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TOPIC: Enlightenment is not an experience

Enlightenment is not an experience 07 Mar 2012 14:01 #5894

These are Adyashanti's words. I have been reading "Emptiness Dancing" and find it extraordinary. I learn so much from reading it--it takes me places. Adyashanti's depth of wisdom seems to be considerable and I think this is evidenced by his speaking primarily from experience rather than relying on quotations from dead people to evince his understanding. As Gary Weber reports, the words just arise out of nothing.

Something that Adya says threw me for a loop. He says that "enlightenment itself is not an experience." For context, the crux of the passage is below.

"The nature of experience is that it changes or undulates like the waves on the ocean. It's supposed to be doing that. Identity starts to shift from 'me,' the seeker, chasing some particular experiences, to just this. Just this. The center is always right here. The center was always right here. It's just the seeker that insisted the center could be in a spiritual high experience..."

"There is no experience that is more the truth than any other experience, because in the center of it all, there is no seeker. Right here, there is nothing. All is One..."

"The enlightened experience is that nothing needs to change. In fact, you can see from here enlightenment itself is not an experience. And it's not a spiritual high..."

"So every experience is just an expression of that which is not an experience. Everything is that, and there is nothing but that, and there never was anything but that. This is what it really means to know that everything is One."

My "image" of enlightenment to this point has been couched within personal experience. This throws this out the window for me. It breaks me down. I guess it is the point of the term "transpersonal." I guess you can't have an experience without an experiencer and if there's not experiencer, then there can be no experience. So in enlightenment when there is no experiencer, then there is no experience. Thus, enlightenment itself is not an experience, because that presupposes duality. I hope at some point to understand this experientially. ;)

Thoughts?
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Enlightenment is not an experience 07 Mar 2012 15:01 #5895

I think he says it pretty well. I think it's typical to assume and imagine enlightenment *has* to be an experience, because until awakening all our experience comes through that filter of being someone experiencing something else, and it is impossible to imagine otherwise. But one doesn't need to worry about it really. Trying to make yourself not experience things is both futile and counterproductive (it simply can't be done, and the struggle it creates sends one off on useless tangents).

I remember at points imagining awakening must be like being on an endless energy-bliss ecstasy kick. And other times imagining it must be like dying. The imagination can come up with endless stories, given the opportunity.
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Enlightenment is not an experience 07 Mar 2012 15:10 #5896

Adyashanti is one of my favorite writers/teachers for advanced practitioners. He really is sensible, clear and simple. He doesn't try to blind you with crazy stories or weird theories. He just speaks plainly. I find that myself and others I know have tended to find him irritatingly peppy or cloying when they are at more beginning levels. He sounds all California peaceful. Many of those same people (self included) later realize he's going right to the point in a really simple way, and find him very refreshing and helpful at later stages.

I also think it's worth mentioning, that this dropping of the experiencer is what makes awakening described as "peaceful, blissful, liberating" and other such terms. (Edited for clarity:) The use of these descriptions is likely why people often imagine it must be like an energetic bliss state or altered state. So much of our discomfort and unhappiness in life comes from being caught in this illusion of being a little guy in a body/brain who thinks he is or wants to be in charge of everything. When he takes a vacation, one realizes (with great surprise often) that life can run itself just fine without the little bossy worrywart pacing back and forth 24/7 making endless dire pronouncements.
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Enlightenment is not an experience 07 Mar 2012 15:56 #5897

I think I may participate in a satsang when he comes to Philadelphia in July. I should probably sign up for that soon. I borrowed this book from a woman who said that she had read it once, but expressed that she didn't feel she was ready to hear what he had to say. I can see how some might wave him off as a carrying no import to his words, because he does use simple language and eschews theorization. That's so helpful for someone who recognizes the depth from which he is speaking however. There's definitely a childlike quality to his writing. It's funny though because the same might be said of Eckhart Tolle, but when I read Power of Now it came across as derivative, even though Tolle has a similar mass appeal. Maybe I need to go back and read Tolle again.
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Enlightenment is not an experience 07 Mar 2012 16:02 #5898

"My 'image' of enlightenment to this point has been couched within personal experience. This throws this out the window for me. It breaks me down. I guess it is the point of the term 'transpersonal.' I guess you can't have an experience without an experiencer and if there's not experiencer, then there can be no experience. So in enlightenment when there is no experiencer, then there is no experience. Thus, enlightenment itself is not an experience, because that presupposes duality." -Jake2

Don't take this the wrong way, but... you're over-thinking this! ;-)

A question to consider is this: do awakened folks experience? Obviously experience is happening. Awareness is there. And this awareness does not morph into an undifferentiated goo. Particularities are noticed as they always were. They can pick a face out of a crowd. They know if they are standing to the left or right of someone. Etc. etc.

I think what he's talking about here is that awakening is not a state experience. States change. And, according to the Buddhist tradition (and possibly others), even if one manages to hang on to a state experience for many years, even to their death, it simply leads to another rebirth. The state will end at some point. Chasing one state over another is not the point. It's discover that which is always-already the case, regardless of states. The nature of awakening is stateless, but not because states no longer arise.

Knowing, knower, and known are not fixed. They are imputted, assumed. But that doesn't mean they stop when they are seen through, penetrated. Awakening is something else.

For clues, read Dogen!
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Enlightenment is not an experience 07 Mar 2012 16:33 #5899

Oh okay. I think I may have over-simplified what he meant.
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Enlightenment is not an experience 07 Mar 2012 16:50 #5900

"Oh okay. I think I may have over-simplified what he meant." -Jake2

Perhaps. It could also be the difference between speaking from reason or logic and speaking from experience. It's sort of like Galileo dropping objects off the tower. For many, reason suggested heavier objects would fall faster. It makes sense, until you drop two similar objects of different weights, and they fall at the same rate, hitting the ground at the same time.

It's quite natural to think that awakening is something that will happen when were really "get" something, like something will click in our minds, similar to the experience of solving the plot of a good murder mystery ("Eureka! It was the butler after all!").

Those little epiphanies come often in practice. But, they rarely make any lasting impression. What works in one situation doesn't always generalize to another, so clinging to an insight is most often counter-productive. Deep insight works... differently. It sticks with you in a different kind of way, even when the effects take time to sort out.

So, I guess it isn't really about simple or complex. It's about practicing an awareness which transforms, which includes both the simple and the complex, because they're of the same nature.
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Enlightenment is not an experience 07 Mar 2012 17:35 #5901

"awakening" ???

I think all of us who talk about it may or may not have a clear idea of what we mean by the word.

And/or all the ideas clear or vague are possibly somewhat (?) different.

When I talk about it I have a specific idea:

Awakening is the insight into the facts that everything changes, that there is no fixed self, and that a life based upon getting stuff from or for an illusionary fixed self will always be unsatisfying.



There are lots of ways for this to happen and it can be gradual, sudden, come in stages and parts and be deep or shallow, and can grow or become stagnant. It is a creative thing with infiinite variety, but it is all about getting the three things above. And, humans who are in that process sometimes have states/experiences of unity and connection with all things, they often become very interested in leading more moral/skillful lives, and they are often compeled to serve others in some way or another.
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