Thursday, August 5, 2010

How To Get Enlightened

Fresh Peach and Apricot Tart in Chestnut Flour Crust
Fresh Peach and Apricot Tart in Chestnut Flour Crust, France, 2010

Me: Hi guys. How do I get enlightened?
Theravadin: I'm glad you asked! It's simple. (You do have testicles, right? Good. Can't get enlightened without testicles. Not that you'll be using them for anything.) All you have to do is see through the illusion of duality. Here's a handy little manual with a set of exercises that'll get you started (in Pali, don't worry, you'll pick it up in no time, just start with "Buddho dhammaṃ rakkhati" and take it from there), with a nice set of tests you can take to see exactly at what stage you are, and what you need to do to get to your next goal. Just follow the instructions, do, oh, one or two three-month retreats a year, and you'll get stream-entry in no time. Or, well, ten years, tops. From there on out, it takes care of itself, more or less. I can refer you to a couple of good temples situated in insalubrious jungles in a variety of poorly-governed countries! Oh, and, here's another handy little book that'll tell you how to behave.
Me: Thanks, I guess… Pali, huh?
Soto: What are these "goals" you speak of? There is no "goal." There are no "stages." Just sit and pay attention.
Me: Uh… pay attention to what?
Soto: Just… pay attention.
Rinzai: "Just pay attention." Bah. How can you expect a newbie to do that? You gotta learn to walk before you can run. First, count your breaths. Start by breathing out with "oooooooone," and breathing in with "twooooooo," until you get to ten, and you start over. Once you can do that for a few rounds, get back to me and I'll give you a kōan. Once you're done with a couple of hundred of those, THEN you can "just pay attention."
Me: What's a kōan?
Rinzai: Yeah, that'll work.
Me: Oh.
Tibetan: Friends, aren't we forgetting something here? If poor Petteri follows your instructions, Arahant, he'll just find himself staring at his own navel until he sees Earth Spirits crawl out of it, and you Zen guys will just make him even more insufferable. No, Petteri, you must cultivate a loving heart. Remember that all beings are your kind mother. Then breathe in all the darkness and suffering in the world, into your luminous heart, where you transmute it into peace and love, and breathe it back out into the world. Once you've done that for a year or two, I'll tell you about Bardo, Dharma guardians, and demons. And then I can introduce you to tantra!
Me: Oh, tantra! You mean like…
Tibetan: No, not like. But you won't get bored, that's for sure!
(Rinzai and Theravadin exchange glances.)
Rinzai: Yeah, do what he says, or else you'll be reborn as something slimy.
Soto: That wasn't nice, Rinz.
Rinzai: (rolls eyes)
Pure Land: Actually, getting enlightened is REALLY HARD. Really REALLY hard. I think it'd be better if you just chant "Amitabha Amitabha Amitabha" while sincerely wishing to be enlightened, and then you'll get reborn in the Western Paradise where practice is easy.
Me: What, where, Sweden?
Rinzai and Theravadin: Oh shut up already. It's not that hard.
SilvaSYNC®: Yeah, shut up, Pure Land. With SilvaSYNC® Technology, Enlightenment is VERY easy! Only $99,90 a month. First CD is free! And we have an affiliate program! You can make money from the comfort of your home and get enlightened at the same time!
Soto, Rinzai, Theravadin, Pure Land: The Dharma is not for sale!
SilvaSYNC®: Communists!
Nichiren: Yeah, be silent, debaser of the Dharma. Just take two doses of Lotus Sutra a day, twice on Sundays, and you're all set. And don't listen to these other jokers, they mean well, but they're seriously deluded.
Theravadin: The Lotus Sutra? You mean the one that was hidden away by DRAGONS? Wooooooo!
Soto: That wasn't very nice either.
Me: I like dragons.
Archimandrite Shri Shri Shri Shri Baba Yagananda: You should follow me. I have penetrated the true meaning of all spiritual traditions, and to prove it, I have been ordained Archimandrite, Exquisitor, Tulku, Khenpo, Roshi, Geshe, Rabbi, Ayatollah, and Grand High Über-Pope of the Subgenius, by at least sixteen different religions. Also, I can levitate if there's nobody looking. Just sit at my feet attentively, do what I say (but not as I do, Crazy Wisdom, you see) and you'll do great. Oh, and I prefer Imperial Ossetra, none of that Beluga crap for me.
Soto, Theravadin, Pure Land, Nichiren: SHUT. UP!
Tibetan: I'll give you crazy. Wisdom needs some work.
Rinzai: Yeah. Could use another Shri.
Archimandrite: Fundamentalists! Bah, since you are clearly too closed-minded to partake of my wisdom, I shall remove myself forthwith to speak to a more deserving public.
Me: So, uh, I guess I'll just go sit quietly in a corner somewhere for a bit, then?
Theravadin: Whatever. I can't waste more time with you losers, I have a Path to attain. Look me up if you want to do some serious meditatin'.
Pippin Galadriel Moon-Child: SPACE CAKES!

Confusing, this spiritual life is.


  1. Lol! So you have a good sense of humor I see. I laughed out loud, and thanks for the great idea for another post.

  2. Bravo. This story reminds me of what I have read of Siddhartha Gautama's search for the right teacher.

  3. That's rather discouraging, considering that he never found one...