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  • Ryan J. Burton

Buddhas & Mortals

Updated: Feb 5


It is becoming obvious, glaring, strikingly undeniably clear as day, that the way I have been living, the way I have followed this path is entirely wrong. Whatever this state of wakefulness is, some call it awakening, I would not at all say at all that it is the Buddha’s enlightenment. Suffering arises upon meeting conditions which cause it.

Nonetheless, this consciousness, this state is radically different than anything I’ve functioned in up to this point, even in comparison to mystical and transcendent experiences. It is not an experience. It is not even a thing. I can’t reach out and touch it or give it you or anyone.

What this wakefulness is, where it comes from, how or why I stumbled into, is still something I don’t know. It’s as if your life was a dream and suddenly you wake up in it. Similar to a lucid dream, except now you are almost uninterruptedly lucid whether awake or asleep. This presence is the only thing I could ever call grace. When it is most manifest, all phenomena, all the senses and perceptions, all thought and form exist as a single roaring wave… which somehow never crashes.

For so many years, I struggled in meditation. Traveled the world to find teachers. Studied under them and received initiations. Fortunately, I’ve been privy to sit at the feet of spiritual greats, but even they could not offer the predicament I’ve found myself in. All those years with them, whether the time was wasted or useful, was nutriment to a seed that is also within every person.

The sprouting of that seed, you could call that awakening. A great tree which bears fruit for countless beings, you could call that person a Buddha. What is the difference between a Buddha and any other person? The only difference is the degree of awakened-ness in the mind.

The path is presented as the accumulation of virtues, which eventually result in awakening or enlightenment. Virtues are to be accumulated, but the trick is engaging in action without reifying a self that performs them.

The next question, of course, is how do you do that?

For the sake of being as transparent as possible, a great portion of this work will describe non-dual awareness, awakening, meditation, and everything else that comes with it from an internal experiential perspective.

Stability and continuity of non-dual presence waxes and wanes at this stage of unfolding. What does that mean? It means "I" oscillate and cycle between being nothing & everything and some normal baseline egocentric functioning. Along with that comes occasional out-of-body experiences, precognitive dreams, and things of that sort.

In this state, as I write these words and sit on this couch, there’s no self, therefore no difference between subject and object, me and this keyboard, the words I’m writing and the imagined audience reading it. Everything is immense and insignificant at the same time.

The interesting thing about this state is that it comes to the forefront in the absence of any will or volition. As if somehow the machinations of the working mind, the very center of will and personhood are EXACTLY what obstruct it. Today I had to engage in a lot of left-brained activity and thinking. I wish I could do less of that… it’s really crucial. There’s a reason masters live simply and without much ruckus. Thinking, planning, organizing, as important as things are, can be very very distracting.

  1. Buddhas are no different than mortals.

  2. Buddhas are awakened whereas mortals are not.

How can both these statements be simultaneously true? It can be answered by investigating what a person is before and after enlightenment. Enlightenment is not something that is actually gained, in the same way that a person gains a fortune. Enlightenment is a realization, an awakening.

When a person wakes up from sleep does she GAIN being awake? Or is it more appropriate to say that because she is no longer sleeping, she must be awake? When it comes to enlightenment, something new or external is not gained.

Buddhas know their nature. Mortals don’t. The difference is not in substance. Knowing directly, experientially is wisdom or insight. The only difference between mortals and Buddhas is wisdom. Buddhas like us are born as humans, raised by families, were unaware of truth and then eventually realized truth.

Truth doesn’t fall out of the sky. Truth is the sky. Not being able to turn your head upward, you wouldn’t even know the sky was there. Realization is seeing and knowing the sky. It was always there, but for one reason or another people aren’t able to raise their heads to see it.

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