Sunday, February 3, 2008


There’s an article about innovation in today’s New York Times that offers parallels to the process of progressing along the Buddhist path and provides important lessons for practitioners. It’s called “Eureka! It Really Takes Years of Hard Work.”

The point of the article is that the popular myth that innovation depends on “eureka moments,” great breakthroughs, is a fiction. Innovation depends on a slow process of hard work with many little improvements and small insights.

The same thing could be said about the Buddhist myths of sudden enlightenment and transcendental visions. Progress on the path is always gradual and almost imperceptible. It comes from a slow process of study, contemplation, and meditation, with small insights and a gradual decrease in delusion and kleshas.

Hoping for sudden enlightenment is as debilitating as trying to find the innovation “that will ‘revolutionize the industry,’ create a ‘billion-dollar business’ or ‘make one rich overnight.’” Many people find it difficult to sustain their practice because, either they doubt that they have the “special talent” it takes to make the “big breakthrough,” or they gave it a try and “nothing happened.”

As Suzuki Roshi says in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, “After you have practiced for a while, you will realize that it is not possible to make rapid, extraordinary progress. Even though you try very hard, the progress you make is always little by little. It is not like going out in a shower in which you know when you get wet. In a fog, you do not know you are getting wet, but as you keep walking you get wet little by little. If your mind has ideas of progress, you may say, ‘Oh, this pace is terrible!’ But actually it is not. When you get wet in a fog it is very difficult to dry yourself.”

1 comment:

Scott Jones said...

Hmmmm, yes, I have been noticing now that after 12 years of the path that things are showing up for me in real non-cushion life. Seems I can't get dry even though the fog is sometimes lifting. (mixed metaphores perhaps, but you get the idea.)