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Thread: Jundo Tackles the BIG Questions - I (Whatsa BIG Question?)

  1. #1

    Jundo Tackles the BIG Questions - I (Whatsa BIG Question?)

    Howdy,

    I am going to start a new series of threads on the Forum, because someone wrote me a list of 'BIG' questions that is so long, wonderful and thoughtful ... well, I thought I would try to respond to each question one by one, as I can.

    So, here is the first. I hope other folks write something too.

    QUESTION : "Does Satori provide the answer to the ‘big questions’?" I write you now Jundo because recently certain ideas, questions, and doubts have come to me which have, to be honest, shaken my faith in the Dharma painfully. ... these doubts really have me feeling lost... I now strongly feel the need to speak to a teacher. One who has trained in Zen and opened their 'mind's eye' in some degree. I'm not expecting miracle answers that will solve everything for me but I would just like the opinion and perspective of one who has developed their Zazen practice. Basically, I was hoping that I could run a few thoughts past you Jundo. [Please answer] one at a time. But these questions seem quite pressing to me right now.
    Hi Mr/Ms. X,

    "Does Satori provide the answer to the ‘big questions’?"

    You mention, as examples of some big questions, "what happens when we die", "whether there is a God and a 'Divine Plan'", "Why were we born, for what purpose" and the like. I will try to look at each of these in the coming days, one by one.

    For now, I just want to address your main question: "Does Satori provide the answer to the ‘big questions’?"

    Our Practice provides some very specific (and wonderful) answers to some 'big questions'. For example, Buddhism provides very clear guidance for and understanding of the origins of human suffering in this life. The "Four Noble Truths". for example, provide a formula that effectively describes the sickness and provides the medicine for its treatment or cure. (More about that here: http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...y-Dooby-Dukkha).

    Our Practice provides some very wonderful answers to other 'big questions' by instructing us to drop the questions as meaningless. Some questions are as pointless as our asking 'how many angels can gather on the head of a pin' or 'what color are the rabbits that live on the moon'. An example of such a question may be "where do we 'go' when we die, and where did we 'come from' before we were born" (I will talk about that in another posting later this week).

    Hand in hand with the above, many questions we regularly ask may just be phrased poorly, biased by our narrow, anthropocentric human understanding. An example of that may be "why do 'bad things' happen in the world". When we change the way the question is asked, answers begin to present themselves (I will talk about that too in the coming days). Hitting the "reset button' on so many of our misguided questions are what most of those old Koans are on about, by the way.

    And sometimes, Buddhism provides no answer to some 'big questions' (although that may be a kind of 'answer' too!). One such question may be whether or not there is actually a 'God' in the Judeo-Christian sense (and whether, for example, Jesus was 'His Son'). To such questions, our Zen Practice allows us to believe what we wish, or to take no stand at all. I often say:

    Is there a "God named 'Jehovah'"? .......... If so, live human life, fetch wood and carry water.

    Is there not some "God named 'Jehovah'"? .......... If not, live human life, fetch wood and carry water.


    I will also examine that, and related matters, in future postings.

    Oh, and I will also talk about what that word 'Satori' means in the coming days.

    So, my response for today: Sometimes YES! Sometimes NO! Sometimes WHAT QUESTION?!?!

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 05-09-2014 at 03:24 AM.

  2. #2

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - I

    The "Four Noble Truths". for example, provides a formula that effectively describes the sickness and provides the medicine for its treatment or cure.
    This is a point I want to focus on. In Christianity the Bible says we all have a sin problem. What is sin? Funny you should ask because although we can't really experience "sin" in the real world, the Bible says there is only one cure, Jesus Christ. The Bible defines what sin is. It's like a snake oil salesman telling you that you are sick and only he has the cure. The one thing I didn't appreciate about Christianity was that for the most part it required me to turn off my critical thinking skills. Doubt was sin, and sin makes "God" angry at me.

    What made the difference for me concerning Buddhism was that dukkha is real. I can experience it in my "reality" as compared to sin. The eight-fold path also makes sense, and can be in a sense tested for efficacy. I also really appreciate that Buddhism tends to focus on the things we can do instead of what is just speculation at best.

    It's fun to ask the existential questions, but it is also nice to have practical answers to the here and now. Plus, I am appreciating the different psychology and worldview of Buddhism as compared to my previous Judeo-Christian outlook.

  3. #3

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - I

    Hello--I offer my two cents as someone who does not have much experience in Zen, but rather who has spent decades struggling with the Big Questions, despite the total lack of interest in such matters on the part of my friends and family.

    I've found that the overriding, umbrella Big Question, under which all of the above-mentioned big questions fall, is along the lines of 'What can I honestly affirm in my own heart and mind that will give me peace/comfort/security regardless of anything else? (the anything else includes both internal recognition of opposing viewpoints, and external circumstances and life situations). In effect, this is asking what can I believe that won't ever ever change no matter what; and since the first Noble Truth is that change IS, then it's really a matter of what can I believe and still be happy with as the belief may evolve over time?

    To have faith in the Dharma shaken leads me to a new line of questioning. Presumably, this 'shaking' again is triggered by either an internal conflict or external circumstance. For this, and for me (who has been shook more than a million milkshakes worth) next step is to determine "How do I define Dharma (i.e. what did I decide to hold as Truth today?) and what did I expect it to accomplish for me (that it failed to do?) These questions, and how we answer them are the key to whether our faith in [b]any[b] set of ideas or faith in any P/person(s) will hold or be shaken.

    I actually didn't come here looking for answers. I was very tired of the incessant treadmill of 'ask 1 question, get 5 answers, lather, rinse, repeat ad infinitum'. Jundo never promised me a rose garden, or even that Zen would be a final resting place for my weary mind. BUT--I've found in my short time here that zazen does help in 2 critical ways. First, learning how to still the mind. I'm better at letting go, and instead of initiating the ask/answer cycle, I just sit. Lo and behold, sometimes an answer will come to me that I wasn't chasing after. Actually, the chase never ends--the faster we run the further away the object of the chase gets (or so it seems). Sometimes the key is just to stop running. Secondly, I'm learning to SEE and ACCEPT the boring inanity of my own daily life and existence, which somehow transforms into a multi-faceted jewel that is indeed the unique and priceless wonder that all the faiths promise (either now or later).

    Gassho, and thanks for delving into what I see as 'the good stuff' Ann

  4. #4

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - I

    I guess I just find the word ‘if’ strange in this context because I always believed that Zen leads to direct experience of ‘truth’ or reality without filters. I thought Zen was about going beyond mere beliefs and actually KNOWING, so it’s a shock to hear that Zen makes you none the wiser as to whether there is any purpose or point to all this. Do I have that right? I imagined Zen to be kind of getting in direct contact with the divine plan that is unfolding. Not that the divine means an external being, but the universe itself. And not that we have to pay too much attention to the word 'divine'. It's just a signpost to indicate a universe that has some underlying principle, purpose or 'set up'.

    It might be right to say that we just have to live our human life whatever the set up of all this (or lack there of). But whether all this is a random happening or an expression of divine intention can’t help affect how I feel about fetching that water....

    The word ‘suspicions’ and the expression ‘I think...' Doesn’t Zen lead to knowing down to your bowels? That is the way I have seen things... In that case, isn’t Zen practice reduced to a method of self-calming... of being more accepting and peaceful? These are fine and wonderful things. Absolutely wonderful. But doesn’t this strip Zen of its association with realisation of great truth?
    As such, are answers to the questions, ‘why are we here?’ and ‘Is what’s happening somehow intended?’ impossible? Zen doesn’t answer these questions through direct experience/realisation????? So human life is utterly mysterious to human beings, and cannot be otherwise, no matter their wisdom?

    I've heard it said in different places something along the lines of, 'Stop trying and stop trying not to try because the truth is already here and we have already arrived...' Basically, there's nowwhere we need to get to other than here and now, nothing we need to become other than what we already are... So if realising that the truth is already here does not involve a deep understanding of why we are here, what does it involve?

    Hope you guys don't mind the questions! But I'm full of 'em right now and empty of answers!

    Gassho,
    David G.

  5. #5

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - I

    More great questions, David.

    How about I add them to the list, and tackle them one by one? Stay tuned.

    Gassho, Jundo

  6. #6

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - I

    The truth of reality can't be expressed through the typical dialectic of our own thinking. But despite this, it's not mysterious either - the whole entire truth of everything is right here, right now, accessible at any moment anywhere - I think the problem for many of us may be that such a point of view is just too hard to accept, too much a radical departure from the everyday goal-oriented, striving-for-satisfaction kind of living we're all very used to. This is because in our daily lives, everything has a relative purpose - even carrying water and fetching wood imply satisfying thirst and staying warm.

    The problem starts when we apply this same kind of goal-oriented approach to the whole of reality, the universe, "the ultimate" or "God" or whatever names we choose, and it just doesn't work. The oversimplified-by-design model of reality that we each carry in our brains breaks down when applied to the "big" questions -just because we have the mental ability to ask such questions, doesn't mean they're relevant. Just because we can stand on an overpass screaming at the cars passing below doesn't mean that's relevant, either. There isn't much difference between these two behaviors, except with first you're left with a burning mind, the second with an burning throat.

    I'm not pontificating here in any important capacity; I won't pretend to know the best way to answer questions like these, because I don't think there are such things as best answers to them... colorful storytelling tailor-made to our wants and expectations is usually all we end up with when we think we have the world "all figured out" in the conventional sense. I do think Zen provides answers... but they're just not the kind we expect or accept easily, and can't be obtained through intellectual reasoning alone. That's why we sit, even though when we sit we drop the question of "why" anything.

    Gassho,
    Owen

  7. #7
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - I

    Hi all,

    As Jundo points out many questions are dropped. In my limited experience, zazen exhausts both questions and answers, or if you wish, the need, the urge to be given a map to go and live. When :?: and :!: are dropped, we are taken back home, which is exactly here and now, a place we never leave. Then our being-time -here-and- now is a living question and answer. Action takes place and arises in this dynamic reality which is not anymore perceived or grasped through fears or hopes. Eating, we eat. Living, we live. Sleeping, we sleep. Or, if I put it another way, zazen is a way to redirect the flow of questions to very source of our being-time, you actualize the fact that the answers are not anymore over there in books, traditions, teachings but that you are the answer to all the questions you ask. Questions do not beg for an answer but are seen and experienced as a way to wake up to this reality without necessarily putting your paws on any definite answer. A way to wonder, not to wander. It is true that then the whole universe, from toiults to kitchen, work and family and friends and things become the living questions put to us.

    Gassho

    Taigu

  8. #8

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - I

    Owen, Taigu ... simply BEAUTIFUL! Thank you.

    You gave away the punchline to the joke, and its wonderful! It makes me smile. You also made my morning, and the sunlight seems to be shining a little brighter through the windows.

    I hope everyone will read what you wrote again and again.

    Deep Bows, Jundo

  9. #9

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - I

    Quote Originally Posted by chugai
    Reminds me of the John Prine song, Fish and Whistle for some reason ... one can find it on youtube if one is so inclined ...
    Artist: Prine John
    Song: Fish and Whistle
    Album: Great Days: The John Prine Anthology
    John Prine Sheet Music
    John Prine CDs


    Lyrics: “Fish and Whistle”

    I been thinking lately about the people I meet
    The carwash on the corner and the hole in the street
    The way my ankles hurt with shoes on my feet
    And I'm wondering if I'm gonna see tomorrow.

    Father forgive us for what we must do
    You forgive us we'll forgive you
    We'll forgive each other till we both turn blue
    Then we'll whistle and go fishing in heaven.

    I was in the army but I never dug a trench
    I used to bust my knuckles on a monkey wrench
    Then I'd go to town and drink and give the girls a pinch
    But I don't think they ever even noticed me.

    Fish and whistle, whistle and fish
    Eat everything that they put on your dish
    And when we get through we'll make a big wish
    That we never have to do this again again

    On my very first job I said thank you and please
    They made me scrub a parking lot down on my knees
    Then I got fired for being scared of bees
    And they only give me fifty cents an hour.

  10. #10

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - I

    Well, thank you everyone for the replies Can't tell you have great it feels to have some feedback on these issues

    I'm left a little baffled by your words. I sense that they might be pointing at something that I don't quite grasp yet. Some good old sinking in is required perhaps...

    Hmm, I imagine that all these 'big' questions are connected and in fact amount to the same question viewed from different perspectives.

    Thanks again folks It's beautiful to share with you guys.

    Gassho,
    David. G

  11. #11

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - I

    Quote Originally Posted by Borsuk
    so it’s a shock to hear that Zen makes you none the wiser as to whether there is any purpose or point to all this. Gassho,
    David G.
    Hi David,

    I just left in the little quote because that is what I wanted to respond to.

    I think that "why" and "purpose" as used on this topic are artificial, fantasy constructs whihc arise perhaps out of some person's need for "meaning". People seem to have this need for some significance/importance beyond existence. I can not speak of this from my own experience, since I do not experience this need. But that is not that i experience meaninglessness, but that each phenomena is it's own meaning just as it is. I am only restating what Jundo stated, but I thought perhaps with fewer words it might be clearer.

    And if I don't understand how each phenomena is it's own meaning in and of itself, then this is a wonderful opportunity to find out, to "solve" this question that I have.

    Also it is wonderful if someone has this need or question of "meaning" because they have the opportunity to find out "what is this "meaning" that grips me?" and "what is this quest for "meaning"?" These are even more fundamental questions. What is the meaning of "meaning"?

    And for me, zen is not about just accepting reality as it is (which is accepting my perception of reality). It is the continual process of experiencing more and more understanding. Greater and greater understanding. And, in my experience, understanding is certainly it's own reward.

    thank you for your time,
    gassho,
    rowan

  12. #12

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - I

    I remember i used to think about such things all the time, what is the meaning? how should i live? bla bla bla?

    i was full of questions with no answers, none what so ever!

    when i first started practicing zen i was looking for a big answer... for the big question... how do i find peace?! i wanted satori, i wanted to be enlightened, i wanted to understand/realize it all.

    with time and practice i came to see those answers as something that can not be put to words, yet could be felt deep down inside.
    as i continued to practice i got further and further from the answers again. yet this time the questions were lost to me, i couldnt remember what i wanted to know. with time i lost the answers deep inside me too. today i just live and if you ask me the meaning of life i might say i dont know, or that its just life, or maybe just keep on living. it all depends on the moment.

    so i dont know, i dont need to know, and i just live as best i can.

    P.S.

    the real answer to life, the universe and everything is 42...

    Gassho
    Daniel, who is just talking out of his behind ( or maybe it was the cushion talking?! ) :shock:

  13. #13

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - I

    Quote Originally Posted by Zen
    ...

    P.S.

    the real answer to life, the universe and everything is 42...

    Gassho
    Daniel, who is just talking out of his behind ( or maybe it was the cushion talking?! ) :shock:
    :lol: 42!

    I cannot add anything here that hasnt already been beautifully put! So Thank you to all that have added and to the "question asker "

    Gassho
    Dirk

  14. #14

    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - I

    yeah i guess the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy really made a mark

  15. #15
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Jundo Tackles the 'BIG' Questions - I

    As far as I see it, there's only one "big" question: Why?

    And there's only one answer: Because.

    Kirk

  16. #16
    Member Ernstguitar's Avatar
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    Hi,

    my english is not very good, my brain neither.
    I want to make a Statement, becourse my silly brain thinks to know the feeling to your question,
    which is not a good feeling.

    And I just want to focus on the question:

    "Does Satori provide the answer to the ‘big questions’?"

    and I think, there is no reason to discuss Judeo-Christian or Buddhism issues.
    There is no difference in intention, just in form and culture.
    All of them want to tell you the answer to the question of:where do I come from, who am I, where do I go.
    I got an answer from Muho about zazen and Buddhism: you do not need any ...ism for zazen.

    The very important questions: "where do I come from, who am I, where do I go" are the guiding questions for everything on the way, and important.
    If I want to get the answer from a leader or Roshi (in the Guru-way) than it leads to fear, power, violence.......
    If I want to find the answer in another way, I will realize, that my thoughts are not able to answer this questions. That part is easy in my opinion. The thoughts are made from experiences and are not able to create something new in the same way.
    But I can realize here and now without a Guru or Religion (they cannot answer, becourse than it would be possible to intellectualize the truth), that if I can be quiet in my brain the answer is here. And the questions disappeared. Or so.

    I do not know anything about Satori. So, I cannot give an answer. (and I think, that I looked a long time for this answer)

    But if I am able for short moments in my life to be in the "now", I get always the answer (but not intellectually).

    just a very simple thought on the question.

    Ernst

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Ernstguitar View Post
    I do not know anything about Satori.
    Ernst
    I don't know much about satori either. But I do know that if I don't get back to work I won't get a paycheck.

    Gassho, Jishin

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