Enlightenment in Plain English: Prologue
Gautama Buddha lived 2500 years ago in India.
He dropped out of being a prince and went wandering in the forests seeking liberation from old age, disease and death. He tried all kinds of practices, had all kinds of experiences until one night he understood something really profound that made him completely and irreversibly free.
After some deliberation he decided to try to teach others. For that he had to put his experiential realization in words that could be understood and followed by others.
Remember, it all happened 2500 years ago in India. People had specific daily experiences, they struggled with specific problems. So Gautama Buddha used specific metaphors to convey his message. His first teaching was delivered to a group of five wandering ascetics most likely in Pali language. We now call this teaching Four Noble Truths in English language.
I wonder, what if Gautama Buddha lived today in Europe or US or China or Russia? What if he dropped out of college and went out wandering around the world seeking liberation from oppression of the same old routine? What if he got his realization, decided to teach others and delivered his first teaching to an assembly of theoretical physicists in English language?
I bet he would’ve used metaphors like “distortion of perceptual field”, “polarization of still point”, “positive feedback loop” and so on.
So why do we cling to the words of historical Buddha as literal truths often taking them out of context? Why do we fight over interpretations of words from a dead language that were meant to be heard by peasants in India 2500 years ago? Their lives were so obviously filled with suffering, ours still are but in more subtle ways. It made a lot of sense to teach liberation based on suffering then, much less so today.
That’s one of the reasons teachings of liberation (enlightenment) often sound nonsensical to contemporary ears.
I want to change that. I am not a Buddha (yet), however I’ve followed what he taught, got some realization and now I’m much more free than I was before. There’s a long road ahead though to even deeper and wider freedom.
I do not want to blindly repeat words of other guys. Even words that worked for me. I want to use my own words derived from contexts I inhabit. So that people who inhabit similar contexts people who we share some significant meaning with, will understand what is liberation, why it is significant and how to achieve it in contemporary daily life.
Prologue end. It feels some context for the following content was necessary. Wait for the content. If you like.
May all beings be free.