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Enlightenment…meh.

Stephanie,

I’ve put a lot of thought into our discussion the other day and my inability to express in speech what seems so important but also so ordinary. Sure, I said I had understood Enlightenment. But to it I hold a nonposition. I don’t even speak of it, usually. You can tell the world if you like, I suppose. It won’t matter, and that’s the beauty of it.

I rather like nonposition with regard to knowing deathlessness or god or spirit or whatever. In that I am not in opposition or apposition or even pro-position when it comes to speaking of god. To talk of what some call a rebirth or “born again” experience…these terms don’t work for me. Perhaps because of the simplistic meanings of being saved in Christianity—I don’t argue it or call into question the validity of being “saved,” rather, being saved was far from what happened in terms of the understanding I’ve had of infinitude, its ceaselessness, and my ceasing.

Some people call what’s happened Nirvana. Buddhists and some Hindus would call it Bodhi, or deathlessness or the being non-being. Me, I just call it whatever comes up.

I find that labels do not fit it (not even the impersonal pronoun, “it,” we use this terms, as it (ha!) allows us to communicate and (ha!) is general enough to include a number of categories and meanings). I am not an atheist, agnostic, or believer. All these categories are far too limited and small to contain an understanding of the Absolute or the void that knows no void.

But, in the end, the lesson is simple. Nothing changes except my drop returning to the sea. I like the old Zen story:

“Master,” the student asked one day as he was working in the garden with his teacher, “what do I do to achieve Enlightenment.”

“Well son,” said the master, “you chop wood and carry water.”

“How will I know Enlightenment?” the student asked further.

“When you chop wood and carry water,” said the master, “you will do nothing else.”

“What do I do when I achieve Enlightenment, then?” asked the student further.

“Chop wood and carry water,” the teacher answered.

This is cute until it becomes informed by another story:

One day, a student asked the Buddha, “You have understood bodhi, Master. Do you know fear?”

“Of course,” answered Gautama Buddha, “I am a human being. I do not deny this existence only its permanence and eminence (in the sense of importance). So, yes, I know fear.”

The student went on to ask the Master about anger, hunger, lust, pain, and a host of other elements of being human. Each time the Buddha answered the same way.

“I am a human being. I do not deny this existence only its permanence and eminence. So, yes, I know anger…lust…hunger…I feel pain when struck…” Etc.

Finally, the student said to the Buddha, “Master, when you were Enlightened weren’t you transformed?”

“I ceased becoming,” said the Buddha, “but did not cease being a human being.”

In this way, I have come to see that the privations and sufferings of this life are temporary and transient. Whatever I suffer now will end. Moreover, that suffering is unique and deserving of my understanding of its specialness. That’s a awful complicated way of saying: “I will never know this suffering again in the way I suffer it now. I better enjoy it.”

Yours,
Patrick

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