[Feb 15 2014]

Raymond Li  BSc Pharm

My mind was adrift with a myriad of continuous thoughts.  My entire person was inundated by the incessant ramblings, curious musings, and uncontrollable chatter of the rotating psyche.  I wanted it to stop.  I had done enough thinking.  I had experienced enough breadth and depth to last me many decades and perhaps lifetimes to come.  The painful world enveloped so perfectly by the words of Miss Dickinson was one I wanted to disconnect from.

I had been watching online videos that discussed how those who are enlightened no longer have wandering thoughts and how those who are considered existing within the realm of the bodhisattva continue to experience such things.  I thought that long, meandering thought processes were required to properly capture/describe the extreme enormity of truth.  Perhaps in order to describe certain concepts to others, the great wandering and meandering of thought is required, but it occurred that there might be a reason why those experiencing higher realms of enlightenment always say such things are indescribable (as is already the case for many realms beneath.)

So I tried allowing my mind to be still.  As still as it could be.  That was over a year ago and my mind still does not have the tranquil calm of Krishnamurti or Buddha.  On top of this, half way through this process, I was questioning whether stillness of mind would lead to anything or whether enlightenment was even real.  I was still in tremendous pain and I think I wanted a quick fix – a quick shot of bliss to ease the suffering.  Eventually, I decided to revisit the works of Miss Dickinson thinking perhaps it was the realm I was meant to be immersed within for many years to come. Of her roughly 1800 poems I chose 100 poems in the middle of the collection to read; it was roughly halfway down that list I found a poem that matched up almost precisely to those blissful states whose existences I had been speculating upon.  I was shocked to discover that she had attained such a state, especially because of how awe-struck I had already been by her ability to so powerfully and perfectly capture and convey extreme realms of suffering and alienation; and now for her to experience and detail yet another realm traditionally classified as transcendental was near unbelievable.

One Blessing had I than the rest
So larger to my Eyes
That I stopped gauging—satisfied—
For this enchanted size—

It was the limit of my Dream—
The focus of my Prayer—
A perfect—paralyzing Bliss—
Contented as Despair—

I knew no more of Want—or Cold—
Phantasms both become
For this new Value in the Soul—
Supremest Earthly Sum—

The Heaven below the Heaven above—
Obscured with ruddier Blue—
Life’s Latitudes leant over—full—
The Judgment perished—too—

Why Bliss so scantily disburse—
Why Paradise defer—
Why Floods be served to Us—in Bowls—
I speculate no more—

-Emily Dickinson

I knew from previous poems that Dickinson’s level of honesty and insight revealed through her often shrouded and mysterious verses is unsurpassed when read in the right frame of mind with the right experiences as proper context for understanding.  It was this poem that made me realize that Nirvana was a genuine state, not just fabricated through superstition and passed down as false hope for people struggling through existence.

Before I continue, I would like to introduce the conceptual framework I try to use to understand these higher level states.  I’m not sure how well they coincide with traditional definitions, but they suffice, at least for now.  I see Nirvana as a state of supreme bliss for the soul.  I see Mindfulness as extreme stillness and tranquility of the mind.  I see Enlightenment as both put together.

There was a gentleman from New Zealand who also stated that “enlightenment” occurred within his soul and described the bliss of the experience as overwhelming to the nervous system and indescribable by words [1].  He achieved the state through meditation.  I’m not sure how Dickinson achieved her state of bliss.  The gentleman from New Zealand had the nickname “Maitreya Ishwara.”  However, in my classification scheme, his experience would be categorized as Nirvana.

Next, it’s useful to discuss a Korean monk by the name of Seongcheol who was a key figure in modern Korean Buddhism [2].  There are some interesting similarities within his work and the works of Miss Dickinson.

The great achievements of the world are but snowflakes melting on fire,
Accomplishments that move oceans are but dew disappearing in the glare of the sun…


Diadems drop and Doges surrender, 
Soundless as dots on a disk of snow.


More important than this, however, is the interesting description of certain conceptions within the mind dropping away and seeing the world for what it is with new perspective:

Sun and moon lose their light and the earth falls away,
Smiling once and turning around, the blue mountain stands amongst the white clouds as before.


No other truth than seeing and hearing
Do you understand?
Mountain is mountain, water is water.


The Heaven below the Heaven above—
Obscured with ruddier Blue—


It’s also interesting to note that despite her Christian upbringing, the multiple Biblical allusions used in her work, and her extreme familiarity with the divine conviction of the martyr, Dickinson still eventually goes on to achieve what Eastern Sages describe as the state of Nirvana.  She stated in one poem that she stopped going to church because she was more pious than any church-goer anyway. [See poem: “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church-“]  In my opinion, states of piety, bliss, sin, martyrdom, sacrifice, and divine conviction are not removed from biology or neurology. Thus, it is likely our pathological wiring that determines how sinister and how sacrificial we as humans are;- with the qualities of more upstanding human organisms becoming the inspiration for deeper religious themes, symbolism, and stories that get passed on through the ages.  Transcendental states and experiences are likely fundamentally entrenched into our chemical hard-wiring through evolution and natural selection to be unlocked when we are ready to receive the enormity of such insight.  That such things are intertwined to science inherently do not diminish such states of bliss.  And that Dickinson achieves Nirvana should not stand as something to completely repudiate Christianity.  It is more likely that Biblical themes, teachings, and perspectives helped shape her journey towards Nirvana signifying underlying spiritual thematic-overlap amongst major world religions.

Getting back to similarities between multiple accounts of “enlightenment,” we see that Buddha also experienced the “falling away” of conception:

There is that dimension where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor stasis; neither passing away nor arising: without stance, without foundation, without support [mental object]. This, just this, is the end of stress. [3]


Both Buddha and Seongcheol experience non-duality:

Perfect enlightenment pervades all, serenity and destruction are not two
All that is visible is Avalokiteshvara, all that is audible is the mystical sound


Buddha, like Dickinson, experienced the sky opening up to reveal its secrets:

Life’s Latitudes leant over—full—
The Judgment perished—too—


( [48:06-55:10] : Buddha’s final awakening)

However, Buddha’s tranquil bliss has a different energy than Dickinson’s “paralyzing bliss.”  Dickinson and Maitreya Ishwara from New Zealand both describe extreme bliss stemming from the soul.  Maitreya Ishwara in his book “Unity” said he enjoyed the contrast between the enlightenment of his soul and his regular perception.

Krishnamurti had a similar energy to Buddha in that he had an energy of calm tranquility, of peace and stillness of mind; he understood concepts of emptiness, nothingness, and the lack of independent action; however, he did not seem to have the same blissfulness experienced by Buddha or Dickinson and I never read accounts by him having experienced something similar to the universe leaning over full to reveal itself to him.

This is what led me to surmise that enlightenment of the soul is Nirvana, that stillness of the mind is mindfulness, and that since Buddha seemed to experience qualities of both realms, that Buddhist-style enlightenment was a symbiosis of the two.


[1] http://www.ishwara.com/story.htm
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seongcheol
[3] http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.8.01.than.html


4 thoughts on “Enlightenment

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