Dogenís Circle of the Way
Until Dogen met his teacher Tendo Nyojo, he had been taught that zazen was a means to an end, a way of attaining a specific goal. You do zazen in order to become enlightened.
Thatís the way most meditation is taught. You want stress reduction? Do this! You want peace of mind? Do this!
But itís not just meditation thatís taught this way. Nearly every activity we do in life is divided into ends and means. You do your job to get a paycheck. You jog to lose weight. You practice violin to play at Carnegie Hall. You write books to become a famous author. The list goes on and on.
The problem is that we often do not attain our goals. Maybe our paycheck is less than we deserve, or we never get to play at Carnegie Hall, or we donít lose that weight as fast as we want, maybe we become a well-known author but not a famous one and we donít make any money, etc. This causes us a lot of disappointment. It often is enough to make us give up whatever it is weíre doing well before its benefits become evident.
Many, many people give up meditation practice for this reason. I canít tell you how many times someone has forwarded me a very eloquently written essay by someone about what an obvious waste of time meditation is. This one by John Horgan is a great example. Horgan was disappointed by Zen practice and he explains why in terms that are very hard to refute. But Iíd say he was just doing it for the wrong reasons. And the wrong reasons for doing Zen practice are any reasons for doing Zen practice.