Lost in Enlightenment


Some ten years ago I came across an interesting book on the definition of “beautiful” women. It examines how beauty has been differently defined over time and visits different areas around the world to see how the definitions differ from culture to culture.


Women were asked about their own definition and condition of being beautiful. Many of them pointed out the inner beauty. The supplementing comment on that page concluded that it’s a matter of whether you are content with yourself or not. How can you be content with yourself? This question has led me to rereading one of the most important Zen canons, Shobo Genzo by Dogen.



“Learning Buddihist principles means learning yourself. Learning yourself means forgetting yourself. Forgetting yourself means being open to whatever surrounds you. Being open to whatever surrounds you means leaving behind whatever you are physically and psychologically bound to.”


This passage is from Genjo Koan, a volume from the Shobo Genzo. What matters to be enlightened is to forget yourself, discard the concept of achieving from your mindset. It follows that your desire to be content with yourself is the very reason why you are not content with yourself. A problem arises when you want to get wherever you want to be. If you want to achieve something or some particular state of being, you always frustrated, wondering “I’m yet to be there.”


We are all afraid of getting lost on the path of life and desperate to find the “right” track. The truth is, there is nothing like the right track. Once you get the idea of hoping to achive the state of enlightenment, you will be lost in an eternal state of getting nowhere. Acknowledging the state of being lost and the fact of no goal coming into sight will lead you to peace and serenity.


Being open to whatever surrounds you means that your understanding of the universe is more direct. You don’t try to interprete or define things by the use of a language. Expose yourself to whatever surrounds you without giving them names. Everything is on the flux. Whatever you see now will change its face in the course of time. You just see them in the transition. You just don’t have to give names to each and every wave on the sea. Once you step away from the realm of definition, you will see beauty, not as someone else defined it but you will see it as it is.


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