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Thread: Tying Up Threads

  1. #1

    Tying Up Threads

    Hi,

    I wanted to get back to a topic I promised to discuss before my travels.

    Here at Treeleaf, a Sangha in the Soto Zen style, we practice just sitting, "Shikantaza". That is what I teach. It is a practice with its own very very special flavor, I believe, among most types of Eastern or Western religion or philosophy, and even among paths of Buddhist meditation: That's because Shikantaza forsakes all goals, all attainments, all search for special states of mind, esoteric or mystical experiences, escape from this mundane world by reaching some other "realm", supernatural powers or other-worldly insights and the like. If folks have dabbled in so-called "Eastern Beliefs" for any length of time, they will discover that most schools (even within Buddhism or some other sects of Zen Buddhism) are aiming for such attainments in one way or another.

    But there is a subtle twist involved, a very definite method to our "goalless" madness:

    Not searching does not mean that nothing is found. Quite the contrary! We might say that what is found is something always here, only encountered when we give up the pursuit. I sometimes compare it to the eye glasses perched right on top of one's head all along, though we have hunted for them high and low.

    Attaining radical non-attainment is a very great attainment! The need for nothing else, to be no where else, is a treasure right in hand, the completion of a long journey.

    Forsaking all need for special states of mind is perhaps --THE-- most special state of mind of all. By dropping (maybe for the first time in our lives) all judgments and demands on life, we truly learn to take life 'just-as-it-is', without resistance. There is no lack, nothing missing from the world ... everything is as it is.

    We learn that, even as me make our choices, hold 'likes' and 'dislikes' as a natural part of being human, that is not the only way to be. Hand in hand with that, we learn that there is nothing to choose. Even as we select our path, we know that we are always just where we are.

    Furthermore, by quieting the mind and stilling so many thoughts and emotions that bubble through our heads, we learn to see through many beliefs and experiences we take for granted, to see them as something of a dream and an illusion (the sense of all things having a separate "self" is but one example, as are so many of our ideas of "birth" "death" and "time", many more). Yet we also learn, in our neck of the Buddhist woods, that we must continue to live in a world of "selfs" "birth" "death" and "time" if we are to be human. It is almost as if we know it is a dream, but willingly dream away ... It is absolutely real, for it is our dream.

    We also experience some very "deep" states. We also experience some very "shallow"states. We experience times of great peace or bliss, we experience times of mental agitation and sadness. There are moments when the barriers between self and not-self drop away, there are moments when we are bored silly. Unlike many schools of meditation, we run toward none ... run from none. In fact, we drop all thought of "deep" "shallow" "peaceful" or "agitated", "happy" "sad", one or many.

    In doing so, we experience a presence beyond measure, a Peace that contains peace or agitation, self and not-self dropped away - yet fully present.

    In following this Way, we find that the most trying or ordinary things in life are more wondrous than any storybook magic and miracles. The most difficult or mundane event of life is life itself! Far from needing to escape from this sometimes beautiful, sometimes horrible world ... we find ourselves right at home, going along for the ride. We look out through our eyes, see right through this ordinary world as if looking through glass ... yet see all that we need to see.

    It is a very subtle practice.

    So, sometimes, when folks introduce books or teachings by other schools of thought that are "goal" oriented, or emphasize some attainment of a mystical state, or "higher" wisdom or power or such ... well, I will always jump in real fast to contrast that with what we practice here. I have to do that. It's my job, and what I collect my paycheck for. :wink:

    You cannot play baseball with a tennis racket, and you cannot practice 'non-seeking' Shikantaza if you are seeking any other thing on top of "Shikantaza. To put it in clear terms, we play baseball here ... and if folks show up to play tennis, I need to tell them to not play on our baseball diamond, and to take their rackets over to the tennis court. (Tennis may even be a better game than baseball, and even more fun or fruitful, but that is not the point. It is just that the two games cannot be played at the same time).

    This came up a day or so before my trip, on the "Yoga and zazen" thread, when some folks thought I meant to squash discussion or silence certain topics. That wasn't my intent. I am a fan of engaging in some yoga, and I see nothing wrong with engaging in a bit of yogic stretching and such. In fact, Zazen is a form of yoga.

    But the subject had come up of certain aspects of yoga emphasizing such attainments as the following ...

    Nirvikalpa samadhi is the highest experience that can result from such action. It is preceded by an intense effort. In the relative level, this effort may well be considered to be the cause and nirvikalpa samadhi its legitimate effect. So nirvikalpa samadhi is limited by causality. The yogin admits that he goes into nirvikalpa samadhi and comes out of it. Therefore it is also limited by time. In order to get into nirvikalpa samadhi, the body is necessary for the yogin to start with. Therefore nirvikalpa samadhi is also limited by space.
    That may be a really wonderful experience for someone pursuing "Nirvikalpa Samadhi", but it is not the way for someone practicing Shikantaza. It is tennis to our baseball. For that reason, I am happy to discuss it, to debate the relative merits and demerits compared to Shikantaza, and even to admit that the other Practice might be better than our practice (of course, I will almost always come down on the side of Shikantaza just as I am doing in this very post right now. Even if maybe tennis --IS-- a better game than baseball, I do not really care because baseball is the game I know and love, and that has changed my life. So they can keep their tennis!). If anyone has any questions about the other practice, I will either try to answer them or, if I can't, point them to some teacher of the other style. In fact, the internet is full of folks discussing about everything under the sun, so no way that I am stopping the free flow of information. I do not mean to silence anyone. But we can't really teach or play that other game here. We can chat about other styles and teachings a bit during the coffee breaks, but then we must get back to batting and pitching practice.

    It is for this same reason that I am also sometimes critical of the book "Three Pillars of Zen", mentioned on another thread this week. Kapleau Roshi, a very great teacher, was also teaching a very unique style of Zen Practice even considered unusual in Japan. I once wrote this:

    The Sanb˘ky˘dan (Three Treasures Association [the Sangha from which Kapleau Roshi and Maezumi Roshi emerged]) is... noteworthy for its single-minded emphasis on the experience of kensh˘, [and] diverges markedly from more traditional models found in S˘t˘, Rinzai, or Oobaku training halls. ...

    The only acceptable "solution" to the mu k˘an in the Sanb˘ky˘dan is a credible report of a kensh˘ experience, and beginning students are subject to intense pressure during sesshin -- including the generous application of the "warning stick" (ky˘saku or keisaku) -- in order to expedite this experience. The unrelenting emphasis on kensh˘ and the vigorous tactics used to bring it about constitute the single most distinctive (and controversial) feature of the Sanb˘ky˘dan method. Eido Shimano, recalling Yasutani's first sesshin in Hawaii in 1962, writes:

    The night before sesshin started, Yasutani Roshi said to the participants, "To experience kensho is crucial, but we are so lazy. Therefore, during sesshin we have to set up a special atmosphere so that all participants can go straight ahead toward the goal. First, absolute silence should be observed. Second, you must not look around. Third, forget about the usual courtesies and etiquette" . . . He also told the participants, and later told me privately as well, of the need for frequent use of the keisaku. That five-day sesshin was as hysterical as it was historical. It ended with what Yasutani Roshi considered five kensh˘ experiences.
    (Nyogen et al. 1976, pp. 184-85)[28]

    ...

    While Yasutani's successors are considerably more reserved in their use of the ky˘saku, the emphasis on kensh˘ has not diminished, prompting one student of Yamada to refer to the San'un Zend˘ as a "kensh˘ machine" (Levine 1992, p. 72).
    ...

    Following the teacher's authentication of kensh˘, Sanb˘ky˘dan students move through a program of 600 to 700 k˘ans following a format set by Harada based in part on traditional Rinzai models. The practitioner first tackles the "miscellaneous k˘ans," which consist of approximately twenty-two k˘ans in fifty-seven parts. He or she then moves through the Mumonkan, Hekiganroku, Sh˘y˘roku, and Denk˘roku [?MĂ] k˘ans, followed by T˘zan's five ranks (T˘zan goi), and three sets of precepts.[30]
    ...

    http://www.terebess.hu/english/sharf.html
    It is just a very different approach from Shikantaza. Furthermore, I believe that the perspective presented in "Three Pillars" and some other early English books on Zen like some by D.T.Suzuki (that once you have a "kensh˘", all is resolved at once and the process is instantaneously "done") is very misleading. So, I think that "Three Pillars" has done more harm than good.

    In any event, it is not our way of non-seeking.

    Gassho, Jundo

  2. #2
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Thank you for this.

    Kirk

  3. #3

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    But there is a subtle twist involved, a very definite method to our "goalless" madness:

    Not searching does not mean that nothing is found. Quite the contrary! We might say that what is found is something always here, only encountered when we give up the pursuit. I sometimes compare it to the eye glasses perched right on top of one's head all along, though we have hunted for them high and low.

    Attaining radical non-attainment is a very great attainment! The need for nothing else, to be no where else, is a treasure right in hand, the completion of a long journey.

    Forsaking all need for special states of mind is perhaps --THE-- most special state of mind of all. By dropping (maybe for the first time in our lives) all judgments and demands on life, we truly learn to take life 'just-as-it-is', without resistance. There is no lack, nothing missing from the world ... everything is as it is.

    We learn that, even as me make our choices, hold 'likes' and 'dislikes' as a natural part of being human, that is not the only way to be. Hand in hand with that, we learn that there is nothing to choose. Even as we select our path, we know that we are always just where we are.

    Furthermore, by quieting the mind and stilling so many thoughts and emotions that bubble through our heads, we learn to see through many beliefs and experiences we take for granted, to see them as something of a dream and an illusion (the sense of all things having a separate "self" is but one example, as are so many of our ideas of "birth" "death" and "time", many more). Yet we also learn, in our neck of the Buddhist woods, that we must continue to live in a world of "selfs" "birth" "death" and "time" if we are to be human. It is almost as if we know it is a dream, but willingly dream away ... It is absolutely real, for it is our dream.

    We also experience some very "deep" states. We also experience some very "shallow"states. We experience times of great peace or bliss, we experience times of mental agitation and sadness. There are moments when the barriers between self and not-self drop away, there are moments when we are bored silly. Unlike many schools of meditation, we run toward none ... run from none. In fact, we drop all thought of "deep" "shallow" "peaceful" or "agitated", "happy" "sad", one or many.

    In doing so, we experience a presence beyond measure, a Peace that contains peace or agitation, self and not-self dropped away - yet fully present.

    In following this Way, we find that the most trying or ordinary things in life are more wondrous than any storybook magic and miracles. The most difficult or mundane event of life is life itself! Far from needing to escape from this sometimes beautiful, sometimes horrible world ... we find ourselves right at home, going along for the ride. We look out through our eyes, see right through this ordinary world as if looking through glass ... yet see all that we need to see.

    I really needed this. So glad you're back, J.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Kent's Avatar
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    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Thank you Jundo for that very clear explanation, very helpful to me. Gassho Kent

  5. #5

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Many thanks. You should take a vacation more often. Your writing seems particularly clear and precise.

    Jundo wrote:
    We also experience some very "deep" states. We also experience some very "shallow"states. We experience times of great peace or bliss, we experience times of mental agitation and sadness. There are moments when the barriers between self and not-self drop away, there are moments when we are bored silly. Unlike many schools of meditation, we run toward none ... run from none.
    Still working on this . . .


    Gassho,
    Bill

  6. #6

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Thanks, Jundo,

    This is very helpful. I have a basic question. Does Soto have "tools" other than "just sitting". For example, in Tibetan practice, mantras are used. Although I was not told why I was chanting a particular mantra, I found it to be a great tool for quieting an uneasy mind, and regaining composure in stressful or combative situations. Now, I pull this out of my utility belt if I feel certain negative emotions arising. Compassion practice is another tool that I see that you are considering adding to Treeleaf training.

    There seems to be a strong tradition of chanting in Zen practice. Is this also a tool?

    Thanks for the clarifications,
    Gassho,
    Linda

  7. #7

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Jundo, what a wonderful way of clarifying the "game". It was very helpful to me differentiating Soto Zen and my own Tibetan tradition. I see value in both but being clear as to what one is doing seems beneficial regardless. Glad you are back.
    David aka PapaDoc

  8. #8

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by lindabeekeeper
    Thanks, Jundo,

    This is very helpful. I have a basic question. Does Soto have "tools" other than "just sitting". For example, in Tibetan practice, mantras are used. Although I was not told why I was chanting a particular mantra, I found it to be a great tool for quieting an uneasy mind, and regaining composure in stressful or combative situations. Now, I pull this out of my utility belt if I feel certain negative emotions arising. Compassion practice is another tool that I see that you are considering adding to Treeleaf training.

    There seems to be a strong tradition of chanting in Zen practice. Is this also a tool?
    Hi Linda,

    In Soto Zen, "Just Sitting" Zazen is our one and only Practice!

    But then again, Dogen turned all of life into Zazen, and Zazen into all of life. In other words, everything is Practice, everything is Zazen, if done with right perspective. Cooking is Practice, washing the floors is Practice, calligraphy is Practice, bowing is Practice, brushing our teeth is Practice, chanting is Practice and being silent is Practice. You name it ... Practice. We can expand that to changing diapers, painting the garage, running for the bus. All Practice. All balance in body-mind. All Zazen.

    In Soto Zen ritual, there are not really any mantras as you describe (there are a few that pop up in ceremonies, although many were added after Dogen's time and are not used in the manner you describe I think). We also don't have mental visualizations, particular forms of breathing, special hand and body postures (other than the Lotus Position), use of mandalas or the like as found in Tibetan Buddhism. They are generally thought not necessary, needless complexity that ultimately obscures the directness and simplicity of what we do.

    There is chanting of the Heart Sutra and such, and various other things. When chanting, it is all Zazen, all Practice.

    Western Zen teachers especially have taken to adding a bit more "Metta" and the like Compassion Practice than may have been found in traditional Japanese, Korean and Chinese forms. I think it is a good addition, and leads to a balance that does not take away at all from our other Practices.

    So, it is all Practice.

    Does that make sense?

    Gassho, Jundo

  9. #9

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Welcome back, Jundo!
    I've been listening to the Audio Dharma podcast, lately and they have been focusing on Metta. Its a very intriguing practice.
    but, still, I prefer to just sit.

    Gassho,
    Xander

  10. #10

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Furthermore, by quieting the mind and stilling so many thoughts and emotions that bubble through our heads, we learn to see through many beliefs and experiences we take for granted, to see them as something of a dream and an illusion (the sense of all things having a separate "self" is but one example, as are so many of our ideas of "birth" "death" and "time", many more). Yet we also learn, in our neck of the Buddhist woods, that we must continue to live in a world of "selfs" "birth" "death" and "time" if we are to be human. It is almost as if we know it is a dream, but willingly dream away ... It is absolutely real, for it is our dream.

    We also experience some very "deep" states. We also experience some very "shallow"states. We experience times of great peace or bliss, we experience times of mental agitation and sadness. There are moments when the barriers between self and not-self drop away, there are moments when we are bored silly. Unlike many schools of meditation, we run toward none ... run from none. In fact, we drop all thought of "deep" "shallow" "peaceful" or "agitated", "happy" "sad", one or many.
    Beautifully clear and resonating.
    Thanks Jundo

  11. #11

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    thank you Jundo for this wonderful post.
    it is really helpful and inspirational to me in a way. since i feel i understand just what you meant.

    Just sitting, Just practicing.
    Just being.

  12. #12
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    So if according to Soto Zen philosophy, everything is already & always perfect as it is, is working for social justice and a better world seen as vanity or delusion? If not, how can you reconcile the philosophy that we need not strive to accomplish anything with believing that there are things in the world that "aren't right" and that we should strive to correct?

  13. #13

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    So if according to Soto Zen philosophy, everything is already & always perfect as it is, is working for social justice and a better world seen as vanity or delusion? If not, how can you reconcile the philosophy that we need not strive to accomplish anything with believing that there are things in the world that "aren't right" and that we should strive to correct?
    Hi Steph,

    I have written about this many times, and I call it "acceptance without acceptance". In our Zen way, we are functioning on several 'frequencies' at once, seemingly contradictory (e.g., having judgments while dropping all judgments, having "likes & dIslikes" while simultaneously dropping all "likes & dislikes", having goals on one "channel" while dropping all goals on the other "channel").

    Non-Zen folks might think you have to be X or Y, but we are XY (or non-XY) at once! No problem!

    Like a harmoniously balanced, multi-level schizoid personality!!

    Here is what I wrote. I gave a little video talk on it too (it was soon after the VIrginia Tech shootings):

    http://treeleafzen.blogspot.com/2007/04 ... tance.html

    Gassho, Jundo

  14. #14

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    Western Zen teachers especially have taken to adding a bit more "Metta" and the like Compassion Practice than may have been found in traditional Japanese, Korean and Chinese forms. I think it is a good addition, and leads to a balance that does not take away at all from our other Practices.

    So, it is all Practice.

    Does that make sense?
    Thanks Jundo - it makes very good sense. At the Belfast Zen Centre and at their sesshin they use the Metta and Kanzeon Sutras a lot. I particularly like the guidance contained in the Metta Sutra:

    Metta Sutta
    translated by San Francisco Zen Centre


    This is what should be accomplished by the one who is wise,
    Who seeks the good and has obtained peace.

    Let one be strenuous, upright and sincere,
    Without pride, easily contented and joyous.
    Let one not be submerged by the things of the world.
    Let one not take upon one's self the burden of riches.
    Let one's senses be controlled.
    Let one be wise, but not puffed up and
    Let one not desire great possessions even for one's family.
    Let one do nothing that is mean or that the wise would reprove.

    May all beings be happy.
    May they be joyous and live in safety.
    All living beings, whether weak or strong,
    In high or middle or low realms of existence,
    Small or great, visible or invisible,
    Near or far, born or to be born,
    May all beings be happy.

    Let no one deceive another, nor despise any being in any state.
    Let none by anger or hatred wish harm to another.
    Even as a mother at the risk of her life
    Watches over and protects her only child,
    So with a boundless mind should one cherish all living things,
    Suffusing love over the entire world,
    Above, below and all around without limit,
    So let one cultivate an infinite good will toward the whole world.

    Standing or walking, sitting or lying down,
    During all one's waking hours
    Let one practice the way with gratitude.

    Not holding to fixed views,
    Endowed with insight,
    Freed from sense appetites,
    One who achieves the way
    Will be freed from the duality of birth and death.

    Gassho,
    John

  15. #15
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    So if according to Soto Zen philosophy, everything is already & always perfect as it is, is working for social justice and a better world seen as vanity or delusion? If not, how can you reconcile the philosophy that we need not strive to accomplish anything with believing that there are things in the world that "aren't right" and that we should strive to correct?
    Hi Steph,

    I have written about this many times, and I call it "acceptance without acceptance". In our Zen way, we are functioning on several 'frequencies' at once, seemingly contradictory (e.g., having judgments while dropping all judgments, having "likes & dIslikes" while simultaneously dropping all "likes & dislikes", having goals on one "channel" while dropping all goals on the other "channel").

    Non-Zen folks might think you have to be X or Y, but we are XY (or non-XY) at once! No problem!

    Like a harmoniously balanced, multi-level schizoid personality!!

    Here is what I wrote. I gave a little video talk on it too (it was soon after the VIrginia Tech shootings):

    http://treeleafzen.blogspot.com/2007/04 ... tance.html

    Gassho, Jundo

    Jundo,

    Gassho--I like your explanation, and can relate to it, but it doesn't satisfy this sense I get that the Nishijima school is fairly nihilistic--if anything it enhances that sense. If the philosophical basis for this practice is that reality is fine as it is and we don't need to strive to attain anything, I'm left scratching my head as to where the "without acceptance" part of your equation comes from.

    Other Buddhist schools might say that our fundamental nature is compassion, and that it arises of its own accord when we remove the impediments to it. But how would you, being what I would describe as a skeptic materialist, justify such an idea? If you believe that mind is only an epiphenomenon of matter, that compassion is just mirror neurons and empathy, that the basis of practice is letting go of the struggle to change or improve oneself or one's mind, could you not just say that trying to improve the world is a sort of vanity?

    And even if not, where's the inspiration for such efforts in the teaching of your school? Why should we want to help others? If we only live one life, if mind only is a product of the brain, if we know this world is going to die out at some point anyway, couldn't you say then that compassion is mere sentiment? Nothing to do with the nature of reality? That we might help others because it feels good and promotes a better world, but that at the end of the day it doesn't mean anything in the bigger picture of the universe?

    Stephanie

  16. #16

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    I'm probably wading in where I shouldn't but my take on this is that this is why zazen alone is not Zen. The precepts, especially the three pure precepts: Not doing harm, doing good, and doing good for others Ś are important. Zazen is the heart of our practice, but it is not the only part. Without a moral component, a clear seeing of reality is difficult and dangerous, IMHO. The attitude cultivated in zazen is just that, an attitude cultivated in zazen, but it doesn't mean that we leave our empathy and compassion on the zafu when we get up and move in the world. Then, we have to act, and the wisdom we have gained with zazen coupled with the reflective guidance of the precepts helps us do that in a way that benefits all.

    My two cents,
    Gassho,
    Bill

  17. #17
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by DontKnow
    I'm probably wading in where I shouldn't but my take on this is that this is why zazen alone is not Zen. The precepts, especially the three pure precepts: Not doing harm, doing good, and doing good for others Ś are important. Zazen is the heart of our practice, but it is not the only part. Without a moral component, a clear seeing of reality is difficult and dangerous, IMHO. The attitude cultivated in zazen is just that, an attitude cultivated in zazen, but it doesn't mean that we leave our empathy and compassion on the zafu when we get up and move in the world. Then, we have to act, and the wisdom we have gained with zazen coupled with the reflective guidance of the precepts helps us do that in a way that benefits all.

    My two cents,
    Gassho,
    Bill
    But where does that compassion come from? Why is it that when we sit and let go of concepts, we become more compassionate? Is compassion the nature of reality, or is it sentiment arising from how we're biologically wired, or is it something we train ourselves in so as not to become "dangerous"? Why live a selfless life of compassion, of commitment to alleviating the suffering of others, when we could just be blissing out on the cushion? Why not just make cartoons, or market lipstick, or only care about one's own particular family or "tribe"?

  18. #18

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Quote Originally Posted by DontKnow
    I'm probably wading in where I shouldn't but my take on this is that this is why zazen alone is not Zen. The precepts, especially the three pure precepts: Not doing harm, doing good, and doing good for others Ś are important. Zazen is the heart of our practice, but it is not the only part. Without a moral component, a clear seeing of reality is difficult and dangerous, IMHO. The attitude cultivated in zazen is just that, an attitude cultivated in zazen, but it doesn't mean that we leave our empathy and compassion on the zafu when we get up and move in the world. Then, we have to act, and the wisdom we have gained with zazen coupled with the reflective guidance of the precepts helps us do that in a way that benefits all.

    My two cents,
    Gassho,
    Bill
    But where does that compassion come from? Why is it that when we sit and let go of concepts, we become more compassionate? Is compassion the nature of reality, or is it sentiment arising from how we're biologically wired, or is it something we train ourselves in so as not to become "dangerous"? Why live a selfless life of compassion, of commitment to alleviating the suffering of others, when we could just be blissing out on the cushion? Why not just make cartoons, or market lipstick, or only care about one's own particular family or "tribe"?
    I'm not sure where compassion comes from. My pitiful knowledge of Buddhist writings would lead me to believe that knowing where it comes from might be immaterial. Why we are born both selfish and compassionate is a bit of dark humor. Humans are capable of such strange mixes of both. I guess the Buddhist answer would be that interconnectedness means that we not separate in the ways we think we are. By helping each other, we help ourselves, and by helping ourselves, we help each other.
    In A Heart to Heart Chat, Nishijima Roshi says that he feels some people should withdraw from the world, seeking the truth by themselves, and that others should seek the truth in the world. So maybe it is a case-by-case thing. No one size-fits-all answer.

    I suppose someone more knowledgeable should jump in to answer your questions at this point.

    Gassho,
    BS

  19. #19

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    ...how can you reconcile the philosophy that we need not strive to accomplish anything with believing that there are things in the world that "aren't right" and that we should strive to correct?
    Stephanie,

    I think the key here is not to take our ideas about what the world 'should' be too seriously -- as if there's some ideal state for reality to be in, and we should get it there. The world is what it is, and because we both have compassion and see suffering, we are motivated to do something about that suffering. But that's different than saying that there are things that "aren't right" according to some essential ideal moral principle, and that our action is "corrective" action. It isn't like that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    ...this sense I get that the Nishijima school is fairly nihilistic...
    I don't think this is right. It's only nihilistic if you set up an idealistic notion of the world as the only kind of 'valid' conception, and say that anything short of an idealistic conception of the world is nihilism. I understand this kind of Buddhism as rejecting both idealism and nihilism.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    But where does that compassion come from? Why is it that when we sit and let go of concepts, we become more compassionate? Is compassion the nature of reality, or is it sentiment arising from how we're biologically wired, or is it something we train ourselves in so as not to become "dangerous"? Why live a selfless life of compassion, of commitment to alleviating the suffering of others, when we could just be blissing out on the cushion? Why not just make cartoons, or market lipstick, or only care about one's own particular family or "tribe"?
    I think that if you're looking for a justification for compassion, you're searching for some kind of philosophical ideal that will validate compassion. I don't think that's findable, though I think it's possible to talk about how compassion works. But let's differentiate between different kinds of compassion. Yes, some compassion is just sentiment, or following training, or validating an idea of the self (as in, "oh, I really am a good person, I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing"). My understanding of compassion in Buddhism is that it is different from any of these. It's what happens when you see things, and the interaction between things, for what they are, giving up your ideas about what they are and how they should work. This also means understanding the lack of essential barriers between things, and the lack of essential barriers between oneself and everything else. (Please note -- I'm not saying 'lack of barriers' but rather 'lack of essential barriers. Conventionally, and in relative terms, what we see as barriers and differentiations between things are real.) When one understands and experiences oneself as taking part in, and being part of, everything, the activity one engages in is compassion. It isn't a feeling or a state of mind; it's a way of being and relating.

    In his chapter on Kannon in Shobogenzo, Dogen quotes a conversation between Ungan and Dogo in which Dogo describes Kannon like this:

    He is like a person in the night reaching back with a hand to grope for a pillow.
    I take compassion to be like this -- a natural response to an experienced need.

    --Charles

  20. #20

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Hi Steph,

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie

    Gassho--I like your explanation, and can relate to it, but it doesn't satisfy this sense I get that the Nishijima school is fairly nihilistic--if anything it enhances that sense. If the philosophical basis for this practice is that reality is fine as it is and we don't need to strive to attain anything, I'm left scratching my head as to where the "without acceptance" part of your equation comes from.
    Who's a "nihilist"???? Neither Nishijima nor I (not even Brad) believes anything less that that life is chock full of meaning, purpose and value. It has all the meaning, purpose and value that your little heart can give it. In fact, life is so much what your heart makes of it.

    If you find meaning purpose and value, there is meaning purpose and value. If you do not, there may not be.

    But how would you, being what I would describe as a skeptic materialist, justify such an idea? If you believe that mind is only an epiphenomenon of matter, that compassion is just mirror neurons and empathy, that the basis of practice is letting go of the struggle to change or improve oneself or one's mind, could you not just say that trying to improve the world is a sort of vanity?

    Who's a "materialist"???? I have no clear idea how you and I popped up conscious in the middle of this universe, on this little planet. I just know that I did (apparently). Our being born seems a pretty fantastic event, one that need not have happened given all possibilities for it not to have happened, but I have no more than suspicions about a cause (given the paucity of evidence ... yes, I am a "skeptic" about fantastic religious claims that are unsupported by evidence, but then I make it a point not to substitute new fantastic claims in their place. I am content even knowing just the little corner of reality that I know).

    That being said, WE ARE ALIVE! So I suppose we should live that life, given that we are here.

    And as I said, how we choose to do so is greatly up to our own hearts.

    ... could you not just say that trying to improve the world is a sort of vanity?

    ... Why should we want to help others? If we only live one life, if mind only is a product of the brain, if we know this world is going to die out at some point anyway, couldn't you say then that compassion is mere sentiment?
    I have no sure idea where "compassion" comes from. I know it is a natural part of this universe, at least because you and I appear to be natural parts of this universe. So, when compassion or love arises in our hearts, it sure exists in our world (same for hate or greed). Whether it is merely a product of firing neurons, or something existing in some other way ... it does not matter much.

    When you and I are compassionate, there is a bit more compassion in the world. And when you and I act in a hateful way, there is a drop more hate in the world.

    But why live in a compassionate and peaceful way when we have the choice not to? After all, as you correctly point out Steph, our Zazen allows us to know how tremendously free we are ... and that includes the freedom to pillage and plunder, or just gaze at our own navels, should we want.

    I look it this way: This world, and our lives, are like the house we live in. As the residents, what we choose to do with that house is up to us. On the one hand, we can choose to trash the place, to break the windows, to fill it with disturbance and violence. Or, on the other hand, we can maintain the house, keep it clean, and fill it with kindness ,.. making it a joyous place to live. Again, it is up to each of us, and to all the residents together.

    You are right, Steph, that from one perspective "it does not matter", because things are just what they are. But from another perspective, it makes all the difference in the world how we live.

    Other Buddhist schools might say that our fundamental nature is compassion, and that it arises of its own accord when we remove the impediments to it.
    Well, I do believe that it arises of its own accord when we remove the impediments ... but it is not a sure thing, and it needs to be nurtured. Zazen just provides us with a rich soil. But what we grow in that soil (flowers or weeds) takes care, work and nurturing. Yes, our Zazen allows us to see our interconnectness to the whole world and to each other in ways that we usually do not see in the day to day. We also drop selfish attachments, anger, grasping, desires ... and when we do that, we tend to become gentle by definition (have you ever met a self-less, peaceful, warm, generous person who you would call a "bastard"? I think it unlikely, and it is more likely that you would use the word "compassionate" to describe such a person).

    But it is not a sure thing: Zazen by itself can go in many directions, just as you say Steph. We might just spend the time "blissing out" for ourselves, self-centered. If Zazen is done improperly, it might even leave us angry and more selfish than before. It is just soil filled with potential. (You are right, it can spill over into nihilism or magalomania if we are not careful ... fooling with a doctrine just short of "I am the universe" can do that). So, yes, the Precepts and other teachings nurture that soil.

    Bottom line: This world and our lives are greatly what we learn to make of them.

    Gassho, Jundo

  21. #21

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Jundo,

    I pretty much agree with everything you wrote. I don't take issue with this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Or, on the other hand, we can maintain the house, keep it clean, and fill it with kindness ,.. making it a joyous place to live. Again, it is us to each of us.
    But I think it's important to remember that even when we act in compassion, we aren't guaranteed any particular results. Sometimes we're faced with very difficult situations in which whatever we choose to do will cause difficulty. The compassionate choice in such a situation might minimize harm, or it might cause someone pain in the short run but be much more helpful for them in the long run. I'm not suggesting we shouldn't act compassionately -- just the opposite, in fact -- but we can't realistically do so with the expectation that the result will necessarily be joyous. Sometimes not doing wrong leads to painful consequences.

    --Charles

  22. #22

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles

    But I think it's important to remember that even when we act in compassion, we aren't guaranteed any particular results.
    Oh, so true Charles. Yes, there are no guarantees.

    And since we must all live in this house together, if I am peaceful and maintain it, but another resident smashes windows and makes a mess ... well, we are still going to have broken windows and a mess. Karma plays out in complex ways, and all our individual Karma intersects in this world we live in.

    I do not believe that we can always change our outside circumstances either. Sometimes, life hands some of us a bad deal of the deck. Some of us our born in peaceful and prosperous places, with heath and opportunity. Some of us are born on a battlefield, with bad health and many closed doors.

    But how we approach either situation within ourselves is largely up to us.

    Heck, in this world I see any number of people who make their inner heart into an angry, unstable, cold battlefield ... doing it to themselves, when their outside circumstances do not demand that it be so.

    And I have seen any number of Wise beings who can find their good way even when it seems there should be none.

    Gassho, Jundo

  23. #23

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    I do not believe that we can always change our outside circumstances either. Sometimes, life hands some of us a bad deal of the deck. Some of us our born in peaceful and prosperous places, with heath and opportunity. Some of us are born on a battlefield, with bad health and many closed doors.
    Jundo isn't this part of the interconnectedness? While we cannot always change outside circumstances at the same time we can buy "living as we can so as not to harm others, not to harm ourselves ... and to know that there is ultimately no separation here." And doing the washing up.

  24. #24

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hi,

    I wanted to get back to a topic I promised to discuss before my travels.

    Here at Treeleaf, a Sangha in the Soto Zen style, we practice just sitting, "Shikantaza". That is what I teach. It is a practice with its own very very special flavor, I believe, among most types of Eastern or Western religion or philosophy, and even among paths of Buddhist meditation: That's because Shikantaza forsakes all goals, all attainments, all search for special states of mind, esoteric or mystical experiences, escape from this mundane world by reaching some other "realm", supernatural powers or other-worldly insights and the like. If folks have dabbled in so-called "Eastern Beliefs" for any length of time, they will discover that most schools (even within Buddhism or some other sects of Zen Buddhism) are aiming for such attainments in one way or another.

    But there is a subtle twist involved, a very definite method to our "goalless" madness:

    Not searching does not mean that nothing is found. Quite the contrary! We might say that what is found is something always here, only encountered when we give up the pursuit. I sometimes compare it to the eye glasses perched right on top of one's head all along, though we have hunted for them high and low.

    Attaining radical non-attainment is a very great attainment! The need for nothing else, to be no where else, is a treasure right in hand, the completion of a long journey.

    Forsaking all need for special states of mind is perhaps --THE-- most special state of mind of all. By dropping (maybe for the first time in our lives) all judgments and demands on life, we truly learn to take life 'just-as-it-is', without resistance. There is no lack, nothing missing from the world ... everything is as it is.

    We learn that, even as me make our choices, hold 'likes' and 'dislikes' as a natural part of being human, that is not the only way to be. Hand in hand with that, we learn that there is nothing to choose. Even as we select our path, we know that we are always just where we are.

    Furthermore, by quieting the mind and stilling so many thoughts and emotions that bubble through our heads, we learn to see through many beliefs and experiences we take for granted, to see them as something of a dream and an illusion (the sense of all things having a separate "self" is but one example, as are so many of our ideas of "birth" "death" and "time", many more). Yet we also learn, in our neck of the Buddhist woods, that we must continue to live in a world of "selfs" "birth" "death" and "time" if we are to be human. It is almost as if we know it is a dream, but willingly dream away ... It is absolutely real, for it is our dream.

    We also experience some very "deep" states. We also experience some very "shallow"states. We experience times of great peace or bliss, we experience times of mental agitation and sadness. There are moments when the barriers between self and not-self drop away, there are moments when we are bored silly. Unlike many schools of meditation, we run toward none ... run from none. In fact, we drop all thought of "deep" "shallow" "peaceful" or "agitated", "happy" "sad", one or many.

    In doing so, we experience a presence beyond measure, a Peace that contains peace or agitation, self and not-self dropped away - yet fully present.

    In following this Way, we find that the most trying or ordinary things in life are more wondrous than any storybook magic and miracles. The most difficult or mundane event of life is life itself! Far from needing to escape from this sometimes beautiful, sometimes horrible world ... we find ourselves right at home, going along for the ride. We look out through our eyes, see right through this ordinary world as if looking through glass ... yet see all that we need to see.

    It is a very subtle practice.

    So, sometimes, when folks introduce books or teachings by other schools of thought that are "goal" oriented, or emphasize some attainment of a mystical state, or "higher" wisdom or power or such ... well, I will always jump in real fast to contrast that with what we practice here. I have to do that. It's my job, and what I collect my paycheck for. :wink:

    You cannot play baseball with a tennis racket, and you cannot practice 'non-seeking' Shikantaza if you are seeking any other thing on top of "Shikantaza. To put it in clear terms, we play baseball here ... and if folks show up to play tennis, I need to tell them to not play on our baseball diamond, and to take their rackets over to the tennis court. (Tennis may even be a better game than baseball, and even more fun or fruitful, but that is not the point. It is just that the two games cannot be played at the same time).

    This came up a day or so before my trip, on the "Yoga and zazen" thread, when some folks thought I meant to squash discussion or silence certain topics. That wasn't my intent. I am a fan of engaging in some yoga, and I see nothing wrong with engaging in a bit of yogic stretching and such. In fact, Zazen is a form of yoga.

    But the subject had come up of certain aspects of yoga emphasizing such attainments as the following ...

    Nirvikalpa samadhi is the highest experience that can result from such action. It is preceded by an intense effort. In the relative level, this effort may well be considered to be the cause and nirvikalpa samadhi its legitimate effect. So nirvikalpa samadhi is limited by causality. The yogin admits that he goes into nirvikalpa samadhi and comes out of it. Therefore it is also limited by time. In order to get into nirvikalpa samadhi, the body is necessary for the yogin to start with. Therefore nirvikalpa samadhi is also limited by space.
    That may be a really wonderful experience for someone pursuing "Nirvikalpa Samadhi", but it is not the way for someone practicing Shikantaza. It is tennis to our baseball. For that reason, I am happy to discuss it, to debate the relative merits and demerits compared to Shikantaza, and even to admit that the other Practice might be better than our practice (of course, I will almost always come down on the side of Shikantaza just as I am doing in this very post right now. Even if maybe tennis --IS-- a better game than baseball, I do not really care because baseball is the game I know and love, and that has changed my life. So they can keep their tennis!). If anyone has any questions about the other practice, I will either try to answer them or, if I can't, point them to some teacher of the other style. In fact, the internet is full of folks discussing about everything under the sun, so no way that I am stopping the free flow of information. I do not mean to silence anyone. But we can't really teach or play that other game here. We can chat about other styles and teachings a bit during the coffee breaks, but then we must get back to batting and pitching practice.

    It is for this same reason that I am also sometimes critical of the book "Three Pillars of Zen", mentioned on another thread this week. Kapleau Roshi, a very great teacher, was also teaching a very unique style of Zen Practice even considered unusual in Japan. I once wrote this:

    The Sanb˘ky˘dan (Three Treasures Association [the Sangha from which Kapleau Roshi and Maezumi Roshi emerged]) is... noteworthy for its single-minded emphasis on the experience of kensh˘, [and] diverges markedly from more traditional models found in S˘t˘, Rinzai, or Oobaku training halls. ...

    The only acceptable "solution" to the mu k˘an in the Sanb˘ky˘dan is a credible report of a kensh˘ experience, and beginning students are subject to intense pressure during sesshin -- including the generous application of the "warning stick" (ky˘saku or keisaku) -- in order to expedite this experience. The unrelenting emphasis on kensh˘ and the vigorous tactics used to bring it about constitute the single most distinctive (and controversial) feature of the Sanb˘ky˘dan method. Eido Shimano, recalling Yasutani's first sesshin in Hawaii in 1962, writes:

    The night before sesshin started, Yasutani Roshi said to the participants, "To experience kensho is crucial, but we are so lazy. Therefore, during sesshin we have to set up a special atmosphere so that all participants can go straight ahead toward the goal. First, absolute silence should be observed. Second, you must not look around. Third, forget about the usual courtesies and etiquette" . . . He also told the participants, and later told me privately as well, of the need for frequent use of the keisaku. That five-day sesshin was as hysterical as it was historical. It ended with what Yasutani Roshi considered five kensh˘ experiences.
    (Nyogen et al. 1976, pp. 184-85)[28]

    ...

    While Yasutani's successors are considerably more reserved in their use of the ky˘saku, the emphasis on kensh˘ has not diminished, prompting one student of Yamada to refer to the San'un Zend˘ as a "kensh˘ machine" (Levine 1992, p. 72).
    ...

    Following the teacher's authentication of kensh˘, Sanb˘ky˘dan students move through a program of 600 to 700 k˘ans following a format set by Harada based in part on traditional Rinzai models. The practitioner first tackles the "miscellaneous k˘ans," which consist of approximately twenty-two k˘ans in fifty-seven parts. He or she then moves through the Mumonkan, Hekiganroku, Sh˘y˘roku, and Denk˘roku [?MĂ] k˘ans, followed by T˘zan's five ranks (T˘zan goi), and three sets of precepts.[30]
    ...

    http://www.terebess.hu/english/sharf.html
    It is just a very different approach from Shikantaza. Furthermore, I believe that the perspective presented in "Three Pillars" and some other early English books on Zen like some by D.T.Suzuki (that once you have a "kensh˘", all is resolved at once and the process is instantaneously "done") is very misleading. So, I think that "Three Pillars" has done more harm than good.

    In any event, it is not our way of non-seeking.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Can't but agree withh jundo here. Three pillars is great for explaining some concepts in buddhism, but there are pages that are defenitely "skippable".

    May the force be with you
    Tb

  25. #25

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    But then again, Dogen turned all of life into Zazen, and Zazen into all of life. In other words, everything is Practice, everything is Zazen, if done with right perspective. Cooking is Practice, washing the floors is Practice, calligraphy is Practice, bowing is Practice, brushing our teeth is Practice, chanting is Practice and being silent is Practice. You name it ... Practice. We can expand that to changing diapers, painting the garage, running for the bus. All Practice. All balance in body-mind. All Zazen.

    In Soto Zen ritual, there are not really any mantras as you describe (there are a few that pop up in ceremonies, although many were added after Dogen's time and are not used in the manner you describe I think). We also don't have mental visualizations, particular forms of breathing, special hand and body postures (other than the Lotus Position), use of mandalas or the like as found in Tibetan Buddhism. They are generally thought not necessary, needless complexity that ultimately obscures the directness and simplicity of what we do.

    There is chanting of the Heart Sutra and such, and various other things.
    When chanting, it is all Zazen, all Practice.

    Gassho, Jundo
    I quite agree. So sorry that not more people understand this.

    May the force be with you
    Tb

  26. #26
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles
    I don't think this is right. It's only nihilistic if you set up an idealistic notion of the world as the only kind of 'valid' conception, and say that anything short of an idealistic conception of the world is nihilism. I understand this kind of Buddhism as rejecting both idealism and nihilism.
    Perhaps I should be more candid here. I find myself haunted by the question, "What's the point...?" And as far as I can tell, as far as this Zen school is concerned, there isn't one. Except maybe to sit zazen. This, combined with what seems to me to be an embrace of a skeptic materialist worldview by the teachers in the Nishijima line (that is, a belief that there is nothing more to existence than matter; "mind" is a product of matter and nothing more, etc.) adds up to what I see as a nihilistic viewpoint--that there is no ultimate purpose to anything. That the highest realization a person can have is that there is nothing, no purpose, that there is nothing to do, nothing to attain, etc.

    To some, this seems to be encouraging, even comforting; to me, it is depressing. And for the most part (except that mind seems to me to be more than a mere epiphenomenon of matter), that is how things seem to me to be. So I've been wrestling with what it would mean if I just accepted that it was true, and it fills me with sadness, even despair. I've come to the point where I am ready, in my career, to give my life up to the service of others, because, somehow, it is the only thing that holds back the despair, the Nothing. And I can't explain it, that there is something to compassion that stands in the face of even the smallest faith and the seeming absence of all meaning. What is that? It makes me wonder, perversely, if there is something there, more than just an empty void in which people make shit up as they go along with no ultimate reason for any of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Who's a "nihilist"???? Neither Nishijima nor I (not even Brad) believes anything less that that life is chock full of meaning, purpose and value. It has all the meaning, purpose and value that your little heart can give it. In fact, life is so much what your heart makes of it.
    Right, and I find that depressing. Because if "all the meaning, purpose and value" I can find in life ultimately boils down to a game I'm playing with myself, painting a picture on the void--well, to me, that is a dim and dreary thing. I've been trying to convince myself for years that it is otherwise, all to no avail.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Who's a "materialist"????
    I guess I was wrong, because it seemed to me from what I've read of your statements elsewhere that your beliefs are mostly in line with the viewpoint of modern scientists, which is generally one of skeptical materialism. That there is no animating force to anything in this universe, that life is an anomaly or random occurrence in a largely lifeless universe, that consciousness results only from organic processes in the brain.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I have no sure idea where "compassion" comes from. I know it is a natural part of this universe, at least because you and I appear to be natural parts of this universe. So, when compassion or love arises in our hearts, it sure exists in our world (same for hate or greed). Whether it is merely a product of firing neurons, or something existing in some other way ... it does not matter much.
    It matters to me! Maybe it "shouldn't," but it does. I agree with you that kindness and compassion are "meaningful" even if only to the extent that they determine the kind of world we live in. That is no small thing. But what I'm scrambling for here is selfish, is something to sustain me emotionally. Because if compassion, the last thing I've found to give me any sense of faith or meaning, is just a sort of biological happenstance--I mean, that's something remarkable, to think if it is all just random in this universe, and typically brutal and vicious, that this species would pop up that would be motivated so much by compassion, but still, it's lonely for me in a universe where there's nothing "deeper" to existence than biology and what we make of it. Then my compassion is just a preference that maybe means I'm a little "nice" or something (some might contest even this... :lol, but otherwise it's just some sort of anthropocentric emotional masturbation in the face of the void. That's kind of a... bummer to me. Because it means that there is nothing and no one to sustain me in this work, only a nebulous, confused faith in the power of compassion.

    I'm a very lonely person, Jundo, and have been for a long time... and it is not because I don't socialize or interact with others, or because I don't care about other people. I care about people a lot, and I interact with other people as much as I want to. I've even been blessed with some pretty good friendships. But none of it touches this lonely feeling, that ultimately, no one is there for me. I'm not sure what I want is even "God," because, like Buddha, I suspect that God doesn't really know or understand what's going on either. Is this compassion thing just some emotional way I've conditioned myself to keep from completely succumbing to what Nietzsche called "the Abyss," or is it a sign that maybe there is something good sustaining us? Because if there's not, I don't know if I'm strong enough to sustain myself over the course of an entire life without picking up one form or the other of habitual dissipation. Because I can't consciously lie to myself, and I seem to find out my own self-deceptions sooner or later, so I wonder... will there finally be a day when there's nothing left--even compassion?

  27. #27

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Hello Stephanie!

    Just a few personal opinions here, I don't claim my writing it down is gonna be useful in any way...sorry if it's all a bit unstructured, for some reason I suddenly feel like writing stuff before going to bed.

    I've tended to "overthink" certain matters in the past ( I am not suggesting that's what you're doing) instead of sometimes just letting things be. I personally think that our whole cognitive make-up came into being through evolutionary processes at a time when the day to day survival stress was a lot higher for what was to become our species, at least in my case a lot of grief when pondering deeply philosophical questiosn simply stemmed from the fact that I lived (and live) in a sheltered western environment, where the suffering of the great majority of people was mainly a vague notion, until death knocked at the door of a few people that were very close to me. I've been so blessed throughout my life, that I can easily identify quite a few moments that to me seem to justify this whole existence-getting out of existence-spiel.

    My zen practice strengthens my having these moments more and more often, I find great meaning in the most simple things, even though I seem to become more and more aware of the emptiness at their core. However all this stuff about emptiness is pointing to the ultimate nature of things, which seems at odds sometimes with the relative reality of me stroking our ginger cat and finding it extremely meaningful. Integrating the great picture into the small picture and realizing that they're two sides of the same coin....quite a challenge.

    The joy and the suffering of life are not an iota less real to those suffering in Samsara, only because there is a bigger picture, thus on their own terms they are to be taken as facts and to me easing my own and other people's suffering (which happen to be one and the same) gives me more than plenty of purpose and meaning in this life. I am even more crazy, because through my own experiences with the Buddhadharma I have even developed faith in the fact that the Buddha's methods are good at the beginning, middle and end. However, which one of the 84.000 dharma gates to travel through can truly vary from person to person. Shikantaza is the one for me, but then again I have become boring and self-righteous over the years. I am not saying that Shikantaza may not be right for you, just suggesting that other dharma approaches may be more your kinda thing (but I cannot possibly know that).

    Let's not forget that to apply the Buddhadharma is not just a feel-good antidote to certain unpleasant facts of life, or a method to find meaning in this multiverse. When applied correctly it can (over a long period of time or so I am told) help us to uproot the causes of suffering once and for all. I trusted the three jewels so far and have not been disappointed yet. Everytime I feel lost in samsara in some way, it just points me back to the cushion, back to practice and my overblown ego. To me it'sa win-win situation. The more I practice the more I get the feeling how unbelievably caught up in Samsara we humans are, how strong the suffering truly is. I never was the kinda guy who cries very often, but nowadays even the news can bring tears to my eyes if I allow myself to connect with the suffering presented to me in a nicely packaged news format. And now I ended up writing so much about myself, I do not even know why. Seeing meaning in everything and seeing no meaning whatsoever are so unbelievably close, I wish I could just say the magic words and make it happen for you. I can't, only you can. Didn't Daniel Dennett say that all one needs in order to be happy is to find something greater than oneself (well and then one still has to dedicate one's life to it)? Nuff said.


    Gassho,

    Hans

  28. #28

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    I find myself haunted by the question, "What's the point...?" And as far as I can tell, as far as this Zen school is concerned, there isn't one.
    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    To some, this seems to be encouraging, even comforting; to me, it is depressing.
    Stephanie, I feel a deep empathy for you, as I have lived through a very similar experience. Please consider the possibility that it is not the absence of an external, absolute purpose that is depressing you, but your desperate wish for its existence.

    Sceptic materialism need not lead to nihilism. In my case, this line of reasoning was simply a rationalization for unhappiness that was being brought about by other causes. I didn't accept myself, always had to be better than everybody else at anything I did. My two best friends had both taken their own lives in the span of a year's time. I was not living a life of my own choosing, but doing what everyone expected of me. Reading Camus and Sartre was helpful in the sense that I realized I wasn't the only one grappling with these issues, but not more than that.

    Have you ever attended a retreat? Participating has been very helpful for me. I was down in the dumps when it started. However, after a few days I noticed that most of my unhappiness was being caused by my own thoughts, and not by the external conditions. Letting go felt a lot better: it seemed as if I had a natural state of peace that resurfaced when all the negative mind-chatter was taken away. Since then I've been able to slowly dig my way out of the black tar. I highly recommend giving it a try if you haven't done so yet.

  29. #29

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie

    Perhaps I should be more candid here. I find myself haunted by the question, "What's the point...?" And as far as I can tell, as far as this Zen school is concerned, there isn't one. Except maybe to sit zazen.
    Hi Steph,

    I obviously did not say it in words you could hear, so I will try it shorter and sweeter.

    I consider myself a mystic, totally in awe at finding myself ... all our selves ... alive in this world. I feel some wonderful game may be in play.

    Further, I feel that, since we find ourselves miraculously alive, in that game ... we should live that miraculous life, play the child's game, keep on bouncing the multi-colored ball we find right in our hands. As we have this life, we should play it well.

    Now, in my heart of hearts, I feel that there is a game maker, and some ultimate direction to the game. But a key way that our Zen Buddhist "religion" may differ from most others is that we do not seek to say too much about the game designer ... We don't need to call her "Brahma" or "Jehovah" or "Buddha" or "Cosmic Consciousness" or "Fred" or "Tom", or place words in her mouth about what she likes and dislikes, or tell fanciful stories about who she is (is she "she"?), where she lives, or her point and intentions. We just passionately play the game that she seemingly went to great trouble in setting up.

    In fact, we are so intent on playing that game, so living of life, that we do not demand even that there be a game designer (I think there may be, but I do not need to know). If there is a master of this playground and a point to the game, bounce the ball. And if there is neither master nor point, bounce the ball. Bounce, bounce, bounce ...

    But in either case, what you make of your game is largely up to you.

    I'm a very lonely person, Jundo, and have been for a long time... none of it touches this lonely feeling, that ultimately, no one is there for me.
    This is Stephanie making Stephanie's world. In fact, it is not the Stephanie who is always so, for I meet many different Stephanies ... constantly changing. You think this way because this is the way you choose to think.

    In our Zen view, you could not possibly be more a part of the game, of the other players, of even the game master we may suspect to exist ... in fact you are precisely that. You are the game and the gamester and the very playing (we call that your "True Self" or "Original Face" or or "Buddha Nature" or various other imperfect names that never quite hit the mark).

    And though the rules of the game (assuming there are rules ... I think there are) are a bit puzzling at times, and often seem unfair and even cold or cruel ... well, perhaps it is up to each of us to make this the game we want. By dropping all human-centered ideas of "fair"or "unfair", "win" and "lose", we learn to appreciate the flow of the game from new perspectives. We are at peace with the game, no matter how it plays out. In truth, we may learn so much about the game, and its true point and direction ... even its 'maker', by dropping all expectations, names and views.

    Yes, it truly is "not whether we win or lose, but how we play the game!"

    Steph, I have a feeling that you will want to add a lot of complexity there ... but try not to.

    Gassho, Jundo

  30. #30

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Stephanie,

    I'd like to clarify something I implied earlier -- I wasn't very explicit about it. It is:

    Nihilism only pertains in the context of idealism. When you create idealism you create nihilism along with it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    ...adds up to what I see as a nihilistic viewpoint--that there is no ultimate purpose to anything. That the highest realization a person can have is that there is nothing, no purpose, that there is nothing to do, nothing to attain, etc.
    If you begin by assuming that Reality, in its entirety, is a kind of thing, and that ultimate purpose is a quality that pertains to it (or doesn't), you create idealism; and when you fail to find the purpose you've decided belongs to Reality, you create nihilism.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    And I can't explain it, that there is something to compassion that stands in the face of even the smallest faith and the seeming absence of all meaning.
    The absence of meaning only has meaning in the context of your desire for meaning. If you decide that there needs to be meaning, and then don't find it, you move from idealism on the one hand to nihilism on the other.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    That there is no animating force to anything in this universe, that life is an anomaly or random occurrence in a largely lifeless universe, that consciousness results only from organic processes in the brain.
    Again -- you decide that an animating force is needed, and that's idealism; you fail to find it, and you become a nihilist.

    Here's an analogy. You walk into a beautiful museum that contains thousands of works of art, stunningly beautiful, spanning dozens of cultures over thousands of years. You've come there because you think Picasso is the greatest artist of all time and you think they have a fabulous collection of his work. You run through the museum for an hour, searching for the Picasso collection, looking at nothing else. And at the end, you walk home dejected because you couldn't find any Picasso. You think the whole museum is crap because you couldn't find what you wanted to when you walked in the door. You ignore all of the beauty and knowledge and couldn't care less if the whole thing burned to the ground because you didn't find what you decided, before ever walking through the door, made the whole thing valuable.

    The problem's with your fixation on one idea of value, not with the collection.

    Now, let's ditch the analogies and go a little bit farther. What you're doing -- searching for a meaning, animating force, a purpose to Reality that's somehow separate from Reality itself -- is a fundamental mistake about what kind of 'thing' Reality is. Reality is what is real. Any purpose that Reality might have must also be real, and thus cannot be separate or different from Reality itself. You're looking for something outside Reality to validate reality. Things cannot be that way! Something outside the real isn't real! The 'outside Reality' that would validate Reality is by definition a delusion.

    But that doesn't mean Reality has a problem. It means that your idea about what Reality is, or should be, doesn't match up with Reality.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    ...but still, it's lonely for me in a universe where there's nothing "deeper" to existence than biology and what we make of it.
    Existence is existence. There can't be anything deeper to it, or shallower to it, or other than it. Existence doesn't need something outside itself. It doesn't need justification. It isn't a dog at a dog show where there's some judge that might, at the end of the day, put a medal around its neck and say 'Yes, this dog matches up with what a dog should be!" Reality is the show itself, not one of the dogs. The show doesn't need a medal; people and dogs arrive, and the show is a show. It's just there.

    In Jundo's last post, he hesitantly expressed his suspicion that there is a maker and an ultimate direction. I unhesitatingly express my strong conviction that talking about creators doesn't make sense -- because if the creator is real, then the creator isn't outside the real. The creator and the creation would be one.

    In Western philosophical terms, there's a regress argument here: If Reality requires a real creator, then the real creator also requires a real creator, who also requires a real creator...and on down the line. If you posit a real creator who happens to have the quality "doesn't require a creator because it's self-causing and self-sufficient," then, by Occam's Razor, you might as well just apply that to Reality itself and not bother with creators in the first place. That is to say: if there's something that's real that doesn't require creation or justification, we might as well simplify and just say that Reality doesn't require creation or justification. And if you find a God figure who doesn't require the same justification you require of Reality, well, why not? Where does the God figure get off not requiring a higher-order God figure?

    Jundo also suggested that there's an ultimate direction to Reality. I agree. And we see it every moment. Wherever it goes is its ultimate direction. And that's it.

    But let's bring it back down to earth. Let's say you walk outside and see a beautiful flower, and you walk up to it and say, "You aren't justified. Where do you get off? What's your meaning? Show me your seal of approval from a higher power, or your certificate that says you have a higher meaning."

    I'll respond for the flower: "I am what I am."

    Which is what every flower, every rock, everything is saying to you all the time.

    This point is very important. Your demand that things have some 'extra' meaning on top of what they are is a way of denying them the meaning they actually have. It's your way of saying to things that are perfect, "You're not good enough!" Why aren't they good enough? What do they owe you, besides being what they are? On what grounds do you demand that they conform to what you want them to be? On what grounds do you scream out to the Universe, "You're not right!"

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    ...will there finally be a day when there's nothing left--even compassion?
    No, there won't. There won't ever be a day when Reality is other than what it is, no matter what thoughts or ideas we have about it. Our attempts to find meaning and purpose are extra -- they're attempts to add something to Reality that Reality doesn't need. But they add nothing. They subtract.

    --Charles

  31. #31

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Stephanie,

    One other thing. In Jay Garfield's translation of, and commentary on, Nagarjuna's "Fundamental Verses On The Middle Way," Garfield interprets the Middle Way as the way between (and transcending) essentialism and nihilism. It's written in very academic, philosophical language, but given other discussions we've had here, I don't think that'll be a problem for you. It might give you some guidance in regards to Buddhism and nihilism. Since he's writing the commentary for people who think in Western philosophical terms, some familiarity with Hume, Kant, and Wittgenstein are helpful, but I don't think they're necessary.

    The title of the volume is "The Fundamental Wisdom Of The Middle Way." The author is Jay L. Garfield. The ISBN of the paperback I've got is 0-19-509336-4. The publisher is Oxford University Press/Oxford Paperbacks.

    http://www.amazon.com/Fundamental-Wisdo ... 528&sr=8-2

    --Charles

  32. #32

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Hey Charles!

    Just a quick comment to say I very much appreciated your last two postings.

    Gassho, Hans

  33. #33
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles
    Existence is existence. There can't be anything deeper to it, or shallower to it, or other than it. Existence doesn't need something outside itself. It doesn't need justification. It isn't a dog at a dog show where there's some judge that might, at the end of the day, put a medal around its neck and say 'Yes, this dog matches up with what a dog should be!" Reality is the show itself, not one of the dogs. The show doesn't need a medal; people and dogs arrive, and the show is a show. It's just there.
    Well said. This is how I try to look at things. The idea of life having a "purpose", while potentially satisfying, is just a construct that we build onto existence because of our existential angst. Understanding that what is simply is can help remove that angst, and that need for a purpose. Sure, it seems that it's unfair, that you're here and tomorrow you won't be, but that's just the way it is. I don't find this nihilist at all, btw, simply realist.

    Kirk

  34. #34

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    Now, in my heart of hearts, I feel that there is a game maker, and some ultimate direction to the game. But a key way that our Zen Buddhist "religion" may differ from most others is that we do not seek to say too much about the game designer ...

    In fact, we are so intent on playing that game, so living of life, that we do not demand even that there be a game designer ... if there is neither master nor point, bounce the ball. Bounce, bounce, bounce ...
    I want to add something very important for clarity ...

    So trusting are we of life that we do not need to know if there is a maker or not, let alone any of her characteristics. This is vitally important. The border between belief, agnosticism and atheism drops away [EMPHASIS ADDED].

    It may sound strange, but it is a lot like being born, mysteriously, as a passenger on a ship. You have never met the captain personally, never been to the wheelhouse, do not even know if the vessel has an origin, or a course or destination ... In fact, you do not know if there is a captain and crew at all.

    ... But so trusting are you of this vessel, that you just let it sail sail sail. The vessel and the sailing is just your life, is just you. Whether there is a captain at the wheel, or even a wheel and rudder, matters not in the least. The destination is not a concern at all.

    And that degree of trust is the highest compliment you could possibly pay to the skipper and her crew (if they exist, which they might not)!

    I think that such an attitude is quite unique among philosophy/religions.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS. I think the above is pretty much harmonious with what Charles wrote above in a bit more philosophical wording. I think so.

    But let's bring it back down to earth. Let's say you walk outside and see a beautiful flower, and you walk up to it and say, "You aren't justified. Where do you get off? What's your meaning? Show me your seal of approval from a higher power, or your certificate that says you have a higher meaning."

    I'll respond for the flower: "I am what I am."

    Which is what every flower, every rock, everything is saying to you all the time.
    Yes. Same as my ship to who knows where.

  35. #35

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Charles wrote:
    But let's bring it back down to earth. Let's say you walk outside and see a beautiful flower, and you walk up to it and say, "You aren't justified. Where do you get off? What's your meaning? Show me your seal of approval from a higher power, or your certificate that says you have a higher meaning."

    I'll respond for the flower: "I am what I am."
    I like this. Sometimes I will look out at the yard, or my kids and I'll be brought nearly to tears by the amazing sincerity of everything being just what it is. Other times, I struggle to see this and can't. The bunny outside our front window this morning is much more sincere than I am--no struggle, simply happy to be a bunny.

    Speaking of sincerity, what about the Great Pumpkin? Surely, HE can come and provide some judgment about Reality that we can all trust.


    Bill

  36. #36
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Tying Up Threads

    I always thought (well, when I grew up) that the Great Pumpkin was just a version of Waiting for Godot for kids.

    Samuel Beckett, one of my favorite Zen authors...

    Kirk

  37. #37

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Gassho--I like your explanation, and can relate to it, but it doesn't satisfy this sense I get that the Nishijima school is fairly nihilistic--if anything it enhances that sense. If the philosophical basis for this practice is that reality is fine as it is and we don't need to strive to attain anything, I'm left scratching my head as to where the "without acceptance" part of your equation comes from.

    Other Buddhist schools might say that our fundamental nature is compassion, and that it arises of its own accord when we remove the impediments to it. But how would you, being what I would describe as a skeptic materialist, justify such an idea? If you believe that mind is only an epiphenomenon of matter, that compassion is just mirror neurons and empathy, that the basis of practice is letting go of the struggle to change or improve oneself or one's mind, could you not just say that trying to improve the world is a sort of vanity?

    And even if not, where's the inspiration for such efforts in the teaching of your school? Why should we want to help others? If we only live one life, if mind only is a product of the brain, if we know this world is going to die out at some point anyway, couldn't you say then that compassion is mere sentiment? Nothing to do with the nature of reality? That we might help others because it feels good and promotes a better world, but that at the end of the day it doesn't mean anything in the bigger picture of the universe?
    Hi Steph

    Just like you, I'm interested in the issue of compassion. Why should we want to help others? Maybe we shouldn't want to. Helping is enough.

    The way I see it, our practice gives no inspiration for humanistic efforts. None. You don't need no stinking zen to go and feed the starving kids in Africa or to save the whales. Most people in Amnesty international will never sit on a cushion and send to hell the conviction that torture is wrong even for 30 min. And they do great stuff that we can be grateful for.

    Now that's not what zen tells you to do (or not do). But, trust me just for the duration of this post, zen ain't nihilism. It just takes time to realize that "we do this for all beings" ain't just empty rethoric.

    Don't you think, sometimes, that what we usually understand as compassion is a way to soothe our anguish and justify our little self? That is and was my case, at least. I elected a professional career of service to others, genuinely wanting to serve. Now, looking back, the reasons for wanting to serve were not pure compassion (as I thought 20 years ago), but had a lot to do with self-affirmation, with my need to be appreciated, with my need to feel useful. I guess that could accomodate the search for "sense", "direction", "meaning". So "meaning" is the nice feeling that A is a useful dude? Turned out it wasn't. Like every other goal and nice picture in our minds, the reality of it ends up not fulfilling our expectations. I'm sure if I decide to do somethng different and save 200 whales my Ego won't be happy in the end. Unless I save them just to save them, not to feel good about it -or about anything else.

    Real compassion is not something that needs to be inspired by others, is not something that we should aim for. Real compassion is the natural result of finding out that this person in front of me is nothing else but part of my Self. I hate how rethorical this all sounds, but natural compassion is like massaging your sore foot or quenching your thirst with a good glass of water: you don't feel more valuable because you did it, you don't expect a medal, you just do it.

    "Compassion arises of its own accor when we remove the impediments". Indeed. What are the impediments? I guess there are thousands. Maybe they're all in our minds, and these are 2 that I found surprising:

    1) The thought that the world should be according to our standards: no war, no injustice, no hunger, no violence, etc

    2) The conviction that you and me are a separate thing

    Our school gives no inspiration to be compassionate. But eventually we see that compassion is not an option: it is ourselves we're taking care of.

    So how about some sitting? Please receive a cyberhug.

  38. #38

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    Samuel Beckett, one of my favorite Zen authors...
    Ah...yes. Time to bring up "Charlie Rose" by Samuel Beckett. :mrgreen:

  39. #39
    Stephanie
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    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Thanks for the feedback, all.

    It was hard to write out that post because it was very personal. And, again, I'm not sure I did a good job communicating my experience. Because even if the language I use is convoluted, the experience is very simple. I think a lot, but the thinking doesn't bother me so much. Sitting regularly and doing retreats, etc., has helped a lot with that. There's been a darkness in my mind for a long time, and no matter what language I've layered over top of it, I think it's pretty much been the same thing. But I don't think it's as simple as, "Oh, I get depressed." Maybe it is, and I'm just being stubborn. But it doesn't feel that way.

    Maybe there's nothing to fix, really. Because I do have some trust in how my life has unfolded and continues to unfold. I just wonder myself, why I'm so fixated on meaning. I would probably be happier if I wasn't. But then, I also probably would be a much more worthless person too. I don't know, I wouldn't trade my life for a happier, easier one. This post and some before come across a bit maudlin, but I laugh about this as much as I hurt over it.

    But, in lieu of twelve paragraphs of gibberish, I'll just say thanks, for now.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alberto
    Now that's not what zen tells you to do (or not do). But, trust me just for the duration of this post, zen ain't nihilism. It just takes time to realize that "we do this for all beings" ain't just empty rethoric.
    I believe this wholeheartedly, Alberto.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alberto
    Don't you think, sometimes, that what we usually understand as compassion is a way to soothe our anguish and justify our little self? That is and was my case, at least. I elected a professional career of service to others, genuinely wanting to serve. Now, looking back, the reasons for wanting to serve were not pure compassion (as I thought 20 years ago), but had a lot to do with self-affirmation, with my need to be appreciated, with my need to feel useful. I guess that could accomodate the search for "sense", "direction", "meaning". So "meaning" is the nice feeling that A is a useful dude? Turned out it wasn't. Like every other goal and nice picture in our minds, the reality of it ends up not fulfilling our expectations. I'm sure if I decide to do somethng different and save 200 whales my Ego won't be happy in the end. Unless I save them just to save them, not to feel good about it -or about anything else.
    Beautifully put. And yes, to all of it. A lot of my "helping" behavior in the past hasn't come from a healthy or selfless place. I picked up a lot of codependent qualities growing up. I've let go of some of the more pathological manifestations of that, which actually, as it was going on, was unleashing a flood of questions and doubts. I got some good lessons about doing things in hope of a particular result or reward, especially for the sake of a lot of the self-centered agendas listed above. The moments when I've been able to "save them just to save them" have been some of the happiest moments in my life.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alberto
    Real compassion is not something that needs to be inspired by others, is not something that we should aim for. Real compassion is the natural result of finding out that this person in front of me is nothing else but part of my Self. I hate how rethorical this all sounds, but natural compassion is like massaging your sore foot or quenching your thirst with a good glass of water: you don't feel more valuable because you did it, you don't expect a medal, you just do it.
    No, don't worry, I get it--trust me, I do! Again, tapping into this has been my saving grace in the past year. It's like... an island of joy in a sea of desolation. And sometimes, somehow, the desolation's all caught up in the joy, and vice versa, and it seems that both equally inform one another. I don't really understand it. I feel like I'll be okay, but sometimes it feels like being crushed in the maw of nothingness--lol, that sounds so absurd and melodramatic, and maybe I'm just young and chemically unstable. But it feels honest and real, too. Maybe I'm just being a dumb ass, I think I'm going to quit trying to explain this, I think I've embarassed myself enough for the next day... week... month... year... :lol:

    Quote Originally Posted by Alberto
    So how about some sitting? Please receive a cyberhug.
    Yes, and thanks.

  40. #40

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Maybe I'm just being a dumb ass, I think I'm going to quit trying to explain this, I think I've embarassed myself enough for the next day... week... month... year...
    Not a dumbass, just trying to figure life out like the rest of us. And, for what it is worth, I admire the honesty in your posts. You are not afraid to ask a question, even when asking it reveals a vulnerable spot. I call that courage.

    Gassho,
    Bill

  41. #41

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    But it feels honest and real, too. Maybe I'm just being a dumb ass, I think I'm going to quit trying to explain this, I think I've embarassed myself enough for the next day... week... month... year... :lol:
    Stephanie,

    I think what you post is honest and real. I'm very sorry to whatever extent I've contributed to you feeling embarrassed. I don't think any of us should feel embarrassed about what we're posting -- I think it's important that we can all come here and share whatever experiences, difficulties, and doubts we're having about our practice. I know it helps me a great deal to hear what others are going through.

    I know I come on strong sometimes. It isn't intended to be judgmental or discouraging -- it's just what comes to mind, and I pound it out as I think it and hope it's helpful. To the extent it isn't, I'm sorry.

    --Charles

  42. #42

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles
    I'll respond for the flower: "I am what I am."
    Funny because God in the burning bush said something similar to Moses. :lol:

    Well, Steph, I'm one of those modern scientific, materialistic skeptics. Yet, I don't call life random or an anomaly. I also never think of life as "only organic" or "nothing deeper".

    I agree with everyone here that are saying that you are trying to force your sense of 'meaning' and 'purpose' to nature. Even if there is a personal god, there's no way we could ever find out his purpose. I mean, life doesn't make a lick of sense from a human perspective.

    For me, practicing Buddhism helps me remember the miracle of being just as it is. As many others here have said, once you remove the impediments to realizing your true self, you'll naturally be more compassionate. It will feel unnatural to be anything else.

    This is a fantastic thread, by the way. It's definitely a keeper.

  43. #43

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Jundo,

    I think I passed over the meaning of this when I read it the first time:

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I want to add something very important for clarity ...

    So trusting are we of life that we do not need to know if there is a maker or not, let alone any of her characteristics. This is vitally important. The border between belief, agnosticism and atheism drops away [EMPHASIS ADDED].
    I'm not sure if my take on this is in line with what you're saying, but here goes:

    I don't see the question of God as a question about whether or not there's some particular being that has certain qualities, and whether or not that being exists. I see it as a matter of how one experiences the world, how one lives in relationship with everything, and one's 'frame of interpretation' for lack of a better term.

    As a philosophical idea I more or less reject the God idea because I don't think it makes a lot of sense. For reasons I mentioned above, God as an explanatory hypothesis seems illogical to me -- it seems like a bad explanation because it's unnecessary. For example, it seems akin to walking into your kitchen and finding some spilled milk, and positing that a malicious elf snuck in through the window and caused a spill. Sure, it explains what happened, but it seems silly. In that sense, I guess I'm an atheist.

    But, I have a lot of religious friends who live their lives in relationship with what they describe as the living God. For them God is an experience of life, and it involves the value of all things and compassion for all things. I take no issue with this and have a deep respect for it. They experience the world and live in it in such a way that their personal relationship with God is just how they relate to everything. I don't, personally, experience the world like this, I don't live in the world like this. But I make no claim whatsoever that this kind of experience is invalid or wrong. In certain ways I think that the way I experience the world, and the way they experience the world, are similar, but we use different words to describe it.

    I know that may seem like a contradiction, like I'm splitting hairs, but I don't think so. I think there's a big difference between the idea of a thing, and an experience and relationship, a way of life. So: I think the idea of God is unnecessary. But I think that people who live in a relationship with God are on to something, though I don't frame things in quite the way they do.

    --Charles

  44. #44

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by TracyF
    Quote Originally Posted by Charles
    I'll respond for the flower: "I am what I am."
    Funny because God in the burning bush said something similar to Moses. :lol:
    Heh. That wasn't an accident. I was raised on the Hebrew Bible. :wink:

    --Charles

  45. #45

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles
    Jundo,

    I think I passed over the meaning of this when I read it the first time:

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I want to add something very important for clarity ...

    So trusting are we of life that we do not need to know if there is a maker or not, let alone any of her characteristics. This is vitally important. The border between belief, agnosticism and atheism drops away [EMPHASIS ADDED].
    I'm not sure if my take on this is in line with what you're saying, but here goes:

    I don't see the question of God as a question about whether or not there's some particular being that has certain qualities, and whether or not that being exists. I see it as a matter of how one experiences the world, how one lives in relationship with everything, and one's 'frame of interpretation' for lack of a better term.
    Hi Charles,

    Usually, in our Zen practice, we advice folks to get out of philosophical debating and postulating (as nice as your ideas are) ... and SIMPLIFY. Drop the excess words, no matter how lovely.

    So, my point is very simple: I drop all idea of either belief or doubt, agnosticism or atheism, god or no god, buddha or no buddha ... and I chop wood and fetch water. In other word, I have a life, so I live life.

    If there is a god/buddha/whatever, I think that living the life I received is the highest tribute I could pay thereto. And if there is no whatever, I live this life still.

    That is, I think, taking the flower as just the flower.

    I think a philosophy/religion like Zen Buddhism that drops all idea of either belief or doubt, affirmation, neutrality or rejection is a very unusual creed.

    Gassho, Jundo

  46. #46

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Usually, in our Zen practice, we advice folks to get out of philosophical debating and postulating (as nice as your ideas are) ... and SIMPLIFY. Drop the excess words, no matter how lovely.
    Fair enough.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    So, my point is very simple: I drop all idea of either belief or doubt, agnosticism or atheism, god or no god, buddha or no buddha ... and I chop wood and fetch water. In other word, I have a life, so I live life.

    If there is a god/buddha/whatever, I think that living the life I received is the highest tribute I could pay thereto. And if there is no whatever, I live this life still.

    That is, I think, taking the flower as just the flower.

    I think a philosophy/religion like Zen Buddhism that drops all idea of either belief or doubt, affirmation, neutrality or rejection is a very unusual creed.
    Definitely, and that makes sense to me. At some point we have to live and act regardless of the ideas we have. At the same time, isn't struggling with ideas also a part of life? Without all of the thinking and idea-work that people have done, we wouldn't live the way we live. For example, we wouldn't do science, we wouldn't have medicine, we wouldn't have architecture or art, etc. And all of the philosophies that human beings have developed, while they may not be the expression of absolute truth that their creators take them for, are still beautiful in their own right. They're still expressions of how different people have experienced and interpreted the world, and as such are as 'worth' looking at as any flower or anything else.

    --Charles

  47. #47

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    They [the philosopies] are still expressions of how different people have experienced and interpreted the world, and as such are as 'worth' looking at as any flower or anything else.
    This morning I spent 15 minutes in the parking lot of a local Lidl store, just listening to the manifold marvelous sounds that a supermarket makes. I wouldn't go there to shop for a bag of Zen though.

    Gassho,
    Mensch

  48. #48

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    I don't want to say too much. Just a short post for now.

    Isn't our life exactly what we make it? We have the choice to accept and make of whatever suffering we come in contact with.

    It seems to me (from my own practice) that the sadness, and so on is really just a sense of us. Some teachers break through that sense of us by giving a choice. This is what you make it. "You" don't matter. Catering to this small self or whatever you like to call it, just seems to reinforce it even more. So sometimes I think it's good to be left out in the cold where the only responsibility for your life is you.

    If we are feeling alone, or we see that the world is just bad, or we think that no one understands us or likes us. This is YOU. There is no one else that can do anything about that than you. You may cry about it, or whine about it, or go here and there to erradicate it, but in the end it is really you.

    Compassion in part comes from an understanding as well. If one conquers their fears and dellusions (so to speak) they can't help but understand or see the same in others.

    Zazen brings more balance, understanding and compassion about life than "YOU" could ever hope to understand. In a sense we just have to let it be.

    Zazen is action. We take it off the cushion. There is actually no seperation between the cushion and the rest of our life. We objectify practice. Put it in a category. However, it never starts or begins. Wisdom sometimes (I think) cannot necessarily flower without some pain.

    Ok. I don't want to say too much.

    Just one more: Zazen and Zen practice can be humbling.

    Gassho Will

  49. #49

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles

    ... At the same time, isn't struggling with ideas also a part of life? Without all of the thinking and idea-work that people have done, we wouldn't live the way we live. For example, we wouldn't do science, we wouldn't have medicine, we wouldn't have architecture or art, etc.
    Oh, for sure! I am with you 100%.

    But, as I like to say ad naseum, our Zen way is like working on several seemingly conflicting, even opposing and incongruous mental channels at once, without the least conflict or disharmony, not even two. So we have goals but drop all goals, go places while there is no place to go, choose on one 'channel' while dropping all choices on another 'channel', etc. etc. We learn to do this AT ONCE!

    I have described this as being like a harmoniously balanced, multi-level schizoid personality!!

    This is also an application of "thinking not thinking, i.e., non-thinking".

    One key is, however, to know when we are falling too much, or exclusively, into the world of thinking, goals, likes and dislikes, etc. That is where most of the world is, the way day-to-day humans usually function in life. Don't let yourself fall too much, or exclusively, into the world of philosophy, ideas, concepts, theories, etc.

    If you find yourself doing so, then you must return to "not thinking" too! SIMPLIFY!

    Does that make sense? I think that if you grasp what I wrote above, so many of the Koans will spring open for you.

    Gassho, Jundo (also something of an armchair philosopher)

  50. #50

    Re: Tying Up Threads

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    I was just reading an article about our 'will to the truth', our 'bodhi mind'. That part of us that wills us on to practice. The article is based on the chapter of Shobogenzo called "Zazenshin".

    This 'bodhi' state of mind can be based on our suffering, on our unhappiness with ourselves and our sorroundings. It can arise from our selfishness, our need for betterment. Our unhappiness is a big cause of our practice itself.

    Maybe, Jundo, you could say something about 'bodhi mind' when you get a chance? I don't remember the idea being discussed here, but maybe it was,

    "Dharma Inquiry, Zazenshin: Acupuncture Needle of Zazen" by Shohaku Okumura is the article.

    Here's the link: http://www.sanshinji.org/Fa03.shtml

    Regards,

    Harry.
    Hi Harry,

    I think the short essay by Rev. Okumura says it all, and I recommend everyone to look at it. Here is a portion:

    Then what is our sickness? I think it is very clear. Shakyamuni Buddha said that we have been shot with an arrow tainted by the three poisonous states of mind. These three states are greed, anger/hatred and ignorance of the reality of our life, that is: impermanence, ego-lessness and interdependentorigination. Because of this ignorance, we think that we are independent and separate from all other beings. We grasp this as ô Iö and think this is most important. To make this person powerful, important, famous, wealthy and healthy, these become the purpose of our life. And if we are successful, then we are happy like heavenly beings. And if not, we are miserable and it feels like being in hell. Because no condition stays forever, we transmigrate from one condition to another. This is the way our lives become transmigration within samsara. According to the Buddha's teachings, this is how our lives become suffering. This transmigration is actually happening moment by moment in our daily lives in this lifetime. Buddha's teaching is often called medicine and the Buddha is sometimes called ômedicine masterö or ôgreat doctorö. The idea of the acupuncture needle is the same; to heal the sickness caused by the three poisonous states of mind. This is the basic meaning of this title, Zazenshin. Zazen is an acupuncture needle to heal the sickness caused by the three poisonous states of mind. And because the sickness is very inveterate and obstinate, it is very difficult to heal.
    Nishijima Roshi said something similar in his "A Heart to Heart" book ...


    The ĹTruthĺ of ĹWill to the Truthĺ is written as Ĺbodaiĺ in Japanese, a word derived from the Sanskrit word Ĺboddhi,ĺ which has as its original meaning Ĺthe Actual,ĺ ĹTruth,ĺ ĹReality.ĺ Accordingly, our Ĺestablishing of a Will to the Truthĺ means our sincere wish to know ĹTruth,ĺ to seek for what is and is not the ĹReal.ĺ Because we have little understanding of Buddhism when we first set out in its practice, we do not understand how best to engage in that practice. However, Master Dogen, through his words in such works as the Gakudoyojinshu and Shobogenzo, has shown us that the arising within of a sincere wish to know what is ĹRealĺ is the starting point, the setting out point for our Buddhist practice, and thus of the highest importance.

    ... In his Gakudoyojinshu, a writing created to guide newcomers in the practice of Buddhism, Master Dogen stated that 'the establishment of a Will to the Truth' is the same as just to reflect intuitively that our life must be instantaneous, fully here and now, without thoughts of the past or dreams of the future. Simply being present here and now, present in this very Reality in this instant with nothing to search for, nothing to seek ů is the ĹWill to the Truth.ĺ But at the same time, Master Dogen also stated that the arising in human beings, from various circumstances, of an earnest and sincere wish to know ĹTruth,ĺ to seek the real meaning of human life ů.. a calling within that will not release one from that quest - as though to save oneĺs own head from fire ů.. such is also the actual state which is the Ĺestablishment of a Will to the Truth.ĺ In such circumstances, when we concentrate our hearts upon the knowing of Truth, upon knowing the real meaning of human life ů.. the other problems which we usually think of as being as important as life itself - such as fame and profit and the like - become instead, just so very unimportant in its light. Master Dogen grasped that the state of our seeing into our being in the instantaneous present can also be the kindling of the spirit of inquiry, and is a state available to anyone, possible for anyone to attain, as both the setting off point for our Buddhist practice, and an indispensable precondition for that Buddhist practice.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Heart-Chat-Budd ... 984&sr=8-1
    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - I especially appreciated the section at the end of Rev. Okumura's essay about how Zazen can go off track if driven by poisonous states of mind ... one reason that Zazenshin is often linked to the Precepts.

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