The Enlightened Response

In recent months several people have asked me, “What is an enlightened response to the craziness in our world today?”

Their question is usually sincere and from the heart. It seems like a good question. But unfortunately, it’s the wrong question to ask.

I say it’s the wrong question because it presupposes that an enlightened response is determined by what action we take. And this is not necessarily true.

A better question might be: “How do I respond to this event/condition from an enlightened understanding?”

 Please note that this question addresses how we act, rather than what specific action should be taken.

 The human mind wants to create a formula/strategy/policy for determining the course of future actions. This is not necessarily bad, it maybe be helpful to have “a plan on hand” for some of the eventualities of life. However, all such planning, strategizing etc. operates from memory and from past conditioning.

We use memory to interpret the present moment and to develop a strategy for the future. This strategy may work as long as the future replicates the past—but it rarely does!

An enlightened response does not look any particular way when viewed from the outside looking in. The enlightened response is unique and arises from the needs of the present moment rather than from a premeditated strategy. An enlightened response is the perfect response to any particular circumstance because each one of us has the innate wisdom to do exactly what is needed in any given situation.

To access this wisdom requires our willingness to suspend any “story” that we might have about this condition and to be willing to live in the unknown.It requires us to listen to the heart and trust what the heart tells us.

This is very different from an impulsive “knee-jerk” reaction. It is not reacting from instinct or from ego-centered emotions. It is not motivated by revenge or by personal animosity. It does not act from condemnation or hatred.

An enlightened response is a conscious choice. It is not attached to specific results. It is acting from the integrity of the heart.

To do this requires discipline and courage; it requires integrity and nonattachment.

A story from the Japanese Zen tradition:

A samurai warrior once was charged with avenging a noble’s death at the hands of a rival warlord. He trained for four years, studied the warlord’s habits, and planned his attack.
When the day came, he stealthily approached the warlord when he was alone, and cornered him. The samurai held his katana (sword) aloft, poised to strike the final blow, when the warlord, utterly defeated, spit in the face of the samurai.

The samurai sheathed his sword and walked away– rather than kill the warlord motivated by personal anger.

Adapted from the Tao to Ching:

The ancient Masters were profound and subtle.

Their wisdom was unfathomable.

There is no way to describe it….

They were as alert as a warrior in enemy territory.

Courteous as a guest.

Fluid as melting ice….

Clear as a glass of water.

Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?

Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself?

I invite you to discover and to call forth the Samurai within you!