Nichiren Buddhist Association of America

Nichiren Buddhist Association of America
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Enlightenment – The Ultimate Goal
Chapter 2
 

In order to understand Buddhism, one must first have an understanding of the ultimate goal of Buddhism. That goal is termed enlightenment. Understanding what that goal really means in concrete terms, however, is quite difficult. For now, the term “absolute happiness” may suffice. But even that is a term that is difficult to understand correctly.

In Christianity, the ultimate goal is to go to heaven after death. The Christian religion teaches that a place like heaven is the only environment in which you will ever be absolutely happy. It is based on the belief that happiness lies outside of oneself in a blissful environment in the sky where one can be ultimately happy for the rest of eternity. Buddhists assume that all people essentially have that same goal – to be happy. Almost every religion and philosophy has its own theory about how that goal will be attained. Buddhists, as opposed to Christians, believe that happiness comes from within, and therefore, absolute happiness can be obtained in the here and now. They also believe that ultimate enlightenment, or Buddhahood, contains the universal truth of life and 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.

Enlightenment is not simply existing peacefully in a state of mind where you are not unhappy and yet are not elated either. There is another term for that which we will discuss later. Enlightenment is unmistakable, unshakable, undeniable, invigorating happiness and confidence. It is difficult to explain such a feeling to people who have never experienced it before. It’s like trying to explain what chocolate tastes like to someone who has never had it. You can tell them it’s sweet, and they may even think they understand, but you know that they can only relate to what they have tasted in the past, which is probably not even close to how good chocolate really tastes.

To further try to explain the feeling of enlightenment, we have decided to quote an explanation that we think is good: “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.” (Nichiren xxxi From the Introduction by Soka Gakkai)

This is the goal of Buddhism. This is enlightenment.


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