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Thread: Sitting with the pure interrogative...

  1. #1
    disastermouse
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    Sitting with the pure interrogative...

    Recently I've beel listening to an audiobook by a teacher who's left Zen. One idea of his that I found intriguing was to sit with an inquiry.

    I remember when I've had the clearest realizations, I was often intently asking 'What is this?' I think Lin Chi's "What at this very moment is missing?" is also a good proxy, although maybe too wordy. Sometimes, I just 'look, look, look'. There's just a probing 'what?' or 'Hmmm'. English doesn't have a word for the pure interrogative, but I think Japanese does.

  2. #2
    disastermouse
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    Re: Sitting with the pure interrogative...

    I'm not saying that you repeat the words in your mind - I'm saying you keep the 'what?' intention in your mind.

  3. #3

    Re: Sitting with the pure interrogative...

    Hi Chet,

    Yes, teachers of the Kwan Um School of Zen and other Korean schools teach this. Martine Batchelor, who studied with a Korean Zen teacher, has an article called appropriately enough "What is This?" about this practice in the new issue of Tricycle (on newsstands now!). Sounds interesting but I never practiced in that way.

    Best,
    Keith

  4. #4
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Sitting with the pure interrogative...

    When I sit zazen I feel I am "saying" look, but I "say" it so lightly I am not really saying it at all; it is just attention, awareness, looking. Is this what you mean by pure interrogative?

    Whenever I do catch myself actually saying "look" I find it distracts me from the looking, because "look" is just a thought that gets in the way of experiencing awareness, i.e., looking.

  5. #5

    Re: Sitting with the pure interrogative...

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    English doesn't have a word for the pure interrogative . . .
    It has a symbol: :?:


    :wink:
    Bill

  6. #6
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Sitting with the pure interrogative...

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    When I sit zazen I feel I am "saying" look, but I "say" it so lightly I am not really saying it at all; it is just attention, awareness, looking. Is this what you mean by pure interrogative?
    Yes. Just an intense curiosity about what exactly is going on. A probing of sorts.

  7. #7

    Re: Sitting with the pure interrogative...

    One such teacher is Toni Packer of the Springwater Center in New York state. (hope I didn't just "out" your audiobook author, disastermouse)
    Toni was the recognized successor to Phillip Kapleau but split off from him after investigating the teachings of Krishnamurti. She doesn't tell you "how" to meditate but keeps hammering away at coming back to the moment with a question.

    Her retreat center:
    http://www.springwatercenter.org/

    Three short articles by Packer from the magazine Buddhadharma
    http://www.thebuddhadharma.com/issues/2 ... acker.html

  8. #8
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Sitting with the pure interrogative...

    Quote Originally Posted by M@rk
    One such teacher is Toni Packer of the Springwater Center in New York state. (hope I didn't just "out" your audiobook author, disastermouse)
    Toni was the recognized successor to Phillip Kapleau but split off from him after investigating the teachings of Krishnamurti. She doesn't tell you "how" to meditate but keeps hammering away at coming back to the moment with a question.

    Her retreat center:
    http://www.springwatercenter.org/

    Three short articles by Packer from the magazine Buddhadharma
    http://www.thebuddhadharma.com/issues/2 ... acker.html
    Nah, it's not Toni Packer.

    It was only this one thing that struck me strongly - the pure interrogative that sometimes I forget to include in my zazen. Deeply examining the memory of my initial practice, there was a very STRONG component of the interrogative.

  9. #9

    Re: Sitting with the pure interrogative...

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Hi,

    Such things as lines of inquiry are common in schools of Zen as we know. I've tried it in various forms and I must say that the Soto approach of this "just sitting" being the answer, and the question, and the non-answer/non-question itself really makes most sense to me.

    "What?" Is just the answer itself... but at times it fails to realize it. :wink:

    Regards,

    Harry.
    Hi,

    I will confirm Harry's lovely description of our "Just Sitting" Shikantaza... our "just sitting" is the answer and the question and the non-answer/non-question itself.

    It is vital that our practice not have any search about it, not in the least ... and thus we find what was never hidden!

    To sit with a question such as "What is This" or "Who am I", or even a spirit of attaining some special state ... all this is not Shikantaza. And by just sitting Shikantaza ... all said questions are resolved, solved, dissolved.

    Give up the search! Give up the goal! And be diligent is sitting!

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS- Know the different flavors of Zen Practice. I do not say which is "wrong" or "right", and each must find his own. But, for example, the Kwan Um School, and Kapleau Roshi, are teachers of a Koan centered Practice that tends to focus on the attaining of something. In turn, we feel that our radical non-attaining of nothing special is the most special, and mind blowing, attaining of all.

  10. #10
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Sitting with the pure interrogative...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Hi,

    Such things as lines of inquiry are common in schools of Zen as we know. I've tried it in various forms and I must say that the Soto approach of this "just sitting" being the answer, and the question, and the non-answer/non-question itself really makes most sense to me.

    "What?" Is just the answer itself... but at times it fails to realize it. :wink:

    Regards,

    Harry.
    Hi,

    I will confirm Harry's lovely description of our "Just Sitting" Shikantaza... our "just sitting" is the answer and the question and the non-answer/non-question itself.

    It is vital that our practice not have any search about it, not in the least ... and thus we find what was never hidden!

    To sit with a question such as "What is This" or "Who am I", or even a spirit of attaining some special state ... all this is not Shikantaza. And by just sitting Shikantaza ... all said questions are resolved, solved, dissolved.

    Give up the search! Give up the goal! And be diligent is sitting!

    Gassho, Jundo
    You misunderstand what I'm saying. The idea is not to come up with an answer, but simply look at what's there. It's more an intensity of interest, not an intent for an answer.

    You'll never get an answer to 'what is this'. That's not the point. 'This' is 'this', but what is 'this' exactly. It's more just an intent looking. I think that's the same as shikantaza.

  11. #11

    Re: Sitting with the pure interrogative...

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse

    You misunderstand what I'm saying. The idea is not to come up with an answer, but simply look at what's there. It's more an intensity of interest, not an intent for an answer.

    You'll never get an answer to 'what is this'. That's not the point. 'This' is 'this', but what is 'this' exactly. It's more just an intent looking. I think that's the same as shikantaza.
    Yes it is ... if, on the cushion, we drop away even the last vestige and trace of looking. We sit with nothing whatsoever to look for, no searching, neither inquiry nor the lack thereof ... dropping judgments, likes and dislikes, goals and all resistance.

    We don't look intently or unintently. We simply sit intently.

    Gassho, Jundo

  12. #12
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Sitting with the pure interrogative...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse

    You misunderstand what I'm saying. The idea is not to come up with an answer, but simply look at what's there. It's more an intensity of interest, not an intent for an answer.

    You'll never get an answer to 'what is this'. That's not the point. 'This' is 'this', but what is 'this' exactly. It's more just an intent looking. I think that's the same as shikantaza.
    Yes it is ... if, on the cushion, we drop away even the last vestige and trace of looking. We sit with nothing whatsoever to look for, no searching, neither inquiry nor the lack thereof ... dropping judgments, likes and dislikes, goals and all resistance.

    We don't look intently or unintently. We simply sit intently.

    Gassho, Jundo
    'Intently'. To have intent. That means more than 'just sitting'. I think the translation 'just sitting' sorta sucks, actually. Shikantaza actually means being 'on point' (IMHO).

    I like Suzuki Roshi's explanation that the effort of sitting in shikantaza erases itself. That's more of what I'm talking about. Being 'on point'. Not any particular point, just 'here'. Intently. But that intensity is itself 'what?' I'm not talking about looking for an intellectual answer - I'm talking about being with 'this', being intently curious in 'this'.

  13. #13

    Re: Sitting with the pure interrogative...

    Hi disastermouse... can I call you "dis"....

    ok, Dis... I think your approach is not wrong... but I think that's the rinzai approach.
    it's ok if you like it... but that's not what Jundo taught in Treeleaf.

    If I want to explain from the character of shikantaza in chinese:
    shikan ?? : the meaning is "just do it"
    taza ?? : the meaning is "hit the seat" (that means just hit your buttock to the seat)

    So, we sit and seeing the reality... or realize the reality that we're the reality it self...

    If I want give my opinion, each approach of both tradition (Rinzai and Soto), have their own risks.

    In Rinzai, the risk is we may fall in to intellectual understanding. (I think, that's what the Master Hongzhi said about "illumination without silent")

    In Soto, the risk is we may fall in to blankness. (I think, this is what master Hongzhi said about "silent without illumination")

    So, each way has its own risk, but at the end both approach is right....

    That's my opinion.

    Gassho, Shuidi

  14. #14

    Re: Sitting with the pure interrogative...

    Hi Shui Di,

    I think that "DIs" has explained things about his sitting, and I don't think it is the "Rinzai" approach (I guess you mean a "goal oriented" approach?)

    As I read what was written by "Dis" (or "Mr. Mouse", as we sometimes call him ... although I like "Chet"), it is a radically goalless sitting by dropping away 'to-the-marrow' all seeking, all goals ... dropping judgments, likes and dislikes, names, categories, "this" and "that" ... letting thoughts drift out of mind without stirring them up or becoming tangled in them ... openly aware of "everything and nothing in particular" in one's surroundings ... even sometimes dropping the idea of "chet" and "surroundings" and "time" ... sitting Zazen as a perfect act, just what it is, complete unto itself, the whole universe all the Buddhas and Ancestors sitting (and being sat by ... not two not three) Zazen in that moment ...

    If it is that, then it is the Shikantaza I teach around Treeleaf.

    While we are all "seekers", I think, in our Zen Practice (Rinzai or Soto), I believe that our "non-seeking" in the way of "Silent Illumination" lets some questions be solved, some evolve, some fully and completely dissolve, ... some to just revolve endlessly, like flowers in the sky ... some to simply volve ...

    Lots of our inquiry volves (Don't bother looking it up in the dictionary ... it is not there).

    "Dis", if I am wrong in describing your practice, please don't "Dis" me too badly!

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS- Actually, I found this for the latin root "volve" ... probably a pretty good description after all, without target or direction ... :

    volv-, volu-, -volve, volut-, -volute, -volution
    (Latin: bend, curve, turn, turn around, twist, roll)

  15. #15
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Sitting with the pure interrogative...

    Yes, Jundo.

    'Chet' is okay - Disastermouse is okay. Mouse is okay. Mr. Mouse is okay. Dis is okay.

    In sitting, my only goal is to be here, which is where I am - and hence the effort 'drops away'.

    Although, usually I have to drag myself back from some sort of story going on in my head.

    The talk at SFZC with Barry Magit was pretty interesting - he says most of us have a 'secret practice' where we try to achieve some sort of 'curative fantasy'.

    Chet

  16. #16

    Re: Sitting with the pure interrogative...

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse

    In sitting, my only goal is to be here, which is where I am - and hence the effort 'drops away'.
    Hi ... ,

    Drop even that goal! Truly!

    Gassho, Jundo

  17. #17

    Re: Sitting with the pure interrogative...

    yup

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