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Thread: How do we know....

  1. #1

    How do we know....

    Hi all,

    How do we know if our practice is going well?

    I appreciate that we're not looking for outcomes or results as such. But in the abzence of face to face meetings with a teacher we could be descending into bad habits without knowing.

    I am specifically referring to some of the texts that warn against wallowing in a false sense of mental numbness as opposed to a more legitimate experience of the body/mind dropping off...how would I know the difference?

    Thanks in advance and best wishes to everyone!

  2. #2
    It's hard to say inhaling and exhaling the universe with every breath.

    Gassho, Jishin
    治 Ji (Healing)
    心​ Shin (Heart-Mind)

  3. #3
    Hello Dharmasponge,

    though it is wonderful and in many ways ideal to have face to face meetings with your teachers, I do believe however that the particular challenges you are pointing to can also be detected by a skilled teacher with whom you have regular dokusan via Skype or Google+. They will make sure that you will get plenty of "wake up calls" throughout the years

    Gassho,

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

  4. #4
    Great faith!

    Sometimes I'm just tired.



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

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    Great faith!

    Sometimes I'm just tired.



    Kind regards. /\

    I second that

    Gassho

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by dharmasponge View Post
    Hi all,

    How do we know if our practice is going well?

    I appreciate that we're not looking for outcomes or results as such. But in the abzence of face to face meetings with a teacher we could be descending into bad habits without knowing.

    I am specifically referring to some of the texts that warn against wallowing in a false sense of mental numbness as opposed to a more legitimate experience of the body/mind dropping off...how would I know the difference?

    Thanks in advance and best wishes to everyone!
    Hi Tony,

    Here is my recommended proving ground: LIFE!

    At our Zazenkai this month, the talk was on a theme of Zen Practice as sailing. (I hope folks will give it a listen. About 30 minutes long from about the 1:50 mark). At the end, Shingen asked a similar question. So, here is my nautical answer, expanded a bit from what I said there:



    - If, in sailing your boat through life, you generally feel in your own heart sincere, alert and balanced, that your life is heading on a good course, and you are keeping your boat off the rocks and sand bars of life ... then that is good sailing. In other words, if in your heart your Practice feels right ... and your life feels right ... it is probably right. If, on the other hand, your heart feels a mess, your ropes are all tangled, the dishes are unwashed in the galley, the fittings are rusty and nobody is minding the wheel ... you know it. Same in one's own life: If it is a mess and poorly sailed, you know it. If it is not a mess and well sailed, you know it. If you are adrift, wallowing and lost in the fog and doldrums ... you know it. When you find the good water and wind ... you know it.

    - But sometimes in life, despite our best sailing, we hit storms and accidents, sand bars, doldrums and monster waves anyway. This is where the real tests of our Practice happens. If you meet the hurricanes, rolls and spills, winds that push you off course and all that life throws at you and, amid it all, sense a certain balance, quiet at the eye of all the crap spinning around you, Silence and Illumination amid the darkness and howling wind ... your Practice is probably good. Good sailing is proven not on calm days, but on stormy days and amid crisis when a sailor proves her real mastery and skill. Can you hear the Silence in the greatest noise, the Light of the darkest dark days?

    - And further, when the day comes (as it does for all of us in the end) on which ... despite all your best sailing ... your vessel ends up on the rocks, a hole in its side and going down fast ... can you then gracefully merge into the sea from which we all come? Well, that was a life of good sailing! This is rather life's final test ... sinking with grace, back into the sea which was just us all along!

    So, in other words, if your sailing/Practice is going right, it is not hard to know because it proves itself in the sailing/living.

    I will tell you a secret about Dokusan and when the old Masters (and modern ones too) would "pass" a student for their mastery. Do you think it was simply because the student gave some wise poetic response to a Koan in the Dokusan room? Heck no! The perceptive Teacher can observe which of his/her students has seemingly "got it" by how they live and conduct themselves in the monastery, how they behave in crisis, act toward others, eat their breakfast, wash the laundry. It is more a matter of how the student is in the student's own heart, and how that carries into his behavior, than any witty Koan retort. That is how the Teacher reads the student's mind and looks into their heart ... by looking at their words, actions, attitude, confidence, seeming balance and the like. You can tell who has "got it" and who is faking it, who is found and who is lost. It is much like a Master Sailor can judge which of his sailing students has "learned the ropes" ... not by what they say, but by how well they sail. It is more important to judge by the way the student opens the door to the Dokusan room, how they bow and enter, the tension or confidence on their face and glint in their eye when they speak than any particular words they might say. Even better is to watch them outside the Dokusan room, seeing how they behave in the rest of life.

    That is one way I read this old Koan from the Mumonkan ...

    Two Monks Roll Up the Blinds

    When the monks assembled before the midday meal to listen to his lecture, the great Master Hogen of Seiryo pointed at the bamboo blinds. Two monks simultaneously went and rolled them up [in the same way]. Hogen said: "One gain, one loss."
    Although the two monks seemed to perform the exact same act, the Master knew by watching them that one had it and one not. So many Koans like that.

    And it is good to meet with a Teacher now and then just to have some feedback ... whether a sailor or Zen Student. I second what Hans said.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-10-2014 at 03:30 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    Thanks Jundo and Dharmasponge.

    I think that it's important to consider this: am I making more problems for myself, am I wallowing, am I engaging with the ugly stuff, and if I can look at it that way and really see and be honest about when that's the case, then I know I'm in my own way. I think when we can get out of our own way by dropping ourselves the troubles of the world go easier and we can go right with them, still seeing them as troubles and feeling sad or whatever but not hanging onto to that stuff and just sitting through it all with some love for it.

    Gassho
    Shōmon

  8. #8
    Oh, as for whether one is wallowing in numbness or a "true" body-mind dropping off and how to know that, I think just don't worry about that. I mean, I think it's probably okay to think about to some degree, but that idea isn't really a gauge of practice. When you don't worry about that kind of "have I dropped body mind" question then you don't care to know and when you don't care to know, you are it.

    Gassho
    Shōmon

  9. #9
    Senior Member Entai's Avatar
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    Dharmasponge,
    Thank you for asking what I've been thinking lately.

    Jundo,
    Thank you for your teaching, it came at a good time for me.

    Deep bows,
    Entai

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

  10. #10
    I think you will know.

    A legitimate experience of body/mind dropping off will rock your world, and your life will change, even if it never happens again. You will know, and it will manifest in your actions.

    Wallowing in a false sense of mental numbness will be soothing but offer no insight or change.

    Maybe.

    Gassho
    Lisa

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by raindrop View Post
    I think you will know.

    A legitimate experience of body/mind dropping off will rock your world, and your life will change, even if it never happens again. You will know, and it will manifest in your actions.

    Wallowing in a false sense of mental numbness will be soothing but offer no insight or change.

    Maybe.

    Gassho
    Lisa
    Hi Lisa,

    Body/Mind dropping off is not necessary a "rock your world" experience, and not an event in a moment of time. However, it is true that our life is always changing. I sometimes post the following on such things ...

    -----------------------------------------------------------

    Both of the major Zen Schools (Soto and Rinzai) are in accord that a timeless moment of deep and earthshaking "Kensho" (in which the you/me/this/that/here/there/now/then instantly radically drops away, while the Flowing Dance of Wholeness-Emptiness manifests) is pretty nifty, a treasure. However (both schools agree) such a momentary seeing is not itself enough, not compared to the work that follows in which "Kensho" gets into the bones, gets legs and starts walking, breathing and living your life in this divided, mixed up, complex world of you/me/this/that/here/there/now/then. In other words, the "grocking" is not enough without putting it into action and bringing it into daily life.

    Where the Soto and some Rinzai folks may disagree a bit is whether the "momentary timeless Kensho experience" (though nifty) is really that important and necessary, because (say the Soto folk) it is quite possible to have "Kensho" (grocking-piercing the subject-object divide) that powerfully, deeply, profoundly and thoroughly goes right to the marrow subtly and with less momentary notice. That is also "Kensho". It is sometimes compared to walking through a mist of dew which, in the end, will saturate one's sleeves as much as dipping them directly in a river. What is more, either way, the really vital part remains whether it is brought into the rest of your life or not. One can easily have some "timeless moment of deep and earthshaking Kensho" (or 100's of em) and still be a fool at how one brings Wisdom and Compassion into life.

    Dogen tended to speak of "Enlightenment" ... not as some momentary experience to attain ... but as "Practice-Enlightenment", emphasizing that how we make Buddha Wisdom and Compassion manifest in our actual words, thoughts and deeds in this life is the real "Kensho".

    -----------------------------------------------------------

    These momentary Kensho experiences can be light and deep and beyond light or deep. This can be much more profound and enveloping than a sensation of "I" feeling oneness or awe. HOWEVER, that does not matter because, generally in Soto, we consider all such experiences as passing scenery ... just a visit to the wonders of the Grand Canyon. One cannot stay there, as lovely as it is. Nice and educational place to visit ... would not, should not, could not truly live there. One can even live perfectly well never having visited the vast Canyon at all. The most important thing is to get on the bus, get on with the trip, get on with life from there. In our Soto Way, the WHOLE TRIP is Enlightenment when realized as such (that is the True "Kensho"!) ... not some momentary stop or passing scene or some final destination .


    I once read that Kensho can be described as great or small (great kensho and little Kensho) and that Satori is a much more profound experience then Kensho.

    Can Kensho be described as momentary glimpses of enlightenment, whereas Satori might be considered as actual enlightenment?

    Not sure if I am making much sense at all …but once again a very interesting thread.
    The following is important, so BOLDFACE and UNDERLINE ...

    Different folks approach and define all this in their own way. In our Soto View, some folks way way way overvalue an experience of timelessly momentary "Kensho" ... as the be all and end all (beyond being or ending) of "Enlightenment" ... and chase after it like some gold ring on the merry go round. For Soto folks, that is like missing the point of the trip. For Soto Folks, when we realize such ... every moment of the Buddha-Bus trip, the scenery out the windows (both what we encounter as beautiful and what appears ugly), the moments of good health and moments of passing illness, the highway, the seats and windows, all the other passengers on the Bus who appear to be riding with us, when we board and someday when we are let off ... the whole Trip ... is all the Buddha-Bus, all Enlightenment and Kensho, all the "destination" beyond "coming" or "going" or "getting there", when realized as such (Kensho). This ride is what we make it.

    Most folks just don't pierce that fact and are lost in delusion about the Nature of the trip. Most sentient being "passengers" on this ride just don't realize that, feeling homesick, car sick, separated from all the other passengers, revolted or attracted to what they see ... filling the whole trip with thoughts of greed and anger, spoiling the journey, making a mess of the bus and harming themselves and the other riders, unhappy until they get to the "promised destination" somewhere down the road. They may even get to the Grand Canyon, snap a picture and buy a sovenier, then wonder "is that all it is"?

    That is why many Soto folks, like Sawaki Roshi above, think "Kensho Schmensho" ... running after some timelessly momentary fireworky experience of "Kensho" is not True "Grocking the Nature" Buddha-Bus Kensho. He says ...

    You want to become a buddha? There’s no need to become a buddha! Now is simply now. You are simply you. And tell me, since you want to leave the place where you are,where is it exactly you want to go?
    Zazen means just sitting without even thinking of becoming buddha.
    We don’t achieve satori through practice: practice is satori. Each and every step is the goal.


    Something like that.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-10-2014 at 06:39 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  12. #12
    Senior Member Myosha's Avatar
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    Thank you.

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

  13. #13
    Hi Jundo,

    Oops, I worded that badly; I was not talking about Kensho, although I see that my words could be taken that way. I agree that Kensho is very much over-emphasized by many.


    I am a get-it-done kind of girl, and I think actions are paramount. When I said “rock your world”, I was not referring to a fireworky explosion of Kensho. I meant that even the slightest glimpse of the dropping off, of the space between thoughts, of the non-duality, however tiny and fleeting, will affect you. Even if you only catch a whiff, see the edge of a shadow of it, you won’t forget it, even if you never see it or feel it again. You may find that it changes your feeling about the world and the people around you. Your world will be rocked, not because you are “enlightened,” but because your previous notion, of how things are, will be challenged. This will naturally express itself in your actions. And those actions will probably not be to go out and punch an old lady and rob a bank. They will probably be something like continuing to meditate, developing a devoted practice, being nicer to people, working with your selfishness and anger, etc. And my point was that those actions do not arise from “wallowing in a false sense of mental numbness.” So, going back to the original question, that's how I think you would know the difference -- by the actions that arise.


    Kensho is a groovy thing, and hats off to those who get it. I’ll see your Kensho and raise you a dedicated practice of walking/working the Eightfold path, any day.


    Action! In the words of my old pal TJ (even though we know there is no “you”)...


    “Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.“ - Thomas Jefferson

    Gassho
    Lisa
    Last edited by raindrop; 06-10-2014 at 09:04 PM.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Myosha's Avatar
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    Hello,

    Present action. Well said. Thank you.


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

  15. #15
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post

    That is why many Soto folks, like Sawaki Roshi above, think "Kensho Schmensho" ...
    haha this really speaks to me

    Gassho

    sent from Tapatalk
    ______________________________
    Kōshin / Leo



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

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by raindrop View Post
    Hi Jundo,

    Oops, I worded that badly; I was not talking about Kensho, although I see that my words could be taken that way. I agree that Kensho is very much over-emphasized by many.


    I am a get-it-done kind of girl, and I think actions are paramount. When I said “rock your world”, I was not referring to a fireworky explosion of Kensho. I meant that even the slightest glimpse of the dropping off, of the space between thoughts, of the non-duality, however tiny and fleeting, will affect you. Even if you only catch a whiff, see the edge of a shadow of it, you won’t forget it, even if you never see it or feel it again. You may find that it changes your feeling about the world and the people around you. Your world will be rocked, not because you are “enlightened,” but because your previous notion, of how things are, will be challenged. This will naturally express itself in your actions. And those actions will probably not be to go out and punch an old lady and rob a bank. They will probably be something like continuing to meditate, developing a devoted practice, being nicer to people, working with your selfishness and anger, etc. And my point was that those actions do not arise from “wallowing in a false sense of mental numbness.” So, going back to the original question, that's how I think you would know the difference -- by the actions that arise.


    Kensho is a groovy thing, and hats off to those who get it. I’ll see your Kensho and raise you a dedicated practice of walking/working the Eightfold path, any day.
    Lovely. All the passing scenery is the trip, yet those moments change us. Most vital is how we live along the way. Lovely.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  17. #17
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    You want to become a buddha? There’s no need to become a buddha! Now is simply now. You are simply you. And tell me, since you want to leave the place where you are,where is it exactly you want to go?
    Zazen means just sitting without even thinking of becoming buddha.
    We don’t achieve satori through practice: practice is satori. Each and every step is the goal.

    Something like that.

    Gassho, J
    So many ways of saying this simple act!

    Thank you Jundo.
    Gassho Heisoku
    Heisoku
    平 息

  18. #18
    Enough effort to keep you curious and fastidious and genuine, not so much effort that you're keeping score. Keeping score and checking your progress is something a lot of us have used as a strategy in everyday life, thinking about our lives as road of steady progression towards something. You can't really keep score in the moment of zazen, that sort of overly self-conscious 'checking in' reinforces goal-striving. Then again, just 'putting in your time' without any concern (concern, not judgement) for the authenticity of your practice is laziness.


    Effort and non-effort, concern and lack thereof seem totally contradictory, but in practice, are they really? 'Did my mind and body really drop off?' Is that a useful or meaningful question?


    Authentically 'bad practice' is good practice. Appreciate it!


    As in all things, these are just my own orienting thoughts. It may very well be bad advice.


    Chet

  19. #19
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    You are it,it is not you...
    This teaching from an old Chan text answers your question.

    No feed back here. Never.

    So how to go about it?

    The whole journey is about knocking, and knocking again. Until you realize that the damn door, the bloke knocking, the noise, and the whole scenery drop.

    Then...as in the very beginning.

    For now, remember to forget,

    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.

  20. #20

  21. #21
    Junior Member Rick's Avatar
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    Amazing thread!

    Gassho,
    Rick

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