Questions and concerns raised in dialogueIt is important in reading such discussions to remember that each answer arises in emptiness as it arises and is appropriate for that questioner at that time. The answer is to further the awakening process, not to make someone feel good, be consistent or put forth some preset doctrine that everyone will like. The answer may well not be your answer. In larger groups, it is likely that someone will disagree with the answer given to another. However, it is exactly those answers that in my experience are most effective at working directly with the actual questioner. Sometimes the results of the answer don’t arise until sometime later.
Q. If I become enlightened, isn’t there a possibility that without an “I” that I will become a menace to society, being irresponsible, and hurting and abusing others?
A. If you become enlightened, what will happen is that you will see others, and everything, at its basic level as the same ONE, the same thing, and in some strange way, inside of, or contained within an awareness that doesn’t really have a doer. What occurs is that you will be helping yourself, as it is appropriate and as it arises. Why would you not help yourself? With the loss of the I identity and its conditioning, your actions will arise out of nothingness and will be completely appropriate to the situation at hand. Your actions will not be encumbered by some hoped for recognition, reward in heaven, or some previous model of what you should do that you have been conditioned to believe is right. Without an I, there will also be no residue of the action, no clinging to the result or judging its merit or outcome. It will be done, completely finished. Then something else will arise, as it arises.
Q. If I become enlightened, I am afraid that I won’t be able to function in the world and earn a living and will become poor and homeless and that my children will suffer. How do I know that I will be OK?
A. I continued to work very successfully for years in complex industrial and institutional management roles requiring much apparent responsibility, knowledge, action and decision making. I also had a family, children, possessions, et cetera, and had an intensive spiritual practice, both before and after the big shift occurred. Loss of functioning just isn’t what happens.
As Ramana Maharshi said; “The feeling ‘I work’ is the hindrance. Inquire, ‘Who works?’ … It will go on automatically. Make no effort either to work or to renounce work….If you are not destined to work, work cannot be had even if you hunt for it. If you are destined to work, you will be forced to engage in it.” (16)
Decisions, knowledge and actions arise, as they are required, perfectly appropriate to the situation without the functioning of thought or the need for an I. The actions are normally of higher quality and clarity than was previously the case because they are not clouded by the on-going chatter, confusion and second-guessing of the mind/I. You are fully present for the discussion and decision, rather than being off someplace else in your mind. Others are rarely even aware of any big change occurring. Many Self-realized folk change little or nothing about their external lives.
One of the most revealing and useful things is actually meeting and talking with reputedly enlightened folk, and seeing what they look like and how they behave. It is not like what we are conditioned to believe they should look like or how they should behave. The annual Inner Directions Gatherings at La Jolla, that are unfortunately now discontinued, provided a wonderful opportunity to see, hear, and talk in a gathering, and possibly 1/1, with some prominent enlightened folk. These folk were from many spiritual traditions: Jewish rabbis, Hindus, Buddhists, Zen monks, Christian monastics, Sufis, African tribal leaders, et cetera. None of them would stand out in a shopping mall or on a city street, except for the few who wore some different traditional dress.
This may be bad news if you had planned on having a beautiful robe, a special soft, deliberate, slow way of speaking, long flowing hair, and moving in a slow, god-like way, but that is what happens.
Q. Do I need to withdraw from the world and create a perfect environment that completely supports my meditation to become enlightened? It seems to me that running away from relationships, with the things that push my buttons, is avoiding the real work that needs to be done.
A. As one of my early teachers said, “You do not need to create problems to work on; the world is perfectly capable of providing them all by itself”. That has certainly been my experience.
As to perfect environments, if you are identified with your body/mind, there are no perfect environments. You can go to the most remote and sacred cave, jungle or mountain but “no matter where you go, there you are”. If you are not identified with your body/mind, it doesn’t matter where you are. In actuality, although you like to believe that you are in charge of this decision, you will be placed in the right environment whether you want it or not. Everything that happens to you will be, as Ram Das has said, “grist for the mill of enlightenment”. Everything always is perfect, just as it is, including your environment.
Q. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
A. The chicken.