Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Enlightenment Is Inevitable

I've been further contemplating the notion of inevitability, which I wrote about here recently. This week in Ani Lodro's class on analytical meditation and the "Uttaratantra" (Maitreya's seminal text on Buddha Nature), we contemplated the assertion that "enlightenment is inevitable." (This view, which didn't sit well with a few students in the class, has been asserted both by Pema Chodron and by my own teacher, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche.)

The view that "enlightenment is inevitable" dovetails nicely with the contemplation I picked up last week from Tara Brach, who defined enlightenment succinctly as "total cooperation with the inevitable."

The notion that enlightenment is inevitable arises naturally from our recognition of the inherent and unshakable Buddha Nature of ourselves and all sentient beings. The question is how long it will take to uncover and fully manifest our true nature. If enlightenment itself is total cooperation with the inevitable, then it is also a total embrace of what already is, because what already is is the ultimate inevitability. Any time we resist and struggle against what is, or get lost in hope and fear about what it might become or regret and nostalgia for what it once was, we are resisting the inevitable. This resistance is a good definition of suffering and indeed of insanity.

One of my favorite Dharma teachers, Ken McLeod, says that the end of suffering is not a state, but a process. We can perpetuate or we can end suffering in each moment, depending on how we act and how we respond to what arises in our experience. In meditation practice, we train ourselves in being open and aware of what arises and in letting go of our habitual patterns of control and resistance. We train in becoming like the sea, which refuses no river.

Ani Lodro reminded me that a famous Korean Zen teacher once said that "wanting enlightenment is a big mistake." The mistake, in this case, is wanting and hoping for enlightenment in some future moment, which is equivalent to denying that the essence of enlightenment -- our own Buddha Nature -- is already here, right now, in this very moment of mind. Always hoping to attain enlightenment in some future moment, we blind ourselves to its existence in the present.

The problem is that we do not *really* believe in Buddha Nature; we don't *really* believe that there is an indestructible, radiant jewel hidden within the slime and muck of our present mind. Looking at the clouds of our obscurations, we don't *really* believe that there is a vast, open, blue sky beyond them. But how could there be clouds at all, without the blue sky to hold them?

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