The Zen/Buddhist teaching instructing students not to aim for (a fixed notion or idea of) enlightenment has often been reduced to distorted teachings that proclaim practitioners should have no goals whatever, that they should not aim for anything at all. Such assertions are commonly accompanied with comments about how efforts and attempts to realize enlightenment or Buddhahood obstruct practitioners from realization. The truth is, if we do not aim for and make effort to realize enlightenment, we are very unlikely to do so. As long as we learn, and remain mindful of the fact that ‘enlightenment’ cannot be accurately envisioned ahead of time, we will not make the mistake of aiming for a reified concept. Thus, even though our thoughts and ideas about enlightenment fail to perfectly harmonize with enlightenment, our efforts will nevertheless be accurately empowered –in a nondual reality all activity is interdependent, hence even ‘wrong thinking about realization’ is realization itself. As Dogen says:
When we have attained realization, we do not know what the reasons were for our being [now] in the state of realization. Let us reflect on this. To have thought, prior to realization, that it will be like this or like that, was not useful for realization. That it was different from how we had supposed it to be, in all our miscellaneous prior thoughts, does not mean that our thinking, being very bad, had no power in it. Even the thinking of that time was realization itself, but because we were then directing it the wrong way round, we thought and said that it was powerless.
Yui-butsu-yo-butsu, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross