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Illuminating the Path to Enlightenment

Submitted by Nancy Showalter

Gautama Buddha realized enlightenment and taught extensively about it.

Most of us have heard the story how following his enlightenment when the brahman Dona saw the Buddha sitting under a tree and was impressed by his peaceful air of alertness and his good looks. He asked the Buddha:

“Are you a god?”

“No, brahman, I am not a god.”

“Then an angel?”

“No, indeed, brahman.”

“A spirit then?”

“No, I am not a spirit.”

“Then what are you?”

“I am awake.” Anguttara Nikaya

So what does it mean to be awake, to realize enlightenment?

Is it a worthy goal, something we should pursue? And if so, what is the formula?

Let’s begin with some of Gautama’s teachings on enlightenment: He said: “Enlightenment exists solely because of delusion and ignorance: if they disappear, so will Enlightenment. And the opposite is true also: there is no Enlightenment apart from delusion and ignorance; no delusion and ignorance apart from enlightenment.”

He's pointing out a fact that may easily be missed. Enlightenment and delusion and ignorance are polarities. He says:

“Therefore, be on guard against thinking of Enlightenment as a “thing” to be grasped at, lest it, too, should become an obstruction. When the mind that was in darkness becomes enlightened, it (the darkness) passes away, and with its passing, the thing which we call Enlightenment passes also. Because your true nature is enlightenment. You ARE enlightened.

“As long as people desire Enlightenment and grasp at it, it means that delusion is still with them; therefore, those who are following the way to Enlightenment must not grasp at it, and if they reach Enlightenment they must not linger in it.

“When people attain Enlightenment in this sense, it means that everything is Enlightenment itself as it is; therefore, people should follow the path to Enlightenment until in their thoughts, worldly passions and Enlightenment become identical as they are.”

“…As has been pointed out, all things appear and disappear because of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else. '

Science has actually discovered this also. According to traditional Newtonian physics, the planets in the solar system are seen as separate entities. Whereas quantum physics sees the universe as a complex, interconnected system in which all objects are fundamentally entangled and interdependent.

Then think of the “Butterfly Effect,” which is the idea that the flutter of a butterfly's wing in one part of the world can have far-reaching effects in another part of the world. This is a concept that is rooted in chaos theory, which is a branch of mathematics that studies the behavior of dynamic systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions.

The Butterfly Effect suggests that even small changes in the initial conditions of a complex system can lead to significant differences in its behavior over time. The idea is that the flapping of a butterfly's wings can set off a chain of events that ultimately leads to a large-scale phenomenon like a hurricane, due to the inherent sensitivity of the system.

The Butterfly Effect is not a literal statement, but rather a metaphor that suggests that small changes can have big consequences. It highlights the interconnectedness and interdependence of complex systems, and suggests that seemingly insignificant actions can have profound effects on the world around us.

So our science is finally catching up with spiritual truths.

Buddha further demonstrates this concept that nothing exists on its own when he says,

“Wherever there is light, there is shadow; wherever there is length, there is shortness; wherever there is white, there is black. Just like these, as the self-nature of things cannot exist alone, they are called non-substantial.

“By the same reasoning, Enlightenment cannot exist apart from ignorance, nor ignorance apart from Enlightenment. Since things do not differ in their essential nature, there can be no duality. People habitually think of themselves as being connected with birth and death, but in reality there are no such conceptions. When people are able to realize this truth, they have realized the truth of the non-duality of birth and death.

“It is because people cherish the idea of an ego-personality that they cling to the idea of possession; but since there is no such thing as an “ego”, there can be no such things as possessions. When people ae able to realize this truth, they will be able to realize the truth of “non-duality.

“Therefore, all the words that express relations of duality, such as existence and non-existence, worldly passions and tru-knowledge, purity and impurity, good and evil – none of these terms of contrast in one’s thinking are expressed or recognized in their true nature. When people keep free from such terms and from the emotions engendered by them, they realize Sunyata’s universal truth." (Sunyata is the concept of universal oneness, non-substantiality, the unborn, having no self-nature, no duality).

Gautama says: “Just as the pure and fragrant lotus flower grows out of the mud of a swamp rather than out of the clean loam of an upland field, so from the muck of worldly passions springs the pure Enlightenment of Buddhahood. Even the mistaken views of heretics and the delusions of worldly passions may be the seeds for Buddhahood.

“If a diver is to secure pearls he must descend to the bottom of the sea, braving all dangers of jagged coral and vicious sharks. So man must face the perils of worldly passion if he is to secure the precious pearl of Enlightenment. He must first be lost among the mountainous crags of egoism and selfishness before there will awaken in him the desire to find a path that will lead him to Enlightenment.”

Gautama also describes enlightenment as seeing things the way they really are—that all things are enlightenment. Meaning all things in their true nature are the enlightened. And we know that to be true as we were created in the image and likeness of God. And “evil” is not real. It is the energy veil that keeps us from perceiving the true nature of all things—the way things really are.

A good example of this is when one of the masters talked about how all of creation moves in spirals, not straight lines. So we have to ask, why don’t we experience our lives moving in spirals? Because as you move through a spiral, you move from one point to another in a straight line. Is that not an example of an illusion, and not seeing things the way they really are?

After his enlightenment, Gautama was very practical as to how he presented his teachings to the world. He distilled his teachings as the pathway to enlightenment into the Four Noble Truths--that suffering exists, caused by craving, and the Middle Way--that the path to enlightenment is a balance between self-indulgence and self-mortification. We should neither overindulge in pleasures nor punish ourselves.

Author Huston Smith writes in his Religions of Man:

Nearly half a century followed during which Buddha trudged the dusty paths of India until his hair was white, step infirm, and body naught but a burst drum, preaching the ego-shattering, life-redeeming elixir of his message. He founded an order of monks, challenged the deadness of Brahmin society, and accepted in return the resentment, queries, and bewilderment his words provoked. His daily routine was staggering. In addition to training monks, correcting breaches of discipline, and generally directing the affairs of the Order, he maintained an interminable schedule of public preaching and private counseling, advising the perplexed, encouraging the faithful, and comforting the distressed. <29>

At the age of eighty Gautama became seriously ill and almost died; but he revived himself, believing it was not right to die without preparing his disciples. By sheer determination he recovered and instructed his cousin and close disciple, Ananda. For three more months he traveled through several villages, stopping at the home of Cunda, the goldsmith, one of his devoted followers.

According to tradition, Cunda unknowingly served Gautama a meal that contained poisoned mushrooms. Gautama became violently ill. Concerned that Cunda might feel responsible for his death, the Compassionate One asked Ananda to tell Cunda that of all the meals he had eaten, only two stood out as special blessings—one was the meal served to him before his enlightenment and the other was the food from Cunda, which opened the gates to his transition. Gautama passed during the full moon of May, about 483 BC.

Gautama Buddha's voluminous teachings, both when he was embodied and as an ascended master, give us a practical path toward achieving enlightenment. Take time to meditate upon his teachings. Connect with your I AM Presence and Christ Self and "be" that pure and fragrant lotus flower that grows from out of the muck of worldly passions to realize the pure Enlightenment of Buddhahood.

Quoted text taken from The Teaching of Buddha by

The Society for the Promotion of Buddhism

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