The central question Buddhists have faced from the beginning is this: Is awakening close by or far away? Is it readily accessible or available only through supreme effort? If its proximity and ease of access are emphasized, there is the danger of trivializing it, of not according it the value and significance it deserves. Yet if its distance and difficulty of access are emphasized, there is the danger of placing it out of reach, of turning it into an icon of perfection to be worshipped from afar.

Doesn't the question itself deceive us? Aren't we tricked by its either/or logic into assuming that only one option can be true? Couldn't the ambiguous logic of both/and be more appropriate here? Awakening is indeed close by—and supreme effort is required to realize it. Awakening is indeed far away— and readily accessible.

Stephen Batchelor
in: Buddhidm without beliefs

© IPIR 2011