General Question

tinyfaery's avatar

Are those who insist they are wise wise? Are those that claim enlightenment enlightened?

Asked by tinyfaery (36079 points ) December 21st, 2010

As far as I know, enlightenment (in the Buddhist sense) comes from destruction of the ego. The most egotistical thing someone can say is that they are enlightened, wise, or somehow superior in their thinking. All of the people I know that claim such a status are the most priggish, self-centered, close-minded individuals I have ever met.

A few quotes:

“An Enlightened Master is ideal only if your goal is to become a Benighted Slave.”
Robert Anton Wilson

“Enlightened people seldom or never possess a sense of responsibility.”
George Orwell

“Egotism: The art of seeing in yourself what others cannot see.”
George V. Higgins

Well, what do you think? Can you explain to me how someone claiming to be special and better than others, or what have you, has sublimated the ego enough to claim enlightenment?

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70 Answers

kess's avatar

Very arrongant remarks indeed….

The test is quite simple….

Can one who has no clue what enlightenment is stand to judge one who is claimimg such?

You must walk the walk before you can judge the talk.
So whether they are right or wrong , who are those who can judge?

Most follow popular opinions

Randy's avatar

Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Words can be taken in many different ways. It’s actions that tell you about a person.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t think about enlightenment in Buddhist terms. I don’t believe enlightenment is about destruction of the ego or suffering or leaving the world behind. For some people, destroying their ego or anything else I mentioned might be a way to enlightenment but there are many roads to that destination.

tinyfaery's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir So how do you mean if and when you say you are enlightened?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@psychocandy I would say, in all seriousness, that I am somewhat enlightened. When I say this, I mean I am connected to myself and others in a genuine way – I do not avoid light or darkness within or outside. I can question everything and everyone. I have chosen a life path for myself and that life path has to do with love, justice and teaching life to my children – I recognize that my life path isn’t everyone’s and every life path (that doesn’t bring harm) is just as valid. Because I don’t believe in gods, I don’t believe enlightenment has anything to do with the human construction of divinity. I do think many people’s idea of enlightenment has a lot to do with recognizing we are all connected and so are our histories. I agree.

BoBo1946's avatar

All I know, I don’t know much. The older I get, the less I know! If that is enlightment, I’ve a bright light.

tinyfaery's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir You have described self-awareness. I believe that I am very self-aware (not completely, that’s another superlative I would never apply to myself), but I wold never say I am enlightened. Enlightened implies that you have reached the goal and are no longer in need of learning or experiencing in order to attain the goal of enlightenment, which, IMO, is the least enlightened thing anyone can ever say.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

There are those who are wise,then there are those who are otherwise.;)
Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance- Sun Tzu

tinyfaery's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille Uh…do you know who Sun Tzu is? Enlightened? I think not.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@psychocandy I really think we are going off different concepts of enlightenment. I don’t think it’s only self-awareness, it’s also other awareness – it’s the post historical condition after Hegel’s object and subject do their little dance and become one. I think learning never ends but that recognition and enlightenment can come at any point. It’s not like we only get one single point of enlightenment per lifetime.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
tinyfaery's avatar

So you are saying enlightenment is not a state of being? So one can be enlightened in one respect but not another? So, claiming enlightenment should be modified with what one is enlightened about? Again, anyone claiming to be enlightened, without the modifier, is talking out of there ass.

And may I remind you that saying you are aware of others comes from what you believe, which is not necessarily true.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@psychocandy I think enlightenment can be a part of one’s state of being. I think one can’t be enlightened about all things simultaneously and can become enlightened further. When I speak of enlightenment, I try to only speak from my perspective, that is my modifier. And yes, I am aware that it comes from what I believe only but since I question everything and everyone, including myself and my perceptions, I allow for every possibility that I can be wrong about people. The specifics don’t matter to me, the daily grind, this man or that girl breaking my heart – it’s about seeing the patterns people fall into and about seeing how we are placed in re: our surroundings, our environment and our planet as well as the universe. (Also, I feel like I’m on the defensive here…can we just talk normally?)

BoBo1946's avatar

Do not think you will necessarily be aware of your own enlightenment.
Dogen

Enlightenment must come little by little – otherwise it would overwhelm.
Idries Shah

marinelife's avatar

I do not think that people who proclaim themselves wise are, nor are enlightened people likely to say so.

tinyfaery's avatar

I’m not being offensive. I’m just trying to understand where superiority fits into all this. Why claim to be enlightened or wise? Is it to make oneself seem superior or to put others down? When someone says “one day you’ll be enlightened” or “if you were enlightened you would get ABC”, I can’t help but think these people are not really what they say they are. Why would the enlightened need others to know what they are?

To me it’s like those who constantly talk about how intelligent they are or how they are a freaks. If you are any of those things others will recognize it without you having to point it out all the time.

BoBo1946's avatar

@psychocandy I know where you coming from…. don’t think you ever know that! After all, one morning you wake up and say, “I’m enlightened!” Don’t think so.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@psychocandy I don’t think superiority has anything to do with enlightenment just like I don’t think destruction of ego does – these are base human emotions & urges and to me enlightenment is about a kind of detachment (while participating and helping) humanity. As to the people who say those things (not that I’ve ever head anyone say anything like that), well you can tell them to shove it up their enlightened ass. That being said, there is a difference between recognition of something within yourself and bragging or needing others to hear it. A wise (a person I consider wise) Muslim friend of mine once said ‘my relationship with god isn’t about other people so it never has to be out in the open; what I do behind closed doors is enough for god and for me.’ – it’s like that with enlightenment.

1alpha1's avatar

In their sphere they can consider themselves to be anything they want. From the prospect of others they would have to contribute verifiable information relating to being wise and enlighten.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I like @lucillelucillelucille‘s answer, and I often live it.

I know what I know, and I try not to be bashful about discussing it, but I make no claims to wisdom or enlightenment. It seems to me foolish and hubristic in the extreme to do so. As soon as I try to don a mantle of ‘wisdom’ or ‘enlightenment’ or ‘intelligence’ is when I’ll slip on a banana peel in front of the very audience that I’m trying to impress. I don’t try to impress much any more.

“I yam what I yam.”
– Popeye the Sailor Man

tinyfaery's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Our discussion is interesting, but ultimately has no bearing on the question. I am talking about people who claim (who openly state, a lot) to be enlightened or wise. If you make no claims but believe you possess a certain sensibility then you are not who I am talking about.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@psychocandy Fair enough. Let me refocus: Those who insist (in a repetitive manner) that they’re wise probably aren’t. However, I do believe it’s possible for an enlightened person (not the people you describe) to be aware of their enlightenment.

flutherother's avatar

If you were wise it wouldn’t be wise to insist you were.

tigerlilly2's avatar

Buddha claimed that he ‘gained’ enlightenment. Enlightenment is a ‘realization’ of sorts. Your mind is on a different plane. Buddha gained his enlightenment through meditation. I don’t think claiming you have gained enlightenment is an arrogant statement, but rather a factual one. If you have you have and others shouldn’t judge because of that but just accept it.

Coloma's avatar

While total transcendence of ego is, the highest level of ‘enlightenment’, very few of us will ever arrive and remain in that state of being.

I have experienced many awakenings and am quite aware of when my ego wants to get a stranglehold on me, but…another use of this term, the one I prefer, is that ‘enlightenment’ is really the recognition that there is no separate ‘self’, no separation, all life is the ONE life.

One can recognize and feel this truth on a deep level and still need to pay attention to their ego, which desires to keep the condition of a separate entity alive and well. ;-)

So I think one can say they are ‘enlightened’ in the sense of the deep recognition of the totality of everything and not be egotistical in that statement.

That would, simply, be a fact because it IS a fact!

Most of us will cycle in and out of varying levels of consciousness and unconsciousness, the important part is in developing enough self awareness to see and catch the trickster of ego which is highly conditioned and always lurking on the stealth. lol

tinyfaery's avatar

“I don’t think claiming you have gained enlightenment is an arrogant statement, but rather a factual one. If you have you have and others shouldn’t judge because of that but just accept it.”

So any fascist, murderer or idiot can claim enlightenment and we should all accept it as fact? :/

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@psychocandy While that, too, is a good point – there is no way to prove enlightenment one way or another, is there? That’s why it’s not about other people, that’s why it’s not necessary to tell others one way or another

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tigerlilly2's avatar

@psychocandy If they feel they are enlightened then it is not my place to question them. You cannot prove or disprove it so to each their own. It is factual, to them. And it matters not to me whether they are or not. Their belief’s will not reflect on me in any way.

tinyfaery's avatar

@tigerlilly2 Then enlightenment has no meaning and does not exist.

@Coloma: @Simone_De_Beauvoir already made those points. I am asking about that those that constantly need to state that they are enlightened and use it as a means to invalidate and be condescending to others.

Coloma's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir

No, there is not, and to try and prove it would be egoic. lol

One can only share their experiences, however..the proof is in the pudding.
A fully enlightened person would show their enlightenment by their actions..or, more importantly, lack of REACTION! haha

The less emotionally reactive one is the more one can assume some degree of enlightenment.

Hey…with conditioning and ego what it is, if you catch yourself, even ONE time a day, that’s progress!

@psychocandy

I’d say that might be a fair statement.
If someone feels the need to constantly validate themselves in any area it is usually a sign of low self esteem, not enlightenment.

tinyfaery's avatar

“The less emotionally reactive one is the more one can assume some degree of enlightenment.”

Interesting that what you consider as an assumption of enlightenment is also the main characteristic of a sociopath—which is one of my huge points. Once someone claims why they are enlightened and uses it as a way to distinguish themselves from others, enlightenment is the last thing I assume about a person.

Coloma's avatar

@psychocandy

Well…sociopaths have many other behaviors that set themselves apart from a non-reactive ‘enlightened’ person. Namely lack of empathy and compassion.

A sociopath reacts with cruelty and coldness, an ‘enlightened’ person would be non-reactive from a place of compassion and refusal to enable further unconsciousness in another.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@psychocandy Couldn’t we then say Buddhism encourages sociopathy?

Coloma's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir

Not even close.

It encourages peace, inner and outter, not cold dismissal and cruelty.

To refuse to engage in argument or angst propegates peace and dismisses causing suffering for all parties involved.

BoBo1946's avatar

When I think of the term enlightenment, the thoughts which come to my mind are those of love, peace, inner harmony, respect, and freedom. I am aware that as I operate in a manner that is in keeping with the manifestation of my highest purpose I will become increasingly enlightened. So to me, the fulfillment of my highest purpose and the achievement of enlightenment go hand-in-hand, without saying.

One state creates the other-they are not separate. I have come to realize weakness occurs in me only when I am operating in a way that is inconsistent to the fulfillment of my highest purpose-when I am feeling separate from mankind, separate from the flow of the universe. I am aware that everyday I must choose to forgive, to accept, and to share love and knowledge if I wish to achieve enlightenment and be ‘in the flow’. I have found that as I give these gifts freely to myself and others that miracles occur. So I invite you to step inside the flow of the universe, to find yourself there thriving, pleasuring in your own strength, bathing the beauty of the world around you. Once you find yourself inside the flow you will never feel alone and you will receive all the insight, love, and energy that we all need.

JG

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Coloma I didn’t think ‘not reacting’ meant dismissal and cruelty.

Coloma's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir

To a sociopath it does.

Coloma's avatar

@BoBo1946

Well said!

Yes, a good barometer of the more ‘enlightened’ person would be a deep sense of inner peace and healing of any feelings of lonleness. ;-)

tinyfaery's avatar

“Yes, a good barometer of the more ‘enlightened’ person would be a deep sense of inner peace and healing of any feelings of lonleness. ;-)” Again. Enlightenment is about realizing oneness not defining difference. Plenty of sociopaths have inner peace and are not lonely.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@psychocandy I think you’re hovering around the right answer. It seems to me that ‘enlightenment’ is a totally subjective thing, and therefore it truly would be proper to say “it doesn’t exist” (or that it’s entirely faith-based, which amounts to the same thing for me). I can’t see it in another except by inference and belief, and no one can objectively prove or disprove it of me, either. And if I try to ‘claim’ it for myself or ‘demonstrate’ it to others, then it’s proof positive that I haven’t really ‘attained’ it… whatever it is.

On the other hand, even if we assume that it can exist (whether or not it can be proven), then the saying still applies:

“Before enlightenment, fetch wood, carry water.
After enlightenment, fetch wood, carry water.”

tinyfaery's avatar

@CyanoticWasp FTW. No need to discuss further. Thank you so much!!!

BoBo1946's avatar

Inner peace is the ultimate enlightenment @Coloma !

Summum's avatar

There is absolutely nothing wrong with claiming enlightenment or an awakening and it is never or could never be so if the individual thought he was better than others. We are all human and therefore equal when it comes to life and the ability and means of enlightenment and there is no one who holds the title of being better than any other. We all share a common bond of life and all life shares in that. When one closes his mind and will not look at all possibilities is where the arrogance exists. People who think because they did not experience something that another can’t experience it either. Or that the person is deluding himself because he claims to have had an unusual experience and has had a life changing experience are the ones that need to look deep within.

flutherother's avatar

The trouble with claiming enlightenment is in assuming that other people aren’t enlightened and how could you possibly know?

Summum's avatar

One knows for themselves if they go through enlightenment or the awakening but I would not say that the person would know if anyone else had been through it or not.

lazydaisy's avatar

I think if you think you are wise or enlightened, you are not.

LostInParadise's avatar

Read Plato’s __Apology__, which IMHO ranks as great literature. In the story, Socrates questions why people consider him wise. He said that he spoke to a number of people in different professions, all of whom knew more about certain particulars than he did. Socrates concludes that any wisdom he might have derived from his realization that there were things that he does not know.

tinyfaery's avatar

@LostInParadise I have. Thanks. My favorite Socrates quote is “all I know is that I know nothing”.

Sisyphus's avatar

I’m going to try to take a stab on what I think enlightenment would look like: Enlightenment is the understanding of the infinite complexity of the universe, in both analytic and synthetic senses, the understanding that there will always be more that can be done.

That being said I don’t think I am enlightened, and if you read enough into the definition, then no one can really truly claim to be enlightened, or actually be enlightened. Not to claim I’ve got it right or anything guys! I don’t believe in any objective ideas of abstract concepts with broad meanings like ‘enlightenment’.

wundayatta's avatar

As far as I’m concerned, if someone claims to be wise or enlightened, they are subjects of suspicion. They probably are snake oil salesmen. They certainly have no humility. Wisdom, in my opinion, is not something you claim or can claim for yourself. It can only be conferred on you by people who appreciate your presence in your life.

As far as enlightenment is concerned—I have no clue what enlightenment is. I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone who is enlightened. I know that anyone who claims enlightenment to me is suspicious. They usually don’t seem to have a great deal of practical understanding of life. They like to speak in enigmatic phrases and then claim they can’t be any more specific because there are no words to describe it.

I know a lot of things that are very difficult, perhaps even impossible to explain in words. But I try, anyway. I figure that maybe some day I’ll get a little closer to describing these experiences. Of course, they’re just experiences. Not enlightenment. Sigh. The skeptic in me.

I would love to be wise, but I’m not. Some people have accused me of wisdom, which is bothersome, because it both gives me what I want and stirs up that belief that I can’t be wise. There’s too much I don’t understand and don’t know. Sometimes I suppose I might sound wise just because I put “perhaps” in every sentence.

Enlightenment, though, is another thing entirely. I don’t have any idea what it is, and I don’t believe anyone can know. Frankly, I think it’s a joke. Something people strive for because they imagine it is some kind of nirvana, when in truth, whatever it is they are looking for is all around them all the time, if only they learned how to see it. But see? There’s one of those stupid but wise sounding things that I hate.

I need to stop, or I’ll get into what this kind of seeing might be like, and then who knows where it will end?

Cruiser's avatar

Ego is a major piece of baggage that is very hard for many to abandon.

Wise is keeping your mouth shut where in the past you may not have been so discreet.

Enlightened is realizing something about yourself you never knew about but was there all along.

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augustlan's avatar

[mod says] Flame off, folks.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@psychocandy -I do know who Sun Tsu is.He extolled the virtue of winning a war by not waging war.The greatest General wins a war by never having to enter into battle.*What could be more enlightened than that?*Here’s a man who’s intelligence is unrivalled as a military strategist and someone who never needed to claim he was intelligent.

Jeruba's avatar

I love this quote from a wonderful book called Zen to Go, edited by Jon Winokur:

If we achieve satori and the satori shows, like a bit of dogshit stuck on the tip of our nose, that is not so good.

            —Taisen Deshimaru

Summum's avatar

Enlightenment and wisdom are not the same thing. Is there anyone on the planet with total enlightenment – “NO”. But we can be enlightened to those things that spark our interest by exploring, seeking, finding and experiencing. When one does this on some particular issues then they know when they have become enlightened. If you mean Enlightened as many feel GOD is then no man is not enlightened.

Jeruba's avatar

@Summum, God cannot be enlightened unless God is conceived of as coming from or existing in a prior state of darkness. To enlighten is to bring light to or to shed light upon—light coming from elsewhere to a dark (benighted) place. Something greater than, more powerful than, or simply other than God would have to bring or provide the light in order for God to be called enlightened.

BoBo1946's avatar

I think God was enlightened after His Son died for our sins.

Summum's avatar

@Jeruba Where do you think God came from? He lived as we live and we will live as he now lives.

SavoirFaire's avatar

“Those who know do not say, those who say do not know.”
—Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching §56

As people learn more, they come to realize how much more there is to learn. The wisdom of Socrates was that he did not pretend to know that which he did not know. As it turned out, that was rather a lot. No wise man would insist upon his wisdom because he would have to be aware of the extent of his ignorance. The surest sign of ignorance, then, is certainty.

wundayatta's avatar

Still, it is frustrating to be right and to have had no one pay attention to you when it could have made a difference.

Coloma's avatar

@wundayatta

But, maybe it DOES make a difference, maybe not listening is the right path for that person in the moment.

I try hard to remember that I never can really know what’s ‘right’ for anyone else, even if they are on a self destructive path and it is very clear to me as an observer.

I believe everyone IS perfect, for their level of development in the present moment. :-)

wundayatta's avatar

@Coloma That’s an interesting thought. In the end, you are right, there is no right and wrong (how’s that for a confusing sentence). However, sometimes a person states a goal, and you observe that the path they are taking will not get them to that goal. You suggest an alternative path that will, but they don’t take that advice. Then they end up complaining about how it didn’t work out, and they don’t remember there was another way.

It certainly is their path. I don’t know if it is their preferred path.

How it would make a difference to offer advice not taken, I don’t know. You might as well have not wasted your breath. Maybe that’s your path, too. To stop caring because no one takes into account anything you say. Perhaps they are right, not to.

Coloma's avatar

@wundayatta

I think it’s more about knowing HOW to care, while, at the same time, being detatched from an outcome.

If that is not possible then we have to release the ‘other’ to their own fate.

I recently let go of a friend that is in complete denial about her ‘stuff’, and while I still care for her well being I chose to let her go because I was no longer willing to keep hearing about all of her ‘suffering’ when she would not do what was necessary to help herself to a place of healing.

It’s the old ’ you can lead a horse to water’ mantra.

What the horse does after that is up to them. ;-)

tinyfaery's avatar

“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.” Mahatma Gandhi

Saw this quote and thought of this question.

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