what is enlightenment

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During the recent global religious scandals I’ve been reflecting on what it really means to me as a meditation and yoga practitioner to attain enlightenment. I’ve been a spiritual seeker since I was 16 years old and devoted a good part of my life as the owner of Sakura Designs to meditation, yoga introspection and the quest for knowing. I have tons and tons of dharma books and have done long-term meditation retreats, I even lived over in Nepal and studied with an old Tibetan yogic master.

What I’m coming to now though, is in light of a lot of the scandals, is that religions tend to promise some type of tiered gradient path that if you follow their trajectory and authority you’ll “get somewhere.” The religions themselves form organizations and become the authority with some type of spiritual teachings, absolution, path and tend to monetize this process.

I believe that there’s a new trend dawning where people go back to the original spiritual quest that’s free from religion, where we just simply in a Zen-like way with a beginner‘s mind, ask ourselves what is there what is it to be human, what is the texture of my experience, and what does it mean to be an awake person as opposed to an asleep person? Maybe the answers as we have heard are “in here,” but we still insist on going “out there,” and that’s getting expensive and I’m still not “realized” after over 25 years. What to do?

Maybe it’s not the time anymore for huge amounts of monetized paths and levels and teachings, but rather an invitation to go right back to our root spiritual quest as humans. Maybe we might find that this one life is all there is, and even with that to make our time here on this planet meaningful and our relationships deep and precious. Maybe spirituality is just as simple as living our life thoroughly and trying to make the world a little bit better?

Maybe we might find that we have some dramatic blissful experience of say, white light, of past lives or future lives and what that might look like or feel like, but… maybe we won’t. I think it’s so important and a little bit exciting now, to embark upon a real spiritual journey and ask these deep questions and really look at what is there.

I believe that the Buddha was the original introspective evidence-based scientist. The “path” is not about doctrine, books or blind faith. He said (paraphrase) “I think that there something wrong with the momentum of people living and dying in an asleep way,” trying to build up their lives to only be let down at the end. There must be something deeper that we’re connected to, and his Indian Vedic yogic path didn’t feel satisfactory.

So he decided to sit with himself for a really long time in meditation, under a tree, and just look and he believed that somewhere the answers were within him. Whatever that would be, it could be some grandiose pantheon that he sees, or some type of austere simplicity or both. Whatever it is, I think it’s so important that each of us go right back down to their meditation cushion and their meditation and mantra practice and really settle the mind down from all of it’s distraction and busyness and just see and listen to our inner quietude and find out- gnosis, means “spiritual knowing” or wisdom.

I would be curious to hear what people who become new modern yogis, really discover. I think it’s the day where we could birth modern day sages and maybe a new way of looking at religion and spirituality. A way that’s not New Age and not religious necessarily, burdened with a lot of reward and punishment models or guilt or even a giant self improvement project like “I need to become enlightened or better or something different than I am.”

I think this new day in spirituality over religion, invites us back to ourselves to take time in quiet nature, on a meditation cushion and just settle down and see what is. What will you all find? Even if we keep our faith and tradition, we can deepen our real personal understanding of ancient wisdom, making it modern wisdom. These times ask of us to bring out much needed kindness, and it’s very possible, that through stillness and introspection, we uncover more basic human, earthy, “enlightened” qualities. I’m going to start again, right back to myself on the cushion with a Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, will you let know. Onward…

“It is becoming clearer and clearer (and yes, yes, ultimately even this is a story) that a new age of spirituality is dawning, a radically inclusive and accessible spirituality free from the dogma and ideology and blind belief of the past, a spirituality in which nothing and nobody – including the teachers themselves – can escape the loving light of ruthless inquiry and blinding transparency, in which nobody can claim any kind of absolute truth or privileged knowledge. Equality, deep friendship, honesty and integrity are the new gods. The disembodied, detached, disengaged, anti-personal, life-denying and often arrogant spirituality of the past, the “I know and you don’t” spirituality, the “I have it and you don’t” spirituality, the “I’m awakened and you’re not” spirituality, the “I’m no-one but you’re still someone” spirituality, is dead and dying, and this ordinary life is shining through. Separation, of any kind, cannot stand, for it is ultimately without foundation. Fundamentalism, of any kind, eventually collapses under its own ridiculous weight.

And here, we finally meet, teacher and non-teacher alike, in the unconditionally loving rubble of the present moment. Here, we are all teachers, and here, nobody knows anything at all. Welcome to this new dawn, my friend.”

Jeff Foster

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