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December 3, 2022

What is pleasure? A short dharma talk with Marc Gafni

By Marc Gafni

I want to share with you a little dharma talk I gave earlier this year in response to the question, “What is pleasure?” If you’re accustomed to the standard answer which says that pleasure is Hedonic, you are in for a surprise.

Listen to the audio below (about five minutes) and follow along the transcript provided.

What is pleasure? Pleasure is the universe caressing us. Pleasure is the feeling that the personal face of essence intends me to be held and loved and pleasured.

Pleasure reminds me that the world is sane, that the world intends and holds my pleasure.

In fact there’s this gorgeous 3rd century Aramaic text that talks about the moment of transition, the moment we move from this life to the next life. There’s the tunnel and the light and in all the cross-cultural appearances of this story, there’s judgment. There’s life review that happens.

Every great tradition plays with that. Every tradition gives a different list of questions. So in this particular Hebrew mystical text, the story is told that the divine voice says, “Did you derive pleasure from my world?”

Every dimension of pleasure is passed before this world, and they are held accountable for whether they participated in that pleasure or right relationship to that pleasure? Did they develop the capacity and skill to engage that pleasure in a profound way?

Let’s play with that in a deeper way.

We’re in love with each other. So I give you a gift. But you didn’t open it. (To Jenna.) And so I feel so hurt. I gave you this pleasure. You weren’t opening yourself to me. So I’m devastated by it. All that is, the personal face of essence, says I love you so much. I gave you these very particular pleasure gifts. And you didn’t receive them. I’m crying and you didn’t open yourself and develop the capacity to fully receive pleasure, to suspend and bracket the egoic control, and to open myself, and to be fucked open by the pleasure (of whatever kind) is a great, evolved capacity.

When we talk about what it means to live in an evolutionary context. We become aware of the impulses of evolution, what Aurobindo called the evolutionary complexity. Quarks become atoms. There are multicellular organisms.  Complexity always plays with consciousness. The higher complexity, the higher consciousness. De Chardin played with this idea. Complexity is actually incarnate in the evolution of pleasure.

One could understand through a particular gorgeous prism as the evolution of life’s evolving as pleasure. And the most highly evolved being is able to derive infinite pleasure just from a brush across my knee. From the Japanese tea ceremony, in which the enlightened master drinks the tea, I’m living in the eternity which resides in the moment. In Hebrew time means “invitation,” which means an invitation to its particular pleasure. To be awake and alive is to receive the pleasure in the moment.

Addiction means I’m closed to the moment. The moment is so painful to me,  I need to paper it over with something, pseudo-Eros. It covers over the moment. Addiction is the inability to receive pleasure from normal events in my life. It can only be aroused through massive hits of dopamine that violate something in my sacred autobiography. So that’s the story of pleasure. It’s not the story of decadence, it’s a deeper and holier story. And so it is, Amen.

Listen to the audio:



About Marc Gafni

Marc Gafni is a visionary scholar, philosopher, and wisdom teacher. He is teacher-in-residence and co-initiator of the Center for Integral Wisdom. He is the leading theorist and teacher of Unique Self enlightenment, an emergent post-postmodern wisdom lineage which builds on his national bestseller Soul Prints, winner of the Nautilus Award for Best Spirituality Book, as well as the highly acclaimed Your Unique Self (2012) and Radical Kabbalah (2012), which is based on his doctoral dissertation at Oxford University.

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