How did different people with different philosophies and ideologies attain the same enlightenment or did they not? Buddha attained enlightenment and so did Adi Shankaracharya, but their philosophies are different (not to mention ramanujacharya, nagarjuna and many others). Or is it the case that we can never really know who attains enlightenment? Well I know that there is similarity between Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta but at the core they are very different. How did they attain the same enlightenment knowing the real truth in two different ways? At least one of them is wrong.

Well some say the truth can be interpreted in different ways but if advaita says self exists and buddhism denies it there is a big problem you can't make them compatible with one another.


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Well some say the truth can be interpreted in different ways but if advaita says self exists and buddhism denies it there is a big problem you can't make them compatible with one another.

Actually when asked point-blank if there is or is not a self, the Buddha refused to answer, on the ground that either yes or no would lead to extremes of wrong views not conducive to the progress on the Path, or in worst cases, completely block the path to awakening:

"'Everything exists': That is one extreme. 'Everything doesn't exist': That is a second extreme. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle: From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering." ~~ SN 12.15 ~~

Also see Ven. Thanissaro's great essay "Questions of Skill"

  • I think this completely answers my question. So we don't we have to prove which one is right or which one is wrong just follow the middle path and everything becomes clear. Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 15:20
  • The Buddha was more of a pragmatist than an ontologist. Or as that common saying goes: "doesn't matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice".
    – santa100
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 15:23

You're absolutely right that they are only superficially appearing similar, but when you dive deep, they are completely different.

This has been discussed in numerous answers, which I will not repeat here - this answer, this answer, this answer, this answer, this answer.

The original teachings of the Buddha are systematic (the four noble truths), empirical (the three marks of existence), soteriological (the Noble Eightfold Path) and avoids intellectual gymnastics and obscure mysticism (Parable of the Poisoned Arrow, Acintita Sutta, Sabba Sutta), while Advaita is metaphysical and based on logic, philosophy and intellectual gymnastics.

For e.g. the Eternal Self as the Universal Consciousness or Cosmic Consciousness that is standalone, indivisible, eternal and witnesses through all living beings is a very elegant idea in Advaita Vedanta.

But the Buddha's empirical observation and realization is that consciousness is dependently originated on the six sensory media, and it is conditioned and impermanent (see MN 38). Even the mental idea of the self is also dependently originated, conditioned and impermanent. This can be realized generally through the Noble Eightfold Path, and specifically through vipassana.

So, which is true? If you dive deeper, you can see for yourself which is true. One is a very elegant intellectual model, while the other is empirically verifiable.

  • I understand what you say but with this background how do you explain the Jhana state of 'infinity of consciousness'? If there is a plain of infinite consciousness, it might as well have an independent existence. Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 11:32
  • @TheWhiteCloud Actually, that is a very good question to ask on Buddhism.SE. Is the plane of infinite consciousness a natural state of mind, or is it a supernatural state?
    – ruben2020
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 11:35
  • @TheWhiteCloud I will ask this.
    – ruben2020
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 11:42
  • Thanks. I will look forward to reading the answers. Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 11:49
  • @ruben2020 but isn't "empirically verifiable" subjective, making the reality different for different seeker. Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 13:17

There are different types of enlightenment. All are conditional except the one attained by Buddha. One may spend eons under bliss thinking it is nibbana but it is not unless sabbe Dhamma Anatta is realised. Philosophy of Anatta is at the core of Buddhism and realisation of it is called Nirvana... any thing else no matter how blissful wont last forever. For example one may realise I am earth and enjoy the nature of earth but it won’t last forever because it is conditional and one day earth will be all covered up by water... I do not know the nature of Adi Sankaraharyas ‘enlightenment’ but if it is not based on the idea of Anatta, it won’t last forever...suffering will return.

  • so even Nagarjuna didn't attain enlightenment and if he did certainly he knows more than the Buddha. Philosophy evolves. There are differences in Buddhism schools also, which led to Theravada and Mahayana. I'm specifically talking about these differences. Followers of both the school can attain enlightenment but is it not the case that one of the school is wrong in certain aspects. Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 6:03
  • Numerous (uncountable) beings attained Nibbana... the way it is attained might differ depending upon the nature of cravings but one underlying Truth remains same Sabbe Dhamma Anatta... Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 6:08
  • I was considering it to be a natural phenomenon like why do objects fall on earth the answer is gravity there is no other way to explain it. It's not like some numerical problem which you can solve through different approaches to arrive at the same result. There is only one approach to explain natural phenomenon and that's how i linked enlightenment to it . There is only one approach. Am i missing something here? I do not believe that different approaches will give you the same enlightenment either Theravada or Mahayana. Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 6:25
  • Is mind not a natural thing ? Have you found any insect virus or animal without mind ? Earth and consciousness are related. I will not go into the details but there is framework bigger than gravity... you are mistaken to think that all beings gravitate towards nibbana “naturally”. It takes life to understand nature of life ...that life must develop deep compassion to develop a mind capable of understanding the Truth. It is a rare privilege to be a Buddha..As you can see people are actually running away from nibbana... is that natural or unnatural ? Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 6:39
  • thanks! I think i am able to understand it a little bit more. Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 6:45

I find this answer to be comprehensive:

“5 Reasons why sabbe dhamma anatta does not apply to Nirvana or the Buddha

Here are 5 reasons why sabbe dhamma anatta does not apply to the Buddha or his enlightenment – because the Buddha himself said that:

  1. The Buddha Transcends all phenomena (Sabbābhibhū – Majjhima Nikaya 26)
  2. The Buddha is Unsullied among all things (Sabbesu dhammesu anūpalitto – Majjhima Nikaya 26)
  3. The Buddha is NOT IN all phenomena (Majjhima Nikaya 49)
  4. The Buddha is NOT all phenomena (Majjhima Nikaya 49)
  5. The Buddha has crossed over all things (Pāraguṃ sabbadhammānaṃ – Sutta Nipata 5.14 and 5.15 – this phrase appears in quite a lot of other passages)

So All “things” are not self because they are “things” and are not you. All things means “all of the phenomena that you perceive through your senses” – are perceptions and are not the perceiver – all your perceptions are not you.”

( From: https://essenceofbuddhism.wordpress.com/2016/07/23/sabbe-dhamma-anatta-did-the-buddha-really-teach-that-there-is-no-self/ )


The answer of this "in Nothingness" Go into the void of nothingness and you will find yourself, "They both were wrong, " "The both were true" The answer is beyond this

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