In any field, we don't try to attain a specific goal, because - then what?
I don't think that "no specific goal" is true of medicine, for example. If I go to my doctor with any complaint (for example, a complaint about my shoulder), then there is a specific goal.
Similarly I suspect that Buddhism has a specific goal: its goal is the third noble truth i.e. cessation.
I think that the word "enlightenment" focuses on a rainbow - something that does not exist.
To an extent that's true, but maybe that's a good thing.
I.e. everything which exists is "conditioned": for example a feeling, a person, a table, a mountain "exist because of" (or "dependently co-arise with") this and that, and will cease to exist when those conditions change (all things are conditioned and impermanent and unsatisfactory).
Whereas "enlightenment" is supposed to be none of the above: i.e. it's unconditioned, timeless, and satisfactory.
In other words, is it better to stop thinking about "how to get to 'it' " and just get on with life?
I think that at least some elementary Buddhist doctrine is helpful with its generic advice about "how".
You wouldn't tell doctors just to get on with treating patients, without teaching doctors "how" to do that.
You teach them skills ("wash your hands") and useful theories or views (for example, about "germs").
If I understand you, I think you are saying that the word enlightenment means something like "what is happening now", a verb rather than a noun?
Hmm, grammar. Do you know the word "reify"? I suspect that grammar encourages us to do that: "enlightenment", "love", "pain", "I" and so on are nouns and pronouns.
You're thinking maybe it should be seen as a verb?
How about seeing it as an adjective instead?
Instead of seeing "a dog" see "a location or a being with dog-nature" or "dog-like properties" or "dogginess".
Instead of seeing "enlightenment" (noun) or "enlightening" (verb) how about seeing "enlightened" (adjective)?
Note that enlightenment is characterized as an absence or negative:
- Not conditioned, not unsatisfactory, not impermanent
- Not ignoble (nor base, vulgar, common, or unprofitable)
- Out-blown, extinguished (like a blown-out candle)
- Cessation or liberation (from suffering)
- Dis-identification (contrast with Hindu nirvana which is 'identification with God')
- Absence of defilements (kleshas)
Talking about it prolongs ignorance, perhaps?
Maybe you're right.
Going back to the doctor-and-medicine analogy, maybe "health" can be defined as "absence of any disease" (like "enlightenment" is "absence of any defilement").
I don't go to the doctor to talk about "health"; instead I only go to:
- Talk about specific disease
- Talk about lifestyle habits/skills (e.g. diet and exercise) to avoid disease
The doctor has (in my experience) nothing much to say about health itself. For example I would go for a yearly check-up and once the doctor said (part-jokingly), "You're very healthy. Go away: I don't want to see you again for another two or three years."