The common expectation among Seekers is that once you have a satori experience your life is supposed to change. And it does. But not always in ways that are as dramatic as you might have been led to believe.
I write very few personal articles. Which may seem contradictory to my regular readers as all of my articles are very intimate insofar as personal mental, emotional and spiritual development is concerned. What I mean, is that I try very hard not to use the first person singular, “I”, very often in my articles. So I am reticent to share this experience but somehow feel it imperative, if only as a diary of sorts kept to clarify my own process in comparison to the traditions of the Ages.
Ever since the Great Gathering a process of recapitulation has accompanied the personality reconstruction that I have been engaged in. Enlightenment is a process it does not occur suddenly. Cultivating Awareness, Being and the Heart are stages along the journey of Ultimate Enlightenment. But since the evolutionary journey is never-ending, the term “ultimate” when referring to Enlightenment is actually a misnomer in the common understanding and probably stems from the Buddha’s exemplification of the overall process and his followers many and often obfuscating interpretations of his teachings.
The experience of kenshō is a form of Enlightenment, an experience that gives the experiencer an awareness of alternate and deeper states of Being, but it is by no means an end, in and of itself. Nor is it indicative of some instantaneous process of Enlightenment beyond which lies only emptiness or some other inscrutable and penultimate destination. The belief that it is a sudden experience actually hinders progression more than it helps as people waste time seeking when it can only actually happen when you stop seeking. The egoistic tricks and traps that maintain the primacy of the personality construct actively hinder the activation of the satori experience as it is only when the quiescence of the deeper states of spiritual BEingness is pierced by the ego at the behest of the greater awareness that kenshō can occur.
My recent satori experience left me foundering for context as my immersion in Buddhist tradition has been relegated to Shambhala training alone and not the deeper aspects of Buddhism as a religion where such events and how to incorporate them into your life are well documented. To put it bluntly, I didn’t get that far in my training. A few books, a summer at a meditation center, a heart opening and then, back to life as lived, incorporating those events into my daily grind.
Lo Jong mind training and Tonglen, sending and taking, were powerful consciousness practices that came naturally to me and incorporating them into my life was not difficult. In the intervening year and a half since then, occasional yet powerful practice in these and other meditations in addition to my studies and shifts in personal behavior created the spiritual opening necessary in order to achieve the next step. But it was the progress of my unusual life that prepared me for what was to come.
Although I was raised in a Christian home and find validity in its deeper teachings it is the Buddhist tradition that I find most clearly expresses the details of spiritual progress. From this standpoint, I have lived multiple lifetimes in search of Enlightenment. I entered this lifetime with a path designed to achieve that aim which included a relatively peaceful and stable upbringing with all of my basic needs met. A lifetime of travel, which allowed me to discover that people are the same wherever you go. That no place is essentially any different from any other outside of the vagaries of the physical environment. Educational opportunities that gave me access to the cultural treasures and wisdom of the Ages. Everything necessary to awaken my spirit of inquiry.
Basic goodness has been one of the principle expressions of my personality. This aspect has been marred by personal psychological and emotional deviations self-imposed upon my mental and spiritual awareness by familial and racial tropes common to the Age and my incarnative situation of being born into a black body in what is currently a white-dominated world. Being completely different from even those who looked like me on the outside. Emotions and experiences of Otherness, of rejection, of alienation, of aloneness occasioned the deeper exploration of mental and spiritual space at an early age, resulting in my first kenshō at the age of 12 after a particularly traumatic series of experiences at the hands of my peer group.
Experiential living, incarnate within a particular form at a particular time in a particular cultural context determines the details of a life. The choices are then between inner nature and environment. The choice towards inner nature leads invariably to enlightenment. The choice towards environment leads to more and harder lessons. Life as lived in the world as it currently is tends toward the material environment and mental and emotional immersion within it.
Relationships, marriage, children, jobs. Success, failure, loss. The dark night of the soul. Dedication to spiritual progress once the realization that material success is empty and meaningless is internalized. Then, the gradual recapitulation of a lifetime and its lessons. Self-forgiveness and the forgiveness of others. The alignment of inner values with outer expression. Living life in this manner gradually produces clarity in intention and lifestyle.
Basic goodness becomes the outer expression of the inner state of BEing. Life becomes simple. Spiritual practice becomes second-nature and a lifestyle rather than a weekly or holiday-centered obligation. Losing the “I” in the greater sense of the “We”, humility becomes the natural expression of Self. Truly listening to others, cultivating silence within leads to a steady-state resonance with one’s inner-nature which is also human nature in general.
After the kenshō experience, the realization that social obligation demands the molding of the personality to one’s environment must be weighed against the impetus to embody a more malleable and formless state of BEing. Changing the personality construct totally can traumatize those in immediate proximity who may not fully understand what just occurred. It then becomes a question of prioritization that loses its immediacy as the realization that the higher states of BEing are available at any time sinks in.
But something inside has indeed shifted irrevocably. Further spiritual evolution and experience is now inevitable and a byproduct of what has become a proven and natural process of self-realization. Synchronicities increase as awareness also increases. The state of slumber that typifies the unawakened consciousness lessens gradually as more and deeper lessons accrue.
The ego remains. It becomes apparent that the ego is actually a necessary component of Enlightenment. It is the lens directed inward toward deeper consciousness at the behest of the yearnings of the soul. It is designed to be a tool and once utilized as such accepts its role as the silence of the Awakened mind becomes the normative state of awareness.
Experience trumps hearsay in every case. Once gained, it can never be lost.
The Enlightenment Series
2. Practical Enlightenment: The aftermath of Kenshō