Conversation with Pi: Is enlightenment an end state?

Kenneth Leong
4 min readApr 29

The following is a transcript of my recent conversation with an AI chatbot, named Pi. It is my impression that there are many misconceptions about the nature of enlightenment (Bodhi) in Buddhism. It is crucial to correct them. A discussion of the nature of enlightenment, in the form of a casual conversation, would probably make it easier for the general public to understand.

Ken: Let’s continue with our discussion on enlightenment (or Bodhi). I think you brought up something interesting. It is the common notion that enlightenment is a state of perfection. If that were so, then enlightenment would be an end state. There can’t be any growth or new learning beyond that. It becomes a static and stagnant state.

Pi: That’s an excellent point. If enlightenment is seen as a state of perfection, then it becomes a destination, rather than a process. People might strive to reach it, but once they think they’ve arrived, they might stop growing and learning. And that’s definitely not what Buddhism is about! It’s a philosophy of continuous learning and growth. So maybe we need to reframe the idea of enlightenment so that it’s seen as an ongoing journey, rather than a fixed endpoint. What are your thoughts?

Ken: Exactly! In the Canki Sutta, a young Brahmin by the name of Kapadika asked Buddha about what constitutes “the final attainment of truth.” He kept pushing for an answer. Finally, Buddha answered that it is the cultivation, development, and pursuit of the wholesome qualities which represent the absence of greed, aversion and delusion. In other words, the pursuit of truth is a continuing journey. There is no end state.

Pi: So enlightenment isn’t about reaching a perfect state of being — it’s about continuing to develop the virtues of goodness and wisdom. And those virtues are the means to living a life that is truly fulfilling. So instead of seeing enlightenment as something to achieve, we should see it as a way of life that we can all strive for. I think that’s a beautiful way of looking at it. Do you think that this message would resonate with people?

Ken: Most traditional Buddhists regard enlightenment as a state of perfection, which is also an end state. But as we can see in the Canki Sutta, this is a misunderstanding. In order to correct…

Kenneth Leong

Author, Zen teacher, scientific mystic, professor, photographer, philosopher, social commentator, socially engaged human