‘Where this idea of enlightenment often becomes a problem is when everyone reads the writings of both the old and the present-day masters and they take this one experience and place it in a conceptual framework. They just pluck out the idea of this excellent or seemingly magical experience and think, “That’s what I want.” What is overlooked are the years of practice and, behind that one experience, the years of very plain learning and cutting through everything and anything that comes along before that clarified state of mind is experienced. Today, people take drugs to induce the very same states of mind that a person can reach in the midst of deep meditation. But to use drugs to reach such states of mind is like riding a helicopter to the top of a mountain. When you reach the top of the mountain you can see the scenery. But you will not know the essence one experiences in the process of walking up the mountain one footstep at a time; you do not know how to reach the top of the mountain on your own.’ (The Path to Bodhidharma)
Recently I was discussing with one of my diligent and sincere students some experiences he had had after a month or so of mostly solo retreat time; he shared with me some links to articles he had found where people try to make sense of their own experiences, and which he found helpful in understanding and finding words for his. All I could really add was that this experience was now a part of him, and even if he sometimes forgot, on the surface, the profound feelings he had and the states of broad loves he dwelled in for a time, the rest of his life would still be more or less coloured by it, and that over time, would probably get to feel more integrated.
In some of the articles I read, there seemed to be a certain amount of what we call in England ‘willy-waving’, that male competitiveness that is tiresome at the best of times, and even more so when it comes to intently comparing levels of ‘attainment.’ At the risk of being repetitive, I will link to Gesshin’s article that I also linked to yesterday, and, more in reference to Shodo Harada’s words, to other words of hers I have posted; not to mention another post about the current use of psychedelics. Perhaps it is the smug hindsight of having been practising for almost twenty years, but really there is no substitute for continuous practice.