“THE GREATEST OF ALL THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF 20TH-CENTURY SCIENCE has been the discovery of human ignorance.” Lewis Thomas, Lives of a Cell. “OUR IGNORANCE, OF COURSE, HAS ALWAYS BEEN WITH US, AND ALWAYS WILL BE. What is new is our awareness of it, our awakening to its fathomless dimensions, and it is this, more than anything else, that marks the coming of age of our species.” Timothy Ferris, Coming of Age in the Milky Way.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Waking Down



I wrote Awakening to the Obvious 20 years ago. Since then I have become more integrated. Even though in the book I make fun of “the stink of enlightenment,” from my present awareness I detect traces of that odor here and there in my essays. If I were to rewrite the book now I would tone down any mystical language, and place even more emphasis on the fact that “The awakeness of the Buddhas is everyday awareness.” 

I happen to be a natural-born mystic, sensitive to energy and prone to out-of-the-ordinary experiences, but most people are not inclined to such experiences—and certainly no one needs to be in order to fully awaken. For example, more than 20 years ago I underwent a spontaneous Kundalini awakening and to this day I continue to have the occasional Kundalini-driven experience—and I can tell you firsthand that such phenomena are utterly unnecessary. When I wrote Awakening I was still attached to feelings of ecstasy, so I sang the praises of what I call “the Signal” (the Holy Spirit, the Current of Life). Now I am released from clinging to the Signal. Now the freedom-clarity aspect of enlightenment has become foreground, so to speak, and the bliss-energy aspect has become background. I recently saw a book with the title Buddha Is the Center of Gravity. I haven't read the book but the title says it all. I have settled. I am here. I am whole. 

I can only say that ordinary happiness is more complete than bliss. People are eager to wake up, but as it happens, I awoke DOWN. Here is an essay from Awakening that expresses such plainness: 

The Awakeness of Those Who Are Awake


A Zen student asked her spiritual guide, “What is the enlightenment of the Buddhas?” (This is the same as asking, “What is the awakeness of those who are awake?”)
“The enlightenment of the Buddhas,” her teacher answered, “is the nature of ordinary awareness.”

What is the nature of ordinary awareness?

  1. Our real nature is not any knowledge that must be learned.
Studying the Pali language, for example, or learning about the “chakra system,” is not necessary for directly awakening to our truth. Whatever can be learned (although perhaps valuable, useful and enjoyable) is not identical to the Heart, the Real Person, who is already present and free, depending on nothing.

  1. Our real nature is not anything that is hidden or secret.
Being initiated into a secret practice, a secret mantra, a secret text, and so forth, is not necessary for directly awakening to our truth. Whatever can be kept secret and must be discovered or revealed (although perhaps valuable, useful and enjoyable) is not identical to the Heart, the Real Person, who is already present and free, depending on nothing.

  1. Our real nature is not any experience or state that must be attained. Archetypal visions, ecstasies of energy, “rising through the lotus of light,” and so forth, are not necessary for directly awakening to our truth. Subtle visions,[1] energies, inner lights and other higher psychic phenomena that may occur (although perhaps valuable, useful and enjoyable) are not identical to the Heart, the Real Person, who is already present and free, depending on nothing.

  1. Our real nature is not any body-mind condition that must be held in place. Manipulating and controlling the body-mind and life-force by intellectual effort, or by celibacy, diet, or yogic practices (such as concentration on energy channels, or continuous prayer, or breathing techniques) are not necessary for directly awakening to our truth. Whatever conditions must be maintained through effort (although perhaps valuable, useful and enjoyable) are not identical to the Heart, the Real Person, who is already present and free, depending on nothing.

  1. Our real nature can only be that which is always, already real.
We are not identical to any object or changing state of the body-mind, no matter how subtle or glorious. Our truth must be the ever-present capacity of all possible states of body and mind, “low” and “high.” Our original nature is not bound to time (not a matter of becoming), nor bound to space (not “within” or “without”—indeed, not locatable anywhere). Our reality is the Irreducible Mystery that undermines the seeker and all seeking. It is the awakeness of those who are awake, the nature of ordinary awareness, the timeless conscious being, who stands already free as the Heart, the Real Person, depending on nothing.






[1] A Zen fable goes: A beginning meditator exclaimed to his teacher in a gush of emotion, “I had a vision of the Buddha, seated on a lotus throne, surrounded by beatific beings!” His teacher replied, “Don’t be concerned. Just keep on meditating and such stuff will go away.”

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