An Exchange

U: So basically this (Internet) board is like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. There they have a group of alcoholics trying to tell other alcoholics how to stop being alcoholics. Here you have a group of people who are "not enlightened" trying to tell others their view of how to "get enlightened".

Dear U -- Not a bad analogy. In an AA meeting there is encouragement to be what you are from the beginning: sober. It isn't easy because a lot of bad habits suggest that being drunk is the correct way to be, the easy way to be, the most comfortable way to be.

Sobriety, like so-called enlightenment, is not something that anyone gets. It is something that they are, whether hidden or apparent. The ordinary way to live life is to get drunk on the intellect, on judgment, on opinion, on emotion. The ordinary way is to be tipsy with control and certainty about the person who is in control. Greed, anger and folly are the easy way to be, the comfortable way to be, the 'realistic' way to be.

The only fly in this liquored-up ointment is suffering. Things hurt or create uncertainty or don't turn out as expected. Alcoholics -- like any drug addicts -- sometimes are fortunate enough to face the fact that either they will kill themselves or they will make some attempt to turn things around. At AA meetings they are encouraged by those who have had similar revelations ... personal, compelling, experiential revelations. This is not a world for sissies. It takes courage and patience and doubt. It takes a willingness to fail. It takes a willingness to be responsible after a long and sometimes delightful period of irresponsibility.

Much of that is true in Buddhist practice too. Taking responsibility, paying attention ... not an easy or philosophically boxable commodity. Every presupposition is called into doubt. Every certainty shudders. The cool distance of control becomes the hot breath of experiential intimacy. Members of Buddhist groups take pointers from each other, but this does not lighten the load, it merely points. Some prefer to stand to the side and watch, writing books, analyzing, and 'understanding' without having a clue. But to practice is a truly revolutionary thing -- revolutionary in the sense of changing the landscape and revolutionary in the sense of literally turning around. No more philosophy-booze, no more control booze, no more attachment booze. Suffering is just too painful to continue on the self-serving, addictive path. Suffering is my responsibility, from beginning to end.

Not enlightened is like saying not sober. Enlightenment is always available like sobriety. And part of choosing a path to sobriety or enlightenment is to seek out or create helpful circumstances ... friends, environments, whatever. But all of the efforts and all of the disciplines and all of the friends do not mean sobriety or enlightenment are in any way missing.

Actualizing what you already are sounds easy ... right up until the moment you try it.

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