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Thread: 7/27 - What Practice Is p.25

  1. #1

    7/27 - What Practice Is p.25

    Hi Ho,

    The subject is what "what practice is' is.

    Joko starts off the section, "Practice is very simple. That doesn't mean it won't turn our life around, however."

    A simple truth about simple truth.

    If I might comment, though, on one part of the Chapter: In one paragraph, Joko seems to be recommending that we actively "label thoughts precisely" during Zazen, as thoughts arise and before releasing them. Then, we should return to 'just sitting." However, if that is what she is recommending, I would have to disagree firmly with that approach and say that such a way is not standard for Shikantaza practice as instructed by most teachers I know. I would not encourage that. Perhaps a little Vipassana influence in her method? I am not sure. When we "just sit," we "just sit" ... we let thoughts go without analysis during Zazen. There is nothing to do or attain in the sitting, nothing to examine or focus on ... and that non-doing and non-focusing is VERY important.

    Now, on the other hand, I think her "thought labeling" recommendation is a wonderful thing to do at other times in daily life, as thoughts arise during our busy day ... when tired, hot, a little angry, happy, etc. Just not during Zazen itself. I think, which should have no object or focus to it.

    Gassho, Jundo

  2. #2
    This was me.

    I forgot to sign in again. I'm bad, bad,bad. I must be more mindful, lol

    I'm sorry if it sounds like I'm channeling Jundo in this post, but he's struck a chord with me.


    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymous
    What practice is . . .

    I think practice is simply what we do. Of course Zazen and study of the dharma might be seen "officially" as practice. But, in truth there need be no seperation between every part of our lives and our practice. Driving to work --- is practice, if we just drive, just as when we sit, we just sit.

    In keeping with this idea I am trying to bring the idea of practice to evcerything I do. Just work when at work, just eat when eating, just run when running, just read when reading. . .

    I know this sounds rather cliche, but it does appear to be the truth.

  3. #3

    what practice is not

    Hello Jundo:
    Thank you for pointing out this passage and giving reminder/clarification/
    direction for shikantaza.
    It is very easy, in reading a variety of sources, to come up with a mixed salad practice.
    I appreciate your showing a way in which the activity she proposes can be incorporated should we choose to try it.
    gassho,
    Keishin

  4. #4
    Hello!

    To me personally practice is almost always related to discipline.Although on some level I completely agree that all of life is practice and that there are no real boundaries between different forms of activitiy, we need discipline to polish the non-existing mirror stand, until even the polishing vanishes into the empty open space at the core of everything.

    Gassho,

    Hans

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Joko
    Zen is about an active life, an involved life... Doing Zen practice is never as simple as talking about it.
    I'm with you Jundo, it seems that there is a little cross pollination of practice styles going on. I like how Jundo separates the practices without discarding either. Shikantaza when on the cushion and a little Vipassana influenced mindfullness when moving through the day. Not a bad combination.

    Dinner duties call, so I'll post this for now and return to this juicy chapter later. Tomorrow.

    May the love inherent in life become apparent in all you see.

  6. #6
    Joko is so kind to us. She points out the role thoughts play. She points out that sitting helps us simplify our busy modern lives so we have a chance to face ourselves. I love that she points out that meditation is not about reaching some state of bliss or understanding but meditation is really about discovering the meditator. This reminds me of something I heard repeatedly while on retreat. Something about learning to take the backward step that turns the light and shines it inward. Some famous Japanese guy was big on this practice. He wrote about it in a thing called the Fukanzazengi. Anyways...

    I'm beginning to occassionally sometimes get a glimps of the faint shadow of...
    Quote Originally Posted by Joko
    When we've been sitting long enough we can see our thoughts as just pure sensory input... an energy fragment.
    I am a little disapointed that Joko provided the big grand Zen spoiler. Yet just like not knowing the ending of the Harry Potter series doesn't ruin the enjoyment of the non-reading, knowing that the secret of life is "trust in things being as they are" doesn't ruin the enjoyment of Zen.

  7. #7
    Hi all,

    Well, I was just about to jump in and ask about whether Joko really meant to say that we should label thoughts during Zazen, as that certainly cannot be the case -- then I read Jundo's posting. Thanks for that clarification, Jundo. (Wow, you really can read minds! ) Apart from that point, I really like the way Joko explains things clearly and concisely with no extraneous BS.

    Gassho
    Kenneth

  8. #8
    I didn't realize that the "thought labeling" practice was from outside the Soto lineage. The books I've been reading lately (including, obviously, this one) have encouraged it, so it's what I've been doing. It's been working for me so far.

    Would you dissuade me from continuing this practice, Jundo?

    I had some difficulties with a few points in this section, to wit:

    Our understanding grows over the years, but at any point we are perfect in being what we are.
    I understand this in a broad "there is no other way you could be" sense, but I have difficulty reconciling this idea with the worst in humanity. Could that strawman criminal character (Charles Manson, the child molestor, Hitler, plug in whoever really gets your goat) really be described as perfect without stretching what we call "perfection" to the breaking point? I have difficulty with this.

    Then again, it truly is what we call "perfection" and as such is just another illusory notion. I truly do have difficulty with the moral dimension here, though.

    The second area I had trouble with:

    Now there's nothing wrong with planning ahead; we have to plan. But when we become upset...
    I had the same fuzzy troubles with Joko's distinction between "technical thoughts" and those thoughts that get in the way of reality a few sections back. I suppose I'm asking where we draw the line between what sorts of thoughts are "ok" and what sort need to be "dropped away."

    Any suggestions on these questions would be invaluable to my practice.

    Gassho.
    justin

  9. #9
    Hi Justin,

    Quote Originally Posted by Justin
    I didn't realize that the "thought labeling" practice was from outside the Soto lineage. The books I've been reading lately (including, obviously, this one) have encouraged it, so it's what I've been doing. It's been working for me so far.

    Would you dissuade me from continuing this practice, Jundo?
    It is not what I teach. (I mean, I do not teach to do that -during- Zazen. To do that in daily life could be a good practice, I think).

    Please tell me what books you have been reading that recommended that,



    I had some difficulties with a few points in this section, to wit:

    "Our understanding grows over the years, but at any point we are perfect in being what we are."

    I understand this in a broad "there is no other way you could be" sense, but I have difficulty reconciling this idea with the worst in humanity. Could that strawman criminal character (Charles Manson, the child molestor, Hitler, plug in whoever really gets your goat) really be described as perfect without stretching what we call "perfection" to the breaking point? I have difficulty with this.

    Then again, it truly is what we call "perfection" and as such is just another illusory notion. I truly do have difficulty with the moral dimension here, though.
    It is more that the world is "perfectly just what it is, perfectly imperfect, perfectly just the world" no matter that we would like it to be some other way very often. It is not "perfect" as humans might use that term, but "perfectly its own beautiful & screwed up self." And that includes, unfortunately, Hitler, Charles Manson, child molestors & cancer as well as flowers, children's smiles and chocolate chip ice cream. Charles Manson was, unfortunately, just what he was. We allow and embrace the world on its own terms, just-as-it-is.

    That being said, it is NOT an either/or proposition. While accepting the world as it is and while dropping all judgments, we can have judgments of "good" and "evil" --- like two sides of a single coin. We can work hard to eliminate Hitlers, cancers and all the rest from this world, should we decide to do so.

    Part of our Zen practice is to drop the human tendency to be judging the world constantly, dissatisfied with events and aspects of the world that we find ugly. We learn to take the world on its own terms, like the wild yet harmonious, chaotic yet orderly, beautiful-ugly jungle it is ... by dropping all ideas of wild/harmonious, chaotic/orderly, beautiful/ugly, pleasant/unpleasant/ good/bad etc. That is how most people in the world constantly judge things. But, while dropping all that, we can still judge wild/harmonious, chaotic/orderly, beautiful/ugly, and all the rest as two faces of a single whole. Something like that.

    Let me leave your second question for later, as I must run now.


    Gassho, Jundo

  10. #10
    Hello all,

    I'm late to this discussion and I apologise, I was unable to get a hold of this book until now.

    I have little to add at this point to the wonderful thoughts already posted.

    I will simply add that I believe what has been said in this chapter reflects the words of Suzuki Shõsan Rõshi -

    "The Bukkyõhõ is not different from the Way of the world,
    and the Way of the world is not different from the Bukkyõhõ.
    Any and every occupation is Buddhist practice.
    It is on the basis of our actual work that enlightenment is to be attained.
    No work can be anything other than Buddhist practice."


    If the Dharma cannot be utilised in the world just as it is, it is not the Dharma at all.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Part of our Zen practice is to drop the human tendency to be judging the world constantly, dissatisfied with events and aspects of the world that we find ugly. We learn to take the world on its own terms, like the wild yet harmonious, chaotic yet orderly, beautiful-ugly jungle it is ... by dropping all ideas of wild/harmonious, chaotic/orderly, beautiful/ugly, pleasant/unpleasant/ good/bad etc. That is how most people in the world constantly judge things. But, while dropping all that, we can still judge wild/harmonious, chaotic/orderly, beautiful/ugly, and all the rest as two faces of a single whole. Something like that.
    This is sort of a "de-moralification" of our experience. There is no reason other than fear for our constant categorization of everything as moral or immoral or any of the aforementioned pairs of judgments. Resting in things being as they are empowers Right Action. Just about everything else gets in the way. What I call de-moralification is not a way to escape responsibility and justify negative karmic action nor is a reason to become evangelical about some self-proscribed moral high ground.

    The term moral is so loaded. It is probably more helpful to talk about it like Jundo does by using terms like "wild/harmonious, chaotic/orderly, beautiful/ugly, pleasant/unpleasant/ good/bad etc."

  12. #12

    what pratice is

    many apologies--I wanted to go back and edit this because I just went on too long and I wanted to shorten it, but it posted as 'guest' even though I was signed in (but had left the computer for a while), and 'edit' is not available to me...
    That'll learn me to be so long winded!
    gassho
    Keishin

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    It is not what I teach. (I mean, I do not teach to do that -during- Zazen. To do that in daily life could be a good practice, I think).

    Please tell me what books you have been reading that recommended that,
    I can't speak to which books Justin's read, but I believe that Thich Nhat Hanh also teaches something similar to the "thought labeling" approach.

    I'm starting to wonder if Everyday Zen is really a beginner's book. Perhaps that's just because of the methods that my meditation instructors employed...or maybe it just confuses me to think of learning zazen from a book. I know that I initially approached meditation with many of the misconceptions that Joko Beck listed (at least the self-improvement motives, I don't think I've ever been particularly interested in pursuing enlightenment or special states). Aside from intense critiques of my posture (my teachers have all been much stricter than Jundo in that regard), I was never strongly rebuked for what I was doing wrong. In fact, I wasn't given a lot of concrete advice on how to do zazen - in the Soto Zen tradition I was told to "just sit" (based on the advice in the Fukan Zazengi). When I began receiving instructions at the Ch'an monastery in town, I was asked about my previous experience, assigned a gong-an, and told to apply my experience with shikantaza to sitting with the gong-an (and told how to modify my posture again, as they don't use the round zafu, only a square cushion - I don't know what they call them, but they're pretty much the same as a zabuton).

    I liked how Joko spoke of our obsessive thoughts about the future. I just recently read of a large-scale study - I believe the article had something to do with the new book Stumbling Upon Happiness but I'm not sure - regardless, the gist was that people tend to be very bad at judging which experiences will make us happy, and to what degree. That we over-estimate how much either negative (eg loss of job) or positive (eg getting married) experiences will affect us.

    PS - Keishin, I've had the same experience of the system logging me out during a long-winded post. I check for that by hitting "preview" and seeing if my signature shows up at the bottom of the message. If it's not there, then I've been demoted to Guest.

  14. #14
    Hi Paige,

    Quote Originally Posted by paige

    I can't speak to which books Justin's read, but I believe that Thich Nhat Hanh also teaches something similar to the "thought labeling" approach.
    I may need to be corrected on this, but my understanding is that the Vietnamese Ch'an practice of Thich Nhat Hanh may be heavily influenced by other Southeast Asian traditions ... i.e., Vipassana. In that case, the 'mindfulness' during Zazen that he recommends would be of that kind and influence.

    I'm starting to wonder if Everyday Zen is really a beginner's book.
    Like so many books on Buddhism and Zen, it is a mixed bag of advise for beginners and more experienced students. However, I find the freshness of her perspective (you don't have to agree with every Paragraph though ... I don't) to be useful for everybody.

    Aside from intense critiques of my posture (my teachers have all been much stricter than Jundo in that regard), I was never strongly rebuked for what I was doing wrong.
    Part of my looseness on posture is the limitations (one of the few) of the online format of this Sangha. Part is that I think too many teachers pay too much attention to the pot, and not to what is cooking in the pot.

    I was asked about my previous experience, assigned a gong-an, and told to apply my experience with shikantaza to sitting with the gong-an
    Are you sitting with a Koan now, or 'just sitting'?

    Sorry for the problem with the system. I do not know how to fix that one, but I will talk to our technical guy.

    In answer to something you wrote, Paige, in another post: You can call me anything you want (my name is James or Jim. Or, you can make up a nickname of you own for me). But, don't forget to call!

    Gassho, Jundo[/quote]

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hi Paige,

    Like so many books on Buddhism and Zen, it is a mixed bag of advise for beginners and more experienced students. However, I find the freshness of her perspective (you don't have to agree with every Paragraph though ... I don't) to be useful for everybody.
    I agree with you there, Jundo. I've recommended or purchased Brad Warner's new book for a couple of people I've sat with (not any of the folks from the Ch'an temple). The students who read Warner really enjoyed his "cut the crap" message.

    Joko, I think, has a similar approach, but the way she presents the material reminds me of a quote I heard somewhere -- "You don't always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it as well."

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Part of my looseness on posture is the limitations (one of the few) of the online format of this Sangha. Part is that I think too many teachers pay too much attention to the pot, and not to what is cooking in the pot.
    I sometimes worry that insisting on maintaining Lotus position can encourage students to adopt an overly masochistic and competitive approach to sitting. One of my teachers destroyed his knees by prolonged sitting on hard surfaces when he was a novice in the Rinzai sect. He can't even manage Burmese posture anymore, he needs a chair.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Are you sitting with a Koan now, or 'just sitting'?
    With a koan now, though my prior experience (until about a year ago) was with "just sitting."

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    In answer to something you wrote, Paige, in another post: You can call me anything you want (my name is James or Jim. Or, you can make up a nickname of you own for me). But, don't forget to call!
    Heh, having met other "white guys who received dharma transmission from Japanese masters," I kind of figured your first name probably started with a 'J.'

    I like the Gudo/Jundo thing too - are a lot of Nishijima's students called -do? :roll:

  16. #16
    Hi,

    A few things ...

    Justin wrote

    I had the same fuzzy troubles with Joko's distinction between "technical thoughts" and those thoughts that get in the way of reality a few sections back. I suppose I'm asking where we draw the line between what sorts of thoughts are "ok" and what sort need to be "dropped away."

    Any suggestions on these questions would be invaluable to my practice.

    Gassho.
    justin
    My thinking on this [pun unavoidable] is that we drop different thoughts at different times in Practice, sometimes more than at other times, in various combinations, perhaps all thoughts ultimately ... and each offers its own unique, wonderful vantage point on reality. For example, sometimes we drop most of the value judgments (good/bad, beautiful/ugly, pleasant/unpleasant etc.) and the world is, as Joko says: things being as they are.

    Other times, we may drop our sense of self/not self, and then there is no "I" to resist a world of "not I". We can drop our categorizing, labeling, sorting thoughts that cut up and separate the world (including ourselves) into little pieces such that a sense of wholeness may be lost.

    Or, sometimes we may see that each separate object is a universe unto itself, perfectly itself just as it is ... and so are we.

    I sometimes refer to Zazen as a "toolbelt", because it is not just one experience, but infinite vantage points and experiences. All are true, simultaneously, in their own way ... thus you exist and you do not exist at all, thus war is bad and war is just war, thus there are no broken pieces in conflict so not even war ... etc etc

    Wills wrote:

    This is sort of a "de-moralification" of our experience. There is no reason other than fear for our constant categorization of everything as moral or immoral or any of the aforementioned pairs of judgments. Resting in things being as they are empowers Right Action. Just about everything else gets in the way. What I call de-moralification is not a way to escape responsibility and justify negative karmic action nor is a reason to become evangelical about some self-proscribed moral high ground.

    The term moral is so loaded. It is probably more helpful to talk about it like Jundo does by using terms like "wild/harmonious, chaotic/orderly, beautiful/ugly, pleasant/unpleasant/ good/bad etc."
    Well, we realize such freedom in our Practice that it could be said to be beyond morality ... e.g., right this moment, I am free to take a human life or not, steal or not, be abusive or not. This is because part of our practice does involve dropping concepts such as good/bad, peaceful/violent, killer/killed, life/death ... you name it, WE DROP IT! That freedom can lead people in directions that are, potentially, destructive to other persons around them and destructive to themselves.

    Thus, the Precepts serve to keep us on the path of balanced living.

    Keishin wrote:

    But back to Joko, who in the last 4 paragraphs of this chapter seems to do so many twists and turns and flips off the high dive, that I'm going to have to see the slo mo replay to follow it...and then she tells me there is no I, and never was one, only an illusion, that there isn't even an I to dissolve because there was nothing there to begin with...
    Well gosh darn well.... what the hell... well....

    and she closes with:

    "Still, when we sit well, everything else takes care of itself. So whether we have been sitting five years or twenty years or are just beginning, it is important to sit with great, meticulous care." (!!!!!)
    Yes. There is no "you," now "you" should go sit.

    Sitting is without object or intent and cannot be done "wrong". Now, take great care so that it is just right!

    On this last point, it is like meticulously washing the windows of the monastery ... working diligently ... all the while dropping all thought of "clean" or "dirty", dropping all thought of something to achieve.

    No contradiction, not one. Despite the contradictions.

    Excuse the late night ramblings. Off to bed.

    Gassho, Jundo

  17. #17
    Hello all! I am jumping in a little late with this section. So many insightful responses so far - I don't have much more to add. I have also been utilizing the thought labeling technique in my practice, and I was interested to read all of the discussion and Jundo's thoughts on why this is not the recommended method for zazen.

    The best nugget of this section for me was Joko's explanation of why our minds go off thinking about other things - we're protecting ourselves, we imagine we're making progress just by thinking about something. I always struggle with over-analyzing anything and everything. It's revolutionary to me to realize that thinking about something really doesn't do... anything. Thinking isn't all that great - it's all arising out of delusion, anyway. What a concept! Or non-concept. Or I'm crazy. Either one is fine.

  18. #18
    The quality of the conversation here is just amazing. I cannot add anything to it. But, I would like to share a great poem about practice by Thich Nhat Hanh..

    Link to it here . . . .

    http://enteringthepath.wordpress.com/20 ... n-viewing/

    I like what this poem says about many things, perhaps the beauty of Zazen is that it opens us up to the reality that the separation and duality we perceive is nothing more than a very limited point of view.

    Enjoy the Poem, its one of my favotites.

    -Greg

  19. #19

    what practice is

    Hello Gregor:

    Thank you for a lovely poem!

    My newly rendered chapter heading for Joko: What Practice?--IS!

    gassho,
    Keishin

  20. #20
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re Gregor's comment way up in the thread: practice is what we do, if we know we're doing it and what we are doing.

    Re labeling: that threw me off too. I've never heard Zen meditation described like that. It certainly isn't Shikantaza, and it certainly isn't Jundoism. I had long labeled, because my first exposure to meditation was Vipassana. But when I started "just sitting", I realized that by labeling, we enter a dualist state: we have our thoughts, then the labeler. I think this is actually very dangerous (not in an absolute way, but by reinforcing ideas of dualism), and certainly counter-productive for meditation. This said, it is a good way to get started in meditation, because you are actually "doing" something, rather than swimming in the maelstrom of thoughts.

    Kirk

  21. #21
    /me echos!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Yes. There is no "you," now "you" should go sit.

    Sitting is without object or intent and cannot be done "wrong". Now, take great care so that it is just right!

    On this last point, it is like meticulously washing the windows of the monastery ... working diligently ... all the while dropping all thought of "clean" or "dirty", dropping all thought of something to achieve.

    No contradiction, not one. Despite the contradictions.
    This is just what it is and cannot be moral or immoral. Now, take great care to practice the precepts!

    I bow to Brother Jundo.

  22. #22
    Hi Gregor,

    Thank you for the Thich Naht Hanh poem. I was feeling a little tired after being with the workman all day at the Treeleaf. Picked me right up!

    Gassho, Jundo

  23. #23
    Jundo & Keishin:

    Your welcome, I'm glad I could share it. Thay is just an amazing poet, his poetry collection "Call Me by My True Names" is my favorite of his books. And, he's written a lot of great ones!

    kirkmc:

    Good point about needing to be present in order to practice. On a related note I recdently heard somebody say, "we're always present, but we just don't always realize it." --- pretty funny.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    My thinking on this [pun unavoidable] is that we drop different thoughts at different times in Practice, sometimes more than at other times, in various combinations, perhaps all thoughts ultimately ... and each offers its own unique, wonderful vantage point on reality. For example, sometimes we drop most of the value judgments (good/bad, beautiful/ugly, pleasant/unpleasant etc.) and the world is, as Joko says: things being as they are.
    My kind of silly visualisation of dropping thoughts and value judgments is to kind of compare it to reaching over and turning off the alarm clock in the morning.

    You know, that tiny moment when it doesn't matter whether you're getting up at 4 am to test the server before everyone else gets to work (man, that sucks), or to catch an early flight to Florida (whoo-hoo, I'm going to DisneyLand!).

    Yes, I know that there is a lot to criticise about that analogy. Line forms to the left...

  25. #25
    Yes, I know that there is a lot to criticise about that analogy. Line forms to the left...
    I quite like it!

    Gassho.

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