Friday, September 24, 2010

Enlightenment: Static or Dynamic?

Taylor Ellwood has given his thoughts and critique of enlightenment here. I have posted my comments to his post below because there seems to be some problem with his blog. I can get his posts in my Google reader, but when I follow the link back to his blog page to comment I get an “Error 404” page (this is occurring only for September posts). I tried leaving my comments on his YouTube page but I am longwinded and it will not accept the totality of what I have written.

I would be interested in hearing from you as to how you arrived at your understanding of enlightenment. I have some familiarity with Buddhism and have never heard of enlightenment described as you have done. As I understand it, Buddhists generally see the enlightened mind of a Buddha as consisting of two unique components, namely – liberating wisdom and compassion. This mind is not static, as you say, but is an active mind where wisdom is dynamically expressed through compassionate action. Stories of the historical Buddha’s life after his enlightenment clearly illustrate this. According to tradition, the Buddha did not rest in a “static primal goop”, but rather engaged living beings in a way (e.g., as a teacher) that fostered the birth of wisdom in other mind streams. In fact, if I am not mistaken, tradition maintains that a Buddha must teach in order to qualify as a Buddha. A Buddha that is not actively engaged in helping others along the Buddhist path is NO Buddha. It seems to me that your concept of a “static” enlightenment has much to do with an erroneous understanding of the Buddhist doctrine of no-self (anatma). The anatma doctrine does not deny the existence of individual persons. Persons are counted among existing things (dharmas) in the early Abhidharma literature. Typically, a “person” is a term used to refer to a particular grouping of the five heaps (skandhas) that make up an individual – namely, form, feeling, perceptions, will and consciousness. What the anatma doctrine refutes is an all-pervading, eternal and unchanging atman (self) among the impermanent components of existence (dharmas).

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