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Serious Zen Buddhism question.?

Throughout Zen writings there are many examples of students asking the masters “How do I find enlightenment?”
Some masters answer: “Eliminate all desires. Even the desire to have enlightenment is itself a desire that must be eliminated. When you are completely without desire you will attain.”
Other masters answer: “You must have an all-consuming desire for enlightenment. If I staked you to the ground and put red hot coals on your body, what would you most desire? ‘Oh, to throw off the coals, Master!’ When you desire enlightenment as much as you want to cast off the coals is when you will attain.”
Are these two directly opposed viewpoints by the Masters, or are they saying the same thing in a different way?
Thoughts and opinions?


  1. The second quote goes against basic buddhism… saying that you must desire… Desire causes unhappiness… Unhappiness is not the way to enlightenment…
    But I’m not an expert!
    Edit: Sorry, didn’t know i wasn’t supposed to answer… But.. yeah… i stick with my opinion

  2. Sounds like total opposite ends of the spectrum. The first one sounds right, somewhat because it utilizes no-thing in ones daily life.
    The second one focuses on a burning desire, which is greed’s shadow who in turn is jealousy’s mother. A whole family tree of material distractions which lead to complication: the antithesis of enlightenment.
    Of course I could be WAY off about this.

  3. In zen things aren’t usually black and white. You might think that something (such as you and the universe for example) should be either 2 separate things OR 1 thing, but in zen they are both 2 AND 1 at the same time.

  4. It is like using a bow. At first you must have a strong desire to pull back the bowstring, this is difficult so you must use every once of energy you can muster. But then you release the bowstring and this must be without intention, a perfectly smooth spontaneous action.
    In the same way, you begin with a desire to attain enlightenment. Your desire grows until it becomes all consuming. Then when the desire for a desireless state, is all that is left, it naturally extinguishes itself. Leaving enlightenment.
    It all depends on what stage you are at, as to whether desire is an tool or a hindrance.

  5. The speed of our minds is not enough to see the reality of the world. That is impermanence. That means it exist and extinct at a very high speed. That speed is equivalent to the speed of creation and cessation of thoughts. Once you come to that level by meditation you can stay without thoughts coming to the mind. It is called void. When you stay in the void for many hours at a stretch it is possible to see the enlightenment.
    Enlightenment is there in the persons thoughts.

  6. One of the Buddha’s followers was mocked by the other monks because he spent all his time desiring enlightnment as a goal in itself. When aiming for it he couldn’t achieve it. Ajarn Brahm says desiring enlightenment is like holding up a glass of water and trying as hard as you can to stop it from shaking- it’s impossible. But if you leave the glass on a table and let it be, then the water is still.
    Zen have references to the mind like still water. It’s not doctrinal like other Buddhist schools. Zen masters give answers that aren’t meant to be an answer at all- reason being that we think with logic in standard steps, while in Zen they aim to remove eliminate these steps which are actually just constructs of what we consider reality. Hence the tree falling in the woods and one hand clapping kones.
    ‘Ordinary’ Buddhism (if there is such a thing) could be said simply as a middle way of not having a desire for things except for that which is good, like desiring good for all sentient beings; but this desire existing in a healthy form so that it’s not a craving but a form of detachment.

  7. Here’s a serious answer to your serious question.
    Both the “masters” you quote are completely deluded. Enlightenment doesn’t depend on desire or lack of desire.
    Here are some examples of how genuine masters from the golden age of Zen in China (roughly 700 – 900 CE) responded to such questions.
    Yunmen Wenyan, when asked what is Buddha Nature (enlightenment), said: “Dry s**t on a stick!”
    Dongshan Shouchu, when asked the same question, said” “Three pounds of flax!”
    Feng Hseuh, when asked how to express enlightenment, said: “I always remember springtime in southern China.”
    Great Master Matsu, when asked about enlightenment, said: “This very mind is Buddha!” Later, he said: “Not mind, not Buddha!”
    The difference between these genuine answers and the answers of those you quote is vast. These Chinese masters speak directly from enlightened mind. For these teachers, there is “just now.” Their teaching does not depend on technique or structure.
    When the great Chinese master Lin-chi (Rinzai) was asked about how he taught his community, he said: “I simply ask them to give up their lives.”
    The masters you quote are attached to technique, method, and thinking. This approach only produces attachment to technique, method, and thinking. I hope this helps you!


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