Reverse Engineering the Buddha’s Enlightenment

I was dumpster diving through my hard disk the other day and found a paper that I wrote a few years ago called “Reverse Engineering the Buddha’s Enlightenment.” I have posted it to the “Papers and Projects” section of the web site.

At the time I was – as the paper notes – trying to connect the dots from the night of the Buddha’s awakening. Coincidentally I ran across a reference to a claim by an academic named “Bronkhorst” that the Three Knowledges attained by the Buddha on the night of his awakening were “later additions” to the canon, along with the notion of liberating insight itself.

This strikes me like having an atheist commenting on Catholicism. We sort of would take it for granted that an atheist disagrees with Catholic doctrine.

I find this assertion preposterous. First of all, as can be seen from the paper that I wrote on jhāna, depending on how you count, in the Majjhima Nikāya alone there are 26 references to the story of the Buddha’s awakening. So Bronkhorst would be claiming that in that one volume 26 of the 152 suttas were changed. That would still leave several thousand pages in the other books of the canon.

As for the reality of liberating insight, I presume that for everyone who has attained that goal – some of whom are alive today – what does that mean? Do they have to give it back?

Non-Buddhists rejection of Buddhism aside, I was more interested in trying to really understand the Buddha’s line of inquiry to see if I could make sense of it. I was, and it was quite an interesting project.

Additionally, a couple of years ago I read Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo’s autobiography, The Autobiography of Phra Ajaan Lee. It is a fascinating read. You have no idea how much Buddhism has been sanitized in the West until you read about a book like this. Among other things, he was able to realize the same Three Knowledges that the Buddha did.

As always I look forward to any comments on the paper.

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