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Yesterday, I was eating some vegetable sausages and I noticed that there was just a set of teeth rhythmically opening and closing like a lonely metronome with no meaningful sensory instrumentals. It reminded me of one those animations in a Pink Floyd video where unidentified mechanical machinery rocks back and forth which then took me on various excursions through the woeful realms.

Afterwards, the thought occurred to me although with some slight linguistic embellishments here: "isn't it marvelous, isn't it astounding, isn't it stupendous that, amongst the processed and compressed remnants of soy beans shaped into a sausage, one can be brought to the very edges of the cosmos and back again but not actually traverse one single cubic meter of space."

Even going down to the shops in the car to purchase various types of cruciferous vegetables, movement is sometimes stillness.

In the Diamond Sutra, which I very carefully studied for four years, (I don't mean 'study' in the conventional or academic sense) the Buddha eludes to this by saying, "Subhuti, if any person were to say that the Buddha is now coming or going, or sitting up or lying down, they would not have understood the principle I have been teaching. Why? Because while the expression ‘Buddha’ means ‘he who has thus come, thus gone,’ the true Buddha is never coming from anywhere or going anywhere. The name ‘Buddha’ is merely an expression, a figure of speech.”

At this juncture and with the notion and fallacy of time and space falling away, intention and striving seem somewhat superfluous. Striving perhaps takes a new manifestation; one that shimmers ever so slightly rather than presenting as various forms of vigour. In fact, in the Buddhist sense, striving seems counter-intuitive to its original dictionary definition and certainly debunks the overly enhanced ideas derived from the noise that motivates a materialistic-ridden society.

The strange thing about the latter is that there is something ever so right about mundane human striving even in the face of its ensuing sufferings; that this rightness is the product of its own realising tendancies but through various infantile spasms - not infantile in the pejorative sense, but an infancy that is embodied by innocence and love. This is too subtle for me to embrace just now but I see it teetering on the very edges of my awareness prancing alongside some odd luminosity and unmitigated terror.

In the above context what is the meaning of striving to awaken?

Does the initial intention behind striving suggest a network of flimsy ideas indoctrinated by ones chosen context as a form of pacifying the mind from worldly distractions and that these spirituality fabricated artefacts must be later seen to be a hindrance?

Currently, my intention seems to be informed by the way my mind has been previously exposed to the practice which is to say: raw personal experience, but I question the flickering baubles we call spirituality, Buddhism, Theravada, Zen, Mahayana. Is this suitable?

NOTE: I understand it might sound like I'm all over the place but please be assured that this is not the case. I would rather not have a flurry of misdirected aims in this manner. The theme here is striving and intention and how they might be perceived - in the fullest range of perception - by different people and their traditions.

Thanks.

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In my experience, it's a kind of phase. First, you don't really strive, but you're intrigued by Dharma enough to keep learning hodgepodge and practicing once in a while.

Then your perception of samsara becomes negative enough that finding the way out becomes an urgent matter. This is the phase when you strive. Some people are more extreme than others and so get pretty unhinged while others are lukewarm, and everything in between.

Then you break through enough barriers or otherwise get enough insight into what's possible and what's fiction that your attitude to striving transforms. You realize that what you thought was striving was actually a neurosis fueled by samsaric confusion and what you thought was non-striving is actually the right striving. You begin to get the true meaning of the word "cessation" and in general the first three Noble Truths become your everyday reality rather than something abstract.

And then slowly but steadily you get more honest with yourself, until you get so honest that you can admit that you are not perfect. Far from it, you admit that occasionally you still get carried away by emotions and make mistakes. And if you think about it very carefully, you realize that being perfect is kind of impossible exactly because of anatta. And so, since you are not and can never be perfect, some amount of striving - not necessarily striving for something extraordinary but simply striving to not be a jerk - will stay relevant for as long as you live and probably even longer.

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    My lukwarming is epic :) . Jan 3 at 9:35
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    Very helpful. Thank you.
    – Max
    Jan 3 at 10:50
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    Dear @KilayaCiriello, I understand that's what you read in suttas, but the reality seen with insight is different. When you understand the nature of the mind and the meaning of anatta you see that being mathematically absolutely perfect requires absolute control and absolute knowledge which are impossible. That said, of course we can and should strive to walk the Path to its end, but I must tell you that its end is called "Liberation of Mind By Wisdom" and not airtight perfection.
    – Andrei Volkov
    Jan 3 at 15:34
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    @KilayaCiriello, These beings may be considered perfect in the sense that they are without craving, not in the sense that the output of their being and actions would not cause anyone else to criticize them or see them as doing wrong. There are too many people in the world with too many perspectives on what right/wrong is for that to happen. I think it as close to "perfect" as "perfect" can get.
    – Ryan Baker
    Jan 3 at 16:32
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    In this sense I always think about absolutes like clean and dirty and the play on words they create. How can anything ever be clean. If you take all grease from a machine moving parts won't work anymore. Machines get cleaned but will never be clean. Therefore I suppose enlightened beings to be perfected. In this world perfect does not exist but one can be perfected through going the eightfold path and using the middle path.
    – user19838
    Jan 6 at 17:19
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Well, striving (to awaken) to me is the opposite of laziness. If one is hit by negativeness (depression, exhaustion, confusion), one may sit down and do nothing for decades. In this case it is a lot better (reduces suffering) to actively say, I'll not let this affect longer that it needs to (similar to not craving on positive emotions, and living in ignorance in neither positive nor negative emotions) as in MN 148:

When one is touched by a pleasant feeling, if one does not delight in it, welcome it, and remain holding to it, then the underlying tendency to lust does not lie within one. When one is touched by a painful feeling, if one does not sorrow, grieve and lament, does not weep beating one’s breast and become distraught, then the underlying tendency to aversion does not lie within one. When one is touched by a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, if one understands as it actually is the origination, the disappearance, the gratification, the danger, and the escape in regard to that feeling, then the underlying tendency to ignorance does not lie within one. Bhikkhus, that one shall here and now make an end of suffering by abandoning the underlying tendency to lust for pleasant feeling, by abolishing the underlying tendency to aversion towards painful feeling, by extirpating the underlying tendency to ignorance in regard to neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, by abandoning ignorance and arousing true knowledge—this is possible.

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NOTE: I understand it might sound like I'm all over the place but please be assured that this is not the case. I would rather not have a flurry of misdirected aims in this manner. The theme here is striving and intention and how they might be perceived - in the fullest range of perception - by different people and their traditions.

Over the place or not, there is a cause behind the colorful and fantastical language you are using, it would be good to observe why. Remember, all things change and therefore normalize in the mind. Whatever you are experiencing recently or now, will seem as normal as the blue sky in some time.

In the above context what is the meaning of striving to awaken?

...

Currently, my intention seems to be informed by the way my mind has been previously exposed to the practice which is to say: raw personal experience, but I question the flickering baubles we call spirituality, Buddhism, Theravada, Zen, Mahayana. Is this suitable?

As your path develops, the previous spiritual interests and school based or technique based interest will fall away, what becomes of interest is your own personal path you have discovered, which shares the same aims as the Buddha and (most) practitioners.

You are discovering your own reasons to strive instead of just following the post signs your previous knowledge led you to. You are striving towards the results that your practice has given rise to.

Striving (toward results, Nibbana) is an important aspect of practice. Without striving, how could you arrive anywhere?

SN 51.15

"In that case, brahman, let me question you on this matter. Answer as you see fit. What do you think: Didn't you first have desire, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular desire allayed?"

"Yes, sir."

"Didn't you first have persistence, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular persistence allayed?"

"Yes, sir."

"Didn't you first have the intent, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular intent allayed?"

"Yes, sir."

"Didn't you first have [an act of] discrimination, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular act of discrimination allayed?"

"Yes, sir."

When what you are striving for (Nibbana) is realized, the striving for that will be the last to drop away.

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In the above context what is the meaning of striving to awaken?

The question -- of striving (desire, energy), and cessation -- reminds me of the Brahamana sutta, SN 51.15.

I'm not sure about striving "to awaken". The definition of right intention seems to me to be intentions towards harmlessness, non-grasping, kindness, and "skilful ways of thought" (which I guess might be a.k.a. wisdom).

As for "perfection" I think that, in the suttas, the word "perfect" (or what's translated as "perfect") literally implies finished or accomplished, done, having been done -- i.e. it's what's implied by the perfect tense grammatically. It appears in SN 56.11 as for example,

  1. suffering ... should be understood ... and has been completely understood
  2. origin of suffering ... should be given up ... and has been given up
  3. cessation ... should be realised ... and has been realised
  4. this is the practice ... which should be developed ... and has been developed

See also Sn 22.110 and the definition of vusita.


More about "striving to awaken":

  • Perhaps "awake" or "awakening" is a characteristic of the doctrine of other (later?) schools like Zen.

  • Perhaps "awake" is a natural/undefiled (original?) state, not the future goal (for which you strive).

  • It might be more informative to read about the Way (e.g. as it's spelled out in the suttas, above), rather than about a Goal.

    I find that people talk about the latter (the Goal) as a superlative, metaphysical, often with self-contradictory language (like Huineng's poem) -- including "not self", "not this", and "this but not this" kind of idioms -- or just adjectives without a noun.

See also this answer for an example/description of the "previously accomplished" sense of perfect/perfected.

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  • The word 'awaken' can be quite a loaded term for many. It can be seen to be a final attainment above all else - a goal as you put it. I was referring to this term from my own direct experience in which has occurred a series of 'higher understandings' that cannot be reversed or undone. It seems plausible that these higher understandings are the culmination of how the mind has been previously developed through practice, and that they continue to bear fruit within the context of that practice.
    – Max
    Jan 4 at 17:25
  • In the grand scheme of things it seems progressive, but in the confines of my current awareness it's acceptable to refer to potential 'higher understandings' as an awakening of sorts. You sort of get the feel for it, that something profound is on the horizon. Great answer. Thank you.
    – Max
    Jan 4 at 17:26
  • I had some time to fully digest your reply. I found it very informative.
    – Max
    Jan 5 at 20:39
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The thing about “mechanical machinery” that rocks back and forth is that there is something else moving it. But in your noticing the “set of teeth rhythmically opening and closing like a lonely metronome” what is it that is moving the teeth?

The salient aspect of what you notice seems to me to be that there isn’t ‘anyone’ chewing. If there isn’t anyone chewing, why do you take it to be like a mechanism, a “lonely metronome”? (love the poetic metaphor, btw ☺️) Doesn’t that erase what it is that you were noticing? Isn’t that processed experience? Not raw experience? Aren’t you squeezing your immediate impressions through a sausage maker (the discerning mind) trying to make sense out of a moment of clarity that just doesn’t fit our current sausage making ideas?

The Lord Buddha was much pleased with this reply and said: Subhuti, although terrestrial human beings have always grasped after the arbitrary conception of matter and great universes, the conception has no true basis—it is an illusion of mortal mind. Even when it is referred to as ‘cosmic unity’ it is something inscrutable.

The Lord Buddha continued: If any disciple were to say that the Tathagata, in his teachings, has constantly referred to himself, other selves, living beings, an Universal Self, what think you Subhuti? Would that disciple have understood the meaning of what I have been teaching?

Subhuti replied: No, Blessed Lord. That disciple would not have understood the meaning of the Lord’s teachings. For when the Lord has referred to them, he has never referred to their actual existence; he has only used the words as figures and symbols. It is only in that sense that they can be used, for conceptions, and ideas, and limited truths, and Dharmas have no more reality than have matter and phenomena.

The the Lord made this more emphatic by saying: Subhuti, when disciples begin their practice of seeking to attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, they ought thus to see, to perceive, to know, to understand, and to realize that all things and all Dharmas are no-things, and therefore, they ought not to conceive within their minds any arbitrary conceptions whatever.

That randomly opened page in the Diamond Sutra that I just quoted, was opened with the heartfelt intent to point you to a certain insight about what you are doing with your mind when, discriminating a lack of a motivator in your experience of chewing, you conceive a clockwork mechanism. That’s not a raw experience. Or it is, but you’ve quickly buried it under flavorful sauces to make it more palatable. That I opened to the page in the Diamond Sutra section quoted above, could mean there are many applicable words to guide you in the Diamond Sutra, or it could be a kind of responsiveness to my striving to help you. It’s true that God doesn’t roll dice—no “God,” no dice, no rolling—but hey, look what turned up!

Strive to resist the temptation to precook your raw experiences. That might bring you somewhere very interesting.

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    Excellent! Yes, words can give solidity to an experience. I can't really say much about where or what it all points to other than it seems all-knowing, all-present, all-encompassing but dimensionless, shapeless and edgeless. It's absolutely mind-shattering but plain & ordinary at the very same time. Thank you for your lovely reply.
    – Max
    Jan 5 at 21:01
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This is my answer for the newly modified post

It all depends. Does the context you are brining into question aid you in your current striving in your practice? If it is aiding, then no it would not be a hindrance; And if it's not aiding, then yes it would be a hindrance.

Your practice constantly develops and something that was previously an aid could become a hindrance, and vice versa.

It is up to you to examine whatever contexts arise and determine if it is an aid or a hindrance to your practice. If you have a more specific question about any of these contexts, you could ask, and peoples insights might guide you, but again, you should make your own sense of it and not blindly follow their answers, otherwise that would possibly be a hindrance for your practice.

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  • Ryan, I'm trying to have this question removed at the moment. Apologies and thank you for giving your time and energy.
    – Max
    Jan 2 at 21:48
  • Not a problem NeuroMax, hopefully this process was still helpful in some way
    – Ryan Baker
    Jan 2 at 21:51
  • Yes, it was very helpful. In fact your first reply helped me. Thanks for your understanding.
    – Max
    Jan 2 at 22:40
  • Ryan, my apologies again. It seems the moderator, Chris, did not want to uphold my request to remove the question. In that case, I will consider what I can learn from these answers.
    – Max
    Jan 3 at 10:42

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