Home Discussion Forum The 'wanting' paradox?

The 'wanting' paradox?

There is a famous Zen parable about a young man who went to one of the fiercer Zen masters asking to be enlightened. The master grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and held his head under water in the river until he was frantic for air. When the master let the boy up he said, “When you want enlightenment as much as you wanted air just then, come back and ask again.”
OK. Very graphic.
But we are told that ‘wanting’ keeps us locked in the world of suffering, stuck in the same old ego stuff.
So how can we resolve that paradox?
How is it possible to want it enough to do all the stuff you seem to have to do, and yet be free enough of wanting to be ‘shown the jewel’?
I sure want Kensho, how can that very wanting not forever exclude me?
Ah, Sunman. I’ve read all sorts of Zen stories, met monks and masters. I’ve read The Open Secret’. I really used to have a pretty good idea of what enlightenment was.
Now I only know I want it.
At the moment, CC, wanting it enough to keep the broom moving and not wanting it so much as to lose myself in the wanting, that actually IS the Koan.
Right now, ‘my cup runneth over’.
The kindness of the Sunman.
And yes, I sure do know what you mean!


  1. That boy didn’t want air, he needed air. What do you need? I love the paradox – the getting is in the losing of the attachment.

  2. that all sounds a bit fancy dan to me
    have fun
    help those less fortunate than you (of which theres at least 3 billion)
    thats all it takes

  3. is it useful to be like Alice? when she waked towards where she wanted to go, she kept returning to the place she had been.
    when she walked the opposite way to her required destination, she found hers’elf where she had wanted to be
    blessed be

  4. Your question is not hard to answer, wanting truth is not a block to Kensho. This being willing to do what it takes will put you in the right place when it comes to receive it. When the mind is ripe it falls, then enlightenment flowers. Of course there is aways Koan study some say that is quicker. Get out the broom and sweep the path clear of traces, and when pebble meets bamboo, well you know.
    Sunman is right, we are given a glimpse, now the real {work} dream begins. *sip* Good tea Jon. *sip*

  5. The wanting in itself is just a manifestation of enlightened energy. The dance of emptiness and form. No need to get rid of anything, even desire, even your ego.
    Just see it for what it is, an energetic display, a dance.
    I think the dedication of practise to all sentient beings is very important to.
    Perhaps the Ideal of helping others to reach Realisation is what it is really all about.
    *** We have to learn to feed each other. ***
    I had a brief ‘experience’ (possible psychosis Ha! Ha!) on an intensive retreat once.
    The practice at that stage had become as natural to do as breathing, it would have taken an effort to stop practising.
    Anyway it got to a stage where me having My experience didn’t matter anymore, I just tried to channel my effort to the person opposite me, for them to have an experience. I really felt love for them. I didn’t matter anymore if I had an experience or not. It really wasn’t the point.
    At that moment I did have an experience and the person sitting opposite me too!
    As the Beatles sang: All you need is love, da, da, da, da, da!
    (or maybe I just went bonkers! MMmmmm!)

  6. Makyo is the fruit of desiring Kensho, just as Romance is the goal achieved by one desiring Love.
    To achieve Kensho, one must simply allow it to happen. The purpose for “all the stuff” is to allow enough time for it to happen. For some, it comes quickly. For others, it takes a lifetime.
    You are the one who built your ego boundary. You fed it energy and created it as strong as you believed it needed to be. You must be the one who allows this to dissolve. The more you try to destroy it, the stronger it becomes. When you understand that that it is not real, it will become transparent and fade like a morning mist burning off a low land.
    Words feed the thoughts which keep it in place. Discipline is the method to stop the words.

  7. Early Hours of the Morning: 8th July 2007
    Not a Good Idea to “Speak” Later – and of Course: Witchy, You “Star” at the Same Time as French Antigone is Asking about
    “Bach Essences/Barfleur/Magdalena” which Work Wonders & which Deserve a Star by memeLeo/Alias “Lionne de France.
    So:” Stop Keeping Me on this Site, SVP, Agneaux Mystiques”; Me TYRED of Playing “Knock ! Knock ! Knocking on Heavens’ Doors”
    You are Free – in case You Don’t Know IT Yet.
    Take Example “MERRILY” on John Lewis Burckhardt:
    -“Swiss-Born…not at all a casual Traveller…a Scholar of Great Diligence with a Passion for Detail…Excelled in Everything He Undertook, whether IT was the Study of medecine, chemistry or Foreign Languages…a sedentary Life among his Books should have kept him happy for years. But he would have nothing of all this. A whirlwind of the Imagination carried Him Off to Africa and the East, and instead of a Schoolmaster in cap and Gown we have a Nomad dressed in gellabiah and Turban and riding a Donkey. He was a Man obsessed, BUT methodically obsessed. In these Wild and Dangerous Surroundings He was as Painstaking and Logical as He Would have Been in a classroom. He is, as IT were, a Grammarian of Exploration, a Pedant turned Explorer, a Classicist in the Wilderness, and He IS Saved from Dullness by a very Pleasant Sense of Humour. He is the Sort Of Man Who Will Put Up with any Hardship to satisfy His Curiosity, and as such he Belongs to that Little group of gifted Romantics – B & B – who Explore Africa, not for Trade, or for Christianity, or reputation, or EVEN for Geographical reasons, but simply because they are Absorbed by What They SEE…………(There was a Good Deal of confusion about The Niger and The Nile at this Time…)…
    Buckhardt prepared Himself for The Journey by Walking barefoot through the English Countryside, sleeping in the Open, and Living on Water and Vegetables; and in 1809 he set off……….he never Returned to Europe, and made very little Contact with Europeans in the East. ‘I am proceeding from Hence’ he Wrote from Malta (where He Had Grown a Heavy Beard), ‘as an Indian Mohammedan merchant…and Shall soon Be Lost in Aleppo’. Nearly Three Years Later, He Turned Up in Cairo by Way of Petra, which Few, if ANY, other Europeans had visited since The Middle Ages, and…was accepted as an authority on Islamic Law. IT is some Measure of His Progress in the Language that while in Syria he Made a Transliteration of Robinson Crusoe into Arabic, and That, there Being 150
    different words for Wine in Arabic Poetry, He knew Them ALL.
    ( He Loathed The French” ,,,but Don’t Quote That SVP, smthng to Do with Bonaparte & the Austrians…) pages151-153 The Blue Nile @ Alan Moorehead 1962, 1972
    Penguin Books.
    So Jon Cannon Ball – Steady, Ready ?:
    Play “Sheikh Ibrahim ibn Abdullah” – methinks IT Would Solve so many “Jewels” as you Say.
    Please Understand also that Our “Swiss version Of Gulliver”
    would Have Suggested: “Well, Move on to Other Pastures…”
    ( Methinks our Audience out of IT, belongs to “Lilliput”: IT actually Likes Being nothing – so… Go…………………………..)
    Me Flying out Soon Across The Atlantic. Where ?
    Ah ! Will tell you When & (If) Me gets Back… Got to Check my Curiosity,
    even If IT is not as Grand as The Swiss Sheikh AND Me gets a Soft Bed)
    So Long, Witchy )o(, Jon & Co.

  8. While still problematic, the desire for Truth differs a bit from illusory desires in that the pursuit of Truth leads one away from illusion instead of deeper into it, in spite of the fact that the individual is actually seeking a concept rather than Truth, since Truth is beyond mind and a concept is all it has.
    Although Truth is sought, the process is not about mind finding Truth but rather revealing illusion. The pursuit of worldly desires is found to be futile, acceptance is nurtured, attachments are released and ultimately the individual identity that seeks is seen to be part of the illusion that dissolves in the light of Truth. The seeker actually seeks his own ending though this only becomes clear in the later stages.
    So, from the perspective of the seeker, there must be the willingness to stop at nothing in the search for Truth. This willingness makes it possible for mind to walk itself to the gallows. The individual can do no more since an illusion cannot and will not kill itself.
    At this point, even the desire for Enlightenment must be surrendered in the recognition of the futility of the attempt of the individual to cause this. Should it occur, ego death and Self Realization are a singular, simultaneous event. It is uncaused.

  9. I would humbly submit that there is not a thing wrong with wanting enlightenment, as long as the goal is sought to be of benefit to all sentient, or limited, beings; who are blinded by ignorance and stumbling around at the edge of a huge cliff. Also, this desire can be transmuted into the energy needed to sustain the desire. After all, bodhisattvas are like boxers, who having this goal of defeating an opponent, willingly step into the ring and get all bloodied and bruised time and again. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to do this for others. This altruistic wish, magnified infinitely by wishing to do it for friends, enemies and strangers alike (even animals and beings in hells and heavens) is the mind that aspires to enlightenment, or bodhicitta. You could attain liberation for yourself, or nirvana, through the practice of the three higher trainings of ethics, concentration and wisdom – with the latter taking as their object of observation emptiness but it would not be the unsurpassable, true complete enlightenment of a Buddha. One would need bodhicitta to do that, as only bodhicitta can eradicate the imprints of the afflictions or obstructions to omniscience. Furthermore, just as the bird needs two wings to fly across the ocean; the bodhisattva needs the two wings of method (bodhicitta) and wisdom (the wisdom realizing emptiness) to fly across the ocean (of suffering) to the other side (Buddhahood.) These two together are what keep you in the Mahayana non-abiding nirvana – avoiding the extreme of peace (nirvana) and suffering (samsara) expressly for the sake of others. If you plan on it taking multiple lives to accomplish, this will increase your motivation and help you sustain your effort much, much longer which will have the actual effect of increasing realization. Also, it is fitting to dedicate every bit of study, practice and constructive action (like helping others) to the great enlightenment – which “seals” the activity and prevents it from decrease. Even a huge bucket will fill up one drop at a time. Best wishes!

  10. There are more paradoxes to be found in the search for enlightenment. The first one being that I don`t actually even know if such a thing exists, or if it is what is being painted as enlightenment. In my case it was that I really did not have anything to lose, having been totally disempowered, and apparently being offered the pearl of great price in exchange for the rest of my life. It was sort of a Faustus deal, apparently.
    A second and it may be connected with the first is that it is always pointed out that the lower cannot see the higher. A false teacher can always hide behind that one, and there are plenty of those around.
    A teacher can be partially enlightened and then suddenly make an error and crystallize wrongly after one has already committed to give up everything. I have seen cases where this revelation has left students wishing their heads had been kept under the water in the first place and I don`t mean figuratively either.
    Sorry to burst some bubbles, if that is actually possible, but forewarned is forearmed, they say. Cheers!

  11. Paradoxes are solvable on a higher plane, like the 2 outer points of a triangle meeting at the vertical point in one at a higher distance. All dualities, paradoxes, have a principle, reality that makes them one, it neutralizes the apparent conflict. All conflict is to be resolved without ourselves, thus we are peacemakers.
    What seems to be apparent in this parable is the fact that one can’t ask for enlightenment, it has to be an innate function of their being, it has to be from the force in them which drives. It is natural, like when one breathes – it is effort without effort (not saying that application isn’t involved, but that this is what innately drives you so you are trying, but it is not trying). Being submerged under water we are put into conditions that are contrary to our nature, and what I am saying is that we are immersed within a condition were we are held to different laws of the environment and being in such an environment we need specific compounds in order to survive. This must be a thing that is apart of you, because you are immersed in a reality that does not respond to your higher nature and there is a force within that must drive you. This is saying that if you want to know the truth you must become obsessed by that truth, it must become your very nature.
    The reason why people attach to things, mindsets of this world is because they are divided within themselves and each sub-division has a desire in mind. This desire is to be filled, although since different stimulus is provided, the enticement is the very thing that is contrary to its nature alone. Having an ideal is not a want so much that it is a potential, within your nature already that is expanding to that level. Being in want serves the function of being full, both are bad alone, but together they are one. There are operations of mind that you must be in want of, in order to utilize them to becoming full. So you must not be in want externally, as in wanting of an image or type that is outside of your being, but be in want of the things which will help you to transform, be in want to that which is in you and works towards raising the whole.
    You must become a fullness. You came as emptiness, but you must live as a fullness. I know what I am saying is different from the eastern teachings with tell you to become empty. But I am a gnostic.
    I will quote something from a “Non-accepted scripture by orthodoxy,” The Apocryphon of James, “The Savior answered and said, “For this cause I have said to you, ‘Become full,’ that you may not be in want. They who are in want, however, will not be saved. For it is good to be full, and bad to be in want. Hence, just as it is good that you be in want and, conversely, bad that you be full, so he who is full is in want, and he who is in want does not become full as he who is in want becomes full, and he who has been filled, in turn attains due perfection. Therefore, you must be in want while it is possible to fill you, and be full while it is possible for you to be in want, so that you may be able to fill yourselves the more. Hence, become full of the Spirit, but be in want of reason, for reason the soul; in turn, it is (of the nature of) soul.”

  12. (1) If you can think about enlightenment even in the moment of near-death emergency, I bet you’ll be enlightened really soon.
    (2) I heard enlightenment requires tremendous energy to be focused on (but others say its easy, too) in that case you need such great passion for the enlightenment, passion as strong as your body’s desire to live…
    (3) My teacher told me if you drop the ‘wanting’ and ‘choose’ to be enlightenment, it’s easiest way to be enlightened. We strongly believe we are not enlightened, since we really experienced the pains, sorrows, unhappiness, etc etc etc. We have chosen to believe the experience is real thing, and have chosen not to believe the great stories that we are love, truth, got, enlightened being already. When I heard this from my teacher I was so happy, I believed what he said, and I accepted love of god to be my truth (even I’m that awaken about… one minute for a day ^.^)
    Long time ago, zen teachers were so picky to whom to send down the secret of enlightenment. It’s very famous masters pick only few guys after ‘tests,’ and for next ten years or so didn’t teach anything – only made them servants. Then, if the poor(?) student was still passionate about the truth, the teacher said one or two thing which suddenly wake up the student. Nowadays it… doesn’t work so well. (People are not that naive any more)

  13. The secret is hidden in what you want. Everything after all has its source from The void.
    So if you want unwantedness, and desirelessness.. Than welcome u are ..
    — deito

  14. When we don’t mind that we “want”… there is freedom.
    Wanting is not excluded from ‘what is’.
    There is a sort of vigilance to see the ‘wanting’ and be o.k. with it. I guess that could feel like being held under the water! 😀

  15. I have learned most recently that the secret to attaining true enlightenment is to just be content with where you are. When we want beyond our Present, we are not IN our Present. Regardless of whether we want things to be as they were or things to be as we anticipate them being, we are ignoring the Presence of the Present, which you know from other parables is a Gift (get it, she asks sarcastically?)
    The suffering stems simply from not having what you want. You cannot control the speed with which you accelerate your energies. You can attune yourself to higher and higher energies, you can study, listen and learn, you can do ALL the RIGHT things, and yet be still left wanting, because you perceive you have not achieved what you really want.
    This is where you are failing yourself. The simple fact that you want enlightenment has put you on a path toward it. Do you honestly expect me to believe that you are not enlightened? Do you honestly expect me to perceive you as a dense, jewel-free human being? You? With a mind like the one you have presented to us?
    Perhaps the only thing you need to do is to reduce your expectations to zero. You have already gotten everything you have wanted. You must look around you and find the jewel, for it is right where you are.
    Suffer yourself no more, Jon. Embrace the moment, and perhaps you will find you have had Kensho all along.

  16. The ego is obsessed with wanting – safety, validation, stimulation, love, material possessions, etc. All illusions about lack.
    Whether you ALWAYS get what you want and feel you’ll die of boredom, or NEVER get what you want and wish you were dead from frustration – either way – you finally realize this is not really living and know you NEED another way. The path or master appears.
    Or worse, when the life of someone you love is in meltdown and your own egolessness and enlightenment must stand in the breach, the way presents itself.
    Desperate need to understand WHY makes us seek as though our very life depends upon it. Because it does. This is NOT ego “wanting” – which is really doing/getting (ie, What can I do to get what I want), but NEED for an experience of “full aliveness” – being/having.

  17. It is not “wanting”
    It is really “needing”
    Master told that boy “When you need that enlightenment as much as you needed air; just then, come back and ask again.
    There is no contradiction.


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