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Thread: Mechanics of Enlightenment

  1. #1

    Mechanics of Enlightenment

    Hi all,

    The Tibetans are clear in terms of how Enlightenment happens - a non-conceptual experience of Emptiness (usually through a very analytical form of meditation). So to the Theravadin schools, insight gained through experiencing Anatta through meditation and developing Pannya.

    How does Shikantaza facilitate 'Enlightenment'?

    Thanks,

    Tony...

  2. #2
    Dear Tony,

    although I am by no means an expert, even "the Tibetans" have a colourful multitude of different models based on different ontological assumptions.

    There is no single one-and-only true Zen doctrine set in stone, but if one really feels the need to look into some of the most important historical influences that get into some technical details, one could do worse than to look at the following (Ashvaghosha's Awakening of Faith):

    http://www.thezensite.com/ZenTeachin..._of_faith.html

    A famous and very short Zen formula would be:

    "A special transmission outside the scriptures,
    Not founded upon words and letters;
    By pointing directly to [one's] mind
    It lets one see into [one's own true] nature and [thus] attain Buddhahood."


    Btw. most of the Tibetan Mahamudra and Dzogchen texts I have come across over the years seem to make it clear that realising emptiness alone does not equal anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.

    In Shikantaza we resolve that kind of thing on the cushion , dropping likes and dislikes, opening into that which arises to the point where practise and enlightenment are not two.
    That's what we cultivate, through non doing we turn milk into cream, which has always been fully present the whole time.

    Gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen
    Last edited by Hans; 12-12-2013 at 10:28 AM.
    Chudo Mongen, Ordained Novice Priest-in-Training

  3. #3
    The Tibetans are clear in terms of how Enlightenment happens - a non-conceptual experience of Emptiness (usually through a very analytical form of meditation)
    That sounds very much like Gelug school thinking to me. Other Tibetan schools are less analytical in their approach.

    Dogen's take on enlightenment (as I understand it) is pretty simple - practice and enlightenment are not two. From Fukanzazengi:

    The zazen I speak of is not meditation practice. It is simply the dharma gate of joyful ease, the practice-realization of totally culminated enlightenment. It is the koan realized; traps and snares can never reach it. If you grasp the point, you are like a dragon gaining the water, like a tiger taking to the mountains. For you must know that the true dharma appears of itself, so that from the start dullness and distraction are struck aside.

    And from Bendowa (On the Endeavour of the Way):

    When even for a moment you sit upright in samadhi expressing the buddha mudra in the three activities, the whole world of phenomena becomes the buddha's mudra and the entire sky turns into enlightenment.


    Gassho
    Andy

  4. #4
    Hello,

    Karasu found some great quotes there. Thanks!

    In general talking about all of this sometimes can be very beneficial, but often it creates more problems than just entering into THIS directly.

    Other power, self power, gradual, sudden, primordial, doing, non-doing, thinking, non-thinking.

    Gems and headache material at the same time.

    Sitting is our gateless gate of Shikantaza, but in truth it extends to and permeates everything, regardless of time and space.


    Gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen
    Chudo Mongen, Ordained Novice Priest-in-Training

  5. #5
    In general talking about all of this sometimes can be very beneficial, but often it creates more problems than just entering into THIS directly.
    I totally agree, Hans. We can talk around it all we like but sitting is the front gate to seeing how things are.

    Each of the Buddhist schools has its own model of how awakening is achieved but most of the practices essentially come down to the same thing - sitting with mind/experience.

    Gassho
    Andy

  6. #6
    Hi there,

    IMHO we should also note that even Soto Zen does not deny there are things like (peak event-like) satori/kensho besides practice-enlightenment.
    There is no single "recipe" for this.

    You could try the following though:
    - Teacher hits you with stick on head
    - Someone else hits you with stick on head
    - Teacher yells at you, so you get almost deaf
    - You get 30 blows with a stick by a teacher
    - You run head first into a wall
    - You let your teacher cut off one of your fingers
    ...
    SCNR - I just love these stories and IMHO it should be allowed to make some jokes even about this topic...

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  7. #7
    Zazen on the cushion is all there is, Enlightenment realized, not one drop to add not one drop to take away ... Wholly Holy Whole, Completely Complete ... Buddha sitting Buddha ... Buddha Buddhaing Buddha. Enlightenment is sitting itself.

    But that is when sitting on the cushion!

    Rising from the cushion (as we do and must), all of life manifests and is manifested as Zazen in its Vast meaning ... in the kitchen, the child's nursery, the office, driving the car ... Enlightenment realized, not one drop to add not one drop to take away ... Wholly Holy Whole, Completely Complete ... Buddha sitting Buddha ... Buddha Buddhaing Buddha.

    One will have various momentless moments of "a non-conceptual experience of Emptiness" now and then ... but such realization (piercing, grocking) is not enough, for more vital is the realization (making it real, bringing to life) of how one thus lives. THAT is Enlightenment as Practice itself ... for Enlightenment must be put into Practice.

    Emptiness, beyond me and you and love and hate and lack and gain and coming and going ... must simultaneously be realized (grocked) to be, and realized (brought to life) in/as/through this world of me and you and love and hate and lack and gain and coming and going. That is the real trick that takes Practice!

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 12-13-2013 at 03:11 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  8. #8
    Senior Member Myosha's Avatar
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    Thank you.


    Gassho,
    Edward
    Practice with humility, respect all beings, avoid attachments, give rise to praja from your own awareness, put an end to delusions - Hui-neng

  9. #9
    In a nutshell, Bro Jundo expresses it.

    Gassho

    T.
    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.

  10. #10
    Wonderfully words Jundo! =)

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

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

  11. #11
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    Deep bows

    Gassho
    ______________________________
    Kōshin / Leo



    P.S. Yup, I know, my English sucks

  12. #12
    Senior Member Tiwala's Avatar
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    Soto might be one of the most hands on approach to buddhism you can find, as I see it

    Gassho, Ben
    Gassho
    Ben

  13. #13
    I had no better place to put this, found online just now ...

    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  14. #14
    If one sees the illusion of self In meditation, would life (post cushion) not be changed forever?


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

  15. #15
    Senior Member Myosha's Avatar
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    Suzuki answered it well, ". . .The secret of Soto Zen is just two words: not always so."


    Gassho,
    Edward
    Practice with humility, respect all beings, avoid attachments, give rise to praja from your own awareness, put an end to delusions - Hui-neng

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by dharmasponge View Post
    If one sees the illusion of self In meditation, would life (post cushion) not be changed forever?


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    This life-self-world is constantly changing forever. Like the flowing river, never as it was the moment before.

    But if you are asking whether, seeing the illusion of abiding self, one is done, "fully enlightened", a finished product like a cake popping out of the oven ... I would say no.

    This is much as a hike up a mountain where suddenly one may realize that mountain and hiking and hiker are one all along ... yet the hike up and down the mountain must continue in order to realize hiker, mountain and hike. One does not merely rest on one's laurels. Mountain-hiker-hike may just be experienced as Buddha-Buddhaing-Buddha ... but still the hike continues and is a continuing matter of ups and downs, constantly changing scenery, spectacular vistas and poison ivy, sometimes reaching the peak and sometimes tripping and falling in the mud.

    Perhaps many of the old Buddhist and Zen story book legends misled students to believe that ... in a flash ... one was "enlightened" ... what had to be done now done. Baloney. Most Zen Buddhist folks I know ... Rinzai folks, Soto folks ... will tell ya it ain't quite so simple. In a timeless instant ... a snap of the fingers ... one may realize Emptiness, beyond me and you and love and hate and lack and gain and coming and going. A nice place to visit, but one cannot live there. That beginingless view is only where the real work begins, because it is simultaneously this world of me and you and love and hate and lack and gain and coming and going.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 12-15-2013 at 01:00 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  17. #17
    Most of us start at wanting enlightenment (or looking for something in the future that will change our life once and forever). The way Shikantaza works, it slowly changes us from wanting enlightenment (or looking in the future, feeling the lack) to enjoying each step of the journey/life itself. What if someone tells you there is no enlightenment (or one solution to all your problems) down the road, not just in Zen but in any tradition? and all you are left with is your daily life.

    Gassho
    Sam

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    Most of us start at wanting enlightenment (or looking for something in the future that will change our life once and forever). The way Shikantaza works, it slowly changes us from wanting enlightenment (or looking in the future, feeling the lack) to enjoying each step of the journey/life itself. What if someone tells you there is no enlightenment (or one solution to all your problems) down the road, not just in Zen but in any tradition? and all you are left with is your daily life.

    Gassho
    Sam
    Who said there is no enlightenment? NOT ME or any Soto Teacher I know!

    Each step of the journey is now encountered as a Total Arrival in each step ... each step by step a Buddha Step.

    There is no "solution to one's problems", and so many life problems remain ... yet hand in hand, one experiences a realm without problem or anything to solve. Not two.

    Daily life ... the sometimes hard, sometimes easy, sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly day-to-day slog of life ... simultaneously Beautiful Pure Land.

    Who said there is "no enlightenment"? It is just that "enlightenment" in this life is never done.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  19. #19
    I don't think we are saying anything different. The question is not whether there is enlightenment or not. As all great teachers have pointed out, it is "the seeking" that's the problem. It just adds one more thing to seek for. one more thing that is not there now but will complete us if we get it in the future.

    I was asking a question, how would it feel if there is nothing in the end? how would it feel if there is nothing else needed to complete you?

    Gassho,
    Sam

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post

    Who said there is "no enlightenment"? It is just that "enlightenment" in this life is never done.

    Gassho, J
    Thank you Jundo - this, such a difficult thing to practice, is our practice.

    gassho
    Shōmon

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by alan.r View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post

    Who said there is "no enlightenment"? It is just that "enlightenment" in this life is never done.

    Gassho, J
    Thank you Jundo - this, such a difficult thing to practice, is our practice.

    gassho
    Enlightenment might be "done" after death, maybe after some future lives when we finally get totally free of this world, these bodies, these desires, this separation of me and you and this and that.

    But Enlightenment in this life (even though a key aspect of such Enlightenment is the realization that there was never anything in need of doing, and no division and frictions between me and you and this and that) is never done and has a lot of "doing" we must do to make it real while in this life. That's cause we keep on living in ... whether it is something of a dream or not ... this world of me and you and this and that.

    Buddhists sometimes distinguish "Enlightenment in life" (where the bottom falls through the bucket, but we still must use the bucket to fetch water) and what is sometimes called "Pari-Nirvana" or the like (when we finally kick the bucket once and for all).

    A lot of the old Buddhist stories implied that "Enlightened folks" in this life were somehow now totally beyond this life and all human weakness and pain and potential fault. For example, legends about the historical Buddha imply that, even though the Sutta books are filled with stories of him eating, getting stomach aches, growing old, defecating, getting back aches and the like, the Buddha was actually "beyond all that" in truth ... and merely put on an act of pretending to eat, get sick, defecate, etc. in order to teach us! Baloney! That is just legend making, I feel.

    Rather, I believe that the Buddha pierced a viewless view in which, yes, there was no separate self to feel hunger, no time in which to age, no lack or aches and pains ... yet, simultaneously, while alive nonetheless had hunger, aches and pains and all the rest. In other words, the Buddha found the key to see through "Dukkha" ... the dissatisfaction, fear, sense of lack in such things as old age, sickness and death ... but he never actually found a "cure" for old age, sickness and death (as evidenced by the fact that, in the end, he got old, sick and died! ). He discovered another realm beyond lack and time and birth and death etc. which we call "Big B" Buddha (the Dharmakhaya, as opposed to the historical Buddha who was born and got old and died).

    In other words, we can see and experience life from both ways at once. But our Practice is figuring out how to live life in a way whereby the two views are one ... and its tricky.

    Kinda get the drift?

    Dogen kind of touches on this in two essays of his on the famous "Fox Koan". He kinda implies that we are "free of Karma" yet (so long as we live) are "bound by Karma" at once. These seem like two conflicting propositions, but really both are just different ways of looking at the situation, both true at once.

    Anyway, said too much, starting just to philosophize ... just fingers pointing at the moon now. Let's get back to the sitting cushions and realize the moon and how the moonlight shines.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 12-14-2013 at 04:39 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  22. #22
    I still struggle with this ;-)

    If there is no striving then why bother? What's the rationale? Why get up in the morning, and if you do, why sit on the Zafu? Why not just drink tea instead...what's so special about 'sitting'?

    Surely the fact that we sit on the Zafu and not the couch implies a reason, however subtle. The reason has an agenda, the dissatisfaction of life without sitting maybe?




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  23. #23
    Hi Tony

    I think that we all start sitting for a reason. Over time that reason tends to drop away and we are just left with the sitting.

    As far as practice and realization go, I really like the passage at the end of Dogen's Genjokoan:

    As Zen master Pao-ch'e of Mount Ma-y was fanning himself, a monk came up and said, “The nature of the wind is constancy. There is no place it does not reach. Why use a fan?” Pao-ch'e answered, “You only know the nature of the wind is constancy. You haven't yet grasped the meaning of its reaching every place.” “What is the meaning of its reaching every place?” asked the monk. The master only fanned himself. The monk bowed deeply.
    So, although we already have the air of buddha nature, unless we fan ourselves with practice, it will remain unseen.

    Gassho
    Andy

  24. #24
    I've heard it said, "enlightenment is not a noun; it's a verb." It's a relationship to how we live our life.
    Shinzan

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by dharmasponge View Post
    I still struggle with this ;-)

    If there is no striving then why bother? What's the rationale? Why get up in the morning, and if you do, why sit on the Zafu? Why not just drink tea instead...what's so special about 'sitting'?

    Surely the fact that we sit on the Zafu and not the couch implies a reason, however subtle. The reason has an agenda, the dissatisfaction of life without sitting maybe?




    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    Yes, Andy's quoting the Koan of "Master Pao-ch'e and the Fan" is right on. This is the same question that drove Dogen to cross an ocean to China: If we are "already Buddha" as claimed, why need we Practice?

    Of course, sitting on the Zafu has a goal, a reason, an agenda: Namely, the goal, reason and agenda is to realize, to the marrow, that there is no ultimate goal or agenda needed, for the target is already hit from the first ... for we are "already Buddha". We go to the cushion each day to realize to the marrow that "there was no place in need of going, because such is everywhere". We Practice the Precepts as we can each day ... dropping excess desires, anger and the divisive thoughts of ignorance ... because, although we are "Buddha all along" and there is ultimately nothing in need of changing or faults for fixing, that fact tends to get hidden from our eyes when covered with excess desire, anger and ignorance (so we try to fix that ignorance!).

    One can realize that in the Japanese Tea Ceremony (thus its long appreciation in the Zen world), but not so easily sitting on the sofa drinking a cola hoping to be entertained by tv re-runs while worrying about the medical exam tomorrow or the thing that happened yesterday and what your wife said today. Why?

    How often do we sit, leaving all that be?

    How often in life do we do any action with this attitude flooding all: To wit, that one is being the only place one need be in all time and space, the only place on can be ... doing the only things which need be done, a sacred non-doing, Buddha sitting as one sits ... Buddha sitting Buddha. It is the attitude man! If one feels in one's marrow that the moment is whole and complete ... It Is! Most important is to sit with such an attitude of Zazen as a sacred and complete act, your sitting as the Buddha Sitting, no other place or thing to do in all the universe, sitting in a light and balanced way, not dull and lethargic ... beyond goal and pursuit, in peace and equanimity ... nothing to change or fix, yet letting excess desire and anger fall away ... all such as a sacred action, the king of samādhis samādhi. Then, while sitting so ... let what be just be.

    In short, we usually don't sit such way while on the sofa with a coke! One does sit so ... and is sitting sat so ... on the Zafu/

    Then, rising from the Zafu one might bring this realization into all of life ... and then, only then, realize that:

    Sitting on the sofa watch reruns drinking a coke is, all along, Buddha sitting on Buddha drinking Buddha, planning for tomorrow Buddha while pondering yesterday Buddha, even when hidden from our eyes! (A Koan)

    Funny how that works.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 12-15-2013 at 12:54 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  26. #26
    Although there is nothing in need of cleaning from the first ... cleaning the cat box is just Buddha sifting Buddha poop.

    It is merely that, without Practice, we don't usually realize life's litter box as so.

    Though just a Buddha box filled with Buddha sand and Buddha droppings ... clean it we must, lest Buddha cat gets sick. (A Koan)

    Last edited by Jundo; 12-15-2013 at 01:37 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    ... rising from the Zafu one might bring this realization into all of life ...
    Thank you ... I remember the first time you mentioned this and it has stuck with me ... so clear! =)

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

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

  28. #28
    Senior Member Tiwala's Avatar
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    Is it wrong to assume that in Soto, realization of the true nature of reality is not the enlightenment that it speaks of? I mean, as it appears to me, Soto refers to enlightenment as an action (thus never ending). I feel people get confused when they hear that in Soto, one does not strive for enlightenment while sitting because the sitting itself, in Soto zen speak, (with the total abandonment of resistance and clinging) is itself enlightenment. While most people, reading enlightenment, think of something cerebral, or an experiential/intuitive understanding of some truth. I think this is where the confusion lies, especially since most Buddhism seems to refer to enlightenment as an understanding. I mean, as I understand it, in Soto, there are understandings, realizations, but they are not refered to as enlightenment. Shikantaza, not limited to the physical act of just sitting, is enlightenment.

    Actually, in my silly view, there really is no enlightenment. Its just a name, as empty as everything else. Its notions are impermanent, empty, dependently existing. The coming together of these variables in action is where it springs forth from that mysterious springless spring. But because it is empty, while simultaneously not existing, it exists as everything. It is quite beyond any explanation, by its characteristicless 'nature' (to call it such is not so very accurate)

    Gassho, Ben
    Gassho
    Ben

  29. #29
    But...... Saying that sitting is Enlightenment doesn't make it so ( does it?).

    I am exploring the Soto stance coming from a very different tradition - but Dogen and Shikantaza are both like an itch I cannot scratch. Hence the questions. I am yet to be in a position to assimilate much of the messages within the colourful, poetic language of Zen. I am more used to a very pragmatic and direct answer to questions rather than inferential open answers. I can see that once understood though this language may be more 'direct'. But at the moment, 'Buddha sitting as Buddha' means absolutely nothing to me... ;-)

    What the Dharma has taught me over the last couple of decades is that I have a fundamental misapprehension of reality based upon a belief that things exist the way they appear (Emptiness). They don't (conventional reality). This is (surely) crucially important? If this is correct, and we know it is, then I feel compelled to better understand how things do exist.

    This was, still is guess, my reason for sitting. But different to many here I seek an answer and experience of the Emptiness of self directly. Like being in a nightmare believing that all the nasty monsters are real. The dream person merely deciding that it's all a dream is no use at all. It's just moving the furniture around in the prison cell, not escaping. Someone's whispering in my ear "it's a dream that's all" gives me the impetus to actually wake up!

    Now in the nicest possible way, my current feeble understanding of Soto tells me we're dream people just telling ourselves that it's all ok with nothing to do or change. Any thoughts of there being an inherent problem with life is an illusion as Samsara is no different to Enlightenment. Realising deeply that we don't exist in the way that we appear, waking up from the dream, realising that we're actually actors in a shitty movie is my goal.

    At the moment, just sitting, sounds like, well, just sitting. My cat just sits. So does my sons teddy :-D

    I however, have the facility of discriminative thought and the ability to 'know'. Why not use this facility to realise I am in a dream?

    Far too much philosophising for Zen forum I know, but I appreciate you all helping me scratch my Soto itch!

    _/|\_


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Tiwala View Post
    Is it wrong to assume that in Soto, realization of the true nature of reality is not the enlightenment that it speaks of? I mean, as it appears to me, Soto refers to enlightenment as an action (thus never ending). I feel people get confused when they hear that in Soto, one does not strive for enlightenment while sitting because the sitting itself, in Soto zen speak, (with the total abandonment of resistance and clinging) is itself enlightenment. While most people, reading enlightenment, think of something cerebral, or an experiential/intuitive understanding of some truth. I think this is where the confusion lies, especially since most Buddhism seems to refer to enlightenment as an understanding. I mean, as I understand it, in Soto, there are understandings, realizations, but they are not refered to as enlightenment. Shikantaza, not limited to the physical act of just sitting, is enlightenment.

    Actually, in my silly view, there really is no enlightenment. Its just a name, as empty as everything else. Its notions are impermanent, empty, dependently existing. The coming together of these variables in action is where it springs forth from that mysterious springless spring. But because it is empty, while simultaneously not existing, it exists as everything. It is quite beyond any explanation, by its characteristicless 'nature' (to call it such is not so very accurate)

    Gassho, Ben

    I feel that there are several faces to "Enlightenment" ... each just the Buddha Face.

    I feel that one can have a mental experience of Oneness and Wholeness, the dropping of the "subject/object" divide. One can also have such an experience with the body (for example, my Teacher Nishijima used to be a long distance runner in his youth, and spoke of the physical bodily experience of the Oneness and Wholeness of Zazen as close to what was felt sometimes in long distance running) I think that some Zen folks may be a bit more on the "mental" side, and some may find their Enlightenment more on the physical side through the body. In any event, most Zen folks speak of "mind-body" as an integrated whole, so not two. Thus, we sit in Zazen mentally letting thoughts go, thereby loosening the "subject/object" divide ... but we also sit in a certain balanced posture or walk Kinhin or bow with the body.

    Dogen famously described such sitting as "body and mind dropped away".

    Then, rising from the cushion, we need to find how to live in a world of thoughts and actions ... a world of me and you and this and that and things to do and problems that is simultaneously that same Oneness and Wholeness.

    I believe that all of that is "Faces of Enlightenment", even though, as you say, "Enlightenment" is just a word for something so often beyond words.

    Quote Originally Posted by dharmasponge View Post

    This was, still is guess, my reason for sitting. But different to many here I seek an answer and experience of the Emptiness of self directly. Like being in a nightmare believing that all the nasty monsters are real. The dream person merely deciding that it's all a dream is no use at all. It's just moving the furniture around in the prison cell, not escaping. Someone's whispering in my ear "it's a dream that's all" gives me the impetus to actually wake up!
    I sometimes speak of our needing to "wake up" from the child's illusion that there is a "boogey-man" under the bed.



    How can the child be free of the "boogey-man"? There are several approaches. One is for the child to bravely grab a baseball bat and to try to beat and threaten the boogey-man to get out of there. (However, since there really is not boogey-man, that is kind of a waste of effort). The next method is to peak under the bed, thus to see that there is nothing there. That is a good method. But he still needs to stop thinking and reifying the boogey-man at that point, otherwise the boogey-man will come back (in his mind anyway, which is where he always was).

    But our Shikantaza method is simply to drop from mind and quit worrying about the "boogey-man" and when we do so ... poof ... the "boogey-man" disappears when our thoughts of "boogey-man" disappear. It was only the thoughts and worry and chasing after him that was making him "real" in the first place. In other words, the way to get rid of the "boogey-man" is to radically do nothing ... and leave him be (better, leave him not be) ... paying him "no nevermind".


    Now in the nicest possible way, my current feeble understanding of Soto tells me we're dream people just telling ourselves that it's all ok with nothing to do or change. Any thoughts of there being an inherent problem with life is an illusion as Samsara is no different to Enlightenment. Realising deeply that we don't exist in the way that we appear, waking up from the dream, realising that we're actually actors in a shitty movie is my goal.

    At the moment, just sitting, sounds like, well, just sitting. My cat just sits. So does my sons teddy :-D
    That is rather a misunderstanding of "Just Sitting" (although, as a cat owner, I often suspect that our cat is in fact rather Zenlike naturally ... and a cat's sitting may be a kind of Zazen).

    The way to realize that "the movie is not real" might be to turn on the theatre lights ... but it may also be to simply stop thinking that it is real (like the boogey-man). When we radically stop chasing boogey-men and movie dreams, what results is Oneness and Wholness and the dropping of the self-object divide.

    Then, having a new experience on the true nature of the movie ... we can get back to watching it! (Actually, I do this in scary movies when they get too scary ... I just recall it is just a movie while, simultaneously, dropping the fear from my mind. It works).

    The way to transcend the "subject/object" divide is to just sit, radically right to the marrow dropping thoughts of "subject vs. object" and "this and that and me and you". The way to drop thoughts and fears of tomorrow is not to do something or think something else ... but rather to stop thinking about tomorrow, and to put time measures down. The way to encounter Wholeness and Oneness is not to "do" anything ... but rather to simply stop doing thoughts of division and friction.

    Tomorrow I have my annual health check with the camera to look at my tummy. A couple of years ago, a good friend died of esophageal cancer. Every once in awhile today, I get chills up my spine and my head fills with the "worst case scenario" for tomorrow. The Boogey-man is here! But, based on my Zen Training, I quickly turn to Shikantaza mind ... drop all those thoughts and fears and ... poof ... it truly feels like my fear of death, about what might be found is totally transcended. Bring on the worst diagnosis or a clean bill of health ... no worries.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 12-15-2013 at 10:31 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  31. #31
    Senior Member Tiwala's Avatar
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    Thinking you're everything that happens to you is a nice provisional method to drop subject-object thinking that worked out for me.

    Also I also used to have that itch since I came from a very rinzai approach. So I know how you feel. I even went through some sleepness nights trying to get my head around shikantaza. Haha. Just keep doing it. You'll get it at some point. It'll feel right even if everything else doesn't.

    Gassho, Ben
    Gassho
    Ben

  32. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by dharmasponge View Post
    But...... Saying that sitting is Enlightenment doesn't make it so ( does it?).

    I am exploring the Soto stance coming from a very different tradition - but Dogen and Shikantaza are both like an itch I cannot scratch. Hence the questions. I am yet to be in a position to assimilate much of the messages within the colourful, poetic language of Zen. I am more used to a very pragmatic and direct answer to questions rather than inferential open answers. I can see that once understood though this language may be more 'direct'. But at the moment, 'Buddha sitting as Buddha' means absolutely nothing to me...
    Hi Tony,

    I can relate to this well as I too came in from other traditions and had trouble making sense of all of this. Once you sit for a few months may be things will change. Sitting is all you need to do. If your sitting is correct everything will fall into place. I am not worried about whether you understand the Zen philosophy right. I will be more worried if your sitting is not right. Would you like to share with us how you sit? Especially the mental aspect of it. Try to put it in "your own original words" so that others can see what it actually means to you.

    Here are few quotes from senior students and others that I liked

    "The best way to be effective at sitting is by not trying to be effective at all"

    "There is no method. Just Sit"

    "Allow everything to be exactly as it is. Sit and know that whatever happens is okay"

    "Zazen does Zazen. It is not your sitting or my sitting. It is sitting sitting itself"

    "Sitting is an act of surrender, simply sitting and letting go of all control. letting go of the meditator or the one who is trying to control the meditation"

    There can be some beautiful pointers or instructions (like allowing everything to be as is) but none of the instructions are meant to be implemented in a strict or rigid way. They are just light instructions, simple pointers. We sit simply not doing anything but again not falling into any dull/hazy mind state. That's why there are very few instructions about what to do with the mind. Most Zen teachers talk about the posture or physical aspect of it (Like nishijima suggesting to bring the spine back straight whenever your mind wanders) rather than telling us what to do with the mind. Any instruction about mind can tend to get implemented in a rigid way becoming an obstacle by itself.

    In other traditions, we do something, we follow a technique and pass through certain stages which finally culminates in awakening.

    In Shikantaza, we don't do anything, we let go all control and let it all happen. It is not a process and there are no stages to it. Thinking in terms of stages or process or going somewhere only hinders this. That is why there is less talk about enlightenment and practice itself is called enlightenment. When they say practice is enlightenment, it doesn't mean "the enlightenment" in the grandest sense. It just means there is no enlightenment or any grand state to look for other than this simple sitting or living our life now. You don't need to believe all of this. You can sit with whatever expectations you have about enlightenment. Just simply sit and let it do its work

    Gassho,
    Sam

  33. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by dharmasponge View Post
    The dream person merely deciding that it's all a dream is no use at all. It's just moving the furniture around in the prison cell, not escaping. Someone's whispering in my ear "it's a dream that's all" gives me the impetus to actually wake up!
    The problem is, you can wake up as often as you want, you'll always end up sleeping/dreaming again!
    You probably know what lucid dreaming is? When you realize you are dreaming and then to keep on dreaming consciously with that knowledge.
    So the "art" consists in something you could call "lucid living". To know of delusion, but live this life fully, becoming completely yourself with no masks. Because dream, being awake, the dreamer and the dreamt are all the same. Just different sides of a coin. You need to get it all under one roof.
    Having kensho/satori does not make you a better person or pay your bills. You keep on getting back to the world of samsara. However, it's all complete all the time - samsara/satori in a way the same.
    Getting back to square one, yet changed. Being the same all along, yet different.

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  34. #34
    So nicely expressed, Sam.

    ... Sit and know that whatever happens is okay"
    All okay! Nothing in need of change! Yet, we have to let go of and change some things that are simultaneously not okay ... like excess desire, anger, the divisive thoughts of ignorance.

    Both views at once, as one.

    That's why there are very few instructions about what to do with the mind.
    Open the hand of thought, and don't grab on to the thoughts that pop into mind. Do not wallow in long trains of thought or emotion, but when you find yourself doing so (as you will), open the hand of thought again and come back to 'just sitting' (or the posture or the breath for some teachers). Repeat.

    Don't think thought or emotions are good or bad. Simply, just don't grab on.

    Sit in silence and illumination as the clarity which results.

    So the "art" consists in something you could call "lucid living".
    Oh, love that. Gonna steal that!

    Yes, radically radically allowing, letting be, embracing, not grabbing, not thinking, not wallowing, not doing ... so tricky! One would think that "not doing" would easy compared to our daily life of constantly "doing doing doing".

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 12-16-2013 at 02:47 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  35. #35
    Hi Jundo,

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by LimoLama
    So the "art" consists in something you could call "lucid living".
    Oh, love that. Gonna steal that!
    Thanks, but the credit actually goes to British author Tim Freke who used this term in an interview I read.
    It immediately struck a chord in me. I know, all these analogies have their limits (as it is impossible to define IT), but I liked that one a lot.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Yes, radically radically allowing, letting be, embracing, not grabbing, not thinking, not wallowing, not doing ... so tricky! One would think that "not doing" would easy compared to our daily life of constantly "doing doing doing".
    Nice! Oh yes, so difficult sometimes... The Chinese concept of Wu Wei comes into mind - the "Doing by Non-Doing". Which is hard to grasp at the beginning - many people misunderstand it as lethargy, indifference or laziness, but nothing could be further from the truth.

    Thank you Jundo for your post about the "boogey-man" under the bed. This is an important thread IMHO.


    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  36. #36
    Sam quoted another person who had said:

    "Allow everything to be exactly as it is. Sit and know that whatever happens is okay"

    Now I am starting to conclude that 'Just Sitting' means developing a refined and philosophically impressive apathy.



  37. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    Would you like to share with us how you sit? Especially the mental aspect of it. Try to put it in "your own original words" so that others can see what it actually means to you.
    There's a question!

    I live in the UK and I started my career as a Buddhist within the Tibetan tradition - Gelug school. Had somewhat of an experience of Emptiness (not a big deal I am sure but it tickled my taste-buds). For several years practiced the analytical meditations on the Emptiness of self. Searching for the object of negation (me/I) and how it appears to my mind. Then trying to 'find' it.......impossible of course and whats left is an experience of the lack of an inherently existent me/I. Very powerful stuff. Gave me much insight into how I experience phenomena as truly existent and independent, when their mode of existence is merely name, generic ideas and concepts. No real 'reality' outside my mind.

    Annnnyyyywaayyy! For some reason I started to feel suffocated with all the bells, mantra and tantras. Then moved about 5 years ago into studying with a Theravadin teacher here in the UK. Much more comfortable for me. I practiced Vipassana and Anapanasati for some time and kept up an intellectual interest in both Nargajuna and Shantidevas works as well as studying the Abhidhamma.

    For the past year or two I have been practicing Silent Illumination as taught by Sheng Yen - I know Jundo isn't entirely comfortable with some of Sheng Yens stances but it certainly introduced the idea of a formless practice to my mind.

    The Dogen jumped out and kicked me up the arse.

    Now I am here, like a child again! Confused and irritated all at once. But something is keeping me intrigued and trying to practice this not practicing practice.


  38. #38
    Hi Tony,

    I spent some time in the Gelug school myself. Madhyamaka Prasangika philosophy is great for those of us who like to think and Zazen definitely far more of a challenge to the logical mind that just wants to know why. Gelug analytical meditation is great for negation of self but direct awareness meditation such as shikantaza shows us what is there when everything else drops away - reality just as it is.

    Being a child again is exactly where you are supposed to be - well, the awed and intrigued, even confused, part. Drop the thinking, do the sitting. It's not that different in vipassana and anapanasati, no?. Always thinking about where you are going and how you are going to get there takes you away from the here and now. Where else do you expect to find realisation?

    Gassho
    Andy

  39. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by Karasu View Post
    Hi Tony,

    I spent some time in the Gelug school myself. Madhyamaka Prasangika philosophy is great for those of us who like to think and Zazen definitely far more of a challenge to the logical mind that just wants to know why. Gelug analytical meditation is great for negation of self but direct awareness meditation such as shikantaza shows us what is there when everything else drops away - reality just as it is.

    Being a child again is exactly where you are supposed to be - well, the awed and intrigued, even confused, part. Drop the thinking, do the sitting. It's not that different in vipassana and anapanasati, no?. Always thinking about where you are going and how you are going to get there takes you away from the here and now. Where else do you expect to find realisation?

    Gassho
    Andy
    I guess it must be down to my understanding of what Shikantaza is then.

    I know that I must be wrong because I am talking to a community that clearly 'gets it'.

    I just get mildly irritated (by nobody in particular I hasten to add) when asked to drop the thinking....I know nobody who can do that....ever...anywhere!

    Its an intellectual trap IMO to speak of non-thinking....a stone can not-think. Thats not a virtue or helpful...its nihilism and useless.

    Can you detect my frustration hahaha!!!

    I cannot see how sitting, doing nothing, merely trying to not think, whilst (pretending) that everything is ok just the way it is, is of any use.

    Pope John Paul II suggested Buddhist Liberation was a "Perfected Indifference". I am feeling that re Shikantaza....

    Please don't misunderstand the manner in which I am speaking here - I am trying to be honest not aggressive or Trolish, I hope that much is clear.

    _/|\_

  40. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by dharmasponge View Post
    [/I][/B]Now I am starting to conclude that 'Just Sitting' means developing a refined and philosophically impressive apathy.


    NO! I would describe us as a "cake and eat it too" school, a way to hold seemingly opposite or conflicting views at once (derived from the Mahayana way of encountering the world in various ways at once) ... as if seeing the world one way out of one eye, another way from the other, and all in focus when they come together.

    So, we are anything BUT apathetic. I would describe this path as how to be passionately involved, caring, concerned with the world AND have equanimity AT ONCE. How to have passions deeply held, yet not be their prisoner, do not let them run over us, know how to let them go when the time comes to let them go ... all AT ONCE.

    In Shikantaza, we learn total embracing and "oneness" with "how things are" ... all while we simultaneously learn to get up from the Zafu, get on with life, get involved with the world, love the people in our life we love, decry the injustices of the world that deserve decrying, and fix what needs fixing.

    It ain't no "apathy" my friend!

    Its an intellectual trap IMO to speak of non-thinking....a stone can not-think. Thats not a virtue or helpful...its nihilism and useless.
    NO! Another "cake and eat it too". We do not try to be in some state of "no thought" like a corpse or rock!

    Rather, we learn the silence, illumination, wholeness, clarity, peace of not being driven around by the storms of thought that clutter up the head, all the little self's "yadda yadda yadda" and "I want I want I want".

    Then, rising from the cushion (and sometimes on the cushion too), when our head is again filled with all kinds of thoughts and emotions on this and that and the other thing ... we may learn to think and feel all that WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY seeing through and not being the prisoner of all that. In other words, we can have thoughts and emotions while simultaneoualy knowing that "silence, illumination, wholeness, clarity, peace" that shines right through.

    We call this "thinking-non-thinking".

    If you think we have been telling you about some method to "stop thinking" ... to turn the head into a cold brick ... then you have not been listening!

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 12-16-2013 at 01:17 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  41. #41
    Hi Tony,

    I understand your frustration perfectly well.
    There is a difference between just sitting and just sitting.

    Shikantaza is not sitting and watching TV.
    It is not sitting and thinking about tomorrow's tasks.
    It is not sitting and thinking about that guy who almost caused an accident.
    It is not sitting and focusing on an object.

    Shikantaza is sitting in order to sit.
    To just be. To just exist. To be the whole universe.
    In that way it is the most honest thing to do. Not doing something in order to get entertained, make something clean, etc. Just sit without any purpose at all. Not even enlightenment.
    Let thoughts come and let them drift away without pushing them forcefully or hanging on to them.
    Allow things to be as they are, to be as IT is.
    Yes, sometimes there are no thoughts at all or certain "experiences" might come now or then (or not), but this is not important at all! Such "experiences" are just another thing one might get attached to.
    If you have an "insight", "realise" something or experience something, that's fine - but then move on. Because you can't escape the world of samsara anyway.

    And when you just sit you realise that this is enough, that nothing is missing. Being the you, before the thinking mind sets in with its judgments, fears, differentations, prejudices, likes and dislikes.
    Being the real you, realising your are not identical with your thoughts, but that there is no independent "you" at all, while at the same being everything that is.
    Getting off the cushion and see this in every day life as well. When you wash the dishes, when you talk to your child, when you hug a friend, when you sit on the toilet.

    Perhaps you think we are nuts, and that would be understandable.
    Believe me, I am actually a head person, almost followed a carrer path at university. So I know how this sounds to "drop all thoughts".
    Actually it is of no use trying to tell you about this, because you can only see for yourself by doing it.

    Why don't you just give it a try for two months or so? Diligently doing shikantaza zazen every day? Then see for yourself.
    This is probably the only thing that could convince you.
    And if you have some time, I can recommend you the book "Opening the hand of thought" and after that some works by Kodo Sawaki.
    They explain the Soto way very well IMHO.

    Sorry for that lengthy post...

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  42. #42
    Timo,

    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  43. #43
    Nicely said Timo. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

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

  44. #44
    What a wonderful conversation everyone. A 100 to all.

    Gassho
    Bobby

  45. #45
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Yes, Timo, I was going to suggest the same thing: sit at least once a day for a while, and it will start to make sense... although I think it took me two years.
    迎 Geika

  46. #46
    Thanks Timo,

    I am actually half way through that book

    As I said I have been using The Silent a illumination method for some time so formless meditation is not too alien to me. I guess the main difference in this practice and Shikantaza is that the former offers a modicum of method - albeit to drop all methods ultimately. I am sure everyone who has a regular Shikantaza practice has experienced the same quandaries that I am now. So I do appreciate hearing everyone's advice - it's warming to have access to a group like this.

    I guess at the moment, Just Sitting feels like a contradiction. Like I am going into my room to bow, light incense, chant then sit to do nothing in particular

    Also, I think you're overestimating my ability to 'let thoughts go and not follow them' - I think that this is incredibly hard and a 'goal' in and of itself.

    ....but I love it when Jundo ticks me off.... :-o

    _/|\_


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

  47. #47
    Tony, this is a really good piece by Uchiyama Roshi that I highly recommend:

    To you who are still dissatisfied with your zazen


    Gassho
    Andy

  48. #48
    Hi Tony,

    Quote Originally Posted by dharmasponge View Post
    I am sure everyone who has a regular Shikantaza practice has experienced the same quandaries that I am now.
    Absolutely! It's seems counter-intuitive, even crazy.

    Quote Originally Posted by dharmasponge View Post
    I guess at the moment, Just Sitting feels like a contradiction. Like I am going into my room to bow, light incense, chant then sit to do nothing in particular
    I know what you mean - it is the same as me when I (as someone who does not believe in a personal god) bow to a Buddha statue, a palm tree or a flower.
    BTW: Jundo once replaced the Buddha statue on his altar by a vacuum cleaner during a zazenkai. The Buddha is everything - everything is ordinary and sacred at the same time.


    Quote Originally Posted by dharmasponge View Post
    Also, I think you're overestimating my ability to 'let thoughts go and not follow them' - I think that this is incredibly hard and a 'goal' in and of itself.
    No, I am not overestimating your ability to do this - I just assume you are like everyone else, because this is hard for everyone.


    And then there will come the day when there is just blue sky in your head during sitting - no clouds, no thoughts, just silence. And then you will think "that's it!". But then, one week later you have a thunderstorm in your head and ask yourself what you've been doing for the last half year.

    Like in that famous Zen story:
    A student went to his meditation teacher and said, "My meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted, or my legs ache, or I'm constantly falling asleep. It's just horrible!"
    "It will pass," the teacher said matter-of-factly.
    A week later, the student came back to his teacher. "My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It's just wonderful!'
    "It will pass," the teacher replied matter-of-factly.


    Taigu once said about shikantaza: "Simple, yet difficult."

    Just one tip:
    Don't force things, don't think whether this is a waste of time, don't analyse. To quote a slogan: "Just do it!"
    Just take that cushion and sit on it as - throw your entire being in it, all your heart, and then drop everything - yourself, be ready to give up yourself.
    Just sit. It's not just a zenny slogan to annoy people, but an actual advice.

    Great you ask these questions - it makes one think about practice which has become so natural. And others with these questions might come across this thread and see they are not alone.

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  49. #49
    Thanks everyone for this wonderful thread.

    I have nothing useful to add - so many wise words already.



    Willow

  50. #50
    Thanks Timo...all good stuff!

    I think there is a lot of faith required here too - what do you think? An intellectual appreciation that in the grand scheme of things all is equal in the eyes of Emptiness has never really cut the cloth for me. I have had moments, in my Tibetan years, of real breakthroughs in my understanding of Emptiness and found that its made a palpable difference in my everyday life. Maybe that's why I find just sitting so difficult to grasp. Like in your quote of the old Zen saying. I can see impermanence of phenomena, I get the illusory nature of appearance. But these are merely intellectual experiences. Only when I have sat and gone looking have I 'experienced' the lack of self-hood of whatever the object of meditation might be.

    Again, I am sure that I have missed something fundamental regarding Shikantaza as you guys all seem to have 'got it'. I am still in 'this won't get the rice cooked' mode

    _/|\_

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