Waking Up

Awakening and freedom.

That’s what the path is all about. Enlightenment really just means awareness, seeing things as they really are. Reality unfiltered. The world as it is instead of as we think it is.

We come to enlightenment by freeing ourselves of the three poisons; greed, hatred, and delusion. We free ourselves by transforming these poisons. We transform them to virtue, meditation, and wisdom.

The truth is that enlightenment is simply not creating delusions. When we’re in delusion we think we have to escape it. When we dwell in awareness we realize these poisons, the things we cling to, are empty. By realizing things are empty we come to enlightenment.

But we can’t grasp it with the logical mind. We have to use intuition and direct experience. And you get there by realizing you’re already there.




Saving Ourselves

The path of Buddhism is called the Dharma. It is a method for saving ourselves.

I don’t mean that as a trite platitude. The Dharma will save you. Not save your soul from damnation. As Buddhists we don’t believe in that. The Dharma will save you from yourself. It will save you from your own greed and delusion. It will save you from that feeling that you are hopeless or broken or weak.

The Dharma is direct and precise. It can lead us to a state of realization that is beyond the state of delusion in which we spend most of our time. Practicing the Dharma is nothing less than the highest human aspiration. We are trying to attain Enlightenment and transcend our egoic self.
We use mind training to work on our poisons, these are the things that hold up back from our potential. Greed, hatred, and delusion are the things that feed our ignorance and keep us mired in suffering. We also work on transcending our habitual patterns, those old ways of thinking that are with us all the time, the preconceptions and baggage that we all carry that prevent us from seeing things as they really are.
We want to learn how to understand our own minds, how to accept what’s around us instead of rejecting it.

There is a truth about life that the Buddha realized and we need to realize it too. The truth is that life is painful with occasional moments of pleasure. The Dharma shows us that we can have a healthier relationship to that pain. We can experience it without letting it overcome us. We can get out of this ocean of suffering.

Enlightenment is like seeing the sun. It’s something you can do. It’s something we all can do. The most important thing about the Buddha’s life is that he was an ordinary person, like us. He wasn’t some kind of god or spirit. Because of that we can aspire to do what he did. You can do it. In fact, no one else can do it for you. It’s up to you to experience reality as it is.



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What is Enlightenment?


So, what is Enlightenment? Enlightenment is simply coming to an intuitive understanding of our true nature, the delusion of the self, the oneness of all things. When we can dwell in this experience, that is Enlightenment. In the Ch’an tradition we say that everyone is Enlightened already because this is our fundamental nature. We only don’t see it because it’s obscured by layers of delusion.

I think of Enlightenment as a transition from awareness of the self as a limited individual to awareness.

From the Confidence of the Mind Inscription

For reality to manifest here and now, do not distinguish between good and bad. To discriminate in this way is a disease of the mind, which obscures the realisation of the mysterious knowledge, and renders the practice of quiet study futile.

Discrimination represents the labels we put on things. We label things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, we look upon things with greed and aversion, but these are just meanings we are attaching to things, meanings that are not inherently present.

It’s important to recognize greed and delusion because they are two of the three poisons. They are things that do a lot to harm our efforts on the path.

We shape our reality with labels. Nothing is good or bad, everything just is. As long as we cling to these labels that we are creating, we are feeding a disease of the mind.

Greed and aversion inspire and support delusion. As long as we are suffering from the three poisons, understanding our true nature will remain beyond our reach.

the Buddha’s Enlightenment

Bodhi Day is next week. It’s the day we celebrate the Buddha’s Enlightenment.

Here’s something I wrote on that subject earlier this year:

Siddhartha had been a spiritual seeker for years and every path he had chosen had come to nothing. He was deeply unsatisfied with the mainstream religion of his time, which was anti-science and hostile to women and minorities. So, he had traveled for years looking for spiritual truth.

And he hadn’t found it. Many of us would have given up.

But, he sat under a tree. He had realized a small insight that had inspired him to look within himself for the truth. He had caught a glimpse of what we call our Buddha Nature.

So, he sat under this tree and meditated.

He didn’t invent meditation. It had existed for a very long time. People may not realize that Buddhism is part of a continuum, it builds on the religious teachings that preceded it.

He was a die-hard meditation enthusiast. He vowed to sit under that tree until he had a breakthrough, some fundamental insight into human suffering.

and he sat

and he sat

and he sat

and he cleared his mind

and he cleared his mind

and he cleared his mind

And the truth came to him. At this point, he became the Buddha, which means ‘awakened one.’

He looked up at the sky and saw a star twinkling and he said, “Look, I am twinkling.”

He realized fundamental truths on both a mundane level and on a deeper level.

He discovered that the source of our suffering is our craving, our endless state of wanting more and he described a path to overcome that suffering. This is the path that we still follow today. It teaches us that harming ourselves or others is counterproductive. It teaches us to think before we act, but also that thinking too much is often a problem too. Who among us hasn’t suffered due to excessive worrying.

He taught us to live in the present moment, rather than spending too much time in the past or future. This doesn’t mean we should forget the past. There’s a difference between learning from our mistakes and replaying them in our minds over and over.

And the Buddha taught us that all things are interconnected. We tend to think that we are separate from each other and from the world around us. This delusion is a great source of suffering in our lives. We are deeply connected to everything around us in countless ways. That’s why negativity and destructiveness are harmful. When we put violence into the world, we are harming ourselves too.

And the Buddha thought to himself, “This insight I have is experiential. I don’t think I can teach this to anyone. They would have to see for themselves.”

He considered staying, living out his life, alone in the wilderness. He was right, of course. Having an intellectual understanding of the Buddha’s teaching isn’t the same as enlightenment. We have to have a deeper understanding, an intuitive understanding rather than a philosophical one.

The Buddha was moved by a great sense of compassion. He thought teaching wouldn’t work, but not trying seemed unacceptable. So, he came out of the forest to teach us all how to save ourselves from suffering.