buddhism: enlightenment question(s)?





1. Is it the aim of all Buddhist to become enlightened like Buddha, or do they seek some kind of lower form of enlightenment, or even not at all? (Was that form only reserved for him?)
2. What is Buddha’s role now? Do Buddhist believe he has ascended into a sort of spectral role, or is he dead and gone and they simply honor his memory? I heard they view him as a teacher so wouldn’t that point to ascendancy? I know he’s not a god.
3. The above two questions for Zen Buddhism.


  1. From a Zen perspective, here are you answers:
    1) Zen (Chan or Seon) is a school of Mahayana Buddhism and adheres to the Mahayana principal that all practitioners should strive to be Bodhisattvas and take vows to liberate all beings from Samsara. (the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth) From a Zen perspective, Enlightenment is enlightenment and one is not greater or lesser then another. (This is in contrast with Tibetan and some Indian schools of thought, however.) However, the ideas stems from the story where a delegation of seekers came to Prince Gautama (The Historical Buddha), to sit at his feet and to receive his words of wisdom. They were impressed by Prince Gautamas wisdom and taken back by his magnificent presence. One of the seekers finally asked the prince, ?Who are you, anyway? Are you a deva??
    ?No,? the prince is said to have replied.
    ?Are you a saint?? asked another seeker.
    ?No,? the prince replied.
    ?Are you a prophet?” came another member of the party.
    “No, not a prophet.? Proclaimed Prince Gautama.
    ” Well, then,? the pilgrims cried, ?who are you??
    Very calmly, the Prince Gautama replied: ?I am awake.? Buddha means One who is fully awake.
    So, to be awakened, to reach enlightenment is itself the some as the Buddha.
    2) The Buddha was a teacher. The Buddha’s role now is to be an example to millions of Buddhist practitioners and non-Buddhist admirers around the world.
    Another Buddhist story talks about two Buddhist monks in China, a master and a novice, who walk from their Monastery to a small temple in the mountains to pay homage. As they are on their way, it begins to snow. After they arrive at the temple, the snow turns to a blizzard and the monks relies they would not make it home with the weather being what it was. So the two monks remained at the temple over night. As time passed and the temperature continued to drop, the novice monk noticed that there wasn’t much wood and the fire that was keeping the monks warm would soon go out. Fearing for his life, the novice asked the master, “What will we do Venerable?” Without wood to burn, the fire will go out and we will die.”
    The master looked at the novice, then at the temple around them. He then walked to a chair, smashed against the floor and threw the broken pieces into the fire.
    The novice monk was shocked that the master would destroy the temple furniture, but under the circumstances under stood. This worked for a few more hours, but as time went by and the temple chairs were smashed one by one, the novice monk became alarmed again. “What will we do Venerable?” Without wooden chairs to burn, the fire will go out and we will die.”
    The Master monk walked over to the Alter, picked up a few of the wooden relics of the alter and smashed them onto the floor and threw them on the fire. The young novice was appalled and yelled at the old master.
    “Master, how can you destroy the sacred relics like that? Have you no reverence?”
    The master monk looked at the young monk and replied, “Certainly, I reverie the triple gem. The Buddha, the Dharma (The teachings of Buddha) and the Sangha. (The Buddhist community) If you can tell me which of these I just hurt, I will repent and not do it again?”
    The novice monk, was puzzled, but new the Master was correct so he said nothing and soon all the artifacts were broken and the fire was getting low again.
    This time, after the master monk heard the novice worry, he went to the alter, reached for the large hand carved Buddha and was about to pull it over when the novice cried out.
    “No master. The Buddha can not be burned to warm our frail bodies, that is something I can not let you do.”
    The master monk stopped, bowed to the Buddha, fell to his knees and started asking the Buddha to teach him and make him as worthy as the novice. After several minutes of this he began weeping and crying asking the Buddha statue why he was so unworthy that the Buddha wouldn?t even talk to him. After several minutes of this display, the novice monk understood and toppled the Buddha statue and feeding it’s fragments to the fire.
    This illustrates that the Buddha statues and relics are symbolic and important to Buddhists for many reason, but they are not the core of Buddhism and are not more important then life. The novice monk had grown attached to items. This is WRONG. Attachment to items, ideas, people or relics, even attachment to Buddha is still attachment, brings suffering and is not the proper way of living.
    I hope this helps.

  2. simple answers:
    the aim of Buddhism is to end suffering by ridding oneself of desires. As you heard, the Buddha is viewed as a teacher, and in some sects he is viewed as a god. The word “Buddha” simply means enlightened one, he gained enlightenment and broke the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

  3. 1.) The aim of “all Buddhists” is a bit of a hard one to encompass, namely because depending on your variety of Buddhism, the aim may in fact be different.
    The overaching goal is the cessation of suffering in life – this was outlined by Gautama in the Four Noble Truths. Usually this is interpreted as escaping the cycle of reincarnation and entering into the state of enlightenment.
    However, that state of being in the view of the Theravada Buddhists takes thousands of lifetimes to refine.
    The Mahayana aim at the goal of boddhisatva-hood – which is to say they wish to enter a state of enlightenment that would allow them to pass into Nirvana but refuse to do so out of a vow they took.
    An example of this is Jizo, the boddhisatva who swore he would not enter into Nirvana until all the beings of the Six Realms were brought in as well. Consider this a “no man left behind mentality.” One aims at becoming a boddhisatva for the sake of all humanity.
    2.) Again, depending on the sect – this is in contention. The ovearching view is that he is out of the Cycle, Samsara has ended for him.
    Why the statues in the temples? We honor him for his teachings and follow them to escape the cycle as well.
    That’s the baseline viewpoint i suppose, along the lines of the Theravada. Tibetan, Mayahana, Tendai, Shingon, Pure Land, etc. have their own spin on things.
    3.) As it stands, Zen Buddhism is nominally a part of the Mahayana school (like the Tiantai/Tendai), but they’ve always had their own spin on things.
    Zen Buddhists, aside being noted for zazen – their meditative form and the Shaolin monks of HK cinema fame, have taken an approach to enlightenment that is quite different from the others.
    They espouse “Sudden Enlightenment” to be produced by their koans or their meditative practices. They are trying to get you into a state of enlightenment by shocking you out of mirage created by your senses so to to speak.
    Their goals are Buddhahood, though some have said they are unconcerned about the Buddha beyond the teachings he left behind.

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