a point in every direction (is the same as no point at all)

I remember when I began meditating, I would meet my friend Joe once a week and discuss practice a little, then sit. He’d been sitting for over a decade already, and had studied Buddhism in university. I didn’t even know a Buddha from a Bodhisattva (I’m still a little puzzled at the difference…).

One day, before sitting, he said we should set our intention.


My intention was to sit here for 15 minutes without moving and get enlightened, wasn’t it obvious??

It actually took quite a long time to figure out what he was talking about, but I realized, eventually, without intention, I was wandering around, up and down every path I came across, lost in the mountain.  When I found my clear intention, it was like spotting the tip of a pagoda through the trees, pointing the way.

Now I must walk my path to it, keep it in sight, not to be distracted by the obstacles along the way.

Easier said than done!

11 thoughts on “a point in every direction (is the same as no point at all)”

  1. so what is your intention? walk your path to what?
    Mind has no intention and no direction. Horizon you are walking to is right under your feet.
    Bodhisatva difference from Buddha could be viewed maybe by the presence of “I”, the higher the level the lesser the “I”.
    Mahamudra Upadesha mentions about being free from all intentions, I don’t know if you are familiar with it or not, but for me Mahamudra teachings were so very helpful in feeling better Kun Sunim’s teachings.
    Some people don’t like to mix teachings, but for me it worked the best, I am a mixture of four cultures and used to combining and benefiting from the variety.
    There is a website http://www.shenpen-osel.org that I found very helpful, again, it was helpful for me, because it let me come to see Kun Sunim’s teachings better, I mean Her teachings are very simple, but they are most profound and it is easy to overlook their true value. Meditation is not really about sitting, your foundation present whether you are in the Dharma Hall or in the bathroom, I mean, practicing meditation with your mind 24/7 would give results, would give experiences.

    1. I agree, in the end there is no path, no mind, but right now, at this level, it certainly seems there is one, so perhaps I’m walking the path away from smaller picture toward the bigger picture…

      I haven’t heard of Mahamudra Upadesha before, thank you for sharing!

  2. In my own experience, few things in Buddhist practice – and life, in general – are as important as intention.

    When our intentions aren’t clear, we create many problems. So practice works to acquaint us with our genuine intentions. (It’s mostly bad news, at least in my case.)

    Also our intention for practice – what Zen Master Seung Sahn called our “direction” – is very important.

    If our intention is only to gain some personal benefit, then we’re probably in for some rough traveling.

    But if our intention – our aspiration – is to practice to ease the suffering of all beings, then even our practice won’t be a problem.

    And, of course, the reality (for me) is that practice helps me grow into my aspiration. Without practice, the aspiration is just empty words.

    1. thank you Barry,
      I must admit, reading one of your posts on this topic recently really helped make something click, and then a good experience of putting it into practiced really opened my awareness.
      I’m very grateful for the insights you shared.

  3. Joseph, i l o v e the idea seeing you sitting for 15 minutes (more or less without moving) awaiting your enlightenment:)

    you see, i wouldn’t go so far to say it is intention that’s on my mind. i’d prefer to say it’s motivation. motivation to start my day good-humoured and to spend my energies only on positive things. to keep my mind free from negative thoughts and not to react negatively to whatsoever. maybe i’m a bit lazy – for me it seems to be enough.
    and – isn’t it that in space there’s no directions? (as Tanya also mentions). i’m just here, that’s it.

    love and peace

  4. “Now I must walk my path to it, keep it in sight, not to be distracted by the obstacles along the way.”

    Wow, thank you Joseph for this wonderful post. It really got me thinking. Thinking about the ‘point’ of my spiritual searching, and the point of my life – my most important intentions and motivations.

    I think Barry is right, so many problems arise, in practice and in life, when our intentions are not clear, and this post is a real call to clarity. Thank you.

    I have made progress over the years of my practice, but this post today really helps me see how I can bring out more of what I am capable of.

    I think I also need to make a kind of account of my professed intentions and see how I’ve allowed them to play out in my daily life or otherwise. How have I gone beyong just saying ‘compassion’ to being compassionate?

    I was going to ask about how we remember – how we remember out intentions when caught up in our daily lives. But I know there’s no real trick – simply that the sincerity of our intentions will naturally play out in all that we do.

    Thank you so much for the inspiration.

    Marcus _/\_

    1. Thank you Marcus,
      Although you offered an answer to your question (and I agree, there is no trick), I’ll offer an other…
      I think it could be a matter of creating the habit of remembering, just like remembering the breath in meditation.

      I’ve been noticing lately that there is a huge difference in the results of just telling myself mentally, or really putting my heart behind it.
      It’s not easy to realize that my effort wasn’t as good as it could be, I tend to want to think I’m doing great! haha

      Thank you for a wonderful reply,
      Joseph _/?\_ (with palms together and a not-knowing mind!)

    1. I am not sure what you are talking about (you meant voice in the video? (it took me a while to get to this!))

      There is a funny video

      not exactly funny in traditional sence, well, I am not sure, but somehow there is something there to think about, I mean in terms of human condition, our limitations in mind based in our limitations of the body, what I am trying to say that to depart from habitual thinking is not easy, it is not easy to recognize that we are not our body, that our mind is limitless, it is like as if the “gravity” of thought created our body, which we percieve as “me” and always look ourward, towards this created material illusion, which seems and experienced as totally solid.


  5. I would like to add your blog to the Zen Community at http://community.zen-sangha.org. It is a blog aggregator that pulls in posts from a variety of Zen blogs. All links (and comments) go back to the original blog. It simply makes it easier for people to track a bunch of Zen blogs in a single place.

    If you’re interested in being added, please let me know.

    Al Jigen Billings

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