Embrace the Household Life; Drop Enlightenment.

Via John Pappas
on Apr 28, 2011
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Is enlightenment needed?

Do we attach too much emphasis to the idea to the concept? Does it get in the way of things that arise and fall in front of us?

In focusing on the mirror of enlightenment we forget about the view from the window.

I embrace the life of a householder without aspiring to liberation during this life. Is it even possible to have both the fetters and attachments of daily struggle and expect to be released from samsara [neurotic confusion] in just one lifetime? Or is the desire for immediate release what anchors us deeper and deeper into conceptions like hooks into the flesh. I place little priority on the final result or goals instead preferring to watch and savor each step as I place one foot slowly in front of the other.

I release myself from the expectation of awakening in this lifetime and instead engage and internalize the moments that pass…that pass….that pass. While many may be primed for release and liberation like an engine revved and with eyes squinting for the finish; I see each day a moment of this practice where I become more generous, more compassionate and more aware. My engine has cooled like a long distance runner ready for the race; like a man walking…

Liberation is not only found in monasteries, on cushions or in the mastery of metaphysical elements of practice. It is found at the bottom of a sink and in the eyes of a child. It is in the arms of your spouse and in the fists of your enemy. It is the bittersweet tug of memory and the metallic tang of anger. It is both the wind in the trees and the branches that sway in it. Liberation is not apart from the sense world around us. Liberation is the sense world through awakened eyes. The cloudiness of sleep and the haze of tears each a prism focusing the light of experience.

Liberation isn’t possible in this life. Liberation is this life. Liberation is the radical trust in our practice and in this moment…and the next…and the next. That each moment is molded by our delusions, anger and ignorance or fostered through compassion, wisdom and temperance is our practice.

To accept the responsibility is our faith.


About John Pappas

John Pappas is a struggling Zen practitioner with a slight Vajrayana palate (but he won't admit it) stumbling between the relative and absolute through the Buddhist Purgatory otherwise known as the Great Plains of South Dakota. Emerging writer, librarian and aspiring hungry ghost, John spews his skewed perception of the dharma all over his personal blog, Subtle Dharma Mouth Punch as well as on the ephemeral Elephant Journal and occasionally (while having no artistic ability to speak of) on Dharma/Arte. John also loves tacos, homebrew, yoginis and obscure Cthulhu references. You can follow him on twitter under the handle @zendustzendirt


21 Responses to “Embrace the Household Life; Drop Enlightenment.”

  1. Fiona says:

    Beautifully said – and makes perfect sense – thank you for reminding me

  2. luke says:

    Expectations are by their nature designed to disappoint! Enlightenment is a great goal though, redefined to avoid the expectation of it is great too.

  3. Love this, John. Thanks.


  4. Blake says:

    As they say, “The only Zen you will find on the mountain is the Zen you take with you.”

  5. Eric says:

    Thank you John Pappas. I guess even attachment to the most noble of goals is still just attachment.

  6. modybind says:

    Liberation? What liberation? Release? What release?

    Good perspective. Keep walking, and so will I.

    [A small point: prisms don't focus light, they scatter it into its constituent wavelengths].

  7. Diane D'Angelo says:

    Wonderful! Thank you!

  8. linda buzogany says:

    'mystics without monasteries', Carolyn Myss called us householders.

  9. Padma Kadag says:

    Nicely said…I would mention for the benefit of those who are not aware of this…that most of us regard Buddhism as a monastic practice. Monasticism is a large part of Buddhism, of course, and needed. But the tradition of "householder", lay person, ngakpa, yogi, naljorpa is every bit as important and has always been so. The view that one needs to be a celibate monk or nun, we should all know, is not the only path to liberation as you have pointed out here. Most of the great masters were householders. JIgme Lingpa was a householder. When King Langdarma in Tibet was systematically destroying monasteries to irradicate buddhism from Tibet he overlooked the householder ngakpas who kept all of the teachings hidden. It was Nubchen Sangye Yeshe, ngakpa, who eventually brought down Langdarma. In regard to prisms of light…the state at death where those that attain liberation with leaving only rainbow light behind…the majority are householders…or hidden yogis.

  10. monkeywithglasses says:

    Excellent, I wholeheartedly agree. Thanks for the reminder.

  11. John Pappas says:

    Thanks for reading and reminding me how nice it feels to hear a supportive voice.


  12. John Pappas says:

    I think the goal is fine but when striving for it removes us from our life and family, I question it somewhat. Dropping expectations may be the first step.

  13. John Pappas says:

    Love you, Bob. Thanks.

  14. John Pappas says:

    It took me years to get over the fact that a temple or teacher wouldn't make my practice any stronger if I continue to pine over them. Still in the process of getting over it now.

  15. John Pappas says:

    Thanks for commenting Eric. I am glad you got the gist of the article. I don't mean that enlightenment is a wasted goal but when it becomes a detriment it is a concept that needs to be dropped. For whatever reason – be it the immature nature of my practice or my life situation.


  16. John Pappas says:

    Son of a … fine. You are correct. May we both wear our boots well during our long walk.

  17. Adam says:

    If this were any douchier….

    I kid I kid

    Very nice John. "I release myself from the expectation of awakening in this lifetime" -what pleasant, refreshing release.

  18. rooterex says:

    I can smell it from here

  19. John Pappas says:

    Samsara or bullshit? I suppose they both can smell similar…but I was raised in farm country where both were actually quite a common aroma.

  20. Ashley says:

    This is so beautiful, it's poetic!! Thanks for this

  21. Frank Owen says:

    The vast majority of Buddhists in Asia are non-monastic. The vast majority of Buddhists in Asia practice in the householder way, whether urban or rural. Not that enlightenment isn't a facet or feature (though I believe it is held as a more cohesive, less heavy-handed embodied enlightenment aspiration) , but I wonder if some of what you're pointing to gets its heavy-handedness mostly in the West, mostly with people who run from Judeo-Christian traditions; people who rejected the forms of their familial religions without also ejecting the self-shame that can arise from certain interpretations of those traditions? Just an open-ended question.