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Thread: Zazen and doubt

  1. #1

    Zazen and doubt

    Hi all,
    today, during my afternoon sitting, everything seemed to be as always. First there are a lot of thoughts and nose itching and eyes wandering trough the wall, and then, as usual, my atention slowly becomes more focused on breath while my posture is steady and calm.
    But today, while observing my breath during the sitting, suddenly I've started to feel a doubt sensation. My atention was focused on the breath, my eyes where steady on the wall, and then I've started to doubt about who was breathing. It's not an easy sensation to describe in a foreign language, but the sensation was something like "my mind is focused on breath but not conciously or actively involved in breathing, but breathing is happening anyway, and is automatic and I have nothing else to do but I'm still conscious about that... so who is breathing now and why?" :roll:

    A few moments after that, the doubt feeling went away as it had come, and my zazen continued as usual.

    Are those sensations common? Should I keep that feeling while sitting or just let it go and focus again on the breath?

    Gassho
    HernŠn

  2. #2

    Re: Zazen and doubt

    Quote Originally Posted by Yogi
    Hi all,
    today, during my afternoon sitting, everything seemed to be as always. First there are a lot of thoughts and nose itching and eyes wandering trough the wall, and then, as usual, my atention slowly becomes more focused on breath while my posture is steady and calm.
    But today, while observing my breath during the sitting, suddenly I've started to feel a doubt sensation. My atention was focused on the breath, my eyes where steady on the wall, and then I've started to doubt about who was breathing. It's not an easy sensation to describe in a foreign language, but the sensation was something like "my mind is focused on breath but not conciously or actively involved in breathing, but breathing is happening anyway, and is automatic and I have nothing else to do but I'm still conscious about that... so who is breathing now and why?" :roll:

    A few moments after that, the doubt feeling went away as it had come, and my zazen continued as usual.

    Are those sensations common? Should I keep that feeling while sitting or just let it go and focus again on the breath?

    Gassho
    HernŠn
    Hi HernŠn,

    All manner of sensations and thoughts are common during Zazen. You may be thinking about the "Great Doubt" which some Rinzai Koan meditators build up like a "big burning iron ball in their throats" or such as they wrestle with their Koans. Master Sheng-yen (a practitioner of both Shikantaza and Koan Zazen, who died this week) wrote this description ...

    {T]he application of the
    kung-an or hua-t'ou [a single phrase from a Koan like "Mu"] may cause the rising of the Great
    Doubt ???. This doubt is not the ordinary doubt of
    questioning the truth of an assertion. It is the
    doubt that arises out of ts'an Ch'an, investigating
    Ch'an. It refers to the practitioner's deeply
    questioning state of mind as a result of using the
    kung-an or hua-t'ou. The resolution of the kung-an or
    hua-t'ou hinges on the nurturing of the great doubt.
    Because the answer to his questions cannot be
    resolved by logic, he must continually return to his
    question, and in the process, clear his mind of
    everything else except the Great Doubt.
    Eventually, this accumulated "doubt mass" ??
    can disappear in one of two ways. One way is that,
    due to lack of concentration or energy, the meditator
    will not be able to sustain the doubt, and it will
    dissipate. Another way is that by persisting until
    his doubt is like a "hot ball of iron stuck in his
    throat", the doubt mass will disappear in an
    expollution. If the explosion has enough energy, it is
    possible that the student will experience "Ch'an",
    see Buddha-nature, become enlightened. If not, there
    will probably still be some attachment in his mind.
    It is necessary for a master to confirm his
    experience, since the student, with rare exceptions,
    cannot do that himself. Even as great a master as
    Ta-hui did not penetrate sufficiently on his first
    experience. His master Yuan-wu K'e-ch'in ????
    told him, "you have died, but you haven't come back
    to life." He was confirmed on his second experience.
    So what is a true experience? It takes an adept
    master to tell. If he is not a genuine master, he
    won't know the difference.
    http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-BJ001/02_10.htm
    We don't do that. We chase after no such intense focus.

    We just sit, allowing the thoughts of all kinds that naturally arise, to naturally fade from mind like a passing cloud. We return again and again to wide, open, objectless sitting as if the wide, open, objectless blue sky between the passing clouds.

    However, I "doubt" all the time, in the sense that I wonder if this practice is going "right" in my life. As I was sitting in the children's doctor's office this morning, with Leon throwing up all over me ... I knew the answer was that this practice is "right"! I am sure that we get the same place the Rinzai master get, even if the "explosion" is coming out of our child's stomach!

    It sounds like you are "trying too hard" in your sitting to FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS on the breath, STEADY, STEADY STEADY on the wall, perhaps? In fact, we do not focus on the breath except during the time we are first starting Shikantaza, maybe for a few weeks or couple of months. Please stop, and just sit with you mind focus open, spaciously, on everything and nothing in particular around you, dropping thoughts, goals and effort. Just sit. Forget the breath, forget the wall.

    So,

    "my mind is focused on breath but not conciously or actively involved in breathing, but breathing is happening anyway, and is automatic and I have nothing else to do but I'm still conscious about that... so who is breathing now and why?" ... Should I keep that feeling while sitting or just let it go

    Yes, let it go and return to wide, open, spacious Just Sitting

    and focus again on the breath?


    I would return to wide, open, spacious Just Sitting

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS- I have been in touch with many other Soto teachers recently on the issue of wall sitting. I will write more about that soon, but I am coming to the conclusion that facing into the room "sitting like a wall" is the original meaning of that teaching

  3. #3

    Re: Zazen and doubt

    so, jundo, are going to recommend facing the room now rather than the wall?
    craig

  4. #4

    Re: Zazen and doubt

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    so, jundo, are going to recommend facing the room now rather than the wall?
    craig
    Hi Craig,

    My first 20 years or so of Zazen, I only "faced the wall". That is traditional "Soto" style in Japan. Then, I spent several years sitting with a White Plum Sangha ('White Plum', and those deriving from Maezumi Roshi, practice a hybrid of Rinzai and Soto forms), and sat facing everyone in the room. It was nice, to face into the world.

    So, I began to do both at different times, and not be such a "fundamentalist" on wall facing. As well, I do tell folks that the true "quiet room" for Zazen need not be a quiet room, and encourage folks to sit once every week or so in a noisy or distracting location (a subway platform, shopping mall, urban downtown ... Lotus Posture not necessary for that), with the idea that the true "quiet room" is of one's own making. For example, this sitting we did by the side of a busy highway ...

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/treeleafzen/2 ... sic-1.html

    Recently, I was re-reading historian John R. McRae's "Seeing Through Zen", which is a wonderful revisionist history, refreshing for his knocking down of various stereotypes and assumptions. I was looking at a section in which he discusses how Master Bodhidharma' s famous "wall contemplation" likely references, not "sitting facing a wall", but something more along the lines of "sitting like a wall", undistracted by what is passing through the senses.

    And that may have been the "last straw". I still think facing the wall is marvelous, but so are all the other ways described above. So, I am recommending a mixture as of this moment!

    Gassho, J

  5. #5

    Re: Zazen and doubt

    i kinda had a similar experience a couple of weeks ago. but in my case, i was focusing on my breath, and of course, there were thoughts in the "background" and i questioned that if I was not "thinking" about those thoughts, then "who" was? i know "i"wasnt......but "i" was......

    i thought it was an interesting feeling.

    Gassho

    steve

  6. #6

    Re: Zazen and doubt

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    It sounds like you are "trying too hard" in your sitting to FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS on the breath, STEADY, STEADY STEADY on the wall, perhaps? In fact, we do not focus on the breath except during the time we are first starting Shikantaza, maybe for a few weeks or couple of months. Please stop, and just sit with you mind focus open, spaciously, on everything and nothing in particular around you, dropping thoughts, goals and effort. Just sit. Forget the breath, forget the wall.
    Yes, you're right. I'm afraid that I'm trying to hard. I will try to follow your advice, but having my "mind focus open, spaciously on everything and nothing" seems quite difficult. Anyway, having no goal, keeping my mind focus open couldn't be so hard!

    Thanks Jundo!!!
    Gassho,
    HernŠn

  7. #7
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Zazen and doubt

    Hi all,

    Facing the wall has never felt right when I sit, but I have tried to drop the idea of what feels "right" since being here at Treeleaf. My question has always been about how to tell the difference between something you are resisting and when trying something else is actually a good idea. Basically, I try not to think about it too much and after a time trying something else will just be the thing to do or it won't.

    That make any sense? Hmm...

    Gassho,
    Scott

  8. #8

    Re: Zazen and doubt

    Hi.



    Mtfbwy
    Tb

  9. #9

    Re: Zazen and doubt

    In the words of someone who understood a lot more than I do:

    "Zazen never becomes anything special, no matter how long you practice. If it becomes something special, you must have a screw loose somewhere."
    -Kodo Sawaki

  10. #10

    Re: Zazen and doubt

    Quote Originally Posted by "scott"
    Basically, I try not to think about it too much and after a time trying something else will just be the thing to do or it won't.

    That make any sense? Hmm...
    Very much so. Sometimes resisting is just our mind resisting what the self does not like. Sometimes resisting is because the thing is not good. Resisting not to eat poison is probably a good resistance (and it is wise to listen to your self's call for "self-preservation" in that case).

    Quote Originally Posted by radicaldreamer
    In the words of someone who understood a lot more than I do:

    "Zazen never becomes anything special, no matter how long you practice. If it becomes something special, you must have a screw loose somewhere."
    -Kodo Sawaki
    Yeah, Kodo!

    Gassho, Jundo

  11. #11

    Re: Zazen and doubt

    Jundo, i have been facing the room for many years before i started facing the wall about 6 month ago a bit after joining treeleaf. sometimes i still sit facing the room when the situation does not allow for facing the room. to be perfectly honest i don't mind either way, it feels the same.
    i just sit sit sit no matter what is going on in front of me (as long as its not dangerous). so i think that it doesn't really matter what you face or where and how you sit but the sitting itself.

    Gassho, Dojin.

  12. #12
    Member miheco's Avatar
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    Re: Zazen and doubt

    Let's face It, we are all here to experience nothing special.

    Gassho

  13. #13

    Re: Zazen and doubt

    But if seeing reality "as it is" wasn't special all of us could do it without practice, without zazen or without Buddhadharma. Perhaps, from a Buddha point of view, that is really ordinary and non-special.

  14. #14

    Re: Zazen and doubt

    Quote Originally Posted by Yogi
    But if seeing reality "as it is" wasn't special all of us could do it without practice, without zazen or without Buddhadharma. Perhaps, from a Buddha point of view, that is really ordinary and non-special.
    I will once again draw upon the words of the late, great, Kodo Sawaki:

    "We donít achieve satori through practice: practice is satori. Each and every step is the goal. "

    Or, to foolishly put things into my own words, seeing reality "as it is" and zazen are the exact same thing.

  15. #15

    Re: Zazen and doubt

    Quote Originally Posted by radicaldreamer
    Quote Originally Posted by Yogi
    But if seeing reality "as it is" wasn't special all of us could do it without practice, without zazen or without Buddhadharma. Perhaps, from a Buddha point of view, that is really ordinary and non-special.
    I will once again draw upon the words of the late, great, Kodo Sawaki:

    "We donít achieve satori through practice: practice is satori. Each and every step is the goal. "

    Or, to foolishly put things into my own words, seeing reality "as it is" and zazen are the exact same thing.
    Yes, coming to see the ordinary and non-special things of life as just jewels of life, both the joys and disappointments ... embracing all the ups and downs of the dream-like roller coaster ride (we are the coaster and the dreaming!) ... --is-- the most special of special ways to be.

    We practice with the fact that Zazen ... whether ecstatic and buoyant, whether boring and painful ... is a perfect moment, a perfect doing, -- just as is all of life. All resistance is dropped to all of it, the good and bad. Nothing to achieve, all complete with nothing lacking when we drop our sense of "lack".

    That, I believe, --IS-- a "Buddha's point of view".

    Gassho, Jundo

  16. #16
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Zazen and doubt

    It reminds me of Lin Chi's 'What at this moment is missing?'

    Or the Tenzo's words to Dogen: 'In all the world, nothing is hidden.'

  17. #17

    Re: Zazen and doubt

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    It reminds me of Lin Chi's 'What at this moment is missing?'

    Or the Tenzo's words to Dogen: 'In all the world, nothing is hidden.'
    Me too. Good to see you Chet. Gassho, J

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