There are many grey areas in this question and I'm not trying to solve it. But one thing that does occur to me is this: that the very sense of the need for enlightenment is a religious type of sense. In other words, the awareness that 'life is dukkha' and the realisation of the kind of change that is needed for that to change, is part of a religious type of attitude.
There's a blog post about a 19th Century philosopher named Royce, who put it like this:
From here.1. Concern for Salvation as Essential to Religion. It is very difficult to define religion, in the sense of setting forth necessary and sufficient conditions for the correct application of the term, but I agree with Royce's view that an essential characteristic of anything worth calling religion is a concern for the salvation of man. (The Sources of Religious Insight, Charles Scribner and Sons, 1912, p. 8) Religious objects are those that help show the way to salvation. The central postulate of religion is that "man needs to be saved." (8-9) Saved from what? ". . . from some vast and universal burden, of imperfection, of unreasonableness, of evil, of misery, of fate, of unworthiness, or of sin." (8) In an earlier post on Simone Weil I spoke of generic wretchedness. [Buddhists would say dukkha and re-birth.] It is that which we need salvation from.
2. The Need for Salvation. "Man is an infinitely needy creature." But the need for salvation, for those who feel it, is paramount among human needs. The need for salvation depends on two simpler ideas:
a) There is a paramount end or aim of human life relative to which other aims are vain.
b) Man as he now is, or naturally is, is in danger of missing his highest aim, his highest good.
To hold that man needs salvation is to hold both of (a) and (b). I would put it like this. The religious person perceives our present life, or our natural life, as radically deficient, deficient from the root (radix) up, as fundamentally unsatisfactory; he feels it to be, not a mere condition, but a predicament; it strikes him as vain or empty if taken as an end in itself; he sees himself as homo viator, as a wayfarer (!) or pilgrim treading a via dolorosa through a vale that cannot possibly be a final and fitting resting place; he senses or glimpses from time to time the possibility of a Higher Life; he feels himself in danger of missing out on this Higher Life of true happiness. If this doesn't strike a chord in you, then I suggest you do not have a religious disposition. Some people don't, and it cannot be helped. One cannot discuss religion with them, for it cannot be real to them. It is not, for them, what William James in "The Will to Believe" calls a "living option," let alone a "forced" or "momentous" one.
3. Religious Insight. Royce defines religious insight as ". . . insight into the need and into the way of salvation." No one can take religion seriously who has not felt the need for salvation. But we need religious insight to show that we really need it, and to show the way to it.
4. Royce's Question. He asks: What are the sources of religious insight? What are the sources of insight into the need and into the way of salvation? Many will point to divine revelation through a scripture or through a church as the principal source of religious insight.
Now, change the terminology a little - substitute 'enlightenment' for 'salvation', and mention 'meditation' in the section on 'insight' - and this passage rings true for me - even more so now, after many years of meditation and study.
But a point I notice is that there's a lot of people that it won't mean anything to; they don't feel the absence of that insight. They don't even know they don't know!
~Vladimir SolovyovAs long as the dark foundation of our nature, grim in its all-encompassing egoism, mad in its drive to make that egoism into reality, to devour everything and to define everything by itself, as long as that foundation is visible ...we have no business here and there is no logical answer to our existence. Imagine a group of people who are all blind, deaf and slightly demented and suddenly someone in the crowd asks, "What are we to do?"... The only possible answer is "Look for a cure". Until you are cured, there is nothing you can do. And since you don't believe you are sick, there can be no cure.