I read something the other day to the effect that, the universe is like an enlightenment machine, which converts ignorance into awakening. To exist is to be subject to its influence and propelled towards enlightenment regardless of the individual's intentions. This seems to correspond to the idea of buddha nature guiding the human journey towards spiritual perfection. Do you think that all beings are destined for enlightenment even though it may take forever for some to get there? Is buddhism a sort of fast-track towards this end?

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I think that the answer has to be no. Although there seems to be repeated attempts throughout Buddhist history to introduce ideas of this kind, it appears to have been the teaching of Shakyamuni that nothing is inevitable. Things can go down as well as up. In fact it is this assertion of freedom and consequence that is one of the core notions of his teaching. We have freedom. If we act with good intention good consequences follow and if bad, bad. Buddhism can be seen as a fast track to a good end, yes, but there is nothing in the original teaching to the effect that everyone will inevitably arrive.

However, we also have to take on that enlightenment is not a result of an accumulation of good karma, it is an awakening and anybody might awaken however good or bad their karma is. Awakening is a function of faith and vision. It can be triggered by exposure to inspiring examples or to disaster sufficient to wake us up - often a combination of the two - but it is not something that can be contrived by a plan, programme or practice. These all generate secondary consequences, good or bad in themselves, but not constituting enlightenment.

Thanks. I thought it all sounded a bit too neat. I suppose that sort of thinking could be considered determinism?! Namo Amida Bu( ;

Yes. Romantic determinism. Buddha was not a determinist. Though, as I say, there have been many attempts to bring in such ideas.

Dear Adam, you are right, life certainly provides grit (opportunities) for development on the spiritual path.  The way I see it, it is up to each of us how we act on what is already here and happening for us, a great responsibility with no guaranteed outcomes .  I do not have answers to the questions you ask and somehow they do not seem that important to me personally.  Do we have any control over what is happening in the universe?  We think, analyse and philosophise about the workings of the world but how can we make sense of it when we do not fully understand ourselves and our part in it?  This is what arise for me when I read your words, a humble call to turn back to my own condition and inquire deeply rather than drift and be distracted, head in the clouds (something I am prone to)!  NAB.

I know what you mean Juline. As part of my control defect I like to know what's going on. Even though I know that it is un-knowable!! Best to just sat Namo Amida Bu and admit my ignorance!! Namo Amida Bu( :

Your comments made me smile.  What wonderful fools we are!  Sending you lots of love and a wish for us both filled with wisdom, focus and courage to let go (faith).  NAB.

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