I read with great interest Claudia's recent post about the measure of enlightenment. Claudia quotes Deepak Chopra's latest tweet,
"The measure of your enlightenment is the degree to which you are comfortable with paradox, contradiction and ambiguity"
I know nothing about Chopra's teachings, so I'm going to take the liberty of understanding this particular quote purely at face-value apart from its original context, and stick out my neck to say a couple of things about this business of enlightenment.
I don't have a handy definition of what enlightenment is, but I have a strong feeling that, whatever it is, it must involve being effective in the world. What do I mean by this? Being effective in the world means being able to respond to anything that life throws at you in a way that is appropriate and which creates the greatest value for all parties concerned. Sometimes this involves standing back, observing and taking a receptive attitude in order to learn more about what's going on. At other times, what is called for is the ability to understand the situation from as many points of view as possible, and to respond in such a way as to accommodate everyone's diverse interests. At yet other times, being effective in the world demands that we be able to perceive injustice or inequity, whether to ourselves or to others, and to speak up or take decisive action to protect ourselves and others.
If I am correct in thinking that enlightenment, whatever it is, involves being effective in the world in the ways mentioned above, then I'm not sure if simply being comfortable with paradox, contradiction and ambiguity is sufficient to make one an enlightened being. It seems to me that one can be so comfortable with the sense of paradox and contradiction that often accompanies great injustice and inequity that one fails to speak up or take action at the decisive moment. Think, for instance, of the sense of contradiction that occurs when one sees somebody being persecuted politically or at the workplace, or on account of race, gender, or sexual orientation. It seems to me that throughout history, the people who have stood up against persecution are precisely those who felt really uncomfortable with the sense of contradiction or cognitive dissonance that is stirred up by such injustices or inequities. This sense of being uncomfortable makes them feel that it is wrong to stand around and say or do nothing when others are being persecuted or are undergoing great suffering.
Of course, as I said, I don't have a definition of enlightenment. Maybe, for all I know, enlightenment has absolutely nothing to do with being effective in this world. Maybe when one is enlightened, one becomes some kind of otherworldly being, so that the injustices of this world do not matter any more. But if this is true, what value is there to being enlightened? What good is being enlightened if one ceases to be an effective human being?
I'm just thinking aloud here, as usual. I don't have any conclusions one way or the other. If you have anything to share, I'll love to hear from you.