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Thread: Two Barriers of Doubt

  1. #1
    Senior Member Nameless's Avatar
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    Two Barriers of Doubt

    I am still new to Zen Buddhism, though I have been familiar with the basic concepts of karma and rebirth through the years. I first encountered them in depth when I studying Hinduism and reading the Upanishads about a decade ago (the passage of time never ceases to amaze me). Now, in my current study of the Sutras and the Dharma that there are many principles in Buddhism that I can clearly see the truth in. However, I am currently struggling with doubts involving the nature of karma and rebirth. I can see that the wheel of life is itself is true because I can observe the cyclical nature of all things, but I have not seen any support of the passing of consciousness from one being to another. I have heard of dreams or visions that others have had that show them lives they once lead, I have had a few myself, but I cannot say with certainty that what I have experienced is "real" and not just a product of my psyche. I can feel these doubts within me like knots in my soul. As far as karma is concerned, I may just need a more in depth description of what it is. I have seen that those who cause misery to others often feel misery within themselves, but beyond that I don't always see justice in the universe. I don't often see a restoration of balance. Please, help me.

    Gassho,
    John

    PS faith has never come easily for me. I have always found more understanding in hope rather than logic. Also, how should I approach some of the legends that I have encountered in Buddhism? I read a story about a woman who always stood atop a mountain, looking out to sea waiting for her lost husband to come home. Eventually she turned to stone and became one with the mountain. Now, I can see the virtue in this metaphor, but am I expected to take this as fact and not an insightful myth?

  2. #2
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Throw everything away!


    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.

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    John,

    Taigu is right...throw it all away.

    But if you must read (really distant second to Taigu's advice), try this thread from Jundo: http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...ions-VI-(Karma)

    There are many ways of looking at rebirth and I think you'll find them anything but black and white.

    "Free your mind." -Captain Morpheus, of the good ship Nebuchadnezzar.

    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
    Senior Member Nameless's Avatar
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    Thank you Taigu and Dosho. You are right Taigu, this doubt that I have kept with me and these preconceptions I've held onto definitely prevent me from seeing the truth clearly. I need to just let it go and throw it away. I really appreciate that link to Karma forum Dosho. It really opened my eyes. Especially this part:

    People that live their lives violently, live in a subjective world of violence. The "karma" of violence is not that if you shoot someone, then someone shoots you--though it often happens that way--it's that you live in the mental abode of violence. The abode of violence is a paranoid place, fearful, edgy, aggressive. There's no place to relax and feel at peace. If you ever watched the TV show The Sopranos, the show creators did this tremendously well--showing that no matter how much opulence and luxury Tony Soprano enjoyed, his life was hellish, he was always looking over his shoulder, always having to assert his power.

    If you are a thief, whether by stealing in the grossest sense or in the corporate sense of taking more money and resources than you need at the expense of destroying the environment and hoodwinking honest people, you live in a thirsty, fast-paced, hungry world, where you're always obsessed with getting more. You might get to keep everything you steal and never get called to "justice," but you never get to fully enjoy it, because the very mind that accumulates material wealth is incapable of stopping and enjoying it.

    And so on... I think this is very important because it gets at the heart of what the Buddha's teaching was all about. Which is that we look to the wrong place for answers and for happiness. We look to the world outside, not to the thinking that makes that world seem a certain way. We believe our thoughts and don't look to the thinker. As long as we keep looking outside ourselves, we stay stuck in the same repetitive cycle of dissatisfaction.
    That completely blew my mind. I had never thought of Karma in subjective terms. Of course, the line of thinking I've been introduced to in Buddhism is startlingly different in many ways compared to where I once was. Once again, thank you.

    Gassho,
    John

  5. #5
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Hi John,

    I am just a dumb practitioner and have no real experience, but in my point of view, getting lost in books and meanings and words and academy will only get you so far.

    Nothing wrong in reading a lot. I do that almost all the time. But then there's the part where you drop it all and sit.

    There is no karma, no past lives, no ghosts, no soul.

    Just the wholeness of you being pulled to the cushion by gravity.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    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

  6. #6
    Hi John,

    I fully agree with what has been said here, but like to add something (I already wrote that in an older thread though, so please excuse the redundancy):

    We must distinguish between rebirth and reincarnation. IMHO we are not reborn as another sentient being - after all there is no "I" that can be reborn.
    However, reincarnation is like using a burning candle to light up another candle. Is the flame of the new candle the same of the first candle or different? (neither one nor the other)
    When we die we dissolve into water, air, and all kinds of other stuff, so nothing disappears - we remain in the circle of everything. Perhaps we create a cloud that causes rain that will help to grow vegetables...
    On the other hand we "die" and are "reborn" with every new moment. With everything you do, read, say, etc. you change something in your body (creating new synapses, forming new opinions, etc.), it's just constant change. Cells dying, new cells forming.

    IMHO "karma" is just the everyday cause and effect - with my behavior I kind of create my environment. The reaction might not come right away, but some day. There is nothing magical about this. The karma might show its effect as a bad conscience for example.

    But don't believe me - just sit and let go!

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  7. #7
    Sit twice a day for 3 months. This may help you see your intellectual. World and how it controls you.
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  8. #8
    Senior Member Daijo's Avatar
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    And don't forget to stretch before and after.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Dosho View Post
    John,

    Taigu is right...throw it all away.

    But if you must read (really distant second to Taigu's advice), try this thread from Jundo: http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...ions-VI-(Karma)

    T[/I]
    This too ...

    'BIG' Questions - VII (Life After Death?)
    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...fter-Death-%29

    Here is my own way of putting this ...

    If there are future lives, heavens and hells ... live this life here and now, seek not to do harm, seek not to build "heavens" and "hells" in this world ... let what happens after "death" take care of itself.

    And if there are no future lives, no heavens or hells ... live this life here and now, seek not to do harm, seek not to build "heavens" and "hells" in this world ... let what happens after "death" take care of itself.

    Thus I do not much care if, in the next life, that "gentle way, avoiding harm" will buy me a ticket to heaven and keep me out of hell ... but I know for a fact that it will go far to do so in this life, today, where I see people create all manner of "heavens and hells" for themselves and those around them by their harmful words, thoughts and acts in this life.

    And if there is a "heaven and hell" in the next life, or other effects of Karma now ... well, my actions now have effects then too, and might be the ticket to heaven or good rebirth.

    In other words, whatever the case ... today, now ... live in a gentle way, avoiding harm to self and others (not two, by the way) ... seeking to avoid harm now and in the future too.
    and also ...

    There is no "birth and death" anyway.
    (I explain that "no birth and death anyway" at the above link, a very basic Zen way of experiencing things that even can pass a skeptics' test. Basically, when we drop from mind small human divisions of "start" and "finish", "before" and "after", "life" and "death" ... something very whole and undivided is encountered where the whole question becomes a non-issue. That's kind of Zen and Mahayana Buddhism 101. ) ...

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 04-30-2013 at 02:44 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  10. #10
    Senior Member Nameless's Avatar
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    Wow, a lot of great advice here:

    Nothing wrong in reading a lot. I do that almost all the time. But then there's the part where you drop it all and sit.

    There is no karma, no past lives, no ghosts, no soul.

    Just the wholeness of you being pulled to the cushion by gravity.
    Thank you Kyonin. This is along the lines of practice is the best way to learn. I could spend my whole life in books (which I nearly have haha) and know much, but understand little.

    We must distinguish between rebirth and reincarnation. IMHO we are not reborn as another sentient being - after all there is no "I" that can be reborn.
    However, reincarnation is like using a burning candle to light up another candle. Is the flame of the new candle the same of the first candle or different? (neither one nor the other)
    When we die we dissolve into water, air, and all kinds of other stuff, so nothing disappears - we remain in the circle of everything. Perhaps we create a cloud that causes rain that will help to grow vegetables...
    On the other hand we "die" and are "reborn" with every new moment. With everything you do, read, say, etc. you change something in your body (creating new synapses, forming new opinions, etc.), it's just constant change. Cells dying, new cells forming.
    Brilliant Timo! As a beginner (we're always beginners ), I am still in the early stages of forgetting the self. The more I practice Zazen, the more I become intimate with your statement though.

    Sit twice a day for 3 months. This may help you see your intellectual. World and how it controls you.

    Rich, you're right. How can I shatter my faith in intellect when I continue to use it constantly? This intellectual life of mine is one of my many concepts that have kept me ceaselessly circling. The truth is beyond the reaches of intellect, beyond cause and effect. I'm currently sitting at least twice each day... I'm looking forward to the following months of practice.

    Basically, when we drop from mind small human divisions of "start" and "finish", "before" and "after", "life" and "death" ... something very whole and undivided is encountered where the whole question becomes a non-issue.
    Beautifully said Jundo. I sense the truth in your words. I haven't been excessively preoccupied with what comes after this life (or before it) for quite awhile. We know we have the now, so we that's where I should dwell. A long long time ago I was a Roman Catholic because that's what my mother is. Like most children, I adopted her beliefs initially. I went through most of the sacraments and even became an altar boy. One thought crossed my mind often when I was there: "Most of these people who are worshiping God and doing good deeds are only doing it because they're afraid that they will go to hell after they die if they don't. Aren't we supposed to worship God because we love God, not because we're afraid? Aren't we supposed to do good because we're supposed to love one another?" This same formula can be used in regards to my Zen practice now.

    Gassho,
    John

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyonin View Post
    There is no karma, no past lives, no ghosts, no soul.
    So simple...


    Thank You !
    Patrick__________________________
    Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien. -Voltaire
    The better is the enemy of the good. -Voltaire

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyonin View Post
    There is no karma, no past lives, no ghosts, no soul.
    Unless there is.

    I will simply post here what I posted on another thread today with a BIG Question ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post

    Sometimes in Zen Practice, we drop certain questions because the very asking makes the problem. It is rather like asking "how many angels can rest on the head of a pin?" or "how many flying blue horses can fit in a barn?" or "will the red dress or the blue dress make me happy?"

    Sometimes in Zen Practice, we drop certain questions because, though perhaps a question with an answer, it is irrelevant to Zen Practice. An example would be "which team won the 1949 World Series?" or "what is the right way to brush your teeth?". There may be an answer, but it does not pertain to our enterprise here and merely distracts.

    Sometimes in Zen Practice, we drop certain questions because nobody can know for sure (and anyway, it is always still irrelevant to our Practice).

    The Buddha sometimes gave examples in the old Suttas such as whether the cosmos is eternal or not eternal, finite or infinite, both or neither?" and whether 'the soul & the body are the same?" or "after death does a Tathagata exist or not exist?". He said ...

    "It's just as if a man were wounded with an arrow thickly smeared with poison. His friends ... provide him with a surgeon, and the man would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble warrior, a brahman, a merchant, or a worker.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know the given name & clan name of the man who wounded me... until I know whether he was tall, medium, or short... until I know whether he was dark, ruddy-brown, or golden-colored... until I know his home village, town, or city... until I know whether the bow with which I was wounded was a long bow or a crossbow... until I know whether the bowstring with which I was wounded was fiber, bamboo threads, sinew, hemp, or bark... until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was wild or cultivated... until I know whether the feathers of the shaft with which I was wounded were those of a vulture, a stork, a hawk, a peacock, or another bird... ... The man would die and those things would still remain unknown to him. ...

    "So, Malunkyaputta, remember what is undeclared by me as undeclared, and what is declared by me as declared. ... And why are they undeclared by me? Because they are not connected with the goal, are not fundamental to the holy life. They do not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calming, direct knowledge, self-awakening, Unbinding. That's why they are undeclared by me.
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipit....063.than.html
    .

    I am not sure which your question is (I might go with the first kind), but we put the question to sleep, give the question a rest.

    Gassho, J

    I might add that the Buddha likely did have some belief in Rebirth, which would have been typical of a man of his culture and times. (Read a bit more here) ...

    http://sdhammika.blogspot.sg/2013/03...n-rebirth.html

    However, I still feel it irrelevant to our enterprise here and now, which rises and falls on this life lived here and now.

    Anyway, what "Birth" and what "Death"?

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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    Senior Member Nameless's Avatar
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    Thank you Jundo, you make me glad that I joined this Zendo. If not for your words and the words of others here I would still be wondering what the arrow is made of.

    Gassho,
    John

  14. #14
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Thank you Jundo.
    迎 Geika

  15. #15
    In response to Kyonin's "There is no karma, no past lives, no ghosts, no soul."

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Unless there is.
    Taigu's sentiment has been really helpful to me. And Jundo's quote above is also great. I mean, the stuff isn't true, unless it is.

    I relate John. I have about twenty books from Bodhidharma to Dogen to both Suzuki's to Alan Watts. Eventually reading all this stuff started to just give me grief and doubts about my practice. I'm still working on letting go of it. Or being able to read and explore without that nagging need to "figure it out." Faith has never come easy to me either. If this is faith.

    I'm really glad you started this thread, because I think today especially I needed to hear someone tell me to throw it all away.

    Gassho,
    Mc.

  16. #16
    Throw everything away!
    Fundamentally, I agree but if we threw all "everything" away this forum would not exist (how sad would it be? ). Most of the "mental theatre" is completely useless (my mind is like a overly excited monkey with tourette sometimes), but I cannot see thowing it all away. The intellect is a beautiful tool and maybe we need to learn when to use it and when not to rely too much on it. But that sounds just like another mind construction...I will throw it away

    Gassho, A

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Andrea1974 View Post
    Fundamentally, I agree but if we threw all "everything" away this forum would not exist (how sad would it be? ). Most of the "mental theatre" is completely useless (my mind is like a overly excited monkey with tourette sometimes), but I cannot see thowing it all away. The intellect is a beautiful tool and maybe we need to learn when to use it and when not to rely too much on it. But that sounds just like another mind construction...I will throw it away

    Gassho, A
    Actually, in Master Dogen's vision, words and thoughts were not the enemy, if wise thoughts filled with clarity and charity.

    When we sit Shikantaza, we drop thoughts and emotions and find a certain Boundless, Open Clarity between and beyond our usual busy mind. We clear out a lot of the junk and clutter from our mental attic. Then, thoughts and emotions return, and we let them go too.

    But what actually happens when one sits long enough is that one can find that thoughts and emotions and Wisdom and Compassion are not two, and that Boundless Open Clarity comes to shine beyond, between, right through-and-through, right -as- the very thoughts and emotions themselves. Then, though we still have thoughts and emotions about life, things we like and things we don't, judgments of good and bad, thoughts of this and that and you and me ... all is encountered and seen through much the same yet very differently than before.

    Without the intellect and emotions, attractions, desires, aversions, mental categories ... we could not function, could not even choose to get out of bed in the morning. Words and thoughts are not themselves the problem and like any tools (a hammer, a knife) can be used to build or misused for harm.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 05-03-2013 at 01:53 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  18. #18

  19. #19
    Senior Member Heion's Avatar
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    Hello John

    From my understanding, rebirth is a mental state rather than a physical one. Being reborn into a higher conscious level is what is usually meant by rebirth because as good ole' Einstein said "A problem can't be solved on the same plain of consciousness that created it." Therefore, rebirth is cultivated through self-awareness and acceptance. Buddha never directly taught rebirth.
    Also, some karma is ineffective and some will not happen for many years. To harm another is to harm ones self and negative actions towards others can come back around when you least expect it. I once read that karmic reactions can be so inconspicuous as a light burning out in your room, which symbolizes when you failed to illuminate a path for another or supply them knowledge. Of course, this is just stuff that I have read.

    With metta

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Clarinetist! View Post
    Hello John

    From my understanding, rebirth is a mental state rather than a physical one. Being reborn into a higher conscious level is what is usually meant by rebirth because as good ole' Einstein said "A problem can't be solved on the same plain of consciousness that created it." Therefore, rebirth is cultivated through self-awareness and acceptance. Buddha never directly taught rebirth.
    Also, some karma is ineffective and some will not happen for many years. To harm another is to harm ones self and negative actions towards others can come back around when you least expect it. I once read that karmic reactions can be so inconspicuous as a light burning out in your room, which symbolizes when you failed to illuminate a path for another or supply them knowledge. Of course, this is just stuff that I have read.

    With metta
    Hi,

    Old insights like this from such youthful folks like you may be one reason folks have felt that people have had many past lives, garnering Wisdom over the ages and ages. What you say may be so.


    “You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.”

    I do not know if Einstein actually said this or not (the source is unclear), but the thought is good. Perhaps this whole matter is well beyond even human ideas of mental and physical, birth and death, and we must think (and not think) outside the box. I sometimes think that it is much like asking birds to explain the physics and principles of aerodynamics! Although they can fly, and are masters of the sky, I doubt they know why.

    So, I choose to "carry water and chop wood", as we say in the Zen world. I just deal with what is before me, letting future lives (if any) be.

    I like to say that, since it is so ridiculous that we should have been born even ONCE amid all time and space, considering all that was required for that to come about ... well, might as well happen again.

    In traditional Buddhism, by the way, rebirth was not really seen as a positive ... but something to be escaped. It is likely the Buddha did teach Rebirth in some form, however, as would an Indian man of his day and time.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 05-03-2013 at 09:09 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  21. #21
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrea1974 View Post
    Fundamentally, I agree but if we threw all "everything" away this forum would not exist (how sad would it be? ).
    I don't think that is the kind of throwing away Taigu is talking about. I think it is more about how excess, endless thoughts on karma and rebirth are useless in the face of doing zazen. Believing in either is not necessary for Shikantaza.

    Quote Originally Posted by Clarinetist! View Post
    Also, some karma is ineffective and some will not happen for many years. To harm another is to harm ones self and negative actions towards others can come back around when you least expect it. I once read that karmic reactions can be so inconspicuous as a light burning out in your room, which symbolizes when you failed to illuminate a path for another or supply them knowledge.
    Such energies may exist, and I used to think deeply in such terms myself, but now karma is more of an immediate consequence to me, for any and every action and thought. If you piss off the guy you're supposed to be working for, you won't be hired again, or, if you're mean to your mom on the phone, she will be sad.



    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    So, I choose to "carry water and chop wood", as we say in the Zen world. I just deal with what is before me, letting future lives (if any) be.

    I like to say that, since it is so ridiculous that we should have been born even ONCE amid all time and space, considering all that was required for that to come about ... well, might as well happen again.
    迎 Geika

  22. #22
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    I resonate with what you say Andrea. I wonder if it's more about the strong attachment to the intellect that causes the problems rather than the intellect itself? Things are pure in themselves but if I identifiy with them then maybe that is what's to be thrown away? And who is the one doing the throwing?

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