When You Reach Pure Awareness You Will Have No Problems

My name is Brad and I subscribe to Deepak Chopra’s Twitter feed.

Hi Brad!

I don’t even really “get” Twitter. I’m not sure just what you’re supposed to do with it. The best stuff I’ve seen there has been funny one-liners like Shit My Dad Says or my friend Precious Veal.  She’s a hoot!

A lot of “spiritual” type guys are on Twitter these days throwing out little sound bytes of spirituality. But I doubt there’s anything truly worthwhile in the realm of spiritual practice that can be reduced to 140 characters.

Of course, having said that I also have to mention that there is a tradition in Zen of so-called “turning words.” These are short phrases that, when heard by just the right person at just the right time, have a profound effect. One such phrase that often gets quoted is, “From birth to death it’s just like this.” A lot of the koans end with “turning words.” For me, hearing the phrase “form is emptiness, emptiness is form” really blew my head right off when I was about 18 years old.

But I seriously doubt that a Twitter feed is the best way to disseminate “turning words.” It’s not like those ancient Zen guys subscribed to a service that would sling random “turning words” at them from multiple sources of varying quality at a rate of four to six an hour popping up on their cell phones among fart jokes from drive time DJs and news about Paris Hilton’s latest Brazilian wax job. It was a different sort of thing altogether.

I’ve responded to a couple of Deepak’s tweets already. But one came up last night that I think really needs to be addressed in detail.

Right at the outset I want to emphasize that this is not about the man Mr. Deepak Chopra himself. It’s about what he tweeted. It’s not even about everything he tweets. It’s about this one specific tweet. I don’t know enough about Mr. Chopra to criticize him as a human being or even as a brand. I know he’s got a comic book series and a bunch of TV shows and even a video game. As dubious as the spiritual applications of these things seem to me, I’m not even all that fussed about them. If someone wanted to make a graphic novel or a video game out of Hardcore Zen, I’d probably do it. So this isn’t about that.

It’s about what Mr. Chopra says in his tweet. And what he says is this:

When you reach pure awareness you will have no problems, therefore there will be no need for solutions.

Let’s analyze that for a minute.

When (in the future, not now) you (who exist now and will continue to exist in the future) reach (whatever you imagine to be) pure awareness you (who exist now and will continue to exist in the future) will have (in the future) no problems (for your self), therefore there will be (in the future, not now) no need for (you to have) solutions (and won’t that be wonderful, over there, past that hill, just out of sight, let me sell you a way to get there).

If it were only Deepak Chopra who believed this, it wouldn’t really matter much. But this is how pretty much everyone approaches meditation practice and it’s why meditation practice seems to fail those people. It is certainly how I myself thought of practice for a very long time. I wanted something for myself. I might have even thought of what I wanted to get in terms of “pure awareness.” I read enough shitty books that used shitty phrases like that.

There is no pure awareness for you.

That might sound harsh. But really it’s not. What you are can never enter that place. Because you are the subject that sees things in terms of objects. Joshu Sasaki put it like this in his book Buddha is the Center of Gravity; “The God that is standing in front of you as an object says, ‘I am your God.’ But he is not. Even if that God has great power, he is not the real God.”

Pure awareness, whatever that is, or God (my preferred term), cannot be the object of you, cannot be the possession of you, it isn’t in your future, it isn’t something you can ever possibly reach. It will not solve all of your problems. It couldn’t even if it wanted to. It’s a fantastic dream that can never come true.

This doesn’t mean everything is bleak and horrible and hopeless. It just means that approaching it in terms of you and the things you want to get cannot possibly work. It can’t work precisely because thinking of things in terms of you and what you want to get is exactly the thing that blocks it.

The attitude expressed in Mr. Chopra’s tweet sits right at the very epicenter of where things have gone wrong for mankind. It is the source of all of our troubles. The solution to what’s wrong in the world is not some distant dream of pure awareness. It’s the understanding that what exists right now is pure awareness, is God, whether you know it or not. We, who seek to know it and possess it, are the very thing that makes it so hard to understand that.

A couple of blogs ago Broken Yogi made a comment that, “Brad is mixing categories. I can’t pole vault 18 feet like a top Olympic athlete, but I doubt that athlete would call me physically ill because I can’t do that… Likewise, I’m not enlightened, but I’m not spiritually lame either.”

In response I said something like, “Enlightenment (I hate that word) isn’t like pole vaulting 18 feet. It’s more like walking to the bathroom, if we were to continue that analogy. Most people, instead of walking to the bathroom, which (let’s say) just happens to be 18 feet away instead try to pole vault to the bathroom. And they can’t do it because the ceiling is too low. Yet they try anyway and keep injuring themselves. The pole keeps breaking, they keep hitting their heads, they keep beating themselves up over not being able to do it, and they still have to pee. The only thing an enlightened person (I hate that term) does differently is that she walks straight to the bathroom, does her business and then goes back to bed.”

Enlightenment or pure awareness or God or whatever isn’t some complicated thing we have to chase after far, far away. It’s the chasing itself that gets in our way. We wear ourselves out running in circles to try to arrive at the place we already are.

291 Responses

  1. Harry
    Harry May 14, 2012 at 2:14 am | |

    Hi Roman,

    No.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 14, 2012 at 3:49 am | |

    When you reach pure awareness you will have no problems, therefore there will be no need for solutions.

    Let's analyze that for a minute.

    When (in the future, not now) you (who exist now and will continue to exist in the future) reach (whatever you imagine to be) pure awareness you (who exist now and will continue to exist in the future) will have (in the future) no problems (for your self), therefore there will be (in the future, not now) no need for (you to have) solutions (and won't that be wonderful, over there, past that hill, just out of sight, let me sell you a way to get there).

    great break down,

    I guess you make a lot of money by promising the impossible to people in the future that never comes

  3. Uku
    Uku May 14, 2012 at 3:55 am | |

    Roman

    there's no such thing as a Buddhist truth.

  4. Harry
    Harry May 14, 2012 at 4:04 am | |

    Hi Uku,

    Anyone who had even an inkling of what actually constitutes the Buddhist truth wouldn't say that.

    I think you'll find that is just your own of philosophy of nothing… similar stuff is often passed off by people who mistake what shunyata indicates for just their own philosophical/intellectual negations. Doegn addressed this persistant weakness in Buddhist philosophy very masterfully.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  5. Harry
    Harry May 14, 2012 at 4:06 am | |

    Doegn is Dogen's Polish cousin BTW…

  6. Derek Ayre
    Derek Ayre May 14, 2012 at 4:42 am | |

    Centering post. Like one day I'll become better and will hold that "better" in my hands so that I can show you that I got it.. Or… "Better" not to become, just be.. Drop the "become" too? Such words are too paradoxical and clever and they're not really going to hack it are they? :-)

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 14, 2012 at 4:57 am | |

    Uku,

    What about the three characteristics: impermanence, no-self & suffering? Would you consider those Buddhist truths?

    Or perhaps the 'iron law of karma', that wholesome action leads to positive results and unwholesome action to negative results. Doesn't that seem like a Buddhist truth?

  8. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 14, 2012 at 5:02 am | |

    Mysterion,

    thanks for the time-travel. the bad design of the portable turntable is hilarious. cage would have appreciated it, no doubt. awesome that you saw water walk back in those times. would add so much more to the performance in that culture, I'd imagine.

  9. katageek
    katageek May 14, 2012 at 5:06 am | |

    Excellent post Brad. In spite of the snarky responses you are getting, let me say thanks for not shying from relevant topics.

  10. Uku
    Uku May 14, 2012 at 5:11 am | |

    Harry and Roman

    but you're talking of the Buddhist truths of yours or to be accurate, the image you have created of something called the Buddhist truth.

    Dogen didn't teach the Buddhist truth. He was teaching about the truth, but not the Buddhist truth. Same goes for all the great masters.

    With best wishes
    Uku

  11. Uku
    Uku May 14, 2012 at 5:13 am | |

    Anon wrote:

    Uku,

    What about the three characteristics: impermanence, no-self & suffering? Would you consider those Buddhist truths?

    Or perhaps the 'iron law of karma', that wholesome action leads to positive results and unwholesome action to negative results. Doesn't that seem like a Buddhist truth?

    No. Those are valuable teachings and concepts that are pointing to the truth. But those are not the truth. Or the Buddhist truth.

    With best wishes
    Uku

  12. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 14, 2012 at 5:20 am | |

    Uku

    Do you mean to say that the Buddhist truth is a concept? and being a concept it is transient, not permanent, etc.?

    Or are you coming from the Huang Po / hold up a flower angle… "begin to reason about it and you at once fall into error"?

  13. Uku
    Uku May 14, 2012 at 5:24 am | |

    But ain't the Buddhist truth just a bunch of words? I find it funny when people are claiming "I know the Buddhist truth!" It reminds me some Christians…

    Um, whatever.

  14. Harry
    Harry May 14, 2012 at 5:28 am | |

    Hi Uku,

    If you think that Dogen didn't consider himself a Buddhist, and didn't expound the truth of Buddhism, you may be just be putting your own values (or lack of) onto him.

    If you haven't quite convinced yourself yet you could consider such chapters of Shobogenzo as:

    BUTSUDO – The Buddhist Truth

    BUKKYO – The Buddha's Teaching

    GYOBUTSU-YUIGI – The Dignified Behavior of Acting Buddha

    BUTSU-KOJO-NO-JI – The Matter of the Ascendant State of Buddha

    SOKU-SHIN-ZE-BUTSU – Mind Here and Now Is Buddha

    BUSSO – The Buddhist Patriarchs

    KOBUSSHIN – The Mind of Eternal Buddhas

    KENBUTSU – Meeting Buddha

    NYORAI-ZENSHIN – The Whole Body of the Tathagata

    KUYO-SHOBUTSU – Serving Offerings to Buddhas

    etc etc etc…

    Herein Dogen explains quite explicitly exactly what he means in employing such terms. At no point does he state that he is not expounding the Buddhist truth.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  15. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 14, 2012 at 5:29 am | |

    the buddhist truth is:
    1. life is suffering
    2. there's a false way out of suffering
    3. the false way is meditation etc
    4. you will not get rid of suffering, because meditation is a way to stay with suffering, and people have the false thought that is defeating suffering with practices

    Buddhism is hardcore!!!
    There's no way out of suffering!!!!

  16. Uku
    Uku May 14, 2012 at 5:35 am | |

    Harry

    now you're again writing something what is the Buddhist truth. Are you really suggesting that words are the Buddhist truth?

  17. Harry
    Harry May 14, 2012 at 5:41 am | |

    Hi Uku,

    They're certainly not seperate from it. Master Dogen considered that the realised words of past masters were themselves the very body of buddhas. He didn't pick and choose in other words.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  18. Uku
    Uku May 14, 2012 at 5:44 am | |

    Harry

    so those who can't read or are blind or deaf, can't find the Buddhist truth because it's so grounded in words?

  19. Harry
    Harry May 14, 2012 at 5:47 am | |

    Nobody who can make the many right sorts of effort is restricted in doing so in any way.

    Regards,

    H.

  20. Uku
    Uku May 14, 2012 at 5:51 am | |

    Harry

    so in the end, words are not necessary for finding the Buddhist truth?

  21. Harry
    Harry May 14, 2012 at 5:54 am | |

    If the buddhist truth isn't anything seperate from your everyday life, how could it not include words and meaning (presuming for a moment that you communicate with others)?

    Regards,

    Harry.

  22. Uku
    Uku May 14, 2012 at 6:31 am | |

    Harry

    but still you're talking about the Buddhist truth… for me the everyday life is not some friggin' mumbojumbo Buddhist truth. It's just everyday life. Maybe that's the truth but that's not the Buddhist truth. The truth is not just for the Buddhists.

  23. Harry
    Harry May 14, 2012 at 6:37 am | |

    Hi Uku, I think you'll find that the Buddhist truth, the real stuff of it, is something quite real, and it is a specific truth that has been transmitted, so it's not correct to say that it's the same thing as other truth, such as the Christian truth of getting to God through Jesus (although these need not be mutually exclusive, but still, one big blob of ultimate 'truth' might be more like mumbojumbo actually).

    The problem that you have with the truth not being 'buddhist' is just your own value.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  24. roman
    roman May 14, 2012 at 6:39 am | |

    Uku, Harry, that's a nice conversation.

    THe BUddhist truth is the truth. To call it a Buddhist truth means to say that it is the truth that is based on reality and not just some kind of concept. It is the universal truth, not just Buddhist, because the Buddhist truth is universal.

    To claim that there is no Buddhist truth could mean that the person who said that is either sceptical or trying to delete the concept of "Butthist truth" that is an obstacle for realizing or recognizing the Buddhist truth. I think Uku tried to put away the concept-obstacle that prevents one from realizing the truth itself.

    As for Dogen, yes, of course, Dogen writes about the Buddhist truth, but that doesn't mean he believed that the Buddhist truth is something that is possible to replace with words. It is not enough to understand the concept, but recognize the truth. To recognize the truth, or reality, it is necessary to drop all concepts including the concept of Buddhist truth.

    When it comes to the problem of who knows the Buddhist truth, it is not about knowing rather about recognizing it. As long as we are attached to the intellectual understanding, we cannot recognize what reality is.

  25. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 14, 2012 at 6:40 am | |


    Buddhism is hardcore!!!
    There's no way out of suffering!!!!

    Anon, no there is, there is a way out. Its a hella lot of work to do it. I believe it can be done.

    Hereis a decription of the last stages of the path in the Theravadan tradition. Page 172 "The Corpse Within" and on…

  26. roman
    roman May 14, 2012 at 6:42 am | |

    yes, the concept of Butthist truth has nothing to do with the Buddhist truth itself which is not a concept,

    here is a glass of milk, drink it, please,

    impossible? huh?

  27. Harry
    Harry May 14, 2012 at 6:44 am | |

    Hi Roman,

    So what then is the Buddhist truth?

    Regards,

    Harry.

  28. Uku
    Uku May 14, 2012 at 6:46 am | |

    Harry

    are you suggesting that the Buddhist truth is shiho? Is this a problem of being a real Buddhist?

  29. Timothy Leary
    Timothy Leary May 14, 2012 at 6:48 am | |

    Be careful not to impale yourself on your point of view!

  30. Harry
    Harry May 14, 2012 at 6:51 am | |

    Ha ha, the Buddhist truth is not a piece of Japanese theatre, no.

    But Dogen placed great importance on the nature of 'transmission', and just what it substantially and really is. He put it into the realistic context of our own practice/realisation in other words.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  31. roman
    roman May 14, 2012 at 6:51 am | |

    Harry, I never know if you are joking. Ask somebody you trust. You obviously don't trust me. Ask Brad. He has recognized the truth. Ask Dogen, ask Shinji Shobogenzo. There are dozens of stories and explanations what the Buddhist truth is, but only YOU alone can recognize it. I cannot recognize it for you, as I am not you.

  32. Dictionary
    Dictionary May 14, 2012 at 6:53 am | |

    Buddhist = one who follows the teachings of Buddha.

    Truth = A statement proven to be or accepted as true.

    Buddhist Truth = Statements accepted as true by one who follows the teachings of Buddha.

    ( I think you guys are having different understandings of 'truth')

  33. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 14, 2012 at 6:54 am | |

    Roman are you wearing that sweater today ?

    :)

  34. Harry
    Harry May 14, 2012 at 6:56 am | |

    Hi Roman,

    So, what you just said, what does that imply about what the Buddhist truth is? And it's just a simple fact, its not a matter of having to trust or not trust anyone else.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  35. roman
    roman May 14, 2012 at 6:56 am | |

    anonymous, that picture is like 100 years old, so I am already dead and the sweater turned into dirt a long time ago somewhere in a ditch – you are talking to a cheerful corpse that is trying to tell people what Buddhism is

  36. roman
    roman May 14, 2012 at 7:02 am | |

    Harry, it is not necessary to talk to you anymore as your understanding of Buddhism is very weird and you are not interested in the truth, obviously.

  37. Uku
    Uku May 14, 2012 at 7:04 am | |

    Harry

    thank God Almighty you weren't talking about shiho when you referred to transmission. But I don't really think we can capture the Buddhist truth in the narrow or wide prison of words. It's ineffable, like good old chap Gudo used to say.

    Roman

    how can you be so sure of this Buddhist truth you're referring to? And how in hell you know that Brad has recognized it? Geez, you're starting to sound like a lunatic fan. Brad is just an average guy like Dogen was.

  38. Harry
    Harry May 14, 2012 at 7:08 am | |

    Hi Roman,

    It appears that you feel that I'm not interested in what the Buddhist truth is, yet you can't tell me what it is. Don't you find that a strange state of affairs?

    If I really wasn't interested in the Buddhist truth, why would I ask you about it?

    Regards,

    Harry.

  39. roman
    roman May 14, 2012 at 7:14 am | |

    Harry I have already told you what it is about 12 times but you didn't notice, which is absolutely normal situation when people look for the truth, the teachers keep tel;ling them but they don't get it, so just keep trying, one day you will get it

    Uku, it is not so difficult to recognize that. And I have met Brad in person. I have met my teacher in person, I can tell a true teacher form a fake teacher, it is something based on my 20 years of meeting Buddhist teachers, some of them true, some of them fake. You learn this after some time. I never met Sawaki, but reading his notes suggests clearly he recognized the truth. Etc.

  40. Harry
    Harry May 14, 2012 at 7:20 am | |

    Hi Roman,

    It seems you are confusing the Buddhist truth with something that someone else can give you.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  41. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 14, 2012 at 7:22 am | |

    You three are priceless. This page could pass easily as a Beckett play. Fantastic!

    There is the truth that is experienced and there is also the truth that makes a map leading in the direction of true experience. For those who are sincere, there is no need to hit others on the head with the truth that is experienced. Instead, by all means, discuss the maps, clear up misunderstandings – in the map.

  42. Harry
    Harry May 14, 2012 at 7:34 am | |

    "Waiting for Gudo".

  43. Uku
    Uku May 14, 2012 at 7:39 am | |

    Anon, yes, I agree! Map is the word. Fuck the Buddhist truth. Maps are totally different and that's why for example master Dogen's words are pointing so clearly to the truth. But like mr. Sawaki said, without zazen those are just a bunch of lies.

    Roman

    now I'm also as curious as Harry to know what does the Buddhist truth really means to you? What is the Buddhist truth? How can you really tell if someone has recognized it or not? What are you standards? Do you have somekind of meter?

  44. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 14, 2012 at 7:44 am | |

    Harry… KILLS IT!
    LOL

  45. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 14, 2012 at 7:48 am | |

    Yes I would agree. I could easily read and expound on the precision involved with Formula One Racecar Driving from the comfort of my soft chair. Haha :)

    Now I am getting the idea to start collecting maps and hanging them on my wall. If I were to then get on the internet and say I knew all about the countries of the world I would be a big fool.

  46. Uku
    Uku May 14, 2012 at 7:50 am | |

    I want a Buddhist F1 car!

  47. Harry
    Harry May 14, 2012 at 7:51 am | |

    Well, thanks for asking Uku (even if I'm not sure you'll believe me). Curiosity will certainly stand to you in this line of enquiry much better than assumption or belief will:

    You, Uku, are the real, actual stuff of the Buddhist truth. There is no Buddhist truth to be found outside of you, and any teacher who points any other direction (particularly at him/herself) has not understood the Buddhist truth or is pursuing his/her own narrow agenda.

    Now, the whole question of just what constitutes 'you' is the matter of endless ongoing practice and enquiry. I think Dogen expressed it masterfully here (avoiding both the quagmires of 'nothingness' and narrow, restrictive views of the self)…

    "To study the buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things."

    …It's easy to trot out these lines of course and forget that they are the hard-won product of years of sincere practice and enquiry across many methods and forms of conduct.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  48. Uku
    Uku May 14, 2012 at 8:01 am | |

    Damn, Harry! I think we should mark this day as the day I agree with you wholeheartedly. Well said, you crazy Irish! :)

  49. roman
    roman May 14, 2012 at 8:16 am | |

    the truth is just reality, no nobody can give you that, you must get it on your own

    as for recognizing those who recognized the truth, i cannot imagine learning anything about BUddhism if I didn't rely on my intuition to choose the right stuff, for example I have no doubts Dogen recognized the truth, or that Brad recozniged the truth / it is impossible to prove scientifically, but believe me, intuition is sometimes stronger than meters, luckily for those who need to find the right teachers / Do you Uku have doubts about Dogen recognizing the truth?

  50. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 14, 2012 at 8:19 am | |

    200 00 00 00 00 00 00

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