Zen Talk: Everyone Must Take His or Her Own Path

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought.” – Basho

What a great message. Many people think they should follow in the footsteps of giants, as it were, taking the path that they took in order to, presumably, arrive at the same end. Basho, however, has challenged this notion by telling us that we should only be seeking the end that great men sought and not attempting to follow their paths to get there.

I take this to mean that what they accomplished (presumably, enlightenment, but perhaps also any other form of higher knowledge) was wonderful, worthy of our admiration and of attempting to achieve ourselves, but that each of us has a unique path by which we must get there. It’s a very personal journey.

For instance, when I want to go to Frankfurt from San Francisco, there are a few paths I can take (most easily by plane) and everyone who takes that journey goes on one of them. Seek Frankfurt – take the standard path. Accomplishing what great men did – achieving enlightenment – is not about taking their path, however, though we’re going to the same point: an achievement of greatness.

We must find our own way there, because each of us has his/her own problems and issues and blinders that must be conquered and overcome. We cannot presume that the path will be the same as others took or else we would not be our own person. So, in seeking ends that others have, don’t follow their path. Make your own. That’s how life is lived and the sought after ends reached.

What do you think about this quote? What does it make you think?

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One Response

  1. I think that great man are not made by means of following some other path, however great or small man. But by means of being a man that makes it’s own path, and stays faithful to his own heart.

    The same way you can’t cross a river twice, because you and the river are in a point of flux, you can follow any path and end exactly where you are.

    Like the earth does not make circles around the sun, you are not in the same place next year, because this that is does not goes around in circles.

    The earth around the sun goes in some gigantic ever growing changing expanding spiral. we have never been the same place ever, and will never can be.

    The same way we can’t possibly know, but guess what had guided those man steps in the past. Would have they know?

    Everything is in a constant everflowing river. Intention is the guide, and if you follow some way you are bound to reach only where it takes you.

    If you make yours, then you can only get where you wanted to.

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