My answer to Among so many living meditators and monks, is there anyone as enlightened as Gautama Buddha? Why?
Answer by Vijayendra Mohanty:
How exactly do you measure how enlightened someone is? And if such methods do exist, have they been applied to Gautama Buddha and have the results been compared to every other meditator and monk?
No? Okay. Then I will speculate to the best of my ability.
I think one of the ways we usually determine how enlightened a particular monk or meditator is by the numbers. There is nothing scientific about this method. It is assumption by way of democracy. We look at the number of followers a religious figure has and we say to ourselves that there must be a reason for such a large following. We associate this large following erroneously with the merit of the monk’s message.
In reality however, the only reason Buddha is even part of this question is because we have heard of him. Is it not possible that there might have been an “enlightened” figure somewhere in history who was on a much higher level than Buddha but never chose to step out of her house and tell people her message?
Buddhism became popular when people adopted it after rejecting the belief systems they had been brought up with. Later on, it became even more popular after people of power like emperor Ashoka adopted it and made it a foundational principle of his rule.
If these things had not happened, we would not be discussing and running comparisons about the Buddha right now.
From what I have read, the Buddha probably would have balked at the thought of being considered enlightened. And he may have been even less enthusiastic about being compared to others. If there is one thing that defines Buddhist thought, it is the individual’s ability to determine the truth on his or her own.