why is everybody trying so hard to be great?

A man came to Lin Chi and said, “My master is a great psychic. What do you say about your Master? What can your Master do, what miracles?”

Lin Chi asked, “What miracles has your Master been doing?”

The disciple said, “One day he told me to go to the other bank of the river, and I stood there with a piece of paper in my hand. The river was very wide, almost one mile. He was standing on the other bank and from there he started writing with a fountain pen, and the writing came on my paper. This I have seen myself, I am a witness! What can your Master do?”

Lin Chi said, “When he is hungry he eats, and when he is sleepy he goes to sleep.”

The man said, “What are you talking about? You call these miracles? Everybody is doing that!”

Lin Chi said, “Nobody is doing that. When you sleep you do a thousand and one things. When you eat you think a thousand and one things. When my Master sleeps he simply sleeps; no tossing, no turning, not even a dream. Only sleep exists in that moment, nothing else. And when he feels hungry he eats. He is always wherever he is.”

What is the point of writing from one bank of a river to the other bank? It is just foolish. Only foolish people would be interested in it. What is the point?

Somebody went to Ramakrishna and said, “My Master is a great man. He can walk on the water.”

Ramakrishna said, “Foolish! Because I can simply go to the ferryman, and for just two pennies he takes me to the other side. Your Master is a fool. Go and make him aware that he should not waste his life. It can be done so easily.”

But the mind is always hankering. The mind is nothing but hankering, desiring something to happen. Sometimes it is thinking about money, to have more money, to have bigger houses, to have more respect-ability, to have more political power. Then you turn towards spirituality; the mind remains the same. Now you want to have more psychic powers–telepathy, clairvoyance, and all sorts of nonsense. But the mind remains the same–you want more. The same game continues.

Now it is telepathy, or clairvoyance, or psychic powers: “If you can do this, I can do more than this. I can read people’s thoughts thousands of miles away.”

Life in itself is a miracle, but the ego is not ready to accept that. It wants to do something special, something that nobody else is doing, something extraordinary.

Yea, who needs matches? we can just bang rocks together! and fuck cars, or even shoes. we’ll walk barefoot everywhere. Forget medicine, mechanized farming, every “miraculous” advance man has ever come up with. Let’s just kill our food with our bare hands, and sleep in the warm savannah sun.

Sounds like the life of the town drunk…except for the killing part

liquidangel, I don’t think anybody tries to be great, people just want to live a happy, safe and secure life with love in it. But since you started the topic, are you trying hard to be great? :wink:

Okay, I’ll play Devil’s Advocate. I’m not sure how he meant that post to sound, but you could say that technical progress isn’t what’s being condemned. Perhaps he’s drawing a distinction between being great and simply being good. If that’s the case, perhaps the need to be “great” is distracting us from just “being,” in some Zen sense. By constantly striving to master power in this world, we merely cling to desire and don’t progress towards breaking the chains of attachment that bind us. Sorta like making sure the Titanics deck chairs are all tidy instead of sprinting for a lifeboat.

The ego is like a little puppy, we must teach it obidience.

Perhaps I delude myself into thinking I am great - infact I can say that I do without a doubt, has anybody heard what goes on in my mind lately? But is my mind me? I think not. If my mind is not me then who am I? Who directs the mind?

This is what Osho said:

“Wherever you are, become more centered, become more alert, live more consciously. There is nowhere else to go. Everything that has to happen, has to happen within you, and it is in your hands. You are not a puppet, and your strings are not in anybody else’s hands. You are an absolutely free individual. If you decide to remain in illusions, you can remain so for many, many lives. If you decide to get out, a single moment’s decision is enough. You can be out of all illusions this very moment.”

I think the desire for greatness, power, and influence is rooted in our experiences of powerlessness. The experience of powerlessness is very unpleasant and very undesirable. To avoid feeling powerless people try to accumulate as much power, or greatness as possible. Yet secretly the desire to avoid feeling powerless is still their master. They put a huge amount of effort into avoiding the experience of powerlessness.

Yet no riches, political power, treasures or abilities can completely protect us from this experience of powerlessness. The only way to overcome the experience of powerlessness is to accept it. The more you resist it, the stronger it grows. When you can tolerate this experience, then it has no mastery over you. This is self-mastery.

Try? I wish it were that easy. I can’t help but be great. Greatness pours out of me like lava from a volcano.

If you have any advice on how to be mediocre, let me know.

The question could easily have been why are so many people hoping for an afterlife? Both questions suggest that a human sense of wonderment, awareness and fulfillment can explode into the present moment, the present place, no grandiose gestures required. An enlightened soul’s parillax shift will make mundane dust particles appear as resplendent mountains; the relativity will redraw his experience of the world. Relativity in this sense, built into the structure of nature, endows us all with at least the dormant possibility of sliding our value judgments so that we might find our nectar in the now instead of the new. But an important question is…if would this be good? Would it make us complacent monkeys? I posit that it would it simply make our struggles for survival, growth and love more merry and productive.

no we would not be complacent, we would experience more depth or height as the case may be - and the journey continues

I agree then. But we need a balance of enjoying the moment, and planning for the future, everybody knows there’s both. The “live in the present” imperative isn’t an absolute, just an essential ingredient in the recipe for happiness. There’s still room for Howard Roarke and Eli Whitney. But we need some Hugh Hefner or Dalai Lama in the individual admixture of every human being…and you have some semblence of the American ideal. The Ben Franklin and John Adams ideal…not the Paris Hilton one.

Hi Gamer,

The Tao says that a truly wise person does nothing, and yet nothing remains undone. Quite a bit of gobblygook, no?

My take is that the wise person lives always ‘in the moment’. The present is approached with no pre-conceived ideas, but is seen directly and acted upon directly, and at the end of the day, nothing is left ‘undone’. This isn’t to say that when we awake that there won’t be new things to do that are directly related to what we have done, but that the future is always a projection which may or may not happen. All seeing, judging, and acting take’s place in the present.

That very few people can master this concept is a given, but that doesn’t invalidate the concept.


That’s true when you say that, “To avoid feeling powerless people try to accumulate as much power, or greatness as possible.” But the fact still remains, in your state of powerlessness, would you choose between your basic need or power? Because power is just a want because one is powerless, but it cannot make the need go away no matter how powerful one becomes because of which one became powerless. If I give you a choice between all the power in the world and love and make you aware that you cannot live without love but you can still survive without power, then would you not choose love? You would, because even though power will make your powerlessness go away, it will not make you happy or let you survive. So we all just strive for happiness. Therfore, no one really wants or wishes to be great unless a basic need of theirs is lacking and to fulfill that need they seek power which is a want and will NOT fulfill their need, so they seek more power and so the world goes round and round and round baby!

I’m going to go with Lao Tzu as Tentative has already mentioned on this one. I do however agree with what you say that we need a bit of light and dark in us if we are in search of happiness or the American ideal as you put it (I’m not American) which doesn’t appear to be concerned with the Truth to a great extent. What is happiness? How many of us are happy? Are you happy, am I happy? In my own experience, happiness is only ever momentary and sustained happiness is a myth. So the question is, is happiness the goal? It can’t be. It’s emotional. Our emotional life is part of the world of duality which is impermanent. So why do we seek that which is impermanent? It is an illusion that we hanker after in order to avoid the Truth because to live the Truth is very difficult in our paradigm. Generally speaking, global society is more interested in the external world over which we have limited control, yet which we are deluding ourselves to having total control over and every time we think something out there will make us happy and everytime things don’t quite work out as planned, we find something or someone to blame instead of taking responsibility for our own psycholgies which can be changed as they are not fixed or permanent, but rather can be molded according to absolute truth. If we can recognise it as it is presented at any given moment - moment to moment.

I haven’t studied eastern philosophy, but the way it’s described leaves me thinking…yeah, so? It reminds me of what a plant would say about how to live. Aspiring to be a plant doesn’t interest me, although the appeal and the potential for a certain kind of pleasure isn’t lost on me either. i don’t know if I have free will, but I consider my perception of having free will as my foundation, and then I use my free will at every moment to make the best possible decisions, to paint the best picture I can, based on a rule book that I started writing back before i can remember, a book I ammend and improve with every passing day. I am happy…but that’s not my goal. My goal is entertainment. The feeling you get when you watch a new Seinfeld (if you like that kind of thing) where time ceases to exist and every moment unfolds carrying you down a stream of satisfaction…time becomes effortless. The trick is tuning yourself to RECOGNIZE the entertainment value in everything. But I believe we are not merely the quarterback (the present) but the quarterback, the pass, the ball, the leading of the ball, and the receiver, and that to deny that is missing something crucial. I GET the idea that all we see in the present is the present, but I refuse to ignore the whole picture of my life, past present and future, standing still, like a work of art, like Parmenides or God might see it. <My ability to meditate on the past and future is my way, our human gift maybe, to experience the whole. I have no interest in living fully in the present, which is clearly what I am doing at all times in one sense anyone…something an animal does. And when gurus and mystics beatifically advise me on this, it falls flat. I think it’s a kind of opiate, a kind of blissful death, desirable only in the absence of a blissful life, which is what I think we can find in experiencing our free will and using it to paint pictures of excellence, knowing how to elevate everything to a level of excellence in terms of experiencing it the right way, and seeing your life as a whole. “Live in the present” is a misunderstood and abused dogma, and the ones who understand and apply it, I think, are missing out.

Human nature is developed by profound
Serenity and lightness,
Virtue is developed by harmonious
Joy and open selflessness.
When externals do not confuse
You inwardly,
Your nature finds the condition
That suits it;
When your nature does not disturb
Harmony, virtue rests in its place.

  • Huai-nan-tzu

Man needs, for his happiness, not only the enjoyment of this or that, but hope and enterprise and change.

A guru’s viewpoint may be useful in some cases, like a hat I sometimes wear, or a tool I sometimes use. There is no one right tool or magic bullet for life. Harmonious selflessness can lead to ruin, if used in the wrong way at the wrong time. I believe in the idea of craven self-interest, painful lust, impatience, rebelliousness…they all have their unique thrones in the kingdom of life. I would be the better man to die with a smile, to suffer pain with an unflinching shrug. But my bed of nails I sit upon in lotus position is made of the following nails: deep emotion, sense of self, desire, ambition, suffering, sweating, loving, hating…these are the burning coals I walk upon, and underneath my mask of worldly expressions, i have a beatific smile very different from the guru…it is a gritty happiness hard won and I wouldn’t change it for anything. It is my birthright and obligation to feel the friction of the grindstone…to be made sharp by it, not blunt, is the only question.

Hi Gamer,

I can’t pin it down, but I think you might have a slightly distorted view of eastern philosophy. It isn’t about sitting on a pillow meditating and blissfully ignoring one’s self. It isn’t even about what one does or doesn’t do. It is more about an approach to seeing than about acting.

I see you as a serious student of life and your posts indicate intelligence and sensitivity. I would encourage you to spend a bit of time looking at Taoism, or Zen Buddhism. Although I have studied Zen, I found the Tao to be more understandable - at least for the semi-intelligent people like me. Oddly, eastern philosophy provides a window to look back on western thought. Much of my rather fuzzy view of certain areas of western philosophy came into sharp(er) focus from studying the Tao.

Give it a shot. It’s a view from the other side of the table.


Lao Tzu is ridiculousyly ridiculous…Taodejing…:slight_smile: superb!

The topic of this thread is interesting, because I’m wondering the same thing…:wink:

Accept and you become whole,
Bend and you straighten,
Empty and you fill,
Decay and you renew,
Want and you acquire,
Fulfill and you become confused.

The sage accepts the world
As the world accepts the Way;
He does not display himself, so is clearly seen,
Does not justify himself, so is recognized,
Does not boast, so is credited,
Does not pride himself, so endures,
Does not contend, so none contend against him.

The ancients said, “Accept and you become whole”,
Once whole, the world is as your home.

Such truth…Lao Tsu thumbs up

Don’t you go on as though there is though? Don’t you have an education as a fundemental tool for ‘‘life’’? Doesn’t everybody go about their ‘‘daily lives’’ as though there is?