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Thread: mindfulness

  1. #1

    mindfulness

    Hi

    Just thought I put it as a topic as referrences to Nishijima's, Harry's and B Warner's recent post on it seem spattered about the place.

    Is Nishijima just trying to say that to 'revere mindfulness' is non-Buddhist because it introduces a duality and by inference denies the Buddha-nature in those who are or have non-mindful moments or lives?

    Assuming that that is all of us, as I find it hard to believe that anyone can be 100% 24/7 mindful in thought speech and action, it is idealistic to be always mindful as this is not reality?


    Also is it because it is introducing mindfulness as a goal to attain as opposed to just being mindful and always going on...

    To say that mindfulness in itself is non-Buddhist seems very odd given the nature of most zen practises.

    In gassho, Kev

  2. #2

    Re: mindfulness

    Maybe I should read their blogs first.

    I thought mindfullness was just a practice, like just paying attention. I've heard some teachers say that mindfulness is the practice and awareness is what develops.

    I guess it is all a matter of being balanced. Not to narrow one's view or to imagine that mindfulness is something you get and the "bing" everything will be ok.

    I've never heard of a buddhist teacher revere mindfulness just like I have never heard a sewer worker praise their spade. It cleans out the sh!t and as long as its usefull that is all that matters? Even some of the thai monks who teach that jhana is useful don't praise it as something to get hold of and be in all the time. just a tool.

    i don't get warner's consistent ranting that he seems to intermittently put out from time to time. he's first book was really good but it gets tired after that. I mean arsenal play really good football but no one believes it when Arsene Wenger talks up how everybody hates arsenal and is out to get them, coz that is his first response a lot of the time.

    Mettha.

    Aswini.

  3. #3
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: mindfulness

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    PeopleNishijima Roshi clearly says that he is referring to 'mindfulness' as an idealistic philosophy.
    What the heck does he mean by that? Idealistic philosophy? I've never heard of anyone turning mindfulness into a philosophy...

    Kirk

  4. #4
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: mindfulness

    Well, if that's Nishijima's meaning, then he's splitting hairs. There are other traditions with different "techniques". Thich Nhat Hanh is big on mindfulness, as are the Theravada. If he says he doesn't agree with them, then that's fine, but I don't think any of them see mindfulness as more than a technique.

    Kirk

  5. #5
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: mindfulness

    Mindfulness is an idealized concept as it is taught by some. There's a common belief in Buddhist circles of the virtue of doing simple tasks with total concentration on the task at hand and no discursive thinking to interrupt it. I doubt that anyone experiences this any more than occasionally, and even so, I question how desirable this would be.

    I think the point is that it's good to be aware of what's going on in our minds as what's going on in our minds. If you're thinking about whales and ice cream while you're sweeping, I say the better approach wouldn't be to try to stop thinking about whales and ice cream, but to be aware that this is what your mind is doing as it's doing it. That is what has the potential to truly change how you engage in the world.

    To be in a stage of perfect concentration on some mundane detail is simply a mental circus trick. What keeps you from acting out in harmful and stupid ways isn't so much the ability to concentrate as it is to see how your mind is setting up a future stupid action with how it's creating a situation with thought. If you cultivate the ability to see how your mind is creating your experiences, you not only cultivate a sense for emptiness, but also greater freedom in not identifying with or acting from this mental activity. Trying to cultivate a difficult result of being able to drop all thinking and be in perfect concentration is a waste of time in my opinion when you could simply learn how to turn your awareness inward.

  6. #6

    Re: mindfulness

    Hi Guys,

    Before commenting on this more, I am going to wait for a clarification for Nishijima Roshi (I have written him ... I may go to see him if I can before heading to Vietnam). All I will say is that dealing with his Nishijima-style English sometimes is like figuring out the words of the Oracle of Delphi ... and I see a lot of "reading into" what Nishijima "meant" going on here (by me too, that is why I want to make sure).

    One thing is certain: If you have ever met the man, he is a naturally "mindful" individual, in the usual sense of the word. I have seen him a bit distracted once in a long while, but it is amazingly rare. When you sit in a room with him and chat, you have his undivided attention. When he translates a text or paints calligraphy, it has his undivided attention in that moment. So, it is hard for me to imagine that he was rejecting "mindfulness", and I think he was rejecting turning it into some false ideal or goal to achieve, or a 24/7 way of life.

    Anyway, I do not want to put words in his mouth. So let me go visit the Oracle, and I will report back. Or I will post here any further update he makes to his blog.

    Gassho, Jundo

  7. #7

    Re: mindfulness

    Is Nishijima Roshi your teacher? In common Zen centers you would have a meeting with a teacher once a week, or maybe more or less. However, most of our practice is done without guidance. I think it is important to be clear, that mindfulness (or practice) is not a goal, or an ideal.

    Nishijima Roshi has no clue about everyone's practice. Some might think mindfulness is something to be achieved and some might not. Those who have good a teacher, have the opportunity to personalize their practice, and in such a setting there's not a question of idealistic view because the teacher will work with that. However, to speak to a broader audience, which possibly has no Sangha or teacher, is a different story.

    Some might be clear on the point and some might not. We should use that understanding as a guide to what he is saying and probably not judge too strongly or look into it too much.

    G,W

  8. #8

    Re: mindfulness

    Harry

    Will,

    If you're addressing me
    I wasn't

    G,W

  9. #9

    Re: mindfulness

    :lol:

    G,W

  10. #10

    Re: mindfulness

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    I think the point is that it's good to be aware of what's going on in our minds as what's going on in our minds. If you're thinking about whales and ice cream while you're sweeping, I say the better approach wouldn't be to try to stop thinking about whales and ice cream, but to be aware that this is what your mind is doing as it's doing it. That is what has the potential to truly change how you engage in the world.
    Which is exactly like zazen.

    I honestly gotta say, I'm skeptical that any serious zen teacher teaches what I think Nishijima is referring to as "idealized mindfulness". As I mentioned earlier and what Kirk mentions here, TNH uses the term "mindfulness" throughout his teachings but I don't see an "idealized mindfulness". Here's a quote from his book "Miracle of Mindfulness"

    While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes, one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a little silly: why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that's precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a wondrous reality. I'm being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There's no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.
    In his books, he obviously doesn't advocate being mindful in this way 24/7.

    I'm still new to this but I never got the impression that we were supposed to concentrate completely on every simple task all the time. That would drive you insane! :shock: Although, I've noticed that some foods taste awful when I pay more attention to what I'm eating. I definitely need to practice "idealized mindfulness" to lose weight.

  11. #11

    Re: mindfulness

    Quote Originally Posted by Longdog
    Hi

    Just thought I put it as a topic as referrences to Nishijima's, Harry's and B Warner's recent post on it seem spattered about the place.

    [....]

    Assuming that that is all of us, as I find it hard to believe that anyone can be 100% 24/7 mindful in thought speech and action, it is idealistic to be always mindful as this is not reality?
    At least you gotta hand it to Brad....he does have good one-liners. :wink:

    My friend Tonen told me a story that when she was in Japan a Zen teacher she met there said that Americans who visited his temple were always gushing to him about how mindful they were being. "Put away your video cameras," he told them, "You're just video taping yourselves being mindful!"

  12. #12

    Re: mindfulness

    but at the same time I'm vaguely worried...
    Nothing to worry about . Just keep doing your Zazen practice.

    Zazen is dropping bodymind. Dropping thoughts. Dropping feelings and just enjoying the moment for what it is. Nothing to add and nothing to take away. Dropping pain. Dropping concept. Clear, relaxed, calm, but not asleep

    We talk about action, action, action, but when do we ever have time to just enjoy a cup of tea? Be gentle with yourself.

    G,W

  13. #13

    Re: mindfulness

    Hi Folks,

    I just got off the phone from a long chat with Nishijima Roshi. I wanted to visit him in person before leaving for Vietnam tomorrow, but I could not at the last minute.

    Anyway, we spoke about the "mindfulness" post on the blog, and one thing that is now very clear to me is that Roshi's meaning of "mindfulness", and what most of us are probably thinking as the ordinary meaning of "mindfulness", are rather different. This is not the first time this has happened (actually, it happens quite often), for Nishijima Roshi has his own quaint, and very personal way of speaking English. When I worked with him in translating one of his books, I got rather good at figuring out when language was getting in the way ... However, Roshi's meaning of "mindfulness" is still pretty slippery.

    As I gather from speaking with him, he is pretty much taking the meaning of "mindfulness" as being "to be full of the mind". As he put it in his blog post, if you read closely, "I think that the word "mindfulness" means the state of our mind, which is very careful to mental function." He does not mean "to be in the present moment" or "to be careful" or "to do one act at one time". He thinks it is "to be focused only on how the mind is" or "only on regulating the mind". When I asked him if writing calligraphy or eating Oryoki is "mindful" action, he said "no" because "you must also use your hand and brush or wooden bowl, so it is not just to think about the mind".

    But if you ask him, Roshi pretty much agreed with what has been written here that most of us consider "mindfulness". Namely, when he is writing calligraphy (as in this film), he is being mindful I think:

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid ... 4&q=&hl=en

    He just does not call it that (he says "it is just action"). He also says that sometimes "we do one activity purely, sometimes we do not" (in other words, sometimes we are mindful, sometimes we are not, and it is a misunderstanding of many Zen teachings that Zen is about "being mindful all the time" Nishijima Roshi does not disagree with that).

    Sometimes, talking with my teacher requires 3 languages: English, Japanese and Nishijima. :roll: So, I suggest we just don't get too tangled in what we think he meant.

    Gassho, Jundo

  14. #14
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: mindfulness

    So maybe angry Brad will change his tune on mindfulness now... His post was fraught with confusion and misunderstanding too. You might want to forward your post to him.

    I have to say, from what Nishijima had said, it didn't make sense that he was using that word the same way you do. Thanks for clearing it up.

    Kirk

  15. #15

    Re: mindfulness

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Yes, that's good to hear.

    ...

    Regards,

    Harry.
    Oh, and who put the very first comment on Nishiijima Roshi's blog in answer to his post, I wonder??

    Blogger HezB said...

    Dear Roshi,

    Thank-you for your clear answer.

    Regards,

    Hanrei.
    Apple polisher! :wink: :wink:

    Gassho, Jundo

  16. #16
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: mindfulness

    Well, I kinda wondered why Harry seemed to think this was clear early on - no one else did.

    And, Harry, I don't agree with your saying that mindfulness is held in any way - it is a technique, and one that, outside of Buddhism, is used in slightly different ways. It is mentioned and discussed in many sutras, which, on its own, merits (IMHO) attention.

    I hope you'll avoid using too much Bradese here - I think we're all better off without his kind of outbursts.

    Kirk

  17. #17

    Re: mindfulness

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB

    ... Think Your Penis Bigger" ...
    I am gonna go out right now, trademark this and make a fortune. If Genpo Roshi can rake in the cash with those 'BIG MIND' seminars for US$1500 ... Imagine what I can do with ...

    -- BIG PENIS --

    Look for it in your email spam folder soon! :twisted:

    Gassho, Jundo

  18. #18

    Re: mindfulness

    Hey, I have a great blog for everybody to read!

    We Angry Buddhists

    http://bodhiarmour.blogspot.com/

    Hissy Fits, and outright fits of anger/rage, seem to start much in the same way I think. There’s a physical feeling in the stomach and/or possibly the head, a feeling that we may generally interpret as ‘not nice’, like a pressure or a throb. We identify this as not nice, and further identify it with ‘me’ not feeling nice. So now ‘me’ doesn’t feel nice. Well, that probably wouldn’t generally be a big deal except for the fact that with this often comes the need to find a source of this feeling of ‘not niceness’, and where do we generally look? Yes, outside; for someone or something to blame. We go off on the mistaken notion that ‘something outside of myself is making me feel bad and I must exert my control to stop it quickly’.

  19. #19

    Re: mindfulness

    Did I miss something?

    BS

  20. #20

    Re: mindfulness

    Harry,

    Just meant to be pulling your leg, sir.

    Sorry if I said something I should not have. Gassho, Jundo

  21. #21
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: mindfulness

    Aw, now why did you two have to make nice and work it out when we could have had an awesomely entertaining e-fight? Oh well :wink:

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    My concern is/was that essentially this 'mindfulness' thing seems often to be held in much the same way as how people adopt such crud as "The Secret", "The Magic of Thinking Big", "Think Yourself Thin", "Think Your Penis Bigger", "Think Yourself Enlightened" (... I made up the last two).
    I agree completely. It's become a rather stupid word that gets parroted blindly by every Buddhist noob who doesn't know what he or she is talking about. Which is fine, to some extent, as that's what noobs tend to do :lol: , but it becomes a problem when it obscures the actual value and purpose of practice. I got hung up on it a long time, feeling some sort of weird Buddhist guilt that I wasn't able to perfectly concentrate on every task I was doing with no activity of the thinking mind. I wasted a lot of time trying to become able to achieve this lovely state of "mindfulness." I can imagine a person wasting their whole life chasing after this (or any other) ideal. I do know from experience there is value in cultivating the capacity to concentrate, but I don't think this capacity is central to awakening to the nature of reality. Why? It's like Dogen says, if you can get your donkey to look at the well, you don't need to make the well disappear... or something like that :lol:

    (Yes, I know that's not quite what Dogen said, I was just making a funny, so please don't whip out your Shobogenzos and beat me with them, thanks :wink

  22. #22
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: mindfulness

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie

    I agree completely. It's become a rather stupid word that gets parroted blindly by every Buddhist noob who doesn't know what he or she is talking about. Which is fine, to some extent, as that's what noobs tend to do :lol: , but it becomes a problem when it obscures the actual value and purpose of practice. I got hung up on it a long time, feeling some sort of weird Buddhist guilt that I wasn't able to perfectly concentrate on every task I was doing with no activity of the thinking mind. I wasted a lot of time trying to become able to achieve this lovely state of "mindfulness." I can imagine a person wasting their whole life chasing after this (or any other) ideal.
    I don't get it. No one that I've ever heard or read suggests that mindfulness should be a 24-hour thing. You try and do it from time to time, doing certain actions, the way you don't sit zazen all day long. Why the absolutes in this discussion? It's another tool, and a very powerful one, in my experience.

    Kirk

  23. #23
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: mindfulness

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    I don't get it. No one that I've ever heard or read suggests that mindfulness should be a 24-hour thing. You try and do it from time to time, doing certain actions, the way you don't sit zazen all day long. Why the absolutes in this discussion? It's another tool, and a very powerful one, in my experience.
    Many Buddhist teachers do teach that mindfulness should ideally be experienced 24/7.

    There's nothing that terribly bad about this, as it's better than encouraging people to rape, kill, and pillage 24/7...

    But if you actually want to wake up to the nature of reality, mindfulness practice can be a major waste of time. Learning how to sweep with nothing in mind but sweeping doesn't teach you how to skillfully work with afflictive emotions or distracted mind, nor does it bestow qualities needed to liberate others from suffering.

    It's good to learn how to do tasks with less distraction, just like it's also good to learn how to please your partner in bed (the two of which are not mutually exclusive skills), but all of this is only incidental to the central task of a Buddhist life, which is to live in awareness of how the mind constructs reality, and live from the passionate drive to liberate all suffering beings from the ignorance that gives rise to realities shot through with suffering.

    Again, concentration and mental discipline are effective tools for accomplishing such goals, but they are incidental, not central. My practice deepened immensely when I threw my concerns about developing concentration past a certain point out the window. I don't care so much any more if I think of other stuff while I'm washing dishes. What I do care about is maintaining awareness of what I'm doing with my mind.

    You don't have to stop the content of your mind to be aware of the content of your mind as the content of your mind.

  24. #24

    Re: mindfulness

    Boy, there's something about having Western roots that can make us so cerebral. Dichotomizing. Polarizing. Fundamentalizing (literal interpretations).Too caught up in our "isms", and trying to convince ourselves and others that our "isms" are the truth. The notion that what's on our screen (screen of perception) should be on theirs.

    I practice insight meditation which is often referred to as mindfulness meditation. Also, I have a deep appreciation of Zen philosophy. Am I mindful every moment of every day? No. Perhaps in some people's minds, mindfulness is seen as "trendy", so to speak, transported from the East to the West and utilized in stress reduction, etc. Yet, instructions for mindfulness practice come from the original Pali texts, namely the Satipatthana Sutta. I like to read and learn from both early and later texts. I equate it to living in a house. I can choose to live in one room and just know about that one room, or I can open the door and explore and learn what's in the other rooms, as well.

    Whether you want to call it zazen or insight meditation, in the end it's about bringing awareness to the present moment, whatever is there. Plain and simple. This is mindfulness. What could be more Buddhist than that? If people want to take something as simple as mindfulness and attach their own views to it, then that's just it: their own views.

    Gassho and Metta,
    Marina

  25. #25
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: mindfulness

    Thanks, zoukithustra.

    Being a noob ain't so bad, as long as you see being a noob as being a noob... :wink:

  26. #26

    Re: mindfulness

    Allow me to briefly revive this sleeping topic ...

    I just want to summarize my view on this, and pull together some of the comments here.

    I do believe that "mindfulness" is an important aspect of Zen Practice, although it is misguided and misleading to say that we can or should be mindful of our every action "24/7". There is a time to be mindful, and a time to daydream or be distracted too. All are part of life. I think it is a powerful tool, one of many in our practice ... but all tools have their skillful time and place.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    ... But if you actually want to wake up to the nature of reality, mindfulness practice can be a major waste of time. Learning how to sweep with nothing in mind but sweeping doesn't teach you how to skillfully work with afflictive emotions or distracted mind, nor does it bestow qualities needed to liberate others from suffering.

    ... all of this is only incidental to the central task of a Buddhist life, which is to live in awareness of how the mind constructs reality, and live from the passionate drive to liberate all suffering beings from the ignorance that gives rise to realities shot through with suffering.
    I don't see it quite this way. To learn to 'be' a single pure action free of cluttering thoughts, one pure action at a time, movement within stillness ... well, I think it DOES teach us how to skillfully work with the afflictive emotions and runaway mind. It is Zazen in action. Most of daily life is just the opposite, namely, plowing through a million tasks with a mind going a million miles a minute, filled with judgments. So, it is a useful skill to learn to live with simplicity when and where we can. It does teach us something about how the mind works and gets caught in delusion. It does teach us how to relieve suffering, in both ourselves and others, by teaching us the art of quieting the mind.

    Again, we do not need to (nor can we) live like that all the time, much as we cannot stay in the lotus position "24/7". But it is a useful practice nonetheless.

    I had this follow-up interchange with Nishijima Roshi, and he says this too I think. I believe he does not quite know what "mindfulness" means in English "Zen-glish" (he tends to speak "Gudo-lish"), and he likes to call it "action", but I think we are just getting tangled up in words:

    JUNDO to GUDO

    This subject came up for me again today, because we are beginning to prepare for our "Online Jukai" over at our "Treeleaf" Sangha, and I recalled the Rakusu sewing classes I attended with [you] and Rev. Taijun at the old Dojo ... The emphasis there, much like with your calligraphy, can only be called "mindful" (meaning "careful, paying attention, in the moment") sewing.

    GUDO to JUNDO

    Sewing Rakusu, writing calligraphy, and so forth, are all actions, and so those actions are always done in the balanced state of body and mind. Therefore it is difficult for me to agree with your opinion, which you described in your comments.

    JUNDO to GUDO

    Hi Roshi,

    ...

    Roshi, I still have question about what you wrote: Namely, can calligraphy etc. be done in a way that is not balanced state of body and mind? For example, if someone is doing calligraphy with their hand, but at the same time, their mind is thinking about politics or their job (and not focusing on calligraphy), is that still the balanced state of body and mind? Gassho, Jundo

    GUDO to JUNDO

    Dear Ven. Jundo Cohen,

    Sewing Rakusu, or writing calligraphy, if you do them thinking something, or perceiving something, those jobs can never be done well.

    Many people can write calligraphy thinking something, or perceiving something, and so their works are not always good.

    If someone is doing calligraphy thinking about politics or not focusing on calligraphy, he can never keep himself into the balanced state, and
    so it is impossible for him to accomplish a good calligraphy.

    With best wishes Gudo Wafu Nishijima

    JUNDO to GUDO

    Hi Roshi,

    Roshi, as to your comment above: This is my point exactly.

    In the Zen world, the definition of "mindfulness" is usually to do one action purely (e.g., calligraphy, Rakusu sewing), only that one action in that moment, not thinking about something or perceiving something (not thinking about anything, not even thinking "I am doing calligraphy"). It is a pure doing, pure action, without the mind distracted or thinking this and that, as in Zazen. Perhaps the mind needs to think a little thing (e.g., now I need to put ink on my brush, now I need to write the Kanji for "Wa"), but then the attention returns without thought to the one, pure action.

    That is the usual definition of "Mindfulness" in the Zen world.

    So, I think your definition of "calligraphy is just action" is not different in this case, and I think you may be misunderstanding the meaning of the word "Mindfulness" as it is used in English in the Zen world?

    GUDO to JUNDO

    Dear Ven. Jundo Cohen,

    Thank you very much for your sincere opinion, but I think that "being mindful" can never be Buddhism at all.

    "Mindfulness" can never be an action, but "mindfulness" is just a mental expression of human mind.

    Therefore it is completely impossible for me to think that "mindfulness" suggests a kind of action, and even in
    the 21st century, it is completely impossible for me to change what Gautama said in 4th or 5th century BC.
    So, I really think that when Roshi is a bit caught up in the word "mindfulness" as the "mind" "full" of some thinking, and that it is just really a description of the mental state of what he calls "action". For me, an olympic diver in a dive, a musician focused on his tune, Roshi's writing calligraphy or sewing a Rakusu, or just sitting Zazen single-mindedly ... all are forms of "mindful action".

    Gassho, Jundo

  27. #27

    Re: mindfulness

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    So, I really think that when Roshi is a bit caught up in the word "mindfulness" as the "mind" "full" of some thinking, and that it is just really a description of the mental state of what he calls "action". For me, an olympic diver in a dive, a musician focused on his tune, Roshi's writing calligraphy or sewing a Rakusu, or just sitting Zazen single-mindedly ... all are forms of "mindful action".
    1. Welcome Back, Jundo!

    2. Thanks! I think now I know how Nishima is looking at this issue of "mindfulness." I think he disagree with mindfulness if one sees it as a state of idealized being while doing an action where he sees action in the now as action in the now.

    Mindful walking. Mindful writing. Mindful working. Can be perceived as entering some "mind" state when one is doing. Rather, when one walks, one walks. When one writes, write. Etc.

    Well. I think I understand. :mrgreen:

  28. #28

    Re: mindfulness

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB

    I think Brad's point, regardless of what we think of the language, is very valid given the imbalance that exists in what is widely thought of as 'mindfulness'; that is, that we should perform actions "full of" and controlled by, idealistic values of the mind ('I must do this with perfect mindfulness', 'if I am perfectly mindful this act/I will be perfect' etc.).

    And so I see "Fuck mindfulness" as a quite relevant and vital Zen teaching.

    This, of course, will be no real news to people who practice balanced action.

    Regards,

    Harry.
    This is a good point. Brad Warner hates jargon, and mercilessly ridicules it. Mindfulness isn't smugly observing yourself observing; that extra level of self-consciousness is exactly the opposite of what the word intends. He made a similar point about "skillful" recently: that it's come to mean "anything I like" among Zennies, as the word "fascist" has come to mean "anything I don't like." Jargon is imprecise, and is intended to exclude the uninitiated; real Zen excludes no one.

  29. #29

    Re: mindfulness

    Ya know. I am barely "getting it". When. Something will get me back to square one. Barely finished reading this forum, I look at my desk and find the latest copy of Tricycle magazine. Open at random, there is an article titled "Talk lika a buddha" by Marshall Glickman ("learns how to listen on an Insight Dialogue retreat.") Jump two pages just to see how long the article is and scan an article blurb: "Mindful speech and the ability to really listen are at the heart of all relationships.". Oh. Great. Snap. Back to square one.

    Note to myself...stay away from reading Buddhist magazines. :mrgreen:

  30. #30

    Re: mindfulness

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Jundo,

    I disagree with your opinion that Roshi does not understand the meaning of the term 'mindfulness' in how we use it. Maybe he understands it only too well!

    I believe Roshi is differentiating between the real action of just doing something with the mind-body in balance, and doing something thinking that we are doing it mindfully, properly, cautiously, Buddhistly, ideally or whatever. Its an excellent point.

    I think Roshi does not mean a mental state when he uses the term 'action', quite the opposite in fact: he generally means 'real action' when he uses the term (as in 'Buddhism is a religion of action' as opposed to an 'idealistic religion', a religion not based in real action (Zazen) but in idealism that is)
    Hi Harry,

    In fact, I know that this is exactly what Roshi means, and both you and Roshi are quite right (especially the part above in boldface).

    But do you think that Roshi has no "mental state" when he is doing his calligraphy? Perhaps he is so 'at one with the universe' at that point, and has so fully dropped his sense of 'self' (notice that I did not say his 'ego' :wink: ) that the moon and stars are moving the brush ... yet, still, I will tell you that he knows where he is, what he is doing and what he wishes to do. He has a "mental state", though perhaps a very special kind. The same for the musician taken up in his tune.

    The word "mindful" has become Zen-glish for that very special mental state, which is just the experience of "balance in action". Perhaps, like "ego", it is not the best translation ... but most Zen folks, and most folks in the worlds of traditional calligraphy, martial arts, tea ceremony and such, have been very clear on what it is for a long long time.

    As I said, Nishijima Roshi is very right in explaining Zazen, and calligraphy, as balance of body-mind, and "action" ... and he is right to say that it is not to be focused on doing something "properly, cautiously, Buddhistly, ideally". And he makes some valid point if he criticizes that particular word as a sloppy translation. But to the extent that he just tosses out the phrase "Zen is not being mindful", and does not explain himself, and to the extent that it sounds as if he is rejecting so-called "Zen mind" and such ... then he is not being clear and is being misleading. All those calligraphers, martial artists, tea masters, shakuhachi-ites, and Zennists will think he is rejecting the Ancient Way.

    By saying "Zen is not mindfulness" it sounded unfortunately like he was saying, "just get in the lotus position or pick up an ink brush, and it does not matter what the heck is going on in your head". That is not what he meant.

    Gassho, Jundo

    Ps:

    Jargon is imprecise, and is intended to exclude the uninitiated; real Zen excludes no one.
    Unfortunately, we must use very very imprecise words to convey some things often beyond words. Yet, in our Way beyond "right" and "wrong", there are right and wrong ways to pursue that very Way. Our Zen perspectives exclude nothing in the whole universe, yet exclude a whole lot. If I merely toss out a statement such as "Zen is not mindfulness" or "Zen is the F-word" or "Zen is not Zazen", I had better be clear to folks what I mean. Otherwise, there is no teaching going on.

  31. #31

    Re: mindfulness

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB

    I, for one, have heard a lot of dung about so-called "Zen shin" from martial artists.
    I know exactly what you mean. It is often explained as one's getting in touch with the "Force", much like in Star Wars.

    Let me mention, though, another common meaning of "mindfulness" in Zen-glish that, I believe, is perfectly valid. That is to develop some recognition and awareness of the causes and conditions of our mental states, the arising and passing of the various thoughts and emotions that pop in and out of mind. I think that you are doing that when, for example, on your "anger" blog, you discuss your sensitivity to feelings of anger as they begin to arise within you.

    http://bodhiarmour.blogspot.com/2008/05 ... anger.html

    I think that this is also a fundamental practice of Buddhism, right back to some of the first words out of the Buddha's mouth in Jetta Grove.

    Now, the word "mindful" of these causes and conditions might, again, be a poor translation (is it?). But to the extent Nishijima Roshi just tosses out "Buddhism is not being mindful" without explaining his special meaning in saying so, well, it is going to leave folks thinking that we don't need to have any awareness of our thoughts and emotions in Buddhism, the causes and conditions of their arising and passing away. I know that Nishijima Roshi is focused on Zazen much more than any special study of the psychology of Buddhism, but he does not mean that our thoughts and emotions are to be neglected or ignored. Not at all.

    Roshi's Buddhism is fine, but his English leaves something to be desired.

    Gassho, Jundo

  32. #32

    Re: mindfulness

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB

    I credit my improved recognition, and choice of response, to feelings such as anger as an effect of sitting Zazen more regularly and for longer periods.

    I don't really go around in a state of 'being mindful' of my emotions, but, when I feel myself getting angry I now just find I say to myself "right, you're getting angry" and that recognition gives me more of a choice in how I act; its like I've created a little gap between what I feel and what I do.

    Call this what you will, but it isn't what I would call 'being mindful' because I don't feel I'm really doing anything if you know what I mean (also, its not yet infallible, so watch yer' f***ing mouths! :twisted: )

    Regards,

    H.
    What we call it does not matter. I would say that you are being rather "mindful" of the emotion when you feel it starting to arise and allow a little gap, but that is just a word.

    And, yes, I think just sitting is the most effective of all "techniques" (another word).

    Gassho, Jundo

  33. #33

    Re: mindfulness

    Hi guys,

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Now, the word "mindful" of these causes and conditions might, again, be a poor translation (is it?). But to the extent Nishijima Roshi just tosses out "Buddhism is not being mindful" without explaining his special meaning in saying so, well, it is going to leave folks thinking that we don't need to have any awareness of our thoughts and emotions in Buddhism, the causes and conditions of their arising and passing away. I know that Nishijima Roshi is focused on Zazen much more than any special study of the psychology of Buddhism, but he does not mean that our thoughts and emotions are to be neglected or ignored. Not at all.
    Exactly. I think it's great to have critical discussions like this to explore what is precisely meant by certain terms, but I also see a dangerous tendency to throw the baby out with the bath water. It somehow seems fashionable these days to try to eradicate certain aspects of our practice and celebrate that as akin to discovering that the emperor has no clothes. Well, maybe, but I dare say that what's left can hardly be called Buddhist practice.

    Mindfulness, (Pali 'sati') is the seventh factor of the Noble Eightfold Path, described as follows:

    Right mindfulness

    Right mindfulness (samyak-sm?ti • samm?-sati), also translated as "right memory", "right awareness" or "right attention". In this factor, the practitioner should constantly keep their mind alert to phenomena as they are affecting the body and mind. They should be mindful and deliberate, making sure not to act or speak through the power of inattention or forgetfulness. In the Pali Canon, it is explained as:

    And what, monks, is right mindfulness?
    (i) There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world.
    (ii) He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world.
    (iii) He remains focused on the mind in & of itself — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world.
    (iv) He remains focused on mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world.
    This, monks, is called right mindfulness.

    Although the above instruction is given to the male monastic order, it is also meant for the female monastic order and can be practiced by lay followers from both genders.

    Bhikkhu Bodhi, a monk of the Theravadin tradition, further explain the concept of mindfulness as follows:

    The mind is deliberately kept at the level of bare attention, a detached observation of what is happening within us and around us in the present moment. In the practice of right mindfulness the mind is trained to remain in the present, open, quiet, and alert, contemplating the present event. All judgments and interpretations have to be suspended, or if they occur, just registered and dropped.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eightfold_ ... indfulness
    Nishijima Roshi clearly considers the Eightfold Path as being part of our Buddhist practice, indeed practicing the 'True Way', as he calls it, is perfectly exemplified by the complete exertion of our body-mind in Zazen. Here is an excerpt from "A Heart-to-Heart Chat on Buddhism with Old Master Gudo":

    Quote Originally Posted by Nishijima Roshi
    'The Eightfold Path' consists of 'True View', 'True Thinking', 'True Speech', 'True Action', 'True Livelihood', 'True Effort', 'True Consciousness' and 'True Balance'. These call for us to engage in and hold proper and balanced viewpoints, proper and balanced ideas, proper and balanced manners of speaking, proper and balanced conduct, proper and balanced ways of living, proper and balanced courses of endeavor, proper and balanced states of mind and proper and balanced states of body... When each of these types of personal actions and behavior are in a state of perfect balance - such is what we call 'The True Way'.
    'True Consciousness' is an unusual translation of samm?-sati, however, by his subsequent reference to 'proper and balanced states of mind', I think it is clear that he's referring to mindfulness, call it what you may. Jundo - you translated this text - would other translations of the original Japanese have been possible here?

    Lastly, what did Dogen Zenji have to say about all this? His vision of the Buddha-Dharma breathed new life into it, while at the same time upholding traditional Buddhist teachings, as can be seen from this exerpt from the Shobogenzo, chapter Sanjushichihon-bodaibumpo:

    Quote Originally Posted by Dogen Zenji
    Mindfulness of the body (kanshin) is the body's mindfulness (shinkan) that is the body's, and not any other's, mindfulness. Mindfulness such as this is truly venerable. When the body's mindfulness is realized, the mind's mindfulness cannot be found - even though you look for it, it does not manifest itself.
    So basically what he's saying here doesn't differ from what we've been saying in this discussion. When we are mindful in our bodily actions - and not caught up in idealistic conceptions of what we are doing in our minds - then we are being mindful in the true sense.

    Gassho
    Ken

  34. #34

    Re: mindfulness

    So basically what he's saying here doesn't differ from what we've been saying in this discussion. When we are mindful in our bodily actions - and not caught up in idealistic conceptions of what we are doing in our minds - then we are being mindful in the true sense.
    I think it's important to point out that when we start sitting Zazen their might be a tendancy for some to have those "idealistic conceptions " that you mentioned. Some may go full force at watching the breath and thoughts a little too much , so that it becomes a focusing instead of an opening (as was my case). I think it's important to point out that it's a gentle process, nothing can really be forced. Like petting a Kitten. (excuse the analogy).

    In addition, there's really not one thing to be mindful of. It's more of just experiencing the body and thoughts simultaneously. One shouldn't have importance over the other. Some hear all this talk about thoughts and feelings, which I think, tends to reinforce them rather than balance them.

    G,W

  35. #35

    Re: mindfulness

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    I think it's important to point out that when we start sitting Zazen their might be a tendancy for some to have those "idealistic conceptions " that you mentioned. Some may go full force at watching the breath and thoughts a little too much , so that it becomes a focusing instead of an opening (as was my case). I think it's important to point out that it's a gentle process, nothing can really be forced. Like petting a Kitten. (excuse the analogy).

    In addition, there's really not one thing to be mindful of. It's more of just experiencing the body and thoughts simultaneously. One shouldn't have importance over the other. Some hear all this talk about thoughts and feelings, which I think, tends to reinforce them rather than balance them.
    Yes.

    Gassho
    Ken

  36. #36

    Re: mindfulness

    Hi Harry,

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    And is this awareness an awareness that strives to be "right", that we must strive to make "right"? Or is it an awareness we simply recognize, and actualize, as naturally "right" in real practice?

    I believe this is what Roshi was pointing to with his statements on "mindfulness"
    Yes, I'd say it's the latter as well, i.e. actualized awareness in our real practice. Nicely put. (BTW, 'samma' is a word which always sounds a bit stiff and artificial when translated.)

    Gassho
    Ken

  37. #37
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: mindfulness

    mindfulness, lol

  38. #38

    Re: mindfulness

    hey people,

    english language is very funny. Mind-Fulnes. hey! what mind is full of? or under-standing... standing under? what that means?
    it's just words after words. knowing is flowing.

    simple Gassho
    for
    a simple man

    jarkko

  39. #39
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: mindfulness

    Quote Originally Posted by Kenneth
    Mindfulness, (Pali 'sati') is the seventh factor of the Noble Eightfold Path, described as follows:

    Right mindfulness

    Right mindfulness (samyak-sm?ti • samm?-sati), also translated as "right memory", "right awareness" or "right attention". In this factor, the practitioner should constantly keep their mind alert to phenomena as they are affecting the body and mind. They should be mindful and deliberate, making sure not to act or speak through the power of inattention or forgetfulness. In the Pali Canon, it is explained as:

    And what, monks, is right mindfulness?
    (1) There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world.
    (2) He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world.
    (3) He remains focused on the mind in & of itself — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world.
    (4) He remains focused on mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, aware, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world.
    This, monks, is called right mindfulness.
    This is helpful, because the distinction I would make is that most "pop mindfulness" focuses on #1, while I think #3 or #4, or even #2, are more likely to lead to insight into the nature of reality. Most "pop mindfulness" I encounter promotes the idea of "doing the dishes and only doing the dishes," with the emphasis being on trying to quiet the discursive mind and bring the attention to the physical sensations of the action one is doing. Which is a good practice for doing things well, but I think almost beside the point when it comes to trying to discern the nature of reality. I think it's quite easy to completely miss the point in this sort of practice, with this notion that you need to turn your mind completely off before you can hope to have true insight into the way things are.

    You don't! All you need to do is #3 - watch the mind do what it does without identifying with it. I think this relates to shikantaza-based practice in that it mirrors what one does on the cushion: observe what arises and passes away without pursuing a special state of mind. Learning how to appropriately direct the attention to the content of mind as it arises is something I've found to be like a "shortcut" that bypasses the need to develop intense concentration before bliss & insight arise.

  40. #40
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
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    Re: mindfulness

    This is an absolutely fascinating thread.

    Actually I have found Nishijima Roshi's English to be absolutely fine. It seems to me discussion thus far has focused upon the meaning of mindfulness, and we have accepted "awareness" as an inoffensive synonym. The relevant statement to this discussion that has caused much indigestion is "mindfulness is an idealistic philosophy." Upon much closer examination of that statement, we can understand Nishijima's statement that Mindfulness [itself] is not Buddhism, or Buddhist practice.

    If one reads "Three Philosophies and One Reality" or "Buddhism and Action," among other works by Nishijima, we are introduced to the Buddhist Theory of Four views: idealism (subjectivity), materialism (objectivity), the synthesis of these perspectives (action, or realism), and the ineffable expression of reality.

    Mindfulness, in Nishijima's view, belongs to the world of idealism - mindfulness of thoughts, actions, etc. that are reflected in our minds. Mindfulness alone belongs in this first view, or dimension. Without accompanying action, or choice, it is not manifested in the reality of our lives - and Buddhism is a philosophy of action, not one of reflection. Mindfulness, or awareness, allows us to observe the scenery of our emotional lives, the reflection of things occurring in our inner landscape - based upon this awareness, we make choices about the action we will take. Without mindfulness/awareness, our actions are driven by delusion, karmic circumstances which we repeat, or assumptions about our world driven by our "small selves" which have no basis in reality. Mindfulness allows us to disconnect our past from present (and future) and discontinue karmic momentum (or habituation), and make a choice without the clutter of fear, delusion, etc. The combination of our subjective and objective views is expressed as action - and that is the full expression of Buddhism. Nishijima's statement that Mindfulness is an idealistic philosophy is nothing but an expression of his philosophy that mindfulness is an idealistic, or subjective view, the first component of his four views, or theory of Buddhism.

    Thich Nhat Hanh's expression of Mindfulness is no different. While he makes much of the practice of mindfulness, it is always attached to a corresponding action - honest and compassionate speech, right livelihood, compassionate action, engaged Buddhism - even mindful walking - which displays kindness to the earth by minimizing our impact. The practice of mindfulness, or awareness alone, is a first step towards understanding and disaggregating our habitual behaviors or actions from our small selves, our delusions, and becoming aware of our larger selves, from which understanding right action naturally follows (much paraphrasing).

    Gassho,
    Alex

  41. #41

    Re: mindfulness

    What about "No Mind"? or Mu-shin for the so inclined?

    Just curious,
    Jordan

  42. #42

    Re: mindfulness

    Not to Jordan's question.

    If one is before thinking, where is the idealism? Is it in the hand? The eye?

    G,W

  43. #43

    Re: mindfulness

    What about "No Mind"? or Mu-shin for the so inclined?
    I would say that it seems to be the same as Zen practice. The only difference I think (besides the actual practice) is that some Zen Buddhist groups don't use any kind of violence.

    Gassho Will

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