‘Slow Enlightenment’ in a Quick Fix Culture

Written by David Nichtern

In the old days in Japan, a spiritual aspirant would kneel in the snow at the gates of the monastery for several days before either gaining entrance or being turned away.

These days in the West, we have weekend enlightenment intensives promising realization by Sunday night or your money back.

There must be a middle way in there somewhere, but it might be interesting, since we do live here in the West, to have a closer look at our own values and processes.

We do live in a culture where faster, more and easier seem to govern a lot of our choices. Fast food, bigger cars, five easy lessons and you can learn to play guitar like the masters.

But what about thorough? Are there any advocates of doing something fully, in depth and completely mastering the subject, whatever it is?

Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche said, “I’ve noticed through my own experience with the West that the new student gets very excited, hoping for immediate results. In Buddhism one is required to go through various stages, it is a step by step process in which you receive teachings from your teacher and follow his instructions one by one. If you rush up a ladder in order to get to the top more quickly there is a chance that you might fall and break your head. When you study Buddhism you have to go in a gradual way, not hoping to get enlightened the next morning when you wake up.”

Lately, we have the slow food movement and even slow sex has some advocates.

What about slow enlightenment?

What about going through whatever steps, whatever practices, whatever processes that would enable us to know ourselves completely, that would allow us to penetrate whatever obscurations, delusions, and dark corners we might have and illuminate our most authentic being completely and fully?

Who would sign up for that program — “enlightenment in 10 – 20 years, but only if you put your body, heart, and mind into it completely?” Would you sign up for that?



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