Are You Enlightened?


This short back and forth is from a recent conversation with my friend Boosy.

TM: Stop worrying about achieving a ‘silent’ mind. Stop it. Just be pleased that you were born and are able to enjoy this life.

Boosy: What about meditating to achieve a silent mind?  Isn’t that the control that takes you to the next Buddha?

TM: It is all very easy to say, because we have heard this for thousands of years now. But we never take a moment to ask important questions:

What is meditation? What is a silent mind? Who is it that wishes to achieve this? Does control lead to freedom?

Why someone would want to be the next Buddha is beyond me. It is living a life handed down. It would be more helpful, more powerful, to be the first Boosy, and not the next someone else.

Boosy: Yes, I totally agree. And as to the control, understood. However I must ask, how can Boosy take Boosy to mental zenith of enlightenment?

TM: How can you be sure that there is anything else other than what you already have? Is it possible that enlightenment is nothing more than an idea handed to you by someone else? I am not saying this is the case, or that it is right or wrong. Let’s just look at this.

Most people would say that enlightenment is something they do not have but want. So they see themselves as separate from those that do ‘have’ it. How does this come about? There must be this comparison; “They are higher than me, someday I will get there, I should be there, I am at a lower level but someday I’ll be higher,” or whatever it is.

In order for this to occur there must be the two separate ideas: Over there is something, but here something is missing. So this search for wholeness is built on a foundation of separation.

If you see this, how do you approach the search for enlightenment? This is just something to consider while you work in the laboratory that is Boosy.

Boosy: I actually believe that you are born enlightened and that it is more about the awareness.

TM: You have pointed out something very important…that we are already there from the beginning. The problem may arise when someone else tells us about this enlightened state – or some other state we ‘need’ to achieve – then we decide to go looking for it. Much like the man searching for his glasses and they are on his head the whole time.

Although, this search might not begin as a search for enlightenment per se, there is this separation when we begin to seek because we feel we are not already enough.

Boosy: I look back to me as a 4 year old on the balcony laying looking into the stars…I feel then what i feel now. I am then who I am now. I would say that the search for enlightenment lies within you, and rather than the silencing of the mind, I’d opt for listening.

How do you approach your search? Do you consider yourself “enlightened”?

TM: To answer your question, there is no search here. Search in the sense of looking for something that is not here, looking for something to make ME complete, looking for something I feel is missing, and so on. There may be ‘technical’ searching when working within thought, but that is not the same as we are talking about here.

And as to your second question, never trust someone that tells you they are enlightened, for they have no idea of what is happening within themselves. (Note: see below for further discussion on this sentence. Also, Davidya has written more on this topic in his post The Goal of Enlightenment.)

If I say, “I am enlightened,” then I am dead. Once I say I’m in a particular state, an unchanging state, a finished state, then I’m dead man masquerading as a live one. Even the term ‘enlightenment’ is inadequate for the beauty of the human form, of human functioning.

And the word Enlightenment has been used to cause even more separation. It is more of the Haves and Have Nots; the Have Nots feel they need it, so they go to the person that has what they feel they need, while the Haves need their students, or those below them, otherwise no one will know they are enlightened!

Luckily, not everyone in the world is in such a state, and it really is not so difficult to see. But in order to really see this, you must dive deep into truth and forget about what you think the truth to be.

Anyway, there is NO STATE that can capture this. Humans are flowing, alive, and changing creatures, and problems arise when we force that creature into an unchanging state. If there is the total destruction of humanity, it may arise because of this mistake.

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  1. Posted Friday, July 3, 2009 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    fascinating conversation, one of the best posts on enlightenment i’ve seen in all the years of travelling the blogosphere! hopefully my blog will be healed soon and i can refer to this in my next buddhist carnival.

    “easy to see intellectually, but not so easy to see when you are in it.”

    i’d like to take that a step further. i usually have no problem seeing it when i’m in it. there i stand, then, seeing how i am all tangled up in concepts, ideas, illusions, and i cannot leave it. when i’m in the grip of flight anxiety, for example. once in a while, in a situation like that, i can go into it (thank you, pema!) but usually, i’m dominated by the desire to escape.

    • Posted Friday, July 3, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      one of the best posts on enlightenment i’ve seen in all the years of travelling the blogosphere! hopefully my blog will be healed soon…

      Thank you very much Isabella. I did drop by your site and there is a bit of a problem…I hope you can have that resolved with little difficulty.

      when i’m in the grip of flight anxiety, for example. once in a while, in a situation like that, i can go into it (thank you, pema!) but usually, i’m dominated by the desire to escape.

      The desire to escape would seem to imply the anxiety is something outside of you; something that attacks you from some outside source. There is you, then there is the anxiety affecting you.

      But is that really what is happening?

      What is the difference between the you suffering from anxiety, and the anxiety?

      You might say, “Well, I know it is supposed to be this or that, but it still goes on.” That is very true. You know what the answer should be, but it has not worked. So what will you do?

      This is not to deny the anxiety you feel, because if it is there, it is there. But the anxiety is not separate from the one wishing to escape it.

      You say you see it, or go into it, or sit with it, and that is good. But how do you see it? Is it from your viewpoint where there is you and the object of your seeing? In other words, is it Isabella and her anxiety, and she looks at this from a separate viewpoint as if she might hold it in her hand to observe it? Or is there there actually no difference between the two?

      In what way do you see these happenings?

    • Posted Saturday, July 4, 2009 at 5:13 am | Permalink

      Hi Isabella
      It’s a small world. I started blogging after taking your course with Carol back in 07 at SEARCH. Thanks!! We chatted a few times at Bloggers Meetups but I have not been in awhile…

      Your description is quite clear. You see it but you believe it. It’s just to see it a bit deeper. I’ll let Takuin lead that…

      But it is interesting to reflect – the desire to escape is really a fear of escaping. Of letting go. The ego sense likes to flip it, to stay unescaped.

  2. Posted Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    It’s a paradoxical thing–awakening is a concept and that’s where it starts. I was exhausted from fighting depression and anxiety and I wanted the peace that many of ‘awakened’ described. I am fortunate that I don’t lean towards spirituality or philosophy or complicated theories of consciousness, and so possibly I avoided these traps. Then a realization that releasing emotions and baggage is easy and simple. Then the realization that effort itself is in the way. Then the realization it’s silly to seek. Then the gentle, choiceless, constant, unoccupied awareness ensues, but it’s no big deal, there was no place to go and nothing to get, because it was always there.

    But the whole thing did start in the mind with a goal and a concept.

    • Posted Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      Maybe it is a bit of luck, who can say?

      I grew up without philosophy, without religion, and without even atheism. We just lived. There may be something to that, but it is useless for others, really. If one tries to replicate those living conditions to achieve a state, it is just more conformity to an ideal.

      I had goals to be this or that, but there was never a spiritual goal of any kind. I think it was more curiosity than anything; I was curious to see what was really there, and was not trying to achieve a state someone else told me was there. Even if someone told me, “So-snd-so is enlightened,” what could I possibly do with that? Just smile and say, “OK.”

      It is a very…alone sort of life. Not lonely, but alone.

    • Posted Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      Yes, each of us has a different journey. I took up meditation to get rid of anxiety and such. It opened doors to unexpected vistas, so I went deep into the study, trying to find valid models that held up. Little did. Developed my own to some extent.

      I wondered sometimes if the concepts got in the way but really, it simply unfolded as it did. Sometimes, i felt some barrier, but when the barrier became clear, it would fall.

      Its useful to consider Maya, usually thought to mean illusion. When inertia is dominant, it behaves as a cover. When fire is dominant, it is the illusion or dream. When sattva becomes dominant, it becomes the ladder. In the same way, concepts can be a trap, an illusion, or a means to make the next step. The key is letting go of whatever no longer serves.

      That’s the art of the journey, discovering how to let go more and more deeply.

      Alone? I had that sense for awhile, but not any more. Now it is very intimate.

      Ah, you’re not going to tell me you don’t gossip about who’s awake? (laughs)

      • Posted Friday, July 3, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        Alone? I had that sense for awhile, but not any more. Now it is very intimate.

        The alone-ness is constant, but we might be speaking of similar things here.

        Alone-ness has nothing to do with loneliness, of course. It could also be called the ultimate intimacy (as silly as it may sound).

        There is a drawing in of breath, the exhalation, and so on. Like a small rock knocking into a cliff face as it falls; there is nothing, resounding, nothing, resounding, then nothing.

        At the ending of all movement there is nothing; nothing to hold onto, and no real understanding of any-thing. But there is so much available energy there, as no-one is holding it down, suppressing, or controlling.

        It is easy to see the problem in all of this; people want to let go of control but are afraid to lose the controller.

        Alone-ness, nothing-ness, whatever-ness, we’ve heard these phrases all before. But if it is not lived completely, down to the cell, it is meaningless.

        And if it is lived completely, down to the cell, it is still meaningless.

        People are uncomfortable with that word; Alone-ness. Perhaps giving up the controller is too much to ask.

        Ah, you’re not going to tell me you don’t gossip about who’s awake?

        Ugh…I could not be any less interested. It would be a shame to waste the energy of Alone-ness. 😉

        • Posted Saturday, July 4, 2009 at 5:20 am | Permalink

          (laughs) The “who’s awake” question actually illustrates the goal. When there is a goal of enlightenment, there is a desire to see examples of people who have “made it”. Examples were once rare and often uncertain. Then, in early 2007, that really started to change. A friend of mine tried to keep a list but soon lost track… (laughs)

          Still, it is very inspiring to see it is happening to real people not just some monks or other. Especially after having that damn goal for so many years (laughs)

        • Posted Saturday, July 4, 2009 at 5:28 am | Permalink


          It is interesting to consider how words change meaning when reality changes. The dark alone of separation. The neutral alone of the independent observer. The dry alone of some newly awake. The rich alone of fullness. The intimate alone of oneness.

          When duality collapses, there can seem some paradoxes. Where fullness and emptiness are the same thing. Is the glass half empty or half full? Or is it both, neither, full and empty all at once? (laughs) Where alone can be deeply, richly intimate.

          You describe it beautifully, btw.

  3. Posted Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Takuin, this part of your comment struck me:
    “The search for enlightenment is the search for security. The self wishes to remain secure, and it thinks through enlightenment it will be free of the pain of insecurity. It is madness; the self wishes to free itself of the self, through self-centered activity. This is not difficult to see.”

    This describes me to a T. But what can we do? Wouldn’t almost everything we do be from the “I”?

    • Posted Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      Yes, a good quote. Easy to see intellectually, but not so easy to see when you are in it. I recall when I realized the ego was playing me, pretending to be Self, playing both the seeker and the sought, the escaper and the escaped. It has all the powers of illusion.

      Doing is the key word there. Ah, but this is Takuin’s blog. I’ll let him do the non-doing. (laughs)

      • Posted Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 11:13 am | Permalink

        Ah, but this is Takuin’s blog. I’ll let him do the non-doing.

        :) That is a good one…

        But please, say as much or as little as you want…just as long as you leave your shoes at the door, you may do as you wish here.

    • Posted Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      Thanks Albert.

      This describes me to a T. But what can we do? Wouldn’t almost everything we do be from the “I”?

      OK, so you have seen this activity is nothing more than self-centered activity. Not that it is good or bad; just self-centered. One tries to free themselves from the self using activity driven by the self. This is clear. We might also say, the elements we hope to free ourselves from are the same elements we are using to bring about their end.

      So with that in mind,

      Is there any activity other than self-activity?

      Then you might also ask,

      Is there activity beyond the self?

      What can you do? Question what others have given you. Don’t be ungrateful; just question what they’ve handed you. Out of the kindness of their hearts they have given you what they thought was best; what might set you free. But nothing has worked. There may be bits of relief here and there, but bits of relief are like being tied to a rope that has been staked into the ground; you feel free, but only as long as you don’t go too far. Freedom in a limited range. But is there a limit to your freedom?

    • Posted Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      me again. Much of what we do is indeed from the “I”, for now. The key point though is doing vs being.

      You see it is happening and think something needs to be done. But that is just more happening. The secret is in not doing. Just seeing it. When you see it deeply enough, it will dissolve. What will remain is being.

      Takuin says the same thing. But said a different way, it can help seeing.

  4. Posted Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Takuin
    For many years, my top goal was enlightenment. And then one day, I saw that this was a concept. It had nothing to with being. There was no such thing as the enlightenment I had so long sought. We can also observe that to say “I am” suggests there is a person involved, which again is a mistake. It is not the person that awakens.

    While I agree with much of the post, the statement “never trust someone that tells you they are enlightened” I would moderate. Certainly overt declarations are highly suspect. But I’ve also seen such sentences as this used as a weapon of the ego. “Anyone who says they’re enlightened isn’t” can be applied to almost any opening experience. I have seen the newly awake attacked and many people reticent to share their experience of awakening for this same reason.

    It’s a tricky balance. When is it useful to speak of the value of awakening? When will ego not distort it? When will it not be turned into a goal? In the end, we can see that a goal is inevitable and has some value early on but must be cast aside on the journey when the understanding becomes deeper. When someone can read such a post and hear it deeply.

    • Posted Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Davidya.

      I can’t really say that ‘enlightenment’ was ever a goal of mine. There certainly were searches for various things, and just as with the quest for enlightenment, it arose from the idea of not being complete in some way (although I cannot say it was an overt idea).

      There was a time when I wanted to get high all the time, and so I did. There were times when I wanted to have sex all the time, and so I did. There were times I wanted to fight all the time, and so I did. And none of it went anywhere.

      It was an unconscious exploration, you see, born out of conditioning, inadequacy, a need for control, and maybe even boredom. I cannot say it was completely useless, but the reasons behind it were neurotic and not sound. Certainly, Takuin as The Searcher was not to be trusted.

      And now there is this life, and the searcher has long since died. Inebriation, fornication, and fighting have long since dropped away. Not because there is a person saying those activities must to be dropped, as that is more of the same nonsense. But the person that needed those activities to continue in order to make himself feel whole is no longer an issue.

      All of this searching, this “I must be better tomorrow than I am today,” kind of thing is all self-centered activity (It isn’t good or bad, just self-centered). It is a desire to achieve what one believes to be the highest state. And don’t get me wrong, people can achieve that state. But that state is not freedom in any sense of the word. It is just the seemingly final brushstroke in the painting of the self.

      The search for enlightenment is the search for security. The self wishes to remain secure, and it thinks through enlightenment it will be free of the pain of insecurity. It is madness; the self wishes to free itself of the self, through self-centered activity. This is not difficult to see.

      So when someone says, “I am enlightened,” it is very difficult to understand. What does it mean? A person might reply, “It means I have transcended the common mind and have become the big mind,” but what does that mean? “It means I am now one with source.” What the hell does that mean? This has all been reduced to common catchphrases we repeat ad nauseum.

      It is not that Takuin is against any of this. But I want to know what these people mean, and when I question them, all I get in return are phrases we’ve heard a million times. So in the end does this mean that Enlightenment is Conformity? That all the searcher has to look forward to is a life of repetition and regurgitation? This is a problem.

      And I am not saying that it is useless to explore all of this; this reply in itself is an exploration; but the motives of the searcher are very dark and hard to see during the wanting search. Exploration is vital, while searching for something to make you feel complete is not. It is more important to search for why you think something is missing, instead of assuming it is missing and running off to god knows where to find it.

      The statement “never trust someone that tells you they are enlightened” I would moderate.

      I will absolutely consider doing so. But please tell me, of what value is the phrase, ‘I am enlightened‘?

      I certainly see the importance of discussing …”the value of awakening,” but I cannot see how that it relates to a man or woman telling you they are enlightened.

      Hopefully our words are not used carelessly. Takuin has to explore this carefully. Do I say it has no value because I refuse to accept it as valuable? Do I say it because I have something against gurus or other spiritual types? Is there some agenda hidden away somewhere I cannot clearly see?

      If I tell you, “Never listen to someone that says I am enlightened,” because I think they are bad, then I am no different than the person that says “Listen to me and you’ll be set free,” because they think they are enlightened, so I must explore this carefully.

      Let me sit with this for a bit…


      I sat with this for fifteen minutes. I still see no value in it, but not because I think something else is better. The only person getting value from it is the one that says “I am enlightened.”

      Let’s say you Davidya – I’ll use you as the victim because you are here 😉 – tell others you are enlightened. Why would you do that? Really, why? Why do it at all? It can only benefit you, because you cannot set someone free; you cannot do the work for them. But by telling them that phrase, they might believe you can. Then you have followers, supporters, and so on.

      This might not be on your mind – tricking other people into believing you – because you may actually believe it yourself. So we can’t exactly fault you (please remember this is just an example). But does liberation, enlightenment or whatever, require your beliefs about it?

      And on the other side, of what value is this phrase to the searcher? What will they do with those words? That is the real danger, because any jackass can say they are enlightened, but their power comes from those that believe it to be true.

      So the warning, “Never trust someone that tells you they are enlightened,” is for the person that needs something to ‘fill them up’ as it were. If a person is complete and whole, the phrase ‘I am enlightened,’ will never touch them.

      (This was longer than my regular posts…sorry about that… Haha…)

      • Posted Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

        I agree that to say “I am Enlightened” is a falsehood. As I said, it is just a concept of a me, that which does not awake. And I’ve known budding gurus who have fallen into this trap many years ago. Not an enlightening statement for anyone. (laughs)

        I am not suggesting moderating the statement about “never trust anyone” means it’s opposite, “I am X”. I am suggesting people will grab blanket statements as a judgment to discount any discussion of the waking process. ‘Never say never’ (laughs)

        For example, Takuin describes his waking experience. He may not make the statement “I am X”, but it can easily be implied. Does this mean we should not trust what Takuin says? (laughs)

        We could say “Careful of anyone making statements about their state. It implies they are not that.” A true teacher talks about the experience whereas statements of state are concepts, not what is.

        It is a process rather than the black and white extremes. An open discourse on the journey itself rather a broken idea about a goal that may or may not be there. A dialogue, such as yours with Boosy rather than more concepts.

        As for phrases heard a million times, it is true this is a problem. Instant concepts, carried from one teacher to another. The barrier to what the concepts seek. Yet one must use common terminology or go through the dance of defining everything like Buckminster Fuller did.

        It is a tricky balance. As I mentioned, when will the ego not distort it? There is simply the opportunity for that moment of clarity when the silence hears and becomes more alert to Itself.

        It is the fine line, the sutra that draws it all together…

        • Posted Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 10:34 am | Permalink

          Aah…OK OK OK…I didn’t understand exactly what you meant yesterday. Reading it back now, it is clear.

          Yes yes, never say never. Perhaps instead of “Never trust…” it is better to say, “Always be suspicious of…”

          Suspicion is not about distrusting for the sake of distrusting, after all, but a state of mental uneasiness. We could call it doubt. In this case it would arise from hearing a phrase that is extremely suspect.

          The language is important, of course. I’ll probably drop a link in the post to your comment on this point.

          I am suggesting people will grab blanket statements as a judgment to discount any discussion of the waking process.

          Well that is exactly the same nonsense, isn’t it? There are too many dirty hands in the pot. All of these people pushing around what they believe to be awareness or liberation or whatever. Even in their need to be free, they hang onto things they are not willing to let go.

          It is so odd. I talk with people that can explain all of this so much better than either of us, and yet they are the ones complaining about always being stuck. They explain freedom so beautifully, yet they are clearly not free in the sense they hope to be.

          Does this mean we should not trust what Takuin says?

          Oh, I am surprised at you, my friend. 😉 Of course you should not trust what I say. DO NOT TRUST ME. I have said this before at various occasions.

          And by trust I mean do not just blindly believe anything one says. Find out for yourself. Through the ‘doing’, through one’s exploration, one will find out what is real.

          But I suppose that people can trust me in the sense of trusting another human being. Just don’t lose your mind in the process of trusting someone. (You know all of this already, Davidya, so this is not necessarily a message for you, you know.)

          “Careful of anyone making statements about their state. It implies they are not that.”

          That is far better than how I put it.

          • Posted Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

            (laughs) Thanks. Glad you saw the light. 😉

            In my 20’s, a couple of sub-groups formed in my area around a leader. One was highly charismatic. With no intention on my part, I managed to cross paths with both. It taught me a great deal about how destructive that can be. “premature immaculation” was a term I heard more recently.

            I’ve also seen how someone with very positive ideas about enlightenment can get caught by them, and someone with negative ideas about what it’s not can be even more caught by that. All these ideas of right and wrong can get in the way of being.

          • Posted Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

            Thanks for the link. My first inclination was to give examples but am reminded that those who judge another are in the same boat. We could say: anyone making statements about theirs or anyone else’s state

            That’s an even bigger flag if they rate themselves high and others low. But again, teachers will sometimes give examples.

            I am reminded of a old talk where a teacher asked about peoples experiences with other techniques. He always had something positive to say but the compliments varied from lightweight to admiring. It was the ones where compliments flowed you knew there was depth. And why.

            One can go to guru busting sites and find critics for pretty much any teacher. The real proof is the teacher themselves. Do they shoot themselves? (laughs) Are the absolutely right?

  5. Posted Monday, June 29, 2009 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    This is a very beautiful post Takuin. I think, even though it is a basic message, many people are not ready to hear it. I don’t know why. I’ve been hearing similar things for a long time but only recently have I been starting to go: “hmm… I think I see what he means…”

    • Posted Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Albert.

      Although it is a basic message, it is the person’s inability to hear that will teach them all they need to know about listening. But for some reason there we go, off into space, looking for something or someone else to give it to us.

      Humanity, on the whole, has so little confidence in their own inner teaching.

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    […] came up from Takuin’s recent post, Are You Enlightened? He talks of a conversation he had with Boosy exploring this. Takuin also touches on some other […]

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