After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield

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Tom Carr, modified 9 Years ago.

After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield

Posts: 130 Join Date: 2/17/10 Recent Posts
After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield

This is a wonderful book and I recommend it to everyone. Just because it is a wonderful book doesn't mean every word is true or that everyone here will agree with it. I have some questions about what you think about what he says.

Below are some quotes that sum up the basic idea of the book. Most of this is from the introduction. Is there anything below that you disagree with or question:

From the book

"Enlightenment does exist. It is possible to awaken. Unbounded freedom and joy, oneness with the Divine, awakening into a state of timeless grace - these experiences are more common than you know, and not far away. There is one further truth, however; They don't last."

"In fact, in the awakening of the heart there is no such thing as enlightened retirement. That is not how it happens to us."

"We all know that after the honeymoon comes the marriage... In spiritual life it is the same: After the ecstasy comes the laundry."

"Times of great wisdom, deep compassion, and a real knowing of freedom alternate with periods of fear, confusion, neurosis, and struggle. Most (spiritual) teachers admit this truth."

"Enlightenment is only the beginning, is only a step of the journey. You can't cling to that as a new identity or you're in immediate trouble. You have to get back down into the messy business of life, to engage with life for years afterward. Only then can you integrate what you have learned."

"Even if our transformation is great and we feel peaceful and unshakable, some part of our return will inevitably test us. We may become confused about what to do in life, about how to live in our family or society. We may worry how our spiritual life can fit into our ordinary way of being, our ordinary work. We may want to run away, to go back to the simplicity of the retreat or the temple. But something has pulled us back to the world, and the difficult transition is part of it."

"These ordinary cycles of opening and closing (spiritually) are necessary medicine for our heart's integration. In some cases, though, there are not just cycles, there is a crash. As far as we ascend, so far can we fall. This needs to be included in our maps of spiritual life, honored as one more natural part of the great cycle."

"After any powerful spiritual experience there is an inevitable descent, a struggle to embody what we have seen."

"Even recognized teachers are not beyond the experience of finding themselves shattered. One American seeker for twenty years, finally realized the fullness of (spiritual) freedom with a guru in India... His path seemed to be unfolding perfectly and he thought he had gone beyond the trouble of the world, until a crisis came."

"When the Christian mystic Julian of Norwich says she knows of no lover of God who is kept safe from falling, she is voicing the understanding that to descend is God's will... The fall, the descent, and its subsequent humility can be seen as another form of blessing."

"Sometimes a spiritual fall does not resolve quickly; it can take years to move into the next phase."

"There are certain truths we can learn only by descent, truths that bring wholeness and humility in surrender... We all need periods of fecund time, fallow time, of being drawn closer to the humus of the earth. It is as though something in us slows down, calls us back. And out of that time a deepened knowledge and beauty can emerge."

"In the inevitable rising and falling, the cycles of expansion and contraction that come as you give birth to yourself, there may be moments to push, to strive toward a spiritual goal. But more frequently the task is one of letting go, of finding a gracious heart that honors the changes of life."

"No matter what the situation, awakening requires trust in the greater cycles of life, trust that something new will eventually be born, trust that whatever is, is perfect. Wise letting go is not a detached removal from life."
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
That is an accurate description of the path... most of those quotes seem to be describing A&P events followed by Dark Nights... or path-moments followed by later paths... but seems to indicate there is no "final" release. But my interpretation of the suttas and conversations with certain people indicates to me that there is an end to suffering to be found in this lifetime... I can't be sure 'till I do it, though!

Buddha:
His heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, is released from the fermentation of sensuality, the fermentation of becoming, the fermentation of ignorance. With release, there is the knowledge, 'Released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There's nothing further for this world.'

MN039

Buddha:
Passion, venerable sir, is a making of measurement, aversion a making of measurement, delusion a making of measurement. For a monk whose fermentations are ended these have been abandoned, their root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising.
...
Passion is a something, aversion a something, delusion a something. For a monk whose fermentations are ended these have been abandoned, their root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising.
...
Passion is a making of themes, aversion a making of themes, delusion a making of themes. For a monk whose fermentations are ended these have been abandoned, their root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising.

SN41.007
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josh r s, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield

Posts: 337 Join Date: 9/16/11 Recent Posts
Is there anything below that you disagree with or question


plenty of people on the dho claim to have no "laundry" left. in my opinion either this book is an accurate representation of the path and final goal of buddhism, and the buddha didn't end suffering to the full extent that it can be ended, or this book is fundamentally wrong about enlightenment.
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N A, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield

Posts: 157 Join Date: 7/10/11 Recent Posts
Seems consistent with people on DhO reporting being very enlightened but still being jerks (see the threads about the effect of enlightenment on behavior). Certainly not something Kornfield would accept.
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Nikolai ., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield

Posts: 1650 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
N A:
Seems consistent with people on DhO reporting being very enlightened but still being jerks (see the threads about the effect of enlightenment on behavior). Certainly not something Kornfield would accept.


I would take out the 'very' from 'very enlightened'. In fact I would just say they are just at a stage before 'full awakening' only. So still subject to the fetters of being jerks.

Disclaimer: I am not 'fully awakened' according to criteria I follow.
End in Sight, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
Each person will have to speak for themselves, but (in order to prevent misunderstandings of all kinds), I have not and still do not claim to be fully enlightened.

And why not?

Because there is still some laundry left over to clean.

Jack Kornfield:

"Even recognized teachers are not beyond the experience of finding themselves shattered. One American seeker for twenty years, finally realized the fullness of (spiritual) freedom with a guru in India... His path seemed to be unfolding perfectly and he thought he had gone beyond the trouble of the world, until a crisis came."


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modus_tollens
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Tom Carr, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield

Posts: 130 Join Date: 2/17/10 Recent Posts

plenty of people on the dho claim to have no "laundry" left. in my opinion either this book is an accurate representation of the path and final goal of buddhism, and the buddha didn't end suffering to the full extent that it can be ended, or this book is fundamentally wrong about enlightenment.


Well that's the big question. Which is it? Kornfield has been around a long time, doing this longer than anyone here, and more important, has talked to more long term practitioners than just about anybody. He has a reputation for honesty, and there is no reason for him to misrepresent what he has observed in talking with thousands of practitioners.

Who are the people on dho who have no laundry left? I keep reading posts about them, but I have not seen any posts from them. If there is someone here who thinks he is finished with the laundry, please speak up.

but seems to indicate there is no "final" release. But my interpretation of the suttas and conversations with certain people indicates to me that there is an end to suffering to be found in this lifetime... I can't be sure 'till I do it, though!


Again I ask, who are the certain people you have had the conversations with? I know there can be long periods of great freedom, and that during that time people often think it is permanent, but then, according to Kornfield, they find out it is not permanent.

I really appreciate the last thing you said "I can't be sure 'till I do it, though!". I agree, and even then, I could be sure but still be mistaken.
End in Sight, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
Tom Carr:
Well that's the big question. Which is it? Kornfield has been around a long time, doing this longer than anyone here, and more important, has talked to more long term practitioners than just about anybody. He has a reputation for honesty, and there is no reason for him to misrepresent what he has observed in talking with thousands of practitioners.


I would say that the extent to which one sees the ultimate cause of suffering is the extent to which one will have confidence that suffering of all kinds can be left behind.

It does seem (based on our experience) that not all practices are equal in terms of revealing and eliminating the ultimate cause of suffering. Also, it is obviously true that some practitioners seem to progress faster than others for yet-unknown reasons.

As I have not read Jack Kornfield's book, and so am in no place to evaluate his practice, I will decline to speculate about him.

However, a potentially more helpful way to approach practice is to think "how can I eliminate a bit more suffering from my experience?" rather than "how can I eliminate all the suffering from my experience?". To find a way to remove a bit of sufffering from one's experience is often easy. And if one keeps removing bits, and finding ways to remove more bits...good things happen.

How does the final status of any of Kornfield's claims affect your dedication to your own practice?
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Tom Carr, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield

Posts: 130 Join Date: 2/17/10 Recent Posts
However, a potentially more helpful way to approach practice is to think "how can I eliminate a bit more suffering from my experience?" rather than "how can I eliminate all the suffering from my experience?". To find a way to remove a bit of sufffering from one's experience is often easy. And if one keeps removing bits, and finding ways to remove more bits...good things happen.


Well said. I agree 100%

How does the final status of any of Kornfield's claims affect your dedication to your own practice?


I feel less discouraged.

I have not known anyone who is totally free. I have known and know off lots of people who did much more practice than I, who still seemed to have pretty severe problems. I have experienced periods of what seemed like total freedom, only to fall out of that back into neurosis and suffering. All of those things were causing me to question the whole Buddhist path of meditation.

Kornfield's book seemed more honest and realistic than lots of the idealized things I had read. It cut through my fantasies of living happily ever after. I saw practice as a way to remove a bit more suffering, as you said, and this started to seem wonderful, rather than disappointing..
End in Sight, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
Tom Carr:
Kornfield's book seemed more honest and realistic than lots of the idealized things I had read. It cut through my fantasies of living happily ever after. I saw practice as a way to remove a bit more suffering, as you said, and this started to seem wonderful, rather than disappointing..


Whatever the endpoint of this practice is, and whatever you may believe that it is, this approach (addressing one's suffering bit by bit) is unlikely ever to steer you wrong...in fact, it is thinking and dreaming and hoping and speculating and fantasizing about the endpoint which is more likely to stand in the way of reaching it (or even making progress towards it).
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Chris G, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield

Posts: 118 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
End in Sight:
However, a potentially more helpful way to approach practice is to think "how can I eliminate a bit more suffering from my experience?" rather than "how can I eliminate all the suffering from my experience?". To find a way to remove a bit of sufffering from one's experience is often easy. And if one keeps removing bits, and finding ways to remove more bits...good things happen.


End in Sight:
Tom Carr:
Kornfield's book seemed more honest and realistic than lots of the idealized things I had read. It cut through my fantasies of living happily ever after. I saw practice as a way to remove a bit more suffering, as you said, and this started to seem wonderful, rather than disappointing..


Whatever the endpoint of this practice is, and whatever you may believe that it is, this approach (addressing one's suffering bit by bit) is unlikely ever to steer you wrong...in fact, it is thinking and dreaming and hoping and speculating and fantasizing about the endpoint which is more likely to stand in the way of reaching it (or even making progress towards it).


I really appreciate this advice.
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Yadid dee, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield

Posts: 258 Join Date: 9/11/09 Recent Posts
I only now saw this thread, but I read this whole book, and he is definitely not talking about 'full enlightenment' when he says 'After the Ecstasy', read it well,
he actually uses the terms 'stream-entry', 'once-returner', etc,
so in a sense, he's referring to A&P and anything up to full unbinding.
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bill of the wandering mind, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield

Posts: 131 Join Date: 4/14/11 Recent Posts
The only downside I think is the tendency to go the other way, to perhaps not do something to remove the bits of suffering because 'it can't be done' - Or believing that one really knows what all the possibilities are for what 'awakening' is. It is too easy to fall into the trap that 'since I've been doing this stuff forever and tried *everything* I know what can and cannot be done' - How many dark night yogis would have gotten path if they never knew it existed? How many people after stream entry would just 'hang out' there forever and think that was all that could/should be done without knowing about higher paths? And how many people would chill in technical 4th their whole lives not knowing about higher stages or anything else? This is why sites like this are so important - everyone seems to be just fine operating in their own limited viewpoint, but we need to share these viewpoints and create something larger. That being said - Kornfield makes some good points.
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield

Posts: 59 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
josh r s:
in my opinion either [After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield] is an accurate representation of the path and final goal of buddhism, and the buddha didn't end suffering to the full extent that it can be ended, or this book is fundamentally wrong about enlightenment.


Good stuff. I like that dichotomy.

So, would you say the same could apply to Ingram's book?

thx.
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi Johnny -

josh r s:
in my opinion either [After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield] is an accurate representation of the path and final goal of buddhism, and the buddha didn't end suffering to the full extent that it can be ended, or this book is fundamentally wrong about enlightenment.



Good stuff. I like that dichotomy.

So, would you say the same could apply to Ingram's book?

thx.


Let's say I am about to buy some expensive fabric and I have to work quite a bit to buy that fabric...then, yes, I want to check the expensive fabric thoroughly to examine if the expensive fabric is really all that suitable to my needs. But if I don't know fabrics in general (meaning I have not felt many fabrics nor understood their drape) then, how do I know suitable fabric from unsuitable fabric (and in mutability (anicca) there is no such fixity, though I agree that polyester is unlikely to become dupione in my lifetime).

So, while you're at the beginning of your exploration of meditation (as per your other threads), evaluating Daniel's book is a natural urge, but the urge produces a distraction (how can you know what teacher is suitable for you if you do not know your own effort*). Practice with the fabrics of meditation is what is newly informative (versus circling in ruminative states). Dan puts his book freely online and one can read it there and test his guidance and/or one can go to others who also offer their experience freely. Here is a general talk by a teacher you might like, and here is the link to Daniel's book, which you may like. Once you get started on your path, then you get a sense of the various drapes of meditation and how they fit your changing experience and change fixity-experience.

If you are concerned about investing your energy in the "wrong" teacher (who may be the "right" teacher at various times) then just heed your internal red flags and try to pay attention to your own habits (do you avoid/prefer daily discipline or short immersive bursts as in extended retreats?).

*A teacher is showing their own path and their breath of experience and, on those bases, trying to coach you with your own path. No coach can help you if you stay in the bleachers, unless you are looking for co-ruminators. Ruminating/speculating at length can be great, especially where I have seen the limits of rumination/speculation and fatigued myself of it in order to just get into the practice. It's like talking about yoga, versus waking up and just doing asanas attentively, freshly.

Does that make sense?

edit: syntax
edit 2: I have laundry, figuratively and actually. So it's an ongoing practice, for me.
C C C, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: After the Ecstasy the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield

Posts: 946 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
I interpret the laundry/ecstasy quote entirely differently. 'Laundry' doesn't imply you still have spiritual work to do, but that once enlightened, you attend to previously boring tasks in an entirely different way, full of presence and joy. Zennists "carry water and chop wood" after enlightenment, as the saying goes.

I was trying to figure out how to say this when I came across someone on a forum who had already said it perfectly, so I'll quote him here. He posts as 'phil' on jedmckenna.webs.com/apps/forums

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What's being suggested is that you withdraw your position as the one doing or not doing; withdraw your position as mediator between thought and action. No such mediator is required. The thought occurs to do the dishes [or laundry] and the body does the dishes. This is how it actually happens. The idea that you are a necessary part of that doing is just an assumption, and it can become quite burdensome when mind feels the need to keep the show running smoothly and make the right choices and spin stories about what should or shouldn't be happening and wishing something else was happening, etc.

It's a little like watching a mountain climber on TV and taking on the responsibility of every hand hold and foot step and imagining that if you do it wrong that the climber might fall. Instead of enjoying the program, you're now burdened with the responsibility for the climber's safety. It's not any different in your own life. The best athlete learns how to simply attend to what is happening and get out of the way, sometimes referred to as 'getting into the zone'. It's possible to 'get into the zone' all the time and stay there. The doingness becomes effortless because the effort is in the delusion that you are the doer. You are, in fact, the attender.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

What created the thought of 'do the laundry' in the Zen Master? If there's no self to identify with, then the Universal Oneness created it. Christians say "Thy will be done", not "My will be done". Not that many would be able to unpack this statement. When Jed McKenna started writing his book it was because the "Thy" compelled him to. If actions happen after enlightenment then they have to come from somewhere, right? So doing the laundry becomes an act of grace.

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