The title says it all ...
The title says it all ...
Perhaps this section could have been called “the isness of what is.” Everything is the perfect example of what it is. This is the same concept as Suchness, is it not?
I’m going to try to relate this to something I am experiencing. I notice the stack of research articles that sit in front of me, and I wonder how long it will take me to read them. But I don’t get carried away with that thought. Still aren’t the thoughts that go through my head, the feelings I have in response to those thoughts, and the sensations I have in my body all part of the makeup of life just as it is? I understand that the papers are just as they are before I impose any thoughts on them – like that they might spark insights to help me develop other research ideas. But then isn’t my concept – though separate from the papers – just a mental construct and perfectly what it is? If I have preferences or concerns about how events turn out (some awareness of potential consequences in the future), but my happiness does not depend on the result, am I impairing “what is” simply by having those preferences or concerns?
Another question I have concerns the connection between Emptiness and Suchness (everything is perfectly itself). Is emptiness related or is it an equivalent expression?
Just realize that your preferences and concerns are just preferences and concerns and let them be preferences and concerns. And smell the roses (so to speak).If I have preferences or concerns about how events turn out (some awareness of consequences in the future), but my happiness does not depend on the result, am I impairing “what is” simply by having those preferences or concerns?
Preferences and concerns could be a great tool for some situations.
I think the problem is that having preferences is a way of trying to arrange reality to suit ourselves instead of allowing it just to play itself out in its own way . Reminds me of the koan about picking and choosing.Originally Posted by Janice
http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?o ... ew&id=1358Originally Posted by John Tarrant
Thank you for the link to the article by John Tarrant. The personal stories he shared brought tears to my eyes. Very moving and life-transforming.
I'm very grateful.
I highly recommend John Tarrant's book Bring Me the Rhinoceros: And Other Zen Koans to Bring You Joy if you can find it. It's supposed to be re-published in paperback this November, but out of print at the moment.
One of the best Zen books I've ever read.
Thank you so much for that link! It was very interesting to watch my own process through that: I am neither a fan of koan practice or John Tarrant. Generally, anything written specifically on that topic or by that person I have not bothered reading.
So, I do not know what was different in that moment that I chose to click on the link and actually go there and read it word for word, but when I was done it was a moment of such gratitude! What he shared and expressed in regard to his experience of his mothers death was bang on with what I have experienced across many of the deaths of my patients. I am usually in the "without" condition because I am not a part of the family dynamic. I simply hold the space that accepts everything as it is without wanting anything or anyone to change. He just nailed it.
And I have a much clearer understanding of koan practice, at least as he teaches it.
So, there are those little moments when we just go somewhere without the preconceived bits of our lives guiding or informing us...and we are the richer. Ain't it grand!
Thanks very much for that link, John, and for the book tip, Paige. I'd never heard of John Tarrant before. Sounds like it's worth having a closer look at his work.
I found this section to be one of those that let me laugh out loud at myself and my ways and means.
The first thing it brought up was a memory of being a new novice. There I was with all these novices that, as a lay person, I thought were just wonderful. All of a sudden, I'm on the "novice" side of the fence--and I can't abide a single one of them!! I find myself grousing at all of them and my mind is in constant play-by-play about all their myriad faults and horrors. It was a very painful time. I finally went to teacher in tears and said, "I don't even recognize myself anymore! I used to be such a NICE person and everyone liked me!!" He very kindly pointed out that this definition only held as long as I was existing in a world of my own creating whereby I surrounded myself only with the people whom I liked and who liked me back. And, in this world, when I encountered someone I didn't like or who didn't like me, I could just go home, or set up date for cocktails with someone I did like and I could go on and on and on about these hateful people and, because I was with someone who was willing to validate my world, they would nod helpfully and agree at what a horribly rotten beast that person was.
However, in the monastery I was forced to live in community of others who were not of my choosing. Some of them I would never have given the time of day to when I was "in the world" because they did not fit into my definition of "a good life." So, the only thing that was happening was that I was no longer in an environment that supported my definition of who I was. I was facing me for the first time, looking at the other sides of "me" that weren't so very nice. Welcome to the rock tumbler!
I also had to laugh because I am the ultimate contingency planner. I find myself so focused on plans A through Q before I commit to taking an action! I remember one past boyfriend getting so fed up with my wanting to talk about our relationship that, 3 months into it, he finally snarked at me, "Do you think it would be alright if we stopped talking about the relationship and actually started having one???" :? So there is safety in living in a world where you are constantly working on the definitions with such gusto that you never get into the living of your life. I guess I better keep working on that... :P
Originally Posted by LynnI'm struggling with this idea since it seems to me, and as Lynn seems to be saying, that we (not as an "I" but as a set of mental and physical processes, areOriginally Posted by Uchiyama
largely determined by our relationships with people and things - by our environment, in other words. But maybe he is just saying that zazen helps us see through this, to recognise that our storyline is not as substantial as we think. We could learn to overcome our prejudices about what kind of people are our "type" and learn to be more open to others we wouldn't normally associate with. Yeah, a lot of it is about being a 'control freak' isn't it? I have problems in that area too. I didn't go to any retreats last year because the venue is a bit inaccessible for wheelchairs and I have to trust and depend on others so much to get around. But I'm definitely going this year - at least they will see where improvements need to be made.
This conversation is developing so wonderfully ... and the essay by John Tarrant was glorious ... I hesitate to add anything.
Let me touch on just a few things ...
Janice wrote ...
Yes, the papers are just "what they are" before thoughts. And the happy/sad thoughts about the papers are just "what they are" as thoughts about the papers ... they are just human thoughts that are part of being alive.I’m going to try to relate this to something I am experiencing. I notice the stack of research articles that sit in front of me, and I wonder how long it will take me to read them. But I don’t get carried away with that thought. Still aren’t the thoughts that go through my head, the feelings I have in response to those thoughts, and the sensations I have in my body all part of the makeup of life just as it is? I understand that the papers are just as they are before I impose any thoughts on them – like that they might spark insights to help me develop other research ideas. But then isn’t my concept – though separate from the papers – just a mental construct and perfectly what it is?
Reject nothing. We might say that these are two more "simultaneously true perspectives" ... things "as they are" without thoughts about things ... thoughts about things "as they are" as thoughts about things.
John Tarrant had a lovely passage on this in his essay that, I think, also happens to be a lovely description of "Just Sitting" Shikantaza:
Nothing to add or take away ... even sometimes thoughts of adding or taking away ...On the edge of his own profound change of heart, the Buddha meditates all night under a fig tree, and an image comes to mind. He remembers that, as a child, while his father plowed a field in an annual ceremony, he was left in the shade of a rose apple tree. At this moment the boy has no minders around to distract him; he is under no one’s gaze. His father is absorbed in plowing. The air is pleasant, the leaflight green, the shade cool. With nothing on his mind, the child does not want or fear anything. The sun seems to stand still. It is delicious to be alive. He feels a happiness not born of desire. The boy moves his eyes over the whole field. He can find no resistance, no tension, no inner conflict; everything is sufficient. There is nothing to add, nothing to subtract. And it occurred to him that exploring this approach, which he discovered in childhood, might be the direction in which enlightenment lies.
Here, not picking and choosing is something a boy wanders into; it is the natural state of an undisturbed mind. Then the boy notices that thoughts and feelings are always rising and that they are not themselves disturbing: thoughts and feelings are things in the world as much as flowers and parasols, and he doesn’t have to either agree with them or quarrel with them. It’s easy not to pick and choose about his own reactions, about his picking and choosing. EMPHASIS ADDED
Which leads to a little mention, mostly for beginners to Zazen, who may not be aware of the relationship of Koan Zazen (as practiced in the Rinzai School of Zen and certain mixed "Rinzai/Soto" Lineages like the "White Plum") to "Just Sitting" Shikantaza (as practiced in the Soto School of Zen). Well, we penetrate and learn from Koans in both. The primary difference is that, in traditional Soto Practice of "Just Sitting", we do not focus on a Koan DURING Zazen itself ... because then we are "just sitting', doing as the boy does in the story: openly aware of everything and nothing, dropping all wants and fears, not adding or subtracting from the natural condition. We just cannot, we believe, practice that so easily if we are intensely focused on an object in mind, such as a Koan we are seeking to pierce.
However, when we study our Koans while reading them outside of Zazen (Dogen's writings are chock full of Koans), we still seek to approach them (at least in the soft "Soto" approach, as opposed to the full-force, head on, hard charging approach often found in Japanese "Rinzai" style ... perhaps less in Chinese Rinzai style) with that same open, pliant "Zazen Mind"!!
So, in a sense, it is just a question of timing, and the mind is the same!
Tarrant Roshi's essay on his mother's death is an example of the Genjo Koan, which might be translated as "The Koan Actualized in Real Life" (the same "Genjo Koan" we are studying on the "Sit-a-Longs" these days). If "Buddhist Philosophy", and all this so-called "Wisdom", doesn't show itself on the frontlines of "daily life" ... well, then, what value has it?? I also sat for months with a dying mother (I think so many of us have some story like this) who was confused and difficult through her later years due to a series of strokes and cancer. I often wanted the situation to be "some other way", but found peace when I let it, and my mother, be "just what they were".
My mother, before my thoughts, was just what she was ... and that brought me peace.
And my sometimes happy/sad/resentful/tired/patient/not so peaceful thoughts of my mother were just what they were too ... human thoughts. And that brought me peace about not always being peaceful!!!
This is VERY IMPORTANT, and very often overlooked by students of Buddhism: A part of our Practice is being at peace and happy with not always being bloody peaceful and happy!!!!!!!!
Both states were the reality, both just what they were.
Finally, Janice asked ...
Well, I will say that they are two faces of a single coin ... not one, yet not two. "Emptiness" (Śūnyatā) means that everything is lacking an essential, enduring self nature. In a sense, the papers piled on your desk are "not really there", kind of a dream. And, Janice, neither are you.Another question I have concerns the connection between Emptiness and Suchness (everything is perfectly itself). Is emptiness related or is it an equivalent expression?
And on the other hand, from the side of "Suchness" (tathātā), everything absolutely is what it is in that unique moment, just as it is. The papers on your desk, and Janice, are just what they are.
By chance, I happen to be talking about these two "simultaneously true" perspectives on today's "Sit-a-Long" netcast. See if that helps a bit ...
http://treeleafzen.blogspot.com/2008/03 ... -xxiv.html
Here is a nice poem on "Suchness" ... It starts:
If there are mountains, I look at the mountains;
On rainy days I listen to the rain.
I've heard the expression "you can't get wet from the word 'water'", and variations on that theme, many times. Reading this chapter was really the first time I was able to get a sense of what this is about. Oddly, it was the section on fire that helped me out.
I was surprised by the mention of the "providence of God." I wonder if it was possible that Uchiyama could really say this and be talking about the "same thing" as, for example, someone brought up in the Christian or Jewish faiths. Or is Uchiyama describing a leg of the elephant, while somebody else might use the same words to describe the trunk?
Yes, that is what I was trying to express: that any definition of "me" is really just something I use to express a relationship to something outside of myself. Thus, "Lynn" is a "good person" as long as she is hanging with Kathy, but when she has to hang with Joan she's a "b**ch." I am a "mother" because of my relationship with my sons, a "nurse" because of my relationship with my patients etc.Originally Posted by John
Well, that's how I interpreted what Uchiyama was expressing, and that is what I was told by my teacher! There really is no abiding "I" because relationships are fluid. The question I have developed for myself is: who am "I" when I respond to everyone I meet in the same way? Basically, what does it look like when "I" meet everyone exactly where they are with complete equanimity? Do I lose or gain something?Originally Posted by John
Now that's a pretty tough way for me to learn to live! But, I keep trying.
Or not? I mean, if you go with that intention and they totally don't get that they need to improve a thing, what does that mean for John?Originally Posted by John
Just askin'.... :wink:
Yes Lynn, that's what worries me and what put me off before. And communication is difficult at silent retreats. I was encouraged lately by (yet another) John Tarrant koan study that we were discussing at the Skeptical Buddhist's Forum in Second Life the other week. It's about how he dealt with a diagnosis of prostrate cancer:Originally Posted by Lynn
http://www.pacificzen.org/pages/PopUpIn ... easons.htmOriginally Posted by John Tarrant
I quite enjoyed this bit on the bottom of page 32:
I like that - "the practice of your very life."As far as that goes, the difference I see between Zen and existentialism is that present-day existentialism is the philosophy of general existence, not the practice of the very life of the existentialist himself.
Paige wrote.I highly recommend John Tarrant's book Bring Me the Rhinoceros
I will check it out! Thanks.
John saidInteresting reflection. I have a tendency to absorb the emotions of those around me (which often reminds me of President Bill Clinton saying “I feel your pain”). I can be a sensitive sponge, soaking up the feelings of those around me. Combine that with a quiet and introverted personality, and I am inclined to avoid people whom I judge to be overly negative and judgmental (isn’t that somewhat ironic). I hadn’t considered myself a control freak, but now as I think about this I see that I chose a profession that is insular. As a professor, my students behave with respect (in part, at least, due to the differential power). And unless a student is an advisee, I may interact with the student for only 15 weeks. At the same time I'm aware that “my” sensitivity offers the potential benefit that I may recognize some signals that students nonverbally communicate, and can then be more responsive. But the discussion on this book club thread also helps me to move towards a place of more equanimity even among those whom I perceive to be judgmental and negative.we … are largely determined by our relationships with people and things . . . We could learn to overcome our prejudices about what kind of people are our "type" and learn to be more open to others we wouldn't normally associate with. Yeah, a lot of it is about being a 'control freak' isn't it?
I appreciate all the clarifications by Jundo! I am pretty new to koans. So the article by Tarrant was illuminating in its presentation of what a koan is and how to approach one. One of Jundo’s comments was that “when we study our Koans ….we still seek to approach them …with that same open, pliant "Zazen Mind"." I know that we don’t approach Zazen with an objective. Nevertheless, I am aware of the beneficial results: reducing the chatter of my mind or at least in not attaching to that chatter. A pliant “Zazen Mind” helps me see some of the delusions of my mind, and consequently frees me from being their captive.
Lynn, I loved your translation of Uchiyama:I could relate to your comments as illustrative of Uchiyama’s statement that “we find the value of our existence only in the midst of others.”"Lynn" is a "good person" as long as she is hanging with Kathy, but when she has to hang with Joan she's a "b**ch." I am a "mother" because of my relationship with my sons, a "nurse" because of my relationship with my patients etc.
This book club forum is so beneficial in offering personal perspectives beyond the text. It enables me to make connections that I would not otherwise.
I can relate to Janice's remarks about avoiding certain types of people - we might consider them as not being "on our wavelength". A bit like the
Desiderata - "Avoid loud and agressive persons they are vexations to the
I have also become aware recently of the warm and supportive feeling I get after chatting to a number of people I bump into in our small town,
then the feeling of loss of identity when I visit a strange one, and then
..the critical voice...a real "downer". Yet as Jundo said yesterday, these are just the sensory input via our brain, it's our deciphering of it which is our problem.