What’s the Alternative

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In discussing enlightenment one must strongly distinguish between those things written about the subject by people who are not enlightened, and those things said by people who are, or at least claim to be.

In the early writings of Buddhism there is a story that a group of people asked the Buddha about his enlightenment.  They said "are you a God?"  He replied no.  "Then are you an angel?"  He replied he was not.  "Then are you a man like us?", also negative.  "I'm just awake" he replied.

The writings of Sages, Gurus, Mystics and Saints are remarkably similar when it comes to the state to be arrived at by all spiritual disciplines.  After the razzmatazz of mystical experiences comes a very simple clear state of pure awareness. This is a state of understanding that transcends the mind.  The mind and intellect no longer interpret reality, but things are perceived directly without the clouding effects of thought, emotions, fears or desires.

This 'enlightenment' would appear to be a very natural and simple state of being.  The Buddha said that enlightenment was as close as your next breath; it is just that we keep looking the other way, keep covering over this natural experience with undue thought and emotion.  A Zen story relates how a group of monks were discussing the relative qualities of their masters. One monk said “My master is wonderful; he can see into the future and can transcend time. Another monk said “My master is better than that, he can move objects with his mind and fly in the air. The third monk said “My master has far greater powers than that. When he sits he sits, when he eats he eats”.