While we, the sangha, were discussing the concept of "enlightenment" there seemed to be much agreement to the statement that, "If you think you're enlightened, then you aren't." That idea is, of course, based on the notion that in the enlightened state the illusion of an individual self disappears. And therefore there is no actual individual self to be enlightened. So it is a contradiction to say that one, or at least one-self is enlightened -- a cute and clever turn of Zen logic, but one which can so easily be misunderstood and is more likely to act as a hindrance than as an aid.
Enlightenment has no logic. It's not to be found in logic. In fact, it is logic's antithesis. It's not found in study, or ideas, or texts or dharma or in any analytical part of the brain -- certainly not by being clever. But it can be recognized, or at least glimpsed, especially during mediation. It's a perception which is universally available in the reality of the enduring ever-present moment. I have found that frequently noticing this unique and marvelous perception, and then allowing it into my life through repetition and experience has been life changing -- to put it mildly.
Enlightenment produces a nonexistence of the illusions, restraints, burdens, confusions, self doubts and fears that are so often believed to be true --believed to be real. The process of becoming enlightened is a laying down of these impediments, a dropping of the bonds of imprisonment. It is a realization of true liberation, a return to our true home. This is not a trivial thing. Yet it is actually no-thing -- an absence of everything - especially everything that binds us to our self-made prisons.
Fortunately, the state of enlightenment doesn't require us to create or achieve anything. It is our natural state. We are all enlightened from the get-go. Enlightenment is an abiding, a perceiving (without denial) of a true and liberating perspective which is our birthright -- right here and right now. It is this essence, this reality, which I believe is at the heart of Zen and has been at the heart of Zen ever since the Buddha's awakening
I consider myself enlightened. It happened 23 years ago while I was in the process of picking small stones out of my garden. My perception suddenly made a radical shift, and I knew that my life would never be the same. It wasn't an ecstatic experience as one might expect. It was more of a calming, settling and slightly sad experience. I didn't jump for joy. No thoughts, only crystal clear quiet perception and a slight smile. This was the culmination of 27 years of searching. And I knew then, with absolute certainty, that my obsessive and exhausting search had finally come to an end. Whether I wanted to or not, there was no turning back, nowhere to go. Life would now be a matter of just being-with-the-unfolding, wherever that took me. This is not to say that my suffering was over. My suffering was now just part of the backdrop of my life. In a sense, nothing had changed. But my interpretation and perspective of everything, including my suffering, was now different.
In my new “world-view,” arising thoughts no longer had the presence and power over me that they previously had. I became witnessing. And over time, I began to replace old ideas and concepts with new ones (a ripening, so to speak). Rather than me being in the universe, the universe was now in me. When I used the words me and I, I realized they were just for convenience and had no reality. There was no me. No need for a me. In fact, a real me would just get in the way and make life much more difficult.
About 5 years ago, I found our sangha. And now, with great appreciation, I have a place to practice my manners. I have a place to express myself in a social setting and a place to learn how others deal with their individual spiritual practices. Our sangha has civilized me and given me a place to find friendship and universal love. It’s a bonding place and a jewel in my heart.
I just felt I needed to say these things. Thanks for reading it.
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