« Leaving dogma behind is like discarding a confining diving suit | Main | Best way to change someone's mind is to let them change it on their own »

August 04, 2022


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Most of us know this story, but it's a great one, absolutely!

One sees the wisdom of this letting go thing, sure. And absolutely, one realizes how very difficult it is.

Because the point of the Buddhistic ideal is not just to let go of the ugliness, but also of the beauty. To stop holding on altogether.

In a way, in a sense, the attainment of this ideal would make us less human than we are, I've often thought. (And I say this as one who tries to walk that path, or tries to. And as someone who realizes that that remaking of "us" --- or rather, the realization that there is nothing there to remake --- is kind of the whole point.)

Those words of Shelley's, for instance (which I'm quoting from memory, but more or less correctly I think):
We look before and after
And pine for what is not
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught
Our sweetest songs are those
That sing of saddest thought

Here's the thing about this letting-go ideal. The thing that makes it so difficult. The thing that makes one rebel against the very idea, the thing that often makes one fling the idea out as some perverted monstrosity --- even as, at other times, one realizes the complete wisdom of it.

That "priceless" book of yours, from where you source that story? Dating back to well before many of us here were born? Even that innocent book, is something one is similarly "carrying". (And again, I say this as someone who carries a great many of such "priceless" books myself. A great many that are mine, and therefore, while old, but of far newer vintage than this one; and a great many that belong to my father, and to my grandfather, and to my great-grandfather even, and some of which are much older than this book is. And which are absolutely priceless to me, in every which way. And which too, I realize, I'm "carrying". And which, apparently, I'm supposed not to. "Supposed not to", not as in physically throw them away; but as in stop attaching such value, such intense value, to them.)

It's a difficult ideal, is Buddhistic non-attachment. An ideal one often finds fault with, disagrees with; an ideal that sometimes actually repels one; but an ideal that, in the end, one recongizes the inexorable wisdom of.

@ AR

It is my understanding that all these stories are of what I call the "small path".

The monk, did not give an advice to follow.
He just stated
"IF ....if you are not emotionally or otherwise attached to what you ....
THEN ...
then, you will never carry a thing with you

It is a statement, it makes the other monk aware of an possibility, an invitation.

It reminds me of a story about a lady coming at the dera, having done away with all her money, in reaction to the saying: "that it is more difficult for a rich person to enter in heaven then for a camel to go through the eye of the needle."On finding out what she had done she was told: "Sister, this land is full of poor people, now we have one extra ... who is going to look after you in the future?

And of an other story with my nephew. He was trained as a staff member in hotel business and easily frustrated when he saw the modern girls and boys serving in a restaurant. One day I had the impression that he was going to explode and before he could callout on the young lady I said ....Look nephew M. these are not waiters, these are students, they are "dish or plate carriers" ...you should have been there and witnessed the change in his face and behaviour upon realizing the truth of what I said ... he laughed his heart out for pure joy for some minutes ....after thsi incident he never was frustrated again about the behaviour of staffmembers in the bussiness.

More over ... it helped him to react less emotional in other situations as well

All pent up frustration was disolved for once and for all.

So , care for your books.
They served you well,

One day you will see that books serve only a restricted part of life and that there are other areas, often described in the same books, for which no book is needed.

So what was the point ....

AFTER one has arrive to a certain mental level one will act as described in these stories ... but no one gets enlightened or something like that by acting in that way

Hey, um.

Yes, "small path" is about right. That's how Mahayanists and Vajrayanists sometimes refer to it as, Hinayana or the smaller or lesser vehicle (or path, sure). Those who actually tread that path --- or carry the wider baggage of that tradition, as the case may be --- tend to find that label offensive, and instead refer to it as Theravada, or the way of the elders. (The senior monks are referred to as Thera, I think it means "elder brother", or maybe "old man" but in a very respectful reveriential way.)


Yep, I agree with your broader point. This "ceasing to carry" is the symptom of what you're working towards, not the goal per se. Agreed 100%. When one has attained to the understanding, intellectual as well as experiential, of the transitoriness of it all, then that longing, that attachment, that carrying, they drop off by themselves. At least that is the idea, as I understand it. To force the issue by violently stripping off once's organic longing from one's still throbbing heart --- to employ somewhat dramatic metaphors! --- probably isn't what is asked for here. (No matter the object of the longing and the attachment, whether a lovely girl one loves, or some books that carry nostalgic sentimental value for one.)

Yes, that's a great point, um. This emphasis on not forcing the issue, but letting this non-attachment grow organically.

@ AR

By meditation one gets nowhere.
Does that mean one should stop certainly not

There is that other Zen story about a young monk that was send outdoors to keep the veranda snow free. The veranda was long, the snow fall heavy and the young monk had to run like speedy mouse to get the veranda snow-free ... he took the command literally.
The abbot, going out doors hit the young lad with a walking stick as he forgot to greet him, being so busy with his task at hand. On his way back after a walk, the abbot wound the veranda covered with snow and could not enter the monastery. After working his way through the snow, he went up to the boy and without further notice hid him again hard on his head. The young monk out of sheer frustration yelled at the abbot ..@#$@%^# waht do you want %$#^&$#???? .. if I do my work, you hit me and if I don't you again hit me .... %$#%& what do you want???? .... the abbot said calmly: I want you to do your work"

These stories are funny ... I did a quick search in the translation of that book but did not find it.

What I call the "small Path" is not related to Buddhism it is.

As I have written here before, the small path is related to "an invitation"... not immediately thought of

Like. ... the invitation of Christ ... to love your enemies. Mind you he did not say that you SHOULD love them or that they DESERVE to be loved. No not at all .... it has nothing to do with the enemy at all, nor with what has turned him into an enemy. It is pointing at the small path to be taken not so easy to be seen in the landscape, a path that might offer a better outcome for those who dear to take it.

Here too the understanding of it came LATER , organically as you write or as someone used to say as "cream on the milk" ...by bitter understanding. Used to anger fits, one day I was advised to sit in meditation. I did and the anger seemed to have gone. but only five minutes later the outburst was as an volcano and even I myself was scared of its power. ... I never did it again

Overtime .. the anger disappeared by itself

Yes if one can do something to diminish it one certainly should do it but one also should be aware of suppression .... the stop the heat of the fire one can throw water on it but that can create poisonous fumes more dangerous than the fire.

Hahahaha ....life is strange

Letting go – or non-attatchment – a main principle of Zen and interesting to investigate. Confusingly (or happily), Zen says that there is no-one (no separate thing within us) to do the letting go – so what, who, let’s go? Equally they say, there is ‘no-one’ who becomes enlightened.

It seems that letting go (and enlightenment) is not something one does but something that is intrinsically what we already are – it’s all a bit of a paradox. Further investigation suggests that what prevents us from realising we are not separate from the whole, that we already exist in a state of oneness or enlightenment, is the very mind that seeks an explanation, or, the ‘experience’.

In The Zen Master’s Dance, Jundo Cohen describes Dogen’s interpretation so: - “Do not assume that what you realise becomes something you know or is perceived consciously as some state of ‘enlightenment.’ Although brought to realisation immediately here and now, the mysterious state may not be apparent to the mind. Its realisation may be beyond ordinary discriminating knowledge.”

I can only think of the story of the fishes who wanted to know what this mysterious thing called water was. Of course, they set off searching for it not realising that it was the (unified) whole they swam in and had their being in. All they needed to do was to swim and feed and, well – be fishes – and feel (or see) the nature of the reality which they were and lived in.

But it’s’ difficult, we do so desperately want to find and know the answer to all this apparent mystery. Perhaps all that’s needed is to realise that there is no-one, no separate entity there (here) to realise reality. Most unfulfilling.

@ RON E.

Before, say 1970, nobody had heard about yoga, zen, sant mat and advaita.

People were born lived and died without it.

Later the WORD spread and people HEARD about it.
The source of their interest was outside and the motivation inside.
These motivations had nothing to do with their interests.

That was not a good combination.

It reminds me of the holidays we shared with some families together. Some of us loved to have walks through the woods without having a goal or following a path. We never wanted others to come with us. One day one of the kids started to weep. We asked him what was wrong and he said that he was frustrated that he could not come with us and two of the other kids could come. We asked him if he knew what we were going to do. and whether he liked it. He answered that he knew but did not like it. Upon which we asked him why he insisted to come .... just because other were allowed and he not.

These days I believe it would have been better we had never known about these things at all.

Following a "hearsay path" is doomed to end in frustration.

@ Ron E.[ I can only think of the story of the fishes who wanted to know what this mysterious thing called water was. Of course, they set off searching for it not realising that it was the (unified) whole they swam in and had their being in. All they needed to do was to swim and feed and, well – be fishes – and feel (or see) the nature of the reality which they were and lived in. ........ Perhaps all that’s needed is to realise that there is no-one, no separate entity there (here) to realise reality ]

IMO that's problematic for the reason Jendo Cohen relates: [Do not assume that what you **realise**
becomes something you know or is perceived consciously as some state of ‘enlightenment'.]

The mystic Ishwar Puri mentions the Dalai Lama detecting multiple channels of the mind's
dialogue during mediation. One channel crows of attaining 'enlightenment' while a subtler
background one (which you don't hear in the beginning) laughingly disputes it. Not until a
state of devotional intensity and awareness is reached via mindfulness are you able to
move past the mind's obstacles.

"No jail is as secure as one which convinces you of the jailer's lies" --unknown

D’ness. Indeed, if you ‘know’, in the sense that the mind recognises it as a thing, an object, then yes, it must be just that – an object that the self/mind structure has hijacked making it part of its known and separate structure.

The real problematic issue is perhaps that the ego/mind pursues and desires some sort of state that it believes/thinks is something called enlightenment. No matter how often they come across statements that point to the fact that (like the fishes) we are already enlightened (in and of the reality of the sea).

‘Letting go’ could also refer to the ‘letting go; of the desire to find something called enlightenment – whereas paradoxically, all the time, we are it. Just to live life naturally, work, shop, play etc. may be all that there is. It’s perhaps a state of no-mind in the sense of not continually thinking about and desiring such abstracts that is enlightenment – which is not to say that there are not many things that need the intellect.

Um. Indeed, Zen and such is comparatively new to the west, as a particular way of practice. Although Christianity has always had its contemplatives who sought the ‘oneness of God’. The divine union is still the core message and promise of the gospel.

So perhaps it’s all a matter of semantics (and beliefs). Zen, Christianity, Taoist or Islamic practices could all be addressing the same thing. What divides things now could also be, as Christianity (for example) unfolded in the west, politics with its hierarchies and need to control people took over leaving the masses with just a series of beliefs and practices to adhere to (believe what we tell you and be saved) that were administered by church officials bent on protecting their positions of power.

And yes, I agree, having no path is great.

@ Ron E.

It was not that much about the semantics that I wrote but about the fact that BEFORE 1070 the interests in these "semantics" was restricted to a very small group .. at least in the west, ... in monasteries, some philosophers

I doubt, if the majority, following in the footsteps of the trendmakers of the 70ties would have any genuine interest of their own in the "mystic sematics" of their own culture. .... what makes the interests in "eastern forms" questionable.

As much it was trendy in those days to follow a guru, impress friends and family with zen, to day the same is done with being would be scientist and atheist.

In the old days people would come running in groups for initiation with this or that guru, school etc and these days hardly anybody asks for initiation.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)


  • Welcome to the Church of the Churchless. If this is your first visit, click on "About this site--start here" in the Categories section below.
  • HinesSight
    Visit my other weblog, HinesSight, for a broader view of what's happening in the world of your Church unpastor, his wife, and dog.
  • BrianHines.com
    Take a look at my web site, which contains information about a subject of great interest to me: me.
  • Twitter with me
    Join Twitter and follow my tweets about whatever.
  • I Hate Church of the Churchless
    Can't stand this blog? Believe the guy behind it is an idiot? Rant away on our anti-site.