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Thread: Why do you practice?

  1. #1
    Stephanie
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    Why do you practice?

    I am very interested in people's responses to two questions:

    1) What was it that first brought you to Zen practice?

    And

    2) What is it that keeps you practicing?

    I want to hold off on answering these questions myself right away, as I don't want to "lead" the answers with the tone and content of my own response. And to further that, I think this thread would be more interesting and valuable if folks answered these questions for themselves before reading others' responses, to prevent "groupthink" from taking over.

    My intention with this post is to explore what it is that unites us in our endeavor of the Way, and what may vary from person to person. This is related to my own self-exploration and discovery of an undying spark of faith and what it means to "trust yourself" in making your way down this road of life and death, and the question that arises in the space between the two.

  2. #2
    Alexandre David Néel said: I did not become Buddhist, I became again buddhist. Personally, since the age of twelve years (I had read a book of Alexandra David Néel), I knew that I shall be Buddhist, or that I was Buddhist. When I was 26 years old, I saw in Paris a poster announcing an initiation in zazen, I went there. Now I cannot ask any more the question: why do you practise? I cannot live differently, if I have not a practice, something misses me, it is as the water and the food.
    Kosen

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie View Post
    1) What was it that first brought you to Zen practice?
    Trying to be calm.

    2) What is it that keeps you practicing?
    Figuring out how to stop trying to be calm.

    Gassho,
    Dosho
    Shudo Dosho - Ordained Priest-in-Training
    With your help and guidance from Jundo & Taigu
    I am learning, but please take what I say with a
    grain of salt, especially in matters of the Dharma.

  4. #4
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    I was maybe 8 or 9 , got a glimpse of a Buddha sitting in a book, felt this was right for me.
    When 13, sat for the first time under the guidance of a Zen monk, the father of a friend. Felt home instantly ( and knees and back in pain)and all search had ceased. Some 40 years later, feels the same.

    Gassho


    Taigu
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  5. #5
    Especially for folks new around here ...

    I think it important to know who is tending the sails and ropes to keep this ship afloat, so if you wish further biographical information on the priests and trainee-priests of this place ... including how we came to Zazen ... we have a thread with some information ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...Novice-Priests

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    Senior Member pinoybuddhist's Avatar
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    For most of my twenties I was a "spiritual seeker" of sorts. I wanted to find something - what it was I didn't know. Brahma Kumaris, paganism, Tarot, New Age, getting stoned while listening to Miles Davis and the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - whatever was available. I'd heard and read about Zen, but it was just another "thing" like the above-mentioned things I listed. Then I read Ezra Bayda's Being Zen and Joko Beck's Everyday Zen. And it dawned on me that what I was trying to do was to escape. And what they were talking about in their books was precisely the opposite of that. Not escaping, not trying to run away, or meditate it away, or smoke it away, or drink it away, or whatever. No escape.

    As for what keeps me going, hmmm... I don't know... life? I'm not saying everything's all rosy and great now that I'm practicing. It's just that, of the many ways I could be living my life, living this practice seems to make the most sense to me.



    Rafael

  7. #7
    Kung-Fu brought me to Buddhism, Brad Warner's books brought me to Zen

    Realizing there is no me to be brought keeps me here.

    gassho,

    Justin
    --Washu
    和 Harmony
    秀 Excellence

    "Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body" George Carlin Roshi

  8. #8
    Senior Member Nengyo's Avatar
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    What was it that first brought you to Zen practice?
    A Sam Harris article followed by a book on zen

    What is it that keeps you practicing?
    Once you get a taste, everything you do is practice. How can you not practice? If you walk away away from the path, you walk towards the path... or is it, if you walk towards the path, you walk away from it. Either way I'm walking somewhere.
    Try not to be a jerk-- one of the Buddhas

  9. #9
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    What was it that first brought you to Zen practice?
    Being a Buddhist already, I started reading books, blogs and articles about minimalism and Zen. When I found Treeleaf, I decided to stay.

    What is it that keeps you practicing?
    I feel home in Zen.
    Shuso and Ango leader for September 2014.

    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  10. #10
    Stephanie
    Guest
    Thank you all for your responses to this thread. It is rich and heartening to see the human tapestry of what brings people to Dharma. I could go into one of my godforsaken (buddhaforsaken?) walls of text on this topic, but I can just say simply, that I have long been possessed of a ruthlessly curious and questioning nature, found a home for my wandering mind in the inquiry encouraged on this path, and have not been able to fully give it up ever since, even in times of spiritual desolation, as I can still sense there is delusion to be gotten through.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie View Post
    I am very interested in people's responses to two questions:

    1) What was it that first brought you to Zen practice?

    And

    2) What is it that keeps you practicing?

    I want to hold off on answering these questions myself right away, as I don't want to "lead" the answers with the tone and content of my own response. And to further that, I think this thread would be more interesting and valuable if folks answered these questions for themselves before reading others' responses, to prevent "groupthink" from taking over.

    My intention with this post is to explore what it is that unites us in our endeavor of the Way, and what may vary from person to person. This is related to my own self-exploration and discovery of an undying spark of faith and what it means to "trust yourself" in making your way down this road of life and death, and the question that arises in the space between the two.
    It's funny that you wrote "groupthink"; I haven't thought of as good a word for it, but I'm stealing it I try to post without reading others posts with the koan study. It's so easy to take thoughts without first answering for myself.

    In any case.

    1. What first brought me zen way back in the early 90's was martial arts.. but that was zen philosophy. What actually really brought me to finally sit down was Daido Roshi. I read a book of his Mountain Record of Zen Talks. I love that book. I read that thing so many times. It led me to another book, finding the still point, which actually explained the practice. I was avoiding sitting, but I finally did it; that was about 3 years ago. Then I found this zendo, actually from one of your posts on Brad's old blog. And I really took to Shikantaza and the teachings here.

    2. My vows. sometimes I wonder why I practice and have no answers. Sometimes I'm high on life and it's great to practice, so easy. I honestly practice for equanimity in hard and good times. And I practice for others too. A lot of times I forget this practice is for others, so I recite the 4 Bodhisattva views to remind myself that it isn't about me.

    Gassho,

    Risho

  12. #12
    1. I always wanted a system to guide my life, I began at 14 with te intellectual libertinage from dangerous liaisons to understand how people work, then at 17 with youg anf freud, at the university with the emperalist Lock and so on, and after reading a biography of Dalida who went out with arnaud desjardin:I read in french "les chemins de la sagesse", he knew deshimaru, I went to deshimaru lineage in brussels an finally here :-).
    Moreover I tokk it seriously when someone broke up with me, in the train I was wandering "Whey do I suffer? Is it useful?" who are the questions in buddhism.

    2.Because of faith in my practice thanks to Jinyu who told me that Treeleaf exists, and Taigu's teachings, because the rigidity of AZI had made like a disgust. Now I feel good here, and with more respect and less hypocrisy in this Sangha. Thank you Jundo for this opportunity.

    Gassho to all

    Yang Hsin

  13. #13
    Ps Sorry a lot of typo mistake in english in number 1. I didn't reread before posting

  14. #14
    1) What was it that first brought you to Zen practice?

    I got divorced at a very young age and life was spinning in too many directions ... it was my Aikido sensei who introduced me to Zen and zazen.


    2) What is it that keeps you practicing?

    It grounds me ... I once said to Jundo, "when I sit on the zafu, I know that is where I am supposed to be".

    Gassho
    Michael
    倫道 真現

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie View Post
    1) What was it that first brought you to Zen practice?
    2) What is it that keeps you practicing?.
    Hello Stephanie, everyone,

    1.) Theravada Buddhism. Specifically, after practicing in the Kammathana tradition for a few years, I felt a strong, strong, strong pull to the Bodhisattva path. I'm a simple practitioner, not cut out for Varjayana or Tendai or Kegon. So I sit Shikantaza. I sew. I eat, sleep, read, play. The true esoteric practice of Zen is everyday life; enough for a simpleton like me to practice for lifetimes.

    2.) Gratitude. This practice has helped me through some dark periods in my life, yes. Equally (or more) important though is that it has helped me through the not-so-dark times, and the downright bright times too. As Shikantaza soaks down into the bones, it becomes easier to be a participant-witness, letting events land on the palm of your hand now, fly away then, soak you and dry you off. All that there is is an expression of gratitude for it. The only way to show this gratitude is to practice wholeheartedly and consistently, to keep the practice alive and new every day.

    Metta and Gassho,

    Saijun
    To give up yourself without regret is the greatest charity. --RBB

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie View Post
    I am very interested in people's responses to two questions:

    1) What was it that first brought you to Zen practice?

    And

    2) What is it that keeps you practicing?
    1. The need for practice.

    2. The desire for practice.
    Hogen (Matt); formerly "mcurtiss"

  17. #17
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    1) I've been attracted to Buddhism since learning about it in high school; it took many years and reading here and there and finally coming to Treeleaf to find that Zen was the path for me.

    2) To tell the truth, I've been asking myself this question a lot lately. Why am I doing this Zen stuff? When I neglect my practice, I feel as if I'm letting something very important slide away. And so I come back. I don't know.

    Gassho

    Jen
    The result is not the point; it is the effort to improve ourselves that is valuable. There is no end to this practice. --Shunryu Suzuki

  18. #18
    1 - Jundo often reflects 'many paths up the mountain'. I think I was treading some parallel path but reached a fork in the road. The trigger was a book by Thich Nhat Hanh - 'Peace every step of the Way'. I realised that the one thing I was searching for above all else was equanimity - and the strength to hold this is all situations. The Zen path feels like home for me.

    2 - At the same time I read a book 'John Cage - Zen Ox-herding Pictures'. Reflecting on the Ox-herding Pictures ,always brings me back to the original impulse to practice every time I feel myself losing the way (which is often!). It reminds me that this path is not an easy sequential path - every day I'm grappling with the 'Ox' - but every day is an opportunity to sit zazen - to live zazen.

    Gassho

    Willow

  19. #19
    disastermouse
    Guest
    Hey all,

    1) Some people already know this story, but I'll tell it again anyway. I came to Zen sort of backwards. At the age of 17 I began reading a book that only tangentially touched on meditation - along with a lot of other somewhat unique mind/body states. In it, there was a description by (I believe) a Buddhist meditator who described what she 'did' in meditation. I was very experimental in those days and so I tried doing what she described. On the third time, I had a profound experience of 'emptiness' that pretty much altered my life. I didn't know it as 'Buddhism' or 'Zen'. I meditated spontaneously a few more times after that, but I didn't start sitting regularly until I came back from a failed attempt at art school (I ran out of money). Finding myself with a lot of unexpected free time, for some reason I began to take long walks in the woods that winter - I was living with my father and our house was on 75 acres of forest land. During my walks I would do walking meditation and randomly sit on rocks or trees and practice sitting meditation. Slowly I began to read first about Taoism and then Zen. The Zen teachings about emptiness resonated deeply and I realized that there was an entire tradition that spoke to my original experience and the rather unique experiences I was having in my walking and spontaneous sitting practices up to that point. It was probably a good six months later that I began, tentatively, to regard myself as a 'Buddhist'.

    2) After that initial experience, I'm pretty much screwed. That is, there is only so much painful drama that I can experience before the memory of that initial experience reminds me that I am not trapped in this pain or drama - that I can feel it fully, but need not be defined by it. Also, there simply is no lasting situational contentment or satisfaction that I can fool myself into believing in anymore. I can get confused for a while, but I am always reminded that my endeavors are wrong-headed as long as they are based on some delusional idea of a lasting situational happiness.

    Gassho

    Chet

  20. #20
    2) What is it that keeps you practicing?

    If I didn't try to stay in the moment I would go crazy. And besides that, a moment is the only thing you think you can have that has even a little bit of reality but even that's gone before you know it.

    1) What was it that first brought you to Zen practice?

    Craziness
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  21. #21
    Pre-Buddhism began pretty hellish because I was (seemingly) an insecure particle lost in a cold alien universe. This was softened up by investigating the meaning of relativity, aided by LSD. That segued into Theosophy/ Hermetic philosophy. ...which eventually lead to Indian sources. Drugs were dropped when I met my future wife and we learned Kriya Yoga together with a Yogi from Bangalore, who filled a Jesus figure need (and who is now an iffy big-time Guru). Finally at age 23-ish we met Ajahn Viradhammo who taught us the practice of the Four Noble Truths, and for the first time there was a taste of fearlessness. ....and that really began a new life. Deep gratitude for meeting this good Bhikkhu.


    Why keep practicing? Because , Greed, Anger and Delusion (still not used to using the word Ignorance instead of Delusion) still frequently sabotages going out into the world fearlessly, free of melodrama. So learning to live well is the thing at this point. ... not so much reaching up and finding my own head. though sometimes...

    Gassho, kojip.
    大山

  22. #22
    Senior Member YuimaSLC's Avatar
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    I first became interested in Buddhism in about 1972 when I was 19, at college. I'd been studying intellectual traditions of the West in my freshman year. Interesting, but something missing. By accident, I picked up a book of poetry by Zenkei Shibayama, "A Flower Does Not Talk". It made me stop and ponder. Ponder alot. I wanted to know more about "this". The earliest influences were Christmas Humphreys, Alan Watts, and then the voluminous D T Suzuki. The latter I didn't understand at all. And my collection of books on Zen and Buddhism grew and grew. So....obviously I was trying to understand it all conceptually/intellectually. Hinayana/Mahayana, perspectives from the different schools. But why?

    As a young man, a fledgling student, I had felt quite disconnected with culture (socialization, dating, marriage, purpose of "a career"), even from high school. I wasn't a drop out, did well in studies; but didn't get "why" or a purpose. I really felt like an outsider to the world...often feeling like I didn't belong anywhere.

    Buddhism early on was both insight and a crutch. I say "a crutch" because playing games with zen is what Alan Watts spoke about years ago as "beat zen" and "square zen".

    Philosophically, Buddhism made more sense to me than anything I'd ever read. But it stayed in my head. I guess I felt like you needed to be able to argue a position before you could claim it. But, in many ways, like many of us, we eventually suffer from indigestion....by filling our plates at the "spiritual smorgasbord". I think that's one very good argument that good teachers make about choosing a practice wholeheartedly, i.e. don't dabble with this and that thinking you can invent your own concoction of a practice.

    So, after about 4 years of this intellectual pursuit; and there were times when it truly felt like my studies were in Buddhism, holed-up in the university library for hours and hours, while I muddled through getting an undergraduate degree in English literature, I found a few works that actually were all 'the practice'. I chose to study Japanese language to fulfill my language requirement and fortunately my teacher was the priest at the local Nichiren-shu. He taught me how to read and chant the Lotus Sutra (which is the key text for that school).

    But, the pivitol moment was a book.... Roshi Jiyu Kennett's "Selling Water by the River" which was later re-titled
    "Zen is Eternal Life". This book is full of Shobogenzo translation, monastic ceremonies and daily routines.....thus, a primer for actual practice. And that's when I made the choice to put away all the other books,
    and focus on sitting, and the liturgy of Soto Zen.

    Why do I return to practice each day? A growing sense that THIS IS IT. SUCHNESS. For someone who feels "outside" the world so often, it (dis)integrates me to the real.

  23. #23
    Also there is a certain wonder and enjoyment to this. Probably over the years have gotten more tolerant of everything.

  24. #24
    Senior Member YuimaSLC's Avatar
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    Accepting a certain joy and benevolence within life and experience...even cold, drizzling days carry a warmth of certainty that they are as they are, for that moment.

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by YuimaSLC View Post
    Accepting a certain joy and benevolence within life and experience...even cold, drizzling days carry a warmth of certainty that they are as they are, for that moment.
    Thanks. Can't imagine being any more tolerant than that.
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  26. #26
    [QUOTE=Stephanie;86435]I am very interested in people's responses to two questions:

    1) What was it that first brought you to Zen practice?

    a book from thich nhat hanh

    2) What is it that keeps you practicing?

    safu is home

    gassho

    gilles

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