Author Topic: "The Natural Goal of Buddhism" or "Do You Know Why You Sit?"  (Read 496 times)

Matthew

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Dear friends,

We all come to meditation from differing backgrounds and, perhaps, for different reasons. From reading different experiences - the good, the bad, and the ugly - the way I see it now is that there are really two distinct goals of mediator (or practice):

The first we could call a person who wishes to ease the burdens of this life. This might be, for example, trying to use meditation to gain insight and control over some kind of psychological struggle, such as stress, depression, trauma, derealisation, or debilitating self-consciousness. There is, usually, no harm in this (though for some persons it is definitely worth learning with support): in fact there are well documented benefits.

Meditation can bring a sense of distance between the individual and such struggles. It can allow enough insight and detachment to see how our minds create these problems from habituated responses to the past, the perceived present, or the frightening future. Sometimes it is perhaps even simpler: just seeing the depressed (put your poison here) state clearly can liberate a person from the overwhelming nature of such a state: to the point they can let go enough to find symptomatic relief.

Meditation has been shown to be an effective intervention in depression treatment and many other areas too. There's a fair body of scientific literature on this, as well as programs such as 'Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction' and "Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy".

The second type of mediator it seems to me is a person who wishes to follow/attain the "Natural Goal of Buddhism". That is to say, a person who truly wishes to understand the teachings of the Buddha and to follow them to their natural goal.

So, I have questions that interest me about this:

Do you find this distinction to be a fair categorisation of the situation? What might you add, or disagree with?

Do you think you understand the "Natural Goal of Buddhism"? What is your understanding? Can it be explained in simple terms?

There is no judgement attached to being either of the types of practitioner described. It is what it is.

Buddhists often tell beginners, "there is no goal" in Buddhism, yet really this is only because it serves the beginner to have no goal, not to overthink the practice  ... Or is this a lie? Do we pretend there is no goal for our own selfish reasons?

That there is a natural goal of Buddhism is not hard to demonstrate.

I am examining issues such as these at the moment, having put more time aside for practice, and having made a commitment to be more mindful and self-honest. I'm interested to know how others view these ideas. They are not set in stone in my mind .. I'm kind of 'thinking out loud' here ...

Wishing you a blessed day,

Matthew
« Last Edit: May 09, 2021, 02:21:33 PM by Matthew »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Middleway

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Re: "The Natural Goal of Buddhism" or "Do You Know Why You Sit?"
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2021, 07:35:42 PM »
These two categories are seemingly different but they are in fact the same. 

End of suffering = enlightenment. Buddha very clearly pointed out that the suffering is universal. The natural goal is to end the suffering. Eight-fold path is the way to end the suffering.

For the beginner, there is a goal. The goal is to end suffering. Once the practitioner empties or purifies the mind, the body-mind consciousness drops away on its own. And finally the desire "to be" drops away as well. This is the end of suffering. This is the natural state of mind.

So, as long as we are body-mind conscious, we must practice. We must put in effort. This effort creates right conditions for the body-consciousness to drop away on its own. Once the body-consciousness drops off, we wait. There is no goal. The desire "to be" also drops off on its own.

This is how I understand the natural goal of Buddhism (at this time).

Matthew, in my humble opinion, you are asking / contemplating these questions because of the doubt.  Doubting energy can be channeled into an enquiring mind. Enquiring mind leads to insight. Insight sets you free.

In the dhamma,

Middleway

Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Guillaume

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Re: "The Natural Goal of Buddhism" or "Do You Know Why You Sit?"
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2021, 08:00:36 PM »
Hi Matthew,

I will speak for my case, I think I fall into a third category.
I remember the first time I saw the maslow's pyramid that I wanted to reach the top, which is transcendence (in Maslow's own revised version). Searching for truth, searching what life is really about.
I remember reading many books in my 20's to know what was the 'state of art', but didn't find answers, so I focused more on having an ordinary life (work, social etc).

Then I came back to it when I started experiencing intriguing coincidences (early 30's). I started questioning life deeper. I had always kept a strong connection to what I call 'Nature', which are all the coincidences that happen a lot in wildlife. If I have bad thoughts while in 'Nature', an insect is very likely to bite me, or I'll scratch myself on a prickly tree. And inversely, if I am on a good mood, nice insects will come to me. To me this was only happening in 'Nature', not cities, not in social life, not at work etc.
The coincidences and things that happened to me in the cities (that I considered almost dead basically) led me to think that I was missing something.

Then I started experimenting with plants, then meditation, then I read books, watched videos etc etc. I now know (and experience) that this is all related to our energy that we can raise with meditation, and that it happens everywhere, not only in 'Nature', and that the connection goes far beyond our eyesight. Lol, this is now quite funny retrospectively!

Buddhism always attracted me, because lots of things seemed to be aligned with my experience of 'Nature'.

I haven't studied many texts, but all I can say is that they are all great pieces of user manuals for recovering our link (that we all have when we are young) to the universe / cosmos / Nature / whatever, to what we are. We are not independent entities from the rest of the universe. If we think we are, that means we are in the wrong state of mind, and that we start burying the universe into our unconscious mind.

Before studying and practicing all the buddhist / yoga etc teaching, to me the best way to reconnect to Nature was to just to go for a walk. Gardening, hiking. Going to places away from the cities where Nature rules and tells you very quickly what you do right or wrong.

dharma bum

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Re: "The Natural Goal of Buddhism" or "Do You Know Why You Sit?"
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2021, 03:29:57 AM »
There are other categories of people who come to meditation
1. Some think it will help their goals such as in the corporate world, or in sports, or in military settings to overcome fear
2. Some are attracted by the possibility of mystical powers or some belief that they are special in some way
3. Some come to it to escape the worldly matters of employment, relationships, taxes etc.

When I am asked why I meditate, I have given answers like I want to be a kinder, more peaceful person. But in all honesty, my mind is not very constant and at different times it makes up new reasons. They are all true to some extent. Actually I don't really think of why I meditate. It makes me feel more peaceful. But over the years my ideas of what meditation is has changed. When I go for a walk, my awareness of birds singing, leaves shaking in the wind psychologically seem to me not very different from sitting and being aware of breathing.
Mostly ignorant

raushan

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Re: "The Natural Goal of Buddhism" or "Do You Know Why You Sit?"
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2021, 08:20:53 AM »
My point of view is similar to what Middleway said,

The main goal is to end of suffering. I guess every one in the world is trying to do the same thing one way or another. The difference between a normal person and the Buddha is that the Buddha realized that everything is chase. All the things normal people do to end the suffering will never bring the end. These are just temproary solutions.

We aren't perceptive enough as Buddha so we are following what Buddha said. We are still doing based on the assumption or what we read. I don't think we have viscerally realized this inside that everything is chase. That's why even monks or spiritual person get caught up in chase(different kind of chase).

As I understood Happiness, Enligtenment all these are state when there is complete understanding of the nature of suffering. If somenone try to get enlightened or Happy then that is also a chase becuase it's not real.

But suffering is real. We can move forward based on that.

These are my current understanding. I am not saying these are right. May be it will change in the future.

Guillaume

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Re: "The Natural Goal of Buddhism" or "Do You Know Why You Sit?"
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2021, 09:01:26 AM »
Fear of dying also.

Coming back on the question, I now have a another distinction.
There is the question of : 'why did we sit in the first place?', and the other 'why do we keep sitting?'.

For the first one, my answer is clearly 'finding truths and the meaning of life'.
Now that I have some answers, there are 2 reasons that will keep me sitting for a long time:
- there is a direct relationship between my energy level and how I live and experience this world
- meditation is great, it's not painful anymore, I really love it!

We usually come for certain reasons and stay / leave for others.

stillpointdancer

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Re: "The Natural Goal of Buddhism" or "Do You Know Why You Sit?"
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2021, 11:59:44 AM »
I remember a course I was on at my local Buddhist centre. It was to help us talk to new people who were due to come along for an open day at the centre. One of the interesting discussions was around past findings of why people came along to past open days, and it turned out that reasons were many and varied. I really think that there are as many reasons as there are people. With this in mind the initial courses offered to people on the day, usually six week introductory courses of one evening session a week, were designed with such variation in mind.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Alex

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Re: "The Natural Goal of Buddhism" or "Do You Know Why You Sit?"
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2021, 04:09:08 PM »
Interesting questions, Matthew. I will answer them below, but I’m also sensing a theme here, I’m not sure…
It seems that somewhere there is a latent question… “What is true? Or, what is truth?”
Or maybe it comes up because for me that is something that has been shifting in the last year or two. Namely, I’ve learned to stop asking myself if something is ontologically true.

We have understandings, concepts, signposts, goals, etc. They are all valuable and at the same time they are all fabrication. And that’s just fine, we can’t escape fabricating (or can we? ;)). Experience always depends on our way of looking. Any new or preferred way of looking is not more true, but we adopt because we feel it allows for more ‘letting go,’ more freedom. They cut through the things that dukkha relies upon. We sustain and consolidate those new ways of looking, so that insights can deepen in a cyclic manner.
The tangibility of the results can make us conclude that an insight is better or more true. It’s still fabrication, though, but we feel we’re on a track. The taste of freedom does not lie.

Alex

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Re: "The Natural Goal of Buddhism" or "Do You Know Why You Sit?"
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2021, 04:10:59 PM »
Do you find this distinction to be a fair categorization of the situation? What might you add, or disagree with?

Well, it’s a categorization, a construction, we’re clear about that.
Is it fair? Don’t know. I do think it’s useful or relevant because it speaks to intention, which is important as it sets the stage for growth or change.

I would add that it’s more like a continuum from learning self-regulation skills up to self-liberation. Along the continuum you might have self-exploration, or intent to understand more of this human life, or to strip away the confusions that make us feel separated from nature, to include some of the things that Guillaume referred to.

Do you think you understand the "Natural Goal of Buddhism"? What is your understanding? Can it be explained in simple terms?

I guess I just called it ‘self-liberation’. Seems pretty simple enough concept haha ;)
Seriously, can you explain what you are freeing yourself from to someone who has no idea how deep they are in the prison of craving, aversion and ignorance?
More generally, can the fruits of any embodied practice be understood or appreciated for someone who has not practiced regularly (at least for enough time to enable the practice to shape his perception and experience)?

Do I understand it? I’m thinking about how understanding keeps shifting. I’m thinking how some meditation milestones seem exotic and far away goals, and when developed they are simply natural or democratically attainable for those who are willing put in the work.
I’m happy that development comes in ways and shapes that I could not conceive beforehand. So, I’d say my understanding is provisionary at best. And again, not in ontological terms, but in practical ways it can inform my practice/life.

One question that remains for me refers to something Middleway suggested “that the goal is the end of all suffering”. But what is implied here? At this point in my life, I imagine (imagine!) that for example the suffering from having a human body will still be there.  But one might not add to it, or dwell on it.
Another question might be if the destination is ‘final’.
So, maybe no, I do sense a direction, but I don’t understand the final goal.

Alex

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Re: "The Natural Goal of Buddhism" or "Do You Know Why You Sit?"
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2021, 04:14:45 PM »
Buddhists often tell beginners, "there is no goal" in Buddhism, yet really this is only because it serves the beginner to have no goal, not to overthink the practice... Or is this a lie? Do we pretend there is no goal for our own selfish reasons?

That there is a natural goal of Buddhism is not hard to demonstrate.

Agreed, not hard to demonstrate (the importance of) directionality or intentionality.
But a goal? The words of the people that have gone before can be signposts, pointers to help orient our efforts and awareness.
And at the same time it’s just that, because the destination/understanding/fruit will develop naturally, feeling our way forward every step of the way (you’ve used similar words before).

Can we have a goal, when we have no idea where you’re eventually going? Because we actually never reach a preconceived goal, do we? We develop fruits that may in some ways correspond to our initial goals/conceptions, but in other ways it’s very different. So did we actually reach that goal?

Beginners need to be reminded much more of the no-direction aspect, as not to stand in their own way. As practice matures, people can hold a direction flexibly and without being too much attached to the outcome.

Do you know why you sit?

This also seems a questions with many layers. At this point I would just say that I sit because I would lose something invaluable if I would not.

Looking forward to continuing this conversation!
Kindly
Alex

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: "The Natural Goal of Buddhism" or "Do You Know Why You Sit?"
« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2021, 08:17:52 PM »
Looking forward to continuing this conversation!

Agreed - I feel this is a rich vein for inquiry.

I'm not ignoring the responses above but reflecting upon them, and waiting to see if others have something to contribute.

Kindly,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

raushan

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Re: "The Natural Goal of Buddhism" or "Do You Know Why You Sit?"
« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2021, 09:54:58 PM »


We have understandings, concepts, signposts, goals, etc. They are all valuable and at the same time they are all fabrication. And that’s just fine, we can’t escape fabricating (or can we? ;)). Experience always depends on our way of looking. Any new or preferred way of looking is not more true, but we adopt because we feel it allows for more ‘letting go,’ more freedom.

Alex posts makes sense. I mean if we see we really don't know anything. All the teachings we have received from Buddhism and we made a belief that we understood it.  I guess to move forward we have to leave everything behind all the teachings. Because it will always come in the way. We will stop seeking if we have the belief that we know.  I have noticed a behavior in me that when I try to answer a question in this forum or somewhere else for someone I remeber the concepts I have read or watched and fabricate an answer out of it. But that knowleged is not truth.. I deluded myself there that I know.

raushan

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Re: "The Natural Goal of Buddhism" or "Do You Know Why You Sit?"
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2021, 01:21:31 PM »


Do I understand it? I’m thinking about how understanding keeps shifting. I’m thinking how some meditation milestones seem exotic and far away goals, and when developed they are simply natural or democratically attainable for those who are willing put in the work.
I’m happy that development comes in ways and shapes that I could not conceive beforehand. So, I’d say my understanding is provisionary at best. And again, not in ontological terms, but in practical ways it can inform my practice/life.


Can you share some of the milestones you have reached which seemed exotic? May be I can relate with some.

Also We know that destination is defnitely there. We know that there is some place where if we reach we can say that yeah we have arrived. Yeah but we don't know the what destination looks like. Goal can be to reaching there or maybe not. But I do beleive there are lot of points where a person can get stuck.

Also if we interpret the four noble truth then it seems like goal to me. Overall destination broke into the four parts.

I may be wrong. That's my own interpretation.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2021, 01:28:51 PM by raushan »

Laurent

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Re: "The Natural Goal of Buddhism" or "Do You Know Why You Sit?"
« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2021, 11:51:15 AM »
Hello

I also distinguish two types of practitioners: worldly practitioners, who practice for a better life (with the lot of disappointments that this inevitably entails :D) and cessation-oriented practitioners, who seek the extinction of any goal.

It can be said that this has not changed since the time of the Buddha, when there were monk disciples and lay disciples who did not receive quite the same teaching. However, the Buddha has always insisted that the practice of dhamma should be connected to the end goal.

In my view, the practice of dhamma is a succession of steps whose purpose is important to understand in order to be discerning in practice.

I see this goal, by all its appellations, as it is taught, as the non-appearance of phenomena, and so my practice is oriented by this concept so that I am always in an approach of calming, stopping, tranquilizing, letting pass and that if something intense manifests itself, I am only interested in it to the extent that it can be calmed or understood, otherwise I no longer care (I try).

It is also taught that this cessation can only be achieved through some very deep understandings of the nature of reality. So there is a knowledge aspect to that. However this knowledge is acquired by direct vision, so I have no particular reason to seek this since it will come on its own.

With this in mind, I will naturally tend to reject events that bring excitement or project (i try), etc. see them as going in the opposite direction to the goal.

So much for me.
:)

 

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