I was recently asked a question that has been doing the rounds for at least a decade. Sort of like a chain letter with 21 sayings allegedly by the Dalai Lama which ends with the warning “if you don’t send this letter on to 10 friends then you will die, horribly and painfully”. If you get one of these emails then you have to wonder if the sender is really a true friend.
The question was something like “Some people suggest that after Enlightenment there is no person, but you seem to talk as if there is a person. So is there a person? What is your experience of Enlightenment?”
The last question is also a trick question thrown in at the end of a whole load of conceptual confusion. Supposedly if you are enlightened then you can’t talk about it because if you do then you lose your enlightened status. Voi helvetti! (Expletive known by only 5 million people of which I am not one)
There are encampments of believers, I think they call themselves, non-dualists, who seem to believe that by attacking the richness of the English language that they will be rewarded with Nirvana.
This is all very complicated to dissect. I agree with so much that they say, up to a point, and then no further – and even less with what they do in their spare time.
I think the non-dualists are flogging a dead horse. The alarming tendency today is that the non-dualist ideology today is not being wielded by gentlemen of skillful means, as it used to be, but by fanatics who find their life’s meaning in shouting down all no-believers. I believe that England and America are in their darkest hour as a new wave of extremists has hit their shores: the non-dualists.
The non-dualists go by various names: advaitics, advaitists, neo-advaitists, Brother of the Open Secret Tea and Biscuits club, Satsang Federation and Bums on Seats. Some of those names are currently only whispered in hushed tones in certain inner circles because the non-dualists know that they are still in the minority. But their grass roots movement is growing, especially in Germany and parts of America.
Any philosophy can be abused and used to support wrong-doing. Non-dualism has that potential. The non-dual mafia will excuse their crimes thus “there was no-one there, no victim, no criminal, nothing ever happened”. Hopefully, the non-dualists don’t penetrate as far as the House of Lords and the Court for Human Rights.
Enlightenment is not an external thing. An enlightened person does not have to talk a certain way. What you might reasonably expect though is that they know what they are talking about.
Communication is about reaching people. Chopping sentences to fit a non-dualist Procrustean bed severely cripples the richness of the English language. As my words are frequently translated I generally speak as clearly as possible for the sake of my translator and audience. I only let loose my full verbal range when I am back in London.
Enlightenment teachers cannot be judged just on the basis of their words. I like to talk. I like language. I have to like it because I use it. However, it is becoming clearer to me that that the Enlightenment Transmission can be spread through a variety of expressions. This is especially possible because the Teaching is primarily energetic with a only a small component being verbal.
The only way to reply to a non-dualist is to ask an inscrutable koan “Does Buddha Wear Harmony Hairspray?”
The koan is based on a British TV hairspray advert: Harmony Hairspray. Wherein a walking woman with long bouncy hair turns the heads of everyone she confidently passes to the refrain of “Is she….or isn’t she….?” which expands to “Is she or isn’t she wearing Harmony hairspray?”
Of course, no one can be certain. She might just have naturally healthy hair (she is after all a professional model) . The answer comes in the final frame – in her handbag we glimpse a can of… … which I can only describe as some sort of CFC and vaporised gluey globules combination.
In the Buddha’s time the non-dualists would have sat on the side-lines with scorecards. Every time Siddhartha uttered the word Enlightenment they would have downgraded him. Eventually, of course, Buddha’s negative scores would be less than everyone else’s because he loves talking about Enlightenment!
Enlightenment can be known. You might not know if someone is enlightened for sure, but that’s not the point. The live issue is how close can they get you to a state of self-realisation with the assistance of that person.
Fortunately, in my own life as a teacher, the Transmission takes care of others. It brings purification, energy, purpose, direction, many wonderful, mysterious and miraculous things.