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Buddhadharma : Fall 2017
fall 2017 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 29 the path Just When You Think You’re Enlightened by Andrew Holecek Sooner or later it’s going to happen—it might be the very first time you meditate or only after years of dedicated practice, but someday you’re going to have a spiritual experience. These experiences come in many forms, ranging from sim- ple tranquility to radiant ecstasy. In their fullest expression, they are spiritual earthquakes that can transform your life. At more modest levels, they can manifest as the total cessation of thought, an out-of-body experience, or sensations of bliss and clarity. You might have an experience of profound meditation, or of union with the entire cosmos, and say to yourself, “This is it! This is what I’ve been waiting for.” Like the endorphins released in a runner’s high, these experiences are the meditator’s high. And they are addicting. Spiritual experiences are called nyam in Tibetan, which means “temporary experience,” and every meditator needs to be aware of them. Nyam is set in contrast to tokpa, which means “realization.” Nyam is like pleasant vapor. No matter how good it feels, it always evaporates. Tokpa is like a mountain. It stays. A nyam always has a beginning and an end. One day you soar into the most heavenly meditation, but eventually you drop back to Earth. There are no dropouts with authentic realization. During one long retreat, I had another nyam. When I came out of retreat, I raced to share my “realization” with my teacher, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche. As I shared my enlightenment experience, he yawned and looked out the window. My so-called “awakening” was putting him to sleep! When I was done, he spoke about a topic that had nothing to do with my experience. I came in all puffed up with my nyam and left punctured and deflated. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it was exactly what I needed. Summer 2014