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This is an excerpt from Spiritual Enlightenment, The Damnedest Thing, by Jed McKenna: http://wisefoolpress.com. This book is about an enlightened guy named Jed McKenna who had run an ashram. It consists of teaching dialogues with students at various stages of understanding, descriptions of his life, and confessions of his enlightenment and knowings.
"Which two or three dozen?" Mary asks, and it takes me a moment to realize that she's jumping back to my statement about which books would remain if I were more discriminating about the library.
"Oh, I'd want to be a little careful answering that," I say. "The reason for the books I'd choose wouldn't be that they are particularly enlightened or enlightening books, or even specifically on the subject of enlightenment. My choices would be based on what I feel is useful knowledge on the path to enlightenment, which is very different from enlightenment itself. In this light, I'd have a bunch of books and maybe some movies, too, because they're often a common experience we share and can provide interesting framework for highlighting certain issues..."
"Like what?" she asks.
I think about some of the movies I've seen in the last few years that most everybody would be familiar with.
"Well, The Matrix would be a good
example of a movie I could get a lot of use out of. Total Recall,
The 13th Floor, Blade Runner -- those are all good looks at the
flimsy and even arbitrary nature of what we call reality. Joe vs.
the Volcano is another one I'd use because of the parable-like
view it takes of the death-rebirth process. There are probably a
few dozen more if I thought about it. The Peter Brook version of
The Mahabharata certainly. All the Mornings of the World would be
a nice look at the teacher-student relationship. What Dreams May
Come to demonstrate the relationship between thoughts and
reality. Plenty of others, for different reasons.
I pause to consider and decide I'd better stick with general recommendations not too open to misrepresentation. I don't want to mention any books that would require me to include a lengthy disqualifier.
"As for books, besides the ones that you would all guess -- various versions and translations of the Bhagavad Gita and the Tao Te Ching -- there'd be a version of the Mahabharata accessible to Westerners. The Three Pillars of Zen by Roshi Phillip Kapleau, Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein, The Razor's Edge by Maugham, Walden, Leaves of Grass, Emerson's essays, anything by Stan Grof, Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot, and so forth -- all good for different reasons. There would also be a small collection of channeled material, some spiritual novels with a theme of rebirth..."
Almost everyone reacts at the same time to the mention of channeled material. The general response seems to be a mixture of suprise and disbelief.
"I find channeled material very useful and interesting, not just for teaching, but for my own understanding of the phenomenal world in which, as you can see, I exist just like anyone else. If you want me to be specific, I'd say I like Michael for understanding ego and personality structure. When it comes to personal reality, I like Seth. If I have questions about flow and manifestation and desire, then I read Abraham. I might be forgetting something, but those are the main ones I like. A Course In Miracles certainly has its moments."
"So those channeled entities were instrumental in your own...?"
"Oh, no, no, not really," I wave a hand dismissively. "It's more like, combined, they make up my user's manual for being a human on earth -- Being Human 101. This is why I want to be careful about this discussion. I like the books I mentioned, but I don't really look at them that often. Usually just when I have a specific question."
"So what do you read for amusement?" asks Mary.
"Besides Harlequin romances? I like Osho -- the enlightened guy formerly known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh." Some surprise registers through the group about this, which is quite understandable. If one equates enlighenment with sainthood, then Osho might come off as more of an anti-saint, especially if one has only heard the stories of murder plots and free love and power grabs and tax evasion and the ninety Rolls Royces. I like his teaching style. I like his take on Zen. I am in awe of his mind.
"And novels. I read a lot of fiction." I can see from their reaction that I need to say more. "All right, you got me. I spend a lot of time just killing time. I play video games, read books, watch movies. I'd say I probably blow several hours a day that way, but I don't see it as a waste because I don't have anything better to spend my time on. I couldn't put it to better use because I'm not trying to become something or accomplish anything. I have no dissatisfaction to drive me, no ambition to draw me. I've done what I came to do. I'm just killing time 'til time kills me."
This seems to have a quieting effect on the group. I suppose they hadn't considered the possibility that enlightenment was the end of a lot of things we don't normally think of as having ends. Finally, Mary breaks the spell by returning us to the discussion of books.
"What if you were stranded on a desert island," she asks, "and could only have one book?"
"Easy," I reply, "Calvin and Hobbes."
Everyone laughs. I close my eyes and lean my head back and everyone takes that as a signal to give me some peace. They talk among themselves but I am not listening to them. I'm listening to everything and nothing and feeling the light rain on my face and breathing the fresh night air, bringing it all the way down so it cleanses me and carries away the heaviness that builds up after long periods in character. I'm not tired or ending the evening, I just want to not hear my own voice for awhile. I want to pay attention to the rain and the breeze. I want to let one topic fade out so that a new and fresher one might come along.
Spiritual Enlightenment, The Damnedest Thing, by Jed McKenna: http://wisefoolpress.com
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