Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What is Buddhism and Buddhist Enlightenment in simplified analogy?

Reading some western philosophy books, I recently realized that most of western philosophy teachers, esp. those who wrote books, don't really understand Buddhism.  How would they understand? The Philosophers' approach to gaining wisdom is mainly through logical reasoning. But they don't realize that some logical assumptions might not hold true under some circumstances, such as when we talk about Ariya's dhamma (transcendental mental attributes, and Nibbana / Nirvana). Around 2600 years ago, Buddha had warned to people of Kalama (currently an area in New Delhi) in 'Kalama suttra' on a number of aspects and one is that, " ... don't believe solely because of logics ..".

Let me explain some of my experience of seeing Ariya'a dhamma, since I was a forest monk before. And I could do Samatha meditation to access deep absorption (jhana) to the fourth level (albeit occasional) so I can describe Buddhism as an insider, actively practicing one. (This is just a factual declaration. I don't want to tell more of my qualifications beyond this, since I don't want to be seen as bragging whereas I really don't intend to brag.)

Buddhism is a teaching of path to seek of wisdom, called 'Buddhist enlightenment'. But Buddhism is different from Philosophy in the sense that, practicing Buddhist monks and layman Buddhists sharpen their minds and observe behavior of one's own body and mind. Sharpening the mind as if you sharpened a knife before you use it for cutting foods, by practicing Samatha meditation, there are at least 40 ways as the Buddha taught. Buddha defined 'Loka', the Pali term for 'the world', as one's own body and mind. Only by observation, called Vipassana (Pali = special observation, observing (own body and mind) as if being an outsider, comparable to observation with objectivity) then one can truly and deeply understand the nature of the body and mind. What are their nature. (Hint for correct answers: they are impermanent, causing suffering, and non-self. All three attributes are the 3 different faces of the same object, call Tilakkana (in Pali term) = 3 characters.)

'Understanding deeply' or full-experiencing on the Tilakkaha of all worldly objects in this sense is 'Buddhist enlightenment'. It is not just a simple understanding, like when we are told of some story and we nod and say we understand. You can understand the true meaning of a word 'hungry' only when you have really felt it several times by your body, over and over, year long, not in the sense as how it is spelt or how its etymology was derived. Right?

If I would tell you of a detailed and vivid story about a car accident which I have personally experienced few decades ago, of how serious it was, you will not really appreciate it. Because you were not there, especially if you have had never been in a serious accident before.  That is an approximate analogy of how 'deep understanding' or 'full-experiencing' in the sense of 'Buddhist enlightenment' differ from just a vague understanding of a story as told to you by other people (including Philosophers or your teachers). Buddha said he was just a person who tells 'the right way' (the path, Macca) to go (to the ultimate happiness of Nibbana/ Nirvana). If you want to go, that is. You then have to walk the difficult path yourself. Then when you reach one of the 4 milestones, you can experience its serenity yourself. The experience can never be told to you explicitly enough by someone else.