The language of enlightenment
Is there a difference in Buddhism between the concepts of “enlightenment” and “awakening”? Thank you.
I think it would depend entirely on to whom you ask the question. From my perspective, the two words probably in most cases are pointing to the same thing, but because of their particular connotations in English, each affects the one hearing or reading the word in a different way.
I prefer the concept of awakening, primarily because it’s a gerund - implying it is something that is ongoing, in movement, a process. Enlightenment, on the other hand, suggests an event or experience that happens (ostensibly, once) in time. The latter for me then, often results in an effort-orientation and/or pride that is actually counter to the spiritual path.
Etymologically speaking, when we see the words enlightenment or awakening, they are deriving from the verbal root budhi, which means to awaken, to understand. There are many words formed from this root. Two that may be informing our use of the words are anubodha which refers to awakening, perception, recognition, understanding and sambodha which is translated as enlightenment or highest wisdom.
You can search on the two terms, awakening and enlightenment in this Tumblr blog for greater perspective on the semantical question you raise. Also, you may find my previous response to the question: “What is the fastest way to achieve satori in the present lifetime?” of interest.