I like it when a practitioner says, "There's no point to what I'm doing." Especially when he's talking about a supposedly spiritual practice.
For me, this is the dividing line between fake religiosity and genuine whatever. (I tried to think of a better word than whatever, but couldn't).
You just do it to do it. Meditation. Prayer. Worship. Study. Whatever.
Zen and Taoism appeal to me because they extol uselessness. In "The Tao of Paris Hilton" I said:
And let us also learn to appreciate Paris more by studying this passage from "The Book of Chuang Tzu," where a long-lived, greatly-venerated tree appears to Master Shih in a dream and explains why it has never been cut down like other trees:
Because they are useful, they suffer, and they are unable to live out the years Heaven has given them. They have only their usefulness to blame for this destruction wrought by the people. It is the same with all things. I have spent a long time studying to be useless, though on a couple of occasions I was nearly destroyed. However, now I have perfected the art of uselessness, and this is very useful, to me! If I had been of use, could I have grown so vast?
On the Zen front, Zoketsu Norman Fischer speaks about the uselessness of zazen (Zen meditation) in "A Coin Lost in the River is Found in the River."
Nice essay. This is the sort of non-religious religion the world needs more of.
Zazen is fundamentally a useless and pointless activity. A person is devoted to zazen not because it helps anything or is peaceful or interesting or because Buddha tells him to do it — though we may imagine that it helps or is peaceful or interesting — but simply because one is devoted to it. You can't argue for it or justify it or make it into something good. You just do it because you do it. It's not even a question of wanting to or not wanting to. Zazen for zazen's sake. Birds sing, fish swim, and people who are devoted to zazen do zazen with devotion all the time although there is no need for it.
I've meditated daily for almost forty years. I've read Zen literature for even longer. I've never actually practiced Zen. But maybe I have. Heck, I surely have.
We all have. We're alive. And once in a while, either by accident or on purpose, or with purposeless purpose, we see what life seemingly is all about. A glimpse at least.
It's cold here in Oregon right now. Freezing cold at night, which is fairly rare in the temperate Willamette Valley. This morning I got up and looked at our indoor thermometer, which also shows the outdoor temperature.
"27.2 degrees," I said to myself. At that moment I had a flash of it's so absolutely right. That was the temperature! Absolutely marvelous! In a little while it'd be different. And that too, absolutely right.
It might snow later in the week. Which could make it tough to drive around. Still, absolutely right. There's always only one thing going on: what's going on.
Any attempt to convince oneself of that – completely useless. Yet this is what religion is all about. As is Zen and Taoism.
The only difference, and it's a big one, is that religions take themselves seriously. Zen and Taoism don't. From what I've read, the ultimate Zen experience is throwing a pie in the face of your most revered Master.
Whereupon he laughs uproariously. So do you. What a joke!
In a dharma talk, "Three Ways to See Zazen," Fischer speaks more about how there's nothing to do. But that nothing needs to be done anyway. He says that zazen isn't like waiting for something that we expect is coming.
Zazen is certainly not waiting in this sense. It is waiting in the profound sense of waiting for nothing. Simply waiting. No expectations, nothing that is supposed to happen. No desired result. Just this moment of sheer presence.
Waiting – for what? If "nothing" seems too uninspiring and foreboding perhaps we can say we are waiting for God. This is the title of one of Simone Weil's books, Waiting for God.
That's how God appears- not by summoning God, or by performing sacrifice, prayer, or something like that, so as to manipulate God, causing God to appear on demand, like a vending machine- put in the quarters and you'll hear that satisfying clatter and bump.
No, God comes when we wait. Just sitting, just being present, with a powerful and alert anticipation, a pregnant, focused, poised-at-the-edge-of-the-abyss awakeness. Hoping for, waiting for- exactly nothing. Plunging into the moment of being alive. Just that, and nothing extra.
Good one, Brian.
Open your eyes and see. There is no path for it is bright and clear, this ever-present moment.
Posted by: Tucson | January 22, 2008 at 09:38 PM
I like it.
It just is there,it just changes,it's just there:-)..
Posted by: Sita | January 23, 2008 at 04:33 AM
I have a question for those of you who were once satsangis but became dissatisfied. I have noticed that many of Brian's recent posts have been about accepting reality just as it is, becoming more useless, letting go, being in the moment.
My question is, what in Sant Mat blocks people from feeling this same present-moment simplicity? Tuscon hinted at it by saying that for him in Sant Mat, "it" is always there, and not right here. But I am curious to know more about what people think...
I have heard over and over again how simple sant mat is, so why does it become so complicated for some?
Posted by: Komposer | January 23, 2008 at 04:58 AM
Maybe ''because'', it is always about the master as he is the "perfect''.
It is always about Sachkhand.(somewhere else).
The circel of transmigration,(again and again,only the diciples of a perfect living master can be freed)..
The diciple is not perfect,but has to change,has to become like the master,altough nobody really knows what that means.
The Master says these days that ''we''as diciples, have to much concepts.
Some thoughts about it.
Posted by: Sita | January 23, 2008 at 10:46 AM
Sant Mat is a process of "becoming" rather than just "being".
In just being, becoming is automatic. In trying to become, we can never just be.
While some satsangis theoretically "die while living", the vast majority must wait until death to find out if the master is able to take them to the promised land.
Why do they bet everything on this unproven chance? A lifetime of scrupulous, compulsive avoidance of fractions of eggs or rennet for a "pie in the sky" promise? Thousands upon thousands of hours of meditation trying to break through a barrier that may not exist? Blind obedience to a "master" who may be in the same boat as they? Living in guilt if a vow is broken or "impure" desires are entertained? Denial of what life brings because it is too "worldly"?
Sant Mat denies this life and this moment, and peace is always around the next corner, but never present.
In Sant Mat you are never home until you are dead.
Posted by: Tucson | January 23, 2008 at 12:16 PM
You summed up Sant Mat in a nutshell.
One of the reasons I split was just as you described - Sant Mat is primarily focused on attaining something in the future.
Unfortunately, the future can never be part of the present - the only moment we have.
It's also such a relief not having to bombard a waiter or waitress with a zillion questions regarding a food item that may contain one part per million of an egg white.
Posted by: Bob | January 23, 2008 at 01:09 PM
Thanks, Brian. For nothing. ;-D
Posted by: A. Decker | January 23, 2008 at 02:39 PM
Komposer asked: "My question is, what in Sant Mat blocks people from feeling this same present-moment simplicity? I have heard over and over again how simple sant mat is, so why does it become so complicated for some?
I started out with a comment or two, but then I read Tucson's comment, not to mention "Waking Now", and between them both they pretty much nailed it. In fact, I saw and realized and 'groked' anew the utter TRAGEDY and HORROR of it all, that Tucson so succinctly said in the following quote:
" ...the vast majority must wait until death to find out if the master is able to take them to the promised land. Why do they bet everything on this unproven chance? A lifetime of scrupulous, compulsive avoidance of fractions of eggs or rennet for a "pie in the sky" promise? Thousands upon thousands of hours of meditation trying to break through a barrier that may not exist? Blind obedience to a "master" who may be in the same boat as they? Living in guilt if a vow is broken or "impure" desires are entertained? Denial of what life brings because it is too "worldly"? "
It is truly frightening and deeply to think and know that tens of thousands of (unfortunate) human beings are going to spend (waste) their entire lives for nothing more than an empty promise.
It is more than sad, it is terribly tragic and painful to watch. And sadly, many of these captured satsangis, these RS cult slaves, think that those of us who are now free and truly alive as being the unfortunate ones who are fallen and who are blind to the "master". But actually the opposite is true. They are the blind ones.
And so when I do occasionally (however rarely) chance to encounter one or two of these poor miserable RS satsangi serf-souls, I am always torn between abject pity and disgust on the one hand, or a (basically futile) urge to shake them out of their feudalistic guru-mind-control-cult slavedom on the other.
Which always then brings me to the conclusion that their servitude and devotion and and slavery is simply misplaced and misguided. Their constitutional position IS and should be that of servitude to the Whole, to the Godhead, to the Supreme Spirit, not to some cheap two-bit phony guru of a some more or less obscure religious sect. At least if their devotion was given to the Godhead - the Whole, then they would appreciate life and really live it, rather than languishing in a self-imposed state of extreme life-negative introversion and meditative limbo under the tyranny and illusion of a false guru.
I said more than I intended to here, And I don't know if I said what I meant to say, but maybe you can catch my drift. It is just very sad to think that these poor souls are and will waste their entire hman lives in such nonsense.
Not to sound too corny to the hard-core impersonalists in this forum, but I guess all I myself would say to those poor souls at this point, is something like this:
Be Free of this Maya and nescience that you are now trapped in. Allow your life to be sublime. Simply Chant or sing the HARE KRSNA mahamantra, and dance in ecstasy and the Love of God. [ pronounced "Hahray Krishna" ]
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
HARE KRISHNA - HARE KRISHNA
KRISHNA KRISHNA - HARE HARE
HARE RAMA - HARE RAMA
RAMA RAMA - HARE HARE
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Posted by: Hare Krishna | January 23, 2008 at 03:13 PM
An article on the churchless church blog, about the pathless path! Wonderful, isn't it?
Posted by: emptymind | January 23, 2008 at 06:54 PM
Why would this set of words be any better than any other mantra? These didn't come out of nowhere either...
It just seems strange to me that you are so hard on "RS serfs" as you put it, but then advocate another way, that may be just as nonsensical...
Posted by: Komposer | January 24, 2008 at 03:57 AM
Komposer, Just simply chant Hare Krishna and you will find out the answer to that for yourself.
However, to assist you, here is a clear and simple explanation that will help you to better understand the supreme potency of chanting the glorious and sublime Hare Krishna maha-mantra:
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
This transcendental vibration -- by chanting of "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare" -- is the sublime method for reviving our Krsna consciousness.
As living spiritual souls we are all originally Krsna conscious entities, but due to our association with matter since time immemorial, our consciousness is now polluted by the material atmosphere.
In this polluted concept of life, we are all trying to exploit the resources of material nature, but actually we are becoming more and more entangled in our complexities.
This illusion is called maya, or the hard struggle for existence over the stringent laws of material nature. This illusory struggle against the material nature can at once be stopped by revival of our Krsna consciousness.
Krsna consciousness is not an artificial imposition upon the mind. This consciousness is the original energy of the living entity. When we hear the transcendental vibration, this consciousness is revived. And the process is recommended by authorities for this Age.
By practical experience also, we can perceive that by chanting this maha-mantra, or the Great Chanting for Deliverance, one can at once feel transcendental ecstasy from the spiritual stratum. When one is factually on the plane of spiritual understanding, surpassing the stages of sense, mind and intelligence, one is situated on the transcendental plane.
This chanting of "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare" is directly enacted from the spiritual platform, surpassing all lower states of consciousness -- namely sensual, mental and intellectual. There is no need of understanding the language of the mantra, nor is there any need of mental speculation nor any intellectual adjustment for chanting this maha-mantra. It springs automatically from the spiritual platform,
and as such, anyone can take part in this transcendental sound vibration, without any previous qualification, and dance in ecstasy.
We have seen it practically. Even a child can take part in the chanting, or even a dog can take part in it. The chanting should be heard, however, from the lips of a pure devotee of the Lord, so that immediate effect can be achieved. As far as possible, chanting from the lips of a non-devotee should be avoided, as much as milk touched by the lips of a serpent causes poisonous effect.
The word Hara is a form of addressing the energy of the Lord. Both Krsna and Rama are forms of addressing directly the Lord, and they mean "the highest pleasure eternal." Hara is the supreme pleasure potency of the Lord. This potency, when addressed as "Hare", helps us in reaching the Supreme Lord.
The material energy, called as Maya, is also one of the multi-potencies of the Lord, as much as we are also marginal potency of the Lord. The living entities are described as superior energy than matter. When the superior energy is in contact with inferior energy, it becomes an incompatible situation. But when the supreme marginal potency is in contact with the spiritual potency or Hara, it becomes
the happy, normal condition of the living entity.
The three words, namely Hara, Krsna, and Rama, are transcendental seeds of the maha-mantra, and the chanting is a spiritual call for the Lord and His internal energy, Hara, for giving protection to the conditioned soul. The chanting is exactly like a genuine cry by the child for the mother. Mother Hara helps in achieving the grace of the supreme father, Hari or Krsna, and so the Lord reveals Himself to such a sincere devotee.
No other means, therefore, of spiritual realization is as effective in this Age, as the chanting of the maha-mantra "Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare".
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Posted by: Hare Krishna | January 24, 2008 at 05:50 PM
I think that everyone has an opportunity to perform at their best towards themselves and others without using exactly the same system of improvement, or unveiling, as the next person at any given time. The realisation that what was selected at say 21 years old, is no longer valid, is an important acknowledgement to make for the next step- forward to happen. On the other hand, the person who simply handles their work at hand and benefits those around them and themselves, may be doing all that needs to be done.
Posted by: Catherine | January 25, 2008 at 12:49 AM
Meditation if not associated with any religion, is basically concentration required to do a work. If it is termed as useless, I think we are refering to its uselessness in religous uplift.
It is true that a thing becomes useless or may be called useless if anticipated results are met with.
May God bless you, Brian.
Posted by: Rakesh Bhasin | January 26, 2008 at 08:08 AM