Sunday, November 17, 2013

Satisfaction (I Can't Get No)

The Rolling Stones as Dharma Gate? The Buddha's first Noble Truth points to dukkha, the human condition variously translated as suffering, anxiety, dis-ease, and, you guessed it, Dis-Satisfaction. Describing the 45-year teaching career, in the Alagaddupama Sutta the Buddha states, "I have taught one thing, and one thing only: dukkha and the cessation of dukkha."

I believe I can safely state that the Stones were never associated with the Middle Path. Sure, they did start out poor, and have certainly ended up wealthy, but along the way the way, the Middle was only that brief moment between one extreme and the other. Ascetic is a word I've never seen used an adjective to describe them. Likewise, I can't recall the Stones ever being described as Bodhisattvas. But there it is, in the song that made them a big-time band, the First Noble Truth; the human condition where there is this feeling that there's something I don't have, that my getting it will make me happy, that happiness will be lasting, and it will validate my "self" is spelled out right there. ( Maybe we can throw in "You Can't Always Get What You Want" as a follow-up First Noble Truth song. So the Second, Third and Fourth Noble Truths haven't shown up so far in a Stones song, but there's still a chance).

Originally, I was going to call this Enlightenment (I Can't Get No), because I read a lot of blogs and posts about Buddhism, Buddhists, "Buddhists," and one of the threads that pops up fairly often is the topic of Enlightenment. (I usually prefer the term "awakened," but Enlightenment is more universal as a term). Non-Buddhists don't seem so concerned about whether there is Enlightenment, whether one "has/is" it, but among the Buddhists, it's a major topic. Different schools will get into it based on Buddha-Nature, and whether that is variously "empty," and whether that means that we're all already buddhas.

The thing that starts it all is the definition of the word "buddha," one of which is "the Awakened one" or "the Enlightened one." Whether that also means that the cycle of samsara is ended, that nirvana has been achieved are of secondary importance for this case. The ending of "greed. aversion and desire" is certainly appropriate, as that's how nirvana is usually described, and the lack thereof, and that dukkha is the presence of greed, aversion and desire ties it all together.

If one considers themselves to be a Buddhist, then at some point this whole Enlightenment thing is bound to come up. How much time is spent in a state of dukkha because of what would typically be the end of dukkha is as paradoxical as any Zen kong-an. The feeling that there is this thing called Enlightenment, that I don't have it, and that I'm lacking something because I'm Not Enlightened, pretty much defines dukkha. I not only see that as ironic, but also paradoxically that in and of itself, this basically proves dukkha and provides that sense of dis-satisfaction.

In the Mahayana branch of Buddhism, and especially in Zen, there's the pervasive teaching of Buddha-Nature. Dogen Zenji had his quandary of "If I'm already Buddha, why practice?" There was the Huineng era split over sudden versus gradual enlightenment, then sudden enlightenment with gradual cultivation. And of course, there's even some discussion of what Buddha-Nature actually is, whether there even is an "is" to it, whether it's something that one "has," and what can even "have" "it." (The "Does a dog have Buddha-Nature?" "Wu!" kong-an is a prime example). All that being said, it's pretty obvious why tathagata-garbha doesn't come out as a teaching until one is some way along the path. No sense in introducing paradox before one is ready to confront it and become comfortable with it!

Various teachers have had equally paradoxical statements about Buddha-Nature/Enlightenment, from Suki-Roshi's "You're all perfect the way you are...and you need a little work," to Seung Sahn's collection of talks called, "Wanting Enlightenment is a Big Mistake," the irony there being that Seung Sahn had his enlightenment experience, after which he spent the rest of his life cultivating it. He had "Don't-Know Mind," Suzuki-Roshi had "Beginner's Mind." Do these teachings lead to Enlightenment, are they Enlightenment itself, or do they say something else altogether?

Does objectification of Enlightenment lead to dukkha, by way of dualism? So far as I'm concerned, absolutely. So far as absolutes go, in the Absolute, putting separation between "me" and everything else is delusion. Does "things-as-it-is" mean there's dialectic rather than dualistic, so far as Reality goes? Certainly seems so to me.

Jianzhi Sengcan, 3rd Zen (Ch'an) Patriarch wrote the poem Xinxin Ming in the late 6th Century CE. Here's a bit of it:

"The Great Way is not difficult                                  
It only excludes picking and choosing
Once you stop loving and hating
It will enlighten itself....

Don't waste time in doubts and arguments
that have nothing to do with this.
One thing, all things: move among and intermingle,
without distinction.To live in this realization
is to be without anxiety about non-perfection.
To live in this faith is the road to non-duality,
Because the non-dual is one with the trusting mind".

"And I tried and I tried and I tried and I tried, Can't get no...Satisfaction."

And that's OK. It's just the way things are. I don't have to suffer more dis-satisfaction just because sometimes I'm dissatisfied. When picking and choosing about whether picking and choosing is good or bad is gone too, then the Way indeed becomes smooth.