I know some people are reading this blog on a fairly regular basis and I want to thank you for that. I’m not the world greatest book reviewer. But I didn’t claim to be. I don’t claim anything. You’ll notice along the way I qualify my statements: from what I see, from my understanding, etc. That’s all it is. As a comedian I used to like used to say, “That’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.”
Warner’s book was a pretty fast read. I have to admit there were parts of the other book I skimmed through. Frankly, I find some of that stuff boring. For one thing, a lot of it was material I’ve read elsewhere in some form or another, and then I’m not really into psychic powers arising spontaneously in the such and such stage or that in subsequent attainments of Fruition during some other stage something or other is not called this or that. There’s an awful lot of that stuff in Mahayana literature and I have a tough time with it these days too.
Maybe it’s because there is just too much to try to take in, in all areas and on all levels, and so much to do, and not do, and so little time. I feel time closing in sometimes. I’m old, dammit. Maybe my mind can’t handle it all. I want to make it simpler. Less complicated. Thich Nhat Hanh said all we need is mindfulness and I’m taking him at his word. I just do mindfulness, the Heart Sutra, some mantras. That’s it. I don’t think about it. I just do it. I’ve found that trying to think about it just gets in the way. I’m in the letting go stage of life. Letting things go, fall off, drop away . . . That to me is emptiness. The emptiness of conceptual thinking. Just being in the present moment.
I don’t get why anyone would want to claim they are enlightened and I guess I don’t have the skill with words to be able to communicate that properly, or maybe that’s the problem. We really can’t communicate it. It’s beyond our words, beyond our concepts. That’s what Nagarjuna (who is never boring) and those Zen guys were trying to tell us and what they warned about.
It’s what the Heart and Diamond sutras are saying: “no path, no wisdom and no attainment with nothing to attain,” and “I do not see that dharma Bodhisattva, nor a Dharma called Prajna-paramita.” It’s what the Tao Te Ching means: “The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.”
But we have to communicate. We have to talk about things and in order to do so we must give them names, designations. Karl Jasper explaining Nagarjuna: “With the resources of language there is no escape from speech through significations (signs). Every sentence ensnares me anew in what I was trying to escape from.”
Non-attachment is the key. Easier said than done.
Enlightenment? I don’t know what it is. It’s not even a goal for me anymore. I’m just trying to get through the day. I’m just trying to maintain some wholesome thoughts and not grasp at every emotion that comes up. Don’t look down your nose at it. It ain’t easy.
I’d like to think that after you have been practicing for almost thirty years, you come full circle. You start with simplicity and end with it. I’d like to think that, but probably it’s just me getting old.
Here’s something the Dalai Lama said at UCLA in 1997 that really turned my head around about this enlightenment business. I’ve posted it before, but a good teaching can’t be repeated too many times. He’s talking about a passage in Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland that deals with feeling discouraged over the length of time required to become “enlightened”:
If, as a result of one’s commitment to the principles of the Bodhisattva ideal, one sees that the purpose of one’s life is to be of benefit to others, and from the depths of one’s heart there is a real sense of dedication of one’s entire life for the benefit of other sentient beings, and that kind of strong courage and principle – for that kind of person, then time doesn’t seem to matter much. Whether or not that person becomes enlightened, as far as he or she is concerned, it doesn’t make any difference, because the purpose of existence is to be of benefit to others, and if the person is able to be of service to others, then that person is really able to fulfill his or her true purpose. Such is the kind of courage and determination to altruistic principles that bodhisattvas should adopt.