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Thread: The Hard Way

  1. #1

    The Hard Way

    I have to wonder if the Buddha or Bodhidharma or Dogen ever questioned their ability to follow this Path. Sometimes I will find myself behaving in a way that, when I stand back and look at it, I say “well that wasn’t very Buddhist of me” or “that was not in keeping with the Precepts”. To be sure, those times are less and less, because I believe that my way of thinking and seeing and experiencing the dharma have changed as my understanding of the dharma has deepened, but still there are times when I think “wouldn’t it just be easier if……..”.

    It illustrates how hard this Way is sometimes. Just because it is the Middle Way, a way of no extremes, does not make it easy. Just because we are returning to our original selves with the Practice of the Way, does not make it easy. It’s hard some days. I used to smoke, for years and years I smoked about a pack a day. I knew it was bad for me, and I didn’t care. It wasn’t until I had a child that I said it was time to quit. There have been times where I’ve gone out to a bar with my friends and three out of four would smoke. I think this practice can be like that sometimes. You stop with bad habits and you recognize some of the delusions that are blinding you from seeing the truth, and you stop the actions that would arise from them, seeing and acting instead from a place of clarity; clearing away the ‘smoke’ as it were. But you have to go out into this saha world, and be next to people who are doing the very thing you are giving up doing. Every where you go, it’s like being a reformed smoker or drinker and walking into a bar (but not a bar in California or New Jersey where you cannot smoke :mrgreen: ). People catering to the very delusions and attachments that we are working to see through. It’s difficult with all the pressure out there, and easy to fall into bad habits, easy to say that it’s too hard to live according to your original nature when everyone else seems to have no thought of doing the same.

    I wonder if the Great Worthies of Zen, our ancestors of old, ever had similar thoughts. I wonder if they ever questioned whether or not they really had the will and ability to continue down the Path, maybe even wondering if they could do anything BUT continue down the Path after having experienced Zen, after all the lessons learned on the cushion? Maybe it’s even harder for us, today, because then it was acceptable, in some cases even “noble” to give up the worldly life and go to a monastery, sequester oneself away from the world and focus on the Practice. It’s easy to fall into other pitfalls like nihilism, if care isn’t taken, and appropriate means not given. It’s easy to forget that the imperfections of this world can be beautiful too. Easy to forget that the imperfections are what makes it perfectly what it is.

    I think it is important for new folks to realize this. The upfront realization may disuade people from becoming disillusioned with their Practice. It's like we used to say in the Marine Corps. "We never promised you a rose garden." But I would add to that, "we will help you realize that you are already in one." Beautiful, delightful to the nose, but you can't have all that without the thorns.

  2. #2

    Re: The Hard Way

    Very true, and very nicely expressed!!

    The Buddha questioned the path he was on, that was why he decided to sit under the Bodhi tree. He created the middle way, because he was questioning the path that he was on. Dogen questioned his path, that was his whole search on finding a true master, one who would answer his question; "if we are already Buddha, why do we need to practice?" All the Great Master across the traditions have questioned their path, that was what kept them going.

    Was it easier then? We can't really know, but there were less distractions, no cellphone, facebook, e-mail...etc so in reality wasn't too much to give up. Today we have so entangled ourselves in everyday life that we create our own holes...
    but still there are times when I think “wouldn’t it just be easier if……..”.
    Don't we all think this from time to time? I guess it is normal, and proof that we are on the right path. If it was all peaches and cream the whole way down, then why bother entering it in the first place? Breaking our habits are hard, and so we continue to practice, to remind ourselves not to be controled by our habits, but for us to be in control of them.

    Just my ramblings...

    Gassho

    Seiryu

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: The Hard Way

    I agree with Seiryu

    I believe every Buddhist Master has questioned his own practice at some point because they were people like you and me. And it's okay to have doubts about things you do.

    What I think is great is that we practice the Path to realize we've been doing stuff that was not very honorable and to better ourselves.

    Granted, it's not easy at all. But the more you practices, the less you'll find yourself doing non-Buddhist stuff. Just like when your mind wanders off during meditation: you pull your attention back to where it belongs.

  4. #4

    Re: The Hard Way

    I think that not being in a monastery is actually a good thing in a way. It's like being thrust into the marketplace right away; the lessons are learned immediately. Edit: not necessarily learned but presented. But I guess I can't really comment as I've never really lived in a monastery. I'm sure both places have their challenges as you say.

    With addiction, (I used to smoke too, and I loved it) it requires a lifestyle change at first until one is ready to be around other smokers. It's probably similar to the Sangha. You need a supportive community around you. It may not be completely necessary but most people flourish with positive reinforcement. After all we are social animals.

    Sometimes the path appears easy, sometimes difficult, but it's neither easy or difficult. (paraphrasing The Record of Layman Pang)

    I think when we face what we think of as difficulty, that is our current limit. We feel those ego limits when we want to smoke or want a drink or we want credit when someone else steals our moment, or we want to kick that guy/gal (or even think of killing them) because they cut us off in traffic. That's where the practice is. It's like the only way to practice is to sit in that fire pit until you can learn to let it subside. It can definitely be hard at times.

    Thank you for this awesome post; it really gets the wheels turning.

    P.S. Did The Buddha create or discover the middle way? Is there really a difference since we create our reality based on how we interpret it through our sensory input?

  5. #5

    Re: The Hard Way

    Quote Originally Posted by Seiryu
    Was it easier then? We can't really know, but there were less distractions, no cellphone, facebook, e-mail...etc so in reality wasn't too much to give up. Today we have so entangled ourselves in everyday life that we create our own holes...
    The Buddha did talk about this - it's commonly known as saddharmavipralopa, the "dharma ending age", where the dharma would be in decline, few masters would appear, more suffering would exist, and generally a time that would provide a less than ideal setting for awakening.

  6. #6

    Re: The Hard Way

    Quote Originally Posted by chocobuda
    I agree with Seiryu

    I believe every Buddhist Master has questioned his own practice at some point because they were people like you and me. And it's okay to have doubts about things you do.

    What I think is great is that we practice the Path to realize we've been doing stuff that was not very honorable and to better ourselves.

    Granted, it's not easy at all. But the more you practices, the less you'll find yourself doing non-Buddhist stuff. Just like when your mind wanders off during meditation: you pull your attention back to where it belongs.
    As usually happens in the biographies of Great Men and Saints, over time, the doubts and weaknesses and "after greatness" questioning are left out, together with the humanity and small imperfections. I believe that all human beings (Buddhas and Ancestors no less) have times of doubt and confusion. Not unlike any path through the mountains, no matter how well marked ... yet we sometimes wonder which way to head, question the ultimate destination/purpose or if we have gone wrong somewhere. In the writing of their stories, later generations have a tendency to dip the "magnificent person" in gold and strip all that away. (One reason we can be so disappointed in our 'flesh and blood' teachers ... especially the ones who fall down in weakness ... compared to the characters in the wonderful fables).

    I am always struck by the words of Jesus, on the Cross in a seeming moment of doubt and abandonment, asking "My God, Why has Thou Foresaken Me?"

    Gassho, J

  7. #7

    Re: The Hard Way

    What is the story of Mara's temptation of Gautama if not a story of doubt and perseverance? What is doubt if it's not clinging to the way things should be?

    I woke up this particular morning ready to kick this whole stinking Zen mess to the curb. I wake up many mornings feeling the same way. After all these years though I just can't. So instead, I fix my gaze and sally forth.

  8. #8
    Treeleaf Unsui Kyrillos's Avatar
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    Re: The Hard Way

    If everything were easy, if life had no obstacles and we were able to simply float coolly on a raft right through it, what do you think would happen? I think that for a while we would love the peace and take advantage of it to enjoy our surroundings, take it all in and live unperturbed. Then we would begin to get less motivated and more lazy and just sleep alot on the raft as it floated past many wondrous places. Our muscles would begin to atrophe from lack of use and soon we would become bored with the sameness of our journey and then lie there eyes closed, weak and motionless. Our boredom would soon turn to resentment that all we are able to do is float down the middle of this river and never go ashore. And then we would hate our easy life. There is no satisfying us!

    So be joyful that there are obstacles in life; opportunities for us to exercise our will (or not to) to move past an obstacle. These are all chances for us to recall that we are still alive and vital. So far I have not met any lotus-floating saints who are beyond this human existence; and if I did I might just be the one to splash a bit of water on them just to help them overcome an obstacle or two, and to remind them of their humanity. I believe that it is our job to live here with all the noise, dirt, warts and doubts in order that we remain as human as possible while seeking daily for the Buddha knowledge concerning these things. I do not see us "escaping" them so we can float on a lily pad down the river, but "understanding" them so we can live in that understanding in this life and world. It is an "Hard" way in that it is tangible, present and calling for attention. That is what makes it human and possible rather than divine and impossible to attain.


    Gassho,

    Seishin Kyrill

  9. #9
    Senior Member Hogo's Avatar
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    Re: The Hard Way

    Excellent.
    Gassho

  10. #10

    Re: The Hard Way

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyrillos
    If everything were easy, if life had no obstacles and we were able to simply float coolly on a raft right through it, what do you think would happen? I think that for a while we would love the peace and take advantage of it to enjoy our surroundings, take it all in and live unperturbed. Then we would begin to get less motivated and more lazy and just sleep alot on the raft as it floated past many wondrous places. Our muscles would begin to atrophe from lack of use and soon we would become bored with the sameness of our journey and then lie there eyes closed, weak and motionless. Our boredom would soon turn to resentment that all we are able to do is float down the middle of this river and never go ashore. And then we would hate our easy life. There is no satisfying us!

    So be joyful that there are obstacles in life; opportunities for us to exercise our will (or not to) to move past an obstacle. These are all chances for us to recall that we are still alive and vital. So far I have not met any lotus-floating saints who are beyond this human existence; and if I did I might just be the one to splash a bit of water on them just to help them overcome an obstacle or two, and to remind them of their humanity. I believe that it is our job to live here with all the noise, dirt, warts and doubts in order that we remain as human as possible while seeking daily for the Buddha knowledge concerning these things. I do not see us "escaping" them so we can float on a lily pad down the river, but "understanding" them so we can live in that understanding in this life and world. It is an "Hard" way in that it is tangible, present and calling for attention. That is what makes it human and possible rather than divine and impossible to attain.


    Gassho,

    Seishin Kyrill
    I would break my own back bowing to you as much as you deserve for this. I would lend my voice to yours here and say that this is a mainstay of our faith and practice. We say:

    Beings are numberless; I vow to save them.
    Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them.
    Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them.
    Buddha's way is unsurpassable; I vow to embody it.

    This is our way distilled into four lines. We KNOW we cannot save all beings. We KNOW we will never be able to end all delusions, enter the boundless dharma gates. The obstacle of the absence of cold, hard fact is removed from our practice in this way. However, knowing this, we will still work towards these goals anyway. We come to realize that by our practice, these things are already accomplished. With compassion in our hearts and (M)inds, we truly embody the Buddha's Way. Working to save all sentient beings, though there are no sentient beings to save, and all sentient beings are saved already. Working to attain a goaless goal that can never be attained and has already been attained.

    This is the Hard Way, the way of Shakyamuni. Thorny roses, shoreless rivers, dirt and sunrises, warts and wonders. Seeing the perfectionless perfection and the beauty of it all. :wink:

  11. #11
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: The Hard Way

    Wonderfully put Seishin!

    Gassho,
    John

  12. #12

    Re: The Hard Way

    Always, always... always leaving, always coming back. If I remember, the three pillars are Great Faith, Great Determination, Great Doubt. So I think it's a natural part of the practice. Everyday for me is as much "unzen" as "zen."

    But tomorrow, more zen! Oh wait, no tomorrow... :mrgreen:

    Gassho,
    Matt

  13. #13
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    Re: The Hard Way

    I wonder if the Great Worthies of Zen, our ancestors of old, ever had similar thoughts.
    Remember how the Buddha was reluctant to teach, because he thought nobody would get it? Remember how Dogen was ready to call it quits because he could not find a teacher? Remember Huang Bo who said: "You're all slurpers of dregs, running around looking for teachings ... Don't you know that in all of China there isn't a single teacher of zen?" What frustration!

    We KNOW we will never be able to end all delusions, enter the boundless dharma gates.
    Daido Roshi always said that in knowing there is separation. Knowing is not intimacy.

    We come to realize that by our practice, these things are already accomplished. ... Working to attain a goaless goal that can never be attained and has already been attained.
    Exactly 8) When it's cold, just be cold. When the going is tough, just let it be tough... Thank you for the thread!

  14. #14

    Re: The Hard Way

    Quote Originally Posted by Matto
    Always, always... always leaving, always coming back. If I remember, the three pillars are Great Faith, Great Determination, Great Doubt. So I think it's a natural part of the practice. Everyday for me is as much "unzen" as "zen."

    But tomorrow, more zen! Oh wait, no tomorrow... :mrgreen:

    Gassho,
    Matt
    Yes, I have always found "Great Doubt" to be a beautiful aspect of this Practice, especially as it yields to "Great Not Knowing".

    By "Great Not Knowing", I mean that there are so many questions we might have about this life ...

    ... and sometimes, in this Practice, those Big Questions are answered for us, very clearly and precisely.

    ... and sometimes, in this Practice, those questions drop away for the very question was of our own making all along (like "how many angels on the head of a pin"), also a very clear answer of sorts.

    ... and sometimes, in this Practice, there are things about life we small human beings still cannot know ... but that's cool. Some mysteries remain, but we yield to that, allow that, let the mysteries remain mysterious. That "allowing" is a very clear answer too in its way. I sometimes compare us to the young infant who cannot understand the shadows passing before its eyes ... like the husband who will never know every mysterious aspect of his own wife ... yet knows, yet trusts, yet fully understands somehow.

    A noted Korean Teacher, Seung Sahn Sunin, teaches that we should just keep this "Don't Know" Mind.

    I write a bit more about "Answering Big Questions" here ...

    viewtopic.php?f=24&t=1205

    Gassho, Jundo

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