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According to the suttas, the then Bodhisatta Gotama discovered by himself that ascetic practices of his contemporary India were not enough (or were even wrong) to attain complete enlightenment. Then, after trying his own methods and intuitions, he reached Nibbana.

However, many so-called saint men from other religions and traditions are said to have reached enlightenment in their own terms and according to their own definitions of enlightenment. We even have people within Buddhism itself claiming to have awaken, but still showing signs of craving and unethical behavior.

Considering what I've written, why should we deposit our trust, time and effort in the Buddhadhamma, when there are so many other practioners assuring that they have reached their ultimate goals following their own practices?

The most common argument for following the teachings of the Buddha is that when put in practice by ourselves we'll see how effective and accurate the teachings, analyses and practices actually are. But the same can be said about most other religions. We have a lot of examples of men and women through history telling stories and personal experiences of feeling the supreme love of god, or attaining Moksha, or becoming one with the Universe, and so on.

Can you help me to find new perspectives to solve this problem?

Thanks for your time!

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The Buddha's teaching are unique in certain respects but their essential message is found in teachings from all over the world throughout history. The reason why so many claim enlightenment is that it is and always has been available to those who seek it. Were it otherwise the Buddha could not have become a buddha. There have been countless buddhas.

So there is no problem raise by the many people who have claimed or been assigned enlightenment and wisdom. One would not need to be a Buddhist. It seems that the Buddha delved deeper and wider than most and there is no doubt he was a unique teacher, but we find the same essential message hidden in the Philokalia, the Corpus Hermeticum, the Upanishads, the Tao Teh Ching, the teachings of Al-Halaj and Rumi, the Kabbalah and elsewhere, the same claims of transcendence, no-self, formlessness and so forth.

Beautiful Painted Arrow, a shaman of the Pueblo Indians, writes that in his tradition there are two states of consciousness available to human beings. In translation these are 'Believing we exist' and 'Awakened awareness'. Those who attain the latter state would claim some form of enlightenment regardless of whether they have heard of Buddhism. Truth is universal and the facts are the same for everybody.

Enlightened beings are not uncommon but the Buddha is usually considered to trump most of them for his depth of understanding, knowledge and communication skills. If there were no claims of enlightenment from anyone but the Buddha then his teachings would be implausible and contradictory. He teaches that enlightenment is our birthright.

It is up to each of us as students to assess the claims of all these teachers and 'saints' and examining the level of agreement between them would be a good indication of their knowledge. The diversity of these 'saints', once we have sorted the wheat from the chaff, is not a problem but a proof of the Dhamma. The Buddha was not a Buddhist when he attained his complete enlightenment.

EDIT: The story as I have heard it is that while with his father he was instructed by Brahmins. Later, from Arada Kalama, who had three hundred disciples, he learned how to discipline his mind to enter the sphere of nothingness. Though Arada Kalama asked him to remain and teach as an equal, he recognized that this was not liberation and left. Next he learned how to enter the concentration of mind which is neither consciousness nor unconsciousness from Udraka Ramaputra. But neither was this liberation and he left his second teacher.

  • The Buddha was a Sammasambuddha which means he attained arahantship on his own. Whoever follows his teachings are Buddhists – TheDBSGuy Dec 11 '18 at 18:12
  • Well articulated, Upvoted. – Krizalid_13190 Dec 12 '18 at 3:37
  • @TheDBSGuy -I added an edit. – PeterJ Dec 12 '18 at 10:42
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I read the book "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle years ago and was impressed by it. After studying Buddhism, I came to discover that what Eckhart Tolle achieved was probably (I speculate) only the first or second level of jhana - the experience of bliss, rapture and the impermanent silencing of mind-noise. Many self-proclaimed saints probably claim to become enlightened after achieving some level of jhana.

Then there are others who claim enlightenment after acquiring some psychic abilities through meditation. You can find examples of teleportation by saints in Paramahansa Yogananda's book "Autobiography of a Yogi", which can also be found in the Buddhist suttas. In Buddhism, we find that this is no proof of enlightenment.

Apart from these, there are also some smart, eloquent and nicely-dressed persons who claim some degree of enlightenment, and give witty answers and lucid advice to the public like Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, who you can find on YouTube. He claimed that his spiritual teacher never spoke to him but simply touched him with his walking stick, and transferred wisdom to him in that way.

There are some reasons why I find the Buddha's original teachings as found in the Pali Canon (or Mahayana Agamas) to be much superior.

Firstly, the Buddha's teachings are often in greater depth than most other teachings. For e.g. I can see that Eckhart Tolle's teachings possibly only result in entering the first jhana, whereas the Buddha's teachings are immensely more vast.

Secondly, the Buddha's teachings and techniques are all open, well-published and well-reasoned. We can easily see what samatha and vipassana techniques are for. There is nothing that is hidden or esoteric. On the other hand, in Yogananda's book and in teachings by other Hindu meditation gurus, they often choose to hide details claiming that without a teacher's direct guidance, the intermediate and advanced techniques could be dangerous to practitioners. These techniques are also often esoteric or tantric and it's hard to see why they are useful.

Thirdly, the Buddha's teachings are often lucid, clear and obvious. Some teachers claim that some object or ritual has supernatural vibrations that practitioners cannot question, but the Buddha does not proclaim such things. For e.g. the Buddha encountered a Brahmin who believed water ablution rituals can wash away sins, and advised him that ablution in the shore of virtues will wash away his sins and not using water.

Fourthly, I find that the Buddha's teachings are more related to my own experience than other teachings. For e.g. in Hinduism, we often hear of a universal consciousness that is the eternal silent witness through every being. However, from the Buddha's teachings, we learn about eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, mind-consciousness etc. and how consciousness is not separated from one's senses - which is more in tune with our observation.

Fifthly, almost all other religious teachings have an eternal self or soul in them, both in people and in a God. However, the Buddha appears to be the first to teach anatta, in which the self is neither eternal nor non-existent, but rather, arising out of the complex interaction of the five aggregates, as how music arises from the inter-working of different parts of a musical instrument. This is very unique and also in tune with our observation.

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    Most of all, enlightenment in Theravada Buddhism is the eradication of lust, hatred and delusion not some blissful feeling like the jhana or worldling wisdom that I think some Hindu gurus might have. I agree with your answer. Upvoted – TheDBSGuy Dec 17 '18 at 16:31
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The Buddha said his path was the only path that can absolutely end suffering because he discovered self-view is suffering & his path is the ending of self-view. Therefore, it you can prove self-view is not suffering then you can disprove the Buddha-Dhamma.

For example, if you believe in God and when hardship occurs in life (such as poverty, loss, sickness, death, etc) you truly 100% believe this hardship event is 'God's will'; this belief can free the mind of suffering however not because there is a god but because the mind frees itself of 'self-view' by invoking the will of God rather than the will of self.

As for other paths, generally they are illogical because their liberation is not permanent. For example, Taoist, Hindu & Mahayana paths of 'non-thinking' cannot be true liberation because life cannot be lived 100% without thinking.

MN 43 refers to four types of liberation, such as liberation of loving-kindness, liberation of the themeless, liberation of nothingness and liberation of emptiness of self (sunatta). MN 43 says the liberation of emptiness of self is the foremost.

The Buddha's liberation is the destruction of craving & self-view. This liberation is possible for 100% of a lifetime.

  • The Buddha’s liberation is the destruction of the 10 fetters and suffering. – TheDBSGuy Dec 11 '18 at 16:18
  • but still I upvoted this answer – TheDBSGuy Dec 11 '18 at 18:17
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    If you debate with (or against) an opponent, I think a Straw man is a caricature of the other's thesis, a caricature that's easy to refute, e.g., "Other doctrines teach non-thinking, which is a stupid doctrine compared to mine." Perhaps there's a grain of truth in it, e.g. the straw man vaguely resembles the real man somehow, but. I called it a "straw man" because that's how you're using it. I say it's "straw" because the little I've read of Mahayana (not to mention the Heart Sutra) doesn't teach non-thinking -- and, practitioners of Mahayana – ChrisW Dec 19 '18 at 6:44
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    (who, I assume, know it better than you or I) dispute the characterisatons, don't recognise their doctrines in your description. So IMO if someone wants a reliable account of what Mahayana doctrines are, maybe better to not read your ('straw') descriptions of those. If I were to post a question like, Is Mahayana a path of "non-thinking"? Because I get that impression from the Heart Sutra., then I guess an answer would be along the lines of "no". Changing the subject, IDK about the Heart Sutra, perhaps it's an attempt to depict one of the Unconjecturables, ie. the range of a Buddha. – ChrisW Dec 19 '18 at 6:44
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    @ChrisW - Excellent comments. If only everybody adopted your approach and actually did the research. . – PeterJ Jan 29 at 11:15
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The short answer: Follow what resonates with you most. The Dharma has always been within, but not everyone has the vision to see it through at a given time and space.

To elaborate, and in my humble personal opinion, the reason why Buddha's dharma resonates with one is all due to one's wisdom accumulated over his/her many past lives, which also reflects the maturity of their respective paramis. (Paramis are the skillful qualities that applies to all sentient beings). So even if you understand the Dharma well, doesn't mean other's can.

As Buddhist, we have to be mindful of forcing one's belief onto others (Who is right or who is wrong). The ability to realize the truths of the Dharma varies from one person to another. The only things we can control are our very own minds and actions, we cannot control other's. If someone is ready, whether they have a religion or not, they will eventually seek answers from different beliefs and philosophies.

  • Thanks for your answer and time! Implicit in your answer is the thought of the Buddha-Dhamma being superior to other traditions and practices; "buddhists" follow the Buddha because of their spiritual maturity. Why could other religions said the same thing about their traditions? – Brian Díaz Flores Dec 11 '18 at 3:19
  • Hi, just to clarify I did not mean "Superior" in any conceit sense. Again we cannot control what other's claim; every religion is free to say what they believe but it is up to you to contemplate what resonates with you. It's to distinguish blind faith from belief. If a person blindly follows any religion, even Buddhism, they won't achieve much. – Krizalid_13190 Dec 11 '18 at 3:57
  • About the parami maturity, imagine it as a marathon and it's not about who is better but who takes the effort to go forward. – Krizalid_13190 Dec 11 '18 at 3:59
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There are few people who were spontaneously and suddenly become enlightened. In the past more people enlightened suddenly and without any practise because people's mind was less corrupted. Also in Buddha's time people was getting enlightened during listening dhamma talks. The reason for this sudden awakenings can be the meditation practise that done by these people in their past lives.

There are gurus and teachers in the world who have actually achieved enlightenment. Most of them are Sakadagamis(Once-Returner) which means they have great wisdom, continous peace of mind, they are detached/disidentified from their mind states and they are egoless. Many of these gurus investigated Buddhism and applied Buddhist teachings in their spiritual practise before they achieved Enlightenment and also they teach their disciples the Buddhist teachings because Buddhism gives humanity the best spiritual knowledge of all times.

In the past many people who were practising and teaching mindfulness and meditation (like Rumi) had to pretend to be in a particular belief system otherwise they would not be accepted by their societies and they would probably wouldn't live very long.

There are also many gurus, teachers who are just lying and manipulating people but this is a very normal thing in the human world.

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