Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Goalless Practice



This is an excerpt from an interview conducted by Jan Becker at Against The Stream, Noah Levine's place on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.

Goalless practice is a koan. All the thinking mind can do with the idea is create an endless feedback loop. The goal of the practice is to have no goal, but "having no goal" is also a goal, so how can I have a goal that's no goal, but how can I have goalless practice without knowing that the goal of practice is to be without a goal...? And on and on and on.

Trust me, kids, I've been down this loop a bazillion times. There is no way out of it. Nothing your rational brain can come up with can ever break out of this box.

The only solution is to step completely aside. Allow your goals to be as they are and press on. Leave your goal seeking mind yammering away the way it always does and just sit with that.

Saying the rational brain can't break the loop does not mean that you have to go into irrationality or become illogical. The goalless state is very rational in the sense that it is very orderly and serene. But the rational part of the brain cannot grasp it. That's just the way it is.

Anyhow, there'll be more interviews like this coming soon.

90 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cunt!

Cunt hair!!

Anonymous said...

In an effort to bring Buddhism to young people, Tibetan lama Sogyal Rinpoche took an unusual approach to teaching last night.

Awake Amsterdam, held at a hip concert venue, combined Buddhist teachings with electronic music and a nightclub setting to inspire younger audiences. After giving a talk called “Inner Peace in 2012,” Sogyal Rinpoche led the crowd in meditation. Dutch DJs Monte La Rue and Charles Davos provided music before and after Rinpoche’s teaching.

http://youtu.be/E6gfYWjp2x8

Anonymous G said...

How long until GNIZ shows up and ruins this with his incessant posts?!?

Anonymous said...

Re: Buddhism and masturbation

Anonymous said...

See, new post before Mysterion hit 8.

I predict Mysterion will have less than 6 comments on this post.

Mysterion said...

It just doesn't get any better than this.

Is that all there is?

No, it is all there is.

And by it I do NOT mean EST.

Zen 101

Brad, think about writing "Zazen for Dummies."

Rick said...

The goal of practice is to develop a practice.

Anonymous said...

It has to become a sort of unconscious practice like breathing?

Fred said...

Goal seeking activity reinforces
the ego's striving to to reach
some exalted state. The underlying
thusness, which always existed,
unfolds as the grasping ego is
pushed to the side.

Anonymous said...

Mysterion has made one comment.

Fred has pushed his grasping ego to the side, permitting the underlying thusness, which has always existed, to unfold.

Fred said...

Anonymous has reinforced his
grasping ego, playing games in
the sandbox.

Anonymous said...

Ah, it's Fred! Pass the shovel when you are finished, won't you?

Mysterion said...

"In addition to providing insight into the origins of the modern human brain, the findings offer clues to the neuro-developmental disorders that humans are so prone to developing, including autism, epilepsy and schizophrenia, in which development of neuronal connections is affected. The researchers point to known cases of humans with structural brain defects and other symptoms that can be traced to disruption of the ancestral SRGAP2. They now intend to search for people carrying defects in the human-specific 'granddaughter' copy as well." source

Anonymous said...

Mysterion has made two comments.

Korey said...

Brad, what is your thoughts on Noah Levine?

Mark Foote said...

This is the first post on practice from the Bradster in a long time. Nice presentation in the film, I think.

I could be wrong, but there's nothing wrong with that, right? Goal-less practice is the realization that ordinary mind is the way, that the first principle is universal in every sentient being.

"Nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
It's easy."

Me bending along with Issho Fujita and the sangha, at SMZC (4th picture down, just over Demian's shoulder).

Khru said...

Buddha had the goal of realizing "enlightenment" (use whatever semantics for this that you want).

My point: he had a goal.

Mark Foote said...

Yes, and after the suicide of scores of monks, he taught the "intent contemplation of in-breaths and out-breaths", saying: "... if cultivated and made much of, (it) is something peaceful and choice, something perfect in itself, and a pleasant way of living too." (SN V 322? PTS 285)

"perfect in itself", I think the emphasis on the meditation on the "unlovely" for the sake of enlightenment appeared an error to the Gautamid. The practice of intent contemplation on in-breaths and out-breaths, is that different from "just sitting"?

Anonymous said...

mysterion, give us your thoughts on mysterion. Or better yet, Give us anything else.

Jinzang said...

Buddha had the goal of realizing "enlightenment" (use whatever semantics for this that you want).

My point: he had a goal.


Enlightenment is a funny kind of goal because there's "no attainment and no non-attainment." It's somewhat paradoxical. I always say the goal of practice is to do the practice properly, like practicing a piece of music.

The Wad said...

Have you registered for the Dogen Symposium?

Brad Warner said...

Brad, what is your thoughts on Noah Levine?

He seems like a nice fellow. I've met him on maybe three occasions. He's been very helpful to me as far as offering his space for me to teach in LA and putting in a good word about me at his other centers.

As far as his teachings go, he comes from the Vipassana school, which is somewhat different from Zen. If I didn't think Zen was better, I'd have ditched it and gone with Vipassana. So I'm obviously biased there.

But any criticism I have for what he does would be criticism of the Vipassana method and not of how Noah applies it (which appears to me to be pretty much the standard way). Vipassana isn't bad. It's just a different approach. Though it is the closest to Zen of any of the other Buddhist schools I'm aware of (some say Dzongchen is closer, but I don't have any personal experience of it).

Noah also has a lot of experience with 12 step programs, which he uses in his Buddhist work. I have a lot of respect for the 12-step approach. But I don't have any personal experience of it. I think it's very compatible with Buddhism.

So my opinion of Noah is that he's a good guy.

Brad Warner said...

Buddha had the goal of realizing "enlightenment" (use whatever semantics for this that you want).

My point: he had a goal.


My understanding is that Buddha was more concerned with understanding how to transcend suffering. His so-called "enlightenment" helped him to see the way out of suffering. But in and of itself, enlightenment does not put an end to suffering.

In any case, even if his goal was the ending of suffering, that's also OK. You'll always have goals.

But in the moment of practice, you put your goals aside and simply do it.

Brad Warner said...

Dogen Symposium? Didn't even KNOW him!

Anonymous said...

Somehow, I became convinced that it's better to have a sitting practice than not to. I would call that a "long-term goal". But I don't know what expectation to attach to it, so I never think about it while I'm sitting. While I'm sitting, if I thought something was going to be different in the near term as a direct result of my sitting, I'd call that a "short-term goal". But I know better than that, so I don't bother to think about that while I'm sitting either. Somehow, this whole goal business just doesn't seem like a problem to me. Am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard of a connection between Mithras and Jesus?

katageek said...

Since Dogen says that zazen is enlightenment. . .

Then while you do Zazen, you are enlightened. So this "goal" thing is a snap!

After Zazen, you can make yourself an "Enlightened Buddha" membership card to show all your friends!

If someone give you crap, whip out your Zazen card and show them just who is Buddha.

YOU: "Don't mess with me fellas. I sat Zazen! I was PURE BUDDHA for ten minutes!"

CHUCK NORRIS: "YIKES! Sorry! My mistake."

YOU: "Damn straight, Chuck."

IMHO, any moment spent in Zazen that you DON'T need to do, is a moment of your life wasted.

And just TRY and take my card away from me.

Yeah. That's right. I didn't think so.

Anonymous said...

I have your card.

Mumon said...

Goalless practice is a koan. All the thinking mind can do with the idea is create an endless feedback loop. The goal of the practice is to have no goal, but "having no goal" is also a goal, so how can I have a goal that's no goal, but how can I have goalless practice without knowing that the goal of practice is to be without a goal...?

Ever hear of the 話頭?

Maybe not; it's not Soto...

Brad Warner said...

I always thought 話頭 (wato) was another word for "koan."

Mark Foote said...

"Only zazen can sit zazen" said Shunryu Suzuki. So who is it, who is sitting there on the cushion thinking they are doing zazen?

"You know, sometimes zazen gets up and walks around"- Kobun closed a lecture at S.F. Zen Center with that. So what kind of practice is it, that's enlightenment?

"The pain is mandatory- suffering is optional"- Thich Naht Hanh.

Do we have a necessity from moment to moment, or not? Does it have to do with inhalation and exhalation, does it have to do with posture- where do our thoughts and beliefs come in?

"It would be best if you managed to cast off everything and be empty and ordinary. Thoroughly experience the absence of conditioned mind, and observe that all phenomena are like dreams and magical illusions. Be empty all the way through, and continue on clearing out your mind according to the time and the situation." ("Zen Letters, the Teaching of Yuanwu", J. C. Cleary and Thomas Cleary, pg 52).

Are we waking up and falling asleep when we observe that all phenomena are like dreams and magical illusions?

john e mumbles said...

Speaking of goalless practice: I went to our five-year-old's soccer practice last night.

katageek said...

Anonymous took my Buddha card ...

(snif)

Now I am fail.

Anonymous said...

Good! Keep going...

Anonymous said...

I need to doo doo.

DharmaVision said...

google translate 話頭

"Burning down the house."

Burning down the hotel

Mysterion said...

john e mumbles said...
"Speaking of goalless practice: I went to our five-year-old's soccer practice last night."

Some kids get a real kick out of playing soccer.

Pretaville said...

Mysterion said, "Some kids get a real kick out of playing soccer."

LOL

john e mumbles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

there are many goals that many zen masters cannot deal about not dealing with emotional suffering and they use meditation to avoid pain. In the surface they are balanced, but deep inside are many pain buried under samadhi etc. We all are escaping from suffering. Zen masters are not exception. We are all on the same dammage boat...

Anonymous said...

Mysterion has made three comments.

Anonymous said...

Brad has an article in the summer edition of Tricycle.

katageek said...

My post above was snarkier than I wanted.

How I read it in my head is not how it reads and there are no take backs in first draft replies on blogs.

My whole take on Soto Zen is that Dogen basically "fixed" the enlightenment delusion.

And that was what the world needed IMHO.

I see that anyone who sincerely practices zazen gets an "Official Enlightened Buddha Membership Card" that nobody can take away.

But the decoder ring does take some box tops.

Anonymous said...

I have returned your card.

Now I don't have one!

Anonymous said...

Hey brad have you seen any good movies lately?

Fred said...

"there are many goals that many zen masters cannot deal about not dealing with emotional suffering and they use meditation to avoid pain. In the surface they are balanced, but deep inside are many pain buried under samadhi etc."

There are no zen masters, and there
is no pain. A human being does not
become enlightened; the original
face expands into form. Samadhi is not an outer shell masking inner
turmoil.

Anonymous said...

So glad to have that cleared up! (Fred, would you please speak to the blister on my pinky?)

Anonymous said...

Oh geez, I am nasty today. Apologies all around :(

Julie said...

I wanted to offer another way of explaining it, that when I show up, I've already done everything I need to do. Then I'm free to just enjoy* sitting there. I don't know how hokey it sounds, but in my overwhelmed life, anytime there is a space where *just being there* is all I need to do, I'm pretty overjoyed. I don't know how much that might help as an alternate explanation but hey, maybe it'll click for somebody...
*Used here as a transitive verb: it means experience, there is no connotation of pleasure or displeasure, just experience. It's used this way in Alexander's "Space Time and Deity".

Mark Foote said...

Julie said, "enjoy sitting there... just being there."

Brad wrote an article for a magazine that wants a contribution before you can read it. How about that!

Bela Lugosi said, "Comb... hair! His victims, in the various jhanas, enjoyed just sitting... there.

The coffin lid opened, and ... Houdini got out. He had no goal in concentrating intently on his in-breaths and out-breaths, he just really had no choice at the time.

Why did Gautama describe setting up recollection (like "recollection" better than "mindfulness") as a process that began with finding a tree-root, taking the cross-legged posture, holding the body erect and setting recollection up front- couldn't he have just found a coffin somewhere and gotten paid to get out of it? ~*vv*~

Jinzang said...

My whole take on Soto Zen is that Dogen basically "fixed" the enlightenment delusion.

The enlightenment delusion?

"For nothing can be sole or whole. That has not been rent."

Jinzang said...

But, Bela Lugosi's dead.

Mike's Mom said...

I sometimes think that the souls of the lost are compelled to walk through Brad's blog perpetually. One feels them passing like a whiff of a fart.

Anonymous said...

Peter Green explained that he wrote The Green Manalishi after experiencing a drug-induced dream, in which he was visited by a green dog which barked at him. He understood that the dog represented money. "It scared me because I knew the dog had been dead a long time. It was a stray and I was looking after it. But I was dead and had to fight to get back into my body, which I eventually did. When I woke up, the room was really black and I found myself writing the song."

Mysterion said...

I think that, when one realizes that suffering is ubiquitous, one moves away [don't call it detachment] from dwelling on the 'suffering' to just taking in, or letting out, the next breath [to be extreme].

The book that I am currently reading makes that point rather well. At least in Japan, Buddhism was modified by different people in different places at different times to either 'suit the taste' of a target population - like the aristocracy - or serve a particular purpose - as in the case of providing the peasantry an avenue of escape from approaching hell.

This summary is fairly close to what I just finished reading.

The really nice thing about the above mentioned book (the evolution of religions on Honshu) is that it also can serve as a framework from which one can begin to understand the evolution of religions in the near east - the Levant, Arabia, and Persia.

Harry said...

The present words “Do we rely upon realization, or not?” neither say that realization does not exist, nor say that it exists, nor say that it comes: they say “Do we rely on it, or not?” They are akin to asserting that the realization of a person of the present moment, somehow, has already been realized. If we speak, for example, of attaining realization,
it sounds as if [realization] did not used to exist. If we speak of realization having come, it sounds as if that realization used to exist elsewhere. If we speak of having become realization, it sounds as if realization has a
beginning. We do not discuss it like this and it is not like this; even so, when we discuss what realization is like, we ask if we need to rely on realization.


Master Dogen did not negate 'realisation' (as the word 'go' is translated here in the Nishijima/ Cross translation. Nishijima Roshi does not like the word 'enlightenment'...the standard translation of 'go'... probably reflecting his sectarian assumptions about the Rinzai tradition).

As can be seen above in Shobogenzo Daigo ('Great Enlightenment') Dogen seeks to contextualise the word in terms of our own practice/experience, to assert what it really is, not merely to reduce it to some shallow intellectual negation of our own.

Dogen didn't shrink away from using the term, and was very keen on people being able to 'say a few words' about realisation/enlightenment... and something tells me he would have had more than a few words for those 'Zen Masters' who can't say a word about it other than to denegrate the term because they are too lazy to be able to explain it properly! ;-)

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

Is "go" the same word used for the Japanese board game?

proulx michel said...

There are many words in Japanese that read "go"

One is 語: language
another is 誤: mistake
another is 後: behind
another is 御: (honorific)
another is 五: five
another is 呉: give, do something for
another is 期: period, geological age
another is 牛: ox, cow
another is 午: 7th sign in the Chinese Zodiac (Horse)
another is 護: safeguard, protect
another is 互: mutually, reciprocally
and, eventually 碁: the one you're asking about.

But there are quite a few more.

Anonymous said...

Michel, what's the character for the board game?

proulx michel said...

碁: the one you're asking about.

Mysterion said...

Way to go, proulx michel




just imagine what it would be like to translate a LOST language!

Mark Foote said...

Thanks, Mysterion and Harry, most illuminating. Certainly enjoyed the reprise of "Bela Lugosi's dead", Jinzang.

From View on Buddhism (History of Japanese Buddhism) cited by Mysterion above:


"The foundation of Dogen’s Zen is the constantly emphasized principle that practice does not lead to Enlightenment, but is carried out in the state of being Enlightened; otherwise it is not practice."


"The state of being Enlightened", now what state is this! The Gautamid stated that his practice was the same before and after enlightenment, and that it was "the intent concentration on in-breaths and out-breaths". Dogen's teacher Tiantong (Rujing) asserted that the second aspect of the "intent concentration on in-breaths and out-breaths" was unteachable, when he said that because the breath came from "no place" to the tan-tien, it was neither long nor short.

The Gautamid said that anyone "knowing and seeing as it really is" consciousness, impact, and feeling with regard to the six sense fields remains unattached, and that in such a person the eight-fold path goes on to development and fulfillment along with the four arousings of mindfulness, the four right efforts, the four bases of psychic power, the five controlling faculties, the five powers, and the seven links in awakening.

Bottom line, consciousness takes place and practice in the form of the ability to feel occurs. On the other hand, any exercise of will or intention gives rise to a "station of consciousness", and the ability to feel that arises from the stationed occurrence of consciousness is not spontaneous, and does not constitute practice.

Tiantong advised, "drop mind and body" as a way to continue to practice long past bedtime. The place drops body and mind, like a bat flitting around in the moonlight, or the coils of a dragon appearing in the clouds.

Fu Manchu emerges from the coffin with Dracula's cape, and summons his disciple, who loves big, juicy spiders...

Anonymous said...

The Mysterion comment count stands at 5.

Maximum for my prediction of less than 6 for this post.

Anonymous said...

I say that the motherfucker is just getting warmed up.

Mumon said...

Brad,
Re: 話頭


It's more how to practice a koan.

Focusing on the awareness "before" the "idea" words makes it "goalless" but not "unoriented," if you know what I mean, unless you count as a goal to be mindful in that orientation.

But that's like sitting is an orientation as well.

Pretaville said...

Anony-Tex -- you are the MFer Hick, along with your queer momonic-scientologist pals, Softserve, Khru-Klux, Byro, etc. Maybe u better just stay at home on the CTE Romney site.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy, here we go, Mysterion's psychotic "pretaville" alter-ego (or should it be altar-boy-ego?)

Anonymous said...

Hmm, it *is* interesting the connections between the jesus story and the mithraic legends. Anyone have any thoughts on that topic? Probably over everyone's head here, it being a 'zen' blog and add.

purple question mary said...

oops, not 'add' meant 'all.

Mysterion said...

At least one, perhaps more, anonymous is a gamer and not just another garden variety paranoid scientologist.

Cut 'em a little slack. Find them a bigger chair. The morbidly obese carry a lot of weight around here.

And buy 'em a bag of chips and a diet coke, for christ's sake.

Clifford Irving said...

Uh, Mysterion: you forgot to post that as Pretaville, or Anonymous. Anyone looking at the last "Pretaville" post and this last one of yours will surely know the truth. Even if there is no truth. And that's the truth.

Anonymous said...

Cliff, When you're right you're right. Look at his last comment. It's classic mysterion barely out of Pretaville mode. It's all right there.. The fat people, The Southerners, The republicans, jews, mormons. All his paranoiac hell-hounds.. He's transparent.

Anonymous said...

Oh.. and the dreaded Scientologists..

Anonymous said...

HARDCORE ZEN.
You said it.
And since you said it, we're going to stuck it up your ass and see how you like it for all your fees in HYDRA- OSIRIS.
HANSEN?
ARYAN?
With REDHO?
DC in UNDCC?
OREGON with REMY?
And COMPORES- MARY PAT?
ZEN?
it's spiritual with MIKILOVELESS - CARON?
And all with EXPLOSIVES from EUROCE- ROKST with ISTANBUL and ROBERTA RAMM?
They already recorded TOHOPM in 166 PMENCO -
MAINE.
That was your MEDYNDO?
You should see JUEDUC now.
See you in " KANSAS KINGS".

Anonymous said...

Mysterion has posted six comments.

Dang, I lose.

Anonymous said...

I would bet money that Anonymous @ 9:54 PM is Mysterion, look at that 2nd line. Classic Mysti. And look further,

ZEN?
it's spiritual with MIKILOVELESS

M's always saying something's McSomething, referring to fast foodd mentality.

Harry said...

Have u considered that maybe only you give a McShit and that your McShit-on-Mysti messages may be just as tiring to the general McPublic (doesn't bother me in particular, I just skip over anything that doesn't catch my eye)?

Regards,

H.

Harry said...

James Ford says what Brad might have meant in taking a terse swipe at Deepheat Showbra on twitter...

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/monkeymind/

Not for the first time with Brad's wrathful Dharma Protecting Demon outbursts I'm left wondering if he's making a valid point, preaching to a choir of boors (so as to sell books), shooting from the hip to relieve himself, or a bit of all of the above.

Regards,

Harry.

I'm Not Me Anymore said...

Ever consider that your obsession with Brad's PC and or marketing techniques is just as tiresome if not quite as frequent as the anonymous play by play on Chas?

Methinks you are just bitter that you are not the Zen Master Brad thinks he is. Sour grapes and all that. It's easy: Go lick somebody's boots and get your precious "transmission" and join the buddha boys club.

Harry said...

Hi Anon,

Well, how predictable.

You can say what you want about me, it's all been said before and by more meticulously twisted people than me or you, but, if I am to indulge your saucy input here pray at least consider this: In indulging the desire to make these outbursts inspired as they are by feelings of wanting to do harm to people do I demean my self, my integrity (not my social standing, my actual here-and-now humanity), and degrade the very considerable freedoms that I am currently (unconsciously?) enjoying. I'm not moralising here, I'm as 'guilty' as the next bozo.

Just a reflection on such internet shenanigans.

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

all of us, including zen teachers, use, at some extension, meditation as a way to get rid of suffering, instead of BEING the emotional/body pain.

To tell to yourself and others your emotional weakness is very hardcore.

john e mumbles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
john e mumbles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
john e mumbles said...

Hi Harry,

Thanks for the link. Other things Brad does that chafe and annoy: His manner of speaking in the Youtube dharma talks. I can't imagine anyone being more condescending and arrogant -unless you are channeling Deepthroat Chokepa. If I ever attended one of his book tour talks I'd be busting out laughing in the back of the room -until they ejected me from the premises.

And: When he says stuff like this:

"But enlightenment (I hate that word) isn't like pole vaulting 18 feet. It's more like...The only thing an enlightened person (fuck that term) does differently is..." (Brad at 8:00 AM on CRAZY TRAIN post)

He claims to hate the term and the state while at the same time claiming to know what its like. As if he is enlightened and must enlighten the rest of us poor deluded ones lost in samsara on what enlightenment really is. Or:

Maybe I'm wrong.

Anonymous, James Ford, etc.: We're all Mysterion, you, me, all the Anonymous comments, even Brad. We're all connected here like a hydra-headed blind idiot... Wait a minute! We're all ONE? Fred! This is your fault!

Genpo Roshi said...

Hello everyone :)

john e mumbles said...

See how versatile my "koan" is? It can be used as a disclaimer...

Maybe I'm wrong.

(Universal design, ultra functional)


(Maybe I'm wrong;)

purple question mary said...

But "I'm" is wrong (understanding), right?

McShit-on-Mysti said...

You hand in your ticket and you go watch the geek
who immediately walks up to you when he hears you speak
and says 'How does it feel to be such a freak?'
and you say 'impossible' as he hands you a bone..
and something is happening here but you don't know what it is
do you, Mr. Jones?

Mark Foote said...

I do feel that anonymous is actually just another of the regulars here, enjoying a little outlet for vitriolic humor. Whoever anonymous is, they are mostly funny to me.

John E., yes, though we could be wrong. Does seem like Brad now halfway believes he can teach someone else something without simultaneously teaching himself. I start out that way a lot, myself, and I do have to return to the notion that I am the only one who will turn in all these lottery tickets at the end of the day.

I think I will sit right side up, sunny, and see if the runny parts behave.

Bats in the belfry, Demian will present a slide show on his six months at Eiheiji in two weeks, I'd like to hear what he has to say. I admire him for taking it on, and as with Brad, I feel a sense of committment to his success even if the teaching I relate to most depends on his failure.

the Joshu Bird said...

Twitter doesn't work because there isn't any communication. No one is speaking to no one, so there isn't any opportunity for no-one to speak. That's cheap, but that's the fastest way to explain why Twitter isn't a channel for Zen.

It might be a channel for Zen scholarship, but then most people who want to study something aren't going to turn to Twitter.

If I was a Zen Master, and if I said that line about Pure Awareness, then I would respond to your frustration in this way: you don't know who You are, so you can't understand how Your Pure Awareness will see the world. You only know who you are, and you are so busy attaching things to you that you don't realize there isn't a you, only a You.

Here's the fruit: Pure Awareness- You Won't Have Any Problems Before You Were Born.