I've come to learn this week that Pam Tan just had a breakthrough awakening. I've been expecting that, as I felt she was close. She is the fifth Singaporean that has spiritually awakened (by awakened here I mean at least the realization of anatta) after encountering me, John or our blog (and there are about 20 others from other countries that have also awakened to anatta/emptiness in part through the influence of our blog or conversations -- but I am not a guru or teacher, and ultimately all awakenings comes from one's own potentiality, contemplation and investigation more than an external source or trigger). I am going to share excerpts about it in the next post, with her permissions.

This brings the lofty ideals of "awakening" from the realm of stories and myths back to earth. It's the tangible, normal folks like you and me, who achieve awakening. And very much as it should be -- after all, examples were given in "The Supreme Source: The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde Kunjed Gyalpo" of how some of the Dzogchen masters were prostitutes who nevertheless awakened through receiving intimate pith instructions from their masters. Furthermore the Zen teachings always emphasize how spirituality or spiritual awakening is never separate from the mundane and ordinary life of "chop wood, carry water". And Kunjed Gyalpo tells us, "Seek the location of the heart essence through phenomena that derive from it and come to appreciate it through the skillful means of not conceptualizing in any way whatsoever. Since the heart essence occurs naturally, dharmakaya is not elsewhere." Nirvana is after-all, samsara rightly seen. It is never about separating yourself or becoming distant and aloof from the nitty gritty of daily lives but rather, the complete gapless/undivided engagement and spontaneous living where even the term 'intimacy' no longer quite apply any longer (who is being intimate with what?)

Awakening is our birthright, our buddha-nature (potentiality for awakening) is never sealed off from anyone nor is it ever the province of an elite group of people. For as Padmasambhava also stated, "If he practices, then even a cowherd can realize liberation. Even though he does not know the explanation, he can systematically establish himself in the experience of it." So as I just told another friend I met a few days back, you must trust in your own capacity.

Spiritual awakening used to be relegated to great yogis residing in far off remote places very distant from the lives of ordinary city folks, such that most people will never believe that it is accessible or relevant to the ordinary lay people like you and me. I believe this perception or stereotype will certainly change as time passes.

Technologies allow for new possibilities never existing before in history, such as the exchanges between supportive adventurers on the path across thousands of miles, or even become a platform for a gathering of strong practitioners at various stages and from various traditions and backgrounds. Technology provides a fertile ground for cross-cultural, cross-traditional exchanges that may foster deeper understandings and fruitful discussions. Add to that, a growing number of people seem to be adapting to a "pragmatic dharma" (refer to Daniel Ingram's writings on this) attitude of open sharing from their experiences, transcending old dogmas and taboos surrounding the topic of spiritual awakening.

In contrast, people living just 50 or 100 years ago aren't nearly as connected to others today, and genuine spiritual teachers (much less truly attained and realized spiritual masters) and teachings and fellowships may be limited to certain localities and may be hard to come by. Today, a truly realized spiritual master may be a Skype call away even if he/she lives in another country. Nowadays, you can have an equivalent of Nalanda library available through a mouse-click away, or the entire Buddhist canon available on your iPad, thanks also to translators at foundations like 84000.co. Also, as John commented before, many practitioners in olden times may not have very strong view due to the lack of easy access to written spiritual texts or scriptures (even though they may be very dedicated, disciplined and sincere, perhaps more so than modern day people). So consider ourselves to be very fortunate.

More people are now able to read up and get connected with spiritual resources and fellowships with the help of an open internet which brings entire libraries of information to their fingertips. This is certainly not a replacement for a face-to-face spiritual community or teacher which always remains important and most valuable, but at least more people are becoming aware and have a huge resource available to their aid and have more directions.

May the growing awareness of this potentiality - the innate potentiality to awaken to our true nature, spread like wildfire in time to come for the benefit of all motherly sentient beings. And may technology continue to evolve and become an even greater aid for our spiritual advancements.
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