Sunday, January 08, 2006

Gradual Spiritual Awakening

Inspired by A Gradual Awakening, by Stephen Levine (Anchor Books, 1989).

Many of us have wished for the sudden flash of illumination, the moment of instant revelation, rather than the slow plodding progress of daily practices. After all, most of us live in societies that encourage quick fixes and fast results, even when it comes to the process of becoming deeply conscious or enlightened.

An image useful to understand the process of awakening is of fruit on a tree. It ripens ever so slowly, day by day, until at last it’s fully ripe and falls from the tree. Find out more about what this respected author and mindfulness meditation teacher has to say about sudden enlightenment and gradual awakening:

"There is a story about a Zen monk who had for many years practiced very hard to attain enlightenment. He had worked and worked for enlightenment. One day, as he was digging in the monastery garden, his spade threw a pebble into the air which struck a piece of bamboo fencing around the garden; it made a hollow clicking sound. Upon hearing that sound, his understanding of the nature of things was so profound that he became enlightened in that moment. Now, was that a sudden awakening, or was that the fruit of a gradual awakening? Any moment could enlighten us if we would see its totality, its complexities, its simpleness. It seems to take awhile before we clear the senses enough, clear our conditioning enough; to let go of models and perceptions so that we can simply hear, simply see, perceive deeply enough to understand the way things are.

Ramakrishna used an image of the freshly picked nut. When its husk is green, we could hit it with a stone and hardly dent it. But when that nut has ripened, just a tap and the shell will fall open. This is the gradual awakening that we are all participating in: ripening so that the shell can fall away and leave us free of our ignorance, free of our imagined self and its incessant posturing, open to the direct experience of the wisdom mind. "