time to go spelunking

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.

2 Responses to “time to go spelunking”

  1. May 13, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Of course, most of us live in some cave or another, most of the time. In Korean Zen it’s called the cave of foxes. Really, this cave is just those aspects of ourselves that we refuse to examine. And so these regions of mind lurk like foxes and devils. And that’s where the real suffering occurs. The work of spelunking, at least in my experience, seems endless…

  2. 2 johnherberger
    May 13, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Thanks Barry. I like your metaphor of cave as unexamined parts of ourselves. I posted this conversation because it reflected some conversations I was having with a friend regarding “doing” and “being” and the confusion that arises in some spiritual circles that since enlightment is the nature of all things – if you just wake up (or get saved, or just “Be” or . . . ) you need not do anything (which is in stark contrast to my Catholic hard working background)
    Must be why I am attracted to the Middle Way – sort of a time for every purpose under heaven. To just “be” or not to “be” – depends on the day 😉

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Live'n Aloha on Maui.
Lately just posting pics, artwork, vids, & music with just a headline (less seems to be more).
Into Wilber, Beck, Zen Stuffs, Spiritual Concepts, Philosophy and Humor (kinda geeky humor).
Currently attempting to strengthen my meditation skills (this has been a 20 yr process).
Thanks for stopp'n by and please leave a comment. Poz or Neg, all comments welcome.
"I don't like Spam" (said with a British accent)

May 2009


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