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When does the path come to an end?

JeroenJeroen Do it with a smileNetherlands Veteran

“This is all there is. The path comes to an end among the parsley.”
— Alan Watts

One of the things that I have been wondering about is the end to seeking. Say you have meditated a number of years and had some surprising experiences, at what point do you say, this is what the spiritual path held for me, this is all there was? You can say, I want that experience of oneness or of enlightenment, but does that not become experience-chasing and following desire, dukkha again?

I’ve been listening to Alan Watts talking about the Tao, and it has been wonderfully refreshing. I have been gaining more of an understanding of the natural way, and of letting things take their course, actionless action, without mixing in the results of anger or desire. It called to mind Osho, who once said about enlightenment that at the end of the path you end up where you started.

BunksShoshin1personDavid

Comments

  • Jeroen
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    But is to concentrate what you want to do? Will it take you further on the path?

    I came across someone on another forum who spent a long time reading Osho, then moved on to Buddhism, studied widely in the eastern philosophies, many years on the path, and in the end had an epiphany, which was that he had not really changed or moved over all that time. So he dropped everything, and became a follower of the historical Christ.

    His story was interesting to me because it shows the kind of disillusion that can happen when you chase enlightenment for a long time. You learn to look at yourself, examine yourself until you really get to know your heart and emotions and behaviours, and although buddhism has taught you certain things, you feel the core of you is still the same. I can’t deny that in that respect my experience is similar to his, although Christianity is a very unlikely outcome for me.

    We all have individual paths to follow, different pointers to chase. But I am starting to think it may not end in the kind of earth shattering revelation that the buddha experienced.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Who says the Buddha experienced an earth-shattering moment? He just woke up.

    Waking up ius in itself not earth-shattering. It's a gradual process, but all we know is that at one point, we come out of unconsciousness, into consciousness...
    As matters currently stand, the moment I awaken, I begin to think about the progress my day will make. What I have to do, what I'd like to do, what I'd rather do, what I'm going to end up doing...
    Awakening, as experienced by The Awake One, actually runs along the same lines, with an additional realisation.
    Before awakening, fetch water, chop wood.
    After Awakening, fetch water, chop wood, but smiling to one's self.

    KotishkaFleaMarket
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    Does it ever come to an end? Peel back one layer and there always seems to be another.

    Technically there could be a point of ultimate cessation and letting go like they say, where there is no going back. But for most of us, if not all, its a life long journey of self discovery and development.

  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @federica said:
    Who says the Buddha experienced an earth-shattering moment? He just woke up.

    Well according to the sutras he did see all of his past lives stretched out before him.

  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @person said:
    But for most of us, if not all, its a life long journey of self discovery and development.

    Apparently for some people it does stop. This guy I came across said he couldn’t meditate anymore, and the disillusionment had cost him nearly everything he considered precious. Seems like a difficult way to end the spiritual search.

  • The reward of being in the present moment, well coordinated, and cultivating wholesomeness seems to me enough evidence of the benefits of the path. If Liberation comes or not, I dont know. Perhaps it is something that ageing can start to shake some doubts or hesitations upon my practice.

    Nevertheless, what is it that you seek? I think Buddhism teaches that there is nothing to seek at all*. I wish I could be more precise, but some answers can only be found in the deepest silence.

    *I'm confused myself now.

    JeroenShoshin1FleaMarkethow
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    Doubtlessly it is so, friend @Kotishka

    Kotishka
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    @Jeroen said:

    @person said:
    But for most of us, if not all, its a life long journey of self discovery and development.

    Apparently for some people it does stop. This guy I came across said he couldn’t meditate anymore, and the disillusionment had cost him nearly everything he considered precious. Seems like a difficult way to end the spiritual search.

    I guess if you're saying that leaving the spiritual life is and end of the path, then sure it ends once you've decided it isn't for you anymore.

    To that person specifically. It sounds like he has a sort of binary, on or off mindset. I'm not sure that sort of thing works if you want to live a lay life. If the path to him is an all or nothing quest for enlightenment and he didn't achieve it, then it makes sense that it would be a disappointment and turn him off.

    At least for myself I feel like the spiritual path as a lay person is mostly about balancing tradeoffs.

  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran
    edited January 31

    @person said:
    I guess if you're saying that leaving the spiritual life is and end of the path, then sure it ends once you've decided it isn't for you anymore.

    Perhaps it is that way, there are stories which talk about students of the path who one day give up the search and in that moment of total relaxation, find some part of what they have been looking for.

    To that person specifically. It sounds like he has a sort of binary, on or off mindset. I'm not sure that sort of thing works if you want to live a lay life. If the path to him is an all or nothing quest for enlightenment and he didn't achieve it, then it makes sense that it would be a disappointment and turn him off.

    I found it shocking. That someone could have searched with such dedication and in the end not found themselves enriched, but instead back where they started, that was a genuine shock to me. He said he had lost nearly everything that was dear to him… that is a surprising statement, because it shows there was still attachment, still a view of what was precious. Perhaps he did not come as far as he thought.

    At least for myself I feel like the spiritual path as a lay person is mostly about balancing tradeoffs.

    But you’re a very sensible and practical-minded person ;)

    BunksFleaMarket
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    Let go a little and get a little peace.
    Let go a lot and get a lot of peace.
    Let go completely and get complete peace.

    Ajahn Chah

    Jeroenhow
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran
    edited January 31

    @Jeroen said:

    @person said:
    I guess if you're saying that leaving the spiritual life is and end of the path, then sure it ends once you've decided it isn't for you anymore.

    Perhaps it is that way, there are stories which talk about students of the path who one day give up the search and in that moment of total relaxation, find some part of what they have been looking for.

    There is the idea that enlightenment isn't attained through striving but revealed by letting go. So this may be a bit of semantics but perhaps they haven't really left the path, they just changed their mindset?

    To that person specifically. It sounds like he has a sort of binary, on or off mindset. I'm not sure that sort of thing works if you want to live a lay life. If the path to him is an all or nothing quest for enlightenment and he didn't achieve it, then it makes sense that it would be a disappointment and turn him off.

    I found it shocking. That someone could have searched with such dedication and in the end not found themselves enriched, but instead back where they started, that was a genuine shock to me. He said he had lost nearly everything that was dear to him… that is a surprising statement, because it shows there was still attachment, still a view of what was precious. Perhaps he did not come as far as he thought.

    There's also the teaching that real progress comes through insight and that various calm abiding styles of meditation aren't as permanent. Those techniques suppress delusions more than liberate them. They're still important in that a calm mind makes insight much easier.

    At least for myself I feel like the spiritual path as a lay person is mostly about balancing tradeoffs.

    But you’re a very sensible and practical-minded person ;)

    I'm sure that's a big part of it. I've always looked at the people who maybe work part of the year and then spent a good portion of it in retreat with admiration and a bit of envy. I could never bring myself to that level of commitment. I'm probably too attached to security and stability for that sort of life.

    Jeroenhow
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @person said:

    @Jeroen said:

    @person said:
    I guess if you're saying that leaving the spiritual life is and end of the path, then sure it ends once you've decided it isn't for you anymore.

    Perhaps it is that way, there are stories which talk about students of the path who one day give up the search and in that moment of total relaxation, find some part of what they have been looking for.

    There is the idea that enlightenment isn't attained through striving but revealed by letting go. So this may be a bit of semantics but perhaps they haven't really left the path, they just changed their mindset?

    I think in the letting go something mysterious happens. You no longer adhere to the old patterns, but they are in the process of unbinding, they don’t disappear immediately but the pressure comes off.

    To that person specifically. It sounds like he has a sort of binary, on or off mindset. I'm not sure that sort of thing works if you want to live a lay life. If the path to him is an all or nothing quest for enlightenment and he didn't achieve it, then it makes sense that it would be a disappointment and turn him off.

    I found it shocking. That someone could have searched with such dedication and in the end not found themselves enriched, but instead back where they started, that was a genuine shock to me. He said he had lost nearly everything that was dear to him… that is a surprising statement, because it shows there was still attachment, still a view of what was precious. Perhaps he did not come as far as he thought.

    There's also the teaching that real progress comes through insight and that various calm abiding styles of meditation aren't as permanent. Those techniques suppress delusions more than liberate them. They're still important in that a calm mind makes insight much easier.

    It may depend on how far you’ve come. Shikantaza, just sitting, may be all thats left at a certain stage when the breath has taken you as far as it can.

    At least for myself I feel like the spiritual path as a lay person is mostly about balancing tradeoffs.

    But you’re a very sensible and practical-minded person ;)

    I'm sure that's a big part of it. I've always looked at the people who maybe work part of the year and then spent a good portion of it in retreat with admiration and a bit of envy. I could never bring myself to that level of commitment. I'm probably too attached to security and stability for that sort of life.

    Some people make their work their meditation. Other people use that saying as an excuse not to meditate.

    howFleaMarket
  • If one goes looking for a diamond and only finds a shiny rock, they might be met with disappointment. If one really wanted the diamond and not the shiny rock, they may give up the hard work. If one realizes the truth of the shiny rock, one may find it and call it diamond.

    When one hikes in nature to a favorite spot and is stopped along the way by the casting of the sunlight through the light fluffy clouds down through the branches and leaves of the trees casting dappled light across the path ahead. And that gentle breeze brushes ones cheek and ruffles their sleeves cooling the skin just under the fabric enough that one must take pause and be interconnected with the majesty that is nature and all we are immersed in. One is already at that favorite spot.

  • LionduckLionduck Veteran

    A path come to an end when you, I, we stop walking it.
    We can dress it up all we want. But even if the trail proceeds, for each traveler, the path ends when the traveler no longer walks it.

    Peace to all

    lobster
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited May 7

    @Jeroen said:
    “This is all there is. The path comes to an end among the parsley.”
    — Alan Watts

    One of the things that I have been wondering about is the end to seeking. Say you have meditated a number of years and had some surprising experiences, at what point do you say, this is what the spiritual path held for me, this is all there was? You can say, I want that experience of oneness or of enlightenment, but does that not become experience-chasing and following desire, dukkha again?

    I don't think anything repeats exactly. One flower unfolding is a different experience than another unfolding but neither are less an expression of truth just as one experience of oneness or enlightenment unfolds differently than another.

    I have been gaining more of an understanding of the natural way, and of letting things take their course, actionless action, without mixing in the results of anger or desire.

    And that may well be the ultimate conclusion.

    "Drishta dharma sukha viharin"- "dwelling happily in things as they are" or "the state of bliss in the present life"

    Jeroen
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @David said:

    @Jeroen said:
    I have been gaining more of an understanding of the natural way, and of letting things take their course, actionless action, without mixing in the results of anger or desire.

    And that may well be the ultimate conclusion.

    "Drishta dharma sukha viharin"- "dwelling happily in things as they are" or "the state of bliss in the present life"

    Yes, thats very much where the Tao ends up, when you let go of the path and you no longer feel compelled to follow the passions and the desires and the fears.

    @how said:
    Its end seems more within the purview of an ego's view than in any transcendence of that ego.

    I think there are different reasons to leave the Buddhist path. Like my friend, who found that after many years of study and practice he was still pretty much where he had started out. Now that could be due to faulty expectations, or an egoic view which needs regular progress, or a disagreement over the role of the passions.

    For me, I have gradually come to think that perennialism is more suitable to me than a narrow focus on one path. There are many wisdoms from Buddhism which will stay with me, but I feel the need to examine some other, more widely spread roads.

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