What is Enlightenment ?


To be clear and concrete:  Enlightenment is always to something.

In science, for example, Newton was enlightened to the laws of kinetics, gravity etc, and Einstein was enlightened to the truth of relativity. The Buddha was enlightened to the universal truth: the power that moves the world, life and death and all phenomena.

Another synonym for enlightenment is “Awakening”.  It is awakening to the ‘principle of operation‘   - that life is based on, in all forms of actions and reactions (or happenings that we witness or experience in the physical and mental worlds).

Obviously, scientific awakening (to natural truths and laws) brings practical benefit. Similarly, enlightenment to the universal truth of life brings benefit. A spiritual, intellectual or mental awakening would lead to betterment of the individual’s life to the highest state possible. The benefit of enlightenment manifests itself in daily life - basically in overcoming hardships and sufferings and in bringing harmony, prosperity, wise solutions, compassionate relationships and strong life-energy. One would then necessarily experience joy of living and valuable encounters.


What is Ignorance ?

The opposite of Enlightenment is Ignorance. Ignorance of the truth (of how life operates) would necessarily manifest itself in reality in form of disharmony, conflicts, sufferings, egoism, discrimination, inferiority… and the like.

In Nichiren Buddhism, awakening to the truth (of how one’s personal life operates) is a necessary condition to transform suffering and experience happiness:

            “If you wish to free yourself from [all] sufferings …

            and attain unsurpassed enlightenment in this lifetime,

           you must perceive the mystic truth that is originally inherent in all living beings.

          This truth is [the power of the natural Law of Life (the Law of Cause and Effect)].   

                                                                                    On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime

Undeniably, if one is fully aware of the consequences of own intentions and actions, and is aware of the essence of what is going around, then one’s decisions and relationships would avoid any foolish mistake (that would lead to bad consequences, defeat, hurt, conflicts and sufferings).

An enlightened person would always choose the correct causes that would lead to beneficial effects - for self&others.  On the contrary, an ignorant person would express own mind of ignorance through speech and behaviour.  It is behaviour in the reality of daily life that reflects one’s level of mind and lifeforce.

The Power of the Law

If we observe reality, we acknowledge that it is not random - but that there are patterns, principles and laws in nature and in our life.  The energy of life manifests its power in the bond ,which links actions (of causes and conditions) to the effects displayed in reality.  Everything - physical or mental - emerges in reality because of causes, conducive conditions all leading to experienced effects.

The power of the Law of Cause and Effect operates on all levels, whether in natural phenomena or also in the way living beings behave.  Living beings are continuously making causes, which would attract consequences. This means that enlightenment to this truth (of what current causes would create events of future consequences) - is a wonderful awakening to the way how life operates.

In the history of Buddhism, the teachings of the Buddha on the truth of how life works centred on simple basic truths.  Ignorance (or denial) of the truths of how life works - this is the cause of sufferings. 

1/        The first Truth to be enlightened to is that of Impermanence, which means that everything changes and nothing remains the same. A direct application of this truth on one’s behaviour is a desire for continual growth and renewal with the passage of time and flexibility in encountering life’s events.

2/   The second truth one must be awakened to is that of Interconnectedness. The air we breath, the food we eat…etc, show the proof of our inseparability from the environment. (Ignorance to the importance of this truth would lead to destruction of self and environment). Needless to say we are products of interconnectedness in family and society through mental relationships. Ignorance of this truth activates ego-based behaviour.

3/    Thirdly: although everything changes, and all things are interdependent on each other, nevertheless the movement of life expresses Order. The world is ordered, it is not random, but follows patterns, principles and laws - which all point to the universal truth of Causes produce  relevant Effects.

In his final teachings (Lotus Sutra), the Buddha summarized all these truths that operate life - s the “Dharma” or the “Law of Reality”. The way reality manifests between our life and death, and all phenomena - can be referred to by the word Dharma.

Dharma means the teaching of the Law, or simply the Law, the Order that operates reality. The Lotus Sutra encodes this Law as:

MyohoRengeKyo:  The Universal Law of Cause and Effect.

MyohoRengeKyo is the objective power of life, operating also within the innumerable functions  in our body and mind.  In order to be awakened to this truth, Nichiren (1222–1282) indicated that one has to wholeheartedly dedicate and fuse own way of thinking to be in harmony with this objective truth of life of the universe.

To be “in harmony with” and “fuse oneself to” - is expressed by the Sanskrit word NAM. Therefore, the phrase

Nam Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo

expresses the field of awakening of the individual (microcosm) to the objective truth (macrocosm).

NamMyohoRengeKyo  is the Vibrant Energy of Enlightenment

The state of enlightenment emerges from within the individual through activities of directing one’s personal life to be in accord with the greater life of existence (the universe). 

The mind of enlightenment is also called the Buddhanature.

The Buddhanature is the field of the highest wisdom, compassion and life-energy.

Nichiren Buddhism explains that the three properties of enlightenment: wisdom, compassion and courageous actions to help others (each according to one’s situation).

The state of Enlightenment (or Buddhanature) exists in each individual as a potential or a possibility awaiting realisation. It emerges in actual reality through desire and efforts to continuously live the essence of NamMyohoRengeKyo - the vibrant energy of Enlightenment.


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Author: Safwan Darshams

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