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Thread: 8/17 - The Price of Practice p.39

  1. #1

    8/17 - The Price of Practice p.39

    And the price is ...

  2. #2
    Let me start off the chat by saying that, personally, I found some of this section a bit flowery, the language very nebulous. Hard to pin down her point sometimes.

    One thing that did come through crystal clear is how much we human beings typically blame outside people and situations for being the cause of suffering in our lives ... e.g., "if only my lover did that or did this", or "if only such&such would happen in my life", then "things would be good".

    Sure, there are outside situations that always require repair, be it a marriage that needs improving, a war that needs ending, a disease that could use a cure.

    But how much does our own peace and contentment actually arise from within our own minds, without relationship to outside people or situations? Can we find a stance of peace and contentment even amid disagreeable people, failing marriages, wars and sickness and all the rest?

    Our Zen Practice says that we can: When the mind is peaceful and content, the world becomes peaceful and is experienced with content. When our mind is disturbed and discontent, the world appears disturbed and experienced with discontent. It is free of whatever is going on outside us. We can find peace and contentment simultaneously, and even as, we seek to improve the marriage, end the war, cure the disease, etc.

    In this way, we also learn that "inside" and "outside" is divided by an artificial border created by the mind.

    Okay ... I will stop here. Maybe I made things even more nebulous?

    Gassho, Jundo

  3. #3
    I found this chapter a bit "Meh."

    It sounded to me that much of what Joko described as "the price of practice" could also be described as just "growing up."

  4. #4
    I found this chapter a little hard to get into. Once I came to the part where Joko says, "Our training - paying the price - must take place 24 hours a day." then it became clear. Joko is drawing an analogy between the effort or energy in practice and "paying the price." Sometimes there is a lot of resistance in our culture when monetary analogies are used in our practice but think of the Ox herding pictures. Joko is talking about entering the market. Joko is pointing to our training or practice and how energies come up and we can not hide in our usual ways. The price is the honest looking into our greed, anger and delusions. If we continue to act in old ways we are not "paying the price" of practice.

    I had to look honestly at my own resistance to this. Sometimes it is not comfortable to hear that with practice we will have to mature and this maturation process will not always be comfortable. Yet the only way to here is through this practice. There is no escape and no shortcuts and nobody can do it for me. Paying the price is analogous to 'pay your dues' which is an American colloquialism meaning if you do the work with integrity you will reap the rewards of that work.

    My favorite part of the chapter is -
    Quote Originally Posted by Joko
    I'm not talking about erecting a new set of ideals of "how I should be." I'm talking about earning the integrity and wholeness of our lives by every act we do, every word we say. From the ordinary point of view, the price we must pay is enromous - though seen clearly, it is no price at all, but a privilege. As our practice grows we comprehend this privilege more and more.
    It is definitely a privilege to practice here with you all and I'm paying the price of practice.


    Side note:
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    But how much does our own peace and contentment actually arise from within our own minds, without relationship to outside people or situations?
    Jundo asks a silly question. Where is "peace and contentment" but in the mind? "Peace and contentment" can not be outside. Do I misunderstand?

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    More carrots on sticks. This is why I gave up reading books on Zen. Maybe Americans find this Oprah Winfery(sp?) stuff easier to read: I'm not saying there aren't good points there, just that maybe some conclusions should be reached through one's own practice.
    Harry, did you read the same chapter as me? I see more sticks than carrots here. She seems to be saying that we must work, work, work and it will be hard and scary. Joko is emphatically stating the way to practice is through doing your own work. No one else can do it for you.

    Harry, thanks for pointing this out to me. I'm a North American and find "this Oprah Winfery(sp?) stuff easier to read". Easier than what? I have to end my resistance to "Dead Asian Guys" writing. The male dominated medieval Asian experience of life has relevance to my modern existence. I'm just not sure it is more relevant than a modern woman's experience. Neither of these are anything but guides to help with my very own practice. It is all up me and whether or not I'm willing to pay the price of practice. Let's blame Jundo - he picked this book.

  6. #6
    Harry, no disagreement here. You might not, but your avatar really needs some "neo-councilling/psychotherapy". :wink:

    Correct me please, but didn't Dogen say zazen should be effortless and without any sense of gain? Isn't there a difference between practice which is a 24X7X365 thing (which includes samu, sutras, meals, work in the marketplace, our morning constitutional) and the zazen of the cushion. My experience of life is that when my zazen is clicking along, it is effortless yet when I get up off of the cushion I fall down constantly and it is this time when my practice and zazen are not effortless that I need help and I search out teachers that can help guide me with this aspect of life. Maybe this is called "neo-councilling/psychotherapy", I don't bother myself with the labels. If it helps and is true in my experience, I go with it. When my zazen is effortless and without the idea of gaining, there is no "I" who needs anything and there is nothing outside of this zazen to be gained.

    Quote Originally Posted by Joko
    We cannot reduce our practice simply to the time spent in zazen, vital though this time is. Our training - paying the price - must take place twenty-four hours a day.

  7. #7
    Hi Guys,

    I will just say this ... sometimes writings like this might be beneficial, not because they confirm one's existing beliefs and tastes on every page (that would be useless) ... nor because the author is brilliant on every page (few writers are) ... but because the book serves as sand in an oyster. The irritation, combined with the frequent brilliance, can result in one bright pearl.

    Besides, Joko IS so often brilliant in what she says ... even if some sections are not to taste or illusive. I think.

    Like I said, I found this chapter rather nebulous, hard to nail down, fluffy.

    Gassho, Jundo (who is ALWAYS brilliant in each of his talks)

    P.S. - Be sure to tune in to my talk tomorrow, when I will show conclusively that this whole "birth/death" thing is way overblown and no big deal.

  8. #8
    Harry, yes, yes, yes. That is why it is helpful to know that all the falling down is just the price of practice. Nothing else. No need to make falling down a problem.

    When I'm laying down in the mud, it is encouraging to know that it all just practice.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I will just say this ... sometimes writings like this might be beneficial, not because they confirm one's existing beliefs and tastes on every page (that would be useless) ... nor because the author is brilliant on every page (few writers are) ... but because the book serves as sand in an oyster. The irritation, combined with the frequent brilliance, can result in one bright pearl... Like I said, I found this chapter rather nebulous, hard to nail down, fluffy.
    Isn't "Everyday Zen" a collection of Dharma talks taken from various retreats? Should we treat them like university lectures? Lectures where we engage the discriminating mind and think about how we agree or disagree? Should we think to refute what Joko says like a lawyer's type mind? That might be useful aspect of the mind to use in a court room but shouldn't we put that aside and open our hearts and minds to her teaching? Something might resonate now or in the future. Sort of like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing if it sticks. Jundo, how should we treat your little talks?

    Heared this great audio talk today. Thought I'd share. Right click and save to Desktop (63Meg) http://greatvow.org/audioarchive/Why%20practice.mp3

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Yes, I think I see what you mean. But then, why not see 'falling down' as just practice itself, not the 'price of'? What does it cost? What is lost?
    "Paying the price", "practice itself" and "falling down" are all the same. Three sides of the same coin. I see the paying the price metaphor is uncomfortable. The cost of practice is letting go of our greed, hatred and ignorance.

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    What are we *trying* to promote, and what are we *trying* to extinguish, and, most importantly, does this strategy work?.
    I don't understand. I must have missed something. Did Joko say this?

  11. #11
    Harry, I'm enjoying our conversation. I'd hope others would join in. I don't want to go too far afield but...
    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    As humans we are inherently greedy, hateful and ignorant... I don't consider it good practice to consider these human feelings any more worthy of 'letting go' than any other human feelings... to convince ourself to reject them seems unduly neurotic given the spaciousness of Zen method in other words. Three/ four/ a million sides of a coin is all well and good, but Dogen's famous 'gap between heaven and earth' can make for a very cumbersome coin!
    Each day in the zendo we chant a chant called "Great Vows for All". Not sure if this is a Soto tradition or not. It goes like this. (Jundo, could you clarify?)
    THE GREAT VOWS FOR ALL (Shigu Siegan Mon)

    The many beings are numberless, I vow to save them;
    Shujo mu hen sei gan do

    Greed, hatred, and ignorance rise endlessly, I vow to abandon them;
    Bonno mu jin sei gan dan

    Dharma gates are countless, I vow to wake to them;
    Ho mon mu ryo sei gan gaku

    The Buddha's way is unsurpassed, I vow to embody it fully.
    Butsu do mu jo sei gan jo
    Our Zen training is not to "reject" these hindrances but it is also not a license to indulge in them. We have to e very careful not let nihilism creep in. I vow to abandon them is not done with force or effort but with compassion spaciousness. Seeing them in my life I vow not to pick them up with my mind and indulge in them. This not a rejection but it is an abandonment in the the sense that I don't participate in my usual deluded ways.

    Your quote of Dogen's 'gap between heaven and earth' reflects an Absolute understanding yet I still have to walk around in the Relative; work, shopping and relationships. It is in this Relative that Joko is encouraging us to wakeup as it is only in our messy lives that we have the opportunity to wakeup to Dogen's 'gap between heaven and earth'.

    By the way here is the whole quote as translated by:
    Quote Originally Posted by Nishijima Roshi
    “If there were even though a bit of the smallest gap, then the gap would become bigger and bigger as if it were like distance between the heaven and the earth.”

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    ...we should absolutely evaluate and criticise religious/philosophical teachings intellectually IMO.
    I humbly disagree. I'm not as open sometimes as I'd like to be yet using my ordinary mind to evaluate and criticize Dharma teaching has not served me well at all. This evaluating and criticizing holds me back from diving in. Only when I've let this mental activity rest have I seen the boundless sky.

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Is/should Zen be "anti-intellectual"?
    YES! Yippee Yahoo! (Hope so, as my cognition is getting poorer and poorer and the prognosis is bleak!)

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by wills
    Harry, yes, yes, yes. That is why it is helpful to know that all the falling down is just the price of practice. Nothing else. No need to make falling down a problem.

    When I'm laying down in the mud, it is encouraging to know that it all just practice.
    Once Layman Pang was selling bamboo baskets. Coming down off a bridge he stumbled and fell. When Ling-chao saw this she ran to her father's side and threw herself down next to him.
    "What are you doing!" cried the Layman.
    "I saw Papa fall to the ground, so I'm helping," replied Ling-chao.
    "Luckily no one was looking," remarked the Layman.
    :wink:

  14. #14
    Hi,

    I pretty much agree with what others have said about this chapter. When I originally read the book, it sometimes left me with the feeling that it had a too psychological slant to it because of chapters like this. I think Joko is being a bit too pessimistic here as well. To use her terms: sure, we have to pay the price to practice, but -- we were born with all the money which we need in our pockets, we simply have to be willing to spend it. In other words, the incredible thing about our practice is that it is something we can do if we are willing to do so.

    Gassho
    Kenneth

  15. #15

    the price of practice

    And the price is ....right.

    Price and value are not the same thing.
    Something priceless is given for free (life itself)
    but to really live this life, it means, (this is a pivot point in this chapter for me) --don't have my book with me at the moment, so bear with me--the quote has to do with 'as practice progresses, our delusions are attacked'
    So the price for this priceless, free life is to give up everything we 'think' is life and give all of ourself to the living of it--just like all the rest of life does!

    Give all of our life for the life we've been given...sounds like the right price to me.

    gassho
    Keishin

  16. #16

    Re: the price of practice

    Quote Originally Posted by Keishin
    So the price for this priceless, free life is to give up everything we 'think' is life and give all of ourself to the living of it--just like all the rest of life does!
    This is much like what I came away with by reading this chapter. To get to the point of a free and priceless life, Joko points to the hard work needed. We have to drop our ordinary thinking and this takes commitment and practice. I personally was not caught by her analogy and metaphor of a "price to pay".

    She would have done better to use Jundo's learning to sail analogy where sure life is already complete yet it is good to spend the effort to learn about navigation, weather patterns and how to steer the boat into the harbor. These aspects of sailing knowledge are sort of the "price to pay" for the "already perfect sailing". In this example of sailing this all seems like fun and interesting stuff. As we start to look at dropping our ordinary thinking and our usual modes of behaving in the world, we become challenged and the atmosphere becomes less than fun. We are more invested in how we think the world is as apposed to how it is.

    Sure the admonition in Soto Zen is to simply drop all that ordinary thinking and be the world as it is. Cool, easy and done! Yet as soon as I get off the cushion, go to work and some doctor confronts me in an angry way, I'm right back in the ordinary world of this and that. I have to remember to practice and use the techniques of returning to the breath and my precept training in order to get back to clouds floating in a clear sky.

    Sorry of all the crappy psychotherapy language. Dogen says the same thing when he says "All the worlds in the Ten Directions are One Bright Pearl" and it sure fells better and more comfortable this way.

    Quote Originally Posted by At the end of the chapter, Joko
    From the ordinary point of view, the price we must pay is enormous - though seen clearly, it is no price at all, but a privilege. As our practice grows we comprehend this privilege more and more.
    Clearly there is no price at all. Practice is indeed a privilege. In the end Joko, throws away the whole "price to pay" thing.

  17. #17
    Indeed, to be born in a human form, to find a teacher, to hear the Dharma, to have the opportunity to practice with others, is for sure a privilege not to be wasted. This is my time and I have to use it well.

  18. #18
    Hey Guys,

    In case you are wondering, I am staying out of this one for now, letting the soup boil and thicken. I am just wondering where the discussion will go.

    It is interesting (and something I never doubted) that people can find different things in the same words. Even the same words on different days have different impact.

    Gassho, Jundo

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Harry
    And yet there are other people who don't see it so. If only they could know that it can require no effort, that it is simple, that it costs nothing, that it is nothing separate from our life as-it-is just as-it-is.
    If we swallow this "require no effort, that it is simple, that it costs nothing, that it is nothing separate from our life as-it-is just as-it-is" with our ordinary mind we are lost for sure! In the ordinary sense of things, which is where we live our social lives, we are required to expend the effort to get to zazen, study the teachings, go to retreats, Zen is not at all simple to understand, to follow the forms and protocols, the costs can be high in terms of what we have to give up to practice, both personally and monetarily, and the lay practitioner will have to carve out time and separate themselves from their busy life's for formal Zazen.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dogen Zenji
    “If there were even though a bit of the smallest gap, then the gap would become bigger and bigger as if it were like distance between the heaven and the earth.”
    This "gap" refers to our ordinary mind. If we try to understand or intellectualize Zen we introduce the ordinary mind and create a gap. This gap becomes bigger and bigger till our understand is so distorted it is like the distance between heaven and the earth.

  20. #20
    I am a simple Zen student. I can not deny the existence of ordinary mind. I see it it everywhere. When I remember to slow down and wake up a little bit, I use the precepts to guide me. I feel lost and confused. I feel the desire to reflect on my motives.

    Next week should be real fun when we get to the "Reward of Practice"! 8)

  21. #21
    Wow. That was quite interesting! Thank you and gassho!

    I'm not sure how this is related, but it seems that if there are many paths to climb the same mountain, then in Zen or any other school of thought there must be countless approaches which slowly bring us closer and closer to the same point, yes? At best, it's all just fingers pointed at the moon, i think.

    When i practiced many years ago it was different than when i practice now, and every day it seems i draw closer to when practice is practice. And although practice is practice now, and skiing is skiing and baking bread is baking bread, it seems that when i look back it never is just so, so i should keep practicing, keep skiing, keep baking, etc. just doing.

    And as long as that is the case, perhaps that is the "price" which has been alluded to? I really can't be bothered to figure it out, I have some doing to do.

    Gassho,
    cd

  22. #22
    Let me chime in here,

    I think it's a bit of mixed bag One the most pure and fundamental level yes, no effort is needed, it is easy, and there is nothing to attain or work towards.


    But on the level of our day-to-day lives, the situation is a bit different. We all have not fufilled our potential. We do not see the true nature of reality, we have delusions, conditioning and live lives permeated by suffering. There is effort needed to live a life in accord with our pure nature. This comes down with to a topic oft discussed by Nishijima Roshi, the need to establish the will for the truth or Bodichitta. We need to put in some effort and direction into our practice in order to see the truth and live skillfull lives.

    Sitting Zazen daily, studying the dharma, and working diligently to sow the seeds of good are not something that comes naturally and without effort for anybody.

    To paraphrase Dogen Zenji, "It is present everywhere, but only those that have previously sowed the seeds of wisdom will be able to see it constantly" So in other words we need to do some work (pay a price) in order to find what has always been there. But, of course it may come down to a the simple action of subtracting effort rather than expending it, which is not the same thing as being lazy and not practicing (my downfall).

    Take care,

    Greg

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