Archive for July, 2011

Enlightenment in Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

by David Loy

WHAT MOST distinguishes Indian from Western philosophy is that all the important Indian systems point to the same phenomenon: Enlightenment or Liberation. Enlightenment has different names in the various systems — kaivalya, nirvana, moksha, etc. — and is described in different ways, but the similarities among them are great. Perhaps the most significant is the agreement that enlightenment is intellectually incomprehensible; it cannot be understood or attained through conceptual knowledge, because it escapes all categories of thought. Hence Indian philosophy points beyond itself to a realization which transcends philosophy.

This paper will consider one crucial aspect of Indian philosophy: what happens when one attains enlightenment. The experience of attaining enlightenment is not merely one of many aspects which could be examined; it is the most critical one. It is the hinge upon which each metaphysic turns, for in each system it is enlightenment which finally and indubitably reveals the true nature of reality. I shall consider how this aspect is treated in three important Indian systems: Samkhya-Yoga, early Buddhism, and Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta

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