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TOPIC: Sucking, not sucking, and personhood

Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 03 Jan 2011 15:41 #919

I talked during my vacation full of hurt and resentment of things "sucking." That, no matter, how good one's practice is, things can still suck.

Looking back I realize that even though a lot of stuff happened and afterwards I felt horrible, none of it actually sucked, you know? It only sucked because the clinging and delusion that was already fully entrenched within me reacted to the events with great suffering.

See what I mean? Nobody was particularly horrible to me, and nothing objectively sucky happened.

No one close to me got sick or injured or died -- no big crisis occured in my life. "Mike Monson" just couldn't handle certain realities. If I have a point here, it is that maybe I've discovered a huge area of suffering that is certainly avoidable with good practice.

Another thing. Before the trip I enjoying a lot of freedom based mostly on the characteristic of anatta. This freedom was real - for a while. However, it went away.

So what does this mean? Do I really not have insight into anatta? Is it just not very strong or complete? Is the freedom of anatta, like everything else, just tansitory and fleeting and subject to change?

I think a view that I've had for a long time that may need refurbishing is that that it is possible to have enough insight into one's true nature and characteristics to permanently gain enough perspective on things that much normal suffering never comes back. Wrong?
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 03 Jan 2011 16:03 #920

I think a view that I've had for a long time that may need refurbishing
is that that it is possible to have enough insight into one's true
nature and characteristics to permanently gain enough perspective on
things that much normal suffering never comes back. Wrong?--

Maybe, as Shunryu Suzuki used to say: "Not always so."

In some quarters, it seems implied that 'the three characteristics' are somehow 'vanquished' by successful practice. I think Dogen had the more accurate view: buddhahood IS practice. 5 minutes zen, 5 minutes buddha. The 3 characteristics doing their thing in their space; you being zen in yours.
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 03 Jan 2011 16:13 #921

Thanks, that's a nice answer, Kate.

Now, if certain people can actually be "enlightened" and are somehow greatly enlightened or whatever, I just can't imagine any of them (I'm talking about real people here) who don't get lost in self centered stupid behavior at least sometimes, or even in some cases, quite a bit of the time. We've all heard about it and/or seen it with our own eyes. Or done it.

And, the ones who may be able to avoid such moments more than others are most likely the ones who manage to be actually practicing most of the time.

There is no free lunch. ?
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 03 Jan 2011 16:29 #922

Here's how I think of this:

1. You're walking down the street when someone walks up to you, holds a gun to your chest and threatens to shoot you. Will you be scared?

2. You're eating dinner with your spouse. You are completely surprised when they announce they are leaving you for another person, right then and there. Will you be angry? Jealous?

I may be wrong but I'm guessing that there are times when every human being will involuntarily experience emotions that are powerful, regardless of the amount of practice and analytic insight into their true nature that they may have. Some things are biological, sourced in the ancient, reptilian portions of our brains where stuff occurs well before the higher functioning systems are engaged at all. In some ways I suspect our biology is our destiny.

I suspect the real challenge in practice is how we react to what our biology produces. Those reactions are after the emotions arise, however.

JMHO, and could be wrong or revised as new data becomes available ;-)
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 03 Jan 2011 16:38 #923

Mike,

I just started another book, based on Jackson's recommendation, that seems totally apropos to this: Kornfield's "After the Ecstasy, the Laundry". I cannot speak with any authority yet other than his introduction discusses this very problem, and so maybe you should give it a read too? I'll be opening another "book club" thread on it when I get deeper.

We all know that after the honeymoon comes the marriage, after the election comes the hard task of governance. In spiritual life it is the same: After the ecstasy comes the laundry.

Most spiritual accounts end with illumination or enlightenment. But what if we ask what happens after that? What happens when the Zen master returns home to spouse and children? What happens when the Christian mystic goes shopping? What is life like after the ecstasy? How do we live our understanding with a full heart?

For some reason, I am really stoked about getting into this book. I hope it does not disappoint.
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 03 Jan 2011 16:44 #924


1. You're walking down the street when someone walks up to you, holds a gun to your chest and threatens to shoot you. Will you be scared?

2. You're eating dinner with your spouse. You are completely surprised when they announce they are leaving you for another person, right then and there. Will you be angry? Jealous?

I may be wrong but I'm guessing that there are times when every human being will involuntarily experience emotions that are powerful, regardless of the amount of practice and analytic insight into their true nature that they may have. Some things are biological, sourced in the ancient, reptilian portions of our brains where stuff occurs well before the higher functioning systems are engaged at all. In some ways I suspect our biology is our destiny.I suspect the real challenge in practice is how we react to what our biology produces. Those reactions are after the emotions arise, however.JMHO, and could be wrong or revised as new data becomes available ;-)

-cmarti

I think this is totally right, Chris. And because I cannot resist, I have to say that your post starts out sounding like a "Void Comp" test from Bladerunner.

We are not replicants. Hmm, new email sig?
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 03 Jan 2011 16:53 #925


Here's how I think of this:
1. You're walking down the street when someone walks up to you, holds a gun to your chest and threatens to shoot you. Will you be scared?
2. You're eating dinner with your spouse. You are completely surprised when they announce they are leaving you for another person, right then and there. Will you be angry? Jealous?

-cmarti

I can imagine a person not being scared of number 1. and I can imagine a person not feeling angry or jealous of number 2. There are a lot of reasons and perspectives that can be brought to either moment that would eliminate the more likely responses of fear or anger/jealously.

Number two is easier. What if you were a particularly wise person who really knew your wife and your relationship and yourself really well? In that case, it is possible that such an announcement would be greated with relief and a feeling of inevitability.

For number one, I agree that avoiding death at all costs is just an instinct that is put inside us to insure our survival. But, let's say one is practicing really well. That they are completely empty most of the time and tend to almost always act with sincerity and intregrity. If that kind of practice met that moment of the gun to the chest, perhaps one would be able to react so quickly in a survival mode that there would be no time for fear?

Anyway, then, while I can see being able to handle certain specific events with good insight and practice, the likelihood that someone could handle ALL such events at ALL times with good insight and practice and without fear and anger and all the rest is pretty much nil.
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 03 Jan 2011 18:35 #926


I just started another book, based on Jackson's recommendation, that seems totally apropos to this: Kornfield's "After the Ecstasy, the Laundry"... For some reason, I am really stoked about getting into this book. I hope it does not disappoint.

-tomo

I love this book. The content is rich, but some may not love Kornfield's way of sharing it. He likes to tell stories to illustrate his points, which is good for some but feels like fluff to others. But trust me, this work is substantial, not superfluous.

I remember the section on the body being very influential to me prior to stream entry. I still return to that chapter every now and then when needed. It's a real gem.

I'm interested to know whether or not you enjoy it, and if it turns out to be helpful. I hope it is :-)
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 04 Jan 2011 04:16 #927

"1. You're walking down the street when someone walks up to you, holds a
gun to your chest and threatens to shoot you. Will you be scared?
2.
You're eating dinner with your spouse. You are completely surprised when
they announce they are leaving you for another person, right then and
there. Will you be angry? Jealous?--"

I have been pondering all the ways in which teachers, and my own life experience, have been hinting for years that 'enlightenment' can be understood as 'beginner's mind', as 'only don't know', as 'instant ordinariness', as 'spontaneity', as 'pure appropriateness', as 'being comfortable with uncertainty.' The freedom to meet circumstances in the immediate present and surprise even yourself-- now that looks like freedom to me. You can't draw up blueprints for it; but you can absolutely recognize it when you encounter it.

I remember a story Steven Tainer told about when he was a new-ish student of one of his Tibetan teachers: he [ST] was asking how the teacher would respond-- as a Buddhist-- if confronted by an armed bank robber. The gist of the teacher's answer was that he had no need to know in advance what he would do; and, without his saying more than that, Steven could feel without a doubt that his teacher would be the master of the situation-- it was a quality that he radiated all the time, under every circumstance.

It was this sort of thing that I'd always understood 'equanimity' to mean-- not some sort of appearance of detached calm that you adopt to impress yourself or others. What you can see in clips of that little Japanese guy who founded Akido-- always at the very center of the action, with a kind of stillness unaffected by being in motion. Some musicians have it, too.
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 04 Jan 2011 13:02 #928

Nice, Kate.



I'm thinking now that that quality you just described is more of a 'practice' quality than an 'enlightenment' quality. I think one can have varying moments of awakening, of enlightenment, of true insight, and then get up off the cushion and still behave very unskillfuly. Skillfull, cool behavior is something that can be developed simultaneously.
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 05 Jan 2011 03:26 #929



I'm thinking now that that quality you just described is more of a 'practice' quality than an 'enlightenment' quality. I think one can have varying moments of awakening, of enlightenment, of true insight, and then get up off the cushion and still behave very unskillfuly. Skillfull, cool behavior is something that can be developed simultaneously.



-michaelmonson

Well, one of the things that I love, love, love about Dogen is that he says "Practice IS enlightenment."

This is a statement that is too radical for many: they want to hear it as dissing enlightenment. They want enlightenment to be transcendent, and not available to those who 'merely' intend to live their lives in the light of dharma. They want enlightenment to be the goal, attained after hard, or lucky, practice. They have little private disclaimers over the Heart Sutra's statement about the nonduality of emptiness and form [the smart guys know that that's a hifalutin' philosophical proposition with no real-world implications].

Call me naive, but I think that 'practice is enlightenment' / 'emptiness is not other than form' / 'confusion dawns as wisdom'-- are literal statements about the nondual reality. And that it is possible to notice this more frequently when we outgrow our misinformed expectations-- some of which are masquerading as 'dharma.' [e.g., Jackson's great quote from UG Krishnamurti, on another thread]

The place on the Moebius loop where 'practice' becomes 'enlightenment' is where behavior enacts insight. And you might not even notice at the time-- it could seem too easy. You could have forgotten that it used to be different.
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 05 Jan 2011 12:48 #930

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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 05 Jan 2011 14:26 #931

I second Chris'


Mike, you've been writing with a Lion's Roar type of quality a lot lately, and I'm loving it.

-Jackson
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 05 Jan 2011 15:27 #932


I second Chris' [image]
Mike, you've been writing with a Lion's Roar type of quality a lot lately, and I'm loving it.
-Jackson

-awouldbehipster

Thanks, but I think Chris was giving Kate some well-deserved praise here.
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 05 Jan 2011 17:53 #933

Kate thinks that Chris is smiling over my little sideways pointing-out to you, Mike, and that Jackson hit its spirit bang on. [but thanks for batting the love over my way!]
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 06 Jan 2011 12:41 #934

I praise you all.
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 06 Jan 2011 22:40 #935


Well, one of the things that I love, love, love about Dogen is that he says "Practice IS enlightenment."
This is a statement that is too radical for many: they want to hear it as dissing enlightenment. They want enlightenment to be transcendent, and not available to those who 'merely' intend to live their lives in the light of dharma. They want enlightenment to be the goal, attained after hard, or lucky, practice. They have little private disclaimers over the Heart Sutra's statement about the nonduality of emptiness and form [the smart guys know that that's a hifalutin' philosophical proposition with no real-world implications].

-kategowen

That is the crux of Soto Zen, isn't it. And it is really radical for me, not because it is dissing enlightenment, per se, but because I just don't *get* that I am already enlightened and just don't notice it. But then, that is my problem...I think too much.

So, if I sit down and say to myself "dammit, I am enlightened", can I fake it until I make it?
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 06 Jan 2011 22:56 #936


So, if I sit down and say to myself "dammit, I am enlightened", can I fake it until I make it?

-tomo

I don't know, Tomo. For me, the whole "you're already enlightened" thing doesn't quite live up to Dogen's "practice is enlightenment" statement. Maybe it's more like the way playing an instrument occurs simultaneously with the expression of the music. Just a thought.

-Jackson
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 06 Jan 2011 23:04 #937


That is the crux of Soto Zen, isn't it. And it is really radical for me, not because it is dissing enlightenment, per se, but because I just don't *get* that I am already enlightened and just don't notice it. But then, that is my problem...I think too much.
So, if I sit down and say to myself "dammit, I am enlightened", can I fake it until I make it?

-tomo

I could be wrong but I kind of think the Soto people are implying that

- one can't just "get enlightened" and stay that way

- practitioners have insights only while practicing and they are fleeting and of that moment

- "enlightenment" while practicing is varied from just the act of sitting in the right posture with the right, ready, frame of mind all the way to those huge satori/kensho experiences that are more what most of us think of as "enlightenment." So, to them, enlightenment isn't quite the same state or stage as those in some of the theravada maps we've been talking about for a while now.

so, all the elements coming together in a given moment or two to give "tomo" something called enlightenment may never all come together again,or, new and different ones could arise with the pracitice activity to give "tomo" awesome experiences. But, each time, it would be a different "tomo" or entity anyway.

I feel nearly certain that to many Soto Zennists, a moment as mundane as sitting in proper zazan posture while aware of one's breath and being COMPLETELY bored and aware of the fact that one is completely bored would be seen as practicing enlightenment.
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 06 Jan 2011 23:08 #938

So, if I sit down and say to myself "dammit, I am enlightened", can I fake it until I make it?

-tomo



And to try and answer this question -- I think the answer is yes.



Dogen's quote I love so much:



"If you want to attain suchness, you should practice suchness without delay. " which to me might mean, something quite close to fake it until you make it, just stop faking.
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 06 Jan 2011 23:13 #939


I don't know, Tomo. For me, the whole "you're already enlightened" thing doesn't quite live up to Dogen's "practice is enlightenment" statement. Maybe it's more like the way playing an instrument occurs simultaneously with the expression of the music. Just a thought.-Jackson

-awouldbehipster

Really? Every time I read that statement (like in ZMBM, for example) it is presented in the context of there being no real enlightenment moment, and that when you sit in zazen you should treat it as though there is nothing else. It is said a bunch of ways in ZMBM, and here is just one example:

This point is very important. This is Bodhidharma's zazen. Even before we practice it, enlightenment is there. But usually we understand the practice of zazen and enlightenment as two different things: here is practice, like a pair of glasses, and when we use the practice, like putting
the glasses on, we see enlightenment. This is the wrong understanding. The glasses themselves are enlightenment, and to put them on is also enlightenment. So whatever you do, or even though you do not do anything, enlightenment is there, always. This is Bodhidharma's understanding of
enlightenment.

I am not trying to be a scholar here, and am very glad to be corrected.
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 06 Jan 2011 23:22 #940

I THINK I understand this, but can I explain it?

If "the great green earth is the gateway to awakening" is true, it means essentially the same thing. While maybe one has to practice to know it, practice or practitioners aren't creating enlightenment out of whole cloth, you know? It is just letting you in on what is always there all the time. It's there, it's here, it's everything all the time. Just stop not seeing it (or something like that).
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 06 Jan 2011 23:37 #941

My statement was really just my opinion, I guess. I know from the early Buddhist writings that awakening is the result of developing particular skills (the Eightfold Path, for example). It's not that reality changes. We just wake up to it. Quote Kalu Rinpoche...

We live in illusion and the appearance of things.
There is a reality, but you do not know this.
When you understand this, you see that you are nothing.
And being nothing, you are everything.
That is all.


Some of the Zen people, and other Buddhist sects, lay on thick the "everything is enlightenment" stuff. It can be a skillful means, I suppose, in that it reduces unskillful striving (being that I don't think all striving is counter-productive, but that's a topic for another conversation). However, I don't think it's fair to say that most people's first time sitting zazen will be qualitatively similar to a depth of realization they experience after developing some serious meditative skills. Again, just my opinion. I think Dogen had something different in mind. The opening stanzas of his Genjo-koan are pretty telling in this regard, IMHO.

-Jackson

P.S. It could just be that I disagree with Suzuki Roshi on this point.
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 07 Jan 2011 02:02 #942


P.S. It could just be that I disagree with Suzuki Roshi on this point.

-awouldbehipster

And it could be that I am totally misinterpreting this, although the message seems to be delivered multiple times by Suzuki, and seems consistent with stuff Brad Warner has written (I know, I am all over the map here). But I will shelve this until I can speak with a bit more experiential authority.

-- tomo
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 07 Jan 2011 03:19 #943

Hmm-- law of unintended consequences, I guess: I hadn't intended to be controversial. I've always thought that the intention of statements like Dogen's and Suzuki's was to encourage and inspire practice, first. To me, it doesn't say, 'Ah, do whatever you want; you're already enlightened anyway.' It says, 'Lose your grip on what you think you are, or aren't; stop plowing ahead as if you could "make it happen" by main force. Maintain an open focus and entertain possibilities-- such as that "the pearl of great price" is clutched in your fist while you look everywhere else. Such as that when satori happens, you're as likely to say-- "THIS?! This is it?!" -- as "I am That."

And I find this view very encouraging-- as well as entirely accurate, describing my own experience. As I recall Chris' story of his experience, it, too, has this sense of being an unexpected, subtle recognition of what has never been elsewhere or unavailable, or from which any of us is disqualified. Sensations and beliefs can be imposed by determined effort-- and/or they can be faked; but this recognition can only be encouraged, and made room for. Allowed to volunteer itself. I guess some people call this 'surrender'-- although that's not a word I prefer, myself. 'Faith in mind' seems more like it.

-- and we should keep in mind that these things were said not to 'casual shoppers' but to possibly obsessive practitioners.
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