Competitive Enlightenment



    Priceless comic posted by Yuttadhammo over at Truth is Within.  It cracks me up but I get caught up in this flow of thought sometimes.  Not so much as competing to get “enlightened” first but rather to try as hard as those around me.  I question whether I strive hard enough.  Do I put my time in?  Do I punch my card when I need to.  Maybe I do and maybe I don’t but I suppose that I shouldn’t view it that way.

    Should I drive the 6 hours and spend the money I don’t have to attend a retreat because other people are doing it?  Are they better Buddhist for it?  Maybe.  Are they better Buddhists because they did it?  No.

    Perhaps a better way is to view my practice to my life and my focus.  My focus is on my family and my work now so I don’t meditate as much or strive as hard in my formal practice.  But my applied practice is freaking blooming (like a god-damned weed)!  I feel that I can apply compassion and mindfulness in many aspects of my life that I couldn’t in the past.  I’m in no way a bodhisahtva but I am feeling the improvement…the mind with the big “M”.

    So maybe my practice is just in flux.  For impermanent beings in an impermanent world should our practice be static or should it flow?

    It reminds me of a comment made to me by another blogger concerning whether or not I have done enough in my striving.  I suppose I did for the moment and will for the future….maybe.




14 thoughts on “Competitive Enlightenment

  1. Hey John,

    I think there’s definitely a rhythm to this whole thing. Sometimes, it’s skillful to push yourself a bit, and sometimes it’s best not to. Sometimes, you ramp up formal practice, sometimes you focus on your in the “regular world” life. I’ve had periods where I do a lot of sitting meditation, formal study, and group practice. Other times, I’m barely sitting or spending time in the sangha (like the summer months), and am relying more on mantra chanting, walking meditation, and informal applications of teachings. My guess is that even if you speak to the most conservative, dedicated monastic, they’ll say there is flux in their practice. The key is to pay attention enough so that you don’t let the lazy bone, or the striving bone, take over.


    • Yup! Although I was looking at the broader perspective as far as time goes. I have had years where I sat with a sangha and years where I didn’t and strove with a home practice.

      I have spoke to some pretty serious lay-practitioners and (esp. Zen) get the hardlined “Sit everyday for an hour, NO MATTER WHAT!” routine.

      I do think the walking meditation is key though. It fills the same space that zazen does but you can do it without interuptions.

      “The key is to pay attention enough so that you don’t let the lazy bone, or the striving bone, take over.”

      I would say my striving bone is what usually got me sitting in the first place and also into trouble.

      Cheers and Thanks for the comments!


  2. “Should I drive the 6 hours and spend the money I don’t have … striving…”

    One could kinhin all the way and just sit outside the retreat window in the pouring rain and follow along. That’s striving!!

    (p.s. I wouldn’t do it (either option) !!)

  3. I’ve been slapped around in regards to my occasionally lax pratice and have enjoyed having my resistence pointed out to me. So I’ll pay it forward:

    You spend lots and lots of time on the internet and writing thoughtful posts. You do have more time to practice, but you don’t want to.

    • Hehe! I’ll let you in on a secret but don’t tell anyone…I spend 15 minutes a day during my work-break posting these little snippets of my practice on the interwebz.

      Most of my practice occurs at about 5:00 in the morning when I wake up, do 45 minutes of mindful walking and (hopefully) 20 minutes of zazen.

      I enjoy my practice but will admit that I “don’t want to” when it interferes with my family life. And the aspect that most interferes with that are the sesshins and retreats that some attend and speak highly of. However, both the time and expense required would get in the way of my family life.

      Cheers and Thanks for the comment!


  4. @lonepine – writing can be a form of practice. when Natalie Goldberg spoke to Katagiri Roshi about it in dokusan one time, he told her to keep writing – this is your practice too.

    as far as I’m concerned, zazen isn’t the only way to an awakened life.

    • Yes, perhaps. I think they were going with the “generic” buddhist look. Funny though, it seems like the competative aspect is more in the Mahayana circles rather than the Theravadan but that is just from limited personal experience. Many of the “hardcore” zen practitioners can be somewhat dippy.


  5. Forgive yourself if you ‘fall off the wagon.’ Believe me, I’ve done the same thing in my struggle to integrate a daily practice. I do have a committed practice that was recommended for me to overcome some obstacles by my Dharma teacher, so I try to fulfill those tasks.

    But I will say, since I have been following the advice of my teacher, its been an entirely different world. Its actually made everyday life much easier. I’m not as stressed out as I used to be about the little details. I’m actually far more involved in devotional activities than sitting meditation but I do have a ‘running-in-the-background’ contemplative practice that keeps me focused on Dharma subjects, pretty much all day. Green Tara, Manjusri & Lama Tsongkhapa are always in my thoughts and it keeps my mind focused on compassion and bodhicitta.

  6. What a great post: thank you. Meditation is the heartbeat of the Dharma, but it is not the endpoint. For all of us who have a family and a life, we cannot follow a monastic regime. We do our best, but we must recognise that we are lay followers.

    Perhaps for us the point is to bring the Dharma into our daily lives as much as we can. Thus the point about the lazy bone and overcoming, perhaps it by getting up at 5 in the morning, is well taken.

    So perhaps the point is the striving in itself.

    Peace to all.

  7. @nathan-yes, dharma gates are boundless. If I said otherwise I was wrong.

    I think competative is spelled, competitive.

  8. I liken my practice to an anthology of books. One chapter at a time and with certain books sometimes it takes me a month to finish a chapter. Sometimes I can get through it easier but it’s more about savoring the mindfulness of the moment that I am reading that seems to be the key for me. I hope this example makes sense lol.

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