Enlightenment…and What Then?
A friend, then in the grips of Buddhist practice and philosophy, once asserted to me that we all are enlightened several times a day, but in the rush of perceptions and reactions, forget the content and how effortlessly profound it seemed. I suspected they were correct in their assessment and set myself to locating some methods whereby those inspired moments could be collated and conserved. For what, I thought, chuckling, …for posterity? Maybe posterity would be better off finding out for themselves? But then maybe signposts would help? Of course that leads straight to the ‘finger pointing at the moon is not the moon’ insight, which is perhaps not self-defeating but self-incriminatory. Ah, the maddening paradoxes and conundrums faced by the seeker! Are we being mocked or just mocking ourselves?
Certainly those glimpses of enlightenment, where all is suddenly balanced and harmonious and let’s face it, so wonderfully self-evident, rather than the usual fog of despair and impatience, leave a trail of inspiration for quite some time, even if the details are drowned in the endless tides of ‘stuff happening’. And if a regular meditation practice is set in place, those glimpses can be expanded, allowing the experiencer to inhabit the sacred space rather than pass through like a train whizzing by an empty station.
For one who is sufficiently fortunate/dedicated, the inhabiting of the enlightened oasis, where all is well and all will be well despite the surrounding chaos of anger, grief and suffering, the challenge can often be one of what to do next, if anything at all. Lending a helping hand to any who may require it is often resorted to. Social activism and charitable work can often accomplish its desired goals, and be a win-win situation for helper and helped, but like pulling weeds in the garden there are always more. And of course helping out can often be its own enlightenment if expectation of reward or praise is relinquished and the ego disappears in the flow of activity, but often the need for praise and the pride it feeds can reactivate itself, leading to the production of charisma and the followers it generates with its glamour.
Some feel that merely living consciously in the radiant always-expanding moment is more than enough, and that the glow of one’s being should be sufficient inspiration for any others who may be drawn to the flame. At this juncture in my unfolding I feel that either choice would be appropriate.
And, once again a pithy Zen saying seems to capture it: Before enlightenment there are the mountains and the clouds, and after enlightenment …the mountains and the clouds.
Decades ago, on my own inner journey, I felt the inspiration to draw in the white light of love and understanding, from the universe down through my crown chakra into my energy body and out through my heart chakra to light up the surrounding neighborhood. As my job at the time, involving driving all over that neighborhood, was quite extensive, mapping out what is now called the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), the practice seemed intriguing and challenging. I acted as suggested thus for as long as I remembered to do so, eventually becoming so one with the process its character became more or less invisible. It now seems like that invisibility factor is an essential aspect of the enlightenment space. You are an inhabitant if you could but realize it. And once you do realize it, its manifestation can become as automatic as any other directed thought.
Instead of saying “I am a mess, a chaotic circus of conflicting desires and fears”, you say “I am the focus of consciousness which contains that chaotic circus, I run the carnival, take the tickets and reap the profits.” And then you can treat those crying children of chaos with ice cream and party hats, raising up a picnic for that crew of tiny miseries.