The Seeking Self Isn’t No Satisfaction!

In a collection of Dharma talks entitled Zen Classics for the Modern World (2011), Rinzai Zen teacher Jeff Shore states,

For the ceaselessly seeking self, nothing it comes across will give lasting satisfaction. Once the seeking self has come to rest, the most ordinary and commonplace is quite enough. “When hungry, eat; Tired, sleep.” The fool ended may laugh: You call that the summit of a life of religious practice? Yet how extraordinarily ordinary are the everyday, immediate events of our lives–when freed of tedious manipulations and self-centered seeking. Nothing esoteric, up in the clouds. Far from being dull or stupid, this is intrinsic wisdom. And it naturally works in the world. (pp. 92-3)

“What is lacking here?” Jeff Shore sometimes asks his students. For if there is something lacking, then seeking begins. And when seeking begins, it only stops when it arrives at what it seeks. For a brief moment, there may be rest. But then the mind sees lack, then seeking mind arises, and then striving for this or that continues. Thus, it is said that “delusions are endless.”

The best that can be offered the seeking self is temporary relief. But that is true folly! The irony, in fact, is that the seeking self, quite ambitious though it is, is not ambitious enough! To be “truly ambitious” is to see through all of one’s suffering–to end it right now!–and for that to occur, the seeking self must dissolve in the eternal, infinite water of Reality!

This is why Buddhism is at odds with modern culture. Capitalism perpetuates our “upside-down view” (more Buddhist lingo) by giving a stamp of approval to one of the Three Poisons. That poison is greed (rebranded “self-interest”). Ignorant and not knowing that we’re ignorant, we continue perpetuating dissatisfaction. Rough!

The worst thing that can happen is for you to keep getting what you want. The best thing that can happen is for you to see that the seeking self IS the source of all of your dissatisfaction. It’s not that it can’t get no satisfaction. It’s that it is the very fount of dissatisfaction.

The essential point is to bring this entire apparatus to a full stop and so to rest in the Source. Not more forwards, therefore, but in a sense backwards, diagonally backwards. The rightside-up view is here, always here, just when the upside-down view is seen through.

Then, yes: “how extraordinarily ordinary are the everyday, immediate events of our lives—when freed of tedious manipulations and self-centered seeking.”