I asked Rubber Ducky some time during our hours-long drive from our Peaceful Slumber to a Residence Inn in the heart of the Big City: Am I enlightened?
I asked him that because I feel different and have been acting differently the past few days, but it was at our magical sabbatical place with people and animals for which it would be difficult to not be different in good ways.
He answered: “Mack! Yes, you are enlightened … but … others still have access to the light switch.”
“Mack, you do see clearly that the source of all angst is clinging to a past that you can’t change and a dizzying array of futures, most of which will never happen – it all exists only as wiring of your neurons – there is only the present. You see clearly that there is nothing magical about removal of Dukkha, it just requires emptying your cup so we can fill it with a better, more scalable way.
Your task now is to rescind all of that access you’ve granted others to your enlightenment. Not by force though, but through non-resistance, like dodging punches – which is much more skillful than throwing punches.”
It seems like the life of a Buddha isn’t sitting on a big lotus flower spouting off what seems to be gratuitously contrarian crap (even though that is what Rubber Ducky does). Our human bodies are still part of the competitive complex system of Life on Earth and so for us to “make sense”, we must be of value. As an old Zen parable goes, enlightenment is like dropping your heavy burden, then what comes next is picking it back up and continuing down the path, but now dodging the obstacles rather than making each the “hill you will die on” – outwardly, nothing has changed, but internally everything has changed.
Epilogue: You know, most people have felt enlightenment a time or two. It happens when things are going so terribly that you kind of resign yourself to it and can taste a sense of strange calm. But it almost always disappears as the world re-indoctrinates you. Like with money, the part even harder than earning it is keeping it. It may even sound selfish to eliminate clinging, the source of all angst (dukkha), as the Four Noble Truths say, but it’s like the air masks on the airplane – put yours on first or you’re of no help to anyone.