Monday, February 27, 2006

What Is This?


"It's only a trap if you don't know what a trap looks like." I've read that in a few comment postings over the last week or so, and it's a wonderfully zen-deadpan turn of phrase...

But what does a trap look like? Does it look like a zen alarm clock, or like happiness, or like Enlightenment; does it look like permenance? After all, how else is a trap baited but with something appealing, something desired? If I wanted to catch my dog I'd set the trap with peanut butter; if I wanted to catch my little brother I'd set the trap with Salma Hayek; if I wanted to catch myself I'd set the trap with my own eternal soul. It's a comforting idea, the soul, the atman, that spiritual intelligence.
What would that trap look like? Would I know it when the box dropped over me?

9 Comments:

At February 27, 2006, Blogger me said...

I sometimes think of traps when I'm in bookstores and find myself over near the zen books - I think "Maybe this time I'll find the book! The one that has all the answers". I'm looking for the last book on zen I'll ever read. In the past I've thought I had found it - Hagen's "Buddhism isn't what you think" I believe was one of these. I recalling telling my wife it was the 'last one' (but then I went and bought Brad's "hardcore zen" and after that recent long list of good titles I might never stop).

So... I see these books as traps. A way to pickle one's brain in other's peoples words about zen - vicarious zen.

I was thinking these books are somewhat like training wheels... fun to use but sorta embarrassing too. I look forward to moving beyond them someday.

 
At February 27, 2006, Blogger me said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At February 27, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

Let me start off by saying I'm honored and a little embarrassed to be quoted.

I can tell you right now that by no means would I claim to be able to spot any "trap". When I said that, I was strictly referring to the window dressings that come along with Buddhism. I like Buddha statues, but I wouldn't freak out if I saw someone dropping their cigarette ashes on the statue's head, or burning a wooden buddha carving to keep warm. But I'm definitely still caught, probably in several traps I've made for myself, and still haven't figured out what they look like.

Bubbha, you hit the nail on the head, I think it's mainly a matter of trusting your intuition, and when you see something you desire, look very closely at the desire. Especially desire for perfection, in yourself, in teachings, or teachers.

I think aversions can be traps too. Just pay attention, I think that's all you can do. And I think that will take you pretty far. If you're really honest with yourself I think it can probably take you past any 'trap,' but I'm pretty much talking out my ass at this point so I'll shut up now. :-)

 
At February 28, 2006, Blogger endofthedream said...

A trap is only a successful trap if it looks like nothing. ;-)

Me ~ as far as the deleterious effects of reading books...is there any difference between doing that and reading the words of others printed here? What are you afraid of? (Or is it that you simply find the act of reading books dissatisfying? If that's so, just don't read 'em, right?)

Books ~ imo :-)) ~ are not traps. I submit there are no traps.

Person A reads a zen book. Untouched. Person B reads same book (or even Person A a year later), affected. Deeply. Where is the problem?

(And although the words may sound like the ole argumentative, combative, confrontational 'endofthedream,' they ain't. It's comin' from affection now.)

Where do you think 'your' thoughts come from?

It's really a matter of individuality I think. Each bodymind mechanism will find its 'right' path, plain and simple. For some that means devouring books. For others it means three hours of zazen daily.

All I can speak of is my story. For me, books have been a godsend. Writing to my teacher, working with various zen masters, publishing and posting on lists, doing zazen, ... it's ALL been useful and it ALL played a role in what is here, right now. I see no hierarchy such as books being equivalent to training wheels.

I will keep coming back to the primary Thesis, the fundamental Understanding, and not to rub anyone raw, but to point it out, again and again. What drives a bodymind mechanism to do anything (read a book, build an altar, do zazen)...the motivation to do ANYthing...is not a function of conscious choice. The thought "I won't read any books any longer," is not a willful creation. It happens. Why? It arises in the conscious mind as a function of the time, place, and circumstance, all of which are constructed on an infinite string of past events and experiences. It is for tha reason that I say: what others do is none of my business (it's not even their business but if they believe it is so, that too is not of their own conscious choice).

Cheers!

 
At February 28, 2006, Blogger me said...

So, endo, what is your opinion of the phrase "to stink of zen"? And this is an honest question that is pretty much always in the back of my mind - especially when I'm about to purchase another book.

So many zen masters say that buddhism is not about seeking - to seek, to strive is to miss the point that reality is right here. Stop chasing it elsewhere, in the future, after you've read your next book... "then I'll get it!"

 
At February 28, 2006, Blogger me said...

Sorry, I'm actually curious what everyone thinks about this, not just what endo thinks! I don't want to start a private conversation.

 
At February 28, 2006, Blogger endofthedream said...

Hi me ~

So, endo, what is your opinion of the phrase "to stink of zen"?

*****I sure did! :-))) For almost ten years I was quite the...zenhole. I've graduated since then...now I'm an a-hole :-))

*****My take on it is: some bodymind mechanisms are wired in such a way that as they engage in a spiritual practice it fills them more and more with a sense of self, egotism. Until it doesn't. Those who can't hide it, "stink" of it. That's the way it is. It clearly happens ~ first-person attestation to that fact :-))).


And this is an honest question that is pretty much always in the back of my mind - especially when I'm about to purchase another book.

*****I do not see the act of purchasing/reading books, in and of itself, as in any way, "stinking" of zen (or any other spiritual practice). The "stinking of zen" syndrome occurs when one believes that one is special, in some way different and better, than those who either don't practice or do another type of practice. Reading books doesn't necessarily suggest this state-of-mind. By the way, the opposite of "stinking of zen" is genuine, true, and thorough-going Humility.


So many zen masters say that buddhism is not about seeking - to seek, to strive is to miss the point that reality is right here.


*****And that is so. Regardless of what gurus, zen masters, and mystics say. But the Realization of that "this is IT!" can't be forced. It either happens or it don't. None of us get to "make" it happen, no matter how many hours are spent in zazen, how many sutras are chanted, how many books are read. A bodymind mechanism (read: sentient being) can only do what it is guided to do at any particular moment. And Awakening may happen in the next one. Or not. You just gotta wait and see.


Stop chasing it elsewhere, in the future, after you've read your next book... "then I'll get it!"

*****A Complete Understanding entails the Realization that whatever is happening...WHATEVER...is what is MEANT to happen (yeah, yeah, I know, .... determinism). But this Realization that is being pointed to is, in fact, The End of Suffering. You want it, go for it. Recognize that if "chasing" happens, if the impulse to chase arises in the bodymind mechanism so labelled-"me" ... then that is what me will do. Until the impulse to chase ... ceases. Not by your doing, however. *****You can't drop a thought because, in Truth, you didn't create it in the first place.***** The thought (or impulse) may fall away, like a leaf from a tree in autumn. But the leaf didn't "make" the falling happened. Like everything else in this phenomenal universe, it simply...happens.

When there is a complete and thorough-going Understanding that what you are, say, think, do, feel, is not "your" doing (as in you "chose" for it to be so), that is an integral part of the end of suffering. (And also the end of a lot of Drama...something we appear to be addicted to! This is an aspect of what this Seeing that is being pointed to is so difficult. It runs counter to much of the "game" aspect of life: winners and losers, the right and the wrong, the good and the bad...all the dualities.)

*****When it is Seen that all that is arising Arises from an infinitely and incomprehensibly complex Matrix of intertwined happenings, and that "your" participation in it is also an aspect of the Arising, then Understanding takes the place of confusion, concern, upset, fear, guilt, and yes, pride also, since there is no "me" left to take credit for any individual Arising.

So many like to quote Da Ma (Buddha). So few are willing to quote his primary teaching (or to look closely at its ramifications):

"Actions happen.
Deeds are done.
But there is no individual doer thereof."

If there is no individual doer then...who/what does...anything?!?

 
At March 01, 2006, Blogger rot-13 said...

bubbha said,

"...if I wanted to catch my little brother I'd set the trap with Salma Hayek..."

Ha! Lotta guys would fall into that trap. Or jump.

"...if I wanted to catch myself I'd set the trap with my own eternal soul. It's a comforting idea, the soul, the atman, that spiritual intelligence. What would that trap look like? Would I know it when the box dropped over me?"

You'd know. You'd find yourself in church.

Though it's true that most Buddhists, most of the time, in most places, have believed in something indistinguishable from the Christial soul, and something else that looks a lot like the Christian heaven. And the Buddhist notion of "applying" one's merit to the benefit of someone else, that veers close to "substitutionary atonement" as taught by the church. So I take it back: you could well end up believing in a soul/atman/whatever and still be Buddhist.

The thing is, Christianity has always been defined by what you believe, but Buddhism has always been more a matter of what you do. (Orthodoxy versus orthopraxy.) Whatever you want to believe about the soul, you can find ample support in one sutra or another and still be a "good Buddhist."

The curious can find details in Donald S. Lopez, Jr., The Story of Buddhism -- A Concise Guide to its History and Teachings. And the really, really curious can find endless, minute details in Buddhism in Practice, edited by the same guy. This latter is a collection of essays and translated Buddhist texts: "The thirty-three contributors include leading scholars of Indian, Chinese, Tibetan, Japanese, Thai, Burmese, Korean, Nepalese, and Sri Lankan Buddhism...."

It's been said that I read too much. Think it's true?

 
At March 01, 2006, Blogger rot-13 said...

BTW I forgot to say: "Bubbha" is a great nom de modem. And I tip my hat to anyone with Tom Waits in his music list and Shel Silverstein in his books.

 

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