Awakening and Nirvana
Awakening, or enlightenment, is a deep inner realization, a profound new perception of life, an overturning of former values and goals. It means no longer drifting through life, living for sense pleasures, or yielding to unsatisfactory social norms. An authentic reality is now seen; illusion and reality are separated; and a genuine end of suffering and lasting happiness beckon us.
It involves having a new vision for life – it is something direct and immediate, a spiritual experience in a sense (although it can be expressed intellectually). It is a vision of the nature of existence.
Buddhism communicates its vision of existence through three great images. “Perfect Vision is a vision, first of all, of our actual present state of bondage to conditioned existence as represented by the Wheel of Life. It is also a vision of our potential future state of Enlightenment as represented by the Buddha, or the mandala of Buddhas, or a Pure Land. Finally it is a vision of the path or way leading from the one to the other – a vision, if you like, of the whole future course of evolution” (Sangharakshita, The Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path, revised edition, 2007).
As a Western lay Buddhist, I have created this website in my appreciation for the Dharma and a vision of a way of life inspired by the universal Four Noble Truths. All articles and charts may be freely downloaded (either in PDF or Microsoft Word format), as well as photos (which I have taken, unless credited otherwise). For an informative overview of the Buddhist path to Awakening, see the following link: Theravada Buddhism.
A Way to Enlightenment
Buddhism offers a Path to attain wisdom and compassion, as well as freedom from suffering. Understanding will come directly from our own practice. Needed is a willingness to explore the Path and a rigorous testing of it against our own experience. Confidence and conviction in the validity of the Path will then emerge — rather than from a simple belief in the teachings. (Initially, we will not have had direct, personal evidence. We will see, however, that these teachings have been of value to others — and so we can cautiously proceed on the likelihood that they will be of benefit to us as well.)
The following words link spirituality with Buddhism: “I hope that you understand what the word ‘spiritual’ really means. It means to search for, to investigate, the true nature of the mind. There’s nothing spiritual outside. My rosary isn’t spiritual; my robes aren’t spiritual. Spiritual means the mind, and spiritual people are those who seek its nature.” [Yeshe, Lama Thubten, Becoming Your Own Therapist (Boston: Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, 2003), p. 89.]
Although Buddhism has developed differently in various times, places, and cultures, the essential teachings of the Buddha (Dharma) have remained consistent. May we approach the various schools of Buddhist thought with mutual respect and in a spirit harmony, in which all are valued and honoured.
Buddha Photo Credit: Intellimon Ltd.