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Thread: 4/17 - Branching Streams: 10th Talk - Suffering is Valuable

  1. #1

    4/17 - Branching Streams: 10th Talk - Suffering is Valuable

    We come to the TENTH TALK in Suzuki Roshi's talks on the Sandokai ... "SUFFERING IS A VALUABLE THING", pages 137 to 146.

    Please also try to listen to Zoketsu Norm Fischer on this section ... It fits Suzuki Roshi's talk like a box and its lid ...

    http://www.everydayzen.org/index.php?It ... io-353-218


    Gassho, Jundo

  2. #2

    Re: 4/17 - Branching Streams: 10th Talk - Suffering is Valuable

    Jundo, I'd like to thank you for posting that. I recommend it be read all the way through.

    Wow. There were so many things in that talk by By Zoketsu Norman Fischer, that I...

    I have a lot of quotes (the notes are just what I thought/felt when reading it):

    How are we going to honor our actual lives, our own experience and conditioning, our uniqueness and particularity, without falling into the trap of being self-centered and partial to ourselves?
    An interesting question.

    If we didn't express our priceless value, it wouldn't exist, and as long as we're alive, no matter what we're doing, good or bad, we are expressing our pricelessness.
    ....
    The Sandokai says here that all beings have their own virtue or merit. As human beings, we have our own nature. Only when we live like human beings, who have a selfish human nature, are we following the truth in its greater sense, because then we are taking our nature into account.
    ....
    Notice he says that our nature is to be selfish. And it's true. To be egotistical is a necessary aspect of a human being. We might complain to ourselves that we are egotistical and selfish, but actually it's kind of a necessary part of being a human being.
    Didn't quite understand what he was talking about yet.

    Dogs and cats have no special cage. They don't need any teaching or religion. But we human beings need religion. We human beings should say, "Excuse me," but dogs and cats don't need to. So we human beings should follow our way, and dogs and cats should follow their way. This is how the truth applies to everything.
    At this point I thought "Well, we could be like Dog and Cats as well, but humans have a skill for destruction (given the equipment we were blessed with)".

    And exactly because of our vulnerability, we spend our entire lives doing all that we can to make ourselves seem more and more important, safe, and valuable, as if we were the center of the entire universe. We are working constantly to protect ourselves against the anticipated onslaught of enemies, threats, and the biggest threat of all, time itself.

    So to us the absolute principle - nothingness, emptiness, God, whatever we call it - is basically immense and frightening. We usually don't call it anything, because we would rather not think about it, although it is usually there anyway as a background of dread.
    Getting a little more closer to something here. Pointing to something that I think I kind of get.

    You should be grateful for your selfish understanding, which creates many questions. They are just questions and they don't mean so much. You can enjoy your questions and answers; you can play games with them; you needn't be so serious about it. That is the understanding of the Middle Way.

    So even our selfishness, even our grasping after what we already have, is worthwhile because it activates us, and it's part of this whole picture.
    Don't need to be serious about questions and answers? Interesting.

    It activates us. Another interesting thing.

    So each teaching, word, vision, or sound is itself, but also points beyond itself. So everything that arises touches this immensity.
    Hard to say anything here.

    So when it comes to religious teachings, you don't get entangled in them. You don't get so interested in them, and so passionate about them, that you start forgetting about your life, and then you have your head in the clouds, debating religious points and beliefs.Worse than that, personally identifying with the teachings, making them into a kind of a self that you cling to, in place of the previous lower grade self that you had before. Now the teachings are a very high class form of self clinging, and much more pernicious in a way, because now you feel perfectly justified in riding over other people, seeing them as being less than human, maybe even coercing them, oppressing them, persecuting them. And who knows, maybe killing them off? And you can do this because this is not a selfish thing. You're doing this for the sake of God's truth, or Allah, or Buddha. And this is much more noble than just mere naked self-interest. But in fact it is the worst form of naked self-interest.
    Very educational.

    (the rest of the quotes, I can't really say much):

    The main point is to let go of all grasping at truth. Don't hold onto anything, especially the teaching, and especially the practice. Because the teaching that you can hold onto could never be the real teaching, because the teaching is really just life. Life as it really is. Not as we imagine it, but as it really is, right where we are.
    But I realized that his line does not mean ‘Don't make standards up on your own.' What it means is ‘Don't hold onto any standards at all, whether it's yours or somebody else's.'
    So it is with us. There is a way to go that is unique to each one of us. The path that you walk is unique to you, and at the same time, it is the ancient path of the ancestors. So we have standards, but they are neither self-centered standards nor slavish standards that we're sticking to. They're traceless standards, in accord with the moonlight falling on our bodies, in the place where we are standing right now.
    So there's the truth.


    Gassho

  3. #3

    Re: 4/17 - Branching Streams: 10th Talk - Suffering is Valuable

    Hi,

    This was a difficult chapter for me. Things having their own merit is okay, all nice and relative.

    Box and lid I didn't get but I was thinking of a lid on a hinge, I think the text means the sort of lid that fits snugly into a box. This feels much better. The lid makes the box whole.

    Then, the arrows meeting in mid-air - what principle? Ah, all arrows collide in the present moment so principle meets reality in action.

    So, very good, in my own self-centered way.

    Cheers,

    Paul

  4. #4

    Re: 4/17 - Branching Streams: 10th Talk - Suffering is Valuable

    Quote Originally Posted by prg5001
    ...
    Box and lid I didn't get but I was thinking of a lid on a hinge, I think the text means the sort of lid that fits snugly into a box. This feels much better. The lid makes the box whole.

    Then, the arrows meeting in mid-air - what principle? Ah, all arrows collide in the present moment so principle meets reality in action. ...
    Hi Paul,

    I also thought of a lid with a precise fit.

    The arrows meet precisely with equal force from opposite directions. Perhaps in the same way as any concept and its opposite, for example;

    ri and ji
    light and dark
    distinction and equality
    form and emptiness

    Also, thumbs remind me of arrow points meeting:



    JohnH

  5. #5

    Re: 4/17 - Branching Streams: 10th Talk - Suffering is Valuable

    I like the thumbs.

    Thanks, John

  6. #6

    Re: 4/17 - Branching Streams: 10th Talk - Suffering is Valuable

    Quote Originally Posted by Zoketsu Norman Fischer
    And that's how amazing is the ineffable immensity of being/non-being, fitting precisely into our uniqueness, right where we are.

    Suppose we actually knew that. Suppose we felt that way about our lives. What would that be like? I suppose it would be like never having left the womb. One would feel like that in the world. To feel being warmly met at every point by all of reality. To always be surrounded by a universe full of nutrition and friendliness.

    Here's some words by Suzuki Roshi on this point:

    To accept things-as-it-is looks very difficult, but it is very easy. If you don't find it easy, you should think about why it is so difficult. "Maybe," you may say, "it is because of the shallow, selfish understanding I have of myself." And then you may ask, "Why do I have a selfish understanding of things?" But a selfish understanding of things is also necessary. Because we are selfish, we work hard. Without a selfish understanding, we cannot work. We always need some candy. It is not something to be rejected, but something that helps you. You should be grateful for your selfish understanding, which creates many questions. They are just questions and they don't mean so much. You can enjoy your questions and answers; you can play games with them; you needn't be so serious about it. That is the understanding of the Middle Way.
    So even our selfishness, even our grasping after what we already have, is worthwhile because it activates us, and it's part of this whole picture.
    I have, at times, understood intellectually the implications of accepting things-as-it-is and the feeling Norman Fischer describes of feeling as if one were met warmly at every point by a universe full of nutrition and friendliness. I have even imagined (ie. felt) a life led by such a feeling, a life in which one can let go of all grasping, of all worrying about the future. Right now, for example, I'm trying to make plans for a dramatic change in my life that will impact the course of not only my life, but the lives of my wife and children drastically, irrevocably. I'm trying to project into a future of myriad possibilities and it's maddening, given the uncertainty of the future and the magnitude of the impact. It is, of course, a futile exercise, as there is no way for me to predict the future or the impact of the decision we make. I know I am being far too serious about the decision. Which brings me back to my main point...

    Though I have imagined a life led by this feeling of universal welcome, it has raised a simultaneous fear that reaches to the core of my construct of myself (of course), as "surrender" to the flow of the river would mean that "I" would stop swimming, and "I" would no longer be necessary. At least, this is what forms the fear that "I" emits.

    This fear is not entirely well founded, though, as "I" will still exist and can swim or not swim as he chooses. I can swim in circles, from bank to bank, dive down to the bottom, swim upstream, etc. In fact, that is what I am doing regardless of whether I "surrender" or not. What is at question here is whether I recognize the fact that this is true or remain mired in the illusion that I am somehow directing the flow of the river.

    To avoid rambling, I'll stop there, except to add this quote:

    Quote Originally Posted by Shunryu Suzuki
    Without rejecting your selfish way of life, you must accept it -- but don't stick to it! Just enjoy your human life as long as you live. That is the Middle Way, the understanding of ri and ji. When there is ri, there is ji; when there is ji, there is ri. To understand difficulty in this way is to enjoy your life without rejecting problems or suffering.
    For me to think that my swimming can direct the flow of the river, or that my swimming is the river, is wrong. But, to reject my swimming is also wrong (and impossible). Instead, I can swim or not swim as I like, invent goals (games) to swim toward. Some goals may be easier (swimming with the flow) and bring joy. Others may be harder (swimming upstream), and bring suffering. But all exist within the flow of the river and, indeed, are inseparable from the river. Knowing this, there is no fear, except as an exercise in swimming upstream. There is no decision, for all is decided. There is no I, for all is river, all is I.

    I decide. I feel fear. I am met warmly at every point by a river of nutrition and friendliness.

    Gassho,

    Kevin

  7. #7

    Re: 4/17 - Branching Streams: 10th Talk - Suffering is Valuable

    Wow!
    I read Zoketsu Norm Fischer's write up (for some reason i thought it was only mp3 and with my limited bandwith and flaky connection it would be pointless) and it was wonderful! read the chapter in Branching streams a few minutes ago.

    too much good stuff to quote and ill spare you all my poor paraphrasing! But ... *(lol always a but)

    lid/box - im glad i saw past the beautiful lid and beheld the box too! 2 arrows ... with out knowing the back story the first time i read this ... I think in chanting the Sandokai here?? ... i thought of 2 arrows...meeting at the tips and the very point of contact being the moment we're in... all the amazing crud that went on in the universe prior to, leading up to (one arrow) and all the unfolding events after ( the other arrow). Thinking this, i thought the writing was pointing to the absolute of each moment... bah anywho... the archers story makes sense too lol- each meeting in the middle so perfectly in tune/balanced that they canceled each other out.

    I liked the dont get attached to the teaching... the finger is pointing... its purpose is to guide ... of course its an amazing bit but its just the tip etc. To be straight did understand the finger-moon bit for quite a while : ops:

    Every thing im writing seems to butcher the beauty of what i read.

    Gassho Shohei

    O/T a bit but nothing is really off topic :P
    I have also have learned that we read and re-read and we still have more to learn! so if we don't immediately get what we read, sit with that, let it be a balloon on a string we carry easy, not a burden... eventually experience will show you the meaning - still gotta read it all though... oh and remember to ask questions ops:

  8. #8

    Re: 4/17 - Branching Streams: 10th Talk - Suffering is Valuable

    Quote Originally Posted by Suzuki
    To accept things-as-it-is looks very difficult, but it is very easy. If you don't find it easy, you should think about why it is so difficult. "Maybe," you may say, "it is because of the shallow, selfish understanding I have of myself." And then you may ask, "Why do I have a selfish understanding of things?" But a selfish understanding of things is also necessary. Because we are selfish, we work hard. Without a selfish understanding, we cannot work. We always need some candy. It is not something to be rejected, but something that helps you. You should be grateful for your selfish understanding, which creates many questions. They are just questions and they don't mean so much. You can enjoy your questions and answers; you can play games with them; you needn't be so serious about it. That is the understanding of the Middle Way.
    So a 'selfish understanding of things' is something not only to be accepted but ' something that helps you?' If we didn't have that we would not have the motivation to work to achieve anything I guess, or to ask any questions about anything, questions that help us make progress in understanding. But we should not get stuck being too selfish - the Middle Way again. But not sure how that understanding helps us to 'accept things-as-it-is.' Maybe it is about coming to terms with and being comfortable with, a level of necessary selfishness?

    Gassho,
    Doshin

  9. #9

    Re: 4/17 - Branching Streams: 10th Talk - Suffering is Valuable

    Quote Originally Posted by John
    But not sure how that understanding helps us to 'accept things-as-it-is.' Maybe it is about coming to terms with and being comfortable with, a level of necessary selfishness?
    Perhaps accepting things-as-it-is includes accepting our selfish natures, for they are part of things-as-it-is. For me, accepting things-as-it-is includes accepting my occasional angry outbursts as well as my desire to eliminate them, accepting my tendency to fret unnecessarily over the future as well as my working to accept the unknown, accepting my mercurial, selfish nature even as I strive to develop the deeper, steadier, more peaceful and compassionate "seeds" within me.

    Gassho,
    Kevin

  10. #10
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    Re: 4/17 - Branching Streams: 10th Talk - Suffering is Valuable

    Hi all,

    Will already started his post with the quote from ZNF that I thought most relevant to my understanding (or lack thereof) of this chapter:

    How are we going to honor our actual lives, our own experience and conditioning, our uniqueness and particularity, without falling into the trap of being self-centered and partial to ourselves?
    Contrary to the growing number of narcissists here in the US I am towards other end of the spectrum...nearly always self doubting and in my lowest moments self loathing. As a result I often get taken for granted or taken advantage of by others because my doubts and fears are worn on my sleeve. So, I think I know what he's getting at here. It also gives me hope because (as I worked out on a recent thread called "Bad Person") I am getting to the point where I believe, honestly believe, that underneath everything is an essential nature where we know what to do but to which we rarely listen because it is not easily defined...perhaps that ri Susuzki Roshi talks about so much? Not sure about that.

    I always find ZNF's talks to be a wonderful bridge to Susuzki Roshi's talks. Not that I even come close to understanding it all, but ZNF does give me a few tips to make sure I don't wander off the trail too much. I think it was Bansho who said in a recent post that exploring zen was like reading a book....some of us are on page 10 (that's me) others are on page 250 (or thereabouts) and others are on their third re-reading, still getting something new out of it each time that can change the meaning of everything that came beforer. That seems to fit pretty well.

    A lot of this has come into some focus as I have become a parent, something I think I do pretty well. Even that is hard for a constant self doubter like myself to say because it sounds egotistical. There is some of that, but something about raising my son has allowed me to answer the question that began this post in some small way. I decided early on that I would strive to accept my son as he is, unconditionally, no matter what. For a time I wondered if that would make him too self centered, but I think (I have another 14 years or so to see how he comes out) unconditional love is what will keep that from happening, not what causes it. If I have compassion for him, he will have compassion for others. And I realized that the only way that I could possibly offer him unconditional acceptance is to offer myself that same thing. So, that's my best answer to ZNF's question...accepting what is inside me, my son, and everything else...unconditionally.

    Maybe this doesn't have much to do with the chapter, but it is what was come up as I read through it.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  11. #11

    Re: 4/17 - Branching Streams: 10th Talk - Suffering is Valuable

    Hi,

    The word 'extinction' ("extinction of desires", p 145) is often used in relation to Nirvana. I think the word is too strong, because extinction has the connotation of an undesirable event or something that requires force to bring about. However sometimes I've noticed that when a concept meets the truth, the concept melts away. Like idealising (or demonising) a person and then finally meeting them face-to-face - the idealised, much-thought-about concept simply vanishes without effort.

    JohnH

  12. #12

    Re: 4/17 - Branching Streams: 10th Talk - Suffering is Valuable

    Quote Originally Posted by jrh001
    Hi,

    The word 'extinction' ("extinction of desires", p 145) is often used in relation to Nirvana.
    In a nutshell:

    In early Buddhism, there was more a sense that one had to extinquish the desires and emotions in order to attain Liberation. The Mahayana traditions, and especially Zen traditions, began to see this more as a matter of seeing through, dropping without dropping, moderating and balancing the desires ... and all thoughts and emotions.

    Gassho, Jundo

  13. #13

    Re: 4/17 - Branching Streams: 10th Talk - Suffering is Valuable

    Quote Originally Posted by Dosho
    I decided early on that I would strive to accept my son as he is, unconditionally, no matter what. For a time I wondered if that would make him too self centered, but I think (I have another 14 years or so to see how he comes out) unconditional love is what will keep that from happening, not what causes it. If I have compassion for him, he will have compassion for others. And I realized that the only way that I could possibly offer him unconditional acceptance is to offer myself that same thing.
    I, too, am struggling to do this with my children. And, I, too, am finding it difficult to offer myself that unconditional acceptance, especially as I'm working through the many personal faults that become so painfully obvious to me when I look at the way I sometimes react to the pressures of parenthood. Thank you, Dosho, for these words of inspiration and encouragement.

    Gassho,
    Kevin

  14. #14

    Re: 4/17 - Branching Streams: 10th Talk - Suffering is Valuable

    Hi,

    Quote Originally Posted by Suzuki Roshi
    To find the oneness of ri and ji, the oneness of joy and suffering, the oneness of the joy of enlightenment within difficulty, is our practice. This is called the Middle Way. Do you understand? Where there is suffering, there is the joy of suffering, or nirvana. Even in nirvana, you cannot get out of suffering. We say nirvana is the complete extinction of desires, but what that means is to have this complete understanding and to live according to it. That is zazen. You are sitting upright. You are not leaning over to the side of nirvana or leaning over to the side of suffering. You are right here. Everyone can sit up and practice zazen.
    "Leaning over to the side of suffering" is leaning over to the side of samsara. Not leaning over to the side of nirvana, nor leaning over to the side of samsara is a reference to the Bodhisattva practice of non-abiding in samsara and non-abiding in nirvana. According to the Mahayana teachings, not leaning over to the side of nirvana is cultivating compassion (karuna) for all sentient beings, vowing to liberate them from suffering before we ourselves enter into nirvana. Not leaning over to the side of samsara is cultivating wisdom (prajna), which enables us to see samsara for what it is, thus preventing us from entering into a world of suffering.

    Or course, our Zen practice is none other than the realization of this Bodhisattva ideal in our day to day lives. Practicing this balancing act of non-abiding in samsara and non-abiding in nirvana is the practice of Shikantaza. Non-abiding in samsara is not grasping thoughts (thinking) and non-abiding in nirvana is not supressing thoughts (not-thinking). Non-abiding is non-thinking.

    Quote Originally Posted by "Dogen Zenji, [i
    Fukanzazengi[/i]":16cd4sug]Think not-thinking. How do you think not-thinking? Non-thinking. This in itself is the essential art of zazen.
    Gassho
    Bansho

  15. #15

    Re: 4/17 - Branching Streams: 10th Talk - Suffering is Valuable

    Here’s a couple of points that seemed to stand out for me from this chapter….

    Each of the myriad things has its merit,
    expressed according to function and place.
    As Zoketsu Norman Fischer Fisher states, the myriad things are ji, which is the many, the differentiated, form. Each of these myriad of things are literally priceless, because they are irreplaceable. Although all phenomena are unique, priceless, irreplaceable they are but an expression of the source (i.e, ri), which is empty. I was listening to one of the Shasta Abbey podcasts and it was mentioned that it is possible to think of emptiness as being cold and depressing. Nevertheless, the experience of emptiness in zazen is anything but cold and depressing.

    My personal observation is that because zazen allows for this direct “tasting” of emptiness and emptiness is, as Zoketsu Norman Fischer says the “deep structure” of all phenomena, I feel more of a connection to those priceless and irreplaceable phenomena that have passed in my life. I guess I’m finally seeing the nature of impermanence in a positive light.

    Gassho,
    BrianW

  16. #16

    Re: 4/17 - Branching Streams: 10th Talk - Suffering is Valuable

    Hi all
    Thanks to everyone for the great posts! I was going to let this chapter slide without posting but it would be too disrespectful to all our teachers of the Sandokai. So my 2 cents worth:

    "How are we going to honor our actual lives, our own experience and conditioning, our uniqueness and particularity, without falling into the trap of being self-centered and partial to ourselves"

    With our Human Nature being, selfish and creative, we use the Myriad things in numberless ways. Perhaps,the way in which we make these uses, in accord with Buddhist teachings, is testimony to our lives.

    Shunryu Suzuki says, " when there is ji there is ri; when there is ri there is ji." Such as: Box and lid fitting
    San and Do merging
    Two sides of one coin
    Two arrows meeting point to point
    Left and right foot walking
    Watching two channels at the same time
    For me this is seeing Reality through the mind of Sandokai.

    Gassho Zak

  17. #17

    Re: 4/17 - Branching Streams: 10th Talk - Suffering is Valuable

    Hi.

    I like the title on this one.
    Too many miss the point of this one.

    Mtfbwy
    Tb

  18. #18

    Re: 4/17 - Branching Streams: 10th Talk - Suffering is Valuable

    Quote Originally Posted by Fugen
    Hi.

    I like the title on this one.
    Too many miss the point of this one.

    Mtfbwy
    Tb
    What would you know about suffering? 8)

    Gassho, Jundo

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