On Enlightenment


On Enlightenment

AS·CET·IC [əˈsedik/] adjective: characterized by or suggesting the practice of severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons. “an ascetic life of prayer, fasting, and manual labor” 
noun: a person who practices severe self-discipline and abstention.

Gautama did not become Buddha by reading Sutras or chanting. He starved himself, afflicted himself with many pains as an ascetic. Emaciated, fed and nursed back to life by a woman who found him dying; renewed and refreshed, he meditated under a tree until he achieved an enlightened state.

But, what is Enlightenment? Modern science might break it down to its base function of a dopamine and endorphin induced euphoria attained through the rigorous discipline of the mind and body. Of course Gautama became supercharged after what he had gone through—elevated even—to an altered state never experienced or historically documented.

By Akuppa John Wigham from Newcastle upon Tyne, England - Emaciated Siddhartha, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43995470What he taught afterward was a different path than the one he took to become the Buddha. Immediately following his new-found understanding of the human condition, he began teaching the Middle Way. Later he developed the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path as the way leading to Enlightenment, not the abstinence to the point of near-death, followed by a physical revitalization, that led him to it.

In his historical fiction, Siddhartha, Herman Hesse posed a question that relates to this very controversy. The Brahman-turned-seeker explained to the Buddha why he could not become a follower. Siddhartha spoke to Gautama in a reverent way, entreating him:

I have not doubted for a single moment that you are Buddha. You have found salvation from death. It has come to you in the course of your own search, on your own path, through thoughts, through meditation, through realizations, through enlightenment. It has not come to you by means of teachings! And—thus is my thought, oh exalted one: The teachings of the enlightened Buddha contain much. But there is one thing which these so venerable teachings do not contain: they do not contain the mystery of what the exalted one has experienced for himself, he alone among hundreds of thousands. [excerpted; italics added]

Siddhartha’s query might have included not only, ‘what did you experience upon becoming Enlightened,’ but, ‘what steps did you take to attain it; and why do you teach a different Path to your disciples?’ In other words: “It has not come to you by means of teachings!” Hesse may have wondered why the Sutras we read today are a necessary gateway to Enlightenment, when they were a byproduct of Gautama’s release from life’s suffering, not the means he used to realize that freedom.

Despite this contention, the Buddha taught one element to the Path that is key. According to Ch’an Buddhism[1], every living person is capable of achieving spontaneous enlightenment, but they must let it become manifest.

In reality, we all have the same Buddha nature, and we can manifest this Buddha nature right now. Bodhidharma says that: “The Buddha-nature is obscured by a layer of dust which prevents the real from manifesting.” -Daniel Scharpenburg

What takes years for the novitiate to reach at a Buddhist shrine, may just as well be found by the person who, intent on gaining inner peace, encounters a variety of spiritual experience throughout their life. They won’t find it walking down the street, hit by a bolt of light. But, the search for it may actually be the very thing they seek—the search becoming the thing sought. It certainly is not something you buy from the Zen master at the local temple, or from a monk in an isolated mountain monastery. If someone demands alms, or asks you to devote time with the promise to guide you on the road to Nibbana, they may just as well sell you a paper bag full of tap water. Because Enlightenment is a thing you should experience on your own, just like the Buddha.

[1]The Principles of Ch’an Buddhism -Daniel Scharpenburg


Words of Wisdom – Just Do It

Alan Watts’ unique ability to understand and assess Eastern Philosophies for the Western mind is a valuable asset to those who follow a Zen lifestyle. Without his writing and those of D. T. Suzuki, from whom Watts borrowed much of his insight, it would be difficult to grasp the true significance of the practice, if we can even call it a practice. I prefer to call it Mind—Being—in the moment.

The following is an excerpt from one of his many spoken lectures; this one addressing the shortcomings of the Western practice of Zen, and Asian thought in general, broadcast from radio station KPFA in Berkeley, California on April 17, 1955.  -Pc

“The important thing is simply to begin—anywhere, wherever you are.”

In this broadcast, Mr Watts explains:

We want to enjoy ourselves, and fear that if we forget ourselves there will be no enjoyment.”

He goes on to give an example with the Western Proverb:

“A watched pot never boils.”… if you try to watch your mind concentrate, it will not concentrate. And if… you begin to watch for the arrival of some insight into reality, you have stopped concentrating.”

It is a paradox. If we try to concentrate we are not concentrating, but watching ourselves trying.

“Real concentration is… a rather curious and seemingly paradoxical state, since it is at once the maximum of consciousness and the minimum of ego-feeling… The only way to enter into this state is precipitately—without delay or hesitation, just to do it…”

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The Inner Light

Some Buddhist schools insist you spend years practicing meditation in order to achieve spiritual enlightenment. In his article on the school of Ch’an Daniel Scharpenburg makes the argument that we are already Enlightened. In his words: “The only thing that keeps us from our Awakening is the fact that our minds are obscured by delusion.”

This raises a question. Is everyone born with an inner beacon that guides their path through life?

Many modern religions insist that their patented belief system is the only way to Salvation. They compel you to follow a strict discipline in order to succeed at their calling. They truly understand this Inner Light—and they hijack it. Taking over your moral compass, they replace it with their own.

Some traps are lined in velvet and may seem comfortable. But they are traps nonetheless. They take over your life, leaving you with a beacon that is set to someone else’s course. If your compass has been turned this way you are left spiritually bankrupt and unhappy.

Take each step carefully, as you follow your Inner Light.






When he walked the Earth, what was it the Buddha understood that enabled him to stand above the stature of Man and become a Spiritual being?

Simply put, spirituality is what we call the state of inner understanding. A spiritual man doesn’t have to prove his spiritual stature, it speaks for him. He has attained a state of calmness that comes natural, through understanding, or Enlightenment. As natural as we may find this state, it requires cultivation. For, just as we must attend to a flower after it has sprouted, we nurture Understanding, maintaining that state of transcendent consciousness, allowing a raised sense of being to bloom after it has taken root.

So, when does a man attain enlightenment? What was it the Buddha achieved that made him a spiritual guide to one-fourth of the human race?

In Siddhartha, Herman Hesse posed a question when the Brahman-turned-seeker explained to the Buddha why he could not become a follower. Siddhartha spoke to the Enlightened One, stating in a most reverent and entreating way, the following:

“I have not doubted for a single moment that you are Buddha. . . You have found salvation from death. It has come to you in the course of your own search, on your own path, through thoughts, through meditation, through realizations, through enlightenment. It has not come to you by means of teachings! And–thus is my thought, oh exalted one. . . You will not be able to convey and say to anybody. . . in words and through teachings what has happened to you in the hour of enlightenment! The teachings of the enlightened Buddha contain much. . . But there is one thing which. . . these so venerable teachings do not contain: they do not contain the mystery of what the exalted one has experienced for himself, he alone among hundreds of thousands.” [italics added]

So, when does a man attain enlightenment? As the Buddha taught, only the one who has attained it knows.



Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Artists

“Alan Watts was a British philosopher who spoke about Asian philosophies for a Western audience. He wrote over 25 books and was an excellent orator on topics such as the meaning of life, higher consciousness, the true nature of reality and the pursuit of happiness.”

“Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.” -Alan Watts

This is an excerpt from the article: 25 Alan Watts Quotes That Will Blow Your Mind Wide Open
By Universe Insider – May 7, 2017

That Sort of Freedom

My first attempt at Haibun. 

The commuter train’s cars heave along dilapidated rust covered tracks. They wrangle past summer cottages, bungalows and the soot covered buildings of Poughkeepsie, to end their journey in a final sway of creaking springs and tortured steel, at Grand Central Station.

From my apartment it’s a short walk—close enough to afford a private view just outside the grounds of the retreats cropped along the Hudson—to touch the banks of that other river, the iron river—its flow caressing the heart of this huge land, lining it with the silver steel of a new adventure waiting just down the track.

I’ve walked those rails. I’d sit and meditate, or smoke, or just sing out-loud to myself, making up songs that I imagined could one day become part of the canon of American songs. Or, not. Either way, it didn’t matter. What I liked was the way the sun, warm on my back, reflected off the shiny rails, shimmering, as I tried to match my steps to the awkward spacing of the railroad ties.

The crunch of the granite stones under my feet, the heat rising off the rust and gravel between the tracks gave me a good feeling, as if stepping on the iron of those rails somehow could put me in touch with another existence, a reality detached from this world’s assault on the Stream of consciousness. Lost in the ozone, simplicit, without a care; a wandering will o’ the wisp dharma bum, content with the euphoric splendor of a Saturday afternoon all lazy-like and sunlit, replete with a breeze from the river swirling the leaves of the trees in a happy dance, I quietly contemplated the empty completeness of the earth and its Spirit, the life that flows in the leaves and dark dirt and pine needles underfoot; frogs whomping, breathing their own life into the Cosmic eternity of my being. Walking on these rails has always made me feel that way.

the simplicit fool
knocks sprockets with the universe
calls it freedom

Highway 61 – The One Time a Popular Minority Uprising Didn’t Suck

Overturning the status quo is not always a bad thing. By rejecting the folk music establishment of the 60s, Bob Dylan introduced new music to a new generation. Now recognized as a literary art form by the Nobel Prize Committee, his music and poetry brought with it a cultural awareness that never died. We’re still humming and keeping time to his beats, whether the pop ballads of his late career or the original electrified folk-blues-rock of his early modern period. But with today’s changing climate, both literally and metaphorically speaking, what does the future hold for the youth culture? Only time will tell. But unlike Pete Seeger and the folk elite of his time, let’s not give in to tears of rage as we watch the world


Let’s not lose faith in humanity. It’s not all over yet, baby Blue.

The stage was set for Dylan’s apocalyptic Newport Folk Festival appearance … On the festival’s first day, Dylan performed an acoustic workshop. For his headlining performance on Sunday night, though, he recruited Bloomfield, Kooper, and other members of the Butterfield band. They rehearsed through Saturday night. Preceding Dylan’s appearance were performances by traditional bluesmen Son House and Robert Pete Williams. The stage had no monitors, and when Dylan and his band kicked off with “Maggie’s Farm,” the sound was brutally loud. An outraged Peter Seeger, grand old man of the folk movement, reportedly tried to unplug power cords as the band played. “You could not understand the words!” Seeger explained in No Direction Home. “I was frantic. I said, ‘Get that distortion out!’ It was so raspy you could not understand a word. I told the soundman that if I had an axe, I’d chop the mike cable right now.” The band, meanwhile, launched into “Like a Rolling Stone” and then closed with “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry.” That’s all they’d rehearsed, and the set lasted fifteen minutes. The crowd yelling for more, Dylan came back alone and sang “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue.”

[Excerpt from: Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited”: Mike Bloomfield v. Johnny Winter
Jas Obrecht Music Archive] http://jasobrecht.com/dylans-highway-61-revisited-mike-bloomfield-v-johnny-winter/

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