Friday, April 16, 2010

Thoughts on Enlightenment in the Information Age

I finally got a chance to watch the PBS special The Buddha last night. It really was terrific, I think. I won’t bother trying to retell the story because a big part of the beauty of this special is the way they layer explanations and interpretations from several scholars, and each person watching and listening will get more and/or less value from each small piece.

It actually helped me a great deal. There are certain aspects of Buddhism that I have struggled to understand for a while now, and taking this in I felt – feel – partially released from that struggle. Not entirely released because I think that is part of being a Buddhist. Being engaged. Questioning. Present. Aware and mindful. To be honest, I had sometimes thought my inability to understand certain aspects might be a deal breaker, like I wasn't ready (wasn't good enough) to be a Buddhist.

A Buddhist. Am I calling myself a Buddhist? I suppose I am. It is not like being a Christian though. Buddha does not replace or personify God. Buddha is not my savior. I am my savior. I am responsible for my own awakening, my own suffering and the cessation thereof. And as an extension of that, hand-in-hand with that, I am compassionate of (to?) the suffering of those around me. Or at least I do my best to be compassionate. I have and will fail at times.

Buddha is not my God. (This is something that my family tends to make assumptions about.) I keep Buddha near me in order to remind myself to be present. Grateful. Mindful. Compassionate. And when I need it, to guide me. Or better yet, help me to guide myself toward light and balance.

I find myself asking this question over and over again: Is it easier to become Enlightened in this day and age than it was in Siddhartha’s? Did his search and the work of seekers before and since better prepare us to become enlightened? If we are looking for it? If we want it? Is wanting it 90% of the journey or 1% of it? Do things like mass media and the Internet allow us to share these thoughts and help one another in such a way that for us, it is just –– easier? Am I over simplifying?

Maybe not easier. Maybe just more –– accessible.


adrienne said...

i imagine wanting enlightenment might be just what prevents one from reaching it.

i'll have to check out the program. thank you for the post, and enjoy your weekend, steph!

Steph(anie) said...

adrienne, they talk about that, or the flip side of that, in this program. I'd love to hear what you think of it if you get a chance to watch it.

Bethany said...

Oh Steph, I keep forgetting to tivo this. Thanks for the reminder. I love your thoughts and writing on this. Really eloquent and smart.
I was having major difficulties with someone at work yesterday. Her energy was so negative and I was getting sucked in. The whole thing was a big, horrible, impossible mess. I finally did a loving kindness meditation/chant toward her, for her, for both of us really, and by the time she came back to the desk some sort of calm and okayness fell over us. It was astounding really, considering she would not look at me before or talk to me.
Thanks for your excitement about my seeds. That made my day!

Petit fleur said...

Hey Steph!

This is a great post! And great questions too... My hub is really drawn to Buddhism also. He has two books which are really good that you might enjoy... You might even be able to get them at the library:
(1) "Only Don't Know", (Selected teachings from Zen Master Seung Sahn)
(2) Wanting Enlightenment Is a BIG MISTAKE, Teachings of ZM Seung Sahn

There is a photo of this man on the front of the book and he is smiling so big, it's kind of hilarious!

Anyway, thanks for the groovy thoughts.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

You pose some interesting questions here, buddy. This was a really good post. I haven't caught the show yet.

Love you!

Mwa said...

Yay for the Buddha! Changed my life hugely as well, I tell ya.