Stop Cheating Yourself: Answering "Yes" to All These 10 Questions Can Determine If You're Spiritually Enlightened or Not
I never cease to be amazed at the number of people who think they are spiritually enlightened. It is amazing the number of doctors and lawyers -- very intelligent people I’ve met -- who really believe that they’ve attained the Tao. I once even met a 30-year lawyer in Asia who looked at me and said: “You may not believe it, but I have attained every samadhi state that Shakyamuni Buddha has ever attained. I have experienced every one of those in this life.”
Yeah right! Prove to me you even have one samadhi superpower.
All these people who think they’re enlightened commonly have something in common—absolutely no gong-fu at all and LOTS of ignorance that they can overlook the fact they have no gong-fu at all. They have no yin-shen, no yang-shen bodies. They don’t have any samadhi attainments. They haven’t reached the state where dreams are the same as awakeness; they don’t have any psychic abilities whatsoever.
Yada yada yada…. I could go on and on listing even the most minor of spiritual accomplishments and they have nothing that speaks of gong-fu whatsoever.
Now to be correct, these listings are not the proof or evidence of enlightenment, mind you, but there are so many documented stages of gong-fu before enlightenment in all sorts of schools, and they lack them ALL. They don’t have any demonstratable gong-fu and yet they all think that they’re enlightened and bypass any of these commonsense identifiable characteristics for ANY stage of accomplishment. And let me tell you, I’ve seen this happen with so many people….including very intelligent ones. Ignorance is THICK, and yet I see it over and over again so I just had to write something.
I even asked my teacher once -- because there’s quite a few masters that have just first or second stage samadhi – how come these guys don’t want to study with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas? They should know they’re on the lower end of the totem pole and yet still don't want to study. His answer was that they were clinging to their ego and felt THEIR way was the right way, even though it’s just the first samadhi or the second samadhi. Deception even at the samadhi stages of realization!
I’ve seen this for myself so I understand the Lotus Sutra story where 500 of Buddha's students walked out on him because they didn't want to hear about the highest stage of enlightenment, and felt their little realm of emptiness was right, correct, the final enlightenment.. Imagine that -- they walked out on a recognized Buddha at the time, once again believing their own little samadhi attainment was correct. Most of these folks are prey to misconception, namely self-deception. They’re prey to the 5 errant perspectives as well as to ego notions of self-love and self-cherishment.
Now to shed some light on this, you have to remember that quite a few famous Zen masters who cultivated samadhi realms when they were young, often thought they were enlightened, and had to be scolded by their teachers. These are guys who became the leading lights of their generations, and who were brilliant to boot, so don’t think that you and I with our little buckets of wisdom, gong-fu and merit are better than they are. The point is, even these brilliant heroes thought they were enlightened when they weren't, so enlightenment is not the easiest thing to reach.
What’s very interesting is that there is one work called The Source Mirror (in Chinese it’s called the Tsung Ching Lu) by Yung Ming Shen Shao . And in the Source Mirror, Yung Ming tells us what enlightenment means and gives us a quiz of 10 questions you can ask to see if someone is enlightened. This is information I put in my paperback about Socrates because society needs to know this. Too many people run into a samadhi-dhyana master and immediately call him an Avatar, enlightened one, Buddha or Bodhisattva when it’s far from the truth.
The public is ignorant, so it will always be that way. But for you I want wisdom.
Now the Source Mirror is a wonderful book. I wish it was translated into English and I always get upset when I see all the current efforts being expended by well meaning people to translate pretty much useless Tibetan texts while bypassing truly useful texts like this that can help entire generations. It is really an incredibly useful text from China that nobody has bothered to translate. The author tells you so many things in The Source Mirror and one of the things he relates are ten questions by which you can judge whether or not you are enlightened.
One of the first questions to ask yourself is: Do you fully understand spiritual scriptures when you read them, of any type and from any school or religion? If you don’t, if you are stumped, don’t say you are enlightened. If you are enlightened, your wisdom is vast and can tap into the alaya consciousness wherein nothing like this would stump you. With transcendental wisdom, you can tap into the wisdom store of everything, even if you’ve never read the book before, so you can tap into that and know exactly what a text actually means or how to phrase an answer in such an expedient way as to uplift the audience, even if the original meaning was not as high as intended. You can go research Plato's writings to see how people would ask Socrates a question and he could immediately give an answer ... or read various stories how religious masters in many schools could provide a valid spiritual interpretation of indecipherable texts to show what I’m talking about.
Another question is: When students ask you questions on all sorts of topics, can you answer those with unobstructed eloquence? Once again, if you are enlightened your wisdom taps into the universal wisdom and if you can’t answer these questions with eloquence, as just stated, don’t think you are enlightened. Even if you can, it doesn’t mean you are enlightened either because you still need to have gong-fu and be able to demonstrate the samadhi. That goes without saying, but the 10 questions in the Source Mirror are for people who already have cultivated the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th dhyana and have cultivated the formless samadhi absorptions. These folks have gong-fu, but need to know if they’ve awakened all the way and are finally on the Bodhisattva path to complete Buddhahood.
Third and fourth questions from the Source Mirror: if you encounter people and situations or other people get in your way of doing things, can you still be in accord with the path despite those disturbances, or do you get flustered and lose it? And the fourth question: When all kinds of favorable realms or evil realms appear before you, are you obstructed by them or unobstructed by them and see through them?
So while most people think they’re enlightened, they have to answer no to these questions. There’s ten of them in The Source Mirror and most people can’t even pass yet one of these questions, yet they believe they’ve attained the Tao because they have some small superpower or can spin their chi or hear voices or whatever. It’s pretty funny in a way, but also sickening. The worst thing you can do is become a teacher at this point or claim you’re enlightened because as my own teacher said, the penalty for making such a claim and misleading others is always rebirth in one of the hells. Cheat, steal, lie is one thing, but to claim you're enlightened and mislead people deserves a hell rebirth because you're cutting off people's wisdom life and ability to achieve the Tao. Money can be replaced, but don't destroy someone's wisdom life.
What I want you to realize underneath all this is that enlightenment is not the easiest thing to attain. Samadhi attainments are hard enough to master, and enlightenment is even harder. It’s not an intellectual realization where you believe you know something – you know something because you studied so many religious texts and because you understand the scriptures of Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Shintoism and so forth. No, that’s not enlightenment. It’s not intellectual understanding or a gestalt of some thought structure. If you're in the realm of thoughts, you're totally wrong and yet most all of religious scriptures and writings today fall exactly in that category. The really high level stuff is always bypassed and ignored precisely because it IS the high level stuff, and people's wisdom stores are too low. That's one reason, for instance, Buddha said that his teachings would not survive in India and would pass away. That's one reason I'm trying to bring up these touchy points, because so much junk and misconception abounds today.
Second point is, enlightenment is not a samadhi state. There are plenty of samadhi masters who stay in samadhi realms for ages -- even eons -- thinking that their cultivation method is right. Buddha described this clearly, saying that they are always clinging to samadhi, never realizing that samadhi attainments are constructions of the mind and not the original nature. It’s not the Tao. So you can stay in samadhi for aeons and still not achieve the Tao. In fact, there are stories about quite a few high level beings who did not even believe in enlightenment because they had all the samadhi and could do this and that. In one case, Kuan Yin assumed the form of a celestial consort to convert Mahagala through sexual tantra, and thereby helped him awaken to the Tao. But don't you go thinking you have the merit for that sort of practice or attainment. Of Mahagalas I have lots of stories, and as my teacher has correctly said, not all of them are good guys.
Anyway, when you finally do realize the dharmakaya--which means seeing the Tao or attaining enlightenment--it’s incredible. You get the full complete perfect alignment with the tathagatagarbha. It’s impossible to describe though you can get a gist of this from the website by reading what it’s like to burst through the consciousness skandha.
In the website translation of the Surangama Sutra, Buddha describes what it’s like to break through the skandhas and at the end of this translation he talks about perfect, complete enlightenment. Along the way he talks about many of the phenomena people encounter as they break through the other skandhas, and I can guarantee that many people who think they’re enlightened have NEVER experienced any of these things. That’s one reason this sutra is not so popular, because it bursts the bubble of so many teachers AND STUDENTS. When you read all the bypaths that detract people from the true cultivation path, and when you match it with religious stories you may have read, you'll quickly realize that lots of so-called enlightened people were only at a low level of skandha achievement.
Anyway, when you get to the Surangama Sutra translation and you read about what it’s like to break through the consciousness skandha, then you’ll get some inkling of what it’s like to be enlightened. You know this particular Surangama Sutra translation was done for you and cost about $5000 if I remember correctly. It is the only one, the only place where you can really find out all the barriers, all the sorts of phenomena that appear before you get enlightened and all sorts of detractions from the path that distract you from the true spiritual path. It’s the only literature you’ll ever come across that tells you what it’s like to actually pierce through various experiential realms that make up our structure of reality.
Incredible...and everyone ignores this! people are all talking about chakras and kundalini and everyone ignores this because it proves that this other stuff is just low level stuff, and people don't want to hear it. Some have made a whole career out of this stuff, or get money from it, so it's something they want to destroy or find some reason to ignore.
The Surangama Sutra describes what happens as we purify our attachment to the habits of how we normally but falsely experience reality, whether we’re experiencing appearance or emotions or conceptions in our mind … or momentum type impulse things that have nothing to do with mind but involve matter and consciousness itself. This is the only document you’ll probably ever find that explains what it's like in terms of experiential realms on the way to enlightenment rather than samadhi realms and samadhi realizations.
I encourage you to read this translation and if you have not experienced most of the phenomena or some of these phenomena, don’t dare say you’re enlightened. You have The Source Mirror and also you have the Surangama Sutra to guide you through these things. These together can tell you whether you’re enlightened or not and you can use these as a guide to take a look at somebody who claims they are enlightened and just sort of laugh, because you know 99 out of 100 times, 999 out of 1000 times, 999,999 out of one million times … whatever the number is … people are just cheating themselves. They are mistaking an intellectual understanding with a transcendental accomplishment.
I never cease to be amazed at the number of people who really think that they’re enlightened. It just astounds me….at times I think I'm the only one who knows I don’t know. But I do want YOU to know this information and I want you to have a yardstick, just as is given in Measuring Meditation and the Stages course.
So I’m giving you two yardsticks here - the Surangama Sutra, it’s on the website, and I’m pointing you towards The Source Mirror. You can find more about The Source Mirror in the book Socrates and the Enlightenment Path.
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