Posts tagged ‘enlightenment’

Siddhartha Gautama was raised as a prince. Then a series of carriage rides changed his life. He left his home to search for spiritual fulfillment. He eventually found enlightenment, becoming the Buddha, the Awakened One, and the founder of Buddhism.


Think of an event or experience that changed your world. (It doesn’t need to be as complete or as sudden as the change Siddhartha experienced.) Describe the experience and how it affected you.

After his enlightenment, the Buddha passed a man on the road.

This man saw that the Buddha was different from other men.
He asked the Buddha “Are you a god?”
The Buddha replied “No.”
The man continued, “Then are you a magician or a wizard?”
“No.”
“Are you a man?”
“No.”
“Then what are you?” said the man.
The Buddha answered, “I am awake.”
Thus he was given his name. Buddha means “The awakened One.”


What do you think the Buddha meant by this answer?

When Siddhartha became fully enlightened, he realized that people are not really separate from each other; we are all interconnected. He also realized that nothing in life is permanent; things change. Suffering is always a part of life, but there is a path that leads away from suffering.


In Buddhism, enlightenment means reaching a state beyond desire and suffering. But the word also has other meanings. Write about the meanings of the word enlightenment.

The Four Noble Truths are central to Buddhism. These truths were taught by the Buddha shortly after he became enlightened.

The First Noble Truth is that life is frustrating and full of suffering, or dukkha.

The Second Noble Truth is that suffering is caused by tanha, the desire for private fulfillment.

The Third Noble Truth is that suffering can come to an end. If suffering is caused by selfish desire, it can be cured by overcoming desire.

The Fourth Noble Truth is that there is a path that leads away from suffering, the Eightfold Path. This path consists of eight practices that the Buddha believed would lead to enlightenment.


How could these four ideas form the core of a way of life?

The Buddha died in about 483 B.C.E. He had gone from a prince to an ascetic, from a wealthy man to a nomadic beggar. For more than fifty years he wandered India, teaching others about enlightenment.


Imagine that you are a newspaper columnist. Write an obituary for the Buddha as if for a modern newspaper.

Include as much information as you can about the people who were important in his life and the events that shaped his life and beliefs.

In Buddhism, people can attain enlightenment in many ways. They can also do different things once they are enlightened. One choice is to enter nirvana, where all suffering ends. A person who choose this is called an arhat.

A second choice is to stay in the world to help others find enlightenment. A person who chooses this is called a bodhisattva.

The difference between them is explained in a story.

Two men were wandering in the desert when they came to a compound, surrounded by a high wall. The first man climbed the wall. Giving a cry of delight, he leaped down on the other side.

The second man also climbed the wall. At the top, he saw that the walls surrounded a beautiful oasis with springs and gardens. He wanted to enter the garden. But he thought about all the other people who were wandering in the desert. Instead of entering the oasis he returned to the desert, determined to help other wanderers find the oasis.


One of these men was an arhat, and one was a bodhisattva. Which was which?

A bodhisattva is a person who has achieved enlightenment and is dedicated to helping other people escape from suffering. Some teachers suggest that non-Buddhists might be bodhisattvas.


Can you think of anyone (either from history or the present day) who fits the description of a bodhisattva? Name as many people as you can.

Do you remember learning how to read? Most people are taught the letters of the alphabet and are told that these letters can form sounds. But this is a new way of thinking, and it takes time to adjust to it. For most people, the next step, recognizing words and sounds, is a breakthrough. Suddenly, the marks on the page make sense. They can read.

According to Zen Buddhism, enlightenment also calls for a new way of thinking. We are used to solving problems using reason. But enlightenment isn’t reasonable. So Zen uses unreasonable ways of teaching to help students reach enlightenment.

One unreasonable teaching method is the use of koans. These are problems, but problems that rational thinking can’t solve. In order to find an answer to a koan, the student must think in a different way. One koan asks, “What was the appearance of your face before your ancestors were born?”


How do you think it would feel to be given problems like this one to solve? Try to imagine your reaction to solving koans. Describe your reaction.

The Buddha was a person and not a god. The lesson of his life is that people can live without suffering in a state of happiness. What can a person do to stop his or her suffering?

Like the Buddha, each person has to experiment to find a way to enlightenment. The first step is to identify habits that interfere with happiness and habits that can help lead to enlightenment.


List your own bothersome bad habits. Also list some good habits of yours that might lead to profound happiness.

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