WHAT’S THE POINT OF LIFE AFTER TOTAL ENLIGHTENMENT?
“There’s a common saying in Zen that says after Satori (Enlightenment, there sits the ordinary old man.)
Something extraordinary happens through Enlightenment, but nothing at all. Vedanta ” the philosophy Buddhism originates from ” translates to “the end of knowledge.”
If Enlightenment is the end of knowledge, the end of struggles and the end of suffering, what is left in life? What is there left to do after the struggle is gone? After all, isn’t part of the beauty of life the struggle, the tears, the heartache and finding healing and peace through it all?
If there’s nothing left to do, if there’s nothing left to strive for, what’s the point of living? What’s the point of living when life itself has no point? What’s the point if the game of life isn’t worth playing?
There is a point though; the creation of your story. The only difference is after Enlightenment and the realization of One Taste, we no longer identify with the drama.
But detachment does not mean not participating. It’s not an escape from life; it’s simply creating your story with the awareness that you are not the story. It doesn’t bother you when your life takes a wrong turn or when something goes awry. In the same way you can celebrate when something wonderful in your life happens, but you don’t get attached because you realize that your story is not you.
Everything in life is a story. The evolution of the Universe, from unconscious matter to becoming conscious, is a story. The Eros of human consciousness, how we evolve from duality and separateness to Enlightenment and union, is a story.
The search for meaning and beauty outside ourselves, and realizing that happiness can only come from within, is yet another story. We turn even the most mundane things (like washing the dishes) into a story. We have all sorts of feelings about everything and we use those feelings and associations to mold our story. Life is a series of stories~ by Jonathan - http://paidtoexist.com/meaning-of-life-enlightenment/
I truly attained nothing from complete, unexcelled Enlightenment.
Many people are searching for an awakening or trying hard to become enlightened. Stories abound about who is and isn't awake and how so-and-so went from being an ordinary person to being no self at all. We love to imagine that "enlightenment" or "awakening" is some magical event that will permanently erase all our problems and leave us forever after living in a state of bliss. We love to believe in the mythology of Perfect People.
If we believe that someone else is enlightened, will we then believe that anything and everything that person says is true? Are we looking for an authority figure who can give us all the right answers…or a Magical Guru who will gaze into our eyes, zap us energetically, and leave us utterly transformed…or maybe some Divine Parent figure who will love us unconditionally? What are we really looking for? And what do we imagine will happen to us or change in us so that we can finally know with confidence and certainty that we have reached the goal, that we are now enlightened?
Is enlightenment a destination or an acquisition? Is it a special state of consciousness? Is it some secret knowledge about how the universe works? What is it?
It's very helpful to remember that “enlightenment” and “awakening” are both words. They are sounds, vibrations, symbols that get used in many different ways. Some say enlightenment is the absence of suffering, some say it is the absence of non-functional thinking, some say it is the end of identification with the thinking mind, some say it is the death of the ego or the dissolution of the separate self, some say it is the absence of any sense of agency or the falling away of the belief that we are the author of the thoughts and actions that arise. Some say it is the realization of Oneness, others describe it as the merging of difference and unity. Some compare enlightenment to lucid dreaming in the waking state and say that it is the abiding realization that all of consciousness is a dream-like appearance, including the entire movie of waking life and the whole spiritual search and the one who is searching. Some say enlightenment or awakening is an energetic shift, some call it a felt-sense, others say it is about seeing clearly, some describe it as an understanding or an apperception, some say it is the embodiment or actualization of the truth, others insist it is always already the case and is never not here.
Some imagine enlightenment to be a state of perpetual bliss, while others say it includes and transcends every state. Some insist that awakening manifests only as “positive” or saintly behavior, while others insist you can be enlightened and still be an alcoholic, a womanizer, an embezzler, someone prone to angry outbursts, or even a child molester. Some say enlightenment happens suddenly and irrevocably at a particular time on a particular day—that it is a permanent, decisive, final shift. Others describe it as a gradual unfolding, like a photograph slowly appearing in the developing tray, or like getting gradually wet while walking in a mist, or like a puddle slowly evaporating or an ice cube gradually melting until nothing is left. Some say that enlightenment comes and goes, others insist that it only happens Now, and some say that nothing ever happens and there is no such "thing" as enlightenment. Some distinguish between “enlightenment,” “awakening,” “liberation,” “kensho,” “satori,” “mukti,” and host of other terms, while others use all these words more or less synonymously and interchangeably. Who has it right? Who is really enlightened and how do we know?
Are there “enlightened people” whose every moment is entirely free from suffering, or from delusion, or from the sense of separation and encapsulation, or from the sense of agency and authorship, or from all egoic thoughts and behaviors? Are there “unenlightened people” whose every moment is totally consumed by these delusions and sufferings? Or is this very idea of “enlightened people” and “unenlightened people” (or of solid, discrete, persisting “people” of any kind) perhaps an example of unenlightened (or deluded) thinking? Who (or what) is it, exactly, that would be enlightened or unenlightened?
We talk glibly about enlightenment without really knowing what we're even talking about. We seek it without ever stopping to really examine closely what it is we think we're seeking. Could the sense that something is lacking here and now, and the notion that there is somebody who needs to be transformed, be the very illusions that awakening wakes up from?
I would not say that I am enlightened, nor would I say that I am not enlightened. I don't find any solid, persisting, independent entity here to be one way or the other. Here / Now is ever-present and all-inclusive. Sometimes there are clear skies and sometimes it is cloudy and overcast. Sometimes there is the movie of waking life and sometimes there is the nothingness of deep sleep. There is no owner of these various experiences – none of them are personal – all of them come and go. Boundless unicity includes both enlightenment and delusion. Enlightenment sees unicity; delusion imagines separation. Enlightenment sees unicity even in delusion. Delusion is always seeking enlightenment. Delusion imagines that enlightenment is “out there” somewhere in the future. Enlightenment recognizes that there is only now.
Thinking in terms of “permanently enlightened people” just might be the biggest and most widespread delusion. Enlightenment might be described as the falling away of this entire misconception, leaving only what is always already Here / Now. And this is not a personal achievement, for it is the recognition that no such owner or author of experience actually exists.
There is only the ever-present boundless and seamless unicity that has been called “the One without a second,” and this totality includes every experience. It is equally present in the expanded and impersonal experience of spacious openness and in the contracted experience of apparently being a separate person. There is no way to avoid unicity, for it is all there is, and it is always 100% present and 100% fully realized Here / Now. Even the denial of it is the perfect realization of it. And yet, it often seems that there is "me" trapped in delusion, in need of liberation, and it is this "divine hypnosis" (as one teacher aptly calls it) that prompts the search for enlightenment. Enlightenment is simply the recognition that the problem and the one who seems to have it are both imaginary.
The whole subject of enlightenment is very tricky because it signifies both a shift and no shift at all (the gateless gate). Clearly, many shifts in perception or state of consciousness are possible. The sun comes out on a cloudy day, you drink a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, you make love with someone, you stand before the ocean, you sit in silence for seven days, your child dies in a car crash, you go through menopause – endless shifts. The Ultimate Shift is the realization that all the shifts are the movement of One Life, that they have no owner, that they are all equally empty of substance, solidity, permanence, inherent reality or enduring form. This realization isn't "something" that "somebody" attains at a certain moment in time and then "has" forever after. It is the falling away of that very illusion of "something" and "somebody" and "forever after." It is the recognition that even these mirage-like appearances of substance, separation, independent agency, and so on are themselves the One-without-a-second appearing as these sensations and ideas. So the Ultimate Shift is the recognition that the very notion of an Ultimate Shift (or enlightenment) is nothing but meaningless babble.
Boundlessness (unicity, the One-without-a-second, emptiness) is always here, realizing itself in every possible form and in every possible experience. All experiences, including any experience of awakening or enlightenment, are all within the dream-like appearance, the movie of waking life. Within the context of the dream, relatively speaking, we can certainly say that Ramana Maharshi was an enlightened sage and that Adolph Hitler was a deluded madman. But enlightenment (the Ultimate Shift, the Shiftless-Shift) sees Ramana and Hitler as two sides of a single coin, different in appearance but seamless, inseparable and completely interdependent. Enlightenment is not about “me” getting from one side of the imaginary coin to the other side and then staying there forever. That is delusion. Enlightenment is not the absence of problems, but rather, enlightenment is the absence of the one who cares about being enlightened.
Enlightenment can appear gradual or sudden only in the story, where it seems (in retrospect) that awakening was either a shift that unfolded slowly over time or else a sudden and decisive event with a totally different before and after. But neither of these imaginations really captures that to which words such as “enlightenment” or “awakening” are pointing.
There is no “someone” who is evaporating or disappearing or getting clearer, no "someone" who is enlightened or not enlightened – this “someone” is always only a mirage – an optical illusion produced by thoughts, sensations, memory and imagination. No separate, persisting "someone" ever really forms to be enlightened or unenlightened or to evaporate or transform. And in that realization, the shifting experiences in the movie of waking life no longer seem personally owned. The search for enlightenment falls away. There is simply life as it is, the ever-changing, ever-present reality of Here / Now.
When we're no longer seeking something else, the aliveness and depth of the present moment becomes more vivid and more obvious: the sounds of rain and traffic, the rise and fall of breathing, the smell of coffee, the gratuitous beauty of a flower, the horror and sorrow of a bombing attack, the thoughts and stories that appear and disappear, the awareness beholding it all. We realize that the thought-sense-story of separation and encapsulation is only another momentary face of emptiness. No one is actually trapped in delusion, and delusion has no real substance or inherent reality.
There's a well-known old Zen story about the pathless path to enlightenment. It says that before I took up Zen, there were mountains and valleys. And then after I began the practice of Zen, there were no mountains and no valleys. And then with enlightenment, there are mountains and valleys.
The first “stage” is ordinary relative consciousness – the world as we think it is, a collection of separate things, including “me” who is “in here” looking out an external world “out there.”
The second “stage” of no mountains and valleys is the discovery that there is no actual boundary between “in here” and “out there,” that everything is one inseparable and seamless whole, that there is no “me.” This is the realization of what is the same in every different experience. It is the discovery of the Absolute, the ever-present, the ever-changing. But this is still not enlightenment, although it is often mistaken for enlightenment.
But in clinging to the absolute, there is still a subtle dualism. With true enlightenment, there are mountains and valleys again. Good and evil are aspects of one inseparable whole and we can discern a difference between them.
Many teachers are in love with the story that they are enlightened, and they love to tell the story again and again. We hear about their walk across the park or the magical moment in their kitchen when their self dropped away forever. Enlightenment is portrayed as a personal experience, an achievement, a permanent state. But any such experience or achievement is only a moment in a dream. Yes, in the dream-like movie of waking life, some characters do report sudden and dramatic transformations, and some characters are exceptionally clear and free of delusion, but there is no one to be permanently enlightened or permanently deluded. There is no one who is a caterpillar in one moment and then a butterfly in the next. There is no caterpillar and no butterfly. There is only unbroken unicity from which nothing stands apart. A true teacher will not be encouraging you to idolize or idealize them, but rather, they will be deflecting all your attempts to make them special and put them up on pedestals. A true teacher pulls every rug you try to stand on out from under you -- they don't keep handing you more and more rugs. Enlightenment has no beginning and no ending. It is not a state you enter or leave. There is no finish line in waking up. It is always here.
Being enlightened is not about being perfect and special and having all the answers. It is about recognizing the perfection in imperfection and abiding in the cluelessness that is our true nature and see how you react and respond to it. The only reality is Here / Now, the infinite present moment. There is no end to this boundlessness, and no end to this unfolding Self-realization.
Rather than trying to figure out if you are enlightened or if someone else is enlightened, rather than idealizing people or putting them up on pedestals and turning them into infallible authorities, rather than trying to duplicate anyone else's supposed enlightenment experience, I would suggest investigating what it is you are looking for, and whether it is actually absent here and now, and who or what would find it, possess it or lack it. You may find that nothing is missing, nothing is broken, nothing is needed. There is simply this, as it is.
And if you find yourself feeling a sense of discomfort, lack or unease, perhaps in that moment, you might ask yourself, is this sense of discomfort, lack or unease really a problem or maybe a solution? Is anything really broken? And if you are about to reach for something to fill up the emptiness, perhaps in that moment, the question will arise, what am I seeking? And where and when do I expect to find it?
Joan Tollifson - http://www.joantollifson.com/writing8.html
After total enlightenment there exists service!
still sounds like 'out there' not here ... ;)
Look up Vladimir Antonov, he has transcended all things and is truly enlightened.
i like this:
“You see, people usually imagine that so-called enlightenment, self-realization, God-realization or what you will (I don’t like to use these words) is something ecstatic, that you will be permanently happy, in a blissful state all the time – these are the images they have of those people…. There’s no relationship at all between the image you have of that, and what actually is the situation…. That’s why I very often tell people ‘If I could give you some glimpse of what this is all about, you wouldn’t touch this with a barge pole, a ten foot pole.’ You would run away from this because this is not what you want. What you want does not exist, you see.” “We don’t want to be free from fear. All that we want to do is to play games with it and talk about freeing ourselves from fear.”
“You see, the search takes you away from yourself – it is in the opposite direction –it has absolutely no relation. I have discovered that it is useless to try to discover the truth. The search for truth is, I have discovered, absurd, because it’s a thing which you cannot capture, contain, or give expression to.”
nice secret, the world is perfect as it is ... ;)) no need to change it ... just our perception of it i guess.
You will never be without the next step to take...even after so-called enlightenment. It isn't in the nature of our creator to give life, only to have it go to waste when you think you've become enlightened. The fact that you don't know what will happen tells me you have a very long way to proceed before worrying about having "nothing" to do or look forward to.
Raise your expectations...doesn't sound llke you are aiming high enough in your choice of a master or you are miss-interpreting the Master's intent. Seek to give of yourself in all ways to humanity, and you will open like a flower in full bloom for the love you generate!
Maybe "total enlightenment" is just another beginning. Another opportunity to "do stuff". Doing stuff is where its at, its the bee's knees. One might even say its "the point of life".
like reaching ‘pinnacle of life’, recognizing limitations, giving appreciation and responding and embracing your own experience as they are with a different feel of it.
Based on word Enlightenment (which is English word it doesn't mean much) in Zen it called Satori – which kind of translates as brief glimpse or a flash of sudden awareness that seems to come out of nowhere. It is a state of Is not ‘own’ … to me I would say it’s personal revelations that comes like that based on individual experiences. They don’t consist in producing conditions, more like accepting a new point of view of perceived things giving the base to one foot at the time to move forward.
Thanks Phylos ;)
of is not 'own'..... base to one foot at the time to move forward. I love the way you use metaphor to communicate. very musical, poetic... You would probably enjoy playing cello if you tried and learned to do it well. Lot of work, though. learning harmony and notes on a fretless instrument involves giving base to sounds with fingers to one or more to move somewhere, maybe forward, maybe backward, or up or down, or spiraled. Notes of music are funny in that you canstart on a note, go either up or down and still return to the note...in a different octave, of course. But, its like something that has no center and no edge, but is at the center and the edge of everything. To me, that would be a characteristic of enlightenment as well.
perhaps everything that brings you closer to your inner self - could bring you enlightenment ;))
Perhaps helping others achieve enlightenment?... that's just my opinion though.