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Lions Roar : March 2018
Glimpses of Awakening by Judy Lief AWAKENING IS THE CENTRAL GOAL of the Buddhist tra- dition. Buddha means “awake,” and the Buddha is said to be the enlightened one. But what does that mean? What exactly is the goal? And where does it all start? We could think of all the good things we know about and aspire to and pile them all together, every quality we wish we had but we don’t. If all of those were realized, if our wish came true, would that be enlightenment? If we were perfect in every way, would that be enlightenment? If you close your eyes and free associate, what images come into your mind when you think of enlightenment? What comes up when you think of awake? The idea of enlightenment is tied up with our images of wise men or wise women. We have all sorts of preconceptions as to how such wise beings are supposed to look, supposed to talk, and supposed to act. Maybe they have to be a certain gender or a certain class. Maybe they need to wear robes or appear to be very pure. Perhaps they need to have a halo and radiate light. Maybe they are extraordinarily virtuous and kindly, and smile beneficently at us. Enlightenment is not easy to pin down. Nevertheless, while our ideas of enlightenment may be somewhat vague, and we may not know exactly how to describe it, we feel that we recog- nize it when we see it. Maybe we don’t know exactly what we are seeking—we only know that we are seeking something. Although we could pretend to be above it all, beyond striv- ing and without ambition, we cannot hide the fact that in the Buddhist tradition the attainment of enlightenment is the central goal. Paradoxically, although we are on a search for enlightenment, following a path designed to bring us to that point, enlightenment is said to be inherent, our very nature. Many traditions have a version of the parable in which a poor person spends years and years looking for buried treasure here, there, and everywhere else, eventually discovering that he has had the treasure all along, buried under the floor of his own home. We may keep looking and looking for some- thing and not see a thing, but when we finally do see it, it is Enlightenment DISCOVERING YOUR TRUE NATURE It may seem ungraspable and unattainable, but enlightenment is right here all the time. LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2018 39