Friday, April 22, 2011
The Vision Thing
"If you think you will get something from practicing zazen, already you are involved in impure practice. It is alright to say there is practice, and there is enlightenment, but we should not be caught by the statement. You should not be tainted by it. When you practice zazen, just practice zazen. If enlightenment comes, it just comes. We should not attach to the attainment. The true quality of zazen is always there, even if you are not aware of it, so forget all about what you may think you may have gained from it. Just do it. The quality of zazen will express itself; then you will have it."
-Shunryu Suzuki, "Zen Mind, Beginners Mind"
"If you hope to bring meditation into your life in any kind of long-term, committed way, you will need a vision that is truly your own--one that is deep and tenacious and that lies close to the core of who you believe yourself to be, what you value in your life, and where you see yourself going. Only the strength of such a dynamic vision and the motivation from which it springs can possibly keep you on this path year in and year out, with a willingness to practice every day and to bring mindfulness to bear on whatever is happening, to open to whatever is perceived, and to let it point to where the holding is and where the letting go and the growing need to happen."
-Jon Kabat-Zinn, "Wherever You Go There You Are"
"People ask what it means to practice zazen with no gaining idea, what kind of effort is necessary for that kind of practice. The answer is: effort to get rid of something extra from our practice. If some extra idea comes, you should try to stop it; you should remain in pure practice. That is the point toward which our effort is directed."
"It won't be sustaining enough to have a quixotic idea of yourself as a meditator, or to hold the opinion that meditation is good for you because it has been good for others, or because Eastern wisdom sounds deep to you, or because you are in the habit of meditating. The vision we are speaking of has to be renewed every day, has to be right out front all the time, because mindfulness itself requires this level of awareness of purpose, of intention. Otherwise, we might as well stay in bed."
“When a gaining idea arises in our practice, it is a sign that our practice is in trouble.”
Dueling gurus! So, is having a Vision necessary for practice, or is it an unnecessary hindrance? Every serious Buddhist teacher I've ever read or heard speak has insisted on the point that Buddhism isn't a set of rules so much as a framework for experiential learning. So, instead of approaching this as a theoretical or philosophical or East vs. West debate, (or trying to find some clever semantic way to reconcile 'vision' with lack of 'gaining idea') I'll just look at my own experience.
And, all respect to Kabat-Zinn, I think Suzuki has the edge here. After reading Kabat-Zinn's chapter on vision and trying out his suggestion of "asking [myself] why [I] meditate or why [I] want to meditate" I found my practice to be scattered and distracted (more so even than usual), to the point where I got frustrated and started skipping days. The question of "why am I doing this?" once brought up slid into "why do I bother?" Bother meditating, bother going to the store, bother getting out of bed.
Clearly there's more there to explore, and sweeping this under the rug is not what I want to be doing. For one thing, if the Enneagram Institute is to be trusted, a sense of overall futility is a hallmark of my personality type. Furthermore, it is a sign to me that I've been isolating myself too much, cutting myself off from social contact that could ground me more in my day-to-day life rather than having me drift off into nihilistic cul-de-sacs.
So to keep up with my practices, separate them from any gaining idea. Practice for its own sake, and trust that any progress will come or not in its own time and way. This includes writing, which is why I've decided on another attempt to revive the ol' 'Bblog. No fanfare this time, no promise of updating more often or any statement of renewed purpose.
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