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The path is in saṃsāra
October 5th, 2015

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

The path is in saṃsāra…
— demystifying the notion of 'mystical' insight

   Seon (Sŏn, 禪) Buddhism stresses a saying « Great doubt, great awakening; small doubt, small awakening; no doubt… »
   Simultaneously, it also stresses « Great faith » and « Great courage » (sometimes called « Great indignation »). Great faith relates to the trust in the soteriological value of Great doubt: having faith that enquiry and questioning will lead to insights! Great courage relates not only to the perseverance required during the phases when enquiry and questioning are frustrating, but also to the resolution to stop wasting one's life and one's opportunities into conventional, unsatisfactory, ordinary life.
   One of the difficulties, though, that may plague the great practitioner (who gets into Great doubt, Great courage, Great faith) is… erroneous Great expectation!

   Once you attained Nirvāṇa, there's no need for the path (Parable of the Raft): you embody Wisdom, that's it (suchness)!
   While on the path though, you're in saṃsāra; it's usually because  of saṃsāra that you're travelling the path! But if the path itself is within saṃsāra, the path itself is… unsatisfactory!

   In the Japanese Rinzai tradition (related to Korean Seon, as both descend from Línjì's Chinese Chan), Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitarō  (1870—1945) was working on the koan 無 (Mu),  and Koju roshi  acknowledged his passing of 無 and attaining kensho.
   Great story illustrating how inflated hopes (related to what one imagine Awakening to be) can collapse onto reality: Nishida  wrote in his diary (Aug. 3rd, 1903) « 7 a.m., listened to the talk. Evening, a private audience with the master. I was cleared of the koan 無. But I am not that happy »

   Hopes collapse onto reality: after kensho,  there's still work to do! One still has to embody Wisdom, not just parade around with one's acknowledgement, or one's title, or one's diploma… And no, this doesn't suggest to 'idealise' satori  instead!
   One has to transform a milestone into a stepping stone ;-)
   There's nothing wrong with the milestone, and nothing wrong with appreciating the opportunity to move on, the clearance of a particular barrier… but one still has to indeed move on then! ;-)
   It's useful to remember that nirvāṇa is the cessation, or extinction, of lust, aversion and ignorance… not  the extinction of loving-kindness, of compassion, of sympathetic joy, of equanimity (and not  the extinction of life, of neither-essence-nor-nothingness), i.e. it's neither the cessation of embodiment —the Buddha lived for decades after awakening…— nor the cessation of (joyous, enthusiastic) effort.

   In the curriculum of Rinzai koans, there are a few "difficult to pass". Asahina Sõgen rõshi  describes their function as follows:
Once a person feels he has attained some degree of satori, he becomes satisfied with the Dharma joy of this new world and thus it is hard for him to make any further advance. In the history of Zen, there are many who at this stage have sat down in self-satisfaction and stopped here. Such people think themselves fine as they are and therefore have no ability to help other people. Indeed on closer reflection, [we see that] they have not even saved themselves. The [difficult koans] are a painful stick to the one who undertakes them. They make one know what it means to say  "Atop the mountain, another mountain…” That precious satori, which one got by going here, going there, doing this and doing that —[these kõan] take that satori and crush it like tree leaves into dust. Zen people call this  "the house destroyed and the family scattered."
   Mystical insight is not it; it's part of the path, but not the destination. Your insight is acknowledged? Well done! Congratulations! Cool! Wow! Okay… now, look again, because there's work to do! ;-)

#Buddhism   #Dharma   #Zen  
on Nishida Kitarō:
on the Kyōto gakuha (or Kyoto school):