Yesterday at the Lotus Centre during my talk we came across the notion that some people are more enlightened than others. It was just at the end of the talk that kind of got out of control as I didn't check time so you can imagine when a free discussion begins, where it leads to after an hour... I see it is definitely necessary to set a time limit to a talk. Anyway, just when we were about to stop, someone said that some people are more enlightened, or their enlightenment is deeper. And we decided to address this issue next time.
There is no such thing as deep or shallow enlightenment. Well, firstly, let's ditch the expression "enlightenment". For obvious reasons which I have discussed on my blog a few times already. If we say awakening, there is nothing as being half-awake. Physically speaking, yes, you can be half asleep and half awake. I have experienced this many times. In the morning in my bed or dozing off in my office. Be careful about being half-awake when driving, please! Anyway, awakening in Buddhism is like traffic lights, either the green light is on or it isn't. If you get slapped all of a sudden, I am sure you will be as awake as Buddha was when he saw the Morning Star. Whenever we let our delusions flood our mind, we are not awake and whenever we let go or see clearly how deluded we are, we are awake. If you somehow let your thinking control your body and mind, there is no awakening. If you let go and just return completely to your activity here and now, you are awake. This is not about beginners and experienced practitioners. This is about a momentary state of body and mind. Ancient zen masters knew nothing other than you already know. But the thing is they knew clearly that they didn't know anything special. They knew clearly that awakening is not something you gradually or suddenly attain to boast that in front of others ever since. There is depth to water or a bowl, but there is no depth to awakening or wisdom, it either appears or doesn't.
Kodo Sawaki said: "Simply the awareness that you are deluded, which comes from practicing zazen, makes you, in reality, a Buddha. It's zazen that teaches us that we are deluded, and hence delivers us from this delusion. When we actually practice zazen, and look carefully at all the deluded ideas that keep popping up, we realize how ordinary we are and how little we have to be proud or brag about; nothing to do other than quietly hide away. Satori is being enlightened to the fact that we are deluded."
By being enlightened to the fact that we are deluded doesn't mean that we have to stop and meditate about our delusions, as that would clearly be just going back to the depth of our delusions, it is rather immediately going back to what we are doing here and now. What we need to do is just realize how deluded we are and in an instant return to reality here and now. And we have to do this a thousand times a day. Maybe there is a difference between someone who hopes to get rid of delusions and someone who sheds delusions in the middle of everyday action. As we continue our practice and study Buddhist philosophy with a reliable teacher, we learn and get to know different aspects of Buddhism, but this learning is to no avail if we hope to reach the heights of "enlightened masters" or look up to "enlightened masters" or look down to beginners who yet have to reach the spiritual experience we have had. Of course, master Dogen wrote about attaining the truth. It is a serious matter. But it is not about depth, progress or ranks. It is becoming ourselves in the middle of everyday actions, which is not an easy task, if you get entangled in spiritual theories. It is seeing, in theory and practice, how the ordinary person and Buddha are one and the same thing exactly. It is letting go of one and many, awakening and delusions. It is the warm, golden-sunny October Saturday afternoon.