The Meaning of Enlightenment

Reference: A Scientific Approach to Meditation

Buddha achieved enlightenment in a very short time once he started to practice mindfulness meditation.

The words the Buddha uttered involuntarily at this time are recorded variously in the Buddhist scriptures. According to the Kegon sutra, at the moment of enlightenment he spontaneously cried out 1“Wonder of wonders! Intrinsically all living beings are Buddhas, endowed with wisdom and virtue, but because men’s minds have become inverted through delusive thinking they fail to perceive this.”

The original word for enlightened is Bodhi, which means “awakened”. Zen Buddhism uses the word satori 2 to describe Buddha’s enlightenment as “Self-realization, opening the Mind’s eye, awakening to one’s True-nature and hence of the nature of all existence.” 

This provides a scientific definition of enlightenment as follows.

Enlightenment is the realization of the laws underlying our spiritual nature.

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The Spiritual Nature

Oxford dictionaries, however, define enlightenment as “The action or state of attaining or having attained spiritual knowledge or insight, in particular (in Buddhism) that awareness which frees a person from the cycle of rebirth.” This definition imparts a sense of mystery.

Enlightenment is not some vague spiritual awareness of one’s identity linked to some mysterious cycle of rebirth. Instead, enlightenment is the understanding of the laws that underlie our spiritual nature. These laws determine wisdom and virtue. They also explain how our minds become inverted and deluded.

A human being, whether clever or stupid, male or female, ugly or beautiful, is capable of being awakened to the laws of spiritual nature. There is no perfection other than this state of being awakened. This is the enlightenment that Buddha sought and attained. 

Therefore, you meditate until you directly perceive the laws underlying your spiritual nature.

When you practice meditation its immediate effect is to reduce the turbulence in your mind so you can become more aware. The following chapters guide you step by step on the path to enlightenment through mindfulness meditation.

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1 Three Pillars of Zenby Philip Kapleau, See Yasutani-Roshi’s Introductory Lecture 1.
2 Ibid., Chapter X, Definition of satori

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