Brad Warner

True nonattachment is understanding that you are fundamentally attached to everything and, through that understanding, dropping your attachment to the view that you are detached from that which you encounter. At the same time, real nonattachment means not clinging to things or people. It means dropping the idea that if you don’t have this or if you can’t get that, your life will be a catastrophe.

Buddhists have a long-standing tradition of believing that at some level we always know what the best course of action is in any given situation. We just have to be quiet enough to let that course of action present itself to us. And we need the confidence to act when life shows us what we need to do.

I think real enlightenment is total sanity, a kind of acceptance of what actually is. It does involve a kind of different way of looking at things. As I’ve done this Zen practice for years and years, I’ve acquired what I realize is an almost upside down view of life compared to what most people think, which is just what I used to think it was too. It’s not really an insane view, at least I hope it’s not.

I’m not sure that Eastern culture does either, but I’ve never lived in India etc so I couldn’t tell you. I can say we definitely don’t. So people will sometimes come in contact with something strange and think, “Oh, it must be like this” and have a lot of fantasies about it, and somebody who sort of looks like our fantasy version of what enlightenment is can be very convincing in seeming like they’ve got something and then play that role.

I was living in Japan at the time, Shoko Asahara was an important figure and you could say his name and people would immediately know who you were talking about but since being back in America I’ve realized most people don’t know who he is, which I find odd because he was far worse than Charles Manson. He killed many more people than Manson and was actually trying to kill thousands but wasn’t careful enough in his process.

There’s also something that is often mistaken for enlightenment which is a kind of insanity. Often, people will have some kind of weird experience which is quite abnormal and think, “Oh my God, that’s it, I understand everything” because they start seeing things in a very weird way and think that’s how enlightened people see things as well.