The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

"Spiritual powers and their wondrous functioning--hauling water and carrying firewood." --Layman Pang, upon his realization

Friday, April 26, 2013

Life and the Pursuit of Enlightenment

It's 2:15 in the afternoon, and already I have opened and read 3 emails out of 30 that talk specifically about the "pursuit of enlightenment", if only their authors had "time to pursue a spiritual life" or "find a good how-to book".

That's 1 in 10 occupied with enlightenment and willing to ask me how I suggest going about finding and keeping an enlightened state of being.

First of all, it makes me so happy that folks are sincerely asking, are aware that maybe there's some benefit to cultivating a spiritual practice and  that they are lifting their eyes to look around, to consider which way the wind blows, because truly, being awake is a matter of life and death and if you think you have time to spare and tomorrow might be a good time to "begin", think again!
As Pema says, "Start Where You Are."
To that I might add, "You're already awake, just wake up."  But there's a note of flippantcy there, and that's not what I want to convey.

So the questions are asked:  Any good books to read on the subject?
Any advice on to how to fit a spiritual practice into raising children, working, going to class, falling in love, take essential pharmaceuticals, doing housework, commuting, being frustrated, angry, sad and troubled, not taking essential pharmaceuticals, falling out of love...?
Fill in the blank!!

But there is no secret here; when everything is spiritual, every act of living is the act of a spiritual life!  It's not something you add to the list of good-for-you things like eating wild caught salmon, drinking in moderation and getting exercise.  The spiritual life includes every moment, without regard for how we might want to cling to or shove that moment away.  It's not even a matter of including, it just IS.

As long as we compartmentalize each aspect of the day, and disregard the organic and continuous ebb and flow of Buddha, we're going to chase enlightenment as if it is something outside of ourselves that can be qualified and quantified.
Check, did that today.
Sure, it might be pretty cool to have an Enlightenment Meter, something like the scales in the bathroom, to measure how awake we are on any given day, but if we're mindful, we know how awake we are!
There isn't a beginning and ending point of the spiritual practice--living life IS the spiritual practice.
This is Dogen Zengi's Genjo Koan, the koan of our daily living.
You don't need a book for that, you just need to breath and know that you are breathing.

Follow the dharma of the crying, hungry baby, the surly teenager and the boss who relishes pointing out your mistakes.
Be the Buddha on the highway with Layla playing full blast during the bumper to bumper commute.
Be the Buddha with the pulled muscle, the itchy eyes, the brain fog and the stinky feet.
And smile at the Buddha's shy smile of someone who is crushing on you and turn your heart to greet that love and mirror it like the diamond you are in Indra's Web.

You don't fit Buddhism in here or there.  Buddhism IS here AND there.
And as for keeping that state of enlightenment, remember what it was like to catch and keep lightning bugs in a jar by your bed, only to rise in the morning and find them all dead?  All is impermanent, especially enlightenment.

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