What did the Dalai Lama say to the Coney Island Hot Dog Vendor?
“Make Me One With It All!”
Games are inherent to life, and life, itself, is a truly magnificent game. However, the games we play are vastly more fulfilling when we play them consciously. Perhaps you are one of the grown-ups living here on Planet Earth. You don’t play games anymore, do you! Oh, yeah?
As Werner Erhard pointed out a long time ago, you can either play one of two types of games, survival or aliveness. You can play win / lose or win-win games. We are all trying to get one up on each other… and the universe. We are all thorough rascals. Hence, none of us can truly believe that we are divine.
Could it be that we are both divine and mischievous at one and the same time? Could this life be our terrestrial playground?
Enlightenment is far more than fireworks, bells and whistles, the super ice cream cone in the sky. Whatever our preconceptions, we won’t even begin to grasp it in advance. Enlightenment means to light up, and the word “guru” means light bearer. However, enlightenment also connotes “lightening up,” not taking it all so seriously.
Enlightenment always comes with a price: unconditional surrender, “letting go and letting God,” disidentifying yourself with everything you took to be yourself. As one guru put it, “You don’t even want enlightenment. If you truly got enlightened, you wouldn’t be there to enjoy it!” Or as Baba Ram Dass summed it up, enlightenment is taking the “crisp trip.”
Enlightenment is the supremely simple, excruciatingly difficult realization that Who You Are is the space out of which everything occurs. You are pure context, the subtle background of everyone and everything that appears in your world. You are both everybody and everywhere, and nobody, nowhere. You are both nothing… and everything.
We set ourselves up for self-defeating spiritual games when we think that enlightenment is simply waking up with no need to grow up. We con ourselves into believing that when we finally wake up, all our troubles will be gone. The road ahead will be infinitely smooth and we can coast from there on out.
We think that enlightenment is simply waking up with no need to grow up. #consciousness #spiritualgrowth
Waking up is meaningless without growing up. The initial satori is delightful and precious. The sun breaks out from under the clouds. The day is magical. You feel blessed. You can be anybody and do anything. “This is it!” What further realization do you need?
When you begin to grasp the implications that, like the Dalai Lama’s hot dog, you are “one with it all,” it soon dawns on you that you are 100% responsible for your experience, for everyone and everything in it. You thought enlightenment was a single experience, rather than a perpetual journey of growth into divinity. Yet without growing up, your awakening will never deepen.
When we begin the journey, we have some inkling that we are moving forward on our prime directive, to know who we are and why we are here. Thus, we may find spiritual materialism the most obvious strategy. You have been ignorant and distracted most of your life, squandering most of it away. Why not take the short cut, go for all the symbols?
Baba Ram Dass confessed to being the ultimate spiritual materialist. You get your posters of Lord Krishna, your alter to do Puja, incense, a proper prayer rug and certainly the right pillows. One time his guru, Maharaji, told him that Ram Dass had to get certain Rudraksha beads used to make a japa mala necklace. Only one merchant knew how to make them right. Ram Dass dashed out to a remote village only to find that the merchant was over 100 years old!
Today, you need to up the game. Sure you have been to Maui and Costa Rica on a yoga retreat. But have you ever been to exotic Bali on a global interfaith symposium? Only Bali will do! It is truly sacred. You have to fly across the Pacific Ocean. Oops, flights are cancelled because a noxious volcano has just erupted on this tropical paradise!
My favorite game happens in neat ballrooms. It all started years ago with Werner Erhard’s est training, which was at that time regaled with Hollywood stars. More recently I picked it up with the Landmark Forum. Everything happens with military precision. Everyone keeps their agreement; everyone honors their word.
These trainings are singularly wonderful experiences that yield a direct flash of enlightenment and a supportive atmosphere that helps people come to terms with their shadows. They are followed up with seminars and other trainings where you can easily make it a lifestyle. Of course, you must bring guests to keep it all alive. But for some of us, that is half the fun.
The challenge is to not make the organization, the leaders, the training “IT.” They enlightened you. They fixed you. They did a wonderful number on you. If things go well, they shall be praised. If you encounter major stumbling blocks and hurdles, then they are all too convenient a target of your blame.
These days, if you are really smart, you go for advaita, or nonduality. Advaita means in Sanskrit “not two.” There is only THE ONE. However, you don’t say it, because that is to imply it is two. Neo-Advaita stems from the great Ramana Maharshi, who lived it impeccably and was a total inspiration. The world pulled him out of his cave and built an ashram around him, then a city.
Neo-Advaita today shows people how they are already enlightened. They just won’t admit it. So they don’t have to do anything. Just relish the ISNESS of it all. If done properly, you can unquestionably get an authentic satori, or pop out of your rational mind. It is wonderful. However, rarely is it mentioned that this is just the beginning.
As nonduality expands, more and more people want to know how to live nonduality as a context. As Zen Buddhists put it, “Before enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water.” Nothing has changed, or has it? Or, are you ready to start growing up?
I have gone in and out of this game most of my life. I love self-pity. It is a great place to blame others and refuse to take responsibility. I used to believe that I simply didn’t have what it takes. It took me decades to realize that this was utter nonsense.
Some people suffer Poor Me in waiting for enlightenment with all the fireworks. They are hell bent on their pictures of how it will be, and refuse to let go. A wonderful, but exasperating read is Dr. Susan Shumsky’s recent Maharishi and Me, in which she confides that while the Beatles’ guru could be naughty, he made an immense difference. Susan fell in love with Maharishi until he had to figuratively push her off the cliff so that she could begin to fly.
Poor Me is the single most disempowering game. In my experience, love, divine love, is the only force that can wake you, blow you out of it. If someone, anyone, believes in you infinitely more than you believe in yourself, it is truly salvation.
Enlightenment means going up a very tall mountain, taller even than Mountain Everest. Most of us get wiped out half way up the side. The avalanches and violent storms defy description. We move from religion to spirituality. We find what we really want is mysticism, to know directly, not merely believe. Yet we are clueless how to attain it.
At the top of the summit you find only saints, sages and bodhisattvas, as you become one on the way up. You find that you all speak the same language, and that language is infinite love. Who you thought you were was jettisoned long ago. There is only one of us, and that One is you.
Buddha bet his global institution on wisdom and compassion. Yet somehow, no matter which school of Buddhism you encounter, compassion always comes first.
Christ bet his future religion on love and forgiveness. The only reason that it survives today as the world’s largest religion is because THAT LOVE, the love He embodied, could never die.
Go ahead and choose your path of enlightenment. You don’t know the journey ahead, but you do know the journey’s end: THAT LOVE.