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Thread: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

  1. #1
    Stephanie
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    The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    ...as I understand it is to let go of goals and experience acceptance of all passing conditions. Striving for kensho and special experiences, and striving to change or improve the self, seem to be the antitheses of a shikantaza-based practice.

    I can understand this philosophically and experientially, yet something also feels "wrong" about it to me. I find myself wondering, "What would a world in which people did not strive to change things for the better be like?" I find the practice of shikantaza extremely valuable, yet as a religiously minded person, I find I have to go somewhere outside of this school for other spiritual resources, as it is an entirely un-inspiring religion when it comes to social change and visions for a better world.

    The one thing this school really seems to offer--the possibility of living a more peaceful life--leaves me a bit cold, and almost seems immoral to me at times; I think, "Shouldn't people feel driven to change their lives and change the world for the better? Shouldn't people not be at peace with the current state of the world? Shouldn't people plugged into Truth see that there's something wrong with this world and feel driven to work for a better, more just world?" Wouldn't a true person want to do more than just passively "desist from evil," but also want to actively realize Good? And in our modern world, couldn't we say that a life of quiet acceptance of "everyday life" is a form of evil, that in its passivity allows the world's evils to go on unchallenged? We cannot say any more that a person ceases from actively accomplishing evil by simply being a nice person who does not actively seek to harm others; given that most of us buy products or enjoy benefits from enterprises that are harmful and destructive, it seems our very existence is a sort of evil if we do not take up the call to do something more than just get by...

    In 1967, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "Now, I've chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal."

    What do you all think?

  2. #2

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Stephanie wrote:
    Wouldn't a true person want to do more than just passively "desist from evil," but also want to actively realize Good? And in our modern world, couldn't we say that a life of quiet acceptance of "everyday life" is a form of evil, that in its passivity allows the world's evils to go on unchallenged? We cannot say any more that a person ceases from actively accomplishing evil by simply being a nice person who does not actively seek to harm others; given that most of us buy products or enjoy benefits from enterprises that are harmful and destructive, it seems our very existence is a sort of evil if we do not take up the call to do something more than just get by...
    That is why Zen is more than just zazen.

    1. I will refrain from killing.

    2. I will refrain from stealing.

    3. I will refrain from abusing sexuality.

    4. I will refrain from speaking untruthfully.

    5. I will refrain from encouraging, delusion in myself and others.

    6. I will refrain from malicious speech.

    7. I will refrain from being proud of myself and belittling others.

    8. I will refrain from holding back in giving either Dharma or wealth.

    9. I will refrain from indulging in anger.

    10. I will refrain from defaming the Three Treasures.

    I. Do no evil.
    II. Do good.
    III. Do good for others.

    What is outside of this that could help the world?

    Gassho,
    Bill

  3. #3

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    To save all sentient beings though beings are numberless.

    May all beings be happy
    May they be peaceful
    May they be free

    This caretaking practice is dedicated to all beings
    ---------------------------

    Zazen is not ignorance or bliss. It is Buddha. When you actualize Zazen in a balanced state, you actualize Buddha.

    When you attach to ideas of good and bad, cold and bliss, you miss the point. Keep sitting I guess.

    We, we, we. How about you just look at you for now.

    All of the thousands of Teachers who have taught thousands or millions of beings to live peacefully and balanced in this world is passive?

    All of the teachers who have travelled around the world to spread the teachings is passive?

    All the Karma that has been reversed by this practice is passive?

    Sure we can change the world, but the world also includes your balance, compassion, joy and the way you relate to others in this world.

    This idea that existence is evil by default is just something that you are thinking too much about. It seems to me.

    When we are balanced and open we can do something that needs to be done. We can do it fully, mindfully and awake.

    I'm sure there are many Zen practicioners who have done honourable things in helping others and changing the situation of this world (even if only a small part).

    Don't fit everything into a narrow category please.

    Gassho Will

  4. #4

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    The one thing this school really seems to offer--the possibility of living a more peaceful life--leaves me a bit cold, and almost seems immoral to me at times; I think, "Shouldn't people feel driven to change their lives and change the world for the better? Shouldn't people not be at peace with the current state of the world? Shouldn't people plugged into Truth see that there's something wrong with this world and feel driven to work for a better, more just world?"
    I think that feeling driven and not being at peace aren't prerequisites for working to relieve suffering.

    To put it another way: we aren't morally obligated to feel anything, only to act. I'm not required to feel horrible in order to help people who feel horrible; and, in my experience, I'm more effective in action when I don't feel horrible. If anything, I owe it to other people to hold myself together -- to resist depression and anguish -- so that I can be useful.

    As a practical example, I've given a lot of emotional support to someone close to me this year, someone who's suffering from depression and who's having a hard time mustering the energy to keep going. I've been able to do this only because I'm not suffering in the same ways.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    "Now, I've chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal."
    I think I don't need to believe anything about anyone burning anywhere in order to speak out. But as far as I can tell, this practice doesn't demand that we remain silent.

    --Charles

  5. #5

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    I found a passage in Uchiyama Roshi's Opening the Hand of Thought that speaks to your questions. I've had some of the same concerns as you Stephanie.

    The mother takes care of her child, but in doing so, she's not sacrificing herself; on the contrary, with a nurturing love she looks after the child as her own life. The Lotus Sutra says, "The three worlds are my possessions, and all sentient beings therein are my children." This is the fundamental spirit of Buddhism, and the source of this spirit is nothing other than settling in the zazen that precedes all distinctions.

    In other words, for the person who sits zazen, vow is nothing other than the practitioner's own life; so we see all encounters—with things, situations, people, society—as nothing but our own life and we function solely with the spirit of looking after our own life. Therefore, like the mother's caring for her child, we aim to function unconditionally and tirelessly and, moreover, to do so without expecting any reward.

    It is not to profit personally or become famous that we take good care of things, devote ourselves to our work, love those whom we encounter, or demonstrate our concern for social problems. I take care of my own life—I take care of the world as my own life—moment by moment, and in each situation I enable the flower of my life to bloom, working solely that the light of buddha may shine.
    This is essentially what Alberto eloquently stated in the "Tying Up" thread.

  6. #6

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Hi Steph,

    First, thank you Bill & Will for citing the Precepts, the Four Vows. That is at the heart of our Practice, right with Zazen. Thank you Charles and Chris for wise perspectives too.

    Steph, I think you still mischaracterize a lot of stuff! You do not need to see our teachings in the narrow way you say. I have told you that before. :wink:

    There is absolutely nothing about our practice that stops us from changing the world, leading a revolution if we want. Certainly, our "acceptance" of the world is anything but "complacency". We are free to feed the hungry, comfort the needy, protest a war, find a cure for a disease ... and we are free to do none of those things. But the Precepts, and our view of the inter-connectness of all beings, would certainly push us down the former path of charity and compassion. I consider the Buddha to have been a revolutionary, as much as Che' or MLK!

    And as to finding inspiration and spiritual meaning ... we believe that you need to look inside yourself, and all around the very place where you are standing ... maybe as much or more than you need to look to the sky for inspiration. If you are uninspired, perhaps you are not seeing what is right in front of your eyes. That is our view.

    Bottom line: How you choose to act (or not act), how you choose to see life: Largely up to you.

    Gassho, Jundo

  7. #7
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    I don't see what any sort of practice - call it what you like; religious, spiritual, mental, psychological - has to do with helping others. While such a practice may enable you to see the world more clearly and understand what goes on - including suffering - there's nothing in the package of that practice that includes a "save the world" attitude. The precepts may tell you that, but the precepts are not sitting, they are an additional part of the worldview you adopt (or not) when doing this practice.

    Kirk

  8. #8

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    I don't see what any sort of practice - call it what you like; religious, spiritual, mental, psychological - has to do with helping others. While such a practice may enable you to see the world more clearly and understand what goes on - including suffering - there's nothing in the package of that practice that includes a "save the world" attitude. The precepts may tell you that, but the precepts are not sitting, they are an additional part of the worldview you adopt (or not) when doing this practice.

    Kirk
    Hi Kirk,

    I rather disagree with some of that.

    Whether you decide to help others or not, or "save the world" or not, is up to you. However, if you decide that helping others is part of the package, then it just is ... and then your Practice includes helping others. What is more, a Practice focused only on yourself is a poorer Practice, I think.

    I also think that the Precepts are sitting itself, and are as important to our Practice as sitting. It is a mistake to take the sitting without the Precepts. You can, but it is a little dangerous ... like running a bank without limits and ethical guidelines, very risky.

    Gassho, Jundo

  9. #9

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Hi Kirk...

    I think precept is not something like a national law, and you will be punished if you don't do it.
    I think the precept is just the nature of a human being. Even a tiger know how to love her child, not to do harm to her child, but to be helpful to her child, without learning in "tiger school". it's just its nature.

    Human being also the same, the precept is not something that we should do, but something that we will do "naturally" when we see "the real dragon" (I got the word "real dragon" from Fukan-Zazengi).

    So, precept is Zazen, and Zazen is precept.

    And about "saving the world", ... I think if we can do the precept, we have saved the world. Even in the smallest act, if we try our best not to do harm, being healthful and helpful, we have saved the world (of course not whole of the world, but you know 1000 steps started from 1 step).

    And I think if Jundo didn't want to save the world, then there will be no Treeleaf now :P

    Gassho, Shui Di

  10. #10
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    My point is that you don't need to sit to abide by the precepts, and you don't need to abide by the precepts to sit. Traditionally, in zen, they go together, but there's no inherent reason why they should.

    Kirk

  11. #11

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    My point is that you don't need to sit to abide by the precepts, and you don't need to abide by the precepts to sit. Traditionally, in zen, they go together, but there's no inherent reason why they should.

    Kirk
    Except that to call it "Zen" they need to be together. Otherwise, it is shikantaza, that is, a particular practice, devoid of all moral/ethical/philosophical trappings. There is a reason we call Zen Zen and shikantaza shikantaza. One is a portion of the other, not the entirety.

    Bill

  12. #12

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Deleted

  13. #13

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I consider the Buddha to have been a revolutionary, as much as Che' or MLK!
    Please don't mention Che and MLK in the same sentence. They were very different; and Che was not what some have made him out to be.
    Though I may disagree with your take on Che, I do agree that MLK and Ernesto Guevara come from different political perspectives in so far as revolutionary change in a society. Though, it's worth mentioning that MLK is far more revolutionary than what is portrayed in most mainstream history books.

  14. #14

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Indeed. When Zazen is fully active there really is no need for precepts I think. However, we are not superhuman Zen machines. We are not always mindful and we have bad habits. The precepts for each person perhaps are used in a different way. When we are not aware of what we are doing the precepts are a good way to keep us on track.

    It is better not to act at all, than to act in dellusion. Most of the time we actually are running around deluded, so let's see. You get angry at someone or tell someone something which causes a tense, sad or angry feeling. Now with the precepts they give us a guide. Do not criticize others. We have enough to do with our own habit and practice. Yet it is tempting. It is all tempting when we have such a small self. We are bound to do all kinds of stuff for all kinds of imaginary reasons.

    I don't know about you, but when I started sitting I was apt to follow all kinds of thoughts and cravings. Most (I think) have to sit for a time before there Zazen brings them to a point where the precepts naturally arise.

    When we are intimate with the body and have an awareness of it, we start to see how we should take care of it. When we actually taste the things we are putting in their mouth, we don't really need to indulge so much.

    When we have intelligence to act in a situation with right view, right effort, right understanding, and intelligence then we can just throw all the precepts away or give them to someone else.

    Some of us already know something, so we don't really need a guide, but some of us are in the dark. Some of us get flustered. Some of us are bound by our misunderstanding and small mind. Some of us might use Zazen practice for our own profit. Some of us might wander here and there. Of course there is no right or wrong really. Just intelligent sense.

    Now let me give you an example of something:

    I live in a apartment building with a lot of University students. They throw garbage and break beer bottles on the ground. So I told them. I don't understand why they do this? Is this good for the environment? etc.(I knew why they do it from a practice perspective). It just seemed like I needed to tell them this. At first I was a little shaky, not very mindful and a little angry (not angry at them, but just wanted to get the point across). I sat down for a minute payed attention and then calmed down. I talked with one of the students who said they won't do it anymore. They will put it in the trash now. We picked up the pieces and put them in the trash. I have told them things on a couple of occasions. They might see me as some asshole, but it's not really for my benefit that they do that.

    Now I got the feeling after dealing with that situation, that who am I to tell them what to do? I am not sure if it was right action. I feel it was right or good, but perhaps could have been handled in a different way because I see how my own practice is lacking.

    Gassho

  15. #15
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Will, I'd think you'd have lived long enough by now for life to have knocked that unrealistic idealism out of you. If you sit around waiting until you're perfectly free from delusion or bad habits to act on behalf of realizing good for others, you're never going to end up doing anything but sitting around. Plenty of un-enlightened, flawed people have done amazing things to actualize social justice, while plenty of so-called "enlightened" individuals, who have been given Dharma transmission by respected teachers, who have sat hours and hours of zazen over years and years, have done a lot of horrible and destructive things and harmed a lot of people. Zazen isn't a magic pill that takes away your human foibles. It certainly can (but does not necessarily) help you deal with situations better and more clearly, but it's not a prerequisite for effective, compassionate activity in the world. Also, in my opinion, zazen is only as useful as the life in which it is practiced.

    I like what Shui Di said.

    Gassho--

  16. #16

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Will, I'd think you'd have lived long enough by now for life to have knocked that unrealistic idealism out of you. If you sit around waiting until you're perfectly free from delusion or bad habits to act on behalf of realizing good for others, you're never going to end up doing anything but sitting around. Plenty of un-enlightened, flawed people have done amazing things to actualize social justice, while plenty of so-called "enlightened" individuals, who have been given Dharma transmission by respected teachers, who have sat hours and hours of zazen over years and years, have done a lot of horrible and destructive things and harmed a lot of people. Zazen isn't a magic pill that takes away your human foibles. It certainly can (but does not necessarily) help you deal with situations better and more clearly, but it's not a prerequisite for effective, compassionate activity in the world. Also, in my opinion, zazen is only as useful as the life in which it is practiced.

    I like what Shui Di said.

    Gassho--
    Hi Steph,

    Plenty of doctors, despite the Hypocratic oath, have done horrible things. Other doctors have saved countless lives.

    You are right that Zen practice, or even being so-called "enlightened", sure ain't a requisite for effective, compassionate activity in the world. Anyone is capable of that! But if employed wisely, Zen practice can be a stimulus and support for someone engaged in such activities.

    Gassho, Jundo

  17. #17
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hi Steph,

    Plenty of doctors, despite the Hypocratic oath, have done horrible things. Other doctors have saved countless lives.

    You are right that Zen practice, or even being so-called "enlightened", sure ain't a requisite for effective, compassionate activity in the world. Anyone is capable of that! But if employed wisely, Zen practice can be a stimulus and support for someone engaged in such activities.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Jundo --gassho-- I agree completely. Here's what I was disagreeing with:

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    It is better not to act at all, than to act in delusion.

  18. #18

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice..

    Thank you for your post Stephanie.

    Not doing harm I think comes naturally from Zazen. I'm not sure. When we aren't necessarily running around doing what we "think" is right. You see, there's this joy that comes from practice. When you smell, and just let everything be. Now, I don't have all the answers. I don't really know what to say, but I sat outside today with the trees and flies and insects and birds letting everything be. Somewhere in there (I don't know how or when) I actually started paying attention, or became intimate without attachment.

    I got up, could have stayed sitting I guess, but I got up and started walking back to the apartment. Usually when I encounter people there is some sort of tension or aversion. However, that wasn't there. I could sense it arising, but it just didn't. Within that there was no anger or greed. I felt a perhaps "Love" for what I encountered. People, birds etc.. (Not the frilly pink heart Love) but just a compassion maybe. Now, I really can't say anything about it. I don't know. I'm not tripping out. The "I" that usually guides me wasn't there like usual. I wasn't really afraid like I usually am.

    I just got back and am now typing this out.

    Thank you for your effort I guess.

    Gassho Will

  19. #19
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice..

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    Not doing harm I think comes naturally from Zazen. I'm not sure.
    I'm not sure either :wink:

    A beautiful post--gassho--I just disagree with the premises that (a) people need to be enlightened to manifest Dharmic activity in the world and (b) zazen acts like a magic eraser that erases all of your bad stuff and that thus makes your actions better. Don't get me wrong, I've found that the practice of zazen has certainly helped me to become a wiser, more compassionate, braver person. It's just that I've also found that nothing, including zazen, is a "fix" for the dichotomy of human existence, that we are so good, but also so rotten. And people who think that spiritual practice and all the nice side effects it can bring about deliver them from evil often end up doing some pretty atrocious things. That is the dark side of idealism--that our preference for the beautiful visions we can conjure up can blind us to some of the less appetizing aspects of our own current realities, that need to be dealt with in a much less airy-fairy way.

  20. #20

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Hi,

    The "point" of Shikantaza-based Zen practice to me is to try and see the way things really are, to see what is really going on. First, it's a uncomfortable struggle, then a bit of quiet comes along with a few whizzes and bangs, then an awareness of what is happening at that time. I see thoughts come and go, hear noises, feel air moving all in the same context of me.

    I don't think this directly makes me a better person, but because each time I sit, I see a little bit more of myself I see how a human being (me) is in the world. And so I can understand a little bit more of what I am and where I am. And with a little bit more understanding come a bit more compassion, I can see my state and so empathise with others automatically, like people with similar problems form self-help groups as they understand and can help each other without condesenscion.

    I'm not sure if I expressed this very well or this answers the question. It's a big quesion.

    Cheers,

    Paul

  21. #21

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    We cannot blame our inaction on Zen.



    Gassho,
    Bill

  22. #22

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice..

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie

    A beautiful post--gassho--I just disagree with the premises that (a) people need to be enlightened to manifest Dharmic activity in the world and (b) zazen acts like a magic eraser that erases all of your bad stuff and that thus makes your actions better. Don't get me wrong, I've found that the practice of zazen has certainly helped me to become a wiser, more compassionate, braver person. It's just that I've also found that nothing, including zazen, is a "fix" for the dichotomy of human existence, that we are so good, but also so rotten. And people who think that spiritual practice and all the nice side effects it can bring about deliver them from evil often end up doing some pretty atrocious things. That is the dark side of idealism--that our preference for the beautiful visions we can conjure up can blind us to some of the less appetizing aspects of our own current realities, that need to be dealt with in a much less airy-fairy way.
    Hey Stephanie.

    i think you are kinda fixed on some idea you have, which is things should be a certain way...
    maybe they should, but than again maybe they should be any way but the way they are?

    changing the world? being enlightened in order to do so? i am not sure.
    i think that by being enlightened you are nothing but an enlightened person.
    you dont have to do anything... but it is our nature that arises in us and guides all our actions whether we like it or not.
    yet our true self or buddha self as some call it has been lost, it has been buried under our knowledge, teaching, costumes, society, and all we think we know or we think we are.
    by dropping all those things you become nothing more than a person that dropped them.
    i also believe that people are good deep down. and a person who has dropped it all will be more likely to help from compassion.

    when i was younger i wanted to change the world. i wanted to fight in justice. i wanted to force the world to see the light and be good.
    you cannot make an omelet without breaking a few eggs...
    i emphasized the word fight for a reason, many people who try to change the world try to do it for the wrong reasons. they see it as a war... we have to fight against evil... we need to open the eyes of the people, we need to abolish tyranny... we must defeat evil...

    it is a fight we do it since it is something we believe in... our view of the world is right it cant be the other way around... it has to be this way!!!
    it is a selfish view... many people wish to help so they could feel better about themselves, it is another reason which is selfish.

    a person who helps from a sense of compassion does that for other reasons... he accepts all views and only strives to help while doing no evil...
    would a person who is against the killing of baby seals for their fur help a starving men eat and feed his family by helping him kill that seal?

    about erasing the past and such by zazen... i do not believe it to be so, i do not think it really changes anything. i have done many things i am not proud of and hurt many people and i am likely to slip up and do might hurt some other people. so i dont think zazen erases anything.. but it might help me deal with my life and understand myself and other people better by giving me the ability to control myself better, and the precepts help guide me when ever i get lost...
    one thing i did notice the i developed from the practice is this.
    even if i lose my grip and hurt people and say things that might not be very nice... i know what i did and that i did something hurtful and i can come over and apologize and ask for forgiveness.

    the point is no body is perfect... we all get side tracked sometimes. yet it is our practice and our way of life that hopefully helps us do the right thing in the end...

    talked so much, said so little seems little!
    forgive me if i have wasted your time.

    p.s.

    there is wonderful metaphor for the practice of zen

    http://www.emoyeni-retreat.com/id99.htm

    gassho

  23. #23
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Zen, thanks for your reply. In my personal vision, I see no utopia to strive for, no perfect way for things to be; nor do I see any evil beings for us to fight or destroy. What I see is greed and ignorance causing unnecessary suffering, and a world full of people that know a lot of things are wrong, but are in denial or too cynical to do anything about them. Racism, sexism, oppression, exploitation--these are things we can do something about, and that a lot of people are doing something about. And you can work against these things without hatred, but with joy and even a sense of humor. The joy of social justice work is that if it is done out of metta, out of respect and concern for others instead of anger and blame, everyone lightens up, even in really ugly situations. It's almost like the magic you read about in fairy tales as a little kid. People don't really understand what's happening, or why something that seemed so ugly and difficult actually can be a pleasure. It's remarkable.

    One of the few truths I have discovered is that our capacity to imagine a better world and to work to bring it about, whatever it is, wherever it comes from, and whyever it exists, if there is any reason at all, is sacred; true awakening is not passive or self-indulgent, but is manifested as the recognition of a call to action. This is even modelled for us in the story of the Buddha's awakening: his first impulse was simply to enjoy his inner freedom, but then the Gods asked him to teach, to live a life of action for the benefit of sentient beings, and Indra and Brahma helped him realize his duty to the rest of the world as an awakened being. And I think that anyone who in their heart knows that something is wrong, whether or not they are perfectly enlightened, has a duty to respond to that knowledge. That is the Mahayana in action.

    Gassho--

  24. #24

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    could be, could be Steph... but than again... who is to decide what is the best action?
    maybe if everyone one did their part and acted kindly to one another it would change the world much more than a grand revolution?
    i think that do teach people and help them one by one... by living a life that is kind and compassionate we might actually help more than by trying to change everything that seems wrong.
    live your life... day by day moment by moment while straving to do good and to avoid evil if everyone did that the world would be better than by any great movment to change the world and bring social justice...

    but than again i may be wrong...

    we each must find our way to live according to what is right for us.

    The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one

    Wilhelm Stekel (Austrian psychoanalyst, 1868-1940)
    i first read it in the catcher in the rye when i was 17, and it always stayed with me... i think he has a point

  25. #25

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    I totally agree Zen. I certainly admire leaders of movements and people that stand in front of tanks and all that dramatic stuff, but I think the world is ultimately saved one person at a time, and our greatest power to effect that is in the direct commerce we have with people every day—family members, co-workers, people outside our door etc. Every action is a pattern you put into the world for further actions. Favors, good-will, are passed on. It may not be as inspirational or sexy but there it is.

    (At least I hope so because, y'know, I'm just not Ghandi.)

  26. #26

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Deleted

  27. #27

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    What I see is greed and ignorance causing unnecessary suffering, and a world full of people that know a lot of things are wrong, but are in denial or too cynical to do anything about them.
    And Buddhism, if it is anything, is a way to free yourself from greed, and the ignorance that creates it. Many people would argue that avarice itself is the root of all evil. Buddhism posits it is the root of all suffering. People can call themselves whatever they want, Zen Master Rama, whatever, and do bad things in its name, but it would seem if one is living their true buddha nature and imparting that to others, they are doing as much as anyone to make the world better.

  28. #28

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice..

    What I see is greed and ignorance causing unnecessary suffering, and a world full of people that know a lot of things are wrong, but are in denial or too cynical to do anything about them.
    Your right Stephanie. And we should all follow what you say. Because there is only one perspective. Imaginary. And what are you going to do about it? Are you going to pass out flyers? Hit people on the head? Tell them to wake up. Yell at them? Dictate what each sentient being should be doing and not be doing? I'm not going to follow what you say and I don't see why anyone else should. I will do what I do. You do what you do. If that decision comes to me then I will face it then.


    a world full of people that know a lot of things are wrong, but are in denial or too cynical to do anything about them
    And a world full of people who nurse the wounds of victims. Who feed those who have no food. Who care for the sick and dying. Who give shelter to those who have none. Who smile and laugh in the midst of opression. Who plant trees. Who fight for and inform about environmental concerns. Who give a hug. Who work with the mentally ill. Who fight for humanitarian rights. Who raise a child. Who give orphns a homeand an education. Who pick up garbage off of the streets. Who show compassion in little ways that you don't read about in the paper, or on the news, or on the internet, in books, magazines, newspapers, or journals.

    Buddhism is one of the most important of all. Buddhism works with the root of all suffering. Where would the world turn if there were no monks and teachers who have given up their life for helping all living beings. If you don't truly understand this point in your heart, then you have gained no understanding, or wisdom from your practice.

    One of the few truths I have discovered is that our capacity to imagine a better world and to work to bring it about, whatever it is, wherever it comes from, and whyever it exists, if there is any reason at all, is sacred; true awakening is not passive or self-indulgent, but is manifested as the recognition of a call to action. This is even modelled for us in the story of the Buddha's awakening: his first impulse was simply to enjoy his inner freedom, but then the Gods asked him to teach, to live a life of action for the benefit of sentient beings, and Indra and Brahma helped him realize his duty to the rest of the world as an awakened being. And I think that anyone who in their heart knows that something is wrong, whether or not they are perfectly enlightened, has a duty to respond to that knowledge. That is the Mahayana in action.
    Imaginary. Fight the good fight Steph, but don't expect me to fight with you, your way.

    Thank you for your efforts
    Gassho

  29. #29
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Quote Originally Posted by Zen
    maybe if everyone one did their part and acted kindly to one another it would change the world much more than a grand revolution?
    i think that do teach people and help them one by one... by living a life that is kind and compassionate we might actually help more than by trying to change everything that seems wrong.
    live your life... day by day moment by moment while straving to do good and to avoid evil if everyone did that the world would be better than by any great movment to change the world and bring social justice...

    but than again i may be wrong...
    You may be, but I agree with you. I think that compassion is centered in the "little" things we do every day. I believe that there is a place for doing "big" things, but I think that those "big" efforts are only successful when they grow naturally out of the way we are in our daily lives and "mundane" interactions. The way that each of us manifests kindness or goodness will be different, and that is wonderful. And we might argue with each other about our priorities, but at the end of the day, kindness is kindness, and that's the source of all of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    Your right Stephanie. And we should all follow what you say. Because there is only one perspective. Imaginary. And what are you going to do about it? Are you going to pass out flyers? Hit people on the head? Tell them to wake up. Yell at them? Dictate what each sentient being should be doing and not be doing? I'm not going to follow what you say and I don't see why anyone else should. I will do what I do. You do what you do. If that decision comes to me then I will face it then.
    Will, I think you're reacting to stuff I haven't said. Yes, I believe that certain social phenomena are "wrong," but I don't believe the right approach is to violently try to force people to change, nor do I have a grand idea of exactly how people should behave and go about their daily lives (I'll leave that to Dogen). I strongly believe in the value of dialogue and debate, and in the simple power of presenting a different point of view, a different vision of how things can be, which people can then take or leave. I believe in the value of the effort of treating all people with respect and kindness, no matter who they are or what they've done. We can engage in work for change in a way that is constructive and creative, rather than controlling. This approach also involves an openness to the other's point of view, an interest in why they believe and act in the way they do, and a willingness to end up being the person who finds and admits you were wrong!

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Aw, come on, Steph: 'Gods', 'what Buddha did', 'the Mahayana'... what a crock of religious sh*t you're buying into. How disappointing.

    Get real. Real, authentic people are the most useful.

    Want a verbose discourse on what constitutes 'authentic'?

    Whatever you think it is, its not that.

    Rock on, Sister. Don't believe the 'buddhist' hype.

    Harry.
    Harry, I find religious myth, language, and theory to be inspiring, but I'm not sure I'm "buying into" anything. I have no doctrine or dogma guiding me, and this is actually what plunges me into despair sometimes. But what I do see is the way certain images, words, and stories point to certain subjective experiences that many of us share but that are hard to talk about. I believe that religion is a fundamentally creative endeavor in the same way painting or music-making is, and that we lose something when we read as prose what should be read as poetry. Coming up with new myths is the apex of this creative endeavor, but it is not so easy and the old myths still carry resonance if engaged correctly, in my experience.

    And yes, I actually would be interested in a verbose discourse on authenticity :wink:

  30. #30
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    I should add this, because the thought is so comical to me that I would think myself so good or wise that I should be able to enforce my ideas on others or think that others should want to be just like me. As I think I have made obvious here, my life can often be a Hell; I roam along the borders of insanity and can be downright nasty, petty, and self-indulgent. I am ferociously lonely, sometimes bitter, and often in some sort of pain. No one in their right mind would want my life; thank Indra that's not the point! The only time people actually "listen" to you is when your "speech" is not just words, but something you manifest; the only time I have had a positive impact on anyone is when compassion has come through, even in spite of the nastier stuff that gets in its way, which in turn arises largely due to the practice of zazen. Which brings us back to...

  31. #31

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    But I have to do the Macarena.

    G,W

  32. #32

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Hi Steph,

    Thanks for your post. I certainly understand your concerns and I often end up asking why I am not doing more, not getting engaged more...

    The two Buddhists that I can think of as being compassionate and engaged are the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh. If they can be compassionate and engaged humans and Buddhists, why can't we?

    Maybe if we start with exercising metta towards ourselves for starters it will be easier for us to feel more engaged in what is going around? I think we can be cold or disengaged because we think things happen to others, because we humans believe we are isolated and separated from each other and the rest of the universe.

    Our simple practice of zazen brings me closer to anyone else and compassion arises of it without me having to think of it. (I think Uchiyama writes about it in his book and would agree that without compassion ours is not a true practice). This is why I don't think that responding or taking action would be something of a duty, rather it would be a normal thing to do as it is a normal thing for a mother to protect her child. This interconnectedness of all things is there every moment but is easy to forget. Yet I am reminded of it every time I do not act in a skilfull way and get an "aftertaste": I feel bad because I treat someone in a bad way but actually it was myself I hurt.

    Maybe it is a little off the subject track but I guess what I came up with is that we seriously believe we are separate from what is around awhicn in itself is the cause of suffering and makes us belief we can have a luxury of not taking action or responding when we can.

    Gassho,

    Irina

    One of the few truths I have discovered is that our capacity to imagine a better world and to work to bring it about, whatever it is, wherever it comes from, and whyever it exists, if there is any reason at all, is sacred; true awakening is not passive or self-indulgent, but is manifested as the recognition of a call to action. This is even modelled for us in the story of the Buddha's awakening: his first impulse was simply to enjoy his inner freedom, but then the Gods asked him to teach, to live a life of action for the benefit of sentient beings, and Indra and Brahma helped him realize his duty to the rest of the world as an awakened being. And I think that anyone who in their heart knows that something is wrong, whether or not they are perfectly enlightened, has a duty to respond to that knowledge. That is the Mahayana in action.

  33. #33

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Stepahnie,

    You wrote in response to Will's comment:

    .. Yes, I believe that certain social phenomena are "wrong," but I don't believe the right approach is to violently try to force people to change, nor do I have a grand idea of exactly how people should behave and go about their daily lives (I'll leave that to Dogen). I strongly believe in the value of dialogue and debate, and in the simple power of presenting a different point of view, a different vision of how things can be, which people can then take or leave...
    Although I do apperciate the opportunity to discuss and debate things I don't believe we can come to any huge changes in the world through discussions. :shock: Just to a couple of examples here. How would you reason/debate with someone who says "It is not my fault that I am born in a developed country, why would I too suffer because many people suffer someplace else?".

    Debates or discussions by themselves do not make people more compassionate . Besides, we all can have different ideas as to what a perfect world should be like. Rawls's Veil of Ignorance proposal is one way to reason as to what kind of society is good/just to live in but then people would be making choices out of fear (because of the precondition of ignorance) that they would be the ones misfortunate to be born into poverty and not out of compassion for others.

    In this country we have had discussions as to why women should be treated equally as men and should be paid as men are for the same jobs, we all agreed it would be a good/fair thing to do but individuals that make those decisions on the everyday basis often do not share those believes (probably they would never admit it publically :mrgreen: ) and we end up with women (on average) earning 70 % as compared to what men do.

    Compassion has to come from the inside.
    What are the solutions then?

    Gassho,

    Irina

  34. #34

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Compassion has to come from the inside.
    What are the solutions then?
    Make a birthday cake?

    G,W

  35. #35

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Hi Steph

    some deep thoughts here. In my simple mind - the point:

    - sitting: by product - calmness, seeing repeating patterns of thoughts, less reactive, letting go quicker
    - action: being kind, assertive, gentle, focused, forgiving

    Kindest regards

    Jools

    ps - I aspire to the above and most days fail miserably

  36. #36

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    We can eat birthday cakes AND care about the world, right?

    I really like the way The Interdependence project works and wish we had something like this here in Sweden (maybe we do???). It is a grassroots, community-oriented non-profit organization that focuses on meditation, activism, and the arts.

    In his article
    The Psychology of Ecology: Exploring the Internal Landscape of Consumption
    one of the founders of the project Ethan Nichtern explians how they combine practicing active mindfulness and activism
    regarding the most effective ways to be responsible stewards of Planet Earth... to witness what happens in our minds when we try to shift our habits.
    Indifference is scary.

    Indifference pretends to create peace, but it is based on not caring, a silent resignation.
    It is a movement away, a separation fed by a subtle fear of the heart. We pull back, believing that what happens to others is not our concern. Our courage leaves us.
    Indifference is a misguided way of defending ourselves.
    —Jack Kornfield
    Gassho,

    Irina

  37. #37

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    We can eat birthday cakes AND care about the world, right?
    I think so

    Thanks for the post. I was just reading about Joan Halifax Roshi and Upaya Zen Center.

    http://www.upaya.org/index.php

    Gassho Will

  38. #38
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Quote Originally Posted by CinnamonGal
    Although I do apperciate the opportunity to discuss and debate things I don't believe we can come to any huge changes in the world through discussions.
    Au contraire... I believe that it's the only way to promote change. People do not change the way they are inside by being forced to outwardly conform to some standard. What makes people want to change is learning that they have alternatives... that there are other, better ways to be and to achieve their goals. No, a discussion doesn't radically transform a person into a perfect saint, but it plants seeds that may eventually bear fruit. You don't convince anyone of anything, that they should care about this or that. People wake up into compassion on their own, as they grow older, as things happen to them. Dialogue helps them understand what's happening to them and how to cultivate this further. Of course, one wonderful way to cultivate it is Buddhist practice, which people only ever come to because someone mentioned it to them or they asked about it or read about it in a book.

    Quote Originally Posted by CinnamonGal
    Maybe if we start with exercising metta towards ourselves for starters it will be easier for us to feel more engaged in what is going around? I think we can be cold or disengaged because we think things happen to others, because we humans believe we are isolated and separated from each other and the rest of the universe.

    Our simple practice of zazen brings me closer to anyone else and compassion arises of it without me having to think of it. (I think Uchiyama writes about it in his book and would agree that without compassion ours is not a true practice). This is why I don't think that responding or taking action would be something of a duty, rather it would be a normal thing to do as it is a normal thing for a mother to protect her child. This interconnectedness of all things is there every moment but is easy to forget. Yet I am reminded of it every time I do not act in a skilfull way and get an "aftertaste": I feel bad because I treat someone in a bad way but actually it was myself I hurt.
    Beautifully put. Compassion and kindness toward ourselves is very definitely the best way to begin, especially if deep down there is some disconnect rooted in self-loathing. Zazen definitely helps one deepen compassion. And compassion is so natural to who we are--I think it is the essence of the human condition. I also think sitting in zazen or something like it is very natural to human beings. Yet both of these things are also experienced as duties because we resist them naturally as well; it takes discipline and commitment to continue the practice day after day even when the going is hard.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jools
    Hi Steph

    some deep thoughts here. In my simple mind - the point:

    - sitting: by product - calmness, seeing repeating patterns of thoughts, less reactive, letting go quicker
    - action: being kind, assertive, gentle, focused, forgiving

    Kindest regards

    Jools
    A beautiful summation, Jools. Very nice. Thanks for that.

    Gassho--

  39. #39

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Quote Originally Posted by CinnamonGal
    Although I do apperciate the opportunity to discuss and debate things I don't believe we can come to any huge changes in the world through discussions.
    [..] Dialogue helps them understand what's happening to them and how to cultivate this further. Of course, one wonderful way to cultivate it is Buddhist practice, which people only ever come to because someone mentioned it to them or they asked about it or read about it in a book.
    Without dialogue, can the sutras exist? :wink:

  40. #40

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Will, thanks, I will check the link right away!

    Steph, I am a big fan of discussions but there is a difference in what I think can be achieved when promoting change (I do my best at work with that colleague of mine :lol: ) compared to bringing the change out. We can inform people of the world injustices, talk to them, but as you say this will hardly transform them. Personal experience and the sense of interconnectedness will, I believe. I hear of many people who start cancer foundations or something in that line AFTER they have met cancer face to face. It is not till after things start falling apart for me that I begin relating to others' suffering on a more personal level.

    I don't know, I guess it depends on the power of the message. I now believe more in the power of art that engages, something that speaks heart-to-heart (visual art, performance art, dance, music, etc) more than in the power of words (language). The story of the Buddha when he instead of giving a talk picked up a flower really speaks to me more than words could ever say.

    I heard of a Zen master meeting a group of businessman who were eager to hear what he had to say. He said one thing only: "You all are going to die." (Imagine their faces! :wink: )

    Steph, I guess we will meet half way somewhere .

    Gassho,

    Irina

  41. #41
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Quote Originally Posted by CinnamonGal

    Steph, I am a big fan of discussions but there is a difference in what I think can be achieved when promoting change (I do my best at work with that colleague of mine :lol: ) compared to bringing the change out. We can inform people of the world injustices, talk to them, but as you say this will hardly transform them. Personal experience and the sense of interconnectedness will, I believe. I hear of many people who start cancer foundations or something in that line AFTER they have met cancer face to face. It is not till after things start falling apart for me that I begin relating to others' suffering on a more personal level.
    Having been involved over the years in several associations with goals that could be described as "helping others" or "changing things", I agree that there's an awful lot of hot air spewed for often little progress. Debates go on forever to end up with little practical application. People just can't agree about how to change the world, so they find it much more self-enhancing to talk about it, and to come up with grand theories...

    Kirk

  42. #42
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Irina and Kirk,

    I think we may have different conceptions of what is meant by "dialogue" or "conversation" here. Being a windbag and going on and on about your pet theories doesn't accomplish anything other than making people want to smack you! :lol: But I genuinely believe that it is in sincere meeting, face-to-face between people, that any seed of positive social change occurs. Some revolutions begin in the heart of a single person -- Jesus, Buddha, etc. -- but even these people in their studies and lives were in dialogue with their ancestors, with the people that came before them. We see what people have done before and are doing, and we have a conversation about that--either in actuality, face-to-face with other people, or in our own inner lives, in the questions we ask.

    I think many of us start with a conception that something "isn't right," and I think you're right Irina that it is often after our own struggles and losses and sufferings. And I sincerely agree with what people have said before that this isn't about some abstract utopic conception of the perfect society, but it starts very much in a down-to-earth way, about encountering the basic struggles people have day after day and asking if it really does have to be this way, if there is any way to change it. These efforts are often arduous, there must be many failures and slow progress, but if you look over the course of human history, we have made great changes in the world that have made the lives of many people so much better, and I believe we can keep doing so.

    You see the evidence every day. I see a world that is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of environmental responsibility; I see the tide turning slowly, but perceptibly, in favor of LGBTQ folks in America; I see people becoming increasingly aware of the global impact of our lives and choices. The Enlightenment values of liberty, brotherhood, and equality are pressing on us more than ever. Even if the modern myth of "Progress" is a myth, we cannot say it does not have some reality as well. Not that long ago, in America, women could not vote and were pressed into limited, socially defined roles. Not that long ago, black folks were only "allowed" to drink at certain designated water fountains. And fifty years later, we are on the brink of having a Black president!

    These things happened because people put themselves out there, they had a dialogue with the mainstream culture and challenged it, demonstrated peacefully, because people cared and even though they were confused and didn't know what to do to make things better made the effort anyway. To me, this is the most wonderful thing about being a human being, that we can imagine a better world and make it a reality. In my own life, the effort is much often on a smaller scale--as is probably the case for many of us--but to me, that is not the issue. The issue is that we sense on some level the call to wake up and care about our brothers and sisters and put ourselves out there for them in some way, however larger or small. And I continue to think that a religion that does not address this or puts it on the back burner, as some sort of afterthought, is not completely in touch with the truth of our existence and our potential as human beings--

    Gassho,

    Stephanie

  43. #43

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    i know, i'm reaching back into some old posts, but i wasn't here then, so..

    judging by the emotions this subject has brought up, i'd say something is going on -- no self-respecting buddhist wants to see him/herself as selfish -- and yet any decent path requires brutal self-honesty

    i feel steph has a point -- social workers and do-gooders in general, tend to be treated poorly, paid crap, even depicted on screen as, often, the bad guys -- and granted that their are many power-trippers attracted to the work, it still is a very nasty job which often has great benefit for the recipients of services

    and often it is a job that needs to be done -- for example, i used to remove severely abused children from violent people -- 2 a.m. i'd get the emergency call, and off i'd go, removing a baby "punished" by being scalded with boiling water

    and the cases of sexual molestation by parents, usually men, was just about epidemic

    would anyone suggest that we should not intervene in these situations? - well, that is what much of social work is about -- intervening, not sitting back and doing nothing, not swimming in denial

    will you do this job? -- or many of the messier jobs like this in our very messed up society?

    i think its possible to both do zazen, and "save the world" -- but i don't confuse the one with the other -- i've sat for many years, and did social work for even longer (yes, i'm now burnt out) -- sitting, even for 2 months, is very difficult, but no comparison to intervening as i described above -- so i'm always a bit suspicious of the "boddisatva", particularly in me -- its just too convenient a rationalization

    for myself, i'm comfortable with admitting that i am no longer doing the work that i did -- i am, selfishly, pursuing a more self-centered path, doing a lot of zazen -- likd yin and yang, it is the other side of what i did -- i am withdrawn from the community, cause i got to the point that i couldn't even go shopping without seeing so much suffering(this is why i am so attracted to treeleaf -- at least folks are trying)

    there are probably many treeleafers, like steph, who have done this work --thank you -- and there are many who have avoided it -- thank you also, for at least working on yourself -- but i believe that is just a beginning, a preparation for the broader, more engaged, "buddhism"

    but then, that is what i believe :wink:

    gassho, bob

  44. #44
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Bob, you rock. It sounds like you pushed yourself to the limits and needed to step back for a while. Destroying oneself psychologically doesn't help anyone. We are limited creatures and acknowledging that is living wisely.

    I don't think we are obligated to be "do-gooders"; I think guilt over not being on the front lines is misplaced. Like you (and like the existentialists), I believe that our main moral obligation is honesty, to not live in a state of what Sartre called "bad faith." We must realize our complicity in what we are, the way that the people we become reflect the choices we make. There is no one else to blame if we do not like who we are or the world we live in, if we are not acting to make them better.

    Where I think bad faith can come in for a Buddhist is an embrace of the bodhisattva vow, the highest embodiment of the precepts, on an intellectual level, but a failure to follow through on it on the level of action. If we can honestly examine and admit why there is a discrepancy between our thinking and our actions, we are still in good faith. But this is difficult because many of us cannot face down the possibility of our own 'badness.' So we make up some sort of intellectual excuse that justifies our failure to live with integrity, according to the religious vision to which we claim to subscribe.

    This is where Shakyamuni came in with incorporating 'Right Livelihood' as part of the Eightfold Path. I think 'Right Livelihood' extends beyond the area of industry in which one works and more generally stands as an injunction to live an honest life. It demands us to acknowledge how we live as a choice and not an imposition of an inescapable fate. If the work we do goes against what we claim to believe, we must reckon with that. We must say, "I am the author." Here is the moral battlefield: not that there is only one acceptable choice for how to be in the world with integrity, but that integrity demands we acknowledge our responsibility for what we do.

    More than I see examples of people committing truly horrible acts, every day I see examples of people who refuse to take responsibility for their actions. It is always someone else's fault, or a twist of fate. Or perhaps they argue that they are not doing what they seem to be doing. This is what I find abhorrent; not that people have behaved badly, but that they cannot even take ownership of that. Despite Buddhism's rigorous demands for self-awareness, I have known many Buddhists who have used the teachings and logic of Buddhism to deepen their self-deception, not overcome it. They find a cosmic justification for their passivity in a misapprehension of Buddhist teaching.

    I believe that looking at the world and saying, "All is as it should be," is the consummate act of bad faith. It is morally, intellectually, and spiritually dishonest. And people do it every day. "Everything happens for a reason," is a favorite saying, by which people mean that if something bad has happened, it was because the Universe needed it to be that way, not because they made a bad choice.

    What bothers me is not that some people choose not to take action, but that they find ways to either deny it is a choice or to justify their lack of action as cosmically justified. If there is a God, we know from all religions what God wants most of us is to love our neighbor and to make this world more just; if there is no God, we know that the whole shebang is our responsibility. There is no way around it. I believe that this is the height of the human project we are approaching here, that we can take responsibility, and shape our world.

    This is why I cannot embrace a religion that centers itself on the notion of passive acceptance. I think I understand what Jundo is getting at when he talks about "acceptance without acceptance." Zazen practice can help us find equanimity in even the most brutal situations. But if the end result is that we become passive, we are acting in bad faith, because as Sartre said, we cannot escape the act of choosing. To choose not to choose is a choice. But developing equanimity does not have to lead to passivity; instead, it can mean accepting our responsibility.

    I do not believe it is our responsibility to jump on board for every cause that moves us, but it is our responsibility to acknowledge that we can shape our world. That we are capable of empathy and compassion shows us that our world is not acceptable, because people suffer in ways we find unconscionable, and for reasons that are not inevitable. Thus to say "All is as it should be" is to commit an intellectually and morally atrocious act. This is where the crisis arises: what then do we do? How do we choose to live in a world that is not as it should be? It is when we have reckoned with this that we can live in true peace and acceptance, because we are no longer playing games of self-deception to avoid our conscience. Once we choose to reckon with ourselves honestly, all the anxiety falls away, because we have accepted our role.

  45. #45
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    4,693

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Great posts Bob and Stephanie!

    I have always felt the pull to help others and volunteer when I can, but much of my childhood was spent being told my needs were secondary to those around me. So, while the idea of serving others is a great thing, it can't be put above care for the self in every instance. One of my trepidations about Zen is that I have heard much of what is involved is the breaking down of the ego and the self, but what do you do if the ego is underdeveloped? I'm guessing that really wouldn't be seen as a problem here and to say I have no ego at all would be untrue, but when I am challenged in my ideas my tendency isn't to respond with assurance. Instead I recoil most of the time and allow other's opinions to be "better" than my own.

    So, it will be an interesting balance to strike and I feel up to the task, but it will require me to face my fear and try to let go of many things.

    BTW, if that was completely off topic I do beg everyone's pardon!

    Gassho,
    Scott

  46. #46
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    I always welcome off-topic discussion in threads I start, it keeps things interesting

    Not that I think what you wrote was off-topic. I've struggled with exactly the same thing as you. I took it to a real extreme, in some of the relationships I got in, of placing the other completely above myself, the other's needs completely above my own needs. I agree with William Blake that the road of excess can lead to the palace of wisdom (but not necessarily). The extreme suffering and degradation I experienced at the hands of people I crawled on my belly for showed me that something was wrong about my idealistic and self-abnegating stance. What I was doing wasn't noble; it was sick, and pitiable.

    I think one of the worst misconceptions I've seen in modern Buddhism is this idea that we either (a) don't have an ego or that (b) we have an ego, and we should destroy it in order to attain enlightenment. This leads to all sorts of crazy and pitiable behavior. Of course, the Buddha was right--we don't have any lasting, unchanging "essence." But "ego" is more or less a poetic description of a function of consciousness that keeps us alive and healthy. I believe that the path of Buddhism, when trod sanely, is about learning to relate to this experience of ego differently, not trying to destroy it. If you want to see what people who do not have a functioning ego are like, go to a psychiatric hospital, not an ashram.

    It sounds like you're on a good path, Scott, and one that will be rewarding and healing, if it is anything like my journey was. But oh, it's hard. It's hard as hell.

  47. #47

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Hi Stephanie,

    To address your original post, I think that there may be a confusion between three common definitions of "acceptance". One is perjorative (has implications of good/bad) and that "acceptance" is the same as saying something is good or "as things should be". This can lead to to a deluded view called (at ZCLA in the old days, anyway) buji zen (or, as it was translated to me "do-nothing zen"). This is the attitude where the cat shit on the carpet is just fine and can stay there indefinitely. This is definitely, I believe, not an "enlightened" view. This leads to the second view, that acceptance necessitates inaction. However, in my view, inaction is impossible because every moment is a choice and "inaction" is as much an action as getting up and cleaning up the cat shit. The third definition (no hierarchical order intended) is that "acceptance" might better be called "acknowledgement". I acknowledge that there is cat shit on the carpet and can now clean it up, since I have noticed that it is there. Or maybe I have to do it later because I have to work.

    Although it may be true that zen groups as a group may not participate in social action projects, I believe that zen buddhism is intrinsically a socially involved philosophy since at it's core is the principle that all beings/things/phenomena are one/interconnected and it is only a matter of taking care of what needs to be done, whether that is feeding and clothing the person who happens to be called Rowan, or feeding and clothing the person who happens to be called something else. Cleaning the apartment where the person called Rowan lives, or cleaning the forest where beings called deer and turkeys and lizards live. ON a more concrete level, I personally have learned so much about ethical living by doing oryoki meals, such a fine example of no waste, no wasted food, no wasted motion, no wasted water. Surely there is no more ecological way to eat than oryoki. This has affected other parts of my life. I now flush my toilet with my bath water (a saving of about 300-400 gallons a month - I am so chuffed!) But it is very true that buji zen is a pitfall that people can fall into.

    thank you for your time,
    with palms together,
    rowan

  48. #48

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Very nice post, Rowan, I believe. Very well said.

    Gassho, Jundo

  49. #49
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    Yes, I agree -- a wonderful post, Rowan. Very clarifying. I like the contrast between "acceptance" as a passive buji Zen position and "acceptance" as an engaged "acknowledgment." This resonates with my own experiences, that what Zen practice helps one become able to do is honestly face whatever is going on, and deal with it. I think another useful contrast might be between "patience" and "apathy." Zen practice has certainly not made me more apathetic--I'm more in touch with my feelings, and care more--but it has definitely made me more patient.

    Gassho--

  50. #50

    Re: The point of Shikantaza-based Zen practice...

    "Buji-zen" very interesting. I found this post from alt.zen in 1995 (ooh ancient history!)

    To: alt.zen
    From: QUARK@Nice.guy.pushed.too.far (QUARK)
    Subject: Re: Is it called "Buji" Zen?
    Date: 9 Jan 1995 09:18:26 GMT

    In article
    Quoting: |hamm@uhcl4.cl.uh.edu (Jacob H. Hamm)
    |>jim@MCS.COM (Reverend Jim Mines)

    |> I ran across a reference to a name for those who practice
    |>'undisciplined', wandering zen... is the term 'buji' or 'budo' or what?
    |>

    |I believe its buji, or wild fox, zen. Becareful about confusing lack
    |of dogma with lack of discipline, wandering can teach you what sticking
    |to the trails cannot.

    And, I might add, can also get you lost rather quickly if you are unfamiliar
    with the terrain!

    The term *buji* (tm) doesn't really equate with the idea of
    "wild fox" zen, per se. Originally, it was a term emphasized in early ch'an,
    borrowed from the Taoists. Taoism has a corresponding term "wu-wei", which
    literally means "non action", but means doing nothing that conflicts with
    one's natural spontaneity or going against the course of Tao. In Zen it took
    on a similar meaning, as in Lin Chi's admonitions to be a "person of buji", or
    "with nothing to do", in the sense of not seeking outside oneself. The
    term is used today by many modern teachers to refer to just such folks as Jay
    describes above (including Jay, I presume?)- those who wander away from the
    trails, so to speak. These self-described "wanderers" usually disdain any
    kind of tradition, formal teaching, classical literature, importance of
    checking one's progress, self-criticism, applied effort in training, etc.
    etc. etc. and so become self-deluded with such notions that all it takes is
    to become sort of a free spirit, floating through life by dancing through
    the California sunshine. Is this good or bad?

    YOU be the judge; I'm just pointing out common usage of the term.
    I definitely agree that "acknowledgment" may be a less misleading term than "acceptance" but may not go far enough. Sometimes the acknowledgment of reality as-it-is is blown off as trivial or an intellectual exercise, but it needs to be deeper than that.

    -Skye

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