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Thread: Apathy, Nihlism, or Non-Action

  1. #1

    Apathy, Nihlism, or Non-Action

    The element of practice that I find most challenging is in relaxing my desire to "attain" in my daily Dharma walk. I struggle to relax my "grip" on the goalless goal. Sometimes I feel as though I have found my middle way, but then I will panic and frantically clutch for something to make my practice more tangible. Like a person constantly wondering if the medicine they took is working.

    How can I avoid the pitfalls of apathy and nihilism as I continue to internalize that there is nothing that needs to be done but to sit?
    gassho
    -Lou

  2. #2
    Like the opening of the lotus flower sitting allows the opening of self, so the problem does not become apathy or nihilism but the doing of what needs to be done in a helpful and compassionate way which is not really a problem at all. Ofcause none of us are perfect in this.

  3. #3
    Hi


    The trick with this whole goalless goal, is when we make it a goal that we are trying to reach. And that is missing the mark as well. Apathy, nihilistic moments, they will come. But when they do, do not think of them as signs that your practice is not going well, just see them, and let them go and simply allow yourself to fully return to the present moment. Wanting to clutch on to something is normal. It is what the mind has been doing for years on end. So of course it will try to hold onto something during practice, its the only thing it knows how to do.
    In time, and with practice, you will begin to see and experience moments when you are not holding on. Moments where having nothing to hold on to, is fine.

    One of the pillars of this thing we call Buddhism is called, "Great Faith"
    Having faith in oneself, and in one's practice is vitally important.
    Allow yourself to have more confidence in this practice, and in the fact that just sitting isn't just all that needs to be done, but just sitting is the whole of this practice realized.

    Sorry for my speaking on topics I know nothing about...

    Humbly,

    Seiryu
    Humbly,
    Seiryu

  4. #4
    Hi Mr Lou.

    Recently my wife and I had a goal to get out of the noisy house for a long overdue romantic evening.. We planned it , we were excited about it... but something came up. We were disappointed.. but then said “oh well, we'll try again next week” and dropped it. That goal mattered, but was not grasped as an absolute. I remember as a kid getting absolutely invested in a goal... like getting a model plane, then not being able to afford it, and going through a paroxysm of grief. .. because the goal was so opaque. This practice (as I understand it) involves having goals, but they remain transparent, not opaque, not absolute.

    Gassho, kojip
    Last edited by Daizan; 10-29-2012 at 12:30 AM.
    大山

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip View Post
    This practice (as I understand it) involves having goals, but they remain transparent, not opaque, not absolute.
    Nicely put Kojip.

    Gassho
    Michael
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  6. #6
    disastermouse
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by mr.Lou View Post
    The element of practice that I find most challenging is in relaxing my desire to "attain" in my daily Dharma walk. I struggle to relax my "grip" on the goalless goal. Sometimes I feel as though I have found my middle way, but then I will panic and frantically clutch for something to make my practice more tangible. Like a person constantly wondering if the medicine they took is working.

    How can I avoid the pitfalls of apathy and nihilism as I continue to internalize that there is nothing that needs to be done but to sit?
    Are you talking about Shikantaza or are you talking about the greater practice of Zen? I'm not sure that it matters, but I'm curious about specifically what parts of the practice are most problematic for you.

    The taking of the medicine is the medicine.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse View Post
    Are you talking about Shikantaza or are you talking about the greater practice of Zen? I'm not sure that it matters, but I'm curious about specifically what parts of the practice are most problematic for you.

    The taking of the medicine is the medicine.
    Don't misunderstand what I am saying here.

    I am not complaining about an inability to follow the Soto tradition or bemoaning some lack of accomplishment in my practice. I am actually quite satisfied with my present being and the path I'm on.

    It is "desire" itself that I have issue with. Desire to be a "better Buddhist." Harder working, more knowledgeable, more diligent. This thirst for improvement serves me well in my educational and career pursuits, but it seems to conflict with my studies in this tradition because it makes me "grip" too hard.

    This thread is not so much a query for guidance as it is a question of commiseration. Do other people wrestle with this desire to be "more devout?" If so, how did you recognize it as different from that which is zen-tastic?
    gassho
    -Lou

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by mr.Lou View Post
    How can I avoid the pitfalls of apathy and nihilism as I continue to internalize that there is nothing that needs to be done but to sit?
    Vow and vow again to save all sentient beings. Sit, then get up and just do it! Save them all. Not just words, action!

    /Pontus
    In a spring outside time, flowers bloom on a withered tree;
    you ride a jade elephant backwards, chasing the winged dragon-deer;
    now as you hide far beyond innumerable peaks--
    the white moon, a cool breeze, the dawn of a fortunate day

  9. #9
    Simple Lou, as you do whatever you are doing, understand that you are the very thing you are looking for, as you allow your being to just be and radiates, just enjoy being.
    You are the seer, the eyes and the landscape, all three in every single ungraspable moment.


    Gassho


    Taigu
    Last edited by Taigu; 10-29-2012 at 08:49 AM.
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  10. #10
    gassho
    -Lou

  11. #11
    disastermouse
    Guest
    Taigu's advice is spot-on - but I wanted to simply add this observation:

    It can take a long time to let this sink in. It's is exactly true that liberation is immediately available, but there's also no 'end-point' of practice. It's no-liberation liberation, or self-such liberation. Every moment is an opportunity to let go, put your feet on the ground, and feel the middle way with your bare feet.

    I'd suggest that if you feel ennui it's because you want something else. The Middle Way isn't something else.

    Chet

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by mr.Lou View Post
    Do other people wrestle with this desire to be "more devout?" If so, how did you recognize it as different from that which is zen-tastic?
    It has changed ... "More devout" used to mean "as opposed to ordinary life".... leaving family, work, societal responsibilities,messy humanness, and retreating to a kuti in the woods, or a monastery (still messy and human), so as not to be distracted from.... what, exactly? Now "devout" is family, work, societal responsibilities, and messy humanness. So the desire to be "more devout" now translates as not running from life as is, what needs done, regardless, and realizing the suchness and peace in/as this every day.

    Gassho, kojip.
    大山

  13. #13
    Hi kojip,

    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip View Post
    Now "devout" is family, work, societal responsibilities, and messy humanness. So the desire to be "more devout" now translates as not running from life as is, what needs done, regardless, and realizing the suchness and peace in/as this every day.
    Beautiful description!

    In the last 2 or 3 days I had some "experiences" (I don't want to go into detail in the public area here), although I didn't seek these actively - nothing too spectacular though, but still.
    Anyway, after these I came to realize that kensho, satori, the big "E", etc. pp. are not what really counts in life (for me at least).
    It is watching a child fully immersed in an activity, receiving a friendly smile from a stranger, looking through the viewfinder of my camera, laughing together with friends, mowing the lawn or washing the dishes. (I know this sounds corny, but I just don't care.)
    It feels great to simply be alive - no thing needs to be added.

    Gassho,

    Timo

  14. #14
    no thing needs to be added.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  15. #15
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    We can have objectives and plans, but we drop all expectations and mindless desires.

    Like the samurai said: Be ready for everything, but expect nothing.

    I say this because this is how I became a runner. One day I realized I was just too fat and spent too many hours a day sitting. So I begun walking.

    With nothing to prove to anyone, with no particular goal in mind. Day after day I walked, until I noticed that I wasn't getting tired anymore.

    Then I started to run a few seconds. Two years later, seconds became minutes and minutes became hours.

    My goal for this year was to run half a marathon in September. But when the time for registration came, I had no money. And that was the last local race of the year for me.

    I felt a little disappointed but I just let it all go, since the important part was to get myself in shape for the race, not the race itself.

    Maybe next year I'll run that race. Who knows?

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    no thing needs to be added.



    Timo

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyonin View Post
    We can have objectives and plans, but we drop all expectations and mindless desires.

    Like the samurai said: Be ready for everything, but expect nothing.

    I say this because this is how I became a runner. One day I realized I was just too fat and spent too many hours a day sitting. So I begun walking.

    With nothing to prove to anyone, with no particular goal in mind. Day after day I walked, until I noticed that I wasn't getting tired anymore.

    Then I started to run a few seconds. Two years later, seconds became minutes and minutes became hours.

    My goal for this year was to run half a marathon in September. But when the time for registration came, I had no money. And that was the last local race of the year for me.

    I felt a little disappointed but I just let it all go, since the important part was to get myself in shape for the race, not the race itself.

    Maybe next year I'll run that race. Who knows?

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Nicely put Kyonin, thank you. Also, I have to add a little example to this reference to running and your quote "Be ready for everything, but expect nothing". Yesterday I ran in a 10k mountain race and I had in my mind what I wanted to achieve in this race ... but little did I know how it would end up to be. At sign in I ran (no pun intended ) a good friend of mine that I had not seen in awhile and she too was running in the race, so we decided we would run together. Well, it turns out she really struggled and suffered through the race, but for some reason my whole goal of what I wanted for that race changed ... just like that and I stayed with her, running, walking, stopping, etc.

    In the end we finished the race in last place, but it was amazing to see people cheering and supporting each other. I could feel that this was not about getting the best time, being the fastest, better than anyone else, or being first or last. It was about sharing and supporting each other ... experiencing the beauty of nature, together ... being a part of something, together ... about being ready for what ever may come, together. This practice of just being, just doing ... being prepared, yet have no expectation of result. Wonderful.

    Gassho
    Michael
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip View Post
    It has changed ... "More devout" used to mean "as opposed to ordinary life".... leaving family, work, societal responsibilities,messy humanness, and retreating to a kuti in the woods, or a monastery (still messy and human), so as not to be distracted from.... what, exactly? Now "devout" is family, work, societal responsibilities, and messy humanness. So the desire to be "more devout" now translates as not running from life as is, what needs done, regardless, and realizing the suchness and peace in/as this every day.

    Gassho, kojip.
    So very true. Saving all sentient beings doesn't mean you have to accomplish world peace. To me, it's more about your direction in ordinary, everyday life. How you interact with the world before you.

    Gassho,
    Pontus
    In a spring outside time, flowers bloom on a withered tree;
    you ride a jade elephant backwards, chasing the winged dragon-deer;
    now as you hide far beyond innumerable peaks--
    the white moon, a cool breeze, the dawn of a fortunate day

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by ecoist View Post
    Nicely put Kyonin, thank you. Also, I have to add a little example to this reference to running and your quote "Be ready for everything, but expect nothing". Yesterday I ran in a 10k mountain race and I had in my mind what I wanted to achieve in this race ... but little did I know how it would end up to be. At sign in I ran (no pun intended ) a good friend of mine that I had not seen in awhile and she too was running in the race, so we decided we would run together. Well, it turns out she really struggled and suffered through the race, but for some reason my whole goal of what I wanted for that race changed ... just like that and I stayed with her, running, walking, stopping, etc.

    In the end we finished the race in last place, but it was amazing to see people cheering and supporting each other. I could feel that this was not about getting the best time, being the fastest, better than anyone else, or being first or last. It was about sharing and supporting each other ... experiencing the beauty of nature, together ... being a part of something, together ... about being ready for what ever may come, together. This practice of just being, just doing ... being prepared, yet have no expectation of result. Wonderful.

    Gassho
    Michael
    Thanks Michael - that is really heart warming.




    Willow

  20. #20
    I would say: sit a breath or a moment and remember the mystery at the heart of all things and that you are that mystery too. You are the mystery reflecting on the mystery and what an awe-full thing that is. Then just do your thing and forget your remembering because it is what you always are and no book or study or devotion can make you better at being it.

    Gassho,
    alan

  21. #21
    disastermouse
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by alan.r View Post
    no book or study or devotion can make you better at being it.

  22. #22
    Excellent posts! I just have to re-emphasize what Chet said about letting this sink in. It just takes time. There is no rushing this. It's all about dropping so we can see this as it is now. I struggle with this grasping constantly. I truly feel the dissatisfaction in my bones. I feel it when I sit. The power of this practice is the not running away from it; that really is incredible to just stay with whatever it is you are feeling at that moment and then observe it as it drops away. But it certainly takes time, and I suck at it right now (while at the same time I drop my judgements that I suck of course. hahahaah). These are a lifetime of habits after all.

    I've always been a sort of all or nothing person.. That's how I saw practice at first. If you aren't adding then you must be doing nothing; so on one hand I felt like I wasn't doing enough and on the other I could just not do anything. But it's certainly not nihilism, this is very, very active. It's non-doing, not not doing. Again the subtlety of practice just sort of opens up as you are ready for it.. I don't know if that makes sense; I'm sure as heck ( I gave up swearing for ango. lol) just a beginner like you. I've only been sitting for a couple of years, I've just observed a natural ease with sitting now as compared to when I first started. It's like there is no road map. There are some general guidelines, but the more you sit, the more you study your nuances and get acquainted with yourself.

    The same thing with practice. As it has already been wisely pointed out, this is being devout, our practice here and now while we take care of our daily errands... even as we brush our teeth we are faithfully taking care of what has been given to us. If brushing and flossing isn't being devout, what is? lol

    Gassho,

    Risho
    Last edited by Risho; 10-29-2012 at 09:40 PM.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alan.r View Post
    I would say: sit a breath or a moment and remember the mystery at the heart of all things and that you are that mystery too. You are the mystery reflecting on the mystery and what an awe-full thing that is. Then just do your thing and forget your remembering because it is what you always are and no book or study or devotion can make you better at being it.

    Gassho,
    alan
    Gassho, alan, that is beautiful and I needed to read it, too.
    迎 Geika

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by willow View Post
    Thanks Michael - that is really heart warming.




    Willow
    Your welcome Willow, I am glad you enjoyed as well.

    Gassho
    Michael
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

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