Namdrol wrote:Astus wrote:It is not only Chan but also Huayan and Tiantai teach sudden enlightenment - interestingly Huayan puts "sudden enlightenment" one level below its own "complete teaching of the one vehicle". As for the difference between the entry to the bodhisattva stages and full buddhahood, in Chan it is clarified with the distinction of gradual and sudden paths. Gradual means the bodhisattva stages, sudden means immediate buddhahood. Of course, not everyone among the Chan teachers agreed with this view.Namdrol wrote:Outside of Tibeta Buddhism/Vajrayāna, Chan alone proposes that it is possible to attain fullbuddhahood in a single lifetime. But it seems that in Chan, "buddhahood" is a generally a euphemism for attaining the bodhisattva stages, and no Indian Mahāyāna tradition denies that it is impossible for someone to attain the path of seeing and so on. However, they would have done so based on past accumulations. So even here, Vajrayāna remain unique in asserting that one can attain full awakening 11 bhumi + in a single lifetime, soup to nuts.
No, I don't think that sudden enlightenment in Chan means sudden full buddhahood.
The character in Chinese normally translated as "enlightened" or "awakening" is wu 悟 (read as satori in Japanese). This is different from chengfo 成佛, which means "attainment of Buddhahood" or "becoming a buddha".
I think in English there is a tendency to equate "being enlightened" with being a buddha, which is not the case. You can have a great awakening without being a buddha. Arhats, bodhisattvas and pratyekabuddhas are all examples of this.
Now that being said, it is not always clear in Chan texts what wu 悟 means and the often cryptic nature of the language, which is amplified several fold when attempts to translate it into any language are made. Also keep in mind much of Chan literature is just fictional accounts of past patriarchs in the lineage. Glorified hagiographies.
Zongmi's idea of enlightenment was one of "sudden enlightenment and gradual practice" dunwu jianxiu 頓悟漸修, but that does not mean buddhahood. The idea is that the sudden realization or enlightenment enables one to the gradually remove the defilements through practice in a serious way. The timetable for buddhahood would presumably follow the bodhisattva bhūmi stages as outlined in canonical texts like the Avataṃsaka Sūtra.
Now other Chan thinkers would have other ideas. There is no single Chan line of thought. It is quite varied and diverse.
In the case of Huayan thinkers like Fazang the description of the ultimate teaching might lead one to think he was saying Buddhahood right this moment, which is true in one sense (in principle this is the case, but it still takes conventional time to really achieve it), but in actuality I think he was proposing a vision of Buddhahood as attained through yogic insight into the tolerance of non-arising of phenomena. That is to say realizing time is empty and that ultimately Buddhahood does not take immeasurable kalpas of time to achieve, though conventionally this is still nevertheless the case. You might not actually have attained Buddhahood, but one has had a glimpse of it and realizing the time between now and then as empty, there is an unbreakable tolerance and motivation cultivated as a result.