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Thread: Scratching an itch

  1. #1
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Scratching an itch

    So I was sitting this evening, and I got an itch in the corner of my eye. This happens sometimes. I remembered reading, in a book on vipassana, how the teacher had a fly on his nose and did everything to label the feeling and sit with it, making a big deal about how important it was to not brush the fly away, but rather to be one with the tickling on his nose.

    I just scratched my itch, thinking that if I knew I was scratching it, then it was ok. Jundo, any thoughts on this? Is it ok to scratch an itch?

    Kirk

  2. #2

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Hi Kirk

    I would be interested to hear Jundo's advice on this as well. Its a quite mundane, but common occurence for me & like you describe I have spent many a happy session focused on that itch :evil: .

    These days I scratch & forget it - but I am happy t be guided otherwise

    Kind regards

    Jools

    ps - if it is not the itch, then its my leg going to sleep

  3. #3

    Re: Scratching an itch

    AAHHH!!! SPIDER!!!
    *smacks wildly about himself*
    Yah, I'm a spider phobe. It's true... :roll:

  4. #4

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Hi Guys,

    Here is my perspective on sitting with itchy noses, aching legs and backs, crawly spiders and such ...

    Let me mention first that one day I was sitting at Sojiji (head temple of Soto Zen in Japan) in a 150 year old wooden building, with rafters nibbled by termites and with an overly heavy roof, when a big earthquake hit ... the roof is swaying. Everyone but me was Japanese. I looked around to see if folks would run for the door ... nobody moved from Zazen or even looked around but me! There is a great cultural tendency in Japanese culture to just "bear up" with pain and disturbances, and I have rarely if ever seen an experienced Japanese sitter move, shift legs or scratch during Zazen. In fact, my Japanese dentist tells me that there are two main difference between his Western patients and Japanese patients: (1) Westerners ask a lot more questions about the dental procedure and everything else; (2) Westerners moan and scream much more easily. :shock:

    So, I have to balance my recommendations by taking into consideration what is just "Japanese culture", what is "Zen teachings", and what may be "BOTH"!

    Generally, our Way of Shikantaza Zazen is about "just sitting" with whatever is, just how it is. As in life-in-general, not every moment is peaches and cream, fun and games. So, it is wonderful Practice for us to sit with discomforts, pain, annoyances. We drop all thought of the words "discomfort", "pain", "annoyance", "like" "dislike" "good" "bad" ... and just sit with what is.

    On the other hand, the Buddha's way was never one of masochism or asceticism, complete denial of the body. In fact, ours is the Middle Way, the path of moderation in all things. Furthermore, we do not harm the body.

    Thus, my advice is to just "sit with" the itches, discomforts and spiders (unless a highly poisonous spider!) . Note it, then move back to open, spacious sitting. In fact, you will find that the more your mind fixates on it, and thinks about it, the more of a problem it becomes. By not thinking about it, the so-called "problem" may even fade away on its own, or not be experienced as a problem.

    But if you reach the point that there is truly the risk of harm to the body, then please give a small "Gassho" and discreetly and quietly change position (even do your Zazen standing or do Kinhin walking), or move the giant killer spider away.

    Furthermore, our Way is not about ALWAYS having discomfort, so if your legs or back hurt all the time, you may have to change your sitting position or wait for your legs and back to adjust. We do not sit with leg pain every day or most days.

    But, on the other-other hand, if you have a physical condition that means you ALWAYS have pain and there is absolutely no way to avoid that (for example, if you have arthritis that is always there), you just sit with that. You allow it, not thinking "good" or "bad".

    If there is a true health risk ... STOP Zazen immediately. Come back to it when you can.

    You have to decide for yourself when is the time to sit with the ache or spider, when is the time not to.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS- Wonderful story about the Dali Lama and a mosquito, not apocryphal ...

    During a 1990 interview with the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Bill Moyers once asked if it was acceptable to kill a mosquito. The Dalai Lama thought for a moment and said something like this while miming the hand gestures:

    “Well, if it bothers me, I wave it away. And if it comes back, I wave it away again. But if it comes back again . . . [sound of the Dalai Lama hitting his face].” Then he smiled. Mindful. Practical.

  5. #5

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Thanks Jundo...

    But for the Dalai Lama Quote...
    If I were him, I think I won't kill the mosquito, as far as the mosquito don't kill me... :P
    And I think to be bitten by general mosquito will not kill us (I mean, not for the dangerous type of mosquito :shock: ).
    If it won't kill us, so why we have to kill it...
    In my experience, if there is some mosquito bit me...(There are a lot of mosquitoes in Indonesia) ....
    I just let it bit me, may be because it hungry, and it needs to eat also (I mean drinks a blood).
    And after the mosquito isn't hungry again, it will leave us. Very easy, isn't it?

    Gassho, Shui Di

  6. #6
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Scratching an itch

    Regarding mosquitoes (this might be straying a bit), Douglas Hofstadter, in his recent book on consciousness I Am a Strange Loop, explains why - even though he is a vegetarian because he doesn't want to take life - he doesn't hesitate to swat mosquitoes. He claims they are not conscious, hence not sentient beings. He also points out that they can transmit disease, but that's another story...

    For those interested in consciousness, this book is a must read. (Yea, I know, I read too much...)

    Kirk

  7. #7

    Re: Scratching an itch

    This itching thing makes me laugh. :lol: I've noticed a pattern to my 'itching' as I have continued to practice.

    It starts sometime before the end of the session, just as I am starting to get a bit bored and uncomfortable. I think it may be a form of self-stimulation as the monkey mind tries to occupy itself. I have noticed that it's starting later though and I'm gradually trying to deal with it by selective ignoring. If you ignore it for long enough it generally goes away as the mind gets bored with it and moves on to something else. I've also developed a categorisation method whereby I only scratch those itches that make me wince and ignore the rest. Once the milder ones are successfully ignored, I then feel able to start ignoring the really, really annoying ones

    Gassho Louise

  8. #8

    Re: Scratching an itch

    A much more experienced meditator who leads our local group recommends just having that scratch and then getting back to sitting. The thought being that you're not doing zazen if you're thinking about the itch anyway? Any thoughts on that?

    For my self I do just ignore it and it goes somewhere esle, then some where esle, then some where else, and then eventually it goes away.

    I find the same with any neck/upper back ache that creeps in towards the end of a sit. If I just sit with it it's not big problem and drops away, but if I move/stretch it it just begins along chain of other things that want my attention.

    In gassho, Kev

  9. #9
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Scratching an itch

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Kev,

    Its up to us, but we're certainly not doing Zazen when we scratch; we're doing scratching and we're being something, we're being a scratch *trying* not to be an itch.
    I beg to differ. You can be doing zazen when you are doing anything, if you do it mindfully. In my case, when I scratched the itch, I knew I was scratching it, I was not just instinctively scratching. It's the same as when you breathe you know that you are breathing, etc.

    Part of the goal is to be doing zazen when not sitting, isn't it?

    Kirk

  10. #10

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Good point Kirk :wink:

    But we could use that as a reason to do anything really, couldn't we? May be there is a fine line between mindfully scratching an itch, shooing a fly or what ever and the mind making us fidget?

    In gassho, Kev

  11. #11
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Scratching an itch

    As far as I understand, we _can_ do anything, just the goal is to do it mindfully...

    Kirk

  12. #12

    Re: Scratching an itch

    When you scratch, just scratch. When you itch, just itch.

    Gassho, Jundo

  13. #13

    Re: Scratching an itch

    I don't itch much when sitting.

    G,W

  14. #14
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Scratching an itch

    Thanks for addressing my question in today's talk.

    FWIW, we have those big-ass mosquitoes here in the Alps, and I understand that they don't bite. It's the little ones that bite. (Apparently, only female mosquitoes bite.)

    Kirk

  15. #15

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Hi Harry
    although I do certainly think the effects of Zazen can pervade other actions.
    absolutely, I agree with that & have experienced it - on a good day

    Cheers

    Jools

  16. #16

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Hi,

    Doesn't the term 'Zazen' mean 'sitting meditation'? Likewise 'shikantaza' translates as 'just sitting', 'thoroughly sitting', so the 'sitting' is obviously an element. Does this mean just sitting on a bar stool eating nuts somewhere? No, it means sitting in the transmitted posture of body/mind.

    I don't doubt we can perform 'scratching meditation', 'itching meditation', 'paint-your-ass-green-and-stand-on-your-tippytoes meditation'..., but that's not Zazen or shikantaza.

    The posture of Zazen/shikantaza is a very specific pose, with specific effects, which came from pre-Buddhist yogic practice. Its a posture of body/mind, not just one or the other. Its not just any old thing; although I do certainly think the effects of Zazen can pervade other actions.

    Regards,

    Harry.
    Harry, you know enough about Dogen to realize that "sitting" means the entire universe, standing, reclining, walking or flying through the air.

    The true meaning of "Full Lotus" is all being-space-time, my friend.

    I am not a fetishist for the posture itself, and I believe that some Soto Practitioners lose Dogen's real point on that issue. They cannot see the forest for the trees, or "all of reality" for the posture.

    "just sit to sit, without thought of this and that and the other thing, seeing through self/other, now/then, dropping likes and dislikes, without goal or thoughts of achievement, without profit from the sitting, not thinking that one should better be doing something else ... sitting as the one perfectly-what-it-is act at that one moment, the only moment in the whole universe and the whole universe sitting in this one moment etc. etc. etc. ... if you bounce a ball or change a tire with this perspective, it is "Zazen". But if you cross the legs and straigten the back in the Lotus Position, yet lack such perspective, you have merely tangled legs and a tangled mind.

    Gassho, Jundo

  17. #17

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Forgive me - I am a little confused. The Britannica Concise Encyclopedia defines zazen as:

    Sitting meditation as practiced in Zen Buddhism. The disciple sits in a quiet room, breathing rhythmically and easily, with legs fully or half crossed, spine and head erect, hands folded one palm above the other, and eyes open. Logical, analytic thinking is suspended, as are all desires, attachments, and judgments, leaving the mind in a state of relaxed attention. The practice was brought to prominence by Dogen, who considered it not only to be a method of moving toward enlightenment but also, if properly experienced, to constitute enlightenment itself.
    I understand (I think ), that moments of the feelings/state of zazen can follow me into the day, but I didn't think these were zazen perse, just echos.

    Happy to be corrected

    Kind regards

    Jools

  18. #18

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Sometimes I like the word “Dwell” or even “Abide.”

    Gassho,
    Jordan

  19. #19

    Re: Scratching an itch

    No Koans! :evil:

    Sorry, Harry, I am a little bussy to get down in the weeds. Besides, if you start analyzing it, or talking about it, it will become ever more finely divided, and there will be no end.

    Just wanted to throw my $0.02 in. Man the greenback isin't worth much today.

    Gassho,
    Jordan

  20. #20

    Re: Scratching an itch

    :wink:

  21. #21

    Re: Scratching an itch

    H

    Glum "Zen" silence
    So which glum silence do you prefer? :|

    G,W

  22. #22

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Jundo,

    Yes, of course. But 'the big view' should not make the very real practicalities of the practice all mushy, in my opinion. I think the practice comes to us in this form for very good, practical reasons.

    There's a middle way between the 'posture fetishists' and the obvious benifits of good posture in practice... for one, sitting for an extended period with a bad posture, or with a 'perfect' posture which does not suit your body, will likely injure you. 'Good posture' is relative to our conditions (as is 'bad').

    I don't believe its appropriate to consider Zazen as 'Zazen' while we actually do it in the same way that if we really want to bounce a ball or change a tyre we should just bounce the ball or change the tyre. We can consider them 'Zazen' if we wish, but... why?

    Regards,

    Harry.
    Hi Harry,

    I agree. Posture is vital. But I think we have to keep a couple of things in mind about the history of the Lotus Position itself, its real benefits and purposes, monastery life, the Japanese tendency to fetishize the "correct" way (yarikata) to do things, and the Buddha's and Dogen's central philosophical perspectives on Practice.

    Yes, the Lotus Position has been the traditional yogic position for meditation for thousands of years, even before the time of the Buddha. And certainly the Buddha sat that way (as every statue of a sitting Buddha demonstrates). And certainly there are tremendous benefits to the posture in providing balance and stability conducive to 'dropping body and mind' and engaging in balanced, stable Zazen. In that posture, we literally can give no thought to the body. The comfort and balance of the body is directly connected, and conducive to, comfort and balance of mind.

    But I would hesitate to go much further in attributing any special power or physical effect to the position itself.

    First off, I believe the Buddha himself sat that way because, well, he needed to sit some way for hours on end -- and the "lotus position" was then the custom in India for how people sat on the ground and very good for marathon sitting. It is a good way to sit on a rock or under a tree, which is what folks did back then (in fact, he may have sat with his posterior flat on the ground, by the way, without a cushion or 'Zafu' ... which is very different from how we sit). As I said, it is very balanced and stable. But there is no evidence in the early Sutras and Shastras that he himself ever focused on the position itself as having some special power, always emphasizing the philosophical and psychological aspects of Buddhist philosophy far over the purely physical. Certainly, he did not encourage engaging in any other yoga positions as were common in India at the time (e.g., we do not stand on our heads as a normal part of practice), so I do not think he was a great proponent of the positional type of yoga itself.

    When Buddhism spread to China, Japan and other countries, I believe that people continued to follow the custom. However, even then there has been a tremendous degree of small variations in the details of the Lotus Posture, e.g., hand position, back angle and such.

    Now, when Zazen came to Dogen, well, it came to a fellow who also left us with detailed instructions about how to carry our towels in the washroom, clean our nose, bow, place incense, use a pillow while sleeping and wipe ourselves in the toilet. Dogen, like many Japanese of ancient and modern times, was something of a control freak who emphasized that there is "one right way" to do things (the aforementioned (yarikata). I have seen Japanese get the same way about the proper way to wear socks and enter an elevator. Here is that wonderful short film that makes fun of it (I know that you have seen it 100 times):

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid ... i5CQ&hl=en

    and here is another

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjuD52s0GBs&feature=related[/video]] ... re=related

    Now, that is not a bad thing, mind you, for Zen Practice. Don't get me wrong. It is the same mentality exactly as in "Oryoki" meal taking in a Zen monastery by which the simple act of eating requires dozens and dozens of set gestures that must be mastered in the body memory. It is conducive to many aspects of Practice, including focused mindfulness. Sitting in a set way such as the Lotus Posture has the same benefits of allowing the action itself to be forgotten as it is mastered by the body memory.

    Also, of course, in a monastery ... like in army boot camp ... you don't want folks just running around and flopping down any which way they feel, eating and sleeping whenever they wish. Quite the contrary. Discipline is required, so naturally, is the demand that everyone march around the monastery and sit in exactly the same way.

    If you look at Shobogenzo and other writings by Dogen, he actually spends very little time explaining the details of how to sit. In Fukanzazengi, for example, he explains the barebones act of sitting on a pillow, crossing the legs and such ... but for sentence after sentence after sentence he is focused on the "cosmic significance" of Zazen and the mental game. It is much the same when he describes how to carry a towel in the bath, wear our robes, bow or go to the toilet. He describes the procedure, but then is much more focused on the philosophical view of the act.

    Bouncing a ball or changing a tire --is-- Zazen itself. Dogen was clear on that. Of course, you do not have monks changing tires or bouncing balls too much in daily monastery life, so Dogen did not talk about those. But he did talk about the equivalent for monastery life, namely, cooking food as the Tenzo, washing the floors, etc. Dogen was crystal clear that the Lotus Position is the whole universe, the whole universe and all the Buddhas and Ancestors are sitting in the Lotus Position when you and I so sit ... but he was also clear that EVERYTHING is the Lotus Position. It is clear that Dogen, too, loved the perfection of the Lotus Posture ... but there is very little talk, if any, in his writing about the power of the position itself (do not confuse statements about the philosophical power of the position with his asserting that some energy or effect arises from the position itself ... you will not find much of that).

    In my view, Dogen's real message ... and the real message of Zen practice ... is not that there is only "one way" to do something in this vast universe. It is that "one thing" should be done with our whole heart-mind as the "one and only act in that one moment" in this vast universe. That is what Dogen was saying.

    My teacher, Nishijima, considers the Lotus Position a pure action, one pure thing. He recommends everyone to sit in the Lotus Position if at all possible. I do too (too many westerners get lazy or scared and don't really try, or give it sufficient time). But these days, in Zazen, Westerners have begun sitting other ways such as in seiza or on chairs (I only recommend this if there is a physical limitation whereby one cannot sit in the Lotus Posture). I believe that body-mind can be dropped away in those positions too if done with balance and stability.

    An overly fetishized focus on the miracles of the Lotus Position itself is misplaced and misunderstands Dogen's intent.

    Anyway, that is my position (pun intended). I won't budge.

    Gassho, Jundo

  23. #23

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Quote Originally Posted by Jools

    I understand (I think ), that moments of the feelings/state of zazen can follow me into the day, but I didn't think these were zazen perse, just echos.

    Happy to be corrected

    Kind regards

    Jools
    If you write your book report from the Encyclopedia, the teacher will flunk you! :wink:

    No, everything and all times are Zazen. That does not me we do not have to cross the legs and face the wall. Kind of a Koan.

    Gassho, Jundo

  24. #24

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Thank you Jundo for your comprehensive response to Harry & I am duly admonished for looking up the dictionary definition of zazen. :?

    Regards

    Jools

  25. #25

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Bendowa
    Dogen Sangha Modern interpretations


    When the buddhas – those who live fully in the present – each of
    whom has learned the Buddha’s truth from a real person, realise what
    the truth is, they achieve it by the best method there is. This method,
    in which there is no intention of reaching an aim, is subtle, and is only
    taught by one buddha to another buddha. It never deviates from this.
    It is a practice that balances the active and the passive, and it sets the
    body-and-mind right. The authentic form of this practice, which is
    known as Zazen, is sitting in an upright posture.
    Jundo

    My teacher, Nishijima, considers the Lotus Position a pure action, one pure thing. He recommends everyone to sit in the Lotus Position if at all possible. I do too (too many westerners get lazy or scared and don't really try, or give it sufficient time). But these days, in Zazen, Westerners have begun sitting other ways such as in seiza or on chairs (I only recommend this if there is a physical limitation whereby one cannot sit in the Lotus Posture). I believe that body-mind can be dropped away in those positions too if done with balance and stability.
    Another good point which I heard someone once say about the benefit of not using a bench and such, is that we should be able to sit anywhere.

    "Oh no. I don't have my bench. Sh*t." :shock:

    This Zazen stuff, doesn't get glued to the cushion though. What would be the point of sitting if we couldn't take it into every moment of our existence?

    Anyway, it's funny how when we think about itch, we itch. My sister used to go crazy when the word flea was mentioned (our house had fleas a couple of times when I was a kid). Also when we itch one place and we scratch it, another itch starts. It's mostly reaction and focusing on the itch.

    Sit with it? Not sit with it? Well, that's really up to you. Just don't spend 30 minutes scratching.

    G,W

  26. #26

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Zen isn't related to standing and sitting, while standing and sitting is Zen.
    Saying that sitting in full lotus is "very special posture", well, it's help for the beginner, just to make a "trust".

    But, more further, if we become clinging to the posture, is just like you're clinging to the finger which is pointing the moon, then you won't see the moon clearly.

    Remember... to study the self is to forget the self....
    if the self is forgotten, .... who will cling to such a posture....?

    The posture is like a good tool. Just a tool...

    Gassho, Shui Di

  27. #27

    Re: Scratching an itch

    The posture is like a good tool. Just a tool...
    Spoken like a true Zen ma ma ma masterrrr. 8)


    G,W

  28. #28

    Re: Scratching an itch

    I'm not the Zen master.... just like the others, I'm just a beginner...

    Gassho, Shui Di.

  29. #29

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Thanks for this Will.

    With all due respect to the free and beautiful expression of my Dharma Brother, Michael Leutchford, his "Modern Interpretation" of Bendowa differs in important ways from most standard translations, for example ...

    Bendowa
    Dogen Sangha Modern interpretations


    When the buddhas – those who live fully in the present – each of
    whom has learned the Buddha’s truth from a real person, realise what
    the truth is, they achieve it by the best method there is. This method,
    in which there is no intention of reaching an aim, is subtle, and is only
    taught by one buddha to another buddha. It never deviates from this.
    It is a practice that balances the active and the passive, and it sets the
    body-and-mind right. The authentic form of this practice, which is
    known as Zazen, is sitting in an upright posture.
    ... versus this respected version by Aitken Roshi and Kaz Tanahashi ...

    The various Buddhas and Tathagatas have a most enlightened way of realizing superior wisdom and transmitting the supreme law. When transmitted from Buddha to Buddha, its mark is self-joyous meditation. To enter this meditation naturally, right sitting is the true gate. Though each man has Buddha-nature in abundance, he cannot make it appear without practice or live it without enlightenment. If you let it go, it fills your hand; it transcends the one and many. If you talk about it, it fills your mouth; it is beyond measurement by height and width. All Buddhas eternally have their abode here without becoming attached to one-sided recognition. All beings are working here without attachment to sides in each recognition. The devices and training that I teach now manifest all things in original enlightenment and express unity in action. And when you thoroughly understand, why cling to such trifles as these?
    It is interesting to compare the two. As you can see, there is no mention here particularly of "upright posture", and instead there is something much more encompassing and subtle. I think.

    Here is the recent, and rather less pithy, Shasta Abbey version ...

    All Buddhas, without exception, confirm Their having realized the state of
    enlightenment by demonstrating Their ability to directly Transmit the wondrous
    Dharma. As embodiments of the Truth, They have employed an unsurpassed,
    inconceivably marvelous method which functions effortlessly. It is simply this
    method that Buddhas impart to Buddhas, without deviation or distortion, and Their
    meditative state of delight in the Truth is its standard and measure. As They take
    pleasure wherever They go to spiritually aid others while in such a state, They treat
    this method of Theirs—namely, the practice of seated meditation—as the proper
    and most straightforward Gate for entering the Way.

    People are already abundantly endowed with the Dharma in every part of
    their being, but until they do the training, It will not emerge. And unless they
    personally confirm It for themselves, there is no way for them to realize what It is.
    But when they give It out to others, It keeps filling their hands to overflowing for,
    indeed, It makes no distinction between ‘for the one’ and ‘for the many’. When
    they give voice to It, It flows forth from their mouths like a tide, limitless in Its
    breadth and depth. All Buddhas continually dwell within this state, with None
    holding onto any of Their thoughts or perceptions, regardless of whatever may
    arise, whereas the great mass of sentient beings perpetually make use of what is
    within this state, but without their being fully awake to any situation.
    [/quote]

    Gassho, Jundo

  30. #30

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Hi guys,

    Thanks for this discussion. It seems to me that questions like 'Is scratching Zazen or not?' is something that everyone must answer for themselves. We must pose the question over and over, and answer the question over and over. Each time we think differently about the question, and each time the answer may be different. No lasting right or wrong for a particular individual, and certainly what is 'right' in the eyes of one individual must not necessarily be 'right' in the eyes of another. In this moment, scratching may be perfectly Zazen, no Zazen apart from scratching, and no scratching which is not Zazen. In the next moment, it may be just mundane scratching.

    This discussion reminded me of something Thomas Wright wrote in his introduction to 'How to Cook Your Life' by Uchiyama Roshi. I certainly don't necessarily agree with everything said in the following quote, but I think it's worth citing here:

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Wright
    It goes without saying that the central practice of a person practicing Buddhism is zazen. However, the reader should not get the idea that here I am comparing zazen with the rest of our day-to-day activities. To do so would be to fall into the trap that many practitioners fall into of clinging to the idea that practicing zazen is most important; therefore, one should practice it twenty-four hours a day. The error here is in taking literally the idea of zazen being the most important activity in our life as opposed to all our other activities.

    On the other hand, there is another trap that people can and often do fall into, and that is the one of thinking that we must practice zazen in all of our day-to-day activities. The obvious next step in this way of thinking is to equate all of one's activities with zazen. That is, everything one does is zazen - eating, sleeping, drinking, being. The practical problem in this way of thinking is that all too often people simply wind up doing less and less zazen, deluding themselves into believing that since all their activities are zazen there is no need to sit and face the wall and do zazen.

    To restate the problem, taking the idea of zazen as the central practice in a relative or comparative sense leads to an egoistical extreme eventually inviting suicide. On the other hand, taking the idea of zazen in a 'broader' context leads to a kind of simplistic eclecticism having nothing to do with zazen. In other words, to state that zazen has a definite and particular form, and to cling to that position leads to one kind of trouble, while stating that zazen has no particular form sends one off in another confused direction. There is no logical resolution to this problem. And it is this illogical paradox with which a true practitioner of Zen must 'sit', both literally and spiritually.
    The bold emphasis in the last paragraph is mine. I think he sums things up very nicely there.

    Gassho
    Ken

  31. #31

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Jundo
    It is interesting to compare the two. As you can see, there is no mention here particularly of "upright posture", and instead there is something much more encompassing and subtle. I think.
    Yes. I see that.

    The bold emphasis in the last paragraph is mine. I think he sums things up very nicely there.
    Yep. Very nice.

    G,W

  32. #32

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Well, thanks Jundo.....

    But, I have some questions....

    Now, we can see a lot of translation of the Shobogenzo. Which one is the correct translation?

    You know, although the meaning is the same, but there are a lot of differences translation for example between Shasta abbey and Aitken Roshi's translation.

    I just feel that they translate it with their own interpretation and understanding , so that we can't get the original version of Shobogenzo in English. And I'm afraid that it can make misunderstanding to the Shobogenzo.

    is it so difficult to translate from Japanese to English?

    or may be if I want to get the original one, I should learn the Japanese language :P

    Gassho, Shui Di

  33. #33
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Scratching an itch

    Quote Originally Posted by Shui_Di

    is it so difficult to translate from Japanese to English?

    or may be if I want to get the original one, I should learn the Japanese language :P
    It's not so much that it's difficult to translate from Japanese, but that Dogen's writings are in an archaic style of Japanese that are very, very far from the current language.

    Kirk

  34. #34

    Re: Scratching an itch

    I think different translations have their merit. I'm digging the Shasta Abbey's rich interpretation at the moment (the little I've read).

    G,W

  35. #35

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Shui Di wrote:
    Zen isn't related to standing and sitting, while standing and sitting is Zen.
    Saying that sitting in full lotus is "very special posture", well, it's help for the beginner, just to make a "trust".

    But, more further, if we become clinging to the posture, is just like you're clinging to the finger which is pointing the moon, then you won't see the moon clearly.
    Very nicely said . . . and as we know this we sit (as best we can) in the postures (note the plural) that are recommended by Zen teachers.


    Shui Di wrote:
    I just feel that they translate it with their own interpretation and understanding , so that we can't get the original version of Shobogenzo in English. And I'm afraid that it can make misunderstanding to the Shobogenzo.
    This is the entire problem with language. Reading is always an act of interpretation even for native speakers. Nearly every word in any language has more than one meaning. Check out how many fairly succinct and direct statements are the source of confusion on this forum alone. In a work the size of Shobogenzo, the issue is compounded by each sentence having multiple words, and each paragraph having multiple sentences, and each chapter having multiple paragraphs . . . you see the problem. We, as readers, always have to 'triangulate' the intent of the author from the specifics. A sentence like "I have a dream today" could be interpreted as anything from "I have a wish today" to "I am hallucinating this day!" Or better: "I love you." Figure that one out. Every element of a written document is context-dependent on all of the other elements (a bit like Indra's Net). So each character has to be interpreted by its context with other characters, each of which has multiple meanings. Further, the amount of time that passes between the writing and the reading, the greater the confusion. So, you may get closer to the original intent by learning the archaic Japanese, but the primary issue is still the same. Language is inherently slippery. When we understand that, I think it helps because then all words becomes a bit of a koan--breaking down the belief that logic and intellect can ever lead to a complete understanding of anything. That's one of the reasons why we say Zen is a transmission outside of the scriptures.

    Gassho,
    Bill

  36. #36

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB

    ps. Jundo, I'm not sure if you are addressing the 'posture perfectionist' statements to me, or if you're just saying it generally.
    No, not directed at you Harry. I had in mind more some subset of Japanese teachers I have encountered, plus perhaps people like our mutual friend over at Errata.

    I can't sit lotus posture, and I'm good with this. I see no 'mysitical' signifigance to the posture at all.
    Yes, "mystical" significance was a really really poor choice of words by me. Your "realizes the whole universe" is much better.

    Sorry about the confusion. Gassho, Jundo

  37. #37

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Quote Originally Posted by Shui_Di

    Now, we can see a lot of translation of the Shobogenzo. Which one is the correct translation?

    You know, although the meaning is the same, but there are a lot of differences translation for example between Shasta abbey and Aitken Roshi's translation.

    I just feel that they translate it with their own interpretation and understanding , so that we can't get the original version of Shobogenzo in English. And I'm afraid that it can make misunderstanding to the Shobogenzo.

    is it so difficult to translate from Japanese to English?

    or may be if I want to get the original one, I should learn the Japanese language :P

    Gassho, Shui Di
    Hi Shui Di,

    Even most modern Japanese cannot read it. It takes both deep familiarity with 13th Century Japanese, the many ancient stories and poems that Dogen mentions in passing in the text, plus Dogen's unique philosophy. Sometimes the meaning is confusing even then, even to the best experts!

    My teacher's translation (Nishijima-Cross), I have been told, is very very accurate (although not the easiest to read). Some that are easier to read are not so precise. Thus, what I usually do to increase understanding when we discuss "Shobogenzo" on "sit-a-long with Jundo" is to put two translations side by side. By reading both, we maybe can "extrapolate" the original meaning behind the words. Even then, it is very difficult.

    I take it you read Chinese characters? You may be able to read a bit now. It is available in Japanese on the Internet, and I can find it for you if you want.

    Gassho, Jundo

  38. #38

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    .

    2. Materialism: The whole universe is not Zazen or anything like Zazen.
    I think a materialist would say.

    2. Zazen is only about posture used by certain Buddhists. Read a book. You'll get the idea. :mrgreen:

  39. #39

    Re: Scratching an itch

    Well what a lot of posts

    Things that have been said that resonate with me:

    In other words, to state that zazen has a definite and particular form, and to cling to that position leads to one kind of trouble, while stating that zazen has no particular form sends one off in another confused direction. There is no logical resolution to this problem. And it is this illogical paradox with which a true practitioner of Zen must 'sit', both literally and spiritually.
    if we become clinging to the posture, is just like you're clinging to the finger which is pointing the moon, then you won't see the moon clearly
    3. Action: The action of Zazen realizes the whole universe.
    Language is inherently slippery. When we understand that, I think it helps because then all words becomes a bit of a koan--breaking down the belief that logic and intellect can ever lead to a complete understanding of anything.
    In my working world, words are use with a precice meaning like:

    endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography
    Stereotactic neurosurgery
    right hemicolectomy.

    They allow me to orientate myself exactly in anatomy, procedure, experience, cost etc etc. But in this relatively new world I find myself in, I can see that things are not so sure-cut. I think I will just go sit .

    Thank you all for taking the time to explain your views of all this.

    Kind regards

    Jools

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