Out of a living silence

A contemplative shares thoughts that emerge in moments of quiet reflection

Enlightenment? Suit yourself.

with 8 comments

In a comment left on a previous post, Marshall Massey made the following observation:

Successful graduates of all three traditions (Buddhism, guruistic Hinduism, and Sufism) will testify that there is a great “spiritual” opening-up that can happen when our own self-esteem and will are successfully defeated, even if the defeat is only momentary, and a rightly prepared student can grow tremendously at that time. All the crushing burdens of Buddhist monastic discipline and guruistic and Sufi disciplines seem aimed at bringing the student to that point.

It is true that there is no lack of testimonies to spiritual openings in various traditions that identify themselves as spiritual (in some sense of that bafflingly polysemous word). What is not entirely clear is whether there is any truth to the testimonies. Is there any truth to the matter of whether someone has had a spiritual opening, or is enlightened, or has been liberated from the world of suffering, or  is saved? And if there is some truth to the matter, then what is the criterion by which one can distinguish a true from a false claim about the matter? Who is it who is in a position to determine whether anyone (including himself or herself) has had a genuine opening, enlightenment, liberation or salvation? It seems to me that all these questions are so intractable that the best policy may be to set them aside altogether, and in setting them aside, to suspend judgment on all claims to spiritual attainment, whether one’s own or that of another.

At this year’s Summer Seminar on Buddhism, John Maraldo has been lecturing on members of the Kyōto school of philosophy. In the first lecture in his series of talks, Professor Maraldo read excerpts from letters written by Nishida Kitarō, regarded as the founder of what eventually came to be called the Kyōto school. Writing about his own Zen training, Nishida observed to a close friend (probably D.T. Suzuki) that he had seen many people who had passed through the rigors of Rinzai Zen training, which meant that they had passed through the curriculum of kōan, without showing evidence of being improved in any way at all. They still seemed as selfish as ever, as prone to moral peccadilloes as ever, and as subject to falling prey to painful mental attitudes as ever. He could not understand why their Zen master had passed them and certified them as having gained liberative understanding (kenshō). Nishida’s doubt about the efficacy of Zen training increased when he himself was deemed by his Zen master to have passed the hurdles and gained insight into the true nature of things. He admitted that he did not feel any wiser or any closer to liberation after successfully passing his kōan that he felt before passing them. If being authenticated by a Zen master as having had an opening or an insight produced no noticeable differences in mentality or behavior, mused Nishida, then how could one attach any meaning to what was putatively being authenticated?

Before dismissing Nishida as a hopelessly deluded fool for questioning the notion of enlightenment that is identified as the greatest good and the goal of all Buddhist practice—such a dismissal would be facile unless it could be shown to be warranted by some criterion—it should be asked in a more general way who decided that the Buddha was, well, a buddha. That is, who decided that Gautama was indeed awake (buddha) from his dogmatic slumbers? The Buddhist literature suggests that Gautama himself declared himself to be awake. The Buddhist literature also narrates that not everyone agreed with him. There were those who doubted his wisdom, questioned whether he was correct in claiming that he had been liberated from greed, hatred and delusion. And the Buddhist texts also narrate that Gautama’s own teachers declared him to have reached the goal of awakening, but that he himself knew that they were mistaken, for he knew that he had not reached that goal.

Having an opinion about someone else’s attainments is rarely a good idea. It is really not any of one’s business whether someone else has been enlightened, liberated or saved. I would be inclined to say that even when it is one’s business (which happens only when one’s own spiritual state is in question), it is probably not a good idea to have an opinion about this particular issue. Not much can come from thinking of oneself as enlightened except hubris and disappointment.

One of the most provocative stories in the Buddhist literature is the narrative about a monk named Channa, who was in terrible suffering from a disease that all the physicians he had consulted regarded as incurable. Seeing no point in being terminally ill with a painful disease, Channa told his fellow monks that he was going to take his own life. His friends examined him by asking all manner of questions, and on the basis of his answers they determined that he was an arhant. That is, he had eliminated all traces of greed, hatred and delusion and was therefore in no danger of being reborn in heaven or any other realm at the end of his current life. In short, he had achieved the goal of Buddhist practice. Following the custom of the day, his friends remained silent when he asked their permission to end his own life; in other words, they voiced no objections to his decision. Channa then cut his own jugular vein. As he was bleeding to death, says the story, he became afraid of dying. Fear of death is a sure sign that he was not an arhant. In short, Channa and his friends had all been wrong in their judgment that he was an arhant. Fortunately, the story continues, Channa drew all his resources together and overcame his fear of death at just the moment that he drew his last breath. When Channa had died, news of his death was relayed to the Buddha, who used his superhuman powers to determine where Channa had gone after his death. Seeing that Channa was nowhere to be found in any of the celestial realms or the hell realms and that he had not been reborn as a human being or an animal, the Buddha declared that in the very last moment of his life, Channa had become an arhant.

The story of Channa is as disturbing as it is dramatic. It raises the question: how on earth did the Buddha know that Channa died an arhant? Why did the Buddha believe that his inability to see Channa in any of the usual afterlife settings was sufficient grounds for concluding that Channa no longer existed and so had attained final cessation (nirodha), the summum bonum that is the goal of all Buddhist practice? Might the Buddha have been wrong? Is there any reliable way of answering the question of whether the Buddha was right or wrong in this matter? Is there recourse to anything but dogma and blind faith in such matters? Of course, I don’t know the answers to these questions. How could I? How could anyone?

Marshall Massey raises another interesting point in his comment to my previous posting. He says:

But if we reject the idea that it is merely a happy-puppey syndrome, then we have to accept that there is an important potential spiritual benefit to be gained from tough monastic discipline, alongside the undeniable abuses of the system and the undeniable psychological and social costs. And the question then becomes: is there a better alternative? Is there some other path to the same benefit, that doesn’t come at so high a price?

A lot of people — at least here in the West — say, yes, there is: we can defeat our own pride and will without entering a cult. And we point to some examples of success on that alternate path, including Gautama himself, Francis of Assisi, and to a lesser degree, a few of the Quaker giants. But the rarity of such successes is not encouraging.

It seems to me that this observation is based on a questionable premiss. The presupposition is that the legitimacy of monastic disciple, or the lack thereof, is determined by its consequence, and specifically the consequence of spiritual benefit. First of all, I doubt that there is any way of defining spiritual benefit that does not involve some form of circularity. If there is no non-question-begging way to determine whether there has been spiritual benefit, then that cannot be used as a criterion for deciding whether monastic discipline is worthwhile.

Here an important Buddhist text comes to our rescue, a text called Milindapañha (Milinda’s Questions). In this text a Bactrian king named Milinda asks Nāgasena, the most highly-respected Buddhist monk within his kingdom, whether it is necessary to be a monk to gain nirvana, that is, liberation from the root causes of suffering. Nāgasena replies that for every monk who attains nirvana there are one hundred ordinary householders who attain that goal. Then he corrects himself and says that in fact thousands—no, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands—of  laymen attain nirvana for every monk who attains it. Naturally Milinda then wants to know what on earth the purpose of monastic discipline is, if it is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for freedom from suffering. Nāgasena’s answer, which might surprise some, is that the monastic life is pleasing to some people. It exists just for those people who find it a satisfying way to live, here in this world, independently of any other considerations. This seems to me just exactly the best answer one can give to the question “Should I be a monk?” The answer is “Suit yourself.”

I would suggest that exactly the same answer is the right response to a whole range of other questions. Should you meditate? Well, if you find meditation enjoyable, and if you can do it without harming anyone, then please yourself by meditating. Should you seek out a spiritual master who will dominate you and break your will, as if you were a wild horse that needs to be domesticated to be of use to someone else? If you find being dominated fulfilling, then please yourself by joining an organization that will break your will. One possibility is to join a Buddhist gang, whose members praise the Buddha for being anuttara purisadammasāratī (an unsurpassed trainer of the human beast). Or should you seek out the company of people who perceive social hierarchies as damaging and therefore try to avoid them? If that would please you, then by all means seek out such company. (Good luck finding it in any species in the order of primates!)

On this whole series of questions, I find that Van Morrison speaks my mind when he sings:

I’m in the here and now, and I’m meditating
And still I’m suffering but that’s my problem
Enlightenment, don’t know what it is


Written by Richard P. Hayes (Dayāmati Dharmacārin)

Friday, June 10, 2011 at 13:55

Posted in Buddhism

8 Responses

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  1. Thanks for this. I have been meditating, more or less regularly, since about 1971, when I was on the same faculty as Lucian Stryke, with whom I spent many many hours in the faculty lounge (being unenlightened, the faculty lounge didn’t allow students to use the lounge unless attended by an enlightened faculty member). I sat in a formal zen setting for over 10 years. If I weren’t so crippled up, I might be doing the same today.

    In any event, whether being a “mountain hermit” or a pseudo-monk, I have enjoyed the same benefits of meditation. My wife likes me better. She says I am calmer, more relaxed, easier to get along with, even, sometimes, failing to be outraged by Republicans! Also, I seem able to stay focused on whatever I am working on better. I have had cancer (still do, apparently), broken my neck once, and had several of what are called “close call”. So far I am unaware of any fear of death, but feel certain I am not immune. We will see when the cards are finally laid out on the table, and I see the hand I have been playing against.

    There have probably been other benefits, but these alone are enough to make meditation valuable to me, beyond just the wonderful relaxation I enjoy while practicing.

    James Martin Peavler

    Friday, June 10, 2011 at 15:09

  2. I have a small amount of experience in Catholic Christian monasticism, which is conspicuous by its absence from the discussion above. I was quite young at the time, but even then I was struck by the obvious ability of religious men to live the disciplined life for decades and apparently be increasingly confirmed in their self-absorption and pride rather than changed in any way that I would hope for. My absentee mentor at the time was the most famous Catholic monk (and semi-hermit) of the last century, Thomas Merton: many years later, I learned that he, after 25 years of monastic discipline, had had an affair with a young nurse when he went to the hospital for surgery. Christian monasticism can be a beautiful life, but it’s not to be relied upon to, as Marshall wrote, defeat “self-esteem and will.”

    Nor, as we know, is Buddhist monastic life. Experiences such as Nishida’s are also related by contemporary students such as Janwillem van de Wetering, and I know a number of practitioners who could tell similar stories. Of course, there’s Brian Victoria’s Zen at War: a lifetime of discipline and certification as a living Buddha won’t guarantee that the person isn’t a rabid supporter of mass slaughter. And let’s not forget people like Richard Baker and even Chogyam Trungpa — and, perhaps most recently, Dennis Genpo Merzel, owner of the trademark on “Big Mind.”

    But I wonder why we think that to defeat self-esteem and will is a spiritual (polysemy acknowledged) attainment. It’s the aim of Marine boot camp, I’m told, but if that’s a spiritual organization, it’s not about the kind of spirit I want to be in. True, people who have unrealistic, inflated self-esteem are pains in the butt, but people who have unrealistic, deflated self-esteem tend to have trouble functioning, too. People who are overly attached to their own wills are pains, too, but so are those who are weak-willed. Those who prefer the latter types are likely to be people who want to dominate others. And they’re pains, too, sometimes, um, royally. Ah, life is pain. Maybe the middle way is wise after all: maybe a balanced, realistic sense of self, and the balanced, realistic will that accompany it make life more bearable for all concerned.

    Sometimes I feel nostalgia for the beauty, order, self-discipline, community, and sense of purpose offered by the monastic life. I don’t ever feel nostalgia, though, for the expectation that I submit to control of my thoughts and acts by some “superiors.” I tend to agree with you, Richard, that it’s about what suits. Having seen what monastic/hierarchical discipline, salvation, and enlightenment do and don’t do for others, I’m no longer interested in having any of them. If I could live in a monastery, assuming (a) my situation were different and (b) I could find one that isn’t designed to crush, I would be doing it because I liked the life. It would be unrealistic for me to expect anything “spiritual” from it beyond that beauty, order, etc. as listed above. But that just might be enough.

    In real life, I do find that regular meditation helps me with calmness, focus, and dedication (will?), but I don’t need to live in a monastery or under a master to do that. As a fantasy, the lifestyle of Zen poet Ryōkan appeals more now — actually, now that I’m semi-retired, I may be closer to that than I’d noticed. By the way, I do like that Nāgasena fellow: thanks for introducing us.

    I’ve written a number of posts on this sort of thing at my blog here at WordPress.org, including one (“Endarkenment”) that begins with with those same lines from Van Morrison. Comments are welcome and appreciated there: I can use all the help I can get as I work through this stuff.

    George Amoss Jr.

    Friday, June 10, 2011 at 17:07

  3. Richard, I really appreciate this thoughtful, extended response to my concerns. All the facts you share are helpful to me. I do wonder about underlying assumptions, however.

    Here is one of those assumptions. Your paragraph on Nishida Kitarō hinges on his observation that “many people … had passed through the rigors of Rinzai Zen training, which meant that they had passed through the curriculum of kōan, without showing evidence of being improved in any way at all. They still seemed as selfish as ever, as prone to moral peccadilloes as ever, and as subject to falling prey to painful mental attitudes as ever.” Your paragraph on Channa, similarly, stresses the necessity of one’s “eliminated all traces of greed, hatred and delusion” and being “therefore in no danger of being reborn in heaven or any other realm at the end of his current life”. On the face of it, the logic is impeccable: if a person exhibits any sign of anger, lust, greed, or mental suffering, she or he cannot be a Buddha. But the underlying assumption is that any sign of such things means an attachment obstructing liberation, and the Chán/Zen tradition itself seems to me to raise some questions as to how true this really is.

    I think here of the story of the Chán teacher Nanyue (Nan-yüeh) instructing his hyper-meditative student Mazu (Ma-tsu) by polishing a piece of tile. (Mazu: “What are you doing?” Nanyue: “Making a mirror.” Mazu: “How can tile be polished into a mirror?” Nanyue: “How can a human be changed by meditation into a Buddha?”) The same point is of course made by other Chán stories; Nanyue himself was simply restating the point made by Huìnéng (Hui-neng) in his contest with Shenxiu (Shen-hsiu), and there is also the story of Băizhàng (Pai-chang)’s Fox (“The awakened person is not exempt from the law of causation, but one with it”).

    One implication of all such stories (it seems to me) is that there is a kind of anger, a kind of lust, a kind of greed, a kind of mental anguish, that is just the natural behavior of the human frame, much as roughness is of a piece of tile. This kind of roughness is not going to be polished away by meditation or anything else, and is not actually incompatible with the detached or liberated state that Buddhism calls awakening or enlightenment. Enlightenment is not the absence of this particular sort of roughness (freedom from the law of causation) but, rather, is a changed relationship with it, a oneness in which a deeper sort of detachment comes into being.

    The Zen teacher Hakuin, in the period of his spiritual seeking, was driven to despair by the story of how the Chán teacher Yántóu (Yen-t’ou), as he was being killed by bandits, screamed in agony so loudly that his voice could be heard for miles. Hakuin’s question before his breakthrough was why enlightenment had not freed the master from such anguish; after his great Zen breakthrough, he saw that being exempt from anguish was not what Buddhism is about.

    Of course, arguments of this very sort are used by cult leaders the world over to put a stop to the questioning of their pseudo-enlightenment. Your question as to how we judge another’s attainments is very pertinent here, and I do not mean to dismiss or deprecate it. How did the Buddha know that Channa was an arhant? How did Mazu’s attainment differ from Nishida’s? What made Francis of Assisi more enlightened (in the Christian sense) than his contemporaries? My only personal answer, which is the old one that such things are observable but not simply analyzable, and that in some sense it takes one to know one, will likely not satisfy you. Regrettably, it is the only one I can square with my own experience.

    I am a bit familiar with the Questions of King Milinda. I suspect, though, that Nāgasena’s answers may have been somewhat political, shaped by considerations of expedient means. Do you recall the account, from the Jataka Tales, of how the Buddha prevented his cousin (or nephew) Nanda from marrying, by handing him a begging bowl and walking away, thus forcing Nanda to follow, and so turning him into a monk despite his fervent objections? One might wonder why the Buddha did this to the poor young man, if the monastic life was only optional —

    As before, I would be very grateful for any thoughts you have that would shed a clearer light on these matters. I am still trying to puzzle them through myself!

    Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C])

    Friday, June 10, 2011 at 17:38

  4. Marshall, in Hakuin’s own account of his reaction to the story of the death of Yen-t’ou Chuan-huo, he says that what disturbed him was the fact that such a “dragon” of Buddhism could not escape being murdered, because that had implications for Hakuin’s own fate: “I wondered why such an enlightened monk was unable to escape the swords of thieves. If such a thing could happen to [such] a man … how was I to escape the staves of the demons of hell after I died?” That is in line with an earlier experience in which he burned himself with a hot poker as a test. The issue centered on claims made in the Lotus Sutra about protection from such things. Hakuin was confronted by the kind of conflict between scripture and reality that confronts many of us.

    I would keep in mind, too, that stories such as that about polishing the tile are often used as koans: it may not be safe to assume that a given interpretation, especially one that seems evident, captures the intent — if we may assume intent at all. It may be that the stories are tools used in different ways by different people. Dogen,for example, whose school stresses zazen meditation, speaks explicitly against “clutching a piece of broken roof tile and supposing it to be a golden Buddha,” and in another place he offers this verse:

    The original body is always in accord with the myriad things,
    yet it is unborn and unextinguished.
    The ignorant wear out their cushions seeking it,
    polishing a tile trying to make a mirror.

    Could it be, then, that from Dogen’s perspective the story has something to do with a category error? Tiles don’t become mirrors, nor do erstaz selves become Buddha? But that’s not to say that there is no Buddha or enlightenment. For Dogen, who urges his students to let go of body and mind, zazen is not a means to an end but the unfolding of original enlightenment. “Thinking that practice and enlightenment are not one,” he wrote, “is no more than a view that is outside the Way.” If practice and enlightenment are one, then there’s no question of polishing anything. Yet that’s not to deny the importance of zazen.

    At least for Dogen, then, the story doesn’t appear to be concerned with expectation of imperfections, but with the correction of a (from his perspective) deluded approach to practice. But perhaps other teachers use the story differently, depending on their understanding of Buddhism and their objectives in using it.

    This is all by way of recommending caution in interpreting stories from the Zen tradition. And I think that one of the major points being made in this current discussion is that, as in the example of Hakuin and the Lotus Sutra, claims made about results obtainable from intense spiritual discipline may well be bogus. In fact, that’s part of Dogen’s charm for me: at least as I read him, he takes promises out of the equation. Polish that tile-self 20 hours a day for the rest of your life (and polishing could take the form of attempting to minimize, deny, or suppress), he seems to be telling me, and what you’ll end up with is nothing more than a shiny tile-self, which is essentially nothing more than you started with. That would explain why spiritual discipline often reinforces what was already there (for good or ill, perhaps). On the other hand, what if I engage in the discipline of “just sitting” and see, when the polishing hands get tired and the mind recognizes the self-contradictory nature of the effort, what might be expressing itself? That suits me better.

    Just some possibly superficial thoughts, FWIW: this is complex stuff.

    George Amoss Jr.

    Saturday, June 11, 2011 at 11:30

  5. George, thank you for your comments. I agree that this is complex stuff. I feel that koans have many levels of truth in them; as in many other sorts of stories, the truth they contain is not confined to some “official meaning” declared by this teacher or that one. Thus I do not deny either what you say about Hakuin or what you say about the tile-polishing; I simply find, and say, that there is more.

    I agree too that Dōgen takes the promises out; that seems to me to be a major point of the Sōtō approach to Zen. But that does not mean that breakthroughs like Hakuin’s do not happen; it is a matter of historical record that they do, and not just in Zen either.

    Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C])

    Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 07:07

  6. Thanks for your response, Marshall, and thanks, Richard, for opening space for discussion of these important topics.

    I tend to get lost in asynchronous conversations, so I need to go back to some of Richard’s original questions to get my bearings.

    It is true that there is no lack of testimonies to spiritual openings in various traditions that identify themselves as spiritual (in some sense of that bafflingly polysemous word). What is not entirely clear is whether there is any truth to the testimonies. Is there any truth to the matter of whether someone has had a spiritual opening, or is enlightened, or has been liberated from the world of suffering, or is saved? And if there is some truth to the matter, then what is the criterion by which one can distinguish a true from a false claim about the matter?

    It is evident, if not that breakthroughs (whatever they are) happen, at least that they are believed, or reported, to happen — which could well be the same thing. In any case, your implied suspicion seems legitimate to me, Richard: what, if any, truth inheres in the testimonies of such breakthroughs? Two concerns come to mind at the moment. One is that we’re likely to be reading hagiography, even if self-reported, and that makes all claims suspect — and not anything I’d bet my life on. Second, every religious experience takes place within and is shaped by a “metanarrative,” and it’s quite possible that the experiences are essentially artifacts of the interaction between a religio-cultural metanarrative and a particular brain (which could help explain why there is such a variety, as well as why, for example, Muslims tend not to have Christian experiences). But we have no access to a given experience per se: what we have access to is the report of that experience, and that report we inevitably understand in terms of our own metanarrative, temperament, experience, etc. and must work very hard (with no guarantee of success) to get past those distorting limitations at all. But the bottom line is that there’s no way to know about the nature of any correspondences among the report, our reading of the report, and the originary experience.

    And of course there’s still the question of the fruits of those experiences, which is why I mentioned a number of well-known cases in my first comment. During a visit of our local “Buddhist-Christian Dialogue” group to a zendo back in the 1980’s, a Catholic nun asked the sensei about the many instances of, um, bad behavior by certified Zen masters. “Why do you still follow them?” she asked. The response was, “It’s not their behavior, but the experience of enlightenment that makes them masters.” Not unexpectedly, the nun replied, “What good is the experience if one continues to do harm afterward?” The sensei began to stammer.

    But I especially want to return to the context in which I mentioned the Marine Corps, because I think that the idea that “there is a great ‘spiritual’ opening-up that can happen when our own self-esteem and will are successfully defeated” needs exploration.

    First, I would suggest that, in the hands of a wise and compassionate master like Dogen — and Dogen says that wisdom and compassion are “not two” — Zen training is not about breaking self-esteem and will, but about breaking through delusion. Dogen apparently did not hesitate to criticize famous masters who were not enlightened enough to be thoroughly compassionate in their methods — his reaction to the story of Nansen’s the cutting of the cat is a case in point.

    In any case, it’s pretty clear to me that successful defeat of self-esteem and will is not guaranteed to produce anything more than a broken person. (There’s the story of a man who, at the point in the Catholic ordination rite when the candidates for priesthood prostrate themselves before the bishop, comments “This is when they extract the backbone.” But of course any “extraction,” any breaking and rebuilding, would have been accomplished long before then.) What, if anything, that broken lump of humanity is then shaped into will vary. I use the passive voice intentionally there, because, as a number of traditions tell us, it’s unlikely that self-esteem and will can be intentionally (i.e., by will-power) defeated; the attempt to do so is probably the polishing of roof tiles. And it would seem that, by definition, a broken self would be unable to reconstitute itself into something healthy. But there’s always someone, from the D.I. to the preacher to the Zen master, willing to do it all for us — to break us down into something like omega dogs so that we can be rebuilt, if not as obedient zombies (I’m reminded of the tulpa, a mind-created servant in Tibetan Buddhism), then at least in their image and likeness. (I can tell you from clinical experience that broken selves tend to stay broken on their own: there’s no automatic power, spiritual or otherwise, that rushes in, or rises up, to resurrect a psyche that has lost all self-esteem and will. And working with such a person is a delicate process: as the person begins to recover some will, that will may be just enough to carry the still-crushed self to suicide.)

    So I think it would be useful to focus on that concept of defeating self-esteem and will as being desirable or necessary in the spiritual life. I’m not simply taking the position here that it is not, but I can see grave dangers in accepting that it is, and certainly much depends on what we mean by, and what others hear in, those phrases. In addition to those raised by Richard, other significant questions remain for me, including the following:

    What is meant by “self-esteem and will”? What does their “defeat” feel and look like? What is meant by “spiritual”? By “‘spiritual’ opening-up”? Does that opening-up require that “our own self-esteem and will are successfully defeated”? Does it result from such defeat? Is such a thing, if possible, desirable from our perspective?

    I’m sure that I’ll be considering and writing about such questions further, and that further discussion here or elsewhere would be helpful.

    George Amoss Jr.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 12:05

  7. I have always used mindfulness to become part of the moment of doing something and fully engaging. For instance, when drinking tea or coffee, fully become aware of all aspects of the preparation, pouring, and drinking without thinking of something else. Just be present, its a great exercise and then return to the breath when needed.

    Paul Harrison - Master Nomi

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 20:08

  8. Commenting at this late point feels like striking emptiness with a hammer (to borrow a phrase from Dogen) — so how can I resist? After expending too many words here, I have come across a succinct statement by Stephen Batchelor (in Verses from the Center, p. 36), a statement that concludes with a succinct (and deservedly well-known) statement by Dogen. (Emphasis mine.)

    Experiencing (in meditation) the paradoxical nature of self results in a loss of alienation that is not self-abnegation but a reawakening of a sense of the world in which one is not a stranger but a participant. “To study the Way,” says Dogen

    … is to study oneself. To study oneself is to forget oneself. To forget oneself is to be awakened by all things. To be awakened by all things is to let body and mind of self and others fall away. Even the traces of awakening come to an end, and this traceless awakening is continued endlessly.

    George Amoss Jr.

    Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 10:46

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