What part do thoughts and feelings play in enlightenment?

Enlightenment Part 1

Tony Crisp

If you think about a friend, ask yourself, ‘Is this thought my friend?’ If you have feelings about the friend, ask yourself, ‘ Are these feelings an actual representation of my friend?”

You cannot conjure your friend into existence by thinking about him or her. Thoughts and emotions are copies of things, just as a photo is a copy of something. They are never the people or things they attempt to copy. They are never reality.

Therefore we cannot experience enlightenment by thinking about it. Enlightenment is not something we create with thoughts or emotions. We cannot make it by thinking inspiring thoughts or feelings. Enlightenment is a self-existent reality. It does not depend upon what you think or feel. It is not brought about by concentrated thought, meditation or inspiring emotions. It already exists. You are it already.

In some approaches to enlightenment, such as the Zen koan, or the Enlightenment Intensive questions, enlightenment occurs when the mind is baffled and exhausted by the question. Thinking cannot answer the question and collapses. Suddenly there is enlightenment.

But someone who failed says, “Yes, I am doubtful about the effectiveness of psychoanalysis and New Age cliches about “healing the ego”. Zen is ineffective and inefficient to the extreme. 30 years of sitting and being utterly frustrated is extreme. The broad path of Buddhism is a dismal failure. How many has it enlightened? There are distant rumors of one here, another over there… nothing more. Buddhism has become so dark that it has become proud of how elusive its knowledge is, how difficult its way is, what an all-consuming challenge it makes of enlightenment.

All existing paths to enlightenment are profoundly unsatisfactory. They practically don’t work. Who would disagree? Who would claim that many have been enlightened? Who would claim the rewards of these “paths” to be reasonably attainable? Paths, paths, that is their problem. They are a path that leads on, and on, and on, the signs ever announcing “Enlightenment, Next Exit”, but the exit never comes.”

It is true, but it can be found, “But then I was shown the way out – it was by admitting that I was a heap of shit, and asking for help as the twelve steps in Alcoholics Anonymous define it. In opening myself to that wonderful otherness my heap of shit became a compost heap which offered new growth.”

Example: While in the state of simple existence people call enlightenment, I was able to observe many things I am usually not aware of. For instance while I simply existed, my usual pattern of behaviour and thought went through contortions to be the centre of awareness again. I could see them almost like habits, systems, that have life, like a body does, and they were dying and twitching in their death throes. Also I saw that thought is like a mimic. As I was directly being, thought ran alongside my every motion and tried to mimic it. It was almost as if as I as a person walked along, another mechanical person walked alongside and mimicked everything I did in an attempt to be alive and real. Yet thought can never be life.

The ego or personality was still all intact as a series of responses learned during life. I understood that sometimes people take these responses to be themselves, and attach to them with incredible power. These responses are useful in most cases – though some are habits that have outlived their usefulness, and need to be modified or deleted. Since that time, it has seemed quite clear that these can be likened to computer programs, many of which run at the same time. So we have a speech program that may run at the same time as a driving a car program, and a program dealing with social mannerisms and responses. If the person who has developed this ‘software’ becomes identified with it, there is less possibility of them upgrading it from experience, or realising that they are not the responses.

Thus, Self-inquiry is the direct path taught by Bhagavan Ramana. “The ‘I’-experience is common to all. Of all thoughts, the ‘I’-thought is the first to arise. What one has to do is to inquire into the source of the ‘I’-thought. This is the reverse process of what ordinarily happens in the life of the mind. The mind inquires into the constitution and source of everything else which, on examination, will be found to be its own projection; it does not reflect on itself and trace itself to its source. Self-discovery can be achieved by giving the mind an inward turn. This is not to be confused with the introspection of which the psychologists speak. Self-inquiry is not the mind’s inspection of its own contents; it is tracing the mind’s first mode, the ‘I’-thought to its source which is the Self. When there is proper and persistent inquiry, the ‘I’-thought also ceases and there is the wordless illumination of the form ‘I’-‘I’ which is the pure consciousness. This is release, freedom from bondage. The method by which this is accomplished, as has been shown, is inquiry which, in Vedanta, is termed jnana, knowledge. You sit and ask yourself, “Who am I”?

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