Enlightenment vs. Liberation vs. Awakening

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Palzang Jangchub
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Enlightenment vs. Liberation vs. Awakening

Post by Palzang Jangchub » Tue Jan 17, 2017 2:30 am

Something that I haven't seen talked about on here are the terms we seem to have accepted as standard jargon for Buddhism in English.

Sanskrit bodhi (Tibetan byang chub) is most often translated as "enlightened," but does that accurately convey the meaning of the term in either of the canonical languages? I've heard it said that this is a poor translation, and that the connotation we have for enlightenment in English is absent.

The same person (a former nun) preferred to use the term "liberation" instead (Sanskirt moksha, Tibetan thar pa), since we are freed from the shackles of karma and no longer trapped in Samsaric existence. But how does moksha (thar pa) compare to bodhi (byang chub)? For that matter, where does the Tibetan verb sgrol ba come in? Drölma (sgrol ma) is "She who Liberates," so how does sgrol relate to thar? Are there subtle differences in subtext/connotation?

Sometimes bodhi is translated to English as "awakening," which seems more in tune with the Buddha being "the Awakened One," a reference to the dream-like illusory nature of Samsara and having woken from said dream, seeing things as they actually are. Is "awakening" a superior translation that should supercede "enlightenment"? Is there another term not considered here which would more accurately portray the words in Sanskrit/Tibetan? Or should we stick to "enlightenment," and if so, why?

Feel free to weigh in, especially if you've studied either Sanskrit or Tibetan. Translators' replies will no doubt be most helpful.
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"The Sutras, Tantras, and Philosophical Scriptures are great in number. However life is short, and intelligence is limited, so it's hard to cover them completely. You may know a lot, but if you don't put it into practice, it's like dying of thirst on the shore of a great lake. Likewise, a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme

དྲིན་ཆེན་རྩ་བའི་བླ་མ་སྐྱབས་རྗེ་མགར་ཆེན་ཁྲི་སྤྲུལ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་ཁྱེད་མཁྱེན་ནོ།།
རྗེ་བཙུན་བླ་མ་མཁས་གྲུབ་ཀརྨ་ཆགས་མེད་མཁྱེན་ནོ། ཀརྨ་པ་མཁྱེན་ནོཿ

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Re: Enlightenment vs. Liberation vs. Awakening

Post by dzogchungpa » Tue Jan 17, 2017 2:53 am

Karma Jinpa wrote:Sanskrit bodhi (Tibetan byang chub) is most often translated as "enlightened," but does that accurately convey the meaning of the term in either of the canonical languages? I've heard it said that this is a poor translation, and that the connotation we have for enlightenment in English is absent.
Well, the eleventh bhumi is called kun tu 'od. Sounds kind of enlightened. :smile:
There is not only nothingness because there is always, and always can manifest. - Thinley Norbu Rinpoche

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Re: Enlightenment vs. Liberation vs. Awakening

Post by Palzang Jangchub » Tue Jan 17, 2017 3:37 am

Furthermore, since Buddha and bodhi are related in Sanskrit, why is there not a similar relation between the equivalent Tibetan terms, sangs rgyas and byang chub? Etymologically they seem distinct.
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"The Sutras, Tantras, and Philosophical Scriptures are great in number. However life is short, and intelligence is limited, so it's hard to cover them completely. You may know a lot, but if you don't put it into practice, it's like dying of thirst on the shore of a great lake. Likewise, a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme

དྲིན་ཆེན་རྩ་བའི་བླ་མ་སྐྱབས་རྗེ་མགར་ཆེན་ཁྲི་སྤྲུལ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་ཁྱེད་མཁྱེན་ནོ།།
རྗེ་བཙུན་བླ་མ་མཁས་གྲུབ་ཀརྨ་ཆགས་མེད་མཁྱེན་ནོ། ཀརྨ་པ་མཁྱེན་ནོཿ

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Re: Enlightenment vs. Liberation vs. Awakening

Post by Bristollad » Tue Jan 17, 2017 11:51 am

For me using liberation for enlightenment would be problematic because then one would have to come up with another term to indicate achieving the end of suffering (liberation) by for instance, an Arhat and ending of suffering and achieving of omniscience, by a Buddha (Enlightenment).

Perhaps awakening would be a better term than enlightenment, but I would keep liberation to refer to freedom from suffering.

Do words have to have similar roots for them to be related in meaning? I mean, that's not true in English is it? Compare happy, gladdened and joyous

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Re: Enlightenment vs. Liberation vs. Awakening

Post by Astus » Tue Jan 17, 2017 1:42 pm

The common word for bodhi in Chinese is pú​tí 菩提, i.e. a transliteration. But, another term that may be used for bodhi is dào 道, i.e. way. Now that is a loaded word. So, I think one can stay with whatever English term seems fitting in the context, as long as the usage remains consistent and clear.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: Enlightenment vs. Liberation vs. Awakening

Post by Zhen Li » Tue Jan 17, 2017 1:59 pm

Karma Jinpa wrote:Sometimes bodhi is translated to English as "awakening," which seems more in tune with the Buddha being "the Awakened One," a reference to the dream-like illusory nature of Samsara and having woken from said dream, seeing things as they actually are. Is "awakening" a superior translation that should supercede "enlightenment"? Is there another term not considered here which would more accurately portray the words in Sanskrit/Tibetan? Or should we stick to "enlightenment," and if so, why?
Bodhi and Buddha are from the root budh, which means to awake, wake up. There is no relationship to "light." So I always translate these terms as awakening, Awakened One, etc.

Enlightenment also is well known in English as the name of the 18th century era, "the Age of Enlightenment," as defined, of course, by Kant in his essay on that topic. So, it is best to steer clear of that term.

Mokṣa, liberation, is not an "alternative" term to bodhi, awakening, so I cannot see why one would prefer one term over the other when they're not referring to the same thing.

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Malcolm
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Re: Enlightenment vs. Liberation vs. Awakening

Post by Malcolm » Tue Jan 17, 2017 3:02 pm

Karma Jinpa wrote:Something that I haven't seen talked about on here are the terms we seem to have accepted as standard jargon for Buddhism in English.

Sanskrit bodhi (Tibetan byang chub) is most often translated as "enlightened," but does that accurately convey the meaning of the term in either of the canonical languages? I've heard it said that this is a poor translation, and that the connotation we have for enlightenment in English is absent.
Correct. It is an incorrect translation of bodhi, which means "to awaken."

The same person (a former nun) preferred to use the term "liberation" instead (Sanskirt moksha, Tibetan thar pa), since we are freed from the shackles of karma and no longer trapped in Samsaric existence.
She is wrong.

But how does moksha (thar pa) compare to bodhi (byang chub)? For that matter, where does the Tibetan verb sgrol ba come in? Drölma (sgrol ma) is "She who Liberates," so how does sgrol relate to thar? Are there subtle differences in subtext/connotation?

There is a small difference between thar pa and grol ba; the former translates mokṣa, the latter mukti, so both may be translated as liberation. Sgrol ba however translates tāraka, meaning to free or to save.
Sometimes bodhi is translated to English as "awakening," which seems more in tune with the Buddha being "the Awakened One," a reference to the dream-like illusory nature of Samsara and having woken from said dream, seeing things as they actually are. Is "awakening" a superior translation that should supercede "enlightenment"? Is there another term not considered here which would more accurately portray the words in Sanskrit/Tibetan? Or should we stick to "enlightenment," and if so, why?
Awakening is the only accurate translation of bodhi.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: Enlightenment vs. Liberation vs. Awakening

Post by Palzang Jangchub » Wed Jan 18, 2017 9:58 am

Bristollad wrote:For me using liberation for enlightenment would be problematic because then one would have to come up with another term to indicate achieving the end of suffering (liberation) by for instance, an Arhat and ending of suffering and achieving of omniscience, by a Buddha (Enlightenment).
I take your meaning. Somehow I failed to consider that liberation by itself is the nirvana of Arhats, whereas awakening is both liberation and omniscience for those who realize Buddhahood. Perhaps it has to do with how the path of liberation (thar lam) and path of means (thabs lam) are often contrasted.
Bristollad wrote:Do words have to have similar roots for them to be related in meaning? I mean, that's not true in English is it? Compare happy, gladdened and joyous
My point is that the words buddha and bodhi are etymologically related through a common root, not just related in meaning. So why did we end up with jangchub/changchub (byang chub) rather than sangchub (sangs chub), especially when byang and sangs are synonymous (both meaning "purified, cleansed, cleared away")?

http://rywiki.tsadra.org/index.php/byang
http://rywiki.tsadra.org/index.php/sangs

Incidentally, in the Nangchen Khampa dialect, jangchub is pronounced sangchub. I wonder if this is due to a consonant shift, or if they're actually using sangs in place of byang.
Image

"The Sutras, Tantras, and Philosophical Scriptures are great in number. However life is short, and intelligence is limited, so it's hard to cover them completely. You may know a lot, but if you don't put it into practice, it's like dying of thirst on the shore of a great lake. Likewise, a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme

དྲིན་ཆེན་རྩ་བའི་བླ་མ་སྐྱབས་རྗེ་མགར་ཆེན་ཁྲི་སྤྲུལ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་ཁྱེད་མཁྱེན་ནོ།།
རྗེ་བཙུན་བླ་མ་མཁས་གྲུབ་ཀརྨ་ཆགས་མེད་མཁྱེན་ནོ། ཀརྨ་པ་མཁྱེན་ནོཿ

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Malcolm
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Re: Enlightenment vs. Liberation vs. Awakening

Post by Malcolm » Wed Jan 18, 2017 2:56 pm

Karma Jinpa wrote:Furthermore, since Buddha and bodhi are related in Sanskrit, why is there not a similar relation between the equivalent Tibetan terms, sangs rgyas and byang chub? Etymologically they seem distinct.
Sangs rgyas means "fully (rgyas) awake (sangs)."

Byang chub means is etymologized as purifying (byang) all obscurations to be abandoned and realizing (chub) all qualities to be realized.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Palzang Jangchub
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Re: Enlightenment vs. Liberation vs. Awakening

Post by Palzang Jangchub » Mon Jun 04, 2018 8:59 am

Definition by Jamgön Kongtrul:
sangs pa dang rgyas pa gnyis ka la 'jug pas sangs rgyas zhes brjod pa;
སངས་པ་དང་རྒྱས་པ་གཉིས་ཀ་ལ་འཇུག་པས་སངས་རྒྱས་ཞེས་བརྗོད་པ།
one, such as Buddha Shakyamuni, who has purified obscurations (sangs) and developed pristine cognition (rgyas) [RY]
http://rywiki.tsadra.org/index.php/sangs_rgyas

Can anyone here confirm that the Tibetan above is being rendered into English accurately? For instance, I don't see the proper name sha kya thub pa for Shakyamuni...

I have often heard well-respected lamas (such as Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang Rinpoche and Kyabje Garchen Rinpoche) parse the term in their native Tibetan as "purified and perfected" in reference to how a buddha has removed the two veils and developed the two wisdoms; or as "cleansed and blossomed," using the analogy of a lotus flower which emerges clean and untainted from the mire of samsara in order to bloom fully.
Image

"The Sutras, Tantras, and Philosophical Scriptures are great in number. However life is short, and intelligence is limited, so it's hard to cover them completely. You may know a lot, but if you don't put it into practice, it's like dying of thirst on the shore of a great lake. Likewise, a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme

དྲིན་ཆེན་རྩ་བའི་བླ་མ་སྐྱབས་རྗེ་མགར་ཆེན་ཁྲི་སྤྲུལ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་ཁྱེད་མཁྱེན་ནོ།།
རྗེ་བཙུན་བླ་མ་མཁས་གྲུབ་ཀརྨ་ཆགས་མེད་མཁྱེན་ནོ། ཀརྨ་པ་མཁྱེན་ནོཿ

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Re: Enlightenment vs. Liberation vs. Awakening

Post by Wayfarer » Mon Jun 04, 2018 11:06 am

'Pristine cognition' sure has to be pretty close to the English expression 'purity of heart', doesn't it? :shrug:

[By gosh that's big sig you've got there. Reminds me of that current movie title, 'Three Billboards' although in this case, it's only one. :smile: )
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

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