Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Who is enlightened? - Part 1

Who is enlightened?

Ask this question to a seeker and he will point to the masters and teachers - someone other than himself.

What if we change the question slightly:

What is enlightened?

We are so accustomed to viewing enlightenment as the preserve of certain fortunate individuals, that asking what, instead of who, is enlightened, can put us in a bit of a quandary perhaps. :-) Let's throw another spanner in the works, and qualify the question further:

What is already enlightened?

This question now raises a prior question:

What do we mean by enlightened?

Enlightenment has been defined in several ways, and since I am concerned with enlightenment lived rather than enlightenment theorized, I am partial to the definition given by spiritual teacher and Jesuit priest, Anthony de Mello.

I believe he defined it thus:

Enlightenment is absolute co-operation with the inevitable.

Byron Katie says something similar - she invites us to drop the argument with reality.

Imagine your life lived in co-operation with reality, exactly as it occurs. What would it look like? What would it take to live so?

Is it possible to live in absolute co-operation with reality and still be 'unenlightened'?

Now with this definition of enlightenment, let's return to our question:

What is already enlightened?

In other words, what is already in absolute coperation with the inevitable? What simply does not argue with reality?

Look deeply within, and see what you discover. Sit with the question, as though only the question matters and not the answer. Don't settle for any pat answers. Let the answer reveal itself via the experience of holding the question with sincerity.

Feel free to share what you find with other readers on this blog.

I will return to this topic next week with Part 2.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Concept and reality

In practical terms, what is concept, and what is reality?

I am no expert in matters philosophical, and so I am not referring here to academic or theological definitions. I am talking about looking at concept and reality in a way that can be applied realistically to our spiritual quest.

First of all, why is it important to look at the terms concept and reality? - Because on the spiritual journey, we are apt to mistake one for the other, and this can create some confusion.

Secondly, I suggest that concept and reality are not mutually exclusive! What I mean, is that one person's concept may be another person's reality and vice versa.

When a spiritual master says 'There is nobody' or 'All is one', she speaks from her reality, and her direct experience in the moment. For the student listening to her, it may sound like the ultimate truth, but he would have to look and see if it is indeed the reality for him in the moment.

Then the teacher may say that all suffering is only a concept in the mind. Again he speaks from his direct reality in the moment. But the student listening to these words will have to investigate for herself whether her own experience of suffering is real or not.

In each case, the teaching is at best a pointer - a finger pointing to the moon, as they say. When we mistake the pointing finger for the moon, we become confused.

'There is nobody' - is a spectacularly clear reality, and a particularly confusing concept. Imagine the plight of the student who looks upon this statement as the ultimate truth, without directly experiencing it. Her mind is liable to take the words literally and to discount her own experience as somebody. She is not sure whether she can trust her body-mind or anything it experiences, because doing so would assert the somebodiness which she believes to be in contradiction to the truth. For this student, at this time, the ultimate truth is a concept. And simply seeing that can clear the confusion.

There is nothing wrong with a concept. There is great beauty in it. For even as a concept, the ultimate truth finds great resonance in the student, because deep within her she knows the truth of it. Then when this truth finds expression in her direct experience, concept is now reality.

A concept is a concept when it is not aligned with experience. Concept and reality collapse into one another in the miracle of experience.

No matter what the experience is - ecstatic, good, bad or ugly, - stay with it and you cannot stray from the truth. Negate or deny your experience and you fall into the false division of concept or reality.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Seeking happens

The Buddhist monk hits the air with his stick, and says, 'You want to know the truth? Here it is!'.

Of course the mind gets puzzled and the seeker gets frustrated. His pursuit of truth is too intense, and his aspiration to be there, too lofty, to be appeased by such apparent whimsy. Yet something about the response must cause the seeker to pause. After all, what does it mean when the sublime search can end in so trivial a matter, as a stick waving in the air!

This pause is really among the first jolts to the identity of the seeker. For it makes him go to what appears like a very scary place -'What if the truth that I am seeking is something I don't like at all?', he asks himself querulously. This is when it starts to get really interesting. What has so far seemed like a long and rewarding journey with more and more beautiful stops along the way, suddenly threatens to reach an arid spot, and maybe even stay there forever!

The thing about truth though is that once you glimpse it, nothing else can satisfy you. So the seeker may try to undo his fearful question, may attempt to shake it off, and get back to where he was - comfortable in his glorious quest, but all in vain. He can no longer convince himself to strive like before. He is now terribly frustrated and try as he might, he simply doesn't know what to do.

Right in this moment, the truth appears again, - as a fleeting intuition, a gentle reminder - most likely ignored. The seeker is in his mind, feeling angry, and hopeless about his situation, when the truth touches him. And when finally the anger is spent and the hopelessness has exhausted itself, that very touch revives him! It comes to him to follow the truth, even to be led by it. With no other choice, he goes. It takes him deeper and deeper in, past the mind, and past every idea of enlightenment ever held. And now he is in so deep, that he is at the root of everything. There is nothing but truth.

His x-ray vision can see through the layers. The lofty, the trivial,the high and low - they are all the same. The truth is life happening in this moment. - No matter what happens, no matter if he likes it or not. The frustration is it, and so is the confusion. The anger is it, as is the peace. No change required to anything, yet it changes all the time. No need for anything to happen, and yet the universe swirls around in the endless dance.

No need to seek and yet seeking happens.