Author Topic: Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?  (Read 2487 times)

Offline meez

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Re: Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?
« Reply #15 on: May 10, 2018, 09:24:44 am »
VisuddhiRaptor, You did an excellent job researching and compiling all these sources.  Suggest that moderator place a sticky on this one so that newcomers can utilize the fruits of your efforts. 

If all of my excellent posts were placed on sticky, there would not be enough space on the forum.  :atroll:  :teehee:

Make a thread with those links again and I'll sticky it.

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?
« Reply #16 on: May 11, 2018, 04:15:50 am »
In various lectures one hears the same account of Siddhartha's enlightenment under the bodhi tree: that begins with him sitting down and vowing to meditate till he gets to the reason of human suffering, followed by attempts by Mara to seduce him and then to attack him, and finally Siddhartha getting to the realization that attachment is at the core of suffering, etc. That has become the "official" story of Siddhartha becoming the Buddha. It is also visually portrayed in "The Little Buddha" movie from '93.

So my question is: where exactly is this story told in Buddhist scriptures? Is there any written account of it in any of the canons? If yes, where exactly?

In the end it's about authority isn't it? Other religions tend to rely on faith in the miraculous, either literal miracle-type events or the miracle of revealed truth from a burning bush or being carved into stone, or whatever. When you look at Buddhism, there is nothing like that, not even a single jotting made at the time. So where does the authority come from?

Some like to go back to the earliest writings, but even these are doubtful in authenticity, having problems with both tracking back copies to see where they originated and in various translations of texts. The more you study Buddhism, the wider the range of texts you find, adapted over the years to particular cultures and peoples.

Not only that but new texts arise over time, adding the insights that people have experienced over the years. These are often written as if they happened in the Buddha's lifetime, with words attributed to people which were obviously never uttered at that time. Which leaves us with a religion with no original texts, no miraculous, authoritative happenings to believe in, and no God figure watching everything that people do. Without those texts that do exist, what is there to offer people?

It's no wonder then that people become rather heated in their discussions about texts and meanings and authority of teachings. The latter is the key to how Buddhism has survived. Rather than a set of beliefs and rules to be observed, Buddhism is based on a set of practices such as meditation which, when taken on board, actually work to change each individual. Various schools of Buddhism arose and passed on practices which have been refined and improved over the years, yet which can all be referenced by simple actions such as sitting quietly.

We can easily try things out for ourselves and get the 'taste of salt', the feeling we get when something is authentic and real for us. We can look at the vast array of texts that exist and take them or leave them, as long as we have as our personal myth the ability to transform ourselves using meditation and following the path. Which brings me back to the original question. The 'official' story, as you put it, is one you can try for yourself to see how valid it is for you. Whether the texts themselves are authentic becomes rather irrelevant. Authenticity arises from personal experience.

“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline empty

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Re: Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?
« Reply #17 on: May 11, 2018, 07:25:41 am »
In the end it's about authority isn't it? Other religions tend to rely on faith in the miraculous, either literal miracle-type events or the miracle of revealed truth from a burning bush or being carved into stone, or whatever. When you look at Buddhism, there is nothing like that, not even a single jotting made at the time. So where does the authority come from?

Some like to go back to the earliest writings, but even these are doubtful in authenticity, having problems with both tracking back copies to see where they originated and in various translations of texts. The more you study Buddhism, the wider the range of texts you find, adapted over the years to particular cultures and peoples.

Not only that but new texts arise over time, adding the insights that people have experienced over the years. These are often written as if they happened in the Buddha's lifetime, with words attributed to people which were obviously never uttered at that time. Which leaves us with a religion with no original texts, no miraculous, authoritative happenings to believe in, and no God figure watching everything that people do. Without those texts that do exist, what is there to offer people?

It's no wonder then that people become rather heated in their discussions about texts and meanings and authority of teachings. The latter is the key to how Buddhism has survived. Rather than a set of beliefs and rules to be observed, Buddhism is based on a set of practices such as meditation which, when taken on board, actually work to change each individual. Various schools of Buddhism arose and passed on practices which have been refined and improved over the years, yet which can all be referenced by simple actions such as sitting quietly.

We can easily try things out for ourselves and get the 'taste of salt', the feeling we get when something is authentic and real for us. We can look at the vast array of texts that exist and take them or leave them, as long as we have as our personal myth the ability to transform ourselves using meditation and following the path. Which brings me back to the original question. The 'official' story, as you put it, is one you can try for yourself to see how valid it is for you. Whether the texts themselves are authentic becomes rather irrelevant. Authenticity arises from personal experience.

A very good answer. It is somewhat gettig to the issue I was trying to resolve for myself.

I guess another way to re-phrase my question is: Alright, Buddhism is primarily about practice that transforms us. But the way it transforms different people must be consistent, at least to some extent. So if I practice it and you practice it, the effects on us must be similar. And over the centuries these observed similarities must be distilled into either metaphorical (fight with the forces of Mara, teaching of Nirvana, etc.) or more direct descriptions and teachings about the human mind.

After having read many books and having heard countless of hours of lectures and after having practiced a bit myself, I believe I have some rudimentary understanding and personal realization of these teachings. But how do you communicate this to others who have not gone through this process?

The reason I started this thread was that I heard a lecture given by a very distingushed intellectual whom I greatly respect - Jordan Peterson. He was talking about the psychological transformations that a child goes through when growing up. His point was that this process is so ancient that it was metaphorically expressed in many old religious texts. He made a parallel between the origin stories of Judaism/Christianity and Buddhism:

First:
-Adam and Eve live in Paradise (means protected garden) and they have everything they need. They live in bliss and are not concerned with survival.
- Siddhartha lives a very protected life in a palace. He is shielded from everything unpleasant and does not know what the real life is.
- A small child is completely protected by his/her parents. Everything he/she needs to survive is provided for. All dangers are eliminated as much as possible. The child only knows the world of his family.

Second:
- The snake shows up and Adam and Eve eat from the apple of knowledge. They see they are naked and get ashamed. They hide from God.
- Siddhartha gets curious about the outside world. He ventures outside the palace walls and discovers sickness, old age and death.
- As the children grow up they get curious and gradually push the boundaries of the perfect protected life they've had so far. That innevitably leads to new knowledge but also to disappointlents and injuries. Kids discover they (and other people) are vulnerable. Parents are not God-like any more.

Third:
- God banishes Adam and Eve from Paradise. They are sentenced to life of hadship and hard work for survival.
- Siddhartha leaves the palace and embraces ascetic life of suffering and pain in order to understand it.
- Kids grow up and need to start fending for themselves. The dreams of perfect world and protected childhood must be shed in this process.

So that all makes sence but then Jordan Peterson went on saying: "Then Siddhartha sits under a tree in search for the source of suffering but it is not very clear what happens next...". So he continued to make parallels between human psychological development and Judaism/Chistianity but completely left out Buddhism after that point.

And I thought: This man is a serious scholar. Of course he has his biases and he comes from the Western religious and philosophical tradition but there is no way he could disregard the core of Buddhist teachings after the bodhi tree incident. So that is why I asked the initial question: to understand if there an easy way/read for an outsider of Buddhism to get familiar with the core teachings without much confusion.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2018, 07:33:07 am by empty »

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?
« Reply #18 on: May 11, 2018, 10:49:33 am »
Hi empty. You pose some interesting questions that I too have been thinking about, on and off, for a number of years. The nearest I can get to the universality aspect you mention is that if you do a certain thing, then it has consequences for the brain. If you meditate, then changes will take place. If two people do similar meditations, similar changes take place. This happens no matter what the context is, the time or the culture or the religion that it happened in.

That being so, if you undertake insight meditation, your brain changes in such a way as to allow you to see things in a different way. The process is universal to human beings, but the outcome depends on context. What happens during insight experiences is so different to our normal state of consciousness that the brain, or at least the conscious mind does not work in the same way during the experience, and then goes into a kind of shock as conscious thought returns.

Such an experience is hard to communicate, so in its aftermath you struggle to make sense of what happened. This is when context kicks in and your culture and upbringing are drawn on for help in understanding the event. You are open to suggestion from others, who, maybe with the best of intentions, are perhaps only too ready to interpret for you, not least if you are part of some religious organisation such as Christianity or Buddhism.

From my own experience, and from researching the experiences of others, it is this imposed interpretation on the part of others that then determines not only how you understand what happened to you, but what effect it has on you life too.

Back to your question about getting familiar with the core teachings, there are standard meditation techniques across Buddhism, although some schools emphasise some methods above others. They all work, but aren't enough for you to follow a Buddhist programme. For that you need something like the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path to add context to the meditation practice you have decided on.

These work in a different way to meditation, but they add to the whole experience, and allow you to understand what the Buddha was trying to say when he talked about the cessation of suffering, both before and after insight experiences. I wont say during, because I consider it a universal experience which is context free at the time, while your conscious understanding is on hold.

For me, everything else in Buddhism is a development of this, and the whole is like learning, say, a game like chess. The rules are pretty simple, but the game takes a lifetime of study.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline philboyd

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Re: Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?
« Reply #19 on: May 13, 2018, 06:44:29 am »
It is interesting that all religion hinges on a view of some form of permanent self. I believe this is a natural evolution ( influenced by misunderstanding and bias ) of the profound insights taught by highly enlighten humans. This is why a curiosity about the original teachings is relevant and healthy. Buddhism has the benefit of a practice that requires faith only in it"s diligence. So while a search for the original text may be of some value one can at the same time practice the Eightfold Path and be well on their way to an evolving human maturity, free of superstition and mystery.
Peace

Offline Anemephistus

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Re: Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?
« Reply #20 on: May 13, 2018, 07:14:36 pm »
Quote
And I thought: This man is a serious scholar. Of course he has his biases and he comes from the Western religious and philosophical tradition but there is no way he could disregard the core of Buddhist teachings after the bodhi tree incident. So that is why I asked the initial question: to understand if there an easy way/read for an outsider of Buddhism to get familiar with the core teachings without much confusion.

I suggest a book. "the heart of the Buddha's teaching" by Ven. Thich Naht Hahn. It's widely available. The first two sentences are  "Buddha was not a god. He was a
human being like you and me, and he suffered just as we do."

It goes on to quote "I teach only suffering and the transformation of suffering." - Buddha

It has a viewpoint given by a Vietnamese Zen Master about the core of the teaching as his tradition understands it, and as he relays it. The book is not on every-bodies must-read list but it certainly demonstrates the core concepts in a couple of hundred pages rather soundly in my opinion.

Your inquiry asks about the transformative properties of the teaching and it makes reference to the concept of "authority" regarding the teaching.  Buddha became enlightened under the tree, grasping at what that means is accomplished through encountering the teachings he left , weather an imperfect transmission or a concept developed along the way to the present moment, truth is indelible, it cant be forged, and once realized has no substitutions. as StillPoint eloquently said
Quote
Whether the texts themselves are authentic becomes rather irrelevant. Authenticity arises from personal experience.

Many religions have stories in which things happen which are miraculous, there are stories like this in Buddhism too.  However as I follow and understand, these things do not require that we think they happened or did not happen. The debate over the supernatural is counter to the point by my reckoning. It is my understanding that Buddhism survives by the transmission of ideas which are obviously true once considered and which have an impact on the suffering of beings who perceive them not by the will of any extra divinity.

Quote
After having read many books and having heard countless of hours of lectures and after having practiced a bit myself, I believe I have some rudimentary understanding and personal realization of these teachings. But how do you communicate this to others who have not gone through this process?


When you show others what you encountered that gave you realization, and help them practice it, they will go through the process and realize what they need too, it may be different for them than it is for you, but without the process of encountering realization itself, it is rather like describing a color to a blind person. It's not a fully academic process, it requires practice and effort in order to "see"   

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?
« Reply #21 on: May 14, 2018, 03:20:59 am »
Here's an easy 'in' to what the Buddha taught. It's the famous quote by Franz Kafka, “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”

That's what the Buddha did. He sat under a tree until that happened to him. Everything else is setting the mental context to cope with what happens afterwards, to start to understand what on earth happened to you, and what it means to you for the rest of your life.

It's that simple, but of course it usually takes more than a poem for people to invest their time and effort into doing something like sitting and doing nothing; not watching, or listening or reading or even thinking about stuff. All of the writings you talk about are mostly motivational or context setting. The practical details of meditation, how to extend meditation into everyday life, and putting together some kind of individual programme of development are usually left to teachers rather than texts.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline Empty13

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Re: Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?
« Reply #22 on: July 19, 2018, 11:31:34 am »
There are details throughout different pieces of the Pali canon. The Tathagata recounts the process in the past tense, usually. There are bits in the Pari-nibbana Sutta and the Discourse on the First Sermon to some degree if I remember correctly. It's a story that is pieced together from multiple suttas though, as it is told different times in different ways from what I understand. Bhikku Bodhi has gone over it a few times in his dharma talks that I have listened to.

 


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