Are More People Waking Up?

Posted by | October 07, 2007 | Blog | 6 Comments

A friend of mine recently posed the question, “Is it just me, or are there a lot of people waking up these days?” It’s a really interesting question, one that I’ve thought about from time to time. And so talking it over with my partner I came up with at least six different possibilities (I’m sure there are more) that one might consider with regards to the question:

  1. It is possible that with the dawn of the information age we are simply much more aware of that then we were before of how many people are waking up.
  2. On the journey toward awakening and with a more realistic model of awakening, the amount of people we see who are awake or waking up increases due to our not having far-fetched models and because we’ve simply had more time to meet them.
  3. It’s difficult to compare how many people are awake today versus in the past because we don’t have much reliable empirical data.
  4. From the purely statistical perspective, the steady rise in the world’s population would mean there are more awakened people, if we assume a similar awakening per capita.
  5. One argument is that as the speed of the world increases the ability to wake up to what is always already there, simply via the higher contrast, becomes easier.
  6. Humans may be evolving in mental, emotional, and spiritual complexity over time (Ken Wilber’s evolutionary spirituality perspective), with one major outcome being that more people are waking up.

This is a kind of geeky, and in many ways inconsequential, but it matters insofar as we know that people woke up in the past, can wake up today, and will probably continue to wake up so long as there is confusion about the dream…

About Vincent Horn

Vincent Horn is a mind hacker & buddhist geek. He has been practicing Buddhist meditation intensively since his freshman year in college–including a year on intensive silent retreats–and began teaching in 2010 with the support of his own teachers, Kenneth Folk and Daniel Ingram. In addition Vincent co-founded the popular media company Buddhist Geeks in 2006. His work focuses on the fusion of nascent technology and contemplative wisdom, and has been featured on the pages of Wired, Fast Company, Tricycle, and the Los Angeles Times. Along with his wife Emily, he makes his home in Asheville, North Carolina—that is until the distinction between atoms and bits dissolves completely.


  • Duff says:

    The other day I was thinking about this in relation to average lifespan.

    Only in the past 100 years have people lived significantly longer than age 40, so it makes sense that people now have more time to develop and pursue spirituality.

  • Tom says:

    I think it would be very difficult to know the answer to your question, but I would doubt that much significant has happened since “the beginning of the information age” re spiritual snap, crackle and pop.

    I mean, sure, in 1972, say, [35 years ago] high school students brought slide rules with them to their math classes and had nothing more powerful electronically on them than a light on their keychain. But, I would contest that, despite “future shock,” which was the term used at the time to refer to heady expected advances in science and society, that if you went back to that time, Vince, it would feel remarkably similar to the current day. There would be fewer TV stations, the music would be crappier [if that's possible], a lot of ‘surface’ things would be different [exotic, really], treatment of certain classes of people would be shocking, but the people would be just as diabolically ignorant/amazing stupid/dazzling fresh/rancid as people are today. You would find it all strangly familiar. Using a term of that time, you might say it is “cool.”

    Actually, at that time people were more heavily engaged in saving the world and many were much more idealistic than the twentysomethings of today. Looking back at it, all the tie-dyed shirts and long sideburns and color might seem moronic, but, hey, 35 years from now, there’s a lot that’s culturally accepted NOW that in a later time will be dismissed as quaint.

    In 2042, someone will walk into a 3D virtual secondhand clothing store, grab a shirt off a simulated hanger, see that it says “Buddhist Geeks” in the spelling of English in the early part of the century, and approvingly call the antique “It is sooo Clintonian!! It’s cool!!”

  • MoE says:

    Good points! Some additional ones:

    1. Longer lifespan, as Duff mentions.
    2. Easier access to simple, effective practices from a range of traditions.
    3. Easier access to teachers, in person and through books, audio, video, internet.
    4. For some, more leisure time so more time for practice.
    5. More today than earlier, a disenchantment with materialistic life through having it all and seeing that it doesn’t quite do it.
    6. Different definitions of awakening. If we take a broad (or vague) definition to awakening, as many do, then many has indeed awakened… but this may include people who have a soul level awakening (alive presence), a oneness awakening (a self here one with God and everything else), glimpses of soul/oneness/nondual awakenings, and also a more stable nondual awakening (free from an I with an Other). Even among many “awakened” teachers today, we see people who express these different forms of awakening.

  • Counterpoint to MoE’s list:

    1) According to Cosmic Consciousness, something that I believe to be about right, awakening tends to happen at about age 35. Extended lifespans should have little effect on increasing proportion of those you ‘achieve’ enlightenment.
    2 thru 5) Leisure is usually NOT an aid to enlightenment. Suffering and insight into the nature of suffering is more of a spur. I think that ‘adequate’ access to the means and modes of ‘spiritual advance’ is enough and that an abundance of information and teachers adds little.
    6) I think that people have long had their ‘glimpses’. I think it is helpful, on one level, that we better know what others are experiencing, but it is also very unhelpful that people are more prone to faux experiences — imagining themselves enlightened — and this becomes a sticking point, if not quicksand, that blocks them from ‘getting further along’ in their spiritual joyride.

    But, mostly, I think things remain the same regarding enlightenment in society, generally. There remains both an abundance of possibilities offset by an abundance of distractions.

  • I’m a died in the wool solipist and I feel like a lot of scripture (Yogacara, Svatantrica, Madhyamaka) supports the view. It’s one of the few view that can’t be disproven. I think that the increase of awakened ones you see is a reflection of ones practice.

  • dharma says:

    Hello. Just thought this article on Buddhism and Science might interest you:

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