Speaking hypothetically about not wanting

“I see now that wanting things is dangerously likely to lead to disappointment. Not wanting them is a much easier path to serenity.”

Perhaps, speaking hypothetically, you want a child who remembers to lock up his bicycle at school. It’s not an unreasonable thing to want. Perhaps that want leads to disappointment (and all manner of practical difficulties) because your child is the kind who forgets to lock up the bicycle. Perhaps you decide to give up wanting the kind of child who remembers to lock up his bicycle. After all, it is not the worst thing a child can do. So you surrender the wanting and put yourself squarely on a much easier path to serenity.

Or so you say.

But it seems to me what you’ve done is change the object of your wanting. Instead of wanting the kind of child who remembers to lock up his bicycle, you’ve decided instead to want an easier path to serenity. Not wanting is just another kind of wanting. Wanting serenity does not put you on the path to serenity any more than wanting a child who remembers to lock up his bicycle puts you on the path to a child who remembers to lock up his bicycle.

When asked to explain enlightenment, the master Bankei said, “When I’m hungry, I eat; when I’m tired I sleep.” His answer reminds me of another answer I read recently, “1. work; 2. take care of kids”.

The secret is that there is no secret.

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8 thoughts on “Speaking hypothetically about not wanting

  1. For some reason, WordPress unfollowed me from you, which is very disappointing. This is what happens on WordPress. I think, from time to time, I wonder what happened to….X…because I haven’t seen them blogging lately, and then it turns out that I’ve been unfollowed. Curiously, I follow some individuals whom I would not particularly notice or care if I lost from my daily life…yet day after day, week after week, WordPress allows me to continue following them.

    I have no idea what this says about wanting.

    The master Bankei obviously had no children. Who can live such a life. When I’m hungry I eat, when I’m tired I sleep. Another way of phrasing this is: I have no responsibilities or obligations to anyone else.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve been thinking recently that being a hermit and/or a misfit would be very helpful to achieving personal peace and writing books.

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  2. I feel a great affinity for Buddhist philosophy. I think you’re totally right about the now and the wanting and not wanting. There is something troubling me that I can’t quite put my finger on, though. Maybe that there is the now, but you’ve still got to get there. It’s no easy journey, though it might be the smallest one. I don’t now. Blargh.

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  3. “When I’m hungry, I eat; when I’m tired I sleep.”
    So that’s where I’ve been going wrong all these years. My policy until now was: when hungry, tie my shoelaces, and when tired, prune the rhododendrons.

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