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Thread: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

  1. #1

    3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    It's time to let go of "Letting Go of Thoughts" and ..... WAKE UP!!!!!

  2. #2

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    I understand Uchiyama when he says that decreasing delusion and desire and finally extinguishing them is not the purpose of zazen - in other words to just observe their transient nature and release them, but I am not sure I understand this quotation on page 57.
    "Since desires and cravings are actually a manifestation of the life force, there is no reason to hate them and try to extinguish them". He advises us to let them be and not be dragged around by them. However are some of our thoughts not useful and true and some completely untrue and do we not need to give them some consideration? A sort of meditative enquiry, but obviously not while on the cushion.
    Jenny

  3. #3

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    I think Uchiyama is saying that our thoughts and desires are part of the universe just as everything else and are completely natural for humans in getting on with living in the world. They are not evil or malignant in themselves, unless we confuse them as "Truth" or reality itself.

    I really appreciated his comments on hinayana (narrow-minded) regarding of nirvana. By objectifing nirvana (or enlightenment) as a goal we are just creating another ghost to chase after in our minds.

    Gassho,

    Tony

  4. #4

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    Hi Tony. Thanks for thinking about my remarks and I appreciate and agree with your idea that our thoughts and desires are part of the universe. It is what gives us life and energy and a mind to think with as humans living in the world. I didn't see it like that exactly until you pointed it out.

    However I'm going to put in a "yes, but....." here, regarding your remark that "our thoughts and desires are not evil in themselves unless we confuse them with Truth or reality itself". Do you mean our thoughts required for normal daily living ("Right Thinking" in the Noble Eightfold Path), and not our self-centred thoughts which have been built up over the years by our conditioning and which cause all our problems and unhappiness?
    These are the ones I meant, which require first examination or labelling on our part and then understanding and non-identification, and which could in certain circumstances turn to murderous or evil tendencies etc.
    (I think my earlier Vipassana influence is showing here!). Probably you did mean that and I am using many more words to express it.

    Gassho Jenny

  5. #5

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    Hi Jenny

    I believe that both vipassana and shikantaza encourage Right Thinking and mindfulness. In both practices, in my opinion, we witness the fleeting nature of thoughts, emotions, moods, etc. .

    It's just in shikantaza we don't "label" and analyze the clutter that pops in our minds. For me, it's like doing away with an unnecessary step, that in itself often seems like a distraction. We see or glimpse the universe just-as-it-is directly and that is the basis for mindfulness.

    The eightfold path are teachings that serve as guidelines and reminders that our words and actions have consequences in the world, and we should be mindful if the consequences bring suffering to others and ourselves in our everyday lives. But, we don't ponder words and actions on the cushion. I believe that understanding and non-identification are natural results that come from sitting practice.

    Gassho,

    Tony

  6. #6

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    Quote Originally Posted by boone enoch

    I believe that understanding and non-identification are natural results that come from sitting practice.
    Hi Tony,

    I agree, but lately I am thinking that rather than rely just on that I also need to practice coming back to awareness, to the present moment, many times all through the day,

    Gassho,
    John

  7. #7

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    Thanks again, Tony. And "Amen" to that, John!

    Gassho, Jenny

  8. #8

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    Quote Originally Posted by Jenny
    I understand Uchiyama when he says that decreasing delusion and desire and finally extinguishing them is not the purpose of zazen - in other words to just observe their transient nature and release them, but I am not sure I understand this quotation on page 57.
    "Since desires and cravings are actually a manifestation of the life force, there is no reason to hate them and try to extinguish them". He advises us to let them be and not be dragged around by them. However are some of our thoughts not useful and true and some completely untrue and do we not need to give them some consideration? A sort of meditative enquiry, but obviously not while on the cushion.
    Jenny
    Hi,

    In Zen Practice (as opposed to many other forms of Buddhism as Uchiyama notes), our thoughts, dreams, memories, emotions, desires and cravings and the like are not necessarily our enemies. In fact, they are largely what it means to be human, without which we would be reduced to being as stones, machines, corpses. They are human life itself, what nature has bestowed upon us, and are not to be rejected.

    But it is what we learn about our thoughts, emotions, etc., and how we learn to manage these, that makes all the difference.

    First, we learn that our human life is, to one degree or another, largely a story created out of thoughts and an imagined sense of "self". Both those thoughts and that "self" are, from various perspectives, like a fiction, a dream. In our Zazen, we can learn to pierce the dream, drop the self, and see the thoughts and emotions for just the dream they are.

    However, what is important is to then realize that the dream, although a dream, is --our-- dream, is our very life itself. It may be just a dream, but without that dream ... we would be left as those stones, machines, corpses. It's all untrue, yet true for us! We cannot abandon the "self" if we are to continue to live in this world, and neither can we abandon so many other parts of the dream that constitute life itself. We need that "self" to live, because it is one face of who we are.

    So what to do then?

    Well, we learn not to be enslaved to that "self", to recognize when the self is playing games with us, when we are bound by its greed, anger, excess, resistance to the world, judgmentalism, etc. Though we keep our self, we do not take it so seriously any more, nor allow it to run amuck. We do not allow the self's judgments of the world to lead to constant disappointment, we do not let its cravings and desires go to excess. We can choose the way of "moderation", satisfaction and peace.

    Also, we realize that the thoughts, emotions, memories and dreams we choose, and which create our life, are ... to one degree or another ... largely within our control. We learn to distinguish thoughts and emotions that tend to the harmful (ignorance) from those that tend to a healthy and beneficial life and world (wisdom). We can choose the latter dream.

    In summary, we realize that our mental life is something of a puppet show, yet it is --our-- show. We learn to see the strings, and which ones to pull and which to avoid (at least, we learn better how to do these things than before our Buddhist Practice)

    ... regarding your remark that "our thoughts and desires are not evil in themselves unless we confuse them with Truth or reality itself". Do you mean our thoughts required for normal daily living ("Right Thinking" in the Noble Eightfold Path), and not our self-centred thoughts which have been built up over the years by our conditioning and which cause all our problems and unhappiness?
    These are the ones I meant, which require first examination or labelling on our part and then understanding and non-identification, and which could in certain circumstances turn to murderous or evil tendencies etc.
    (I think my earlier Vipassana influence is showing here!). Probably you did mean that and I am using many more words to express it.
    I would say that the problem is neither our thoughts being true or untrue. Nor is the problem every "self-centered" thought.

    It is that some "self-centered" thoughts head the boat toward the shoals, some point to a healthy and helpful direction. In the Zen Buddhist view, it is a misunderstanding of Buddhist Philosophy to say something along the lines of "all thoughts arising from the self necessarily arise from ignorance and cause suffering' or "only a life without 'self' is True". In fact, the latter is not life, at least, not life in its human form. It is the "Hinayana" path, and is misguided.

    However, we must learn to see through the self (even as we pretend it is real), and be a master of how we let it stear our boat.

    require first examination or labelling on our part and then understanding and non-identification, and which could in certain circumstances turn to murderous or evil tendencies etc.
    (I think my earlier Vipassana influence is showing here!).
    As Tony said, we do engage in this practice, just not during "Shikantaza" Zazen ... where it is vitally important that we engage in nothing at all. I do not think that one need be in Zazen in order to learn to identify the various strings on the puppet.

    Gassho, Jundo

  9. #9

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    Hi,

    As I was reading this chapter there were so many statements where I just thought, "yes, that's it, that sums it all up perfectly!". In the end I find myself unable to pick just one or even a few. Rather, I think Uchiyama Roshi does a really great job in this chapter as a whole of pointing out what our Zazen practice is all about, how we do it, and how it's different from other Buddhist traditions.

    Gassho
    Ken

  10. #10

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    Quote Originally Posted by Uchiyama
    Some Buddhists say nirvana (enlightenment) is the complete extinction of delusion and craving, and zazen or meditation is practiced in order to reach this state.....But isn't seeking to get rid of pain and to attain the bliss of nirvana itself a desire or craving? Actually this too is craving and precisely because of that the practitioner is caught in self contradiction and can't escape suffering.
    The view that we practice meditation to attain nirvana seems very widespread amongst Buddhists. As Zen practitioners are we to assume that there is no such thing as nirvana? Or just that we shouldn't be trying to attain it?

    Gassho,
    John

  11. #11

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    Quote Originally Posted by John

    The view that we practice meditation to attain nirvana seems very widespread amongst Buddhists. As Zen practitioners are we to assume that there is no such thing as nirvana? Or just that we shouldn't be trying to attain it?

    Gassho,
    John
    There is nirvana.

    It is attained by not seeking to attain it, found by not searching.

    (Gee, if that weren't true ... we'd be rather wasting our time around here, wouldn't we?) :shock:

    Now, go sit and see what you might find!

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - That's NOT April Fools!

  12. #12

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by John

    The view that we practice meditation to attain nirvana seems very widespread amongst Buddhists. As Zen practitioners are we to assume that there is no such thing as nirvana? Or just that we shouldn't be trying to attain it?

    Gassho,
    John
    There is nirvana.

    It is attained by not seeking to attain it, found by not searching.

    (Gee, if that weren't true ... we'd be rather wasting our time around here, wouldn't we?) :shock:

    Now, go sit and see what you might find!

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - That's NOT April Fools!
    Sort of ties right into Doge saying, "Zazen itself is enligtenment" or How Thich Nhat Hanh says, "The Kingdom of God is present in the here and now".

    I think this understanding is really a key point in being at peace with one's practice, that idea of straining to reach an impossible goal really can become a big burden. I think it's good to keep trying and putting forth effort, just important to realize that the effort itself is part of the destination. We're working hard at being who we are right now.

  13. #13
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    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    Pg.60 Uchiyama wrote Zazen is the foundation of life where this reality of life is being manifested. In that sense,zazen is the reality of the self---the true self. How elegantly simple and poetic. Gassho Kent

  14. #14

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    If "zazen itself is enlightenment" then where is it when we climb off the cushion? During the moments we are "present" throughout the day and lost when we are "lost in thought"?
    Jenny

  15. #15

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    I think my zazen experience carries over in the everyday, subtly. I agree with what John said earlier about periodically coming back to awareness. I do practice mini-zazens at times like when I'm sitting at my desk at work.


    I also want to add that this one section of the book has brought me a lot of confidence to my practice.

    Gassho, Tony

  16. #16

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    Quote Originally Posted by Jenny
    If "zazen itself is enlightenment" then where is it when we climb off the cushion? During the moments we are "present" throughout the day and lost when we are "lost in thought"?
    Jenny
    Hi Jenny,

    There is "Zazen" when we are sitting cross-legged on the cushion, "Zazen" that is off the cushion, "Zazen" that is all of life with nothing omitted.

    There is "Zazen" when we are "present" and "Zazen" when we are completely "lost in thought".

    All is enlightenment itself. There is nothing that is not "Zazen".

    Nor is being "lost in thought" somehow "better" than being "present" ... being present cannot be "lost".

    Does that sound strange?

    But that being said, we crawl over to the cushion and cross the legs day after day, and return again and again to a "presence" that is not "lost in thought".

    Gassho, Jundo

  17. #17

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    Quote Originally Posted by Gregor
    I think it's good to keep trying and putting forth effort, just important to realize that the effort itself is part of the destination. We're working hard at being who we are right now.
    I agree with you Gregor. It's just that there's a lot of years of conditioning that have made the idea of putting a lot of effort into something without getting any 'result' seem very foreign to mine and possibly most of our natures. Maybe that's why there's a temptation to add some kind of stages or levels to Buddhist practice as teachers like Daido Loori do,

    Gassho,
    John

  18. #18

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    Quote Originally Posted by John
    Quote Originally Posted by Gregor
    I think it's good to keep trying and putting forth effort, just important to realize that the effort itself is part of the destination. We're working hard at being who we are right now.
    I agree with you Gregor. It's just that there's a lot of years of conditioning that have made the idea of putting a lot of effort into something without getting any 'result' seem very foreign to mine and possibly most of our natures. Maybe that's why there's a temptation to add some kind of stages or levels to Buddhist practice as teachers like Daido Loori do,

    Gassho,
    John

    I agree, John and Greg. It is nice to have levels of training because they are comforting and encouraging and give us a way to measure "progress". The problem is that they are often false measures of our abilities/insights. After studying with my college piano teacher for about 6 years he once said, "Bill, when you reach a certain level of playing you need to say 'f*%k what my teacher wants, I going to play things my way.'" What I took from this is that it is a natural part of our development as a student to look to the teacher for encouragement and validation, but as a grown man, it is important to be my own person when it comes to playing. The same may be true in Zen. It is OK to receive validation from the teacher, but we should not require it. If we do, it would seem that we are seeking enlightenment outside of our reality. That being said, I know from personal experience that students respond well to and often need an occasional pat on the back.

    I also really liked the diagrams. I'm a visual learner and they helped me create a helpful image of how to do zazen that wouldn't turn into a narrative discussion in my head during my actual zazen. Tony was right, this book is a confidence booster.

    This is one of the best books about Zen practice I have read in long time. Kudos to those who recommended/chose it for the book club.

    Bill

  19. #19

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    John,

    I'm right there with you. It's very hard for me to let go of this feeling that I am just fine the way I am, I strive towards self improvement in many ways. However, I am learning that to a certain amount It's better for my practice to let go. It's also easier for me to follow the eightfold path if I stop trying to clench the idea of it so tightly and just be myself in my natural good meaning way.

    Bill,

    You had some pretty wise stuff to say, I love that quote about what your teacher told you. I think practicing music is such a great example we can take out into our lives and Buddhist practice.

    it really is just about the best dharma book I've ever read too.

  20. #20

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    Quote Originally Posted by Gregor
    John,

    I'm right there with you. It's very hard for me to let go of this feeling that I am just fine the way I am, I strive towards self improvement in many ways.
    We have to remember that "not seeking" and "not attaining" does not mean that there is nothing to find or attain. That is why we are engaged in "non-attaining".

    The fact that there is absolutely "nothing in need of change" does NOT mean at all that there is "nothing is need of change".

    That we give up all effort at changing does not mean that nothing will change about us. We can even say that it is "self-improvement" by the very fact that we can realize the true nature of "self" and drop all idea of its "improvement". I am, I think, a better human being than I was before I began this whole Buddhism thing many years ago.

    You are fine the way you are, whether Practicing Buddhism or not ...
    ... And you are absolutely not fine the way you are before Buddhist Practice.

    That's how this game works.

    Gassho, Jundo

  21. #21

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    I read a story that in India if you put out a big, heavy jar of nuts that has a narrow opening, a monkey will reach inside to grab the nuts. But the monkey will get stuck because it won’t release its grip to free its hand from the jar.

    Waking up involves relaxing mental grasping so we can be with everything. Being empty of our preconceived ideas seems almost impossible for me to comprehend. But releasing the grip of preconceived thoughts is a softer notion that works for me. I can cultivate space in my mind to change my perceptions and understanding.

    I can be a bit of a dreamer at times. Looking back on some experiences, I can see how I separated myself from others and how my actions were motivated from the self. And I recognize the harm that resulted. Practicing awareness helps me question that “me” concept more frequently. I can observe the thoughts, memories and day dreams and see them as temporary phenomena. It’s mental weather. Clouds appear. Resistance appears or desire appears. Mental secretions come and go resulting from the conditioning John mentioned.

    But there is freedom in the sense that there’s room for all that we are. There is expansiveness in an open mind of not knowing and finding out through experience.

    Intention, discernment and actions are linked in multiple directions. The more our speech and behaviors exhibit selfishness or craving, the more we fuel attachment-oriented habits of mind. The more we can bring our awareness and insight to our actions, the more we refine that interconnection and open up possibilities to live fully as we are with what we encounter.

    Regards,

    Janice

  22. #22

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    I can be a bit of a dreamer at times. Looking back on some experiences, I can see how I separated myself from others and how my actions were motivated from the self. And I recognize the harm that resulted. Practicing awareness helps me question that “me” concept more frequently. I can observe the thoughts, memories and day dreams and see them as temporary phenomena. It’s mental weather. Clouds appear. Resistance appears or desire appears. Mental secretions come and go resulting from the conditioning John mentioned.
    Thanks for this Janice. It describes my interaction with the world pretty well too. I have found shikantaza to be a much more effective antidote to this tendency than the other types of meditation I have tried (which I will admit is not that many). To learn to let go and simply be is good medicine--and it goes down smooth too.

    Bill

  23. #23

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    Hi all, Sorry I'm a bit late with this. One of the things that caught my attention was Note 32 in which Sawaki explains wakugokku or "grasping onto ignorance" by the teaching "Thoughts are fantasies, acts are real, and the results come back to haunt us." While I like this quote, I can't help wondering if acts can be driven by anything other than fantasies. Is this where prajna comes in? i.e. Prajna drives skillful acts which create results that come back to bless us (or all beings).????

    Gassho,

    Linda

  24. #24

    Re: 3/28 - Waking Up to Life p. 52

    I guess there are a few ways of reading Sawaki's statement that 'Thoughts are fantasies, acts are real, and the results come back to haunt us'

    When I went back and read the footnote outside of the context of Uchiyama's discussion on p. 58, I thought Sawaki meant that thoughts are just thoughts, especially if they are not grasped. On the other hand, you cannot avoid the consequences of your actions. You can't undo an action once it's taken.

    Then I went back to p. 58 and read Uchiyama "...once we think of something we hate or dislike, we assume again that the simple fact of thinking we hate it is the truth. Thinking that this idea is the truth so we ought to follow it, we chase after it until our whole world turns to anger." Earlier in that paragraph Uchiyama refers to us "plunging our heads to far into our thoughts."

    There is a way to put some distance between the thoughts and actions: notice we are angry, smile and ask ourselves 'is any other way of responding' (other than our first inclination). If we can do this, we've opened ourselves up to a broader perspective. We've questioned "is this necessarily so." Then we don't identify too tightly with the thought.

    Maybe the prajna is in the letting go and acting out of the universal self then. We need the wisdom to make choices that are appropriate.

    Also the inner self of thoughts and emotions is connected to the outer self through which we interact with others. So even though we may not perceive the karmic effect, what we give our energy to inside affects the practice of how we live.

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