MCTB The Nothing to Do and You are Already There Schools

On a somewhat different note, I feel the need to address, which is to say shoot down with every bit of rhetorical force I have, the notion promoted by some teachers and even traditions that there is nothing to do, nothing to accomplish, no goal to obtain, no enlightenment other than the ordinary state of being, no practice or tradition that is of value, no technique that will help. The other side of this same coin is the point of view that you already are realized, already there, already completely accomplished, and you essentially should just be able to be told this by them to understand it for yourself, which, were it true, would have been very nice of them, except that it is complete bullshit. The Nothing To Do School and the You Are Already There School are both basically vile extremes on the same basic notion that all effort to attain to mastery is already missing the point, an error of craving and grasping. They both contradict the fundamental premise of this book, namely that there is something amazing to attain and understand and that there are specific, reproducible methods that can help you do that.

Here is a detailed analysis of what is wrong with these and related perspectives. Some defenders of these views will claim that they are the most immediate, most complete, highest and most direct teachings that one could promote, but I will claim that they do not lead to much that is good that cannot be attained by conceptual frameworks that are not nearly so problematic or easily misconstrued.

First, these notions encourage people to not practice. The defenders can say what they like, but again and again I see people who subscribe to these sorts of notions resting on their cleverness and grand posteriors and not actually getting it in the same way that my accomplished meditator friends get it. It seems so comforting, this notion that you are already something that you, in fact, are not, or that there is nothing that you could do that would be useful.

The notion that people already are something begs the question: What are they? These views tend to imply that they are already something such as perfect, enlightened, realized, awakened, or something even worse such as Awareness, Cosmic Consciousness, The Atman, an aspect of The Divine, etc. all of which cannot actually be found. While Buddhism does sometimes go there, using terms such as Dharmakaya and Buddha Nature, these are very slippery, high concepts that were added later and require a ton of explanation and practical experience to keep them from becoming the monsters they nearly always become in less experienced hands.

Awakening involves clearly perceiving universal characteristics of phenomena. While one can attempt to rest comfortably in the intellectual notion that these universal characteristics are there anyway and be comforted by teachings such as easily misconstrued statements like, “I have gained nothing by complete and un-excelled enlightenment,” the whole, core, essential, root point of all this is that there is something to be gained by becoming one of the people that can actually directly perceive the true nature of things clearly enough to change fundamentally the way reality is perceived in real-time. The straight truth is that the vast majority of people do not start out being able to do anything even close to this, and most are lucky to be able to stay with three breaths in sequence before wandering off into their neurotic crap, much less understand anything liberating about those breaths. The notion that everyone already is someone who can perceive reality the way the masters do without effort in real-time is a fantastic falsehood, lie, untruth, and in short, one great load of apathy-creating insanity.

If one goes around asking people without very good insight into these things, i.e. the unenlightened, about basic dharma points, points that are obvious to those who have learned to pay attention well, one does not find that everyone already is a person who is perceiving things at the level that makes the difference the dharma promises. Further, even those of lower levels of enlightenment generally have a hard time saying they really are able to perceive the emptiness, luminosity, selflessness, causality, transience, ephemerality, etc. of reality in real-time at all times without having to really do anything. In short, the notion that this is as easy as just being what you already are is wildly off the mark, as the vast majority of people are woefully underdeveloped on the perceptual front in question.

Thus, all reality testing reveals that the two schools are missing a very fundamental point: while the universal characteristics are always manifesting in all things and at all times, there are those who can perceive this well and those who cannot, and meditative training, conceptual frameworks, techniques, teachers, texts, discussions and the like can all contribute to developing the internal skills and wiring to be able to realize fully what is possible, as thousands of practitioners throughout the ages have noticed. I myself have known before and after, meaning that I know what I was capable of perceiving and understanding before I underwent meditative training and after, and no amount of being fed the concept that I was already as developed as I could be, was already enlightened, was already there, had nothing to do, nothing to develop, was already as clear as I could be, was already perfectly awake, etc. was going to make the difference that practicing for thousands of hours over many years did.

It would be like saying: you are already a concert pianist, you just have to realize it, or you already are a nuclear physicist, you just have to realize it, or you already speak every language, you just have to realize it. It would be like saying to a two-year old: you already understand everything you need to know so stop learning new things now, or to a severe paranoid schizophrenic: you already are as sane as anyone and do not need to take your medicines and should just follow the voices that tell you to kill people, or to a person with heart disease: just keep smoking and eating fried pork skins and you will be healthy, or to an illiterate person with no math skills who keeps having a hard time navigating in the modern world and is constantly ripped off: no need to learn to read and do math, as you are just fine as you are, or saying to a greedy, corrupt, corporate-raiding, white-collar criminal, Fascist, alcoholic wife-beater: hey, Dude, you are a like, beautiful perfect flower of the Now Moment, already enlightened [insert toke here], you are doing and not-doing just fine, like wow, so keep up the good work, Man.

Would you let a blind and partially paralyzed untrained stroke victim perform open-heart surgery on your child based on the notion that they already are an accomplished surgeon but just have to realize it? Would you follow the dharma teachings of people who feed other people this kind of crap? Those who imagine that everyone somehow in their development already became as clear and perceptive as they could be just by being alive is missing something very profound. Do they imagine that you can just remind people of these things and suddenly all wisdom and clarity will suddenly appear? This is mind-bogglingly naive.

I have gained so much that is good and lost so much that is bad by learning to practice well, learning to concentrate, learning the theory, learning insight practices, going through the organic process of the stages over decades, reading the stories, reading about the lives of the great practitioners, having dharma conversations with dharma friends, debating points, wrestling with difficult concepts and how to apply them to my actual life, teaching, learning, studying, playing with the powers, writing, realizing how things are, and delving deeply into the sensate world that I am astounded that anyone would want to try to reduce something so grand, wonderful, deep, rich, amazing and profound to such a paltry, ridiculous concept as the notion that all that is already in place in everyone regardless of what they have done or not done. All those benefits, skills, abilities, powers, states, stages, experiences, insights, and fundamental perceptual changes simply were not available until I did the work, took the time, participated in the process, and no amount of anyone telling me it was otherwise would have helped or made it so.

I know of no examples where the necessary and sufficient causes for the arising of these benefits did not involve some kind of work. In short, I say to those who persist in promoting the Nothing To Do School and the You Are Already There School: STOP IT! You are spreading craziness, and this is craziness that many people will not be able to tell is craziness, and that appears to include those who promote these fallacies. While I usually do not go so far as to tell people that there is something so deeply wrong with what they think and how they communicate it that they should stop it immediately and forever, this particular point is a great example of something I consider abhorrent and worthy of profound revision.

Regardless of any kind intentions, the teachings of these schools take a half-truth that seems so very nice and seductive to neurotic practitioners who can barely stand another achievement trip and have such a hard time with self-acceptance, and that half-truth is distorted into sugary poison. There is no need to tie the three useful concepts of 1) no-self, 2) self-acceptance in the ordinary sense, and 3) the notion that the sensations that lead to understanding (if clearly perceived over and over again) are manifesting right here, right now, to such a perversely twisted yet seemingly benign and similar concept as the one they unfortunately promote.

MCTB Final Points