Reflections on Aspiration

from Senior Students in the Mountains and Rivers Order

Featured in Mountain Record 30.2, Fall 2011

My aspiration is to realize myself. What does this mean? To live out of who I am in a fundamental sense, and to help others do the same. How? By using my life to investigate my life: to practice and continue to practice until my dying breath. What is my practice? To question—to look closely at the divisions I place between myself and others and to question the spaces I create between the direct experience of reality living and my ideas about that reality. And out of this questioning, to help others do the same.

—Ron Hogen Green, MRO

My aspiration for my practice is to keep myself engaged as a human being. Practice helps me keep aware that I am here each moment, aware of the great beauty and (as Daido used to quote Zorba the Greek) “the great catastrophe” of everything that is. I practice with the sangha in Vermont and at ZMM to keep my practice from drying up, to help keep me aware that I am related not only to the sangha, but also related to all living things, related to all non-living things which are in me and in which I am. I practice to help me say “yes” to life, “yes” to life in its glory and misery, “yes” to life in its caring and uncaring, for the moments and days and years I have left.

—Robert Tokushu Senghas, MRO

When I first started practicing, I had no real awareness of the truth of suffering, of the question of life and death, and certainly not of aspiration. I had of course experienced suffering, I had witnessed death, and had aspired to various things in my life, but I just wasn’t thinking about them deliberately. Instead, I had a visceral sense that life shouldn’t be so hard and I was looking for something to confirm that feeling. Then, with time, I began to realize that the clearer I could be about my reason for practicing, the more this would help me at times when I didn’t want to do it. This has definitely proven to be true.

Simply stated, I practice to wake up completely, which for me now does mean to put an end to suffering—my own and others’. The longer I practice, the more I realize that this journey is less about improving my own life or dealing with my pain, and more about getting to the cause of this all-pervading suffering so that I can uproot it once and for all.

—Mn. Vanessa Zuisei Goddard, MRO