SIGNIFICANCE OF BUDDHA'S ENLIGHTENMENT

Now it should be understood that the Noble Eightfold Path was not created by the Buddha; rather the path was discovered by the Buddha. Whether a Buddha arises or not the path remains as the indispensable means to enlightenment. For long periods when no Buddha has appeared in the world, the path is shrouded in darkness, lost to the masses of mankind. But when a Buddha arises he rediscovers the lost path to deliverance and then makes it known again to the world. In-fact, that is the special and unique function of a Buddha.

From one angle the discovery of the Noble Eightfold Path might be called the primary significance of the Buddha's enlightenment.

Before his renunciation, when he was still living in the palace as a Bodhisatta, he had already recognized the unsatisfactory nature of existence. He had recognized the hard facts of old age, sickness and death, and he had lost his worldly complacency, his desire for power, fame and sense pleasures. Thus even from the start he had an intuition, a confidence, that there was a way out of suffering, a state of liberation beyond the round of birth and death. Because of his confidence he was able to leave the palace to go in search of deliverance. But what he did not know was the path to deliverance, and with the discovery of the path he was able to escape the trap of ignorance, to reach enlightenment, to attain his own liberation and to guide others to liberation.

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