Thursday, December 24, 2009

On Spiritual Attainment...

A comment thread on the "Andrew Cohen is bad" post on gniz's website leads me to the following comment: The problem with "spiritual attainment," as any skeptic rationalist will tell you, is that it is non-falsifiable. It's non-falsifiable because there's no such experiment a non-spiritually attained person can do to objectively measure spiritual attainment.

A guy can sit in the full or half lotus position for X hours, but that only means he can do that.  Whether the person acts from a viewpoint where subject and object are seen in their proper perspective, say, from within the Lankavatara Sutra, though, cannot really be tested.

Now this does not mean that spiritual attainment does not exist, but if that doesn't quite get you to the point where you see through the death of Nan-ch'uan, it should at least provide a signpost.

If you come to some guy seeking your own answers to the Big Questions in life, and wait out in the snow for 3 days to see him, and it takes multiple rebuffs before he'll agree to at least give you some rice gruel as you help clean the latrines, then, in your case, it might take a while before you understand the death of Nan-ch'uan, and you might mistake your teacher for being someone with high spiritual attainment in the meantime.

Conversely,  you might take the position that spiritual attainment of both you and the "teacher" is impossible, and this might arise out of a cold, cynical heart masking burning resentment or you may take the position because you've found yourself in the last Oxherding Picture.

Anyway, that's really why I like Hakuin's position on the subject.  I think there is such a thing as "spiritual attainment," but I'm not going to spend much time over some cult leader's attainment or lack thereof.

Trungpa Rinpoche wrote a whole book on spiritual materialism.  How is gravitating around a guy who has "achieved spiritual attainment" not spiritual materialism?

Happy Christmas, folks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

last few days our class held a similar talk on this topic and you illustrate something we have not covered yet, thanks.

- Laura