Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I am struggling with "oughts" so much these days.

"You ought to sit", "You ought to open up to the moment", "You ought to accept"

The hand of thought can open in the moment, but I find myself starring at a fist and I strive to pry it open, because it "ought to be open."

This does not work.

I can clearly see myself as a mean, jealous, angry man, cussing at slow drivers, jealous of the attention my wife gets from her friends, dreaming of running away from it all to hide out in Japan somewhere, feeling like a spoiled child even as I write this tantrum when I know I "ought to be weighty and wise and crunchy and loving and reflective and cute and say nice things."

Barry, rename your blog "ought herding!"

I imagine there could be a pebble bounced off bamboo that would awaken me from this trap of knowing I ought not focus on all these oughts. Mirrors reflecting in mirrors - the tangled consideration.

Harry says Dogen thought there is no restriction in this murkiness.

There are hornets and there are kittens.

There are fools and there are sages.


Barry said...

I was thinking: "Nought Herding."

Harry said...

"Harry says Dogen thought there is no restriction in this murkiness."

Hi Lauren,

I can't really speak for Mr. D-san of course, but what does seem clear is that there actually is no restriction in this murkiness if I stop restricting it.

This doesn't really seem to be a matter of being aware of anything or of changing anything for the better, or of fabricating better 'awareness', but simply of sitting upright and 'not restricting' with no result/reward in mind. The old guys often said things like 'we should trust everything to the posture/figure of zazen' and that 'we should be prepared to 'die' on the cushion'. This seems to be in the same ballpark of what you're getting at (or it seems so to me).

If we're going to be assholes we should at least be thorough, and then a total asshole might realise himself. 'When you're up to your neck in shit what else can you do but sing' as the poet said: a desperate song, a protest song, a song that reclaims our human dignity. This wishy-washy feel good 'BuddhismLite' is for people who want to feel good about themselves, the Buddhism of the Patriarchs is for people who are prepared to lose every thread of their self in daring to thoroughly and joyfully sing in the face of the tyranny of everything the feel-good self demands. That may be the self expressed by the buddhas and patriarchs.

That's not to say that 'ought' does not have it's uses even if it is pretty useless when employed retrospectively (but even then, a little regret can inform our actions in the present I suppose?)



Lauren said...

I'll see your "Nought" and raise you "Knot Herding" (as in struggling with concepts - Hakuin's tangle of vines - when there is, as you say, Nought of more importance)

I appreciate you can't really speak for Mr. D, but I think you have spent so much time in Shobo that you can channel him pretty well. I keep thinking there is real treasure in what you write on your blog, but I can't quite put my finger on it cause its very Dogenesque. Which I think, by the way, is great...Thank you for your efforts. It makes me want to dive in the Shobo pool myself so I can wade around with similar skill.

"a little regret can inform our actions"... absolutely. Pick your self up, dust yourself off, and go sit again.

Thanks so much...

Uku said...

Ain't this life so wonderful! You can practice everyday, everywhere! :)

Take care, Dharmabro. Keep on sitting!

MyoChi said...

I know what you mean, been there, done that..:). I tend to side with Uku..I have started to try to practice with everything I do..I try but I am often not able to stick to a routine. I used to get very frustrated and then decided to make this a practice - to be able to practice at times when I am not formally sitting.