The Spiritual Marketplace: Chinese Whispers at the Casino of Enlightenment (1)

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Enlightenment: What is it?

“Truth exists. Untruth does not.”
—Jed McKenna

Most enlightenment teachers say enlightenment isn’t about attaining something but getting rid of something, namely: everything that comes between us and our natural state. The paradox inherent in this formula is that what needs to go is an illusion, i.e., something with no actual existence. So how do you get rid of something that isn’t there? And why do you need a teacher to help you do it?

Spiritual seekers look for a spiritual teacher to help them get enlightened. Most of the time it doesn’t happen. Seekers are told that the desire to get enlightened—which is really the desire to escape suffering—is the thing preventing them from becoming enlightened. Oddly enough, on hearing this news, most seekers don’t give up their quest. The reason they don’t is that they still want to “get” what they came for and being told they won’t get it by someone who they think has it is about as close as they can get to getting it. That’s pretty much the seeker’s lot, in a nutshell.

Here are some ideas common to most enlightenment teachings:

•             There is no such thing as a separate self

•             There is no time or space, only consciousness and perception

•             Enlightenment equals coming all the way into “the Now”

•             Existence is continuously being destroyed and created; the sense of continuity is an illusion created by the mind

•             No one can be told what the truth is because each of us must find (become) our own truth

•             The ego is an impediment to seeing reality

•             Enlightenment is the natural state and there is nothing “special” about it

•             There is no one who “attains” enlightenment, only the removal of the idea of one who attains

•             Enlightenment depends on surrendering up all beliefs and concepts to what we actually “know is true”

•             It is a return to authentic being

•             It is the destiny and birthright of each of us

•             Only a very few people ever realize it

•             It is total openness and alignment with the Divine Will

•             It is the end of personal suffering

•             It entails the recognition of the illusory nature of material existence and is akin to waking from a dream

•             It is “becoming nothing”

•             It is the end of the quest and the beginning of service

•             It is having no attachments or preferences

•             The desire for enlightenment is necessary to obtain enlightenment but can also be an obstacle to it

•             Enlightenment will not improve our life but end it

•             It is surrendering our life back to “God”

•             Enlightenment is the death of the ego, and for the enlightened being, there is nothing to fear in the death of the body. No change in consciousness will occur because consciousness is no longer identified with either the mind or the body

•             The ego is the “glue” of mind-body identification

•             Spiritual practices can help to clear out the mind and body and to focus intent. But in the end, it is only letting go of the fundamental delusion of a separate identity (ego) that works

•             Although this letting go occurs instantly and without volition, it is possible to prepare for it

Most or all of these “truths” can be consistently found in spiritual circles and they are happily bandied about by seekers who wish to seem, and feel, like they are on A Spiritual Path. Such ideas are usually backed up by anecdotal evidence and/or assumed to be self-evident to “anyone who has spent any time on A Spiritual Path.” But are they self-evident, or have they only been passed lazily along, like moth-eaten garments, from one “generation” to the next? Martial arts techniques (we are told) were originally developed by people with an awareness of subtle body energies. Later, they were imitated and passed on by people who understood the outer form only. Lacking that deeper, energetic awareness, martial arts degenerated into empty kicks and punches. Chinese whispers.


12 thoughts on “The Spiritual Marketplace: Chinese Whispers at the Casino of Enlightenment (1)

  1. Interesting about the kick- its quite abstract exercise…has evolved to a mere action rather than a huge health benefit, defies gravity, non passive, requires stretching or leads into further attention..and one sees their fee at eye level.It awakens and connects one to the navel, loosens up the hip and increase the development of nerve to musicale coordination and balance.Kicking rather than a mere leg raise so perhaps a kick bag being a target for motivation but unfortunately has a negative stigma of violence and male testosterone attached to it also there seems a lack of awareness to free standing kick bags which have only been around the last decade which do not require hanging and is a great motivation to developing a graceful exercise which appears only connected to controlled martial arts schools or fitness gyms with classes of different names surrounding the workout.

  2. What do you think enlighten meant? We can each only look back on it and consider what it meant, one at a time, this meaning-making eternal action way … this … ENLIGHTEN. Meditation without mentation is meaningless … and thus useless . Enlightenmentation is what we are supposed to be seeking … which leads to a knowing that enlighten meant , which is more important than knowing what enlighten meant ( although one can very well know what enlighten meant) . We can’t know what it means … only what it meant. There is no present moment. The “moment” should be calle the “mome-went”.

  3. I wonder if any of those ‘truths’ are self evident, beyond doubt, in our actual experience. I’d say my experience now is true, but it can’t be described or defined it can only be experienced.

    I don’t think I can be sure for instance if there is a real solid world out there beyond the immediate perceptions of my senses, the world could be in effect like a dream.

    I don’t know how the world or myself came into being, I am a mystery to myself.

    I’ve heard it said that all we can know for sure is that ‘I exist’ and that does make sense to me. But mystery is I think good, it creates a sense of awe, of freshness and I think the mind is humbled if it knows what it can’t know.

    I’ve noticed myself trying to apply insights I might have had, in an attempt to repeat some experience, but formulas somehow become stale and fail sooner or later.

    It seems we just choose the best fit, most pragmatic model we can come up with, fine-tuning it all the time in an attempt to find fulfillment..

    The models I like seem to be quite solipsistic, although I not really clear about the difference between solipsism and some of the types of ‘truths’ outlined in the article.

    I do think I am awareness of the body and mind as well as the body and mind itself, and in a way it seems there is nowhere where awareness is not present.

    • The article isn’t trying to present any truths about enlightenment, but to look at what is being presented on the spiritual marketplace as “truth.”

      It seems the article is quite clear about this, but apparently not?

  4. I think the article was clear about that. But I was attempting to address your question – ‘But are they (the ‘truths’) self-evident, or have they only been passed lazily along, like moth-eaten garments, from one “generation” to the next?’ I was wondering what we can know for sure. Was my comment unwelcome or too off-topic?

    Also isn’t there a possibility that by attempting to summarize and generalize other people’s teachings out of context you might be unfairly representing them or be simply propagating your own possible misunderstandings?

    • Not unwelcome at all, no. I was a bit leery after the Spanish version got lots of comments that seemed to miss the point of the article completely.

      I don’t see a problem with the latter. It’s an overview. It would be the same if I was writing about Hollywood, say, describing trends and genres and commercial agendas. There’s always the possibility of misunderstanding, even when we ask, “Where’s the toilet?” It’s not something I worry about. I’m asking questions mostly, not so much offering answers.

  5. namaste` alex i`m not sure but i think the chinese mystic chuang tzu was asking the same question as you when he asked am i a butterfly dreaming i`m a man,or a man dreaming i`m a butterfly or something to that effect…….in my opinion your in good company with your musings……take care dermott jake have a good trip to finland..

  6. Enlighten by it’s nature is light applied after the fact. Light on light reveals nothing but itself in fact, and is nothing there to compare or contrast to see. Thus nothing. Searching for enlightenment is to search for that which already is the case of the ‘matter’ before the dissection of the original ‘unbeing’ condition in order to define itself enlightened. To be true enlightened is before ‘enlightened’ opinion, before ‘being’ is beclouded under applications/layers of ‘real’ living in experiences as interpreted away from pure being, light. This ‘condition’ implies there is extra meaning, add ons, to the truth of first existence which is . . . pure whatchamacallit with no name, or label, just is is as they say, and defined after the fact of being light in the first and last place. Not to forget, on the otherside of dark of course, Which is virtually the same story but for another side of the day. Being enightened is what one already is. Or not, depending on opinion: is there is or is there ain’t? Losing the self or ego is to lose the detritus built up making more out of something that is nothing but definition after the fact. In which case bogs down a person from seeing oneself clearly for what oneself is which is natural to anlightenment, if it only wasn’t for the definitions accumulated along the way of actually living that smudges. Okay, I think I’ve got it. I think I’ve got it!

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