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Thread: 4/25 - Universal Self p. 75

  1. #1

    4/25 - Universal Self p. 75

    ... and he does not mean having an ego the size of the universe!

    Gassho, Jundo

  2. #2

    Re: 4/25 - Universal Self p. 75

    Behind a temple there was a field where there were many squashes growing on a vine. One day a fight broke out among them, and the squashes split up into two groups, making a big racket and shouting at one another. The head priest heard the uproar and, stepping outside to see what was going on, found the squashes quarreling. The priest scolded them in a booming voice. "Hey, you squashes! What are you doing out there fighting? Everyone do zazen." The priest taught them how to do zazen. While the squashes were sitting zazen in the way the priest had taught them, their anger subsided and they quieted down. Then the priest said quietly, "Everyone put your hand on top of your head.' When the squashes felt the top of their heads, they found some weird thing attached there. It turned out to be the vine that connected them all together. "This is really strange. Here we've been arguing when actually we're all tied together and living just one life. What a mistake! Its just as the priest said." After that, the squashes all got along with each other well.
    I'm wordless so I'll convey my feelings about the story and the accompanying pictures by Kosho Uchiyama this way:

  3. #3

    Re: 4/25 - Universal Self p. 75

    No longer wordless in this later moment.
    A lesson from the squash story: We don't know actually who we are, but we go through life as if we do.

    If we move in the direction of recognizing self as process that is interconnected, we open to more spaciousness to free ourselves from notions of what we thought we were. Uchiyama says “when I am born, I give birth to my world . . . when I die, I take the work with me.”

  4. #4

    Re: 4/25 - Universal Self p. 75

    Hi,

    Uchiyama Roshi, earlier on, had a similar comment to this chapter:

    Uchiyama says (p.14):

    I am here only because my world is here. When I took my first breath, my world was born with me. When I die, my world dies with me. In other words, I wasn't born into a world that was already here before me, I do not live simply as one individual among millions of other individuals, and I do not leave everything behind to live on after me...
    And I wrote something then to try to explain it. I would like to reprint it here. Some folks had trouble to get their heads around this.

    I believe it becomes a little clearer if we think of it in terms of codependent origination. I tried this analogy:


    First, I must "set the stage":

    Imagine that being born as a conscious human life in the universe is something like waking up to find yourself, for no known reason, an actor on a stage in a theater reciting lines in a play. (For our purposes, and so there is no confusion on my point, let us imagine that it is some kind of 'off-off-off Broadway', experimental "theatre of the absurd" in which there is only the barest scenery on a stage, and the actors are improvising the story moment to moment.) There may or may not be a playright, but the actors seem to be making the story up as they go along. When you were "born", you found yourself in some kind of role in the play ... with a name, family history, appearance , etc. But you have no way to know if you were given that role purely by chance or were assigned the role by some "playright". Nonetheless, here you are as "Janice" That play, with its actors (of which you are one) in that theater building represents "the universe".

    Okay, have the scene?

    Now, one way to look at this is that the play was likely going on before you appeared on the stage and will continue in some form after your character dies (and you leave the play). This is the way we are used to looking at our relationship to the universe.

    But here is another way:

    Could there be a "play" without its actors? (Especially this type of play which doesn't seem to have a script apart from its actors)? We might say that, in this case, "no" there could not be.

    But moreover, we might say that there is really not only 'one play', but a constant series of plays constantly beginning anew and ending. So, the play that began when you stepped on the stage is not the same play that first began when you left the stage (and the play with you in it ended) ... even though there were some shared characters (other human beings on the planet) in the play before your play and the play that followed your play. (In fact, we might say that a new play is constantly starting and ending at each moment within a moment within your life too) The play with you in it is just not the same play without you in it, just like "Gone With The Wind" would have been a completely different movie (universe) if the character of Rhett Butler had never been written into the story, or Macbeth would have been a very different story if Macduff had died in the first act.

    And do not confuse the theatre building with the theatre play. You might try to argue that the theatre building goes on with or without a particular play, but without plays it is just a barren, empty building. The true theatre (universe) is not just a building, but the play in the building. So we might say that the character of the whole changes, is born and dies, depending on you.It is just not the same "theatre" as it would be before or after you.

    So, it is actually that when you die the whole play ends.(Whether a new play starts at that point ... that is another story [pun intended]). Without you, the show with you cannot go on.
    Gassho, Jundo

  5. #5

    Re: 4/25 - Universal Self p. 75

    It seems that Zen shares the same worldview as Existentialism. Except in Existentialism, the individual is always isolated and/or alienated from the universe which is always "other". In Zen, this gulf between the individual and "other" is a fiction that can be seen through or dispelled.

    Uchiyama makes a comment earlier in the book p. 32-33, "existentialism is the philosophy of general existence, not the practice of the very life of the existentialist himself."

    Gassho, Tony

  6. #6

    Re: 4/25 - Universal Self p. 75

    Like Janice, the squash story really resonated with me too. This concept is an easy one for me to understand intellectually and a difficult one for me to know experientially. It is clear to me that we are interconnected in myriad, if not infinite, ways, yet when I'm face-to-face with someone I am often operating in the self-and-other mode without intending to. A lifetime's habit I suppose.

    Jundo, Uchiyama's quote you posted seems a bit more solipsistic than your acting metaphor. He says the Universe dies with us, you are saying the Universe would not be the same without us (like ecology). The play would not be the same play without one of its characters, it would become a different play, but nonetheless a play would continue. I have to admit that yours seems to make more sense to me. Am I making too much of this subtle, but distinct difference? Is Uchiyama saying the same thing? The Universe, that is the particular "Bill-containing-version-of-the-Universe-with-zillions-of-other-things" in which I have lived, will disappear when I am gone to become the "Universe-without-Bill-but-zillions-of-other-things?"
    It is late, so this question may not be making sense. I'll ask again after I've slept.

    Gassho,
    Bill

  7. #7

    Re: 4/25 - Universal Self p. 75

    Quote Originally Posted by boone enoch
    It seems that Zen shares the same worldview as Existentialism. Except in Existentialism, the individual is always isolated and/or alienated from the universe which is always "other". In Zen, this gulf between the individual and "other" is a fiction that can be seen through or dispelled.

    Gassho, Tony
    Yes. I think this is one of the main differences between, for example, Sartre's isolated and alienated and hopeless "no exit", and Nishijima Roshi's "philosophy of action" that I inelegantly tried to describe on the other thread ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forum/viewtopic ... 119#p10119

    Hi Bill,
    Jundo, Uchiyama's quote you posted seems a bit more solipsistic than your acting metaphor. He says the Universe dies with us, you are saying the Universe would not be the same without us (like ecology).
    Yes, Uchiyama Roshi is not talking about solipsism (the philosophical idea that "my mind is the only thing that I know exists" and, maybe, I am god and the universe is my personal creation and thoughts). Buddhism is far from that view and I am sure that Uchiyama Roshi did not mean that.

    Maybe Buddhism's perspective is more that [I am the universe, the universe is I, the universe is the universe, I am I, dropping too all thought of "I" and "Universe"], all at the same time!

    So, of course, the universe goes on after I am dead (at least, I suspect so). So, of course, the universe stops when there is no I.

    Gee, all this philosophy today on all these threads is giving me a BIG HEADACHE! :roll: Let's just sit and let it be.

    Gassho, Jundo

  8. #8

    Re: 4/25 - Universal Self p. 75

    Hi,

    I think Uchiyama Roshi does a fantastic job here of explaining in words something that ultimately cannot be explained rationally, but only experienced in our Zazen - on and off the cushion. He pulls us lovingly to the top of the flagpole, but it's up to us to take that step...

    Gassho
    Ken

  9. #9

    Re: 4/25 - Universal Self p. 75

    Hi all,

    Very interesting thread. (And being a Childrens' Librarian, I am partial to the squashes as well.)

    I particularly like the passage:

    The problem with self and other is a good place to start. For "self", just what does "other" mean? Usually people think of "self" in opposition to "other" as I is opposed to you. This I is determined by external relationships with things defined as other. That is, I means myself which is not other. Conversely, other is always seen and defined by me and is something that is not myself.
    I am intrigued by the sense of volition--the I intentionally creating the other. So if a being "uncreates" the other, the I disappears? And just the universe is left. Beautiful.

    Hmmmm. Now how do I uncreate the other?

    Gassho,

    Linda

  10. #10

    Re: 4/25 - Universal Self p. 75

    I love this chapter! Squash zazen!




  11. #11

    Re: 4/25 - Universal Self p. 75

    Quote Originally Posted by lindabeekeeper

    I am intrigued by the sense of volition--the I intentionally creating the other. So if a being "uncreates" the other, the I disappears? And just the universe is left. Beautiful.

    Hmmmm. Now how do I uncreate the other?
    Hi Linda,

    Well, maybe we don't need to uncreate it - we just notice this small self ( especially in our zazen practice) and its power to separate us from others and delude us will dissipate.

    Gassho,
    John

  12. #12
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    Re: 4/25 - Universal Self p. 75

    On page 82 Uchiyama writes,
    "We practice zazen, neither aiming at having a special mystical experience nor trying to gain greater enlightenment. Zazen as true Mahayana teaching is always the whole self just truly being the whole self, life truly being life."
    It's thoughts such as these that help my beginner's mind understand zazen at its simple core. Gassho, Kent

  13. #13

    Re: 4/25 - Universal Self p. 75

    Hello Folks,
    I've still not got a copy of the book at hand - I undestand it is in reprint and purchasing a second hand copy (here in Europe at least) costs an arm and a leg, so I'm waiting for the new edition. In between times I follow your discussion of the book and am learning so much from all of your remarks - thanks to all.
    I found a poem by Tich Nat Hanh which I think describes codependent origination in a nice, if not a wincey bit over personalised, way - poetic licence I guess.
    Anyway, hope you like it.


    Non-Duality

    The bell tolls at four in the morning.
    I stand by the window,
    barefoot on the cool floor.
    The garden is still dark.
    I wait for the mountains and rivers to reclaim their shapes.
    There is no light in the deepest hours of the night.
    Yet, I know you are there
    in the depth of the night,
    the immasurable world of the mind.
    You the known, have been there
    ever since the knower has been.

    The dawn will come soon,
    and you will see
    that you and the rosy horizon
    are within my two eyes.
    It is for me that the horizon is rosy
    and the sky blue.
    Looking at your image in the clear strem,
    you answer the question by your very presence,
    Life is humming the song of the non-dual marvel.
    I suddenly find myself smiling
    in the presence of this immaculate night.
    I know because I am here that you are there,
    and your being has returned to show itself
    in the wonder of tonight's smile.
    In the quiet stream,
    I swam gently.
    The murmur of the water lulls my heart.
    A wave serves as a pillow
    I look up and see
    a white cloud against the blue sky,
    the sound of Autumn leaves,
    the fragrance of hay-
    each one a sign of eternity.
    A bright star helps me find my way back to myself.

    I know because you ar there that I am here.
    The stretching arm of cognition
    in a lightening flash,
    joining together a million eons of distance,
    joining together birth and death,
    joining togethr the known and the knower.

    In the depth of the night,
    as in the immeasurable realm of conciousness,
    the garden of life and I
    remain each other's objects.
    The flower of being is singing the song of emptiness.
    I know I am here
    for you to be.

    Tich Nhat Hanh


    Gassho Nadi

  14. #14

    Re: 4/25 - Universal Self p. 75

    Beautiful poem. Thanks Nadi. Quite a poet old TNH!

    Gassho,
    John

  15. #15

    Re: 4/25 - Universal Self p. 75

    I love the squash story. Lesson learned: when having fears (eg that other squashes will run me over), take a step back and a broader perspective!
    This kind of insight could stop wars and make us all take responsability for what is going on in different parts of the world.

    It seems to me the squashes came to this interdependedness (is this the right word? :roll: ) insight and stayed that way. The few experiences of the universal self that I had (actually, the last one during the Big Mind process), that were not of an intellectual kind and were beyond words, did not last long :shock: .

    Many people around the globe are becoming more increasingly aware of how interconnected we all are but apparently this is not enough to stop the suffering that we can stop.

    Gassho,

    Irina

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