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Thread: Concentration?????

  1. #1
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Concentration?????

    How much is concentration a part of our practice while sitting?

    All the Buddhist stuff I've read over the years seems to clearly imply, if not come right out and say so directly, that sitting is supposed to increase your concentration over time. That is, while sitting, you will eventually be able to concentrate better and for longer and longer periods of time, to focus more on and reside in that still space. Well, I've been sitting for four years and it seems my mind wanders as much as it ever has. I feel no increase in concentration (singular focus) while sitting at all. I feel I have gained much from my practice, but an increase in concentration level or quality does not seem to be part of those gains. This has begun to bug me, thus disturbing my practice. Today while sitting I realized that this was a desire that was causing suffering, so I let it go. Ahh, OK. Then, because I couldn't concentrate, I realized that I needed to let go of the idea of concentration entirely. Ahh, this was very good! But then, because I couldn't concentrate, the commentary came back to say, "no, really, what about concentration?"

    Am I missing something? Should I be doing something different?
    Is this even an issue? Shikantaza being letting thoughts come and go seems to imply that there is no concentration, sort of thinking non-thinking, right? So is it concentrating on not concentrating? But then have I misunderstood all those references to concentration?
    Is concentration even the right word? Is awareness a better term? Because that has increased a great deal over the years. I think I can say that I am able to concentrate on being more deeply aware, but my mind still often wanders away from awareness.

    OK, I better stop here. So, what's the deal?

    GASSHO,
    AL

  2. #2

    Re: Concentration?????

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    How much is concentration a part of our practice while sitting?

    All the Buddhist stuff I've read over the years seems to clearly imply, if not come right out and say so directly, that sitting is supposed to increase your concentration over time. That is, while sitting, you will eventually be able to concentrate better and for longer and longer periods of time, to focus more on and reside in that still space.

    ... Shikantaza being letting thoughts come and go seems to imply that there is no concentration, sort of thinking non-thinking, right? So is it concentrating on not concentrating? But then have I misunderstood all those references to concentration?
    Is concentration even the right word? Is awareness a better term? Because that has increased a great deal over the years. I think I can say that I am able to concentrate on being more deeply aware, but my mind still often wanders away from awareness.
    Hi Al,

    It is an interesting question. Many forms of meditation, including some forms of Zazen, emphasize "one pointed concentration", for example, focusing on repetition of a Mantra or Koan with all one's attention, focusing on an image of a Bodhisattva held in the mind, letting the object completely fill one's attention for long periods. MRI and related studies on Tibetan monks who do visual imagery meditation have shown that they have an amazing ability to pay attention and recall detail.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4613759.stm

    However, in Shikantaza, we emphasize wide open awareness of "everything and nothing", focused on nothing in particular yet awake and seeing everything around and within us. We do this while sitting still for long periods, allowing the thoughts to settle down and paying attention not to get wrapped up in our thoughts and emotions when they do arise during Zazen.

    Now, if you have developed the ability to sit for 30 or 40 minutes without moving, holding the mind open, paying attention not to get caught up in thoughts and to just allow each to drift away ... well, I would say that if you can do that, you have developed your ability to sit still and concentrate quite a bit. It might not involve the same skills as the Tibetans, but a good form of of concentration it is nonetheless.

    Maybe other experienced folks would have some input on this?

    Gassho, Jundo

  3. #3

    Re: Concentration?????

    I read this in a book called 'Mindfulness in Plain English' :
    “Vipassana meditation is something of a mental balancing act. You are going to be cultivating two separate qualities of the mind--mindfulness and concentration. Ideally these two work together as a team. They pull in tandem, so to speak. Therefore it is important to cultivate them side-by-side and in a balanced manner. If one of the factors is strengthened at the expense of the other, the balance of the mind is lost and meditation impossible.
    Concentration and mindfulness are distinctly different functions. They each have their role to play in meditation, and the relationship between them is definite and delicate. Concentration is often called one-pointedness of mind. It consists of forcing the mind to remain on one static point. Please note the word FORCE.
    Concentration is pretty much a forced type of activity. It can be developed by force, by sheer unremitting willpower. And once developed, it retains some of that forced flavor. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is a delicate function leading to refined sensibilities. These two are partners in the job of meditation. Mindfulness is the sensitive one. He notices things. Concentration provides the power. He keeps the attention pinned down to one item. Ideally, mindfulness is in this relationship. Mindfulness picks the objects of attention, and notices when the attention has gone astray. Concentration does the actual work of holding the attention steady on that chosen object. If either of these partners is weak, your meditation goes astray….”
    http://www.dharmaweb.org/index.php/Vene ... centration

    Gunaratana splits meditation into two parts but I think he is just describing Shikantaza a different way. The part where we are 'paying attention not to get caught up in thoughts', as Jundo says, is really just another way of describing concentration - what do you think?

    I have been practicing for about 4 years too and I notice that I have been allowing myself to drift away in my thoughts too much, so I have tried to become more diligent,

    Gassho,
    John

  4. #4

    Re: Concentration?????

    In planetary orbits there are these little zones called Lagrange Points where the forces of gravity of various relevant bodies precisely cancel one another creating a spot of stasis for any objects in it. For instance, between the Earth and the Moon is a point where the gravity of the Earth is exactly (yes, I know we have to factor the Sun, Jupiter, etc. but this is a simplified example) countered by the pull of the Moon. Objects clump up in these Lagrange points because there is nothing to disturb them.

    Maybe Zen Lagrange points are the itsy-bitsy areas where our pull toward getting caught up in our thinking and our lazy, inattentive mind and all of the other mental forces are in precise balance. A place of almost point-like size where, once there, we can float along undisturbed.

    Maybe . . . it has been 20 years since I had Calculus and Physics so I may be getting this mixed up with the chord changes to "Giant Steps."

    Gassho,
    Bill

  5. #5
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    Re: Concentration?????

    Bill,
    Great description! Every once in a while when sitting, everything just balances; the thoughts stop and I am aware of the stopping but I'm not thinking to my self " wow, I've stopped thinking" and it is almost effortless.Of course, it usually only happens for a little while and the thoughts start up again.

    Is it a type of concentration? I think so. Will it make me less distracted? I don't know.

    Ron

  6. #6

    Re: Concentration?????

    Hi, Alan

    I think a concentration meditation can give you a calm mind. That's good.

    But, I think that's not the essence of Zen.

    In Zen, we learn to drop the self, and if the self has been dropped away, who will do the concentration, who will feel calm or not-calm...

    But, i don't mean that concentration meditation is wrong, but in my opinion, it's not the way of Shikantaza.

    If there is one dualistic thinking arise (about good or bad, right or wrong), then it can make us confuse.

    Just Sit and let every thing come or go without being attached, I think that's the way of shikantaza.

    Well... these are my opinions..... . I hope it helps.

    Gassho, Shui Di...

  7. #7

    Re: Concentration?????

    I too am a little curious as to the concentration aspect of shikatanza. I'm not quite sure how it fits in.

    I learned as mentioned in the previous post that concentration and insight (vipassana/obervation) are two ''messengers to the heart" and it is important to keep both in balance. One of my teachers encouraged that both be practiced in a timetable so one practice is not given more emphasis than the other.

    I think when it comes to concentration, that yes if one practice concentration on the breath or whatever the object of awareness (mantra, chanting, koan etc) then definitely over time the level of concentration should improve. I have not done concentration exercises of this nature over a long period of time, however did go to a mettha (loving kindness) meditation retreat and there was a clear and difference in my state of mind with regards to concentration. Also when I did the Goenka Vipassana retreat the first 3 days were just concentrating on the breath, and there was a definite change in the level of concentration. Given that it was done in conditions without daily worries that did not impinge on one's state of mind.

    It is important not to get too caught up in the level of concentration but just to stick to whatever you are practicing at the moment, and if concentration is lacking, then I guess to focus on that area a litte more.

    It would appear Shikatanza because it is not solely concentration based does not improve or work on that aspect of the mind so much as a purely concentration meditation would. There is no denying some level of concentration is obviously needed.

    It all depends on the individual I guess. For me, Shikatanza practice is useful, practice and beneficial. I may incorporate concentration exercises more formally but mettha meditation and shikatanza for the moment are just fine.

    Mettha.

    Aswini.

  8. #8

    Re: Concentration?????

    I cant really say that shikantaza helped me in becoming more concentrated, but it did help me find become more aware. it is a very passive thing that is rooted deep inside and is definitely not conscious,but rather always present and effects the way i perceive the world and everything that happens.

    maybe there is some concentration in this since i could mindfully remind myself of certain things sometimes ( such as self control ). but mostly i dont think about it. i just allow myself to be...

    when i sit zazen it happens that i feel empty for short periods of time without any thoughts arising. at first i as afraid of such things, since it was unknown to me. it was an elimination of the self.
    after a few times i longed for such experiences, since i thought it is what i should feel or strive to.
    eventually i realized that it is just what is... i feel what i feel and should not cling to it. so if i sit and i happen to experience such emotions, feelings, sensations or anything else that might come up during zazen, i just sit with it.
    i dont judge it and dont cling. it is all part of zazen and should not be view any other than any other thing that is being viewed.

    maybe it isnt exactly what was asked and it sounds like a rambling of someone who cant concentrate to give a straight answer... but its the best i could come up with.

    forgive me if i have wasted your time.
    Gassho.

  9. #9

    Re: Concentration?????

    To clarify, I think what I was trying to suggest was that it requires concentration to stay in that small, point-like place where our mental activities balance and therefore drop away.

    Zen wrote:
    I cant really say that shikantaza helped me in becoming more concentrated, but it did help me find become more aware. it is a very passive thing that is rooted deep inside and is definitely not conscious,but rather always present and effects the way i perceive the world and everything that happens.
    I agree Zen, except I am suggesting that maintaining awareness requires a mental skill best called concentration. "Attention" might be a substitute, but I think both words imply a cognitive focus on an object, thereby sacrificing awareness of all things that aren't the object. So maybe attention in shikantaza becomes field-like instead of point-like. Sorry for all of the arm-chair physics stuff. I don't know why that's where my head is right now. :roll:

    Gassho,
    Bill

  10. #10

    Re: Concentration?????

    Quote Originally Posted by Al Coleman
    If Shikantazatranslates as "just sitting", wouldn't it make sense that the focus is on the wholistic body posture of sitting? This seems to be what Uchiyama, Sawaki, Fujita, and Nishijima seem to have drawn form Dogen's writings. It seems that the case is that there is an object of concentration, it's just that it is not as narrow as the breath or cerebral like counting.
    Hi, Al. Here's another explanation by Steve Hagen (a particularly clear writer in my opinion).
    "In shikantaza . . . The mind settles, but not on a particular point. In Shikantaza, Awareness is objectless and subjectless--there's no "you" who does shikantaza. It's as if concentration has been filed down to a single point--yet, at the same time, has expanded outward and is taking in everything: sights, sounds, feelings, sensations, thoughts, movements. And this Awareness is sizeless and timeless. In shikantaza we discover that there is no clear distinction between self and other." from Meditation: Now or Never by Steve Hagen.

    I suppose in zazen we are the aware universe sitting in awareness of the universe.

    Gassho,
    Bill

  11. #11
    Stephanie
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    Re: Concentration?????

    Here's my take on concentration as part of Buddhist practice, based on my own experiences.

    Concentration is a useful tool, but I now question how absolutely necessary it is. Being able to concentrate your mind helps to calm it, helps in the effort to see clearly. If you want to blow a gasket blissing out on the nature of mind, concentration helps.

    BUT... you can also find calm, insight, and bliss without developing excessive skill in one-pointed concentration. I found that getting the hang of a technique I (correctly or incorrectly) associate with the practice of shikantaza acted to bypass the struggle to keep dragging my mind back and back to an object of concentration, hoping it would settle down. This technique was "turning the light of attention inward." Instead of trying to keep my mind focused on the breath in the hara, etc., every time my mind came back just enough to get control of it, I would start to turn the attention backwards on itself, on the activity of mind. A few "shots" of this and the mind settled exponentially quicker than when bringing it back to the hara.

    There's something about "thinking at thinking" or watching the activity of mind as it unfolds that shuts it down dramatically quickly. It's almost as if the mind is shy, and doesn't want you to catch it doing its crazy stuff :lol:, so when you put it in the "headlights" of your awareness, it gets quiet. Zap! Easy! Why didn't I think of this before? :lol: Also... I'm one of those folks who experiences bliss at times when I sit... and this was also a very quick shortcut to "the good stuff." But the most important thing of all... this technique is much more effective at exposing the nature of reality... mind-constructed reality... you're watching the mind make up what it's experiencing as it goes along... very powerful. I found that... get the hang of this technique, no matter how UN-concentrated you are, just a few gestures of drawing the mind back into this self-awareness gets (uh-oh, I'm about to use a bad word...) RESULTS... :shock:

  12. #12

    Re: Concentration?????

    Stephanie, you are so anti establishment!!!!! RESULTS?!?!?!?!
    BLASPHEMY!!!!! BURN HER AT THE STAKE!!!!


    who said its a bad thing to get results? i just think its not a good idea to practice for results since if you cant get what you want or even if you get what you want you judge it...
    i get calmer and can concentrate for longer, thats good...
    i cant concentrate and calm down, thats bad...

    no judging, just sitting.

    p.s.
    i am sure we get something from our practice but its not something we need to run after...
    to hell with enlightenment lets just take it a moment at a time...

  13. #13

    Re: Concentration?????

    Hi,

    Sorry to have been away from the party for a few days. This thread is a great chance to address some misconceptions and conceptions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aswini

    It would appear Shikatanza because it is not solely concentration based does not improve or work on that aspect of the mind so much as a purely concentration meditation would. There is no denying some level of concentration is obviously needed.

    It all depends on the individual I guess. For me, Shikatanza practice is useful, practice and beneficial. I may incorporate concentration exercises more formally but mettha meditation and shikatanza for the moment are just fine.
    Well, here is one strange fact about Shikantaza. It is definately NOT the best or most effective meditation technique to develop "concentration", and especially "one pointed" or intense concentration ... and that is its great POWER! Let me explain.

    The perfection of Shikantaza is embracing its seeming imperfection. It is the same for all of life. Learning to experience this seemingly imperfect and dissatisfying world as perfectly what it is ... that's attaining a perfect state. Learning to "be one" with this perfectly imperfect act of Shikantaza is attaining perfect and complete Enlightenment. Sounds strange, huh?

    Trying to attain some special state of "concentration" or any other heightened state is not Shikantaza. Shikantaza is attaining the Way of Non-Attaining. But, you see, the trick is that "Attaining the Way of Non-Attaining" is having attained a --very-- special and "heightened" state. :shock:

    Sure, there are monks in Nepal who can run circles around us in their ability to focus on and recall every dot of color in an intricate Mandala of 10,000 Buddhas. There are Rinzai monks who can focus on a word from a Koan until nothing else exists in the whole universe, until blood flows from their ears, all attention and concentration wrapped up in that.

    Well, we get to the same place by a different road ... realizing the universe by non-seeking, becoming "One with the Universe" (not by finding the universe in a single point) but by dropping all divisions, judgements, categories until the hard border between our "self" and the rest of reality softens or fully fades away.

    To do that, one cannot say that Shikantaza needs any improving or supplementing whatsoever, not in any way (although I do believe that adding some Metta Practice is a good thing ... if not during Shikantaza). It is a perfectly imperfectly perfect doing of non-doing right in this moment, and it is the whole universe non-doing it!

    Now, that being said, when you talk about balance in bodymind, dropping "likes" and "dislikes" and other judgments and categories, not following the thoughts, present in this world while seeing through this world, observing "everything and nothing in particular", and dropping all goals ... well, you are pretty much doing Shikantaza "right" even if it is not the "best" meditation to build concentration. I would say the ability to "just sit still" for 40 minutes, and to still the chaotic mind, is concentration enough.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shui_Di
    Hi, Alan

    I think a concentration meditation can give you a calm mind. That's good.

    But, I think that's not the essence of Zen.

    In Zen, we learn to drop the self, and if the self has been dropped away, who will do the concentration, who will feel calm or not-calm...

    But, i don't mean that concentration meditation is wrong, but in my opinion, it's not the way of Shikantaza.

    If there is one dualistic thinking arise (about good or bad, right or wrong), then it can make us confuse.

    Just Sit and let every thing come or go without being attached, I think that's the way of shikantaza.
    Shui Di, I think you said what I said so nicely ... and with fewer words!

    Quote Originally Posted by DontKnow
    To clarify, I think what I was trying to suggest was that it requires concentration to stay in that small, point-like place where our mental activities balance and therefore drop away ...

    ...I am suggesting that maintaining awareness requires a mental skill best called concentration. "Attention" might be a substitute, but I think both words imply a cognitive focus on an object, thereby sacrificing awareness of all things that aren't the object. So maybe attention in shikantaza becomes field-like instead of point-like.

    ...

    Here's another explanation by Steve Hagen (a particularly clear writer in my opinion).
    "In shikantaza . . . The mind settles, but not on a particular point. In Shikantaza, Awareness is objectless and subjectless--there's no "you" who does shikantaza. It's as if concentration has been filed down to a single point--yet, at the same time, has expanded outward and is taking in everything: sights, sounds, feelings, sensations, thoughts, movements. And this Awareness is sizeless and timeless. In shikantaza we discover that there is no clear distinction between self and other."
    Yes, we develop our "concentration" in Zazen by --not-- trying to force it (although you will find some Rinzai influenced teachers of Shikantaza, mostly in the Harada-Yasutani-Maezumi Lineage who tell you to "just sit to the sweat pours from your brow" or such). The way to attain the balance of riding a bicycle or walking a tightrope is --not-- but tightening up and struggling to stay balanced ... it is by being easy, relaxing, not "trying", allowing the natural balance to manifest. Anyway, that is what I do in riding my Zafu.

    And, yes, instead of focusing on one point, like a dot or Mantra or Koan, we focus on everything and nothing ... and find the whole of reality that way. Where is the universe not located?

    Quote Originally Posted by Al Coleman

    With regards to Shikantaza, I do get confused. Shikantaza's definition seems to vary depending on who you talk to or who you read.
    Some say it is awareness of everything and nothing and that it doesn't have a particular object of focus. This doesn't make sense to me.

    If Shikantazatranslates as "just sitting", wouldn't it make sense that the focus is on the wholistic body posture of sitting? This seems to be what Uchiyama, Sawaki, Fujita, and Nishijima seem to have drawn form Dogen's writings. It seems that the case is that there is an object of concentration, it's just that it is not as narrow as the breath or cerebral like counting.

    In "King of Samadhis" it says," Sit in kekkafuza with the body, sit in kekkafuza with the mind, sit in kekkafuza with the whole body/mind."

    This seems to suggest that Shikantaza really is a concentration on the actual act of sitting full lotus.
    Well, yes and no. We sit in the Lotus Posture as a perfect act. It is the one and only act in that moment, and our sitting in the Lotus Posture is the whole universe, all the Buddhas and Ancestors, sitting in the Lotus Posture right there. There is nothing else to be doing in the moment, no other place to be or where you can be. Nothing more in need of achievement. We drop all thoughts of categories and judgments, just non-doing that perfect act. Merely straightening the spine and crossing the legs is attaining Buddhahood, and we then forget about that and about anything else that needs to be done. We have arrived, the train has reached the station (by realizing it was present all along). Thus, mind-body drops away.

    It is not so much a matter of "concentrating" on the Lotus Posture as a mental object, like staring at the eye of a needle trying to thread it or a dartboard to throw a dart. It is that we forget about the "Lotus Posture" and everything else in just perfectly non-doing that one thing. Thereby, all barriers fall.

    Pardon all the words. I just can't say things directly and simply (like Shui Di!)

    By the way ...

    BUT... you can also find calm, insight, and bliss without developing excessive skill in one-pointed concentration.
    ... I'm one of those folks who experiences bliss at times when I sit... and this was also a very quick shortcut to "the good stuff."
    Steph, I know you know this ... but it is not about attaining "bliss". There is no "good stuff". Dropping all need for "bliss" and ideas of the "good stuff'" is the "Good Stuff" (which is sometimes blissful and sometimes not, but is a "bliss" even when it is not). Sounds strange, huh?

    Gassho, Jundo

  14. #14
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Concentration?????

    It's not "about" bliss, but there's nothing wrong with bliss either! It's funny, over and over again, I find Zen folks have this almost allergic reaction to the word "bliss." Japanese teachers don't mention it that much, and American / Western Zen teachers seem almost afraid of it. Is it that Puritan ethic that anything that feels good has to be evil or problematic? It's okay to feel good--really!

  15. #15

    Re: Concentration?????

    Steph, i think it is the attachment to bliss that is unwanted.
    if we think about bliss to much, or practice for the attainment of bliss it is not the point.
    the thing is that bliss has nothing to do with our practice. it is just bliss nothing more or less and it is not constant.

    it is great to actually feel good, but it if we keep running towards the good and trying to escape the bad we just miss the whole point.

    than again, i might be wrong....

    Gassho.

  16. #16
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Concentration?????

    You're falling into good lockstep, Zen :wink:

    Where did I say anything about bliss being the point of zazen? Or the most important thing? All I said was that it's something that can happen in zazen and that it is awesome. 8)

    Should I start saying "neener neener" to all of you who not only don't get bliss yourselves, but seem to be bothered by the fact I do? :twisted:

    Y'all square zazen-sitters need to get hip to this bliss thing, man... it's far out... :lol:

  17. #17

    Re: Concentration?????

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    You're falling into good lockstep, Zen :wink:
    Sir, Yes Sir!!!!!

    its not that i follow i just dont care about bliss as nice as it might be ( and i sure am fond of feeling blissful ) its just not what i am after...

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Where did I say anything about bliss being the point of zazen? Or the most important thing? All I said was that it's something that can happen in zazen and that it is awesome. 8)
    awesome is kinda judging so it is kinda the thing we should be dropping. but hey if it happens, it happens.... i will be happy about ti later... just not during zazen :lol:

  18. #18
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Concentration?????

    Good luck with this dropping of judgement thing, Zen. Though I wouldn't recommend it right before crossing the street, or deciding whether or not to send money to that nice person who e-mailed you from Nigeria, or before just about anything, really... :lol:

  19. #19

    Re: Concentration?????

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Good luck with this dropping of judgement thing, Zen. Though I wouldn't recommend it right before crossing the street, or deciding whether or not to send money to that nice person who e-mailed you from Nigeria, or before just about anything, really... :lol:
    Hi Steph,

    In our Zen Practice, we drop judgments and preferences. We also learn how to drop without dropping. We do both at once. In "Just Sitting" Zazen, we drop all judgments and learn to live from such perspective, but people often misunderstand what this really means. Of course, if we are to live as human beings, we must have preferences and make choices. Otherwise, we can't function. We could not choose to stand up or sit down, wait for the green light to "go" instead of running red lights, we could not even choose to get out of bed in the morning.

    So, how to do both at once? Ah, this is one of the great discoveries of Zen Buddhism, namely, that folks can live on a couple or more "channels" (for want of a better term) at once, seemingly conflicting viewpoints without conflict.

    How?

    Well, for example, we drop all "likes" and "dislikes" on one channel, even as we must have "likes" and "dislikes" on another. The result is
    like choosing what you like, and avoiding what you dislike, but fully accepting either one ... all at the same time. For example, you go into
    life's ice cream store and ask for vanilla. But all they have is strawberry, which you hate. You embrace the fact that life sometimes
    gives strawberry. When vanilla, eat vanilla, when strawberry ... savor the strawberry.

    Do you see a bit how that works? Most folks think that you must only live on one channel or the other.

    HOWEVER, during Zazen itself, we practice dropping all preferences PERIOD. In life, we can live having both preferences and no preferences, but in Shikantaza, we just practice having no preferences. This is very important.

    So, I must agree with our Israeli friend, and all those other Japanese and Western Zen teachers. While there is nothing better or worse about "bliss" versus the absence of "bliss", we do not seek out either one or the other in Zazen. If it comes, it comes ... if not, not. And being at home with that is true Bliss. Zazen & life (not two things) that "feels good" is just Zazen and life ... Zazen and life that does not "feel good" is just Zazen and life. Being attached to bliss, or pleasure, or what feels good ... and seeking them out in Zazen ... is not good Zazen in our Way. Our Zazen is non-seeking Zazen. As he said ...

    the thing is that bliss has nothing to do with our practice. it is just bliss nothing more or less and it is not constant.

    it is great to actually feel good, but it if we keep running towards the good and trying to escape the bad we just miss the whole point.
    Anyway, I know a guy on the corner who sells some pills that will get you to "bliss" much faster than Zazen. Instead, Zen teachers sell something much more profound.

    Where did I say anything about bliss being the point of zazen? Or the most important thing? All I said was that it's something that can happen in zazen and that it is awesome.
    I sometimes experience bliss, and sometime I do not experience bliss. NOT experiencing bliss is also "awesome"!

    Gassho, Jundo

    Ps- Harry, this was lovely ...

    The thought which I sometimes 'drop into' in Zazen is not 'concentrated', its wide open and free, but you couldn't slip anything past it, it doesn't miss a trick; its not spaced-out or dumb... that's how I normally am off the cushion tho :cry: .

  20. #20
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Concentration?????

    Jundo, I understand all of this. What I'm reacting to here is how almost invariably I get a lecture when I mention that I experience bliss sometimes when I sit. People project things onto what I say, and make assumptions that aren't true. I don't consider it "bad zazen" if there is no bliss; I don't "chase" it when I get on the cushion. But it happens. And I like it. Those two things seem to be enough to unleash an avalanche of finger-wagging that leaves me scratching my head. My suspicion is that people drag some Puritan baggage to their Zen practice, thinking it is some sort of truth, when it's not. At all. Which is why I say, "It's okay to feel good. Really."

    That said, I understand the importance of what you are teaching here. My life is often pretty painful and full of disappointment, and learning how to be less reactive to that, and to experience peace independent of external conditions, is one of the great gifts of my Zen practice. But let me take a moment and say also that experiencing bliss in meditation is something that has helped with this, not hindered it. Bliss in meditation (at least what I have experienced) only arises in the wake of letting go. It strangely seems to follow most closely after pain, hurt, and sadness. Because those things facilitate letting go.

    "Letting go" is becoming an annoying Buddhist buzzword, so let me be clear what I mean when I use the phrase. I mean something more than not chasing after good and not running away from bad. It's the willingness and the experience of dropping the whole charade, everything. What you thought about yourself, life, everything. This ain't easy. It hurts. It's scary. But when you can do it, you feel the same way you feel if you've been carrying something heavy for a long time and finally can set it down. It's a feeling of incredible lightness flooding your mind and body. But it's not some easygoing la-dee-dah feeling either. It's intense. The most intensely pleasurable thing I've ever experienced. You'd think then that I would be wanting to sit zazen all the time, but not so... because what has to happen first ain't so nice. But yet, that almost invariably unpleasant process of letting go is what to me is the "meat" of zazen.

    Bliss in meditation is a good teacher. We are creatures of pleasure and pain first and foremost, and we learn best from them. There is no well-argued philosophy that could make the point about the Buddha's teaching as well as the intense pleasure that arises from letting go of what the Buddha taught was the primary source of our suffering. And being able to create, or at least tap into, your own pleasure that is not dependent on outer conditions, helps make you more skeptical about all the other pleasurable things human beings tend to chase after, all of the things our crazy consumer societies try to sell us. Needing less, then, you can live more simply and thus less harmfully. And the thing about meditative bliss that makes it different from a drug high is that it's not at all fuzzy and doesn't make you fuzzy. Not only are there no adverse side effects, but it also enhances, rather than diminishes, your clarity. It is the Good Stuff.

    And the Buddha taught it that way. Tibetan and Theravada Buddhists know that the Buddha taught about bliss in meditation and have no problem teaching it themselves. It seems it's only Zen really, out of the major traditions rooted in the practice of meditation, that has this weird "no-no" attitude about it. Why that is, I don't know, but it's Zen's loss.

  21. #21

    Re: Concentration?????

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    It is the Good Stuff.
    And the Buddha taught it that way. Tibetan and Theravada Buddhists know that the Buddha taught about bliss in meditation and have no problem teaching it themselves. It seems it's only Zen really, out of the major traditions rooted in the practice of meditation, that has this weird "no-no" attitude about it. Why that is, I don't know, but it's Zen's loss.
    Tibetan and Theravada Buddhism also have a different way of doing many things (oracles, completely different roles for laypersons, etc). They have their way that works with their way. It is probably not effective to mix and match practices too much. Maybe recognizing, and therefore creating attention to, bliss works in a tradition that is based on multiple rebirths for laypeople before reaching the level to achieve enlightenment. But Zen's way is to see that zazen is enlightenment--all of it and it is available to everyone, right now (pretty different that Tibetan and Theravadan practices that focus on achievement). So bliss is no more important than the pain in the legs or the burp that happens during zazen. It is all stuff to see and let go. The "good stuff" is all of it. So to defend bliss as a recognizable, distinct phenomenon is to elevate its importance--to create an object of clinging. You are free to see my post as following in "lock step" with the teacher (who, by the way is as fallible as all of us) but I truly see it this way. You are correct that in your original post you were simply making an observation, and at that point I think you were correct. Defending bliss, as you go on to do, however, actually weakens the argument that it is not a seductive state, prone to creating a goal.

    Bill

  22. #22
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Concentration?????

    Quote Originally Posted by DontKnow
    Tibetan and Theravada Buddhism also have a different way of doing many things (oracles, completely different roles for laypersons, etc). They have their way that works with their way. It is probably not effective to mix and match practices too much. Maybe recognizing, and therefore creating attention to, bliss works in a tradition that is based on multiple rebirths for laypeople before reaching the level to achieve enlightenment. But Zen's way is to see that zazen is enlightenment--all of it and it is available to everyone, right now (pretty different that Tibetan and Theravadan practices that focus on achievement). So bliss is no more important than the pain in the legs or the burp that happens during zazen. It is all stuff to see and let go. The "good stuff" is all of it. So to defend bliss as a recognizable, distinct phenomenon is to elevate its importance--to create an object of clinging. You are free to see my post as following in "lock step" with the teacher (who, by the way is as fallible as all of us) but I truly see it this way. You are correct that in your original post you were simply making an observation, and at that point I think you were correct. Defending bliss, as you go on to do, however, actually weakens the argument that it is not a seductive state, prone to creating a goal.
    Actually, none of what you wrote applies. Did you read my post? You seem a little bit angry; perhaps you should try some bliss? :mrgreen:

    And good luck living without goals... even Jeff Lebowski wanted his rug back :lol:

    And, psst... having a goal to achieve bliss is counter-productive, because you have to let go of all your hopes first to experience it.

    Also, defending 'goallessness' or 'seeing zazen as enlightenment itself' is no different than defending bliss. It's just that you like a different flavor of Baskin Robbins than I do. And of course, you're obviously wrong, 'cause my flava is way better than yours :wink: :lol:

  23. #23

    Re: Concentration?????

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    And good luck living without goals... even Jeff Lebowski wanted his rug back
    No one said we should be without goals in life, dude.
    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Did you read my post?
    Nah, I just wrote some stuff that I thought would tick you off. Actually, I can't read. I let me computer voice speak the forum, then I have my assistant type a pre-written response from the Lock-Step Guide to Sycophant Zen.
    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Actually, none of what you wrote applies.
    Well, at least you are not dismissing it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Also, defending 'goallessness' or 'seeing zazen as enlightenment itself' is no different than defending bliss.
    I'm not defending those, they are not being attacked by anyone.
    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    And, psst... having a goal to achieve bliss is counter-productive, because you have to let go of all your hopes first to experience it.
    That sounds right to me.

    Some Zen teachers do talk about bliss. Maybe they just don't care about it like you do.
    Anger is one kind of condition. Bliss is another condition. The sensation of transparency is still another, sleepiness another, and so on. These conditions are only superficial waves of the sea of your mind. They are the context of your practice. . .When you are angry, have angry zazen. . . When you are in a blissful condition, have blissful zazen. When you congratulate yourself on your blissful condition, it disappears immediately. Taking the Path of Zen, Robert Aitken, p. 47.

    Would you also say, "The pain in my legs is the Good Stuff," or "Angry zazen is the Good Stuff?" It is all Good Stuff . . . bliss, farts, migraines, cancer, death, birth, responsibilities, even reality TV. We accept it all (or in my case, work to inch my way closer to accepting them--except for maybe the Rebel flag). To reject nothing suggests that we elevate nothing as well.

    Bill

    BTW--I'm not angry at all . . . I enjoy actual debate as opposed to personalized bickering.

  24. #24

    Re: Concentration?????

    Stephanie,

    This may be presumptuous, but I think you're reading anger where there isn't any. You asked some interesting questions -- such as, "Is it that Puritan ethic that anything that feels good has to be evil or problematic?" And people are offering answers. I don't think they're angry ones.

    For my part, I don't think people jump on you for mentioning that you sometimes experience bliss during meditation. (If they do, that's silly. We're all going to experience all sorts of things while sitting; there's no avoiding that.) But that's not what prompts the reaction at all. It's that when you write about bliss experienced during zazen, you write about it as if it's a goal state or a reason to sit. You write about taking shortcuts to the good stuff. And when people read that, I think that they think, 'Wow, that's not this practice.' And so they tell you, 'That's not this practice.' Where's the anger?

    The answer to the question of whether or not this is about a 'Puritan ethic' is, 'no.' No, things that feel good don't have to be evil or problematic. In fact, things that feel good really make me feel good! Bliss is great. So is sex. And -- horror of horrors, I know -- I have a serious weakness for good pipe tobacco (no, not the icky flavored stuff everyone in America thinks of as pipe tobacco). Not to mention good beer. And good music. And all sorts of other stuff that makes me feel good. It's all a lot of fun. And also, chasing any of these things, or chasing bliss, isn't Zen practice. (I think.)

    --Charles

  25. #25
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Concentration?????

    Quote Originally Posted by DontKnow
    Nah, I just wrote some stuff that I thought would tick you off. Actually, I can't read. I let me computer voice speak the forum, then I have my assistant type a pre-written response from the Lock-Step Guide to Sycophant Zen.
    That's some very non-Buddhist snark you've got going on there... I like it! :mrgreen:

    Quote Originally Posted by DontKnow
    Well, at least you are not dismissing it.
    Uh-oh, it's time for the "neener neener" contest! :lol:

    When you congratulate yourself on your blissful condition, it disappears immediately. -Taking the Path of Zen, Robert Aitken, p. 47.
    That is very accurate.

    Quote Originally Posted by DontKnow
    Would you also say, "The pain in my legs is the Good Stuff"...?
    No, I wouldn't. If there was something I could do nothing about, I would learn to accept it. But if I could prevent injury and stop pain by shifting my position, I would shift my position. (I almost damaged my knees in one sesshin--they hurt for days--because of the attitude I thought I was supposed to cultivate toward my pain. Nowadays, I just see that attitude as a form of stupidity).

    As for anger--if my anger was in response to a dysfunctional situation that needed to be corrected, I would do what I could and what was possible to correct it. In zazen, I wouldn't try to change or stop the anger, because in the moment of zazen, anger is irrelevant. But if the rising of anger directed my awareness to something off the cushion in need of correcting, after zazen, I would bow to my cushion, and go off to see what I could do to correct it. I find a live a much less dysfunctional life these days now that I actually take on the unpleasant work of addressing and working to resolve "bad" situations, instead of telling myself I need to learn to accept them. It's actually much easier and less stressful to address stuff with people than to fight against your own painful emotions, which often are telling you that something is wrong. And of course, where Buddhist practice comes in is that there are wise ways to do this that ultimately promote harmony and reconciliation, rather than escalation and violence.

  26. #26

    Re: Concentration?????

    Hi Steph,

    When you describe your experience of "Bliss" during Zazen, and your attitude toward that, in the way you described above ... it sounds very sound and healthy to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie

    ... It strangely seems to follow most closely after pain, hurt, and sadness. Because those things facilitate letting go.

    "Letting go" is becoming an annoying Buddhist buzzword, so let me be clear what I mean when I use the phrase. I mean something more than not chasing after good and not running away from bad. It's the willingness and the experience of dropping the whole charade, everything. What you thought about yourself, life, everything. This ain't easy. It hurts. It's scary. But when you can do it, you feel the same way you feel if you've been carrying something heavy for a long time and finally can set it down. It's a feeling of incredible lightness flooding your mind and body. But it's not some easygoing la-dee-dah feeling either. It's intense. The most intensely pleasurable thing I've ever experienced. You'd think then that I would be wanting to sit zazen all the time, but not so... because what has to happen first ain't so nice. But yet, that almost invariably unpleasant process of letting go is what to me is the "meat" of zazen.
    Yes, this is a classic peak experience, an opening and a taste of a flavor of "Kensho" in Zazen (What? Some folks thought we don't have Kensho in Soto Zen? Then you have not been paying attention). There are many flavors and varieties, and you seem to be describing the classic joy of release, of letting go and dropping the burden of the whole charade. I think most folks who sit for any length of time will experience these sooner or later, to deeper or lighter degrees ... sometimes very profound BIG RELEASE KENSHO!! As we become more attuned to sitting, we can learn to summon such bliss at will, almost like flipping a "Bliss" switch.

    And, most importantly, you seem to understand too that, in our Soto philosophy, we don't make a big deal about it (compared to some Rinzai folks, for example, and other Eastern schools, who think it is all or mostly about achieving Kensho and bliss and "release"). You understand, by your words, that we believe that "Kensho" and peak experiences are Enlightenment, but also that no "Kensho" and no "peak experiences" are Enlightenment. It is just as Bill says ...

    So bliss is no more important than the pain in the legs or the burp that happens during zazen. It is all stuff to see and let go. The "good stuff" is all of it. So to defend bliss as a recognizable, distinct phenomenon is to elevate its importance--to create an object of clinging.
    ...
    Would you also say, "The pain in my legs is the Good Stuff," or "Angry zazen is the Good Stuff?" It is all Good Stuff . . . bliss, farts, migraines, cancer, death, birth, responsibilities, even reality TV.
    In Soto Practice, we tend to have a Kensho, yawn and move on with life ... it is a lovely point of reference, like the view from the top of a mountain. But we then climb back down the mountain into the valley of our lives. Of course, it is lovely to make the trip to the peak of the mountain from time to time.

    Anyway, you seem to understanding this, and not excessively be seeking or craving "Bliss". So, I am thinking that your attitude toward what you experience is fine and balanced.

    Gassho, Jundo

  27. #27

    Re: Concentration?????

    Cool . . . maybe I'm just jealous. I've never experienced anything I would call bliss in zazen. Peace, yes. Acceptance, yes. Nothing as profound as bliss, unless a profoundly numb ass could be considered bliss.

    Bill

  28. #28

    Re: Concentration?????

    Hi again Steph,

    Well, I need to put in a little caution though ...

    No, I wouldn't. If there was something I could do nothing about, I would learn to accept it. But if I could prevent injury and stop pain by shifting my position, I would shift my position. (I almost damaged my knees in one sesshin--they hurt for days--because of the attitude I thought I was supposed to cultivate toward my pain. Nowadays, I just see that attitude as a form of stupidity).

    As for anger--if my anger was in response to a dysfunctional situation that needed to be corrected, I would do what I could and what was possible to correct it. In zazen, I wouldn't try to change or stop the anger, because in the moment of zazen, anger is irrelevant.
    Well, we shift the painful legs, seek to quiet the anger and excess emotions ... but simultaneously, we embrace the pain and emotions as being as wondrous as "Bliss". If you miss this half of the equation, you are missing the real beauty of Zen Practice I think.

    Be one with your "Bliss". Be one with your aching legs, even as you try to get the blood flowing.

    You know, the whole "Samsara is Nirvana" bit.

    Gassho, Jundo

  29. #29
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Concentration?????

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles
    This may be presumptuous, but I think you're reading anger where there isn't any.
    To be clear, my comment to Bill was just meant to be comically, intentionally annoying. Not very Buddhist, I know :wink:

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles
    For my part, I don't think people jump on you for mentioning that you sometimes experience bliss during meditation.
    Well, "jump on" might not be the best way to put it. It's just more of a knee-jerk reaction that I see over and over again in Zen circles. Mention "bliss" and brace yourself on a lecture about how bliss isn't the point. Even if you never said it was.

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles
    You write about it as if it's a goal state or a reason to sit.
    Show me where I've done that. I have written about bliss being helpful to practice, and being a positive experience (well, duh). But I know I've not written that it's the reason I sit or the point of my practice, because that's simply not true. I come to practice crawling, out of intense suffering and need. A less happy-go-lucky, blissed-out Buddhist you will struggle to find. My most inspirational text is The Myth of Sisyphus, for God's sake :lol:

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles
    You write about taking shortcuts to the good stuff. And when people read that, I think that they think, 'Wow, that's not this practice.' And so they tell you, 'That's not this practice.'
    Fair enough. To clarify, in my practice, bliss is a beacon signal that the technique I've adopted is effective. Not because bliss is the point, but bliss arises in the wake of letting go, which is (to me, at least) the point. Now when you get into all this stuff about "sitting without a point," I diverge from the Soto orthodoxy because I find it absurd. In my book, goals are good things. The problem is not having goals, it's not being able to accept when you can't or don't realize them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles
    Bliss is great. So is sex. And -- horror of horrors, I know -- I have a serious weakness for good pipe tobacco (no, not the icky flavored stuff everyone in America thinks of as pipe tobacco). Not to mention good beer. And good music. And all sorts of other stuff that makes me feel good. It's all a lot of fun.
    Thank Buddha! A sane person is in the room!

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles
    And also, chasing any of these things, or chasing bliss, isn't Zen practice. (I think.)
    I agree wholeheartedly. Because what then would be the point of Zen practice? To me, the focus of practice isn't working on liking those things any less, but zeroing in on that "chase" bit. It's not desire that is the problem; it's craving. It's the transformation in the mind of a want to a need. That's when things get ugly, and unpleasant. Saying, "I like a good Hefeweizen better than Bud Lite, and I'm willing to pay a little extra and drive a little further to find it," is fine. It's when you can only afford the Bud Lite, but keep on buying the high-end Hefeweizen until you get evicted for non-payment of rent that you've got a problem. Although I must admit I would find something strangely admirable in that :lol: Seriously though, to me, practice is about becoming wiser. And liking some things better than others is, to me, wisdom. It's this desperate attachment to having things a certain way that is where stupidity comes in, where we create so much unnecessary suffering for ourselves.

  30. #30

    Re: Concentration?????

    Bliss is fine and good.

    But you must not push away the unpleasant parts of sitting or life (not separate things, by the way). Even as you push them away, you must not push them away.

    If you are pushing things away and rejecting things, your practice is unbalanced. If you are pushing things away and rejecting things, all while simultaneously pushing nothing away and rejecting none of it, you practice is profound. Please know that difference. True Zen Practice is the latter, life simultaneously with judgments and nothing to judge. This is, for us, the true meaning of "goalless" practice.

    The "bliss" "Kensho" "peak experience" thingy is only one bit of Zazen scenery. A beautiful, educational, pleasant, lovely bit of scenery ... but we do not live in "la la land" alone. We must live in life in all its complexity and difficulty.

    The Rinzai folks (at least the smart ones) say the same thing, by the way. An opening or insight or "dropping away" is only one taste of Zazen and life.

    Gassho, Jundo

  31. #31

    Re: Concentration?????

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Quote Originally Posted by Charles
    You write about it as if it's a goal state or a reason to sit.
    Show me where I've done that. I have written about bliss being helpful to practice, and being a positive experience (well, duh). But I know I've not written that it's the reason I sit or the point of my practice, because that's simply not true.
    That's fair. I think the 'shortcut' comment implied that for me, but it's clear that's not what you meant.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    My most inspirational text is The Myth of Sisyphus, for God's sake :lol:
    Heh. We should start the unofficial Treeleaf angsty Buddhist reading list. (I'm half-serious. Maybe even three-quarters.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Now when you get into all this stuff about "sitting without a point," I diverge from the Soto orthodoxy because I find it absurd. In my book, goals are good things. The problem is not having goals, it's not being able to accept when you can't or don't realize them.
    I think there's a difference between goallessness in general and goallessness while sitting on the cushion. I also think that one can strive to change things while at the same time striving to be able to totally accept things as they are. This may be absurd. Absurdity doesn't really bother me though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Saying, "I like a good Hefeweizen better than Bud Lite, and I'm willing to pay a little extra and drive a little further to find it," is fine. It's when you can only afford the Bud Lite, but keep on buying the high-end Hefeweizen until you get evicted for non-payment of rent that you've got a problem. Although I must admit I would find something strangely admirable in that :lol:
    I resemble that remark. ops: (OK, not to quite that extreme. But too close for comfort.)

    --Charles

  32. #32

    Re: Concentration?????

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles
    I think there's a difference between goallessness in general and goallessness while sitting on the cushion. I also think that one can strive to change things while at the same time striving to be able to totally accept things as they are. This may be absurd. Absurdity doesn't really bother me though.
    Yes, this is very important. On the cushion, in Shikantaza, we drop all seeking, drop preferences, and have no goal whatsoever ... not for Bliss or Kensho or anything else. We drop all worries, thoughts, fears, ideas ... and this dropping will sometimes lead to Kensho, sometimes not. We don't care. We don't care because life is more than Kensho or bliss.

    Of course, this dropping and not seeking reveals a treasure ... namely, life without need to change a hair on its little head.

    Now, off the cushion, we can live having things we "like" and "dislike" while dropping "likes" and "dislikes" simultaneously. But on the cushion we only practice dropping "likes" and "dislikes". That is our Shikantaza way.

    I am sorry if I was not clear about that.

    Gassho, J

  33. #33
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Concentration?????

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    When you describe your experience of "Bliss" during Zazen, and your attitude toward that, in the way you described above ... it sounds very sound and healthy to me.
    :shock:

    Cool It feels healthy to me, but then again what do I know about "healthy"? ops: So I appreciate the feedback, sensei.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Yes, this is a classic peak experience, an opening and a taste of a flavor of "Kensho" in Zazen (What? Some folks thought we don't have Kensho in Soto Zen? Then you have not been paying attention). There are many flavors and varieties, and you seem to be describing the classic joy of release, of letting go and dropping the burden of the whole charade. I think most folks who sit for any length of time will experience these sooner or later, to deeper or lighter degrees ... sometimes very profound BIG RELEASE KENSHO!! As we become more attuned to sitting, we can learn to summon such bliss at will, almost like flipping a "Bliss" switch.


    You put it really well. As should be the case, right? Deep respect and gassho.

    I don't think I've ever had a "BIG RELEASE KENSHO!!" but what I have experienced in this vein has only reinforced all the Buddhist teachings I've ever read.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    And, most importantly, you seem to understand too that, in our Soto philosophy, we don't make a big deal about it (compared to some Rinzai folks, for example, and other Eastern schools, who think it is all or mostly about achieving Kensho and bliss and "release"). You understand, by your words, that we believe that "Kensho" and peak experiences are Enlightenment, but also that no "Kensho" and no "peak experiences" are enlightenment. It is just as Bill says ...
    Yes. I naturally gravitate toward the Soto approach overall. The one way in which I lean more the other way isn't out of a desire to experience some awesomely blissful experience... it's actually my hunger to know, to find an answer to what life is all about. I increasingly despair that there is such an answer, which has heightened my skepticism of the Rinzai approach, which brings us back to... Soto

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Anyway, you seem to understanding this, and not excessively be seeking or craving "Bliss". So, I am thinking that your attitude toward what you experience is fine and balanced.
    I don't crave bliss. What I do crave, as above, is some sort of knowledge or understanding that I'm no longer sure is possible... and if Buddhism won't cure me, nothing will.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Well, we shift the painful legs, seek to quiet the anger and excess emotions ... but simultaneously, we embrace the pain and emotions as being as wondrous as "Bliss". If you miss this half of the equation, you are missing the real beauty of Zen Practice I think.

    Be one with your "Bliss". Be one with your aching legs, even as you try to get the blood flowing.

    You know, the whole "Samsara is Nirvana" bit.
    Gassho--

    I think even though the angle I am coming from is a slightly different one, this is my main sticking point. Because I find life profoundly dissatisfying. And it's not because it's not blissful enough... I enjoy the challenge of pain and hardship as much as I enjoy the ease of bliss, I've always been of a somewhat dark turn of mind... what's difficult for me though is the fact I can't seem to reconcile myself with life. Because it doesn't seem to have much of a point. I think I would feel just as dissatisfied if I were sitting in a crystal palace getting my feet massaged. Some people seem to have no problem confronting absurdity and meaninglessness, seem to be able to accept a life without an ultimate meaning. I have a hard time.

    There's a lot of things I've learned, a lot of things I've grown confident about, but I still often feel like a rudderless ship in a sea devoid of an ultimate direction. The powerful response I have to injustice, and the desire to strive to correct it, is one of the only things that gives me direction... precisely because I find pleasure ultimately so dissatisfying, no matter how good it is. But at the end of the day, while I don't doubt that not accepting injustice is a good thing, I do believe, I have to believe, that my inability to accept this life, is something that can be corrected, something that arises from something in me that is "off," not a reflection that life is a pointless exercise in futility, whose only justification is the pleasures in it, which mean so little to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by DontKnow
    Cool . . . maybe I'm just jealous. I've never experienced anything I would call bliss in zazen. Peace, yes. Acceptance, yes. Nothing as profound as bliss, unless a profoundly numb ass could be considered bliss.
    :lol:

    It can be... if your ass was in profound pain before :wink:

    Seriously, it's all about letting go. "Dying on the cushion." I found it took some pretty intense stuff to push me to the point of letting go. We don't do it naturally; everything in you will put up a fight against it, like an antelope in a lion's claws. It's easier when you're facing down some pretty profound misery on and off the cushion. So it's a mixed blessing to discover the bliss of letting go. I'm not sure whether I wish that for you or not! :shock: But I suppose if you keep going, something in your life will happen that's really painful, that will help you get to that breaking point... or maybe you'll be fortunate enough that you can get there without all that! Who knows!

  34. #34

    Re: Concentration?????

    Yes. I naturally gravitate toward the Soto approach overall. The one way in which I lean more the other way isn't out of a desire to experience some awesomely blissful experience... it's actually my hunger to know, to find an answer to what life is all about. I increasingly despair that there is such an answer, which has heightened my skepticism of the Rinzai approach, which brings us back to... Soto
    Ah, sweetie ... what I am describing is precisely how we Soto folk find our "what life is about". I assure you. You will not find that answer in the bliss, in our view, but you will find A GREAT answer in the rest of what I'm describing. No foolin'.

    Do you want to find "what life is about"? Drop your resistance to it. Your rejection of it. The judgments and separation you alone create.

    It is just like your wanting to find out "what the wind is about". Drop your resistance to it. Your rejection of it. The judgments and separation you along create (even as you seek not to be blown over).

    That's how we Soto folks roll.

    Gassho, J

  35. #35

    Re: Concentration?????

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie

    And good luck living without goals... even Jeff Lebowski wanted his rug back :lol:
    well it really tied up the room

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie

    Yes. I naturally gravitate toward the Soto approach overall. The one way in which I lean more the other way isn't out of a desire to experience some awesomely blissful experience... it's actually my hunger to know, to find an answer to what life is all about. I increasingly despair that there is such an answer, which has heightened my skepticism of the Rinzai approach, which brings us back to... Soto

    Hey Steph, dont know know that the answer to life the universe and everything is....... 42 :lol:

    but really now.

    for a long long time i have felt just like you do. to tell you the truth life actually managed to break me...
    a few times even.
    i ended up a broken, angry, lost, mean, annoyed, spiteful, dissatisfied person...
    hell i was even suicidal ( actually tried it, almost succeeded ).

    anyway, for a long time i just couldnt find a reason for anything, i couldnt find a place for myself in the world. when i started practicing meditation it was just this thing that i tried to make me feel better.
    with time i read an article about zen Buddhism that actually interested me. so i started reading more and more about it. in the end i decided to start practicing ( or at least try the zen meditation ), i chose soto as my way because i couldnt think of a way of working on koans without a teacher ( i was young and new nothing, i am still young and still know nothing ).
    well with time i started to understand some things and have my own conceptions of what zen should be like. and what this should be like, and what that should be like.
    and with time the more i practiced ( taking my practice beyond the cushion ) i started to realize that my conceptions were wrong, and i started to make some new conceptions.
    at one point i couldnt see how i could practice zen Buddhism without giving up everything i love, and like... i just wouldnt for the life of me give up those things... my mind wouldnt let go of them.... how could i ever give up on love, on joy, on friends, on well pretty much life?! if they are all things to be dropped i would rather not drop them.
    and my practice came to a screeching halt!
    i noticed i do not "progress" in my practice, i was at a stand still... i still sat and i still tried to living according to what i knew but i just started accepting the fact i would never reach enlightenment and i would never finish the journey i started, i will forever be stuck at that point with my practice.
    and i began becoming dissatisfied again, this lasted for almost a year, maybe even more.
    eventually i came to realized that its pointless, i should judge my practice. the same way i drop all judgment during shikantaza, i could actually drop them in my daily life, yet i could still keep them, i began to see that there was no duality.
    around that time i joined Treeleaf ( thank you all for having me ).
    after listening to Jundo's talks daily, i came to believe ( and actually see ) that everything is just as it is... nothing more nothing less..

    i cant even explain what i feel or know, i just dont know anything... and i just gave up. it is like spreading your hands and falling off a cliff. to trust everything without even the need to know what it is. to truly be liberated from the illusion of control.


    i feel like i just wrote an autobiography, i wanted to say so much yet the more i wrote i noticed i get further and further from the point. words are lacking to express the inexpressible... so allow me to say this!













    Gassho, Daniel ( who have spoken too much ).

  36. #36
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Concentration?????

    Wow, quite a “concentrated” (and worthwhile) discussion on bliss. This is something my practice has never concentrated on, but I have experienced those little release or relief moments before, many times actually, but nothing I would consider bliss. Y’all (Texas talk) will be the first to know if I do.

    As for my original questions:
    If you have developed the ability to sit for 30 or 40 minutes without moving, holding the mind open, paying attention not to get caught up in thoughts and to just allow each to drift away ... well, I would say that if you can do that, you have developed your ability to sit still and concentrate quite a bit.
    Good to know! Thanks. Gassho.

    The balance between concentration and awareness/mindfulness that many of you described was very helpful. So was the idea of field concentration rather than single point concentration. All of this was known to me, but I needed the reminders. I think I let my mind get stuck on (concentrated on) this single point issue, whereas I know better that concentration is not a singular issue.

    I think one of the struggles of Buddhism is the issue of language. Buddhists don’t seem to use words the same way as the rest of the world. It is difficult to put personal spiritual experiences into words that those without such experiences will fully understand. I just finished watching Jundo today talk about the five skandas and how we cut the world up and attach all sorts of judgments to things, and this applies especially to language, and even more so to language printed on a computer screen. Take the word bliss for example. Oh yeah, we just did. :wink: The value then becomes discovery of just what do we mean when we say concentration, or bliss, or whatever. I guess all we can do is concentrate on being aware during that process.

    Gassho,
    AL

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