What Is Enlightenment?

Nancy Thompson.

The BuddhaYou know how it’s said that the Native People in the northern climates – in my childhood we called them Eskimos – have 
50 words for snow?  It’s very important to them to know the condition of the snow to make their plans for the day or the month, so they developed lots of descriptive words to note subtle differences.
 
For Buddhists, the word “enlightenment” is kind of like that. Enlightenment is the promise of the Buddhist path, and it has many synonyms – grace, basic goodness, awakening, buddhanature, ground of being, original mind. The Buddha didn’t call himself enlightened.

 

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How to Act Like an Enlightened Being

Nancy Thompson.  

Buddhist teacher Noah Levine says that everyone has buddhanature – but few choose to do the work to awaken.  And it is work. We have those glimpses of our enlightened nature all the time, but we don’t live from there.
 
Much of Buddhist practice – from the simplicity of zazen, or Zen Buddhist meditation, to the elaborate bells and drums and thangka paintings used by Tibetan Buddhists – is designed to help us get in touch with our awakened nature for longer stretches of time and to develop familiarity with that feeling – to “bake it into the bones,” as one of my teachers says – so that it becomes our default setting and we go there more easily during our ordinary lives.

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