“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.

Friday, December 16, 2011

All is Flow



The various qualities of life, with their attendant highs and lows, never cease. These cycles keep rolling on—up and down, ‘round and ‘round—even in the lives of awakened people. Why shouldn’t they? Awakening doesn’t alter the Tao, the process of the universe, but only our understanding of the Tao.
There will be moments when you feel rather stupid or lazy about your commitment to live happily and freely for the rest of your days; other moments when you’re boiling over with energy and creativity; and moments when you feel oceanically peaceful, beatific, Buddha-wise and free. These moments will always come and go. They are examples of the cycling qualities of manifest existence.
Nothing about the worlds is static. All is flow. Likewise, enlightenment is not static. It is not a solid thing, nor a definite state of things. You can’t obtain it, or maintain it—for there is no independent “you” (distinct from the total flow) to hold on to any exclusive state.
         This insight is liberating. One no longer projects upon one’s spiritual mentor a frozen condition called “enlightenment,” or tries, oneself, to attain such a concrete state of body-mind. As Suzuki Roshi put it: “Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as an enlightened person. There is only enlightened activity.”
Because enlightenment is not a state of body-mind, it follows that enlightenment cannot be brought about as a result of changes in the body-mind (changes of state). Rather, enlightenment is the enjoyment of prior (or intrinsic) freedom. You cannot become free, as the wise have pointed out, you can only be free. This means no matter how much you change (and apparently improve) your state of body and mind and world, you can never “gain” or “own” the power that is already at the heart of the whole process—real freedom and happiness, itself.
         You are already free and welcome to abide in this priorly happy orientation (the vision of Radiant Wholeness) all the while you move through the easeful and stressful moments of your life. In fact, enlightenment is this very presumption of prior freedom and happiness, rather than presuming dilemma and identifying with limited appearances and conditionings.
Enlightenment is an attitude, an understanding, a relationship to everything—an ongoing Way. And such enlightenment is nothing special, not apart from life. Life is not a dress rehearsal; a preparation for the glory-to-come; a progressive path toward reality. There is no path, ultimately, but only reality. (How does one “return” to God, when God is not elsewhere or other?)
         Nothing is more than whole. This moment is complete, as is.
         This is it, “the full catastrophe,” as Zorba the Greek put it. This kind of universe. Exactly so.
          Amazing. Wonderful. Terrible. Blissful.
         What can we do about any of it? Take a deep breath. Release our grasp. “Let go with both hands,” as Zen teaches. Abandon the principle of all our concerns and all our strategies; or as Krishna puts in the Bhagavad Gita, “Abandon all dharmas and resort alone to Me.” Thus surrendered, allow everything to come and go in its own way.
         Troubles won’t disappear. Sickness, old age and death won’t disappear. But if we can live in this unreasonably happy way, existence will shine with more and more clarity, and soon we will see for ourselves that reality is fundamentally open, spacious and bright, even while all the possibilities of all the worlds cycle around their source, the Free Sun of the Heart.



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