“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.