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Switch to Forum Live View How Can There Be No Goal?
7 years ago  ::  Sep 14, 2010 - 11:26PM #1
purplesattva
Posts: 2

Hi, there.  I've been a practicing Buddhist for about 11 years now.  I've experienced Tibetan, Soto Zen and Theravada.  I'm kind of a "no tradition" practitioner but I've always been fascinated by Zen.  Parts of it have always confounded me, however, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.  I was wondering about one thing in particular; maybe someone here can provide some insight.


Tibetan and Theravadin Buddhism have very clear-cut goals when it comes to meditation.  The Buddha practiced meditation to realize enlightenment.  In fact, he sat down under the Bodhi tree with the sole intention of meditating until he understood the root of suffering and how to end it.  Most Buddhist practitioners meditate in order to achieve this same goal.  I certainly do.  Meditation makes me a better, calmer, more logical, happier, well-adjusted person.  If it didn't do this, I can't imagine why I would bother.


However, in the Zen tradition, as far as I understand, meditation has no goal.  There is no idea of enlightenment or self-improvement.  Meditation is not done for a reason, it is just DONE.


I have to admit, this makes absolutely no sense to me.  I read once that Shunryu Suzuki sat down with his students for a session of zazen that was supposed to last about 45 minutes.  After an hour or so, without ringing the bell to end the session, he got up and left the shrine room.  It was over an hour before he returned and, when he sat back down in his place, he looked around the room at the sweating practitioners, who were still fixed in agonized place, and laughed, "What a stupid thing to do," before ringing the bell.


This is beyond me.  Zen was founded as a response to how ritualized and ineffective Buddhism had become.  It emphasized meditation over rote learning of sutras and pointless lip service to tradition.  Ch'an, in Chinese, and Zen in Japanese are translations of the Pali word for meditation.  How can a tradition that stresses meditation over all other things maintain that meditation, is, in fact, a pointless endeavor?


Brad Warner, a man I consider one of my teachers, has stated outright that zazen helps us with our moral compass.  He says it allows us to unconsciously understand the correct decision when we are faced with a dilemma.  Yet he also vehemently denies that it has any goal or point whatsoever.  How can this be?


 


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Moderated by Merope on Feb 06, 2011 - 02:26AM
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7 years ago  ::  Sep 15, 2010 - 11:55AM #2
RenGalskap
Posts: 1,420
Hi purplesattva,

First of all, I would be wary of stories found on the Internet. I frequently find versions of stories in which some parts are exaggerated and details are changed in order to give the story new meanings not found in the original.

Aside from that, Shunyru Suzuki often stated that Zen was just ordinary Buddhism. In the Pali suttas, the Buddha frequently says that there is a goal, and there is a path to the goal. Many Zen teachers have referred to the goal of liberation, and there's a lot of talk in Zen about the Great Way.

However, self-conscious striving for a goal tends to strengthen attachments that block liberation rather than weaken them. At some point most students have to be told to stop striving and just sit. Sitting without a goal is the path that leads to the goal.

HTH
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7 years ago  ::  Sep 21, 2010 - 3:15AM #3
Daigo
Posts: 21

Meditation in Zen can be said to have a goal and be said not to have a goal.


Enlightenment is the fundamental state, and cannot be created. Thus the goal of Zen meditation, as far as it can be said to have one, is to stop obstructing enlightenment, rather than to "make" enlightenment.


Some teachers and traditions emphasise a method (or give a choice of methods), but the purpose of such methods is to realise that there is nothing to be attained and nothing to be achieved. Not all of us are at a high enough level to realise this straight away without some kind of method to approach it.


Some people in Soto Zen tend to say that no method is necessary. While from the highest viewpoint this is perfectly true, it isn't always helpful to every practitioner to be thrown in the deep end in that way. And even the "no-method" people in Soto Zen still use some method, like focusing on aspects of the posture.

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7 years ago  ::  Sep 24, 2010 - 5:13PM #4
mountain_range
Posts: 1

I am also interested in Zen Buddhism and based on my understanding I would share the following perspective...


Meditation is a practice of quieting the mind and being present to the perfection of the present moment regardless of what judgements we may place or feelings that may arise in any given moment.


Therefore the "goal" is to practice meditation.  Instead of saying "the goal of meditation is to meditate" one could just say that it has no goal but to be what it is.  I echo the comment that a goal of attaining enlightenment is by definition grasping at that goal which always leads to suffering.


When one meditates with the goal of meditating it is possible to realize and be fuly immersed in the perfection of the present moment which paradoxically is what one lets go of in order to acheive this state.  Developing an appreciation for and understanding of duality has greatly deepened my own practice of Zen.


 


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Moderated by Merope on Feb 06, 2011 - 02:32AM
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7 years ago  ::  Oct 12, 2010 - 2:55AM #5
nnn123
Posts: 1,552

Re original post


Of course Zen Buddhism and Zen Buddhist meditation have a goal.  That goal is the attainment of Enlightenment.


And there are many smaller goals along the way.  It is by no means an easy thing to practice the Eight Noble Truths.  The more we practice them, the more we realize how much farther we have to travel along the way.


One does not attain the infinite Enlightenment without a fully perfected morality.  And only a handful of human beings are close to that.


People are confusing the semantics.  It is not that there is no goal.  Only that the attainment of a goal is inhibited by being attached to the goal.  One needs to strive and strive vigorously, but strive without attachment.


When people in Zen talk about "no goal" - it is really just a metaphor to help induce that detachment.  Some people take this detachment as being passive.  That is not correct.  Constant vigorous practice of meditation and the path, with great effort is always necessary.


Yes, we do need moderation, but again, that can't be an excuse to merely try with some kind of half-hearted effort.


 


gassho


 


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Moderated by Merope on Feb 06, 2011 - 02:38AM
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7 years ago  ::  Oct 25, 2010 - 1:44PM #6
Bob0
Posts: 487

I realize this ship has sailed but......


The path for enlightenment as fabricated by Gautama Sakyamuni, the Buddha, is the Eight Fold Path, which is the 4th Nobel Truth. Meditation is only one tool in the awaking effort. It is referred to under Right Concentration. The Buddha meditated to assist him in formulating an end to his suffering.


If your goal is enlightenment is that not clinging, a cause of suffering? The goal to awakening involves release. I realize that is counterintuitive to Westerners. I would offer that the harder I try, the more I cling to my opinions. My fabrications harden to a "position." So as Suzuki and others such as Ajaan Chah point out, Buddhism is fundamentally the state of "I don't know."


Yet we all flounder in our ignorance of opinions. Attachment to awakening?


You say that "Meditation makes me a better, calmer, more logical, happier, well-adjusted person.  If it didn't do this, I can't imagine why I would bother."


But has meditation led you to awakening? Has it allowed you to release. Most of us swim along in a stream of attachment, family, job, house, car, political ideas and on and on. Our list of impediments to awakening is seemingly endless. Yet we are quite comfortable in ignorance with our suffering. We "say" we have the goal of awakening but our actions speak a different story.


I'm a great believer in mediation. It has many helpful benefits. But it is simply a tool to use for helping find the gateless gate.  Often when pushed by someone on why Buddhism, I offer that I want to be awake to the reality of the cosmos. Big puffy answer. But deep down I realize that clinging to a goal of release from suffering is an oxymoron. So I attempt to walk the path as best as I can in my ignorance, which includes meditation. If I get there I get there. If not, I and those around me, will have benefited from my journey.


SN 54-8


www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn54...


 


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Moderated by Merope on Feb 06, 2011 - 02:42AM
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 10, 2011 - 2:18PM #7
stardustpilgrim
Posts: 5,664

We all have Buddhamind. Yes? What is its nature? What is the nature of our ordinary mind?


Most all we know of our mind is that it takes sensory input and turns it into symbolic representation. Every thought we have is at least once removed from reality, some manner of symbolic representation. Now, can any thought make any movement towards Buddhamind? No.


Therefore, any goal which is put into words cannot, relatively speaking, lead to Buddhamind.


This leaves us in quite a predicament. We have Buddhamind, yet cannot approach it by any ordinary means we know of. The Buddha would call this sleep.


I would say the situation described is the basis of Zen Buddhism. We have a Master who has awakened, who is in a direct line of transmission from Buddha. He does everything he can to help anyone else awaken, who so wishes. We would presume this is not so easy. We are on one side, the awakened on the other. How to cross from one to the other?


There is nothing that can lead from one side to the other. One must actually start from the awakened side.


This, is meditation.


Any goal set by our ordinary subjective thinking process, is relatively useless. So the question is, do we really know what meditation is? Do we really know its value in comparison to our ‘concept-producing' mind? Do we really know how to meditate?


Our ordinary concept-producing mind can merely point to awakened mind, like a finger pointing to the moon. But it can do that, that is, a Master's mind can. Thus the need for authentic transmission, outside the scriptures.


stardustpilgrim


 


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Moderated by Merope on Feb 06, 2011 - 02:48AM
Roses always come with thorns. Sometimes, thorns first, sometimes roses first, and, sometimes, thorns outside, roses inside, sometimes roses outside, thorns inside.

Someone who dreams of drinking wine at a cheerful banquet may wake up crying the next morning. Someone who dreams of crying may go off the next morning to enjoy the sport of the hunt. When we are in the midst of a dream, we do not know it's a dream. Sometimes we may even try to interpret our dreams while we are dreaming, but then we awake and realize it was a dream. Only after one is greatly awakened does one realize that it was all a great dream, while the fool thinks that he is awake and presumptuously aware. Chuang Tzu
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 19, 2011 - 2:58PM #8
peterjohn
Posts: 34

Their is no goal because that would divide the mind, I am this and I want to be that, so their is division in the mind of what you think you are and what you want to be, with division their is conflict. Just maybe the 'i' is nothing more than thought and 'i' thinks it is different from thought. So 'i' has a image of 'i' but that image brings nothing but trouble, so the 'i' has a image of the Buddha and trieds to imitate that image, therefore bringing division to the mind, two different images in the mind that are in conflict with each other. It is very difficult but any goal is rooted in a image, it is the image and that goal is in conflict with what you think you are. Even if you see this as a fact who is seeing it? It's the 'i' who see's it,  that 'i' thinks it is different from the problem not knowing deeply it is the problem. Any effort to reach a goal just further divides the mind, it's the action that is important not the goal but a person has to completely understand the action to make it a natural action. The result or goal is just a by-product of the action. I hope you understand what i mean, it can be sometimes difficult to shallow.

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7 years ago  ::  Jan 19, 2011 - 8:43PM #9
peterjohn
Posts: 34

Hi Stardustpilgrim


I completely agree with you about meditation!!

Moderated by Merope on Feb 06, 2011 - 02:50AM
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 20, 2011 - 11:46PM #10
stardustpilgrim
Posts: 5,664

Jan 19, 2011 -- 2:58PM, peterjohn wrote:


Their is no goal because that would divide the mind, I am this and I want to be that, so their is division in the mind of what you think you are and what you want to be, with division their is conflict. Just maybe the 'i' is nothing more than thought and 'i' thinks it is different from thought. So 'i' has a image of 'i' but that image brings nothing but trouble, so the 'i' has a image of the Buddha and trieds to imitate that image, therefore bringing division to the mind, two different images in the mind that are in conflict with each other. It is very difficult but any goal is rooted in a image, it is the image and that goal is in conflict with what you think you are. Even if you see this as a fact who is seeing it? It's the 'i' who see's it, that 'i' thinks it is different from the problem not knowing deeply it is the problem. Any effort to reach a goal just further divides the mind, it's the action that is important not the goal but a person has to completely understand the action to make it a natural action. The result or goal is just a by-product of the action. I hope you understand what i mean, it can be sometimes difficult to shallow.




Hey peterjohn ... I understand, nice post. It sounds like you have read Krishnamurti? I discovered him in the early 70's. Krishnamurti was *it* for me for about 6 years...and I later went to Ojai for the talks and discussions in April-May of 1980.


Difficult to understand even theoretically, but even more difficult to actually see...


I had been planning to add something about 'i' and time. Our conceptual self either lives in the past through memory or the future through imagination, virtually never in the present moment (if we do experience the present moment, personality/ego/'i', almost by definition, is absent).


Buddha understood this...this is why he recommended certain mindfulness practices...concerning the physical body (watching the breath for one). The body, unlike the (ordinary conceptual/cultural/'i') mind, always exists in the present moment...


sdp


 


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Moderated by Merope on Feb 06, 2011 - 02:56AM
Roses always come with thorns. Sometimes, thorns first, sometimes roses first, and, sometimes, thorns outside, roses inside, sometimes roses outside, thorns inside.

Someone who dreams of drinking wine at a cheerful banquet may wake up crying the next morning. Someone who dreams of crying may go off the next morning to enjoy the sport of the hunt. When we are in the midst of a dream, we do not know it's a dream. Sometimes we may even try to interpret our dreams while we are dreaming, but then we awake and realize it was a dream. Only after one is greatly awakened does one realize that it was all a great dream, while the fool thinks that he is awake and presumptuously aware. Chuang Tzu
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