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Lions Roar : May 2008
53 SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2008 enlightenment. Paradoxically, although we are on a search for en- lightenment, following a path designed to bring us to that point, enlightenment is said to be inherent, our very nature. Many tradi- tions have a version of the parable in which a poor person spends years and years looking for buried treasure here, there, and every- where else, eventually discovering that he has had the treasure all along, buried under the floor of his own home. We may keep look- ing and looking for something and not see a thing, but when we finally do see it, it is completely obvious. How did we miss it? Enlightenment cannot be produced. No matter how many mantras we recite, no matter how many teachers we serve or medi- tation retreats we do, we cannot force it to occur. Trungpa Rinpoche once said that teachers give students practice to do and ritual imple- ments to play with simply to pass the time until they realize they can wake up any time they choose. In the Tibetan tradition, enlightenment is described as the stage of no more learning, when for the first time you are not trying to attain anything. Enlightenment is not a thought; it is not an attainment. It is inherent. Although enlightenment can seem to be a totally unreachable goal, in fact we know exactly what it is and have glimpses of awakening all the time. We see it in great teachers, who like mirrors point out that same quality in us. The only problem is that our glimpses of awakening are brief, hit and miss, and cannot be sustained for any length of time. In ordinary life, there are times when you have a breakthrough and finally understand something—you’ve got it—and when that happens, you cannot then dis-understand it. In fact, sometimes you discover some- thing you wish you had not known; nonetheless, once you know, you know. Such knowledge does not come and go, flicker in and out. It is like learning the alphabet. It is a struggle at first, but once you have learned it, you cannot look at a shape like this—A—and not conceive of the letter a. When we first understand something, we may not be sure we’ve quite got it, but eventually it sticks. It is the same with awakening. At some point our understanding no longer wavers. True accomplishment does not fade. We may have many powerful insights and meditative experiences, but while such experiences may be inspiring and encouraging, nevertheless, over time they fade. They are temporary. Unlike such experiences, enlightenment neither comes nor goes, and there is no need to try to nail it down. Glimpses of enlightenment crop up all the time—in the in-be- tween spaces or gaps. In my own experience, I find that over and ➢ page 109 MAY 50-53.indd 53 MAY 50-53.indd 53 3/6/08 11:30:00 AM 3/6/08 11:30:00 AM