Misunderstandings of Enlightenment, and the Truth

【 Abstract 】
Hong, Sa-sung
(Director of the Buddhism Broadcast)

This article contemplates four important themes of enlightenment through the Sutras. The first theme is about the content of enlightenment. In the Buddhist tradition, enlightenment is not deemed as something mysterious or special. Instead, it is understanding of the law of interrelationship which is as simple and easy as common sense. Things rise as a result of the interactions of cause and effect. Therefore, everything disappears when its cause and conditions fade away. All beings are governed by the law of uncertainty, which means that a substantial self does not exist by itself. One should know that this interrelationship between things is what is in the essence of enlightenment.

Secondly, enlightenment is not a possession of a few gifted people. It is open to all those who search for wisdom. Many arahans during the Buddha’s lifetime attained enlightenment that was not different from Gautama Buddha’s. The only difference between them is that the Buddha became their teacher just because he was enlightened ahead of them, and the ones who attained enlightenment after him became his disciples.

Third, there is no other special way to enlightenment than incorporating the Eightfold Path into life. All the truth is already revealed by the Buddha. The only thing we need to do is to acknowledge the truth the Buddha illuminated and to walk the path he showed to us.

Fourth, the last thing examined in this study is the difference between the enlightened and the common mortal. Buddhas are the ones who transcended the three poisons of greed, anger, and ignorance, which the common mortals experience in contact with the external environment.

The discussion about enlightenment has been avoided because it has been considered something mysterious and special. This is one of the reasons why enlightenment has not been properly understood. In order to get a better understanding of enlightenment, open and active discussions will be necessary. By doing so, we will be able to make our life-long Buddhist practice valuable and worthwhile.

【 Key words 】

enlightenment, the law of cause and effect, the five aggregates, uncertainty, non-self, ignorance, five bodies of the Dharma, ten names of the Buddha, the eightfold path