Chapter 34: Enlightenment
Some take sitting wordlessly with eyes shut beneath the black mountain, inside the ghost cave, and consider it as the scene on the other side of the primordial buddha, the scene before their parents were born - they also call it “silent, yet ever illuminating,” and consider it Ch’an. This lot don’t seek subtle wondrous enlightenment: they consider enlightenment as falling into the secondary.
This word secondary has to be understood because it has a context, and without the context you will not be able to grasp the meaning. Gautam Buddha has said, “To experience enlightenment is primary, but to say anything about it is secondary.” To know it is fundamental, but to say anything about it - howsoever articulate, howsoever intelligently worded - falls into the secondary, into the nonessential. The essential is the experience; the expression is nonessential.
But this is one of the great misfortunes of humanity, that even great truths are destined to be misunderstood by people. What Buddha is saying is one thing; what people hear is another. There is a school which says enlightenment is secondary, and Gautam Buddha himself has said it. Don’t be bothered by it. Certainly Gautam Buddha has said it, but he has not said that enlightenment is secondary. He has said that to say anything about it is to go wrong.even the very word enlightenment, and you have gone far away from the experience.
And you know in your ordinary life there are situations.When you see a beautiful rose, is it the same to experience the beauty of the rose and to say that it is beautiful? Can the word beautiful contain your experience of the rose? You experience love, but is it possible to say through the word love exactly what you experience in the silences of your heart? The love that you experience and the word love are not synonymous. The word is not even an echo of your authentic experience. And these are ordinary realities: beauty, love, gratitude.
Enlightenment is the ultimate experience of being one with the whole. There is no way to say it.
Lao Tzu refused his whole life to say anything about it: “You can talk about everything, but don’t mention the ultimate experience” - because he cannot lie, and to say anything about the ultimate truth is a lie.
Gautam Buddha was right, but he was not taking into consideration the stupid people who are always in the majority. He would never have thought that there would be a school quoting him, saying that enlightenment is secondary; the real thing is to worship, the real thing is to pray. Gautam Buddha has denied.His last words were, “Don’t make statues of me, because I don’t want you to be worshipers, I want you to be buddhas. And a buddha praying before a stone statue is simply ridiculous.”