One of my favourite passages from Spiritual Enlightenment – The Damndest Thing’ by Jed Mckenna…just is so irreverent…and very funny.
“Have you heard of the term makyo?” I ask her.
“Yes, isn’t it something to do with…?”
“It’s a Zen thing. Very handy term. In Zen, no one is interested in spiritual growth. No one is interested in self-exploration or self realization. They’re not trying to become better people or happier people. They’re not following a spiritual path, they’re following a wake-the-hell-up path. They’re completely focused on the hot and narrow pursuit of enlightenment. There’s no consolation prize, no secondary objective. Full awakening is what they signed up for. Of course, as students, they have no real idea of what such a pursuit actually entails, so it’s the job of the master to see that they stay on course. With me so far?”
She nods a little uncertainly.
“The Tao warns to beware the flowery trappings of the path, or words to that effect. There are many things to see and do on the path to awakening. It’s all new and magical. There are points for instance, where you can stop and develop what you might consider special powers; prophecy, telepathy, mediumship, magical arts, plate spinning, whatever. During Zen meditation – zazen – the student might merge into timeless unity consciousness. He might unravel all the complexities of his life in a single glorious sitting. He might feel that he has vomited a gigantic ball of molten lead that has resided in his chest for years. He might descend into the pits of hell and slay all his demons. After such experiences, he might run to his master to share his victories and experiences, only to have the master splash him with cold water by calling it makyo.:
Marls is frowning now, realising that she’s the one being splashed with cold water.
“When a Zen master uses the term makyo, he’s telling his students that the previous gems they’re stopping to pick up or the pretty flowers they’re pausing to collect only have value or beauty in the world they’ve chosen to leave behind. The Tao says ‘beware the flowery trappings Because, in order to possess them or benefit from them, you mist cease your journey, stay in the dream. Ultimately, they’re just a distraction from the tricky business of waking up. Breaking free of delusion takes everything you have. The price of truth is everything. Everything. That’s the rule and it’s inviolable.”
She looks sad. I continue in a gentler tone.
“I’m explaining makyo because this is what’s happening here. You have had some profound insights in meditation and you have brought them to me. Understandably so. Western spirituality seems to equate enlightenment with self perfection, so it’s natural to assume that ridding yourself o mental and emotional baggage is the way to go. But what I’m telling you is that, within the context of searching for enlightenment, your experiences are makyo. You bring me these priceless jewels and I am telling you that you should flush them down the toilet and move on.”
I pause to let that sink in. The point here is less to aid Marla in her quest for enlightenment than to help her see that she’s not on one. I sometimes wonder if I would make a good Zen master but I don’t think so. Or maybe I’d be a great one, depends how you look at it. My emblem would be a graphic depiction of the Buddha’s head lanced on a pike, complete with dripping blood and dangling viscera. The motto beneath the emblem would be “DIE!” Students would line up outside my door and as soon as the first one opened his mount I’d start shrieking at the op of my lungs “You’re not him! You’re not the real guy” You’re the makyo guy? You’re just the dream character!” I’d probably start hitting the student with a stick at this point, which is one of the perks of being a Zen master.
“You’re supposed to be dead! Why aren’t you dead? Why are you coming to see me? You’re the problem! Get out and come back when you’re dead. That’s the guy I want to talk to, not a stupid dream character. Now GET OUT!”
That essentially defines the quest for enlightenment; the you that you think of as you (and that thinks of you as you, and so on) is not you, it’s just the character that the underlying truth of you is dreaming into brief existence. Enlightenment isn’t in the character, it’s the underlying truth. Now, There’s nothing wrong with being a dream character, of course, unless it’s your goal to wake up, in which case the dream character must be ruthlessly annihilated. If your desire is to experience transcendental bliss or supreme love or altered states of consciousness or awakened kundalini, or to qualify for heaven, or to liberate all sentient beings, or simply to become the best dang person you can be, the rejoice!, you’re in the right place; the dream state, the dualistic universe. However if your interest is to cut the crap and figure out what’s true, then you’re in the wrong place and you’ve got a very messy fight ahead and there’s no point in pretending otherwise.”
Cracks me up everytime…. DIE DIE DIE…bwahahahah
I also find it totally reassuring. We get to stop where we want on this journey. We do not have to commit to awakening. The whole point of being here, human is to enjoy the drama and play with our lives… there is no point being enlightened…or rather, in this reality of illusion…to be enlightened is to be outside of the fun.