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Excerpted from Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate by Brad Warner. Copyright © 2009 by Brad Warner. Excerpted by permission of New World Library, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 

"Enlightenment has to be practiced."

  Brad Warner,
Zen Wrapped in Karma
Dipped in Chocolate
, Part 1

The practice of zazen is unassailable. It doesn't matter what you think. It doesn't matter what you feel. It doesn't matter if you hate it or love it. It doesn't matter if you think you're doing it wrong and wasting your time or if you're all jazzed up about how cool and "Zen" you are. The practice itself transcends all attempts to box it in.

There's a story in which a Zen master hears about a wandering monk who says, "If a clear mind comes, let it come. If a cloudy mind comes, let it come." The Zen master grabs him and yells, "What if neither a clear mind nor a cloudy mind comes?" The monk says, "I hear they're having a big sale on underwear at JC Penney" and wanders off. The master says approvingly, "I thought this was no ordinary monk!"

There's also another kind of enlightenment. When you've done the practice of zazen for years and years you begin to accumulate little bits of understanding. At some point these little bits and pieces begin to come together. Gradually a kind of deeper intuitive knowledge starts to form. At some point this process reaches a kind of threshold and there may be a single moment in which everything seems to change. Or maybe several of those moments. Or maybe none at all, just a sense that something has changed.

That doesn't mean that everything gets fixed forever. You still have to live, with all the hassles you had before. You just have a better idea about what it is you're living and how to deal with it. That doesn't mean you'll always do what you should, though. Enlightenment has to be practiced.

The first kind of enlightenment happens instantaneously, as soon as you sit on your cushion. You can put this book down and go have it right this second.

As for the second type, there is no way to get it without years of practice. That's just the way it is. And nothing will ever change that. No miracle drug. No miracle process. Nothing. Imagining you could get enlightenment quickly would be like imagining you could do fifteen minutes of sit-ups and get a bod like one of the chicks from America's Next Top Model, or thinking you could take a single guitar lesson and emerge playing Eddie Van Halen's "Eruption," or believing you could take one yoga class and be able to bend your leg around the back of your head afterward. It just doesn't happen that way. Never can. Never will.

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