No More Awakenings

Enlightenment looms, both the carrot and the stick. Why do we chase all these euphoria dreams?

Since I read Taking the Path of Zen five years ago until now, I’ve never rinsed the taste of awakening out of mouth. It’s everywhere, in every book. Kenshos, insights, those moments of “seeing the light.”

The only thing that differs between a Buddhist awakening, an Advaitan one, and a Christian one is the message, the revealed truth.

Empty calories it seems to me. A few studies have shown that, during a kensho, the neural pathways related to self-consciousness go dormant while the ones related to consciousness of other stimuli keep firing. I don’t know, but I’d guess that it’s the reverse for Advaitan and Christian awakenings. All is self vs. all is not-self. Both are nondual experiences.

Zen, the centuries old debate on sudden vs gradual. Why bother with either? Out here beyond the monasteries, I can’t imagine not clinging to enlightenment regardless of its message or its means of arrival.

But can there be Buddhism without Bodhi?

The teachings say that all life has the nature of awakening at their core. Even the most ignorant and hateful beings are living nirvana. Why should I chase what’s already present? Why even give it a name or consider it an experience unto itself separate from all others?

If there is any hope for me, it’s in setting down enlightenment as an experience and seeing day-to-day life as such, and then act accordingly.

This private secular Zen, without beliefs in liberating moments or transformative insight. No glamor. No carrot and no stick. Just living.




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