My attitude towards meditation is that enlightenment is possible. Do not worry, I know how that sounds. But perhaps you misunderstand me.
Consider the question that cropped up in your mind when you saw your grandfather’s dead body. Or when your favourite pet died. Or when you travelled and you saw for yourself the suffering of the truly poor.
Faced with this question in my early twenties, I at first tried to ignore it. I got around as though concussed for a few months until the question faded and then I returned to my normal life.
But maybe you realised some time ago that you are growing older and more frail. Or that you will be dead for a much larger stretch of time than you are alive. The question keeps cropping up. It goes something like: if I am born to die, what is the point in suffering?
Albert Camus, French philosopher of the mid-twentieth century, begins his startling essay The Myth of Sisyphus with the statement “There is but one serious philosophical question, and that is suicide.”
It seems likely that there is no answer to this question. And for slightly fewer people than ask it, that is enough. They become good at ignoring the question; they suffer its concussion, and when it fades they return to the many details of daily life, and the opportunities in front of them.
Despite my great wish to do so, I cannot accept this. Because I will still attack others when I am upset. I will still over-indulge to escape the endless hunger of that question. No matter how many times I read philosophy or write these articles or tell myself that all things are connected, just believing that the world is a riddle with no answer and then getting on with life does not remove the ache.
I am much more deluded than that.
It is the seeking of refuge that creates the need for refuge in the first place. Today I can write that sentence, but as soon as the shit hits the fan, you bet I will forget all about it and the habits will take over.
Siddhartha Gautama — the Buddha — taught those like me a technology to come out of the delusions that grip us in the heat of these moments. But many human beings have unravelled their delusions before the Buddha himself. Many others have done so since. His true brilliance was that he discovered a way to repeat the process in others. If those others are willing to put in the effort and do the work.
That work is vipassana.
Vipassana practice can take us beyond the question, beyond separate mind and separate matter to a place where all experiences are tathātā.
People use this word to describe a way of seeing the world that occurs after enlightenment. It is neither learning to ignore the question of suicide, nor is it my delusional way of constantly questioning life either. It is the Middle Way. It removes all resistance to life and in so doing, the question becomes meaningless. Not just meaningless, but a source of compassion and potency.
Any day now 🙂
This attitude informs my approach.
I don’t have a religion. I’m not a believer.