Sudden Enlightenment: Paradigm-Shifting Awakening

Apa Studies on Asian and Asian American Philosophers and Philosophies (2023)
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Sudden enlightenment is awakening to be attained all at once. Hyun-Eung, a Korean Buddhist monastic, has proposed a new interpretation that sudden enlightenment is the revolutionary awakening of the dynamical and indivisible structure of cognitive subject and objects. I argue that Hyun-Eung’s ‘revolutionary enlightenment’ is achieved through a ‘paradigm shift’ in Thomas Kuhn’s sense as presented in his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Enlightenment is obtained when one’s essentialist and realist worldview is replaced, through a revolutionary change of paradigm shift, by a new perspective based on the Buddhist teaching of dependent arising and emptiness. Prior to enlightenment, each person views oneself as a separate and independent individual who has her own essence. However, when our perspective on self and the world changes with the understanding of dependent arising and emptiness, it becomes clear that no one and nothing can exist independently of conditions. Everything comes into existence, abides, and passes out of existence only in dependence on conditions. Sudden enlightenment requires a revolutionary change in one’s perspective of self and the world. I conclude that this concept of revolutionary enlightenment aptly explains the features of sudden enlightenment.

Author's Profile

Sun Kyeong Yu
Minnesota State University, Mankato


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