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Thread: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

  1. #1

    Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Greetings all,

    I have a friend that seems to avoid getting into relationships, engaging in various aspects of life, etc.. because (1) she wants to avoid doing harm and (2) she links such activity to pleasures, which is desire and attachment, which means avoid and drop at first sight.. akin to verse 21 of the Bodhisattva's path (her lineage):

    Sensual pleasures are like salty water:
    The deeper you drink, the thirstier you become.
    Any object that you attach to,
    Right away, let it go—this is the practice of a bodhisattva.

    The first verse seems about right to me...

    At this time when the difficult-to-obtain, great vessel of leisure and fortune has been
    obtained, the practice of Bodhisattvas is to continuously listen, think, and meditate day
    and night in order to ferry themselves and others from the ocean of Samsara.

    But the 21st verse when its applied for individuals, such as my friend, seem to me to have more to do with running away or not engaging in what is life and existence. It seems to me, impossible to love and not be attached or take part in sensual desire - similarly, music, sunsets, laugh of a child, etc.. the various beauties of life are all sensual pleasures. Like a song, or life, it is within our nature to delve in, enjoy and attach; just as at the end of the song, or life, it is in our nature to mourn. Its ridiculous to demand the song go on, which is delusion through attachment, but a natural procession for some suffering at the loss.. and to run from the root of suffering is to run from life - and really to protect the sense of self and ego that will suffer if you don't drop the attachment. If our practice is acceptance and moving away from delusion then isn't the dropping of all pleasures more about avoidance than acceptance?

    I feel my friend is living a half baked life under the guise of preventing harm and spiritual detachment. Right away, let it go.. no attachments, is that life? Seems to me the middle path is not one of "right away" letting go but of recognition of attachment for what it is, including the pain it may entail as all is impermanent - both the attachment and object - and that there is really no difference between attachment and object. Seems to me we should be taught more so to recognize our attachments are as impermanent as the objects of attachment and vice versa than to be taught to drop attachment right away..

    The verses can be found here for those interested:

    _/_ Nate

    Beings are numberless: may I free them all.
    Reactions are endless: may I release them all.
    Doors to experience are infinite: may I enter them all.
    Ways of awakening are limitless: may I know them all.

  2. #2

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Salty water is just salty water. Notice how it says "the deeper you drink"? Doesn't say "don't go near it" or "don't put your toes in". Same with objects - they are just objects. Emphasis is on "that you attach to". I'm sorry your friend has this interpretation and may be missing out on a lot of things for that reason. As you point out, ours is the middle way between austerity and indulgence.

  3. #3

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    In my opinion, whatever that may be worth, intentionally trying to avoid something that is happening anyway is not a very good practice. We can't avoid the way we feel at a particular moment, we only "control" what we do with the feelings.

    In terms of the "Bodhisattva path" we can't forget that it's wisdom "AND" compassion, not wisdom "OR" compassion. Trying not to harm others by denying them and your "self"(?) of natural conditions seems like a case of compassion without the wisdom.

    And I mean that in the most compassionate way one with little wisdom can offer

    Again, just one guys opinion.

  4. #4

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    You can't escape pleasure so enjoy it. Attaching to it would be like an addiction where it controls. Then you wouldn't have the awareness or time to do what you need to do to help everyone with all the other stuff.

  5. #5

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Put yourself in crappy situations and see what happens. See the crappy situation turned around. Perhaps the crappy situation isn't even a crappy situation, but you projecting yourself onto it.

    What this has to do with Soto Zen practice I don't know. Things naturally arise and fall away. If your friend wants to become a monk, then let her. Not your choice. If she wants to stand on her head, then let her, not your choice.

    If you want, you can direct her to the nearest teacher within your area.

    Gassho and off to class


  6. #6

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Your concern for your friend is well-intended, but I agree with Will. You can't control what she's going to do and it would probably be difficult if not impossible to change her mind. And why? And how? And what's in your mind?

    But on another note: what's our nature again? I don't know. Here's my nature, sitting; here's my nature, attaching. Which one? Neither. Both. Okay, nevermind.

    Some people believe the middle path is someone sitting in a cave in Thailand, meditating, listening or discussing dharma, no music, no movies, etc. What's wrong? What's right?

    The only reason I'm saying anything is because I often catch myself judging. Another kind of attachment, the discriminating mind ("they've got it wrong, I've got it right"). Half-baked life? Who am I to say, to judge?

    Just as your signature says:
    Doors to experience are infinite: may I enter them all.
    Ways of awakening are limitless: may I know them all.

  7. #7

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Sounds like she's attached to her non-attachment! But what can you do?

  8. #8

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Mmmmmm... yes, thanks for the replies. Kaishin, that is exactly what I see, she is very attached to non-attachment.. and at most I plan only to nudge, if that..

    I feel that sometimes the roll of a friend is to point, whether to teacher or path. Akin to our various threads on the use of drugs to heighten meditation or similar, you'd be remiss to not say something.. Though perhaps sometimes the roll is to observe and be, without a word, without pointing - for what is the direction? Middle path in friendship I suppose...

    To make a quick judgement does not make one right. The wise person looks at both sides of the matter, with fairness, impartiality, watchful of the truth, wisely and without haste. ~ Dhammatthavagga

    Judgments are part of what we do - the practice of zazen and shikantaza are done by us because of some judgement, at some point, that we made to believe it is worth doing.. Just as we support and guide each other, every piece of advice proffered or matter of correction, motivation, etc are judgement on what we know to be right. Though I believe the skillful means come into play in our view of those judgments, as our self, as sensory and experience driven, transient.. and thus how we see, express and act upon them is our practice.. no? I don't mean to say there is a Right and Wrong, only that there are actions and methods more skillful than others.. There is no target, there is only the aiming.. and doesn't that occasionally require a nudge.. even in absence of target?

    But what do I know? _/_

  9. #9

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    When we sit retreat by ourselves, are we really alone? Who's not been lost in the woods, or faced themselves against the wall?

    Perhaps this alone time will do your friend good. My implication was "be there". You don't have to force her to do anything, no like and dislikes, but just be there. Be her friend.

    Many monks of various traditions have gone away and meditated for years. Bodhidharma being one of them. Are you attached to the fact that your friend is not attached?

    Maybe more of us should take her approach and face the wall for nine years.

    I said "direct her to a teacher" because misunderstandings come up in practice. But if she really doesn't want to, there's not much you can do.


  10. #10

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Will, et al.

    Thanks again for the response.. she is not a monk persay but a person living the lay life that appears to me to be running from said life. We talk of our paths, which is solely why I feel compelled to say "you know, maybe you're attached to nonattachment and really avoidance isn't nonattachment." I don't feel compelled to just start telling people how practice should be or what one is doing 'wrong'.. I do feel compelled to say something with a friend that is sharing and I feel it best to throw it out there to the sangha to see what people say before doing so.. as I do not consider myself a teacher anymore than anyone else or anything else is a teacher.

    It has been interesting nonetheless.. and given me some thought on judgments, for even telling me to refer her to a teacher is a judgment that a teacher is superior or 'better'.. and I certainly do NOT disagree, though it is an outcropping of what is necessary of our nature.. that there is the relative, practical judgement and right and wrong, and then the absolute beyond that relative in which right and wrong and judgment have no bearing or meaning.

    Many thanks for your practice.. _/_


  11. #11

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Lay person, monk, what's the difference? A retreat is a "retreat"

    From websters

    an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable (2) : the process of receding from a position or state attained

    a place of privacy or safety

    a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director


    Yes. Perhaps "see a teacher is a judgement", but not that the teacher is "better" perse. I don't even know your friend, so how can I really say anything? Maybe you are just some overly worried person posting on a forum with misguided intentions (though I hope not) lol

    If you want to see some of the misunderstanding that come up in practice, just surf around the forums. The teacher is a direct realization of your Buddha nature, they can steer you on the right course (better to be safe then sorry). However; as Nishijima roshi once said, some people need teachers more then others. Maybe your friend is wise, maybe she's gained some wisdom and sees this as her best course of action right now. Or, maybe she's running away from something. Either way, she'll be running into it eventually, if she practices.

    If she doesn't practice, then she doesn't practice. Maybe you can tell her "You should practice."

    Anyway, I wish you the best with that.



  12. #12

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Thanks again.. so to go off on a tangent .. there seems to be a fair amount of resignation or suggestions on hesitating in nudging another in their practice or approach.. And with abstractions and nondualities like "what's right, what's wrong?" Or "all paths lead " etc.. then at what point does one offer assistance? Or is our assistance solely our practice of zazen..which is for benefit of all.. ? I see little difference between our posts here at treeleaf and that of speaking to a friend. We offer our nudges to each other here either because (1) we wish to help each other and develop ourselves or (2) we love the sound of our own voice and ego fulfillment in how "Zen" we are.. e.g. I got it right..

    I realize we all move on our path and pace, but also that we are all interlinked and here to assist.. and given the preciousness of now, our existence, samsara, etc.. need a median between eagerness and skillful action.


  13. #13

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Hi Nate. I don't know. You shared this as if you might be looking for advice, so a few of us chimed in. If you don't like our answers, that's okay. I feel like you want to change my mind. I don't understand why. I mean, do what you think is right. I only offered my opinion. Perhaps I don't have enough information about the circumstance; perhaps I don't understand the situation well enough. Furthermore, perhaps you're right. You probably are. I don't know.

    Here's my further opinion, though, since I feel like I wasn't clear enough and was maybe too zenny: did this person ask for your advice about her practice? If she did, then giving her a criticism is fine, in my opinion. If she did not, then man, that's like having a friend who is a vegetarian and you guys talk about food often and saying to them, "You know, maybe you should consider eating meat again. It's good for the body, there's also this evidence humans need meat, and frankly, I really think you're missing out on an important aspect of existence. Meat-eating." Probably this person will go, "Uh, that's okay. Thanks though."

    A friend who is drunk too often. A friend on drugs. A friend losing money to gambling. A friend messing up all their relationships, being mean, being violent, hurting others. Step in and say something and help out if you feel you can handle the obligation.

    But someone who practices differently from you? I don't know. Even the nudge, I'm not feeling it unless they ask you about what you think of their practice. If the topic about right practice naturally arises, comes up in flowing conversation, maybe you can discuss it with her. Otherwise, it's just another aspect of reality one is trying to control.

    By all means, do what you like, and this is by no means the final answer, just my opinion.

    Best to you. No hard feelings.

  14. #14

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?


    Thanks for response. Did my responses sound argumentative? I was worried about that... not my intention. I did indeed ask for input and perhaps chew on it more than is necessary.

    Akin to your analogy, if you ate a daily breakfast of bacon I'd feel compelled to say "you know, that's probably not the healthiest habit" which point you could tell me to eff off or say thanks or whatever but at least I did what I could or attempted assistance. As I've registered here, monk in the city or lay person in cave, all practice and all path... also that I may well be attached to idea or action of pointing out something to another. I'm benefiting from this... not necessarily trying to build a case.

    You did touch on the center of my last post.. on hesitancy on nudging or offering observation on another's practice. I get that its important and I certainly don't know it all but wish to help where able.. perhaps zazen should be my sole means, dunno. Another reason why I threw it out there.. I think anytime we post we're nudging and advising else we could just sit and wait for teachers to post.. I see the gravity the same whether behind the comfort of a cyber wall or in person..

    I was just rereading Open the Hand of Thought.. and came across "desires and cravings are manifestations of the life force, .. no reason to hate them or try to extinguish them..but to see all thoughts and desires as resting on the foundation of life " .. so perhaps I should've just suggested she read that chapter and spared us all this thread, lol. So it goes..

    Im not hurt or upset by this in anyway and hope likewise. I tend toward the very practical and pragmatic application of Buddhism and so sometimes challenge/question the more nondualisitic, spiritual or 'big mind' (for lack of better phrasing ) type commentary and view. Thanks for being a part..


  15. #15

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Sort of argumentative, but not in the pejorative sense.

    I see what you mean about posting. We're all conversing here and asking for advice or chiming in or whatever. And that's great. And it makes sense.

    I also understand the impulse to help where one is able.

    But, back to the bacon. The thing about that analogy is that we all know bacon is not the healthiest food choice. Essentially, this is an objective truth. So, while you know it is objectively true that bacon isn't healthy, saying to someone that eating bacon everyday isn't the healthiest habit is telling them something they already know, as well. It doesn't do much.

    I don't think it's the same situation with your friend.

    The problem as see it is this, when it comes to any spiritual practice. As soon as I say, "Hey, maybe you should be practicing this way," I'm essentially claiming that I have the objective truth about what the best way to practice is. And, for me anyway, I can easily say I don't. I can't say that Soto Zen is better than Theravadin Thai Forest Tradition or any other spiritual thing out there or any other tradition or way of practicing. There is no way for me to know objectively which is better. And frankly, to me, it doesn't matter which is better. There is, quite literally, no better. There is just the practice and the person and the practice and then the nonperson practicing and then just the practicing.

    Emily Dickinson didn't lead a less rich life than, say, Jack Kerouac just because she was, essentially, a recluse; Kerouac didn't lead a richer life just because he was on the road "experiencing life" all those years (in fact, he eventually becomes an alcoholic, but that's beside my point). Her poetry speaks to the richness of her inner life.

    So, my question is, What nudge to make? How do you know it's right?

    Anyway, I have to walk the dog. I only put 'no hard feelings' because I can be an emphatic arguer and wanted to make certain I didn't tread on any feelings. And like I said before, do what you think is right. This is just an opinion.

  16. #16

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    ooo totally off topic, but is there such thing as objective truth really? Bacon is only unhealthful depending on certain conditions and causes. For example, one's genetic makeup will probably determine what harmful (if any) effects bacon consumption would have on the body. Let's take diabetes as another good example of what we consider related to an objective truth. The idea that overeating leads to diabetes is false; that is qualified by genetic factors. If one is genetically pre-disposed to diabetes then that can contribute, however a blanket statement such as overeating, obesity, etc leads to diabetes or that bacon consumption is unhealthful is too broad of a brush.

    OK I'm being argumentative, but is there such a thing as objective reality? How would you prove it? Everything is seen through a subjective lens in the end, isn't it?



  17. #17

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Hi Risho. I said "Essentially, this is an objective truth" about bacon. Essentially. I said it's not the healthiest food choice. I can see, in certain instances, when bacon, as a foodstuff, might be a good choice, like, on occasion, or if you're really really hungry, or if someone, like, was having some diabetic thing and needed something.

    Also, I'm not saying bacon is bad. I'm saying it's unhealthy, generally. I think we can all agree that bacon everyday (everyday!) for breakfast is not the best idea compared to, say, an orange and yogurt (greek, of course, without all the sugar). You think the statement: "bacon is not the healthiest food choice" is too broad a brush? Oh, I mean, really? It's probably more healthy than eating crisco, I'll give you that.

    My entire point is that we can't do this same thing with spiritual practice. I mean, we can test bacon, tests probably have been done, studies about bacon, bacon studies, and while these aren't the be all end all truth about bacon, they're probably pretty reliable. Not so with spiritual practices.

    I may be wrong, but as far as I can tell, Buddhism itself is concerned with objective truth, objective reality. We sometimes call this universal reality, or ultimate reality. Almost always this objective or ultimate reality is ungraspable and unattainable (because we are it) but just because you can't prove it (prove to me your correct Shikantaza) doesn't make it any less real. The subjective truth you're talking about, as far as I can tell, is a post-modernist view of reality, the little view, the personal, the ego. Although, Jundo or Taigu or anyone else, please correct me if I'm mistaken.

    Anyway, bacon has brought us a long way in this little discussion.

    May we all be well and healthful and unattached except when we eat delicious bacon.

  18. #18

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Oh, and I meant to add, but forgot: I shouldn't have said "Essentially, this is an objective truth" about bacon. I should have said something like, "This is generally true or essentially the case" about bacon.

    Anyway, the rest about objectivity and subjectivity and spiritual practice is where the heart of the thing beats.

  19. #19

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    That is a good question. I always assumed Buddhism was an experiential, or mystical, tradition, i.e. A subjective practice. But I will leave that to Jundo and Taigu. . Anything that promotes discourse on bacon is good in my book. Lol

  20. #20

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    The reason I thought subjective is that objective intimates a separation where Buddhism hinges on connection and interdependence.

  21. #21

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?


    I know exactly what you mean.. though as I see it, the Buddha tested out depravity and excess and found it lacking, provided us teaching, etc.. so even in spiritual matters there is a 'better' or preferred path. My 'nudge' is then based on teaching as i know it, my experience and best understanding .. like bacon, I have no evidence first hand to build an insurmountable case on whether it'll kill ya but to lean on bodies of evidence and teaching.. perhaps it is clearer and more falsifiable in the case of bacon than spiritual practice but maybe its still able to express my view.. I don't claim a concrete truth or to be right but to open ones view or perhaps my own in seeking to assist. best wishes, nate

  22. #22

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Hi again Risho. As I see it, while we are subjective beings, in this separate body and this separate ego and with our self-centered desires and aversions (ie, a small or subjective reality), we are also part of (not separate from) a universal or ultimate (ie, large, objective) reality as well, and it is our Shikantaza which is the realization or the embodiment of this Universal-ness. Thus, we are always working with the two which are not two. Also, I'm not certain about Soto Zen (I'm fairly new to it), but I know that other forms of Buddhism do believe that objective truth exists.

    And hi Nate again. Yeah, that makes sense, the nudge based on your experience and understanding. Look forward to talking again.

  23. #23

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Thanks Nate and Alan.


    I wasn't trying to be that provocative with the objectivity/subjectivity. I legitimately was wondering if objective reality was "believed" in in Buddhism just because I've heard about teachings where our consciousness creates our experience. Jundo sensei refers to this as the holodeck. . However I would assume there must be something that is stimulating our sense consciousness for us to create that world. Anyway... I'm getting more and more confused. hahahahaha

    Thanks for your patience,


  24. #24

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Risho, no problem at all. I know of a talk by a monk from a Theravadin tradition which speaks of objective truth. It's short, about ten minutes. If I can find it, would you like the link? Also, his perspective isn't Zen, but I think, while Zen would probably, I don't know, scoff at talking about such things (can't be talked about!), is in agreement.

  25. #25

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    that would be great. thank you

  26. #26

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Risho, just wanted to let you know I'm still trying to find the video. The monk has hundreds of them and I can't remember which one it was. AHHHHHHHH! Eventually.

  27. #27

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Hey, no worries. Thank you for looking

  28. #28

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Hey Risho, I just sent you a pm. It contains a link to the video, but not the video I was thinking of. Still, it is a discussion of objective/subjective reality/truth, so it applies here. In any case, I didn't post the video here because the monk is not from the Soto Zen tradition, and I didn't want to create any confusion or unnecessary argument about ways of practicing or anything.

  29. #29

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Quote Originally Posted by alan.r
    Hey Risho, I just sent you a pm. It contains a link to the video, but not the video I was thinking of. Still, it is a discussion of objective/subjective reality/truth, so it applies here. In any case, I didn't post the video here because the monk is not from the Soto Zen tradition, and I didn't want to create any confusion or unnecessary argument about ways of practicing or anything.
    Hi Alan,

    Please send me the link too so I can take a look. Buddhism is just Buddhism, always the same ... although sometimes very different.

    Gassho, Jundo

  30. #30

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Hi Jundo, will do. Am doing.

  31. #31

    Re: Run Away = Bodhisattva?

    Thank you, Alan, for posting that talk by the Theravadan teacher ... index=31&feature=plpp_video[/video]] ... plpp_video

    I agree with him that there is only "one way", one medicine to cure Dukkha, and the Buddha showed that one way. I also feel, though, that the "one medicine" may be different for different people, and at different times in various circumstances of life.

    Nate, every person is different. The Buddha taught moderation, and that we should not be attached to pleasure nor run toward it. For some, that may involve living a very simple, frugal life of renunciation much as a celibate monk with clothes of rags and a begging bowl. For others, one may live a life of balance and moderation out in the world ... not attached or running toward pleasure, but neither running away ... just as we do not run away from the tears and sad days even as we see right through them to that Peace & Happiness holding all happiness and tears. All in balance, avoiding excess and clinging.

    In all cases, each person must find freedom from attachments and excess, and a path of balance and simplicity. However, each person may be different in how they live in the world. The "Middle Path" for you is not necessarily the "Middle Path" for me. What seems "austere" to you may not be for her. For some ... like a single drink to an alcoholic ... many pleasures can become traps to over indulgence. Neither path is wrong if right for that person's true needs.

    So, I very much disagree with some of the views expressed in this thread by a few folks (although what they say may be perfectly sound for their own lives). Some people are "attached to their non-attachment" and austerity, which can all be imprisoning. However, some people may find freedom, clarity and balance in the same. To you, it may look that your friend is "running from" ... but perhaps she is also finding. Only she can know for sure. Let us simply hope that your friend finds the right path for her. As you said, Nate ...

    To make a quick judgement does not make one right. The wise person looks at both sides of the matter, with fairness, impartiality, watchful of the truth, wisely and without haste. ~ Dhammatthavagga

    I very concur with Alan here ...

    Quote Originally Posted by alan.r

    A friend who is drunk too often. A friend on drugs. A friend losing money to gambling. A friend messing up all their relationships, being mean, being violent, hurting others. Step in and say something and help out if you feel you can handle the obligation.

    But someone who practices differently from you? I don't know. Even the nudge, I'm not feeling it unless they ask you about what you think of their practice. If the topic about right practice naturally arises, comes up in flowing conversation, maybe you can discuss it with her. Otherwise, it's just another aspect of reality one is trying to control.
    Gassho, J

    PS - Same with eating meat and bacon ... whereby some Buddhist Suttas/Sutras strictly forbid it, some are more flexible on the situation.

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