Thursday, August 23, 2007

Die-Hard versus Normal Spirituality

I recently received the following link from a friend: An Essay about Arahants. It is an interesting article and deserves a response.

The following sentences from the article are quite remarkable:

"Said another way and speaking in generalities, realized beings are capable of doing, saying, feeling and thinking anything that non-realized beings are capable of."

"For this last point to be untrue, realization would have to be dependent on specific contitions and something created and rather than something discovered, both of which would not qualify as realization but mere transient states of things."

The following statement by unenlightened folks is considered a myth by the author of the article:

"Arahats cannot feel the following emotions: lust, hatred, irritation, restlessness, worry, fear, pride, conceit, desire for the formless realms, desire for the formed realms, or any other "bad" emotion."

I will respond to the above by a simple set of atomic statements which can be disputed or not disputed as the reader sees fit:

1. Humans are born with sorrow and malice, collectively known as suffering.

2. Sorrow and Malice is reflected in one's thoughts and acts.

3. Sorrow and Malice leads to all kinds of needless pain for oneself and for others.

4. One enquires if it is possible to live without suffering.

4. Spirituality promises such a way of life (life without suffering) as achievable through its practices, meditations etc.

5. The successful completion of one's spiritual pursuit results in a state called enlightenment.

Now, if what the author says in the link referred above is true, i.e., if enlightenment (or the successful completion of one's spiritual pursuits) indeed has no perceivable benefit on one's way of life, i.e. it does not lead to a way of life in which one's thoughts and acts are without malice and sorrow, then enlightenment fails to deliver what it promises. End of matter.


However, having had a long background of spirituality, I can understand where the author is coming from. For want of a better term, "die-hard spirituality" is primarily concerned with the freedom of consciousness from the world of the senses, and achieves only a spurious freedom from malice and sorrow by a delusional "transcendence of the soul" from the material world, and as such, any material criterion cited as essential for enlightenment is rejected by such arahats. The body and mind of an arahant continue to wallow in malice and sorrow, whereas the delusional Self inside is in a depersonalized state where it considers the suffering in the corporeal world as a dream.

In the second quote at the beginning of my article, the author claims that the behaviour of an enlightened being cannot be held to any standard because, ..., because, ..., (hold on), such a standard would make enlightenment "something created" and not "something discovered".

As I am quite conversant with spiritual jargon, let me try and explain what he means.

Enlightenment is considered by die-hard spiritualists to be nothing but a cessation of the identification of the soul with the body-mind, where it discovers its "true nature" of being "divine and one with the universe" (etc.). This cessation is a regression into a primal state of being where one "discovers" one's "true nature". If the enlightenment is complete, this regression is usually irreversible.

Hence, in die-hard spirituality, only this transfer is being pursued where instead of being seated in the sensate world (by being identified with the body-mind), the "soul" is now dis-identified with the body-mind and is in a sense-less, form-less, time-less world of its own. Die-hard spirituality is not at all concerned with bringing out about any favourable state of affairs in the sensate and physical world.

In comparison, in middle-class spirituality, what is being pursued is a morally superior way of living (e.g. pursuing compassion, humility, charity, chastity, truthfulness, celibacy etc.).

So, for a rational person pursuing a happy and harmless way of living in the physical world: Die-hard spirituality fails to deliver the goods. In the last hundred years (before 1900, little record is present of the actual lifestyle of the enlightened beings), there has been not one recorded instance of an enlightened being who has not shown malice and sorrow in his/her behaviour. Frequently the sorrow of an enlightened being is considered "divine sorrow" and his/her malice "divine anger".

And for a die-hard seeker, who is willing to suspend rationality, intelligence, common sense and consider sublimation, transcendence, dissociation and depersonalization (or such altered states of consciousness) as a happy and harmless way of living, enlightenment does deliver the goods. (It is another matter that enlightenment is an extremely rare phenomenon, and very few seekers reach the final stage).

For a detailed comparison between what an actual freedom from malice and sorrow looks like, versus the delusion that is spirituality, one may like to peruse the following web page: 180 Degrees Opposite.