What do you think are the pitfalls on the path of Zen?
What do you think are the pitfalls on the path of Zen?
I guess I should start, huh?
Well, how about this idea of 'Enlightenment' as a goal? As a permanent state or as some sort of conditioned thing that is exempted from the arising and passing away to which all conditioned things are subject?
The idea that 'this can't be it, Enlightenment must be something else - something not present here!'
Indeed. This idea of enlightenment is a big distraction as well as a terrible expectation. At the same time it brings many people to a cushion and year after year they forget to chase the ghost. I think about the end of one of Joko Beck's books, this station where people go about their lifes without going to any other special place. I would call this way of being the spontaneous and natural action of Buddhas.
This can't be it is a big obstacle and delusion.At the same time thinking that this is it is also a major problem. The invitation of Dogen is to be enlightened about our delusions not deluded about our enligthenment. For instance, as we spend the day, we can happily notice how far off we are, so many times. And just come back home. Until we drift again. As we walk, chat, shop, drive, sit or jump, come back to a state where nothing is fixed, and the identity drunk with its own pursuit. There is something not Zen at all in the core of our practice, no taste of Zen or enlightenment at all, as I wrote recently to one of my students:
Something like that.I also invite you to forget totally about Zen and act out from the selfless mind, free of discrimination and choices. We are not trying to nurture a religious mind, but to penetrate deeper into the lion's den. Once the lion tamed, once the lion, or the dragon, has had its share of your flesh and blood, the action is very natural, flowing, unconcerned by external conditions. Not tainted anymore. Having a mind like flowing water. Like clouds passing. Unsui, this is the old name given to the young monk... cloud , un,and water, sui. Allow your body mind to flow into every action, every situation.
Anyway, thank you for throwing yet another nice stone in this water.
Yes, wonderful theme for a thread.
Yes, I think that we can get trapped by thinking that this "enlightenment" dance ever stops.
We can be both trapped by failing to see that "nothing is lacking in us, nothing must be added to this life and moment" ... and then trapped by the thought that we can thus just stop and be complacent because "nothing is lacking, nothing need be added." In fact, both realities are necessary to realize at once. We realize "enlightenment" ("realize", both in the meaning of "truly knowing" and of "making real, bringing to life") by our actions each step-by-step which realize these truths.
The dance is always perfect, every step and stumble too. "Just what it is". But it is a trap to believe, thereby, that we do not have to constantly strive to keep our balance, not trip over our feet and that we need not work hard to be the most skillful and graceful dancers we can be. No goal, no finish line to cross ... yet we keep doing our best and pushing forward.
No "traps" to fall into in this dance, so we strive as best we can not to fall (yet sometimes, fall we will!). A dance unending, no beginning no end ...
Self doubt and over confidence are a pitfall in this practice for me which makes me squirm by times.
Actually I have to say that me thinking that this Zen has pitfalls is one too!! This practice is tricky (ooooh that peskwy wittle Zen!!) because we are. We dig the whole hole, read the warnings set up around it and then still fall right into it Reading, others experience and our own, usually points out these pitfalls very clearly and we still step and stumble into them, they are very important steps, as long as we learn from them - eventually ops: (said as i clamber up from one)
Having enemy ships in Sector 47? :mrgreen:
Hi Scott!Originally Posted by scott
hmm perhaps by thinking I cannot be over confident?
Or perhaps by thinking "Ah I've got it because i sit so much/so right"? I really dunno.
I was not being specific about shikantaza...Thinking more broadly about this:
I was taking that statement to mean the path in general. As in getting over confident that - HA! I HAVE IT...What do you think are the pitfalls on the path of Zen?
to be honest Im still "trying" to get it -LOL! you know... im deluded about there being an IT to get L ...Ill inevitably scream Whooo i got it,.... but thats another day, another delusion
Oh, OK, I get it now. Overconfident because you think you "get it". I'm chuckling. But what do you do after you scream you got it (woohoo)? Since you have superb confidence that you've had a stupendous kensho experience, you don't strive to "get it" anymore ... so you actually can "get it", yes? :-DOriginally Posted by Shohei
Hi Again!Oh, OK, I get it now. Overconfident because you think you "get it". I'm chuckling. But what do you do after you scream you got it (woohoo)?
depends on who that You is pointing at.
- now who said I got it (or anything else)?
Hmm if that "you" is pointed at me, and not us... then I would say I do not have supreme confidence in that much about me. I lean towards plenty of self doubt. Im working with that. Kensho shmensho - I do not think I have experienced that. The woohoos for me are more like "kids slept in!" or snowday!! or Hot water!!! breath in!!!Since you have superb confidence that you've had a stupendous kensho experience, you don't strive to "get it" anymore ...
Skip, skip, skip to my Lou! ops:So you actually can "get it", yes? :-D
this is the trap. thinking there is something to get or understand. just do it. it,s a bitch sometimes byt you just keep trying. so my biggest pitfall is either not being present or thinking there is something oth3er than this moment.
"look what i've got, its nothing at all" from the forgotten song
People seem to fall into two camps on this, eh? Either they strive thinking they'll get somewhere, or they lose sincerity of practice and do not put real effort into it.Originally Posted by Jundo
Hey, don't make me post the non-Star Wars trap photos! LOL. 4chan really is the Wild West.Originally Posted by Dosho
Sorry for the sidetracking joke...just couldn't resist and now all I can think about is that Robot Chicken bit with Admiral Akbar Cereal (Colorful marshmallows! Imitation crabmeat! Your tongues can't repel flavor of that magnitude!) :lol:
As for the actual question, I noticed that lately I rarely if ever comment on threads in the Zazen, etc. part of the forum since I basically think to myself, "What the heck do I know about zen?" So, I definitely tend towards the self doubt end of the spectrum, more often than not in the extreme. I did get "flashes" of the other end, believeing I may have uncovered some special tenet of zen, but I try not to focus on them too much and don't really consider any of it kensho or satori or anything of that nature. Maybe it was or is, but does that really matter? I don't believe so.
There is one thing however that leads me towards thoughts of "I've got it" since I've had some of the most profound realizations about my life while sitting. Again, I don't really think of these as enlightenment or steps towards it since my mind wanders towards issues of the past or present, not the future. I've often wondered if zen or shikantaza is like allowing your mind/self to unravel but doesn't offer any input on putting it back together. That's been my experience and I don't ever try to compare that to anyone else.
Some of these realizations have been startling and even led me to stop sitting for quite awhile. It was only about a week ago I really got down to sitting again (in a literal sense of placing my behind on a zafu) because the experiences were often very painful emotionally. I've always believed one should never pull at the tapestry of one's life since any string could be important to who you are (a pre-zen concoction of my hyperactive mind), but sitting seemed to undo that idea as well. The biggest realization I've had is that, and this may sound harsh, I hate myself. I don't mean that I hate parts of me...I basically believe I'm a worthless waste of space. I've written about that before, but the new parts are how that thought connects to nearly every struggle I've ever had.
I'm rambling a bit here...I suppose I end with the same thing I started with (besides the Admiral): I don't know jack about zen. Maybe what I've experienced is zen, maybe it's not....I don't really concern myself with the question anymore, although I would like to feel confident enough to participate in discussions on the topic. That would be nice rather than, as I am now, thinking what I just wrote is probably a big pile of crap.
I don't know you personally but I do know that you are not 'a worthless waste of space'. We all have aspects of ourselves that we don't like but maybe 'forgetting the self' makes even those go away. There is something intrinsically pure in all of us and you don't have a choice about that. The first thing to do is love and take care of yourself. But you are right, that deep habitual habit of feeling like 'a worthless waste of space' or 'feeling like a failure' or whatever negative program was imprinted on your brain will always set you up for that exact negative feeling and will 'connect with every struggle' you have ever had. So it doesn't matter what you think you have understood or attained, this life is always a work in progress, always trying to just sit or just do what you are doing. I hope you break free, find peace and save us all.Originally Posted by Dosho
I used to have a pretty negative self-image too....
Therapy and the fustercluck that was that relationship with Hannah seem to have cleared it up! I don't have a 'positive' self-image though - really more of a 'who-the-heck-am-I' emptiness - an inability to really claim an identity at all.
I don't feel like a nurse.
I don't really feel like a Buddhist - even though this will always be my path.
I guess I sort of identify with being a weighlifter and a man. Mostly the negative image has been replaced by a giant hole - and it's really not that disconcerting. I know that 'normal' people can claim a positive identity, but I don't ever feel safe or sure enough to do that - even (especially) unconsciously. I don't feel like I can count on it.
Becoming attached to non-attachment.Originally Posted by disastermouse
Something like: Nothing you've ever done is worth anything, and you've figured out that you can't do anything you'd be proud of, and people who value you do so for things that aren't important to you? There isn't anything about you that amounts to anything? If so, I hear you because I'm there now and then myself. But I think some people go through that experience as part of spiritual development -- me, anyway -- as they discover how empty their fantasies are. I've felt this way all along but protected myself from it. And the kicker is that once you're awake you can't go backwards. So the way I see it is: OK, so you're worthless, what are your choices now? So I think the best response is to treat it like any other Issue that arises in practice: be open to it but don't cling, just let it be while fully engaged emotionally (not just intellectually) and let it take as long as it takes, perhaps the rest of your life. There's lots of time :-).Originally Posted by Dosho
As for pulling at strings on the tapestry of one's life, I call it opening doors into dark dusty rooms. If I discover a door that's opened all by itself -- an inkling of something that might be scary but one that presents itself -- I let it in/go/flow like anything else. It either gets explored or not. If I do explore it, that's because I'm ready to. If I don't, that's okay, I have time. If I can't resist opening the door, that's because it's time for it to be open.
Something like that.
I think Rich said this so beautifully. Thank you.Originally Posted by Rich
Who is creating that theatre of self-definition in your head, Dosho? Who is making all those judgments of high and low? What precious something remains when you cease all that?
Gassho, Jundo (a guy who had years and years of depression and an inferiority complex and feeling of lack of personal worth ... now quite happy and content to be who I am, thank you, despite the warts and little human imperfections and all that needs work).
I agree with Jundo, you said this quite beautifully and it is right on target. The problem is while I believe it in an intellectual and logical sense, I don't seem to believe it emotionally. One thing I omitted yesterday: My first realization many months ago was that I thought I was a bad person. However, more recently I think it has shifted to reflect what I just wrote. Deeep, deep down I know I am good, I'm even an optimist. But in those times when I am stressed, tired, or depressed I can't shake the feeling that I am somehow bad.
The simple answer to who is creating this theatre is, "I am"...or whatever you want to call those thoughts that drift through my mind that are created by my brain. The more complex answer is that my mother created these messages by making a young impressionable child believe them to the core of his being. I trusted her and what she told me for a long time, but even today the slightest comment can send me into a depression. So, I don't know what you would call this since we are all to some degree a reflection of our parents values since we absorbe them before we can literally think for ourselves. Sometimes I just find it so hard to understand why they are so pervasive even as I have come to understand where they come from. Ultimately the highs and lows are my own doing and what remains is special and precious, but why can't I in my day to day life seem to actually accept it or allow it not to affect my behavior? No answer seems to come.
I don't expect zen to fix these problems, but they did become more clear through sitting. I'm just not sure what to do with them now other than continue sitting and not focusing on them any more than any other thoughts I have. It's just really hard and the social isolation of being a stay at home dad, plus the fact that it's February, doesn't make it any easier. The only adult I interact with is my wife and I wouldn't trade my relationship with her for anything in the world since she is my best friend, but not having any other person to talk to really sucks sometimes. In fact, coming here to Treeleaf is about the closest I come to having close friends. I don't mean that as a slight to anyone here since I do consider many of you to be my friend and I hope you consider me such as well, but that can never subsitute for sitting down and really talking. I have had friends and there are people who would say they are my friend, but I always seem to attract people who take advantage of me...that never actually ask how I am doing, they just want to tell me how they are doing and when they are fine are nowhere to be seen.
Ultimately, I shouldn't wish for life to be other than it is, but as I said, it does really suck sometimes...or I can't just seem to accept as much.
Dosho, we have something in common. Our mothers. Its unfortunate that our karma gave us mothers that were in such suffering of fear, anxiety and delusion that they passed it on to us. But now we are adults and have had the good fortune of discovering a path that teaches us how to let go of thinking and feeling and return to our center, our stillness. So the answer to your question is keep practicing with Jundo and any other teachers (including therapists) that might cross your path.Originally Posted by Dosho
Well I thought I had what I wanted to say...and apparently my fingers can't type fast enough, so sorry for any confusion.
I too have hoped for that Kensho experience, or some kind of slap in the face, light bulb turns on - you get my point, kind of experience. And the self-doubt trap is also a biggie for me.
But another trap for me is getting caught up in words. I love to read. I love to learn new things. So, part of me falls into the trap of trying to gain enlightenment by reading every piece of Buddhist literature in the effort to gain more insight. But the more I read, and the more I sit...I realize how little I truly know about anything. So as Dosho has put it, I don't know jack about zen either. But I'm okay with that...
As for kensho, I think that it is possible to achieve kensho in little bits, it doesn't have to be all at once. Maybe it grows with the practice. I know my personal pitfall is that I over analyze things and try to comprehend intellectually what I would simply understand if I simply stopped chasing after an understanding. :mrgreen:
Oh, my mother! My lovely, neurotic Jewish mother ... how I miss her, and love her and shiver at the same time. 8) And ask Taigu about his dad (he wrote of him at this link)!Originally Posted by Dosho
As part of this practice, we must come to a point where we let the past go, open our hand and let our ugly childhoods just go, let our mothers and fathers go.
Don't get me wrong ... we also, simultaneously should look the past right square in eye, not diverting our eyes, recognizing and admitting the scars that remain (the scars "just are what they are too"). We can honor and love our parents, all while realizing that they too were the victims of their own anger, fear, desires. And we can learn from the past, and (hopefully) not make the same mistakes with the current generation in our charge.
And (this being Zen), we'd best do all that at once! (we are always working on simultaneous, multiple channels in our Zen practice ... like sides of a single coin, not two). Look, learn, allow, honor what is/was, feel the very real pain ... thoroughly let go ... at once, as one.
Shikantaza is our daily practice of letting go, allowing to go, honoring, going with the flow, just flowing.
But as Rich said ... there is no reason that Zen practice has to be our only tool for looking, learning, honoring , letting be and letting go. Sometimes, for some hard issues, a little therapy might go a long way to dig up some intractable deep roots (as another channel hand in hand with Shikantaza).
PS. On what Chris said ...
I think that is an accurate description of our Soto take on this. In fact, having spoken to many many Rinzai/Koan Zazen folks on this issue too, it seems that it is also the perspective of most of them too. Most discount the idea that one suddenly "gets enlightened, once and for all" by a single Kensho experience or piercing 200 Koans or any other way like that, and in fact, it is a lifetime practice of molding clay and dancing with life. The misunderstanding probably comes from the way the Koan stories were first presented in the 1950's in the writings of D.T. Suzuki (not to be confused with our Shunryu Suzuki Roshi) and others, and certain Kensho extremests, and their presentation of those stories in which "Master Such and Such heard the sound of the wind ... and then he was enlightened").Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
Well, that is the "and he lived happily ever after" and "the end" end of the tale, but there was actually a lifetime of living which followed.
We are all "suddenly enlightened" a billion times and a billion times again ... and "Kensho" come in all sizes and flavors, big and small and this and that, and beyond big/small/this/that and you too ... and we must dance with that through a lifetime. That is the "Genjo Koan" I mentioned on another thread today.
Something like that.
Thanks for that, especially Taigu's post. Although my mother's abuse was emtional, not physical, I find a lot familiar in his words and yours. My mother was a victim of her own mother's narcissism, just as I was a victim of hers and I am very, very lucky to have at least seen the cycle that could have repeated itself for generations.
As for therapy, I am moving in that direction but have had misgivings with bad past experiences. Believe it or not but more than one therapist has taken advantage of my passivity. The most recent one didn't show up for our final appointment but billed me anyway, wrote notes on other patients while with me, and forgot treatments we had already begun in a prior session. I know it is a step I need to take, but I am reluctant to have that happen again and want to be sure I can stand up for myself. I'm just not sure how to do that.
In any event, thank you all for reading and tolerating my ramblings; I appreciate it very much.
In choosing therapists, medical doctors, Zen teachers or auto mechanics ... buyer beware! :?Originally Posted by Dosho
A couple things helped me in therapy.
One was realizing that a LOT of my self-loathing was just my father's shit that 'seeped' in - it wasn't even MINE. That was helpful - dis-identifying with those thought patterns.
The other thing - although it may have been more of a result than a technique, was that I realized my old man really was doing the best he could! Really.... He was reacting to the facts as he saw them and if he could have made less painful choices for all of us, and could see that, he likely would have.
Jundo said, "We are all "suddenly enlightened" a billion times and a billion times again ... and "Kensho" come in all sizes and flavors, big and small and this and that, and beyond big/small/this/that and you too ... and we must dance with that through a lifetime. That is the "Genjo Koan" I mentioned on another thread today."
Thank you for this Jundo.
It seems as though the ever flowing Dharma will not pause long enough to be explained. When we attempt to speak of enlightenment it can only be done in a dead language or in historic descriptions. The alive and ever new has no language attached to it. So indeed, we are caught in this knowing without the precise ability to explain. Just at that moment of "I got it" it moves into a new dimension of growth and so it goes indefinitely. So we dance with this life.
From what I've read and heard, it seems to me that thinking about enlightenment does more harm then good. We strive to live in the present. A few quotes came to mind(didn't have it memorized, lol) when I was reading this thread. From good ol' Shunryu Suzuki Roshi in
Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind:
"As long as we practice zazen in the area where there is practice and enlightenment, there is no chance to make perfect peace for ourselves. In other words, we must firmly believe in our true nature. Our true nature is beyond our conscious experience. It is only in our conscious experience that we find practice and enlightenment or good and bad" (p127)
"If you try to attain enlightenment as if you see a bright star in the sky, it will be beautiful and you may think, "Ah, this is enlightenment," but that is not enlightenment" (p135)
Dogen-zenji said, "Do not expect that all who practice zazen will attain enlightenment about this mind which is always with us". (p137)
I had a cascade of realizations like this last year. I was remembering betrayal but now, years later, the light dawned and I finally saw that they were just being schlepps, not intentionally spiteful. One of these realizations led to another and another.Originally Posted by disastermouse
I tend to bounce between extremes, and I think it's an easy pitfall to veer between being too aggressive and goal-oriented in practice and too passive. I've seen a lot of people (and I've been one of them) use Buddhist teaching to justify a passive stance in a situation where action is called for... the equivalent of standing before your burning house and saying, "I am at peace, I needed this teaching in impermanence," rather than calling the fire department. I still struggle with the disconnect between my experiential wisdom (some things are broken and need to be fixed) and the teaching that everything is already perfect as it is. I mean, I get a taste of that sense of perfection sometimes... tasted just as well looking at a scene of post-industrial ruin as an idyllic field... which makes the whole thing even more puzzling, as it's clear also that if everyone approached life with the attitude that nothing needed to be changed or fixed, things wouldn't work as well. Aren't there things that are worth fighting for?
Ours is the "Middle Way", which might be called "both and neither, at once".Originally Posted by Stephanie
Some people may hear the name "middle way" and think it means a compromising, half-hearted, muddling, namby-pamby fence sitting up the middle between extremes. Far from it!
The "Middle Way" might be seen as "calling the fire department, grabbing a garden hose and charging into rescue someone from a burning house (if that needs to be done), all while simultaneously knowing within some peace there, tasting and allowing the impermanence" and that "nothing need be done" (or, at least, tasting the peace there after the fire is out, the adrenalin settles and one is catching one's breath standing over the smoldering ashes of one's house. In midst of a crisis, when the heart is pounding, the adrenalin flowing and the roof caving in on one's head ... well, one can sit with the impermanence after one gets out! :shock: Still, maybe one can taste a bit of stillness even in the middle of the storm ... which I have experienced when right in the middle of a few emergencies such as a couple of car crashes, rushes to the emergency room, a hurricane in Florida [after first boarding up the windows and checking we had sterno and batteries], room shaking earthquakes and an actual fire. ).
Action, non-acceptance and acceptance, at once. The calm eye of the hurricane. The stillness and silence heard through the ambulance's siren.
I often forget to sit. So, I guess everything out in the real world is a trap to me!
Tobi's pitfall: diving off Christianity, sitting zazen, but the momentum of my flight from God carried me right on through into atheism, where I have apparently broken my leg... I'm in the process of trying to gnaw it off so I can figure out where I am.
Well, you are just there. And if there is a God, She knows where you are I suppose. If She does not, you are still there anyway.Originally Posted by Tobiishi
I hope the leg heals, because it is all just a matter of how you walk through life from here. Try not to break too many limbs, although we all do (I am in mend today too).
It's funny you should say burning house because I was thinking of that exact thing. Why didn't he just run inside?Stephanie