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Questioning my motivation in practicing

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I was listening to a couple episodes of the Imperfect Buddha Podcast today and I heard two things that made me question whether I have the right motivation in practicing.

1. The host said that while his practice has deconstructed his sense of self in many ways, it hasn't made him happier at all.
2. Hokai Sobel, in an interview, said that mysticism is a really bad way to seek happiness.

I've heard a lot of other advanced practioners say similar things, from Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse's book Not For Happiness, to the Zen quip that "If you want cool experiences go skydiving". It seems like a lot of practitioners view trying to be happy as a lower, materialistic desire that can't be satisfied by serious meditative practice.

On the other hand, I hear people like Daniel and Shinzen claim that their experience is immensely better now that they are awakened. It's hard for me to imagine how that couldn't be called "Happiness", even if there's not an atomic self who can be said to possess this happiness.

I should mention at this point that I'm a zen practioner, and this is kind of an ongoing doubt in my practice. I find the non-dual approaches very direct and beautiful in a sense, but I get really frustrated and discouraged by the goalless aspect of them. If there's no goal to achieve then why waste time practicing?

The thing is I don't feel like I have a "big question" or desire for Truth with a capital "t", I don't care about meaning or purpose, I just want to be happy. Sometimes I wonder if I would be better off putting my energy into seeking happiness through more conventional means instead of meditation.

I'm currently reading Mahasi Sayadaw's Manual of Insight and will read MCTB2 after that. I really like the pragmatic approach of Daniel and this community, but I'm hesistant to switch my practice because there are no Theravada teachers near me.

RE: Questioning my motivation in practicing
Answer
8/19/19 5:49 AM as a reply to Katz Videos.
Have you thought about the difference between being happy and just being? There's good reason not to practice just to be happy, and great reasons to practice just to be.

RE: Questioning my motivation in practicing
Answer
8/19/19 6:56 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
What do you mean by "just being"? Aren't I already "just being"?

RE: Questioning my motivation in practicing
Answer
8/19/19 9:45 AM as a reply to Katz Videos.
What do you mean by "just being"? Aren't I already "just being"?

There is a difference between trying to force a state of mind (trying to be happy) and just letting experience come to you. The objective of Buddhist practice isn't to force states. In fact, that's what causes disenchantment, stress, dissatisfaction - all called "suffering" in the lingo. The objective is to drop the chatter that typically arises most of the time and just be aware of what's going on right here, right now. That's what I meant by "just being," and I meant it in contrast to forcing a state of mind.

EDIT: this distinction is, I believe, what Hokai Sobol and the others quoted in the original post here are getting at.


RE: Questioning my motivation in practicing
Answer
8/19/19 12:06 PM as a reply to Katz Videos.
Katz Videos:

If there's no goal to achieve then why waste time practicing?

The thing is I don't feel like I have a "big question" or desire for Truth with a capital "t", I don't care about meaning or purpose, I just want to be happy. Sometimes I wonder if I would be better off putting my energy into seeking happiness through more conventional means instead of meditation.



This captures it for me:

"Before my enlightenment, O monks, when I was still a bodhisatta, this thought occurred to me: “What is the gratification in the world, what is the danger in the world, and what is the escape from the world?”Then I thought: “Whatever joy and happiness there is in the world, that is the gratification in the world; that the world is impermanent, pervaded by suffering and subject to change, that is the danger in the world; the removal and abandoning of desire and lust for the world, that is the escape from the world.”

So long, monks, as I did not fully understand, as they really are, the world’s gratification as gratification, its danger as danger, and the escape from the world as escape, for so long I did not claim that I had awakened to the unsurpassed perfect enlightenment in this world with its devas, Mara and Brahma, in this generation with its ascetics and brahmins, its devas and humans.

But when I had fully understood all this, then I claimed that I had awakened to the unsurpassed perfect enlightenment in this world with … its devas and humans. The knowledge and vision arose in me: “Unshakeable is the liberation of my mind; this is my last birth; there is now no further re-becoming.” AN 3:103


RE: Questioning my motivation in practicing
Answer
8/19/19 12:19 PM as a reply to Katz Videos.
I look at Buddhadharma as sort of a Hobby. A life or death hobby, yes, but most of the time I am not seeing that. I agree that you should just be.

Ways of cultivating happiness are not hard to locate. I could suggest seeing a counselor or taking part in a day group for mental health, as I have done these with some success.

RE: Questioning my motivation in practicing
Answer
8/19/19 12:28 PM as a reply to Sleeping Buddha Syndrome.
Ways of cultivating happiness are not hard to locate. I could suggest seeing a counselor or taking part in a day group for mental health, as I have done these with some success.

There are millions of ways to cultivate happiness. The question is deeper than that, however. We should ask ourselves if cultivating happiness is the most useful long term strategy, or is there something even more fundamental that we can do? Buddhism answers that question in the affirmative.

RE: Questioning my motivation in practicing
Answer
8/19/19 9:09 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Your comment inspired me to sit for 3 hours today. Thank you.

I don't think I could stop practicing if I wanted to at this point. Things are getting kind of weird. I feel I'm getting those strong spasms of self I've heard Shinzen Young talking about. One day my problems will feel like the end of the world, and then the next day or next hour my mind will just be clear.

Or maybe this is just normal depression, who knows...

RE: Questioning my motivation in practicing
Answer
8/20/19 2:20 AM as a reply to Katz Videos.
better peace than happines