How was The Buddha enlightened?

I have heard so many people stated different things about the way The Buddha was enlightened, but source of the story isn’t so sure. How is it in EBTs then? Please help me know the correct story based on that.

What I have read myself was the story in D.N. 14 about Buddha Vipassi, that he was enlightened through contemplating paticasamupada and seeing impermenance by satipatthana. And in D.N. 16 it was stated by Sariputta and Buddha Gotama concured that all Buddha enlightened through satipatthana for perfecting the satta-bojjhanga.

From those sutta I just saw abtract things about the Buddha’s enlightenment. But somehow the story that people goes by is so definite. Like Buddha Gotama was using anapanasati, entering jhana and so on. When I went to India just a while ago, they even has such a definite story of the after enlightenment weeks. One of the tour guide even said Buddha Gotama on the 2nd week was using anapanasati during walking meditation to contemplate about abhidhamma. Then in my head I just go “SORRY WHAT?”


Check out this sutta:

And this excellent study guide:



As a little supplement the super guide gnlaera linked to, in connection to the period just after the Buddha’s enlightenment - apparently, he went and hung out by a bunch of different trees. A few accounts: Ud 2.1, AN 4.21, AN 4.22, SN 47.18, Ud 1.3.

Also, while I’m at it, I’ve always been kinda frustrated by the traditional renunciation narrative (I understand and am sympathetic to its function, but for me personally it was a challenge to overcome) and it was with utter glee that I came across the very brief, but (for me) deeply moving and relatable picture given in Snp4.15 which, again, I offer as a supplement to the guide above.


I saw the conversation with Saccaka leading to enlightenment is using the last part of gradual training, +1 then for the importance of the whole gradual training pattern. Now we need to practice! Thanks.

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In my perspective, this renunciation narrative is actually the most logical way for any person to consider in doing life changing action. Because we have to do something first and foremost for our own well being for that particular action to be taken in the first place, of course the action shouldn’t give any bad impact to others. I mean literally from a luxurious life to a beggar life? I don’t think loving kindness only agenda can do that. If I’m in that state, I will just do givings rather than being a recluse. But when an urge for liberating one’s own suffering is at stake, then the life changing action needs to be taken ASAP. Talking about samvega eh :smile:


Thanks @majjhima, although, I think we might be talking at cross-purposes. At any rate I couldn’t agree more with the idea that “we have to do something first and foremost for our own well being”. It’s just that I find:

Seeing creatures flopping around,
Like fish in water too shallow,
So hostile to one another!
— Seeing this, I became afraid.

This world completely lacks essence;
It trembles in all directions.
I longed to find myself a place
Unscathed — but I could not see it.

Seeing people locked in conflict,
I became completely distraught.
But then I discerned here a thorn
— Hard to see —
lodged deep in the heart.


a much more compelling articulation of that point than whatever funny story about meeting an old person for the first time at the age of 29 and however else it goes until he escapes his palace on horseback in the middle of the night with the gods muffling the sound of his horses neighing.

At the same time, I’m very happy with whatever inspires whoever towards a good way.


He was actually contemplating Vissudimagga :grin:

As for how he really did it, it was through discovering Patticasamupada. And that is why he’s called “The Great Contemplative”.

SN 12.65 - gives full detail of his enlightenment.

Like many ascetics of his day, he “meditated” (whatever they understood by that), he lived an ascetic life, etc. but still did not become enlightened, not even stream entry. Only after discovering how the world functions did he become enlightened.

Because the Buddha discovered this and told it to the world, we don’t need to re-discover it again. If there would be no Buddha sansa in existence, then people could still become enlightened but that would take a very long time and there would be fewer people doing it. And they would be called “silent buddhas”

We also notice that Buddha did not first achieve stream entry, then once-returner, then non-returner and then arahanthip. He attained arahantship on the spot because he was already a hardcore ascetic. We see in the suttas that people who get exposed to the teachings about dependent origination, aggregates, elements, sense bases etc. only achieve stream entry in case they are normal people. But those who were already ascetics generally attain non-returning or arahantship on the spot when getting exposed to the teachings.

For a person to discover how the world works by himself, he needs to have all his faculties very developed for such level of wisdom to arise. That is why in the absence of a Buddha, there can not exist stream-enterers, once-returners or non-returners, only “silent buddhas” can exist.

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No. Visuddhimagga was a product of Buddhaghosa. Well no offense but I’m rather shocked by the tremendous relating to his product, even in wikipedia it says “the great treatise on theravada buddhism”. Like who made the decision to give the title? I don’t concur to that :scream:

Yeah I think we talked about different things :smirk:

When do you predict those sutta being uttered by The Buddha? IMO after the funny renunciation narrative. Because people tend to think deeply after a shocking thing happen to them. If in all my life I’ve never seen an old person and suddenly I see them, well it’s like seeing an alien for the first time.

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My interpretation of this story isn’t that it’s the first time he literally saw an old person. It’s the first time he really saw an old person with wisdom, like the first time it occurred to him “s#&*, this is going to happen to me too. this is quite problematic”.

We’ve all seen old people growing up but it wasn’t seen as a problem that applies to oneself until a certain level of maturity. Many people never see it as a problem despite seeing old people their entire lives.


Yes, I think that’s a excellent, accessible way into that narrative and that is much more relatable (to my sensibilities) than a literal reading. Indeed, I’m sure there are all sorts of beautiful interpretive modes to make that story meaningful.

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“Buddha”… “Buddhaghosa” …Basically the same thing. At least in Burma or in the modern mahasi/goenka traditions. The monk you spoke with and said that about abbhidhamma was probably from Burma too.

To me renunciation and universal metta are connected. It is inherent in our ordinary worldly life that we divide things up into what is our own territory and what is others’ territory, and divide people up into friends and enemies, supporters and opponents, etc. Renouncing this all-pervasive aspect of human life in society is the hardest renunciation of all. To achieve a state in which one is truly a friend to all is an extremely high aspiration, and something that can’t happen until the very concept of mine has been eradicated.

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@Maiev, The Buddha was enlightened through the Four Noble truths. Patticamupada is part of the Four Noble Truth as well as the Noble eightfold path. So, it’s also true to say that the Buddha was enlightened through patticasamupada as well in my opinion.

In SN12.56:
1st, the Buddha outlined: born, ages, and dies as suffering.
2nd, the Buddha outlined the forward Patticasamupada as the cause of suffering.
3rd, the Buddha outlined the reversed Patticasamupada as the cessation of suffering.
4th, the Buddha outlined the Noble eightfold path (ancient path) as the way leading to the cessation of suffer. SN12.65

“It is because he has fully awakened to these Four Noble Truths as they really are that the Tathagata is called the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One.” SN56.23