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#1773- Tuesday, April 20, 2004 - Editor: michael  

  The Myth of Personal Enlightenment    

"Though appearing as the animate and the inanimate world, The Self remains forever one. Where, then, is the division? There is no duality, it is clear to me."  

Song of the Avadhut chapter 2 verse 4 Atma Books S. Abhayananda  

Dear Friends,  

"Buddha babble blocks the Way." Ikkyu  

These words by Ikkyu (14th century Japanese poet/priest) touch upon the great stumbling block to finding enlightenment. That is, the stories, myths, fantasies, hopes and fears that fill one's mind as one seeks for the 'great reward' of enlightenment.  

But the words of Gautama Buddha cut through to the bone when he says, "When I attained pure and perfect enlightenment, I realized that there is no such thing as pure and perfect enlightenment. Marvelous! Marvelous!"  

Today there are many teachers, books, workshops, seminars etc. all dedicated to teaching enlightenment. The students and seekers after enlightenment are told that they must kill the ego, attain higher states of conciousness, open up chakras, clear the third eye, commune with higher beings, find a true teacher, serve the perfect guru, visit power centers, read the right books, do the correct meditations, chant the true mantra, etc. etc. etc.  

But in the words of U.G. Krishnamurti - "humbug!" All these things are a business, an enlightenment market place and a trap for the unwary.  

In other words, the grand adventure of seeking keeps the seeker looking for something outside of themselves. The seeker may believe that there is some mysterious force or some divine power that somehow must be appeased, cajoled, or satisified before the seeking ends and enlightenment is attained.  

But, consider these simple lines of Rumi - We are the mirror as well as the face in it. We are tasting the taste this minute of eternity. We are pain and what cures pain. We are the sweet cold water and the jar that pours.  

In this edition you will find pointers from Amber Terrell, the harshness of U.G. Krishnamurti, the humor of Pete (a list member of the Guru Ratings list), some sprinklings of Zen thought (from the Wisdom of the Zen Masters - edited by, Timothy Freke) and a bit of poetry from Ram Tzu (aka Wayne Liqourman). With a touch of irreverence thrown in for flavor...  

as ever - be well,  


  Once you aspire to become enlightened, even if your life takes you in many different directions, the conditions of your life all become a practical part of achieving enlightenment.             


  From the Guru Ratings list:  

From:  "seesaw1us"
Date:  Tue Apr 20, 2004  8:55 pm
Subject:  The Enlightenment Shop


The Enlightenment Shop
By Pete

Author's note: Some objects in this story have metaphorical meaning:
An elephant could mean an internet list; a bag, mental
baggage; fecal matter, judgmental thought.

As soon as the custom's inspector finished with my bag, I headed for
the elephant taxi stand. It was rush hour in Bombay, and elephant
taxis were in great demand. The first elephant in line had only one
eye, and looked quite old. Relieved to see five elephants standing in
line, I tried to hire the one in the middle, but only created a
ruckus among the mahouts. The first mahout in line wrestled the bag
from my hand and tied it to his elephant's tail. The thought of
riding on a one-eyed elephant down the expressway wasn't reassuring,
but instead of saying so, I complained about the unusual storage of
my bag.

"Wait a minute. Is that safe?"

"Very safe, Sahib."

"But what if the beast needs to...?"

"Needs... what?"

"You know.."

The mahout laughed. "Elephant dung is very good for leather. I'll rub
it in with a special cloth. Your bag will get a lovely shine." He
helped me to get on the elephant. "Where to?"

"The Enlightenment Shop on Holy Cow Street, please."

"Ah! Yes, I know where that is at. I have taken a few foreigners
there, but I don't recommend the place."

"Why not?"

"I have a better place for you. I know all the gurus in Bombay. I
have rated them in my list."

As we merged into the elephant lane of the expressway, he fished out
a piece of paper from his red vest's pocket, and turning around,
handed it to me . As I grabbed with my fingertips, a gust of wind
from a passing truck took it away. It flew over the elephant's head.
The beast caught it with its trunk, and promptly ate it.

"I'm so sorry. Was that your only list?"

"Yes, but don't worry, I have memorized all the gurus in the world.
I'm Sarlo."

"No! You are the famous guru rater?"

"Yes." Turning, he spread his arms as if to display his splendor.

"Imagine that! What good luck!"

"Yes, and you wanted to take the middle elephant. But, I forgive you.
And for you, I recommend, Gungha, the massage guru. She is very good.
She gives you a good rubdown all over your body. She concentrates on
the sex chakra. You'll reach big enlightenment in no time. Have you
ever been enlightened by a woman?"

"Yes, my wife has done that, on occasion. How often does one need to
be enlightened by a woman?"

"Well, that depends. A gentleman your age, probably twice a week."

"Hmm! That often! No wonder I haven't been feeling myself lately."

"No, no. You're not suppose to feel like yourself when enlightened.
You feel like the whole."

"The whole of what?"

"The whole enchilada."

"Is that a popular expression here?"

"No, here we say the whole tandori, but you look like you come from
California. Most American enlightenment tourists come from

We had left the expressway, and he stopped the elephant. "Well, you
have to decide now. Which way? To Gungha's Massage Parlor, or to the
Enlightenment Shop?"

"Hell, I don't know. You have filled me with doubt. This uncertainty
is coming off your tip, Sarlo."

"No, no. Doubts are good for one seeking enlightenment. Reality is
not what it seems."

"What other choices are there?"

"Well, some gurus offer riddles, others offer sadhanas, like
breathing exercises and other sundry concentration tricks; some
explain reality in such abstruse language, that at first you think
they are enlightened. But then, after a while, you notice they
themselves are prisoners of their own explanations. Then, you feel
enlightened yourself, and become a troll who tries to prove all
other gurus are idiots. So, where to?"

"Take me to the Enlightenment Shop. That's the nearest one. This
elephant is full of fleas."

"Yes, Sahib, five hundred to be exact, but only a few are out for
blood, most are here just for the ride."

The man behind the counter resembled Ben Kingsley playing Ghandi. He
smiled a toothless grin and joined his palms in greeting.

"How can I be of service, noble seeker?"

"I want to buy an enlightenment pill."

He looked at me with shrewd little eyes. He shook his head sideways
in silence.


"We are out of them."

"Can you make one for me?"

"I could for the right price." He leaned over the counter to appraise
my bag. "Hmm, your bag has been treated with elephant dung. Nice
aroma. That's very good for an expensive bag like yours. I'll charge
you a thousand rupees for a pill."

"How much is that in dollars?"

"I have no idea."

"I have no rupees. So I must pay you in dollars."

"Make it a thousand dollars, then."

"No way! A rupee is not worth a dollar."

"Well, a hundred, then."


"Okay. I'll start preparing it right away."

He moved to a bookshelf in the back and selected two thin books. He
hobbled back. "These are the main ingredients."


"Yes, `The Zen teachings Of Huang Po' and `Prior to Consciousness' by
Nisargadatta. I'll tear up one page from each, and grind them in this
magic machine."

"That looks like a paper shredder."

He placed a plastic bowl in front of the machine and inserted the two
pages. A fine paper dust came out. He reached under the counter and
came up with a tiny box.

"Hairs from a dragon," he announced.

"Let me see."

He opened the box with great flair.

"That box is empty!"

"They are invisible to you, of course. Takes an enlightened eye to
see them." With a pair of tweezers he pretended to take two out and
dropped them in the plastic bowl.

"Now some resin from a bo tree under which a sage received

This time I could see the bottle was full of something resembling
maple syrup.

"This will mold the powder into a pill. And now, two drops of water
from the Ganges."

"Wait a second. That water looks filthy. That's going to give me

"Exactly. That's part of the process. A bad case of diarrhea clears
the mind. Just wait till you get to your hotel room to take the pill.
Sarlo hates people shitting on his elephant. That's the reason he
doesn't recommend my shop."

"How will I know the pill has worked?"

"You'll feel no fear."

"But I generally feel no fear... unless there is something fearful
happening at the time."

"Hmm! Feeling fear when fear is needed, is wise. Well, you'll feel
happy all the time."

"But, I feel happy all the time... unless something pisses me off.
But that doesn't last long."

"Well, everything will look beautiful."

"But everything looks beautiful now. Even this dismal shop, even you.
And you are hideous!"

He laughed, and shook his head sideways. "My wife thinks I have
certain hidden charms. After you go back to California go see Pete
Seesaw. He claims he can tell who is realized or not." He made a
dismissive gesture.

"Do you think that's true?"

"Some think he is a charlatan."

"Well sir, I happen to be Pete, and I'm a story teller, not a

"What's the difference?"

"A charlatan tells a story to deceive, a storyteller to entertain."

"Hmm. Maybe so, but you don't look like him."

"Have you seem him, before?"

"No. But that's irrelevant, you don't look like him anyway. Are you
sure that you are Pete?"

"Let's forget about me."

He laughed a wheezing laugh. "Good! If you could do that, you'd be


  Confused by thoughts, we experience duality in life. Unencumbered by ideas, the enlightened see the one reality. - Hui-Neng   An article based on Surprised by Grace which appeared in Creations Magazine in September 1997, and in Pathways magazine in October 1997. ENDING THE MYTH OF PERSONAL ENLIGHTENMENT   By Amber Terrell

When I set out on the spiritual quest as a young college student in the late sixties, there were certain images in my mind of what enlightenment would look like. As an enlightened being I imagined I would be "me", only with all the unwanted aspects of my personality corrected. And, having access to the limitless intelligence of the universe, I would of course be brilliant. Best of all my life would be transformed into a blissful existence, a heaven-on-earth of perfect health, perfect thoughts, and perfect circumstances.

After more than a quarter of a century had passed--consumed in intense practice of meditation and yoga, fasting, study, long retreats in foreign lands, and years of service to an Indian teacher--I began to wonder, "Why hasn't enlightenment happened? Why hasn't my personality been fixed? Why doesn't my life look like I imagined it should look by now?" I began to sense that there was a missing piece in my spiritual repertoire--but what? I had done all my practices so devotedly, for so long.

Around the middle of 1994 I began to ask the question, "Who is it that gets enlightened?" Is it the ego, the personality, the mind? No one I queried could shed any light on this question, but I began to suspect that this so-called search for enlightenment I had been engaged in for so long might be in reality some kind of glorified personal improvement program. This person, "I", wanted to get free. "I" wanted to get pure. "I" wanted to be perfected. A greediness became apparent that didn't quite feel right. Yet all the teachers and masters I had studied with up until then only seemed to feed--with their techniques and chants and therapies and promises of heaven--this needy, grasping "I" who wanted enlightenment.

In the Spring of 1995 a shaft of light pierced the darkest and most frustrated hour of my spiritual quest. I met an American teacher named Gangaji who finally stopped this feeding, actually stopped the "I" itself. Very simply she said:

That which you have searched for, cried for, bargained for, sold for--this is WHO YOU ARE.

But she didn't just say it and leave me to think about it. Gangaji's very presence emanated a powerful transmission of Grace that severed the identification with the personal "I" long enough for me to see that this "unenlightened" separate individual I had imagined myself to be never really existed--except in the mind.

You have taken on some cloak called body, circumstances, thoughts, and emotions. No problem with that. Only, if you identify that you are those things you begin to suffer. Because, you see, these cloaks, these clothes, begin to disintegrate very quickly. And if you identify yourself with something that obviously disintegrates, there is great fear and unnecessary suffering and a search for that which is permanent.

In the meeting with Gangaji everything changed in my life, spiritual and otherwise. In her I saw my true limitless Self reflected back at me with an awesome clarity and depth. I stopped practicing, stopped perfecting, stopped hoping, stopped escaping, stopped searching. I stopped everything. The deep connection and resonance with her opened my heart to her love, and bared my neck to her sword. Deeper and deeper the truth that poured from her cut away the illusion of identification with mind and personality--I am this body, I am connected to these thoughts, these circumstances are real.

As the false identification dropped away a vastness became apparent, an immovable Presence, a Being-ness not separate from anything or anyone, which revealed itself to be who I am, and who I have always been. As the tenacious mind tried to arise again with its habits of re-identification, Gangaji's simple yet profound guidance revealed: the habits of mind cannot survive the willingness to meet whatever arises--without following them, without repressing them. Just be still.

What ancient habits of grasping and repressing fell away in this willingness! What long-winded fears evaporated in this Being-ness that has no boundary. No longer was it necessary to perfect thoughts, emotions, or circumstances. All the imperfections of life could arise, as they inevitably do, without disturbing in the slightest the vastness, the peace of Being.

It is only No One that is already perfect. If you can really hear this then you are willing to notice that everyone is imperfect. Then you stop this tragic and insane search to make perfect what is inherently imperfect. And in stopping that search, stopping the grasping to make form conform to some idea of perfection, the mind is still. In stillness, perfection is revealed.

The false identification with "I" haunts most of us throughout life, haunts and taints even the spiritual quest itself. There is such a fervor in the New Age community toward "self-improvement," fueled by the sense that one must work on oneself, perfect something in oneself, attain something for oneself--usually relating to the mind, the emotions, the body, or the circumstances of one's life. And all this simply perpetuates the belief in a "someone" created in the mind, who needs to "get" enlightenment. This is the irony, the great cosmic joke--when the "person" who is searching for enlightenment dissolves, then and only then is the goal of the search revealed--having been obscured all along by the "me" who wanted it.

What exquisite simplicity! As Gangaji suggests, it is perhaps just this simplicity that has held enlightenment as the deepest secret--a mystery of Grace.

The light of conciousness embraces the entire universe. Pan-shan  

editor's note: This is the final paragraph of an interview with U.G. Krishnamurti. The full interview is available at the link listed above.  

"Look, I tried everything to find an answer to my burning obsession: "Is there such a thing as enlightenment at all, or have we all been fooled by abstractions?" That utter frustration and complete failure to answer that question created an intensity. The first third of my life was spent in India around Theosophists, J. Krishnamurti, yogins, holy men, sages, Ramana Maharshi, the Ramakrishna Order -- in short, all the associations that could benefit a person interested in spiritual matters. I found out for myself that it was all bogus, there was nothing to it at all. Totally disillusioned with the whole religious tradition of both the East and the West, I plunged myself into modern psychology, science and, whatever the material world could give me. I found out for myself that the whole idea of spirit or psyche was false. When I experimented with and studied the material world, I was surprised to find that there was no such thing as matter at all. Denying the spiritual and material basis of things, I was left with nowhere to turn. I began drifting on my own, unable to find an answer from any source. Then one day the futility of what I was doing dawned upon me, and the question which had obsessed me for almost my entire life got burnt, then disappeared. After that there were no more questions. The thirst burned itself out without ever satisfying itself. Not answers, but the ending of questions, is the important thing. Even though everything got burnt there, still embers remain to express themselves in a natural rhythm. What impacts this expression may have on the society around me is not my concern."

Only by accepting that the ego is a fabricated illusion do we walk the Buddha's way. - Dogen  

A Woman's Sex:
It has the original mouth but remains wordless;
It is surrounded by a magnificent mound of hair.
Sentient beings can get completely lost in it
But it is also the birthplace of all the Buddhas of the ten thousand worlds.
- Ikkyu, from Wild Ways  

  Here it is - right now. Start thinking about it and you miss it.  -  Huang-Po  

Give it up! Forget it! You're never going to be Enlightened. Don't bother trying. All effort is useless. You don't stand a chance. Why Struggle?  

You work hard at it And you only end up Fodder for the priests And other hucksters.  

Don;t let them con you. No one in the whole History of man Has ever made it.  

Ram Tzu knows this...  

You are not going to be  

The first.  

  Outside no other and inside no self. No weapon for attack or shield for defence. I am in harmony with the wisdom of the buddha-way. I walk the non-way without abandoning ordinary life. Appearances are flowers blooming in the sky. Without name or form, I am beyond birth or death. - P'ang-Yun  

editor's note: And to finish, some irreverence!

From Crow With No Mouth, translated by Stephen Berg.

Ikkyu this body isn't yours I say to myself
wherever I am I'm there

ten fussy days running this temple all red tape
look me up if you want to in the bar whorehouse fish market

nature's a killer I won't sing to it
I hold my breath and listen to the dead singing under the grass

suddenly nothing but grief
so I put on my father's old ripped raincoat

when I was forty-seven everybody came to see me
so I walked out forever

my monk friend has a weird endearing habit
he weaves sandals and leaves them secretly by the roadside

a crazy lecher shuttling back and forth between whorehouse and bar
this past master paints south north east west with his cock

no nothing only those wintry crows
bright black in the sun

peace isn't luck for six years stand facing a silent wall
until the you of your face melts like a candle

don't hesitate get laid that's wisdom
sitting around chanting what crap

life's like climbing knife-tree hills with swords sticking up
day and night something stabs you

we live in a cage of light an incredible cage
animals animals without end

sick of it whatever it's called sick of the names
I dedicate every pore to what's here

inside the koan clear mind
gashes the great darkness

ten years of whorehouse joy I'm alone now in the mountains
the pines are like a jail the wind scratches my skin

the wise know nothing at all
well maybe one song

men are like cows horses fuck poetry
look at your hand read it

I woke from a dream of death to day's amazing
death grass death rice death chairs death death asleep or

no words sitting alone night in my hut eyes closed hands open
wisps of an unknown face

my death? who was it anyway always where he was never
no not once ever seeing himself an eyeball speaks

a well nobody dug filled with no water
ripples and a shapeless weightless man drinks

oh green green willow wonderfully red flower
but I know the colors are not there

my gray cat jumped up just as I lifted this spoon
we're born we die

if there's nowhere to rest at the end
how can I get lost along the way?

that stone Buddha deserves all the birdshit it gets
I wave my skinny arms like a tall flower in the wind

I won't die I won't go away I'll always be here
no good asking me I won't speak

only a kind deadly sincere man
can show you the way here in the other world

melons eggplants rice rivers the sky
I offer them to you on this holiday

oh yes things exist like the echo when you yell at the foot of a
huge mountain

hear the cruel no-answer until blood drips down
beat your head against the wall of it

the mind is exactly this tree that grass
without thought or feeling both disappear

not two not one either
and the unpainted breeze in the ink painting feels cool

go down on your silly knees pray
for what?  tomorrow is yesterday

I found my sparrow Sonrin dead one morning
and buried him just as gently as I would my own daughter

I hate it I know it's nothing but I
suck out the world's sweet juicy plum

why is it all so beautiful this fake dream
this craziness why?

it's logical:  if you are not going anywhere
any road is the right one

know nothing I know nothing nobody does can you face me
and know nothing know

stare at it until your eyes drop out
this desk this wall this unreal page

only one koan matters

you stand inside me naked infinite love
the dawn bell rips my dreaming heart

we're lost where the mind can't find us
utterly lost

  I have returned to the root and effort is over. From the first there has been no one to see or hear anything. There is nothing outside of my true home. Rivers quietly flow and red flowers bloom. - Kuo-an Shih-yuan  

  nothing higher, nothing lower, no you, no me, just this, eternity

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Jerry Katz
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