Sunday, June 28, 2015


A young man approached his master and asked, 'How long is it likely to take me to attain enlightenment?'

'Ten years,' replied the master.

'That long?' exclaimed the young man.

'No, that was a mistake on my part,' said the master. 'It will take you twenty years.'

'Why did you just double the figure?' asked the young man.

'Alright, in your case it will probably take you thirty years,' replied the master.

 Seeking enlightenment on Mount Takao (Takaosan)
Photo taken by the author in Meiji-no-mori Takao Quasi-National Park, Japan

Never ask ‘how’ or ‘why’ questions, at least not when it comes to matters spiritual. Worse still, never ask ‘how long’ questions, because when you do you are still thinking in terms of time. Enlightenment---true wisdom---is not of time. It is timeless. It is eternal. And eternity is now---the eternal now. Enlightenment is above time and has no opposite. The state that is eternal is---right now! We live in both time and eternity right now. However, thought (‘how’, ‘why’, ‘how long’) is time itself. We think in time, but thought can never understand ‘something’ that is above and beyond time. That something is wisdom or enlightenment. It can be experienced, but never known or grasped or arrived at.

What, then, is enlightenment? It means waking up---not just once, but staying awake from moment to moment. As such, enlightenment is not so much a destination but the journey. It is also the means of travel. Yes, it is the means and the end.

Enlightenment is not a ‘thing-in-itself’. Indeed, it is actually a ‘no-thing’---no-thing-ness. It is the complete absence of thought, conditioning, materialism and all other limitations of time and space. It is living with choiceless, unadorned awareness. Yes, enlightenment is mindful living. In that regard, I am reminded of what Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, and founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, had to say about mindfulness. He said, ‘Mindfulness is about falling awake rather than asleep.’ Falling awake. Yes, and also staying awake. That is mindfulness. And that is enlightenment.

A disciple once asked his master, ‘What is the path?’ The Zen master replied, ‘Walk on!’ Yes, the ‘meaning’ of life lies in the living---that is, the ‘walking’---of life from one moment to the next. Enlightenment is staying awake while you are walking your path. 

So, don’t ask ‘how long’. Instead, ask yourself this question, ‘What is standing in the way of my waking up and experiencing enlightenment right now?’

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.