The Power in Powerlessness

In this excerpt from Genpo Roshi’s new book, The Fool Who Thought He Was God, Sebastian, who believes he is God and has committed himself to a mental institution, is attempting to clear up the confusion about power and powerlessness by answering his sane brother’s question, “Why is it that I feel so inadequate and powerless and yet I don’t feel good about admitting I want power?”

Somehow in the spiritual world seeking power is considered in bad taste or even much worse. What is OK is to seek is truth or awakening. However, truth is power, or better yet, awakened to the truth you would be empowered by truth, set free by the truth. In truth your life is impermanent and fragile. You are born powerless, you grow old, become ill and weak, and eventually die powerless. Whatever power you gain through position, wealth, insight or title doesn’t alter the fact that you are powerless to begin with, and in the end. Power is an illusion, you only have the power that others give you. In the end, when they take it away, you are powerless. Real power is in Me, and you are not Me, but I am your divine nature or true self.

You, the limited and small self, are completely powerless. Everything in life is forcing you to acknowledge this fact. It is why you feel like a victim or use what power you have in very immature and unhealthy ways. Or you inflate yourself by trying to rescue or save others as if to refute that you are powerless. You even want to own and embody being powerless to feel better or more powerful or empowered. It is all about escaping from the fact that you are powerless. Life is impermanent, and no matter who or what you are if you live long enough you experience the loss of power — or you die, which is the ultimate loss of power. You are powerless against your physical and mental bodies, powerless and vulnerable.

Everything that is born and comes into existence is impermanent and powerless, no exception. You can be the strongest human being or the strongest species in the world and still you are truly powerless. You can be the richest most famous person in the world, still you are ultimately powerless against old age sickness, loss and death. You can’t save a soul, no less yourself. Everyone faces this truth to one extent or another. That there is truly nothing to gain is the ultimate truth, for whatever you gain you eventually will lose, because ultimately you are powerless against old age and death. That is why you become enablers or what some of you call co-dependent, why you feel like victims, or become aggressive and judgmental, and why you act and want to be seen as some kind of savior or hero. It is all to avoid acknowledging that you are powerless. There is only Faith or Trust in this truth that your tiny small limited self is powerless and therefore always seeking and competing for positions of power.

Then what is the point?

To give up trying to escape this fact, to surrender and acknowledge that you are powerless and any power you might have is an illusion, here today gone tomorrow. It is said that the truth will set you free. The Truth is there was never anything to gain, no escape, and you are born powerless and will die powerless and everything in between is delusion. When you surrender to this fact you are set free to live life with real humility, not false humbleness or self-righteousness.

Read more about The Fool Who Thought He Was God

5 thoughts on “The Power in Powerlessness”

  1. Thank you.
    This is a good teaching. Good teachings are often the last things people want to hear.

    Power, like security and certainty is always an idea and a distortion we invent to avoid being uncomfortable or afraid. It is apparent that any experience we seek is something we contrive if we can’t handle the hopelessness inherent in life. Seeking experience is the mark of an immature mind. Seeking truth or enlightenment – same thing.

    This is a good teaching and a powerful one which is rather difficult for most people to confront. Nearly everyone, encouraged by modern society cultivates neurotic tendencies which we think makes things appear comfortable. Very few go the last mile; rather they get close and then turn back. The don’t make it to ‘here’. They are never where they are which results in conflict. Unfortunately, while this is happening we are destroying each other and the natural environment.

    I feel confident, hearing what you have said, that at least someone is teaching along these more contemporary and worthwhile lines.


  2. And of course the frustration of knowing powerlessness can also lead to destructive and violent behaviours: even taking away life, in a vain attempt to create a God-like sense of power.

    After all ‘God’ seems to have the power over life an death.
    So naively, dangerously and subconsciously we might extrapolate that having power over life and death (usually to the detriment of others) will bring us nearer to god.
    Riots often seem to happen when people feel suddenly and or violently dis-empowered by a different person/group that asserts it’s real or imagned omnipotence.

    Rescuing and destruction as 2 spectral behaviours of desperate attempts at potency?

    And yet sometimes it’s appropriate to take an illusory stand against illusory foes.

  3. Thanks – very timely for my inner dialogue (it appears to be a way out of the victim, persecutor, rescuer drama – the powerless victim is just being true to life but misjudged by the persecutor and rescuer who can’t save themselves but use fierce or heroic ways to try) Could it be my karma to give it the conscious meaning I give it – rather than something more supportive of the rescuer or persecutor – because of my own experiences of powerlessness? : )

  4. Absolutely delighted with what your are saying!!!!! The only disagreement I have with what you are seeing is that I see Power as coming from Athena who is essentially awareness. This awareness that happens in the Present moment is the power that is real power that points towards Truth and does continue until we die or perhaps beyond, I don’t know. I certainly agree with your other insights and am so glad for your sharing them. The power in the physical world is transient and often comes back to bite one in the butt as it attaches to arrogance and ego. Thanks again for your insights. Linda

  5. Maybe the power would be that you loved your way through life,
    at least that’s how I value me as a person,
    and that you stood up for what you believed in, no matter what.
    Like you did.
    Love-respect. it should be one word, I think.
    This is my personal opinion at least…


Leave a Comment

Yes, I want to keep in touch...

I would like to receive news updates and blog posts from Big Mind.
(Address is optional; please include if you would like to be informed of events in your area.)

Thank you...

Thank you for your interest and request.
We will answer as soon as possible…

Thank you...

…for your signup to receive news updates!

You just need to imagine...

30% OFF