October 07, 2009

Am I There Yet?

The path of awakening is extremely well mapped, and it’s mapped in different ways by different traditions. At certain stages maps can be useful; they point out the way. But at other stages they can be a big hindrance, because we often get caught up in interpretation and judgment: “How far along am I?” “Am I there?” These thoughts simply strengthen the sense of self, while the whole path is about dissolving it. And particularly in our Western culture, which is so competitive and judgmental, instead of adding more fuel to the fire of self-judgment—”Oh, where am I? I’m not good enough”—we could see our entire spiritual journey as this wonderful flowering of understanding. We just keep going; we just keep watering the Bodhi tree of wisdom.

–Joseph Goldstein, from “How Amazing!” Tricycle, Summer 1999

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toner's picture

your system is really nice and useful information there I wish to congratulate and thank you success

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alan's picture

Thanks for this interesting backstory. I've read One Dharma several times, and although I always come away just as convinced there is no way to reconcile the differences between the original teachings and those of the schools that followed, I have to at least admire the audacity of the attempt.

Christopher's picture

This reminded me of a story I found once on the interweb:

“One afternoon a student said "Roshi, I don't really understand what's going on. I mean, we sit in zazen and we gassho to each other and everything, and Felicia got enlightened when the bottom fell out of her water-bucket, and Todd got enlightened when you popped him one with your staff, and people work on koans and get enlightened, but I've been doing this for two years now, and the koans don't make any sense, and I don't feel enlightened at all! Can you just tell me what's going on?”
“Well you see," Roshi replied, "for most people, and especially for most educated people like you and I, what we perceive and experience is heavily mediated, through language and concepts that are deeply ingrained in our ways of thinking and feeling. Our objective here is to induce in ourselves and in each other a psychological state that involves the unmediated experience of the world, because we believe that that state has certain desirable properties. It's impossible in general to reach that state through any particular form or method, since forms and methods are themselves examples of the mediators that we are trying to avoid. So we employ a variety of ad hoc means, some linguistic like koans and some non-linguistic like zazen, in hopes that for any given student one or more of our methods will, in whatever way, engender the condition of non-mediated experience that is our goal. And since even thinking in terms of mediators and goals tends to reinforce our undesirable dependency on concepts, we actively discourage exactly this kind of analytical discourse.”
And the student was enlightened.