Monday, October 3, 2011

The Fastest Enlightenment in History (audio)

Audio: Sangharakshita (), Text: Seven (Wisdom Quarterly)

Many jokes and much confusion surrounds enlightenment. Can it be sped up? Or does it come about on its own?

In ancient India there was a radical wrong view that seems to be alive and well in America today with our feelgood New Age views (Guru Oprah, Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, The not-so Secret, and clinging to our own wrong views by habit over countless lives).

That radical wrong view is that samsara (the sense of separate or independent existence and suffering in the long cycle of rebirth) is like a ball of yarn: It will unravel and run out by itself. The view is that things will resolve themselves by themselves with no necessity of good effort on our part. But it will not run out on its own.

Samsara, in a sense, is endless. That is not to say that it will never end, but only to point out that it will never end on its own. How is this possible? Imagine a hamster on a wheel. When will the wheel stop turning, stop cycling -- when will the hamster stop "wandering on"?

Never, because there is no end to cycling to such a wheel. Or right now, just as soon as the hamster stops causing the wheel to turn. Samsara does not cycle by itself. Nirvana is available right now.

In ancient India in the Buddha's time, Bahiya of the Barkcloth (Daruciriya) did not know that. He assumed he was enlightened. A deva corrected him. Bahiya was surprised and retorted, Well if I'm not, who is? The deva told Bahiya about the Buddha. Bahiya did everything he could to get to the Buddha right away.

Thus must you train yourself:
In the seen, [let] just the seen
In the heard, just the heard
In the otherwise sensed, just the otherwise sensed
In the cognized, just the cognized [by the sixth sense, mind]...

The Buddha with this one cryptic stanza -- releasing his heart from craving/clinging -- gave Bahiya just what he needed to gain enlightenment right on the spot. It happened so quickly that the monks living with the Buddha, who were not enlightened, were confused.

When did Bahiya have time to gain the liberating vision, knowing-and-seeing things just as they are? The Buddha explained to them what happened to Bahiya and uttered a famous inspired verse of uplift (Udana) partially defining the inscrutable term "nirvana."

Where water, earth, fire, air no footing find
There shine no stars, no sun is there displayed
There gleams no moon, no darkness there is seen
So when the sage, a noble one, by wisdom
[From illusion] hath pierced unto the Truth
From form and no-form, pleasure and pain
S/he is freed!