Ask the Guru

What is Enlightenment or Awakening?

What is the nature of Buddha’s enlightenment or awakening? One can refer to the various Pali cannons of Mahayana, Vrajyayana, Theraveda etc, one can summarise the experiences of what it means to be Awake or what is the nature of an Awakened mind in terms of three qualities –

  1. Expansion of the scope of one’s knowledge and field of awareness: An Awakened mind becomes vastly/infinitely expanded and unimpeded. While explaining to the monks what he meant by enlightenment, the Buddha said “Whatsoever is seen, heard, sensed, searched into, attained, cognised and pondered in the mind I do know now…”
  2. Compassion and kindness: Enlightenment brings about deep compassion and kindness towards one and all. As exemplified in the most dominant, ubiquitous and strongest paradigm we have witness in the form of love of mother to her child. She would always put her child’s interest above her own interest. Just as the mother’s unconditional love to her child can never be questioned, so does the compassion of an enlightened one to become unveiled for every sentient being.
  1. Enhancement of Power- Attainment of power of mind over the five senses. As per the Theraveda cannon there are five types of power Buddha attained after enlightenment
  2. Paranormal activity of manifesting into many forms. In Tibetan Buddhism such stories are commonly heard about the various Lamas being simultaneously present in multiple locations.
  3. Clairaudience – extra sensory perception of being able to hear sounds.
  4. Knowledge of other people’s minds to understand their suffering.
  5. Knowledge of past lives to understand deep causes.
  6. Clairvoyance and knowledge of the future & karmic consequences.

As per the Mahayana tradition, Buddha life was a like reflection of moon in the water. Only the water was lost and with that the reflection but the moon is always there. He will remain to be present in our consciousness forever. And so will all beings who attain enlightenment live forever in our consciousness.

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