I’m sure you’ve heard yoga types roll out this line: “Enlightenment is knowing everything is an illusion.” I don’t even know how somebody could prove this, but I’ll bite: Is this notion helpful?
If we see our friends and our passions as illusions, we will be less invested in them. Apathy would take many of us over. If things aren’t real, then it seems stupid to pursue them.
If we see ourselves as an illusion, we might not even pursue self-preservation. But it’s human nature to exempt ourselves from this analysis. “I think, therefore I am” is an antiquated notion but it still holds sway. If we have a hunch that we’re real and everything else is an illusion, we’re going to invest in ourselves alone.
The premise that everything is illusory results in nihilism, isolation, and acting in self-interest. In short, it’s not helpful at all.
“Enlightenment does not divide you, just as the moon does not break the water.”Genji Koan (1233)
What if enlightenment is knowing that everything is impermanent instead? This would change our outlook considerably.
The people and things in our life are really there, but there’s an end date to all of them. So we prioritize people and things we have right now. We foster a greater appreciation for all we have today.
While we could exempt ourselves from this analysis as well, deep down we all know we are mortal. So we become more resourceful. We reach out and connect with people. We see ourselves as a real but temporary soul swimming in a real but temporary world.
This definition of enlightenment gives us what I think is the greatest gift a philosophy can give: a healthy push to become interconnected with everything around us.
Photo credit: “a connection between past and future” by gioiadeantoniis is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.