The Goal is Ordinary

The Goal is Ordinary October 5, 2018

“What is basically present is here and now. It does not depend on cultivating the path or sitting in meditation.”


We may tend to think of our spiritual path as a journey with a distant goal, like climbing a mountain. That’s how a lot of people like to describe it, I think.

That’s what we’re used to. In other situations when we learn that’s how it works. We slowly accumulate knowledge and skills as we’re trying to approach some goal. We get a little bit more skilled as we’re going along. We have expectations regarding what will happen in situations like that.

But Enlightenment isn’t something far away that we’re trying to get to. Our true nature isn’t something we’re striving to find. Or, rather, it is something we’re trying to find…but it’s within us. We have it already.

And a lot of times when it feels like we have some far away goal, it can be really easy to get discouraged. We can start thinking things like, “I meditate. I should be more patient than this.”

A lot of times we don’t notice the areas in our life where we’re just a little less angry or a little more focused. When we don’t notice these little things we may feel like we’re going nowhere. And that’s what happens to some people. Some people start practicing and notice how the path is helping them (and others) right away. Other people start practicing and they don’t notice anything for a long time.

But the point I want to make is that we’re there already. You get there by realizing you’re there. Enlightenment is within us. On the path we’re really just trying to learn how to see it, to turn our minds away from all the preconceptions and judgments and (very heavy) baggage that we’re always carrying. If we can start putting that stuff down sometimes, then we can see our true nature.

Our true nature is Good and Awake, Focused and Free.

But it’s also not special. It’s been called the Ordinary Mind because it is ordinary. It’s just me without all this anxiety and insecurity and other crap. I’m not finding some powerful being within myself. I’m just getting down to what’s there already.

Mazu said, “There is no need to cultivate the path; only do not become defiled. If you wish to understand the path, ordinary mind is the path.”

The Buddhist path is less like climbing down a mountain and more like taking out the trash. A lot of trash has piled up over the years and sometimes cling to it tightly.

Ordinary, to me, is another word for authenticity. To me that’s what the path is all about. I’m not trying to climb a mountain. I’m just trying to be more real, to bring a more genuine perspective into my life, to meet the world in a more awakened way.



Daniel Scharpenburg

 Daniel lives in Kansas City. He’s a Teacher in the Dharma Winds Zen Tradition. He regularly teaches at the Open Heart Project and he leads public meditations. He’s a co-owner of the website The Tattooed Buddha

Find out more about Daniel here and connect with him on Facebook

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!