The Case Against Enlightenment

Enlightenment is such a coveted and esoteric state of being. When considering enlightenment, it is thought of as rare, the ultimate zen state wherein suffering does not not permeate existence. This is goes too far, suffering will exist whether or not it is directly perceived or momentarily experienced. Suffering is a mere fact of existing in the world, there is pain, there is struggle, the question is whether the enlightened are simply just insensitive, or perhaps what it means to be enlightened has been misconstrued entirely.

The traditional state of the enlightened person is the characteristic of unsuffering; the unsuffering person feels inner peace, experiences outer serenity, has transcended suffering, but most importantly has achieved the highest spiritual goal. These are the traditional notions of enlightenment and also why many deem it unreachable. The traditional understanding is a deterrent and has lead to gross misunderstanding, ergo acceptance of the presumed impossibility or absurd rarity. Here I present to you The Case Against Enlightenment.

Enlightenment cannot be the goal for three reasons: there is no end to personal growth, experiencing enlightenment on a constant basis would necessarily destroy beauty, and suffering is the way to achieve growth.

An enlightened individual, having achieved the highest spiritual status would, by definition, have no more growth to attain. Nirvana, the cessation of all suffering implies no need for the continued alleviation suffering, because it does not exist within the enlightened being. The first issue is abruptly encountered, that suffering still persists in the world and even though a being is enlightened, it does not dispel the totality of suffering. The enlightened being, traditionally, assumes a new goal, to spread the secrets of their unsuffering. This secret has been that suffering is the manifested from ones own perception of circumstance. Therefore, the issue of suffering boils down to a matter of perspective and can be perceived in a way that negates the suffering, a sort of perceptual puzzle. This idea merits some truth: the perception of circumstance directly affects reactions, feelings, and emotions; the carving a a better perception is known as mindset but does not dispense with the very real suffering. Traditionally, the enlightened individual has perfect control over perception of circumstances to the degree that they never experience suffering, in effect it is an elaborate case of self-delusion. How does the traditional enlightened being grow further? The answer is that they don’t, and this is a problem. This idea does not line up with the nature of existence, permanence of enlightenment is not achievable in a world where suffering permeates. If it were possible, it would be a return to Eden, a necessarily impossible task if enhanced consciousness is desired. Fundamentally, permanent enlightenment is an ideology, and unattainable; existence calls for the direct opposition of suffering, not the cessation of it, in order to discover the good and free the burdened. However, enlightenment exists transiently, there are opportunities to experience the transcendent in everyday life.

Enlightenment is by no means a useless endeavor, but results from true apprehension conscious awareness in the present moment. Enlightenment is a type of cognizant appreciation for the present moment, and the keys to the kingdom lie in the ability to recognize these moments. The skills required to appreciate the transcendent realm are embedded withing the principles of traditional enlightenment: control over reactions, objectivity of thought, awareness of the present moment, emotional regulation and the like. The momentary releases from suffering and breaching of the transcendental may be mere minutes long but cultivation of these skills allow for longer periods of transcendent experience as well as noticing them more often. What’s critical is that they are meant to be departed, returning to the eternal battle with suffering is as important as the transcendental. The realm of duty and responsibility does not lend itself to the enlightenment experience, suffering is inherent in these endeavors. However, it is due to the bearing of duty and responsibility in the pursuit against suffering that allows for the transcendent to emerge. Noticing and appreciating, then departing the transcendent is both a gift and a reward to oneself. Appreciation of anything, necessitates an understanding of impermanence; it is impermanence itself that manifests the beauty, otherwise things become taken for granted and entitlement becomes yet another road to suffering. Foolishness begets any who attempt permanence in this regard, it is the desire of its attainment that is the greatest demon and antithetical to appreciation.

Humans are meant to contend with suffering, it is what sets the stage for purpose; suffering, curiously enough, is in fact a permanent entity and poetically is the catalyst to itself. Since suffering permeates existence, one can expect its arrival, it is as consistent as the rising of the sun. In many cases, suffering itself is found in the expectation of future sufferings; a vicious cycle when the imagination is let loose to torment the unknowable future and taint any attempts at cognizant presence. These cycles must be put to an end if enlightenment, or rather, momentary appreciation of the cessation of suffering, can be understood. Given the consistency of suffering, it is necessary to be able to appreciate the temporary cessation of suffering, however short. The unknowing of the future must become lesser known as a shadow and understood more as nebulous potential, either good or bad but nevertheless it must be contended with. Bleak thoughts populating unknowable future occurrences are an easy way to ensure that any encounter with transcendent experience will be thwarted. When the imagination is allowed precedence over the expectations of the future, the spontaneous and unpredictable gates to the transcendent become barred. This is not to say that plans should not be made, only that plans should be expected to not always fall perfectly into place. Half of the battle is won when the anticipation of future events is understood as faulty and unknowable, this idea alone presents many new possibilities in terms of conduct within the present. In effect, suffering is reliable and if the imagination catalyzes suffering, then this must be the first target of personal reformation. When the imagination is what catalyzes suffering, it is either guilt and pity over the past, or intense fear of the future. In regard to the past, it is over and cannot be altered; in regard to the future, spoiler: suffering is its caregiver. The only choice is to depart from the past and to venture forth into the future prepared to combat suffering. It is in battles with suffering that the transcendental will emerge to the mind that is capable of appreciating impermanence.

Suffering has many forms, it can be physical or mental, immediate or chronic; suffering does exist but will occationally cease in the short term. In the times when suffering has departed for the moment, it opens the doors to the transcendent. Appreciation for the present moment can be understood as transient enlightenment, being able to point out those moments is the key. Longing for more than the brevity of the transcendent is itself suffering and destroys beauty. More importantly however, suffering must be known as the force which gives birth to the transcendent, and is necessary for its existence. Without suffering there could be no enlightenment; therefore, it is a mistake to consider suffering something that is evil by nature. Evil things can create suffering, and they sure do, but suffering itself is not evil but integral for the transcendental.

Suffering is a spectrum, enlightenment is a moment in time. Reaching these moments requires cognizance of the nature of the transcendent and the ability to notice the temporary cessation of suffering. Ultimately, enlightenment is not a static state, it is attainable but permanence as the goal will only ensure great suffering. Enlightenment is the ability to appreciate subtle moments of total peace and absence of suffering. These moments can be found in the most unlikely of places, the limit is ones ability to notice the world around, and to simply appreciate it despite perhaps arduous circumstances. Thus, the case against enlightenment is merely the negation of its ideological permanence and the acceptance of suffering as a fundamental and inescapable force that also gives rise to the transcendental. Enlightenment is embedded in the notion of impermanence, the passage of all things that exist, and the love of the passage, for however short a time.

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