The Challenge of Enlightenment
If the traditional realization of enlightenment is that everything is already perfect and whole, then why should anyone bother trying to improve themselves or the world? In the following excerpt from a classic dialogue between American Buddhist pioneer Roshi Bernie Glassman and EnlightenNext founder Andrew Cohen, these two teachers explore the potential danger of complacency and self-satisfaction on the spiritual path:
|COHEN: The challenge of enlightenment is that on one hand everything is already full and complete and already free and, at the same time, there is an overwhelming amount of suffering that urgently needs to be responded to in every moment.
GLASSMAN: Exactly. Some people experience that first stage and get caught there. They think, “There’s nothing to do.”
COHEN: Yes. And they may even use it as an excuse not to have to do anything. That’s how many people actually squelch the expression of their own conscience, their own humanity. That’s a pretty bad place to be.
GLASSMAN: That’s sort of where I started—trying to encourage people not to remain in that place. There’s a state in Japanese Zen that’s called the “Cave of Satan.” It’s that place where you just stay—because there’s nothing to do. And you can get in that state and it can be an overwhelming experience. But the point is to kick the person out of that cave.