Does anyone have a critique of the book "What's It Like To Be Enlightened?"

A friend asked me if I knew anything about a book entitled “What’s It Like To Be Enlightened?” by Deric J. Gorman. I looked at the synopsis and it appears on the surface to be pretty ridiculous, at least from an EBT standpoint. I thought I’d throw it out here to see if anyone has any experience with the book and/or the author.

with metta

Without looking at this particular one, I can probably say there are at least one million more just like it Amazon.com

If you want to sell something to an American really easily, tell them that whatever it is they want to learn or become an “expert” at can be done very quickly, maybe even in the the time it takes to read just one book!

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I agree with you. In reading the description of the book, it’s cringeworthy. I’m just curious if anyone knows more than what can be assumed by the Amazon description.

There is a paper on the subject of ‘persistent non-symbolic experiences’ which I found illuminating https://nonsymbolic.org/PNSE-Summary-2013.pdf The upshot is that everyone thinks their stage/version of enlightenment is the ultimate one, until they move to another, then they think that’s the one. In the meantime the people around them report no significant behaviour changes. Whatever it is, it’s not to do with releasing fetters, so it’s not what the Buddha talked about.

It’s a self published book, so that probably tells you something.

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Not sure why there is so much hate and condescension on this thread.

It’s a non-Buddhist book about enlightenment. It’s clear and easy to read. I found it extremely useful. It has one of the best descriptions of anatman/annatta (non-self) I’ve read. Again, from a non-Buddhist perspective. If that turns you off, don’t read it.

Also, the author doesn’t talk about himself at all in the book. And it portrays different stages of the path. I encountered the PNSE system years ago (I don’t remember it clearly enough to give specifics). But the last stage in the book is from one of their highest stages in that system.

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Hi @Julie_L,

Welcome to the D&D forum!

Enjoy the multiple resources here available: may these be of assistance along the path.

Should you have any questions, feel free to contact the @moderators.

With Metta,
Ric
On behalf of the moderators

This may be of interest re PNSE?

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The “wellness” and self-help matrix is a heap of mostly toxic goop. Maybe this book is a diamond in the rough, but I think hate is a strong word, and when an author writes a book, one should expect criticism since you can’t please everybody.

If a movie director puts out a movie that scores 35% on rottentomatoes.com and they call it hate, whatever, but maybe the truth is their movie sucks?

Thank you for your candid reply to the thread. I’m not very articulate on a keyboard, so please forgive my shortcomings.

When I said that the description of the book was cringeworthy, it wasn’t meant to denigrate the author or his writing, it was more about the definitions he attempts to explain. I checked out his website and read many of his essays (excerpts from his book) and found it quite lacking in the scope of what it really means to be enlightened (I prefer awakened), the path that leads to enlightenment, what hinders it, what aids it, etc. The same goes with the of understanding of No-Self, Consciousness, etc. Enlightenment is not just cultivating mindfulness or feeling calm. it’s a well defined path that eradicates what stands in the way by means of understanding and relinquishment (and more).

Here on Discuss & Discover, the focus is Early Buddhism, early Buddhist texts and related material. When one considers the terms Full Enlightenment, Partial Enlightenment, No-Self and Consciousness from an Early Buddhist foundation and perspective, the author’s definitions don’t get to the point and don’t make much sense.

That said, I have no hate or condescension towards the author, it’s just not Buddhist. I don’t know if what’s in his book corresponds to the PNSE system as is put forth in the article posted by @josephzizys . But I might go so far as to say that the PNSE system has practical value to anyone, but exponentially so much more if it leads a person to the teachings of the Buddha.

Thank you for the lengthly reply. You were very articulate. And I can see that you have reverence for your tradition.

The book isn’t Buddhist (or marketed as Buddhist), so naturally it is unlikely to align with everything in your tradition. I assume you know that even Buddhists disagree with each other about these core topics (what enlightenment is, how to find it, etc.). As I mentioned in another reply, the book does align very closely with later Buddhist traditions. And, for that reason, it might not be for you.

Just to be clear, the author doesn’t equate enlightenment with “just cultivating mindfulness or feeling calm.” Nor does he discuss “Consciousness.”

I can understand your preference for “awakening” since it is a better translation of “bodhi.” “Enlightenment” is actually a Western term, as you may know.

Anyhow, I came to this site to learn more about early Buddhist ideas and practices. (And this thread turned me off a bit.) But maybe you can help me gain a better understanding of the early tradition? I’ve done some reading myself and have some basic ideas, but perhaps you can give me a clear, simple description from an early Buddhist perspective of what awakening/enlightenment and non-self are?

Thanks

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“Hate” is a word younger people often use. The urban dictionary defines it as “A person that simply cannot be happy for another person’s success. So rather than be happy they make a point of exposing a flaw in that person.” Or, “When one puts down the success or fortune of others due to jealousy.”

That’s how the thread came off to me as a visitor. If you reread the thread, I think you could understand how one might interpret it that way.

Hopefully those reviewing the movie at least watched it. If one is going to review a book (or sutta, dharma talk, etc.), he/she needs to first read and also understand it. Ideally, he/she should be able to present the ideas in it in a way that the author would agree with. And then, if he/she has an intelligent critique, share it. It wouldn’t hurt to be constructive and compassionate. Everyone on this thread seemed to be “hating” on a book they never even read.

Again, don’t read the book if it turns you off. I’m sure you have more reading to do than you can finish in one lifetime. But no need to “hate.”

As I said, I enjoyed the book. I actually was very impressed by it. But I’m more familiar with Prasangika Madhyamika and certain Tibetan Buddhist traditions (the book isn’t Buddhist, but it aligns with those closely).

I was hoping to find something useful and positive on here about early Buddhism.

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Thank you!
I look forward to enjoying the resources and hopefully learning from them.

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On the authors website he suggests:

Full Enlightenment

Unlike partial enlightenment, full enlightenment does not rest on the experience of a deeper spiritual dimension situated beneath your everyday world—spirit, awareness, presence, or what have you. Instead, in the state of full enlightenment, all of experience is a “spiritual dimension,” you might say. This is one reason that full enlightenment is “full” and not “partial.” It doesn’t rest on a mere part or level of existence. Rather, it encompasses the fullness of experience. It comprehensively includes all that you experience—your mind, body, the world, and all things—within itself.

Therefore, even if you don’t recognize it yet, this form of enlightenment includes everything you are experiencing right now—every sight, sound, smell, feeling, thought, and everything else. There is not a single part of you, the world, or anything in the world that is excluded from it. In the state of full enlightenment, enlightenment is inseparable from all experience.

So he seems to be equating ‘enlightenment’ with saṁsāra. Which reminded me of the Nibbāna === saṃsāra? thread, which you might like @Julie_L

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I can help by saying the book mentioned has nothing to do with EBT, if that isn’t entirely clear at this point.

I can also help by saying that those two things are often asked about, and the best thing you can do is read suttas, and to dive right into those two things directly may not be most useful at this point in your practice or study, but I could be wrong. I think developing a deeper understanding of the four noble truths and the eightfold path is always the best place for somebody to go deeper, since it helps one develop more understanding of the path as a whole before going into more complex things.

Also, the fruits of practicing the N8FP and really wrapping one’s head around the 4NT can bring results that are visible in the here and now, while the other things you mention sometimes take a bit more time to truly take in, especially because of how they can impact one’s personal sense of self.

Bhikkhu Bodhi’s “In The Buddha’s Words” is really an excellent foundational text, and I strongly recommend it to all. In sutta study group I facilitated for many years, this book was really a strong base for all who came and studied. See below for more info.

Venerable @Khemarato.bhikkhu has put together quite an amazing resource at Courses @ The Open Buddhist University and here is a link to a ‘course’ of information on Nibbana Nibbāna: The Goal of Buddhist Practice @ The Open Buddhist University as for not-self go here (Deconstructing the Self @ The Open Buddhist University)

As for “In The Buddha’s Words” you can find it here: The Buddha’s Words @ The Open Buddhist University

There is quite a lot here, so if you would like to open this up into another thread, we can do that.

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Have you read the whole book?

If not, then you might be right or might be wrong as well. And when it comes to what is actually the EBT, that is also debated among monastics and lay practitioners.

I didn’t read one page. I think I made that clear in post #2 on this thread. This whole “don’t judge a book by its cover thing” is really silly. Why don’t you read it, and let me know your thoughts? Personally, I would rather spend a few hours in a Russian labor camp than sacrifice a few hours reading it. Although it does provide “[a] rare insider’s view of what many traditions call union with God or the divine”.

Awesome observation! Yes, that is the gist: samsara = nirvana.

This idea is so common in later Buddhism, it didn’t occur to me that it might run contrary to certain early Buddhist beliefs. But I read the thread you suggested (thank you, btw), and it seems most on here are comfortable with that idea. It was interesting to see an early Buddhist take on that general idea and also Nagarjuna.

Nice to “meet” you and thanks for your help!

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I’m new to EBT, but this is helpful to know. Thanks for pointing it out. I should’ve anticipated it, since it’s the same with other, later Buddhist traditions (which I’m more familiar with).

Thanks for the resource list. I browsed them, and they look excellent. I look forward to investigating further. (Preliminarily, it’s interesting to see that many of the subjects I’m familiar with from later traditions are there: “dhatu,” pure awareness, luminous mind, etc.)

You clearly have deep reverence for your tradition. And I agree with you- you should not read the book. I wish you blessings and luck on your path.

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