what is enlightenment?



unpacking our things here at our new home, i've come across some treasures and things that i forgot about over the past month of traveling, and even over the past few years in collinsville, where our belongings were stagnant in one place.

last night i unpacked some books. yes we hauled all our books with us. they're such special tools to me, and patrick and i are willing to carry their weight so we can keep our knowledge close to us all the time!

a few books i came across were the teachings of ramakrishna, and the teachings of vivekananda.



for a little while during and after college i was just fascinated with hinduism. i really wanted to identify myself with a label. like, oh i'm hindu, or i'm a buddhist. look at me, i'm so unique and humble.

it's funny now, i sought out enlightenment and inner peace partially for my own happiness, but also to keep my ego on a pedestal. of course i didn't recognize that at the time, i thought i was pursuing a holy life.

i'll never forget a hike i took with patrick up westledge mountain in simsbury about 5 years ago. i was into vivekananda, hard. patrick was learning and researching atheism, or as i like to call it, non-theism. he told me he decided there just couldn't be a god. i debated with him the whole hike, using arguments i read in the books above. however, they just didn't hold up when asked for proof, and why would a god be needed? who decides if you know god? how can all religions be correct when they each claim to be the only way?

hinduism was appealing to me because i thought, it is so inclusive. it accepts all faiths, all gods, and we are each trying to find our path to enlightenment, whatever it may be. i thought, what could be wrong with that?!

by the end of the hike with patrick, i was "un-converted". i no longer believed in anything. there were too many questions i couldn't answer, and as a somewhat concrete person i felt like i couldn't support a view that could be torn down with simple questions. wars have been waged in EVERY religion. there is not one that has been forever peaceful. and in order for a religion to be all inclusive, it can't label itself as one thing and not another. inclusivity doesn't separate people with terms and strategies and beliefs, and once those things are stripped away, there is no religion left.

and yeah, a monkey god, an elephant god, shiva and shakti... i never quite understood it. some say they are symbols, others say they are myths, some still think they are real gods. if they are myths and symbols, why are we still reading and following children's stories? and if you think they are real, well damn, i think you might be nuts! though jesus is just as metaphorical and hard to believe for me as well. the thousands of gods are at the core of hindu religion. in this regard, a lot of hindus accept jesus, mohammed, etc, and i thought that was cool at one time.

hindu religious philosophy goes a little deeper and says we each find our own god within ourselves, a piece of brahma. that was what i mainly believed, because it sounded so lovely and comforting and deep. yet, meditation and yoga to bring yourself closer to atman or brahma almost felt like i was kidding myself. it reminded me of how i felt in presbyterian church as a child. i tried SO hard to believe, but just felt like i was faking it.

i wonder if one can meditate to feel close to 'god' without feeling better than others for doing so. the ego, to me, feels inescapable. unless you can abandon everything in life and live in the mountains, beg for food, and just meditate all day with no distractions (this seems so boring! ah!), it seems impossible to let go of our egos entirely. our sense of separateness and self are what allow us to evolve and grow. of course we can learn to live less selfishly, and take care of ourselves and others with love and care... but i don't believe anyone is better than anyone else because they are seeking "spirituality".

don't get me wrong though, i meditate everyday if i can and i find such value in taking the time to simply slow down and breathe. this feels more like a mental and physical health thing than a spiritual thing when i practice. i try to meditate to be less reactive, more loving, and to be more present in the moments of my life. i don't meditate towards any god.

when i rid myself of belief in theisms, i also dropped the concept of enlightenment. rereading the first few pages of vivekananda last night, i felt bored with the simple explanations of very complicated claims. i thought to myself, no you can't say god has unlimited attributes and powers, and that he if the father of the universe. where's the proof, and if god's so powerful why did he create a totally chaotic universe where there is such little life, and where there is life- it's full of suffering and injustice? if god is all powerful and lets people suffer, he just seems masochistic. yuck!

enlightenment in humans is a lie, in my opinion. we're only human, we're animals. just because we've developed conscious minds doesn't mean we're anywhere close to being "gods". i think humans love stories, imagination, and fantasy. and that's fine- it has it's place in art, music, writing, and creativity. but to take that love of magic and to try to turn it into a belief and a daily practice is childish. what is enlightenment anyways? is it to be able to escape the human body and the thoughts of the mind? why do we want to leave the bodies and organs that give us life in the first place? minds are meant to think, bodies are meant to be cared for. not neglected and burdensome mere interferences of spirit. to want to escape the precious life that birthed us seems to me to be conscious atrophy. sad. a waste.

in a way, i feel like the most humble way to live is to not have beliefs. to say, 'i don't know.' to do the best we can and respect all beings. i used to feel bad for not having strong opinions, i thought it made me dull or something, but now i see this as a great blessing. it is better to be open minded and accept all people as equal, no matter what their belief or lack of belief. religions, in my opinion, make this very difficult because then a religious person thinks they have a one up on you, that person thinks they found the truth and are going to heaven while you remain in darkness. this seems like the opposite of humility, a virtue so many religions hold dear. what a paradox.


all these thoughts have been on my mind the past 18 hours :). i'm happy to be able to think. what a privilege!

hope you have a beautiful day! i was going to post more pictures of liam and the beach, but haha, kinda feel like you've all seen enough of that! much love to you!

Comments

  1. youre like a female christopher hitchens, but nicer. - johnny d

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  2. I'm taking a philosophy class and all these questions you covered have been brought up. I too was brought up Presbyterian, then delved into Yoga and other teachings. I could never "commit" to one thing. Nothing seemed like the "ultimate" way. I love the way you ended with being open minded and accepting of all. I think that is when you can truly be open to learning the most. Even if we cannot know truth, it's nice to imagine right? And maybe it can bring us to a revelation that ends up enriching our lives along the way.

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  3. Whatever it is it is. We are some product of what? I wonder what reason we are here and now? But we live in a place of order and balance..like the planets in orb, and at the same time so dysfunctional. Or is it only our own view out of our eyes and mind that try to make some find of sense to it all. Could each persons perception be totally different, as to never have commonality or agreement. Maybe we should be content in that mystery. Perhaps we experience this phenomenon for some reason out of our understanding of rational thought. Why do we, as most humans through history want to say we KNOW whats happening? Why so insecure about NOT knowing? I only want to give Love and enjoy getting some back, but thats just me!

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