Home______Some Notes on Enlightenment

These comments don't pertain mainly to enlightenment as such, but to the silliness that surrounds it.

  • Guru popularity correlates with guru self-confidence and articulateness. Because enlightenment cannot be identified by consensus, such as agreeing on the color red, many people turn to authority figures. Such followers are attracted to those who express themselves well and have an air of complete self-confidence. To follow them, people discard critical intelligence, confusing reasonable validation tests with the "demands" of higher consciousness.

  • Venerated as a model of transformation, Ramana Maharshi had disciples who saw to the needs of his ashram and to his meals. In his life he never had to work, nor did he encounter other stresses. Had he encountered them, what might his life have been like? (1. His disciple Paul Brunton faulted this passivity. UG Krishnamurti was amused watching Maharshi read comic books. 2. Unlike Zen, which is relatively pragmatic in its teachings, advaita tends to escapism because the world is regarded as totally illusory.)

    All religion, including Buddhism and Hinduism, begins with faith. Maharshi's ashram followers had faith in him as a model of what they might become. He was their authority and so, observing him daily, they shaped their behavior after him. (This is rather like Nineteenth Century Japanese rendering even the scroll work on the muzzles of Admiral Perry's cannons. Uncertain of the physics principles, they scrupulously copied the ordinance so that nothing might go wrong.)

    In Zen, Buddha is sometimes called a shit stick, or students are told, If you meet the Buddha on the road kill him. The point of this is not irreverence for its own sake.

  • After disciplined effort, meditators and other introspectors discover they cannot find the self, that it has disappeared. Thus they conclude they have "arrived." Instead they manifest a principle long known in biology: emergent phenomena in an organism cannot be explained in terms of its parts. So, too, sense of self cannot be explained by the usual mental baggage.

    Under the light of conscious investigation, sense of self disappears and frees the individual from usual anxieties, and mental chatter. It has not gone away, however. It has retreated to the decentralized nodes of consciousness.

    Understand that it does not reside there as some invisible entity. (See the earlier comment on biology and emergent pheonomena; it cannot be located in its neural parts.) Rather, the Buddhist explanation nicely accounts for it as form emerging from emptiness. This is similar to quanta potentia in Quantum Theory.

    (As an experiment in perception, stare at a blue dot lit against a yellow background. After a few minutes the blue merges with the yellow.)

  • With realization itself, consciousness shifts and one can live differently afterward, but troubles don't go away, and "enlightenment" is a transient state like an orgasm. So have more sex. (Norman Mailer wrote of the Apocalyptic Orgasm ; - )

  • Buddha's quest for enlightenment began with abandonment of his wife and child. If a woman had founded Buddhism, would it have folded an abandonment myth into its traditional culture?* What implications would it have in dogma for Buddhist non-attachment? *(She certainly wouldn't have called her child Fetter, the English equivalent of how the Buddha myth has it.)

    Which is more heroic? The search for Truth? Or working with AIDS victims in Mozambique?

  • Buddha resolutely resisted speculations on metaphysical questions, such as whether God exists, why the universe was created, why evil exists and whether individual consciousness persists after death. (Buddha's followers transformed his teachings into a religion, complete with theological dogma, moral strictures and rituals.)

    Some current spiritual teachers claim they have answers, albeit to the same questions Buddha resisted.

  • Religious cultural and phenomenological baggage surrounds the enlightenment experience. The essential is this: to become enlightened means awakening to the dream and into its source, not from it. Nobody leaves samsara fully behind, so enjoy it.


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