Springingtiger's Blog


The Price and Cost of Enlightenment
January 26, 2013, 12:02
Filed under: success | Tags: , , , , , ,

Enlightenment may be as simple as being able to, in the words of Ram Dad, Be Here Now, but in fact for most of us it’s not that simple, or rather we can’t believe it can be. Werner Erhard once said, “you can get enlightenment from falling off a log”. However, as I think he went on to point out, very few of us do. The problem is that we price everything and place little value on anything that is not expensive. We have also been taught since childhood that the accomplishment of anything of anything worthwhile requires hard work. We are cursed that we can only find enlightenment if it accords with our beliefs whereas, of course, enlightenment is nothing to do with belief. To borrow a Werneresque notation, beliefs are beliefs and enlightenment is enlightenment.

Our belief is that anything worth having is worth paying for and that is true also of enlightenment, but at the same time we refuse to accept that anyone who teaches  any sort of spiritual path should ask for payment. This is nothing new, Paul of Tarsus had to remind his followers that Jesus said of those who taught the gospel, ” The worker is worthy of his hire” because teaching a spiritual path is hard work, very. In the eastern traditions it has always been customary for a teacher to demand dakshin, a payment for his teaching. Admittedly the payment is largely a symbolic acknowledgment by the student that he places value on the lessons to be learned.

As well as the price, we believe there should be a cost. We expect effort, we expect suffering on the path to enlightenment and we usually get the suffering and cost. Would it be so bad if enlightenment was easy and free? ( just a thought!)

As long as we believe as we do we will pay and suffer, still that’s better than doing nothing. If you need to kneel in an isolated chapel, wander the country barefoot, begging, or whether you need to pay thousands of dollars and sit in hotel ballrooms to be berated by a man in a suit, that’s ok. As long as you find what works for you, and you get what you want  great!

However free, however easy enlightenment may be, there is a cost. The cost is letting go of everything you know, everything you have ever believed, to free yourself from even hope, from all certainties for a moment of freedom. So most people will always have to take the long path so that they never have to face the stark reality of enlightenment. Perhaps the journey is more bearable than the destination. People have expectations of enlightenment and the enlightened life, they should, perhaps, remember the zen saying, “before enlightenment there was drawing water and chopping wood, after enlightenment there is drawing water and chopping wood”. 

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