Nirvana is just around the corner

4 October 2006

Brad Warner often gets asked about shortcuts to higher states of consciousness and enlightenment – particular systems, drugs, technologies. His take? They’re all crap. I agree. Here’s his (particularly lucid) explanation.

“The basic idea behind this kind of thinking goes like this. First, we assume that there is a better state than the one we have now. Then we assume that someone else has experienced this state and knows how to get us to it. It therefore follows that, if such a person devised a process or a machine or a drug that could induce this state, we could then use that process, machine or drug to experience the state ourselves quickly and easily. Thus we do not have to waste loads of effort on dreary, time-consuming practices like meditation and will have more time to sit around watching Three’s Company reruns or whatever. Moreover, since the process has been devised for us by an expert and tested on others who offer glowing testimonials to its effectiveness, there is no danger that we might spend a lot of energy on something which will fail us in the end.

Here’s why this is not Buddhism, and, more importantly, why it is not true. Let’s start with the idea of higher states of consciousness. How, exactly, is a higher state of consciousness defined? First of all, we assume that there is something called “consciousness.” We have consciousness. Or we are conscious. In any case there is “me” and there is “consciousness” which is experienced by “me.” But consciousness is really just an idea. Just like the idea of self. How do we separate “me” from “consciousness?” Even if you say “I am a being of pure consciousness” you’re still conceiving it as 2 distinct things. This is what the brain does. It must carve things into pieces. It can never envision wholeness. Buddha tried to find the line where one can separate “consciousness” from the things one was conscious of. He found there was no line between them at all. Consciousness may be a faulty idea at best.”

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