Four years ago I answered some self-imposed questions concerning enlightenment: Am I Awake. I will answer some more self-imposed questions now:
How were you introduced to enlightenment?
When I was but a small boy, I came across the book The Cat who went to Heaven. So at an impressionable age I was introduced to the Buddha. And when I got a little older I’d watch movies about “masters” that had crazy powers or amazing insight or unshakable discipline due to a spiritual awakening. We’re all seeking a bit of magic in our lives and enlightenment seemed a plausible window into the unknown.
You grew up irreligious, are you now religious?
As was the trend of the era and area I grew up in, I worshipped at the alter of scientism. Scientists were the new priests and scientific explanations existed for everything. Over time my faith was shaken and I abandoned scientism for unknowableness. I don’t like the idea of man-made religion — to me, the very Earth is man’s temple and every inhabitant a parishioner. As far as “God” goes, I define the term as the sum of everything, including that which lies beyond perception.
Is there more to this world than meets the eye?
After years of staring at life, I came to the conclusion that life is an artificial construct, it’s more dreamlike than anything. So yes, defining existence by what we can sense is severely shortsighted. I tried that approach for decades but found it logically inconsistent and prone to inducing anxiety. There’s just too much we can’t see, and pretending otherwise is as much a delusion as any other unsubstantiated belief.
Did you have any innate abilities that helped you along your path?
Like a natural athlete has some advantage in their particular sport, my innate tendencies probably provide an edge for enlightenment. For instance, I’m aloof while keenly observing the ongoings of life. It’s like being invisible: I’m present but no one notices, so external stuff doesn’t get in the way as much. I can also sit for very long periods in silence just thinking or watching. Additionally, mental discipline comes somewhat easy and I seem to have a capacity for understanding complicated concepts.
How did you gain the knowledge of which you speak?
I don’t know. I’m certainly not well-read. But over the years I’ve stumbled upon ideas that sound strikingly similar to ones I’ve written about, which leads me to believe that there’s a common well of universal knowledge that I’m drawing from. Explanations and answers just appear in my mind during moments of aha-like inspiration. If I have a question, the answer comes. And if I’m not doing anything in particular, lofty ideas start parading through my thought stream. Additionally, old-texts (such as the Bhagavad Gita or Bible) that made little sense to me years ago seem perfectly clear nowadays.
Can anyone achieve enlightenment?
Some of what I just discussed is particular to my personal path and not indicative of enlightenment in general. The crux of enlightenment is essentially a lighthearted attitude toward life — and that’s doable by anyone. The challenge though, is the realization and awareness, the perspective, and the practice that goes into it. You’d need to know about enlightenment, you’d need to maintain an awareness of yourself, you’d need to alter your perspective of life, and you’d need to practice.
What steps did you take, and what materials did you study, to achieve enlightenment?
It’s more of a customized path. I’m a self-learner so I simply explored in a way that made sense to me. Other people might like the idea of a living/breathing guru to guide and answer questions. The most important step is the intent, then actively walking the path. If you want something, anything, you imagine it first, seeing yourself at the destination — when you yearn for the outcome, the rest falls into place. You’ll do what you need to do.
Happiness, the meaning of life, satisfaction and fulfillment, what about all that stuff?
Yes, yes, yes. I don’t suffer from existential angst or even everyday anxiety anymore, the world makes much more sense to me now. I’ve never smiled more than I have in the last few years. But realize this, I’m still relatively young and have more life to live, so I’m riding the roller coaster same as anyone else — I’m not an ascetic that lives in the woods. Some days certainly present challenges but my awareness and perspective allow me to quickly compose myself.
What about the past and all the memories that haunt our daily lives?
The past doesn’t really exist to me anymore. Past situations don’t enter my thoughts unless I’m specifically reminded, but even then they’re so remote that they lack any emotional weight. You might call this living in the now. So no, I am no longer haunted by memories of the past even though they used to be pretty prevalent. And when you’re not living in the past, it’s much easier to appreciate the present.
As I’m watching a movie, I always refrain from dissecting the plot, I don’t try to figure out what’ll happen next, as I like the surprise. I can feel the scene about to change, but I leave my mind open as to what’s around the corner. In that sense, I don’t like planning my life out. But I am planning positive themes. In other words, I infuse my thoughts-about-the-future with cheerfulness and hopefulness — intending to have fun while focusing on the best of life.