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From my understanding of awakening (and also according to answers here like Is it possible to become UNenlightened?), it is an irreversible process. It makes sense in theory as, once one awakens, realises the way out of all the dukkha, it's such a wonderful state. Why would one replace it with anything else?

It is told that Great Zen Master Seung Sahn has reached awakening in 1949. However, later on in life, Master Sahn has had sexual relationships with students, which he publicly admitted and did two repentance ceremonies. Even though it seems that the affairs had not been hurtful to the students, the first thing which comes to my mind is: in order to engage in sexual relationship, one must have some lust - some unsatisfactoriness or dukkha - which contradicts the state of nibbana.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this matter? Some of possible explanations that I can think of:

  1. Is it possible that engaging in sexual relationships was what the situation requested, that it was right-action? After all, precepts are guidelines and, if situation requires so, they are ought to be broken. If so, why did Mater Sahn do repentance ceremonies? Was it also right-action?
  2. Perhaps different buddhist traditions lead to different state of nibbana. I am relatively new to buddhism and all the traditions so I don't quite understand if this is even possible? (though I doubt it)
  3. It is possible to become "un-awaken" after all?
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Perhaps different buddhist traditions lead to different state of nibbana

Even within one tradition there are different stages or degrees of enlightenment -- see for example Four stages of enlightenment.

I think that this answer implies that the "awakening" which you quoted, i.e. ...

According to his book Dropping Ashes on the Buddha, he came to the understanding that “the rocks, the river, everything he could see, everything he could hear, all this was his true self. All things are exactly as they are. The truth is just like this.” In 1949, at the age of twenty-two, he attained enlightenment. This was confirmed by the great Korean Zen Master Ko Bong, who gave Zen Master Seung Sahn “inka” or transmission of the dharma. Ko Bong’s transmission publicly certified and authenticated Zen Master Seung Sahn’s enlightenment experience, giving him the authority to teach and train students.

Following his enlightenment experience, Zen Master Seung Sahn spent three years in silence, strengthening his Zen practice. He then became active in etc.

... is not "complete enlightenment".

I think there are instances of misbehaviour -- a teacher having affairs with students is not unheard of -- some people (or groups) even claim that's a good thing, getting over inhibitions or something, maybe Tantric justification, I don't know. To quote one example (and maybe not the best example):

On this level, if we are capable of seeing something pure in every human being, our sexual lives can be tools to create enormous joy. If it happens on the level of purity, if we have respect for each other, if we experience ourselves and others on a beyond-personal level, then enlightened energies can move and we learn something in the process—it’s totally amazing!

Others (outside the group, or ex-group-members) may condemn it (e.g. as exploitative ... or perhaps as hedonistic). See also "Celibacy in the Vinaya" in this article, Celibacy in Buddhism.

I read once -- see here -- that there may be quite a difference between what different people or different schools perceive as enlightened or nearly-enlightened or perhaps blameless behaviour (but beware that summary may be wrong, based on a misunderstanding, not well-explained, etc.).

Also (to get back to the question) I think that different schools may have slightly different doctrines about what nibbana is and whether it is (once attained) permanent. Instead of speculating, or "going by reports", perhaps it's important to experience for yourself what is "skilful", effective (what are the results of this or that), and ethical.

  • Worth mentioning regarding Tantra and Vajrayana that Vajrayana is not a path of renunciation, thus practitioners are not forbidden from sexual intercourse in any way. Furthermore, Nyingma tradition even advise that true practitioner should at least have a wife, as it leads to greater liberation so on. – user13383 Aug 2 '18 at 19:37
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Only an enlightened being can truely comment on spiritual attainment of other being, so its not possible for people here to tell honestly what must have happened with the master.

From what I know, Nibbana is not reversible, it is permenant. If he fell back, then may be he did not actually attain enlightenment. People have all sorts of spiritual experiences which they confuse as enlightenment.

If he did repentance ceremony, then AFAIK I don't think he was enlightened.

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Theravada Buddhist answer.

  1. Is it possible that engaging in sexual relationships was what the situation requested, that it was right-action? After all, precepts are guidelines and, if situation requires so, they are ought to be broken. If so, why did Mater Sahn do repentance ceremonies? Was it also right-action?

I cannot give a satisfying answer to that question, other than if Master Sahn chose to do repentance ceremonies, he must have regarded some actions as being non-right actions.

  1. Perhaps different buddhist traditions lead to different state of nibbana. I am relatively new to buddhism and all the traditions so I don't quite understand if this is even possible? (though I doubt it).

There is only one Nibbana. Nibbana is not made or created. It does not arise, perish or undergo transformation. It is uncaused, unconditioned and timeless.

Nibbana is an existing reality that yogis can discover by following the Noble Eight Fold Path, as expounded by the Buddha.

  1. It is possible to become "un-awaken" after all?

It is not. Once the lower and higher fetters (chains, bonds) have been broken, they cannot return or reestablish themselves. They are gone for good. If you pull garden weeds and remove all traces of the plant, roots etc., it cannot grow back.

The Buddha declared final knowledge thus:

"Destroyed is birth, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more for this state of being” (meaning; no more wandering in Samsara).

-- SN 153,8: Is There A Method?, p. 1214 - Bodhi, Trans.

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