I need to say more about processes like “emergence” and “arrival.”
I think many of us assume that enlightenment is a sudden process only, that one day we will see a light or witness Jesus standing before us, and become enlightened. Others see enlightenment as a gradual process in which we awaken more and more, through a series of gradual steps.
In Japan there are “sudden” and “gradual” schools of enlightenment.
The truth for me is that enlightenment has both sudden and gradual elements to it and even enlightenment itself can be either sudden or gradual.
Monks in Japan usually meditated for years before enlightenment. This meditation was a gradual process, even if their enlightenment was sudden.
Those lucky few like the Sixth Ch’an patriarch, Hui Neng, or Ramana Maharshi, who awakened suddenly without any prior practice would be found, I feel quite certain, to have studied arduously in other lifetimes and not need years of practice in this one. Some of them may have been enlightened in other lifetimes and have come here in this one to serve as models and teachers.
There is also a variety of enlightenment that happens gradually and some of its milestones are events which I call, after others whom I no longer remember, “emergence” and “arrival.”
Emergence is a decision made in the moment to stand forth as one’s truth in the face of countervailing pressures to remain silent, give in, succumb, or surrender. A person stands forth as their truth in the face of frightening odds or terrifying circumstances and they “emerge.” Mothers who lift cars off their babies “emerge.” People who walk into enemy fire or wrestle with a lion to save their loved ones “emerge.” people who are obliged to speak truth to power may emerge before being required to do so.
Arrival is the passage from a simply intellectual appreciation or understanding of an event to a much deeper experience of it that has bodily correlates, such as weeping or horror or actual bodily spasms and such. Sometimes one can “arrive” in the midst of a heart attack. One can “arrive” in the course of a near-death experience.
One can emerge and emerge and emerge, each time coming more and more out of a shell and standing forth ever more completely as one’s truth. One can arrive in one setting after another and in fact, I would imagine that people usually do.
I am not enlightened, so I cannot say whether emergence or arrival leads to enlightenment. But I consider them both stages of it and part of the gradual process which may itself simply blend into enlightenment, as a few sages have said happens, or else result eventually in a sudden starburst of enlightenment.
I was asked recently what I was aiming at in producing this website. I replied that I was interested in “transparency.” Transparency lays the groundwork for emergence and arrival. By being truthful – as truthful as it is wise to be, given that we face forces that would exploit our truthfulness – one is, as it were, exercising the same faculty that will be used to emerge and arrive.
As a writer, I give up having the time to meditate. Meditation is not my path. Emergence and arrival are. I choose to stand forth as my truth, more and more each day, and I feel a subsequent strengthening and clarifying occur inside me.
Your path is your path, as it should be. Transparency, emergence, arrival are mine. Standing forth is mine. Showing up is mine. Being present and aware is another way of describing it. Owning my life and acting without fear are others.
When I estimate my growth, I do not ask myself if I have experienced enlightenment. I ask myself if I have emerged, if I stand forth as my truth, if I have shown up.
Well, it’s 3:45 in the morning. Again I’ve turned night into day. Not much of an accomplishment. But emerging is an accomplishment, as is arrival, showing up, standing forth. As each year passes, and I risk this sounding egoistic, my life feels more and more like a noble accomplishment.
Millions and millions of allies from the distant reaches of space and dimensions far higher than our own have come here to set the scene for this to happen for me and you. I am not making this journey on my own. There is an unseen cast of millions and hundreds of you friends out there, perhaps even thousands, embarked on the same journey: Emerging, arriving, standing forth.