How Do You Become Enlightened?

According to Zen tradition there are two methods of becoming enlightened. In the first method you will study with a Zen master. He will guide you through all of the necessary steps. This is the traditional pathway to enlightenment.

The second method, which was followed by Buddha himself, is spontaneous enlightenment. In this method an individual will practice alone for many years. Occasionally he may visit or study with Zen masters or teachers from other pathways that lead to enlightenment.This is a less frequently followed way. It is the particular pathway that I followed to enlightenment.

Normally the first way is recommended. It is very easy to make time-consuming errors on the pathway to enlightenment. If you study with a Zen master he will point them out to you. He will also show you methods and techniques that will speed your progress and make your way more enjoyable.

In the second method you have to be your own guide. It is a very solitary journey and requires constant awareness of the slightest variations in your level of attention. Persons who follow this pathway have usually been enlightened in previous lives. To attain enlightenment through this method without having been enlightened in a previous lifetime is almost impossible.

Following either pathway you must take all of the steps and go through all of the stages and realizations that others who have been enlightened have experienced. By perfecting the practices of zazen and mindfulness, by learning patience and love and by realizing the essential emptiness of all phenomena, you will discover nirvana.

Reprinted from "The Zen Experience"
© 1987 Rama Seminars Inc.