Thursday, July 2, 2009


"Enlightenment" number 93 of 200 from Robert Aitken's book Miniatures of a Zen Master.

Aitken tells of a time when a Japanese monk ask in an informal meeting, "How many people here are enlightened? Raise your hands." Apparently they all sat there stunned as I would have had I been there.

Why would this be stunning? Juxtaposed with yesterday's miniature, I in quite a quandary. Hakuin says "This very body is the Buddha." How can I say that I'm not enlightened? Yet, I surely feel at times unconnected with life, confused, hurt, frustrated, even angry at times. Could it be that these somehow are an expression of enlightenment.

What is it that we mean when we say "I'm enlightened."? We don't hear mature practitioners making that statement. Something tells me that it is a trap. Some conundrum. 

Any error or confusion created by my commentary on
Miniatures of a Zen Master
is solely a reflection of my own delusion and ignorance.
Any merit generated by this activity is solely the result of
Aitken Roshi's clear teaching and is dedicated to
all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout space and time.


  1. When we say we are enlightened in contrast to someone being unenlightened, that is delusion. When old man Shakyamuni looked up at the morning star he said "I and all sentient beings on earth, together, attain enlightenment at the same time."

    We just have to wake up to it.

    I read something somewhere that said Buddhism is really wake up isim. I like that.

  2. Jordan, thanks for your comment.

    What would it be to say enlightened without any contrast? Isn't that what Shakyamuni was expressing, no contrasting sentient beings?

    Wake-up-ism, okay. "How many people here have woken up? Raise your hands."

    I think there is some trickiness in this "Raise your hands." No problem raising our hands when acknowledging our delusion.

    In the end, Aitken says "How many of us aim for realization? Ha! Ha! Come on!" And I'm left wondering what is the point of "Ha! Ha! Come on!" Aitken's mode of operation is usually one of encouragement and proding. Here I'm not so sure.

    I raise my hand to delusion, especially when it comes to enlightenment. Maybe there is hope for enlightened about delusion.

    "To start from the self and try to understand all things is delusion. To let the self be awakened by all things is enlightenment. To be enlightened about delusion is to be a Buddha. To be deluded in the midst of enlightenment is to be an ordinary person."
    Eihei Dogen - Genjokoan

    Louie Wing has a great little commentary on the Genjokoan and enlightenment and delusion.