When you see it, the inherent truth of everything being true nature, then you may witness what I would call not just spiritual materialism, but spiritual cruelty. What I have seen is a painful combination of projection and power, where “teaching” actually becomes an elaborate mental mechanism to harness and control how “enlightenment” unfolds for other people. From a cultural perspective, it can be helpful and constructive. Retreats and meetings provide others with access to spiritual teaching. There is obvious growth. Trust and effort appears to yield those fruits, and experiencing the fruit appears to increase trust and effort.
But what I am talking about is the moment where the nature of everything is bare. Nothing produces anything. The teachings can feel like obfuscation, not even considering the hierarchy and power-plays ensue in the organizations around them. The story of Hui Neng, the sixth patriarch of Chan is a stark example. In my own path there have been times I have been called to step away from formal practice. The teachers, meetings and “signs of progress” can feel like elaborate mechanisms to… explain to awakeness that it is already awake? No in many situations they can appear to encourage the slumber that there is actually something separate called “samsara” that can obscure awakeness.
Obsessive use of meditative disciplines or perennial study of scripture and philosophy will never bring forth this wonderful realization, this truth which is natural to awareness, because the mind that desperately desires to reach another realm or level of experience inadvertently ignores the basic light that constitutes all experience. ~ Tilopa
When my Tibetan teacher’s son was four years old, he turned to me and asked quite plainly, “Why so much teaching?” while looking over at the Gonpa where his father was teaching a retreat. Moments like this have seared me. How do you answer such an honest question, that is itself a moment of pith teaching? And those moments are when I understand why many realized beings did not themselves record their “teachings” and why they would live in remote forests or mountain caves.
I am tremendously grateful to my healer Charlie Morris for writing about these things at the perfect moment for me to absorb them. I include his poem “Irreverent Enlightenment” here and also a link to his article “The Illusion of Harnessing Spiritual Power.”
Enlightenment has become
the spiritual lottery,
an idea of transcendent living
you just might win.
Seeking enlightenment has become
the new wealth
for those that eschew wealth…
empty materialistic searching
transmuted into empty
Enlightenment isn’t hard
when the room is packed
with everyone loving you,
while you prattle on in
lambasting them with kind words
about how seeking is useless…
but you don’t close the doors
of the ashram,
So…who are you there for really?
One can see the karma
upon an empty page,
day by day,
and if you teach them
when you know they don’t need it
it is your karma to extend their delusion
but job security is nice,
and the page must be filled with something
but what it isn’t filled with
is your enlightenment
if you need their delusion
to fill up week long silent retreats.
How many have been rescued from suffering
is how many will be saved from suffering
The roads don’t become straight.
The answers don’t become easier to bear.
The path will still be slick with tears and blood.
Ah, but you won’t listen to this….
go and seek enlightenment, go and teach enlightenment…
rescue the fish from the water,
pull the butterfly from the flowering bush
retrieve the bird from the sky,
cut the tree free from its long stand
sell and buy water by the river
answer with words what words cannot describe
ask the questions that have no answers
go ahead I say, do it all again and again…
for it is the only way to finally be free
–Charlie Morris -Aug 2010