Nichiren Buddhist Association of America

Nichiren Buddhist Association of America
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Introduction to Buddhism
 
Enlightenment – The Ultimate Goal
Chapter 2
  The Path to Becoming a Buddha   The Origins of Buddhism  
 

“Enlightenment is not a mystical or transcendental state. Rather it is a condition in which one enjoys the highest wisdom, vitality, good fortune, confidence, and other positive qualities, and in which one finds fulfillment in one’s daily activities, and comes to understand one’s purpose in being alive.” -- Daisaku Ikeda (From the Introduction to the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Volume I)

In order to understand Buddhism, one must first have an understanding of the ultimate goal of Buddhism. That goal is termed enlightenment, or more accurately, Buddhahood. It is the state of being a Buddha. It's a state of life or a life condition. Buddhahood can be described as a lot of things. It's a connection with universal truth of life which encompasses all aspects of life, death, time, space, self and others and leads people to embrace the vow of the Buddha. That vow is to make all others equal to them -- that is, to make all others Buddhas. Buddhahood has been described as absolute freedom, absolute happiness, ultimate compassion, an elimination of suffering.

For centuries Buddhists have been creating, testing and implementing practices and philosophies that lead to the happiness and personal development of human beings. Before the advent of modern science, Buddhists were using subjective measurements to develop new and ever better methods that lead to better results. Now, with modern scientific equipment, we are able to objectively measure and record the numerous positive benefits of Buddhist meditation. Studies have shown that meditation yields positive results in things like stress reduction, increased brain wave synchrony, increased use of the areas of the brain linked with compassion, and increased immune system performance.

These tests and many others validate the subjective experiences that Buddhists have for centuries been describing as the results of their practice. For instance, a commonly heard benefit of the practice of Buddhism is that it leads to a strange feeling of both calm and excitement at the same time. If you were previously tired, you feel rejuvenated. If you couldn't sleep before, chanting for just a little bit can make you feel relaxed enough to drift finally off to sleep.

While ultimately, it's not these biomechanical changes, like stress reduction, that we're striving for but rather a more spiritual state of mind. But with one comes the other. We are one with the physical world, with our own bodies. One thing affects the other. As our spiritual selves develop, our bodies respond. And as our bodies change, our spiritual selves respond.

Buddhahood, or enlightenment, is not a fixed state or an inner destination that one strives for and one day succeeds at having attained. Buddhahood is a process, not an end-goal. There is no point at which a person can say, "I have acheived the highest possible state of life, and now I'm done." It's like happiness or any other feeling. Can a person ever say they've reached the highest level of happiness possible? We can only judge levels of happiness based on our own past experiences. In the future, we may experience greater levels of happiness than ever before.

Buddhism as a religion is a quest to develop the best methods to help us acheive the highest state of life. Being a Buddhist is a quest to discover and put these methods into practice and constantly strive to develop and grow within.

 


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