Advice against expectations about practice or Awakening

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Advice against expectations about practice or Awakening

Post by zavk » Tue Oct 09, 2012 11:36 am

Hi all

I'd like to ask for your help. I'm guessing that you'd have come across various advice about not bringing expectations to one's practice or harbouring stubborn preconceived notions about Awakening. I know I've encountered such advice in books, essays, and talks but never made a point to note them down because they tend to be offhand remarks or asides which aren't the main focus of the discussion at hand. But at the moment, I'd like survey some of these advice in a piece of writing I'm working on. So could you kindly please point me to anything that comes to mind? It doesn't only have to be the could be from books, talks, or snippets of sayings (including page numbers if possible), etc, by monastics or lay teachers, anything that expresses the general sentiment of letting go of expectations and of not clinging to preconceptions about the practice or goal would be helpful. Oh, and I'm happy to canvas views from all lineages and traditions.

Many thanks! :anjali:
With metta,

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Re: Advice against expectations about practice or Awakening

Post by Dan74 » Tue Oct 09, 2012 12:15 pm

Hi Ed! :hello:

You could start from Trungpa's Spiritual Materialism for a modern take:
“As long as you regard yourself or any part of your experience as the "dream come true," then you are involved in self-deception. Self-deception seems always to depend upon the dream world, because you would like to see what you have not yet seen, rather that what you are now seeing. You will not accept that whatever is here now is what is, nor are you willing to go on with the situation as it is. Thus, self-deception always manifests itself in terms of trying to create or recreate a dream world, the nostalgia of the dream experience. And the opposite of self-deception is just working with the facts of life.”
We must surrender our hopes and expectations, as well as our
fears, and march directly into disappointment, work with
disappointment, go into it and make it our way of life, which is a
very hard thing to do. Disappointment is a good sign of basic
intelligence. It cannot be compared to anything else: it is so
sharp, precise, obvious and direct. If we can open, then we
suddenly begin to see that our expectations are irrelevant compared
with the reality of the situations we are facing. This
automatically brings a feeling disappointment.

Disappointment is the best chariot to use on the path of the
dharma. It does not confirm the existence of our ego and its
dreams. However, if we are involved with spiritual materialism, if
we regard spirituality as a part of our accumulation of learning and
virtue, if spirituality becomes a way of building ourselves up, then
of course the whole process of surrendering is completely
But perhaps the most radical voice on the subject is the good old Linchi:
"If you want to be no different from the patriarchs and buddhas, then never look for something outside yourselves. The clean pure light in a moment of your mind--that is the Essence-body of the Buddha lodged in you. The undifferentiated light in a moment of your mind~that is the Bliss-body of the Buddha lodged in you. The undiscriminating light in a moment of your mind--that is the Transformtion-body of the Buddha lodged in you. These three types of bodies are you, the person who stands before me now listening to this lecture on the Dharma! And simply because you do not rush around seeking anything outside yourselves, you can command these fine faculties.
There is tonnes more of course.

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Re: Advice against expectations about practice or Awakening

Post by bodom » Tue Oct 09, 2012 12:48 pm

Traditionally the Eightfold Path is taught with eight steps such as Right Understanding, Right Speech, Right Concentration, and so forth. But the true Eightfold Path is within us-two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, a tongue, and a body. These eight doors are our entire Path and the mind is the one that walks on the Path. Know these doors, examine them, and all the dharmas will be revealed.

The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice.

Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing.

Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this-just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle.

Why not give it a try? Do you dare?

- Ajahn Chah
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo

With mindfulness immersed in the body
well established, restrained
with regard to the six media of contact,
always centered, the monk
can know Unbinding for himself.

- Ud 3.5

"Dont send the mind outside. Watch the mind right at the mind."

- Ajahn Dune Atulo

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Re: Advice against expectations about practice or Awakening

Post by tiltbillings » Tue Oct 09, 2012 1:15 pm

If I stood still, I sank; If I struggled, I was carried away.
Thus by neither standing still nor struggling, I crossed the flood.
SN 1 1
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: Advice against expectations about practice or Awakening

Post by santa100 » Tue Oct 09, 2012 4:17 pm

SN 1.1 ( ... .than.html" onclick=";return false; ) is a great reference for it emphasizes the middle path approach. "Expectations" should be used with care so not to be equated to "standing still". Remember that common stock phrase being used in many suttas: "...realizing for himself with direct knowledge here and now attain and abide in that supreme goal of the holy life for the sake of which sons of family rightly go forth from the household life into the homeless life. He directly knew: “Birth is destroyed, the holy life has been lived, done what had to be done, there is no more for this state of being"

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Re: Advice against expectations about practice or Awakening

Post by zavk » Fri Oct 12, 2012 11:02 pm

Thanks for your suggestions! :smile:

Dan: Yeah, of course, I should look into Trungpa's Spiritual Materialism. Have read excerpts but not the book. Can you further recall any other pithy sayings, by Linji or others (sigh, I wish my Chinese wasn't so pathetic so that I could read the writings of Ch'an), that express the same sentiment about relinquishing expectation about practice or preconceived notions about Awakening?

Tilt and santa100: SN1.1 is very helpful indeed. In fact, that particular stanza quoted by Tilt would be very suitable for what I'm working on, as it will be read by readers who are may not be familiar with Buddism. So succinct poetic verses, illustrative writings, or conversational expressions (like Ajahn Chah's advice) rather than detailed, jargonistic explanations may be more effective in putting the point across.

Bodom: That passage is wonderful, I'm pretty sure I've come across it. Is it in one of the collected books of Ajahn Chah's talks?

Thanks again. Please continue to post if anything else comes to mind--it's nice to collect these advice in a thread for everyone to consider anyway!

With metta,

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Re: Advice against expectations about practice or Awakening

Post by daverupa » Fri Oct 12, 2012 11:12 pm

MN 1 wrote:He perceives Unbinding as Unbinding. Perceiving Unbinding as Unbinding, he conceives things about Unbinding, he conceives things in Unbinding, he conceives things coming out of Unbinding, he conceives Unbinding as 'mine,' he delights in Unbinding. Why is that? Because he has not comprehended it, I tell you.
Though, maybe use 'nibbana' or whatever other term you're using, for consistency.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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