Who Can Achieve Enlightenment?
I have heard that some teachers say that lay people, even if they are dedicated practitioners, do not have the causes and conditions for full enlightenment.
One mindfulness meditation teacher, responded to a question about this saying that "
I have heard this same thing myself, and if I believed it, I would have ordained long ago."
She went on to say that
"... there are stories of all different types of laypeople from many different walks in life who were said to have awakened to the highest happiness. The Buddha said
all we need is a body and a mind
Living in the material world, one is faced with relationships, competition, and trivial pursuits like earning a living, shopping, cooking, cleaning, chopping wood and carrying water. Living in a monastery, I’m told, one is faced with most of the same things. Basic human needs and wants are facts of life everywhere. Fear, anger, joy, pleasure, pain, jealousy, and lust are all there, whether you are in a monastery or in the marketplace.
A Tibetan Buddhist
meditation master identified three basic approaches to enlightenment:
- Renunciation — giving up the things that may be obstacles, like sex, music, singing, dancing, etc.
- Transformation — not avoiding but engaging them through skillful means to transform confusion into wisdom
- Direct engagement — fully experiencing the moment with its pleasures, afflictions, emotions, and pain.
He said, “... you can achieve full liberation in one lifetime regardless of whether you are male or female or live a lay or monastic lifestyle."
No matter where you are or what approach you take, your intention and effort matter.
Yogis say one can achieve liberation by dedicating every action to the ultimate recognition of unity, the One, the nameless. Sufis and Christians say, "be in the world but not of it"
Everything, every experience - pleasure, affliction, emotions, and pain
- becomes fuel for work on oneself to overcome ignorance, greed and hatred. Every action is dedicated to enlightenment for the sake of all.
Monastery as Sacred Space
The monastery is a sacred space which defends its inhabitants from worldliness. It is a protected garden for cultivating the causes and conditions of enlightenment. In can be a cave or a castle.
If the physical monastery is
a hideaway, then it can be a fertile ground for enlightenment. But, if its walls are too high and its relationships too rigid and hierarchical, monastic life can get in the way. Sacred magic is lost to avoidance and bypassing the real and inevitable conflicts and pain encountered in life.
The World is a Monastery
With a shift in understanding, the monastery is a microcosm of the world and the world can be a monastery without walls or hierarchies. One decides to dedicate everything to the aspiration for enlightenment. One chooses an approach, mixing and merging the three basic approaches, based on her nature and needs. One lives his life, fine tuning the approach until the recognition of immediate and continuous awake presence.
Renunciation and life in a traditional monastery may be the path for one who finds that the challenge of living in the material world while pursuing enlightenment is too great. The recovering alcoholic renounces alcohol and stays away from bars. The recovering
The world is a challenging place to practice and seek enlightenment. While monastic experience in retreats and periods of renunciation strengthen meditative concentration and mindfulness and provide "tastes" of enlightenment, the practitioner who remains in the world makes the world her monastery.
One images their space as sacred space. At first it may be limited to the physical space chosen for retreat into meditation, contemplation or prayer. Over time, sacred space is mobile, an aura that one floats in all the time. No matter where you are, there is sacred space.
Reference to 30 Sep 2015 article