Several of them raise their hands. Mary, who was asking about Zen, doesn't raise her hand. A couple of others who I know are already beyond the First Step don't raise their hands either, but nearly a dozen do. I'm not surprised by this but I wish to use it as a springboard into a larger and more interesting topic.
I stand up and begin pacing back and forth across the fire from them. I give it a minute, let a little suspense build, and then let it out.
Several jaws drop.
"Bliss is nothing. It's not relevant. It's a pretty piece of candy that has lured you away from the real work of waking up. Get it out of your heads. I can't emphasize this enough. This is right at the very heart of the web of misconception that diverts countless millions of seekers away from their own awakening. This is exactly the kind of narcotic you have to break free of.
"Now, pay attention. The way to get something out of your head isn't to hear some spiritual teacher say it's bullshit. It's for you to drag it out and really shine a light on it for yourself. This bliss nonsense is a perfect example. Do you really think that enlightenment is going to be like a permanently extended sexual orgasm?" Muffled titters and chuckles. "Think about it. Think for yourself. That's the Golden Rule in this game: Think for yourself."
I pause to let that thought find a home.
"Enlightenment is not a peak experience. It is not a neverending cosmic orgasm. It is not an altered state of consciousness. It's not a happily-ever-after fairy tale. It's just waking up - as simple and as difficult as that. We've all been sold on the idea of an everlasting spiritual high that we can never know except in flashes and glimpses of which the mind cannot even retain a memory. That's the opiate and the masses are sucking it up. Permanent bliss is just heaven repackaged for a slightly hipper crowd.
"The larger issue here is how such a bizarre belief found it's way into your heads in the first place. That should be a pretty scary thought. If that foolish notion was so firmly rooted in your thinking, what else is in there? If you're thoughts and beliefs aren't your own, then who are you? You must re-examine your assumptions, and believe me, only a small fraction of them are visible. Unchallenged acceptance can define you and alter the course of your life. For instance, maybe the whole reason you're on a spiritual quest in the first place is because of the unchallenged belief that this path ends in a permanent state of super-dooper happiness. Maybe you don't really want to go where this really leads. Maybe you're just in it for the fairy tale. I would guess that that is true of over ninety-nine percent of all spiritual seekers."
I look around and see everyone staring at me wide-eyed. Is my zipper open? "Think for yourself. That's the real golden rule. Think for yourself. Make it your mantra. Tattoo it on the inside of your eyelids."
From (fictional) Jed McKenna, Spiritual Enlightenment The Damnedest Thing. (Enlightenment is about truth.)