Awakening is not changing who you are but discarding who you're not
The pursuit of enlightenment is a fool's errand because the mere seeking of it implies you don't have it... and if you don't have it, how could you even recognize it when you've reached it?
Many philosophers have talked about this dilemma throughout millennia
For example, in Meno it is asked:
How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?”
Translation: how can we truly know what we need if we don’t have it? Especially if what we need is foreign and we’ve never had it to begin with.
Enlightenment falls under such a category.
First, I want to clarify that I am not an awakened or enlightened individual.
Because, some folks might mistakenly think so due to my writing about the topic.
You might be thinking "ah! denying enlightenment is a classic move by someone who is enlightened!" — which is understandable since many enlightened masters have actually done the same thing throughout millennia.
Most notable are Zen masters who always renounce their titles as masters and claim they have nothing and no one to teach when followers put them on a pedestal.
But, my reasons are much simpler than that, for I have failed (and continue to fail) the Ram Dass test of enlightenment.
If you're not familiar, Ram Dass once said: If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family 😅
It's sort of like the Turing Test of spirituality if you ask me.
...and let me tell ya, I can relate more to Uncle Rick Sanchez here than to Uncle Ram Dass.
Granted, I used to be able to spend less than <24 hours with my family, but now I can spend close to <72 hours, so I'm definitely improving... and that's what awakening is ultimately all about.
More specifically: awakening is all about letting go in every sense of the word.
But, in order to let go of who you're not, it's important to have clarity in who you actually are.
In order to try to figure that out, follow along with the following example:
- You can have a car.
- You can have a phone.
- You can have a job.
Then, logically speaking, since all of those things (car, phone, job, etc) have been accumulated by you, it's accurate to say those things are yours, but inaccurate to say those things are you.
i.e: That car is mine, but that car isn't ME.
Now, here's where things get tricky.
Before you go to sleep & right after you wake up, create a quick, 1-minute mental ritual where you separate everything you've accumulated in your life into one pile to be discarded.
In addition to your car, phone, and job, here are some potentially counterintuitive things you've accumulated:
- Your name — because you were born nameless, and your parents gave it to you
- Your body — because you started out as a little cutie pie, then turned into your current, gorilla form.
- Your memories — because your mind has been recording stimuli in the form of memories since birth.
Remember, as we've established above, anything you accumulate can be YOURS, but it certainly cannot be YOU.
Once you've discarded every aspect of "yourself" that you've accumulated over the years, you'll have no choice but to be left with the real you.
Just as one cannot quench their thirst with the sound of water — real you also cannot be communicated with words as it transcends language.
Thus, I am officially out of words... literally.
Hope you enjoyed this issue, and be sure to check out the incredibly prescient video below by Alan Watts from the 1970s expanding on the above.
Until next time...
- Kokoro — There are many beautiful Japanese words that are able to synthesize multi-dimensional concepts in an elegant fashion, and this one is one of my favorites.
- Vipassana Meditation Course — If you're interested in self-mastery & discarding who you're not, I'd highly recommend taking a free, 10-day Vipassana course. Yes, it's free of charge, but registration fills up very quickly, so plan ahead, and go alone.
- Buddhism for beginners — Excellent Wikipedia-like reference about Buddhism - especially great for those that are new to Buddha's teachings.
Make no mistake about it — enlightenment is a destructive process.
It has nothing to do with becoming better or happier.
Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth.
It’s seeing through the facade of pretense.
It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.
—Adyashanti, The End of Your World