Enlightenment in the modern world

How could it exist only within spiritual practices? Unfortunately, some contemporary teachers insist that students exclusively cultivate sitting meditation. Some even urge students to avoid worldly activities and deliberately isolate themselves, as if meditation could not be carried out in the midst of the everyday world of work, family, and social activities.

Students hear this kind of nonsense and wrongly conclude that awakening cannot occur without giving up their families, jobs, and positions in society. Some of them actually do abandon their families and responsibilities, and others abandon the idea of spiritual practice altogether. Both of these outcomes result from false teaching and are truly causes for regret.

You should know that anyone with genuine aspiration can awaken in whatever circumstances his or her life situation is in. In all times and places, people from all lifestyles have been able to realize awakening. It makes no difference if you are a king or a prisoner, a monk or a prostitute; if you persevere with great determination you cannot fail to achieve liberation.

The records of all the great traditions testify to the fact that realization has always been attainable by anyone who truly aspires to it. Modern times are no exception to this truth… And why wouldn’t it be so? All people in the ten times are nothing other than the vast, unnamable, fathomless void.

~The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing

4 thoughts on “Enlightenment in the modern world”

  1. Me again. Well, I must point out that Vimalakirti was not only enlightened, he was a wealthy householder. And the Vimalakirti Sutra is a central Zen thought piece. Not only that but Zen is all about the ordinary. Central themes to my practice too.

    1. Hello Mikael,

      Thank you for your comments.

      I agree–and I love the Vimalakirti Sutra. I also agree with you and Nansen (who told Joshu about ordinary mind and the Way).

      It is interesting though, how so many of the things that occur in the Vimalakirti Sutra somehow don’t seem so ordinary; like how so many beings could fit in Vimalakirti’s 12 foot by 12 foot room–each on a 12X12 foot throne. Or how the Buddha touched his toe to the earth and transformed it into a jewel land. It makes me think seriously about just what “ordinary” is. Dogen speaks of this in an interesting way here (here “ordinary” is translated as “normal”):

      Again, Great Master Shinsai of Joshu once asked Nansen, “What is the truth?” Nansen taught, “The normal mind is the truth.” In other words, the everyday mind is the truth. To learn [the truth] as the normal mind may be extremely rare. It is to learn, both in regard to the body and in regard to the mind, that in time, they are normal. For instance there is not the slightest taintedness nor any design. In the state of body-mind, we neither describe yesterday as today, nor describe nor practice today as tomorrow, nor make the body into the mind, nor proceed from the mind to the body. The state like this is called “the normal mind,” but [people] are prone to misunderstand it to be a class of common miscellany. While remaining in this [state of normal mind], we can intuit and affirm that the [miscellaneous] hundred weeds are normal. It is because this normal state of mind is the truth that the hundred weeds do not wither or rot. The Buddhist patriarchs, without being normal, could never have got free from the world, forgotten themselves, and practiced the truth—for practice of the truth naturally is normal. We too, having thrown away former worldly emotions, are readily practicing, and moving forward in, the tracks of the Buddhist patriarchs, but if we are inclined to think that because the normal mind is the truth we might not need to practice, we may be purporting to misunderstand normality. Practice and experience is not nonexistent, [but] there is none that is not normal. There being none that is not normal, there can be none that is tainted.
      Butsu-kojo-no-ji (Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross)

      Interesting, no?

      Thanks again Mikael!

      Three Full Bows.


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