I am not awakened. Oh, I suppose there is a minute chance that I have managed to be awakened or enlightened but if that is true I must say it is not what it is cracked up to be.
The name Buddha literally means the “awakened one” or the “enlightened one”. I did practice moderately with the Kwan Um School of Zen, a Korean sect, for about a dozen years or so but if enlightenment happened I missed it. And really I must admit that my practice often lacked the diligence necessary to probably make real progress towards enlightenment and that remains true to this day. I currently spend an inordinate amount of time streaming stuff on my desktop computer watching from a comfy chair while my nearby zafu and zabuton remain unoccupied.
Legend has it that Siddhartha Gautama, aka the Buddha, wandered the land for 6 years meditating and living a very rough life before ending up under a Bodhi tree. There he sat in the same spot without food or drink for 49 days and then at the end of the 7 weeks bingo he achieved the awakened state. I myself after 71 years on earth have not been able to pull off 6 years of wandering around essentially homeless with an entourage of monks and then sit still for another 49 days with no food or water. I mean these days who could find the time really.
Though I am very rusty on my bible stories this sounds very familiar to the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert. Maybe Jesus and Buddha were both early proponents of the current diet craze of intermittent fasting and both were actually fast and loose with their definition of a fast.
I am reminded of a fast I was on in late 1980 with Harry Hay and his partner John Burnside. We were slowly driving from LA to rural Oregon and had a stopover with friends in San Francisco. Harry thought a fast might help with the meetings planned for Oregon around starting a Radical Faerie Sanctuary, a bit of purification if you will before delving into some radical queer politics. FYI the fast seemed to not help at all as the Oregon get-together devolved into a literal food fight. That night in San Francisco I had to get up to pee and noticed John in the kitchen chowing down on a bag of chips. I vaguely recall asking what happened to his fast and he replied, “Oh, I am still fasting”. A version of this story has stuck with me for over 40 years so I may not have all the facts exactly correct but perhaps details around the fasting of the Buddha and Jesus may also have been embellished over several millennia.
A few weeks ago I read an obituary for Ram Dass here at group. It included his recollection of a significant personal awakening he had while on psilocybin mushrooms. I personally had significant experience with LSD in the late 1960s and throughout much of the 1970s. Several of the acid adventures in the late 60’s I recall were very intensely spiritual it seemed to me at the time. I never was though chemically whisked along to enlightenment. My mushroom days in the late 1970s were short-lived culminating in a very frightening experience that has sworn me off any hallucinogens for the past 40 plus years. Besides most of my mushroom capers were with this crazy emergency room physician I was totally infatuated with and any moves toward awakening would have been severely blunted by sheer lust.
So at this stage of the game, I am resolved to the reality of dancing on out without being awakened, or perhaps more to the point I am no longer very worried about becoming enlightened. I have read and heard from several different teachers over the years that we are all already awake and the task at hand is to realize that, something that is way easier than it sounds. Many schools of thought on this matter agree that meditation is the way to move toward this enlightened state. Participation in this storytelling group I believe is a form of meditation. We may learn something new when silently listening to others whereas when we read what we have prepared we are only stating what we already know. I’ll now shut up and start listening again. Who knows maybe this week’s stories may hasten my awakening.