Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A COUPLE OF QUESTIONS

I'm coming to you tonight live from a rustic cabin in Spencertown, New York, about two and a half hours drive north of New York City in the middle of the vast wilderness that lies between New York and Montreal.

It's amazing how as soon as you get out of New York City suddenly all signs of human civilization disappear entirely. Well, OK. Maybe not entirely. But it's such a huge contrast. About an hour and a half out of town I had to pee like crazy. I was driving on the Taconic State Parkway and I swear to God there weren't even any gas stations to be found. Where did they all go? Where do people driving on the Taconic Parkway get gasoline? What is a Taconic anyway? Is that a condition of the parkway? "I'm sorry ma'am, but I'm afraid your parkway has become taconic."

Anyway, you will see that Sock Monkey is with me here. He ran off while I was in New York. Apparently -- and the people who found him told me this, I didn't make it up -- he was riding a mechanical bull. What a wild monkey! I lost him for about three days and I was actually pretty sad about it. I'm well aware he is an inanimate object. Even Sock Monkey himself admits this. But it's weird how attached you can get to a stuffed animal, especially when you've traveled so much with him.

I am returning to Montreal from five days in New York City where I did a book signing and a two-day retreat. People always ask stuff like, "How was the retreat?" And it's hard to answer. It was good. It was noisy, being as it was in the East Village with jackhammers jackhammering and sirens wailing. But I'm pretty much used to urban zazen these days and that's just what comes with the territory.

Some cool people showed up, which was cool. Nobody died. No one was seriously injured. I suppose if I were Genpo Roshi, I could have given them all enlightenment experiences. But I'm not. So I didn't. (Someone posted a link to a nice podcast that mentions Genpo disparagingly, but I can't find it anymore. Maybe you can post the link again?)

It's weird doing whatever it is I do. I do basically what my dad has done for the last twenty or so years, I'm a traveling salesman. My dad sells rubber chemicals. I sell books. But we do pretty much the same thing. We get in a car and we drive a long, long, long way to go talk to people. Funny how that works.

OK. I said I'd answer questions people sent in. So let's go.

After all your spot on observations about the dangers of "teachers" accepting money from students in return for teaching, I find it kind of amazing that you are now offering :

"As a way of making it feel a bit like readers are getting something for their money, I'm going to start answering more questions sent in from you folks out there. "

It's your call obviously, but it just seems like a bad idea.

I didn't press the donate button to get your attention, I just want you to keep doing your work.


This brings up a few issues. First off, I really didn't mean to directly associate the donation button with the answering of questions as if you could now pay me to answer stuff. I can see how it came off that way. I was being facetious though. I'm too scatterbrained to work out who sent questions and who sent donations and correlate the two anyway. So even if that was my goal I'd fail.

The idea of accepting money for teaching Zen is a bit more problematic. I've already said before that I tend to deal with my own conundrum in that area by regarding myself mainly as a writer. Writers get paid for writing. Well, they do if they're lucky, anyhow. I don't feel bad taking money for the things that I write. I don't feel bad getting paid for a lecture by someone who hires me to give a talk about my books. Since I write mainly about Buddhism, this makes my own position somewhat ambiguous. But I'm OK with that.

I don't believe it's a very good idea to be a Zen teacher for a living. But I really don't think it's wrong for Zen teachers to make a living being Zen teachers. The temptation to dumb down the teachings in order to get more butts in seats is very strong when it means the difference between paying the rent or getting evicted. You might even try a scheme where rich people pay you $50,000 to tell them they're enlightened.

That would be the very dark side of it. The somewhat less dark side of it is that by accepting money for teaching Zen, you send the message to students that they have a right to demand how Zen ought to be taught to them.

That being said, Zen teachers still need to eat and pay the rent and they should have a means to do that. If a person devotes their entire lives to Zen teaching, how are they going to make a living other than by accepting support from students? In and of itself there is nothing evil about that.

This is why I try as much as possible to keep the writer side separate from the teacher side. Though they do co-mingle. しょうがないな?

Next question:

I`ve been sitting for 3 years daily, and for one year I intensively focused on doing the first koan of my practice; "What am I?" It became really interesting but I had to quit it because I felt that energies in my body/mind were bit out of control. There was this vibrating spot that sometimes vibrated in my head. And it feels like it's not going to the right direction or something.

So nowadays I've been just sitting and focusing on the body and it feels good and grounding. But especially in stressful situations the focus point goes to head and starts vibrating with sounds.

What do you think about hara for example? I have always been told to focus on the hara, but I never learned how. I'm not sure what to do with focusing the mind.
Just sitting and feeling the body feels good and also slightly focusing on the lower back. Maybe just continue like that?


Shikantaza type zazen in it's purest form doesn't have any specific point of focus. I'm aware that lots of teachers tell you to concentrate on the hara or tanden, which basically means a spot just below your chest somewhere. But my teachers never taught that and I never did it.

When I sit, I really just sit. Wherever my awareness goes it just goes. The only thing deliberate I do is to keep making sure my posture is correct. I try not to consider things too much.

Dogen uses the words 無思料 (mushiryou) and 非思料 (hishiryou) to describe what should be done with the mind during zazen. 思料 (shiryou) is often translated in Zen books as "thinking." The modifiers 無 (mu) and 非 (hi) are different levels of denial. In Mike Cross and Nishijima Roshi's translation of Shobogenzo, 無思料 (mushiryou) is "not thinking" and 非思料 (hishiryou) is "different from thinking," as in absolutely different from thinking.

But any Japanese/English dictionary will tell you that 思料 (shiryou) is "consideration." Thinking is usually 考える (kangaeru). So I believe what Dogen was getting at wasn't that we should stop all thought and make our brains completely silent. He was saying something more like that we should avoid actively messing around with the various thoughts that pop into our heads.

Concentrating on the hara seems to me to be the opposite of that. It is a kind of deliberate consideration. You're considering your belly. Same with counting the breath. And it's especially same with using a koan. That, to me, seems to be absolutely without a doubt a form of consideration and definitely not at all what Dogen was talking about.

Phew! That was a lot more work than I thought it would be.

But keep sending your questions in to askbradwarner@hotmail.com and I'll do my best to answer them whether you make a donation or not.

203 comments:

1 – 200 of 203   Newer›   Newest»
B the S said...

The best place to stop for gas on the Taconic is at Hopewell Junction. Not only does it have a great name, but there's a gas station right after the exit. It's good if you need to go to the bathroom without getting way off the highway.

MYSTERION! said...

ONE!

Anonymous said...

I've always felt the term 'Point of focus' was misleading when trying to sit. I prefer to try and consciously think unconsciously.

Anonymous said...

Hey Willy, you better keep away from gas pipes and throw away the rubber hose you've been carrying around.

Genro said...

I'm deeply embarrassed for you, and, if you keep up with zazen (do you sit zazen?)--some day, oh (considering the size of your ego) maybe in about ten years, you too, will be deeply embarrassed. Maybe we'll even get a book filled with humility instead of braggadocio. You and Gempo are two sides of the same coin.

Anonymous said...

6

Flagadabla said...

Hi Brad,
About focusing on something or not during zazen, I wonder how much students should interpret instructions about zazen.

Focusing on something can feel like a deliberate consideration, but if you do it like an action, like sitting, then you can focus without worrying to much about how it feels and whether or not you're doing it right.
This is just an example of how words can sound differently for different people. My point here is that I guess advices for zazen are always a matter of interpretation, and you've to do that for yourself. You've to feel what they mean in your body, not just listen to the words. And there's a huge gap between the words and the actual feeling. So, as humble and tortured students, we're left with the dilemma: either following a teacher wholeheartedly even if it means doing things that just seem dumb, pointless or even hurtful, or interpreting and seeing for yourself.

There's a saying that Buddha taught to experience the teaching for ourselves. And on the opposite side, there is Dogen in the Gakudo Jojinshu saying that we should follow somebody else's enlightenment.

I have a hard time accepting that I should do certain things some teachers say. Especially when their words sound right intellectually, but from my own perspective the related actions and practices just seem hurtful. Should I do them anyway? I guess not. Or do I not do them because I'm not trying hard enough to overcome my fears or whatever?

That's something I've come across a lot with zen: should I have faith in myself, trust my own feelings? Dogen, and most of the zen teachers I've met, seem to say that I shouldn't. I'd like to know what you think about that.

Best

Al said...

The Q and A thing is an excellent idea Brad. I look forward to more of it.

Seagal Rinpoche said...

Adversity introduces a man to himself.

gniz said...

Hey Anon (who mentioned the dilemma between listening to yourself or your teacher),

I think in the end we always are listening to ourselves. Ultimately, we make decisions about what and how and when we practice. Nobody follows every single instruction down to the letter, and the moment you veer off from what the teacher has said, you are already making decisions.

I embrace that. Yes, I have a teacher and I try to listen to his thoughts and advice and guidance, but I am always making my own decisions about what works for me--I can't help but do that.

Everyone picks and chooses, whether they want to believe it or not.

Blake said...

For some reason I had an image of Brad in a wood and glass box, giving fortunes for quarters. Instead of Zoltar it would be Bratar!

Anonymous said...

"I suppose if.... "

Have you ever noticed how much you set up artificial scenarios in your writing, Brad Warner?

Anonymous said...

"no consideration," "absolutely different from consideration"

Sounds like Dogen was one inconsiderate dude.

Hey Seagal, do you work a fortune cookie factory, by any chance?

Sycophant Sam said...

Master Seagal is a respected fighter, actor, lawman, guitar player, accupuncturist, Buddhist tulku and so much more. Show some goddamned respect.

Anonymous said...

The hara is actually just below the navel, not below the chest. It's considered an energy center, very important in Japanese culture, and whole books have been written on it. http://www.amazon.com/Hara-Center-Karlfried-Graf-D%C3%BCrckheim/dp/1594770247/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287590057&sr=1-1

Putting your mind in the hara is very much like coming back again and again to the sitting posture; it's a physical phenomenon that takes your attention from the thinking mind. I sit with my attention on the whole posture, but the hara often draws my attention, because so much happens there.

Professordave

anon #108 said...

Hi Professordave,

When I first heard of Gudo's "return to the posture" teaching I too thought that it must be no different from putting your mind/attention in the hara or being mindful of your breathing - "a physical phenomenon that takes your attention from the thinking mind". But as I've been taught, understand and practise it, it may be a little different.

I don't sit with the intention of concentrating on, or being mindful of my posture, but when I notice I'm thinking (at the moment when thinking stops), then I check/'return to' my posture. I don't expect or try to maintain that awareness of posture; it's not the focus of my sitting.

It seems to me that trying to maintain awareness of, or trying to focus on posture, breathing or the hara is the intentional consideration that Gudo, Brad and my teacher don't teach, believing it to be a practice that encourages the mind rather than the whole body/mind; that causes us to engage with the mind as a phenomenon separate from the body; that encourages us to actively engage the mind as a controlling agent; to 'end-gain' (at least one of those). They also, btw, don't believe it to be what Dogen taught.

Checking the posture from time to time, when awareness naturally returns from thinking to the present time and place is a different thing from actively 'putting your mind' somewhere and hoping to keep it there, I've found.

...But perhaps I've misunderstood what 'attention-putting" folks actually get up to.

gniz said...

Hey Anon 108 and Brad,

I'm actually quite interested and surprised to find that you both describe your meditation as sitting in a certain posture--and basically nothing else.

108 even does not keep an awareness of posture throughout, but just a check-in now and again.

Just letting the mind wander, do you even make an effort to pay attention to the mind's wandering? Anything? Just sitting, but with mind wandering anywhere it pleases, not paying particular attention to anything at all....that is surprising to me.

I had always understood shikantaza to be a kind of cultivation of an "open state of awareness" and there to be some intent to focus awareness on the present moment, for lack of a better term.

Most forms of meditation do something to discourage active fantasy and mind wandering...of course, the mind wanders no matter what, but without paying any attention to what the mind does, I fail to see how much is learned, seen through, or understood in this practice.

And yet, Brad certainly seems to have learned a thing or two. So maybe my understanding of the practice is flawed, or perhaps he is misstating it slightly and removing emphasis from the "attention" part of things because he sees that aspect being overemphasized (sort of like kensho).

I'm slightly puzzled but intrigued.

Anonymous said...

Anon 108--

I don't really try to keep my attention on the hara. I would say I maintain more of an open awareness, and just come back there when the mind wanders. But it just seems to be the center of things. It seemed that way even before I heard the name hara, or heard it was an energy center. It just seems natural to come back to that central spot.

But the book I referenced is quite interesting.

Professordave

tacotaco said...

I love that there is a polite discussion of Buddhist practice going on in this comments section (so far)!

My understanding is that in zazen, one does not focus on any particular thing (the breath, a chakra, chi channels, mantra, etc.), but rather one attempts to remain in an attentive, undiscriminating state. Just sit and stay present with whatever comes up - be it a noise, body sensation, thought, fantasy, whatevs, without clinging or judging. So, in a sense, the "point of focus" is just the emerging moment. I don't think Brad is suggesting that one not pay attention to what the mind/ body is doing...is he?

anon #108 said...

Watcha Gniz,

As usual the descriptions mislead and provide misleading models...

I've found that I can't fail to be aware of the incessant momentary shifts of attention and consideration, of 'mental' and 'physical' experience that "just sitting" comprises. Even if I wanted to (which I don't), I seriously doubt that I could "just sit in a certain posture -- and basically nothing else", drifting in and out of daydreams, now and again remembering to sit up straight. Although that does sometimes seem to be what my zazen is, even on those occasions, much more than I might consciously credit is going on. I'm noticing, forgetting, considering, trying, trying not to, judging, letting go, being here, being...somewhere else (?)....

I'm sure things are learnt, just by apparently making no effort at all. The fact that I'm a conscious, discriminating thing ensures it. Just sitting is never just sitting.

There again, if it were (just sitting) - and there are moments when it is - my experience tells me that things of great value are learnt when I get out of the way and let things do themselves:

To learn the Buddha's truth is to learn ourselves. To learn ourselves is to forget ourselves. To forget ourselves is to be experienced by the myriad dharmas. To be experienced by the myriad dharmas is to let our own body-and-mind, and the body-and-mind of the external world, fall away."

- Dogen, Genjo-koan.


'Just sitting in reality' is a rich and profound experience, even when it's tedious and mundane. When you 'learn' to see it like that it impacts everything you do.

Sounds bloody marvellous, dontit? I almost believe it myself.

Anonymous said...

"I would say I maintain more of an open awareness, and just come back there when the mind wanders."

That's how I'm taught, except that it's the breath I come back to.

anon #108 said...

Hi Profdave,

Thanks for clarifying.


Hi tacotaco,

I love that there is a polite discussion of Buddhist practice going on in this comments section (so far)!

I know! It happens every now and again. Weird.

Anonymous Bob said...

Understanding shikantaza isn't really the point of the practice. The point is to do it diligently, making it part of your everyday life. If you fail to learn anything, it might be because of what you are focusing on. The unfocused aspect of the practice is exactly it's focal point.

It is precisely defined by what it is not.

CAPTCHA : mists : I kid you not

Awakened Yeti said...

Is there a difference of one thing related to another, when there are no things left? Only when supposing no things is other than some things, perhaps.

Some japanese fruitcake used to send me spam emails about superconductivity and the importance of a strong, beautiful psy-ball. I think he mentioned the hara at some point as well. Its just one part of the triple burner, that sort of thing. Conservation of energy, etc.

Steam engines derive mobility from pressure, so its possible that mechanical knowledge precludes mechanical understanding. But if it aint broke, then dont fix it. Isnt that what they say?

gniz said...

Well, I *think* I can grasp the concept of "just sitting" with a kind of open attentiveness...

But if I just sit and sort of let everything be, and indulge my fantasies and so forth and daydream and whatnot...occasionally checking my posture...

It seems like the only difference between that and anything else is that I check my posture once in awhile. And I KNOW there is more to it then that, so I am trying to understand why it is said that one practicing in this way only checks posture and does nothing else.

Brad mentions not really feeding thoughts and adding to them. I would respond that A LOT more goes into that activity then what he is letting on. In order to be present enough to even notice when I am adding thoughts or stirring up my mental faculties, I need to be pretty on point as far as my level of awareness goes.

So I guess my main thing I'm trying to get to is that more is happening then just checking posture. Noticing thinking, noticing what is arising, perhaps making an effort to let those thoughts go and return to the state of open awareness...

I see that Brad might eschew those kinds of new agey terms (mindfulness, hara, open awareness) and I think I can grasp why he avoids such terms.

At the same time, let's be clear: if I just sit indian style and let my mind wander into sex fantasies and daydreams and so forth, and every so often I go, oops better sit up a little straighter!...that's kind of lame, no?

Anonymous Bob said...

Brad wrote: "I don't believe it's a very good idea to be a Zen teacher for a living. But I really don't think it's wrong for Zen teachers to make a living being Zen teachers"

Brad: Depending on how we read these sentences they almost seem to make sense but they also seem negate each other. In fact, if you reverse them they might make more sense.

I don't think it's a very good idea for Zen teachers to make their living being Zen teachers. But I really don't think it's wrong to be a Zen teacher for a living.

How much money does a person need? Obviously some more than others. It almost seems like you are saying that it is alright to make a little money from teaching Zen, just don't make more money than you do. How do you quantify such things?

The Most Anonymous Guy Here said...

How many yachts can you water ski behind, Brad?

anon #108 said...

Gniz,

Is it the descriptions of/instructions for the practice you're finding wanting? No surprises there. If you're looking for a more thorough description of zazen as taught by Gudo/Brad, check out the last couple of chapters of "To Meet the Real Dragon". Is it that you've tried just sitting and found it lame? Cool. Do something else, as I gather you do. But it is the 'right' practice for some of us. At least we think so. Try telling us we're wrong ;)

Anonymous Bob said...

"But if I just sit and sort of let everything be, and indulge my fantasies and so forth and daydream and whatnot...occasionally checking my posture..."


Gniz, If your mind works anything like mine, you most certainly have occasional fantasies. We can either choose to remain in the fantasy or we can think about why it is we are having that particular thought at that particular time. Examining why you are thinking what you are thinking can be part of shikantaza and following some weird fantasy down a rabbit hole can be part of shikantaza as can not thinking about about anything in particular. But trying not to have the thoughts isn't part of shikantaza. Breathing takes care of itself, posture can be forgotten about when you're thinking or dreaming. That's why it's stressed imo.

CAPTCHA : guitarrh : I kid you not

gniz said...

Hey Anon 108,

Thanks for the response...although I am not sure you "got" what I was asking. I probably wasn't very clear...

You said: "Is it the descriptions of/instructions for the practice you're finding wanting?"

Well I had an understanding that the focus on posture was a fairly engaged, vigorous and moment-to-moment part of your sitting practice. It turns out that it is more of a "check in" kind of thing. I was surprised by that, because it seems that this could easily lead to daydreaming and fantasizing for hours and years on end. Maybe that's okay. Lord knows my meditation has a lot of that in it, but I tend to try and bring my mind back to a point of focus. I was under the misaprehension that the posture was your and Brad's point of focus, so to speak...

"Is it that you've tried just sitting and found it lame?"
Not at all. I've done some sitting meditation and found it similar to what i do now, only it is sitting and my meditation is done throughout all activities. I still dont find the differences to be that wide between such practices.

"Try telling us we're wrong ;)"
I wouldn't dream of it. However, I do think that there is more to it then you or Brad let's on. I gave an example of this, wherein Brad sort of glibly mentions that he tries not to add to thinking while doing his sitting meditation. I point out that this is actually very difficult, subtle, and requires a certain kind of ongoing awareness.

I hope I have made my questions a little more clear.

gniz said...

Hey Anonymous Bob,

Thanks for your clarifications.
I have read a lot of stuff on Treeleaf as well as what Brad writes about this practice.

Clearly there are some differences in how teachers relate shikantaza and what that means to each one. Some I believe do tell you to focus on the present moment in a kind of open way, and to bring the mind back to breathing temporarily if daydreaming occurs.

In other words, I do think generally in most meditation circles, there is an emphasis on some kind of attention being brought about to something--attention to breath, to the mind, to feelings in the body, to posture.

But here in Brad's latest post and Anon 108's writings, is the first time I am really hearing this sentiment that advocates only sitting in lotus and NO focus whatsoever on anything else that might happen within the sitting period.

And that even the posture itself is something which is occasionally checked in on, tweaked, and then the rest just goes its own way. This, imo, is very different from 99 percent of how meditation is taught.

This does not mean it is wrong--far from it. It's just news to me.

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

yep.

There are 2 New Yorks in New York.

1) There is New York City.

2) There's the other one.

anon #108 said...

Your question is clearer now, gniz.

Ok. I'll fess up. I do hope, and try, to keep an awareness of the present moment during zazen (although I've never been taught to do that - I've discovered for myself that I want to do it, which I see as the real value of object-less Shikantaza; you discover yourself by yourself, slowly).

Thing is, as soon as I write that I hope to/try to stay present and aware, I flinch, because it suggests that staying in the present moment is a good thing, and drifting into thought or fantasy is a bad one.* As I tried to explain at 11.46am, whatever occurs during the time I'm sitting quietly is real; I'm sitting in reality, not practising a technique to help me access reality. I don't have to do anything special - to try to make something happen or stop happening. I just have to be aware - but not a special awareness, just the ordinary awareness that I can't help, that comes, and goes, with sitting still and quiet for a while. "The samadhi of accepting and using the self", says big D - a simultaneously passive and active practice.

*As little Suzuki said to a student who complained that he couldn't stop thinking during zazen, "Is there some problem with thinking?"

**********************************************************************

PS When you are lost in thought during meditation (of whatever kind), do you actively bring yourself back to the present moment, or do you suddenly just find yourself 'here', no longer lost in thought? Can you bring yourself back to awareness? Perhaps you can, sometimes. Noticing that process and asking such questions over and over again is very important part of Shikantaza.

Another important part of shikantaza is forgetting the whole 'noticing/questioning' thing and just sitting...Here we go, more Dogen:

"Proud of our understanding and richly endowed with realization, we obtain special states of insight; we attain the truth, we clarify the mind; we acquire the zeal that pierces the sky; we ramble through remote intellectual spheres, going in with the head: and yet we have almost completely lost the vigorous road of getting the body out."

We tend to place great value what our mind tells us about itself and undervalue our bodies. Brad has said before that it really doesn't matter WHAT you think in zazen, it works anyway (is kinda what he said). I don't think he's exaggerating to shock, and I think he might be right. Fortunately, it doesn't matter. As AnonBob said at 12.13, the important thing is to do it. Just sit every day and commit to staying sat for a period. Or not. There's no problem.

Anyone still awake?

anon #108 said...

Gniz,

Still didn't answer your question as to the function of the "check/return to the posture " thing...Fortunately AnonBob put it briefly and very well @ 1.33pm.

Re "But here in Brad's latest post and Anon 108's writings, is the first time I am really hearing this sentiment that advocates only sitting in lotus and NO focus whatsoever on anything else that might happen within the sitting period."

-- check what I wrote at 11.46am. I addressed that there. Most of what I've added @ 3.21pm is waffle, but there's one or two bits that make sense, I think, so I might leave it up.

Al said...

Gniz,

Shikantaza is quite a radical practice. It is NOT meditation and this seems to be why folks have such a rough time "getting it".

Uchiyama describes it as, "taking the correct posture and entrusting EVERYTHING to it." This means giving up "Your" intention to do anything or the intention to get anything out of it(even focusing and obtaining a certain state). The zazen posture is the posture of letting go. The postue itself will do the "letting go" and calming down. This isn't mystical; there is a real nervous system connection going on here. Things will settle if you let them. Anything you add to that is only a disturbance or a band aid at best.

It is kind of like taping a motor mouth's mouth shut. If you just let them carry on and ignore them, they'll realize they are being ignored at some point and shut up. IF you tape there mouth shut they"ll explode when you rip off the band aid.

Even if things don't calm down, it doesn't matter. You're given your system a chance to experience reality without any interference. It will get it it at some point.

I've found it helpful to not even group zazen in with other forms of meditation. It is totally unrelated.

You'd probably say that's useless and you'd be right.

Al

Anonymous Bob said...

Hey Gniz.. It might be the first time you are hearing this.. but I rather doubt it. I know your writing from way back and we have heard a lot of the same things and I have heard what you claim not to have heard more than once. So, more probably, you might now be ready to consider it. It doesn't have anything to do with intelligence unlike what people like Mysterion will tell you. We all have approximately the same innate ability to take in and process information, but due to our personal and familiar karma, we might have some blocks to overcome first.. The good news is, we can eliminate a lot of the hindrances with practice. The bad news is, we all came to the party with borrowed baggage and we need to understand that. Not to proselytize, but Shikantaza is an wonderful difficult process. If you haven't tried it, give it a month or so. If you have, revisit it for a month. What do you have to lose?

CAPTCHA : phine : I kid you not

gniz said...

Al and Bob--and Anon 108--Thanks for the comments and replies.

It makes a lot more sense now.

:)

Anonymous said...

A: "Nishijima’s idea about paying attention to the spine in Zazen is that when we find ourselves thinking about something we should straighten our spine and start to look at the wall again."


This quote comes from "The stupid way" link on the hardcore zen page.

It sounds like there is a point of focus and it is the wall. We return to the wall after seeing "that we are thinking about something"
They may not apply as much effort as in the breath following method but it is still basicly the same zen idea of letting go of thoughts by returning to the wall.

mtto said...

The wall is definitely not the point of focus in shikantaza practice. I see how you could get that from the passage you are quoting (it does sound that way), but it is not the case.

For me, these days, I think of the practice as experiencing living while in a posture that Al described very well in the above comment, so I won't add to it.

mtto said...

I get the point of not calling zazen "meditation", but on the other hand it looks a lot more like meditation than it does baseball or a Baptist church service. If I'm not going to get into a long conversation with someone about what I'm doing, I call it zen meditation.

buddy said...

No one has really mentioned something Brad said in this post: 'Wherever my awareness goes it just goes.' So there is no pre-determined focus, but whatever comes up is allowed to be the focus. My teacher put it something like, don't think of it as there being a mind into which thoughts and sensations arise, but that the thoughts and sensations are the mind arising.

But it has been my experience that to get to the point of being able to 'get' this, some formative grounding in more concentrated awareness, like following the breath, is helpful (both over a period of months or even years, and also maybe within a single sitting). And by the way, Dogen never said to not follow the breath: in Eihei Koroku he says to not count the breath, like the hinayana do; nor to judge it as long or short, like the mahayana do; but to just let it be there.

Shonin said...

There is a lot of confusion about whether we deliberately DO anything in zazen. On one extreme we can end up rejecting our actual experience and trying to be having a 'better' one. On the other extreme we could just sit and daydream in a perfect lotus posture, which is no different from daydreaming in any other posture (this isn't yoga).

It's a middle path as it were, a doing without doing, Right Effort instead of Lots of Effort...

This - which 108 observed earlier - is the crux of the matter in my experience (Zen and mindfulness).

"...but when I notice I'm thinking (at the moment when thinking stops), then I check/'return to' my posture. I don't expect or try to maintain that awareness of posture..."

Drop (or rather notice and see as a mental event) the expectation/judgement and make your meditation not based on some idealised state but as a process like this 'if I notice I'm lost in thought THEN I...

- return to the posture,
- return to the breath,
- notice where my mind is then return to the posture

or whatever the details are of your practice.

Shonin said...

An upright, stable posture can help. But it's not magical and isn't enough by itself to stabilise the mind.

We also need to cultivate the habit of being present with our experience - whatever our experience is.

Obviously people can do what they want, but I think that someone who just sits in certain posture with their mind spinning around is selling themselves short.

It is a kind of 'non-doing' - the mind settles down by itself, by being left alone, but it does so in the light of awareness, of repeatedly noticing what our experience is, where our mind is, and non-judgementally guiding it back to the here and now. Sitting and daydreaming in the lotus posture is just sitting and daydreaming in the lotus posture.

That's my take.

Harry said...

Hi All,

On the question of 'effort' in zazen/shikantaza: Master Dogen offers this in Shobogenzo Zazenshin:

Realization, neither general nor particular,
is effort without desire.
Clear water all the way to the bottom;
a fish swims like a fish.
Vast sky transparent throughout;
a bird flies like a bird.


The line on effort is translated by the Soto Text project as "Its verification makes effort without figuring" and by Nishijima/Cross as "That state of experience is without design yet it makes effort".

Regards,

Harry.

Al said...

Shonin,

Thanks for your valuable insights.

My point(and experience)is that it is damn near impossible to daydream in the lotus posture for very long. When you do start day dreaming than you are no longer in the lotus posture, but in some deviated form of it. Everyone has a different alignment and body and what is the most settled and stable posture will vary from one person to another.

My experience has been this: I grew up an athlete and played professional baseball. Focusing on physcial things was always where my mind wanted to go. I would always have my best outings when I didn't try to manipulate my body or mind in anyway. Practice ingrained the correct movement patterns and trying to focus only disturbed me.

As soon as I started zen practice I tried to manipulate my experience by following and or counting my breath. This always has made me more frazzled. A few years ago I think I finally began to catch on to what Uchiyama was saying. I decided to set my posture and then forget it. I've found that I calm down much faster and easier and the space between thoughts gets much broader.

This doesn't really matter though. Whatever your experience happens to be at any given moment is whatever it is. We are always trying to manipulate our experience which is why 'just sitting' doesn't seem right to us.

Like I said, this practice is radical.

Al

Shonin said...

Hi Al,

Thanks for the response.

"My point(and experience)is that it is damn near impossible to daydream in the lotus posture for very long."

If you sit in it for a long time, you get used to, it becomes natural. It is possible to sit in a near perfect posture daydreaming for a significant amount of time (believe me). But sometimes yes being lost in thought will cause the posture to become unbalanced or 'incorrect' in some way. And we get accostomed to the feel of the posture so that when our posture feels 'wrong' we suddenly notice (and hopefully also notice that we spent the last 5 minutes thinking about Cheryl Cole or whatever). So the feeling in the body acted as a trigger to make us 'come to' in the present moment, snapping us out of our reverie and forcing us to focus on the body (a 'gate to the here and now'). Meditation makes use of various triggers to keep us anchored in the present: body awareness, the breath, noticing that the mind is wandering - and noticing that the posture is 'wrong' is just another one of these.

"As soon as I started zen practice I tried to manipulate my experience by following and or counting my breath. This always has made me more frazzled. A few years ago I think I finally began to catch on to what Uchiyama was saying. I decided to set my posture and then forget it. I've found that I calm down much faster and easier and the space between thoughts gets much broader. "

Thanks for sharing your personal experiences. Shikantaza-type meditation suits some people better and following the breath suits other people better. Note that following the breath involves just the same sort of 'non-doing' as zazen. It's not about trying to have any particular sort of experience. The key difference is that following the breath involves bringing the attention non-judgementally back to the breath when the mind wanders, whereas shikantaza involves bringing it back to the present moment generally, perhaps using the attention on the breath or posture temporarily to stabilise/anchor it.

"This doesn't really matter though. Whatever your experience happens to be at any given moment is whatever it is. We are always trying to manipulate our experience which is why 'just sitting' doesn't seem right to us.
Like I said, this practice is radical."

Well, this sort of radical acceptance is found in all forms of mindfulness-type meditation. The instinct is to try to 'do' meditation. And that usually leads to frustration. Most people are surprised to realise that 'their mind' doesn't obey 'their will'. Over time we figure out that we need to let go. To just have the experience that we're having. Perhaps you're right, perhaps it's possible to let go without much awareness. And perhaps taking some time out of a day of 'doing' to just daydream is healthy. But this reduces zazen to napping - to the state of lying on the beach in the sun. Without awareness, meditation is impoverished. Awareness is the door to insight.

Shonin said...

Returning the attention to the breath doesn't mean manipulating experience. What is experienced is what is experienced. There is no changing what I experience now. However there are actions that can non-judgementally be taken to disentangle attention from unhelpful anticipation and rumination - eg. checking the posture, awareness of the whole body, the breath etc.

You say that shikantaza is 'radical' and unique in its lack of trying to manipulate experience, but even noticing and fixing the posture - even sitting in a certain odd posture in the first place - are 'manipulations'. Why even bother with that? To be even more radical, why not be a person who has never heard of Buddhism who sits in a car and thinks or walks to work and thinks and who reacts and argues with his wife without awareness or even a hint of the thought of being aware? All forms of meditation use some form of technique - even 'radical acceptance' and 'non-doing' need to be learned (or unlearned). But to draw a line below shikantaza is arbitrary.

I don't accept that zazen is as utterly different from other forms of meditation as some are making out, there are very similar practices in other traditions.

Whatever the details of our practice and whatever practice we prefer, the key point is to be aware of our experience and to accept it fully. In my experience of a variety of different meditation techniques, this means that some technique is needed (even if it is a minimal one) but this needs to be performed patiently, non-judgementally.

konr said...

Here is the podcast, Brad: http://emptybowlsangha.org/cms/talks/WhyWePractice.mp3

Anonymous said...

I agree, I think Dogen's pointing not to being empty headed, but to the experiential fact that thinking/ideas/conceptual understanding is secondary to direct lived experience.


Phenomenology of Science

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfaRLEE7Du4



gassho

Shonin said...

"Whatever your experience happens to be at any given moment is whatever it is."

Let me add this... yes this is completely true, but it is true for all being all the time. It is true of my dog and my Aunt Murdina who doesn't know a thing about Buddhism. This is the normal state of samsara, of suffering. What we experience is what we experience - so what?

Mostly people are trying to have a different experience from the one they actually are having. Mostly they don't notice this (they blame external circumstances for their dissatisfaction). Meditation (i.e. paying close attention to their experience) brings this into sharp relief.

Zen is not a way of despondently resigning ourselves to suffering, but of finding a radically different way of relating to it. People talk about 'letting go'. But trying to let go can actually be a kind of holding on. And most of our holding on is going on automatically, through conditioned habits of mind. Radical acceptance is simply seeing things as they are right. Of course we need awareness to see things as they are. And only by repeatedly exposing our experiences and the behaviour of our minds to the light of awareness can we address the conditioning that produces suffering.

Otherwise all that we have is a temporary calming.

Shonin said...

God! I do go on!

Maybe I'm finally getting to the point I'm trying to make.

Accepting things as they are is the key. This is a kind of radical acceptance.

Sitting (in any posture) with the mind spinning off is NOT acceptance. It is more like watching TV in your head, having time for quiet reflection maybe. But the narrative of your thoughts is not reality, it is a virtual world. What is real is the pain in your knee and the mess under your bed. Ignoring the mess under your bed is not accepting it. Daydreaming in the face of these things not accepting them, it is escaping from them. It is escaping into a mind-made alternate reality of something less boring, less painful. The radical acceptance of Zen isn't an ego-based allowing, it is simply seeing things just as they are are recognising that the present-moment experience cannot be changed. Acceptance is simply seeing the pain and mess clearly, just as they are, along with the aversion just as it is, staring them in the face without flinching or dreaming them away.

And the reality is that the mind is not subject to the will and that depending on the condition of the mind we will spin off into thinking, worrying, anticipating, daydreaming etc. But at the moment we notice that that's what we're doing (or have been doing) THAT is the moment at which we have become aware, and it is then that we have the opportunity to accept things as they are (even if reality is that we have spent the last 10 minute thinking about Daniel Craig). But rather than react to this with aversion (judging ourselves and spinning off into self-reproachment) or clinging (staying in the virtual world of the narrative of the thoughts), we can accept it - ie. see this clearly as it is - an event in the mind occurring now.

gniz said...

Shonin,

You made some really interesting points here. I am going to write a blog post about this topic because I think it's an important one for anybody who meditates.

I intend to solve this once and for all!

;)

Aaron

Anonymous Bob said...

Shonin said: "And perhaps taking some time out of a day of 'doing' to just daydream is healthy. But this reduces zazen to napping - to the state of lying on the beach in the sun. Without awareness, meditation is impoverished. Awareness is the door to insight."

I would go along with that. Lying on the beach in the sun is very relaxing, as is following breaths. For me those two activities are very relaxing.

But while I don't think there should be any attempt made to avoid daydreaming, indulging yourself is a waste of time after a point. But even a reoccurring daydream about Cheryl Cole or Daniel Craig is useful and will tell you something, and eventually even those fascinating subjects will play out to be replaced by something else just as revealing. But with respect, what is this breath counting business other than a relaxation technique very much akin to lying in the sun?

gniz said...

Anonymous Bob said: "But with respect, what is this breath counting business other than a relaxation technique very much akin to lying in the sun?"

It's something that comes up a lot. Many people refer to breathing/relaxation work as bonpu zen or something like new age crystal healing/reiki, etc.

There seems to be so much of this attitude, and I guess I should expect it as my practice is not a mainstream one. I don't count breaths, although I have in the past. Breath counting is a bit like a mantra, imo.

My practice is to consciously relax my body as I focus partially on my breathing and also on the rest of my experience--simultaneously.

Perhaps this is something I haven't made clear enough in other explanations--but for me, practicing relaxation and breath attention HELPS me to stay present in probably a similar fashion that sitting lotus is said to help you have stability in shikantaza.

Relaxing feels good. Breathing in a relaxed way means I am not getting more tense and am allowing my body to work efficiently. This allows me to ground myself and stay present because the present doesn't feel so horrible.

There's more to it then that, but it's a good starting point to explain why this practice is different than suntanning.

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

Maybe, depending on who you are, you look for and find what you need in the practice you choose and in the story you tell yourself about it.

gniz said...

I do believe people are suited to different practice styles in much the same way that some athletes are suited to different sports.

It's not a matter of better or worse, although people want to make it into that at times.

And that doesn't mean that "anything goes" either. It just means that if you are sincere and diligent about wanting to experience reality and so forth, then you will find a way that works for you. Imo.

Harry said...

Hi,

Gniz: "It's not a matter of better or worse, although people want to make it into that at times."

Not better or worse maybe...maybe..., but 'large' (maha) and 'small' seem appropriate. For e.g., if someone were practicing in relation to some perceived need to advance themselves, improve themselves, relax themselves, make themselves 'more aware', become 'enlightened', or a buddha, or 'get satori' etc etc, then, in doing that type of effort (which is different from the type of effort that shikantaza is) they are still chugging along in the small vehicle of doing in relation to their own small merry little self.

That's a substantially distinct and effectively very different situation (different to shikantaza). Things are already awareness at all times regardless of whether we are allowing them to come forward in realisation or beating each other over the heads with them on the comments section of a blog.

Shikanataza, as discussed and explained by Dogen et al, is a very distinct type of effort which is different to cultivating awareness/ mindfulness via willful effort or design etc.

In saying that, if such practices as 'mindfulness' and 'one-pointedness' and other concentrative practices are presented and done and employed in a certain, specific way, with a certain attitude and correct guidance, then they can shade, or explode, into shikanataza practice, as far as I'm concerned.

Shikantaza is not as gratifying or as familiar as 'one-pointedness' and 'mindfulness' cultivation type practices in my experience. It can make us very directly feel quite like the ultimate losers that we really are from early on. When we relate with that we inevitably see it/ interpret in terms of getting nowhere (as opposed to getting everywhere). We generally don't like that at all. Master Dogen put it quite well when he said something like: 'When the Dharma is far removed from us we feel complete. When we are filled with the Dharma it feels as if something's lacking.'

Cultivating-type practice can be (ab)used, I'm afraid, to just distract us from the inevitable truth explained in this statement... just like booze, sex, food, the internet and everything else...

Regards,

Harry.

buddy said...

There's 2 sides to not tinkering with thoughts: not stopping o r judging them, but also not instigating and feeding them. If we don't actively encourage them, they will fade away, leaving effortless awareness of whatever else is going on at the moment.

From 'opening the hand of thought' bu Uchiyama: 'When we are stting, we do not follow our thoughts, nor do we stop them. We just let them come and go freely. We cannot call it thinking, because thoughts are not grasped. If we simply follow our thinking, it is exactly that and not zazen. We cannot call it thinking, either, because thoughts are coming and going, like clouds floating in the sky. When we are sitting, our brains don't stop working, just as our stomachs don't stop digesting. Sometimes our minds are busy; sometimes they are calm. Just sitting without being concerned with the conditions of our minds is the most important point of zazen.'
A good explanation of this is given by Brad of all people, pages 41-44 of Sit Down and Shut Up.

gniz said...

Harry said: "Things are already awareness at all times regardless of whether we are allowing them to come forward in realisation or beating each other over the heads with them on the comments section of a blog."

Point taken, Harry. But as Justin points out, that is ALWAYS the case. So why even bother with sitting in lotus? The neo-advaitans take what you are staying to it's final, most radical conclusion and advocate doing nothing because there is truly no doer and nothing to attain.

But how many of these neo-advaitans end up sitting around babbling about nonduality when they have seen and experienced nothing of the sort?

In the same way, I find it hard to completely swallow the idea that shikantaza is somehow better or superior because of this "largeness" or openness that sitting in such a way creates.

I don't find that my breathing/awareness practice creates the kind of attitude you describe, in terms of feeling like I am so awesome and look how far I've gotten! Yes, in some respects I can see how my hard work has paid off over the years. For god's sake, if our practice does literally nothing for us then what use is it?

No, we all know that practice does in fact do something, is in fact good for something.

What I have found most humbling and oddly comforting is that no matter what I did or did not do previously, it is only THIS MOMENT that matters. Am I relaxing and paying attention right NOW? If not, then it doesn't matter how goddamn enlightened I think i was 5 minutes ago or what amazing experience I had. Or even if I was a total dick and acting like a schmuck.

What matters is this moment. As my teacher has often stated to me, there is no diploma and you are always starting from square one.

Harry said...

Point taken, Harry. But as Justin points out, that is ALWAYS the case. So why even bother with sitting in lotus? The neo-advaitans take what you are staying to it's final, most radical conclusion and advocate doing nothing because there is truly no doer and nothing to attain.

Hi Gniz,

The reason why we might bother sitting in lotus, or however we sit (lotus has just been deemed the best way traditionally), is that if we don't do it, we won't realise it directly. It's not a philosophical point to understand in ruminating, as I'm sure you understand. Reality is not contingent on what we theorise about it, so the nature of the problem can't be solved that way. We have to approach it much more substantially than fiddling with our lazy, half-assed theories of everything.

In the same way, I find it hard to completely swallow the idea that shikantaza is somehow better or superior because of this "largeness" or openness that sitting in such a way creates.

Fair enough, it comes across pretty loaded alright. But it's actually a subtle point really, because the 'maha' in 'mahayana' is not a 'big' that is big in relation to a 'small'. It's not limited in that way at all, and it's not in opposition to, or other to, small things.

For god's sake, if our practice does literally nothing for us then what use is it?

That's a fairly common question, and a big one in Zen circles. I'll happily leave you to work it out for yourself. Today I say that the world is a pretty fucked up place due to the usefulness of people, and the pursuit of usefulness. Maybe if we gave everything and each other a break from time to time we'd really be useful... non-useful. I think when we're really being useful then the question of 'what use is this/it?' will not trouble us at all.

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

"For god's sake, if our practice does literally nothing for us then what use is it?

Buji-Zen:
Bravado or excessive self-confidence in the practice of zen. A tendency attributed to some practitioners, **particularly in the Sōtō school**, to convince themselves that since all beings possess the Buddha-nature they are already enlightened and hence have no need to exert themselves further.

There seems to be a lot of this on this blog gniz...

Shonin said...

AB,

"..as is following breaths. For me those two activities are very relaxing."

Might be. Following the breath is basically for stabilising the mind, however it can also be used as a basis for developing insight.

"But while I don't think there should be any attempt made to avoid daydreaming, indulging yourself is a waste of time after a point."

So you should indulge in fantasy up to a certain point and then stop?

"But even a reoccurring daydream about Cheryl Cole or Daniel Craig is useful and will tell you something, and eventually even those fascinating subjects will play out to be replaced by something else just as revealing."

Yes! But only by paying attention to it. We can only understand the mind by observing it.

"But with respect, what is this breath counting business other than a relaxation technique very much akin to lying in the sun?"

It stabilises the mind. When the mind is all over the place, breath counting or breath watching can help ground awareness in the present moment. Breath watching can also be used as a basis of insight practices.

gniz said...

Harry said, in regards to whether or not the neo-advaitans are correct that there is nothing to do and why sitting lotus is important...

"...if we don't do it, we won't realise it directly"

Exactly. And I think what Justin and I have tried to point out is that there is more than one way to skin a cat. And I've also been pointing out that just by acknowledging there is at least 1 thing to do (sit lotus), we acknowledge that there may then in fact be more things to do (pay attention, etc).

I firmly believe in the "different strokes for different folks" motto, but I also think that clarity is important with this kind of activity. I don't uphold the need for obscurity and vagueness with meditation or anything else.

I think that shinkantaza is less different from insight practices then some would like to believe.

We're all swimming in the same pond here...

Harry said...

Hi Gniz,

"I think that shinkantaza is less different from insight practices then some would like to believe."

I think they may also be more different than some people might like to believe in some very substantial, practical ways.

I've tried all sorts of things, so I can say fairly confidently that shikantaza IS insight practice (or what do you mean by that? A specific approach to vipassana? I think even the nature of that changes from place to place/ school to school).

Of course shikantaza is not just sitting in lotus. The bare bones instruction, besides the common sense postural stuff, is 'sit non-thinking' or 'sit different-from-thinking'. 'Sit and pay attention' is really a different sort of instruction and suggests mental effort, and it would very likely result in a quite different practice (in my experience it certainly does... different in a subtle way until, that is, you've been doing it for quite a while and become attuned to subtle, and not-so-subtle, differences). Some may call that shikantaza, but it ain't shikantaza in the Dogen strain at least... which is okay by me. The world's a big place.

Regards,

Harry.

Al said...

Issho Fujita-

http://www.ancientdragon.org/dharma/dharma_talks_audio

Talk number 64

http://www.dharma.org/ij/archives/2002a/zazen.htm

gniz said...

"I think they may also be more different than some people might like to believe in some very substantial, practical ways."

Sounds about right to me, Harry.

The differences are there, and sometimes I get confused, kind of like speaking English but we're speaking different dialects or we have differing accents.

And maybe that makes one better or worse in some ways, i don't know. i will say that despite never having really indulged in a great deal of shikantaza style practice, i do understand and can relate to most of the varying emotions and experiences i hear being related by soto practitioners.

In other words, I have had experiences that make me think, "yeah, i've visited the same place they describe, and yet they dont seem to think i've ever been there because they always take the highway and i take bike path..."

Harry said...

Hi Gniz,

Reminds me of the saying from Kodo Sawaki:

"You can’t even trade a single fart with the next guy. Each and every one of us has to live out his own life. Don’t waste time thinking about who’s most talented."

Seems to me that, if we're doing whatever practice sincerely for long enough, and are sticking at it, that our effort will indicate clearly just what's real and what's just our own transient fart sniffing.

Regards,

Harry.

Jules said...

Hey Gniz - you might notice in a lot of depictions of Buddha, he's touching the earth with one of his hands. For many people, Buddha's touching the earth, consciously making contact with his surroundings, is an important symbol. It's a pretty good story, if you haven't heard it already:

Prince Siddhartha spent six years in the forest. He studied with the most famous sages, but still he did not find an end to suffering. He joined a group of men who believed enlightenment could be found by denying the body nourishment and sleep, thereby mastering pain. For years the prince ate and slept very little. He grew as thin as a skeleton, and though the rain and sun beat down on him, he did not waver from his practices.

Finally, he realized that he was getting nowhere. Though he had neglected his bodily needs, he had not found an end to suffering. Thus, when a young woman came to him offering milk and rice, he accepted. Now that he was nourished he sat in meditation under a bodhi tree in the town of Bodhgaya. He sat down and vowed, come what may, he would not move until he found an end to sorrow.

On the night of the Buddha's enlightenment, he still sat beneath the bodhi tree, firm in his resolve. Mara approached, mounted on his great elephant and accompanied by his dreadful armies. His one purpose was to assault the Bodhisattva and frustrate his efforts of finding the way to enlightenment.

Mara's armies were incredibly horrible, being composed of most repulsive monsters with hanging tongues, bared fangs, eyes of burning coals, deformed bodies, some devils with the heads of ferocious beasts, heavily armed soldiers shooting arrows, and a fierce demon flaming out at the Bodhisattva. The king of death tried to spur his troops on, but even the arrows of his monsters lost their sharp points and spontaneously were covered with flowers. Enclosed by a zone of complete protection around him, the Bodhisattva laughed at his aggressors while not a single hair on his body was disturbed. Mara then sent his beautiful daughters before the Bodhisattva to test his commitment to his purpose by offering themselves to him. They showed their perfect bodies, danced, beckoned, and teased. When this too failed, Mara approached to claim the Bodhisattva's seat directly. He asked him by what right he sat there beneath the tree. The Bodhisattva replied that it was by right of having practiced the Perfections. Mara replied that he had done likewise and, what was more, he had witnesses to prove it: all his armies would vouch for him, but who would vouch for the Bodhisattva? The Buddha declared: "I have no animate witnesses present;" but, stretching out his right hand towards the mighty earth, he said: "Will you bear me witness?" And the mighty earth thundered: "I bear you witness." And Mara's elephant fell upon its knees, and all the followers of Mara fled away in all directions.

Jules said...

Hey Gniz - you might notice in a lot of depictions of Buddha, he's touching the earth with one of his hands. For many people, Buddha's touching the earth, consciously making contact with his surroundings, is an important symbol. It's a pretty good story, if you haven't heard it already:

Prince Siddhartha spent six years in the forest. He studied with the most famous sages, but still he did not find an end to suffering. He joined a group of men who believed enlightenment could be found by denying the body nourishment and sleep, thereby mastering pain. For years the prince ate and slept very little. He grew as thin as a skeleton, and though the rain and sun beat down on him, he did not waver from his practices.

Finally, he realized that he was getting nowhere. Though he had neglected his bodily needs, he had not found an end to suffering. Thus, when a young woman came to him offering milk and rice, he accepted. Now that he was nourished he sat in meditation under a bodhi tree in the town of Bodhgaya. He sat down and vowed, come what may, he would not move until he found an end to sorrow.

On the night of the Buddha's enlightenment, he still sat beneath the bodhi tree, firm in his resolve. Mara approached, mounted on his great elephant and accompanied by his dreadful armies. His one purpose was to assault the Bodhisattva and frustrate his efforts of finding the way to enlightenment.

Mara's armies were incredibly horrible, being composed of most repulsive monsters with hanging tongues, bared fangs, eyes of burning coals, deformed bodies, some devils with the heads of ferocious beasts, heavily armed soldiers shooting arrows, and a fierce demon flaming out at the Bodhisattva. The king of death tried to spur his troops on, but even the arrows of his monsters lost their sharp points and spontaneously were covered with flowers. Enclosed by a zone of complete protection around him, the Bodhisattva laughed at his aggressors while not a single hair on his body was disturbed. Mara then sent his beautiful daughters before the Bodhisattva to test his commitment to his purpose by offering themselves to him. They showed their perfect bodies, danced, beckoned, and teased. When this too failed, Mara approached to claim the Bodhisattva's seat directly. He asked him by what right he sat there beneath the tree. The Bodhisattva replied that it was by right of having practiced the Perfections. Mara replied that he had done likewise and, what was more, he had witnesses to prove it: all his armies would vouch for him, but who would vouch for the Bodhisattva? The Buddha declared: "I have no animate witnesses present;" but, stretching out his right hand towards the mighty earth, he said: "Will you bear me witness?" And the mighty earth thundered: "I bear you witness." And Mara's elephant fell upon its knees, and all the followers of Mara fled away in all directions.

Jules said...

Hey Gniz - you might notice in a lot of depictions of Buddha, he's touching the earth with one of his hands. For many people, Buddha's touching the earth, consciously making contact with his surroundings, is an important symbol. It's a pretty good story, if you haven't heard it already:

Prince Siddhartha spent six years in the forest. He studied with the most famous sages, but still he did not find an end to suffering. He joined a group of men who believed enlightenment could be found by denying the body nourishment and sleep, thereby mastering pain. For years the prince ate and slept very little. He grew as thin as a skeleton, and though the rain and sun beat down on him, he did not waver from his practices.

Finally, he realized that he was getting nowhere. Though he had neglected his bodily needs, he had not found an end to suffering. Thus, when a young woman came to him offering milk and rice, he accepted. Now that he was nourished he sat in meditation under a bodhi tree in the town of Bodhgaya. He sat down and vowed, come what may, he would not move until he found an end to sorrow.

On the night of the Buddha's enlightenment, he still sat beneath the bodhi tree, firm in his resolve. Mara approached, mounted on his great elephant and accompanied by his dreadful armies. His one purpose was to assault the Bodhisattva and frustrate his efforts of finding the way to enlightenment.

Mara's armies were incredibly horrible, being composed of most repulsive monsters with hanging tongues, bared fangs, eyes of burning coals, deformed bodies, some devils with the heads of ferocious beasts, heavily armed soldiers shooting arrows, and a fierce demon flaming out at the Bodhisattva. The king of death tried to spur his troops on, but even the arrows of his monsters lost their sharp points and spontaneously were covered with flowers. Enclosed by a zone of complete protection around him, the Bodhisattva laughed at his aggressors while not a single hair on his body was disturbed. Mara then sent his beautiful daughters before the Bodhisattva to test his commitment to his purpose by offering themselves to him. They showed their perfect bodies, danced, beckoned, and teased. When this too failed, Mara approached to claim the Bodhisattva's seat directly. He asked him by what right he sat there beneath the tree. The Bodhisattva replied that it was by right of having practiced the Perfections. Mara replied that he had done likewise and, what was more, he had witnesses to prove it: all his armies would vouch for him, but who would vouch for the Bodhisattva? The Buddha declared: "I have no animate witnesses present;" but, stretching out his right hand towards the mighty earth, he said: "Will you bear me witness?" And the mighty earth thundered: "I bear you witness." And Mara's elephant fell upon its knees, and all the followers of Mara fled away in all directions.

Jules said...

Hey Gniz - Possibly related to your question about shikan-taza, you might notice in a lot of depictions of Buddha, he's touching the earth with one of his hands. For many people, Buddha's touching the earth, consciously making contact with his surroundings, is an important symbol. It's a pretty good story, if you haven't heard it already:

Prince Siddhartha spent six years in the forest. He studied with the most famous sages, but still he did not find an end to suffering. He joined a group of men who believed enlightenment could be found by denying the body nourishment and sleep, thereby mastering pain. For years the prince ate and slept very little. He grew as thin as a skeleton, and though the rain and sun beat down on him, he did not waver from his practices.

Finally, he realized that he was getting nowhere. Though he had neglected his bodily needs, he had not found an end to suffering. Thus, when a young woman came to him offering milk and rice, he accepted. Now that he was nourished he sat in meditation under a bodhi tree in the town of Bodhgaya. He sat down and vowed, come what may, he would not move until he found an end to sorrow.

On the night of the Buddha's enlightenment, he still sat beneath the bodhi tree, firm in his resolve. Mara approached, mounted on his great elephant and accompanied by his dreadful armies. His one purpose was to assault the Bodhisattva and frustrate his efforts of finding the way to enlightenment.

Mara's armies were incredibly horrible, being composed of most repulsive monsters with hanging tongues, bared fangs, eyes of burning coals, deformed bodies, some devils with the heads of ferocious beasts, heavily armed soldiers shooting arrows, and a fierce demon flaming out at the Bodhisattva. The king of death tried to spur his troops on, but even the arrows of his monsters lost their sharp points and spontaneously were covered with flowers. Enclosed by a zone of complete protection around him, the Bodhisattva laughed at his aggressors while not a single hair on his body was disturbed. Mara then sent his beautiful daughters before the Bodhisattva to test his commitment to his purpose by offering themselves to him. They showed their perfect bodies, danced, beckoned, and teased. When this too failed, Mara approached to claim the Bodhisattva's seat directly. He asked him by what right he sat there beneath the tree. The Bodhisattva replied that it was by right of having practiced the Perfections. Mara replied that he had done likewise and, what was more, he had witnesses to prove it: all his armies would vouch for him, but who would vouch for the Bodhisattva? The Buddha declared: "I have no animate witnesses present;" but, stretching out his right hand towards the mighty earth, he said: "Will you bear me witness?" And the mighty earth thundered: "I bear you witness." And Mara's elephant fell upon its knees, and all the followers of Mara fled away in all directions.

Anonymous said...

Hey Gniz - you might notice in a lot of depictions of Buddha, he's touching the earth with one of his hands. For many people, Buddha's touching the earth, consciously making contact with his surroundings, is an important symbol. It's a pretty good story, if you haven't heard it already:

Prince Siddhartha spent six years in the forest. He studied with the most famous sages, but still he did not find an end to suffering. He joined a group of men who believed enlightenment could be found by denying the body nourishment and sleep, thereby mastering pain. For years the prince ate and slept very little. He grew as thin as a skeleton, and though the rain and sun beat down on him, he did not waver from his practices.

Finally, he realized that he was getting nowhere. Though he had neglected his bodily needs, he had not found an end to suffering. Thus, when a young woman came to him offering milk and rice, he accepted. Now that he was nourished he sat in meditation under a bodhi tree in the town of Bodhgaya. He sat down and vowed, come what may, he would not move until he found an end to sorrow.

On the night of the Buddha's enlightenment, he still sat beneath the bodhi tree, firm in his resolve. Mara approached, mounted on his great elephant and accompanied by his dreadful armies. His one purpose was to assault the Bodhisattva and frustrate his efforts of finding the way to enlightenment.

Mara's armies were incredibly horrible, being composed of most repulsive monsters with hanging tongues, bared fangs, eyes of burning coals, deformed bodies, some devils with the heads of ferocious beasts, heavily armed soldiers shooting arrows, and a fierce demon flaming out at the Bodhisattva. The king of death tried to spur his troops on, but even the arrows of his monsters lost their sharp points and spontaneously were covered with flowers. Enclosed by a zone of complete protection around him, the Bodhisattva laughed at his aggressors while not a single hair on his body was disturbed. Mara then sent his beautiful daughters before the Bodhisattva to test his commitment to his purpose by offering themselves to him. They showed their perfect bodies, danced, beckoned, and teased. When this too failed, Mara approached to claim the Bodhisattva's seat directly. He asked him by what right he sat there beneath the tree. The Bodhisattva replied that it was by right of having practiced the Perfections. Mara replied that he had done likewise and, what was more, he had witnesses to prove it: all his armies would vouch for him, but who would vouch for the Bodhisattva? The Buddha declared: "I have no animate witnesses present;" but, stretching out his right hand towards the mighty earth, he said: "Will you bear me witness?" And the mighty earth thundered: "I bear you witness." And Mara's elephant fell upon its knees, and all the followers of Mara fled away in all directions.

Jules said...

Hey Gniz - you might notice in a lot of depictions of Buddha, he's touching the earth with one of his hands. For many people, Buddha's touching the earth, consciously making contact with his surroundings, is an important symbol. It's a pretty good story, if you haven't heard it already.

Jules said...

Prince Siddhartha spent six years in the forest. He studied with the most famous sages, but still he did not find an end to suffering. He joined a group of men who believed enlightenment could be found by denying the body nourishment and sleep, thereby mastering pain. For years the prince ate and slept very little. He grew as thin as a skeleton, and though the rain and sun beat down on him, he did not waver from his practices.

Finally, he realized that he was getting nowhere. Though he had neglected his bodily needs, he had not found an end to suffering. Thus, when a young woman came to him offering milk and rice, he accepted. Now that he was nourished he sat in meditation under a bodhi tree in the town of Bodhgaya. He sat down and vowed, come what may, he would not move until he found an end to sorrow.

On the night of the Buddha's enlightenment, he still sat beneath the bodhi tree, firm in his resolve. Mara approached, mounted on his great elephant and accompanied by his dreadful armies. His one purpose was to assault the Bodhisattva and frustrate his efforts of finding the way to enlightenment.

Mara's armies were incredibly horrible, being composed of most repulsive monsters with hanging tongues, bared fangs, eyes of burning coals, deformed bodies, some devils with the heads of ferocious beasts, heavily armed soldiers shooting arrows, and a fierce demon flaming out at the Bodhisattva. The king of death tried to spur his troops on, but even the arrows of his monsters lost their sharp points and spontaneously were covered with flowers. Enclosed by a zone of complete protection around him, the Bodhisattva laughed at his aggressors while not a single hair on his body was disturbed. Mara then sent his beautiful daughters before the Bodhisattva to test his commitment to his purpose by offering themselves to him. They showed their perfect bodies, danced, beckoned, and teased. When this too failed, Mara approached to claim the Bodhisattva's seat directly. He asked him by what right he sat there beneath the tree. The Bodhisattva replied that it was by right of having practiced the Perfections. Mara replied that he had done likewise and, what was more, he had witnesses to prove it: all his armies would vouch for him, but who would vouch for the Bodhisattva? The Buddha declared: "I have no animate witnesses present;" but, stretching out his right hand towards the mighty earth, he said: "Will you bear me witness?" And the mighty earth thundered: "I bear you witness." And Mara's elephant fell upon its knees, and all the followers of Mara fled away in all directions.

Jules said...

Prince Siddhartha spent six years in the forest. He studied with the most famous sages, but still he did not find an end to suffering. He joined a group of men who believed enlightenment could be found by denying the body nourishment and sleep, thereby mastering pain. For years the prince ate and slept very little. He grew as thin as a skeleton, and though the rain and sun beat down on him, he did not waver from his practices.

Finally, he realized that he was getting nowhere. Though he had neglected his bodily needs, he had not found an end to suffering. Thus, when a young woman came to him offering milk and rice, he accepted. Now that he was nourished he sat in meditation under a bodhi tree in the town of Bodhgaya. He sat down and vowed, come what may, he would not move until he found an end to sorrow.

On the night of the Buddha's enlightenment, he still sat beneath the bodhi tree, firm in his resolve. Mara approached, mounted on his great elephant and accompanied by his dreadful armies. His one purpose was to assault the Bodhisattva and frustrate his efforts of finding the way to enlightenment.

Jules said...


Mara's armies were incredibly horrible, being composed of most repulsive monsters with hanging tongues, bared fangs, eyes of burning coals, deformed bodies, some devils with the heads of ferocious beasts, heavily armed soldiers shooting arrows, and a fierce demon flaming out at the Bodhisattva. The king of death tried to spur his troops on, but even the arrows of his monsters lost their sharp points and spontaneously were covered with flowers. Enclosed by a zone of complete protection around him, the Bodhisattva laughed at his aggressors while not a single hair on his body was disturbed. Mara then sent his beautiful daughters before the Bodhisattva to test his commitment to his purpose by offering themselves to him. They showed their perfect bodies, danced, beckoned, and teased. When this too failed, Mara approached to claim the Bodhisattva's seat directly. He asked him by what right he sat there beneath the tree. The Bodhisattva replied that it was by right of having practiced the Perfections. Mara replied that he had done likewise and, what was more, he had witnesses to prove it: all his armies would vouch for him, but who would vouch for the Bodhisattva? The Buddha declared: "I have no animate witnesses present;" but, stretching out his right hand towards the mighty earth, he said: "Will you bear me witness?" And the mighty earth thundered: "I bear you witness." And Mara's elephant fell upon its knees, and all the followers of Mara fled away in all directions.

Jules said...

Oh for the LOVE OF... goddammitsomuch!!!!!

Google/blogger kept giving me these stupid browser errors "URL too long" or something like that and so I kept clicking back and forward trying to get it to post and I didn't realize it was posting the same damn comment over and over.

And now I can't even delete them.

Hey Brad, can you clean this up from your end? Sorry about the mess.

gniz said...

Hey Jules,

Could you repeat that first part again, I missed it.

:)

Just kidding, thanks for that--maybe someone out there really thought I needed to see that posting.

Mysterion said...

Or the point of focus is open (e.g. everything) compared to closed (e.g. just one thing).

Thus, beginner's mind v. few possibilities...

gniz said...

Mysterion, my sense has been that focusing on one particular aspect of my experience has opened the door to a vast world at a micro-level. Much the way a scientist looking through more and more powerful microscopes can begin to see that what once appeared to be a solid table is actually composed of atoms, etc.

I feel that we are kind of comparing microscopes (one-pointed attention practice) with telescopes (shikantaza) and trying to say one is better than the other.

It really depends what kind of stuff you'd rather examine.

Mysterion said...

Seagal Rinpoche said...
"Adversity introduces a man to his neighbor's pit bull."

"Rinpoche" means Precious.

Rinpoche means literally "Precious One."

Funny how things work out... Roshi (taken to mean Venerable Master) is actually a Japanization of 'Rinpoche.'

Now you know why Suzuki laughed.

"Later on in the year, Marian told us that Alan (Watts) wrote a long and detailed letter to Zen Center on the matter. He suggested that we adopt the term Suzuki Roshi, and reserve the term "Sensei" for assistant priests. A vote was taken and Alan's suggestions were approved.

Suzuki Roshi was away at the time, traveling in Japan. When he returned to Los Altos, he asked us why we were all calling him "Roshi." We told him of Alan's letter to Zen Center and how a vote was taken at the last business meeting. We said that we were supposed to call him "Roshi" from here on. I do not remember a time when Roshi laughed harder or longer. He said it was all right, and then he went off into gales of laughter again." source

appamada said...

Here's the Theravadan party line:

Consciousness can only be aware of one thing at a time.

Buddha said it helps to parse the flux of phenomena into 5 types, or bundles (5 skhandas):

1. Forms (six senses)
2. Feelings (+,-, neutral)
3. Perceptions
4. Patternings (thoughts)
5. Consciousness

Consciousness (5) comes into contact with a form (1) and gives rise to 2,3,4.

Ref~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skandha

Samatha: sticking with attention to one form (such as body sensation where the breath goes in and out of the nose) builds the ability to keep focused and undistracted. It builds concentration ability. This is like increasing the frame rate on a movie camera. A higher frame rate (more pictures per second) means that one can film (be aware of) smaller details that come and go very rapidly. Actually perceiving these details reveals 'attachment' to subtle processes that cause suffering.

When concentration is strong, consciousness can be allowed to simply receive any sense impression of any form type: vision, hearing, touch, etc. No attempt is made to direct it towards any particular object. It's like watching the whole sense-around multimedia movie as it presents itself. The image I get is of an eyeball with gabilions of arms, hands and fingers coming out of it. Awareness touches this, now that, very rapidly. It knows each thing as it comes and goes, and since concentration has been made strong it also notices micro details about each transient impression.

Apparently seeing experience with this level of detail counters 'ignorance' and simple reveals some very low level processes that compound and build up faulty impressions & reactions to phenomena that cause pain in our lives.

Somewhere (might have been Kornfeld's 'Living Buddhist Masters) I recall reading that the Buddha attained liberating insight (end of the game) by observing just the arising portion of a single quark.

Insight (liberating) wisdom is not cognitive since thought patternings themselves are objects to be examined.

Don't know much about the Zen approach. My guess from what I'm reading is that it's a different instruction set that uses less descriptive terminology. The results & practice just have to be the same at some level though, I believe, since we are the same kind of organism and share the same physiology & perhaps metaphysiology.

Ghost of Dogen said...

You look like you could use a ham sandwich, brad. Hopefully kinder souls will press the donate button. _/\_

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Sycophant Sam said...

Master Seagal is a respected fighter, actor, lawman, guitar player, accupuncturist, Buddhist tulku and so much more. Show some goddamned respect.

Well then, what's he doing working in a fortune cookie factory, hmmm?

Crickets said...

chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp..

Shonin said...

Hi Harry,

Not better or worse maybe...maybe..., but 'large' (maha) and 'small' seem appropriate....etc etc

You have expressed the standard Soto Zen rhetoric there. I've heard this sort of thing many times.

Personally I think there are problems with it.

It's not reality. Mahayana or not, no one gets to opt out of being human. Even if (like other mindfulness-type meditations) shikantaza involves the sort of 'non-doing' we've discussed, we do have motivations, desires and goals. They come up in our zazen, they come up when we decide to become a monk (or remain not a monk), when we go to a sesshin, when we ask our teacher our question, when we define a practice schedule for ourselves etc.

Whether they acknowledge it to themselves or not, people have intentions, goals etc, and there is nothing wrong with that. Nobody rids themselves of the fundamental human motivations just because they opt to practice 'Mahayana'. Real intentions come up in zazen, in everyday life, plus people have over-arching aims for their practice - whether it is to 'abandon oneself' even more to one's Zen practice or to have less goals. Plus it seems clear to me that many Zen people are attached to the trappings and specialness of their practice and who want to impress their teacher and peers etc. Monks can be ambitious.
So desires are part of reality.

So to insist that we practice 'without goals' is unrealistic and it encourages people to be in denial about having desires and goals to their life as well as their practice.

Also, it leads to various absurdities, such as people claiming that they practice zazen for no motive at all. These people may have acquired a habit but they are not automatons. So why do they keep coming back? Because they enjoy it, it satisfies some desire or sense of identity and/or because they can see that it is good for them and those around them. If you moved the zendo they would find the new one. If you locked the door they would get through it in time. They cross the ocean for a sesshin. Mature practitioners of every tradition will (one hopes) gradually become less driven by blind cravings, but even then, they still have over-arching goals.

You can insist that it just means that we abandon our egotistical desires, aversions etc, but then that makes us exacly like all those inferior 'hinayana' types.

Also it is really a form of Mahayana supremacism - a way of distinguishing the supposed superiority of Mahayana over the so-called 'lesser vehicle'. 'Maha' is definitely a value judgement, overtly or covertly. And you don't need to be a psychologist to see a motive there - a sense of superiority can be a motivation (conscious or not).

Furthermore, as I said earlier, this kind of non-doing that we've been speaking about is not at all unique to Mahayana or Zen, it's fundamental to all forms of Mindfulness practice. There are even forms of 'open' awareness that are essentially indistinguishable from Shikantaza that are practiced in Theravada especially in the Insight Meditation tradition, that go by the names of 'Choiceless Awareness' or 'Objectless Awareness'.

It's all goal-less in practice, even if these practices are taken on as skillful means to some craving-free objective.

Also Mindfulness is not a concentration practice. It's primarily an insight practice. And it includes practices that are broad in their focus or completely objectless as I mentioned.

We're all in the same 'Yana'.

Shonin said...

Soto people really do like to take the ordinary 'non-doing' aspect of practice and put it on the altar to worship.

Another absurdity is when people claim that zazen is pointless or of no benefit to anyone. In both cases there is a certain sense in which it is true, however it is typically reeled out as a literal, ordinary but 'deep-sounding' truth.
"I sit here for no purpose"
"This practice that I have devoted my entire life to is completely pointless"
[Waits for shocked, incredulous or adoring response]

Would anyone devote their life to a practice knowing that it was not beneficial or at least enjoyable for someone somewhere? No. (If you insist 'yes' then why pick zazen, why not pick sticking a finger up one nostril 1000 times every day?)

The truth is that of course it is beneficial both to ourselves and to some extent to those around us. However, this is a practice of learning to be less pushed around by blind cravings and of setting our preferences aside. But there are still over-arching objectives which we apply ourselves to skillfully.

anon #108 said...

Hi Harry....You have expressed the standard Soto Zen rhetoric there.

That's torn it.

I'd stand well back if I were you, Justin.

Shonin said...

Which one of these is a description of Shikantaza and which one is a description of Choiceless Awareness?

A. "Observe the flow of mental images and sensations just as they arise, without engaging in criticism or praise. Notice any aversion and fascination; contemplate any uncertainty, happiness, restlessness or tranquillity as it arises. You can return to the breath whenever the sense of clarity diminishes, or if you begin to feel overwhelmed by impressions. When a sense of steadiness returns, you can relinquish the object again."

B. "X is a practice of doing nothing. Any effort to change things, go somewhere else, or in some other way manipulate or control experience is dropped. When it does arise, as it will, in the recognition of it, it is self-liberated of it’s own accord. The practice then is to trust experience, and to that which is also beyond and yet includes experience. Trust and all shall be revealed."

Anonymous said...

Shonin.. I'm a Soto practitioner and I'm deeply hurt. You are treating us like we are pieces of meat. We have feelings too. You come over here every month or so and act so mean. Harry is going to be really upset.

Robert Thurman said...

Can Soto guys beat up Rinzai guys? That's all I want to find out. Sanbo Kyodan guys take the best of both fighting arts and combine them into one superfightingart, so maybe that's what I need to get in to.

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

Hi Justin,

You've put 2 and 2 together and come up with, well, I'm not quite sure what... but it seems to be more about you than anything I've said...

Zen people are attached to the trappings and specialness of their practice and who want to impress their teacher and peers etc. Monks can be ambitious.
So desires are part of reality.


Of course they are. That's the very stuff of the practice, its what makes the world go round. Master Dogen saw giving rise to bodhicitta, the aspiration to enlightenment, as the most important aspect of Buddhist life. The reality is though that we never know where we are going or what is going to happen next. We can only point ourselves in the right general direction. Buddhist practice is not about wallowing in assumptions about 'enlightenment', or any 'perfected state' because, well, we each just make that shit up. The relationship between our motivation/ desire to practice it, and our actually practicing-realising it, is very interesting, and complicated.

So to insist that we practice 'without goals' is unrealistic and it encourages people to be in denial about having desires and goals to their life as well as their practice.

Who *insisted* that we practice 'without goals'? That evil little Sotoist on your shoulder (boo! Hiss!)? I've been trying to point out that shikantaza is indeed a type of effort. Practice is itself a goal. practicing without a goal is itself a goal, and practice with a goal is a goal. Can we clearly see the real, effective difference between the two though? Shikantaza is a very specific form of practice is all that is not the same as sitting there trying to concentrate on things or trying to make yourself 'aware'. It's a simple point. No need for a jihad.

So to insist that we practice 'without goals' is unrealistic and it encourages people to be in denial about having desires and goals to their life as well as their practice.

I think if you interpret what people say out of context in this way, and merely as a foil to your own ideas/values, then you'll always fall short of what they might have meant with good intentions in another situation. The 'zazen is pointless/ useless' thing has its place and encapsulates something of the actual doing of it IMO. It may point to the fact that it's not the sort of neurotic effort that its often mistaken to be, and misrepresented as being. This may be a particularly useful way of explaining the attitude of shikantaza if, for example, you were explaining it to a bunch of post war 'must-do-better' Japanese businessmen or students who were racking their brain to get satori and be back in the office/college before 3!

"You can insist that it just means that we abandon our egotistical desires, aversions etc, but then that makes us exactly like all those inferior 'hinayana' types."

I, for one, didn't insist that but, yes, practice which is in relation to our perceptions of our self, to bettering our concentration or awareness, to our own superior Mahayanaism, or whatever, is necessarily a smaller practice than 'dropping off body and mind'. That doesn't mean it isn't useful at times of course. You can read all sorts of sectarian insult into it, I don't really care, but I'm actually making a practical point, if you care to reflect on it with your 'eyes of practice' and not just the frontal regions of your brain.

Soto people really do like to take the ordinary 'non-doing' aspect of practice and put it on the altar to worship.

Who knows, maybe some of 'em do, in fact some of them certainly do, but I hope you don't feel too proud of unreasonable, sweeping sectarian statements like that.

Hey, aren't you a moderator on Zen Forum International!?

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

"Life is not only stranger than we imagine;
life is stranger than we can imagine."
-- J. B. S. Haldane

Robert Sapolsky has some interesting things
to say about ritual, religion, and
Huntington's Disease.

And also about...
the uniqueness of humans.

Zach said...

Brad's interpretation of shikentaza is not one i am familiar with.

Nor is anyone else who thinks getting into the lotus position is all that needs to happen to "meditate" no matter how much i daydream...

Shikentaza as i understand it is described by Shengyen:

""While you are practicing just sitting, be clear about everything going on in your mind. Whatever you feel, be aware of it, but never abandon the awareness of your whole body sitting there. Shikantaza is not sitting with nothing to do; it is a very demanding practice, requiring diligence as well as alertness. If your practice goes well, you will experience the 'dropping off' of sensations and thoughts. You need to stay with it and begin to take the whole environment as your body. Whatever enters the door of your senses becomes one totality, extending from your body to the whole environment. This is silent illumination."

Harry said...

Hi Zach,

To get a flavour of where Brad's coming from, and of the diversity in approaches, try checking out Zen Master Dogen's 'Fukanzazengi':

http://www.wwzc.org/translations/fukanzazengi.htm

"Once you have found your posture, breathe in and out deeply, sway left and right and then settle firmly and steadily. Think of not-thinking. How do you think of not-thinking? Be Before Thinking. These are the basics of zazen.

What I call zazen is not developing concentration by stages and so on. It is simply the Awakened One's own easy and joyful practice, it is realized-practice within already manifest enlightenment. It is the display of complete reality. Traps and cages spring open. Grasping the heart of this, you are the dragon who has reached his waters, the tiger resting in her mountains. Understand that right here is the display of Vast Reality and then dullness and mental wandering have no place to arise."


... Now this is certainly not all of what Dogen had to say about zazen, but it's a good primer.

Regards,

Harry.

Zach said...

"Once you have found your posture, breathe in and out deeply, sway left and right and then settle firmly and steadily. Think of not-thinking. How do you think of not-thinking? Be Before Thinking. These are the basics of zazen."

Yeeeeeeah...
Dogen isn't the best I have found to go to for meditation instructions...
"Think non-thinking"...? Not too helpful.

Harry said...

Well, he has been dead for hundreds of years...

H.

Zach said...

"Well, he has been dead for hundreds of years..."

True, but i cant imagine anyone understanding what he said hundreds of years ago either.

Anonymous said...

Harry you've got a Lou Ferrigno look going in your profile pic... nice!

Shonin said...

You've put 2 and 2 together and come up with, well, I'm not quite sure what... but it seems to be more about you than anything I've said...

That kind of 'psychological projection' claim is used a little too easily in some parts I think, by people who have no qualification to use it. However, what I said is firmly grounded in years of experience in a Soto lineage. Listening to hours of value laden Maha-Soto rhetoric leaves a bitter taste in the mouth after a while. I may be a little sensitive to it. Was I incorrect to detect it's flavour in your writing?

Harry earlier:Not better or worse maybe...maybe..., but 'large' (maha) and 'small' seem appropriate. For e.g., if someone were practicing in relation to some perceived need to advance themselves, improve themselves, relax themselves, make themselves 'more aware', become 'enlightened', or a buddha, or 'get satori' etc etc, then, in doing that type of effort (which is different from the type of effort that shikantaza is) they are still chugging along in the small vehicle of doing in relation to their own small merry little self.

I think not. On the other hand, you're right, I did paint with an overly broad brush with my 'Soto people' talk. Not all Soto is like this by any means. There are many sincere humble teachers and practitioners.

I've been trying to point out that shikantaza is indeed a type of effort. Practice is itself a goal. practicing without a goal is itself a goal, and practice with a goal is a goal. Can we clearly see the real, effective difference between the two though? Shikantaza is a very specific form of practice is all that is not the same as sitting there trying to concentrate on things or trying to make yourself 'aware'. It's a simple point. No need for a jihad.


But is mindfulness really 'sitting and trying to be more aware'? No. Anyone who tries to do this will end up spinning in self-judgemental striving. You are creating a false distinction between Shikantaza and Mindfulness.Mindfulness and Shikantaza alike involve learning to abandon 'Doing' and instead involve a 'Non-doing'. This means giving up goal-orientation and simply being present here and now. And of course that includes giving up goal-orientation towards being more present here and now than one already is. Yet in neither case, is the attention allowed to just spin off into fantasy. There is a gentle balance to be struck. When the posture is lost or when we notice that we're thinking about Cheryl Cole again, then at that moment we're aware again. In neither case is it helpful to reject our experience occuring this moment (noticing thinking about Cheryl Cole). That is just our experience right now. But we still no longer engage with that virtual reality, noticing the thoughts instead as mental events occuring right now and possibly gently guiding the breath back to posture, breath or the sensations in the body etc.

It's true that most (but not all as I've explained) mindfulness practice has an object of attention (breath, body sensations, sounds, thoughts etc) however, even then the practice is not goal oriented, it is nonjudgemental and inclusive. The reason? This attitude works. Without it we would sit and spin in the absurdities of trying to be more aware, more calm, more nonjudgemental etc, ie. torturing ourselves.

There is no need to artificially manufacture some fundamental difference between so-called 'Greater Vehicle' and so-called 'Lesser Vehicle' practice. What works, works. And Shinkantaza is not as unique and special as you might prefer.

Shonin said...

I, for one, didn't insist that but, yes, practice which is in relation to our perceptions of our self, to bettering our concentration or awareness, to our own superior Mahayanaism, or whatever, is necessarily a smaller practice than 'dropping off body and mind'. That doesn't mean it isn't useful at times of course. You can read all sorts of sectarian insult into it, I don't really care, but I'm actually making a practical point, if you care to reflect on it with your 'eyes of practice' and not just the frontal regions of your brain.

Mndfulness isn't goal-oriented practice as I keep saying.

And yes the above is laced with value judgement. 'Smaller' is being used in a derogatory way. Soto Zen is not unique in learning the abandonment of self-views, striving and gaining ideas you know.

This sort of rhetoric is what I would term 'Pseudo Non-Dualism'. It takes two forms (which are basically the same form):

1. Our practice is the greatest because it transcends distinctions
2. Those other practices are inferiour because they are bound up with dualistic distinctions and preferences

You see such talk in Mahayana Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta quite often.

Nonduality (aka Maha Prajna Paramita) is a state of all-embracing awareness that has no preferences. It isn't owned by anyone and it isn't a sect or practice. It doesn't see itself as greater than certain other inferior brands/individuals.

I think if you interpret what people say out of context in this way, and merely as a foil to your own ideas/values, then you'll always fall short of what they might have meant with good intentions in another situation.

Yes it does have a really valuable meaning, however I am objecting to the way it is sometimes interpreted by other people. I don't have to do the interpreting in this case.

The 'zazen is pointless/ useless' thing has its place and encapsulates something of the actual doing of it IMO. It may point to the fact that it's not the sort of neurotic effort that its often mistaken to be, and misrepresented as being. This may be a particularly useful way of explaining the attitude of shikantaza if,

Yes I agree, and I made the same point earlier on as I recall, with exacly the same (not at all obvious) spirit of non-doing being necessary for Mindfulness meditation too.

for example, you were explaining it to a bunch of post war 'must-do-better' Japanese businessmen or students who were racking their brain to get satori and be back in the office/college before 3!

OK, although there is wisdom and space for goals too. It's just not the same practice.

Regards,
Justin

Shonin said...

So no one is going to stick their neck out and guess which one of these is a description of Shikantaza and which one is Choiceless Awareness?

A. "Observe the flow of mental images and sensations just as they arise, without engaging in criticism or praise. Notice any aversion and fascination; contemplate any uncertainty, happiness, restlessness or tranquillity as it arises. You can return to the breath whenever the sense of clarity diminishes, or if you begin to feel overwhelmed by impressions. When a sense of steadiness returns, you can relinquish the object again."

B. "X is a practice of doing nothing. Any effort to change things, go somewhere else, or in some other way manipulate or control experience is dropped. When it does arise, as it will, in the recognition of it, it is self-liberated of it’s own accord. The practice then is to trust experience, and to that which is also beyond and yet includes experience. Trust and all shall be revealed."

The answer? - you know me I'm tricky - they are both descriptions of Choiceless Awareness (a 'Hinayana', so-called 'LESSER vehicle', mindfulness-not-Zen practice, OK you get the point). Not so obvious though eh? This is a Theravada and psychological mindfulness practice hence, why I believe that claims about the special uniqueness (read: superiority) of not only Shikantaza but Soto Zen are rather empty.

anon #108 said...

Hi Zach (and Justin),

As I said earlier when chatting to gniz, the descriptions and instructions create models that can be so misleading. Advice like Shengyen's "While you are practicing just sitting, be clear about everything going on in your mind. Whatever you feel, be aware of it, but never abandon the awareness of your whole body sitting there..." can encourage a whole mess of unnecessary and unhelpful mental cahatter, effort and confusion in addition to the chatter and confusion you might naturally encounter sitting quietly for a spell. And sure, advice like Dogen's (quoted from a koan) "'Think not thinking.' 'How do you do that?' 'Non-thinking'"* might do that too. But it is pithier :)

'Just sitting', understood as the intention to do nothing else; to make no other effort; not intentionally to think or feel; making the effort to do nothing but sit; to have no other intention than be without intention...is not an easy thing to do.

So the way I hear it - and apparently others too - "Just sit in the lotus posture" is not the lame, pointless, license-to-daydream directive it may at first appear. It's all that needs to be said...and done.


*Another, perhaps more useful translation of 非思料 (hishiryou) that's all the rage in Dogen Sangha is "different from thinking", ie, 'not to do with thinking...or not-thinking'.

And thanks Anonymous Bob, Al, Shonin and Harry - some great stuff from all of you.

Shonin said...

And of course there is a sense in which talking about 'Nonduality' as a state is misleading too. Any definition of Nonduality which discriminates between something that is nonduality and something that isn't nonduality (ie. any definition of nonduality) is misleading.

And yes I have been having a bit of a rant. I don't mind admitting that this kind of Mahayana supremacist rhetoric is one of my personal bugbears. I was initially drawn to Soto Zen because I felt it was relatively free of dogma. I ignored it for a long time but this kind of value-judgement-loaded polemic within the lineage I was practising in started to grate. That and all the talk about being compassionate and practising for the benefit of all beings, while simultaneously asserting the ethical superiority of neglecting one's family in order to sit on cushion and stare at the wall for days or weeks on end. Saving the world by sitting on our arses. It was a big part of why I found a new teacher (Rinzai) whose perspective seems more authentically expansive and inclusive. It's also part of what inspired me to train to teach MBSR/MBCT. And in many ways I have found the air there more fresh and more honest.

anon #108 said...

'Just sitting', understood as the intention to do nothing else...

...IME, might encompass all the things Shonin speaks of as valuable in what he calls mindfulness or choiceless awareness practice. We're conscious beings. It's gonna happen. There is a sense, when we describe it, in which it is all the same thing. There again, it can only be the unique thing that you do - and I'll never know what that is.

Shonin said...

108,

Any model or description can be misunderstood and misapplied. That's why I find it helps to explore and investigate it thoroughly from different perspectives.

anon #108 said...

For sure, J :)

anon #108 said...

Sorry gniz. You haven't commented for a while and I forgot all about you...


Some great stuff from gniz, too. Oh and from Professor Dave. And from the lesser, or smaller, hina-commenters. And some especially great stuff from me.

Shonin said...

In 'Secular/Psychological Mindfulness' this realisation of non-doing/non-striving/non-gaining is a key part of what my teacher calls 'getting mindfulness' or 'the penny dropping'. In my opinion it is perhaps the most subtle and most important lesson of all. Most participants in my experience 'get it' before the end of the eight week course. Practising Soto it took me about 2 years. Maybe I'm slow, maybe it was something to do with the minimal instructions, but (even though I was told otherwise) I had a tendency to try to make my experience into a 'better' experience from the one I was actually having.

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

And yes I have been having a bit of a rant. I don't mind admitting that this kind of Mahayana supremacist rhetoric is one of my personal bugbears...

...You don't say!

Like I said, I'm really not interested in the whole sectarian drama you are/have been involved in. But the 'maha-ness' of a practice of 'dropping the self' as opposed to the inherently 'smaller' conduct of chasing our own tails of wants and perceptions about is really an important point regardless of your or my experiences with lofty religious idiocy, or whatever practice. I quite expected that people would want me to apologise for it in saying it, but the central point, the practical one, is still sound.

You may be making the mistake of attributing 'maha' to particular groups when I'm really using it in a more practical sense: I know for sure that there are Thervadin monks whose practice is profoundly more 'maha' than that of the average Joe sitting in front of their computer and shooting their mouth off about the 'mahayana'.

As stated I fully accept that there may be valid approaches to mindfulness-type cultivation practices, and that people may have made something very valid of it in their practice; obviously that's not what I am indicating as 'mindfulness'... but I hear a lot of shit talked about it too, you know: A lot of it is quite shallow and is about preening, and not about 'dropping body and mind' at all. From the point of view of Buddhist practice-realisation, that's smaller, as we all know, because we neccesarily go through the drama of it all when we practice.

1. Our practice is the greatest because it transcends distinctions

Yes, shikantaza is the practice of buddhas, the 'all conquering Dharma' and all that jive, and, when we do it, we manifest the 'ascendant state of buddha'... sounds grand, but it's more practical than we like to think. People seem to find that quite hard to accept, for a number of reasons, not least being their own expectations.

2. Those other practices are inferiour because they are bound up with dualistic distinctions and preferences

... But this is where you are jumping to your very own conclusions. While there certainly are inferior ways of practice (I do them all regularly!) I think I've indicated that it's not so simple as the evil diehard sotoists might like to make out. It's really a matter of the range of our practice, whatever practice it is. If we're sitting there watching the breath and beating ourselves up about not doing it perfectly, or have slipped into a veggie state of pink clouds and 'no thought'-type gratification, then we're simply not in the vivid zone of doing the buddha-thang with every, erm, thang.

I am not a windmill.

Regards,

Harry.

Shonin said...

Hi Harry,

So you're telling me that in spite of the your Greater/Lesser vehicle language, your comments were simply the neutral and value-judgement-free observation that a lot of 'spiritual materialism' can be an obstacle? Well even if that was the case (?!) then that would hardly be big news for anyone who practices any form of Buddhism or mindfulness either for that matter. And I would repeat that such pronouncements can themselves be a form of spiritual materialism if they raise up one individual or group or practice to the detriment of another.

"that's not what I am indicating as 'mindfulness'... but I hear a lot of shit talked about it too, you know: A lot of it is quite shallow and is about preening, and not about 'dropping body and mind' at all. "

So now you're only talking about 'bad mindfulness'? Frankly I've heard a great deal more 'preening' 'shit' spoken about 'dropping off body and mind' than from ordinary people in genuine pain (who do not have ambitions and self-images tied up with fancy ideas like 'dropping off body and mind') who simply sincerely and unpretentiously want to find more skilful ways of living life, ways that may help themselves and those around them.

Of course people's understanding varies but people who do mindfulness are generally sincere and unpretentious. I have yet to experience a single person whose ideas about practice could be described as 'preening'. However, I have encountered 'preening' many times in the world of Buddhism.

What exactly is the extent of your experience of mindfulness?

"Yes, shikantaza is the practice of buddhas, the 'all conquering Dharma' and all that jive, and, when we do it, we manifest the 'ascendant state of buddha'... sounds grand, but it's more practical than we like to think. People seem to find that quite hard to accept, for a number of reasons, not least being their own expectations."

It's also not nearly as special and unique as you seem to insist. It's just a basic principle of all 'mindfulness-type' meditation, including Shikantaza.

"If we're sitting there watching the breath and beating ourselves up about not doing it perfectly, or have slipped into a veggie state of pink clouds and 'no thought'-type gratification, then we're simply not in the vivid zone of doing the buddha-thang with every, erm, thang."

Yes it's possible to meditate in ways that are not conducive to ending suffering. Of course. Obviously. I don't think there is a single tradition that would disagree. It was the implications that Shikantaza/Mahayana had some special relationship with the absence of spiritual materialism which I found problematic.

Anyway I'm about to go on hols so I should leave this for now.

Harry said...

Hi Justin,

So you're telling me that in spite of the your Greater/Lesser vehicle language, your comments were simply the neutral and value-judgement-free observation that a lot of 'spiritual materialism' can be an obstacle. Well even if that was the case (?!) then that would hardly be big news for anyone who practices any form of Buddhism or mindfulness either for that matter.

You'd be surprised. I read stuff on Buddhist forums, including on ZFI, every day that affirms that people have ideas to the contrary. Your repeated attempts to ascribe some agenda to me are disingenuous, besides being a bit annoying, and not conducive to reasonable conversation, and quite hostile. Have you been reading the tabloids again? I've stated clearly what I'm saying and why I'm saying it.


"...And I would repeat that such pronouncements can themselves be a form of spiritual materialism if they raise up one individual or group or practice to the detriment of another."

And I would repeat that, although it might go against our lovely pluralist sensibilities, there might be a very real, valid, practical basis for considering genuine, sincere shikantaza practice as a bigger, more inclusive, effort than a lot of what people consider zazen, mindfulness, one-pointedness, awareness etc etc etc. That's not the whole story of course, but it seems like a valid point given some of the perceptions out there.

Frankly I've heard a great deal more 'preening' 'shit' spoken about 'dropping off body and mind' than from ordinary people in genuine pain (who do not have ambitions and self-images tied up with fancy ideas like 'dropping off body and mind') who simply sincerely and unpretentiously want to find more skillful ways of living life, ways that may help themselves and those around them.

Yes, shikanataza can certainly be (ab)used, like any other practice can, as just another preening exercise of the small vehicle of our own little self referential wants and desires, and it can be (ab)used as a place to hide away or deny life or rehearse our pathologies... This is inevitable and essential actually, and we have to practice with this and through it. That's all built into the tradition and literature (of course, it's the actual effort where it all goes down). There is a body of literature and tradition there, including an insistence on guidance from a living person who's already done it, to help (ideally... yeah, right!) I'm very glad that people may get something, and improve their mental health and well being, via certain practices; but the fact remains that those practices may be essentially different to sincere shikantaza practice in real practical ways. It's really not such a complicated point.

You don't seem willing to get the point either that I really don't, and can't, talk for The Mahayana (TM). I'm talking about Buddhist practice which, unless we're just into reading books and calling each other silly Indian/Japanese names, is the only real game in town.

To conclude and set you up for your week pummeling people on the dodgems in Blackpool or whatever: Practicing the Big vehicle of 'dropping off body and mind', whatever we call it and however we do it, is superior to, and bigger, than cultivation exercises which are done in reference to the little vehicle of our wants and desires. Hardly rocket science.

I'm glad you're getting that holiday.

Regards,

Harry.

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

Harry, I was responding to what you actually wrote. If it comes across as supremacist, whose responsibility is that?

But this too comes across as supremacist...

"Practicing the Big vehicle of 'dropping off body and mind', whatever we call it and however we do it, is superior to, and bigger, than cultivation exercises which are done in reference to the little vehicle of our wants and desires."

Let's just focus on this statement for a minute. First of all, 'Superior to' is a value judgement - you are describing your own valuing of that practice, your own feeling about it and projecting onto the thing itself. Value judgements don't really carry any weight in a debate as people may simply not share that value. It is really an emotional argument. If you mean that it is more skillful, leads to less suffering etc then you'll have to clarify. But at the moment you're basically just saying 'it's just more better' which is an empty value statement as well as supremacist with regards to one practice over others. I don't think that spiritual snobbery is the way of the 'Big Vehicle'.

Secondly what do you mean by your statement? Zen people have goals and objectives like everyone else (although a few of them may be in denial about it) and just like people who do mindfulness. A less self-centred practice will have to mature and flower in the midst of desire, aims and objectives and out of them. Also, dealing skilfully and wisely with one's own attachments and suffering is not necessarily egotistical. It may simply be what needs to be done. One can have compassion for one's future self (and those affected by oneself) just as one can act out of compassion for other beings. Hopefully a mature practitioner of Zen or mindfulness alike will be less pushed around by egotistical drives and instead be able to fulfil their objectives skilfully from a place of awareness and stillness and to do that from a less self-centred perspective.

Will send you a postcard and a stick of rock that says 'Buddha' all the way through.

Justin

Harry said...

Hi Justin,

If you don't understand directly for yourself just why, and how, sincere and thorough not-in-reference-to-my-needs practice is superior to and humbles your, my, his, her, that group's view, this group's view, or way, or method, or lack of method or lack of view... then I certainly won't be able to, and am really not interested in trying to, convince you. This is really the substantial crux before we start to talk the satellite 'dhrama' issues about various groups, mahayana/ hinayana, me and you, this as opposed that, etc etc etc ad nauseum in exelcius.

Was that 'supremacist' of me? I really don't care, because pretending to the contrary and saving face with the PC crowd may be just another idiotic means of fooling ourselves.


Regards,

Harry, unashamed Buddhist Supremacist.

Murray the K said...

You've got troubles, Harry. You're dipped in Zenshit up to your neck. The prescription for you is to stop posting on the internet. Right now.

gniz said...

Interesting, if somewhat heated, discussion going on here.

I suppose that unlike Justin I really am not a good enough Buddhist to speak eloquently on the different types of practice and some of the nitty gritty details.

But I do take some issue, Harry, with how you characterize or perhaps misstate the "smaller vehicle" practices.

The whole thing about goals and how they interfere just doesn't ring true to me. The funny thing about it is that you can turn anything into a goal and you can also take any goal and make it irrelevant.

The moment to moment basis of my attention practice--which is all I can personally speak to--really confounds any attempt to be goal oriented. Even if I know that I am trying to relax, and pay attention to my breathing (as well as the world around me)...does not mean I am succeeding as I would like.

And besides, there really is no end in sight. Wherever I am at this moment, in so many ways, feels exactly like the last moment and the next moment. It's the feeling of always being at square one again.

Relaxation does happen, there are peak moments just like you probably experience in shikantaza practice.

But ultimately the peaks don't last and i am back in the "regular" moment, breathing and relaxing with my shlubby boring old body, my boring old self, and i am only too aware of how small i am, and how little my strum and drang means in all of this.

In other words, once again, despite what you seem to believe, I recognize myself and my practice in your descriptions of the territory of shikantaza.

So I ask you the question, Harry. Why is it that you seem so invested in the notion that people doing other meditation practices than shikantaza be somehow inferior or unable to have seen the territory you describe?

108 the merciless said...

"To conclude and set you up for your week pummeling people on the dodgems in Blackpool or whatever.."

hehehehe..

er, sorry

Harry said...

Hi Gniz,

One thing that seems clear is that my experience is certainly NOT a reliable refuge for you... or the juster.

If your experience and conclusions are different to mine then that's fine by me.

Regards,

Harry.

gniz said...

Harry, to the contrary--I think my experience and conclusions are very similar to yours...when we remove the labels from our little boxes of cereal, that is.

I just happen to like Cheerios and you happen to prefer Shredded Wheat.

Harry said...

Gniz,

If you care to review my post you may find a more open attitude to 'other practices' and their role, and their potential roles, than your question to me suggests.

Next week's 'Silly Friday' Discussion Question:

"I have been practicing recreational yoga twice a week for almost 2 years. When should I expect Dharma transmission?"


... bit of supremacist humour to lighten the atmosphere there.

Regards,

Harry.

gniz said...

Well, I kind of find your position to be dichotomous in that you do appear to have a pretty open-minded attitude to discussion and I don't find you to be preachy or overtly holer-than-thou.

But you do seem to have a bit of an attitude that at the bottom of it all, what you do is best. Then again, I have to admit, at the bottom of it all, I kind of feel the same way about my practice.

So again, this was a lot of sound and fury signifying not very much--but I still enjoyed it.

Harry said...

Hi Gniz,

Believe me, in my case, sitting still for fourty minutes when I have a shit load of stuff to do often does not seem like 'the best thing for me'. Thankfully I've trained myself like a dog, or a monkey, to stupidly do it anyway, and so it doesn't really matter what I think is best at that time.

The great, all-explanatory theories that I hit on about it from time-to-time really don't last that long. :-(

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous Bob said...

Gniz asks, "Why is it that you seem so invested in the notion that people doing other meditation practices than shikantaza be somehow inferior or unable to have seen the territory you describe?"

Gniz, Is that true? I don't have the same impression. Harry doesn't seem to be one with a chip on his shoulder. I may practice what I do for twenty years and never attain the insight you did after your first week of X, I don't know.. But I don't think it has much to do with our methods. Why we choose and find ourselves where we're at is more complicated than that. It is even possible that with all the factors involved there are not any choices actually being made.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 108, Gniz, Harry, Justin, et al.,

I've been following your conversations and as more seasoned practitioners of the Great So and So may I ask an honest, sincere question?

I started doing zazen earlier this year and it has gone well enough. However, after reading some other things (I'm not close to any teachers so I'm flying solo as of now), especially some Theravadin "mindfulness" stuff as well as Kapleau's "Three Pillars of Zen," I find myself caught up in mixed signals. My question: is it really so bad to spend some time at the outset of your practice developing your concentration? Shikantaza as described by Brad and Nishijima-- and drawn from Dogen-- seems to require SOME ability to fix your mind (even on "non-thinking"). What's more, the integration of what you learn during zazen into your everyday life seems to require a great deal of mental stamina. So, I've started to count my breath some (gasp!) and I'll say it is really helping me stand apart from the mental chatter. I don't suppose I'll do it forever of course but is it worthwhile to do so until I feel more capable of sitting thirty or forty minutes at a time? In Three Pillars of Zen Shikantaza is described as a more advanced practice and that beginners (and boy am I a rank beginner) might need to work up to. Any thoughts?

Seasoned Practitioner of the Great So and So said...

The question: "is it really so bad to spend some time at the outset of your practice developing your concentration?"

No

gniz said...

Anonymous,
You are for sure going to get different answers from different people, and I think the real answer has already been supplied by YOU since you are already counting breaths and finding it helpful to your practice.

I would not have chosen breath counting, personally. Does that mean its not a good practice for you? That's rhetorical by the way.

As far as when you move on, or what is "advanced" and "beginner", you've already seen disagreements on that score, and no doubt this will continue as you continue on your path.

Maybe you will find a teacher and then at that point, you might find that you take some guidance and direction from this person. Great. Ultimately YOU will have chosen that this is the person and direction you feel comfortable with. And then YOU will continue to make choices about your practice on a moment to moment day in and day out basis.

We cannot avoid picking and choosing, even when we choose to wholeheartedly follow Dogen or Brad or Nishijima or the Dali Lama or the Koran.

So, bottom line after this long rant is that it seems like you are doing what is right for your practice at this time and I think you should continue to do this and to try and understand on a moment to moment basis how to continue on this path in a way that is helpful for you.

Best of luck.

Shonin said...

is it really so bad to spend some time at the outset of your practice developing your concentration?

In my opinion, not at all. Not only that but following or counting the breath helps to stabilise the mind however long you have been practising. This is a standard zazen instruction for many. I do it myself sometimes.

But as for whether it is a superior or inferior practice I'll have to defer to Harry...

;)

Harry said...

Hi Anon,

Yeah, I don't think it's bad at all, and it's very probably a good thing if it helps you establish a regular practice. It's different for different people, and different teachers have different ways of approaching it. Dogen Sangha is generally a 'jump right in' to shikantaza approach, which can be tough, and requires diligence and motivation I think.

The mental chatter will keep coming though, it's really more a matter of not getting involved with it as we habitually do. This is what 'non-thinking' means in a nutshell: not 'not thought' yet not 'thinking'... thoughts left alone to come and go. But we'll often find ourselves thinking, in which case we should just stop it... over and over again... without getting pissed off by it!

It seems good to build up sitting time VERY gradually, don't burn yourself out by trying to sit too long at home... it's easy to fry your motivation to keep going like that (in my experience). Shorter sitting times done twice a day and built up slowly were how I established doin it regularly and for a reasonable stretch of time.

Good luck,

Harry.

Shonin said...

I agree with Gniz. What is important is what works. By 'works' I mean ultimately leads to the diminishing of suffering. And what works for each person is not necessarily the same as what works for others.

Having said that, a practice might be initially difficult, but might have long-term benefits.

gniz said...

And who said this blog was full of crazy unhelpful assholes who have nothing to say but profanity-laced tirades for little good reason?

Oh, I said that?

I take it back.

Anonymous Bob said...

Gniz, It's the full moon effect. Once every month things get amiable around here..

CAPTCHA : fatestst : I kid you not

Dogen Sangha LA said...

Brad Warner's Southern California Book Tour Dates

Larry said...

It's always as amiable as you choose to view it. Right?

Maybe not.

Anyway, the comments section of this blog is much better than the articles part. I know that Brad Warner is soliciting hand-me-outs and claiming that he needs them "to keep this blog going," but the only reason that this blog should keep going is for the comments section.

Perhaps Brad Warner could make one sentence article entries and then shut up and get out of the way.

anon #108 said...

Hi Anon @ 8.39am,

I started actually doing the zazen thing while reading Three Pillars of Zen. I remember it well... (cue vibraphone: whole tone scale) ~~~~

One afternoon just over five years ago, having recently 'cleaned up' a rather serious, long-term daily drug habit, I was sitting tailor-style on my bed reading The Three Pillars of Zen By P Kapleau. Although I'd been interested in Zen since my teens, but had been busy for years being a junkie rock wannabe and had done nothing about it. Outside Japan I didn't know you could.

I'd almost finished the book and had been moved and greatly inspired by it.

As usual, the TV was on and I was taking no notice of whatever was showing. For some reason (my choice, or the irresistible result of a confluence of circumstances?) the notion entered my head to see if I could get my legs into the half-lotus position illustrated at the back of the book. Not to meditate, but just to see if I could do it. I reached for a pillow to put under my bum and managed to force my legs into quarter-lotus.

The first thing I noticed was that it felt good. My back had naturally straightened; instead of slouching with a bent back I was sitting up straight, feeling quite proud of myself. I'd not sat like that before. I felt naturally comfortable and alert.

The way these things happen, the thought "turn the TV off, why doncha?" popped into my head. I'd had the TV on for most of my life - this was a radical suggestion. I'm not kidding. Possessed by some power of will I'd not previously credited myself with, I turned the TV off. I even turned 'standby' off!

So I'm sitting on my bed, in the zazen posture. It's all quiet. I'm alone. Why not try and do zazen for a bit? Proper zazen, I mean: Shikantaza, as described in The Three Pillars of Zen - the samadhi of samadhis. Hands in mudra and I'm off...

Panic. What now? WTF am I supposed to do now? With my mind? What am I supposed to think about - because I'm always thinking, right? Think non-thinking? I think I'll count my breaths. And so I did. For about two minutes I consistently got to three or four and got lost. Then I stopped. But I had conquered my TV addiction! That's when I knew there was something in this meditation business.

I sat intermittently, counting my breaths for a couple of months at least. I would sometimes count my breaths while lying in bed waiting to fall asleep and then, without doubt helped by finding a good teacher, I stopped doing it. In fact, I'd stopped counting before I met Mike Luetchford. Some or other penny dropped about the just sitting thing and I no longer wanted to count my breaths. For me, counting breaths was the start. I couldn't start without it. For others it may be a complete and lifelong practice. Is it worthwhile to do so? It was for me.

That's of full house of "proceed, brother" aintit?

Anonymous said...

"Some or other penny dropped about the just sitting thing and I no longer wanted to count my breaths. For me, counting breaths was the start. I couldn't start without it. For others it may be a complete and lifelong practice. Is it worthwhile to do so? It was for me."

Good stuff.

Mysterion said...

Lesser vehicle = fewer seats
Greater vehicle = more seats

Hinyana (an insulting term) is somewhat more selective and a bit FUNDIE being somewhat petty at the core.

Mahayana is less selective and somewhat more petty on the fringes.

New, Improved, Pure Land Buddhism is non-selective, non judgmental (in fact, not giving a rat's @ss about anything) and closed to all who wish to convert.

Like the Sunni/Shia split in Islam and the Orthodox/cATHOLIC/cOPTIC split in Xtianity, divisions like Theravada and Mahayana are constructs of the failed.

anonymous anonymous said...

After you die, Avalokiteśvara will come to you on your right and Mahāsthāmaprāpta will come to you on your left. They will appear and welcome you to the Pure Land. Visions of other Buddhas or bodhisattvas must be disregarded. They may be bad spirits disguising themselves, attempting to stop you from entering.

Mysterion said...

When you die, there is nobody or nothing to help you.

That is why finding some comfort level with nothingness (and the emptiness of nothingness) in the present moment carries some value.

Charles' first Corollary. Corollary 1 follows from the following theorem: when you die, there is nothing. Nothing to see, to hear, to touch, to smell, to taste, or to intuit.

The emptiness of the void.

The Spark that Bled said...

Anonymous 108, Gniz, Harry, Shonin, et al.,

Thanks for your answers to my question! One thread I see running through all of your responses is that, despite some differences, you all believe that this moment's practice is the whole of our practice. Maybe we shouldn't worry too much what it will be in the future (since "future" is a concept, no?) but just do it with passion and consistency now. So, if you can only do zazen for ten minutes then that is your practice. If you have to count your breaths then that is your practice. Is that fair?

Anon. # 108. That was an amazing story, and inspiring. Thanks! It seems to me that while we may not all be battling substance abuse (or at least the devastation left in its wake), we all DO have plenty of compulsive behaviors that we really need to overcome: T.V., bad eating-habits, selfhood, etc. It was nice to see some evidence that zazen does help with such practical matters. Vale.

Jundo Bogart said...

Hey!

What happened to that RIBBON that signified that this was a TOP 100 Buddhist blog? Brad sure seemed proud of it. What the heck happened?

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

everything changes

anon #108 said...

So, if you can only do zazen for ten minutes then that is your practice. If you have to count your breaths then that is your practice. Is that fair?

Not only fair, but true.

**********************************************************************

A small edit to my story - I wrote:

"For about two minutes I consistently got to three or four and got lost. Then I stopped. But I had conquered my TV addiction! That's when I knew there was something in this meditation business."

What intrigued me and convinced me there was something in meditation was that I'd found it so difficult to keep my mind on the counting. That and my desire for enlightenment. What was my relationship to "my mind" if I had so little control over it? My ideas about 'mind' and 'enlightenment' changed as I continued with the practice and found a teacher, but that's what initially hooked me. Discovering that I could live without TV or some other stimulus to fill the void, that I could be alone in silence occurred, I guess, the moment (before?) I decided to turn the TV off and try zazen. And who can say what made me do that?

Anonymous said...

anyone know who this is:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jysdxBVbptY

Shit said...

I have no Idea who that is?
just another Zen Master?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Garrie

http://www.youtube.com/user/satifilm

Al said...

An interesting book that could make one scratch their head: http://www.unlearningmeditation.com/

Al

Khru said...

It's raining outside my house...

Anonymous said...

Shut up Al

Uku said...

Mary Poppins!

Anonymous Bob said...

Rude anon@11:03.. Al is not the bully from your childhood. He's not your step-dad or your older brother. You know that right?

CAPTCHA : minfu : I kid you not

Anonymous said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Garrie

???????????????????

anon #108 said...

Brad's new book, "Sex, Sin, and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between"

is listed by Amazon UK as:

"Sex, Sin, and ZEN: Buddhist Sex, from Polyamory, Porn, Power, and Paying for it, to Doing it with All the Lights on"

...although the cover appears to be the same in the UK as in the US.

For why? I think we should be told.

Dirty Sanchez said...

108: Even odder than that.. I bought a copy of the book, brought it home and before I could read it..

it vanished into thin air.

or it's under a pile of stuff somewhere.

tobacco said...

Hi Brad, Sock Monkey has a great Mohawk. And nice big red lips. Does he have a little slit in back where his butthole would be? Its nice to have a traveling companion. I've used socks sometimes myself.

Anonymous said...

A-Bob, I'm not you.

Mysterion said...

Dirty Sanchez said...
"before I could read it...
it vanished into thin air."

Prospero:
Our revels now are ended.
These our actors,
As I foretold you,
were all spirits, and
Are melted into air,
into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs,
the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples,
the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit,
shall dissolve,

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on;
and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

The Tempest Act 4, scene 1, 148–158

marvelous said...

are you well?

Nick Danger said...

I was sitting in my office on that drizzly afternoon listening to the monotonous staccato of rain on my desktop, and reading my name on the glass of my office door--"regnaD kciN."

Anonymous said...

I read the first 15 min of the discussion and it was interesting. The problem is that in a most profound sense everything is illusion. While we need some structure to hang our hats on, to keep from going insane, we have to be able to let go of it and come back to the present moment which is also an illusion but is closer to the one pure and clear thing than all our other illusions. I am grateful to Nishijima for pointing out the importance of posture which makes just sitting more doable, I don't really focus on anything but I seem to be aware of my breathing sometimes, and the hara area. My biggest problem is too much thinking, dreaming, fantasizing about the future and I just keep coming back to what is this?

Seagal Rinpoche said...

Couldn't have said better myself.

anon #108 said...

From later in the discussion:

As little Suzuki said to a student who complained that he couldn't stop thinking during zazen, "Is there some problem with thinking?"

john e mumbles said...

"Shukov clapped his mittens together, joined up the lengths, and hammered the ends into the joints... And then every thought was swept from his head. All his memories and worries faded." -ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH by A. Solzhenitsyn

Perhaps if you want to stop the flow of thoughts, you should lose yourself in work, or exercise instead of sitting on yer can "doing nothing."

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

M says (10:37 am) "Dirty Sanchez said...".

Is that Blogger Dirty Sanchez or Anonymous Dirty Sanchez?

Anonymous Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mind the step.

Anonymous said...

Arbeit macht frei

Anonymous II said...

so da

Anonymous Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous Seagal Rimshot said...
"Couldn't have said better myself."


Of course not.

Where is the mystery here?

Anonymous said...

indeed one's livlihood places one in a quandry of a pickle

trained as a therapist/counselor and found it was a hobby, not a livlihood for me, and it was a hobby I could not afford to indulge in, I needed to pay rent for home and office and insurance for car and the practice
I don't know about liability insurance for zen priests, (or catholic ones for that matter), but maybe temples and parishes should consider....
thing is, with the therapy stuff, I was constantly putting myself out of business (I mean, people are supposed to be getting better and leaving, right?)
But then, you need to have people coming in to replace those leaving---well folks come when they come. Sure, when you are 'established' there is a waiting list or whathaveyou.
But I was not a 'known' I was just starting out and I didn't know (or want to really) how to string folks along, keep 'em coming until I could afford to let them go--I just let them go.
There was another piece, and that was I did have a source of referrals, a friend, set out to help me get over the hardships at the start by signing me up as a contracted therapist with her EAP (employee assistance program). This sounded really great on paper, but the reality was her company did not pay me their portion of the hourly fee, the folks I saw dutifully paid their co-pays, which were minimal ($10.00-$20.00/hour) AND I had to send to the company every 3-5 weeks forms required to justify the need to continue to see folks who weren't 'done yet.' I had to wait until the authorization to continue arrived or the company wouldn't pay me for my work.
Already I've gone on too long with this business which I am sure many readers are only too familiar with in their own various jobs...
so I had to give it up. I wasn't cut out as a business person, I took a government job. My training hasn't been fully utilized, but it wasn't a wash either...

Good luck as a traveling zen book salesman/punk rock footnote/and lovesick sailor seeking safe harbor in various ports o' call.

May we all have luck in our work life, our love life, our creative life and in our travels!

Tell me: is Sock-Ra-Tease Monkey (That's MISTER Sockratease Monkey to me) a single sock, or is he one of a pair--does he have an ET (evil twin) somewhere or is HE the EO (evil one)?

Thank you for your time and I'll take my answer off the air!

diumple

Anonymous said...

indeed one's livlihood places one in a quandry of a pickle

trained as a therapist/counselor and found it was a hobby, not a livlihood for me, and it was a hobby I could not afford to indulge in, I needed to pay rent for home and office and insurance for car and the practice
I don't know about liability insurance for zen priests, (or catholic ones for that matter), but maybe temples and parishes should consider....
thing is, with the therapy stuff, I was constantly putting myself out of business (I mean, people are supposed to be getting better and leaving, right?)
But then, you need to have people coming in to replace those leaving---well folks come when they come. Sure, when you are 'established' there is a waiting list or whathaveyou.
But I was not a 'known' I was just starting out and I didn't know (or want to really) how to string folks along, keep 'em coming until I could afford to let them go--I just let them go.
There was another piece, and that was I did have a source of referrals, a friend, set out to help me get over the hardships at the start by signing me up as a contracted therapist with her EAP (employee assistance program). This sounded really great on paper, but the reality was her company did not pay me their portion of the hourly fee, the folks I saw dutifully paid their co-pays, which were minimal ($10.00-$20.00/hour) AND I had to send to the company every 3-5 weeks forms required to justify the need to continue to see folks who weren't 'done yet.' I had to wait until the authorization to continue arrived or the company wouldn't pay me for my work.
Already I've gone on too long with this business which I am sure many readers are only too familiar with in their own various jobs...
so I had to give it up. I wasn't cut out as a business person, I took a government job. My training hasn't been fully utilized, but it wasn't a wash either...

Good luck as a traveling zen book salesman/punk rock footnote/and lovesick sailor seeking safe harbor in various ports o' call.

May we all have luck in our work life, our love life, our creative life and in our travels!

Tell me: is Sock-Ra-Tease Monkey (That's MISTER Sockratease Monkey to me) a single sock, or is he one of a pair--does he have an ET (evil twin) somewhere or is HE the EO (evil one)?

Thank you for your time and I'll take my answer off the air!

diumple

Anonymous said...

indeed one's livlihood places one in a quandry of a pickle

trained as a therapist/counselor and found it was a hobby, not a livlihood for me, and it was a hobby I could not afford to indulge in, I needed to pay rent for home and office and insurance for car and the practice
I don't know about liability insurance for zen priests, (or catholic ones for that matter), but maybe temples and parishes should consider....
thing is, with the therapy stuff, I was constantly putting myself out of business (I mean, people are supposed to be getting better and leaving, right?)
But then, you need to have people coming in to replace those leaving---well folks come when they come. Sure, when you are 'established' there is a waiting list or whathaveyou.
But I was not a 'known' I was just starting out and I didn't know (or want to really) how to string folks along, keep 'em coming until I could afford to let them go--I just let them go.
There was another piece, and that was I did have a source of referrals, a friend, set out to help me get over the hardships at the start by signing me up as a contracted therapist with her EAP (employee assistance program). This sounded really great on paper, but the reality was her company did not pay me their portion of the hourly fee, the folks I saw dutifully paid their co-pays, which were minimal ($10.00-$20.00/hour) AND I had to send to the company every 3-5 weeks forms required to justify the need to continue to see folks who weren't 'done yet.' I had to wait until the authorization to continue arrived or the company wouldn't pay me for my work.
Already I've gone on too long with this business which I am sure many readers are only too familiar with in their own various jobs...
so I had to give it up. I wasn't cut out as a business person, I took a government job. My training hasn't been fully utilized, but it wasn't a wash either...

Good luck as a traveling zen book salesman/punk rock footnote/and lovesick sailor seeking safe harbor in various ports o' call.

May we all have luck in our work life, our love life, our creative life and in our travels!

Tell me: is Sock-Ra-Tease Monkey (That's MISTER Sockratease Monkey to me) a single sock, or is he one of a pair--does he have an ET (evil twin) somewhere or is HE the EO (evil one)?

Thank you for your time and I'll take my answer off the air!

diumple

Anonymous said...

indeed one's livlihood places one in a quandry of a pickle

trained as a therapist/counselor and found it was a hobby, not a livlihood for me, and it was a hobby I could not afford to indulge in, I needed to pay rent for home and office and insurance for car and the practice
I don't know about liability insurance for zen priests, (or catholic ones for that matter), but maybe temples and parishes should consider....
thing is, with the therapy stuff, I was constantly putting myself out of business (I mean, people are supposed to be getting better and leaving, right?)
But then, you need to have people coming in to replace those leaving---well folks come when they come. Sure, when you are 'established' there is a waiting list or whathaveyou.
But I was not a 'known' I was just starting out and I didn't know (or want to really) how to string folks along, keep 'em coming until I could afford to let them go--I just let them go.
There was another piece, and that was I did have a source of referrals, a friend, set out to help me get over the hardships at the start by signing me up as a contracted therapist with her EAP (employee assistance program). This sounded really great on paper, but the reality was her company did not pay me their portion of the hourly fee, the folks I saw dutifully paid their co-pays, which were minimal ($10.00-$20.00/hour) AND I had to send to the company every 3-5 weeks forms required to justify the need to continue to see folks who weren't 'done yet.' I had to wait until the authorization to continue arrived or the company wouldn't pay me for my work.
Already I've gone on too long with this business which I am sure many readers are only too familiar with in their own various jobs...
so I had to give it up. I wasn't cut out as a business person, I took a government job. My training hasn't been fully utilized, but it wasn't a wash either...

Good luck as a traveling zen book salesman/punk rock footnote/and lovesick sailor seeking safe harbor in various ports o' call.

May we all have luck in our work life, our love life, our creative life and in our travels!

Tell me: is Sock-Ra-Tease Monkey (That's MISTER Sockratease Monkey to me) a single sock, or is he one of a pair--does he have an ET (evil twin) somewhere or is HE the EO (evil one)?

Thank you for your time and I'll take my answer off the air!

diumple

Anonymous said...

indeed one's livlihood places one in a quandry of a pickle

trained as a therapist/counselor and found it was a hobby, not a livlihood for me, and it was a hobby I could not afford to indulge in, I needed to pay rent for home and office and insurance for car and the practice
I don't know about liability insurance for zen priests, (or catholic ones for that matter), but maybe temples and parishes should consider....
thing is, with the therapy stuff, I was constantly putting myself out of business (I mean, people are supposed to be getting better and leaving, right?)
But then, you need to have people coming in to replace those leaving---well folks come when they come. Sure, when you are 'established' there is a waiting list or whathaveyou.
But I was not a 'known' I was just starting out and I didn't know (or want to really) how to string folks along, keep 'em coming until I could afford to let them go--I just let them go.
There was another piece, and that was I did have a source of referrals, a friend, set out to help me get over the hardships at the start by signing me up as a contracted therapist with her EAP (employee assistance program). This sounded really great on paper, but the reality was her company did not pay me their portion of the hourly fee, the folks I saw dutifully paid their co-pays, which were minimal ($10.00-$20.00/hour) AND I had to send to the company every 3-5 weeks forms required to justify the need to continue to see folks who weren't 'done yet.' I had to wait until the authorization to continue arrived or the company wouldn't pay me for my work.
Already I've gone on too long with this business which I am sure many readers are only too familiar with in their own various jobs...
so I had to give it up. I wasn't cut out as a business person, I took a government job. My training hasn't been fully utilized, but it wasn't a wash either...

Good luck as a traveling zen book salesman/punk rock footnote/and lovesick sailor seeking safe harbor in various ports o' call.

May we all have luck in our work life, our love life, our creative life and in our travels!

Anonymous said...

Tell me: is Sock-Ra-Tease Monkey (That's MISTER Sockratease Monkey to me) a single sock, or is he one of a pair--does he have an ET (evil twin) somewhere or is HE the EO (evil one)?

Thank you for your time and I'll take my answer off the air!

diumple

Anonymous said...

golly
sorry for the dubbubble posting, but I got a message that said my comment was too long and couldn't post
so I shortened one and printed the rest separately
???

chule

Anonymous Anonymous Anonymous said...

5:01 pm is a troll.

Mind the difference.



(captcha = beatin, - whatever you make of that)

Seagal Rinpoche said...

Couldn't have said better myself.

Ran said...

chule @ 9:12 pm says: - "I got a message that said my comment was too long and couldn't post
so I shortened one and printed the rest separately
".

- I kind of had the notion that I was reading the same thing over and over again. Thanks for the clarification. - Now I know.

Ran said...

Never too late to admit a mistake.

anon #108 said...

Al -

I just listened to the TALK by Issho Fujita's that you linked a while back. Very good stuff. Thanks a lot.

A great deal, if not all of it, resonated with what I've understood as the Dogen Sangha party line from reading Nishijima - and Brad - and listening to my teacher, Mike Luetchford. So that makes Gudo not such a maverick crank after all ("inner muscle" sounds a lot like the ANS to me)...And Fujita is an Alexander Technique practitoner, so Mike Cross - not such a maverick crank after all. And did I hear right in the introduction that Fujita is the Director of the International Centre of Soto-Shu? Some of the funeral directors get it? Who knew?

Gniz, and others - if you haven't already, I recommend you give it a listen. Fujita tries to clarify the distinction that Dogen made between shu-zen ("learning meditation") and shikantaza (just sitting).

anon #108 said...

BTW, when I listened to the talk it cut out at around 40 minutes with a station announcement. I got the rest of it by clicking back a couple of minutes.

R said...

108 - Fujita is in the line of Uchiyama Roshi, that is in the line of Sawaki Roshi. Not a funeral director. And as for your teacher and Nishijima - Renpo Niwa was just the head of the Soto-shu organization. Brads criticism might have go [to a great extent, perhaps] to his own Dharma grandfather.

For the record, and I couldn't spare the time to listen to the recording.

snakehead said...

Is that sock monkie Chinese? You got papers on her?

Ivanho said...

She my bitch!

anon #108 said...

Hi Ran,

Thanks for clarifying the lineages. I knew, but thanks anyway.

This -

"And did I hear right in the introduction that Fujita is the Director of the International Centre of Soto-Shu? Some of the funeral directors get it? Who knew?"

- is sarcasm.

lolli said...

Ran, I wonder if what you wrote is worth reading. I am not saying it is not you understand. 108 seems to think there is some value in it but I am busy this week and usually don't get you anyway. I have to pick and chose carefully what I read because of time. You and the anons are off of my list. Gone. And for the record, I just couldn't spare the time for you this time.

The Obvious said...

Ran said at 1:08 it is never too late to admit a mistake, although he has never done so here on this blog, and he makes a mistake every time he opens his mouth to write something! Amazing. His sense of self-reflection is nil.

Al said...

Anon 108-

I'm glad you liked the talk. Issho is one of the best IMO.

I believe his position is not that involved with the Soto-shu as an orginization, but more like an educational/practice liason. In other words, he comes to America and does speaking engagements to discuss Dogen's meaning of zazen.

Speaking of Mike Leuctford- there is a transcribed talk on his site somewhere that goes over this topic quite well.

Regards,

Al

Al said...

Oh BTW- there is also a good talk on Taigen Leighton's that is titled "Beyond Thinking and Mind Wandering" that goes over a scientific article from the NYT's on the nueral process of 'Mind Wandering'. Taigen then talks about how 'Beyond Thinking relates to this.

the nose on your face said...

Hey O.. Can't recall you ever admitting to a mistake. Here is a clue. Work on your own shit and quit worrying about other people's mistakes.

Anonymous said...

not always so

The Big O said...

nose on your face: simply reflecting on what R suggested as in take your own advice, stupid.

200

«Oldest ‹Older   1 – 200 of 203   Newer› Newest»