Sunday, February 27, 2011

Genuine Aspiration & the Fallacy of Goallessness

Genuine Aspiration & the Fallacy of Goallessness
According to the Buddhist teachings on nonduality (emptiness and interdependence), attempting to divine the significance of Buddha nature by investigating the natural world is futile; any such significance revealed in the world is placed there by the mind’s interaction with it. The material world exists as the fabric from which we fashion a universe and a self; it is not an entity existing independently of us nor is it an objective aspect of us.

Also Buddhism asserts that submission, obedience, or conformity to an “other,” whether an individual, an institution, or even worse, “things as they are,” can only be achieved through the denial or suppression of particular aspects of our own true nature. The vision of humanity’s place in the universe portrayed by the Buddhist masters asserts that true human liberation can only be realized through the actual fulfillment of genuine human desire; full complete enlightenment (annutara samyak sambodhi).

According to the Mahayana sutras and shastras, aspiration (bodhicitta) for universal liberation is the true source of all desire. These teachings emphasize (especially in the Zen tradition) that submission to or compliance with any authority other than that of personal verification serves as an impenetrable barrier to liberation. If that “authority” consists of dualist or naturalistic notions about “things as they are” or “matters of fact,” followers not only obstruct their own liberation, they exchange their human potential for the existence of a beast. Dogen’s most severe attacks were aimed at “naturalism” for good reason; to adopt naturalistic views and practices advocating “detachment,” “goallessness,” “letting things be,” etc. is to sacrifice human intelligence and wisdom for cunning and calculation, compassion and mercy for objectivity and indifference, love and intimacy for the mere instinctual drive for physical pleasure and reproduction, and liberation for bondage.

To ascribe to an “objective” view of nature is to adopt a vision of purposelessness, ferocity, pitilessness, and chaos. Killing and eating and reproducing merely to kill and eat and reproduce. Objective nature brings fire, ice, floods, and plagues as easily and with as little intention or concern as it brings food, clothing, shelter, and companionship. No view of an “objective” world where things (dharmas) are simply ‘as they are’ (regardless of our conscious intentions and efforts) can be reconciled with the wisdom and compassion that characterizes the vision of Buddhism.

Authentic practice-realization requires us to make accurately understood, precisely directed, concerted effort toward specific goals.

The first such specific goal is to expand our capacity of perception beyond the fallacy of the subject-object split and thereby personally verify the truth of the Buddhist teaching refuting the existence of “objective” reality. Those that choose instead to conceive of and follow an elemental or impersonal Buddha, only succeed at the cost of subverting the very significance of Buddhism. The former approach is to expand the human capacity to perceive reality as it is; the latter approach attempts to reduce reality as it is to the undeveloped capacity of perception of the average unawakened human being.

But, it may be argued, if the stupid drive for mere survival envisioned by the “objective” view of nature is mercilessly bloody, it is innocently so; the eagle does not devour the eyeball of the living rabbit from malice, the parasite does not burrow into the fox’s eardrum from a desire to cause pain. The capacity for evil demonstrated by man far surpasses anything that can be witnessed in nature – what possible reasoning can Buddha offer for suggesting human beings are superior to other forms of life? The Buddhist reasoning is grounded in the doctrine that all evil has its source in the human capacity for self-restriction (ignorance, avidya); evil does not arise from human actualization – evil arises from a failure of human actualization. It is in the failure to actualize the inherent human capacity to rise above “objective” nature that causes the creative potential of humanity to stagnate and putrefy into the greed, hatred, and ignorance. The eagle and the parasite are incapable of envisioning a better world – even if they could wish for “more,” it would only be for “more of the same.” According to the Buddhas and ancestors, however, human beings are inherently equipped with the capacity to envision and realize greater possibilities of existence – up to and including universal liberation from old age, sickness, and death.

It is impossible for us to know whether animals experience anything like human doubt, but it seems unlikely that even the more advanced animals wonder why things happen as they do or wish things could be different – much less commit themselves to bringing about the changes they desired. When so-called Zen teachers advise followers to be “goalless” and teach them to practice simply “being aware of the world as it is,” or “just sit and let things be as they are,” etc. they are advocating and fostering a doctrine with a very specific goal: the goal of giving up humanity and adopt the life of a mere beast.

As human beings mature and come to realize they can imagine a reality better than the one they exist in, they cannot help but feel a sense of frustration.

The naturalist and the pseudo-Zen cultist advocate meeting such frustration with acceptance of and submission to the “facts of life.” They proscribe practices designed to cut out or eradicate those aspects of humanity that facilitate the power to envision and create, while fostering the diseases of self-doubt and fear that lead to compliance and conformity to the “way things are.”

Authentic Zen masters, like all true sages and visionaries, point in the opposite direction. Where the timid and servile attempt to escape the suffering of unfulfilled desire by eradicating, diminishing, or suppressing aspects of themselves (thus of Buddha), the sage overcomes suffering by clarifying and actualizing the genuine goal of that desire. Thus, the vision of Buddhism is centered on the truth verified by Shakyamuni Buddha; not only is it possible to envision and actualize a better world, it is possible to actualize a realer world. As all real dharmas are mind-forms (mental images) all mind-forms are real dharmas.

In Buddhism, “samsara” (the round living-and-dying) is the world of suffering in which beings are in bondage to old age, sickness and death. “Nirvana” is the world of liberation from suffering (the round living-and-dying) in which beings overcome old age, sickness, and death. The former is the realm of craving (unfulfilled desire), the latter the realm of satisfaction. For the dualist or pseudo-Zen cultist that sees some things (dharmas) as “real” and “unchanging” and other things as “illusory” or “provisional,” samsara is conceived as something ugly, delusory, temporary, etc.; samsara is something to be escaped, eradicated or overcome. Nirvana, on the other hand, is conceived of as pure, blissful, real and permanent; nirvana is something to be attained, achieved, or realized.

Now, of course, in the Buddhist doctrine of samsara and nirvana – samsara is truly as the Mahayana sutras say, the wheel of living and dying, the realm of suffering; nirvana is, as Buddhism asserts, liberation from the wheel of living and dying. However, this doctrine, like all Buddhist doctrines, is only genuine when samsara and nirvana are actualized as real dharmas through experiential realization. As real expressions of Buddha nature, samsara and nirvana are experienced in genuine practice-realization as nondual – samsara/nirvana.

Simply put, living and dying is what nirvana is, for there is nothing to despise in living and dying, nor anything to be wished for in nirvana.

This living and dying is precisely what the treasured life of a Buddha is. If we hate life and want to throw it away, that is just our attempt to throw away the treasured life of Buddha. And if we go no farther than this and clutch onto life and death, this too is our throwing away the treasured life of Buddha by limiting ourselves to the superficial appearance of Buddha. When there is nothing we hate and nothing we cling to, then, for the first time, we enter the Heart of Buddha.
Shoji, Hubert Nearman

By relying upon our physical body and spiritual abilities, we turn the mundane into the sacred, and by relying upon their effects and consequences, we surpass Buddha and transcend Ancestor. By relying on these causes and conditions, we take hold of dirt and transmute it into gold. By relying upon effects and consequences, we receive the Transmission of the Dharma along with the robe.
The Gate of Skillful Means is the unsurpassed meritorious functioning of the fruits of Buddhahood. It is the Dharma that resides in the place of Dharma and It is the form of the world as it constantly manifests. The Gate of Skillful Means does not refer to some momentary skill.
‘To open the Gate of Skillful Means’ means to point to the genuine Real Form of things. Even though we chop time up into moments of beginning, middle, and end, pointing to the genuine Real Form of things covers the whole of time. The underlying principle of momentarily opening the Gate of Skillful Means involves opening It by opening the whole universe. At the very moment when you catch sight of the opening of the whole universe, it will be something that you have never encountered before. By our grasping once or twice at an intellectual concept of what opening of whole universe is and then grasping at it for a third or fourth time as something real, we cause the Gate of Skillful Means to open. Accordingly, it may seem that the whole universe is identical with opening the Gate of Skillful Means, but it appears to me that an immeasurable number of whole universes have each taken a small piece from the opening of the Gate of Skillful Means and have made that small piece into the form that each universe displays. But their grandeur is due entirely to their being encompassed within the present discourse.
Shobogenzo, Shoho Jisso, Hubert Nearman


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