The Light of Enlightenment through Bodhisattva Siddhārtha’s vision
We know in the history of humankind, both in ancient times and now, religious leaders as well as secular leaders, who have to make their much effort, can achieve in their lives, and leave their renown for posterity. Wanting to achieve much in their lives, they who must first undertake the process of endurance, effort, cultivation, learning train themselves, help, and bring the benefits to other people. Thanks to overcoming the processes of patience, cultivation, learning, and helping themselves and others like this, they have been able to become scientists, mathematicians, writers, philosophers, religious leaders, etc. Bodhisattva SiddhārthaGautama, a transcendental spiritual Master, a perfect religious Leader, who was full of the qualities of virtue, loving-kindness, compassion, and wisdom, spent 6 years practicing asceticism in a deep forest with five brothers of Elder Aññā Kondañña, searched out the truths, and meditated under the Bodhi tree throughout 49 days and nights. Finally, the Bodhisattva became the Buddha who was called Sakyamuni respected and honored by gods and human beings, and who had the ability to bring the light of enlightenment, love, and peace to all living things and living beings all over this planet.
Through the above–mentioned general meanings, the writer boldly titles this writing “The Light of Enlightenment through Bodhisattva Siddhārtha’s vision.” This vision, which is here understood as the resultant vision of practicing contemplation meditation and that of insight, carries the ability to clearly see the process of endurance, diligence, to cultivate meditation and concentration, to gain enlightenment, to preach the Dharma, and to teach human beings about Bodhisattva Siddhārtha. In the title of this writing, we encounter such terms as “light, enlightenment, Bodhisattva, Siddhārtha.” Hereafter, the writer explains each in turn so that we may learn about the meanings and contents of these terms.
Normally, when referring to the light, people often think about sunlight, moonlight, evening star light, morning star light, electric lights, car lights, neon lights, etc. These kinds of lights are natural light, material lights, or artificial lights. Different than the above kinds of lights, the light which is discussed here mainly is the light of enlightenment, starts from his body and mind of meditation-concentration cultivation, endurance, effort, purification, and defilement transformation of practitioner, that is, Bodhisattva Siddhārtha.
Thanks to His training in meditation-concentration very purely and supernaturally, the Bodhisattva extinguished ignorance, defilements, lapses, attachments, etc., and achieved the fruits of perfect enlightenment. Towards the Bodhisattva – the awakened One, enlightenment authentically means the absence of ignorance, afflictions, attachments, lapses, suffering, and the end of the cycle of death and rebirth.
The light of enlightenment mentioned here symbolizes Buddhism, the Buddha, the Dharma, and His disciples (Sangha); Buddhism is the religion of peace, the Buddha is the King of peace, the Dharma is the path of peace, and the disciples are the messengers of peace.  Indeed, peace is authentically present whenever we each learn, understand, practice, and apply the Buddha Dharma in his/her daily life appropriately in various localities, regions, and countries. We understand and act like this, the light of the World-Honored One’s enlightenment has the ability to shine all over the world. Moreover, we know in the factors of His enlightenment, there are still other substances such as right mindfulness, awareness, steadiness, relaxation, carefreeness, and leisureliness. Accomplishing those qualities, practitioner can undoubtedly achieve peacefulness and joyfulness right here and right now in the present moments.
Enlightenment contains many different meanings and stages as follows:
Enlightenment of ordinary practitioners – through the process of cultivating, transforming defilements, applying, and practicing the Buddha Dharma in our daily lives, we can obtain enlightenment, but become enlightened partially and gradually.
Enlightenment of the Bodhisattva practitioner – through the process of having cut off afflictions, and discovering the truth of suffering (Dukkha), the origin of suffering (Dukkha Samudaya
In order to fully comprehend the process of the cultivation and enlightenment attainment of Bodhisattva Siddhārtha, we need to understand that, with right mindfulness and awareness, steadiness and leisureliness, the Buddha’s enlightenment was not just achieved right in the time of cultivation, but right in His past lives, right in His present life, especially right in the time He was a newborn baby, the little prince Siddhārtha, and finally manifested as Sakyamuni Buddha in the world. Therefore, king Suddhodana, His father, had twice greeted his son with respectfully joined hands and once paid homage to the Buddha; that is,
1. The king greeted his son with respectfully joined hands while the Asita hermit was examining the little prince’s physiognomy, and predicted that the prince later on would leave the royal family for a religious life and became a fully awakened and enlightened One, who would have the ability to show the path of peace, joyfulness and happiness to the many all over this planet.
2. In the ceremony of plow and cultivation, the king greeted his son with respectfully joined hands while the prince at the age of 9 was meditating under a pink apple tree, contemplated, and saw living beings fighting, killing, and eating one another. With his ready compassionate heart, the prince radiated his loving heart for all living things and living beings.
3. The king paid homage to the Buddha while the Buddha was begging for alms on the way back to visit His father at kapilavastu, where His elderly imperious relatives in the royal palace bore their minds of arrogance and thought that the Buddha was only their youngest brother and descendant. At that time, reading His relatives’ thoughts, the Buddha used energies of compassionate water and wisdom fire to collect and to convince them, and it was these people who then increased their respectful hearts, and paid proper homage to the Buddha and His Sagnha.
Thus, we can see that the potential for enlightenment is always present in their bodies and minds containing the human substance and the holy substance in themselves. In the human substance there is the holy substance; in the holy substance there is the substance of enlightenment and liberation. The holy substance in Buddhism is understood as Buddha nature or Buddha substance. However, examining the absolute aspect, we see this potential for enlightenment within themselves, in a holy One their Buddha nature is no more, in an ordinary being their Buddha nature is no less.
Understanding more broadly, according to the standpoint of Buddhist loving-kindness and compassion, in humans and in animals Buddha nature is present, and even in insentient beings Buddha nature is also present. Digesting the meanings clearly like this, we each can cultivate and water the Buddha nature in us, in sentient beings, and in insentient beings by protecting the environment, respecting their lives of all living things and living beings, especially by practicing the first awakening thing, one of the five awakening things of Buddhism – the path of enlightenment. Indeed, whether in human position or in holy position, whether in kinds of insentient beings or in those of insentient beings, but Buddha nature is still Buddha nature, the light of enlightenment is still that of enlightenment, insight is still insight, etc.
However, examining the relative aspect, we know the manifestation of Buddha nature depends on the cultivation level of every ordinary practitioner and Bodhisattva practitioner. In the holy One Buddha nature shines like the full Moon, in the human being Buddha nature shines like the crescent Moon. Toward Boddhisattva practitioner, through the process of cultivation and enlightenment, Buddha nature can shine 100 percent, because defilements and lapses have been annihilated. Toward ordinary practitioners like us, through the process of cultivation, purification, and transformation, Buddha nature can shine …40, 60, 80 percent, etc., because defilements and lapses are being annihilated and eventually will be totally annihilated.
The moon is dim because of clouds, Buddha nature is dim because of afflictions; clouds are dispersed by the wind, afflictions of desire, anger, delusion, etc. are annihilated by cultivation and transformation. Cultivation means the process of recognizing and transforming defilements of greed, anger, delusion, arrogance, doubt, wrong view, etc. When difilements are transformed and annihilated, the light of enlightenment of the Bodhisattva practitioner shines brightly and fully. At this point, Bodhisattva Siddhārtha, who had accomplished and attained perfect enlightenment, deserved to be adored and respected by the world.
Thus, as discussed here, the light of enlightenment is understood as the light of meditation, concentration, that of insight, that of peace, that of great heroism, great power, and great loving-kindness and compassion discovered and obtained enlightenment by Bodhisattva Siddhārtha. It does not fall down from heaven, it is not a gift granted by a god. It is tasted and experienced by a Bodhisattva through his cultivation, practice, and spiritual attainment. It is very marvelous, surpassing and practical in the present, intended for those who care about, learn, practice, and apply the Buddha Dharma in their daily lives.
Indeed, this enlightenment light is not created by greed, anger, delusion, ignorance, wrong view, hatred, and war. It is created by right endurance, effort, diligence, the spirits of self-cultivation, self-support, self-enlightenment, and self-liberation through practicing and applying the substances of loving-kindness, compassion, wisdom, peace, meditation, concentration, and insight to the many right here and right now in this present life. These peaceful substances have the ability to arise and to awaken flowers and fruits of insight in a Bodhisattva’s mind and body to become illuminated.
Bodhisattva is a Sanskrit word; Bodhi means greatness, enlightenment, or awareness; Sattva means a being, a sentient being, or a human being. Thus, Bodhisattva means a being who has attained a degree of enlightenment and awareness vowed to travel on the way of joy, cultivation, and liberation to make peacefulness and benefit for oneself and for others right in this life.
On the route leading to enlightenment and deliverance, Siddhārtha, who was the Bodhisattva in the flesh actually in our human history, was full of merit and wisdom, courage and effort, perseverance and patience, found the truths and the light of enlightenment later on. It was this Bodhisattva who practiced meditation and concentration maturely, became the nobly spiritual Master, instructed and showed the way of peacefulness and peace to all living things and living beings all over the planet.
We ordinary beings, because of karmic power, were born, we each encounter different situations, different natures and characteristics, different families, different levels of wealth and poverty, etc., no one is alike. Prince Siddhārtha, who is an authentic Bodhisattva, because of the energies of his vows, was born in the world in a royal, wealthy, and powerful family in Kapilavatthu, a part of Nepal today. 
Growing up, the prince got married to Yasodharā, and had a son called Rāhula. Along with his attendant named Channa, one day the prince went to visit the four gates of royal palace, and saw four scenes of reality of life; that is, an old person, a sick person, a dead person, and an ascetic. The fourth scene, which was the ascetic, represented a leisurely and free way of life, made a deep impression in the prince’s heart, and created the inspirational sources for the prince later on to become a homeless monastic. When becoming the homeless monastic, and living within natural environment and mountain, Bodhisattva Siddhārtha had to relate directly with the inner mind and outer scene.
Practicing and spending the six years of asceticism in the Mahakala cave in Dhungeshwari mountain, everyday the Bodhisattva ate only a couple of fruits, and gradually His body only remained skins covering bones. Discovering that this ascetic way did not result in peacefulness and liberation, Bodhisattva Siddhārtha determined to embark on the method of the Middle Path(Pali: Majjhimā Paṭipadā; Sanskrit:Madhyamā Pratipad) (no sexual indulgence on the one hand, and no ascetic mortification on the other), the Bodhisattva agreed to receive and to drink a milky gruel bowl offered by Ms. Sujata. His health became recovered. After that, He accepted a bunch of grass offered by a farmer, and then He went straight to Bodhgaya, where He spent 49 days and nights meditating under the root of Bodhi, finally defeated Mara’s army (Mara represents temptation and attachment), and obtained perfect enlightenment.
Thus, in the process of cultivation and enlightenment, the Bodhisattva had to learn the process of developing patience of inner mind regardless of the outer scene; outer scene is the external scene, specically weather and natural environment. In India, in the hot season the temperature can reach 45 degrees C. (45% C. = Celsius/ Centigrade = 120 degrees F. Fehrenheit), and in the cold season the temperature can be 0 degrees C. (0% C. = 0 degrees C. Celsius/ Centigrade = 32 degrees F. Fehrenheit). In the present age, living at home, we have enough clothes, blankets, pillows, mattresses, heaters, air-conditioner, etc. to protect our bodies and minds very well, but sometimes we still feel cold, hot, and uncomfortable.
Let us imagine Bodhisattva Siddhārtha, who lived a homeless life, ate flowers and fruits, drank rain water, spring water to nourish his body, and used awareness, mindfulness, meditation, and concentration to bring up his mind, etc. By night He slept under the root of a tree, by day He begged for food; He took the natural environment as His home, used trees and forest leaves as His beds, used the moon and stars as His lamps, used cultivation of meditation, concentration, mindfulness, and awareness to make the spiritual food for His body and mind, and used Dharma propagation to make benefit for the many.
The next is inner mind; inner mind, which is the deepest part of the inside mind, is understood as storehouse of consciousness (Ālaya Vijñāna) containing the the good seeds and the non-good seeds; the good seeds consist of right patience, endurance, overcoming, selection, solidity, effort, courage, spiritual strength, unshakable confidence, the light of enlightenment, insight, etc.; the non-good seeds are comprised of slackness, laziness, regression, hesitation, feebleness, weakness, vagueness, ignorance, etc.
Cultivaton is the process of patience practice, nurture, selection, advancement, and the transformation from difficulties into peacefulness, suffering into happiness, ignorance into clear understanding, etc. However, we humans, when encountering severe weather, eating deficiently, sleeping coldly, etc., usually tend to live discouragingly and downheartedly. But, Bodhisattva Siddhārtha, when meeting difficult adversities and severe weather, is always happy to welcome the difficulties, asceticism, and patience; these adversities create His mental strength, fearless will, effort, and extraordinary energy, and lead Him to spiritual enlightenment and liberation later on.
Indeed, with the spirit of great hero, great power, great compassion and great wisdom, obtaining enlightenment and liberation, Bodhisattva Siddhārtha practiced the vows of effort, endurance and patience. Wanting to attain enlightenment and to become a Buddha, the Bodhisattva had to start from a person of Dependent Arising (Sanskrit pratītyasamutpāda; Pali paticcasamuppāda). Building on this person, the Bodhisattva cultivated and found the substance of holiness, that of solidity and relaxation, peacefulness and happiness. Leaving go of this person, the Bodhisattva did not find the substances. As the enlightened and awakened Practitioner, the Bodhisattva found out the light of truth through the application and practice of right view, right though, right patience, purification, and transformation of afflictions of greed, anger, delusion, etc.
Therefore, Buddhism has always taught people who are cultivated, transformed, and who change their karma are their key factor to enlightenment. Depending on a supreme being to search out enlightenment and deliverance in him, practitioner will never find them. Depending on a person of elements (consisting of earth, water, fire, wind, etc.) to cultivate, to purify, and to transform afflictions and lapses, practitioner can find enlightenment, deliverance, and Buddha nature in himself or herself.
Bodhisattva Siddhārtha, who cultivated well, found the light of enlightenment in ignorance, wrong view, and in wrong patience, found bodhi in afflictions, happiness in suffering, the lotus in mud, and flowers in garbage, and found the Middle Way in ascetic mortification and in sensual indulgence, etc. Conversely, cultivating asceticism together with Bodhisattva Siddhārtha, the five brothers of Elder Kondañña, who did not cultivate well, did not discover the Middle Way, and did not practice meditation and concentration perfectly like the Bodhisattva, and did not find enlightenment and deliverance in themselves.
With patience and effort, with the spirits of great actions and great vows, the Bodhisattva found the light of enlightenment, the truth of suffering (Dukkha), and the path leading to transformation of suffering (Dukkha nirodha gāmini patipadā ariya sacca), specifically the Middle Path (Majjhimā paṭipadā) with the very practical eight branches: “Right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.” These eight branches that relate with one another as an image and its shadow are formed into the path of joyfulness and happiness for the many if everyone applies and and practices this path together in their daily lives mindfully and attentively, steadily and freely right here and right now in the present life.
Inner mind and outer scene are discussed above. Next, we continue exploring the meanings of Mara’s army.
Unlike the visible realms of humans, maras belong to the invisible realms; army means a group of many. According to the metaphorical teachings of Buddhism, Mara’s army symbolizes the negative seeds and habits in our bodies and minds. For example, tiredness, laziness, indolence, looseness, licentiousness, hesitation, disheartenment, regression, greed, anger, delusion, etc. are the negative habits. Right endurance, effort, courage, promotion, energy, vitality, tolerance, generosity, peacefulness, happiness, peace, insight, etc. are the positive habits.
As awakening people, we recognize that the negative and positive seeds are always present in us from hour to hour, from day to day, from week to week, from month to month, and from year to year. Cultivation is the process of purifying and transforming the negative seeds into the positive seeds by applying and practicing the Buddha Dharma in our daily lives diligently, mindfully, and awakeningly. We practice like this, the negative seeds in us will be gradually given up, the positive seeds in us will be developed, and the light of enlightenment in us will be manifested.
Converely, when we do not practice the Buddha Dharma well, the positive seeds in us will be gradually lessened and vanish, the negative seeds in us will rise up and increase quickly, Buddha nature and the light of enlightenment in us will be clouded and obscured. Those who cultivate well reap flowers and fruits of peacefulness and happiness very much. Those who cultivate not well or sporadically reap them very little or not at all. The process of cultivation is that of achieving our peaceful bodies and minds, and the light of enlightenment in every minute, every hour, every day, every step, and in every different stage of life.
Indeed, according to the metaphorical senses, Mara’s army represents the minds of envy, discrimination, fearfulness, inferiority, those of being not as good as other people, those of fearing and seeing them being better than one. If a person does not cultivate or cultivates little, Mara’s army in him or in her will appear easily, and vice versa; if a person has ultivated diligently, Mara’s army in him or in her disappears gradually.
When the morning Star rose, Bodhisattva Siddhārtha, who cultivated diligently, defeated Mara’s army completely by annihilating defilements and negative habits in Himself. At that time, His mind became suddenly illuminated, the light of enlightenment, peace, peacefulness and happiness in Him had the ability to shine all over Himself and others right in this world.
Through the foregoing meanings, we see that the light of enlightenment and awareness is derived from Dharma practice; steadiness and relaxation are derived from Dharma practice; peacefulness and happiness are also derived from Dharma practice; going together with Dharma practice is Dharma understanding, Dharma learning, Dharma meditation, Dharma concentration, Dharma peacefulness, Dharma propagation, and Dharma protection. Throughout the Dharma practice, Bodhisattva Siddhārtha fully digested and built up enough the quality substances.
At this point, we understand more, that when one is born in the world perfects one’s eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind, one’s whole family is happy. When one grows up, studies, graduates, achieves talents, has a stable job, and gets married, oneself is not only happy, but one’s paternal and maternal families are also happy. The forgoing senses are mentioned about worldly people. Different than these people, Bodhisattva Siddhārtha, the Awakened One, found the light of enlightenment, the truths of suffering, and the path of transformation of suffering under the root of the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya about the year 589 before the common era. In this world, not only all sentient beings, but also all insentient beings on this globe are imbued with the light of loving-kindness, compassion, wisdom, peace, and peacefulness in Him.
who had determined to become a homeless Monastic,
obtained the path of awareness,
gained that of peace,
attained that of deliverance,
instructed living beings
to travel on the right way
by the light of enlightenment,
by that of the Buddha Dharma,
by that of the Sangha
of the World-Honored Buddha.
Everyone cultivates together,
each of their houses gets happy.”
According to interdependent vision of Buddhism, a newborn Buddha, a newborn baby, prince Siddhārtha, Bodhisattva Siddhārtha, Lord Sakyamuni Buddha, originates from person of dependent origination and elements (Sanskrit pratītyasamutpāda; Pali paticcasamuppāda). Through his cultivation of right effort, endurance, meditation, and concentration, building on this person, Bodhisattva Siddhārtha found out the light of self-enlightenment, taught, and made benefit for other people. Therefore, when this person was born, not only are the people and royal lineage in Kapilavatthu of ancient India, a part of Nepal today, happy and glad, but living things and living beings all over the planet are also happy and glad.
There are the following two main reasons: First, King Suddhodana and Queen Maya (Māyādevī), when over 45 years old, had a first-born child named Siddhārtha, a fully contented person with the sufficiency of virtue and wisdom. Both the King and the Queen have dedicated to this earth a most precious person in the history of humankind, because this person always nurtures and brings the light of peace, loving-kindness, compassion, wisdom, enlightenment, deliverance, peacefulness and happiness to the many right in this world.
At the present day, with confidence in Triple Gem (the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha) unwaveringly and immovably, parents, lay people and monastics, who have enough fortunate conditions to find Buddhism by studying, understanding, teaching, practicing, and applying the Buddha Dharma in their daily lives, have the ability to offer a person of virtue and wisdom like this to their families, monasteries, nunneries, relatives, and to society. Carrying this out well, together they contribute to building their peaceful homeland, happy families, a realm of heaven, or Pure Land right in this world.
Second, after Siddhārtha was born, receiving the invitation from king Suddhodana, the seer Asita, a renowned hermit at that time, was invited to the court of Kapilavatthu to foretell the future for the prince. Asita predicted that when growing up, the prince, who would undoubtedly give up the path to become a king, instead decide to choose the path of a homeless monastic, master the theory of impermanence, cultivate meditation, concentration, become a perfectly enlightened One, and bring peacefulness and well-being to the many.
Indeed, the seer Asita’s predictions, which were the only prophecies in the history of Buddhism and humankind, later on became true. The fulfillment of those prophecies was made possible by the spirits of self-cultivation, self-support, self-enlightenment, and self-liberation. As an authentic Bodhisattva, the prince Siddhārtha determined to leave his royal family for a religious life and became the Buddha, named Sakayanuni (Muni means a sage, a hermit; Sakya means quiet, tranquil; thus Sakyamuni means a tranquil Sage of sakyan clan, who was absent from defilements and lapses, attained perfect enlightenment), the founder of Buddhism, who brought flowers and fruits of love and peace to preach to living things and living beings all over the planet.
With the seeds of enlightenment through many lives, and with the lineage of the sages through many eons (Kalpas), when Bodhisattva Siddhārtha became the Buddha, the light of His enlightenment, loving-kindness, compassion, and peace was widely spread over the world equally, it did not discriminate, and did not exclude anyone at all. Those who have enough opportunities to study, to practice, and to apply the Dharma of enlightenment in their daily lives diligently, mindfully, and attentively, have the ability to reap flowers and fruits of peacefulness and happiness right here and right now in the present life; these are specific characteristics of Buddhism being rarely found or not found in other religions.
To sum up, through the above mentioned things, we know the light of enlightenment is derived from the cultivated body and mind of Bodhisattva Siddhārtha, namely Lord Sakyamuni Buddha. When attaining perfect enlightenment, the Buddha, along with His disciples, messengers of peace, continued to travel on the way, setting the Dharma Wheel in motion, and brought the light of enlightenment, peace, peacefulness and liberation to spread over the world.
Wherever the light of enlightenment has been preached, there people live steadily in the religion of awakening and enlightenment, they have never had discrimination, distinction of race, and division of caste. Wherever Buddhism has been spread, there, with practice and application of the Buddha Dharma in their lives, people live more gentle and better. Wherever Buddhism has been present, there Buddhism – the path of peace – has never caused a religious war for anyone. And wherever Buddhism has been present, there homeland, its people, villages, and hamlets are not only tranquil, but plants, trees, forests, mountains, soils, rocks, all animals are also peaceful and happy, because sentient beings and insentient beings have been imbued with the teachings of loving-kindness, compassion and wisdom of our peaceful religion.
Understanding and practicing like this, we together contribute to bringing authentic joyfulness and happiness to the many all over this planet.
May you all be well and happy with the light of the World-Honored Buddha’s peace and enlightenment!
By Thích Trừng Sỹ
(Please click to see the slideshow movie)
 See the word Bodhisattva be found out in Dighā Nikāya, Mahāpadāna Sutta, Part I, No 18, 19, 20… 30.