Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Stink of Enlightenment or Don't Enjoy Spiritual Rewards

"That's the scent, dude! When you get a good stink on, you are at one with the cosmos!"
   From Animal Crossing: Wild World


One time, my friend DJ, aptly pointed out that we have a tendency to try and enjoy the fruits of our spiritual labors. His analogy was a little weird, but went like this: Imagine that you have something like a trough, and in that trough are accruing, through your spiritual practice, nice shiny dimes.  Our tendency is to enjoy those nice shiny dimes, pulling them out and spending them hither and thither. However, if we let them lie, unattached, a metaphorical truck of spiritual weath will ultimately back right up and dump untold riches.


It IS our natural inclination to enjoy, and paradoxically, the more we enjoy what we have, the less we get in the future.  It's sort of the law of attraction in reverse. Or at least, in reverse to the way most people would like it.  By NOT being attached and attracted to our results, more results come.

I think this is particularly true when it comes to real spiritual development.  And this, even more so, because spiritual rewards have NOTHING to do with the material world. Although, in the really big sense, everything is One, or expanded from the One, still there is a definite duality of spiritual world versus material world. And trying to enjoy spiritual rewards while simultaneously enjoying the material atmosphere, is rather like trying to enjoy the tourist attractions of Florida, while you're still in Chicago, or trying to enjoy the Moon, while firmly established on Earth.  They are two different realms; two different dimensions. 

Part of the mistake comes from not fully understanding the material nature and specifically the three "gunas" or modes - Goodness, Passion, and Ignorance (Sattva, Rajas, & Tamas).  The Vedic literature, such as Bhagavad Gita, delineate these very clearly.  The biggest difficulty comes from mistaking the mode of Goodness for true spirituality. The Gita describes that the mode of Goodness can be experienced when "all the gates of the body are illuminated by knowledge."  "Being purer than the others, Goodness is illuminating, and it frees one from all sinful actions. Those situated in that mode become conditioned by a sense of happiness and knowledge." 

One has to understand that the mode of Goodness is NOT spiritual. It is closest to spiritual, and is a stepping stone toward it, but it falls clearly in the material modes.  Much of what is considered spirituality, and is strived after by the "love & light" crowd, is simply the higher aspects of material nature.  But the Gita also tells us to transcend ALL the modes, and truly come to the spiritual platform - "brahma nirvanam" or Absolute realm.

I've often made the analogy of the rod in the fire. Often, after being in the fire for some time, the rod becomes red hot, and we pull it out to check it, wave it around, show it off. But in the process it begins to cool. Leave the rod IN the fire, and ultimately it will melt into it.

In Zen, or so I'm told, there is a wonderful phrase, "The Stink of Enlightenment". Essentially, the stink is the material benefits derived from spiritual practice.  As one actually achieves some awakening or realization, material benefits or results may accompany it. This "stink" may actually smell nice to us, as wonderful rewards of our hard work. But in reality, they stop us dead in our tracks. They are the "picking the dimes from the trough" which only results in our stopping our spiritual progress. 

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, described spiritual life like cultivating a garden. We are attempting to plant, grow and nourish our true spiritual creeper. However, in the beginning, for the novice gardener, there are many weeds which will appear that are almost indistinguishable from our spiritual creeper.  One must be very diligent in recognizing these weeds, which are actually distractions from our true spiritual progress.  If they are not recognized and removed as soon as possible, they risk choking out our true spiritual life.  We must have a single focus, as nothing of any consequences - spiritual OR material can be achieved without that focus. As the Gita says - vyavasayatmika buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana - Those who are on this path are RESOLUTE in purpose and their aim is ONE. 

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