Saturday, April 24, 2004


It's curious how much attention people who don't practice in the Buddhist tradition give to the concept of "enlightenment," and how little people who do practice give it. You would think it would be the other way around: that those people who are most interested in enlightenment would be those who would most want to practice. But in fact a dead giveaway of a person who's new to Buddhist practice is that they have lots of questions about enlightenment. Does it include this? Does it look like that? And of course what the questions give you is a precise map of their obsessive cravings and fears. Does it include romantic love? Oral sex? Garlic cheese bread? Does it look like loneliness? Boredom? Indifference?

I don't, personally, give a damn about enlightenment, or freedom from all suffering. I couldn't care less. My motivation, like Thomas Merton's, is simply this: I am sick of myself. I can't stand it any more. The ceaseless fret of the ego, the craven dishonesty, the lurching awkwardness of always wearing a three-hundred pound mask with bad ventilation and tiny, poorly-placed eyeholes.

You think I want to take that mask off forever? Well, sure. But what I really want is to push it aside for just one second, get one glimpse of light, get one gasp of free air. That's plenty of motivation for me. And this path has already delivered that, more than once. That's all I ask for. More than I'd hoped.

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