What is the difference between awakening in advaita and enlightenment in Buddhism

There are probably subtle and not so subtle difference in terms of how one claims arahantship in different Buddhist sects. Also lots of different advaita flavours. Both seem to agree that a separate self does not exist (and I guess there is a connection here with actualism where ‘self’ is found to be a fiction - but of course there is a huge gulf then with Hinduism and Buddhism about what does exist)

Advaita: You realise that your illusory Atman was a part of Brahman all along. Advaita teaches that the phenomenal world, though real at a relative level, is merely the manifestation of the one abiding reality, the absolute ground of being, known as Brahman. Practise esp. neo-advaita tends to eschew meditation, long paths and prioritise a kind of instant seeing of the truth of non-duality and the illusion of a separate self. Awakened advaitins seem to make the claim that they have transcended experience itself and now reside in an ultimate reality that is deathless, timeless and formless. Advaita emphasizes not meditation, but jnana, discriminating wisdom, the capacity to identify our true nature directly and differentiate it from mere appearance.

Buddhism: Lots of different approaches. Rather than atman, the focus is on anatman or shunyatha. Buddhist teachers would object to the view that the individual self is identical with an absolute, abiding reality. The realisation of non-self. Most Buddhist schools teach the value of meditation practice as the only effective way to remove the poison arrow of dukkha, or suffering. Enlightened Buddhists seem to go with the

Anyone with more info or thoughts ? I’m wanting to write a piece in simpleactualism about distinguishing between actualism and secular Advaita/Buddhism.


Very good idea.

Summarizing at last the key differences with actualism in one place would be a very valuable source for spreading the actualist word in this matter when appropriate, linking to it in forums and sites (or even here, in answers to new visitors, if needed).

This will avoid repeating ad nauseam and imperfectly, a resource that Richard used very much with respect to his own words.

We could also have a topic for every discipline (or groups related between them) that we consider relevant, just pointing out its differences with actualism.

I’m not so familiar with any of these except for the “pragmatic Buddhism” movement :smiley:

My understanding of what Buddhism actually is derives from Richard’s pointing me to akasha (the interface with the Absolute) and me experiencing it. The suttas never say there is “no self” but rather that the self is not to be found in the khandas. But Theravadans will disagree of course…

I’ve never heard the term akasha, so I was just looking it up. Seems it is like one of the formless jhanas. I may have had an experience like this in my jhana chasing days, although not so definitely that I could say I experienced it without a doubt.

From wikipedia: In Buddhist phenomenology, akasha is divided into limited space (ākāsa-dhātu) and endless space (ajatākasā). The Vaibhashika, an early school of Buddhist philosophy, hold the existence of akasha to be real. Ākāsa is identified as the first arūpa jhāna, but usually translates as "infinite space.

I found this thing in the canon which does seem to show the Buddha talking about non-self. It probably is Theravada.


I’ve just skimmed the AFT on these topics. There is an awful lot to read! If anyone wants to send me some good quotes from there, I’d be thrilled.

I’ve never heard the term akasha, so I was just looking it up. Seems it is like one of the formless jhanas. I may have had an experience like this in my jhana chasing days, although not so definitely that I could say I experienced it without a doubt.

From wikipedia: In Buddhist phenomenology, akasha is divided into limited space (ākāsa-dhātu) and endless space (ajatākasā). The Vaibhashika, an early school of Buddhist philosophy, hold the existence of akasha to be real. Ākāsa is identified as the first arūpa jhāna, but usually translates as "infinite space.

Richard’s explication at Selected Correspondence: Buddhism is far more thorough and complete and accurate than anywhere else I had come across prior to meeting him:

While I did not enter a dimension of infinite space, meaning I still perceived my body, which is distinct from meditate experiences in the past that I would have called entering this jhana – I did experience this interface. I could say the Absolute was starting to open up for me and I was able to intuitively/viscerally experience it, beckoning to me in a sense. So I didn’t fully experience the region where “dukkha” ceases but perhaps the inklings or the start of it.

And yet nowhere in that Sutta does it say there is no self.

The only thing the sutta says is that these 5 things are not self (taking the Pali from SN III_utf8):

  • Rūpaṃ - translated as “form”
  • Vedanā - translated as “feeling”
  • Saññā - translated as “perception”
  • Saṃkhārā - translated as “determinations”
  • Viññāṇaṃ - translated as “consciousness”

It is not saying there is no self — it is merely saying that there is no self in the phenomenal world. But the Theravadans gloss over this point.

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Oh also Richard made a massive massive post on Buddhism that was thoroughly enjoyable to read. And extremely detailed. It might take a few hours to get through. But highly recommend it all if you’re interested: Selected Correspondence: Buddhism

For example the part starting here addresses exactly the question you asked in the first post:

I won’t quote it all here but give it a read :slight_smile:

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Claudiu. Mucho thanks! I’ll have a read.

Have you met or corresponded with anyone who claimed arahantship and asked them about their experiences?

I met Daniel Ingram, and corresponded with others who claimed Arahantship in that community. But after hearing Richard describe his experience of Enlightenment first-hand, I’ve come to the conclusion that what he experienced is what Arahantship referred to when the Buddha became Enlightened, and that the experience of genuine full Enlightenment is essentially that – and the others who claimed Arahantship like Daniel Ingram are not on the right path, not living the fruits of the Buddhist path as the Buddha laid it out.

The progression as I understand is essentially first you experience God/Divinity, then you become that God/Divinity, and finally you become the Ground of Being which all Gods arise out of – and that is full enlightenment, which is equivalent to full ego death.

With this in mind everything spiritual I read more or less makes sense to me :smiley: I can see where people are coming from and where they go awry

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My approach in terms of attempting a comparison would be less canonical. I would get a sampling of different advaita and buddhist enlightees both in the recent past and in the present, being somewhat agnostic and generous as to the verity of their claims.Then it would be a matter of differentiating phenomenologically and ontologically between actual freedom as I experience it and their experience. So far, as far as I can tell, they all seem to be they all have feelings and all point to an existence that transcends the material world – including their bodies.

I know its been a while but can you point me to a post of Ingram’s where he discusses why he is an arahant?

Not canonical, as in according to canon as opposed to experience, at all — that was actually what Richard was initially replying to in that epic post (the Respondent said Richard’s schematic [as in description of spiritual Enlightenment] points to a “dogmatic spirituality”). To wit:

Maybe your pre-actualism DhO background is shining through here? I ask also because of your particular choice of words - “phenomenologically” - which is a particularly salient aspect of the pragmatic dharma approach.

In any case I’m going by Richard’s experiences of being Enlightened, and my own experiences of pragmatic dharma enlightenment as well as what I was able to witness due to Richard’s descriptions in person.

It’s just like with actual freedom. Someone can claim to be actually free, but then the important thing is what the words they are using actually refer to. They can be mistaken about being actually free. Similarly with Enlightenment - there is a specific way of being that full Enlightenment actually is, and people can be mistaken about it or not. What I found delightful is that Richard was able to unpack a lot of the meaning of the Pali canon by spending many months perusing it along with Pail dictionaries and drawing from his own experience of that state.

Now it might not be particularly important for what you’re doing whether someone is fully Enlightened or not – since you are just distinguishing their states from your experience of actual freedom. In which case there is no need to go into such detail. But as your initial topic was about the difference between awakening in advaita and enlightenment in Buddhism, it seems like you’re trying to get an accurate idea of what each entails. In which case it makes sense to dig in.

Another way to put it is you can figure out what each group individually means be “Enlightenment” understanding that they are not all talking about the same thing. Just for the purpose of distinguishing it with actual freedom, that is probably enough. And Richard already wrote the post distinguishing Advaita with Buddhism with pragmatic Dharma and debunking the Theravadans etc., so you don’t have to write that post again :smiley: .

In any case about Daniel Ingram’s claim to Arahantship, he reports attaining it on page 366 of MCTB edition 2008 (link):

Man I was forgetting how extensive these forum threads could be! :laughing: Just briefly …

  • Less canonical, I meant. Not ignoring canonical analysis entirely. Experience is important. Richard’s experience, accounts and study are certainly nothing to be sniffed at
  • My DHO background was very limited. A few posts mostly about actualism from memory. Phenomenology to me is something I associate more with philosophy i.e. Husserl, Heidegger and psychopathology, but its a mode of analysis that’s been absorbed into a number of fields of study
  • Yes, agreed that enlightenment is a ‘broad church’ with a dizzying array of flavours. There are merits with following a ‘gold standard’ approach i.e. comparing the experiences of current claimants with canonical texts and scripture. But there are also drawbacks
  • While I think Richard’s analysis and experience are invaluable. I would nevertheless want to still look at this with a fresh pair of eyes
  • Thanks for that DI quote. Something like this is what I was looking for
  • At the end of the day, I’m not really sure how detailed and extensive this entry to simpleactualism will be or when it will get written. It might be something fairly brief, that I will progressively refine

My hunch is that people like Daniel Ingram or Rupert Spira who claim Enlightenment are kind of just kidding themselves… (hope we are triggering some search volume with these name drops lol). These are the people that call enlightenment “not a big deal” essentially. They might be successful non-dualists.

To me someone like Artem does come across as enlightened (“good feeling” chemicals pumping, wide eyes, spouting total bullshit haha). But I agree, I think there are all colours and flavours of altered states of consciousness - and social identity comes into it as well.

But this is just my “bullshit” meter talking. Observing someone’s behaviour, analysing what they say, and judging off their “vibes”, is not an accurate way to measure their experience by any means.

What about Frank Yang? Potentially the most muscly enlightened person that ever was. :grin: Definitely an Artem of sorts.

I’m wondering if there is even a single type of enlightenment. I’m toying with the idea that it is more like a family of states with various sub-branches. Rather like electronic music genres …


The Mahasi guys would be kinda austere like Kraftwerk. The Tibetans would be Psy Dub Reggae Acid House :upside_down_face:

All kidding aside, it would be nice to have a simple infographic in tree-form to map the varieties of enlightenment experiences

Haha @Srinath did you mention Frank Yang to trigger search volume? :stuck_out_tongue::stuck_out_tongue::stuck_out_tongue: Good idea :wink:. New topic: Are Pewdiepie and Logan Paul enlightened?

Haha nah jokes aside, have you watched much of Yang’s videos and if so what are your takeaways about him (hunches are accepted in this topic lol). I just watched a bit and it was all that levels stuff - jnanas and stages of Awakening and NoSelf and dreamstates within dreamstates etc. All sounds pretty Jed Mckenna-like. In any case I realise with actualism there is more of a built-in “certainty” where I guess we aspiring actualists see actual freedom as a bedrock state which is kind of objective and irrefutable. Would you describe it as such?

I agree that there is probably a wide spectrum of altered states, and multiple types of enlightenment, some of which probably don’t deserve that name (ie wherever UG Krishnamurti was). I doubt Adyashanti, Eckhart Tolle and Mooji are all in the “same place” neurochemically put it that way haha. The type of state I tend to think of as enlightenment is the love and compassion-based one, but that’s probably Richard influenced.

On your path to actual freedom (or pripr when you were into buddhism) did you experience any major enlightenment-style ASCs? Or if not have you ever analysed that world from your current state of actual freedom?

To me the most surprising factor in both enlightenment and actual freedom is the permanency of the state and how that is achieved. Just seems crazy to me that it’s actually permanent. When you self-immolated did you experience it as just a “swift” passage from one state into another, or was it more like a…benevolent suicide involving some kind of imagined death? :sweat_smile:

Lastly, would you say that (even if 180 degrees in opposite directions) “attaining enlightenment” vs “becoming actual free” are in some ways analagous (if so, how)?

Would tag Craig and Geoffrey to jump in on these questions too if they want but not sure what their usernames are or if they are on here yet.

Re: Yang, a friend told me about him a few days ago so I just checked it out youtube for a few minutes. I have no opinion really lol. The field of all these enlightenment traditions is so diverse and vague. I really don’t have the expertise or enough knowledge to be able to assess them from an enlightenment standpoint. It would take a lot of research which I’m not interested enough to take up at the moment. I can make some rough comparisons to actual freedom which I do understand - and say that they seem quite different from it, but that’s about it.

No. Never had any enlightenment style ASC’s. I did have some Jhana experiences and non-duality experiences through direct pointing. But they always seemed like just another a head-trip to me.

Yes, actual freedom is incredible and unbelievable! It’s exactly as I describe in my report.

I don’t know anything about enlightenment personally, so it’s hard to really make comparisons with AF in terms of what the process would be like. I find it hard to see a connection that is meaningful, except may they are both pursuing a permanent end to suffering?


One cannot learn about enlightenment from someone who is not enlightened. Same for actual freedom. That means that to compare in a definitive manner enlightenment and actual freedom, one would have to be/have been both. That means Richard.

Personally I have never been enlightened (any kind). I’ve never even pursued it. So whatever I might say on the matter is an opinion, which means provisional and based on incomplete information.

About Ingram and friends, I certainly never attempted to practice any of what they’re talking about. So my understanding of what they’ve been doing comes from reading MCTB and browsing the DhO. To me it was obvious while doing so that, under their stated fascination for maps, lied an assumption of the ultimate and/or all-encompassing character of their map, to which they would compare/equate other traditions’ maps - in order to say something like “oh we know that, it’s in our map - amongst other things, so ours is better”, or “hmm, this is not in our map - because it’s not what we want / what anybody should want (e.g. the “no-emotions” models)”.

What they were going for looked, to me, to be a map of every kind of ‘enlightened’ experience (that they deemed worthy), so that one could, following that map, fabricate them all. I never took their ‘path’ for a legit one, leading to authentic enlightenment, but as some sort of brain-training towards enlightenment-mimicking experiences. So it was no surprise to me that, following that same pattern, those of them who became interested in actualism, were able to fabricate actuality-mimicking experiences. That’s what it was all about from the start. Them being able to say (even to themselves) “I experience that, because I can make it so that it fits the description”, and then they would ‘claim’ the corresponding ‘attainment’. I.e. the description came first, and the experience was fabricated based on the description. Whereas the purpose of the description of an authentic experience is so one can recognise it once it’s there; i.e. the experience is all that matters, and it stands perfectly in the absence of a description (e.g. Richard’s actual freedom, or his enlightenment before that).


About the topic of this thread (the difference between advaita and buddhism regarding their experience of enlightenment), I’m obviously not qualified to talk. My opinions would be based on reading and watching tenants of those traditions talking about their experience, and as such not of great interest.

@srinath If you’re after some kind of map of ‘enlightenment’ experiences, so that one could differentiate between the different ‘types’, maybe the less biased one would be that which Jeffrey Martin put together. Whatever one thinks of him, of his methods, goals, whatever, one has to appreciate that he made an effort to at least make it look like his methodology for gathering and exploiting data was a legit one, used in social sciences. He conducted interviews with ‘enlightened’ people, but ignored their own maps and traditions and ideas, to instead focus on what they reported their experience to be like, concretely, day-to-day. And then he let clusters emerge from the data.

What emerged was a 4 locations model. First would be ‘enlightenment light’ (“everything is fine”). Second location would be the non-dual experience (“all is just happening”). Third would be like Richard’s Enlightenment (“all is one”, 'I AM", etc.). And fourth would be ‘beyond’ that, e.g. B. Roberts, U.G., G. Weber…

Martin puts Actual Freedom in that fourth location. But he never met with any actually free person, and the presentation he gives of actualism in his “finder’s course” apparently presents grave misunderstandings, of the kind the affers made (again afaik, as I’ve not had access to the entire thing).

Still, here is a typology for you to have fun and put people in :slight_smile:


This is a goldmine, Geoffrey. Cheers. Reading one of his research papers now, Clusters of Individual Experiences form a Continuum of Persistent Non-Symbolic Experiences in Adults, and it is fascinating.

For me, personally, as I continue reading I’m gaining a sense that the implications of these studies are potentially enormous; life-altering.

Excellent! Thanks Geoffrey, I’ll take a look at Martins work.

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