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
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.