The dirty little secret of Awakening
There is something wrong with the Dharma.
A sickness is festering, unchecked, in the shadows of the great Saints, Sages and Prophets. Its symptoms include the countless examples of psychological, physical, and sexual abuses visited upon students and devotees by gurus, the financial exploitation, corruption, fraud, murder and drug abuse perpetrated by teachers from both the East and West, the political infighting evident in every major lineage and school, the outright failure of many traditions in producing awakened practitioners, the reluctance of genuinely awakened individuals in coming forward and openly discussing enlightenment, and the casual racism, sexism, fascism and homophobia still found in ‘spiritual culture’.
Ironically, all of this is the result of an endeavor to uphold the highest standards of morality.
It’s been just over nine months since my final awakening, and I’ve recently become aware of how easily I became infected with the sickness, and since beginning to teach, the potential for just how severe the symptoms could become.
Since beginning this blog last year, we’ve been visited by a number of individuals who are so badly infected by the sickness that their only chance of recovery – if any – is a Dharma lobotomy. I expect that what I’m going to write here is probably going to attract more of this type, and probably with further accusations of my awakening being anything but genuine or full (see how many times you can spot something that can’t possibly mean I’m enlightened). But if the Dharma is ever going to recover, someone has to bite the bullet and expose the Dirty Little Secret no one wishes to address.
Post-awakening is just as much a learning curve as pre-awakening. For a couple of months after my awakening, I felt like I had been emptied out. I was effortlessly present, blissed out, calm and contented. I had of course experienced something similar with my peak and partial awakenings, and so I knew that this state wouldn’t last forever.
So what had permanently changed?
Although many gurus speak about the eradication of the ego or the self, I already knew pre-awakening that many genuine teachers found this model inaccurate and misleading; and my experience confirmed this. I still had an ego, a self or personality; but it did seem as if the subject/object divide had disappeared for good, and had been replaced by wholeness or completion at a fundamental level. So that must be it: I was no longer a subject!
And the sickness had slipped in by simply changing its name.
We can readily identify the sickness by considering perhaps the most essential (no pun intended) concept of Buddhism: No-Self.
According to Buddhism, No-Self is one of the three characteristics evident in all phenomena, including human beings. If we observe a sensation close enough, we can see that it has no ‘essence’, despite the fact we readily assume all subjects and objects to possess such a quality.
What this has come to mean, however, is the idea that if we believe or act as though we possess a self, say by performing any actions that can be considered ‘selfish’ or ‘egotistical’, then we are acting from a place of ignorance.
Ergo, the enlightened person must be completely selfless.
In my own case, if I am no longer a subject, that means I must act as if I no longer have the concerns that a subject possesses, no? Which, for all intents and purposes, is exactly the same thing as believing I am selfless.
Furthermore, as I am awakened, I cannot possibly act with selfish, egotistical or ‘ignorant’ intent. My motivations must always be pure then!
Now stick me in a room, surround me by devotees who also behave as if I am infallibly selfless and pure, and watch as I play out every whim unburdened by conscience (‘My devotees bitch and moan when I force them to practice for 48hrs straight/give me their inheritance for my Open Enlightenment centre/play out my sexual fantasies. Of course, they wouldn’t complain if they were awakened like me; I need to make them work harder/give me more money/perform more interesting sexual feats, more often!’).
The abusive guru and the gullible devotee are but one of the many symptoms of the Ignorant Bliss of Selflessness (IBS).
The Dirty Little Secret
The awful truth about awakening (and this has taken me a while to really understand with a degree of clarity) is that the self, ego, personality and even the subject don’t go anywhere, which means that selfish, egotistical, personal and subjective behavior all remain. If you are greedy, angry and homophobic before awakening, chances are you’ll still be greedy, angry and homophobic afterwards.
If we define awakening as the recognition of our original nature, we can say that the awakened person is simply aware that all phenomenon is original nature; this includes all of the neuroses, issues, and prejudices that come with being a human being. This does not mean the self, ego, personality or subject are eradicated; they are simply seen as perfect, whole and complete. (Get over it.)
Or, to speak in Buddhist terms, No Self does not mean there is no self, but that the self is empty, along with everything else (including your ego, personality, issues, psychosis, facial ticks…and even emptiness itself!).
Perhaps if the concept of Empty Self replaced that of No Self we might go some way to inhibiting the spread of the Ignorant Bliss of Selflessness.
With selflessness as the yard stick for awakening, it should come as no surprise that:
- Many Dharma practitioners deny and suppress their angry, greedy, lustful, attached, ignorant, anxious, weird, disturbed, restless, unhappy, sad, mad, bad and selfish emotions, thoughts and behaviors, only to have these unwanted and unloved aspects of themselves play out while the practitioner remains oblivious and ignorant to the fact, and usually within a Sangha or group of similarly deluded hypocrites, where everyone pretends they’re the most ‘enlightened’ people on the planet!
- Many awakened practitioners mistakenly believe they are not awakened because they are evidently not selfless.
- Many schools and lineages of enlightenment will not tolerate discussion of awakening for fear of being accused of displaying pride or attachment, resulting in many genuinely awakened practitioners remaining silent about the phenomenon for fear of expulsion/exclusion.
- By denying their prejudices even exist, the racism, sexism, fascism and homophobia (and even heterophobia!) of many practitioners are left unchecked and unaddressed within the ‘spiritual’ community.
- By investing in a poor model of awakening based on the ideal of selflessness, the mainstay of the Dharma community is catastrophically failing in facilitating awakening in themselves and others. The vows of many traditions and lineages have become nothing but a joke.
Thankfully, treatment is free and available to everyone, and recovery is fast and virtually guaranteed.
The treatment is three-fold:
1). Be honest with yourself and everyone else, even if you’ve invested a lot of time and energy in a certain worldview, tradition or identity that encourages the Ignorant Bliss of Selflessness. If you really care about awakening, show some integrity.
2). Now that you can consciously accept the existence of your ego and issues, you should address them. Sociopath? Have some therapy! Full of hate? Explore the nature and possible root cause of your anger! Proud? Make your competitiveness work for the cause by becoming the best awakened teacher the world has ever seen!
3).Take a sitting session for a minimum of half an hour once a day. While it is true that just before and after awakening selflessness and compassion (amongst other wonderful attributes) spontaneously arise, which positively transform the world like nothing else can, this kind of ‘perfect meditation’ passes; it is therefore down to a daily practice to foster the natural expression of openness, compassion, freedom, wholeness, peace, generosity and selflessness that demonstrates our original nature. Whether awakened or not, enlightenment must be practiced in order that we transform the world; sitting is one such method.
It should be noted that despite everything I’ve said, enlightenment does have a profound effect on a person, and it can change his or her behavior in a very profound sense; but exactly how and to what degree appears to vary with each individual. I like to think that enlightenment doesn’t produce the perfect human being, but it does produce a better one.
Right, let’s have it
Come on then: just how unenlightened am I?