Thomas Cleary uses the term "enlightening being" extensively in his translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra. This term isn't defined in the glossary of that book, or in my copy of The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Is there a canonical definition of "enlightening being"?

Edit: Thanks useful comments by @ChrisW and @KayCee, I see in Appendix 1 "bodhisattva or enlightening being". I'm finding it helpful to read this Appendix before returning to the Introduction.

3 Answers 3


That's Cleary's translation of "bodhisattva":

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Compare that with this translation:

The Four Holy Truths

At that time, Manjushri Bodhisattva Mahasattva told all the Bodhisattvas: “All of you Disciples of the Buddha, in this Saha world, the Holy Truth of Suffering is

  • 2
    If I may give a personal experience as the person who proofread that volume for Shambhala Publications: from over 50 years in book publishing, including management, I can say there is no proofreader who does not miss typos and other errors. It is a question of being unable to maintain consistent mindfulness throughout the whole proofing job, especially with such a lengthy text consisting of almost hypnotically repetitious wording; at times I felt that reading it was putting me into an altered state. I ask forgiveness for any errors I was responsible for. Back when that book was published, type
    – KayCee
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 8:37
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    ...typesetting was not done as it is today, from the author's disk, so errors were introduced by the keyboarded. Cleary also proofread his own books. I felt that enlightening being meant a being in the process of getting enlightened, but the meaning is slightly ambiguous. @Paul
    – KayCee
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 8:40
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    @KayCee It is a bit ambiguous, isn't it: I read "enlightening" in that context as intended to mean, "a being who enlightens"! Also the word "Bodhisattva" is more familiar now than a translation into English.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 8:52
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    I don't agree bodhisattva is more common now; more books on Buddhism are pub'd now. I believe Cleary deliberately translated certain words to express his understanding, not because he thought bodhisattva was an unfamiliar word. I have never had the impression that a bodhisattva enlightens others in the sense of doing things to enlighten them, the way I imagine a fully enlightened (in Mahayana sense) Buddha does. The bodhisattva aspires to enlightenment in order to lead others to enlightenment, which can be best done as a Buddha.
    – KayCee
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 9:03
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    Sorry for errors, I am not good at writing on my phone.
    – KayCee
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 9:05

A Bodhisatta, good householder, is by nature an non-awakened being, is by nature of Bodhisattahood a worldling and by nature not even a Saint (Ariya-puggala). Someone still strong attached to the world, busy with it, still with huge debts.

It's by practicing the Dhamma rightly, cutting away all craving by uprooting Avijja, not-knowing, that there is full awakening: "task is done, no more further for this world".

One of the first stage of Awakening has got a view on what release means.

As for details on the qualities of awakened persons of the 4 kinds, sure the table, generous given by Bhante Nyanadassana, is very usefull to get more into details: Mental Fetters, etc. Abandoned by Each Path-Knowledge

To take a little on a case like in the "Sutra" quoted in another answer. If it is the case that somebody has firm faith into the Sublime Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha (the non-fake-one) and has heared the good (not-corrupted) Dhamma of the Arahats, even if not gained awakening yet, has firm faith in this Dhamma, or investigated if in ways that he approves totally, such a person can not leave this present existance before gaining awakening of the first stage, see it for himself. They are often called "low stream-enter". If one likes to call such a person, let's say a serious "Buddhist", Bodhisatta, in this context such would be valid.

It's not possible that someone, having gained the conditions for awakening, heared the Dhamma and aware of the Gems, and not stupid or grave corrupted, would turn on bond to Samsara, stay a worldling after on. For he is already bond to full Awakening within max. 7 further lifes, 3 paths, 4 fruits.

And what is the good Dhamma of the Arahats, which binds beings toward liberation?

'Just' this The Four Noble Truths (cattari ariya saccani)

[Note that this isn't given for stacks, exchange, what ever else worldbinding trade, but for escape from this wheel]


Enlighten beings are those who have faith in supreme dhamma, got the sword of knowledge from it, with extreme dispassion, cut asunder the root of evil(birth, maya). Then cutting the tree of samsara with its root, the sword becomes one with itself. Verily end of pain. This is fading away of arhat with trace(embers) But there are those who do Tapas like Rishis and Munis disenchanted with even with trace of embers, take a sword of dispassion within and remain in solitude for long time, beg food for only keeping life force, burn away even the trace. They are called supreme enlightened beings. Arhat without a trace. Here Tapas mean 'to burn' by sword of detachment with inward looking intellect and not as self mortification, as generally understood.

  • Same quote can be found in Bibles:. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With that burn down the root of evil. Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 4:01

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