Sun 13 Mar, 2005 03:34 pm
What is it? Is it real? Is it a higher level of consciousness? Are there different degrees? Can it be separated from religion? Has it been documented or studied by western scholars? Do people who have achieved it to a high degree really become capable of acts which resemble the paranormal? Must you renounce attachment to the material world to get it? Who has been generally recognized as having it? Must it be explained indirectly (e.g. by parable)? Is there any way to explain it in less than hundreds of thousands of words?
There are serveral practioners of Buddhsim on a2k. Try Asherman and Nobody. They'll be best able to answer your q. Good luck.
1. What is it? It is the most intense personal experience imaginable. Time, space and ego vanish, are merged into Ulitmate Reality.
2. Is it real? The perceptual world is illusory, not real. Ultimate Reality is Ultimate Reality.
3. Are there different degrees? When is the sunrise? Have you never gone back to sleep after awakening to a glorious day?
4. Can it be separated from religion? Zen isn't a matter of attending services, of following ritual and rite. It is a total way of living every moment to its fullest. Discipline and attention ideally are continual, and without ceasing. The Way is religion.
5. Has it been documented or studied by Western scholars? Buddhism has been extensively studied, and there are many authoritive published studies and texts. The number of Buddhist practicianers in the West has been steadily growing for about 200 years.
6. Do people who have achieved it to a high degree really become capable of acts which resemble the paranormal? Masters and adepts are capable of some really amazing things, but none of them are "supernatural" in the way westerner's usually mean. Practiced concentration and the ability to control one's mind/body can be a powerful tool. One doesn't perform childish stunts to amuse the masses.
7. Must you renounce attachment to the material world to get it? Ultimately the things of the material world are empty and illusory. Suffering is a consequence of attachment to the illusory, and the purpose of The Way is to conquer suffering. As one's understanding increases, the hold that the illusory world has over us diminishes, and vanishes. Buddhism is The Middle Way. You needn't improvish yourself, nor live a life of abasement and want in order to alleviate suffering. Once one understands the sources of suffering, those "things" lose their power over you.
8. Who has been generally recognized as having it? Masters and adepts generally recognize one another. The number of those who have experienced Enlightenment is much larger than generally supposed, and a goodly number of aren't even nominal Buddhists. Buddhist discipline and meditation are a well-posted and tested path toward the Experience. Others may stumble about lost in the woods, until the conditions happen to be right and ... then they awaken and see.
9. Must it be explained indirectly (e.g. by parable)? How does one explain to a person blind from birth the color "red". Ultimately all talk is useless, Buddhism is the totality of one's living in each moment. Experience is more important than glibness.
10. Is there any way to explain it in less than hundreds of thousands of words? Come visit us in Corazon, and I'll pour hot tea in your lap.
Boy, am I glad I never made it to Corozan. Hot tea on my lap to experience enlightenment is not my cup of tea.
This is interesting. What is the first step toward enlightenment?
Thank you Asherman, for a fascinating answer worth reading several times, except the part about the tea. Thank you CI for your information. I have long been very curious about this, since the information I have, although very minimal, leads me to believe that Zen enlightenment might be genuine as described.
It's interesting to note that more Americans are converting to Buddhism. I me a Jewish doctor several years ago on a flight from O'Hare to San Jose who works for Doctors Without Borders. He's a strick vegetarian and a Buddhist. I've met others since then in my travels. It seems to become more common in the US.
You should have been there, ci. We missed you.
Great question B9K, and answers asherman.
Asherman: what is at corazon?
Can you elucidate how one may get on the right path whilst being occupied with daily chores of everyday life which seem to reinforce attachment?
Thanks Asherman. Good stuff.
And good question Brandon. Thx.
Corazon de la Osa is the name of our home in New Mexico. It is a wonderful place to live, but too large for a couple of old people. The grounds alone are more than I can handle, and tradesmen's bills dramatically increase as they come up our walkway. Oh well.
Q. What is the first step toward Enlightenment?
A. Awareness that life is filled with suffering, that there is a cause of the suffering that may be discovered, and that suffering can be overcome by determined personal discipline and effort. That motivates us to begin. The beginning is to learn how to focus one's mind and attention on the moment. Let the past and future take care of themselves so that you can properly attend to the moment. When you sweep the floor, sweep the floor. Don't lose the taste of a morsel to pointless dreaming. Tend to your own garden, it has quite enough weeds to keep you so occupied that there is no time for worrying about your neighbors fields. Practice random kindness. Avoid extremes, and control your raw emotions. Be patient. Play the game, but not too seriously. Gravitas! Gravitas!
I think the tea in the lap was the most important point wasn't it Asherman? Or did I read to much into it? And if I did then I probably the missed the point anyway. Now I'm stuck wondering if it was a Koan or just a bit of mischief :wink:
Before Enlightenment: Chop wood, carry water.
After Enlightenment: Chop wood, carry water.
Alright, you've taken your first step. No need to crawl anymore, but there are falls ahead.
Asherman, I once read "the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying" which I enjoyed immensley and it definately changed my outlook on both life and death.
However, I found aspects of buddhist belief to be as opaque and unsupportable as I had found other "faiths", for example; the concept of re-incarnation.
Having said that, I got the impression that buddhism is the kind of religion from which one may pick and choose as they wish from the wisdom therein.
May I ask what you believe, what are the fundamental principles you follow that you feel free to call yourself a buddhist? Do you have areas of doubt about the whole worldview, particularly when it comes to disagreements between different buddists disciplines?
To find what I believe all you have to do is click on my name, and read some of the many lengthy posts I've made on the subject.
I was trained as a Soto Sect Zen Buddhist probably 40 years ago in San Francisco. My attendance at Buddhist church services dwindled to virtually nothing also many years ago. I try to live well, but in accordance with my understanding of the Buddha's teaching. While many Buddhists are strict pacifists, I am politically conservative and strongly support military action when the nation is under attack ... as it has been since the mid-'90's. I believe in the Middle Way. There isn't anything particularly to recommend suffering for its own sake, but the unconstrained pursuit of mirages only further entangles us in the meshes of the perceptual world and suffering. Live well, but recognize that all the fine things we enjoy are ultmately empty and without worth. Wisdom is better all around.
When in doubt, go back to the Teravada Canon. These earliest Buddhist texts are tough sledding, but they also contain the doctrines taught by the Buddha with the least deviation. On the other hand there is so much to recommend Mahayana that I remain basically a Zen Buddhist. Mahayana was an important innovation that opened the doors of Buddhist thought to the whole world. The downside of Mahayana in my opinion is that its appeal to the masses has resulted in some major drift from the original doctrines taught by the Buddha. Tantricism is seems to me too much influenced by the native Bonpa shamanism that preexisted it in Tibet. The same can be said of Korean Buddhist sects. The Pure Land Schools and the Tantrics, I believe pervert the notions of reincarnation by encouraging the idea of self/soul. That is a fundamental departure from the teachings of Buddhism.
I spend more time trying to straighten out mistaken notions about the Buddhist view of reincarnation than almost any other doctrine.
1. The Buddha taught, and the experience of many Masters underscore, that there is no self, no soul, no god(s), nor even any perceptual thing that exists. The perceptual world is illusory, and Ultimate Reality is indivisible existing outside of time and space. That is very basic stuff.
2. If perceptual reality is illusory, so is death. Our idea of separate individuality is illusory, and so ultimately is the suffering we experience within life. "Where do the chairs sat upon by the deadmen in our dreams go when we awaken", Henry Miller. That it is a dream does not make the suffering any more desirable than if it were "real". What doesn't exist can not survive the dream of life, but in a dream of death. The purpose and point of Buddhism is to conquer suffering, by following those precepts most likely to awaken us from our slumber.
3. There are two separate concepts often confused even by people who should know better. First is the idea of Transmigration of Souls. At death the soul freed from the body survives, may be punished/rewarded and then is reborn (more or less with personality intact) into a new body. The reborn may rewarded for past virtues into birth as a human, a male of high caste whose fate is assured. Poor behavior is punished by rebirth, perhaps as a May Fly, or a jackass beaten by a drunken drover. This conception does exist, but much more as an expression of some Hindu sects than Buddhism.
Reincarnation is illustrated not by the survival of the "soul" or the personality and character of the dead, but in the passing of a candle flame from one candle to another. The life force, that is the illusory perceptual world is not extinguished at death. There is an almost endless chain of causality that arises from our participation in the world, and that chain of causality continues generation after generation, until one successfully follows the Path to extinction in Enlightenment.
Even that "end state" for one dream creature has no effect on the other dreamers perceptions of reality and their exposure to suffering. The Enlightened will have reduced the totality of suffering by their practice and life, but for the entirety of the perceptual world to be cleansed would require the full enlightenment of all sentient beings simultaneously and at once. The Enlightened, in their Great Compassion, defer their own extinction to lighten the suffering of other sentient beings.
Now that has probably raised more questions. Understanding such doctrines is really of limited use to the true seeker after enlightenment. What counts is not so much what you say or come to believe by intellectualism, but what you do with every moment of your life. Buddhism is very appealing to those with an intellectual leaning, but the religion is much better described by its reliance upon direct, personal experience. One doesn't have to be smart or well read to become enlightened. Indeed, that monkey mind is one of the principle problems the student has to overcome to achieve full focus. We have to rise above distinctions in order to touch the ineffable. Understand?
Thankyou Asherman, I am most grateful for the time you put in to that reply. I'm sure I understood you much better than if I had chased your postings all over A2K.
Do I understand? Intellectually yes, for the most part. Otherwise no. As you would expect.
I have practiced, and continue to practice, zen in the same school (Soto zen) as Asherman since the 60s. I have nothing to add to Ash's magnificent overview. I would, however, recommend to those who want to know the joy (sorry, don't mean to sound Christian) of the zen perspective that they find a zen meditation group (they're everywhere now) and MEDITATE.