I was listening to one of the many comments that you were reading on your podcast regarding attachment to enlightenment, and I had a delightful series of thoughts that I felt compelled to share with the Daily Buddhism sangha. I was listening to your commentary on the issue and realized that it may not be a question of determining the meaning of desire and attachment, as is so often discussed. At the present moment I consider this dilemma of attachment to enlightenment to be a paradox. The less attached you become to enlightenment (and all other things, of course), the closer you get to it. I have in my mind a picture of a person who has attained enlightenment, who, when asked about it, simply laughs and talks about the mosquito on his arm, and how much of a good mother she is.
It always delights me when I find paradox in this world because it inevitably breeds more paradox. For example, once I had the thought to share this insight on enlightenment, my desire to share it with you actually pushed me farther away from enlightenment, because I had been spending so much energy “grasping” this thought until I could write it down to share it. Even the desire to share this thought in this current moment is, in itself, a paradox that brings me farther from the message I am trying to convey because it is simply a thought that, if I were being truly mindful, I would notice and move on. I’m sure by now I have you and your listeners’ heads spinning with this idea, and usually when I find myself crawling deeper into this particular rabbit hole (which is so tempting to do), I like to smile and say to myself, “ah, Paradox.” And move on with the rest of my day.
Of course, what I actually did was proofread the message to make sure it’s clear enough. Yet another paradox!
And now I’ve seen the Buddha on the road, so I must kill him.
Your comments are always appreciated, and thank you for the wisdom that you’ve shared with me through the podcast and your emails.
Yes, those mosquito stings hurt.
Oh, you want more?
It’s not unusual for me to get a message that I shouldn’t have explained the topic about such-and-such, as some things are beyond words. Some topics cannot be explained in words, and I do realize this, but I have the “teacher mentality” coupled with the responsibility of “informing” my readers, so I feel a need to put some of the complex ideas of Buddhism into words. Sometimes it works out very well, sometimes it doesn’t, but in many cases, I just cannot leave the topic unmentioned or the question unanswered. I probably should leave some topics alone, but if I don’t bring them up, they might not be considered at all.
I guess that’s the same thing you describe; I often explain terminology and ideas here, simply because that’s my job. Yet by doing these things, I run the risk of getting bogged down in labels and terminology. A good example of this was the “Am I Buddhist Enough” post a few months back. I tried to explain what a Buddhist is and does, but there were several reader comments that correctly pointed out that “Buddhist” is just a label and doesn’t matter anyway. Yet, there does seem to be a need to define and understand what it means to be one. It’s another contradiction or paradox.
I suspect that paradox is much more common in our lives than we tend to believe. You know things should be done one way, yet you do them in just the opposite way. Why is this? Comment with your own examples!