The historical Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha enter parinirvana at Kuśinagara. At that time, an ascetic by the name of Subhadda visited Buddha.
Buddha had already announced that He would enter Parinirvana that day and thus Ananda refused to let Subhadda meet Buddha. However, Buddha instructed Ananda not to obstruct Subhadda.
This meeting, resulted in Subhadda gaining enlightenment. Therefore, he became the last disciple to be personally enlightened and ordained by Shakyamuni Buddha.
Importantly, it also resulted in the Buddha’s answer to an important question.
Subhadda asked Buddha if enlightenment can be found outside the Teachings of Buddha. At that time, there were many religious teachers who claimed to be enlightened. Therefore, Subhadda wanted to know if those teachers and their teachings will lead to Enlightenment. Subhadda then listed some names of famous teachers and asked the Buddha for verification.
Buddha instructed Subhadda not to raise such question and instead taught that (1) Enlightenment can be attained as long as a teaching contains the Noble Eightfold path. (2) Buddha proclaimed that His teaching contains the Noble Eightfold path and (3) that there are no enlightened people outside of this path. (4) As long as the Noble eightfold path is being practiced, enlightenment of sentient beings will continue.
I think this demonstrated the wisdom of Buddha.
Foremost, it is futile to seek the opinion of others when we wish to learn more about a person. Just like Subhadda, trying to know whether other religious teachers were enlightened.
If we truly wish to find out more about another person, we have to associate with them to form our own conclusion. In this manner, I think the Buddha is super wise and cool. Subhadda was kinda like soliciting gossips from Buddha!
Instead, Buddha provided the answer to a question that is gnawing at Subhadda’s subconsciousness. It shows that Buddha knows! That is why Subhadda attained the first stage of enlightenment immediately when he heard Buddha’s answer.
Enlightenment is not dependent on an external power or personality. It is about how we adjust our mind to see the truth. It is all about applying the correct method to heal our own delusional mind.
Therefore, instead of being concerned and distracted about whether another master or person is enlightened, Buddha taught Subhaddha how enlightenment can be achieved by the Noble eightfold path. He showed Subhadda how enlightenment works!
As mentioned previously,Subhadda attained the stream-enterer stage of enlightenment after hearing Buddha’s answer. Subhadda became a monk immediately and started his meditation without wasting any time. He attained full enlightenment (4th stage of enlightenment) before Buddha enter parinirvana! All this happened within one night before the sun rose on the next day.
It is note worthy to know that Shakyamuni Buddha is a Samyaksam Buddha. This means that He rediscovered the Truth and taught the Truth at a time when nobody else knew about it.
That means he is the original author of the Noble Eightfold path. There can only be one Buddha.
Today, if a person who had never read Buddhism before were to write a book about Noble eightfold path from his own creativity and start his own religion. That person cannot be credited as an original author. Neither will he be credited as a Buddha. This is because he might have learnt it in his previous life time. That is also why knowledgeable Buddhist will never take another person seriously if that person proclaim himself a Buddha. (That proclamation itself is delusional…..)
Thus, we also conclude that
- Enlightenment can only be attained through the Buddha’s way. Only one way.
- The way is referred to as the Noble eightfold path. Regardless of cultural practice or outward appearance, we examine a teaching by looking for the Eightfold path approach. If it is there, then it will lead to enlightenment. That is why Buddhism can have many form and outward appearances. Your practice can look Japanese, Tibetan, Chinese,Thai, Sri Lankan, English etc. it doesn’t matter. What is important is to make sure the Noble Eightfold path is in your practice.
May all be well and happy.