I hope this won't be a rant, but I just saw a program on PBS that got everything possible wrong about enlightenment. The commentator was personable and obviously interested in Buddhism, but she didn't have a clue.
Should this be a cause for distress? I don't know. Maybe it's to be expected. How can you know you don't know the real thing until you experience it? This is, after all, why there is such a thing as lineage (which I so much appreciate despite my dislike of hierarchy): people who have been given permission to teach can be trusted to speak from the Truth they have realized. But when people who don't know speak as though they do, then others who listen also get confused.
What did she say wrong? Pretty much everything. First of all, she kept talking about "Buddha's ideas." Yes, in a way, anything that is put into words can be called an "idea." But what Buddha realized is not about thoughts in the head. In fact, it's about what is not thought.
The commentator at one point says that Buddhism leads us to seek escape from the real world of suffering -- I'm paraphrasing but that was the essence. This is the whole problem: when you experience the world you see as the "real" one, then everything you say after that has to be wrong.
The commentator kept saying that Buddhists believe that you have to do this and that in order to find tranquility or nirvana -- she pretty much equates the two. And maybe I'll stop here, because really the fundamental problem is that not once did the essential truth come up: we don't exist. Until that is known, everything will be seen upside down and backward.
But I remember myself how confused I was when people used to say this to me. Sometimes I'd even get angry. What do you mean, I don't exist? Who is this person who is dialoging with you right now if I don't exist?? And it is, actually, very difficult to explain what that means when this psychological self has always seemed so solid, so it's no wonder that the subject wasn't even broached on this show. But at the same time, this is the raison d'etre for the Teachings. It's not about following some path in order to get psychological satisfaction of some kind. It's to realize that we are transparent -- empty -- and it is because we are empty that all of existence finds its home in us.