Monday, August 16, 2010

DONE AT GREAT SKY, NEXT STOP TASSAJARA

Man it was hot at the Great Sky sesshin! And the mosquitoes were vicious beyond belief. You'd spray yourself with more bug poison than any human should ever apply to his skin and they would still bite. I have little red splotches up and down my legs even now, two days later. Whenever I'd go to the outhouse as soon as that one portion of my body that was not doused with bug spray was exposed they'd be right there trying to take a bite. I had to admire their tenacity.

There's an old Zen saying, "When it's hot let the heat kill you. When it's cold let the cold kill you." Good advice, to be sure. But gosh dang it was hot!

And there were thunderstorms. Because the prairie is so flat out in that part of Minnesota you could see the lightning flashes sometimes as much as four hours before the storms actually arrived. There were a couple times the strikes must have been right there outside the zendo because the thunder came simultaneously with the flash and was loud enough to shake the building. BA-BOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!

As most of you reading this probably know, a Zen sesshin is an intensive period of concentrated Zen practice that usually lasts 3-7 days. This was a 7 day one. They wake you up at 4:30 in the morning and the first practice begins at five. The photo above is the tea house at Hokyoji at 4:30 AM. That's where folks go to caffeine up for the coming onslaught, unless you're me and you can't handle caffeine anymore and have to make do with vitamins. The day is broken up with a few chanting services, a dharma talk, a couple breaks and a work period. But for the most part you are sitting, staring at a wall all fucking day long. It's brutal.

And Great Sky is probably the gentlest Zen sesshin out there, except maybe for those Thich Nhat Hahn things where you do like 20 minutes of zazen a day and even that's optional. Or something like that. I've never been on one, but word on the street says there's very little actual zazen required.

The dharma talks this year by the five of us teachers who were there tended to interlock, which was an interesting new development. One of the themes that seemed to come up in nearly all of them was the subject of kensho experiences.

Kensho (見性)means "seeing into one's true nature." In some circles a kensho or satori experience is held out to be the greatest thing a Zen practitioner can hope for. Lots of Zen folks drive themselves to have one of these great breakthrough moments. The literature is full of different words for these; "opening experiences," "enlightenment," "awakening," the list goes on.

This is, of course, the premise behind the whole Big Mind® scam and other similar abuses of Zen practice. I can't remember what the other teachers and participants said about these experiences, but I can give you my opinions, informed by what I heard last week.

It's not that there can never be any value to such experiences. You can find value in any experience. It's just that afterward it's just like any other cool thing that happened to you. "Dude! You shoulda seen the sunset I saw in Maui when I was totally high!" or "I banged the captain of the cheer leading squad/football team/both at once when I was in tenth grade!" or "I had the biggest Enlightenment experience ever in the world!" are all pretty much the same thing. They're just events from our past that we latch onto in order to define ourselves.

Enlightenment experiences are particularly good for this. In fact, they may represent the ultimate among all ego trips. What could be bigger than being one with the entire universe? What could make you more massive and heavy and ultra super duper rad and cool? Nothing I can think of, that's for sure.

It's not hard to induce some big ass experience. Tonen O'Connor, one of the Great Sky teachers worked in the theater for many years before she became a Zen teacher. She said that this was their stock in trade when they put on shows -- exciting people's emotions and giving them an experience they'd remember. This is why she was initially unimpressed when she first encountered Zen at a temple in Japan that emphasized these kinds of "breakthrough moments." I've participated in similar things in the world of rock'n'roll. Inducing Big Wow moments like this can also be a very powerful way of making people feel they owe you something.

Making someone have a breakthrough moment very early in practice may be the best way of killing that person's potential to truly come to terms with who and what they actually are. And that's pretty sad. Also, at some level of understanding, a so-called "kensho experience" and what most of us would call a nervous breakdown or even psychosis aren't all that different. It's dangerous mojo to play with that kind of stuff.

Anyway, whatever. You've heard me say all this before and you'll probably hear it again. I can't convince anyone of anything, particularly those unfortunate enough to have had their own so-called "breakthrough moments" far too early. I can just make it abundantly clear that I, for one, will forever and always oppose that kind of bullshit.

This year's Great Sky sesshin was a particularly harrowing retreat for me. I don't think I've ever sat a sesshin that was quite as difficult. But it was good. It's what I needed.

In becoming a celebrity and touring the world I've been concerned that I was losing touch with the practice. I needed something pretty strong to bring me back. The Great Sky sesshin was the first part, and the month I'm going to spend at Tassajara is the next.

For those of you keeping track at home, I will be at Tassajara from on or about August 18th until on or about September 14th. It's guest season down there and I'll be a work practice student for most of that month right until the day I magically transform into a teacher and give a couple of talks down in the valley just before I emerge into the so-called "real world."

After that I have a few gigs in Northern California. They're listed at this link. So stop by if you can. Then Zero Defex is playing at the Kent Stage in Kent, Ohio on September 25th. After that I'm speaking at the Cleveland Buddhist Temple in Cleveland, Ohio. I'll be in New York in October. I'm working on a few more East Coast things to try and take advantage of being on that side of the country. So stay tuned.

Some folks are managing my Twitter account while I'm away. So if you subscribe to that there might be updates there before I get out of Tassajara.

Meanwhile, copies of my newest book, Sex, Sin, and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between, have already started appearing in the shops. I have it on good authority that there's a copy at a book store here in Milwaukee. If they've penetrated this far into the Midwest there may be some at stores near you too.

So as soon as I get out of the monastery, the madness will start right back up again full force. Hopefully the time away will help me settle into it easily.

I think we all need a bit of time away from the world. This is why people take vacations. But a Zen sesshin is more than a vacation. It's a time of deepening practice that you can't really get any other way. There's stuff you get into on day three or four that you couldn't possibly get into just sitting for a half an hour at home.

Still, that at-home practice is the most vital thing. It's like visiting the dentist. If you never brushed your teeth and just went in for a cleaning every six months, it would be hard for your hygenist to do much for you. Same with Zen. If you expect, as some folks seem to, that you can get your Zen practice done all in one super intensive week, well, it just doesn't work that way.

Anyhow, this will probably be my last post for a while. Unless I get held up in San Francisco waiting for a ride up the mountains and down into the canyon where Tassajara sits. So enjoy the respite from all of my noise while you can!

ADDENDUM:

It's really interesting to see how upset people get when I question anything about kensho/satori/enlightenment/awakening etc. Immediately after this post went up I'm accused by the usual anonymous posters of "teaching Zen without having insight into (my) true nature," and "talking out my ass like (I) usually do." It seems to really touch a nerve when you question these things.

Even the venerable Jinzang says that saying kensho is unimportant is the same as chasing it, only with a "fucked up layer of repression added to it."

But why such fussing? If kensho is real, then who cares what I think about it? It's not gonna make it less real. Or is it? Are these anonymi simply eager to protect those poor souls, less enlightened than anonymous blog posters, who might be mislead by Bad Ol' Brad?

In Hardcore Zen I talked about two events that happened in my life. One time I was walking to work and all of a sudden everything fell into place. All kinds of crazy shit Tim McCarthy had told me when I first started sitting made sense like, "It's more you than you could ever be." I can't recall when this happened. Not even what year. It occurred completely outside of time and space as I knew it up until that moment. It occurred every day since time began and until time ends. It flashed through all living and non-living things in the cosmos.

My life was divided in two on that day. I describe the whole thing in great detail in the book, so I won't regurgitate that here. That moment has informed everything I've written about Zen ever since. It was an important day.

It was not dramatic at all. It was perfectly normal. Nothing has ever been so normal.

It was not kensho.

I also talked about another experience. In that one I saw my whole body and being spread throughout the cosmos. My mind was the mind of God. All of time was my creation. I was the Biggest, Baddest Thing That Ever Existed.

That one fucked me up but good. And just like the anonymi who post comments to this blog, I was terribly upset when Gudo Nishijima dared — DARED — to question me — ME!!! — about the reality of this.

And then I thought, "Why would God His Bad Ass Self be worried what some little old man thought of him?" And then I ate a tangerine and got over it. Which was also a very big deal. I did not get over it easily. I'll leave it at that. I got over it screaming and kicking and cursing.

The former is not something you can bottle and sell. The latter is what guys like Genpo are tricking their followers into believing is "Enlightenment."

It's fucking them up big time.

But I digress.

If you experience even something like the former too soon and without proper grounding, it's exactly like psychosis. It will make you crazy. It is not a good thing. I suspect maybe Charles Manson had an experience of something like real awakening but he had it when he was not ready to understand what it meant.

Even with 20 or so years of Zen behind me, that experience by the river has had some seriously weird effects in my life. The song 108 Sacred Stages I posted here a while back is about some of that. Something like that happens and you're cool for a while. But then you're all like, (whiny voice) "How come it's not like that anymore?" "How can I make it happen again?"

Oh it's still there, somewhere. But it's not of time. It's the very ground of all being and non-being, including my shitty-ass life of sleeping on other people's floors and hoping my next book sells enough that I can live somewhere decent, of getting horny and looking at Suicide Girls, of mosquito bites and record shopping, of buying books about Jesus and listening to experimental electronic music from the 1950s. It's you too, whether you know it or not.

But there's a strong, strong habit we all have of grasping at things to make them "mine." That day was not mine. "It does not linger in the vicinity of the personal self" as Dogen put it. But you want it to. Believe me, YOU want it to. You want it to bad. And I mean you. And I mean BAD.

Kensho is bunk. Satori is bullshit.

And I'm sleepy. Good night.

831 comments:

1 – 200 of 831   Newer›   Newest»
Anonymous said...

Yikes! One

Ha.. Harry

Harry said...

No hat trick for me.

Ha.. hapless

:-(
.
.
.
.
.
.(< bitter tears)

Anonymous said...

"Also, at some level of understanding, a so-called "kensho experience" and what most of us would call a nervous breakdown or even psychosis aren't all that different. It's dangerous mojo to play with that kind of stuff."

It's not about the groovy, blissful feelings that may or may not accompany kensho, it's about the content, the change in viewpoint that is at it's heart. It's what the Lankavatara calls a 'turning about at the seat of consciousness'.

Brad's assertion that kensho is akin to nervous breakdowns or psychosis is as ill-informed and ignorant as the hippies who claimed that taking acid was identical with satori. Many kensho's do not even have a strong emotional component. Yet another strawman to put down those psychotic rinzai guys, I suppose.

What is truly dangerous mojo is teaching zen without having an inkling of insight into your true nature.

Hokai said...

Fourth! Ouch!
I was only a second on the toilett...
Paw!

john e mumbles said...

Personally, I'm not as interested in the Kensho as I am in the Barbie Show (ba dum bum)...

Hippie said...

taking acid is identical with satori.

Anonymous said...

Anon @11.05am wrote:

"Brad's assertion that kensho is akin to nervous breakdowns or psychosis is as ill-informed and ignorant as..."

Well, he did say, "At some level of understanding..." I don't think that one sentence was an "assertion", a definitive statement, about the nature of kensho in all circumstances, for all people. He also said, "It's not that there can never be any value to such experiences..."

john e mumbles said...

I guess if all you have got to look forward to is watching the paint dry on the wall, the promise of Kensho sounds pretty interesting. I used to have a theory that you get so many footsteps in a lifetime and that running as an exercise might mean you are just using them up faster . Maybe sitting there staring down a wall is sort of the same thing, how you use the few moments granted to you may make all the difference. Get ye to a strip club…

Anonymous said...

According to Brad kensho experiences are the "ultimate ego trip." Sure, Brad, whatever you say. I take it you're speaking from experience, right? Or are you talking out of your ass like you normally do? I usually take your articles with a grain of salt but for this one I might have to use the whole shaker.

PhilBob-SquareHead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jinzang said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jinzang said...

Denigrating kensho and saying it's not important is exactly the same as chasing after it, only with a fucked up layer of repression added on top.

Jinzang said...

Every time you dscribe the Great Sky sesshin you leave me with the impression it's a living hell, alternately roasted by the heat and drenched by thunderstorms. Maybe I'm just an old coward who loves his creature comforts a bit too much, but the whole macho "you gotta suffer if you want to see the truth" thing doesn't appeal to me.

Anonymous said...

"Enlightenment experiences are particularly good for this. In fact, they may represent the ultimate among all ego trips. What could be bigger than being one with the entire universe? What could make you more massive and heavy and ultra super duper rad and cool? Nothing I can think of, that's for sure."

There are degrees of satori / kensho (see 10 oxherding pics). It is true that a shallow kensho can indeed be used by the ego to inflate itself and make the person even more deluded. This happens when it is made into an experience to be remembered and cherished. Any good teacher will point this out. Satori is always here and now. Holding on to a past experience, even a valid one, prevents satori from operating now and now and now. The experience is not the problem, the attachment to it is.

A true satori is realizing that God is me. What you describe is more like I am God.

"why would you feel the need to tell everyone if the GREAT BIG ENLIGHTENMENT opened your 3rd eye vision gobbledygook?"

philbob, this makes no sense. Nowhere did I or anyone else suggest it is important to tell anyone (other than your teacher) if kensho happened. I don't know anything about 3rd eye vision gobbledygook, but I suspect it has nothing to do with kensho.

Jinzang; Exactly. The irony is, I think Brad has actually had kensho but either does not recognize it as such (since he didn't have any trippy, groovy, bliss explosions)or simply doesn't like to use that term.

I love Brad, but this is right up there with "attachment is not a central teaching of Buddhism."

Anonymous said...

I see many people consider Brad Warner's ideas on kensho to be ignorant.
It seems to me that some of the Soto zen folks have become much more taoist then zen Buddhist.
Bodhidharma's teaching is about realizing you own mind is Buddha. If we lose sight of what Bodhidharma was teaching then it is not what zen originally was.
Remember Bodhidharma was a patriarch of gotama buddha's teaching. Gotama Buddha was all about liberation/nibbana
also a mild kensho may just be a memory the next day, but a strong experience is life changing.
It seems now in days there are ordained priests who have had no insight into satori

THOMAS AMUNDSEN said...

have a safe trip!

THOMAS AMUNDSEN said...

@Jinzang

if we're constantly suffering anyway, do we have any choice?

PhilBob-SquareHead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"See, you think I give a shit. Wrong. In fact, while you talk, I'm thinking; How can I give less of shit? That's why I look interested."

- Shit My Dad Says
2:33 PM Aug 7th via ShitMyDadSays.com

Anonymous said...

I hear this a lot from the current gen Zen establishment - in fact it's all I hear. But having met a few enlightened masters, it kind falls flat.

PhilBob-SquareHead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

thanks for staying up late to post an addendum before you go nighty-night

glad to hear more teachers are putting kensho in it's place

some time after I started sitting, and continued after been sitting a while I would sometimes think 'what if it (the big E) happens? and then think 'well that will be that' and then I would think 'what if it never happens?' and then I'd think 'well that will be that'

will or won't seem to be flip sides of the same coin

talking about enlightenment and enlightenment type experiences reminds me about talking about Heisenberg's uncertainty principle (particle position/particle velocity)
it's not like I understand quantum mechanics either
but talking about kensho makes me feel the same way as when there is talk about quantum mechanics

I like the feeling my mind gets when it boggles

and then I go back to the task at hand.

ben mccaffrey said...

excellent informative thank you. try not to leave it to long for the next one.

ben

Shonin said...

He may not have used the word 'kensho', but Dogen writes about seeing his true nature all the way through the Shobogenzo. It's not all recipes or instructions for some static yoga pose.

As for it being dangerous for people to have the experience too early, that seems possible. If you're not grounded and stable it might be a bit much.

Anonymous said...

Dear Brad-san,

I think i remember reading/hearing you in the past saying you werent in favour of sesshins longer than about 3 days, because it was too separate from normal life. Has any of this more intensive practice changed your view on that?

Anonymous said...

But why such fussing? If kensho is real, then who cares what I think about it? It's not gonna make it less real. Or is it? Are these anonymi simply eager to protect those poor souls, less enlightened than anonymous blog posters, who might be mislead by Bad Ol' Brad?

Why such fussing (with endless rants on your blog) about Big Mind? If it is not real, then who cares what Brad thinks about it? Is Brad simply eager to protect those poor souls, less enlightened than he, who might be mislead by Bad Ol' Gempo?

If all the criticism about your views on kensho didn't hit a nerve with you, why post an addendum? From your past behavior, I anticipated you'd feel you had to refute what was said here. Isn't it possible that Bad Ol' Brad just might be a teeny bit wrong sometimes? Would it really be so painful just to admit that?

"My life was divided in two on that day. I describe the whole thing in great detail in the book, so I won't regurgitate that here. That moment has informed everything I've written about Zen ever since. It was an important day.
It was not dramatic at all. It was perfectly normal. Nothing has ever been so normal.

It was not kensho.


And you know this because.....
How do you know that it was not kensho? You say you haven't had it, so how could you know? Is this something like how you know that zen is superior to all other forms of buddhism....even though you admit you know next to nothing about these other sects of buddhism?

Perhaps because it does not form part of your own dogmatic view of what is or isn't zen? It's possible that all of us blog critics are wrong. This would also include the vast majority of Buddhist masters through-out the past 2,500 years, the overwhelming majority of zen patriarchs and teachers who attest to the importance, even neccesity of satori....yes, all may be mistaken and you may be right. But shouldn't the odds at least compel you to examine your views on this just a bit? Consider it before you again lash out in self-defense from a wounded ego.

From your description, it sounds like you had a very strong kensho years ago and that it is no longer operating in your life now. It also sounds like you are upset that it didn't 'continue'. Yes, perfectly normal. Nothing has ever been so normal...that is satori. How could seeing the true nature of reality be abnormal? Delusion is what is abnormal.

Shonin said...

Thanks for sharing your story Brad. I think it shows - as many people have verified themselves - that kensho is not permanent, and that being impermanent, attachment to it creates suffering. Sound familiar anyone?

This doesn't mean of course that the event didn't happen, or that it happening is necessarily a bad thing or that it's occurence was insignificant. But it does sound as if you because strongly attached to it and that it went to your head. It was this attachment to the experience that was a problem not the experience itself. You might have experienced something very similar had you suddenly discovered that you had the power to move objects by the power of thought alone or something else extraordinary seeming. But I don't think rejection is the answer either.

It's a case for Zen students being well-grounded and having appropriate, realistic expectations. (And whether Genpo Roshi does that responsibly is a good question I think). It's also a reminder that kensho does not represent a switch flicking in our life such that from then on we can just float through life on a cloud. However, it's not a case for the non-exisence of kensho (or whatever name we use). Nor is it a case for kensho having no effect on our life whatsoever.

The way it seems to me is that at the time it happens, kensho completely shatters our whole existential experience as it was - on the other hand it is impermanent - the conditioning or mental habits that produce our ordinary sense of self are still there (we still have karma/the same brain) so this mode returns. Our attachment to the experience is part of that conditioning - the ego clinging to the idea/memory - and when the experience fades we may experience some disappointment especially if we hoped it would be permanent. However, if we let it go we can work on integrating the insight into our everyday life. When you've seen how a magician does his trick you don't see it quite the same way any more. There is - or at least can be - a shift in our way of relating to experience - a loosening up of our conditioning. Integrating these kinds of experiences into the ordinary moments of our lives - without attachment or rejection - is what my teacher would call 'maturity'.

Anonymous said...

"Integrating these kinds of experiences into the ordinary moments of our lives - without attachment or rejection - is what my teacher would call 'maturity'."

Exactly. Well said.

proulx michel said...

Brad writes:
Man it was hot at the Great Sky sesshin! And the mosquitoes were vicious beyond belief. You'd spray yourself with more bug poison than any human should ever apply to his skin and they would still bite. I have little red splotches up and down my legs even now, two days later. Whenever I'd go to the outhouse as soon as that one portion of my body that was not doused with bug spray was exposed they'd be right there trying to take a bite. I had to admire their tenacity.

You should have used your hossu. That's what it's made for!

proulx michel said...

Brad writes:
Man it was hot at the Great Sky sesshin! And the mosquitoes were vicious beyond belief. You'd spray yourself with more bug poison than any human should ever apply to his skin and they would still bite. I have little red splotches up and down my legs even now, two days later. Whenever I'd go to the outhouse as soon as that one portion of my body that was not doused with bug spray was exposed they'd be right there trying to take a bite. I had to admire their tenacity.

You should have used your hossu. That's what it's made for!

Anonymous said...

Anyone who would call himself a member of the Zen family must first of all achieve kensho—realization of the Buddha’s Way. If a person who has not achieved kensho says he is a follower of Zen, he is an outrageous fraud. A swindler pure and simple--hakuin

The Zen founder did not come from India to China because there is something to be transmitted. He just pointed directly to the human mind for the perception of its essence and realization of awakening. ~Fa-yen

Seeing your nature is zen. Unless you see your nature, it’s not zen. ~Bodhidharma

I will settle something for you right now: the ultimate rule is to see your own mind clearly. This is what Buddhism is, as far as I am concerned. ~Foyan

Realization of the self-nature is the sole cure for all (mind) illness. Do not rely on any other remedy. Find the subject which casts the shadows, it is the very source of all Buddhas. ---Bassui

A perception, sudden as blinking, that subject and object are one, will lead to a deeply mysterious understanding; and by this understanding you will awaken to the truth.--Huang Po

Glen David Naughton said...

If i can't have Kensho to keep for meeeeee, can i have a cookie?

Robert said...

Some people take Vitamin B tablets temporarily in that situation Brad - it's supposed to keep the annoying pests away. Don't think it would work on the comments page though. *chuckle*

Ran K. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ran K. said...

I think if Brad writes about serious things he should dedicate more time to express himself properly.

As for kensho I'd like to hear a Rinzai opinion on the other side.

Rinzai Zen isn't 20 years old and it's quite clear it would have its arguments.

All too often people just accept the opinions of a Zen teacher they happen to be in the vicinity* of. This isn't the sort of thing to rejoice at. - [or in - as the phrase Dogen uses] It is not a sign of being awake. - It is not a sign of being serious.

I don't think that** much can be made of what Brad is saying. - Mike cross says, for example - that one needs to be very stupid to follow the breath, or use a koan, - I’m not positively sure which Rinzai practice he was talking about - but anyway - one of them. Does he think Master Hakuin is a stupid man? - Does that question require an answer? - I would be surprised if it would. Does master Dogen think the masters of Rinzai stupid? - Those who have had such practice since the time of Dai-e Soko? [I imagine] - Quite obviously not.

Discussion often is not real.

People believe what they want to believe and don't report or give account to themselves that they have not actually received actual grounds to conclude what they seem to imagine they did.

I don't think Brad’s article gives enough ground to believe either way.

And as I haven’t experienced a kensho so I couldn’t refer to it.

I don’t think Brad would actually express himself as he does if he actually thought people would believe him.


But the end is good. “And I mean you. And I mean BAD.”. - I suppose that’s something he sees. But I don’t. I’m not going to concern myself about it. We’re all sleepy. And he doesn’t manage to get it through.


Xegards,

Y, K & the W***
______________

* that’s one word I learned here at the blog

** interpret that either way

*** aka M II.

Glen David Naughton said...

Ran makes a good point.

For me, i am often bewildered at Buddhism. For a tradition that seems to claim the 'truth' about reality...man the experts sure do seem to disagree on what this truth entails and how one is best to 'get' to it. Many wise people from all the traditions seem to talk of the wisdom they have, they all champion the methods of meditation they have used. I know of one Korean teacher who scoffed at watching the breath but instead told people to only keep in mind the question 'what is this?. Does that mean all the buddhist 'masters'in the past were totally wrong for not meditating on this koan all the time?

Shonin said...

This is a Rinzai practitioner called Hori talking about Kensho:

Kensho, the experience of awakening, is more than merely the state of concentrated samadhi. When the Great Doubt has totally taken over the self, there is no more distinction between self and other, subject and object. There is no more differentiation, no more attachment. This is merely samadhi and not kensho. Kensho is not the self’s withdrawal from the conventional world, but rather the selfless self breaking back into the conventional world. It is only when this samadhi has been shattered that a new self arises. This self returns and again sees the things of the world as objects, but now as empty objects; it again thinks in differentiated categories and feels attachment, but now with insight into their emptiness.

This is Dogen talking about 'verification':

To study buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be verified by all things. To be verified by all things is to let the body and mind of the self, and body and mind of others, drop off. There is a trace of realization that cannot be grasped. We endlessly keep expressing the ungraspable trace of realization.

Jinzang said...

My apologies. Last night I tried too hard to be clever, so the Bad Jinzang peeked out. I'll try to be nicer in the future.

Here's what I meant. When taking a case in homeopathy, if the patient says, "money is not important to me" or "I don't worry about money," you take "worries about money" as a symptom and underline it. If something is not important you don't mention it, just as when your shoes are comfortable, you don't think about them.

So why is talking about kensho important? Because some hold the opinion that Buddhism is only about being mindful of the present. The crucial point is that we are confused about ourselves and the world and need to clarify this confusion. Mindfulness is a tool to achieve this clarity and not an end in itself.

Ran K. said...

One more thing about Genpo Roshi I already said:

Brad says in one of his recent posts, - I haven’t searched, - something like that those who have listened to his talks might one day come to practice Zen [- or Buddhism - I can't recall and it really doesn't here matter] without even remembering they have once listened to it.

Quite nicely said.

Though I thought the claimed evil G might have a similar intention.

Perhaps the idea is that those who experience the BM will someday be attracted to practice. A small percentage - but the tendency of humanity isn't, or does not seem to be, to search for what is real. Most - as an example similar to an example Sawaki Roshi is using - might have a sense of direction which is similar in tendency to that of the mosquitoes troubling our blog host Brad. We have one example rambling down here at the blog CS but we have had recent evidence that it does get annoyed at my innocent attempts of displaying his stupidity to the blameless readers at potential hazard. So we'll let him be for a while. Though time does sometimes take a lot of itself to tell.

Anyway - I am always straying away from the subject – [though in place – I believe] this experience which does have a lasting effect – as* drugs do too: - I have once heard one saying that only one who has experienced meaning can experience meaninglessness. It’s true.

So perhaps one day the BM experience will pull a man in the right way. Due to a tendency created within him, - not [necessarily] due to a rational conclusion.

Animals are not attracted to the Dharma or the spirit, but one who has been able to get the taste, - perhaps one day will find interest in a look for more.

And anybody interested in criticizing me, - please note I haven’t said more than I did.



* even

anon #108 said...

It seems that some folks - an anon or three in particular - are very concerned to convince others that "Buddhism" means nothing without an experience called "kensho" or "satori" or "seeing one's true nature" or "enlightenment" or...

One afternoon, after about a year of daily sitting and monthly one-day retreats, a penny dropped. I realised that the satori I hoped for, and had always assumed was the goal of zen practice, was a hope, an aspiration, a dream. Meanwhile, I was living my life, my real moment-to-moment life; that was the only reality I, or anybody, would ever know. Initially very disappointing, that realisation, in a second, became a liberating realisation. I was already at the only place I would ever be. If my here and now should, at some future time, include an experience I identify with what I've read about satori, Kensho, enlightenment, then that (too) will be an experience in the here and now, and any subsequent changes in my behaviour or perception as a result of such a "fundamental shift at the seat of consciousness"...likewise.

To no longer be attached to a possible future here and now experience was liberating. And it was liberating to begin to notice - for, I think, the first time, the reality of my life at every moment. It wasn't an 'experience', so much as a moment of understanding (isn't that what satori literally means?). It wasn't "an insight into my true nature" - or that's certainly not how I'd describe it.

So if the penny that dropped for me wasn't kensho or satori as some understand it, where does that leave me? Still hoping that one day I might experience true Buddhist enlightenment? No. It leaves me still - and always - here and now, happy to be here, knowing that here and now is the only place I will ever be.

btw said...

for me Genpo Roshi has always been Yamamoto Genpo Roshi. The Dharma grandfather of my first teacher.

Anonymous said...

It seems that some folks - an anon or three in particular - are very concerned to convince others that "Buddhism" means nothing without an experience called "kensho" or "satori"

It seems a Brad -in particular-is very concerned to convince others that "Buddhism" has nothing to do with an experience called "kensho" or "satori". Brad is the one who brought the subject up in his post.

No anon108, your ideas about satori were only a hope and a dream. But, yes, when or if it happens it will be here and now. Actually, it is already here and now. You need only see your face in the mirror. As dochong says; "But having an idea of enlightenment is not being enlightened."

anon #108 said...

Actually, it is already here and now.

Sounds a lot like what I said, except I don't call it "satori"...

I ask sincerely: Have you experienced satori, anon? Are you enlightened? What's it like?

Shonin said...

Mr 108,

Almost anyone who has done zazen or any kind of mindfulness-type meditation for a significant time will have realised that *trying* to have a blissful, non-judgemental, thought-free, non-attached, tranquil, special experiences leads to inner turmoil, since this usually means we are judging are rejecting the experience we are currently having in favour of a preferred idealised one. What we need to do is just be present with our current experience whatever it is - to stop 'doing' or 'trying' and start 'being'. You can't separate mud from water by using effort - you'll just make it worse. Instead we have to just let it settle by itself in the light of awareness. This just being harmoniously present with our experiences is called samadhi.

This in itself is an insight, a penny dropping. And this kind of practice is very valuable in it's own right. Does that mean it is the be-all-and-end-all of Zen and Buddhism? No. Does it mean that practice without 'kensho' is worthwhile - definitely.

anon #108 said...

Hi Justin,

Does that mean it is the be-all-and-end-all of Zen and Buddhism? No.

What, in your opinion, is the be-all-and-end-all of Zen Buddhism?

Malcolm

Shonin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shonin said...

What, in your opinion, is the be-all-and-end-all of Zen Buddhism?

I see it as a direction we move in - abandoning craving, aversion and delusion.

anon #108 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...

...So a process? OK.

But a process is something we can define with hindsight - or expect, hope, or plan to manifest over time. A process is an abstraction, isn't it?

Which still leaves me here and now. Always.

anon #108 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blake said...

I bet Kensho smells like warms vanilla sugar...

anon #108 said...

...not that expecting, hoping and planning are in any way to be dismissed. Just to understand the difference between the nature of projections into the future, reflections on the past, and the nature of reality here and now is, I think, very important.

Shonin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shonin said...

But a process is something we can define with hindsight - or expect, hope, or plan to manifest over time. A process is an abstraction, isn't it?

Is it nonexistent just because we form abstract ideas about it? Being eaten by a tiger is process. Does that mean you don't die?

Which still leaves me here and now. Always.

Yes, always. As is the case for my dog, and the guy who runs the newsagent who has never heard of Buddhism or thought of meditating. Meditation doesn't change this fact in any way. The truth of that fact alone doesn't bring liberation. Nor does a merely intellectual understanding of this.

Deeply realising it may. Realisation in Buddhism can't be found anywhere except this very moment, which is why we need to investigate this present moment very deeply.

Our relationship with this here and now can be changed by our practice.

Anyway I think I've already said too much.

proulx michel said...

I think there is realisation and realisation. Those who have realised their "true nature" won't claim to have had a kensho. Those who insist upon kensho haven't had any realisation of their "true nature".
It seems rather clear to me, and I think those teachers are right to try and debunk the think: a big great fantasy if ever.

anon #108 said...

Hi Justin,

Our relationship with this here and now can be changed by our practice.

Agree. I have never said otherwise.

Anonymous said...

"Just to understand the difference between the nature of projections into the future, reflections on the past, and the nature of reality here and now is, I think, very important."

Good. So you think satori is important too. Satori is understanding the nature
of reality here and now.

A teacher was once asked if he were enlightened. He said; "If I say "No", those of you who don't know will misunderstand. If I answer "Yes", those of you who know will walk away in disgust.

There are countless descriptions of satori in books and online if you sincerely want to know. But these are only pretty pictures and carry with them all the dangers Brad warns about. They are the satori's of others, not yours. I wrote extensively about my own awakening on this blog a few weeks ago. I was careful not to call it 'satori' and Brad commented that it was a great post. Funny.

In one sense you can never experience satori. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things.

Worrying about achieving an orgasm during sex usually makes it really difficult to have an orgasm. It's best to just concentrate on the here and now of making love. At some point; "Bang!" you may have a mind-blowing orgasm. It does not mean orgasms do not exist or are not important, just that focusing on them is counterproductive to actually having one. It is the same with kensho.

Shonin said...

"Dogen was doing zazen in a dark and quiet zendo. It was early in the morning, about three o’ clock according to most records. In the stillness of the zendo, Rujing bellowed at one of the monastics, “When you study under a master, you must drop body and mind. What’s the use of single-minded intense sleeping?” Rujing’s exclamation was not a very profound statement. But Dogen was poised; his whole body and mind were ripe. Sitting right next to the sleeping monastic, his doubts fell away and he attained great enlightenment...

...Dogen carried his doubts for over twenty years, desperate to find the answers, studying completely at every juncture. He was intellectually brilliant and a very diligent practitioner. As he made the journey to China, he drew closer and closer to the edge of his practice, the spiritual tension of his quest primed. On that edge, a spring breeze or a floating feather could have knocked him off it. What did knock him off was Rujing’s “You must drop body and mind.”

Dogen went to the abbot’s room and offered incense. Rujing probed and Dogen said, “Body and mind have been dropped off.” Rujing replied, “Body and mind dropped off. The dropped-off body and mind.” Dogen wasn’t sure about this, so he said, “This may only be a temporary ability. Please don’t approve me arbitrarily.” Without hesitation, Rujing exclaimed, “I am not.”

http://www.mro.org/zmm/teachings/daido/teisho29.php

anon #108 said...

Thanks for the clarification, anon.

Anonymous said...

"I think there is realisation and realisation. Those who have realised their "true nature" won't claim to have had a kensho. Those who insist upon kensho haven't had any realisation of their "true nature".

This sounds like the taoist idea that 'those who speak do not know and those who know do not speak.' If what you say is true, the buddha and the vast majority of the zen patriarchs do not have any realization of their true nature, only those who don't speak of it....basically everyone else.

Here's the definition of kensho:

A Ch'an and zen term (jien-hsing in Chinese) that literally means ‘to see (one's true) nature’. This is another term for awakening (satori, bodhi), defined as seeing oneself for what one really is: impermanent, ever-changing, and one with the truth that underlies all of reality.

So you are suggesting that those who say they've had kensho (which means seeing your true nature) have not seen their true nature? Or are you just buying into Brad et al and their definition of kensho as some trippy, groovy altered state...like psychosis or a nervous breakdown?

anon #108 said...

So it seems that a few of us have had an "I get it/satori" experience, or moment of insight/understanding into the "nature of reality". And life goes on.

As my teacher said to me when I reported my non-trippy penny-dropping moment: "If it isn't such a big deal, why make it one?" Perhaps that's what Brad, in his own way, is saying too. Nothing to get hung about.

Brad Warner said...

I think i remember reading/hearing you in the past saying you werent in favour of sesshins longer than about 3 days, because it was too separate from normal life. Has any of this more intensive practice changed your view on that?

I'm not sure. I've done five 7-day sesshins in my life and maybe dozens of 2 or 3 day sesshins. My feeling is that the course of a sesshin is almost the same in either case. Hard in the beginning, easier in the middle and then either much harder or much easier right at the end.

3-day sesshins do tend to blend in with "real life" a lot better, though. So I tend to prefer them by a slight margin.

Although, as a god Buddhist I should give up preferences!

Brad Warner said...

I meant "good Buddhist" not "god Buddhist." But I am a "god Buddhist" as well!

Mumon said...

Thanks for this post; now I know what I'll post on my blog tomorrow- a bit of a corrective to this, um...Soto view...
:-)

Collin said...

Brad - About the new book, is there a Kindle version coming? I'm dying to read it.

anon #108 said...

From Huston Smith's Preface to "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind", by Shunryu Suzuki -

When, four months before his death, I had the opportunity to ask him [SS] why satori didn't figure in his book, his wife leaned toward me and whispered impishly, "It's becasue he hasn't had it"; wherupon the Roshi batted his fan at her in mock consternation and with finger to his lips hissed, "Shhhh! Don't tell him!" When our laughter had subsided, he said simply, "It's not that satori is unimportant, but it's not the part of Zen that needs to be stressed."

Were Mr and Mrs Suzuki joking? Was Suzuki Roshi not enlightened? Had little Suzuki not experienced Satori? Clearly the great master didn't think these questions worth worrying about.

That's one expression of the "Soto view", Mumon ;)

The Rinz said...

No, please no. I don't want to hear about the wicked cool dream you had last night or your enlightenment experience at Burning Man last year. Oh god, you're going to tell me anyway aren't you. Jesus fucking Christ, I'm not even paying attention, but you're still talking to me like I give a damn. Bored, so very very bored by everything you're saying. Please leave me alone. Yes, you are very unique and spiritually gifted, now please shut the fuck up.

That's usually what goes through my head when people talk to me about their dreams or their kenshos.

Kensho is no big deal but at the same time it is very very important, for the one who has it that is. So basically, you got to get over yourself. Nobody gives a shit about your life or your experiences. All that matters is CAN YOU HELP PEOPLE. You dumb ass bodhisaatva wannabes. Get your ass on a goddamn cushion and stop thinking so much about your petty little problems. You are here to help, that is all. Fucking wankers.

Anonymous said...

oooooooooo!

Brad Warner said...

Anon 108 said: I ask sincerely: Have you experienced satori, anon? Are you enlightened? What's it like?

Remember the Monty Python "Nudge Nudge" skit? In the end, after several minutes of sexual innuendo, the "nudge nudge" guy says, "You're a man of the world squire, you've done it, you've slept with a lady." The guy says he has. The "nudge nudge" guy says, "What's it like?"

Brad Warner said...

I believe there is a Kindle version of Sin, Sex and Zen. New World Library has been doing Kindle versions of all of my books up till now.

Collin said...

@Brad - It doesnt appear to be available on Amazon just yet. Perhaps it takes a bit more time.

R said...

I read very little, but it sounds like the ones who do know won’t dare tell the ones who don't that they are not entitled to having an opinion and not worthy of expressing their thoughts.

I don’t feel I could express an opinion here myself, and I am not taking a side, - even if I could I would need to know a lot more what it’s about than the very little which seems to be expressed here. Perhaps then I could.

But I get the impression most commentators are discussing what their depth of mind does not reach.

It’s a bit like trying to comment on football based only on being familiar with it as a video game. Or any other sport. Or other activity perhaps as well.

I suppose westerners think of themselves much too high.

Japanese I guess are more realistic.

And the more intelligent they are, the harder they go.

IMO

Others I am not sure even have something that could be called an opinion.

I’m just saying let the big boys speak, you’re like primary school children discussing politics.

But they won’t tell you and you won’t listen.

Ways of the world.

Wonderful song.

R said...

Brad says: “Remember the Monty Python "Nudge Nudge" skit?”.

I don’t remember.

Link.

What's it like?

Brad Warner said...

Nudge Nudge

We need to do an Enlightenment version! Perhaps one of the anon would like to play a role.

Uku said...

Hahhaa, people defending kensho and satori experiences are so funny and it's even funnier when they're quoting teachings! I think the discussion is very important for showing how bullshit kensho and satori business is. Buddhism has nothing, NOTHING to do with kensho or satori or shit like that. Period.

Best regards,
A Bull with a lot of Bull's Shit.

R [still] said...

That which is expressed as "Babylon" in reggae music is just an expression ignorance.

It's not about how much crap you’ve been stupid enough to let the likes of Mysterion stuff into your head.

source

Anonymous said...

Know what I mean? heh? Do ya? Do ya?

CAPTCHA - ranster

Anonymous said...

As usual, Ran drops by to tell us that everyone else - whose posts he hasn't read - is a fool.

You are one very peculiar person, Ran Kennedy.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the whole kensho thing is a hot topic in soto zen. This is from Wild Fox Zen (blog):

"I gotta say that Soto Zen is one hinky sect! Our claim to Buddhist legitimacy is that our founder was not enlightened and the second founder, Keizan, was a big fibber! Or that Dogen was so pure that he didn't have a mere personal enlightenment. Kinda odd, don't you think?

Anyway, I respectfully disagree with this position for both historical and buddhadharmical reasons.


First on the historical side. Dogen didn't say a lot about himself personally and when he did it usually wasn't to blow his own horn. The stories in the Tenzokyokun, for example, have Dogen bested by old tenzos.

Further, Dogen doesn't comment on some really important things - he doesn't say why he didn't take the full vinaya ordination, why he left Kyoto, why he didn't hang out longer with the Shogun in Kamakura, etc.

Dogen wasn't a modern guy who went on and on about himself at dinner until his date was deliriously bored.
Also, Keizan was well-connected with Dogen's inner circle. His grandmother was a close student of Dogen. Keizan studied closely with several of Dogen's direct descendants. Probably a bunch of monks in his assembly had close connections with those teachers as well and so fabricating an enlightenment story would have made waves.

Another thing that's fishy about arguing that Dogen didn't have kensho is that even if he didn't, what about all the Chinese ancestors whose kensho stories are well-known? What about the Buddha? What about the many Soto Zen kensho stories after Dogen? Keizan, Gento Sokuju, and Katagiri, to name just a few, all report an experience that sounds very much like kensho, whether they used the "k" word or not.

It seems to me that the story of Dogen's enlightenment was probably passed orally from Dogen to Keizan via his grandmother or mother or one of his teachers.

Then there's the buddhadharmic side. Everyone I know who's had a taste of kensho sees the turn-around characteristic of that experience in Dogen's work. Dogen is inspiring to many for just this reason - he beautifully and powerfully presents the possibility of radically opening the heart and manifesting that openness in the world in ways that really count.


It is for this primary reason, imv, that Dogen's Zen has so much to offer the helpless ones in the future who depend on our practice and enlightenment.

So ... did Dogen have a personal enlightenment?

Yes, but he didn't take it personally."

Dosho Port / soto zen priest

S [I kid you not, or else] said...

Babylon doesn't seem to be sinking.

Now I know what it's like.

Anonymous Bob said...

Uku: When you use phrases like "nothing to do with" and "shit like that period" Those words alone destroy any validity to your statement.

I do think I understand where you are coming from, but to be so cock-sure about anything, that is never a good thing.

CAPTCHA : mullo : I kid you not

anon #108 said...

That which is expressed as "Babylon" in reggae music is just an expression ignorance.

No, Ran. Not quite.

This from Wiki:

Babylon is an important Rastafari term, referring to human government and institutions that are seen as in rebellion against the rule of JAH (God), beginning with the Tower of Babel. It is further used by some to mean specifically the 'politricksters' who have been oppressing the black race for centuries through economic and physical slavery. In a more general sense Babylon refers to any system that oppresses or discriminates against the black race.

And this from a Rastafarian site;

http://debate.uvm.edu/dreadlibrary/dbardfield.html

So not "ignorance" - much more specifically political than that.

anon #108 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...

That David Buttermilk article I gave the link to is very long. I know you won't read it all. I didn't. Here is a brief excerpt from it:

The term Babylon is used in Rasta terms with much negative connotations. It is something that they are radically opposed to. Corruption, politics, police, laws, and cities are often reffered to as"Babylon".

T [I kid you this time, the captchas are running crazy] said...

I just wanted to let anon @ 12:30 pm that I've read his.

I know, anon.


You really don't know how peculiar.


And Bob, - (since you’re up [or down] there too) I wanted to refer to that earlier: - unreasonable assurance can at first be a sign of immaturity, - but after overcoming that, confidence may prove to be an outcome of depth.


Though I wouldn't really get what Uku was saying had he not put this “Period.” at the end.


I kid you.


And 108, I'll read yours tomorrow and see what you're trying to say.

I'm too tired now.

But generally, [cause by now I see you have another one] as I said just there @ 12:25 pm, - fuck wiki, - try and capture the spirit.

anon #108 said...

fuck wiki, - try and capture the spirit.

Ran - don't be scared of facts. They're just facts...can't hurt you.

Nite nite.
Sleep tight :)

Hokai said...

I tried Enlightenment and must say, not the fact, that in that moment every tree lost the concept I'd have about "a tree", let me laugh, it was the stupid "me" that was given freedom of limits laughed.
When I talked to my teacher about this, he watched me like a tiger facing his next meal and asked kindly: " So. And what will you do next?"

And that was hard stuff to get "normal" again, I tell you.
So now I also can say: No big deal,
but man, I wouldn't like to be in this shoes again.
But a the end I agree with The Rinz:You are here to help, that is all.
Real Enlightenment is real action,not discussing action,imv.That's my perception.

@Michael Proulx:
Those who have realised their "true nature" won't claim to have had a kensho. Those who insist upon kensho haven't had any realisation of their "true nature"

Nope. You mustn't claim. In saying that you've had Kensho is enough. I believe it.

@Uku: You are a clever shit!
I don't know, are you posing ,is it your ordinary nihilism or is it your masters voice?
Try to be more funny.(Not like me)

Illuminated,

Gerald

Shin said...

Dear Brad, I liek the way you see the kensho-thing. Zen should not be an "instant enlightment" you get in a drive-throu window.

Want fries with it? *lol*
Cheers,
Shin

Shin said...

Dear Brad,
I like the way you see the kensho-thing. Zen can not be something like an instant enlightment you get at a drive-thru window.

Want fries with it? *lol*

Cheers, Shin

Jinzang said...

Buddhism has nothing, NOTHING to do with kensho or satori or shit like that.

Time for a little philosophizing. First, there needs to be a definition of kensho, or else we are arguing past each other. Here's how I define it: "the direct perception of the absence of self." I hope my definition isn't too controversial. If you think "kensho is bullshit" and have some other definition, please let me know what it is.

The definition has two parts. Direct perception means not an intellectual understanding of no self inferred by argument. (i.e., you have no self because your body is constantly changing.) And absence of self implies that this is not an experience with a positive content, even an ineffable, indescribable one. What is perceived is a simple absence. An analogy is thinking there is someone in a room but going in it and seeing it's only a radio playing. We think we have a self, but when we first stabilize our mind and then look at it, we see that what we took as a self was only a habit of taking at it that way.

I hope it's clear that this definition of kensho is completely consistent both with Buddhism and Zen and I'll spare myself the effort of tracking down the quotes that demonstrate this. Buddhism without the idea of enlightenment that sees the selflessness of phenomena is not Buddhism at all.

So why do we see so much rhetoric against kensho in Soto Zen? Here's how I understand it. Belief in a self is not just one thing, it's a series of related beliefs. And one cuts through them, starting with the coarsest and going to the more fine. The coarsest idea of self is that it is the owner of the body and mind, that there is an experiencer separate from our thoughts and emotions.

Behind that there are other notions, one which is that the self can achieve enlightenment, There is nothing to achieve, because our notion of achievement implies an achiever. This notion of no achievement gets related to the beginner, who gives it a nihilistic spin and thinks kensho is bullshit. From one perspective, it is, but this is not the beginner's perspective. As long as you are hugging tightly to your idea of self, you need to think in terms of dropping the self. From the perspective that there never was a self, there was never a need to get rid of it. But these are two different sides of the mountain.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Mysti, it was not an anon who said that. It was master Hakuin. You've condemned him to 300 rebirths as a fox?

"With kensho you realize that you have been okay from the very beginning, that old age, sickness, and death have never had any real hold on you. What more could you hope to realize? Why should you continue to practice?

Learned audience, if you fail to continue with post-realization practice, you will allow your experience to stagnate and fade away. Without continued determination and cultivation, you will, at best, remain at the threshold of awakening. Not allowing yourselves to become stuck here, you should continue to move ever deeper. If you do persist in dedicated practice, enlightenment itself will eventually disappear along with its sister, delusion. Having uncovered the universal mirror prajna, you are no longer bound to simply trust in the teachings of others. You now have intimate wisdom and insight with which to work. You have gone beyond the words–“kensho,” “enlightenment,” and “true-nature”–to the reality that these terms indicate.

Good friends, if your initial insight is to be of any real and lasting value, you must learn to apply it. Although cultivation still requires you to make sustained effort, you will find that your experience has inspired you with deeper confidence and competence. With even the shallowest of kensho experiences, you will be amazed at your new ability to grasp teachings that have eluded you. By continuing to cultivate practice and enlightenment, you can deepen your realization endlessly."


~The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing

Ted Rules.

Fregas said...

i don't care if it takes one giant mind blowing experience, or a gradual, slow, quiet, opening of my mind...or something in between. I just want to know my true nature.

R said...

Anon #108, - “Ran - don't be scared of facts. They're just facts...can't hurt you.”. - You’re getting like Mysterion.



I'll get back to you later. (Soon, - Hopefully.)

proulx michel said...

There are moments when you have been practicing, exercising and repeating some moves, when, all of a sudden, things fall into place. Sometimes, you'll even exclaim "But, of course!" like it was there all the time, but you just got past it for fear of failing.
Musicians, sportsmen, and craftsmen know this a lot.
However, even among these, there are some who are so engrossed with their sheer virtuosity that they never get close to the point. And there are those who are so hopeless that they'll never get close to it.
But the hopeless have more probability of "getting it" than the virtuosos. The latter do "perfect" things which are utterly lacking in "soul".
Realisation is not something you "get". It's always there, it's always been there. The main obstacle is always our eagerness.

Seán said...

People certainly seem to have a lot to say about Zen, and seem very attached to the idea of kensho.

Read your book-it was pretty good. Hope the retreat went well.

Anonymous said...

Dosho Port said...

"And as I've rudely said in this blog before, practice-enlightenment without enlightenment (a.k.a., kensho) is often just practice-delusion.

If we haven't turned around, how can we practice what we haven't experienced?"

R said...

To pm’s last one:

I don’t know about classical music, I know very little of that and I understand that the tendency is very materialistic, (- so I’ve heard) sometimes ruining what is truly important for the sake of materialistic skills, (like the ablity to sing aloud or to reach higher or lower tones) but there is a different kind of virtuosity. There is the virtuosity of the spirit. The pnly true vituosity.Master Dogen may be one example. Master Shoju Ronin - Master Hakuin’s Dharma father - may be another example.

And I don’t think the main obstacle as a matter of principle is always eagerness. I suppose ignorance and laziness could be listed in higher priority. But what would be actually important might be the case regarding a particular person, not so much the case in principle. So practically - in a way - it may be so.

And it would also depend on the particular path.

Shonin said...

I think you're right Jinzang. I wrote something that relates to all this a few months ago:


There are two aspects of awakening that are recognised by both the Rinzai and Soto schools, although they generally have a slightly different emphasis.

Firstly 'no attainment, nothing to attain' emphasises ultimate truth or sameness: Buddha or original enlightenment is something that is already completely manifested and at the same time is totally non-existent. Awakening to 'it' or not awakening to 'it' - both are equally 'it'.

Secondly 'there is realisation and a path to realisation' emphasises the relative truth or difference: this universality of Buddha nature has to be realised. The universality of Buddha nature by itself doesn't save anyone from delusion and suffering. Thus we need to make efforts, we need to practice in order to see our true, original nature and actualise the Way.

Sometimes Dogen talks about one side and sometimes he talks about the other. Being attached to one side or the other is to have a limited view.

Those who chase enlightenment, feeling themselves removed from it, suffer from a delusion of duality or idealism. This is the tendency to see enlightenment as a remote state of perfection far removed from our current imperfection and suffering. We conceptualise enlightenment as something outside of this moment, outside of ourselves. This is a common understanding of people who have not seen their own nature. Often those who have some preliminary glimpse of their true nature will cling to the glimpse as if enlightenment was restricted to it. This is the dualistic view of samsara and nirvana.

Shonin said...

continued...


The other limited view is sameness or nihilism - sometimes referred to as 'emptiness sickness'. Many Prajnaparamita, Madhyamika and Zen texts talk of 'no attainment, nothing to attain', 'ordinary mind is buddha' or 'practice and attainment are one'. The Soto school in particular tends to emphasise this. Yet this is often understood only superficially as a denial of enlightenment, or the significance of insight. Some teachers even teach zazen as a purely postural, physical activity that only relaxes or balances the mind and treat insight experiences with contempt. Others talk of enlightenment as if it was only a realisation that there is nothing to realise. But this would be nothing more than a freedom from the idea of enlightenment and a resignment to one's current condition. If this was all there is to actualising enlightenment then a blind and deaf man who has never heard of the dharma is as liberated as a fully-actualised buddha. If we see no need to make effort or to have insight into the true nature of ourselves and things, then we are doomed to skate around on the surface with a superficial or merely intellectual understanding of 'nothing to attain'.

Sometimes this 'Body and mind have dropped off' is understood as an instruction or description of ordinary zazen, as letting go of thoughts and attachments. But it goes deeper than that. The body and mind dropping off is the dropping off of self and the selves of all beings. Dogen's physical self and mental self were revealed to be empty, non-separate from the being of the whole world. This was the moment when Dogen deeply 'forgot his self and was actualized by myriad things' and deeply realised 'suchness'.

Dogen did not get caught up in conceptualising and clinging to his experience. He did not manufacture a self for his enlightenment, or a dualism of enlightenment/not-enlightenment in other words. He did not carry it. His enlightenment left no trace. It left no trace of itself because Dogen did not manufacture a self for it. Master Nyojo recognised this and said that 'dropping has dropped off'. This no-trace continued endlessly. The realisation that there are no separate things did not get made into a false thing which was separate from other things.

Master Joshu had a lesson about this.

A monk once asked Joshu “If I have nothing in my mind, what should I do?”
“Throw it out.” Replied Joshu.
“But if there is nothing in my mind how can I throw it out?”
“Then,” said Joshu, “you will have to carry it out.”

link

R [back to 108, Rasta, and the ignorance] said...

I am not that familiar with the Rasta and I am not that interested but it doesn’t seem really necessary for us here.


A Term like “Babylon” can arise within the Rasta population or religion without them being fully aware of the exact reasons for it. Notions may be behind it and an analysis presented (if so) is not necessarily the true, thorough, profound and clear analysis. - Not at all. - Far from it. - Smoking marijuana doesn’t promote clarity of mind and scholars tend to be very Babylonian (ignorant) in themselves.


You might take the example of Mysterion, - who can only notice the external appearance of a religion, - no matter how many details about it he’s been gathering over time, or of Master Tokuzan, - who also seemed to have been a very ignorant person, until he met that old nasty women who wouldn’t sell him her rice cakes. - He was #1 of many scholars, but he didn’t seem to even know what understanding means until that time. The ignorance that fueled his fury which sent him upon his journey upon which he met the old woman [- doesn’t sound much like a lady to me] and eventually met Ryutan, who was to be his master, - may be similar to that of many here.


It may be very complicated to analyze and examine every explanation offered within the Rasta (religion, or movement, or whatever) as for its truthfulness or validity as to prove what I am trying to say.

Examination of the words of scholars who are unable to penetrate the spirit and are merely blindly groping the surface [i.e. – intellectuals, counting grains of sand and pebbles without being able to penetrate their interior] might often hardly be worth the time.


- “Corruption, politics, police, laws, and cities” – What is the facet of these due to which they are referred to as “Babylonians”?

Forget the technical explanations whoever may supply, - how do they feel?

Put police aside, corruption, politics, laws, and cities. You used to be a lawyer. It seems to me rarely can ignorance be expressed as it is in the legal system. Perhaps in England the situation is not as bad as in Israel. People within the system get used to it. People outside the system might sometimes need to see in order to believe. It is not easy to explain if you can not see it for yourself. But the dry thought of the contemporary western culture is not in accord with the universe, and is not able lead its owners as one’s eye do as he normally walks. In a city street or a desert or wherever, - it doesn’t really matter for that sense.


The Rasta would not be able to recognize and say what stands behind Babylon is ignorance. - In most cases I guess. - I’m not really familiar with them personally.


- But that which they would sense, - that according to which they would identify something [like Mysterion’s spirit, - to a great deal] as Babylonian, - without conscious analysis, - would be that which a student of Dharma would identify as ignorance.


That to a great deal standing at the root of our present culture.


It has taken me a great deal of time to write that. Don't just use your head. Try and grasp something. Ignorance is far from what Mysterion assumes. Ignorance is a matter of how your mind works. It is not what you've been told and what you've not been told. Its absence is an outcome of a certain cleanliness of our systems.

- If you only depend on scriptures to tell what it is it means you don't yet know.


And those who don't yet know are usually more impatient.


And get more easily offended if you tell them what they really are.

anon #108 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...

Hi Ran -

Thanks for your considered reply. I'll get back to you later, maybe ;)

anon #108 said...

Hi Jinzang,

Thanks for your interesting thoughts on self/no-self and enlightenment.

The second half of your post may address Uku's outburst - and similar dismissals - of the notion of enlightenment. But I'm not sure that it explains the Soto approach to Satori/kensho.

It seems to me that the Soto school's lack of emphasis on Satori/enlightenment as an experience, as an event, derives from its emphasis on the insistence (hardly unique to Soto) that experiences and events are momentary - even if they have consequences which, in some way, continue. To spend time speculating about, or to expend effort on attaining an event/experience that hasn't yet occurred deflects and distracts from our experience here and now: the only place and time you may notice your "enlightenment".

And there is the problem of creating an idea, a conceptual model of enlightenment (or “seeing one’s true nature”) which, at best, can only be an indication, a finger pointing, but which, at worst, might misdirect, deceive; even be harmful.

So I think the reluctance of the Soto Zen school to discuss enlightenment may be more motivated by practical considerations than theoretical/ideological/doctrinal ones.


And thanks, Shonin. You often argue against, or attempt to clarify "nothing to attain" and its suggestion of nihilism, or some kind of existential materialism, but I'm not so sure that anyone engaged in practice truly believes there is nothing to attain, or no that there is no enlightenment. And yet, in a sense it's true. As little Suzuki once said, "If it isn't a paradox, it isn't true." The issue, I think, is what can words/concepts like “attainment”and “enlightenment” possibly mean? Words and ideas are wonderful, useful things, but they are also treacherous, as Dogen – in company with many others in the Zen tradition - tried so very hard to demonstrate.


PS Who know what Dogen understood by "dropping off body and mind"? There are lots of theories. In the end, we only have our own experience and our own understanding.

anon #108 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...

And what if you're one of the unlucky ones who never attains enlightenment or experiences Kensho? Is your life one big Buddhist disappointment?

Uku said...

#anon108 wrote:

In the end, we only have our own experience and our own understanding.

I agree.

Kensho and satori are just words referring to something that's not real. Using those words referring to something doesn't make them real. It's impossible to capture this moment in the words and still so many are chasing words and living in a fantasy: "someday I'll be Enlightened."

Kensho and satori are bullshit, talking about them is bullshit if trying to convince oneself and others about what kensho and satori are. There are good reasons why there's no need to waste time with talking about kensho and satori experiences and if you don't know what they are, just concentrate on your zazen and daily life and forget the damn Enlightenment fantasies.

It's all about the practice itself and everyone who has practiced long enough or maybe just a day, will know what kensho and satori are: they are just experiences, they will come and they will go. They are common, they are normal. No big deal, not at all.

Yours,
Arrogant Parrot

anon #108 said...

Thanks Uku,

That's kinda what I thought you might be getting at.

Shonin said...

Sitting mindfully is a beneficial activity whether you have enlightenment experiences or not. Maybe more important, I don't know. However, I don't think the whole of Buddhism can be reduced to that. Realising non-self/emptiness (and integrating that) is a distinguishing feature of Buddhism really. But it doesn't suit everyone.

anon #108 said...

Hi Shonin,

I hear ya...

You might find THIS article interesting. It's by my teacher, Mike Luetchford - but I don't offer it as a definitive exposition of anything, least of all what I "believe", but...you might find it interesting.

Mumon said...

My bit of a corrective is here.

I am amused at the fact that even though I disagree with some of what Brad's saying here, fundamentally we're in agreement.

proulx michel said...

R said...

To pm’s last one:

I don’t know about classical music,(...)


I wasn't particularly hinting at classical music. Actually, my allusion to virtuosism brought to my mind one particular jazz guitarist that I've known who was just dashing but boring, because his quest for virtuosity hindered him from being expressive.

To be just "good" on an instrument, you need to practice a lot, but if your goal is to become a virtuoso you may easily get overboard and get much too far from what you'd need to become.

I've known some musicians who played terribly on the guitar or the keyboards but were never boring because they happened to be percussionists and always kept the beat.

True virtuosity always looks easy to the layman, because it is so integrated in his body-and-mind that it seems effortless. But it isn't. Virtuosity for it's own sake always smell of perspiration.

(captcha: custism)

Mumon said...

If kensho is real, then who cares what I think about it?

The phrase "passive-agressive" comes to mind.

Look, it seems disingenuous to say "who cares what I think" when it's self-evident that you are, for better or worse, a "name" in the world of American Western Buddhism. That means what you say does carry weight with some people.

As I wrote on my blog, it's not about experience tourism. If you can't use that experience to actually, you know, practice in the moments of your life, then, uh, practice doing so.

Mumon said...

anon #108:

Yeah, like I said, fundamentally I think Brad and I are in agreement.

Its just the words we're using are sloppy.

Timmy Mac said...

Well, if nothing else, this post made me finally pull the trigger and sign up for the sesshin I've been too chicken to sign up for. So thanks for that!

to pm’s @ 9:11 am said...

I generally just listen to those I like.

And I do believe these are generally the good ones. (though I don’t really listen much anymore, and I don’t even know jazz music. I might be interested in classical, but I don’t suppose much in jazz)

Heartless technicians are bound to be stupid.

I don’t believe people listening to them actually enjoy that. They are insincere ones convincing themselves they do since they are more or less told they are supposed to. It may be said to be another form of intellectuality.

Though I doubt to what extent people can enjoy punk music as well. After you get the joke it seems real silly to dig into it further than just to come back to it once in a while. - It is somewhat of a similar matter. It is enough for one to know what he actually enjoys and what he doesn’t. But it takes time to notice the simplest things.

- Anyway, - skipping the last two paragraphs: - So I don't happen to listen to them.

So I'm basically only familiar with the phenomenon you are talking about but at second hand.

I do think most of the stuff in CD shops is not worth being published. Without regard to the particular point you are relating to. Here too people accept existing standards instead of judging for themselves. Otherwise perhaps things might have been different.

Again - As for the matter you are describing - in rock music it is a matter of personal stupidity, - but in classical music, - as I happened to hear - on '97 I think, - It’s organized. I understood it was an established way of teaching. That the ones who enter are wrongly introduced.

And completely beside the point – [or maybe not] it’s a bit funny for methods of teaching of singing to exist in which the tanden is not at all known.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I believe Brad doesn't emphasis kensho, because his teacher does not. His teacher does not, because his teacher seems not to have realized IT.

Simples.

As for many of the half-assed comments on here - well they barely deserve mention. Guys, try and do more than say 10 mins sitting a week and you might get over yourselves (literally).

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mumon said...

Mysterion:

Coulda fooled me; I took it for insouciance.

Anonymous said...

"All that is happening in Pakistan is a bit of karma for the abandonment of Buddhism in favor of violence. SERIOUSLY"

oy

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Harry said...

Well, here's an interesting passage from Dogen that caught my eye. It's from Shobogenzo Keisei-Sanshiki and is about ""...

When we each get rid of our husk, we are not restricted by former views and understanding, and things which have for vast kalpas been unclear suddenly appear before us. In the here and now of such a moment, the self does not recognize it, no one else is conscious of it, you do not expect it, and even the eyes of Buddha do not glimpse it. How could the human intellect fathom it?

So good luck with all your cult theories and antithe...erm...sisses.

Regards,

Harry.

Shonin said...

Dogen is clearly attached to concepts of enlightenment, next thing you know he'll be quoting other teachers.

Harry said...

Hi Justin,

To Dogen, enlightened/enlightening concepts ARE enlightenment, and so everything is intimately 'attached' to everything already.

That seems to annoy the book burners among us somewhat.

Regards,

Harry.

Shonin said...

Yes, I think you're right. Also using concepts and being attached to them is not the same.

Anyway I was teasing really.

Mysterion said...

Dogen's term gensho means realization.

references (1), (2), (3).

I apologize for being on topic, for a change.

CynicalBoy said...

Special plastic gift
Hidden deep in cereal
A Kensho moment

anon #108 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...

“Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.”


So what I get from the comments so far is that Shonin, Jinzang and maybe one or two others distinguish between "mindfulness" - being aware that there is only this moment, and "kensho" - seeing one's true nature (apparently something to do with experiencing non-self, or "emptiness").

Mindfulness, apparently, is good. Shonin even entertains the possibility that it might be more useful than kensho. But mindfulness, it's been said, isn't what Buddhism is all about - Buddhism is about experiencing Emptiness. Not merely intellectually grasping the concept of the lack of self/essence in things, but experiencing it.

I'm assuming that those who insist on the value and importance of kensho/enlightenment have experienced it, otherwise they're just guessing, wishful-thinking, bull-shitting. So I want to ask those people once more: What's it like? I don't mean the experience, the momentary experience you once had, but what effect does your kensho have on your behaviour; your thoughts and actions; your real life? How does it affect your marriage, your relationship with your boss, your reaction to blog posts? Have you cast off greed, anger and delusion? Or is it that your experience is something you can refer back to; a memory you can access to remind yourself not to get hung up on silly stuff - because all phenomena are empty of self-nature? Hey - I can do that! Because although I've never 'experienced' emptiness like you (I've never had a "kensho"), I do understand it, and my daily practice of zazen confirms it. But zazen isn't enough, I'm told - zazen might make me more "mindful", but mindfulness falls short of what I could enjoy and manifest were I to ever experience kensho.

Meanwhile, my ordinary, everyday life and everyday mind is enough of a miracle for me. But maybe one day I'll get enlightened and know what I fool I've been, and how much I've missed.

Malcolm said...

That last sentence is sarcastic, right, 108?

anon #108 said...

Yes, Malcolm.

CynicalBoy said...

Zazen has no goal
So what shall we call this goal?
Kensho sounds quite good

Anonymous said...

I don't know what kensho is and do not practice in the zen tradition. But I have had some 'experiences' that definitely fall way out on the bell curve. As a result, living is like knowing I'm dreaming, sometimes. There's a concern and involvement with stuff that's happening, but at the same time it can unpredictably shift to feeling like a movie being watched. My hunch is that attachment to the observer has been loosened a bit such that awareness of the observer becomes more available. Sometimes the dream metaphor falls away and it's more like knowing that it's just quantum particles permutating, running through a script. That view is weird. I'm also not so caught up with seeing other people as 'wrong' or 'adversarial', as in someone to hurt or someone to save. Someone to help, well, that's the norm for mutual survival, uh, in this quantum permutated dream that is... imagine another dream where the beings have 900 legs and the big game is to learn how to evolve into a big flying thing.

Not Cynical Boy said...

Let's call it kensho
But it doesn't need a name
Let's just leave it be

Mysterion said...

Anonymous CynicalBoy said...

Special plastic gift
Hidden deep in cereal
A Kensho moment

that is exactly correct!

I applaud your gift of insight.

Jinzang said...

everyone who has practiced long enough or maybe just a day, will know what kensho and satori are: they are just experiences, they will come and they will go.

Experiences come and go, and from one POV kensho is just another experience and no big deal. The significant aspect of it, though, is that it clears up your confusion about who you are. An intellectual understanding of selflessness or emptiness doesn't carry the same power as a direct experience of it. It's like the difference between a verbal description of a song and actually hearing it.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben F. said...

... and proudly farted.

Anonymous said...

and the next day it snowed.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ben said...

anonymous. I was going to say you sound crazy. But thats not right. It seems that you are very worried about your budhism, ok that might be helpfull. However the impermenent nature of all things all experiences all forms seems not to have hit home yet. Certainly you/i seems very angree. We should be less, we are less. i share your suffereing.

Anonymous said...

It's really interesting to see how upset Brad gets when we question anything about what he asserts about zen.

Brad keeps insisting he is not a Zen Master, is not an Authority. Yet when anyone questions or contradicts his assertions he can't help himself. He posts addendums, refutations, rationalisations and endless attacks, usually ad hominem, directed at anyone that dares to question his views.

If kensho isn't real. why worry about what a bunch of commenters on your blog think, Brad? If it's not real our suggesting that it is isn't going to make it more real, or is it? If you don't consider yourself an authority, why insist we have to agree with your every opinion about zen? Dissent will not be tolerated! What happened to your being happy that there are different approaches to zen, that it isn't like Mcdonalds? I guess it's fine until Burger King moves in across the street, huh?

I know it's hard to conceive.
I know it's hard to believe.
But you just might be wr.....
might be wrrrrrrrrrr
come on and give it a try.
I was wrrrrrrrooooo
It won't really kill you to say it for once.
Doubtboy where are you?
Sadly, it looks like Dogmaboy has taken his place.

Uku said...

Master Dogen wrote in Fukan-zazengi:

If we want to attain the matter of the ineffable, we should urgently practice the matter of the ineffable.

Which is zazen itself. It's all about the practice, all about the action.

Shonin said...

Mr 108,

"what effect does your kensho have on your behaviour; your thoughts and actions; your real life? How does it affect your marriage, your relationship with your boss, your reaction to blog posts? Have you cast off greed, anger and delusion?"

Even if your question is rather loaded and sarcastic, I'll answer it. To really answer it properly I'd have to write at some length about my life, and practice, which I don't really have time for. I'll keep it brief.

My experience seems to confirm a middle position between one extreme which is that 'when you have kensho your life is completely and permanently changed overnight and forever - wave bye bye to all craving, aversion and delusion' and the other extreme which is 'kensho is a deluded, meaningless brain-fart like being high on drugs, when you come down, things are just the way they were before'.

There is some truth in both of these though I think. After enlightenment, the laundry. On the other hand such experiences for me formed a part of a radically shifting perspective on the nature of existence and myself - from one that created suffering to one that created a lot less suffering. Other things have changed in my life so it's difficult to separate what caused what, however when you have seen behind the curtain of the self, the Wizard of Oz can never scare you in quite the same way again. Or if you realised that your parents were holograms you might not take them quite so seriously. So although I'm not putting all these things down to kensho by itself. I can say with complete confidence that I'm more secure, more relaxed, more happy, less alienated, more emotionally intelligent, more understanding, less defensive, less selfish and more amicable than I ever used to be. Of course that doesn't mean by any stretch that I have "cast off greed, anger and delusion" in anything like a complete sense. Nor was there an overnight change in my character/experience of life. But these experiences certainly seem to have been part of a wider shift (which continues).


I was thinking about Brad's description of his experiences. What it reminds me of was an experience I had once. I don't think of as kensho, although at the time I was sure I had attained enlightenment. It was the experience that my mind was the universe and the universe was me, I was effectively God. It was a dramatic experience of the Solipsistic world-view. I came down with a disappointing bump. The problem with this experience is that even thought it includes insight into the non-dual nature of self and other, it is also characterised by extreme egotistical clinging, that is identification with everything as me, me, ME. This was indeed a deluded, even psychotic state. The function of insight into Non-self/emptiness in Buddhism is actually to loosen such clinging identification.

Also I'm not at all saying that I believe realisation must begin with a dramatic realisation event, only that realisation is important - whether manifested in zazen, koan practice, or doing the laundry.

Here is a teisho on the topic we're discussing that my teacher gave recently. I find his view on these things quite balanced and realistic. Also, you may be able to figure out who the first person is that he is directing the teisho towards.
http://genjo.libsyn.com/impermanence_and_mu

anon #108 said...

Hi Justin,

Forgive the sarcasm - it's the only way I felt I could tease a serious reply. And thank you, sincerely, for the reply. I'll now read it.

BTW, I'm sure you know by now that name is Malcolm - and I don't mind you calling me by it. I'm not sure what this "Mr" business is about (perhaps a comment on anonymity?), but it sounds a tad condescending to me. I'd prefer it if you didn't ;)

Shonin said...

Sorry - it was intended as jovial respect. I shall call you Malcolm.

anon #108 said...

Aah - jovial respect. LOL! What was I thinking?

Your post made a lot of sense, Justin. Sounds like we are essentially on the same page. Which for some reason is nice to know.

I'll listen to the talk now.

anon #108 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...

Hi Bernie,

Do you think that those 'wordless' moments in zazen (while practising the profound prajna paramita practice) might be moments of emptiness? If they are, I experience kensho most days. Then after sitting, I might read something by some old Buddhist and understand emptiness.

There are also countless moments throughout the day when, while I'm wholeheartedly engaged in some activity, I am not aware of myself acting. Do you think those moments might be moments of emptiness, too?

Or, to truly experience and understand emptiness, must I have a different, special experience in which I observe myself as a non-self (huh?), so that I can clear up *the confusion about who I am*?

Again, apologies for the sarcasm (in the last question only), but I'm...confused.

Shonin said...

Who's Bernie?

"There are also countless moments throughout the day when, while I'm wholeheartedly engaged in some activity, I am not aware of myself acting. Do you think those moments might be moments of emptiness, too?"

Do you mean you are unaware of what you are doing because you are lost in thought and acting on autopilot or are you acting in full awareness 'without acting'? If the latter, then this sounds like samadhi (absorption). In samadhi the distinction between self and other becomes faint.

I think this would be a good departure point for you to take your questions to a teacher.

anon #108 said...

Justin- Bernie Simon is Jinzang's real name - at least that's the name on his blog, and the questions are addressed to him in light of his posts on this subject. They're questions I believe my teacher, if I've understood him correctly, might ask. I'm satisfied with what I believe the answers to be :)

Captcha = verboxi. Fancy that!

anon #108 said...

THIS might clarify where I coming from...You might find it interesting.

(I enjoyed your teacher's talk. Some good stuff in it. What's his name?).

Shonin said...

Ah I see. My teacher is Genjo Marinello Osho.

Anonymous said...

Anon 108, that was an excellent article / talk by your teacher. Thoroughly enjoyed it and found it very helpful. Thanks.

Shonin, reading a bit about your own teacher, I think I see why I share many of your perspectives here. While the rinzai sect is a minority both here and in Japan, it is historically and geographically (outside japan)the dominant zen sect. None of this means one is right or wrong of course. There are useful teachings in both sects, imo.

Shonin said...

Yes - absolutely. I don't see this as a Rinzai vs Soto thing at all. Even though they have a different emphasis.

anon #108 said...

You're very welcome, 8.22am.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jinzang said...

Buddhism draws a distinction between tranquillity (shamatha) and insight (vipashyana). Experiences like wordless awareness and being totally focused on your actions fall under the heading of tranquillity. The experience of emptiness falls under the heading of insight. This experience is more of an "aha" and as I said before, it's an experience of absence. You see what you thought was there is actually not. This experience is neither momentary or now and forever. Usually you get the understanding, and then fall back into your habitual ways of thinking, then see it again a little clearer, maybe lose it for a bit, and so on. So it usually wavers like that.

All this is according to what my teachers have told me. When I first heard them speak, they sounded so eloquent.Later I realised they were quoting Shantideva. So you shouldn't think I'm an enlightened person, I'm just relating what I've learned from my teachers.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Venerable Bernie.

~ ALYSTING

bad anon said...

Denigrating your own understanding of Buddhism and saying it's just what you learned from your teachers is exactly the same as bragging about how enlightened you are, only with a fucked up layer of repression added on top.

snicker...that was a joke jinzy. But it sounded wise at the time.

anon #108 said...

Thanks Bernie/Jinzang.

I think that when we try to relate our own ineffable experience to terms coined and concepts formulated by a different culture a long time ago it's not hard to be misled. That's the main reason why I, and I guess you too, study the language in which these ideas were originally formulated. But however universal the phenomena under discussion might be, and whatever insights our language skills might give us, caution is required, I think, lest we become complacent and conclude that the words define the experience.

john e mumbles said...

“Nothing had to be given up except my own will…the air was silent and still and filled with that strong, even light. And I realized that I, too, was fading into the white…the snake would be the last to go, and all I could see was the way its scales shimmered one last time in the light…there is power in the act of disappearing; there is victory in the loss of self. It must be close to our conception of paradise, what its like before you’re born or after you die.”
–Dennis Covington

Anonymous said...

In this morning's sit I was noticing my relation to thoughts being present. More specifically, what happens after I notice a train of thought and decide not to continue to follow it. It has been hard to disembark! What I was noticing is that I tend to negatively judge the experience of having a train of thought and tend to push it away to bring awareness back to breath at nose (my current practice). Today I was experiemnting with just not pushing it away nor perpetuating it. Letting it get fuzzy and dissolve, which is what it seemed to do.

For those of you who 'just sit', how to you tend to relate to the phenomenon of trains of thought, narratives, drama, charged concerns, etc?

Thanks in advance for any feedback,
El-Anon

The Rinz said...

Here's William James on the mystical/unitive experience, or satori, or cosmic consciousness or whatever you wish to call it:

1. Ineffability.--The subject of it immediately says that it defies expression, that no adequate report of its contents can be given in words. It follows from this that its quality must be directly experienced; it cannot be imparted or transferred to others...One must have been in love one's self to understand a lover's state of mind.

2. Noetic quality.--Although so similar to states of feeling, mystical states seem to those who experience them to be also states of knowledge. They are states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of authority for after-time.

3. Transiency.--Mystical states cannot be sustained for long. Except in rare instances, half an hour, or at most, an hour or two seems to be the limit beyond which they fade into the light of common day. Often, when faded, their quality can but imperfectly be reproduced in memory; but when they recur it is recognized; and from one recurrence to another it is susceptible of continuous development in what is felt as inner richness and importance.

4. Passivity.--Although the oncoming of mystical states may be facilitated by preliminary voluntary operations, as by fixing the attention, or going through certain bodily performances, or in other ways which manuals of mysticism prescribe; yet when the characteristic sort of consciousness once has set in, the mystic feels as if his own will were in abeyance, and indeed sometimes as if he were grasped and held by a superior power...Mystical states, strictly so called, are never merely interruptive. Some memory of their content always remains, and a profound sense of their importance. They modify the inner life of the subject between the times of their recurrence.

Mysterion said...

Anonymous said...
"For those of you who 'just sit', how to you tend to relate to the phenomenon of trains of thought, narratives, drama, charged concerns, etc?" - El-Anon

If thoughts come and go - let them. I think it takes effort to pick thoughts apart. Zazen is not psychoanalysis, it is calming. It's a stupid analogy but 'thoughts are like gathering drops of dew that, from leaves, drop into the pond. Whether frequent or infrequent the drops, and the ripples which they create, dissipate. Let them dissipate.'

For me, Zazen is the way of 'no effort.' I think Suzuki said: 'It is easy to do something. It is harder to do nothing.'

maybe in this talk?

Ven. Suzuki often laughed when he was groping for [English] words.

Harry said...

"For those of you who 'just sit', how to you tend to relate to the phenomenon of trains of thought, narratives, drama, charged concerns, etc?"

Hi Anon,

Good question.

I can only speak for myself, but when I find myself relating to that stuff I just stop doing it (relating to it and/or doing things in relation to it) and just keep sitting.

Shikantaza is about stopping doing those things in relation to thought and awareness etc. It is not fabricated by thought or mental volition (i.e. trying to be aware).

Doing anything in relation to thought is an intentional activity... I find myself doing it all the time in sitting of course (particularly for the first 20 mins or so... it's pretty murky 'down there'!) After a while things might clear up, or maybe not, but my sitting need not be interfered with by my thinking/intentional antics even as I'm doing it. This 'sitting it out regardless' is an important aspect of it methinks, a very direct type of body training. This is what Master Dogen referred to as 'getting the body out' or 'getting the body free' I think.

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

Mysterion & Harry, thanks!

Harry, makes a lot of sense what you've written. The impression I'm getting from the phrase 'sitting it out' is that the thought activity can be related to as bodily energy percolating in the brain. I''m reminded of some metaphor from the Buddha of carrying a bowl full of water. Set it on the table and the ripples eventually calm.

So I've been sitting here for the heck of it, making volitional thoughts every few seconds to see what other kind of non-volitional thought appears and feel the difference. It's pretty inane and funny. Thinking "now I am thinking a thought" every few seconds.

Anyways, don't mean to overthink this , but your feedback was helpful...

peace
-el anon

Harry said...

"The impression I'm getting from the phrase 'sitting it out' is that the thought activity can be related to as bodily energy percolating in the brain."

Hi Anon,

We can say things like that about it, we can look at it from various perspectives (from the perspectives of body, mind, body/mind, and an objective viewpoint for eg.), but while I'm actually sitting zazen I stop doing that, I stop relating to it, explaining its existence etc etc when I notice that I'm doing it. That's an important aspect of it.

As to your experiment; yes, it's interesting. If we sit for quite a while (like in a sesshin/retreat) we can appreciate just how much intentional thought we do without knowing it, and how subtle and 'deep' it runs in our consciousness.

It can sometimes be a bit off-putting for complete beginners because, when they start to sit, they might get this big 'whoosh!' of thoughts coming up as if their sitting is actually making more thoughts (and some may indeed be being made in response to the mortal panic of their just sitting still!) but they are actually becoming aware of how much they intentionally think while not being aware that they are doing it.

Nishijima Roshi has described this in terms of our mind being like a pot of soup on the boil with a lid on top; when we first 'take off the lid' (i.e. doing zazen) there is a big blast of vented 'steam' (the many everyday volitional thoughts and the things arising from our unconscious mind that we don't generally give ourselves a chance to process or even acknowledge).

Regards,

Harry.

anon #108 said...

Rinz -
Wish I could have a mystical/unitive experience, or satori, or cosmic consciousness or whatever you wish to call it. Please ignore anything I've written which suggests you don't need one. Just sour grapes :)

But while I'm waiting...

El-Anon -
My experience: I've never felt like I'm just watching my thoughts go by like clouds, or similar similes, in zazen. When I'm thinking, truly involved in some internal fantasy/drama, 'I' am lost in it. I've even mused that those are the times I lose all sense of self, rather than the times I'm 'present', back in the room, aware of myself looking at the wall. When lost in thought there is no observing, monitoring self to "watch" the thoughts, or to make the conscious decision to stop thinking: I just suddenly find myself no longer thinking. And there are other times when the thoughts seem weaker; I'm less engaged in them, less "lost" and can notice that I'm thinking, and make a wilful decision to let go. Then there are states of quick switching between shallow thoughts and self-awareness. But there are other times, usually after 15 or 20 minutes of sitting, when I'm in a different state; a state where although I'm aware of my self, there are no words, and so no thoughts, just a general calm awareness. That state often seems to happen accidentally, and as I continue to practice, I find it easier - sometimes! - to resist the ripples of thought as they start up again. At other times, I find myself again lost, or rather having been lost, but can't recall how or when it happened.

I think all of that is the state in zazen, which Dogen (not the first) compared to a "state like the sea". None of it is to be regretted or judged, hard though that is. It's the practice of "it is what it is".

anon #108 said...

Hi Harry,

...This is what Master Dogen referred to as 'getting the body out' or 'getting the body free' I think.

Ah yes, maybe!

Malcolm said...

Anon #108 @3.52pm -

What you said to Rinz about Satori - that's more sarcasm, right?

anon #108 said...

Yes. And no. Probably.

Thing 2 said...

Oh my. Are there really so few bowls that need washing?

Anonymous said...

All this is according to what my teachers have told me.

This is your problem Jinzang.

Too much thinking!

Eric Idle said...

Attend to your own crockery situation, Thing 2. One bowl, one plate, one cup*, a knife, a fork and a spoon is all the modern bhikkhu needs.

*Two girls might be nice! Know what I mean, eh? Nudge, nudge...eh? Know what I mean?

the lone Ranger said...

Once there was a fly. And the fly was captured by a kid that pinned the fly down and pulled off its wings and left him on the sidewalk rolling around on his back and stomach. The poor fly didn't know which way was up. The fly cried and cried and the boy laughed at the fly. The fly exhausted stopped wriggling and took a deep breath and just laid there. The kid flicked the fly with his finger into the street gutter. There was a small stream of water that took the fly down the street . The fly floated on his back. He put his hands behind his head and laughed.

John Cleese said...

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT...

Dr. Ruth said...

and now we have an anonymous analysis of 'problems'

by Dr. Anonymous, M.D. - no doubt

Anonymous said...

At 82, Dr. Ruth has more than sex on her mind.

Dr. Phil said...

She doesn't have far to look. Israel is the size of New Jersey (1/19th the size of California).

Dr. Bill said...

Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.

Anonymous said...

bye! thanks for all the fun :)

187

Dr. Laura said...

Who threw that pie?

Bill Nye the Science Guy said...

The terminal velocity of a pie in a parlor is...

I'm no Stooge said...

oh yeah???

Gourdhead said...

This is your problem Jinzang.
Too much thinking


Yeah! Everyone knows that real Buddhism is anti-intellectual. Just do it. Don't think about it. Just do what you do. That is zen. It is so simple. Just sit.

Lone Wolf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lone Wolf said...

Coming to Ohio again...Nice! Perhaps I'll make it up to Kent (and/or Cleveland) this time around.

Shonin said...

For anyone interested, here is another teisho from Genjo Marinello Osho on 'Ummon's Shit Stick'. This one is particularly topical as it discusses the current controversy around Genjo's teacher, Eido Shimano Roshi.

http://genjo.libsyn.com/kanchiketsu

Roto Sonzai Zen said...

Brad said:

"Kensho is bunk. Satori is bullshit"

Then Uku said:

"I think the discussion is very important for showing how bullshit kensho and satori business is. Buddhism has nothing, NOTHING to do with kensho or satori or shit like that. Period."

Ven. Jinzang then calls Uku's remarks 'Stupid' on his blog;

"But nothing engages the creative juices like responding to a stupid comment and I found one over at Hardcore Zen."

Ven. Jinzang then references Uku's remark. Uku is saying the same thing as Brad. Why pick on the follower when he is just echoing the doctrines of the teacher? If Uku's comment was stupid, so is Brad's.

If a well-know Rinzai zen teacher said:

"Just Sitting is bunk and Proper Posture is Bullshit"

Soto zen teachers and practitioners would probably pounce upon such views quickly.

If Brad had said "Kensho and Satori are not important in Soto Zen and are not emphasized in the Zen I teach." That would have raised little or no criticism. Instead, as usual, he makes it a blanket statement as if it applies to all of Zen. Again with the implication that his form of zen is the only Real, True, Authentic Zen.

I think the extreme, sectarian rinzai and soto teachers both have it wrong. Satori is important. but it is not the be all and end all of zen and striving for it as a goal is counterproductive and poor practice. Having kensho does not mean your zen practice is complete or over (as some rinzai adherents seem to have thought during Dogen's time), it means your zen practice has just begun.

Posture is important because sitting lotus is really the easiest way to do zazen once you master it. For the vast majority of us, seated zazen is absolutely necessary for zen practice. But proper posture, koans and zazen itself are only upaya in the end. A skillful means to trick a fish into noticing the ocean. Just my view.

Anonymous said...

Brad said:

"Kensho is bunk. Satori is bullshit"


Er...No. He didn't.

Anonymous said...

When does another person's opinion matter enough to criticize them for having it?

Puku said...

Er....yes he did.

"But there's a strong, strong habit we all have of grasping at things to make them "mine." That day was not mine. "It does not linger in the vicinity of the personal self" as Dogen put it. But you want it to. Believe me, YOU want it to. You want it to bad. And I mean you. And I mean BAD.

Kensho is bunk. Satori is bullshit.

And I'm sleepy. Good night"

=====Brad Warner

"When does another person's opinion matter enough to criticize them for having it?"

Good question. Is this directed toward anon, jinzang, brad or to whom it may concern?

Bodhidharma said...

If someone without kensho tries constantly to make his thoughts free and unattached, he commits a great transgression against the Dharma and is a great fool to boot. He winds up in the passive indifference of empty emptiness, no more able to distinguish good from bad than a drunken man. If you want to put the Dharma of non- activity into practice, you must bring an end to all your thought-attachments by breaking through into kensho. Unless you have kensho, you can never expect to achieve a state of non-doing.

Harry said...

Two Hundred!

I've attained TWO HUNDRED!

«Oldest ‹Older   1 – 200 of 831   Newer› Newest»