The ultimate origin and nature of human existence has always been – and perhaps will always remain – a mystery . . . Perhaps we should celebrate this. There is something satisfying about the fact that reality resists being encapsulated . . .
But if it is true that, “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamed of in your philosophy” . . . then what about this thing the ancients called ‘enlightenment’ . . ?
My Zen teacher, Roshi Philip Kapleau said, “If you stick determinedly to this practice you will solve the problem that has eluded all Western philosophers.” And he was right.
For while illumination about the nature of consciousness still eludes the philosophers of mind and a ‘unified theory’ still eludes the sciences we have the persistent testament from the buddhas, the realizers of awakened consciousness that the true nature of existence is there for the unlocking . . . and what is more, to the great and abiding satisfaction – indeed liberation – of those who find the key and turn it.
Not to be found in philosophy or science or through any formulation of mind, they say . . . nonetheless awakened realizers with one voice insist that this key is available to all beings and what is more it is enfolded in the consciousness of every human being.
Of course, in modern times we have been educated to consign such spiritual mumbo-jumbo to an earlier, more gullible time . . . a time of naive religious imagination and superstition . . . so we are told.
After all, thinks the man in the street, hasn’t science conclusively demonstrated that we are insignificant cogs in a vast and meaningless machine?
No, it hasn’t. As the British philosopher Mary Midgley has demonstrated, the current world-view of ‘scientific materialism’ was born out of a 17th Century fascination with the working of clocks and is just as much of a ‘mythology’ as any of the other psychic templates we have projected onto reality.
A technocratic machine-mind suits those who would ‘socially engineer’ us and ‘economically program’ us, but in our deepest consciousness it still feels like soul-violation.
In our souls we sense that we are more than mechanisms and robotics. And we are right about that . . . if we don’t let ourselves be put to sleep . . .
The mass of men – wrote Thoreau – live lives of quiet desperation. And – guess what? – we have been sold a conception of human possibility that has been molded by this mass of men.
And while our clockwork scientific materialism is bound to insist that any ‘true nature’ could only be the result of billions of years of random accidents, the consistent testimony of those who have awakened to our true nature is that this awakened consciousness is in fact completely free and prior to all and any such ‘conditions’.
More than that: once an individual has awakened to this buddha-mind this awakening frees and enlightens the individual, such that life is no longer subject to the bondage of self-delusion, neurotic suffering and the consensus trance. And with this awakening to our true nature we discover that we are intimately at one with the true nature of all things . . .
To the various expressions of this ever-present, alive and intelligent, ‘unborn’ ground of reality different cultures have given names . . . like God, the Divine, the Tao, Buddha, satchitananda . . .
But all of these conceptions fall short of the actuality, which – if it is to be more than just a fetish – must be realized.