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Jonah Engler-The Philosophy of Buddhism: What It Means to Be Awake

Jonah Engler Silberman says in the Buddhist tradition, there is a deep and abiding concern with the question of what it means to be awake. This concern is expressed in a variety of ways, but one of the most succinct expressions can be found in a statement by the Buddha himself: “Wake up! Wake up!”

This injunction points to the fact that, for Buddhists, being awake is not simply a matter of having our eyes open and seeing the world as it is. Rather, it involves seeing things in a new way, with insight and clarity. It is this kind of seeing that allows us to break free from the constrictions of our usual views and habits of mind, and to live more fully and authentically in the present moment.

In this essay, we will explore the Buddhist concept of awakening in more detail. We will begin by looking at the nature of awareness and insight, and then discuss the various factors that help to bring about Awakening. Finally, we will consider some of the implications of awakening for our everyday lives.

Jonah Engler-The Nature of Awareness and Insight

In Buddhism, awareness is understood as the foundation of all experience. It is what makes it possible for us to see things as they are, without distortion or delusion. In a sense, awareness is the “ground” or “root” from which all other aspects of our experience grow.

This does not mean, however, that awareness is a passive or inert quality. On the contrary, it is said to be dynamic and ever-changing, constantly unfolding in response to the things that we see and experience.

Insight is another key quality of mind in Buddhism. It refers to the ability to see clearly into the nature of things, and to see the interconnectedness of all phenomena. Insight allows us to penetrate beyond the surface appearances of things, and to perceive the true nature of reality.

The Factors that Bring About Awakening

There are a number of factors that help to bring about Awakening in Buddhism. In general, these can be divided into two categories: internal factors, which relate to our own individual journey of awakening; and external factors, which relate to the broader social and cultural context within which we live.

Internal Factors

Some of the key internal factors that help to bring about Awakening include:

1. The development of mindfulness or awareness.

2. The cultivation of insight or understanding.

3. The practice of meditation.

4. The practice of virtue or ethical conduct.

5. The development of compassion and loving-kindness.

External Factors

Some of the key external factors that can support the process of Awakening include:

1. A supportive spiritual community or sangha.

2. The study and practice of Buddhist teachings.

3. The availability of qualified teachers and guides.

4. Positive social and cultural conditions that encourage the growth of wisdom and compassion.

The Implications of Awakening for Our Everyday Lives

Once we have experienced Awakening, it begins to change the way we see and interact with the world. In particular, it brings about a deep transformation in our attitudes and dispositions towards life. We become more open and accepting, less bound by our habitual thoughts and emotions, and more able to live in harmony with ourselves and others.

Awakening also brings a sense of peace and equanimity, which can be a great refuge in times of difficulty or stress. It enables us to find sustenance in the simplest things and to appreciate the beauty that is all around us. Above all, it gives us a glimpse of what is possible for us as human beings and inspires us to continue on our journey of awakening.

The Buddhist concept of Awakening is one that is both deeply profound and profoundly simple. It is not a doctrine or a set of beliefs, but rather a way of seeing the world that can be experienced by anyone who is open to it. In this sense, Awakening is something that is always available to us, if only we are willing to look for it.


In this article, we have looked at the Buddhist concept of Awakening in more detail. We have seen that Awakening is a state of profound insight and understanding, which brings about a deep transformation in our attitudes and dispositions towards life. It is something that is always available to us if only we are willing to look for it, says Jonah Engler.