small ‘e’ enlightenment
The e word. Enlightenment. It’s a pretty polarizing word. Many folks are getting rich off of selling the enlightenment experience. Others are using it as part of their blog’s title.. Ahem.
Brad Warner recently wrote a post titled ‘ What is Enlightenment?’ which resonated with me and I wanted to share some thoughts on. While I can attest to having a few ‘awareness’ experiences in my life, I don’t really hoot on about them, go off writing books like ‘The Secret’ or crafting pithy blog posts about how realized I am. I think there’s a fine balance between the humility that I hold my practice with combined with the strength that’s required to pursue being a functional Buddhist in today’s modern world. It truly is a balance- much like one can become that annoying person on the airplane that doesn’t shut up about their wife, kids, peanut farm for 20 hours non-stop or the glassy eyed stranger that doesn’t even smile or engage after you accidentally bump their table tray. There are some out there in the world that just get off on selling enlightenment and there are many that are just craving the possibility that comes with meeting an enlightened being.
The movie ‘Kumare’ really got to me as it was one of the most genuine portrayals of the spiritual seeker that I’ve seen in some time. The ability to see the perspective of what people were looking for when they chose to follow this learned man was a precious one for those who work in spiritual communities because it shines a light on the need for absolute care that has to be taken when individuals enter a spiritual center seeking – whatever it is they are seeking… answers, relief from suffering, community, meditation instruction or any of the reasons one walks through the door of a Buddhist/spiritual community.
So back to enlightenment. I think in many ways it’s seen as a goal. An attainment. Similar to how my Pentecostal family would herald when someone received the Holy Ghost and spoke in tongues or rolled around on the floor or ran around the perimeter of the church. Sometimes the idea that it can take several zillion lifetimes for enlightenment is lost on us. We want it NOW, but we don’t even really know why.
Do go over to Brad’s site and read his post as it is a great read and worthy of discussion related to the topic of spiritual masters and spiritual seekers.