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Thread: 2/8 - Practice Is For Life p.15

  1. #1

    2/8 - Practice Is For Life p.15

    ... and Life is for Practice.

    Gassho, J

  2. #2
    In saying "you have to have a broad enough perspective to see that the frettings and grumblings that come up are all in your head and needn't be acted upon," Uchiyama presents a lesson I wish I'd learned sooner. Could have averted harm to myself and others!

    He advises planting "your roots deeply." I guess if our roots are planted deeply in soil that is nourishing, wind may blow our thoughts this way and that but we don't have to follow the direction of that wind.

    We may tell ourselves stories (secretions of the mind), but questioning the reality of those stories can bring stability to life.

    Now I'll go sit. Roots may grow.

    Regards,

    Janice

  3. #3

    Near enemies

    "Practice is for Life" contains some provocative assertions, and though I would like to give assent, I find myself proceeding with caution, not least because the assertions I'm reading and the ways in which they're expressed bring to mind the "near enemies" that spiritual teachings warn us against.

    For example, when Uchiyama says "In talking to you, I'm not talking to some person who is other than myself," he not only defies common sense but also appears to promote a narcissistic outlook. I may infer that he is speaking of the absolute dimension, where what he says may well be true, but he doesn't say so, and I am left in doubt. When he tells us that "it doesn't matter where we are, since that is only a minor problem going on in our heads," he evokes a sense of spiritual freedom but also appears aloof from the sufferings of those who have little choice about where to live. Even in its context, his rejection of conventional categories resembles a culpable indifference. And when he speaks of "all our thoughts and feelings" as "a kind of secretion," his metaphor comes across, at least to me, as at best humbling, at worst demeaning to the life of the mind. Secretions, to be sure, are not excretions. Secretions have substance and, presumably, value. But what is to be gained by seeing the intellectual life in this way? Was St. Paul's Cathedral a mere secretion of Sir Christopher Wren's imaginative mind?

    There is much to value in this section, not least Uchiyama's reminder that we are "making history for the next generation" and his exhortation to "live a true way of life as best we can". But I'm wondering whether anyone else in this forum has felt my reservations about the theories propounded and the attitudes expressed or implied.

  4. #4

    Re: Near enemies

    Quote Originally Posted by Shiju
    "Practice is for Life" contains some provocative assertions, and though I would like to give assent, I find myself proceeding with caution, not least because the assertions I'm reading and the ways in which they're expressed bring to mind the "near enemies" that spiritual teachings warn us against.
    "Near" enemies, but just good friends if interpreted from another perspective.


    For example, when Uchiyama says "In talking to you, I'm not talking to some person who is other than myself," he not only defies common sense but also appears to promote a narcissistic outlook. I may infer that he is speaking of the absolute dimension, where what he says may well be true, but he doesn't say so, and I am left in doubt.
    He is not speaking from a perspective of narcissism or solipsism. In fact, it is the mirror image.


    When he tells us that "it doesn't matter where we are, since that is only a minor problem going on in our heads," he evokes a sense of spiritual freedom but also appears aloof from the sufferings of those who have little choice about where to live.
    I think he would recognize a total acceptance and embracing of the world "just as it is", even as we shed tears and seek to repair what needs to be repaired. Thus, we teach that we are always at home, even as we work to shelter the homeless and feed the hungry,


    Even in its context, his rejection of conventional categories resembles a culpable indifference. And when he speaks of "all our thoughts and feelings" as "a kind of secretion," his metaphor comes across, at least to me, as at best humbling, at worst demeaning to the life of the mind. Secretions, to be sure, are not excretions. Secretions have substance and, presumably, value. But what is to be gained by seeing the intellectual life in this way? Was St. Paul's Cathedral a mere secretion of Sir Christopher Wren's imaginative mind?
    In Zen (as in modern medicine, architecture, etc) we have to learn to see human life, human creations and society on many levels, all SIMULTANEOUSLY true even though seemingly quite in conflict. So, for example, from one perspective, Ben is nothing more than a collection of firing neurons and other cells. But, from another perspective, Ben is Ben in all his beauty, complexity and uniqueness. Neither perspective is wrong.

    But, yes, we have to come to see our thoughts in Zen practice as merely passing clouds, our emotions as changes in the weather. Even St. Pauls is, from one perspective, just a pile of stones (that is how it may look to an ant) or a testament to impermanence (it is as temporary as a sand castle amid the great stretches of time).

    Yes, part of our Zen Practice is to recognize our thoughts and lives as cathedrals, temples ... and part is to realize our thoughts and lives as a pile of sand blown together on the beach.


    There is much to value in this section, not least Uchiyama's reminder that we are "making history for the next generation" and his exhortation to "live a true way of life as best we can". But I'm wondering whether anyone else in this forum has felt my reservations about the theories propounded and the attitudes expressed or implied.
    I did not read his words in the way you did. Maybe you should read them again (I will too). I felt his message very open and optimistic.

    Gassho, Jundo

  5. #5

    Re: Near enemies

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    [

    There is much to value in this section, not least Uchiyama's reminder that we are "making history for the next generation" and his exhortation to "live a true way of life as best we can". But I'm wondering whether anyone else in this forum has felt my reservations about the theories propounded and the attitudes expressed or implied.
    I did not read his words in the way you did. Maybe you should read them again (I will too). I felt his message very open and optimistic.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Jundo,

    Maybe I was less than clear here. What I was saying is that Uchiyama's comments about the next generation and living a true way of life are heartening and valuable. I think we are in agreement.

    Thanks for your responses.

    Gassho,

    Ben

  6. #6
    Yes, part of our Zen Practice is to recognize our thoughts and lives as cathedrals, temples ... and part is to realize our thoughts and lives as a pile of sand blown together on the beach.

    Oh, and I shouldn't forget to mention here that other ancient perspective ...

    ... all the universe in every grain of sand.

    Gassho, J

  7. #7
    "You shouldn't use your own calculating mind to evaluate everything."

    A friend recently told me that the Dharma is pretty simple, unless we go and complicate things by trying to think about it or talk about it.

    We love our little secretions don't we? Sometimes I have a hard time reading posts here on the forum. Too much thinking, too many words. I'm not trying to disparage anyone's opinion here. It's just that I don't have a lot to offer. For me much of the discussion seems to define things too narrowly. I don't have the attention span for most of it right now.



    So, this chapter really spoke to me in a couple places . . .

    When talking about practicing in a Sangha, Uchiyama says:

    "Sometimes you want to go off on a tangent, or you want to quite the whole business but you just have to keep plugging away."
    But most importantly, when speaking about the use of thought in our lives and practice:

    . . .we live in the middle of enlightenment. As soon as we open the hand of thought and let go of our own insignificant ideas, we begin to see that this is so.

    :idea: :idea:

  8. #8
    I would sum up this section as...
    * First, wake up to the self that's inclusive of everything.
    * We're continually distracted from this naturally awakened state by lending to much importance to and focusing too much attention on accidental mind secretions that continually arise. (What is with the thought of jumping off a cliff when you're on one? I've experienced that and it's like "Am I crazy or what!")
    * Practice zazen to practice opening the hand of thought.
    * A sangha and making vows help support this practice.
    * Finally, "Just live a true way of life as best you can."

    One of my favorite sayings is "No thought is true." (Which of course includes that one.)

    John C

  9. #9
    Sorry for joining late – I've been lurking for some time.

    I liked the first pragraph, particularly the lines: "everything I encounter is my life" and "all sentient beings fall into the boundaries of our life". I like it because Uchiyama stresses the practical "my life" rather than the philosophical "me".

    So even if you don't have the foggiest idea of enlightenment (which you shouldn't have anyway) you can easily live life beyond the boundaries of your physical body and beyond your paranoid mind. By including your environment, by caring, sharing, accepting. It's really as simple as that, and to my experience the reward is immediate. Everybody can enjoy a Big Life™.

    The rest of the chapter is rather straightforward.

    Gassho,
    Mensch

  10. #10
    Finally, "Just live a true way of life as best you can."


    I like this. Just ten words, says pretty much everything doesn't it?

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Gregor
    Finally, "Just live a true way of life as best you can."


    I like this. Just ten words, says pretty much everything doesn't it?
    Sure do. 8)

    Gassho,
    Jordan

  12. #12
    I'm glad that we are reading this in the book club. I keep finding myself wanting to read ahead. But, I think a work of this caliber requires careful study and patience. I feel grateful that I am able to take my time with it and allow for each chapter to be absorbed before moving on.

    This book provides for lots and lots to sit with.

  13. #13
    " . . . zazen us also a giving up of our egotistical evaluations of ourselves and entrusting our life to the power of zazen as embodied in the fourth seal, all things are as they are." p.19

    I really got a lot from this one line. On the days when I am most frustrated with my life, both on and off the zafu, I think it is because I am not accepting my life. Since the only place we can interact with life is in the present (here), to prefer to obsess over the past or future is, to me, a bit of 'looking a gift horse in the mouth.' I have a great life, and, what, is that still not enough? So, this one line helped me (even though I already knew this and was making efforts to appreciate my life more) if for no other reason than it was good advice presented in a manner that spoke to me and my particular issues directly.

    Bill

  14. #14
    Uchiyama says: "Various things arise, but when you reflect deeply upon the accidental nature of yourself and your thoughts, you will no longer consider using them as the standard for your activities."

    What I think he is trying to explain here it is that we should use our thoughts as a guide for our activities but we certainly shouldn't use them as an absolute standard that must be clung to at all costs. We do seem to spend a lot of our time defining ourselves as a such and such sort of a person who wouldn't do such and such a thing and doesn't like this or that. We conjure up a false notion of a self and lock ourselves into a cage constructed from our own thoughts

    We need to use our knowledge and experience but just as a kind of reference library, not as a bunch of dogmas and rules that must be strictly adhered to.

    Gassho,
    John

  15. #15
    I personally enjoyed the last paragraph.

    However much we become enlightened, it just isn't very much. Our practice begins to ripen only as we start to be aware that although we live in the midst of enlightenment, the little we become aware of in life is just scratching the surface.
    It reminds me of Socrates who proclaimed himself wise simply as he understood and freely admitted his own ignorance. This excerpt, to me, denounces the need to 'know' everything, have an opinion about everything, define and classify everything, and ask the surgeon far too many questions about the poison tipped arrow and its archer.

  16. #16
    This chapter really is abundant with material to give insight to our practice.

    I think Uchiyama Roshi's description of Zen practice as "opening the hand of thought", is really profound. When asked by somebody "what is Zen?" I'd be hard put to come up with a better description than this. What we are doing here is looking to free ourselves from the narrow confines of our thoughts and mental conditioning. Simply by releasing ourselves from that grip we are practicing the meaning of Zen.

    Gassho,


  17. #17

    Re: 2/8 - Practice Is For Life p.15

    Janice, I really like what you wrote based on Uchiyama's writing. Certainly true for me, too.
    best,
    vince


    JUNDO NOTE: Isn't it wonderful that folks can join in our book discussions without thought of time or where?

  18. #18

    Re: 2/8 - Practice Is For Life p.15

    Practice for life and life for practice....

    Gassho, Mujo

  19. #19

    Re: 2/8 - Practice Is For Life p.15

    Quick question. Were we meant to be reading Uchiyama Roshi's Opening The Hand of Thought or Suzuki Roshi's Zen talk on the Sandokai.

    I read Uchiyama Roshi's book a while ago.

  20. #20

    Re: 2/8 - Practice Is For Life p.15

    Quote Originally Posted by Aswini
    Quick question. Were we meant to be reading Uchiyama Roshi's Opening The Hand of Thought or Suzuki Roshi's Zen talk on the Sandokai.

    I read Uchiyama Roshi's book a while ago.
    Hi.

    we read this one sometime ago.
    We'll be "reading and discussing" Suzuki Roshi's Zen talk on the Sandokai next, starting sometime friday...

    Mtfbwy
    Tb

  21. #21

    Re: 2/8 - Practice Is For Life p.15

    Hi.

    we read this one sometime ago.
    We'll be "reading and discussing" Suzuki Roshi's Zen talk on the Sandokai next, starting sometime friday...

    Mtfbwy
    Tb
    Oh ok. Thanx.

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