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Buddhadharma : Spring 2008
buddhadharma| 37 |spring 2008 been called the “the goal.” Does that make sense? BlAnche hArtmAn: You are more likely to have such an experience if you practice. It’s less hit and miss, but goal? Goal kind of jangles me when I remem- ber how strongly Suzuki roshi said, “No gaining idea, no goal-seeking mind.” Practice is about fully opening ourselves and accepting what is, as it is, in all its stuffness. GAylOn ferGusOn: according to the teachings of Dogen, that’s not a goal but rather our original state, right? BlAnche hArtmAn: to have some gaining idea or goal means that as you are right now is not ok. Andrew Olendzki: I would add that since we con- struct our reality every single moment, and the five aggregates arise again with or without the influ- ence of craving and ignorance, there are multiple moments throughout the day in which you could experience cessation. It could be the cessation of one of the defilements, one of the obstacles. For example, you could be sitting in meditation and your foot starts hurting. You see the physical sen- sation mounting along with your resistance to it, and your concern around it becomes more and more proliferated. at a certain point, you can just recontextualize what’s happening, let go of the resistance to it, and settle in to what’s actually happening. In that moment, the whole complex of resistance to that sensation ceases. It stops, and the next moment something new is created. Perhaps we over-dramatize the idea of what this whole awakening experience is. Well, maybe not the Zen tradition. BlAnche hArtmAn: Yes we do [laughs]. Andrew Olendzki: Like with everything else in the Buddhist tradition, this notion is useful as a verb and harmful as a noun. BlAnche hArtmAn: that’s a nice teaching. I’m going to steal that! Andrew Olendzki: teaching people how to have things cease, extinguish, or let go is very useful. It’s very dynamic and alive. Getting fixated on the notion of cessation as a noun, either occurring or not occurring or being attained or not attained as a goal, a big or a little goal, is just heading in the wrong direction. GAylOn ferGusOn: even the glimpses of cessation are probably not just hit or miss, but rather they have to do with cycles of cause and effect. So we say go ahead and make use of that. Why not make causes that will lead in the direction of such stop- ping or opening, instead of just willy-nilly travel- ing around and around on the wheel? BuddhAdhArmA: We have been talking about cessa- Suffering DoeSn’t Stop The problem, says barry Magid, is that the real end of suffering isn’t what we expect it to be. The core of our pracTice and of our life is how we face, understand, and meet the fact of suffering. suffering is not an optional or controllable or removable part of life; it is intrinsic to what life is all about. but that definitely is not the message any of us have come to hear. The buddha didn’t just stop with the first truth; he continued and even promised that through understand- ing the root causes of suffering, suffering could be ended. The promise of the end of suffering is the hook that we grab on to, and for a long time after we’ve begun to practice, we try to maintain our personal fantasy of what exactly that end of suffering is going to look like. but it doesn’t end up looking like what we expect—or what we want. my old teacher Joko beck used to say that it took many, many years for students to finally discover what practice really meant, and when they did, most of them quit. That’s because the end of suffering that we realize we can achieve through practice turns out to be an end of separation from suffering. suffering ceases to exist when it is no longer something we experience as impinging on our life, as an unnecessary, avoidable intrusion that we finally learn to exclude from our lives once and for all. instead, what we realize deeply is that suffering is inseparable from life. i like to describe what happens by saying that suffering doesn’t disap- pear from our life, but into our life. when we live our life as a whole, there is no longer an aspect that gets singled out as “suffering.” from Ending the Pursuit of Happiness: A Zen Guide, by barry magid. published by wisdom publications, 2008. ©kusougallery