Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dharma Talk 004: Effortlessness

There are some thorny issues in the enlightenment game surrounding what we might call "the absolute".  In the end game, or really any time, everything is seen as just happening.  No agency or doer-ship, so there's nothing to be done.  And you therefore get these admonishments, biblical even, to "cease striving".  Nothing to do.

In Buddhism, because of religious dogma (monks are not allowed to talk about meditative attainments, for example) and the resulting culture, no one really talks about getting anywhere or making progress.  Again, nothing to do.  And at a certain point on the path, I think this makes a lot of sense.

But I think there is a certain danger here, of teaching only the end game.

I've played guitar long enough to be able to effortlessly improvise a decent blues solo.  The flow and spontaneity, the effortlessness of the act is important, yes.  But if I were to preach effortlessness as the most important thing to a beginning guitarist, well, we might not end up getting too many soloists.  We might not get many people who can actually play the guitar like that.

I think effortlessness for a beginner is manifesting as the beginner's desire to work and accomplish.  That is their nature at that point.  They want to accomplish, so they strive, that is actually their path of least resistance.  In the end, once they have their chops, they can learn a different kind of effortlessness.

Enlightenment is something that can be "done".  If the monks can't say it, I will.  It seems to require training, even if you want to think of it as un-training.  I've never known a single person who has "gotten it done" without daily practice.  The last words of Buddha were supposedly "strive diligently".  Although admittedly, as one wise person said to me recently, Buddha said a lot of things.

Addendum: after stumbling upon it later, here's a hardcore version of this from Daniel Ingram, titled "Why The Notion That You Cannot Become What You Already Are is Such Bullshit"

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