The other day a student asked me, “Why should I what to become a Buddha?” This question made me think about what our goal should be whilst practising the words of Gautama Buddha. It seems to me that becoming a Buddha or trying to reach enlightenment or nirvana is such a huge goal, and quiet frankly, a bit unrealistic. It also appears to be something that is outside of us. So for me my goal is to try and reduce my suffering in this life, and when I teach I try to teach in a way that can help reduce other’s suffering.

I do this by talking about awakening and not enlightenment. Awakened is actually a better translation of the word bodhi, which is commonly translated as enlightenment. Being awakened seems to be something that is obtained from within ourselves and is also a more obtainable goal.

The opposite to being awake is sleeping, and this is how Gautama Buddha saw the way we go through life. We are asleep to a full understanding of impermanence, non-self, the causes of our suffering and cause & effect. We have to awaken ourselves to these, but to be awake is not an intellectual exercise. We have to turn our knowledge of these into wisdom and make them the very essence of our thinking. This is being awake. It won’t magically transport you off to some blissful place called nirvana, but it will help reduce your suffering in this life. That seems to me to be a good goal to aim for. What do you think?  

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