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A good measure for determining whether so-called spiritual, religious, or mystical experiences are higer or lower than average, mundane experience, is this: is there more or less awareness?

Some others might be…

Is your way of participation that of blind impulsivity, or engaged spontaneity?

Is your way of liberation one of fierce destruction, or creative dissolution?

Do you feel specialness, or nobility?

Suggestions to continue this list are welcome.

Awakening is not like getting a spiritual makeover. Of course, this is seems obvious when put into those terms. No one admits to wanting an artificial spirituality. But just take a look at the types of things being sold by spiritual scenes across the globe: bliss, peace, union with the divine, compassion, equanimity, lovingkindness, generosity, etc. Along with selling potential emotional changes, spiritual scenes also sell worldview adjustments – interdependence, one world, one people, peace on earth, sustainability, and what-have-you. But awakening has very little to do with any of that stuff. It’s not that those things are bad or wrong. It’s just that you can have those things without being awakened, the same way you can be awakened without those things.

Replacing the crucifix hanging in your living room with a Tibetan thangka painting will not wake you up. Trading your monthly subscription to Playboy for a subscription to Tricycle will not wake you up. Smiling at the person who cuts you off on the freeway, rather than flipping the bird at them, will not wake you up. All of these things are merely, as the saying goes, rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic. Or, as Alan Watts said, winding your watch on the way to the gallows. Adopting a new lifestyle will not address the issue at hand. Redecorating your ego not help you realize the true state of affairs.

Awakening is not about adopting a new religion or philosophy. It has way more to do with seeing through the limitations of religion and philosophy. It’s not about knowing the right answer to the question. It’s about going beyond questions entirely. It’s not about feeling good. It’s about going beyond feelings.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

I’ll leave you with a question that Lama Surya Das is well known for asking, “Why be a Buddhist, when you can be a Buddha?”

Sam