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Thread: Precepts as fundamentals

  1. #1
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Precepts as fundamentals

    I am not the greatest in terms of consistently doing zazen. I miss at least once a month, often more than that. My reasons are various and weak. Whatever, I will never be one of those devoted Zennies that do zazen every day for years at a time, or even every day for a certain number of months at a time; I can't even survive an Ango period, so I don't even try anymore. Generally speaking, if there is one thing I am consistent on it is inconsistency, and that's not just zazen, by the way, it's pretty much a character flaw in all that I do.

    That being said, I do recognize zazen as fundamental to my practice (I can't imagine my practice without it), but even more fundamental than zazen is how I try to follow the precepts and my vows that I took in 1/09. Whenever I get stuck in life, I try to see how my vows and precepts apply. I may not be able to settle my mind enough to do zazen, but my troubled mind does well working through my vows and precepts. And in that process I often find some sort of answer as to how to be a better Buddhist in my interactions with the world. Often, once I've settled things a bit with the vows and precepts I can get back to doing zazen.

    This is just how it works with me, so it's a sort of confessional. I absolutely do not recommend this for anyone else. My flawed zen practice is wholly my own. Do not try this at home! I am a horrible teacher!!
    AL (Jigen) in:
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    Courage/Love
    Awareness/Action!

  2. #2
    Hi Al,

    You think Taigu and I never miss a day of Zazen?? Well, if you mean seated Zazen on the Zafu, yes we miss when life comes up. Just this week, I was getting ready to sit and my wife rushed in with our daughter, shaking with a high fever. I was off to the emergency room in a minute, the Zafu forgotten. Of course, as best I can, I seek to never miss a day ... seeking Such what cannot be sought, each day that is Timeless, never missing What cannot be missed ... the consistently inconsistent, Changeless right though all change ... seeking beyond and right through all seeking, yet seeking nonetheless ...

    ... but sometimes I get called away, or have someplace to be, or just fall asleep, or forget, or just take a day or week off (even monks do that), go to the movies instead or just am too darn lazy. Do I miss many a day? Yes!, (although I seek not to do so, and try not to miss, and resume again the next) I miss MANY a day of seeking Such Not Sought Which Is Never Missing!

    But do you think that Taigu and I ever miss a day of Zazen?? NEVER! Not a one! Sitting in the emergency room, on the edge of life, I "sat Zazen" even if without the funny round cushion, no sacred mudra, legs straight on the floor comforting my scared and just as sacred daughter. It may not be cross legged facing the wall, but there is not a day, not an hour, when I do not "sit Shikantaza" in life. Allowing life to be even as something cannot be easily allowed ... afraid yet simultaneously living Such Beyond Fear, body shaking as That Unshaken ... hoping for a good outcome, yet simultaneously embodying Such In Which All Comes And Goes, All Outcome Good.

    The Precepts are fundamental, and I seek to live them each day ... but do you think we never miss? Yes!, I miss sometimes ... so many times each day. Well, I usually do not miss too bad (no bank robberies, assaults or murders to my name), but yesterday I did find myself getting too angry about a stupid bookkeeping error in our small translation office! All I could do was realize and release ... let the anger go before the fires burned too hot. Honestly, I got a little burned this time, but soon the fires were out.

    The Precepts are fundamental, but they can never be broken! NEVER! In a moment of Shikantaza ... seeking Such what cannot be sought, each day that is Timeless, never missing What cannot be missed ... the Precepts are all kept, no Precept ever broken in Such Ever Unbroken. Nonetheless, rising from the cushion ... out in the world ... one does as one can never to break a Precept. (In fact, when the mind is filled with excess greed, anger and divisive thoughts of ignorance, darn hard to "sit Shikantaza" and know Such Which Can Never Be Broken!).

    I may not be able to settle my mind enough to do zazen, but my troubled mind does well working through my vows and precepts. And in that process I often find some sort of answer as to how to be a better Buddhist in my interactions with the world. Often, once I've settled things a bit with the vows and precepts I can get back to doing zazen.
    Lovely!

    Did Dogen ever miss a day of Zazen? Did Dogen ever break the Precepts? (I would ask the same of all the Ancestors, even the historical Buddha himself ... although the biographies have all been polished up and the misses erased). I would say, in my guess knowing what a human being is ...

    ... sometimes (when life came up) YES! and (for certainly there was not a day in which thy did not apply the Buddhist Teachings) NO! and (seeking Such what cannot be sought, each day that is Timeless, never missing What cannot be missed. NEVER!

    Yes! No! Sometimes! NEVER! This is our sincere Zen Way of Practice-Enlightenment. Is that clear??

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-01-2014 at 04:33 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    I miss at least once a month
    The hell realms are waiting!

    As Jundo says, practice takes many forms and formal, bum on zafu, sitting is just one of them. Good not to miss days but embodying zazen and the precepts seems far more important than how many cushion hours we clock up or days we don't miss.

    I must admit I found Ango tough but if you miss a session or fall back on an Ango commitment that doesn't mean you have failed and get to stop. This is where the verse of atonement and getting back on the cushion with renewed vigour comes in. I'm afraid saying 'I can't survive Ango' is too easy. Everyone can survive Ango, you just need to set your own conditions that work for you, even if that means scheduling in a rest/no practice day once a week so you don't get so overwhelmed you stop. How many of us do you think completely follow through on what we planned for Ango without missing a single minute?

    Gassho
    Andy

  4. #4
    This is our sincere Zen Way of Practice-Enlightenment. Is that clear??
    Gassho to that!

    Vincent
    For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.

  5. #5
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    Thank you for your "confession" Al and thank you for the timely words on practice Jundo.

    Gassho,
    As a priest in training, please take everything I say with a pinch of salt

    Meido Shugen
    明道 修眼

  6. #6
    I appreciate the honesty expressed here; it reminds me that I'm a human not a robot. My perfectionist mind forgets that quite often.

    Gassho,

    Risho

  7. #7
    Thanks for this thread Al and for your teaching Jundo.
    Suddenly my heart feels lighter,



    Willow

  8. #8
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Jundo, as I recall back when I first joined Treeleaf your thing was to sit zazen every day for something like six years, or so. If you were successful or have backed off of that, I applaud you. But that's my standard; it got imprinted on my brain and it won't ever go away. But it's not just you. That sort of thing is the zen standard. Starting with the Buddha on through Bodhidharma, who sat facing a wall for years, on through until today, you can't read about any zen master that doesn't involve some tale of sitting zazen every day. That message gets preached to us from the get-go in zen. I am not complaining. It's a fine goal, but goals like that are doomed for failure. Rather, I find the process of zen in reflecting upon and trying to apply my vows and the precepts, while sitting zazen as near to every day that I can, much more fruitful. I do not mean to imply I am successful with upholding the vows and precepts, because I am way short of that impossible goal. I'm just saying that the practice of zen, for me, is more about the process than any unachievable goal. Hey, that it's unattainable is one of the vows. In any case, I think I can be a pretty good Buddhist even if I skip zazen every once in a while. Not that I am saying that's okay to do! Again, do not use me as an example for your own practice! I have zero authority on these matters. I am just confessing my deluded mind and faulty practice.

    As for Taigu ever skipping zazen, I can't even wrap my head around that possibility.
    AL (Jigen) in:
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    As Willow already said, my heart feels lighter too. Thank you for sharing, Al. I miss some days too, and yet, I've been finding more and more opportunities to practice as I live my life. Funny how that is

    Gassho,
    Joyo

  10. #10
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kokuu View Post
    The hell realms are waiting!


    Gassho
    Andy
    Maitreya is coming, look busy.

    Gassho
    C

  11. #11
    I try to sit a minimum of 15 minutes a day and to chant the Heart Sutra and mantra. Life does sometimes throw in curves to get in the way. For those times I just can't sit zazen, I do mentally chant the Heart Sutra mantra to calm my mind, then I focus on being aware of life around me, of being in the present moment. Well, that works for me, anyhow .

    Gassho,
    Scott
    Forever is so very temporary...

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa View Post
    Jundo, as I recall back when I first joined Treeleaf your thing was to sit zazen every day for something like six years, or so. If you were successful or have backed off of that, I applaud you. But that's my standard; it got imprinted on my brain and it won't ever go away. But it's not just you. That sort of thing is the zen standard. Starting with the Buddha on through Bodhidharma, who sat facing a wall for years, on through until today, you can't read about any zen master that doesn't involve some tale of sitting zazen every day. That message gets preached to us from the get-go in zen. I am not complaining. It's a fine goal, but goals like that are doomed for failure. Rather, I find the process of zen in reflecting upon and trying to apply my vows and the precepts, while sitting zazen as near to every day that I can, much more fruitful. I do not mean to imply I am successful with upholding the vows and precepts, because I am way short of that impossible goal. I'm just saying that the practice of zen, for me, is more about the process than any unachievable goal. Hey, that it's unattainable is one of the vows. In any case, I think I can be a pretty good Buddhist even if I skip zazen every once in a while. Not that I am saying that's okay to do! Again, do not use me as an example for your own practice! I have zero authority on these matters. I am just confessing my deluded mind and faulty practice.

    As for Taigu ever skipping zazen, I can't even wrap my head around that possibility.
    Hi Al,

    The Vow was to Sit Zazen Online Each Day for Nine Years ... and I consider the Vow as being faithfully honored. I do sit Zazen each day ... never missing once ... even when sometimes I miss ... because if one drops "hit or miss" from one's heart, then heads back to the cushion after a miss, one cannot ever miss and hits the target of Zazen (that is the sincere and dedicated Practice-Enlightenment point of what I wrote).

    It is said that Bodhidharma sat facing the wall for nine years, so much that his legs melted away and his eyelids dropped off! That is why the Japanese sometimes depict him like this ...



    And I believe this is True (figuratively, anyway) ... yet, did he not sleep, go to the bathroom, eat? Did he never take a walk in the mountains, gather food and firewood? Did he never take a day off? Was he punching a time clock?



    Or was he punching the Timeless Clock??



    There are times (such as Sesshin) to sit long and hard, times to sit a shorter time (all beyond human measures of "long vs. short", of course)! ... there are days not to sit ... All Zazen, and each indispensible, when "long vs. short, sitting vs. not" are dropped from mind).

    Bodhidharma Attained What Cannot Be Attained! He Sat Each Day. Maybe he did literally or not, but such is not important. Only seeing things from one dimension would cause one to take such stories literally as unbroken sitting for nine years.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-02-2014 at 02:22 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  13. #13
    I offered a little video talk yesterday on this, by the way ...

    SIT-A-LONG with Jundo: Yes! No! Sometimes! NEVER!
    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...es%21-NEVER%21

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  14. #14
    Whenever I think of Bodhidharma sitting for 9 years facing the wall, I wonder what kind of wall he was actually facing??? I think it goes beyond some cave wall........ the walls in my mind. That wall is always right at hand, like Jundo's example in the hospital, n'est pas?
    Shinzan

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Shinzan View Post
    Whenever I think of Bodhidharma sitting for 9 years facing the wall, I wonder what kind of wall he was actually facing??? I think it goes beyond some cave wall........ the walls in my mind. That wall is always right at hand, like Jundo's example in the hospital, n'est pas?
    Shinzan
    Hi Shinzan,

    Most scholars these days believe that the expression "sit facing the wall" was actually closer to "sit like a wall". Traditionally, Soto Zennies would "face the wall". I actually think it is better for less experienced sitters to do so, as it reduces the sensory stimuli, thereby facilitating calming the mind a bit.

    I tend to encourage folks to "face the wall", but it is not so important. I believe that the sitters' "looking downward toward the floor" also reduces sensory stimulation, so the effect is about the same. For more experienced sitters, I do not believe that it matters ... and, in fact, we should develop the ability to sit anywhere, however noisy, busy or distracting.

    I was surprised when, a couple of years ago, I conducted an unofficial poll among teachers who are members of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association of North America, and found that most of the Soto teachers seemed to be open to sitting either way.

    Anyway ... the historical reason may be a mistranslation of Bodhidharma, regarded as the First Patriarch of Ch'an or the Zen tradition, and a writing long attributed to him (The Two Entrances and Four Practices) that used the term in Chinese "biguan/pi-kuan". Historian Heinrich Dumoulin discusses Bodhidharma's wall-contemplation.

    "In an ancient text ascribed to Bodhidharma, his way of meditation is characterized by the Chinese word pi-kuan, literally wall-gazing or wall-contemplation. Except for the word pi-kuan, the same passage is found in a Mahayana sutra; it reads: "When one, abandoning the false and embracing the true, in simplicity of thought abides in pi-kuan, one finds that there is neither selfhood nor otherness, that ordinary men (prthagjana) and saints (arya) are of one essence." (Zen Enlightenment, p. 38).
    The actual meaning of "wall gazing" may not be a literal "sit while gazing at a wall", but closer to "sit as if a wall seeing". Nobody really knows what the term originally meant however. The great Zen Historian Yanagida Seizan has (ala Shikantaza) interpreted the term to denote a sort of witnessing of the world with the steadfast detachment of a wall in which one “gazes intently at a vibrantly alive śunyatā (emptiness).”

    So, whether facing the wall, or away from the wall ... just sit, without thought of in or out.

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  16. #16
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Hi Shinzan,

    Most scholars these days believe that the expression "sit facing the wall" was actually closer to "sit like a wall". Traditionally, Soto Zennies would "face the wall". I actually think it is better for less experienced sitters to do so, as it reduces the sensory stimuli, thereby facilitating calming the mind a bit.

    I tend to encourage folks to "face the wall", but it is not so important. I believe that the sitters' "looking downward toward the floor" also reduces sensory stimulation, so the effect is about the same. For more experienced sitters, I do not believe that it matters ... and, in fact, we should develop the ability to sit anywhere, however noisy, busy or distracting.

    I was surprised when, a couple of years ago, I conducted an unofficial poll among teachers who are members of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association of North America, and found that most of the Soto teachers seemed to be open to sitting either way.

    Anyway ... the historical reason may be a mistranslation of Bodhidharma, regarded as the First Patriarch of Ch'an or the Zen tradition, and a writing long attributed to him (The Two Entrances and Four Practices) that used the term in Chinese "biguan/pi-kuan". Historian Heinrich Dumoulin discusses Bodhidharma's wall-contemplation.



    The actual meaning of "wall gazing" may not be a literal "sit while gazing at a wall", but closer to "sit as if a wall seeing". Nobody really knows what the term originally meant however. The great Zen Historian Yanagida Seizan has (ala Shikantaza) interpreted the term to denote a sort of witnessing of the world with the steadfast detachment of a wall in which one “gazes intently at a vibrantly alive śunyatā (emptiness).”

    So, whether facing the wall, or away from the wall ... just sit, without thought of in or out.

    Gassho, Jundo

    Hello

    I am very interested in the history of Bodhidharma, both in Zen and Kung Fu. Is it that he didn't sit facing a wall at all? Who were the first ones to sit facing walls as we do now? I guess I just wonder why this can't be be just translated as "he sat zazen for 9 years". Or in other words what is wrong with saying he sat "wall gazing" as that is waht we do now?

    Just curious

    Gassho
    C

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Clark View Post
    Hello

    I am very interested in the history of Bodhidharma, both in Zen and Kung Fu. Is it that he didn't sit facing a wall at all? Who were the first ones to sit facing walls as we do now? I guess I just wonder why this can't be be just translated as "he sat zazen for 9 years". Or in other words what is wrong with saying he sat "wall gazing" as that is waht we do now?

    Just curious

    Gassho
    C
    Well, no matter when, it is a good tradition.

    Dogen does mention it in his rules for the monastery which means, I assume, that he also experienced such in China when he was there too. Another Zen Teacher once wrote me the following ...


    In Fushukuhanpo, The drum and bell are sounded for breakfast and lunch. "At this time, if there are people sitting facing the wall they must turn and sit facing the center," ie, for the meal. p. 83
    It's even clearer in Bendoho, Model for Engaging the Way, aka how to get through the day in the monastery --- p 64: "For evening zazen, when you hear the bell, put on your okesa, enter the monks' hall, settle into your place, and do zazen. The abbot sits on the abbot's chair facing [the statue of] Manjushri and does zazen, the head monk faaces the outer edge of the sitting platform and does zazen, and the other monks face the wall and do zazen."
    Dogen is quite consistent on this --- after the evening and night, and early zazen, when the umpan and hans sing out the beginning of the monastic day, "gassho to the okesa . . . and place it on the top of your head" and chant the robe verse. Then, "after putting on the okesa, turn around to the right and sit facing the center." p 70
    A little later comes breakfast, and a while later the han sounds for morning zazen. "The head monk and the assembly, wearing their okesas, enter the hall, and [the monks] do zazen facing the wall at their places. The head monk does not face the wall . . .". p 70.
    Most paintings showing Bodhidharma facing the wall were painted long after his time ...



    In any case, it is now Soto tradition that Dogen had folks face the wall. Why not? Ya gotta face someway, and we always face ourself.

    Most Rinzai and mixed Rinzai Lineages sit faces away from the wall.
    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-03-2014 at 09:51 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  18. #18
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Well, no matter when, it is a good tradition.

    Dogen does mention it in his rules for the monastery which means, I assume, that he also experienced such in China when he was there too. Another Zen Teacher once wrote me the following ...



    Most paintings showing Bodhidharma facing the wall were painted long after his time ...



    In any case, it is now Soto tradition that Dogen had folks face the wall. Why not? Ya gotta face someway, and we always face ourself.

    Most Rinzai and mixed Rinzai Lineages sit faces away from the wall.
    Gassho, J
    Thank you. FYI I don't literally thinK Bodhidharma founded "Kung Fu" though he may certainly have been the first to suggest exercises were needed to help monks stay more focused. I do certainly find that there is something very Zen about being fully engaged in martial arts practice, but then the same can be said for any activity. The difference is that other activities don't cause you to get punched when you loose focus.

    Gassho
    C

  19. #19
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    It's funny how conversations turn. Thank you for the dharma talk, Jundo. I started this by talking about behavior, and now we are into wall gazing, sitting on a zafu, kung fu, etc. Anyway, you remind us that zazen is much more than a behavior, as is Buddhism, which was really my point.

    AL (Jigen) in:
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