i think i get it

In "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" author Robert Pirsig says that the way you live is important, because "the real motorcycle you're working on is yourself."

Ok, that sounds cool and New Age.... but what exactly does it mean? How am I like a motorcycle, and how the heck would I
"work on" myself like a motorcycle?

I found an answer by going back to the book that first introduced me to Buddhist meditation several years ago. "The Wisdom of Yoga" is a kind of intellectual bridge between yogic (Hindu) philosophy and Buddhism. It explains the relationship and shared heritage of the two systems.

One aspect that I loved about "The Wisdom of Yoga" was how the writer explained the Yogic/Buddhist view of our "personalities", and how they are conglomerations of behavior patterns we have collected throughout our lives. Some of these patterns (called samskaras) are good, some are not so good, and they get stronger with use. Normally we don't think about these patterns, we just do them. However, through meditation we can become better observers of ourselves
and these patterns: "Oh, when I'm in situation A... I do action B... and I'm doing it again." If you are diligent in your practice, you get to a point where you can recognize when a pattern is arising, and decide if that is what you really want to do, instead of simply doing it out of habit. This is "freedom" -- no longer being bound by the chains of your patterns.

So this brings us back to working on motorcycles. To be a good mechanic one must be a good observer, and use logic. A good mechanic must listen for sounds, look for clues, and use deductive reasoning... "When A happens... B also
happens...". This is what I have to do with myself, with my own patterns and behaviors. Furthermore, sitting practice is where I learn to do this.

Observing ourselves and these patterns is hard, and is really just the beginning of even harder work. Another line I like from "The Wisdom of Yoga" talks about how knowing that you're drunk doesn't suddenly make you sober. But this is the path, and this, I believe, explains how "the real motorcyle you are working on is yourself."

Peace out peeps.


Raymo.E-J said...


gene said...

haha, that's what i thought when i read it. my summary doesn't do either book justice though. if anyone's at all interested in these ideas i highly recommend both books.