Lotus Buddhism / FAQ / What is Enlightenment?

What is Enlightenment?

Enlightenment - is always to something.

In science, for example, a scientist becomes enlightened to a law of nature, such was the case with Newton, who was enlightened to the laws of kinetics, and Einstein, who was enlightened to the truth of relativity, etc.

The Buddha was enlightened to the Law of Life: the spiritual power that moves the world, operating also within our body and mind.

Another synonym for enlightenment is “Awakening”. It is awakening to the mechanism or the ‘way life works’ - in the reality of daily events. This awakening makes us capable of understanding what is taking place in our life. The Law of Life that the Buddha was enlightened to is also called the Dharma (the way reality exists). It is also called the Law of Cause and Effect.

The benefit of Enlightenment:

Obviously, scientific awakening (to natural truths and laws) brings practical benefits, when we put the discovered laws in application. Similarly, enlightenment to the universal truth of life brings decisive benefit. Unlike ignorance, enlightenment leads to betterment of the individual’s life to the highest state possible.

The benefit of enlightenment manifests itself in daily life - basically in overcoming hardships and sufferings and in bringing harmony, prosperity, wise solutions, compassionate relationships and enjoying strong life-energy. One would then necessarily experience the joy of living a meaningful creative life.

What is Ignorance ?

The opposite of Enlightenment is Ignorance. Ignorance of the truth (of how life operates) would necessarily manifest itself in reality in the form of disharmony, conflicts, sufferings, egoism, discrimination,… and the like.

In Nichiren Buddhism, awakening to the truth (of how one’s personal life operates) is a necessary condition to transform suffering and experience happiness:

If you wish to free yourself from [all] sufferings … and attain unsurpassed enlightenment in this lifetime, you must perceive the mystic truth that is originally inherent in all living beings. This truth is [the power of the Law of Life (the Law of Cause and Effect)].

On Attaining Buddhahood in this Lifetime

Undeniably, if one is fully aware of the consequences of one’s own intentions and actions, then one’s behaviour, relationships and thinking would avoid foolish mistakes (that would lead to bad consequences, defeat, hurt, conflicts and sufferings).

An enlightened person would always choose the correct causes that would lead to beneficial effects - for self & others. On the contrary, an ignorant person would express their own mind of ignorance (based on ego) through speech and behaviour. It is behaviour in the reality of daily life that reflects one’s level of maturity of mind and lifeforce.

Enlightenment, then is a state that is revealed in the quality of one’s maturity and compassion in behaviour and relationships.

Attaining Enlightenment is revealing our best mind as a human being

The state of Inner awakening is not “acquired” from external sources. It is inherent within one’s mind, and can be experienced from within.

Almost all spiritual beliefs agree that the highest state of the individual’s life emerges when there is harmony or fusion between the individual’s personal life with the objective truth of reality.

Enlightenment then is the awakening of the individual to the universal truth. The universal truth is found within one’s own life (and it is common also with the truth of the lives of all people).

The Lotus Sutra encodes the universal truth of life by the words: Myoho Renge Kyo. One’s individual’s awakening to this truth is expressed by being “in devotion and harmony with” - (described by the Sanskrit word NAM). Therefore, the phrase :

Nam Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo

expresses the field of awakening of the individual (microcosm) to the objective truth (macrocosm).

The enlightened state of mind, or the field of NamMyohoRengeKyo is inherent within the subconscious mind of the individual. It is referred to as the enlightened-human-nature (Buddhanature).

Chanting the phrase of NamMyohoRengeKyo is a conscious action aimed at experiencing the inner field of enlightenment: featuring wisdom, compassion and empowerment.

The spirit of chanting can be understood as taking responsibility to raise one’s life-state to its highest value, with the attitude of “I lead my life to wisdom, happiness and lifeforce”.