Thursday, January 26, 2012

QUESTIONS FROM READERS


I have a silly question. When meditating, I've read one is to be aware, and not much else. However, when thoughts calm down, what is one suppose to be aware of. I check posture. But is the mind suppose to settle on something. Or simply search out--thus disturbing the calm--something to be aware of. I don't know if there is an answer--non-thinking maybe it. But I'm not sure I truly understand non-thinking.

There are no silly questions. Only silly people!

No. I don't mean that really. I don't know why people always want to belittle their own questions. This one's a pretty common one.

The real question is; Does awareness need an object? Or does awareness only appear when we divide subject and object?

In practical terms, when my zazen gets screwy I fix my posture. When it gets screwy again, I fix my posture again.

But there's no real need to be aware of anything specific.

One thing I was wondering if you'd written anything on is the uneasy relationship of zazen and intellectual discourse. This point is difficult for me because I'm sometimes irrepressibly intellectual, and reading Western philosophy has shaped me as much as my practice, but in different ways. Anyway, at times I detect a subtle hostility or contempt for intellectual argument in zen practitioners that I find baffling. For instance, one newcomer recently had mentioned having read up a bit on Zen practice, to which a more experienced practitioner responded, "Oh, no need for those books. Reading just confuses you in my experience." Now, of course she was referring to reading about Zen philosophy, or maybe philosophy in general, but in any case it felt a little knee-jerk. It reminded me of all those times I've been in discussions about X spiritual matter and when I asked--in as humble and sincere a way as I am capable of mustering--for clarification on some point or other, I was met with one of two reactions: A) hostility, because they regarded me as an ill-intentioned provocateur, or B) condescension, like I'm some clueless hyper-educated idiot. Or just frustration, that happens a lot too. And again, most of this stuff is pretty subtle, probably unconscious, but the underlying message less so: Just shut up and accept what is being said. I'm in total agreement that there are limits to how you can talk about, say, the nature of reality or the basis of ethical action, but just because those limits exist doesn't mean that you can't explore the space they contain. Or that, given that teachers use of natural language to explain concepts, you can't prod a little bit in hope of gaining some new perspective. (But yeah, it's a thin line between that and just dickheaded arrogance.) This happens mostly in discussions of the idea of one's "nature/essence," what "energy" is, or "enlightenment." It's all the more esoteric stuff, so not terribly important to my practice. But it does come up every once in a while, and then I feel like people are throwing around terms without a very coherent picture of how they fit together. In other words, I hear a lot of what is flawed logical argument that then retreats behind "the intuitive" when you point out how the logic is whack. To me that is bad dualistic thinking trying to pass as non-dual, where the non-dual answer would seem to call a lot of these concepts deeply into question, including the very idea of an opposition between intuition and intellect.

Oh just shut up and believe what I tell you to!

No! Sometimes this is a knee-jerk response. Sometimes it's a guy trying to be dogmatic about Zen. But often it's neither. You can only take intellectual discussion so far. After that it just becomes pointless. Intellectual discussion is limited by what the brain is able to conceive. The brain thinks it can conceive anything. And in a sense it is limitlessly able to box the universe up in new ways. There is no end to the ways we can frame things for ourselves and for others. But that's all we can do, frame things in different ways.

Dogen was also an intellectual. That's why he wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. He really attempted to frame things for us in the most accurate way possible. But he was also keenly aware that there was no ultimately accurate way of framing reality. So his writing is full of contradictions.


I have trouble keeping my eyes still while doing zazen. I have practiced for several years at this point, and my eyes move around just as much as at the beginning, though my legs have settled into half-lotus, my spine gets in a nice comfortable balance and so on.

Is this part of the posture, keeping my eyes in one spot? That is, should stillness of the eyes be a goal that I should work towards, just like getting into half-lotus posture was for me a few years ago?

I am aware that my eyes moving around is not some random, purely physical, automatic phenomenon. I have at least noticed that moving my eyes is connected to the flow of my thoughts. So another way of phrasing the question is: in your experience, is it best to treat compulsive motions like this as something I need to work on outside of the practice, as I would by stretching my legs, or should I look at it as part of the practice, bring to it the same kind of unattached attention as I would a fly buzzing around the room or the stream of thoughts in my mind?


I used to put a little dot on the wall and stare at that because I had much the same problem. This is kind of an unorthodox answer, though. I don't think Dogen would approve. But he's dead so we can't ask him what he thinks.

I'd say to try to work on this in terms of movement of the eyes. So rather than trying to stop thinking, maybe you can just try to stop your eyes from moving so much. I had some problems with twitching several years ago. I'd get a lot of random muscle twitches. My thumbs would jump up of their own accord and so forth.

I worked on that my waiting to see what happened when a muscle would jump. I didn't try to stop it from happening. Quite the opposite. I wanted it to happen so I could observe how it worked. I found that there was one specific state of mind that I'd go into just before the muscles would twitch. It's impossible for me to describe that state of mind. It was sort of foggy. That's all I can really say.

Anyhow, I found that I was able to avoid lapsing into that state. By avoiding that state of mind, I was able to stop the twitching.

I also found there was no real difference between what we call "voluntary" and what we call "involuntary" movement. That is, there was some aspect of what we usually call "voluntary" movement even in those movements we usually label as "involuntary." I never reached this level, but I would assume this is the kind of thing yogis who can slow down their heart rate or raise their body temperature at will do.

What is a "zen monk"?

I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that it may tend to incriminate me.

But really... what in gosh's name is a zen monk?

For me it's like this. I studied with a Zen teacher for several years. At some point he asked me to go through this weird ceremony called shukke (出家), which means "home leaving." There was also no "or else" element to his request. I could take it or leave it. But he thought it would be a good idea.

I wasn't interested in doing this stupid ceremony. But this was the first time Nishijima Roshi had ever given me any kind of unsolicited advise. He'd answered questions before this. But he'd never told me what he thought I should do. So I figured this must be important.

The ceremony itself was fairly painless. I felt vaguely silly for about 45 minutes and then I was done. After the ceremony I asked Nishijima if I was a monk. He said, "Yes you are a monk."

A couple years after that I decided on my own to do the more "official" shukke ceremony through the highly official Soto-shu organization, a gigantic evil religious institution in Japan (but with Nishijima Roshi officiating, since he is a card carrying member of Soto-shu). That ceremony was far more inconvenient and way more embarrassing. I had to shave my head! I looked like Nosferatu for two or three weeks while my hair grew back. It was also really hot the day I did it. And I had to wear these horrible ugly white pajama things and have my photo taken in them. It was pretty awful.

But having done that I can now really call myself a Zen monk. It's even written down on a piece of paper somewhere in an office in Japan, filed away with all the other dumbasses who've done that silly ceremony.

On the other hand, many people have argued that I am not a monk. Their definitions of what is and is not a monk are different.

Becoming a monk isn't something you can just do on your own. You can't just decide to call yourself as a monk and expect anyone to take you seriously. You have to go through some kind of social ceremony in which someone else declares you a monk. But once that happens, you're a monk.

Of course people still might say you're not a monk. But, to take me as just one example, if someone says I'm not a monk they've also got to say that everyone registered with the Soto-shu of Japan as a monk is also not a monk. And many people do say that. Or else they have to set up their own standards and say that some of those monks are monks while others are not. But these are both iffy positions because you're going up against a really big organization who, though they are evil, have a lot of respect. Which doesn't stop some people from doing so anyhow.

The extent to which you're taken seriously in the big wide world as a monk is determined by the extent to which the organization that gave you the designation is taken seriously in the big wide world. If, for example, Joe's Zen Palour in Ravenna, Ohio calls you a monk that probably won't carry as much weight as the Soto-shu of Japan calling you a monk.

This is the reason I did the Soto-shu ceremony. At the time, I thought it was important to be seen as a legit monk. I now place far less importance on the matter.

Still, I've done the ceremony. Actually these days I'm somewhat embarrassed by that fact. I'm not so sure I'd call it a mistake. But it's not something I would do now if I hadn't done it 12 years ago. For better or worse I am a monk and I'll be a monk for life unless I choose to renounce what I did all those years ago.

As for what it means to be a monk, which is probably your real question... that's a lot harder to say. For me it means I've made a public commitment to zazen practice. That's pretty much it. For others it means following a strict set of regulations. For still others it's a badge of identity.

But these are the only-est Monks who really matter!



ADDENDUM:

From the comments page-
@Brad, you wrote:
"But it's not something I would do now if I hadn't done it 12 years ago."

Can you give a reason? Or is it an emotional thing, being annoyed by the 'label' you are carrying with you since then?


I feel now like registering with Soto-shu was unnecessary. At the time I figured it was now or never. Meaning that while I was living in Japan in close conjunction with Nishijima Roshi, registering with Soto-shu would be relatively easy. I knew that if I waited and then later on decided to do it, the process would be extremely difficult. For example, if I waited till Nishijima Roshi was no longer with us there would have been a lot of bureaucratic steps involved that N was able to bypass. Or if I waited till I got back to America there would be the extra expense of going to Japan.

I'm not sure how much I benefited from the registration. It's likely that Wisdom Publications took my manuscript a tad more seriously because I was registered. But I think they would have considered my having been given dharma transmission by Nishijima Roshi enough.

I hope the distinction is clear. I did two almost identical ceremonies. One was with Nishijima Roshi in his dojo. That ceremony was not registered with Soto-shu. A few years later I went through almost the same ceremony but performed at Tokei-in temple. Again Nishijima officiated. But this time there were three monks from the temple in attendance, photos were taken, forms were filled out and mailed in and a few weeks later I got my certificate. With my name misspelled! So perhaps some guy named Bradely Warner is a Soto-shu monk while I am not.

I feel like the first ceremony with Nishijima at his dojo was my real ordination, while the second one was just a formality to get me on the books with an organization I have rarely interacted with since then.

I don't regret the ceremony with Nishijima. Although I'm still somewhat ambivalent as to what it really meant. The second ceremony with Soto-shu was something I did for pretty much all the wrong reasons. But I did it and it's done. I've done lots more regrettable things than that in my life.

Also, the dharma transmission ceremony was yet again a whole OTHER thing.

I could have had that formalized by Soto-shu as well. I looked into it. But it would have been really expensive (I think I worked it out that I'd have had to spend between $2000 and $5000 to get it all taken care of). It would also have been patently ridiculous.

One of the steps involved was to do this kind of Q&A session designed to check if I had truly mastered the dharma. BUT both the questions and their answers are already set. I'd have just had to memorize them and spit them out on cue.

Then you get to be honorary head of Soto-shu for a day or some shit. But you can't, like, disband the whole organization or decide to change everyone from black robes to pink tutus or whatever. Which would have made it worthwhile. No. You just get to sit in a special chair or something. Big deal. I'm not into that kind of nonsense. So I'm not gonna pay a couple thousand dollars to do it.

The whole thing just sounded like a parody of what Buddhism is really about.

222 comments:

1 – 200 of 222   Newer›   Newest»
Anonymous said...

Sorrow, Lamentation, Pain, Grief and Despair is not being #1.

Anonymous said...

I remember the first time I saw the hands twitch on our sangha President, a longer time practitioner than I. I was shocked, like my ideal of a still and perfect advanced person was shattered.

OMFG said...

"Sometimes it's a guy trying to be dogmatic about Zen"--- Brad Warner

ROFLMAO!!!!!

This...coming from Brad.

Brad Warner said...

Who is ROFLMAO? Is he a muppet?

Harry said...

Hi Brad,

When I recieved the Precepts it was put to me that I could call myself a 'monk' or a 'priest'. I had no wish to... well, I did for a while when I was all Buddha loved up and full of the dharma of self importance and all, but then it just seemed silly when life went on after a while...

Now, what tha bejeezub is with that? Maybe haven taken the precepts one can refer to oneself as an equivalent to 'unsui' or something? Both 'monk' and 'priest' seem like pretty crappy renderings of that nice word (containing as it does the idea that we will travel around to different teachers etc).

Regards,

Harry.

Broken Yogi said...

This is what a real zen monk looks like:

http://ridgewine.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/monk.jpg

Joe said...

Hey, my Zen Parlour is pretty darn nice!!!

Mónika Csapó said...

If someone does not like/ can not meditate, they can listen to Leonard Cohen instead :).For example to his song "Rivers of Dark". He used to be a Zen monk too.

Zippy Rinpoche said...

Who is ROFLMAO? Is he a muppet?

If you go carrying pictures of ROFLMAO, You ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow.
Don't you know it's gonna be, alright.
Don't you know it's gonna be, alright.

Rolling On Floor, Laughing My Ass Off

Zippy Rinpoche said...

If someone does not like/ can not meditate, they can listen to Leonard Cohen instead :).For example to his song "Rivers of Dark". He used to be a Zen monk too.

Or they can revel in the pure joy of washing their muu-muus at the laundromat! You'll never get FABULOUSLY RICH just by watching other people work.

Khru said...

You're reading these words that I typed in the past.

Mónika Csapó said...

ZR: of course i meant it so seriously word by word..I think it is a good song and even though it was a semi-ironic statement, this the exact problem with over-wise people, that they always want to tell others what to do and how to do it..

Why not starting to think about something by listening to a song with good lyrics and then being inspired to convert thoughts to action?? Do you have to immediately close yourself to a monastery for a two-weeks long retreat to be able to start to think about sg.?

Zippy Rinpoche said...

I am entirely serious about the laundromat. Vastly superior to any monastery.

boubi said...

Dogen was also an intellectual. ..... So his writing is full of contradictions.

I used to put a little dot on the wall ..... I don't think Dogen would approve. But he's dead so we can't ask him what he thinks.



Sensei rei!

Mónika Csapó said...

Ok, then I can watch people work.

boubi said...

Hi Brad

Who is the guy of the statue (in the picture)?

He holds a vajra, was he some tantric practitioner?

thanks

Zippy Rinpoche said...

Of course!

Monika said...

Thanks, I will send the money to the monastery for the laundromat after doing so!

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

Dennis is offering FREE workshops - for $25

http://bigmind.org/event/bmzintrofeb10

Grand Camel said...

$25?

Free is getting more expensive these days...

Anonymous said...

You too Khru ;0)

Anonymous said...

Joe's Zen Parlour. I wonder what kind of pizza they would serve...

But really I just wanted to share the HARDCORE HEART SUTRA song:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YJDWizDqT0

gniz said...

One of the email writers in Brad's post said, in part: "I have at least noticed that moving my eyes is connected to the flow of my thoughts."

This is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting things that's been written on this blog. Sadly it wasn't written by Brad, but still he put it up!

My teacher has often spoken of that connection and once I saw for myself how true it was, I became shocked that nobody else ever talked about it. I can literally watch someone go unconscious as their eyes begin to shift around and they become entangled in their thoughts.

By the way, it's possible to think and not get shifty-eyed, so the shifting eye thing seems more connected to getting "lost" in thought, imo.

I think it's an important thing to notice for myself, because part of my intention is to stay a bit more present and not get lost in thought quite as often. Being aware of this "eye shiftiness" helps, as do some other things.

Brad Warner said...

Good point Gniz! Thanks for noticing that. What's on the blog is both the question & the response I wrote back via email. I don't think I picked up on the aspect you saw. But it's definitely true.

Seagal Rinpoche said...

You are the source of all purity and impurity. No one purifies another.

Anonymous said...

Calgon, take me away!

Anonymous said...

"By the way, it's possible to think and not get shifty-eyed, so the shifting eye thing seems more connected to getting "lost" in thought, imo."

OK whatever. There are millions of reasons why people get "shifty eyed". That in itself doesn't tell you dick. If you ever met Brad in person you would know that he gets shifty eyed too. It doesn't mean a thing. Zen is a process... Remembering that it's a process is as mindful as you need to get.

Mark Foote said...

"I have a silly question. When meditating, I've read one is to be aware, and not much else. However, when thoughts calm down, what is one suppose to be aware of. I check posture. But is the mind suppose to settle on something. Or simply search out--thus disturbing the calm--something to be aware of. I don't know if there is an answer--non-thinking maybe it. But I'm not sure I truly understand non-thinking."

I think this is the whole thing in a nutshell, the mind doesn't have to settle on something to be somewhere.

My favorite lecture by Shunryu Suzuki:

'Sometimes when you think that you are doing zazen with an imperturbable mind, you ignore the body, but it is also necessary to have the opposite understanding at the same time. Your body is practicing zazen in imperturbability while your mind is moving.'

(Tassajara, June 28th 1970, from cuke.com)

I am fascinated by the relationship of the moving mind and the state of mind falling asleep or waking up. And the practice of being where I am, if you can call that a practice.

proulx michel said...

boubi said...

Who is the guy of the statue (in the picture)?
He holds a vajra, was he some tantric practitioner?


That's Kukai, who imported Vajra Buddhism in Japan in the 8th Century. Tokei-in was a Shingon monastery before it converted to Zen.

Anonymous said...

I lol'd because Brad really does remind me of Fry from Futurama. Particularly so, if the future were to be replaced by Japan setting.

Moni said...

Zippy R: start to be scared of yourself, because the money really came today :D....

anon #108 said...

The eyes-in-zazen thing is fascinating me these days, too. So many expressions relating to understanding, perception and awareness are vision-based: ‘insight’, (point of) ’view’, 'enlightenment'… and I don't believe these expressions are merely convenient metaphors. Above all other senses, vision is fundamental - even, in some way, to those blind from birth (I enjoyed the bits I read of Bryan Magee's book "On Blindness: Letters between Bryan Magee and Martin Milligan," - alternatively titled “Sight Unseen” - Oxford University Press, 1996). Lately much of my zazen has been occupied by noticing and testing aspects of my vision and awareness.


I’ve noticed the eye movement that goes with thinking that gniz, Brad and his emailer refer to, and in particular I’ve noticed that when I return from a period of being lost in thought I am no longer looking down but looking straight ahead or up. When I first noticed this I experimented with looking ahead or down and noticed that looking down while sitting makes thinking difficult, for me. I assume this has to do with the ways the eyes follow (left and right) brain activity and is no mystery. It would explain why looking down is recommended for those meditating with eyes open.

What is more interesting to me lately is this: Sitters report that loosing conscious awareness of oneself and one’s surroundings (awareness of self/other?) is accompanied by losing conscious visual awareness of the wall or whatever is in front of them. I assume this is universal. But there is also a state – or states - of conscious self/other awareness in which I can notice myself ‘drifting off’ into thought/daydream/fantasy and this is always the same state in which I am losing sharp focus of the piece of wall my vision has been directed at – Brad’s dot. This is so particular and specific that to lose focus on that dot/spot is to lose the willful, attentive awareness I assume is meant by the word “mindfulness”. So it has seemed to me that visual focus is a method of control and a measure of conscious awareness. A ‘problem’ for me is whether to make an effort to maintain such conscious awareness - to stay in the here/now - by not losing sight of what’s in front of me. It’s a problem because 1) I find it very difficult to maintain focus, 2) that’s not how I understand shikantaza; making a big effort to fight drifting off is not what I want to be doing, and 3) It doesn’t work very well - whether the sense that I can control my own state (free will) is an illusion or not, my attention will go and come back, go and come back.

I don’t think I’m looking for answers; what good would they do? I see this stuff as the reality of my zazen. Allowing whatwever to happen and sometimes noticing it (no special effort is needed to notice) is enough. But I am interestind in hearing about others experience of the visual in zazen.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting some footage of The Monks. Those guys rule.

ZIA said...

On December, 14th, 2011 group Pussy Riot has acted on a roof спецприемника №1 where arrested persons after the protest performances which have been last in early December after elections in the State Duma occur. The punk-group has sung a song « Death to prison, freedom to the protest » in which has called up citizens of Russia to grasp peacefully the areas and to release from prisons of political prisoners.

john e mumbles said...

From Mark West's transcripts from recorded talks of Nisargadatta Maharaj titled "Gleanings From N.M:"

The objects seen become you when you perceive them. (And you become the objects as well)

In other words, when you are conscious of looking at "the wall" it becomes YOUR wall you are looking at, your idea of a "you" looking at a "wall." This thought process pulls you away from raw awareness that precedes the thought and remains when the concept of both "you" and "wall" disappears.

And Mark (Foote) that transition between "awake" and "asleep" has been a focus for meditation for me for quite awhile. When I stop the thought process and simply be with the darkness that remains, eventually random images appear (seeds of dreams). There is a point between when you become aware of the transition. This is possible to "watch" waking up as well.

Lucius Bobikiewicz said...

@Brad
You wrote
But it's not something I would do now if I hadn't done it 12 years ago.

Can you give a reason? Or is it an emotional thing, being annoyed by the 'label' you are carrying with you since then?

boubi said...

proulx michel said...

That's Kukai, who imported Vajra Buddhism in Japan in the 8th Century. Tokei-in was a Shingon monastery before it converted to Zen.


Thanks

So it is the one you cited in the other forum.

Don't know why but i have sympathy for the vajra-thing people.

By the way do you know Gerald Epstein's book "Healing through visualization" (or similar).

What happened at switching from one practice to the other? What determined it? Some power struggle?

salut

anon #108 said...

Thanks for that, john e.

I've got a question: in your view, or Mark's or anyone else's, is there something special, something preferable or particularly valuable about one or other state; the state of self/other/wall-awareness, or the non-self/-other/-wall state of "raw awareness"?

Because some folks insist that one such state is a state of 'non-self' or 'one's true self' (= good), while the other state is a state of the illusory self, or an 'ego state' (= not so good) - - and such ideas mean nothing to me.

(Mark's and your remarks about states of wakefulness and sleep seem to me to be of a different kind - just observations, if I understand you right - and I don't have a problem with them.)

anon #108 said...

I mean -

"The objects seen become you when you perceive them. (And you become the objects as well)"

- is an interesting way of putting it, and I get it...but so what?

Brad Warner said...

@Brad, you wrote:
"But it's not something I would do now if I hadn't done it 12 years ago."

Can you give a reason? Or is it an emotional thing, being annoyed by the 'label' you are carrying with you since then?


I feel now like registering with Soto-shu was unnecessary. At the time I figured it was now or never. Meaning that while I was living in Japan in close conjunction with Nishijima Roshi, registering with Soto-shu would be relatively easy. I knew that if I waited and then later on decided to do it, the process would be extremely difficult. For example, if I waited till Nishijima Roshi was no longer with us there would have been a lot of bureaucratic steps involved that N was able to bypass. Or if I waited till I got back to America there would be the extra expense of going to Japan.

I'm not sure how much I benefited from the registration. It's likely that Wisdom Publications took my manuscript a tad more seriously because I was registered. But I think they would have considered my having been given dharma transmission by Nishijima Roshi enough.

I hope the distinction is clear. I did two almost identical ceremonies. One was with Nishijima Roshi in his dojo. That ceremony was not registered with Soto-shu. A few years later I went through almost the same ceremony but performed at Tokei-in temple. Again Nishijima officiated. But this time there were three monks from the temple in attendance, photos were taken, forms were filled out and mailed in and a few weeks later I got my certificate. With my name misspelled! So perhaps some guy named Bradely Warner is a Soto-shu monk while I am not.

I feel like the first ceremony with Nishijima at his dojo was my real ordination, while the second one was just a formality to get me on the books with an organization I have rarely interacted with since then.

I don't regret the ceremony with Nishijima. Although I'm still somewhat ambivalent as to what it really meant. The second ceremony with Soto-shu was something I did for pretty much all the wrong reasons. But I did it and it's done. I've done lots more regrettable things than that in my life.

Brad Warner said...

Also, the dharma transmission ceremony was yet again a whole OTHER thing.

I could have had that formalized by Soto-shu as well. I looked into it. But it would have been really expensive (I think I worked it out that I'd have had to spend between $2000 and $5000 to get it all taken care of). It would also have been patently ridiculous.

One of the steps involved was to do this kind of Q&A session designed to check if I had truly mastered the dharma. BUT both the questions and their answers are already set. I'd have just had to memorize them and spit them out on cue.

Then you get to be honorary head of Soto-shu for a day or some shit. But you can't, like, disband the whole organization or decide to change everyone from black robes to pink tutus or whatever. Which would have made it worthwhile. No. You just get to sit in a special chair or something. Big deal. I'm not into that kind of nonsense. So I'm not gonna pay a couple thousand dollars to do it.

The whole thing just sounded like a parody of what Buddhism is really about.

gniz said...

Anon 108 and Mumbles,

These are some great comments, and very helpful for me. This is the kind of discussion that I personally prefer and gravitate to, and why this blog is something I still come back to.

Because occasionally there are moments like this where you gain some real valuable insights regarding seldom discussed points of practice.

Anon, you asked is a particular state is preferable, and I have to say in my view there are preferable states.

I'm no Buddhist expert but I believe I've seen reference to Buddhists cultivating certain "positive" states over others so that these positive seeds are encouraged to grow. For instance, cultivating compassion and equanimity over greed and hate and anger.

This makes sense to me.

From a slightly different perspective, I think cultivating a state of presence where I am more clear and attentive to whatever is in front of me (be it a blank wall, a person, or a tv screen) is preferable to being lost in a negative fog of anger and delusional thinking.

I don't mean to say that I wholly try to stop such occurrences, and I'm not sure they can be stopped or that i would if I could. Rather, I aim to be present and relaxed more often because I find that my life improves and the lives of those around me are improved when I am more attentive and aware of my body and the things going on in this moment.

To me it's common sense. It's like asking, "is there something innately better about hugging and petting a dog rather than kicking it and punching it in the snout?"

You would never ask that question because it's so obvious that treating the dog well is preferable. Whereas the advantage of noticing the wall in front of you is not so clear. But over time, by paying more attention, I've found that there are very clear advantages to cultivating the state where I am noticing what is in front of me and staying with that experience rather than allowing myself to constantly become lost in thought and fantasies.

This has been my experience. The times where I cultivate a state of relaxed awareness (through breathing and focusing my attention on what's in front of me visually and through all my senses), are the times when I most enjoy my life, where I respond best to stressful and complicated situations, and where I am most pleasant and kind to myself and others.

So I for one believe that it is a preferable state to be in. However, that being said, many other states still come and go and I don't think they are bad or wrong. They seem natural in many ways. But a lot of that is also based on past conditioning, my childhood, how I handled stress in the past, etc.

Just my 2 cents. Great, great conversation though. please keep it coming!

gniz said...

And Brad, I'd love to get your take on this stuff as well. What's your thoughts on the difference between being present to seeing the wall vs just being?

I know you don't strive for anything other than posture for the most part, but still you've clearly noticed some of this type of thing in your practice.

Also, what about in daily life? Do you find that there is a preferable state to be in in terms of alertness and attention to what's in front of you?

Or anything else that you've noticed that might fit into this conversation?

anon #108 said...

What you just wrote, g, does go to the heart of the matter...the matter of the benefit or not of making an effort to maintain awareness (and we've had some interesting chats about it on your old blog).

I think all I can say about right now is that sometimes I'm trying and sometimes I'm not, from moment to moment. And I wonder to what extent I am in control of that - which is not in my experience a merely theoretical point.

So I don't doubt that conscious cultivation of what is considered beneficial (one translation of the Sanskrit word bhavana, also often translated as simply ‘meditation’) is valuable and can work. But I also believe – I think my own experience confirms it - that allowing whatever to happen, just sitting, is also valuable and can work in a transformative, beneficial way.

But the reality of it (my zazen) is neither one nor the other thing. Efforts of all sorts come and go - I don't believe I've ever experienced a session of zazen that's consisted of entirely effort-free daydreaming. And if such a thing were to happen I wonder what I could do about it? How would (the real?) "I" locate the 'aware I' that controls the 'daydreaming I' and bring it back to awareness? Fortunately, that’s not a problem I’ve ever had to solve, for something always brings me back here, and that's when I make another effort...whatever form it might take.

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

"when my zazen gets screwy I fix my posture. When it gets screwy again, I fix my posture again."

Thanks for the reminder.

john e mumbles said...

Thanks gniz, for your response to Anon 108 and my comments. Valid points, all. In my experience, it has to do with general equanimity. Neither one or the other is "better."

Recognizing (don't like this term -who recognizes what, how?... but, read on) the (seriously, for lack of a better way to say it and I don't like the next two words much either!! but for the sake of conversation:) raw awareness that is present as a conscious basis before the cognition of "you" and "the wall" come into view is the point. Usually it isn't recognized as being subtley present along with thoughts, because the stream of thoughts covers it up.

It remains when the concepts go away as 108 described as "loosing conscious awareness of oneself and one’s surroundings (awareness of self/other?)"

This is also what I was talking about before and why I linked it to the initial Nisargadatta Maharaj observation above when I described the in-between "state" or "stateless state" before going to sleep and just prior to waking up. You "catch it" IMO in those blank spaces when you drop body and mind, but really, you are "it" all the time prior to anything else arising that becomes an immediate distraction.

gniz said...

Thanks mumbles for the clarification. I suppose maybe I am not quite as far along in the journey because for me, I still have trouble finding that state prior to awareness of the self that you describe. Or at least I have trouble putting together how it fits in with what I really am at the core. Yet I do sort of get where you are coming from on this so maybe it's just a matter of time and experience to see it more and more.

anon #108 said...

JEM wrote:

...when the concepts go away as 108 described as "losing conscious awareness of oneself and one’s surroundings (awareness of self/other?)… [my mispelling corrected]

I'd love to let gniz believe that I'm talking about something that he has yet to experience, but I don't think I am. I was trying to describe the state when I'm not aware that I am here sitting in front of a wall - I'm not aware because I'm lost in thought/daydreaming. That’s all.

But there is another state: I am aware that I'm here, now, but I'm not thinking about or feeling anything in particular; I'm not making any effort, I’m just being here. I guess this is "raw awareness", or “body and mind dropped off”? And it’s nothing special. Perhaps becoming aware of it, noticing it, is. Although why that should be so I’m not sure.

you are "it" all the time prior to anything else arising that becomes an immediate distraction

See, I can't help but read that as a 'good thing', a better thing; the real thing; unconditioned or universal consciousness (for I'm sure what's what some people call it and think it is)... If that's not what you mean to imply, john e, then I get it.

Does any of that make any sense?

Does any of it matter?

There's value and benefit in just sitting quietly doing nothing in a stable, balanced way regardless of what's going on in your mental world, I think.

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

Correction. About this bit of jem's:

...you are "it" all the time prior to anything else arising that becomes an immediate distraction...

I wrote:

“See, I can't help but read that as ...the real thing; unconditioned or universal consciousness... If that's not what you mean to imply, john e, then I get it.”


But I don't think I do get it. Even if you're not saying that "it" is better than my usual experience, why would you say that I am that "all the time, prior to anything else..."? Where is this thing that is there all the time? That strikes me as a supposition about some metaphysical essence/true self. But what I am changes from moment to moment, no? Experience and evidence suggest it does.

Isn't this fun? :P

john e mumbles said...

I agree with your very last sentence, there, Malcolm, and I am NOT saying that "raw awareness" is anything special, a "good thing" or somehow otherwise unequal with "thinking."

"Does any of it matter?" Who knows!

anon #108 said...

(I wrote this before seeing your last post @ 11.59am, john e - for which, thank you. I'll post it anyway. No need to respond. I'm cool with talking to myself ;)) -


I mean - the fact that I am conscious/aware doesn't mean that "I" am "consciousness". That's just another conceptual model I might derive from my experience of my consciousness - and one without any meaning for me (although I once thought I'd 'known' it while imagining my experience of my own death).

john e mumbles said...

That's pretty good, when you leave aside the concept of "consciousness" along with everything else conceptual, that's "it" "not/it."

A-Bob said...

It seems if you do anything other than just sit, when you sit, you are engaged in trying to change something about yourself. You are trying to make a version of your self. Maybe into your idea of a 'good' Buddhist. Or you are trying to change that 'bad' Buddhist who day dreams and thinks stupid thoughts. However, when you sit and just sit, you are no longer what you were before anyway. Because by that action you are now transformed into something else. It is by your action alone that makes you what you are. So there is no need to try. I think the Buddha said that somewhere innit?

CAPTCHA : sorap : I kid you not

john e mumbles said...

Inscription on Charles Bukowski's tombstone:

"Don't Try"

gniz said...

See, this is where I seem to part company with some of you in a pretty major sense. When it comes to the entire notion that "there is nothing to try to do" or "trying doesn't help" or "who is it that tries (and do we even have the free will to do so)?"

I'm paraphrasing a basic premise that continually comes up when discussing meditation and awareness.

I tend to think that this is sort of a mental block. If we were all learning to play baseball, and a good coach was teaching us how to hit a ball with a bat, you would NEVER EVER EVER say this stuff.

We all admit that in the real world we all TRY to do things all of the time and there's nothing wrong with that. We don't sit there and argue with our hitting coach if there is a ball to hit or whether our swing improves on its own, etc etc.

Why do we turn meditation and awareness into something different than any other skill to be practiced? I don't think it is very different.

When Anon 108 talks about coming and going and how it feels like its something that happens out of his control, my response is that if you were learning to hit a baseball correctly, you'd likely experience the same feeling. At times you'd do all the right mechanics and still shit would go awry. That's why big league hitters sometimes go through very long slumps where they can't hit to save their lives.

Practice in all areas of life is about understanding that growth and change and understanding is incredibly slow, arduous, and its at the pace of water dripping on rock. But you stay disciplined and you study the techniques and you keep working at it.

I know that I am more aware and relaxed on average now than I was fifteen years ago or even ten years ago. My progress has been slow but I have in fact learned some things and understood a few small things. To pretend that its all just a matter of sitting around and waiting for shit to happen is I think being disingenuous about this process.

My teacher once said this process is just nuts and bolts, its not magic or superstition or even religion. its basic body mechanics (and maybe mind mechanics too). But its very, very real, as real as hitting a baseball.

If you don't cop to that, my feeling is you haven't been doing it right. :)

(BTW I know I sounded very certain when I wrote all of the above, but actually it's mostly conjecture)

gniz said...

BTW even in golf there is a saying about "letting the swing happen" or "allowing it to happen" but at the same time, golfers don't honestly believe that they're not at some level using technique and practice and ability.

The allowing thought is a way of relaxing and letting go and it shouldn't be taken too seriously imo.

Korey said...

Bradely,

Would you recommend that people who don't have money or access to a retreat dedicate a full day or weekend to intensive sitting?

anon #108 said...

I understand what you're saying, g. I just want to repeat something I wrote earlier:

"But the reality of it (my zazen) is neither one nor the other thing [trying or not trying]. Efforts of all sorts come and go - I don't believe I've ever experienced a session of zazen that's consisted of entirely effort-free daydreaming...something always brings me back here, and that's when I make another effort...whatever form it might take."

So I am not saying there's no effort to make or that I don't make any effort. My teacher once said that zazen is not effort aimed at some particular result, but is making effort for the sake of making effort. Or as Mike Cross wrote recently, "There is trying to be mindful and there is mindfulness of trying." I think I know what they're talking about.

anon #108 said...

...john e and A-Bob may see it differently. But however we all see it, we all seem to be doing it sincerely. Perhaps that's all that matters.

gniz said...

Like I said Anon, this is mostly conjecture anyway. I'm sort of just baiting, but I also do believe it when it comes to how I approach practice.

I think people in a sense take the whole Non-trying thing way too seriously. Especially Mike Cross. he's made it into his mantra and his mission statement and his golden rule all rolled into one.

I don't think there's anything wrong with trying, and I also don't think there's anything wrong with letting go and allowing. There's certainly a yin/yang process, but why do Soto Buddhists focus ONLY on one side of the coin?

john e mumbles said...

The motto of Paschal Beverly Randolph was "Try!"

Anonymous said...

Brad, if not a Zen monk, would you consider yourself a hipster? You certainly seem to be trendy, and in the know.

Anonymous said...

I like how Jundo Cohen mocks breath counting as WRONG. Not different. Wrong.

gniz said...

Anon, I've never read Jundo saying that breath counting is wrong, but he has stated that he thinks (like many Zen folk) it is a beginner's practice, akin to training wheels.

I've also seen him say that its not shikantaza which is what Jundo teaches at Treeleaf. never heard him refer to it as wrong.

Not defending Jundo or anything, just never saw him say those words

Anonymous said...

Question for you guys (even you, Brad):

Does anyone have a recommendation for a zabuton? Any online links you'd recommend?

I've been on my cushion at home for years with a towel under my legs. Works but not as well as sitting on a zafu/zabuton combination.

Thanks in advance, guys.

Cidercat said...

Regarding eyesight, it's interesting to me that neurological based sports/therapeutic systems (I'm thinking of Z-Health) put vision first, and that simple visual exercises can be used successfully to cure physical problems including (apparently unrelated) pain. The eyes take the lead and everything else follows - look down, and you encourage flexion; look up, and the opposite follows.
I seem to approach clarity in my sitting when I allow my gaze to settle gently but keenly on a target, like a tiger eyeing its prey amusedly. Flitting of the eyes accompanies dreams. Have you ever looked into someone's eyes when they were talking to you behind a shield. There is a shock!

Anonymous said...

Gotta agree with Gniz, Anon. I've seen Jundo diminish (perhaps) breath counting by calling it a beginner's practice, but I've never seen him call it "wrong."

anon #108 said...

While we’re setting the record straight…

Re Mike Cross, all things are in flux:

"..."mindfulness" [as a translation of the Sanskrit smRti] has the advantage of challenging a certain just-fucking-do-it Zen prejudice against "mindfulness practice" -- a prejudice that I have readily embraced in the past."

- from a recent reply by MC to a comment of mine on his blog.

gniz said...

Cidercat,

Very interesting stuff about eyesight. I was thinking earlier about boxers. I'm a big fan of that brutal, awful sport for reasons I won't bother to defend here.

But one of the things I've noticed about the great boxers such as Floyd Mayweather--the guy is so RELAXED in the ring. And if you watch his eyes, they're just still and watching his opponent closely.

The best fighters tend to be the guys who fight very "loose", very at ease in there, but also ready to strike and exert a tremendous amount of energy in a milliseconds notice.

I think there's a way to relate this to my life. Life can be stressful and intense and occasionally scary. But like a fight in the ring, being anxious and jittery isn't helpful, it just wastes energy. Getting lost in thoughts and fantasies (although unavoidable at times, and also fun at times) isn't necessarily the most helpful thing either.

Being relaxed and at ease, relatively still and yet ready to act with full intensity when necessary. This is how I like to emulate a fighter in my daily life. However I don't punch anybody, I just take a breath and let it out.

anon #108 said...

anon @5.26 -

I can't give you any tips about zabutons. Like you, I haven't got one. I put my zafu on the carpet and that's that. A zabuton would be nice though.

gniz said...

Anon 108, Interesting about MC.

You're right, everything is in flux. It would be interesting to see what he would bring to the table if he affixed mindfulness with his tremendous focus and intensity.

Anonymous said...

I grew up boxing, Gniz. Hi.

I had over 110 fights between amateur and pro fights.

For all the rounds you see on TV or whatever, there are hundreds or thousands of rounds of sparring in the gym. You become totally relaxed and non-thinking during all of that sparring. No thoughts, no words. Just flowing and reaction. Always.

Eyes on the other guy's chest, in a line from shoulder to shoulder. Soft and relaxed, taking it all in without really processing what you're doing.

gniz said...

Hey Anon! Thats really impressive that you boxed for so long, thank you for the input. I never trained as a boxer, the closest I ever came was going to a gym and hitting the bag a couple of times. I'm way too wimpy to train as a fighter, and now I'm too old as well. :)

However, I figured that what you say is true. I know the amount of practice that goes into being an elite level fighter is just insane, just hours and hours and hours until its down to the very fibre of your being. Just action and reaction at its purest level.

Part of why I love the sport.

I do think it has something to teach me. One of those things it can teach is that you can't react properly if you don't look properly. Life is like that too.

Best.

Anonymous said...

Satori is not any sort of "state" of mind, anon 108. Watching various mindstates come and go you might see the source..which is not any particular state.

Anonymous said...

Jundo says

We can count the breaths, for example, counting from 1 to 10 at each inhalation and exhalation, then coming back to one and starting all over when we reach ten (which we rarely do) or lose track. Or we can simply follow the breath without counting, for example, observing effortlessly as it enters and exits the nose. These are excellent practices, and will calm the mind (itself a form of Shikantaza that some people pursue, even for a lifetime!). HOWEVER, for reasons I will discuss, I recommend such practices only as temporary measures for true beginners with no experience of how to let the mind calm at all, or others on those sometime days when the mind really, really, really is upset and disturbed.

http://www.treeleaf.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=41798#p41798

gniz said...

I totally disagree with Jundo's characterization of breath counting/paying attention to the breath.

But his take is very common among zen practitioners and soto practitioners from what I've seen around these parts.

So, thats just...like...his opinion man.

I really do think he's full of it, though.

sssd said...

Gniz,

Why do you disagree? (I think it's good advice for both beginners and old yogis having a bad day, btw.)

So I'm really curious - what're your thoughts?

Mark Foote said...

Hey, all, & hi John, great thread in many respects for me. I realized as I was reading that I've been privy to a conversation on the side, an old friend writing me about his contact with a psychic from Oregon. The psychic believes everything he does can be taught, and the basis of it is the initial nonverbal perception of something, and cultivating an ability to correctly describe what was perceived and ascribe meaning to it. I hope my description is accurate. Sort of like Cheng Man-Ch'ing's "stage of heaven": listening to energy, interpreting energy, perfect clarity- in some way.

I'm also reflecting on the Tibetan practice of retreat. They apparently sit in a box at night, so that they can't lie down. I slept sitting up in a comfy chair for about six months once upon a time, and I think that's where I learned that falling asleep and waking up involve the same thing. I am as you all know possessed of the notion now that what that thing is can be described as being where I am, my physical sense of location in space.

Works neatly for the riddle of why, if everyone has Buddha nature, does a person have to practice. However, it really only works neatly if a person has already trained at catching the perceptions that take place waking up and falling asleep, like the psychic (not claiming to be psychic).That's my conclusion.

The real strength is tenacious, ligamentous. Only by completely relaxing can action generated by the stretch of ligaments be realized, and that action generates an alignment of the spine that opens an ability to feel. That's why they talk about chi extending to the skin and hair. I think there's more than one meaning to practicing like my hair is on fire.

At this point, if I can't wake up, I'm going to fall asleep; if I can't fall asleep, I'm going to wake up. Sounds good, doesn't it?- have to say I'm not the horse that runs with no whip at all, at this time, and I feel very fortunate that I've been left to learn to feel my way out of my numbness gradually. I only lately notice that maybe there's happiness associated with a place of mind, but I think it's better that I not do anything in particular about that. Don't believe I have to, don't believe I can, still going to pull me along (the tissue memory).

anon #108 said...

Satori is not any sort of "state" of mind, anon 108. Watching various mindstates come and go you might see the source..which is not any particular state.

I don't much like the word "state", but that's not your point, is it?

I might see "the source"? Is that what it is?

anon #108 said...

Hi Cidercat,

The eyes take the lead and everything else follows - look down, and you encourage flexion; look up, and the opposite follows.

One of the Sanskrit words for 'eye' is netra, 'leader'. Anyway...

Having once seen a photo of myself sitting with my head bent forward and down - I thought I'd been sitting straight and upright - I now make a point of looking naturally straight ahead when I sit. I then lower my gaze a little (I guess by something like the recommended 45 degrees), without lowering my head. Having adjusted to sitting that way, it feels better.

john e mumbles said...

Anonymous at 5:26 PM looking for zafu/zabuton info:

I used to sit full lotus, flat on the floor. Before that, legs tucked under sitting on my heels sufi-style (or at least the branch I was initiated into's style) on a thin rug.

A couple years back my wife got me a zafu and zabuton which are now parked directly in front of a blank wall upstairs. I sit 1/2 lotus with this arrangement.

All of the above works for me, but if you are intent on going with the z/z combo, I had used many different kinds depending on where I was sitting and with whom (I've been a shameless dabbler in many diff. paths) and find the ones I have at home to be the very best I've used.

The zafu is buckwheat-hull filled, which I prefer to kapok, although the zabuton is kapok-filled and very comfy.

But to each his own, if possible, try out different ones and see what works best for you.

Anonymous said...

Good morning, John E. Thanks for your answer.

I've always found the combo at the zen center to be the most agreeable for my body. I've sort of simulated it with the cushion/folded towels, but I think the zabuton would do better than the folded towels, as it would provide more cushioning.

Hmmmmm.... maybe I could ask the director of the zen center where they get theirs. Don't know why that I'm just thinking of that now, but your reply and my reply to your reply helped me think it through to that point. Thanks!

gniz said...

SSSd,

you asked why I disagree with Jundo's characterization of counting breaths/watching the breath for beginners only or yogi's having a bad day.

I disagree because I think that putting this practice of watching or noticing the breath on a "lower" level shows a real lack of understanding.

For some people (myself included), watching/understanding the breath is a lifelong practice. And I know from my years of focusing on it how much depth there is to it, how many layers there are, and how it interconnects with virtually everything else in my body and my life.

So when a teacher such as Jundo calls it strictly a "beginner's practice," he not only diminishes a very important technique, I feel he also shows his own ignorance and lack of insight. Of course, I think he shows that in any number of ways, but this particularly sticks in my craw.

Most people who say breath watching is for beginners seem to me to be people who haven't spent much time on the practice and don't have a clue just how intricate and rewarding it can be, nor how little control or understanding they themselves have over their breath and their minds and their lives.

Breathing is connected directly to thinking, to heart rate, to blood pressure, and is vital to all of our functioning as a living being. There's a reason that breathing is emphasized in yoga and almost all physical activities such as singing, running, etc.

And yet people really don't understand it, and many experienced meditators are just ignorant about it and pooh-pooh it as something to be gotten past.

sssd said...

Gniz, oh I see. And yes I agree with you. I think the 'counting 1-10' is what I saw as a useful device for beginners or to reconnect with the breath. Now rereading what Jundo wrote I can see that he also seems to refer to breath awareness as a beginner's practice. Yeah, I'd disagree with that too.

Bob said...

"The extent to which you're taken seriously in the big wide world as a monk is determined by the extent to which the organization that gave you the designation is taken seriously in the big wide world"

This is true for all designated experts. This is why people pay $50,000 year to get educated at Harvard instead of going to a Big10 school for $15,000. They are paying for institution cache'.

MIT, Yale and others are now giving away their education on their web sites. Google 'open course ware mit", and you'll find thousands of free classes, the same classes that undergrads are taking.
So why pay? Because you want the credential of the institution, what i call Institution Cache'. The same as being a made-man in the mafia. Lots of hoodlums, but only some are MadeMen Hoodlums.

In the 21st century, all information is free. So why pay for info if you can get it for free? It's for business reasons. I won't go to a surgeon who claims he understands the body because he read "Surgery For Dummies". But i will go to a Board Certified Surgeon who graduated from UOfMichican Med School.
The certification is for business reasons. Any person can claim any thing. So, people rely on the institution to uphold standards, which helps the rest of us find capable medical pros from quacks.

So Brad, you're now a capable Zen pro, not a quack.

buddy said...

Here's what Dogen had to say about counting/following the breath:
"In our zazen, it is of primary importance to sit in the correct posture. Then, regulate the breathing and calm down. In Hinayana, there are two elementary ways (of beginner's practice): one is to count the breaths, and the other is to contemplate the impurity (of the body). In other words, a practitioner of Hinayana regulates his breathing by counting the breaths. The practice of the buddha-ancestors, however, is completely different from the way of Hinayana. An ancestral teacher has said, “It is better to have the mind of a wily fox than to follow the way of Hinayana self-control.” Two of the Hinayna schools (studied) in Japan today are the Shibunritsu (the precept school) and the Kusha (the school based on Abhidharma-kosa).

"There is also the Mahayana way of regulating breathing. That is, knowing that a long breath is long and that a short one is short. The breath reaches the tanden and leaves from there. Although the exhalation and inhalation are different, they both pass through the tanden. When you breathe abdominally, it is easy to become aware of the transciency (of life), and to harmonize the mind.

"My late teacher Tendo said, “The inhaled breath reaches the tanden; however, it is not that this breath comes from somewhere. For that reason, it is neither short nor long. The exhaled breath leaves from the tanden; however, it is not possible to say where this breath goes. For that reason, it is neither long nor short.” My teacher explained it in that way, and if someone were to ask me how to harmonize one's breathing, I would reply in this way: although it is not Mahayana, it is different from Hinayana; though it is not Hinayana, it is different from Mahayana. And if questioned further regarding what it is ultimately, I would respond that inhaling or exhaling are neither long nor short."

The way this objection has been explained to me by my teahcer is that, as long as any specific object is being chosen for awareness, the ego is still running the shots. As opposed to shikantaza, where awareness is allowed to go where it will, and the only effort is to open to this simple presence whenever thinking takes over (perhaps by focuing on the posture or the breath briefly but only to reconnect with reality).

Samya said...

about eye movement: it's never possible to stop it. It's going to drive you insane! The thing is that, in shikantaza, you are just aware of things happening around you, the moment you try to relax anything, it's off. During walking, however, try to be aware of bodily fidgeting and try to keep your gaze straight. But in sitting practice, it's far better if you gaze straight ahead (not above or below) and maintain awareness of out-breaths, relaxing during in-breaths. After a while, you find you are in shikantaza and you drop the technique.
Another thing worth telling is that, you're never going to progress in meditation as long as you do it like crazy, thinking it's a solution to your problems. Taking life seriously and deeply, and going through real life-experiances and disappointments slow down your mind. You've got to drop your craze for enlightenment. Ultimately, sitting practice is pointless. You're never going to progress until you give up doing the practice seriously. Or else, it might take you, like, even fifty years! Taking life seriously and emotionally deeply as an ends to itself is the real thing. That's what sitting is for.

gniz said...

Hi Buddy. Thanks for chiming in with a very thoughtful post. In part, you said: "The way this objection has been explained to me by my teahcer is that, as long as any specific object is being chosen for awareness, the ego is still running the shots."

I guess I just don't really follow that logic. What does it mean for my ego to call the shots? Is your ego calling the shots when you decide to sit on a zafu? Or when you straighten your posture? Even by allowing awareness to do something, you indicate that you are somehow in control of awareness whereby you can either "let it" roam (as in shikantaza) or not let it roam but somehow tether it (as in focused attention on the breath).

Firstly, I don't see how one is better than the other. Secondly, I don't see how you can remove the ego in one circumstance but not the other. In both cases YOU are somehow deciding how to allow your awareness to "behave." This seems like the ultimate ego trip, when conceptualized in such a way.

I don't think of it that way at all. In my perspective, when I sit and relax right now, I am finding a way to pay attention to this moment, to my body and mind as a whole, and to let myself be more in accordance with what is natural and healthy. Whether or not my ego calls the shots isn't really in my frame of reference.

If my ego is involved, it's involved. If my ego is not involved, it's not. Paying attention is what's important. If my ego is paying attention, great!

gniz said...

"Taking life seriously and emotionally deeply as an ends to itself is the real thing."

Maybe I am misunderstanding but I find that the most "serious" people get it the very least.

My teacher is usually joking and laughing and lighthearted, enjoying his time on this earth. When I am doing similarly, I find that I appreciate my life more as I pay attention to this experience right now.

buddy said...

Hi gniz. I see your point on the ego thing. Do you follow a particular path, soto or rinzai, or something else? Just wondering, from your comments here I'm thinking its not zen at all, not that it matters.

gniz said...

Hi Buddy. You are correct that I am not Zen at all. I have no lineage and my teacher is just some old guy with no certification or lineage other than to me, he is the "sanest" most aware and conscious being I've had the pleasure of meeting so far in my life

buddy said...

Gniz, 1st off, whoever posted as 'buddy' at 12:07 is not me, the buddy who posted at 11:23. Not sure why someone would do that, but whatever...

Perhaps the word 'ego' is problematic. What I meant was that part of our consciousness which introduces any sort of conceptual thinking, with a tendency to compartmentalize, judge, label, etc.; breaking up its experience of reality into bits and pieces in order to make it less painful, more manageable etc. By picking one aspect of awareness to be present to, the breath or whatever, this aspect of consciousness is still being engaged in a fairly constant manner. In shikantaza, it is only engaged in a 'self-defeating' way: to recognize when it is taking over and then to let itself become as 'thin' as possible, allowing awareness to arise naturally.

Forgive my inaccurate way of explaining this. I do know from my own experience that when I hold onto the breath or some other pre-decided aspect of awareness, there is a subtle tension and sense of constriction. Even if the sensation of the breath fills my consciousness, there's still a fairly pronounced sense of a 'me' who is separate from the breath actively doing something. If I just sit there, this sense of 'me' more regularly and easily blends into the sensations of whatever is going on. If what you do is helpful and enjoyable, then great. I just wanted to give a particular soto view on the subject.

gniz said...

Hey Buddy (or Buddy #2),

Thanks, that does make sense to me.

Keith Suranna said...

Hey gniz,

I have a few questions about your practice, but I'd rather not ask them here. I didn't see any contact info on your blog. Any way I can contact you?

Thanks.

gniz said...

Hi Keith,

Yeah, you can contact me at literarysnark@gmail.com.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Cidercat said...

For whatever reason, this has been one of the most interesting comment sections I've come across. Fascinating stuff.

I sit half lotus. The problem I find with it though, is that it is asymmetrical, and I think I end up curving my spine to the side a little.

buddy said...

Cidercat, you should be able to balance pretty evenly if you keep shifting around. At any rate, just alternate whichever leg is on top every sitting, that will even things out in the long run.

Cidercat said...

I dunno, I've been at it 20 years and I'm still not sure! Oh well :)

Rae said...

What does Brad mean "when his zazen gets screwy?"

Joe Doe Shiny Shoes said...

Honen and Shinran made Zen obsolete.

Mysterion said...
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Mysterion said...
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Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

How many Zen masters does it take to screw in a light bulb? The plum tree in the garden!

Ok I'm a silly person. Can someone explain that joke to me? I don't get it.

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

Alright, goddamit, who woke up Mysterion?

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

MYSTERION:

Can you not see how your posts TAKE AWAY from the discussion?

They RUIN the discussion.

A-Bob said...

Hi Gniz. I'm guessing your teacher might have some background that you are not aware of. Theravada? I also think it's possible that you might have misunderstood my "not trying" comment. I Am trying to sit properly in a certain tradition but That is all. I don't have a goal because I don't know what that could mean in a Buddhist context. You said you know that you are more aware than you were fifteen years ago and you attribute that to your practice. Maybe so.. I can't say. But maybe it has more to do with maturation. You also seem to think we are all trying to get somewhere in our practice. That's not always true. I'm more interested in letting go certain habits than adding skill sets. But I always like hearing what you have to say.

CAPTCHA : insider : I kid you not.

Mark Foote said...
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Mark Foote said...

The bit about someone who feels setting up mindfulness of inhalation and exhalation is not at the heart of the teachings of the Gautamid should look at the chapter "Intent Concentration on In-Breaths and Out-Breaths" in the Samyutta Nikaya volume 5. There Gautama the Buddha declares a particular setting up of mindfulness of inhalation and exhalation to have been his practice both before and after his enlightenment.

At the same time, I've heard that Reb Anderson at Green Gulch no longer advises mindfulness of inhalation and exhalation as a practice. I guess that's different from saying it's a beginner's practice that should be left behind.

"I do know from my own experience that when I hold onto the breath or some other pre-decided aspect of awareness, there is a subtle tension and sense of constriction. Even if the sensation of the breath fills my consciousness, there's still a fairly pronounced sense of a 'me' who is separate from the breath actively doing something. If I just sit there, this sense of 'me' more regularly and easily blends into the sensations of whatever is going on."- buddy

That sense of blending into the sensations of whatever is going on, there's equanimity and things unseen and unheard in that, for me.

I figure that consciousness is placed by the pulmonary respiration and the cranial-sacral respiration, as a function of well-being. Action out of well-being is initiated through the place of occurrence of consciousness, and feeling, that's my experience.

samya said...

hi gniz, you are right in saying about the whole ego trip thing. In truth, any attempt to achieve anything during zazen is an ego trip, whether it is steady eyes, blank mind or anything. I have found that gazing ahead while maintaining awareness of outbreaths then dropping it periodically works fine. You can't really pinpoint a "correct zazen method" because there is no pre-marked spoonfed guideline to live. One needs to accept that.
And of course you need to enjoy. that is what I mean by living emotionally deeply. Of course, you need to pull off your resistance to the sadness too. And the sadness does exist too. Seriously means whole-heartedly.

boubi said...

Mark Foote said...
in the Samyutta Nikaya volume 5. There Gautama the Buddha declares a particular setting up of mindfulness of inhalation and exhalation to have been his practice both before and after his enlightenment.


Do you have a link to the actual text?

thanks

anon #108 said...
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anon #108 said...

The very first time I sat (for about 5 minutes, inspired by "The Three Pillars of Zen") I tried to "just sit". But noticing, I think for the first time, how my mind needed something to engage with, to think about (or so it seemed to me then), I started to count my breaths. I was surprised to find that I would rarely get beyond 3 or 4 before forgetting where I was up to. This revelation convinced me there was something useful in meditation; something lacking in me that I could fix.

But I stopped counting breaths after a couple of weeks. Although I'd read that shikantaza was for experienced adepts only I had got a little further along with counting, though not by much, and so I declared myself an experienced adept and moved on. I'm impatient.

So for the past few years I've just sat. But a couple of weeks ago - I can't recall why - I decided to see if my few years of shikantaza had had any affect on my counting skills. The last time I'd counted I remember getting up to 10 once or twice, but hardly ever could I do two rounds in a row. This time I counted to 10 and counted to 10 again five times. Satisfied that I could have carried on counting, I decided enough was enough.

I'm not saying anything about the value of counting or following breaths as a practice. I'm just saying that a few years of just sitting without making any particular effort with any specific kind of mindfulness practice appears to have improved my powers of concentration...at least as far as breath-counting goes.

Joe Doe Shiny Shoes said...

Mysterion,

Shin is NOT Christianized Buddhism.

Thich Nhat Hanh's writings ARE Christianized Buddhism. He seems to understand his target audience.

What you wrote indicates that either you don't understand Christianity or you don't understand Buddhism.
Or both. It's probably both.

Stop trying to mislead and confuse people with your inaccurate "knowledge". That goes double for "yourself".

Fred said...

I'm a Booda chile
Lord knows I'm a Booda chile
Nembutsu, baby
Breathe in, breathe out
The ego and the ineffable
Living side by side

Anonymous said...

Anapanasati Sutta discourse summary...

The Buddha states that mindfulness of the breath, "developed and repeatedly practiced, is of great fruit, great benefit." and Ultimately, it can "lead to clear vision and deliverance."

It is the first of four Foundations of Mindfulness. 1. Breath discerning development. 2. Contemplation of the Feeling 3. Contemplation of the Mind 4. Contemplation of the Mental Objects (dhamma)
Focusing on impermanence
Focusing on dispassion
Focusing on cessation
Focusing on relinquishment

So in reading the handy Wiki summary of the Anapanasati Sutta, it seems to suggest that the practice is meant to prepare one for other practices. Kind of like stretching before a race.

gniz said...

Just wanted to say that I have enjoyed greatly reading everyone's responses and thoughts on these topics.

By the way, I do realize that there is plenty of value in how everyone is meditating, each of us in our own way. My belief is that if someone practices shikantaza or mindfulness or yoga or whatever it is, very sincerely and with great determination--they will benefit greatly from it.

I don't seek to make anyone on here believe that my way is best. And for the record, I don't count breaths as my meditation. I do try to make my inhalations and exhalations even and relaxed (sometimes more deliberately and precisely than other times).

Also, my teacher is not from a buddhist background. He spent some time with Osho (who most people believe was a fake and a nutcase), but he rarely refers to Osho in my dealings with him. He seems to mostly refer to his own experiences and experimentation and what works for him, which has been breathing and paying attention.

Based on the time I've known him and my own experimentation, I am in agreement with his methods.

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

Oh geez gniz! You went to shake hands with Mike Cross but he was wearing a buzzer!

Nice try. I think you get the merit on that one with your dignified followup.

_/|\_

anon #108 said...

Although I've not seriously practised either, I imagine that breath counting and Anapanasati style 'mindfulness of the breath' must be two quite different practices with quite different benefits. To attempt to define, evaluate and compare those benefits strikes me as a bit of a mug's game.

But I do think it’s worthwhile to make a sincere effort to formulate one’s thoughts even if nothing is clarified for, or learnt by, others. The mindfulness of trying - making an effort for the sake of making an effort – is surely more valuable than prevailing in a debate.

proulx michel said...

Boubi asked

"do you have a link to the actual text?"

It's the Arittha Sutta, Samyutta 54.6

It says (amongst the rest)
The Blessed One said, "And how, Arittha, is mindfulness of in-&-out breathing brought in detail to its culmination? There is the case where a monk, having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building, sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect, and setting mindfulness to the fore.[2] Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out.

"[1] Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' [2] Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.' [3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.'[3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' [4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.'[4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'


According to how I get it and also to the teachings of Nishijima, this does not mean that you have to set your mindfulness to breathing, because this is precisely what Arittha says he does, and the Buddha tells him he's got it slightly wrong. It says that, when you're there, you realise that your breath is what it is. Which is not the same as concentrating upon it.

gniz said...

Hey Anon 108,

Agreed. Sometimes formulating our own thoughts and speaking in a forum just allows us to better clarify to ourselves, if nobody else, what we feel and think right now.

Captcha: Shiat

shiat, thats a cool captcha

anon #108 said...

I don't think anyone's given a link to the full text of the Anapanasati Sutta yet? Here's one:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.118.than.html


(pm - That's an interesting interpretation. I'm going to read the sutta again and see if how you and Gudo hear it makes sense to me.)

gniz said...

I read the Anapanasati Sutta, and got something different from it than MP. But is MP talking about something altogether different? He calls it by a differing title...

Anyhow, this is why interpretations of texts are so different from person to person. We all read it from the angle and perspective that jives with our beliefs and experiences and what we want to do anyhow. Seldom does it actually CHANGE our course in a meaningful way. Rather we use it to reaffirm what we already think.

anon #108 said...

Hmm. I dunno, g.

Here's the Arittha Sutta;

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn54/sn54.006.than.html

- which seems to be contained in, or a part of, the Anipanasati Sutta. I gather these kind of repetitions/copyings are fairly common in the old Suttas. I'm no expert.

buddy said...

Gniz: That's for sure. In the footnote for this section of the sutra 'There is the case where a monk, having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building, sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect, and setting mindfulness to the fore.[1] Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out.', the commentator states that 'to the fore' is usually understood as the front of the chest. Which would affirm mindfulness of breathing as key. Whereas he also notes it could be more metaphorical (and this is how the zennies I've read see it), as in, 'setting mindfulness as the most important thing', with the breathing in and out just a part of the general mindfulness.

anon #108 said...

...And yes to the bit about using things to reaffirm.

boubi said...

Another silly question, even not related to this subject. Feel free not to answer.

Once become Buddha, Gautama Siddharta, declared that the realization of the dharma brings:
- end of suffering from (fear of) illness
- end of suffering from (fear of) ageing
- end of suffering from (fear of) death
... correct me where i'm wrong

I don't remember to have read anything of this kind in recent posts, i've read about "becoming a slightly better person" (which is good), or that things seem slightly brighter, slightly more beautifull.

I'm i missing something somewhere?

anon #108 said...

In Sanskrit, and in Pali -

pari means around, about.

mukham means the mouth, often generalised to mean the face.

So, for example, in the word unmukham:

ud,- (same as un-) means up, on, or over.

mukham means the mouth or face.

So unmukham means towards, ie raising, the face: looking up or at (someone/something).

So parimukham, before sectarian interpreters get hold of it, simply means 'towards the front' - as the footnote says.

All that from my understanding of the terms in Sanskrit. The terms are the same in Pali, but whether context (the footnote reference to the Vinaya) has any relevance here I couldn't say.

Don't mind me. There's nothing much on the telly...

anon #108 said...

Make that:

parimukham (before sectarian etc...) simply means 'towards the front' or, more literally, 'round/about the face'.

anon #108 said...

...Or even just 'around/about (someone/something)'.

no one fancy a heated debate about any of that?

buddy said...

108, why not up the ante and unpack 'mindfulness' while you're at it? ;)

anon #108 said...

Funny you should mention mindfulness, buddy! Sanskrit-etymology-wise 'mindfulness' isn't that much of a problem:

http://nothingbutthelifeblood.blogspot.com/2012/01/what-is-mindfulness-1.html

(and subsequent and previous posts).


You might also find this interesting :

http://www.dogensangha.org.uk/PDF/onemoon.pdf

boubi said...

To Michoux ;-)

My understanding from reading around and talking is that "objectless meditation" is superior to "meditation on object".

It's also what i think is showed in the ten pictures about capturing the bull, of zen tradition, the Anupada Sutta and, i presume, a lot of other reliable sources.

Now Dogen and my former Rinzai (the "evil bunch") teacher said the same thing, that in the end it is just sitting, everything is there in front of us since the beginning.

Very well, BUT "sitting is being buddha" makes sense AFTER "some time" at least.

I started this post in order to ask you where Gautama Siddharta said that that other guy was slightly wrong, i don't understand.

Now i remember that's where i started to think about objectlessness.

Mark Foote said...
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Mark Foote said...

Anon#108, are you translating "mindfulness", as in "setting mindfulness before (her or him)..."

The scripture I had in mind is not the one you cited, Proulx Michel- I don't have the Pali name for the sermon, but it's in the chapter "Kindred Sayings About In-Breathing and Out-Breathing", Sanyutta Nikaya, volume V 309-342 (Pali Text Society pg 275-295), and my notes indicate again in Majjhima Nikaya volume III at 81-85 (PTS iii pg 124-126). The bit about being the Gautamid's practice before and after enlightenment is in the Sanyutta chapter, along with the story about the many monks who committed suicide as a result of the Gautamid advising meditation on the "unlovely"; you may not see this chapter translated often in full by Theravadin monks, I'm guessing! Here's a recap which I confess to having put in my own words:

1) mindful breathe in, mindful breathe out;
2) mindful of the long inhalation as long, breathe in, or mindful of the short inhalation as short, breathe in; mindful of the long exhalation as long, breathe out, or mindful of the short exhalation as short, breathe out;
3) mindful of the whole body, breathe in; mindful of the whole body, breathe out;
4) relaxing the activity of the body, breathe in; relaxing the activity of the body, breathe out;
5) mindful of a feeling of ease in the body, breathe in; mindful of a feeling of ease in the body, breathe out;
6) mindful of a feeling of absorption in the body, breathe in; mindful of a feeling of absorption in the body, breathe out;
7) mindful of the activity of thought, breathe in; mindful of the activity of thought, breathe out;
8) calming the activity of thought, breathe in; calming the activity of thought, breathe out;
9) mindful of a particular thought, breathe in; mindful of a particular thought, breathe out;
10) mindful of a feeling of joy in thought, breathe in; mindful of a feeling of joy in thought, breathe out;
11) collecting the mind, breathe in; collecting the mind, breathe out;
12) freeing the mind, breathe in; freeing the mind, breathe out;
13) in the witness of the occurrence of consciousness and feeling, breathe in; in the witness of the occurrence of consciousness and feeling, breathe out;
14) in the witness of detachment in consciousness and feeling, breathe in; in the witness of detachment in consciousness and feeling, breathe out;
15) in the witness of the cessation of activity in consciousness and feeling, breathe in; in the witness of the cessation of activity in consciousness and feeling, breathe out;
16) in the witness of the relinquishment of activity in consciousness and feeling, breathe in; in the witness of the relinquishment of activity in consciousness and feeling, breathe out.

A translation of the Majjhima Sutta by Thanissaro Bhikku (from the access-to-insight site) is just below here:

Anapanasati Sutta

Again, this is not the name of the Sutta in Sanyutta Nikaya, but we moved and I can't find my books right now (alas!). I have looked before, and I don't believe the Sanyutta Nikaya version is available online.

Mark Foote said...

Proulx Michel, you were right, I do see that now- the first sutta in the chapter in the Sanyutta Nikaya is the Arittha Sutta.

The Suttas available online in that chapter as translated by Thanissaro are here. Again, these do not include the chapter where the recounting of the suicide of the monks, and that's the chapter where the Gautamid declares "the intent concentration on in-breaths and out-breaths to have been his practice before and after enlightenment.

Interesting, isn't it?- a practice after enlightenment? Somebody who would actually say they had a practice, that they had a practice after enlightenment, spell it out in words? And tell the monks not to take a vow of silence at their retreats, because folks need to hear the dharma?- that's in the first Vinaya volume, I believe, but I'm not sure I can find the reference, I don't have a set of those volumes.

anon #108 said...

Anon#108, are you translating "mindfulness", as in "setting mindfulness before (her or him)?

Hi Mark,

I was playing around with possible translations of parimukha (not smRti, mindfulness) - but yes, as in "setting mindfulness before (her or him)..."

BTW, I linked the Sanyutta Nikaya's Arittha Sutta (as well as the Anapanasati Sutta) @10.49am.

anon #108 said...

...But the more the merrier :)

anon #108 said...

That's smRti (Sanskrit) or, as in the suttas, sati (pali). And I linked the Anapanasati @ 10.18am, followed closely by the Arittha @ 10.49am.

Gotta be so careful these days. Wars have started over less.

buddy said...

This reminds me of a slightly tangential point (apologies if this starts Mysterion off on some dodgy riff): I've recently been doing my own translation of the Gospel of Mark for a screenplay (long story) and, among many other interesting things, discovered that the word translated as 'repent!' in English comes from the Greek 'metanoia', 'meta' meaning beyond, after, or adjacent to, 'noia' meaning thought, mind, reason, intellect. The aramaic is 'nacham', which means a change of mind or, to get real fancy, paradigm shift. At any rate, very existential/epistemological, with none of the sentimental and/or judgemental moralism that it has in our culture. For the purposes of my script I chose the Dogenesque "Go beyond the thinking of your little mind". I would carry on with the rest of the Gospels, were I not so stupid and lazy.

anon #108 said...

Tangential but absorbing, buddy. Thanks.

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

Calling BS on Bodhisattva
OK, this might be controversial. But recently i've been thinking the idea of setting aside one's own "enlightenment" until all other humans make it is futile. I don't think we as a species have that much time. Science currently figures we have around 1.5 billion years or so before the sun swells and eats the earth. At the current rate of people turning to Buddhist practice I don't see it. We're gonna roast as a species before that can happen.
Furthermore, Bodhisattva was neither a teaching nor the action of Guatama, he passed into nirvana; a cessation of rising and falling.
Which brings me to my point. Maybe the Universe wants cessation. To stop cause and effect from happening. Note I did not say the abolishment of cause and effect, just cessation. If we as practitioners of the Buddha path attain nirvana, then maybe we are helping the Universe in our small way.
Let the slaughter begin, Guy

Anonymous said...

"Denial is a wonderful thing."

That's the most ironic thing that Mysterion has written recently. He hasn't transcended the "self", he's just completely unaware of it because he's so intent on bloviating.

Joe Doe Shiny Shoes said...

Wait a minute...

If "Christianity was derived from Buddhism" (according to Mysterion)
and "Jodo Shinshu is Christianized Buddhism" (according to Mysterion)
then Jodo Shinshu would actually be Buddhismized Buddhism (according to logic).

Then again, logic doesn't seem to be Mysterion's strong suit.

Honey Badger said...

Warning: The opinions expressed by Mysterion do not necessarily reflect truth or reality.

anon #108 said...

Hi Guy,

I don't know much about "the idea of setting aside one's own "enlightenment" until all other humans make it," but...

Once I asked Suzuki Roshi, "What is nirvana?"

He repliad: "Seeing one thing through to the end."


- from "To Shine One Corner of the World."

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

Brad, you said this:
"Becoming a monk isn't something you can just do on your own. You can't just decide to call yourself as a monk and expect anyone to take you seriously. You have to go through some kind of social ceremony in which someone else declares you a monk. But once that happens, you're a monk."

Please reconcile with this:
"I feel now like registering with Soto-shu was unnecessary."

buddy said...

Here, Anon at 9:39,I'll save Brad the trouble of reiterating what he already said:
'I hope the distinction is clear. I did two almost identical ceremonies. One was with Nishijima Roshi in his dojo. That ceremony was not registered with Soto-shu. A few years later I went through almost the same ceremony but performed at Tokei-in temple. Again Nishijima officiated. But this time there were three monks from the temple in attendance, photos were taken, forms were filled out and mailed in and a few weeks later I got my certificate..

I feel like the first ceremony with Nishijima at his dojo was my real ordination, while the second one was just a formality to get me on the books with an organization I have rarely interacted with since then.

I don't regret the ceremony with Nishijima. Although I'm still somewhat ambivalent as to what it really meant. The second ceremony with Soto-shu was something I did for pretty much all the wrong reasons. But I did it and it's done.'

Honey Badger said...

Warning: The opinions expressed by Mysterion do not necessarily reflect truth or reality.

Anonymous said...

Mysterion for President!

Joe DSS said...

Mysterion's "facts" about "history" are about as accurate as saying that World War I began because of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. And nothing else. Just the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Grossly oversimplified and inaccurate opinions presented as "facts", even those of "lettered academics", might earn you a passing grade on a scholastic pop quiz but in "the real world" they will only cause harm as a meme of ignorance.

Please stop harming the world, Mysterion.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so here is a question...I am not a Buddhist, or rather I am in my own head, but not in the "actually having done anything beyond taking a few meditation classes at a local Dharma Center that closed down five years ago." sense.

Now, I very much want to return to formal study, but I am stuck in the (as far as I can tell) complete vacuum of Northern Kentucky. Also, my incomplete and probably incorrect preconception of Zen, and my incomplete and probably incorrect preconception of Tibetan practice leads me to believe that I'd probably vibe better with the Tibetans. So, this gets us to...is there any group, Zen or otherwise in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area that isn't a cult or a con? Also, do you know any teacher or author in the Tibetan tradition that you think highly of, or see as someone who writes and communicates in a fashion similar to yours?

I'm not married to the whole Tibetan thing...it was just the tradition of the only center I have any experience with...and the only local Zen folks I've found a website for seem way too hung up on the "which foot do you enter the Zendo on" type of stuff.

Thank you,

Lost in NKY.

Anonymous said...

Thanks buddy for the attempt at answering for Brad...

But here is the problem:

Brad said...
"Becoming a monk isn't something you can just do on your own. You can't just decide to call yourself as a monk and expect anyone to take you seriously. You have to go through some kind of social ceremony in which someone else declares you a monk. But once that happens, you're a monk.

But the ceremony Brad "values" more was the ceremony with Nishijima - this was NOT registered with the Soto-shu... which means that if he didn't do the ceremony with the Soto-shu he would NOT be considered a monk, and thus the above first quote applies to himself.

Personally - I don't think that a person can call themselves a monk because a individual OR an organization declares it.

anon #108 said...

Hi 6.29am,

I am far from North Kentucky, but someone on 'Zen Forum International' posted a link to this 'World Buddhist Directory':

http://www.buddhanet.info/wbd/index.php

- which in a few clicks takes you to the Kentucky page:

http://www.buddhanet.info/wbd/province.php?province_id=38

There are addresses, emails and phone numbers...

Butch said...

You's can call me Robert and
You's can call me Sam, and
You's can call me Monk,
'cause that is what I am, but
you's doesn't has to call me Butch.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A-Bob said...

Once I asked Suzuki Roshi, "What is nirvana?"

He repliad: "Seeing one thing through to the end."

Cool 108.. That is good stuff and Zen practice in a nutshell, simple and yet difficult. The Buddha said that nirvana is the happiest happiness, an enduring happiness different from (the limited, transitory happiness derived from impermanent things). That limited, transitory happiness sounds like the definition of fun. Too much fun is a lot like not enough fun.

Making a plan and trying to follow it through just as you imagined it is an exercise in frustration. But adapting your plan to circumstances can be rewarding. Or, in other words, trying to change everything around you is a bitch. Trying to change yourself to adapt to everything around you is less of a bitch.

CAPTCHA : powre : I kid you not

Honey Badger said...

Dead words from a stinking rice bag.

Anonymous said...

Exactly right Badger, exactly right. As he is now so too will we all be.

One day were're making silly comments on a blog, the next day our family is making funeral arrangements..

Anonymous said...

One thing I would like to point out...

I have heard things like this from more than just Brad here on the interwebz:

"Becoming a monk isn't something you can just do on your own. You can't just decide to call yourself as a monk and expect anyone to take you seriously. You have to go through some kind of social ceremony in which someone else declares you a monk. But once that happens, you're a monk."

99 out of a 100 times it is being made by a person with a 9 to 5 job, 2 cars, 3 kids (one in football and 3 in soccer,) who is currently watching "Breaking Bad" season 2 on DVD and is thinking that after 15 years of marriage they are sexually unattracted to their spouse - that is to say statements like the above are being made by laypeople who have happened to go through a monastic ceremony.
It is a subconscious reaction to the acknowledgement that they know they aren't monks either. They are laypeople in black robes.

I will go one step further, I say:

Becoming a monk isn't something you can just do on your own. You can't just decide to call yourself as a monk and expect anyone to take you seriously.

Now...
WHAT IS A MONK...?:3

Honey Badger said...

Perhaps I wasn't specific enough. I wasn't referring to Suzuki. I like just about everything that Suzuki said. I was referring to the "dead words" of that "stinking rice bag" Mysterion who might still be, according to the strictest legal definition, alive.

captcha = diednes

Seriously.

Brad Warner said...

Anonymous said:
One thing I would like to point out...

I have heard things like this from more than just Brad here on the interwebz:

"Becoming a monk isn't something you can just do on your own. You can't just decide to call yourself as a monk and expect anyone to take you seriously. You have to go through some kind of social ceremony in which someone else declares you a monk. But once that happens, you're a monk."

99 out of a 100 times it is being made by a person with a 9 to 5 job, 2 cars, 3 kids (one in football and 3 in soccer,) who is currently watching "Breaking Bad" season 2 on DVD and is thinking that after 15 years of marriage they are sexually unattracted to their spouse - that is to say statements like the above are being made by laypeople who have happened to go through a monastic ceremony.
It is a subconscious reaction to the acknowledgement that they know they aren't monks either. They are laypeople in black robes.

I will go one step further, I say:

Becoming a monk isn't something you can just do on your own. You can't just decide to call yourself as a monk and expect anyone to take you seriously.

Now...
WHAT IS A MONK...?:3


What indeed?

In Zen there is a very old idea that one should not spend one's entire life in a monastery. An ideal monk undergoes monastic training for a time and then goes back into the so-called "real world."

In the past in Asia living in the so-called "real world" looked a lot more like contemporary Western people's fantasies about how Zen monks ought to live.

The distinction between monk and layperson is never as clear as certain people want it to be. I've seen Japanese monastery-living monks sitting on couches for hours on end smoking cigarettes and drinking beer while watching the dumbest TV shows ever. This is how I learned Princess Diana died. I was in such a monastery and could clearly hear the TV blasting away every time I left the zendo.

On the other hand, sometimes so-called "lay people" take the Buddhist precepts they too have undertaken much more seriously.

What indeed is a monk?

Answers on a postcard please.

Billy Joe Dean said...

"I am far from North Kentucky."

Just keep it that way Anon 108. You and your Brit slang can stay in Jolly old England if you know what's good for ya.. Homeland Security deals with your type with extreme prejudice here in the Land of the Free.

I barely recognize this place anymore. how embarrassing for us. The crazies have taken over the Asylum. Apologies to Leigh Van Bryan and Emily Bunting..

john e mumbles said...

I've often heard that the clergy have an obligation to lay people. I mean laypeople...ba dump bump Splash!

skatemurai said...

Hey Brad,

today I was at group zazen. It was pure suffering, I wanted to go away, but I won't. At home my zazen periods are much shorter (can survive) then at real zen dojo (2x 30 min. - pain in legs, in back, feel like a twisted tree). Why am I suffering so much? I don't see point in such practice, but I still strive to see it about 3 years. Tom

Broken Yogi said...

The only true monk I recognize is Theolonius. Sorry punk rock fans.

I also think Mysterion's historical creativity has a lot of merit. Obviously oversimplified, but these are blog posts, not dissertations. The history of religion is one big incestuous orgy and nothing like what the marketers of one or another tradition would like us to think.

Of course, I have no credibility whatsoever, so I will go back to listening to Theolonious and contemplating the crystal skull.

anon #108 said...

Hey Billy Joe!

No problemo, dude. I no longer need to avail myself of your fine hospitality. Leigh and Emily got what they came for. Thanks to USPS I now can enjoy (a somewhat crusty) Marilyn in my private quarters while Van Bryan and Bunting catch some jet-lagged zzzs in the spare room ;)

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Random Buddha said...

An absorbed lawyer jerks the practised mystic.

Zippy Rinpoche said...

skatemurai said...
Why am I suffering so much? I don't see point in such practice, but I still strive to see it about 3 years. Tom

Hi Tom,
Do you have someone you can ask for help with your posture? I sat with a group for almost a year with similar issues until someone did a posture workshop. Made an amazing, amazing difference for me. Chest up, shoulders relaxed, neck relaxed... the best thing is to ask an experienced practitioner for help with this. Might want to do it right after a session, so the exact location of the pain points are fresh in your mind.

Another possible issue is flexibility. Brad has a link to some good stretches on the left side of the main page of his blog.

Other than that, the only other suggestion I have is to remember that donuts are a natural and delicious sugar and high-fat delivery system, but one serving per day is enough to do th' job.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. For your books. Anyway I have a question:
Any parenting advice from a buddhist perspective? Jenn

Anonymous said...

Brad said...
"In Zen there is a very old idea that one should not spend one's entire life in a monastery. An ideal monk undergoes monastic training for a time and then goes back into the so-called "real world."..."

what time period?
What teacher in China who was a monk left the monastery to raise a family?

Anonymous said...

Chogyam Trungpa?

http://shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2993&Itemid=244

http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=12,10595,0,0,1,0

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

No...

Brad said:
In Zen there is a very old idea that one should not spend one's entire life in a monastery. An ideal monk undergoes monastic training for a time and then goes back into the so-called "real world."

In Zen.
So Trungpa and little Cambodian boys are not the examples I am looking for.

future buddha said...

He's talking about the ox-herding pictures. Giving you a subtle teaching.

Anonymous said...

SO monks in Zen predominantly were monks for life then correct?

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
future buddha said...

I mean Brad. Brad, in the quote from Anonymous at 7:01, is teaching from the ox herding pictures. Not you, Mysterion. Jesus.

Anonymous said...

future buddha said...
"I mean Brad. Brad, in the quote from Anonymous at 7:01, is teaching from the ox herding pictures. Not you, Mysterion. Jesus."

So the, in fact, historicly monks were monks for life correct?

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

Pretty sure that is during the Meiji Restoration Mysterion.

The Meiji Period (1868-1912). The Meiji Restoration in 1868 restored the power of the emperor. In the state religion, Shinto, the emperor was worshiped as a living god. The emperor was not a god in Buddhism, however. This may be why the Meiji government ordered Buddhism banished in 1868. Temples were burned or destroyed, and priests and monks were forced to return to lay life.

Buddhism was too deeply ingrained in Japan's culture and history to disappear, however. Eventually the banishment was lifted. But the Meihi government was not done with Buddhism yet.

In 1872, the Meiji government decreed that Buddhist monks and priests (but not nuns) should be free to marry if they chose to do so. Soon "temple families" became commonplace and the administration of temples and monasteries became family businesses, handed down from fathers to sons.

Mark Foote said...

"So the Wheel of Dharma, in it's rotation on the cart of time, picked up a road apple or two."

Thanks for that, Mysterion. I read all that stuff about the history of Jesus in the missing years and possibly beyond the cross. I had a teacher, Dr. Noel King, who claimed that his people in the south of India believed that Thomas came there, and was ultimately stoned to death. They (his people) were Christians. The material I read said that Jesus dispatched Thomas to India, sounded like before his crucifixion- is that right? And here I was thinking Thomas helped Jesus make his way to Kashmir, after the cross. The whole post-cross thing is historically suspect, apparently.

It's great that you have a heckler, Mysterion. Wish I had a heckler.

Sorry, Anon#108, I missed your link. You can use the "a" tag format to present links on this blog- I can't show you the format, but you could google it, it's simple. Ok, try w3schools.

This morning I was reminded why I concluded the pulmonary and cranial-sacral respirations utilize the placement of consciousness to open feeling, when a tuft of hair on the back of my head tried to stand up. Maybe I've been too focused on the cranial-sacral respiration, as I learn to sit the lotus, and yet. Main thing is, like the man said, no matter what you think the states are, they are otherwise. and yet.

anonymous anonymous said...

Foote it's easy.. If you want to be heckled all you need to do is be intrusive and boring and indifferent to whatever is being discussed. Also you should continually steer the talk back to your own narrow interests and talk a lot about your stupid poodle and keep reminding everyone that you are not a Zen master as if anyone has any doubts about that..

buddy said...

Brad's (and I guess Gudo's by extension) use of the word monk is for me quite singular and a little confusing. I've always seen it used, in Christian, Buddhist or whatever traditions, as one who lives in a monastery, dedicating themselves to practice and following a common rule of life, usually (though I've heard of exceptions) including celibacy. It comes from the greek 'monachos' meaning single or solitary. Even in the Zen examples given, where being a monk is a temporary training period and not a lifetime commitment, it's generally understoood that when the person leaves they are no longer a monk. What they are, though, and what in my frame of reference Brad is, is a priest, meaning someone who has been authorized to perform ceremonies and teach. (In the zen tradition, for at least a few hundred years, priests have not been required to be celibate.) I have a feeling that Brad will counter that this is semantics, and fair enough- he can call himself he wants. I just wanted to throw my 2 cents as to common usage in the Zen circles I've travelled.

proulx michel said...

skatemurai said...

Why am I suffering so much? I don't see point in such practice, but I still strive to see it about 3 years. Tom

Hi Tom/ Just go check on these pages:
http://zenmontpellier.voila.net/eng/lotus/suryanameng.html
http://zenmontpellier.voila.net/eng/lotus/lotuseng.html
There is no reason for you to suffer, other than: your hip joints are too stiff. These address that point.

anon #108 said...

buddy - What you said about the meaning of "monk" agrees with what "monk" means to me. And so I don't geddit...the loose way the word is used in some contemporary (Zen) circles. And as "a monk" is not something I have ever wanted to be when I grow up, I don't get the attraction the label has for some people, either.

***********************************
Mark - Thanks for the link to how to do hypertext links. I do know how it's done, and used to used do it a fair bit. But as I assume everyone can copy and paste I don't much bother with it these days. There was a time when I badly wanted a link to a tutorial, so thanks anyway. (Quite ok that you missed my Sutta links. No one reads everything posted by everyone, do they..or do they???)

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

Tom, THESE are very good exercises, too.

Anonymous said...

"But I'm not sure I truly understand non-thinking."

I don't know the Japanese words translated "think non-thinking" but could it be awareness of awareness? Or pre-reflective awareness, or direct awareness prior to thinking about thinking?

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


"Dogen was also an intellectual. That's why he wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. He really attempted to frame things for us in the most accurate way possible. But he was also keenly aware that there was no ultimately accurate way of framing reality. So his writing is full of contradictions."

Anton and Lacan: Phenomenology, Language, Earth
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZP93VD1DqY

Anonymous said...

198

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199

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200 !

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