MCTB Ditching our Stuff vs. Ditching the Split
While these two models are stated implicitly above, I thought I would summarize them again to make sure that I have made this important point clear. There are models of awakening that involve getting rid of all of our “stuff”, i.e. our issues, flaws, quirks, pains, negative emotions, traumas, personalities, cultural baggage, childhood scars, relationship difficulties, insecurities, fears, strange notions, etc. Such models underlie most of the mainstream visions of spiritual attainment.
What is funny is that lots of people spend so much time working so hard to get rid of all their stuff but think that enlightenment, i.e. ditching the illusion of the dualistic split, is largely unattainable. I have exactly the opposite view, that ditching the split is very attainable but getting rid of all of our stuff is completely impossible. When I hear about those who wish to attain a type of Buddhahood that is defined by not having any stuff, I usually think to myself that the countless eons they usually claim are necessary to accomplish this are a gross underestimation. The real world is about stuff, and enlightenment is about the real world.
What is very nice about ditching the split, aside from the fact that it can be done, is that now we can be friends with our stuff naturally, even if it sucks. We can work with it as well as can be expected and from a place of great clarity and understanding. Stage by stage, ditching the split makes all the slow but necessary healing so much easier or at least more tolerable. Thus, take the time to work with your stuff, or try not to, as you like. Our stuff is here and being dealt with anyway. However, seriously consider also doing the practices that can ditch the split, i.e. those that ask us to see the true nature of the sensations that make up all of our stuff and our attempts to deal with it.
Try these two scenarios on for size and see which seems to fit with your goals for your life, with your vision of a life well lived. In the first, imagine working with your stuff as best you can for most of your life, never really knowing what is just needless mind noise and mental duress caused by a lack of basic clarity. In your old age you do the practices that lead to realization. The benefits of that level of understanding may then be used for yourself and others during the remaining years of your life.
In the second scenario, you take the time early in your spiritual practice to attain to realization, following the precise instructions and recommendations of a well-developed insight tradition. You then use that level of increased clarity, acceptance, intimacy with life and transcendence to work on your stuff and benefit others for the rest of your life. The second approach seems vastly superior to me, but it is still possible that these things are a matter of taste. One way or the other, take responsibility for the choice you make.