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Thread: Language, relationships and zazen practice

  1. #1
    Senior Member YuimaSLC's Avatar
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    Language, relationships and zazen practice

    Dear Sangha,

    We all know the sound of a foreign language even though we may not understand any of what it said. Often, we are able to distinguish the difference between the sound of French or Russian or Chinese; such that you can crudely imitate the sound of a language, though a very gross approximation.


    When I was younger, I wondered “What must English sound like to someone who doesn’t speak English?” Does it sound like German? Dutch? Scandinavian? If someone was imitating English, much like we would imitate the sounds of French, what sounds would that person make that s/he considers unique to English and different than their own tongue?


    So, I created a mental-cognitive game that I’d play in busy places like an airport, shopping district, or any where there was an abundance of verbal communication going on. I would listen to the sounds about me, and of conversation going on in the proximity, but tried to be aware in such a way that I heard the sound, but didn’t understand those sounds as words and meaning.


    Yes, one can hear phonetics in language without interpreting it into words and meaning. We do it all the time with languages we don’t understand. But, it can be done with language we do know; though a very thin edge exists that can easily drag one back into the realm of language and thought.


    What reminded me recently of this was Taigu’s recent talk on “Water birds”. (And if you didn’t watch the video, I would recommend you do.) And in that talk, he speaks of “making the sound of the traffic your sutra...the sound of the coffee machine, the sound of the hoover, the sound of the train engine your living sutra.”


    I was very appreciative of putting everyday, moment/arising phenomenon into that mindful context of “meeting and leaving, every time.” Not only sound of course, but actions...walking, washing up, digging up the radishes, writing the check for rent.

    When we choose space to practice zazen we tend to look for or create quiet places. I think most would agree that practice in the presence of some sounds are more conducive than others: the song of a bird, a dog barking, wind gusts through trees, the occasional passing of a vehicle, a jogger tracking by the house; with each moment of that awareness being unique; one moment it’s faint, building in intensity, then growing faint again. The arising and non-arising of audible phenomenon.


    Human voice as language has a different character for me. And perhaps if I was sitting zazen someplace where language was unintelligible, like a foreign land, it might arise similarly to a chipmunk chattering in a nearby grove of evergreens.


    So, here’s a problem: what is the practice of zazen within the experience of hearing language, perhaps something as intense as an inflammatory American radio talk show host?


    And what about relationships with others? As Taigu rightfully says in his talk on “Clouds in the Sky, Water in the Bottle” he says “...you can’t drop relationships...It’s wonderful to be with others. But you may drop a certain way of being with others, a certain intoxicated way. You may drop a mode of relating to the world.”


    But what of dropping that mode of relating? Dealing with the talkers, the verbose, the opinionated. Some people think that human existence is all (or only) about thought/conceptualization/analysis/opinion. For example, some people can’t simply watch a soccer game, seeing the players, hearing the chants and drumming in the crowd, the smell of stadium food.....they need the opinionated chatter, the commentary, the never ending flow of information....and so they stay at home and watch the game on TV, where they can be continually fed analysis and data. Later on, what has remained important is the judgement, the opinion, the analysis. Not so much about the “dance” of
    the game.


    What do you feel, fellow buddhists, is the practice in these circumstances? What is the certain mode that we can drop, without seeming to alienate ourselves from our relationships?





    Richard

  2. #2
    Actually I prefer to stay at home to watch a game because it's more comfortable. I have a better view, air conditioning, and the refreshments are much, much cheaper. However, it is definitely a must go experience to get out to a ball game (Go Rays!!!). IN any case, the certain mode I would think to drop would be expectations of others. I tend to let my idea of someone overcloud who they really are; I fix an image of who I think someone is. This usually causes me to be let down or shocked. Sort of hand in hand with this would be dropping our judgments. Again, it's sort of natural for me to impose my view of things on my friends and family. I don't intentionally do so, but I see the world through my eyes and so forth, so I sometimes forget the filter that I place on things. This goes for zazen too. Zazen doesn't have to be done in a quiet room; birds, dogs, traffic, etc... all good for zazen. I often sit when my wife has tv on in the other room. So I would say dropping expectations and judgments are key. And that extends to my whole life.. it's my sutra as Taigu sensei would say. It's a sutra because it's my practice that reminds me that clinging to the expectations is what leads to suffering. I fail again and again. haahhh

    Gassho,

    Risho

  3. #3
    Senior Member YuimaSLC's Avatar
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    Thanks Risho. I think that meeting even the same people, like family, friends, colleagues, again and again, with whom we often create expectations or judgements about "how this time is going to be" comes from believing that patterns are immutable, the real thing, and permanent. Engaging this event, or person, and dropping the filters (or realizing that I am raising filters that otherwise aren't there) is a challenge for me.

  4. #4
    Senior Member murasaki's Avatar
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    Aha, this is a big issue for my poor ADD brain...I can sit with some intermittent talking going on, but not with anything that drones on and on like TV. I hope that one day I will be able to build up more resistance / have more resilience to deal with it, but I acknowledge my newb-ness and just accept that I'm not in that place right now.

    I even moved my sitting place, being in someone cramped quarters right now, and given the fact that I was sitting in what amounted to a traffic area in the house in earshot of everything. (Again, this would not have been as big a deal if the TV weren't within earshot and frequently on). Now I sit in a bedroom, where a cabinet and sliding glass doors form a little corner. Outside, a wall and some plants that sit with me, and some birds and other critters.

    Thank you for a reminder that it's just a matter of dropping expectations...

    Gassho
    Julia
    "The Girl Dragon Demon", the random Buddhist name generator calls me....you have been warned.

    Feed your good wolf.

  5. #5
    Thank you Richard,
    this is a very interesting topic for me; If I'm hearing a conversation in a foreign language, its like a sunrise, its as wonderful as a bird singing. I enjoy that, ever since I was a child. I once was in the Paris subway, stuffed with people coming from work, they all sung for me (so it seemed to me, of course only talking in their native language). I was amazing. On the other hand if I hear some people speaking my language, German, or even English; its completely different, the thinking, judging, analyzing machine immediately starts in my head. Moreover, the my whole body kind of reacts to the story I hear. Thats somewhat amazing too, however, Its scary as well to react in this way. Maybe as a child I was trained to listen, react to was was told me very intensively so that my brain is wired this way.
    _()_
    Myoku

  6. #6
    Senior Member ZenHarmony's Avatar
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    Sounds to me, Myoku, and this is just my opinion, that you were simply born that way, that you were (are?) just more able to take in more of your environment than most people seem to. For example, my oldest daughter, after her first year, was able to absorb all the conversations around her, and could repeat them back, word for word, for up to 5 minute blocks at a time; very strange for a child who *could not* speak in full sentences of her own accord! She was like a human tape recorder, but as she was started to be able to string together a few words of her own into sentences, she slowly lost that ability.

    Lots of people "hear" music as colours and "taste" colours. The human mind is a weird and wonderful thing and we know so little about it.

    Gassho,

    Lisa

  7. #7
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Practice is practice. I went to the Padres vs. Giants game last Sunday.
    迎 Geika

  8. #8
    Last Padre game I went to Dave Winfield and Ozzie Smith were playing.
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by YuimaSLC View Post



    So, here’s a problem: what is the practice of zazen within the experience of hearing language, perhaps something as intense as an inflammatory American radio talk show host?
    Ultimately, we should sit in the Silence that is not a matter or silence or noise or language. All is just what is, and the True Silence is not a matter of noise or silence, can be found in the Heart of Words or No Words. Nonetheless, we often prefer the No Word to express the Ineffable, and silence to aid with clearing the mind of its usual storm of thoughts. However, to be really good at this Zen thingy, one must sit with the Ineffable right in the Words and No Words, and Silence even in a rioting football stadium or political convention or at an Ozzy concert, a siren filled accident scene, a battlefield. Dogen spoke of hearing it all AS the Buddha's tongue ... don't make the mistake of trying to find the silence by trying to run from any of it ... and RUN INTO THE NOISE INSTEAD!

    We have a sit-a-long for Beginningless Beginners on such ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...8Part-XXIII%29


    But what of dropping that mode of relating? Dealing with the talkers, the verbose, the opinionated. Some people think that human existence is all (or only) about thought/conceptualization/analysis/opinion. For example, some people can’t simply watch a soccer game, seeing the players, hearing the chants and drumming in the crowd, the smell of stadium food.....they need the opinionated chatter, the commentary, the never ending flow of information....and so they stay at home and watch the game on TV, where they can be continually fed analysis and data. Later on, what has remained important is the judgement, the opinion, the analysis. Not so much about the “dance” of
    the game.

    There is a time for just watching and being, a time for talking about. Sometimes I just watch (and am) a flower or sunrise ... sometimes I talk about how to grow flowers, or the heat of the sun. Sometimes I do, sometimes I talk about doing ... each in its appropriate moment. Sometimes I drop all opinions (and "I" with em), sometimes I offer opinions ... including about how to drop opinions! A time for each ... silence or talking, planning to do and doing ... even in Zen! All are necessary and appropriate in their proper space, balance and moderation.

    That is why the bookstores are filled with 1000 books about Zen ... A Way Beyond Words and Letters!

    Anyway, that is my opinion.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 08-26-2012 at 01:51 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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