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I've been listening to Eckhart Tolle's first book "The Power of Now" for the first time (I downloaded it from Audible back in 2003 lol). This guy was apparently 'struck' with his awakening suddenly, after years of depression and what sounds like honest modern 'searching' among philosophies and religions. At the age of 29, after a long suicidal depression he woke in the middle of the night and had an epiphany:
I couldn’t live with myself any longer. And in this a question arose without an answer: who is the ‘I’ that cannot live with the self? What is the self? I felt drawn into a void! I didn’t know at the time that what really happened was the mind-made self, with its heaviness, its problems, that lives between the unsatisfying past and the fearful future, collapsed. It dissolved. The next morning I woke up and everything was so peaceful. The peace was there because there was no self. Just a sense of presence or “beingness,” just observing and watching.
Contrast this with the Buddha, who left his family at roughly the same age, sat beneath two powerful meditation masters and then lived as an ascetic for six years, abandoned that and finally received his epiphany. The Buddha is said to have worked very, very VERY hard to attain the purified state of mind with which to receive his awakening.
Apparently, you can work very hard to 'wake up' AND it can happen dramatically without a prescribed system of approach.
Seems like there could be serious issues with the sudden, dramatic version . . . a powerful unitive experience in unskillful hands could be disastrous. I'd wager it HAS been disastrous.
Imagine trying to make sense out of all that.
From our earliest 'religious' roots in shamanism, the leaders and healers used plant extracts to induce unitive experiences. I recently watched a documentary about a financial analyst and a naturopath who went to Peru for a ayahuasca ceremony. Normal everyday middle class educated Westerners. Their filmed experiences and reactions/responses were genuine, they weren't druggie losers trying to escape responsibility. I was intrigued.
It's too easy (and probably wrong in some fundamental way) to deny the veracity of one person's awakening versus your preferred method. I'd like to ponder this with an open mind. Anybody else up for it?