Q. Are you enlightened? If you are, how can we believe it?
A. What matters now is not whether I am enlightened or not but whether you think that what I say makes sense in the light of Buddha’s teaching, the Sutras. If you were enlightened, you would not ask such a question since you can see whether or not I am enlightened as easily as a good maths teacher can judge how good other maths teachers are. If you are not enlightened, you can’t judge whether I am enlightened or not, no matter what I say, just as a layman who doesn’t know science cannot recognise how good a scientist is.
What I want to tell you is that you should turn your concerns to the question ‘How can I believe Buddha is enlightened?’. You should know that Buddha is not enlightened until you attain enlightenment. I mean that Buddha’s enlightenment is meaningless to you if you cannot recognise it, even if Buddha had enlightenment hundreds of times. In order to confirm Buddha’s enlightenment, you should attain enlightenment since you can’t recognise his enlightenment unless you yourself are enlightened.
We often compare Buddha to a great doctor and us sentient beings to patients suffering from an incurable disease. However great a doctor Buddha is, he is meaningless and not a great doctor to you if you are not cured of your disease by him. No matter how much good teaching Buddha delivered about how to attain enlightenment, he is not a great teacher but a just storyteller, a liar to you if you don’t grasp what he means. In other words, to believe in Buddha blindly without knowing the essence of his teaching is no better than to disgrace Buddha. Therefore, ancient masters would say, “Don’t scratch Buddha’s body”, or “Don’t make Buddha a liar”.
In order to confirm Buddha’s enlightenment, you should be doubtful about his teachings. After giving his teaching, Buddha used to say to his students, “Don’t believe what I have told you blindly. Contemplate it seriously. Accept it when it makes sense. If it doesn’t make sense, bring it back to me and ask me.”. The ability to confirm Buddha’s enlightenment is enlightenment. You should remember that Buddhism is not to believe in Buddha but to doubt him.
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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