Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2014 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming

Enlightenment Initiation

  • Wing-shing Chan
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6086-2_824

Enlightenment initiation refers to the events, either natural or by human, that directly lead to a person’s enlightenment. The Buddha is reported to be greatly enlightened when he watched the appearance of a brilliant star while meditating. Throughout the history of Chan (or Zen), thousands of people were enlightened while triggered by some natural events such as kicking a tile onto a bamboo strip or seeing one’s reflection on water or being initiated by their masters through being hit upon or reprimanded.

The mystery of these enlightenment initiation events can be understood if we understand what enlightenment is involved and the mechanism that may lead to enlightenment. Enlightenment can be analyzed to be the realization of our Buddha mind (nature) when the barrier of illusive and discursive thoughts in the mind is being removed. Enlightenment experience can occur when either the barrier of illusive thoughts in the mind is completely dissolved or when such barrier can be temporarily...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Chan, W.-S. (2004). Concentration, illumination, illumination forgotten: Three levels of Chan Meditation (pp. 50–53). In Does no-thought mean no thought? Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly. Boulder: Shambhala Sun.Google Scholar
  2. Chan, W.-S. (2008). Psychological attachment, no-self and Chan Buddhist mind therapy. Contemporary Buddhism, 9(2), 253–265.Google Scholar
  3. Suzuki, D. T. (1949). Practical methods of Zen instruction. In Essays in Zen Buddhism (Essay VI, pp. 267–313). New York: Grove Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of MedicineThe Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of ChinaShatinHong Kong