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Thread: Knowing how to be satisfied

  1. #1
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Knowing how to be satisfied

    Genpo Merzel writes that one of the awarenesses of enlightenment is knowing how to be satisfied with what you already have, which would seem to imply not seeking, non-goal-type stuff. This seems simple enough, but he also says that this means to work at making things better, that wishing to improve things is precisely because of being satisfied with knowing the way things are. This sounds like goals and thus seems quite contradictory. I think I get it, but I wanted to put it out here for discussion.

  2. #2

    Re: Knowing how to be satisfied

    Hi,

    I have written about this many times, and I call it "acceptance without acceptance". In our Zen way, we are functioning on several 'frequencies' at once, seemingly contradictory (e.g., having judgments while dropping all judgments, having "likes & dislikes" while simultaneously dropping all "likes & dislikes", having goals on one "channel" while dropping all goals on the other "channel").

    Non-Zen folks might think you have to be X or Y, but we are XY (or non-XY) at once! No problem!

    Like a harmoniously balanced, multi-level schizoid personality!! This is one of the most important 'lessons to be learned' in our Practice. The Key to many Koans!

    Here is what I wrote once ...

    Someone wrote to ask whether all this "self acceptance" and embracing ourselves "just as we are" means that, for example, a wife beater or alcoholic or thief should just accept themselves like that, not seek to change or live any other way.

    No. Please recall that, in our Zen Way, we live on several channels at once ... seemingly contradictory, yet not contradictory at all.

    I want to reach for Jundo's handy-dandy "acceptance without acceptance" formula here, and apply it to our personal natures:

    So, in our "Just Sitting" Shikantaza, we completely accept the universe, and all in it, just as it is. We drop all thoughts of likes and dislikes, dreams and regrets and need for change, hopes and fears. Yet simultaneously, hand in hand without the slightest deviation (on another mental "track", if you want to say that), we live our lives as human beings, and living life requires choices, goals, likes and dislikes, dreams and hopes.

    Thus, living our life is much like living in a house with a leaky roof, spiders and broken windows. In Master Dogen's way, we simply sit to drop all resistance to the house we have been living in all along, to realize that there is nowhere to 'go' in life, to cease all efforts to add to or take away from the structure, to let go of the ego's insisting on how things "should be" in order for the house to be "good" ... we ARE that house, our True Home! Then we find, in dropping that resistance, that the house we have always been in is "perfectly what it is", and we can be joyful right where we are. HOWEVER, we can be content with that house even as, hand in hand, there is still much serious repair work to do (an acceptance-without-acceptance of the leaky windows, spiders and creaky doors). There is nothing to prevent our fixing those, even as we accept their existence! We can accept and not accept simultaneously, repair what needs to be repaired.

    We have goals for repair even as, on the other "track", we drop all goals and thoughts of repair.

    So, even as we can accept that we are a wife beating alcoholic, we should immediately set to not be so! One simply cannot taste the fruits of Buddhist practice if one is so filled with anger, violence, pain and need that one is a violent, abusive alcoholic!

    And what guides us onto the smooth path for life?

    Yes, the Precepts.
    Gassho, J

  3. #3

    Re: Knowing how to be satisfied

    so what i am getting from that is that although we are accepting of how things are, and that they could be less than desirale, that the "suffering"(or aversion to what is happening, for lack of a beter definition) doesnt occur in that moment regardless of weather or not something needs fixing? and that you can work on things (goals)while being accepting with the way things are.....am i on the right track? hope i didnt just completely repeat what you both had said. ops:

    thanks starting the discussion. this is a very interesting question!

    Gassho,

    Steve Taylor

  4. #4

    Re: Knowing how to be satisfied

    How to be satisfied 101:

    Stop trying to be satisfied.

    G,W

  5. #5

    Re: Knowing how to be satisfied

    Funny how this topic directly relates to my topic on my changing view of martial arts.

    I believe what I'm experiencing is just that, knowing how to be satisfied. I'm not interested in being the toughest person on the face of the earth, not interested in taking action without understanding the consequences or showing compassion.

    I know I have to maintain my health, but at the same time I accept aging and other bodily misfortunes. I know that my employment as a part-time security guard is benefited by practical self-defense skills, but I accept that I can't prevent all misfortune from happening.

    And this knowing applies to all aspects of life, such as doing the best I can to guide my children in growing to be intelligent, respectful, responsible and healthy, yet accepting that as they grow older they will make mistakes, challenge authority and be whomever they choose to be.

    It's doing what has to be done without trying, and being what you need to be without desiring to be anything.

  6. #6
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Knowing how to be satisfied

    I remember acceptance without acceptance, Jundo. But this is more like it is Because we know how to be satisfied with what we have that we work to make things better. He puts this causal factor in there, and that's where I get a bit challenged. So, it's like saying, the reason I work to end pain and suffering in others is because I am satisfied with the pain and suffering in others.

    Sorry if I am making this needlessly complicated. I guess I'm just not satisfied

  7. #7

    Re: Knowing how to be satisfied

    Quote Originally Posted by aksteve
    and that you can work on things (goals)while being accepting with the way things are.....am i on the right track? hope
    Hi, Steve.

    Seems right to me. Also, in Everyday Zen, Beck devotes quite a bit of time discussing acceptance and its place in our lives.


    p. 115 in Everyday Zen"When there is no longer any separation between myself and the circumstances of my life, whatever they may be, that is it."

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    n Master Dogen's way, we simply sit to drop all resistance to the house we have been living in all along, to realize that there is nowhere to 'go' in life, to cease all efforts to add to or take away from the structure, to let go of the ego's insisting on how things "should be" in order for the house to be "good" ... we ARE that house, our True Home! Then we find, in dropping that resistance, that the house we have always been in is "perfectly what it is", and we can be joyful right where we are. HOWEVER, we can be content with that house even as, hand in hand, there is still much serious repair work to do (an acceptance-without-acceptance of the leaky windows, spiders and creaky doors). There is nothing to prevent our fixing those, even as we accept their existence!
    To appreciate the world and this life we have means to accept it (like accepting a gift). Jundo's house analogy is great. A house is a process. It always needs work. It drives us crazy sometimes, but it gives us shelter and comfort too. Too often, I think we believe that we can have the shelter and comfort without the flaws. That is "splitting enlightenment" according to Jiyu Kennet Roshi.

    I think we should strive to be OK with the world . . . get upset and change some stuff if it needs changing . . . and be OK with that too. Round and round we go, being ground away by that puzzle.

    Gassho,
    Bill

  8. #8

    Re: Knowing how to be satisfied

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    I remember acceptance without acceptance, Jundo. But this is more like it is Because we know how to be satisfied with what we have that we work to make things better. He puts this causal factor in there, and that's where I get a bit challenged. So, it's like saying, the reason I work to end pain and suffering in others is because I am satisfied with the pain and suffering in others.

    Sorry if I am making this needlessly complicated. I guess I'm just not satisfied
    Hi, Alan. An exact quotation of the passage might be helpful. Otherwise I am interpreting your paraphrasing (which in itself is an interpretation).

    That being said, the way I might spin what you are saying is, "the reason I work to end pain and suffering in others is due to the wisdom/seeing gained through accepting the world as it has been presented to me." In other words, the realistic viewpoint (using Nishijima's idea that realism is the middle way that transcends the traps of idealism and materialism).

    I don't know if that is helpful at all.

    Gassho,
    Bill

  9. #9

    Re: Knowing how to be satisfied

    Hi Alan,

    Yes, might you post a bit more of Genpo's quote?

    Quote Originally Posted by aksteve
    so what i am getting from that is that although we are accepting of how things are, and that they could be less than desirale, that the "suffering"(or aversion to what is happening, for lack of a beter definition) doesnt occur in that moment regardless of weather or not something needs fixing? and that you can work on things (goals)while being accepting with the way things are.....am i on the right track? hope i didnt just completely repeat what you both had said. ops:

    thanks starting the discussion. this is a very interesting question!

    Gassho,

    Steve Taylor
    One thing I want to convey, especially to people new to Zen Practice, is how thoroughly we must appreciate and immerse ourself in this ... it has to be lived, made the core of our lives, and not reduced to a simple formula or reasoned about (although it does have a logic to it, it is not our ordinary logic ... for here quite contradictory ideas can be true at once). You have to taste it, do it, not just think about it (otherwise it is like writing an essay about sugar's sweetness instead of tasting the sweetness on our own tongue)! It is a thorough reorientation of how we see and experience life, knocking down so many artificial so-called "common sense" views of how we see and experience life and the world. Getting this point is why we spend all that time on the Zafu staring at a wall.

    So let me try to put it this way (borrowing heavily from Master Dogen, but with far less of a gift for poetry and a bit more scatological) ...

    The worst crap in life or in the world, the greatest beauties, our small struggles or triumphant days, are just a Buddha made of Gold. And a Golden Buddha is just piles of stinking shit, mountains of diamonds, both peace or war. A crying child orphaned by war is a Sutra being chanted, and a Sutra's chanting is the voice of a heavenly choir.

    This may not be so easy to see at first, but try just sitting ... dropping from mind all thought of "worst", "greatest", precious diamonds and fetid crap, struggle vs. triumph, peace or war. Come to see every every turd as a diamond of "just what it is perfection", a child's cry as silence and silence as both songs and cries, and the peace amid the battlefield (for there is a perspective by which all fighting armies are dropped from mind). The war and bloodshed is perfectly "just what it is" too ... perfectly war and bloodshed, with not one drop of blood to add or take away.

    Now, that being said ... go forth and make peace, comfort the crying orphan.


    Gassho, Jundo

  10. #10

    Re: Knowing how to be satisfied

    Someone wrote me privately to ask why we would bother to "fix the house" (fix our life and world) if we so thoroughly accept and embrace the house "just as it is", complete with leaky windows and spiders. Why would we bother to change what we embrace?

    Well, do you want to live in a house with drafts, leaks and spiders?

    Our home is what we make it. Our life and world are too. So, while accepting .. we can try to make our lives and world nicer.

    I sometimes say that I "accept" both the flowers and weeds in my garden. Now, excuse me, as I have weeds to pull today.

    Gassho, J

  11. #11

    Re: Knowing how to be satisfied

    I think this "being satisfied" is an important question or Koan that could be looked into. What is at the heart of satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

    G,W

  12. #12

    Re: Knowing how to be satisfied

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hi Alan,

    Yes, might you post a bit more of Genpo's quote?

    Quote Originally Posted by aksteve
    so what i am getting from that is that although we are accepting of how things are, and that they could be less than desirale, that the "suffering"(or aversion to what is happening, for lack of a beter definition) doesnt occur in that moment regardless of weather or not something needs fixing? and that you can work on things (goals)while being accepting with the way things are.....am i on the right track? hope i didnt just completely repeat what you both had said. ops:

    thanks starting the discussion. this is a very interesting question!

    Gassho,

    Steve Taylor
    One thing I want to convey, especially to people new to Zen Practice, is how thoroughly we must appreciate and immerse ourself in this ... it has to be lived, made the core of our lives, and not reduced to a simple formula or reasoned about (although it does have a logic to it, it is not our ordinary logic ... for here quite contradictory ideas can be true at once). You have to taste it, do it, not just think about it (otherwise it is like writing an essay about sugar's sweetness instead of tasting the sweetness on our own tongue)! It is a thorough reorientation of how we see and experience life, knocking down so many artificial so-called "common sense" views of how we see and experience life and the world. Getting this point is why we spend all that time on the Zafu staring at a wall.

    So let me try to put it this way (borrowing heavily from Master Dogen, but with far less of a gift for poetry and a bit more scatological) ...

    The worst crap in life or in the world, the greatest beauties, our small struggles or triumphant days, are just a Buddha made of Gold. And a Golden Buddha is just piles of stinking shit, mountains of diamonds, both peace or war. A crying child orphaned by war is a Sutra being chanted, and a Sutra's chanting is the voice of a heavenly choir.

    This may not be so easy to see at first, but try just sitting ... dropping from mind all thought of "worst", "greatest", precious diamonds and fetid crap, struggle vs. triumph, peace or war. Come to see every every turd as a diamond of "just what it is perfection", a child's cry as silence and silence as both songs and cries, and the peace amid the battlefield (for there is a perspective by which all fighting armies are dropped from mind). The war and bloodshed is perfectly "just what it is" too ... perfectly war and bloodshed, with not one drop of blood to add or take away.

    Now, that being said ... go forth and make peace, comfort the crying orphan.


    Gassho, Jundo


    Thanks Jundo! i think i understand what you are getting at here! i will keep it in mind.

    Gassho

    Steve

  13. #13
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Knowing how to be satisfied

    Sorry for not putting in the quote, but I was trying to avoid it as it is a little tricky and I was more interested in the idea it presented than the exact words Genpo used to present it. I think Jundo's last post hit the nail on the head, though.

    Someone wrote me privately to ask why we would bother to "fix the house" (fix our life and world) if we so thoroughly accept and embrace the house "just as it is", complete with leaky windows and spiders. Why would we bother to change what we embrace?

    Well, do you want to live in a house with drafts, leaks and spiders?
    So anyway, below is the quote. I called it tricky because it is from Big MInd, BIg Heart, and he is speaking here as the voice of knowing how to be satisfied. If you are not familiar with the book, he speaks in various "voices" of different aspects of mind, and this is one of many. It's an unusual technique, for one, and people have some strong feelings about what he talks about in that book, for two, and for three I was afraid one and two would distract people from the idea being presented. That was an aversion, I now accept, and because I accept it I am now letting it go.

    Genpo (knowing how to be satisfied) Merzel wrote:
    I surrender to what is, or you could say acknowledge what one is, and then work to improve the situation for self and others. In fact it is my wish to improve conditions on the planet precisely because I know how to be satisfied with the way things are.
    I think he's talking about how knowledge equals power. He goes on to say:
    it is only by knowing how to be satisfied and feeling empowered and not being a victim that I can accomplish anything truly transformative.
    So he's saying that it's deeper than just operating on two channels at once. This knowledge of how things are in the world connects those two channels, connects us to action. It's a pretty cool idea that I get it a lot more now than a few days ago when I started this thread,

    Thank you for your patience.
    Gassho.

  14. #14

    Re: Knowing how to be satisfied

    The thing here is that it's not an intellectual understanding. It's an experience, acceptance, realization, or dropping, through practice. The ability to come back to the moment and find balance in body and mind. Dropping thoughts of like and dislike.

    G,W

  15. #15
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Knowing how to be satisfied

    Yes, Will, knowledge as experience or acceptance or, as Merzel puts it, satisfaction, not as an intellectual activity.

    To accept where you are without seeking yet knowing there is more beyond this point, and by this knowing/experience/acceptance/satisfaction to automatically step forward. It is not goal-seeking, just natural progress. It seems analogous to kinhin.

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