What is Enlightenment [Audio]
Let’s explore together what it means to know truth, and how it can make a meaningful difference in everyday life.
What is enlightenment? What are we doing here if that’s what we’ve come here for?
I’d like to preface this talk by saying THAT as teachers and sharers, we are always told to stay in our lane. Don’t talk about something that you don’t know. I hate to break it to you, but I’m not enlightened! The place I’ll be coming from is through the grace of my teachers, especially Tsoknyi RInpoche.
I’ve had little glimpses into the natural state. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, they do something called Pointing Out the Dharmakaya–the “truth space”. Usually it takes quite a bit of training and relationship building with your teacher, then they give you the Pointing Out instructions, which takes about a five days. Then, depending on your karma, the Pointing Out may stick. But for most of us it is fleeting. In my case it was fleeting. I received Pointing Out with Tsoknyi Rinpoche and even though it was fleeting, it was just enough for me to realize that everything that I thought I knew about enlightenment was completely, completely wrong.
Experientially, I found out that it was wrong. In those moments I knew that it had nothing to do with anything. Nothing to do with Buddhism, nothing to do with the teachings, nothing to do with the teacher, and nothing to do with the style of teaching. It had nothing to do with me, with me striving for anything, with my belief system. As a matter of fact, there was a negation of beliefs, or experience- it was a non-experience of experience. It was not a blissful state. It was a non-state. It was nothing to be sustained. It was simply “oh!”–a way of seeing. In that nothing was separate from that “oh”. The walls, the chairs, everyone in the room was in the same state. One of the myths for me was that it was a state to attain- something blissful that would continue. There was almost a sadness to it because there was a sense of loss (but maybe that was after).
There was a loss of seeking. For me I identified myself as a seeker…that’s all I knew! I didn’t know myself from my young adult age other than a seeker and I went from seeker to non-seeking. I didn’t know what to do with myself! I went from a year-long retreat to seeing my teacher, then I moved back to a Tibetan buddhist center. I knew then though that this had nothing to do with Tibetan buddhism or any of the teachings. All that exists to be forgotten. Yet of course we need all of the teachings to get us there. We can’t throw anything out. It has been said that enlightenment is simply clearly seeing without distortion. The distortion is our attachments, aversions, ignorance.
So in a way, the less we talk about this, the better. The fewer concepts, the better. It really amounts to lessening the struggle. If you notice, there’s not struggle when there is no seeking. The mind creates dissonance. It creates self and other. The mind creates a thought and a thinker. But what’s looking is neither. The mind creates this attachment of wanting to go somewhere but the pure experience of it is that there’s nowhere to go. It’s just here. You’re just here! That’s it! And you’re always just here until you want to go somewhere else or be something else. It’s all contrived. There is no ego.
It’s like trying to dig yourself out of a ditch when there is no ditch! The ditch itself is contrived. It’s conceptual. So, we make up a ditch and then we strive to get out of it. When we sit with ourselves, we notice that everything is already here. That cannot be something of a mental state. There are infinite mental states and they all shifting and changing. They are impermanent. This is delusion. This is ignorance. Striving to gain happiness and contentment from something that is fleeting is ignorance. It could never be sustainable. Therefore, even striving for a mystical experience is delusion. What we’re looking for cannot be something that comes and goes. But if we look at our awareness, it’s always there waiting for us to check back in. Test it out! It’s always present. Yet, are we present? We leave it. Every moment we jump out of ourselves and leave it, jumping into a thought, belief, or concept. The more we take steps back, the more unified everything becomes. It starts with this idea of self that needs to get something or go somewhere. This is the very root of our suffering. If we can look at this fixed version of self, then we can unravel.
The sense of “I”. When we first check in, it’s pure. Then what has been put on top of that? How was the concept “I” constructed over the years and what pieces did I grab onto? We’ve all been told, “I love you”, “I hate you”, “you’re awesome”. What have you grabbed on to? What has stuck? Why has it stuck? Our culture? Our gender? How do we perceive our actual self? All of these concepts of “I” are interdependent and impermanent. What if our perception of self is fluid like reality is fluid? This is important to note especially when we have self concepts like “I can’t be enlightened. Enlightenment is for the Buddhas, the Krishas, other people. That’s not for me.” We can’t awaken our true potential if we keep ourselves in this box. Our delusion is that we’re not already what we are seeking.