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Thread: can zazen end suffering?

  1. #1

    can zazen end suffering?

    i like the idea of zen and shikantaza. the japanese trappings make me a bit crazy. the buddhist trappings make me crazy. the Stick sickens me. actually doing zazen is quite rigorous and painful both mentally and physically. i went to a zendo tonight that i hadn't gone to in a while. i hadn't sat more that 15 minutes in long time. it was amazing how much i wanted to do ANYTHING but just sit. i thought about slipping out during kinhin, but i didn't. i stayed and we had a great little dharma chat group. however, the dharma makes me crazy too. what to do? i got into this whole mess to end suffering or struggling or whatever. thoughts?
    peace
    craig

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: can zazen end suffering?

    Hey Craig,

    I think you are trying a bit too hard for something to happen. I believe the idea is to have no ideas or sense of getting anywhere. I'd suggest just trying to drop all this and see what doesn't happen. Otherwise, you could become the cause of your own suffering whilst trying to make "it" happen. It (whatever that is) just doesn't work that way.

    Gassho,
    Scott

    P.S. I'm pretty sure no one here can hit you with a stick.

  3. #3

    Re: can zazen end suffering?

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    i like the idea of zen and shikantaza. the japanese trappings make me a bit crazy. the buddhist trappings make me crazy. the Stick sickens me. actually doing zazen is quite rigorous and painful both mentally and physically. i went to a zendo tonight that i hadn't gone to in a while. i hadn't sat more that 15 minutes in long time. it was amazing how much i wanted to do ANYTHING but just sit. i thought about slipping out during kinhin, but i didn't. i stayed and we had a great little dharma chat group. however, the dharma makes me crazy too. what to do? i got into this whole mess to end suffering or struggling or whatever. thoughts?
    peace
    craig
    The Japanese trappings can be ignored (some are worth keeping), the Buddhist trappings can be taken or left ... and my Lineage does not use the Kyosaku stick.

    But on the question of whether Zazen ends suffering: YES!

    Otherwise I wouldn't have wasted all that sitting time for the last 25 years. 8)

    Now, please understand what is meant by "suffering" (Dukkha) in a Buddhist sense

    In our view, "suffering" is (in a nutshell) mental resistance to what is, attachment to what is not. Thus, old age, sickness, physical pain and death are not "suffering" in a Buddhist sense if there is no resistance. Easiest example: If you are getting old, infirm and slowing dying ... but your attitude is to "go with the flow", embracing the change, being one with the process, allowing it all, being in each moment without thought of how things "could be better" or "should be some other way" ... then where is the suffering? "Pain", maybe, but "suffering" no. Or, if you are attached to a loved one who leaves or dies ... and you release the attachment (loving them when present, letting them go when they go), there is no suffering. Even if there may yet be some grief or sadness at the parting but (if one embraces the human condition of sometimes being sad too), there is no "suffering". Perhaps natural human "sadness", yes, but no "suffering".

    And it is your sense of "self" that is constantly bumping and crashing into all the other "selfs" in the world, so to the degree that sense of "self" softens or drops away, the friction, bumping and crashing drops away too.

    I recently convered the Four Noble Truths as part of the Heart Sutra series. Please have a look (here and following days, unless the talks are already vanished, for all things are impermanent. I am not attached to them though). :wink:

    http://treeleafzen.blogspot.com/2008/09 ... -four.html

    That is why the little pains, boredom and frustration during Zazen are actually very important. Each is a lesson, for there is no "suffering" if resistance is dropped.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - Scott's advice is good advice.

  4. #4

    Re: can zazen end suffering?

    okay jundo, i'm with you. my preferred definition of dukkha is STRUGGLE. everything is just one giant struggle in life...getting up in the morning, what to eat, what not to eat, dealing with kids, dealing with cars, dealing with people, getting to bed on time, getting zazen in, exercising. on top of all of that my mind is going a million miles an hour trying to get me hooked on something. it's crazy. so, two questions:

    1. in zazen, how do we drop body and mind? it seems impossible.

    2. if zazen is to help us end suffering, why is it so difficult and painful sometimes? i just want to choke dogen when he talks about zazen being easy :evil:

    peace-
    craig

  5. #5

    Re: can zazen end suffering?

    Hi Craig....

    Can I give my opinion?

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    okay jundo, i'm with you. my preferred definition of dukkha is STRUGGLE. everything is just one giant struggle in life...getting up in the morning, what to eat, what not to eat, dealing with kids, dealing with cars, dealing with people, getting to bed on time, getting zazen in, exercising. on top of all of that my mind is going a million miles an hour trying to get me hooked on something. it's crazy. so, two questions:

    1. in zazen, how do we drop body and mind? it seems impossible.

    2. if zazen is to help us end suffering, why is it so difficult and painful sometimes? i just want to choke dogen when he talks about zazen being easy :evil:

    peace-
    craig
    1. I think the question is not only "how do we drop body and mind" but also "how do we drop the "self" who "think" about how to drop the body and mind?"

    Dogen said, "not thinking".

    If we are "trying" to drop the body and mind, is just like we want to damping down the fire by using fire. because the willing to drop the body and mind is also a mind, right? so using the mind to drop the mind is impossible.

    The way is pure. and that's why everything has drop in the very beginning.

    Zazen is just as it is.

    2. difficult and painful is not always suffering...

    GAssho, Mujo

  6. #6

    Re: can zazen end suffering?

    Hello,
    I agree with the previous posts but just to add.-
    If your mind is going a million miles an hour it will first slow down. A bit like the brain's safety mechanism to stop you getting a mental whiplash. It will not just suddenly go from mayhem to peace. (Not saying your head is full of mayhem either )
    Sitting, like practice, is a journey but you don't have to be the driver, navigator or anyone else. Just sit back and you will get there.

    Gassho

    Undo

  7. #7

    Re: can zazen end suffering?

    Hi--I want to add to the chorus an emphatic 'yes', that zazen can end suffering. A few thoughts, in no particular order: First, as to dropping the body and the experience of pain. I've found there are two types of pain. One type is a dull twisty achy feeling in my right hip (I can't get that knee down past 6 in over the floor yet). I've learned to stay still, and try to fully experience the ache. It comes from a tension I didn't know was there, and if I can accept it for what it is, whether I 'like it or not' then the leg relaxes, the knee goes down barely a fraction of an inch, and the pain dissapates after only a few seconds. However, if I move the leg then the distraction is worse than the pain was. However, if the pain sharpens, then that's the true body signal that something is straining and needs to move before any real damage occurs. If you can learn to distinguish between them, and experience the pain that vanishes, it's such an amazing liberating moment.

    As to dropping the mind--I learned to watch my thoughts. When my mind would put me in discussions with people or worries about cars or so on, I learned to ask--is that person or that car here with me now? NO. So, I'm talking to a ghost! I spent an awful lot of time talking to ghosts! Zazen is the practise (and it really does take practise) of fully experiencing what IS, here and now, and not living the experience that your mind invents for you. Seeing/touching/smelling the red leaf, beyond the label of 'red' or 'leaf'. It's a discipline--who's in charge--you or your mind? It's hard to distinguish, but it's a way to think about it. For only 10 or 15 minutes, which, yes, can seem like a really long time, you have the glorious opportunity to be free from the imposed & composed 'reality box' that the mind places you in. You simply don't have to think about all those things, and if the thoughts arise, you do NOT have to answer or follow them beyond the awareness of the arising. You really do have that choice.

    I think this is the best lesson in impermanence of all--once you learn to let the thoughts go, then you find out how really impermanent they are. And then, that lesson begins to permeate into daily living. I recently found fruit from zazen in this very lesson--at times a family member will suffer periods of inbridled rage, and, living in the same house, this was a huge suffering for me. However, having learned the lesson of impermanence in the more concrete path of zazen, I was able to get through this last episode with very little suffering. My usual reaction of fear and trembling lasted only moments rather than days...because I finally, truly understood that change IS.

    As to difficulty--at the basic level, this is nothing more than resistance. So, again, you have the choice to resist or not. If you are resisting, thinking 'I don't want to do this' or 'I don't want to be here'--what is it that you are attached to that creates the resistance? what happens if you simply accept the idea that you will sit, and just sit, for 10 minutes?

    Enough words. Gassho, Ann

  8. #8

    Re: can zazen end suffering?

    Some nice comments from folks.

    Okay, Craig ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    okay jundo, i'm with you. my preferred definition of dukkha is STRUGGLE. everything is just one giant struggle in life...getting up in the morning, what to eat, what not to eat, dealing with kids, dealing with cars, dealing with people, getting to bed on time, getting zazen in, exercising. on top of all of that my mind is going a million miles an hour trying to get me hooked on something. it's crazy.
    Before you begin Zen Practice, you have to get up in the morning, deal with kids, cars, people, exercise and go to bed. Your mind is going a million miles a minute.

    After Zen Practice is part of your life for awhile, you still have to get up in the morning, deal with kids, cars, people, exercise and go to bed. Sometimes that is still hard or frustrating. But your mind is less apt to be going a million miles a minute, there is a Peace which is tasted right through the hard and frustrating,. All is seen more as a silly dance, or a lovely bit of theatre ... comedy and tragedy on stage.

    so, two questions:

    1. in zazen, how do we drop body and mind? it seems impossible.
    Well, it depends on what you think Dogen meant by that expression. I think he meant this: That, right now, there is someone who thinks he is "Craig", a "self", and "Craig" thinks he has a body and a mind. That "self" is filled with likes, dislikes, disappointments and worries, fears ... and bumps into lots of other "not Craigs" in the world (all the other stuff, like other people, kids and cars).

    After doing Zazen for awhile (both the Rinzai way of Koans and Shikantaza), we see through the sense of separate self, of a "Craig" who is a particular body and mind. Craig's sense of "Craigness" softens or, sometimes, fully is forgotten. In its place there is an experience of no borders, at-oneness, wholeness, no friction, going with the flow (in fact, BEING the flow!), harmony with what is, just being life itself , etc. etc.

    Friction (namely, suffering) is, proportionately, also softened or fully drops away.

    When we learn to bring this off the Zafu, into the rest of our life, "getting up in the morning,, dealing with kids and people" etc. is just not experienced the same way. Friction is there on one "level", but also softened or fully dropped away on another.

    2. if zazen is to help us end suffering, why is it so difficult and painful sometimes? i just want to choke dogen when he talks about zazen being easy :evil:
    Zazen on the Zafu is, for me, life in microcosm. Life sometimes is pleasant, sometimes painful or unpleasant. Same for sitting on the Zafu. But we learn that the mind can take the painful and unpleasant and (while not making them completely disappear in many cases ... the kids and cars are still there and need to be dealt with) can learn too experience and taste those things in radically new ways (as described above)

    We even learn to think of things in a completely new way. For example, when we drop all thought of "life" "death" and "Craig" from mind, we seem to taste a sense of our being beyond birth and death (I have been meaning to tackle that as a "BIG" Question, and will do so this week).

    Gassho, Jundo

  9. #9

    Re: can zazen end suffering?

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    the Stick sickens me.

    peace
    craig
    I feel it is important to explain about the stick. First, it does make a loud noise. BUT IT DOESN'T HURT. really, I am not being stoic about this. There might be a slight stinging sensation as if you hit your forearm with your fingers. But it does get the blood flowing to your brain and is a great pick-up during afternoon sitting.

    cheers,
    rowan

  10. #10

    Re: can zazen end suffering?

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott
    Hey Craig,

    I think you are trying a bit too hard for something to happen. I believe the idea is to have no ideas or sense of getting anywhere. I'd suggest just trying to drop all this and see what doesn't happen. Otherwise, you could become the cause of your own suffering whilst trying to make "it" happen. It (whatever that is) just doesn't work that way.

    Gassho,
    Scott
    well said, scott. i need reminding like every 5 minutes that i am trying too hard. it's all goal-less. just sit. it seems too simple. and yes, trying to find all the answers and get it all figured out has caused me much suffering.
    peace
    craig

  11. #11

    Re: can zazen end suffering?

    Quote Originally Posted by Undo
    Hello,
    I agree with the previous posts but just to add.-
    If your mind is going a million miles an hour it will first slow down. A bit like the brain's safety mechanism to stop you getting a mental whiplash. It will not just suddenly go from mayhem to peace. (Not saying your head is full of mayhem either )
    Sitting, like practice, is a journey but you don't have to be the driver, navigator or anyone else. Just sit back and you will get there.

    Gassho
    Undo-
    thanks for the words of wisdom. i definitely 'want some results' but is gonna be a process. already though i am more aware even after the most painful sessions of zazen. i like what u say about sitting and you will get there.
    craig

  12. #12

    Re: can zazen end suffering?

    Ann-

    -great advise. just sitting with the pain is tough but necessary. amazingly it goes away like you said. the less i fret and try to move, the quicker i get used to it etc. thanks

    -it is totally amazing how i am just wacked with all this stuff when i sit. however, i keep reminding myself that i don't have to do anything, just sit. after a while the deluge lessens.

    -sometimes it seems like the hardest thing in the world to begin sitting and to stay there. rather than being caught up in doing it all right etc. i am just trying to 'let go' of EVERYTHING and just sit. when the resistance creeps in, as it does massively, that seems to be a sign that i'm on the right track...i think


    Peace
    Craig

  13. #13

    Re: can zazen end suffering?

    Jundo-

    Thanks so much for your responses. It is just such an amazing thing to be able to interact with a teacher and sangha online like this. I loved your talk on suffering and totally agree. In addition, zazen being a microcosm of life is so right on. zazen is literally practicing 'going with the flow'. also, when stuff comes up during the day, i hope i can begin doing what i have been working on in zazen...'just sitting (dealing with kids, etc.)

    I am looking forward to the big question on death!

    Peace-
    Craig

  14. #14

    Re: can zazen end suffering?

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    Jundo-

    ... zazen is literally practicing 'going with the flow'.
    You --are--the flow and, truly, there is just Flowing.

    (I think some old Chinese used to call that the Tao and such)

  15. #15

    Re: can zazen end suffering?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    Jundo-

    ... zazen is literally practicing 'going with the flow'.
    You --are--the flow and, truly, there is just Flowing.

    (I think some old Chinese used to call that the Tao and such)


    Jundo-
    Thanks. You always help me see at the next level. There's no 'me' to go with the flow. There is just flow, as you said.
    As an update to my question...I got up today, dealt with kids, etc. and it seems to be going a bit easier. I've also increased my zazen time to 20mins and am doing it twice on some days. I'm actually excited about trying a retreat soon. Thanks again for everyone's great and wise comments.
    Gassho,
    Craig

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