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Mar 10

The Stages of Enlightenment

In Theravada Buddhism there are four stages of enlightenment. They were originally couched in the language of how many more lifetimes one would at most need to reach Nirvana, along with the psychological descriptions of each state. We can dispense with reincarnation nonsense and just stick to the psychological descriptions of enlightenment. They are often described as different paths, the 1st path is the first stage of enlightenment, the second path is the second stage of enlightenment and so on.

 

1st path:  One is no longer deceived by perceptions of self, and self-existent reality outside the mind. There is less attachment, less suffering, less craving , more inner peace, more love, more generosity. Obtained through the direct experience that the reality we see is largely a manifestation of our mind. The most common event that triggers this insight is called a cessation.

What is a cessation? A cessation is an event  that occurs during meditation where the mind completely shuts off and reboots. Consciousness disappears, and then reappears. This is often referred to as a ‘blip’. A cessation deeply imprints into the mind that the reality we see has always been at least in part a creation of our own mind, including our sense of self.

2nd Path: Desire and aversion, while not completely extirpated, have vastly diminished and only appear when tired, or unmindful, and are easily overcome when they do arise with a little mindfulness.

3rd Path: One becomes completely and totally free from the compulsions of desire and aversion and their manifestations — greed, hatred, anger, jealousy, and sadness.

4th Path: The meditator has completely overcome the conceit and restlessness associated with “I” and has put an end to suffering.

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