I want to do mantra work, but it has been so long since I've done any, I have forgotten how. Any tips?
I want to do mantra work, but it has been so long since I've done any, I have forgotten how. Any tips?
thank you for your question. Since "mantra work" can mean a whole load of different things, I am not quite sure what you mean. Here at Treeleaf we do honour the tradition of our lineage through reciting the Heart Sutra once in a while (which includes the Perfection of Wisdom mantra), maybe even the odd Daihishin Dharani, but we do not focus on the esoteric power of those words as a means to practise awakened sitting. So in a sense we are very boring, because the heart of the practise of most people here at Treeleaf seems to be focussed more on zazen itself, without the need for a lot of different stimuli.
Nobody is forbidden to say mantras, but (and please oldtimers correct me if my words do not reflect your experience), they are definitely not at the core of what we are doing here.
I'd be intrigued to hear more about what you consider mantra work and what its purpose should be.
All the best,
Hans Chudo Mongen
Thanks for your input.
Back at the Zen center I used to go to (before it dissolved), we would use malas and recite om mani padme hum, or sometimes the name of Kwanseumbosal (the Korean name for Kanzeon). I think the purpose was to focus the mind and work on getting one pointed attention for a while. It could also help you to be more aware of your surroundings. My teacher was driving once while she recited Kwansembosal, when she pass a homeless man laying on the ground, and it flashed into her head - "Kwanseumbosal has no place to sleep tonight". So by focusing on the bodisattva of compassion, it awakened compassion in her. So while our main practice was sitting, we did do mantra work outside of the center.
Like I said, I want to get started again and would gratefully accept any and all ideas.
What you describe is a lovely practice, but as Hans explained, that is not what we practice here ... and you might as well be coming to a Karate Dojo and asking to learn Judo! In fact, many forms of meditation are aimed at focusing the mind and building "one pointed attention", deep concentration or the like ... but that is not Shikantaza.
I will ask you to review our Beginner's materials, a serious of video talks, on Shikantaza if you are interested in our Practice here. If not, I will try to put you in touch with a Korean Teacher who might be more helpful on your particular desired practice. You should find the way right for you.
We also honor, and fill our lives with Compassion, inspired by the symbol of Kannon Bodhisattva (Kanzeon, Kwanseumbosal), but we do not chant mantras to her as in some of the Korean schools.
Sadly, I think you are right, I have wandered into the wrong Dojo:). Thanks for your attention and time. I am in contact with a teacher from a Korean monastery in Kentucky. I think that I should probably stick with the Korean practice.
once again, many thanks,
I wish you well.
They are all lovely, powerful Paths up the Mountainless Mountain.
I recently had a fellow from another Buddhist School ask me about his Practice of meditation visualizing various esoteric Buddhist Deities. I also had to tell him much the same thing. While it may be a Powerful Practice, and the right Practice for him, one does not come to a ballet school to learn to swim.
Many paths. Many, many paths. reminds me over the weekend I had a brief lesson in something called "moving meditation". We stood up and were instructed to dangle our arms, and turn from side to side. Almost emanating the little drum thingy from Karate Kid 2, sort of lightly hitting ourselves always looking forward into nothingness. I am proud to say I did not laugh the whole time! I just flailed myself about, thinking "well this is interesting, but I certainly don't see myself making this a daily routine."
Skinkantaza. Please. No flailing about.
One point I am sure I could have said better to Sarah (and I will email her to make sure I do) is that ...
While we may not teach reciting Mantras as a way to focus the mind, build "one pointed attention", deep concentration or the like ...
... there is also nothing particularly to prevent someone from undertaking such a practice on their own or from elsewhere, much as we have Christians here who may pray to Jesus, or some folks who may chant to Amida Buddha because such practices speak to them ... or folks who have tomato soup for lunch, bean soup or any soup to their taste ...
... provided that, when here, they are also sitting non-gaining Shikantaza, as we teach here ... because such is what we practice here.
In other words, Mantra or no Mantra, or what Practice floats your boat, please sit Shikantaza during your time here.
I just cannot help Sarah with her particular Mantra needs, because of am not a teacher of that.
I hope she will give Shikantaza a sit ... Mantra or not. :)
I don't think you wandered in to the wrong dojo. Just sitting has been the core practice since buddhas day. So whether I'm sitting here or there, its all good.
Regarding mantras, during periods of extreme stress or grief I have used them and believe. They can be helpful.
Shikantaza speaks to me as well as mantra use. Jundo, I suppose this question is for you- as I'm just learning the ways here, is mantra use discouraged for a beginner? I find that when I recite one round of my Kuan Yin mantra (usuing malas) that my Shikantaza feels more... more? I can't find the word for it, but I am more settled and feel more "right" after a single-pointed beginning. I read your Right & Wrong Zazen post, and will really reflect on it throughout the day today, but wondered what your guidance was on my current routine. I thought this might be a helpful question to ask publicly.
We do many things in life besides sitting Zazen on the sitting cushion (called a "Zafu"). We go to work, cook dinner, take care of the baby, watch the news on TV. We may go to a Yoga class or chant the Kuan Yin mantra. Some of our Christian folks around here go to church on Sunday.
But when sitting Zazen, it is absolutely vital that one sit without feeling the need to attain some mental state, get mentally focused, feel peaceful or blissful, reach some goal or get some payoff. It is vital that one sit Zazen radically dropping all need to attain. When sitting Zazen, one sits with the attitude that there is no other place in need of going in all the universe, that just the sitting of Zazen is complete fruition of all that needs be done. There is no other place to be, no other thing to do in the instant but sit ... and not one darn thing to add or take away from the sitting. We radically, to the marrow, drop all judgments. For the time sitting, we do not wallow in thoughts or regrets about yesterday or worry and plan for tomorrow's events. We give up longing for how we wish our life or the world "should be" or "we wish they would be". All of life's goals in that moment are realized in the very pure act of sitting. When we sit, it is Buddha & Kuan Yin sitting.
And in doing so ... a funny thing happens. It happens because human beings are so typically unaccustomed to experiencing something in life without "should be" and "would be" ... without needing to "get some where" and "accomplish something" and "fix things" ...
What happens is that we actually achieve a peace, wholeness, focus and equanimity so embracing that it holds all this life and world as it is. We attain such, not by trying to feel peaceful and whole, but by radically dropping the need to feel peaceful and whole or make the world any way but just the world. Counter-intuitive perhaps.
Then, getting up from the sitting cushion ... we may find that we can also learn to work, cook, parent, watch the news, practice Yoga or go to Church, chant the Kuan Yin mantra, get 'er done ... with a bit of that same completeness, wholeness and "nothing to attainness" of Shikantaza.
So, yes, please chant the mantra if you wish. However, when sitting Zazen ... Just Sit!
It seems softening the harder line, on mantra or not, or what we do here or not, is a good thing coming back to Sarah on. That would be the middle ground, giving a person a chance to make the fullest choice, by welcoming with patience and offering them to join-in as you did. One never knows, with this patience and some soft prodding, what will transpire, as she still seems somewhat up in the `air on her final `landing as for her studies, after all she is Here and has been viewing.
Also, I understand the non-attainment concept, but when does that not become something to be attained? And when does no goal not become a goal? gassho1
Casting a dry fly onto the surface of a stream, watching it drift, watching, watching, watching for a fish strike. Never taking your eye off the fly. Then, you cast upstream again.
Doing it hour by hour. It's a kind of sensory mantra. I was never effective about actually catching fish, but my wife encouraged me to go out often, saying I was a better person
when I returned. There is something of an attendant anticipation, being acutely aware that something might happen (arise), just...now...just...now...just...now.
But, aren't all activities worthy of receiving constant attention? Driving a car, for instance. Slicing the cucumbers.
Recently, I noted that I had learned to chant the Lotus Sutra from a fellow buddhist, the priest at a Nichiren temple in our city who was also an adjunct professor of Japanese language at the university.
This was also an effective way to learn hiragana and some kanji. Most of you probably know that, in Japan, many times kanji, [classic Chinese characters], often have tiny hiragana [one of two Japanese syllabic writing methods] next to each kanji, to assist the reader in understanding/pronouncing each character. At some point in the recitation is a long period of just pronouncing the mantra Namu Myoho Renge Kyo repeatedly, accompanying by the cadence of a flat drum (like an uchiwa daiko) and/or a mokugyo (wood fish drum). Both Nichiren-shu and Jodo Shin shu use a simple mantra as a form of meditation. And I often heard priests of both sects tell their members to focus on doing just that. Don't need to read the sutra. More value in chanting the nembutsu, Namu Amida Butsu. I took my children to a Jodo Shin shu Sunday school for a few years. Soon, I was appointed to teach an adult buddhist class, read new books and write up reviews for the monthly newsletter, lead tours of the temple and explain items at the altar. The one thing that saddens me was that in the adult class I was encouraging others to sit, zazen. (we sat in chairs, not on zafus). I should have respected that temple and kept to their practice of the nembutsu.
Just sitting shikantaza. In the many lectures that I read, they are often concluded with "I've talked too much. Don't pay so much attention to my words. Just sit. Sit often and regularly."
In another thread we talked about money and fame. I think it hinted at other things....what drives us to money and fame. I have even taken up a practice of being a bit more frugal about reading, for example.
It's so easy sometimes to be a glutton at consuming the writings of the dharma, forsaking the as/more important practices of sitting one extra session during the day, or being mindful when sorting
the wet garbage, the recyclables and the rest.
How do we attain the goal of Non-Attaining Goallessness, putting that fire out?
By radically, to the marrow, dropping all thoughts of Goals and need to Attain.
Piece of cake.
Now I've talked too much. Don't pay so much attention to my words. Just sit. Sit often and regularly.
Sitting 4 hours or 8 hours brings one no closer or farther no matter how hard one tries, yet sitting 2 minutes or 2 years may be miles away if trying too hard or not enough. Depends on how one sits.
PS - This is why Zen folks get the reputation for talking in what sounds like riddles.