“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

Experience and Attitude

Enlightenment is the intuition of the transcendence of the usual limits of thought and identity—a going beyond the confined self stuck inside a bag of flesh in the material box of the space-time universe. It is awakening to a timeless, limitless awareness that is infinitely expanded and free.
Yet enlightenment cannot be described as some particular state or experience. Rather, it is the way of present openness to whatever arises, within and without. It is to look and act and feel free and whole NOW.

The experience of enlightenment (epitomized by moments of breakthrough, called in Zen, satori, or kensho) is temporary. Nobody goes around in a permanent state of satori. There are no permanent states of any kind. Nothing lasts. Indeed, this is one of the key realizations that leads to the attitude of enlightenment, an attitude of freedom and humor and equanimity. And one must add: iconoclasm. Enlightened people tend to convey a wild sense of humor—an attitude of laughing at structures of every kind.

The enlightened attitude develops over time, following naturally upon the experience of awakening. From that attitude (or orientation—more ongoing than any experience, no matter how profound) the enlightened way of life emerges. If enough people were awake to this attitude, there might even arise an enlightened culture! (Or at least, an enlightened group of friends).

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