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Buddhadharma : Fall 2017
68 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2017 forum: What Is Enlightenment? Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche: From the Mahayana view, there are two ways to explain what enlightenment is. From the experiential point of view, enlight- enment is being awake from one’s confusion and suffering. The quality of enlightenment is basically being free of any thought processes. Enlightenment is actually the nature of mind. From the doctrinal point of view, there are different stages of awakening. The first glimpse of enlightenment takes place at the level of the first bhumi of the bodhisattva. That glimpse of enlightenment becomes more stable, clear, and perfected throughout the ten bhumis of the bodhisattva, and at the end of the tenth bhumi, the realization of enlightenment and of the three kayas is achieved. Ayya Tathaaloka: In the Theravada tradition, there are many different types of awakening. In the first awakening, one recognizes cause and effect and begins to feel that one’s actions from the past have caused many kinds of suf- fering. Such behavior starts to seem abhorrent. A deep resolution turns the mind around from those long, confused patterns of afflictive behavior, lifting it up like the bud of a lotus breaching muddy water to touch air and sunshine. A sense of openness and spaciousness arises, along with the determination to behave differently. This shift could be called a “moral awakening,” but it also has the aspect of the mind clearing, unbinding, and becoming more open and stable. People do experience that literally as clarity or light, coming out of dark- ness, or entering into spaciousness. Once one has an understanding of how the Dhamma works and a funda- mental insight into conditional causation, one can then enter into the practice in a more effective way. Fear and disempowerment are alleviated and, no longer feeling at the mercy of the world and other people or other circumstances, one gains a foothold on the path. From there, in the Theravada teachings, one pro- gresses through the four stages—or the eight stages, including the fruition—of the arahant path, “awakening after the Awakened One.” Setsuan Gaelyn Godwin: In the Zen tradition, rather than focus on the stages that the Buddha describes in his enlightenment process, we tend to focus on his initial statement beneath the bodhi tree: “I and all sentient beings together attain enlightenment.” We understand that this awakening is a realization of the natural state of mind and that the recognition of that same mind in others is the deepest part of the Buddha’s awakening. The teachings therefore emphasize