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Thread: Contemplation

  1. #1

    Contemplation

    Hope everyone is well.

    What do you guys think of contemplation?

    I normally experience some form of thinking, or "reading between the lines". Whenever I experience a film, or some form of art - the contemplation takes the form of thinking about ideas that may have have appeared - I am not thinking in the form of whether something was good or bad, but more about something that may have been expressed - this is something that is that I thoroughly enjoy as it gives me a deeper understanding.

    Is such contemplation denying the true nature of something - is such contemplation creating a concept to which the ego gets a grip of, thus not allowing one to experience the true nature of something, or is such contemplation another form of experience?

    Hello from Dublin.

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Best to just sit; think of non-thinking. There are many techniques but here we do Shikantaza .
    gassho, Shokai


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    Last edited by Jundo; 01-28-2014 at 04:55 PM.
    gassho, Shokai, still learning the way and knowing nothing
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    Just another itinerant monk; go somewhere else to listen to someone who really knows.

  3. #3
    When thinking just think but when driving down the highway at 75mph I ain't contemplating. So it's a question of picking up and putting down. Always returning to just sitting mind like clear mind like space. If you become attached to your thinking then you are controlled by your thinking and completely miss things as they are right now. Personally I am in a period of intense study and thinking but doing other things and doing nothing through out the day.
    Thanks for your excellent question. I'm sure the teachers here can explain things better.



    Kind regards. /\
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    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    When thinking just think but when driving down the highway at 75mph I ain't contemplating. So it's a question of picking up and putting down. Always returning to just sitting mind like clear mind like space. If you become attached to your thinking then you are controlled by your thinking and completely miss things as they are right now. Personally I am in a period of intense study and thinking but doing other things and doing nothing through out the day.
    Thanks for your excellent question. I'm sure the teachers here can explain things better.



    Kind regards. /\
    This is right on to me. Thanks Rich.

    Alan, do you mean contemplation during Zazen? Or are you talking about just contemplation in general? There's nothing wrong with contemplation - it has its place during contemplation. I personally wouldn't worry about contemplation and the ego - that, in itself, is a created problem. The idea that "concepts" are bad, also, to me, is a created problem. Concepts are only "bad" if we think that they are the real things and if we act in narrow ways according to conceptual understanding - if we get "stuck" in concepts, then that can be a problem. Otherwise, concepts are actually pretty helpful, as long as we take them lightly and see them for what they are (which are usually changing, evolving things).

    I'm not entirely sure what your question is? What do you mean by another form of experience?

    Gassho
    Shōmon

  5. #5
    Hi,

    As has been said, nothing wrong with contemplating films, art, philosophy, politics. Just do not be a prisoner of one's thoughts, tangled up and caught up. Do not overly buy into one's views and opinions.

    And when heading for the Zafu, drop all views and opinions, analysis and ponderings. Just Sit, clear of all that.

    When Priest Yaoshan was sitting in meditation, a monk asked,
    "What do you think about, sitting in steadfast composure?"
    Yaoshan said, "I think not thinking."
    The monk said, "How do you think not thinking?"
    Yaoshan said, "Non-thinking."
    Thus we find the clarity and stillness that shiines behind and sweeps right through views and opinions, analysis and ponderings, films, art, philosophy, politics.

    Is such contemplation denying the true nature of something - is such contemplation creating a concept to which the ego gets a grip of, thus not allowing one to experience the true nature of something, or is such contemplation another form of experience?
    We tend not to both with such questions here, except to say that there is a time to experience with contemplation perhaps ... a time to experience without contemplation ... a time to experience contemplation non-contemplation as one.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by alan.r View Post
    This is right on to me. Thanks Rich.

    Alan, do you mean contemplation during Zazen? Or are you talking about just contemplation in general? There's nothing wrong with contemplation - it has its place during contemplation. I personally wouldn't worry about contemplation and the ego - that, in itself, is a created problem. The idea that "concepts" are bad, also, to me, is a created problem. Concepts are only "bad" if we think that they are the real things and if we act in narrow ways according to conceptual understanding - if we get "stuck" in concepts, then that can be a problem. Otherwise, concepts are actually pretty helpful, as long as we take them lightly and see them for what they are (which are usually changing, evolving things).

    I'm not entirely sure what your question is? What do you mean by another form of experience?

    Gassho
    Thanks for everyones response.

    Alan, when I refer to contemplation, I am referring to when one experiences something - an example is when you watch a movie, and something in that movie makes you contemplate afterwords. Another example is when you read a very opinionated piece, and you can't help but contemplate and think about what has been written. I am interested in mental health, so when I hear a new study in relation to mental health, or about someone's experience, I contemplate (think).

    When I mean by "another form of experience", I mean is thinking (contemplating) another form of experience, like seeing, for example?

    I am not sure whether to stop such contemplation, as I am not sure whether such contemplation (of a film, or a book, for example) is developing this fixed concept of such, thus denying it's true nature, or is it okay as it is just another way of experiencing something? Should I just experience (through the forms of consciousness) and stop thinking?

    I can give an example - A Space Odyssey - the first time I seen it, I really didn't know what was going on, what certain scenes represented, but through thinking about it afterwords (and when I say this, I mean devoting time to such contemplation, and not, let's say, doing something else whilst thinking about it) I began to see what each scene represented - this made the film more enjoyable.

    Perhaps thinking should be left to when thinking is needed.

  7. #7
    Hi,

    Alan is right. What is the question? Assuming you mean an experience through contemplation while sitting Zazen I'd say no. When I had my dinner and go sit, all kind of stuff happen in my belly involuntarily. When I breathe, all kinds of stuff happen in my body involuntarily. When I'm awake ( and often when I'm asleep) all kinds of crap comes into my mind. Some is useful, most of it is not. Some teacher called our thoughts the secretions of the brain. Wile sitting, we try not to contemplate and just let the seeds of it go by. To do the exact opposite and in time the boundaries we make between ourselves and the world start to vanish. Not forcing thoughts out of your mind but just watching them go by, like clouds in the sky, without grabbing hold of them or acting upon them. Not like a zombie or a plant mind you, if you smell a fire, get out of the zendo, . ( Not much contemplation needed there either)

    At other times, while reading and studying Dogen, we can contemplate or work on Koans until we look blue in the face. That is fine! Great insights and poetry comes from this. Some people here are true masters of this art and come up with beautiful and clarifying explanations that helps us all with our practice. When sitting shikantaza however, we just sit on the zafu, make a mudra with your whole body and drop out of your head altogether. I think it was Dogen that said: "when entering the zendo, leave all worldly affairs at the door".

    Well, our teachers can say it way better then I can. let'wait for them

    Gassho

    MyoHo

  8. #8
    Alan,

    I think you are thinking too much about these questions!

    There is a time to experience a film, a flower, the moon without thinking. That is a real experience free of thinking.

    There are times to experience enjoying thinking about the film, the flower or the moon. I like thinking about films and flowers. That is a real experience of thinking.

    Just do not become a prisoner of thinking.

    Also, know the Clarity and Wholeness of "non-thinking" that shines through and as all thinking and emotions. That is a real experience of "non thinking".

    In fact, if one drops the thinking enough ... one can find that films and flowers and you and me were each other, and the Moon of Enlightenment all along!

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 01-28-2014 at 06:23 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  9. #9
    Thank you - may I ask what would be an example of one becoming a prisoner of thinking?

    It is nice to know that there is nothing wrong with contemplation - when I read zen material, I contemplate with what is being written - I suppose an example of becoming prisoner of thoughts would be if I were to not stop thinking about such material all day - I think then I would become tangled.

    I thought that thinking was wrong, hence my thread, but I now realise that there is time for contemplation, but just not to become tangled.

    Apologies again.

  10. #10
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    OK, so you're over thinking. Like a dog shaking a rag doll or chasing his tail; expecting answers. I may just be a product of too many problem solving courses but, I am a great believer in putting things on the back burner. Look something over, get a feel for it then put it aside. The answer will come to you. Like Shugen said on another thread recently. Lately he has had things come to mind and before you know the topic will come up on a thread here. There are wonderful things happening in your mind but you have to give them room to happen. Isn't there a zen story about over pouring the tea?
    Sometime this technique/strategy may seem like procrastination. I don't know. Somehow things happen when they are supposed to. Ya can't watch a boiling pot

    Just my take on it

    gassho Shokai

    Sent from my Note 2 using Tapatalk4
    gassho, Shokai, still learning the way and knowing nothing
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    Just another itinerant monk; go somewhere else to listen to someone who really knows.

  11. #11
    Hi Alan,

    Might I trouble you to introduce your self (the small one ) here, and post a picture of a human face too (see our Privacy tips)?

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...-%28January%29

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...Sangha-Members

    You are new to Zazen. I am afraid that this "not being a prisoner" and clarity is something best experienced on the Zazen cushion, then brought out into life. Just Sit, dropping all the contemplation, judgments, analysis, thoughts of causes and effects, today yesterday or tomorrow. Put that all down for a time. When thoughts do come during Zazen, open the hand of thought and do not grab on. Sit as you can in the still, boundless, clear spaces between thoughts. You will find that a certain stillness and illumination appears which shines right through thoughts. They become like gossamer, less solid, serious and binding.

    Then, rising from the cushion and encountering the rest of life, you may find that one is also better equipped to not become tangled. "Important problems and rhetoric" also somehow become like a child's toy, something you can pick up or put down easily. Noisy debates and complex questions are also lit with that same silence and light as well.

    You have to just Practice. What is it like? Otherwise it is like someone raised all their life in the noise and bustle of New York City (the thinking mind) who has never experienced that moment when one heads into the far far desert of Arizona ... so silent beyond silent, the horizon so boundless in all directions that one feels as if one has never truly seen the sky and stars. How can you explain such to one who is stuck in Manhattan, knowing Arizona only from the TV and post cards? How do you explain quiet to one who only has lived with noise? Have you ever had that experience of real desert silence?

    In our Zen Way, however, we do not remain in the desert. We return to the city, but now realizing the Desert is always precisely the City, Silence is heard in the greatest noise and Boundless Horizons are visible right through the canyons of skyscrapers. Thinking-Non-Thinking.

    Something like that. (Analogies are not perfect. Do not think that we "kill the thoughts completely" during Zazen. Even in the desert their are noises and canyons.)

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 01-29-2014 at 01:31 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by alanjames View Post
    Thank you - may I ask what would be an example of one becoming a prisoner of thinking?

    .
    Examples include excessive anxiety about the future and Obsessive compulsive disorder. The mind can be hijacked and be a prisoner in these examples. Tons of other examples though. Stop thinking about the pink elephant in the room NOW!!! Can you drop the pink elephant from your mind? Folks that practice Shikantaza probably can drop this worthless thought a little faster than non practitioners. :-)

    Gassho, Jishin
    Last edited by Jishin; 01-29-2014 at 01:58 AM.
    治 Ji (Healing)
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  13. #13
    Senior Member Entai's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Something like that. -Jundo
    Great description.

    Gassho, Entai

    Entai (Bill)
    "Be kind - for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" - Plato

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post
    Examples include excessive anxiety about the future and Obsessive compulsive disorder. The mind can be hijacked and be a prisoner in these examples. Tons of other examples though. :-)

    Gassho, Jishin
    It need not be such extreme examples. All day, we are so often all tied up with opinions, desires, regrets, fears, resentments, longings etc. etc. in big and small ways. The hustle and bustle, traffic and noise of the mental city.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 01-29-2014 at 02:05 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Then, rising from the cushion and encountering the rest of life, you may find that one is also better equipped to not become tangled. "Important problems and rhetoric" also somehow become like a child's toy, something you can pick up or put down easily. Noisy debates and complex questions are also lit with that same silence and light as well.
    I understand what you are saying, Jundo - I think through practicing sitting, I could pick up the child's toy (thinking) when it is needed, and put it down when not.I originally thought experiencing thinking about something (a film, for example) was a contradiction of Zen, but I now see that it has its place, but it is important to not become tangled - I think through practice I could pick up and put it down, thus preventing becoming tangled.

    I hope I interpreted you correctly, Jundo.

  16. #16
    Sometimes pick it up, sometimes put it down ... but the trickiest skill is learning how to "pick up and put down at once". Or better said, to pick up beyond and right through "up vs. down".

    Now, get you butt down on the cushion, and find out what that's about.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  17. #17
    That's a good analogy, Jundo - so, if you were to solve a maths problem, for example, you would pick up, and once solved, put down?

    That is what I have been practicing - if something needs thinking, I pick up and focus, and once finished I put down and just be.

    I'm going to plant my butt on my new Zafu, which just arrived today
    Last edited by alanjames; 01-29-2014 at 01:23 PM.

  18. #18
    Hi Alan, I think you're getting the right idea - now the big extraordinary (and extremely ordinary) trick is to drop the idea you're getting (that's both true and zen joke; for now, just sit and let things be).

    I think what Jundo means when he says we can "pick up and put down at once" is this: when you're doing some contemplation, maybe thinking about a film or writing an essay about a novel or something, is it all about you? Are you doing this to show off your intellect or are you doing it to understand? Usually, sometimes, a little of both, and in that case, you're not "putting down." You're not dropping self. The zen way would be to drop all considerations of self and contemplate fully on the thing, lose yourself in the thing and in thinking of the thing. Maybe you'll get some better understanding of said film/novel and maybe not, but one thing that'll definitely happen is a merging of self and other, a breaking down of boundaries of self - this happens on zafu, but can also happen out in the world, during contemplation, while watching a film, or while talking with someone at work, or whatever. So, my take is this: there are no contradictions in zen, because all life is zen, but also, there are ways in which we feed our ego, and if one is contemplating in order to prove to oneself and others that one is really contemplative and deep and intellectually superior (you know what I mean), then that is a self-centered, ego-trip. So, there's a way to contemplate and do things out in the world that accords with the four noble truths.

    And I'd add that yeah, we're tangled in thoughts all the time - think of it - this thread, in fact, and many threads on this site, are people sort of tangled in their own ideas. You were tangled up in the idea that contemplation is somehow not part of zen - there it is! That concept, that idea, tripped you up. Of course, you're new to this and it's a good question, but that doesn't mean it's not an example of being caught up and trapped in ideas created by a self that thinks it knows.

    Gassho

    Edit: as a final thought - it's not bad to be tangled or trapped! It happens all the time. It's okay (don't be hard on oneself). Sitting is just the learning to drop/let go.
    Last edited by alan.r; 01-29-2014 at 02:54 PM.
    Shōmon

  19. #19
    Alan, thank you so much, this makes perfect sense to me - I shall now get rid of that idea and sit.

    Have a nice day,

    Alan.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by alanjames View Post
    That's a good analogy, Jundo - so, if you were to solve a maths problem, for example, you would pick up, and once solved, put down?

    That is what I have been practicing - if something needs thinking, I pick up and focus, and once finished I put down and just be.
    Quote Originally Posted by alan.r View Post
    I think what Jundo means when he says we can "pick up and put down at once" is this: when you're doing some contemplation, maybe thinking about a film or writing an essay about a novel or something, is it all about you? Are you doing this to show off your intellect or are you doing it to understand? Usually, sometimes, a little of both, and in that case, you're not "putting down." You're not dropping self.
    Hmmm. I think you both missed my point. Sorry to not be clear. Let me try it this way:

    Buddhist Practice, like many Eastern Philosophies, is about dropping dualities ... me vs. you, right vs. wrong, left vs. right, problems and answers, up vs. down. One attains a realm transcendent of all such categories and oppositions. There is no "up vs. down" ... just a Wholeness which sweeps all such in. One comes to know this on the Zafu, sitting Zazen, where we drop all thoughts, analysis, categories, personal aversions and attractions. What remains is that Wholeness. We come to experience that this Wholeness which is transcendant of "me vs. you, right and wrong, problems and answers, up and down" exists simultaneously in and AS this world of "me and you, rights and wrongs, problems and answers, ups and downs".

    So, when we "pick up a thought" ... simultaneously one tastes a realm transcendent of thought and "up and down".

    When on "puts down a thought" ... simultaneously one tastes a realm transcendent of thought and "up and down".

    Something like that. Clear as mud?

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 01-29-2014 at 03:53 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Hmmm. I think you both missed my point. Sorry to not be clear. Let me try it this way:

    Buddhist Practice, like many Eastern Philosophies, is about dropping dualities ... me vs. you, right vs. wrong, left vs. right, problems and answers, up vs. down. One attains a realm transcendent of all such categories and oppositions. There is no "up vs. down" ... just a Wholeness which sweeps all such in. One comes to know this on the Zafu, sitting Zazen, where we drop all thoughts, analysis, categories, personal aversions and attractions. What remains is that Wholeness. We come to experience that this Wholeness which is transcendant of "me vs. you, right and wrong, problems and answers, up and down" exists simultaneously in and AS this world of "me and you, rights and wrongs, problems and answers, ups and downs".

    So, when we "pick up a thought" ... simultaneously one tastes a realm transcendent of thought and "up and down".

    When on "puts down a thought" ... simultaneously one tastes a realm transcendent of thought and "up and down".

    Something like that. Clear as mud?

    Gassho, J
    Wait, now I'm confused (lol). Isn't this in line with what I wrote, just in a different way? Isn't dropping dualities, isn't the main duality self vs other? There is no up vs down, but when one is fully focused on themselves, there certainly appears to be - that's what I was saying, that this up vs down and self vs other is our deluded way of experiencing. Is that wrong? What I meant to get at is that there is no picking up or putting down - there is only the sweeping wholeness, whether thinking or not, contemplating or not, whether being self-centered or not, but that we often forget this sweeping wholeness in favor of a self vs other delusion.

    Gassho.

    Man, maybe I just made this even more confusing...
    Shōmon

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by alan.r View Post
    Wait, now I'm confused (lol). Isn't this in line with what I wrote, just in a different way? Isn't dropping dualities, isn't the main duality self vs other? There is no up vs down, but when one is fully focused on themselves, there certainly appears to be - that's what I was saying, that this up vs down and self vs other is our deluded way of experiencing. Is that wrong? What I meant to get at is that there is no picking up or putting down - there is only the sweeping wholeness, whether thinking or not, contemplating or not, whether being self-centered or not, but that we often forget this sweeping wholeness in favor of a self vs other delusion.

    Gassho.

    Man, maybe I just made this even more confusing...
    Okay, even I am getting confused now!

    So, let's put even this discussion down now ... and sit.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  23. #23
    Sounds good. And my apologies for any muddle.

    Gassho
    Shōmon

  24. #24
    I originally thought alan's interpretation was just another way of saying what Jundo said, but I think it is wise that we put it down for now and sit.

  25. #25
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    In my humble experience, when you have heavy questions and you catch yourself over thinking, zazen is a good medicine.

    In time and with discipline, answers will come.

    Gassho,

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

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