The Two Reasons People Fail

“The two reasons that people fail to attain path knowledge and fruition knowledge in this life are bad companionship and insufficient practice or instruction…Today there are many people [who] know the method but never put it into practice or are not serious in their efforts, and so they missed out on attaining path and fruition. This is insufficient practice.

-Mahasi Sayadaw, The Manual of Insight, Somerville, Mass. Wisdom Publications, 2016, pg 36.

True of enlightenment. True of life generally. Surround yourself with good people and make an effort, and many things become possible.

3 thoughts on “The Two Reasons People Fail

  1. A few days ago I bought and am now most of the way through a book I have always meant to read “Man’s search for meaning” by Victor Frankl your post nudged me to send this quote from the book. Have you read it? Such wisdom …..

    ” what was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life–daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.
    These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment “

    1. I think I read Man’s Search for Meaning back in college, so it has been a few decades since I’ve read it. On one level, Frankl lived through the Holocaust. So, who am I to critique his ideas of what’s important in life and how to get through your day? On another level, Ruth Klüger.also lived through the Holocaust, and she was critical of learning too much from it: “She once said to the German Studies Association, ‘the present memorial cult that seeks to inflict certain aspects of history and their presumed lessons on our children, with its favorite mantra, ‘Let us remember, so the same thing doesn’t happen again,’ is unconvincing.”

      Thinking on it, this moment, Frankl strikes me as a strong voice that your mindset and your perspective can powerfully shape your experience of the world. The specific quote you point to makes me think of existentialism, and how we are always responsible for what we do in the world, even if we cannot know what is necessarily good, even short term, much less under the aspect of eternity, and yet, we are responsible. We have to take that responsibility and do the best we can.

      I’m onboard with that perspective. Ethics is important. The things we do have impacts beyond ourselves, and we need to take responsibility.

      But, I also think that it fits a little too neatly into the individualism of the West, and it downplays the fact that even if Frankl’s psychology is well-suited to the concentration camp, the problems of a concentration camp aren’t all psychological. That there is something profoundly wrong with some environments, and even if we do have some control over our experience, some experiences – such as being crucified, being used in scientific experiments without our consent, etc. – show there are limits to how well this works for individuals, and there are limits to defining problems in terms of individual psychology.

      I’d also go further, since I’m currently under the influence of Vipassana Buddhist traditions and people like Mahasi Sayadaw, and say that ethics is the first step. This is the precondition for being able to make progress in meditation, developing concentration and understanding, as lived experience, that the fundamental problem is not to change our psychology, but to understand that our suffering comes from the reality of impermanence, dissatisfaction and belief in a self, which is centered in ideas that an untrained mind has no control over.

      When looked at in that light, it seems that Frankl is trying to cut through the problems of impermanence and dissatisfaction by emphasizing the ego, that we can control what we think. But, in my experience, I don’t think I have much control over what I think. Most of my choice lies in whether I choose to take up an idea or not, and perhaps the best choice is to pass over them all, because generally speaking, ideas aren’t worth having.

      Which I suppose is a long way of saying that Frankl looks a lot different to me now than when i read him. But, I hope you enjoy it and find it useful. =)

      1. Thank you for always coming back with a well thought out and interesting response. Let me ponder a few of your thoughts (that always push me to examine some of my own) I will finish the book and perhaps return with some observations.

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