Question: “What happens when you reach enlightenment/nirvana? Like why do people still live’ after reaching it? I thought reaching enlightenment is ending suffering so why was Buddha still the same afterwards and what did reaching enlightenment do for him? Reading about it makes it sounds like reaching enlightenment does nothing. Obviously I’m not a Buddhist but I’m really interested in it.”
Attaining enlightenment is like retiring with a few million dollars in your savings; you’re set for the rest of your life with no financial worries. Likewise, when enlightenment is attained, all worries, all fears, all ignorance and delusions are gone and you are free.
There are two types of enlightened beings: those that teach and those that don’t. When the Buddha attained enlightenment he didn’t want to teach the people. He didn’t think that people would be able to understand and comprehend the process of attaining enlightenment, but out of his great compassion, he decided to leave solitude and teach the people. So that’s why people who attain enlightenment are here and decide to be reborn again as a human; to teach and help people equally attain enlightenment/Nirvana.
When we become enlightened, nothing magical or mystical happens, we don’t necessarily “change” in any physical sense. But we do change spiritually and mentally. We become free of ignorance, greed and anger, and our compassion is at its highest point. Enlightenment is freedom. It is freedom from the cycle of birth and death.
Smile and be well!