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Thread: Shikantaza Vipassana

  1. #1

    Shikantaza Vipassana

    I'm thinking of going for a vipassana retreat (http://www.dhamma.org). I haven't been on a meditation retreat before, and the vipassana retreat is most easily accessible from where I am located right now. I was wondering if anyone of you might have experience of vipassana and might have any thoughts on how it compares to your experience of just sitting. I also have this conscious worry about combining meditation techniques, whether it should be done or not done etc.

    About my own meditation routine: I spent 3 years trying different meditation techniques with nothing really working. I wouldn't be able to sit for any long period of time at all. One day, after a deep personal crisis, I just completely gave up trying to figure out what meditation about and just sat. From there, it's as if layers and layers have been opening up. From meditating around 10-15 minutes a day, I am now easily able to sustain 60+ minutes of just sitting.

    The reason I'm interested in vipassana is that it involves a close examination of sensations. What's interesting for me is that of late, I realize the momentariness and impermanence of thoughts, emotions and sensations even more. Of course, I always 'knew' this, but it's only now, after so long, that I am actually able to see thoughts, sensations and emotions arise and dissolve themselves. Thus, I'm very curious to see how vipassana works.

    Do let me know your thoughts & comments!

    Gassho
    zeta

  2. #2

    Re: Shikantaza Vipassana

    Do let me know your thoughts & comments!
    I'm happy that you're feeling good. Go sit and stop asking me my thoughts!



    I also have this conscious worry about combining meditation techniques, whether it should be done or not done etc.
    I don't think it's like mixing ammonia and bleach or anything.

    Disclaimer: I'm being totally facetious on this thread.

  3. #3

    Re: Shikantaza Vipassana

    Quote Originally Posted by Brock
    Do let me know your thoughts & comments!
    I'm happy that you're feeling good. Go sit and stop asking me my thoughts!



    I also have this conscious worry about combining meditation techniques, whether it should be done or not done etc.
    I don't think it's like mixing ammonia and bleach or anything.

    Disclaimer: I'm being totally facetious on this thread.
    :mrgreen:

    Your right!

    Zeta don't be too "mindy" just dive into the practice! Experience it and then you'll be able to compare (even if it is not necessary).

    Talking about Vipassana practice, there are different traditions and lineages and they don't have the same practice of Vipassana. Some traditions sit in a way that is very close to zazen, a just sitting way. On the other hand, some tradition emphasize on "mental noting" (like the birman mahasi tradition) it's not exactly the same thing. But in the end the purpose is the same. Just test it by yourself, none of those are bad!

    There also some things different between a zen sesshin and a vipassana retreat, In the vipassana retreats i've done, there were no working periods or samu (but it could be different in every meditation center). I also feel the walking meditation take a bigger place, and "interviews" with the master are daily (it wasn't in the sesshin I've made). And we used to sleep less (maybe 5 hours)...

    Of course, I'm not saying it is the same everywhere, but that's what I can say with the little experiences I have....

    Hope it helps you!

    Gassho,
    Luis

  4. #4

    Re: Shikantaza Vipassana

    Thanks guys, for your comments!

    I've never done a retreat before, so am a little nervous. But I think I'll give it a shot and see what comes out of it.

  5. #5

    Re: Shikantaza Vipassana

    Hi,

    You should give it a try. Of course.

    After a time, I would settle with one practice or the other, and not mix. It is not that mixing cannot be done, but it is very tricky. (Of course, being a "Just Sitting" fellow, I have my personal preference and I consider "Just Sitting" a complete path when pursued alone ... but it may not be for everyone. However, I danced with the one who brung me to the dance, and never felt need for some other way).

    I myself have very limited experience in Vipassana meditation (like I said, I am 30 years a "Just Sitting" guy ... and that was enough for me). Also, the last time in this forum I tried to define my view of what Vipassana meditation is ... well, some people who were more experienced chewed me up a bit ...

    viewtopic.php?p=12509#p12509

    Finally, let me mention that our Soto Zen practice also generally considers Vipassana practices important ... understanding the workings of the mind, for example, and awareness of how thoughts/emotions arise. The major difference is that we do not do any special exercises during Zazen to develop this awareness.

    In traditional "lingo", our Practice does consist of both ?amatha (calming thoughts and emotions, illuminating and dropping body-mind) and awareness and understanding of vipa?yan? (insight and awareness primarily into the nature and workings of 'self' and mental functions).

    In a nutshell, Vipa?yan? might be described as insights and awareness, based on Buddhist psychology, as to how the mind works and plays it games. It is an understanding of the Skandhas (form, sensation, perception, mental formation, consciousness ... those words always sung in the Heart Sutra), how our thoughts and emotional reactions arise, how we label and divide the world. We should also understand the Buddha's ideas about how suffering arises within us, which is intimately tied to all that.

    Unlike some schools of Buddhism, in Shikantaza we do not pursue any particular practices --during-- Zazen itself in order to cultivate such vipa?yan? insight ... and much insight naturally arises from Zazen as "Zazen does its thing". Perhaps we might say that, just in "just sitting" Shikantaza ... dropping thoughts of this and that, thus quieting the mind's "mind games" ... we develop a natural sensitivity and understanding of the mind's "mind games" (much like one first comes to really appreciate what "urban noise" is when one first drives out of the city to the middle of the desert or some other truly quiet place).

    So, during Zazen we do not seek to analyze anything ... and just sit. Perhaps the only exception is that, if one gets caught up in Zazen in thoughts, one might briefly notice that fact before returning to "just sitting" (for example, if caught up in a train of angry thoughts, one might briefly note "oh, I am caught up in some angry thoughts ... let's let them drift away now" ... "just notice them and let them go")

    Apart from "on the Zafu" sitting times, however, in the rest of our Buddhist studies and practice, it is good to contemplate and develop such insight, and come to identify the workings of the Skandhas and such within us day to day.

    For example, if you feel an angry or jealous thought arising within you during your day, it is very helpful to identify that as a "bit of temporary mind theatre" and "just the self judging and conflicting with another perceived self". That gives us some distance from the passing emotion, and we no longer see the emotion as quite as inevitable and "true" as we might have before (e.g., most people think, when they become upset, that they have "reason to be upset, and it is true and justified". We see it also as a bit of mental theatre).

    Something like that. Both wings on the plane -- ?amatha and vipa?yan? -- are necessary for take-off.

    Let us know your experiences.

    Gassho, Jundo

  6. #6

    Re: Shikantaza Vipassana

    Hi Zeta,

    I have gone several times to a vipassana group and the teacher described vipassana meditation as mindfulness, so I don't know the difference? One thing that was a bit of a surprise is that during meditation periods a teacher will say little mindfulness reminders ("come back to being present here") or something like that. Hopefully this will not be a problem for you. Since both Vipassana and zen meditation is done silently, NOBODY WILL KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. So my advice/support/encouragement is just to do whatever is most beneficial for you, if "just sitting" is the best thing for you when you are there, just do that (I think that may be all you can do since you haven't been trained in the more directed kinds of vipassana meditation). And don't worry about it, just have a lovely mindful time

    cheers,
    rowan/jinho
    who hopes to make the Floating Zendo retreat this August.......

  7. #7

    Re: Shikantaza Vipassana

    Thanks so much for your comments Jundo & Jinho.

    Finding the right meditation practice is something that I have debated endlessly over. Until, finally, I got to the point where I decided to just 'sit' with the feeling of wanting to find the right practice. It is very liberating to observe the feeling to find the right practice just float in and float out by itself, without me having to do anything. So in a certain sense, I found just sitting through my thoughts, feelings and emotions to be the most natural process of all.

    I still haven't decided whether to go for the retreat or not (mostly due to some practical considerations), but will definitely share my experiences if I do.

    Gassho,
    Zeta

  8. #8

    Re: Shikantaza Vipassana

    Quote Originally Posted by zeta
    So in a certain sense, I found just sitting through my thoughts, feelings and emotions to be the most natural process of all.

    Gassho,
    Zeta
    Hi again,

    (thank you for your lovely thank you)

    Eihei Dogen said "to study the Way is to study the self, to study the self is to forget the self, to forget the self is to be enlightened by all things". So of course, the question is - what is the enlightenment in thoughts, feelings, emotions? No Intellectual analysis allowed, of course. But, also of course, there is also just sitting, standing, moving, sleeping exactly as we are. Every moment, moment by moment.

    thank you for your time,
    Jinho

  9. #9

    Re: Shikantaza Vipassana

    Thanks Jinho.

    I've decided to go for the retreat. It's been interesting to observe the resistance that I've been having to shift from a 'just sitting' method to something else. It should be an interesting experience, I'm looking forward to it.

    Gassho
    zeta

  10. #10

    Re: Shikantaza Vipassana

    Quote Originally Posted by zeta
    I've decided to go for the retreat. It's been interesting to observe the resistance that I've been having to shift from a 'just sitting' method to something else. It should be an interesting experience, I'm looking forward to it.
    Hi Zeta
    I'm glad for you that you will give a try to the vipassana retreat! Jump into it and share your experience!
    I find intersting you talked about observing the resistances, for me, it is a big part of our practice.
    Have a good time, enjoy it!

    Gassho,
    Luis

  11. #11

    Re: Shikantaza Vipassana

    Thanks Luis. Unfortunately, looks like I'll only be able to go later this year.. hopefully in August.

  12. #12

    Re: Shikantaza Vipassana

    zeta - my apologies for not replying sooner, i don't post, or even read, much

    i have sat mostly vipassana retreats for many years, because they were cheap -- the core of zen and the core of vipassana are the same, in my opinion -- also, usually, teachers in one are not famiiar with the other, and so tend to assume there is a great difference (exceptions: stephen batchelor, who has both zen and vipassana background, and larry rosenburg, and i''m sure, others) -- several teachers i've done retreats with had both backgrounds, even with some tibetan thrown in

    the core: just sitting -- none of the thought labeling zennists assume the theravadans are doing, and no guided stuff, or body scans -- just you and your crap

    where the difference is, what has a particular teacher layered on over the core? -- this can make a big difference, even within a tradition -- my first teacher would have us sit all day long on retreats, silent, with a brief dharma talk -- another teacher wouldn't shut up the whole retreat, guiding, guiding -- this year the teacher i sat with was a tibetan rinpoche(invited by the theravadans, very ecumenical) who wanted to give us transmission :roll: -- great teacher, but no thanks

    and so i come to goenka -- as a lower-income kind of guy, i thought to sit a retreat with them, as, i believe, they were cheap -- i decided not to due to some of the layers of stuff they laid on the "core" -- seems they were pretty "'religious'', and maybe thats what you want -- anyway, dharma friends warned me off, so at least look into the details -- there are other options

    the "cleanest" retreats i know of probably take place at ims, in mass., or spirit rock, near san francisco -- but each retreat is different, depending on the guest teacher -- its up to you to research before hand(i didn't last time, and it was not a good retreat) -- if price is a factor, note that ims is one of the only that has work retreatants, which is what i do -- easy work, no fee, all done in complete silence -- and if you're an experienced meditator, you can do a work retreat at the forest refuge, probably god's gift to yogi's, the perfect meditation spot

    so thats that -- i do retreats with the theravadans, cause its free, and not too intrusive, and i sit with the zennists cause, well, its the only online meditation hall(even if its empty :wink: ) -- as frankenstein's monster said, "Sit, good"


    gassho, roky

  13. #13

    Re: Shikantaza Vipassana

    Thanks so much for your reply roky. I wasn't really aware of any of the religious stuff that the goenka folks might layer on over the retreat, so let me research that more.

    I'm based in India, so going to San Francisco for a retreat would be a stretch :-) It would involve an extended period of 'just sitting' in an airplane!

    It might also be difficult to explain to people here that I went to SFO to 'just sit' :-)

    Anyways, I'm looking for some good soto zen retreats in India, but can't seem to find anything (I'm not 'plugged in' with any other folks here, that could be the problem).

  14. #14

    Re: Shikantaza Vipassana

    didn't realize that -- in that case, forget what i said, as it only applies to what i'm familiar with, north america -- my first teacher was a thai monk, but at the point i had contact with him he had dropped the robe, had become a therapist, and trimmed away much of the cultural features of thai theravada -- my guess is that in your area, these cultural features, and more traditional teachings, may be present

    good luck, roky

  15. #15

    Re: Shikantaza Vipassana

    Thanks anyway, roky.

    gassho,
    z

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