Monday, March 10, 2014


In Zen Buddhism or perhaps Buddhism as a whole, one of the central players is "delusion." Strange to think that any effort to extinguish or mitigate delusion might result in nothing so much as more "delusion."

Roughly speaking, "delusion" is the stuff that produces uncertainty and sorrow in life. Seeing and acknowledging it is central to a more satisfactory and peaceful lifestyle. Allowing greed, anger and ignorance, to name three of the most popular versions of delusion, to go unchecked is a recipe for a continuing, gnawing sense of unsatisfactoriness. If you can't identify the problem, there's no hope of solving it, right?

For this reason, Buddhists keep a sharp eye out for their attachments to name and fame and whatever else may provide temporary satisfaction but long-term discomfort and confusion. And the effort is not for the faint of heart: Once identified as a central difficulty, attachments can seem endless ... endless delusion.

But there is a fly in the ointment: Identifying what seems to be the cause of some pretty piercing discomfort can come to imply that what has been identified is somehow bad or inferior or that it should be shunned or escaped: Bliss is lovely; attachment sucks. In the midst of an intense practice, Buddhism can be reduced to a formula that goes something like this: If I extinguish or get rid of my attachments, my delusions, I will be home free! A lot of confounding sweat can be expended on behalf of such a whispered presumption... which is deluded.

If a person goes for a nice walk in the woods and trips over a root, how much sense does it make to excoriate or disdain the root? No sensible person would do that. Instead, such a person might rightfully encourage him- or herself to be more attentive. In the woods, it's as natural as sunshine that there will be roots. It's not a big deal. It has nothing to do with right or wrong or good or bad. There are roots in the woods -- what the hell did you expect? Without the roots, how could the woods be as wonderful as they are?

Buddhism is not about changing or improving anything. Attachments and delusions can sure as hell be painful but trying to extinguish them is like trying to breathe better by removing the air. Delusion is no joke but just because it provides so much discomfort is no reason to exclude or disdain or bad-mouth. Buddhism is about finding ease within what is inescapable rather than clamping the eyes shut in hopes that the monster will somehow not be there... and the angel will.

Are the woods any less beautiful because there are roots? Is the pain of falling on your ass any more or less painful because of some lofty goal? How could the woods be beautiful without the roots? How could Buddhism make very good sense without delusion, attachment, greed, anger, and ignorance?

If the name of the game is finding peace within what is inescapable, well, what could be more inescapable than delusion? What could be more inescapable than enlightenment? Is there reason to believe that anyone could escape being alive?

Who can escape from what is inescapable?

More to the point, who would want to?


  1. nice....
    tripping is just a small stumble on the path, not a complete "fall from grace."

  2. Aw. Reminded me of a long time ago when you mentioned about how "what if there was no nirvana" that made me kinda upset a while, it still does; sometimes zen teachers speak in ways that are like a favourite ice-cream, on a hot summer weather ice-cream is excellent, try eating it during a cold winter morning that's another experience; it's like a zen student that studies the Heart Sutra long enough knowing how there is no suffering up till no four noble truths, no birth up till no four life phases, then an Indian starts knocking at the door about how there really was suffering and birth and all that pile of cacophony.. as he i.e. the Indian stands at the door looking really hagged from all that suffering and birth I feel like kissing him out of sympathy as much as I would slam the door shut out of delusion.