3 Analogies that Describe Enlightening Progress in Your Practice

Buddhist practice, be it meditation, chanting, exegesis, mindfulness, or something esoteric, can reward you with clarity of mind, focus, insight, ethical conduct, heightened intuition, and a heart softened.

It helps to know that you are on track with your practice, at the same time what you experience is normal and hence nothing extraordinary, as if you’re already a Buddha after a particularly good sit.

Here are 3 similes that the Mahayana Buddhist text, the Shurangama Sutra, employs to describe mostly indescribably states of mind.

1. An Aquaphobic Reaches Shore

Fears, anxiety, worries are psychological or psychic mentalities. When you’re able to focus on the object of your practice or worship, it is as if you were an acoraphobic or aquaphobic trying to cross a sky bridge. By not looking down at what frightens you, instead, looking up at the sky, you inch toward the other side. Of course, when you can’t resist or feel drawn into the whirling stories that constantly repeat, it is as if you the acoraphoic looks down or the aquaphobic looks at the water, fainting. Through sheer concentration, you may overcome, dismiss, or gently reject your consternations, dramas, and butterflies in the stomach.

You will know when you have made it and that you can do it again!

2. Autumn Sky

On a cool, crisp fall night, even the air can cut through fogginess. The moon is big, bright, and undeniably clear overhead.

Illuminated clarity experienced in practice can be refreshing, deep, all-embracing, magnetic. You can literally see the light of your inherent nature, a beam that sheds light on your life or areas of your life, a ray of luminosity that energizes and infuses with precision, insight, and a lightness of being into your interactions. You notice subtle sounds, sights, tastes, touches, and thoughts that you didn’t used to notice. You may be able to hear at a gathering the several dozen conversations occurring simultaneously, such that you hear every word to Dan giving his boss a piece of his mind, the host couple venting their worries back and forth about not having enough hors d’oeuvres, and the little girls in the corner giggling and gawking at the adults.

Often when you’re distraught or upset, no longer in a state of peace, sensory perception becomes blurry or obscured. You miss the lines etched into leaves, the sound of splashes from puddles being stomped into, the plush grooves wrapped about your seat cushion, and so on.

This kind of clarity is also distinct from being “in the flow”, where you are so absorbed that you lose track of time or fail to notice anything happening around you. Your rapt attention is on one sensory object only, missing all others.

And remember too, as soon as you notice yourself applauding, “Yes, I see light everywhere.” You’re off-track and that light you see is a figment of your conscious imagination.

3. Frog in a Well Sees Sky

Entrapped in our ward of dark daily grind, oblique dreariness, soiled stench, you trudge through life without realizing that you exist in a stinking black hole of a well. The moment that your practice shows you a dimension so expansive, so light-filled, and so freeing, is likened to the day that the frog in the well sees blue yonder. Your world is no longer the same. Your physical world, psychological world, and spiritual world are all inextricably transformed. A more mundane example may be changing impressions about a powerful person you once wished to support upon uncovering breaking news about his misconduct.

This analogy refers to a more enlightening expansion of perception. While you move through the same routines every day, it’s no longer dark, oblique, and sickened with a stink. Though the frog doesn’t, and cannot, physically hop onto a floating cloud, its world opens up in a way that alters everything.