts too.

    Wouldn't Jainism count as well?

    BlackDragon480 on
    No matter where you go...there you are.
    ~ Buckaroo Banzai
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    TalleyrandTalleyrand Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    From things I've heard or read it seems like certain sects of catholicism, Thelematry (sp?), gnostics, and countless numbers of shamans all pursue enlightenment in their own terms. A lot of it seems to be pursuing the experience of Ego Death in some way. Some people try to get there with drug use and it's possible that others have it thrust upon them against their will via some sort of mental disorder. What's really surprising is that most people seem to experience this to some degree at least once in their lives. From my own personal understanding it's like suddenly waking up from a heavy sleep and feeling this unfamiliarity with your surroundings, yourself and your recent past if you dwell on it.

    It seems like there's been some studies on the overlap between psychosis and spiritual experiences but it's not like it's discussed a lot in mainstream psychology or if it is I haven't noticed so I can't tell you how exactly how legit it is.

    So what do you do after attaining it? I dunno, if any of us were transcended buddhist monks I'm sure we would tell you.

    As for the last part, it seems like you're confusing questioning the status quo with spiritual enlightenment. Bill Hicks was a cool guy but are you really comparing him to zen masters?

    Talleyrand on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
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    jothkijothki Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Cheezy wrote: »
    What makes it any different than a combination of schizophrenia or narcissism?

    Is there any reason to believe that enlightenment isn't a combination of schizophrenia or narcissism? If enlightenment is nothing more than the state of rejecting one's illusions about reality, why is any particular source for achieving that state invalid?

    jothki on
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    Pi-r8Pi-r8 Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Qingu wrote: »
    Jephery wrote: »
    What I can tell you is that Buddhism is the only major world religion that has never caused a religious war.
    Ahem.

    Well, Pakistan and the BJP and whatnot. But for the most part, it counts too.

    Wouldn't Jainism count as well?
    the Khmer Empire was pretty brutal, and they were mostly Buddhist.

    Pi-r8 on
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    SamSam Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    um, didn't they crucify christians in Shogunate Japan?

    Sam on
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    Vincent GraysonVincent Grayson Frederick, MDRegistered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    Qingu wrote: »
    Jephery wrote: »
    What I can tell you is that Buddhism is the only major world religion that has never caused a religious war.
    Ahem.

    Well, Pakistan and the BJP and whatnot. But for the most part, it counts too.

    Wouldn't Jainism count as well?
    the Khmer Empire was pretty brutal, and they were mostly Buddhist.

    There's a difference between religious war, and war between countries with particular religious beliefs.

    Vincent Grayson on
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    _J__J_ Pedant Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    edited February 2010
    Cheezy wrote: »
    Also consider Plato's Republic. Is the Form of the Good the same thing as Enlightenment?

    No.

    Enlightenment is a state of being.

    Form of the Good is an ontological entity whereby insantiations of good have their goodness.

    _J_ on
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    Pi-r8Pi-r8 Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    Qingu wrote: »
    Jephery wrote: »
    What I can tell you is that Buddhism is the only major world religion that has never caused a religious war.
    Ahem.

    Well, Pakistan and the BJP and whatnot. But for the most part, it counts too.

    Wouldn't Jainism count as well?
    the Khmer Empire was pretty brutal, and they were mostly Buddhist.

    There's a difference between religious war, and war between countries with particular religious beliefs.

    yeah, but when countries have an official state religion that guides all their policies it's hard to tell the difference.

    although now that I think about it I think a lot of the Khmer's worst stuff was done by Hindu rulers.

    Pi-r8 on
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    OctoparrotOctoparrot Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    yeah, but when countries have an official state religion that guides all their policies it's hard to tell the difference.

    I'm trying to draw an analogy here, because I can only think Pol Pot a Buddhist the way Henry VIII was Christian, especially considering his purges of potentially dissenting Buddhist voices.

    Octoparrot on
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    Pi-r8Pi-r8 Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Octoparrot wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    yeah, but when countries have an official state religion that guides all their policies it's hard to tell the difference.

    I'm trying to draw an analogy here, because I can only think Pol Pot a Buddhist the way Henry VIII was Christian, especially considering his purges of potentially dissenting Buddhist voices.

    oh I wasn't referring to Pol Pot. I was referring to the medieval Khmer Empire. From what I understand, they were a bunch of religious fanatics who started off Hindu, and then became Buddhist.

    Pi-r8 on
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    CycloneRangerCycloneRanger Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Octoparrot wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    yeah, but when countries have an official state religion that guides all their policies it's hard to tell the difference.

    I'm trying to draw an analogy here, because I can only think Pol Pot a Buddhist the way Henry VIII was Christian, especially considering his purges of potentially dissenting Buddhist voices.
    Pol Pot was not part of the Khmer Empire, and I don't think anyone is talking about his regime.

    CycloneRanger on
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    Raiden333Raiden333 Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Gotta love D&D, where a thread about enlightenment turns into a discussion of wars.

    Raiden333 on
    There was a steam sig here. It's gone now.
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    OctoparrotOctoparrot Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Octoparrot wrote: »
    Pi-r8 wrote: »
    yeah, but when countries have an official state religion that guides all their policies it's hard to tell the difference.

    I'm trying to draw an analogy here, because I can only think Pol Pot a Buddhist the way Henry VIII was Christian, especially considering his purges of potentially dissenting Buddhist voices.
    Pol Pot was not part of the Khmer Empire, and I don't think anyone is talking about his regime.

    Yeah I read Khmer Empire now and my eyes glaze over. The wikipedia article isn't really forthcoming on warcrimes other than "they had Thai subjects, but they were also scared to shit over China invading them" or something.

    Octoparrot on
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    OctoparrotOctoparrot Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Raiden333 wrote: »
    Gotta love D&D, where a thread about enlightenment turns into a discussion of wars.

    The whole thing read like How many Angels can dance on the head of a pin?

    Octoparrot on
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    TalleyrandTalleyrand Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Raiden333 wrote: »
    I forget who told me this, but I like it...

    A man sought enlightenment all over the world, but never found it. Finally, he was told of a man who knew enlightenment who lived on the mountain near a small rural village. He immediately set out to find the man.

    Eventually, he caught the man on a mountain trail. The man looked old and haggered, and was stooped almost to the ground carrying a heavy burden on his back from the village back to his home. He was walking very slowly, struggling with his burden, and appeared to be in some pain.

    "Excuse me, sir!" the seeker called after him. The old man turned his head slowly and looked at him.

    "I have heard you have reached enlightenment. What is it like?"

    The man takes his burden off his back, sets it down, and stands up straight. He appears 20 years younger, and looks like he's never been happier in his life.

    Seeing this, the seeker understood enlightenment, but one question still bugged him.

    "But you are still here. What comes after that moment of enlightenment?"

    The man, still not saying a word, puts his burden back on his back, once again straining under the weight of it, and continues slowly trudging back up the mountain.

    Huh, I've been telling my friends for years that low expectations is the secret to happiness. As a joke. I never thought it was for real.

    Talleyrand on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
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