Suffering & Goals

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2147code
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Suffering & Goals

Post by 2147code »

Hi,

I'm absolutely new to Buddhism and learning about it. So please don't bite. My understanding is that Buddhism teaches suffering. But if the goal is to end suffering at all, then why must one have a goal? I wont suffer with or without a goal. What am I missing here?

Please enlighten me. I'm happy to learn.
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Queequeg
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Re: Suffering & Goals

Post by Queequeg »

2147code wrote: Mon Nov 16, 2020 11:24 pm Hi,

I'm absolutely new to Buddhism and learning about it. So please don't bite. My understanding is that Buddhism teaches suffering. But if the goal is to end suffering at all, then why must one have a goal? I wont suffer with or without a goal. What am I missing here?

Please enlighten me. I'm happy to learn.
Suffering is, according to Buddhism, our fundamental problem. The word is dukkha. It means unsatisfactoriness. Its compared to a squeaky chariot wheel. Even when things are going well, it is unsatisfactory because we know the good times will end. If its not going well, its per se unsatisfactory.

This is the First Noble Truth.

Suffering has a cause - and basically - we suffer because we misunderstand reality. We grasp at things because we think they are real, when they are not.

This is the Second Noble Truth.

By eliminating that cause of suffering, we can be free of suffering.

This is the Third Noble Truth.

The Buddhist path is the means to end suffering.

This is the Fourth Noble Truth.

If you don't have the goal of ending suffering, then you are just going to continue wandering in samsara, suffering. You have to want to end it, make effective causes. Otherwise, you are just going, grasping for things, whether you have a goal or not.

I've known perfectly aimless people, without any goals to speak of, and they were all samsara all the time; they were just lost. I suppose its possible to perfect having no goals, truly. You will end karma and when it is exhausted, you'll parinirvana. We call that path the pratyekabuddha. In some views, that's just an illusion, too, though.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter

純一実相。実相外。更無別法。法性寂然名止。寂而常渉照名観。
There is only reality; there is nothing separate from reality. The naturally tranquil nature of dharmas is shamatha. The abiding luminosity of tranquility is vipashyana.

-From Guanding's Introduction to Zhiyi's Great Shamatha and Vipashyana
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Suffering & Goals

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

2147code wrote: Mon Nov 16, 2020 11:24 pm Hi,

I'm absolutely new to Buddhism and learning about it. So please don't bite. My understanding is that Buddhism teaches suffering. But if the goal is to end suffering at all, then why must one have a goal? I wont suffer with or without a goal. What am I missing here?

Please enlighten me. I'm happy to learn.
Even wanting an answer to your question is a type of goal.
EMPTIFUL.
An inward outlook develops outward insight.
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FiveSkandhas
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Re: Suffering & Goals

Post by FiveSkandhas »

Buddhism is not "anti-goal" per se. Buddhism is full of aspirations: the aspiration to be of benefit to all sentient beings; the aspiration to arouse compassion and wisdom; the aspiration to reach liberation, to achieve the paramitas (perfections), and so on. These can be seen as goals.

Words are slippery and expedient, and the same word (for example, "goal") can mean different things in different contexts. For people who are overly attached to certain goals, to the point that their obsession with the future disturbs their concentration in the present and damages their practice, a certain teacher may use the expedient means of discouraging a focus on goals. For another student who is, say, lazy and unfocused, the teacher may prescribe the "medicine" of achieving this goal or that. What is important to see here is that Buddhism is not "anti-goal" or "pro-goal." It all depends on the context, just like one takes different medicines for different sicknesses.

Also, from the perspective of the "already awoken" and from the perspective of the "yet to awaken," very different types of Buddhist writing arise. Again, remember context.

Compare the followg two quotes in light of the idea of "having goals," for example. They may seem superficially very different. It can be confusing without considering context.

1. Shakyamuni Guatama Buddha on "Right Effort":
"And what, monks, is right effort?

"There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen.

"He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen.

"He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen.

"He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen: This, monks, is called right effort
2. Bodhidharma speaking from a seemingly different but also valid perspective:
A Buddha doesn’t observe precepts. A Buddha doesn’t do good or evil. A Buddha isn’t energetic or lazy. A Buddha is someone who does nothing, someone who can’t even focus his mind on a Buddha. A Buddha isn’t a Buddha. Don’t think about Buddhas.
"One should cultivate contemplation in one’s foibles. The foibles are like fish, and contemplation is like fishing hooks. If there are no fish, then the fishing hooks have no use. The bigger the fish is, the better the result we will get. As long as the fishing hooks keep at it, all foibles will eventually be contained and controlled at will." -Zhiyi
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明安 Myoan
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Re: Suffering & Goals

Post by 明安 Myoan »

Lama Zopa Rinpoche wrote:What makes our life most meaningful, most happy, most beneficial for every sentient being—with real happiness, inner peace—is living life with bodhicitta, with compassion for others.

Then we will have no regrets now, no regrets in the future, no regrets at the time of death; especially no regrets in the future, only the greatest rejoicing and merits more than the sky.
More of Lama Zopa's teachings on bodhicitta
With a heart wandering in ignorance down this path and that, to guide me I simply say Namu-Amida-Butsu. -- Ippen

Reciting the Nembutsu and believing in birth in the Pure Land naturally give rise to the Three Minds and the Four Modes of Practice. -- Master Hōnen
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KathyLauren
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Re: Suffering & Goals

Post by KathyLauren »

2147code wrote: Mon Nov 16, 2020 11:24 pm Hi,

I'm absolutely new to Buddhism and learning about it. So please don't bite. My understanding is that Buddhism teaches suffering. But if the goal is to end suffering at all, then why must one have a goal? I wont suffer with or without a goal. What am I missing here?

Please enlighten me. I'm happy to learn.
People have goals. That is how people are. Having a goal is suffering, because you aren't there yet. Having a goal that is not yet satisfied IS suffering. You can't go through life without any goals, so you suffer. This is the First Noble Truth and the Second, rolled into one.

The goal of ending suffering is a noble one, but a little paradoxical, since by having the goal, you have suffering. Still, just being aware of this connection is significant progress towards reducing suffering.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
cjdevries
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Re: Suffering & Goals

Post by cjdevries »

I just took a Mindvalley masterclass with Srikumar Rao, a business school professor and philosopher. In the class, he talks about what the purpose of a goal really is: to get us is the direction we're trying to go. He says that it's important to set a stretch goal: a goal that is going to take some effort to achieve. The purpose of that goal is not to get fixated on attaining the goal, but rather to establish a direction. He said that once we establish our direction, we need to forget about the goal. Because the goal is ultimately out of our control. He said that what we should be focusing on is: what are the actions I need to take to reach my goal? While we think reaching the goal is the benefit, the benefit is actually the learning and growth that happen to us while we are undertaking the process. If we don't achieve the goal, we still get all the learning. We need to invest in the process, not the outcome.
"Please call me by my true names so I can wake up; so the door of my heart can be left open: the door of compassion." -Thich Nhat Hanh

"Ask: what's needed of you" -Akong Rinpoche
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KathyLauren
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Re: Suffering & Goals

Post by KathyLauren »

cjdevries wrote: Tue Nov 17, 2020 9:59 pm I just took a Mindvalley masterclass with Srikumar Rao, a business school professor and philosopher. In the class, he talks about what the purpose of a goal really is: to get us is the direction we're trying to go. He says that it's important to set a stretch goal: a goal that is going to take some effort to achieve. The purpose of that goal is not to get fixated on attaining the goal, but rather to establish a direction. He said that once we establish our direction, we need to forget about the goal. Because the goal is ultimately out of our control. He said that what we should be focusing on is: what are the actions I need to take to reach my goal? While we think reaching the goal is the benefit, the benefit is actually the learning and growth that happen to us while we are undertaking the process. If we don't achieve the goal, we still get all the learning. We need to invest in the process, not the outcome.
:good:
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FiveSkandhas
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Re: Suffering & Goals

Post by FiveSkandhas »

One of the problems many (including yours truly) have had to grapple with early in their Buddhist studies is the problem of "desire" and the limits and definition of desire. Practitioners generally learn early on that craving/desire is one of the Three Poisons and Buddhism is often conceptualized in terms of "abandoning desire". If we don't know precisely what is meant by "desire" or craving in Buddhism there can be a tendency to conflate it with all forms of effort or struggle. People should also remember the importance of Right Effort and that Buddhism is not about "doing nothing" in some floaty new age cloud but instead is rather hard work on many fronts.

The popular superficial conception of Buddhism overemphasizes "doing nothing" and "just being" at the expense of scholarship and vows/morality, as well as other struggles like Right Concentration, the arousal of Boddhicita, mind training of various sorts, achieving Right View...a lot more is going on than nihilistically "just letting go."

Buddhism is not a realaxation technique, nor is it synonymous with Taoism, which embraces a much more quietistic perspective with "doing nothing" (Wu Wei) /"happy wandering" / "emptying minds and filling bellies" and the like. Many superficial understandings of "Eastern religion as a whole" mush the two together and create distorted views of more advanced Buddhist terms. The use of the word "emptiness" for shunyata can also give rise to Taoistic, New-Age, or nihilistic misunderstandings early in one's encounter with Buddhism. (It is not only English speakers who have such problems...early Chinese Buddhism in its most incipient state was riddled with heterodox views due to using Taoist terms in translation and the choice of 空 (which already had extensive connotations in Chinese thought) as a translation for shunyata.

TL,DR: If you are a beginner I would advise you to be extra careful of tendencies to see Buddhism in quietistic or nihilistic terms....just my opinion; it got me into some strange heterodox spaces when I was younger and had little access to proper doctrine and instruction.
"One should cultivate contemplation in one’s foibles. The foibles are like fish, and contemplation is like fishing hooks. If there are no fish, then the fishing hooks have no use. The bigger the fish is, the better the result we will get. As long as the fishing hooks keep at it, all foibles will eventually be contained and controlled at will." -Zhiyi
SilenceMonkey
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Re: Suffering & Goals

Post by SilenceMonkey »

PadmaVonSamba wrote: Tue Nov 17, 2020 4:20 am Even wanting an answer to your question is a type of goal.
Very zen!

Zen people say "no goal". Having a goal conceptualized in your mind will create suffering for you. So zen people empty the mind of all concepts and just sit.

But there's an apparent contradiction. If there's no goal, why sit? Why do any practice at all? The answer is that we have ignorance and will suffer whether we sit or not. But practice will lead to enlightenment, which is the end of suffering. (Just don't think about enlightenment and you'll be fine... Zen practice is to not get caught in concepts.)

Usually other schools of buddhism don't say "no goal". Perhaps dzogchen will.

Sorry if this is confusing... I just wanted to put it out there, because in the spiritual marketplace there is this idea that we shouldn't have a goal. It actually comes from zen, but it's often totally misunderstood.
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