Buddhist Belief – What Happens After Enlightenment?

“When the mind is somber, broad daylight gives birth to demons and evil spirits. When the mind is clear, a dark room has its blue sky. That which is self-conscious and ulterior is far from the Truth. That which is Mindless, is near.”

~~~ Taoist poem.

Last week I learned about a singer/songwriter by the name of James Nihan. He did a concert here recently and I had the good fortune to be able to hear some of the songs he’s written. James has been writing and performing for many years. In 2001, he attended a seminar led by don Miguel Ruiz who teaches and writes about the “Four Agreements”. I’ll have more about James below, but suffice it to say that I was amazed at how the lyrics he writes fit so beautifully with the teachings of Buddhist Belief.

Buddhist Belief, meditation, nirvana, mindfulness, karma

In Zen, there is a saying that says after Enlightenment, there sits the ordinary old man.

In the philosophy from which Buddhism originates, it points out that something extraordinary happens when one becomes enlightened — while strangely it is nothing at all. Enlightenment often translates to “the end of knowledge”.

When you think about the teachings of Buddha, especially where he has taught about how, when we reach enlightenment we will find an end to our struggles — and end to our suffering — then isn’t there a good argument to be made if that’s true, then what’s left? What are we going to do if there’s no struggle to deal with every day? Isn’t there something to be said about how wonderful it is to go through the struggles, the tears, the heartaches, and then come out at the other end with healing and peace?

People who practice Buddhist Belief in their life will often be challenged by this question. If there’s nothing left to do — if there’s no longer anything to strive for, what’s the point of going on? What’s the point of trying to reach enlightenment?

Ahh — Ah-hah moment — there is certainly a point and an important one!

This is the time when we can begin to create our story. This is the time when we’re no longer bogged down with the drama — we don’t identify with it — we’ve finally become detached.

As I pointed out in some of my earlier articles on this blog, detachment does not mean “not participating”. It’s not about dropping out of life. It IS about creating our story with the new wisdom that we are not the story. The things happening in your life are no longer the story of you. You’re no longer attached to these “drama-things” so they are not a part of you.

Even though YOU are not the story, everything in life is a story. The evolution of the Universe, from unconscious matter to becoming conscious, is a story. The development of human consciousness, how we evolve from duality and separateness to Enlightenment and union, is a story.

The search for meaning and beauty outside ourselves, and realizing that happiness can only come from within, is yet another story. We turn even the most mundane things (like washing the dishes and doing the laundry) into a story. We have all sorts of feelings about everything and we use those feelings and associations to mold our story. Yes, life is a series of stories.

In The Voice of Knowledge, (Click to learn more) author don Miguel Ruiz (who I mentioned above) makes the point that we are all artists. We are all constantly dreaming, constantly creating and molding our stories. We’re all artists. We’re all creators. We can’t avoid creating.

Here are lyrics from a song created by James Nihan called “I Am An Artist”.

“I am an artist
With a palette in my hand
All the colors of the rainbow
are at my command.
I stand before a canvas
The color of the night
I reach out to the darkness
And I only paint the light.

I am an artist
Sitting at my wheel
Turning what I’m dreaming
Into something that is real.
I shape the life I’m living
With loving hands each day
I am both the potter
And the piece of clay.

I am an artist
I take the world in front of me
Find beauty in all things I see
Create a new reality
I am a dreamer, I am free
To be who I choose to be.

I am an artist
Not just flesh and bone
With my hammer and my chisel
I carve myself from stone
With delicate precision
I chip away the mask
I stand before you naked
When I complete the task.

(Repeat chorus)

I am an artist, I am an artist
I am an artist, I am

(You can learn more about James Nihan and obtain his CDs at his website: http://www.jamesnihan.com)

YOU are an artist. YOU are the creator of your life and your story.

I’ll be back to write again in a few days with more thoughts about Buddhist Beliefs and how they may apply to our lives.

Until then,

Namaste — Be in Peace.

Ron Rink


I found this article to be sort of a conundrum since China is giving the folks in Tibet such a bad time about their independence, while at the same time some of their leaders are making statements like those below. It is an interesting read.

Buddhists Tell How to Stay Happy Despite Crisis

By Wu Jin
China.org.cn staff reporter

People’s happiness risks being evaporated along with their wealth as the financial crisis bites. Millions of people around the world are falling on hard times as they lose their jobs or businesses.

Liu Changle, CEO of Phoenix Satellite Television, told a seminar at the World Buddhist Forum in Wuxi, that there had been an increase in suicides in Hong Kong, since the economy of the financial center began its downward spiral.

But in a nearby seminar, monks, believers and scholars spoke about the true path to happiness and the importance of cultivating contentment as part of a strategy to build a harmonious world.

Speaker after speaker said selfishness and greed are to blame for the economic crisis. “The financial collapse is a symptom of the crisis of the value-system predominating in western countries,” said Xiao Wunan, vice president of China’s Socio-Economic and Cultural Exchange Association. “Materialism … stimulates an insatiable appetite for wealth. Profits are being made at the cost of natural resources, without regard for natural rules.”

“I think it’s time to propagate traditional Chinese culture (a combination of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism) which calls for harmony between nature and human beings,” Xiao said.

Yuan Chi, deputy curator of the China Buddhist Literature and Heritage Museum, said: “People are so addicted to the pursuit of profit that they rarely have the chance to experience a culture that can lead to wisdom. Government officials and entrepreneurs are dazzled by the prospect of profit, a double-edged sword that strips people of their dignity and their respect for law and morality.”

To end suffering and curb corruption, the thinkers said people should cultivate altruism, a virtue capable of healing the pain caused by the financial tsunami. Gong Xiya, general manager of Beijing Capital Guarantee & Investment Co Ltd, said: “The Buddha once said ‘a candle can still burn even after it has ignited 1,000 others. In the same way, happiness will never wane when it is shared by others’.”

In spite of fierce competition in the financial field, Gong believes real happiness lies in a peaceful mind and the elimination of greed. She said: “The material, the exhaustible and the external are causes of conflict, while, happiness, which is infinite and internal, can be sought in peace. Happiness is unparalleled wealth; it should be pursued as the ultimate goal in life.”

Her point was echoed by the Venerable Seik Hui Siong, abbot of the Vihara Mahavira Graha Pusa monastery in Indonesia. He said the lust for wealth is insatiable and the accumulation and consumption of worldly goods will not lead to happiness.

“Sakyamuni Buddha taught that suffering cannot be overcome by material things,” the abbot said, “I believe a peaceful environment, free from selfishness, fear, and hatred, is a necessary condition for belief, for cultivating a spiritual path, and achieving common goals.”

Group discussions on a variety of topics concerning the development of Buddhism, the relationship between Buddhism and Science as well as different Buddhist cultures, followed the opening ceremony of the forum in Fangong Palace, at Lingshan, a mountain in the countryside near Wuxi.

The delegates left Wuxi for Taipei, capital of Taiwan Province, by charter flight on Monday, March 30, where the forum will close on Wednesday, April 1.

(China.org.cn April 1, 2009)

Ron’s Recommended Reading List

For those who wanted me to repeat the links for the books I’ve mentioned in the last few articles, here they are again — And, I have added a new book for you by Pema Chodron. It’s the last one in the list. I highly recommend all these books to you:

Sharon Salzberg — The Kindness Handbook

“It takes boldness, even audacity, to step out of our habitual patterns and experiment with a quality like kindness–to work with it and see just how it might shift and open up our lives. This book is an invitation to do just that.” – From The Kindness Handbook — “The Kindness Handbook

Eckhart Tolle’s amazing best seller, “A New Earth

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s wonderful book, “My Stroke of Insight” — “Nirvana is just a breath away!

And this one by Sharon Salzberg and is entitled: “A Heart as Wide as the World: Living with Mindfulness, Wisdom and Compassion“.

This is a new one for you by Pema Chodron entitled: “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
Always remember this wonderful quote from Buddha ….

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

~~~ Buddha

Shanti everyone, … (A sanscrit word meaning, “Let there be Peace. Peace, beautiful Peace. Peace within, Peace without. Peace in this world. Peace for all beings.”)

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”

~~~ Buddha

Have a peaceful day!! —

Ron Rink


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3 Responses to “Buddhist Belief – What Happens After Enlightenment?”

  1. Cindy Says:

    I happened upon this article as I was surfing the web. While this is a dated piece…it is quite timely. Thanks for the book references.

  2. Jackie Says:

    What does happen after enlightment if you dont have the three forms of suffering anymore? Aging, death, sickness. You can’t die, you can’t age. Where do you go? : )

  3. Ron Rink Says:

    Hi Jackie — Funny take on that article. You sure made me smile when I read it!

    Of course, we still get old, we still get all the crap that goes along with aging (I’m the perfect example of that!) — and yep! We’re all gonna die someday. — It’s our birthright!

    You might enjoy the book, “The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation” by Chogram Trungpa. It’s one of the best explorations of the Four Noble Truths I’ve ever read or heard.

    How did you come upon this article — it’s a really old one.


    Ron Rink

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