Monday, March 24, 2008


So, over on Rory's blog, a post on recognizing one's limits. The example he uses is of a certified enlightened zen master who leaves the monastery, but who, after a few days, returns, because the hustle of a city is harder to deal with than the calm of the monastery.

It's a good point, the stuff about limits -- but a poor example. Rory offers the caveat: "Maybe it seems that his enlightenment wasn't real if it wasn't universal. That call is up to you."

Okay, so I'm calling it -- his enlightenment wasn't real.

First, "certification of enlightenment" seems, on the face of it, unrealistic. Who certified it? Using what basis? How did they know? Since the states of moksa, nirvana, samadhi or nibbana are personal experiences, one might point at a holy woman and say, "She looks like she's there to me," but how could one certify such a thing?

(A man might have a certificate from a martial arts master that says he is an adept, but even in that case, the certificate doesn't make it so. Sometimes paper gets issued for reasons not connected to actual fighting ability, so that does not guarantee push --> shove performance.)

Second, is the definition: Enlightenment. As I understand it, once you get to be a fully-realized human being, you not only have your shit together, but you can also lift it and move it around, and it is universal. As I said in my note to Rory, if it doesn't work on the freeway, you don't have it. Once you achieve that place, to use the Hindu example, you know Maya when you see it, and it matters not where you drive your car -- no matter where you go, there you are ... (and thanks to Buckaroo Banzai ...)

If you can only be calm and collected in the monastery, then you aren't enlightened, you are only part-way there.

The number of people who achieve this plateau and who are walking around at any given time, is not large. Because you wear a robe and sit chanting for eight hours doesn't mean you have it. In fact, once you have gotten there, you can wear blue jeans and skip the chanting altogether. You don't need it any more. Once you win Powerball, you don't have to sweat trips to the grocery store.

Definitions and language -- they keep tripping us up ...


mdpii said...

Is enlightenment not real if it is fleeting?

Once enlightened, always enlightened?

In your definition, is enlightment permanent?

words, definitions and language

complex indeed

Steve Perry said...

Yep. You can cycle through the state, feel it, know it, but until you can stay there, you aren't enlightened, you are just visiting.

Going to Hawaii for a couple of weeks is not the same as living there.

Lot of us have been to visit. Few of us get to stick around.

Interrupting Gelastic Jew said...

If enlightenment is the win condition, what is the game?

If enlightenment is the game, then we can each play at our own level, and it doesn't have to be a competition.

Steve Perry said...

Just for fun, the Creator said, I'm going to split off a few billion pieces of myself, toss them into the woods, and see if they can find their way home.

Finding your way home is the game. Getting there, that's enlightenment.

I see it as a state of being where you've topped out as a human. You know everything you need to know, feel everything you need to feel, you are in the moment, on the case, at the apex. It doesn't get any better.

It's not a competition, and of course you play to your own drummer, but when get there, you know it, and you don't need a certificate, nor a weatherman.

You *know*.

Dan Moran said...

"if it doesn't work on the freeway, you don't have it."

OK, I admit, this is me and your average person might not respond that way -- but that's the best fucking summary of testing for enlightenment I've ever heard. Well done.