Barry over at Ox Herding has a funny cartoon and commented…
Funny how Zen won’t cooperate. We start Zen practice to get something – a calm feeling, a certain prestige, or relief from anguish. And we might get that.
But we also get ourselves, our total, nightmarish selves – fabrications and delusions arising moment to moment.
I found the comic-strip and statement funny in two ways.
First off, I had a small Zen garden as a gift in college and would jokingly comment that “This F*cking Zen Garden is pissing me off!” when ever I was playing around with it.
Second, is the emphasis our society places on end results. We, as a culture, do things to receive something upon completion. We are rewarded in the abstract or concrete. I can receive satisfaction at the successful completion of a task assigned at work or I can receive a monetary reward. Both situations are putting the result before the process or act.
This is counterproductive to my zen practice. If I sit with an end point in mind (“I want to calm my mind” or “I want kensho” or “I want to impress everyone around me”) I am only superficially practicing (although receiving some benefit). I try to keep myself focused on the process and not the result when going about my activities (both mundane and transcendent, at home or in the zendo).
Many people market themselves as enlightened beings and manipulate this “American” need for results by promising rewards at the end of practice and quickly.
A large part of my practice is self-realization. This comes through sitting and mindfulness and recitation but more importantly it comes from a realistic portrait of myself and my practice. The portrait becomes more and more real every day that I practice. It doesn’t become prettier or even nicer but layers of illusion and attachments slowly peel away.
The Bodhisattva Vows are similar since they promise such extremes.
Beings are numberless: I vow to free them
Delusions are inexhaustible: I vow to end them
Dharma gates are boundless: I vow to enter them
The Buddha way is unsurpassable: I vow to embody it
Those vows are lofty ones and introduced by the statement “Great vows for all to live by” nothing is ever stated about achievement. The vows are not a goal but a process. That is why we attempt to meet the unattainable, free beings without number and master Dharma practice that exceeds our ability.
No goals, just process.
Try marketing that to the public.