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Thread: 8/10 - Pushing for Enlightenment Experiences p.35

  1. #1

    8/10 - Pushing for Enlightenment Experiences p.35

    Hi,

    Ooops. Almost forgot it is Friday, and time for a new chapter ...

    So, 'Let's Get Enlightened (Not)'!


    J

  2. #2
    Hi,

    Iím not quite sure what to make of this chapter, it doesnít seem to fit in with everything Joko has said up till now and kind of smells like the concepts presented in 'Three Pillars of Zen'. On the one hand, Joko suggests that there is an enlightenment beyond Shikantaza, then however, she concludes the chapter by more or less trying to console us by saying that no normal human can achieve it anyway, so just sit. She also seems to contradict herself by saying that any ideas to that extent that there is something to achieve are merely phantasies of the ego.

    A while back, Nishijima Roshi also wrote about the 1st (Zen-go, typical Soto, gradual, but immediate enlightenment) and 2nd enlightenment (Ton-go, typical Rinzai, sudden, but after > 30 years practice enlightenment), which also seems to coincide with what Joko is saying. Hereís an excerpt from his blog.

    Ton-go and Zen-go
    In the interpretation of enlightenment in Buddhism, there are two kinds of oposite insistenses on the situation of enlightenment. And the one is called Ton-go, and the other is called Zen-go.

    In Ton-go, Ton means sudden, and go means enlightenment. Therefore Ton-go means a sudden enlightenment, and it suggests that the Buddhist enlightenment always visit us suddenly, and so it is necessary for us to think that the Buddhist enlightenment always visit us suddnly.

    But at the same time there is another idea that Buddhist enlightenment usually comes gradually, which is called Zen-go, or gradual enlightenment, because zen (different from Zen) means gradual and go means enlightenment. Therefore Zen-go means a gradual enlightenment, which gradually aproaches us usually utilizing rather long time.

    In Japan there are three sects of Buddhism, which practice Zazen mainly, and among them Rinzai Sect and Soto Sect are rather bigger, but those two Sects have different ideas of getting enlightenment for many years. And generally speaking Rinzai Sect insists the idea of Ton-go, and Soto Sect believe in Zen-go.

    And in the case of Soto Sect we accept that when we begin the practice of Zazen folding our legs and keep our spine straight vertically, we can enter into the first enlightenment at once. Therefore even in the case of Soto Sect the first enlightenment is Tongo, but at the same time such a kind of practice of Zazen have to continue everyday for many years, and so Zazen in Soto Sect has also characteristics of Zen-go.

    And in the case of the second enlightenment in Soto Sect can be experienced after so many years practice, and so it is just the case of Zen-go, but at the same time such a kind of the second enlightenment appear after for many years more than 30 years at least. And so even it appears suddenly at the present moment, therefore it can be called Ton-go, but at the same time the second enlightenment can be realized after everyday Zanzen for so many years, and so the case of the second enlightenment it is necessary for us to insist that even in the case of Soto Sect, we can say that the second enlightenment in Buddhism has also the two characteristics of Ton-go and Zen-go.

    http://gudoblog-e.blogspot.com/2006_12_01_archive.html
    Iím not sure if there is such a thing as a 2nd enlightenment (a.k.a. Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi?), or if there is, if I will ever experience it. Iím a bit skeptical about such things and I think itís dangerous to focus oneís life on something which is in the very distant future. Who knows what will be in 30 years? I could die today. In the meantime, Iíll just keep sitting day for day. After all, what is there apart from the present moment? As Sekito Kisen once said, "From birth until death, it's just this".

    One thing that did strike a chord with me in this chapter is her discussion about attachments, i.e. we arenít completely 'dead' as long as we have attachments and the less we identify ourselves with, the more our life can encompass. I agree fully with that. It reminds me of what Sawaki Roshi is quoted as saying: ĄLoss is enlightenment, gain is delusionď.

    Gassho
    Kenneth

  3. #3

    Re: 8/10 - Pushing for Enlightenment Experiences p.35

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    So, 'Let's Get Enlightened (Not)'!
    Jundo, I'm calling you out on this!
    I sense a tone of sarcasm and this misrepresents what Joko says in this chapter and the spirit of it also. Remember that each chapter was taken from Dharma talks during various sesshins. As a teacher she had insights at the time with the audience present and used those to help them get unstuck or inspire them. She does not in this chapter encourage any "Let's Get Enlightened". On the contrary she states shes never met it and she refers to an enlightened being as being "perhaps hypothetical". Remember her "I hope a thought like that (final enlightenment) would never ever occur to me." Joko kindly dispels the "enlightenment" as a kind of end goal and instead points to the practice of slowly ripening, integrating wisdom with stillness and finding a compassionate teacher.
    Quote Originally Posted by In the meatiest part of this chapter, Joko
    "On a withered tree, a flower blooms." ... As we identify ourselves with less and less, we can include more and more in our lives. And this is the vow of the boddhisattva. So the degree to which our practice ripens, to that degree we can do more, we can include more, we can serve more; and that is what Zen practice is about. Sitting like this is the way; so let's just practice with everything we have. All I can be is who I am right now; I can experience that and work with it. That's all I can do. The rest is the dream of ego.

  4. #4
    Hi Guys,

    Let me offer a couple of perspectives on this. To understand it, you have to know a little about the lineage to which Joko belongs. (I've mentioned this a few times before). The "White Plum" lineage of Maezumi Roshi is actually a hybrid of Soto and Rinzai, with a heavy third strain of Sanbokyodan. Both the Rinzai part and the Sanbokyodan (especially the latter) emphasize intense, koan focused Zazen and mind blowing "Kensho" (some explosive, some subtle, but all the central point of Zazen in their view). I have known and have good friends in this lineage, and for many years I was an assisting teacher of a Zen group in the US that is primarily of this lineage. Good folks.

    However, I do detect in Joko's writings (and others in this lineage) from time to time a tug-o-war between the teachings of "just sitting, nothing to attain" Dogen (what I teach) and "Kensho or die trying" Rinzai/Sanbokyodan practices. Most times, it comes out as "Die trying for Kensho ... but there is nothing really to attain". I mean, they are a Soto lineage, and teach Dogen, but they have to reconcile it with this Kensho emphasis. In recent years, since the death of Maezumi Roshi, I get the feeling that the Kensho thing is less important than in the past, and they are emphasizing "just sitting" more and more. But the "Kensho" thing peaks out quite a lot in this chapter "I do not worry about enlightenment, don't know if anyone in history every really had such a thing ... but, yet, Kensho Kensho Kensho".

    Anyway, thank you Kenneth for finding that explanation from Nishijima Roshi. Let me try to explain it too, and what Nishijima Roshi was saying:

    In our Dogen-style "just sitting", not trying to seek anything special, we all will have those "kensho" moments now and then. ANYONE who has been sitting Zazen for a few years will have had some. They are the "Ah ha" moments, they come suddenly (and usually go just as suddenly), and might be classified as "big" (AH HA HA HA!!) and "small" (oh). They also can leave us with important insights about self (and no self), the world (and no world), releasing attachments, etc. Those experiences are cool.

    HOWEVER (and this is perhaps the big difference between Dogen and the Rinzai/Sanbyokyodan thing), we consider such moments interesting reference points, wide windows on other ways of experiencing life, but not the central objective of practice. They are nice, we learn from them, but ultimately we get back to the boring, day to day wonder of living this crazy lovely/terrible life. They are not "life changing", once and for all, "now you've had Kensho, now you are enlightened" experiences. In fact, when we have such experiences, Soto students are encouraged to not get get overly fascinated with such things, and certainly not get caught in trying to hold onto or bring them back ... our practice is instead about the objectless, goalless way of life.

    In fact, though the Rinzai folk talk about life changing "Kensho", they know too that those experiences require years to incorporate into daily life ... the real point of practice. So it is actually just a debate between taking the high road or the low road, when in fact we both get to Loch Lomen at the same time.


    Dogen's "sudden enlightenment" was not "Kensho", but was more "just crossing the legs and stretching the back is enlightenment itself". You are then instantly the Buddha. Sit with the boring, sit with radical non-seeking, search for no "special state" ... and that non-seeking way of life --IS-- a very, very special state.

    But, then, you must get to the task of incorporating that "non-seeking special state" into one's life (much like in that fine article on working at a job with a difficult supervisor that Justin posted elsewhere in the forum). Both the goalless "just sitting" is "enlightenent", and making such "non-seeking" the core of one's life is enlightenment. One is sudden, one is gradual, but they are both -- at the same time too.

    I hope I expressed these things well.

    Gassho, Jundo

  5. #5
    Hi Jundo,

    Many heartfelt thanks for your reply, you have indeed expressed it well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    In our Dogen-style "just sitting", not trying to seek anything special, we all will have those "kensho" moments now and then. ANYONE who has been sitting Zazen for a few years will have had some. They are the "Ah ha" moments, they come suddenly (and usually go just as suddenly), and might be classified as "big" (AH HA HA HA!!) and "small" (oh). They also can leave us with important insights about self (and no self), the world (and no world), releasing attachments, etc. Those experiences are cool.
    Yes, definitely. Sometimes I wonder if those experiences are kensho or makyo, or if there is ultimately any difference between the two. Whether they be this, that, or just some biochemical secretions of my brain, I look at each of them as one less droplet in my bucket of delusions and even though further droplets will always remain, at the same time I also realize that the bucket was empty from the beginning.

    Gassho
    Kenneth

  6. #6
    Hi guys,

    I recently wrote in another thread (probably in too harsh of terms) how I find questions about jhanas and enlightenment experiences somewhat predictable and naive.

    I sort of wonder if the internet culture has us knowing a bit too much. I'm not sure if it's really terribly healthy for an absolute beginner to meditation to have a detailed description of each jhana, along with dubious testimonials from people who believe they've penetrated each of them.

    Then again, I don't think it's entirely healthy to put complete faith in a Sensei or Guru to provide the necessary information at exactly the right moment either.

    I was in kind of the opposite situation early on in my practice. My first meditation classes were offered by a psychotherapist, because of the research suggesting that zazen can help in controlling epilepsy. So I was instructed to sit every day, but never got any warnings of the funky things that can happen in meditation.

    I wouldn't say it was "harmful" or "devastating" to me...but I did really scare the crap out of myself. I think that the Zen teacher I went to for advice had a very good approach for me. He just reassured me that I wasn't going crazy, these things happen, etc. At one point, he added "but if it happens again, let me know right away," which was a bit disturbing. :shock:

    Those kensho-inducing sesshins that Joko described:
    Quote Originally Posted by Joko
    I've been at sesshins where there's screaming, yelling, pushing: you've got to do it! You've got to die! The women weep all night, the men weep all night...
    sound pretty creepy to me. It sounds almost like a cultish mind-control experience.

    I guess that Linji Ch'an is quite a bit different from Rinzai Zen though. I am working with koan focussed zazen, but there's no push for kensho. I was assigned the koan back in March (maybe April?) but I've heard nothing more about it since. No one's asked me how I'm doing on it - maybe the Shifu's waiting for me to approach her if I think I've got an answer?

    I think most of this post was off-topic. And long. Sorry.

  7. #7
    Hi Paige,

    Quote Originally Posted by paige
    I sort of wonder if the internet culture has us knowing a bit too much. I'm not sure if it's really terribly healthy for an absolute beginner to meditation to have a detailed description of each jhana, along with dubious testimonials from people who believe they've penetrated each of them.
    Yeah, I guess it has advantages as well as disadvantages. In any case, I think this chapter illustrates how important it is to have a teacher to explain the fine points, as there are lots of subtleties which can cause much confusion, i.e. one lineage of Soto-Zen can be much different than another lineage of Soto-Zen.

    Quote Originally Posted by paige
    I guess that Linji Ch'an is quite a bit different from Rinzai Zen though.
    Perhaps it's a silly question, but how so? I thought Linji Ch'an is Rinzai Zen, or do you mean the Chinese (Linji) vs. the Japanese (Rinzai) approach to teaching?

    Gassho
    Kenneth

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Kenneth
    Perhaps it's a silly question, but how so? I thought Linji Ch'an is Rinzai Zen, or do you mean the Chinese (Linji) vs. the Japanese (Rinzai) approach to teaching?
    Hi Kenneth. Not a silly question - I'd assumed that they were pretty much the same thing too. I've never attended a Japanese Rinzai school so I'm just going off Jundo's descriptions anyway. I think that one of the big differences (and maybe why there isn't the emphasis on kensho) is that this Ch'an tradition doesn't have a system of students graduating one gong-an and going on to a more difficult one. At least, not that they've told me!

    I don't even know if there's a Chinese equivalent to the term "kensho."

  9. #9
    Enlightenment = the act or state of being enlightened, the possessing of knowledge or insight.

    Enlightened - past tense, indicating that knowledge or insight has been imparted.

    Enlightenment has become elevated to some magical mystical supernatural state of bliss! Anyone with hard work can become "enlightened."

    Are we to believe that only the Buddha could achieve knowledge or insight? He claimed that ANYONE can achieve what he achieved in THIS VERY LIFETIME.

    Enlightenment or nirvana, the ability to see the world as it is.

  10. #10
    Hi Paige,

    OK, understood -- thanks for the explanation!

    Gassho
    Kenneth

  11. #11

    pushing for enlightenment experiences

    Hellos to fellow readers:

    I read the chapter and have forgotten the chapter except for one outstanding sharp edge Joko is kind enough to place where I can find it: DON'T.

    Don't push for it. Don't even think about it.
    Effort, yes, but not in this direction. This direction is a Dead End.

    Thank you Joko!

    gassho

    keishin

  12. #12
    Hello Paige,

    If I may combine a couple of your comments ...

    I guess that Linji Ch'an is quite a bit different from Rinzai Zen though. I am working with koan focussed zazen, but there's no push for kensho. I was assigned the koan back in March (maybe April?) but I've heard nothing more about it since. No one's asked me how I'm doing on it - maybe the Shifu's waiting for me to approach her if I think I've got an answer?

    ...

    I'd assumed that they were pretty much the same thing too. I've never attended a Japanese Rinzai school so I'm just going off Jundo's descriptions anyway. I think that one of the big differences (and maybe why there isn't the emphasis on kensho) is that this Ch'an tradition doesn't have a system of students graduating one gong-an and going on to a more difficult one. At least, not that they've told me! Smile

    I don't even know if there's a Chinese equivalent to the term "kensho."
    Ch'an Buddhism is the source both of Zazen in the "Silent Illumination" style that became "Just Sitting" Shikantaza when transplanted to Japan ...

    The specific practice experience of shikan taza was first articulated in the Soto Zen lineage (Caodong in Chinese) by the Chinese master Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091-1157; Wanshi Shogaku in Japanese),and further elaborated by the Japanese Soto founder Eihei Dogen (1200-1253). But prior to their expressions of this experience, there are hints of this practice in some of the earlier teachers of the tradition.

    http://ancientdragon.org/dharma/article ... st_sitting
    ... and meditation on a Kung-An (Koan) or Hua-T'ou (usually a phrase of a Koan that stands for the whole story ... like "mu" stands for the whole story of "does a dog have Buddha Nature"). Here is a bit of their history in China, and a description of their use in ancient times (I only disagree, of course, with the reference to "just sitting" as "lifeless emptiness and passive escapism" :-) ):



    Ta-hui Tsung-kao[a] (1089-1163) was a monk belonging to the Lin-chi [Rinzai] school of Ch'an Buddhism. He was the 12th generation heir of the Lin-chi line. He emphasized, like all true Ch'an masters before him, the primacy of the enlightenment experience. However, unlike many other Ch'an masters, he insisted upon the exclusive use of the so-called "public cases" (Ch. kung-an,[b] J. koan) in Ch'an meditation and opposed the practice of quiet-sitting, for he believed that the latter was conducive to lifeless emptiness and passive escapism. He called the teachers of quiet-sitting heretical and referred to their Ch'an practice as the "heretical Ch'an of silent illumination" (mo-chao hsieh-ch'an)[c] and his own school came to be known as the "Ch'an of kung-an introspection" (k'an-hua ch'an).[d] ....

    [A master] told Ta-hui that the only person who could help him to reach his goal was Yuan-wu K'o-ch'in[j] (1063-1135), a master belonging to the Yang-ch'i branch of the Lin-chi School - the same Yuan-wu whose commentaries on the sayings of former masters were to be compiled into the Pi-yen lu[k] (The Record of the Blue Cliff) one of the most celebrated Ch'an classics. ... According to Ta-hui's testimony, he had by then become almost despaired of ever attaining awakening, and vowed to himself that this was to be his last experiment with Ch'an meditation ...

    Having made up his mind, he threw himself into intense struggle. He was told to work on the koan "The East Mountain walks over the water''. He made forty-nine attempts to answer it, but was rebuked each time. Finally on the thirteenth day of the fifth month in the year 1125, he experienced a break-through. He recalled the great event this way.

    Master Yuan-wu ascended the high seat in the lecture hall at the request of Madame Chang K'ang-kuo. He said, "Once a monk asked Yun-men this question, 'where do all the Buddhas come from?' Yun-men answered. 'The East Mountain walks over the water' (Tung-shan shuei sheng hsing).[l] But if I were he, I would have given a different answer. 'Where do all the Buddhas come from?' 'As the fragrant breeze comes from the south, a slight coolness naturally stirs in the palace pavilion.' When I heard this, all of a sudden there was no more before and after. Time stopped. I ceased to feel any disturbance in my mind, and remained in a state of utter calmness.

    ... However, the master regarded Ta-hui's realization as still imperfect. He said to Ta-hui, "It is indeed not easy to arrive at your present state of mind. But unfortunately, you have only died but are not yet reborn. Your greatest problem is that you do not doubt words enough (pu-i yu-chu shih-wei ta-ping).[m] Don't you remember this saying? 'When you let go your hold on the precipice, you become the master of your own fate; to die and afterward come to life again, no one can then deceive you." Ta-hui was then assigned the koan, "To be and not to be - it is like a wisteria leaning on a tree''(yu-chu wei-chu ju t'eng i chu)[n] and told to work on it. He had to see the master three or four times a day to report on his understanding. But as soon as he started to say something, the master would at once say it was wrong. This continued for half a year. Eventually, Ta-hui had another enlightenment experience upon hearing Yuan-wu's discussion of this koan. Let Ta-hui tell the story in his own words.

    One day while I was having supper in the abbot's quarters, I [was so absorbed in the koan that I] just held the chopsticks and forgot to eat. The master remarked to a bystander that my progress in Ch'an was as slow as the growth of the Huang-yang plant [Buxus mycrophylla, a plant which allegedly grows only one inch every year]. I then told him by a simile what position I was in. "I am like a dog who stands by a pot of boiling fat: he cannot lick it however badly he wants to, nor can he go away from it though he may wish to quit." The master said, "This is exactly the case. [The koan] is really a vajra cage and a seat of thorns to you." I then said to him. "When you were with your teacher, Wu-tsu, you asked him about the same koan, and what was his answer?" The master at first refused to say anything. But I insisted, saying, "When you asked him about it, you were not alone, but with an assembly. I am sure that there are people who know all about it." The master then said; "I ask him, 'To be and not to be - it is like a wisteria leaning on a tree. What is the meaning of it?' Wu-tsu replied, 'You cannot paint it, you cannot sketch it, however much you try.' I further said, 'What if the tree suddenly breaks down and the wisteria dies?' Wu-tsu said, 'You are following the words'."

    Ta-hui claimed that as soon as he heard this, he saw the whole point of the koan most clearly. His master tested him further with a few other koans all of which Ta-hui successfully answered one by one. Yuan-wu recognized him as a true heir to the Lin-chi tradition. Many years later, when he gave a sermon to his disciples, he would recall the years of spiritual struggle in this way:

    There is no language to describe Ch'an. One must achieve his understanding through an enlightenment experience. Since I was seventeen years old I had been seized with doubt concerning this matter. After I struggled for seventeen years I finally could rest. Before I achieved enlightenment I often thought to myself: I am now already of such and such an age. Before I was born on this earth, where was I? My mind was pitch-black and had no idea where I came from. Since I did not know my origin, this was what Buddhism called, "Life is a great matter" (sheng ta).[o] When I die in the future, where shall I go? When I thought about this, my mind was also totally dark and had no idea where I would go from here. Since I did not know my destiny, this was what Buddhism called, "Death is a great matter" (ssu ta)[p] "Existence is impermanent and life ends quickly. Life and Death is a Great Matter".

    http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-JOCP/jc22069.htm#[37]
    Such a a way of using Koans and a focus on Kensho is, apparently, still present in Chinese Ch'an

    The great doubt is possible only when the question of the hua-t'ou is important to them and they are seriously into the hua-t'ou. For someone who is not serious or ernest in seeking the answer to the question of birth and death, or what his original being is, and if he finds his life going on pretty well and he doesn't genuinely care what he was before he was born or what he will be after death, for such peop1e, no matter how they try to ask themselves the question of a huat'ou, like "Who am I?" they probably will not generate a great doubt. Because the question is not important enough to them. Possibly, they can get a small or medium doubt. It is said that if you have a great doubt, you can have a great explosion -- refering to the experience of enlightenment. If you only have a small doubt, you can only have a small explosion. If you don't have any doubt, you cannot have any explosion. So before you have any explosion, you must be practicing to the extent that you essentially drop off attachment to anything, in a manner of speaking, not wearing a single inch of silk, that is, completely naked. But actually, even when a person is completely naked, there may still be a lot of things in his mind. One must practice until there is nothing left in his mind, he is just practicing on the hua-t'ou.
    http://www.chan1.org/ddp/channews/06-1983.html

    (as is, of course, "silent illumination" as well) ...

    http://www.chan1.org/ddp/channews/02-1995.html

    And in Korean Son (which is Rinzai Zen), the emphasis is on Koans and Kensho ... See, for example:

    http://www.ahnkookzen.org/English/News_Events.html

    That is my understanding, anyway. When I lived in China many years ago, I practiced Silent Illumination.

    Gassho, Jundo

  13. #13
    Oh by the way ,,. on the subject of "Life & Death are the Great Matter" and all that, I did post this on the blog. I hope I can build up some suspense as I promise to let Nansen's cat out of the bag.

    I will reveal a bit of "what we will be after death" ... or die trying.

    Gassho, Jundo

    ____________________________

    Hi Harry,

    Sorry to be late in answering, as we have been trucking around furniture these past couple of days. We don't have so much, but it sure takes time to pack and unpack in this heat.

    You wrote:

    I wonder (with all this talk of spirits) what is your view on Buddha Nature? ... Nishijima Roshi states, in relation to death, that we simply disappear from the world.

    But, wouldn't the teaching on our existing with inherent Buddha Nature suggest something worth giving a name endures? Maybe Buddha Nature is impermanent, or maybe it is beyond change but is beyond any conceptual/ mental function that could identify with it?


    If you are a very good boy, in a couple of days I will present a talk or little essay on this in which I can show, very clearly and directly, that we --do not-- die when we die. I mean, yes, we obviously die when we die ... finished, kaput. But, no we do not, not in the least.

    It is an explanation strictly from Buddhist doctrine, does not depend on simplistic ideas of a soul or reincarnation or other hocus-pocus (although there is a form of reincarnation involved), and can be explained (even by verbose me) in a couple of paragraphs. It is so obvious, once explained, that nobody can argue with it in the least, not even the greatest skeptic.

    How's that for an offer?

    Now, whether what I will describe is "Buddha Nature" or not is another story. I will also talk a little bit more about "Buddha Nature" at that time.

    ...From these intellectual ideas emerge all sorts of flowers in space: we think about the twelve-fold cycle, and the twenty-five spheres of existence; and ideas of the three vehicles and the five vehicles or of having Buddha [-nature] and not having Buddha[-nature] are endless. We should not think that the learning of these intellectual ideas is the right path of Buddhist practice..."

    From Bendowa in "Master Dogen's Shobogenzo: Book 1" Co-written by Nishijima & Cross (or so the cover says!!!!).

    Well, I think I would would have asked anyway, even if I had read the old master's words first! :-)


    But, yes, whether we die or do not die does not really matter. It is all flowers in space. It has little if anything to do with our being right now, living here and now, our Practice right now. Master Dogen would say that all are answered or, better, swallowed whole by a moment of Zazen.

    Gassho, Jundo

  14. #14
    Thank you Sensei!

    I'm embarrassed to say I'd never even heard of Ta-hui Tsung-kao until now.

    My Shifu was very laid-back when she assigned me the hua'tou. After I'd been attending the temple for a few weeks, she pulled me aside, said I had good posture and asked what method I was using and who my previous teachers had been.

    Since the hua'tou I was assigned is a capping phrase from one of the public cases, we discussed both briefly. Then she gave me a copy of Hsu Yun's discourses to read, patted my arm and said that hua'tou was very easy compared to "silent sitting."

    We've studied the gathas of masters who've penetrated their own hua'tou but I've certainly not been encouraged to push for kensho. I'm sure that the sangha have a more gruelling training though. I think that most of the lay practitioners are counting breaths, some others are using visualisation/mantra techniques. I'm not sure how many are working with hua'tou.

    I think it's pretty cool that you sat with a Caodong monastery in China. I was recently told that it was a bit redundant for me to say I was studying Linji Ch'an, since almost all Ch'an schools are Linji. But I've heard from a few people that Caodong's still kicking (like Obaku Zen?). Apparently there are even a couple of teachers in the West now.

  15. #15
    I think it's pretty cool that you sat with a Caodong monastery in China. I was recently told that it was a bit redundant for me to say I was studying Linji Ch'an, since almost all Ch'an schools are Linji. But I've heard from a few people that Caodong's still kicking (like Obaku Zen?). Apparently there are even a couple of teachers in the West now.
    Hi Paige,

    I am not sure is the teacher was Caodong, or much about anything. Frankly, my Chinese was so limited (especially for any philosophical discussion), and my knowledge of Buddhism so scanty (oh, to be 25 again! :wink: ), that there is a good chance I was practicing "silent illumination" by complete accident. If I recall events, I was just continuing the Zazen style I had been doing before I went to China (no internet back then dear, and the library at the Communist Party university where I was studying did not, unsurprisingly, contain many helpful books on how to be a Buddhist). I think I was able to make him understand what I was doing, and I think he agreed I should do that. Something like that.

    I did speak Chinese at the time (no longer) well enough to know that my teacher had just returned to Beijing after being forced to become a pig farmer during the Cultural Revolution, and was in some legal dispute to recover some temple buildings which had been turned into a warehouse. I let myself loose touch with him, and I do wish I had not.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - I know that this teacher in America holds both a Lin-Chi and Caodong lineage. I do not have much information about him, however. He is the source of some of the quotes I put up above about present day Ch'an, and he seems to teach different styles of sitting ... "silent illumination", "Koans", mantra, observing the breath, to different students based on his view of their needs.

    In 1975 Master Sheng-yen received transmission from Ch'an Master Tung-chu of the Ts'ao-tung (Jp. Soto) tradition of Ch'an. In 1978, he received transmission from Ch'an Master Ling-yuan of the Lin-chi (Jp. Rinzai) tradition of Ch'an, becoming the second generation descendant of Ch'an Master Hsu-yun, the greatest contemporary patriarch and reviver of Ch'an Buddhism. Master Sheng-yen, acting on the invitation of the Buddhist Association of the United States, came to this country to spread Buddhadharma. Since then, he has taught and given lectures in universities throughout the United States.

    In 1978, Master Sheng-yen became the abbot of Nung Ch'an Monastery in Taiwan; currently more than sixty ordained monks and nuns live and practice there.
    http://www.cooper.edu/organizations/clu ... under.html

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    he seems to teach different styles of sitting ... "silent illumination", "Koans", mantra, observing the breath, to different students based on his view of their needs.
    That sounds familiar! I quite appreciate that approach - though there are potential pitfalls to placing so much trust in your teacher's judgement on "what's good for you." I think I'd otherwise be tempted to experiment with just about any "flavour of the month" technique... especially when I feel that I'm encountering a roadblock to my practice (or just laziness/ resistance). Which I think would put me into "chasing two rabbits and catching none" territory.

    I've heard of Dharma Drum, but they don't have any outposts in my neck of the woods, so I've never visited any of their centres. My current city of residence hasn't much choice of temples. I would have preferred to stay with my "first home" of Soto Zen, but the Ch'an temple is becoming quite a positive experience for me, despite the quirks and mysticism and the obvious influence of Chinese folk religions.

  17. #17
    I'm just finishing the chapter now, I apologize for being so behind the schedule, I did not bring the book with me to Maine!

    Well the discussion here has been quite the education, I don't think I am up to the task to contributing much to it. But, thanks to everyone who left comments, I really get a lot out of reading them.

    In this Chapter Joko talks about the Ox herding pictures, I like what she had to say about how we move back and forth from levels of "enlightenment" all the time. The whole matter is not simply a progression of moving forward at all is it? I know that personally this had been a tough week, I've been pretty grouchy, run down, and undisciplined --- but, that's okay, this moment is a new moment and has its own set of possibilities.

    gassho,

    Greg

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