What does it mean to be enlightened? Surely, it has nothing to do with knowing the answer to every question. Enlightenment has nothing to do with knowledge. It has more to do with asking the right questions from the very start. To know something, anything, you must have not known it at some point in the past. So seeking knowledge has to do with some kind of quest to become more aware of what is going on. All seekers begin their search for God by reading books, or studying under a guru. It all starts with ideas, with abstract notions of what enlightened life would be like if I had it. Or, does it start with that initial experience of something beyond words… something that can’t ever be known because it can’t ever be expressed without contradiction using words? So the seeker experiences God spontaneously, then begins a knowledge quest to explain the original, transitory experience in terms of what can be known. Seekers want to know God, so they search for a medium of expression that could encompass the ultimate. Eventually, they come to find that God cannot be conceptualized. God’s wisdom can’t be translated into English, it can only be lived. So what then? One must stop seeking. But what is left? What, in short, is enlightenment? Would anyone who were enlightened still speak of it as though it were some higher state of attainment? What has been attained? What does a Buddha know that a seeker does not? If enlightenment is not knowledge, it can’t be much… so what’s the difference?
Originally posted Nov. 28, 2006