Spiritual Consent Form

March 17, 2009

I imagine once upon a time there used to be a most serious embarking on the spiritual path to awakening and enlightenment. Usually the process was well understood- either to remain a lay person with a set of guidelines or become a serious monk/ascetic in which the training will involve a full stripping of attachments and aversions.

Today, especially in America, we are seeing a variety of centuries of lineages and traditions being put through our famous melting pot. There is an overwhelming response from Americans in Buddhism. Are we as serious as our Eastern masters in the pursuit of the path? What’s astounding is the sheer speed in which we sample and sign up for religions- go to a meditation class, watch a yoga tape and read some simple everyday practices- like a combo appetizer dish. The full significance of our undertakings are not at all understood in the beginning- is it better that way? What we don’t realize is the possibility to actually start something we are not capable of handling- we just see a trail and follow it without having any idea about the journey and merely poetic descriptions of the final destination. I am neither criticizing nor applauding- I think there is something to be said for starting little and getting sucked in.

I read a chapter in Jack Kornfield’s A Path With Heart describing the Dark Knight. On this path to enlightenment which is what we are all undertaking knowingly or not is about dying and being reborn and dying and being reborn- in this lifetime. Do we have any concept of how painful it must be to loose attachment to all things? Do any of us realize that once we enter this phase in our spiritual practice that one must go through it to the end- if one quits their practice in the middle, their life will be permeated by these feelings of grief and distress. Jack advises we are only strong enough to really get through it with an external guide, a guru. To some motivated people, they would sign the consent form and go through with it. Others may not fully understand that the spiritual path is not just a cushion or a mat, it is a rebirth which requires our death.

Maybe only those who have a strong desire and stamina to swim accross the ocean will be motivated enough to then cross the desert.


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