I believe in opposites. Specifically, I believe in two conflicting realities: Enlightenment and ignorance.
First, I believe in Enlightenment. I believe that individual human beings are perfectible; that there is a literal ‘best you can be’ that is the natural birthright of every single person. When I was introduced to the concept of Enlightenment as a high school student, I felt as if a bell had rung in my head: This was a goal worth pursuing and after almost forty years of meditation, study, teaching and research, I have come to believe that Enlightenment is an achievable, practical and genuine state of consciousness that is as different and distinct from the ordinary state of wakefulness as waking is from dreaming or deep sleep. Enlightenment is not an ephemeral, fleeting experience in the way that waking, dreaming or sleeping are but is a permanent physiological, and experiential shift in consciousness from the relative, changing and temporary to the constant, changeless reality of peace, bliss, and infinite freedom. The result of even seeking this shift in consciousness is that one becomes more capable of harmonious, caring, intelligent and loving activity. While this state of consciousness is both rare and largely hidden (because it is intensely personal and subjective) it is not as uncommon as one might think. Over the years I have met a number of such people and indeed I know of at least three living in my home town.
On the other hand I can’t escape belief in ignorance: that is the blind, willful disregard of the infinite potentiality of life in favor of the selfish imperative to multiply and prosper at any cost. Collectively, politically, economically and environmentally human beings seem to behave with about as much intelligence, self-awareness and foresight as bacteria in a petrii dish. I heard somewhere that human beings now consume, either as food or raw material, about 40% of the photosynthetic output of the earth. What other species in the history of the world has come close to this level of dominance? But how long can this kind of unbalanced consumption continue? As it is, we use up nonrenewable resources as if they were infinite. We overburden and abuse the renewable resources and foul our own nest with the byproducts. I fear that like bacteria in a petrii dish we are ignoring the impenetrable wall of disaster which looms before us. If we don’t apply our enlightened creativity and compassion to the problems presented our numbers and shortsightedness, war, famine, thirst and disease will solve them for us.
I believe in Enlightenment and ignorance. As human beings, Enlightenment is our natural inheritance if we care to claim it. But as a species, I fear that we may prove too foolish to seek it and consequently too ignorant to survive. In the balance of these two beliefs, my preference is for seeking Enlightenment both for its own sake and as the cure for the fatal consequences of blind ignorance.
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