Recently I’ve grown tired of the whole spiritual enterprise. The seeking seems like only the subtlest and most ‘noble’ of addictions. At least the alcoholic knows he is deluded. The spiritual seeker thinks he is doing something worthwhile.
Last year I did a 5-day silent Chan retreat and the only insight I had while trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to stay awake, was that everyone there was completely wasting their time. Of course, they wouldn’t have seen it that way. True, all of them ( by their own admission) had long-since given up the quest for satori, or liberation. These old hands had smiled indulgently at me when I stated during the introduction that my reason for being there was to attain enlightenment. This was seen as somehow naïve and childish.
But why else would I be putting myself through this self-imposed torture, if not to rid myself of suffering for once and for all?
Of course I don’t know what was going through these veterans’ minds as they settled down for 5 days of turbo self-abuse. Perhaps they were expecting to get into the ‘zone’ for a while. Maybe they just like that sort of thing, or use it to get away from their spouses for a few days, without running the risks of an affair, or the 19th hole of the golf club.
Either way, satori wasn’t on their agenda, by all accounts. Of course they were right. Satori is no more or less likely to fall upon one in the zendo than the boozer.
But I didn’t know that at the time. They were right. I was naïve. But the advantage I had was that I wasn’t signed up to some tribal behaviour of the Buddhist kind, obediently going through the prescribed rituals like some well-trained monkey.
I suspect that if any of those people had attained liberation they wouldn’t be wasting their time with this nonsense. If I was totally liberated I would probably spend my time more productively, or at the very least enjoyably. You see, I suspect that at the heart of it, these people secretly still believed that if they did this sort of thing long enough or often enough it would lead to the end of suffering; to the end of the agitation, restlessness, and discontent that is the lot of the unawakened.
So what now? It seems to me that Joe Bray is an imaginary person, that this show is just happening, that I have no real influence over what turns up next, and that my true nature is just this ‘on-ness’, which seems to be there all the time. Whether I am asleep, drunk, happy, sad, seeking or absorbed in some task, ‘on-ness’ is just there making it so.
It is faithfully registering everything that arises, constantly changing in this ceaseless eternal moment. So I am already dead, already eternally fucked, eternally redeemed. No need for Jesus or the Buddha, or Mohammed to intercede for me.
Of course I don’t get this, don’t understand this, don’t practise this, don’t realise this, don’t comprehend this.
But it is definitely the way it is.
As Wei Wu Wei said, 99.9% of what you say and think and do is for yourself, and there isn’t one.
All else is bondage…