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Satori, Enlightenment and Knowledge

There is an important distinction to be made here, between Satori – the experience of complete and total freedom, and Enlightenment, a more general state, which is assumed to be permanent – not a mere experience that might come and go. Enlightenment – throwing light where previously was only darkness, i.e. confusion, is used as a general term for understanding. But the type of enlightenment we are talking about is presumably different, an understanding that allows Satori to occur, not only by chance – as may be experienced by anyone, at any age, but regularly in everyday life. What kind of understanding could this be? This is where knowledge, i.e. memory, comes in. Until one has experienced the complete freedom of Satori, then lost it, and been left with its shadow in memory, only then has one the opportunity to understand what Satori is and how to get back to it: Life was so good, just for a while, but it is no longer. Why is this? The answer, I believe, is that Satori is freedom, the freedom to experience all states without resistance. It is not a state that requires anything in particular, how could it? The great trap is that we pursue this prize through the tools of thought. Memory tells us that life can be better, than we should be better, that the past could have turned out another way. I had it, how did I lose it? I should not be feeling this way! These thoughts are not necessarily wrong, but neither are they helpful in the pursuit of our goal. The weight of being the person we think we should be prevents us from experiencing the freedom of Satori. A wonderful, spiritual experience leaves memories of a better time that then generate resistance to subsequent times that are not so happy. It strikes me therefore that that the key is not in what we do to obtain Satori, but what we do not do. We need let go of all our thoughts and memories – the rod we have made for our own back by our successes we then feel the need to perpetuate into the future, the failures we want to badly to banish from ourselves – but how to stop thinking? The brain thinks – that is its function. It may think quickly, it may think slowly, but just as the heart must beat, it must think. The trap of trying to stop thinking has snared many a seeker after truth and personal enlightenment. The key, my experience suggests, is not in stopping thought – how could we? – but in detachment from it. If we cannot stop thought then neither are we responsible for it. Good thoughts make us no better, nor to bad thoughts make us bad. They simply are, and our concept of self, so set in stone we think, but in the reality of the present moment so fluid, will change and clash with any set belief. Satori is freedom. We experience it spontaneously when circumstances are right. We cannot force it. But this does not mean there is no room for knowledge. We learn, and in learning can find the trick of Satori – that it is found as much in misery as it is in joy. I must stop feeling so miserable; I must stop thinking so I can recapture the state of Satori; I must become enlightened. These are all just thoughts: harmless thoughts, owned by nobody. They are a natural response to memories, which in turn are stimulated by our changing circumstances, which inevitably will cause a clash between what is desired and what is. This is the dark swamp of confusion; this is the state of not-knowing which way to go to get out, we just instinctively know life can be better. And then the glimpse of light, the warm sun of Satori shines through the fog and things are infinitely worse – I felt it and it was good! And so we search all the harder for the way out and in doing so get more lost than ever before. When all we need to do, or rather not do, is stand still and watch. Watch and see the morass underfoot solidify. Watch and wonder at the beauty of the fog, and the sun when it appears. AND NEED NONE OF IT. For it was in our acceptance of the fog, in the swamp, in our own confusion and our own thoughts that Satori came. And it shall only go when we forget this and think it is a state of bliss to be found because our thoughts are good, or our feelings are just right. So welcome confusion, kiss the swamp. It’s just a reminder that the true path back out of the swamp, back to Satori, is the one that goes nowhere.


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