During last nights dhamma talk and discussion, someone asked Bhante Sujatha what the goal was in meditation.
This got me thinking today about how goal oriented our society really is. There seems to be nothing in our lives that is not driven or motivated by a goal or end result. We work to get money, we get money to purchase things, we date to get sex or marriage, and so on and so on.
Even in most religions, there is a goal to be achieved. But is there a goal in Buddhism also? Is the goal to reach Nibbana (Nirvana)? Is meditation part of the process to reach the goal? If I meditate harder and longer, will I reach the goal quicker?
There is a famous Zen Buddhist story that I think illustrates this extremely well…
A young but earnest Zen student approached his teacher, and asked the Zen Master:
“If I work very hard and diligent how long will it take for me to find Zen.”
The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years.”
The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then ?”
Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.”
“But, if I really, really work at it. How long then ?” asked the student.
“Thirty years,” replied the Master.
“But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that ?”
Replied the Master,” When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”
So it would seem, the idea is to keep both eyes on the path. Demonstrating, that unlike any other experience in our lives, Buddhism is truly about the journey and not the destination. Forget having any goal, it’s irrelevant! And doesn’t that knowledge relieve the pressure and stress of your practice? You are only left with peace and perhaps a gentle loving determination.
Returning to the question asked of Bhante Sujatha regarding the goal in meditation, his answer was very simple. Contentment.
What’s funny is, I was blessed with a lesson on this during this mornings meditation. Thoughts began to enter my mind about writing this post. And as Bhante teaches, I allowed these thoughts but gently I returned to my breath. For a moment I felt really good about how I handled the rising of this thought. But as I continued, I felt the rising of a new emotion or desire. I wanted to hurry up and finish my meditation so that I could write this article. Oh no, a goal!
Fortunately, mindfulness kicked in and I was able to also let this go also, and once again return to the breath. How wonderfully peaceful it was to simply be. No place to go, nothing to accomplish, no pressure or stress, and certainly no goals. I was in fact content.
Namo Buddhaya (I take refuge in the Buddha)
May you be well, happy and peaceful.