Zen Talk: The Path to Salvation Must Begin and End with the Self

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

This, to be honest, reminds me of Christianity. Of course, the Buddha knew nothing of Christianity and Buddhism is not a prophetic religion, so obviously he wasn’t talking about Jesus or Christianity, but nonetheless, the mention of being saved makes me think of Christianity. Mentally, the concept of salvation is monopolized in my head by Christianity.

But as we can see, this quote is not saying what Christianity says. This quote says that only we can save ourselves – NOT someone else (which is to say, Jesus). Now, I’m not saying that Jesus doesn’t save or passing any kind of theological judgment. I’m merely discussing the significance of this concept, which I believe can be applied to anyone, whether Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Shintoist or other.

Why? Because it puts the emphasis on the self for guiding one towards Enlightenment. Liberation from suffering and these worldly concerns only comes with our own willpower, determination and effort. I’ll avoid the theological discussion that I’m tempted to have about the concept of a savior, and just conclude by saying that I really like what this verse is saying because I do believe that each of us is responsible for his or her own fate.

What do you think of this quote?

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4 Responses

  1. What’s so great about enlightenment?

  2. Nothing. Enlightenment is the same as living one’s ordinary life, except that you KNOW you are living it.

    “Before one becomes enlightened, it is Something Special; after one becomes enlightened, it is Nothing Special.”
    Shunryu Suzuki, founder, San Francisco Zen Center

  3. Enlightenment — What Is It?
    by Osho

    Enlightenment is finding that there is nothing to find. Enlightenment is to come to know that there is nowhere to go. Enlightenment is the understanding that this is all, that this is perfect, that this is it. Enlightenment is not an achievement, it is an understanding that there is nothing to achieve, nowhere to go. You are already there — you have never been away. You cannot be away from there. God has never been missed. Maybe you have forgotten, that’s all. Maybe you have fallen asleep, that’s all. Maybe you have gotten lost in many, many dreams, that’s all — but you are there. God is your very being.

    So the first thing is, don’t think about enlightenment as a goal, it is not. It is not a goal; it is not something that you can desire. And if you desire it you will not get it. In desiring a thousand and one things, by and by you come to understand that all desire is futile. Each desire lands you in frustration; each desire again and again throws you into a ditch.

    This has been happening for millions of years but again you start hoping, again you start thinking that this new desire that is arising, sprouting in you, will maybe lead you to paradise. That this will give you what you have longed for, that it will fulfill you. Again and again hope arises.

    Enlightenment is when all hope disappears. Enlightenment is disappearance of hope.

    Don’t be disturbed when I say that enlightenment is a state of hopelessness — it is not negative. Hope arises no more; desire is created no more. Future disappears. When there is no desire there is no need for the future. The canvas of the future is needed for the desire. You paint your desires on the canvas of the future — when there is nothing to paint, why should you carry the canvas unnecessarily? You drop it. When there is nothing to paint, why should you carry the brush and the color tubes? They come from the past. The canvas comes from the future and the color and brush and technique, and all that, comes from the past. When you are not going to paint you throw away the canvas, you throw away the brush, you throw away the colors — then suddenly you are here now.

    This is what Buddha calls chittakshana — a moment of awareness, a moment of consciousness. This moment of consciousness can happen any moment. There is no special time for it, there is no special posture for it, there is no special place for it — it can happen in all kinds of situations. It has happened in all kinds of situations. All that is needed is that for a single moment there should be no thought, no desire, no hope. In that single moment, the lightning….

    One day Chikanzenji was mowing down the weeds around a ruined temple. When he threw away a bit of broken tile it clattered against a bamboo tree. All of a sudden he was enlightened. Whereat he sang:

    Upon the clatter of a broken tile
    All I had learned was at once forgotten.
    Amending my nature is needless.
    Pursuing the task of everyday life
    I walk along the ancient path.
    I am not disheartened in the mindless void.
    Wheresoever I go I leave no footprint
    For I am not within color or sound.
    Enlightened ones everywhere have said:
    “Such as this is the attainment.”

    This poor monk, Chikanzenji, had been working for at least thirty years. He was a hard seeker; he was a very, very honest and sincere and serious seeker. He practiced all that was told to him, he visited many masters, he lived in many monasteries. He did all that was humanly possible. He practiced yoga, he practiced zazen, he did this and that — but all to no avail. Nothing was happening; in fact, his frustration was growing more and more. The more the methods failed, the more and more frustrated he became.

    He had read all the Buddhist scriptures — there are thousands of them. It is said about this Chikanzenji that he had all these scriptures in his room, and he was constantly reading, day and night. And his memory was so perfect he could recite whole scriptures — but still nothing happened.

    Then one day he burned his whole library. Seeing those scriptures in the fire he laughed. He left the monastery, he left his guru, and he went to live in a ruined temple. He forgot all about meditation, he forgot all about yoga, he forgot all about practicing this and that. He forgot all about virtue, sheela; he forgot all about discipline, and he never went inside the temple to worship the Buddha.

    But he was living in that ruined temple when it happened. He was mowing down the weeds around the temple — not a very religious thing to do. Not anything specific, not anything special, just taking the weeds out. When he threw away a bit of broken tile, it clattered against a bamboo tree — in that moment, chittakshana, the moment of awareness, happened. In that very clattering of the tile against the bamboo, a shock, a jerk happened and his mind stopped for a moment. In that very moment he became enlightened.

    How can one become enlightened in one single moment? One can, because one is enlightened — one just has to recognize the fact. It is not something that happens from the outside, it is something that arises from the inside. It has always been there but you were clouded, you were full of thoughts.

    Chikanzenji burned all the scriptures. That was symbolic. Now he no longer remembered anything. Now he had forgotten all search. Now he no longer cared. Unconcerned, he lived a very ordinary life — he was no longer even a monk. He had no pretensions anymore, he had no ego goals any more. Remember, there are two kinds of ego goals: the worldly and the otherworldly. Some people are searching for money; some people are searching for power, prestige, pull. Some people are searching for God, moksha, nirvana, enlightenment — but the search continues. And who is searching? The same ego.

    The moment you drop the search, you drop the ego also. The moment there is no seeking, the seeker cannot exist.

    Just visualize this poor monk — who was no longer a monk — living in a ruined temple. He had nowhere else to go, he was just clearing the ground — maybe to put some seeds there for vegetables or something. He came across a tile, threw it away, and was taken unawares. The tile clattered against the bamboo tree and with the sudden clattering, the sudden sound, he becomes enlightened.

    And he said: Upon the clatter of a broken tile / All I had learned was at once forgotten.

    Enlightenment is a process of unlearning. It is utter ignorance. But that ignorance is very luminous and your knowledge is very dull. That ignorance is very alive and luminous, and your knowledge is very dark and dead.

    He says, All I had learned was at once forgotten. In that moment he knew nothing. In that moment there was no knower, in that moment there was no observer — just the sound. And one is awakened from a long sleep.

    And he says, Amending my nature is needless. That day he felt that he was just struggling unnecessarily. Amending my nature is needless. You need not amend yourself, you need not improve yourself — that is all just tommyrot! Beware of all those who go on telling you to improve yourself, to become this or to become that, to become virtuous. Who go on telling you that this is wrong, don’t do it; that this is good, do it; that this will lead you to heaven and this will lead you to hell. Those who go on telling you to amend your nature and improve upon yourself are very dangerous people. They are one of the basic causes for your not being enlightened.

    Nature cannot be amended; it has to be accepted. There is no way to be otherwise. Whosoever you are, whatsoever you are, that’s how you are — that’s what you are. It is a great acceptance. Buddha calls it tathata, a great acceptance.

    Nothing is there to be changed — how can you change it, and who is going to change it? It is your nature and you will try to change it? It would be just like a dog chasing its own tail. The dog would go crazy. But dogs are not as foolish as man. Man goes on chasing his own tail, and the more difficult he finds it the more he jumps and the more he tries and the more and more bizarre he becomes.

    Nothing has to be changed, because all is beautiful — that is enlightenment. All is as it should be, everything is perfect. This is the most perfect world, this moment lacks nothing — the experience of this is what enlightenment is.

  4. “The currents carry away the one who sees wrongly, thoughts fixated on passion, whose thirty-six streams gush toward what is pleasing.”
    Buddha

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