What is the meaning behind Buddhism being called daegak (Supreme Enlightenment)?
I shall analyze this in two explanations. First, the things we commonly comprehend as the biggest things around us are the sky, the earth, the sea, the air, and the like. But what we call “big” in Buddhism are not those things. When we refer to the “bigness” of the original and natural mind in Buddhism, it is not big in the sense that the sky, the earth, sea or air can be compared with it; in fact, is it so big that nothing can become a thing that can be contrasted with it. Enlightenment is not something that can be stated, like “I am enlightened” or “I am becoming enlightened.” Therefore, it is impossible to teach the fundamental mind of enlightenment with words or writings, or to show it with any concrete shape.
Even though the air is full of electric currents and the sea is full of salt, it’s impossible to listen to the electric current in the air with our ears, or see the salinity of the sea with our eyes. Likewise, though there is definitely an essential nature of Supreme Enlightenment (daegak), since it doesn’t have any specific name or form, you cannot see it with your eyes, hear it with your ears, or think about it with your mind.
Though it is said this essential nature of Supreme Enlightenment originally doesn’t exist because it has no name or form, it doesn’t mean that is really nonexistent. Because there’s nothing, neither is it mind, nor Buddha, Dharma, or Sangha, nor is it a ghost, nor is it any thing, nor the sky or the earth. At the same time it is both immensely big, immensely small, immensely empty, immensely spiritual, immensely firm and strong, but immensely soft at the same time, so it’s not analyzable through thinking.
Though this nature has no name or form, it links the past and the present, surrounds the universe, exists as a subject of the sky, the earth, and humans. As a king of all the laws, it is so big and broad that there’s nothing comparable; so lofty that there is no equal. Also, it has been even before the heaven and earth, so there is no beginning, and it will exist even after the end of days, so there is no ending. This big and round essential nature of enlightenment shows that heaven and earth and the self have the same root and the universe and the self are the same body.
This nature is equal in every body. Just because some are sages, it doesn’t mean they have more of this nature than ordinary men. Also, since there is no becoming, dying, any particular shape, or name for this nature, when it’s in the sky it becomes a part of the sky, in the earth it becomes a part of the earth, and in humans it becomes a part of humans. This is the fundamental mind of attaining divine enlightenment.
Second, attaining divine enlightenment for oneself, then guiding other people to the way of enlightenment, are not two things but one, so it is called the final enlightenment. Every person is pure and undefiled just where s/he is, and it shows that the enlightenment itself is always there, inside of them. Even though enlightenment always exists inside of them, if s/he doesn’t realize it, s/he is ordinary. Even though they realize it’s there, if they don’t strive, they also are ordinary. Why is that?
Even if something is gold, if it is not tempered several times, it cannot become pure gold. But after it becomes pure gold there is no change. Attaining the true mind through striving is like becoming pure gold. This is called actualizing enlightenment.
The original enlightenment (Buddhahood) and actualizing enlightenment are not two things, so it is the final enlightenment, and if somebody realizes everything mentioned above, now they can be said to have attained divine enlightenment.