Enlightenment does not take you off the hook!

Posted on February 25, 2008
Filed Under Buddhism, meditation, The Path is Hard | Leave a Comment

Sometimes people have funny definitions of enlightenment, as in if I’m enlightened I can do no more wrong. I’ve never thought of enlightenment as that. Rather to me is it: Once you are aware, i.e. enlightened, you can no longer use ignorance to excuse your actions. You have to take full responsibility.

In Psychology without the self, by Mark Epstein, this is phrased much better: “Before Awakening, one can easily ignore or rationalize his shortcomings, but after enlightenment this is no longer possible. One’s failings are painfully evident. Yet at the time a strong determination develops to rid oneself of them…Continuous training after enlightenment is required to purify the emotions so that our behaviors accord with our understanding.”

That’s pretty much the truth of enlightenment. You wake up and suddenly you recognize the effect your behavior has on you and others and you can’t hide behind it anymore. The path is hard because once you recognize your failings you have to face them. And continuous training is a reality of enlightenment. Just because you are aware doesn’t mean your behaviors automatically stop. I’m an excellent example of that because while I can definitely say I’m more aware of my behaviors, I’m also really having to work hard to change those behaviors and isn’t easy. Knowledge does not equal wisdom…wisdom is only found after a person has actively chosen to change those behaviors by using that awareness to mindfully temper how s/he interacts.  And that tempering usually involves making more mistakes, facing in full how you act, and then motivating yourself to change because you realize you don’t want to be that way any more.

Enlightenment doesn’t take you off the hook. It demands more of you. Edited to add: As an interesting side note, just as I finished writing this post, I got thwacked by reality over something that definitely falls into this category. Ayup…you never get let off the hook.

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