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Thread: Shikantaza or Hwadu

  1. #1

    Shikantaza or Hwadu

    Hi, can someone help with this? I read and understand the virtues in both of these practices but seem unable to choose one to practice as a part of my daily routine?

    Thanks in advance!

    Myotai...

  2. #2

    Re: Shikantaza or Hwadu

    Hi,

    I was on the internet today, trying to settle the question of whether to feed my cat wet food or only dry. Turns out there are hundreds of pages of debate on this topic on the internet, countless opinions and perspectives, no clear answer ...

    http://www.petside.com/petsideblog/2009 ... t-food.php

    Well, your question is kind of like that. :shock:

    Shikantaza is (in a nutshell) radical non-seeking, dropping all goals. Working with a Koan or Hwadu (a word or phrase from a Koan) during Zazen is generally a seeking for a breakthrough experience of Kensho (in Soto Zen, we also appreciate Koans ... just not during Zazen, not as an object of focus during the actual sitting of Zazen. We also can have truly earth shaking experiences ... but we are just not running after such moments.). I have spoken on this issue with enough "Koan Zazen" folks to know that many are sitting "dropping goals" too ... but there always seems to be, nonetheless, a targeting of the momentary experience of Kensho. However, both Shikantaza and Koan centered Zazen seek to soften, and break through, the barrier and illusion of separation of 'self" from "other". Perhaps the hard, Rinzai, "frontal assault" people do it by pounding and kicking on the wall until a hole is punched through and both side merge. In Soto, we are more like the air, which naturally passes through and around all gaps between the stones, embracing and surrounding the whole wall, flowing and shaping itself to circumstances, thus one with the wall while spreading on in all directions ... the air is everywhere even without moving..

    Please review these two book chapters on the subject ...

    viewtopic.php?p=24193#p24193
    viewtopic.php?p=24454#p24454

    The author does paint with a very broad brush, and (as I said) there are many variations ... but I find it generally accurate.

    Here at Treeleaf, a Sangha in the Soto Zen style, we practice just sitting, "Shikantaza". That is what I teach. It is a practice with its own very very special flavor, I believe, among most types of Eastern or Western religion or philosophy, and even among paths of Buddhist meditation: That's because Shikantaza forsakes all goals, all attainments, all search for special states of mind, esoteric or mystical experiences, escape from this mundane world by reaching some other "realm", supernatural powers or other-worldly insights and the like.

    But there is a subtle twist involved, a very definite method to our "goalless" madness:

    Not searching does not mean that nothing is found. Quite the contrary! We might say that what is found is something always here, only encountered when we give up the pursuit. I sometimes compare it to the eye glasses perched right on top of one's head all along, though we have hunted for them high and low.

    Attaining radical non-attainment is a very great attainment! The need for nothing else, to be no where else, is a treasure right in hand, the completion of a long journey.

    Forsaking all need for special states of mind is perhaps --THE-- most special state of mind of all. By dropping (maybe for the first time in our lives) all judgments and demands on life, we truly learn to take life 'just-as-it-is', without resistance. There is no lack, nothing missing from the world ... everything is as it is ... separation gone, barriers gone ...

    Which is, I believe, about what the "Koan Zazen" folks find too.

    Gassho, Jundo

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui Shohei's Avatar
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    Re: Shikantaza or Hwadu

    Hi Myotai
    That answer is totally up to you!
    That said, since you asked I would say do what seems right for you now. That may not be the answer you were looking for but its all I could offer
    Here at Treeleaf, shikantaza is the recommended practice and that is what Jundo and Taigu teach and support.
    There may be for folks to post soon with their own experiences, possibly with Hwadu meditation (to be honest i will not nothing of it so i have some googling to do now) and could offer their perspectives and possibly a much better answer than mine!

    I hope you find what your looking for!

    Gassho
    Shohei

    Edit* Oh im slow see above :>

  4. #4

    Re: Shikantaza or Hwadu

    Thanks to you folks for the reminder of what we do here... sometimes so useful!

    Gassho,
    Luis/Jinyu

  5. #5

    Re: Shikantaza or Hwadu

    I just quoted this to someone, and I would like to post it here ... my favorite Brad Warner essay ever ...

    PLEASE READ IT!

    Zen is Boring ...

    http://homepage.mac.com/doubtboy/boring.html


    ZEN IS BORING



    Let's face it. Zen is boring. You couldn't find a duller, more tedious practice than Zazen. The philosophy is dry and unexciting. It's amazing to me anyone reads this page at all. Don't you people know you could be playing Tetris, right now? That there are a million free porno sites out there? Get a life, why don't you?!



    Joshu Sasaki, a Zen teacher from the Rinzai Sect, once said that Buddhist teachers always try to make students long for the Buddha World, but that if the students knew how really dry and tasteless the Buddha World actually was, they'd never want to go. He's right. Look at Zen teachers. Not a one of them has any sense of fashion. They sit around staring at blank walls. Ask them about levitation, they won't tell you. Ask them about life after death, they change the subject. Ask them about miracles and they start spouting nonsense about carrying buckets of water and chopping up fire wood. They go to bed early and wake up early. Zen is a philosophy for nerds.



    Boredom is important. Most of your life is dull, tasteless and boring. If you practice Zazen, you learn a lot about boredom. I remember the first time I sat Zazen, I was real excited. I figured I'd be seeing visions of four armed Krishnas descending from the Heavens, or I'd be fading into The Void just like the old Beatles song, or reach Nirvana (whatever that was) or some great wonderful thing. But the clock just ticked away, my legs started aching, and stupid thoughts kept drifting by. Maybe I wasn't doing it right, I thought. But no, year after year it was the same. Boring, boring, boring. After almost 20 years it's still boring as Hell.



    People hate their ordinary lives. We want something better. This, our day to day life of drudgery and work, is boring, dull and ordinary, we think. But someday, someday... There's an episode of The Monkees* where Mike Nesmith says that when he was in high school he used to walk out on the school's empty stage with a guitar in his hands thinking "Someday, someday." Then he said that now (now being 1967, at the height of the Monkees fame) he walks out on stage in front of thousands of fans and thinks "Someday, someday." That's the way life is. It's never going to be perfect. Whatever "someday" you imagine, it will never come. Never. No matter what it is. No matter how well you build your fantasy or how carefully you follow all the steps necessary to achieve it. Even if it comes true exactly the way you planned, you'll end up just like Mike Nesmith. Someday, someday... I guarantee you.



    Your life will change. That's for sure. But it won't get any better and it won't get any worse. How can you compare now to the past? What do you know about the past? You don't have a clue! You have no idea at all what yesterday was really like, let alone last week or ten years ago. The future? Forget about it...



    People long for big thrills. Peak experiences. Some people come to Zen expecting that Enlightenment will be the Ultimate Peak Experience. The Mother of All Peak Experiences. But real enlightenment is the most ordinary of the ordinary. Once I had an amazing vision. I saw myself transported through time and space. Millions, no, billions, trillions, Godzillions of years passed. Not figuratively, but literally. Whizzed by. I found myself at the very rim of time and space, a vast giant being composed of the living minds and bodies of every thing that ever was. It was an incredibly moving experience. Exhilarating. I was high for weeks. Finally I told Nishijima Sensei about it . He said it was nonsense. Just my imagination. I can't tell you how that made me feel. Imagination? This was as real an experience as any I've ever had. I just about cried. Later on that day I was eating a tangerine. I noticed how incredibly lovely a thing it was. So delicate. So amazingly orange. So very tasty. So I told Nishijima about that. That experience, he said, was enlightenment.



    You need a teacher like that. The world needs lots more teachers like that. Countless teachers would have interpreted my experience as a merging of my Atman with God, as a portent of great and wonderful things, would have praised my spiritual growth and given me pointers on how to go even further. And I would have been suckered right in to that, let me tell you! Woulda fallen for it hook line and sinker, boy howdy. If a teacher doesn't shatter your illusions he's doing you no favors at all.



    Boredom is what you need. Merging with the Mind of God at the Edge of the Universe, that's excitement. That's what we're all into this Zen thing for, right? Eating tangerines? Come on, dude! What could be more boring than eating a tangerine?



    Some years ago some psychologists did a study in which they sat some Buddhists monks and some regular folks in a room and wired them up to EEG machines to record their brain activity. They told everyone to relax, then introduced a repetitive stimulus, a loudly ticking clock, into the room. The normal folks' EEG showed that their brains stopped reacting the stimulus after a few seconds. But the Buddhists just kept on mentally registering the tick every time it happened. Psychologists and journalists never quite know how to interpret that finding, though it's often cited. It's a simple matter. Buddhists pay attention to their lives. Ordinary folks figure they have better things to think about.



    If you really take a look at your ordinary boring life, you'll discover something truly wonderful. Our regular old pointless lives are incredibly joyful -- amazingly, astoundingly, relentlessly, mercilessly joyful. You don't need to do a damned thing to experience such joy either. People think they need big experiences, interesting experiences. And it's true that gigantic, traumatic experiences sometimes bring people, for a fleeting moment, into a kind of enlightened state. That's why such experiences are so desired. But it wears off fast and you're right back out there looking for the next thrill. You don't need to take drugs, blow up buildings, win the Indy 500 or walk on the moon. You don't need to go hang-gliding over the Himalayas, you don't need to screw your luscious and oh-so-willing secretary or party all night with the beautiful people. You don't need visions of merging with the totality of the Universe. Just be what you are, where you are. Clean the toilet. Walk the dog. Do your work. That's the most magical thing there is. If you really want to merge with God, that's the way to do it. This moment. You sitting there with your hand in your underwear and potato chip crumbs on your chin, scrolling down your computer screen thinking "This guy's out of his mind." This very moment is Enlightenment. This moment has never come before and once it's gone, it's gone forever. You are this moment. This moment is you. This very moment is you merging with the total Universe, with God Himself.



    The life you're living right now has joys even God will never know.



    FOOTNOTE

    *For those of you not up on old US pop culture, The Monkees was a TV comedy show about a rock and roll band that ran from 1967-68 and was rerun throughout the 70s. The Monkees were supposed to be just like The Beatles. Mike Nesmith was the "leader" of the band, the John Lennon character. To everyone's surprise, when The Monkees, a fake rock band, went on tour they attracted almost as many squealing teenage fans as The Beatles had a few years before.

  6. #6
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Shikantaza or Hwadu

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hi,

    I was on the internet today, trying to settle the question of whether to feed my cat wet food or only dry. Turns out there are hundreds of pages of debate on this topic on the internet, countless opinions and perspectives, no clear answer ...
    Aren't there a lot of things like that? With the internetz, these debates can go on forever.

    Chet

  7. #7
    Treeleaf Unsui Shohei's Avatar
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    Re: Shikantaza or Hwadu

    Very good article indeed!

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hi,

    I was on the internet today, trying to settle the question of whether to feed my cat wet food or only dry. Turns out there are hundreds of pages of debate on this topic on the internet, countless opinions and perspectives, no clear answer ...
    Aren't there a lot of things like that? With the internetz, these debates can go on forever.

    Chet
    NO... things are not like that at all... :roll: :lol: /me ducks

    Gassho
    Shohei

  8. #8

    Re: Shikantaza or Hwadu

    Thanks for the feedback everyone. If I may expand; as you may have guessed, I'm new to Zen but not to 'Buddhism' per se. Can some help me understand how Shikantaza relates to the Suttas. I see a huge difference between what the Buddha taught in say Anapanasati or the Sattipatana Sutta and Shikantaza.

    Thanks again!

    Myotai...

  9. #9

    Re: Shikantaza or Hwadu

    Quote Originally Posted by myotai
    Thanks for the feedback everyone. If I may expand; as you may have guessed, I'm new to Zen but not to 'Buddhism' per se. Can some help me understand how Shikantaza relates to the Suttas. I see a huge difference between what the Buddha taught in say Anapanasati or the Sattipatana Sutta and Shikantaza.

    Thanks again!

    Myotai...
    Hi Myotai,

    Ah, you have touched on a very big subject that has been discussed for many centuries by many folks. In a nutshell, the most common view on this issue (best expressed perhaps by the Lotus Sutra, which was largely about this very subject) is that the Buddha was teaching a single Truth, the One Vehicle, but expressing it in different ways to people capable of hearing it in different ways, and with different personal abilities and proclivities.

    At its worst, this is why the Mahayana Buddhists (basically, China, Japan and the rest of North Asia) refer to themselves as the Great Vehicle, and have used the rather perjorative Hinayana (the 'Lesser Vehicle') to refer to much of what came before (I try to use the term 'South Asian Buddhism' instead). (One finds such terms and "putting down" of the South Asian traditions, for example, all through the very same Lotus Sutra).

    On the other hand, if you really read many of the Pali Sutta ... I mean, truly read through and between the words ... the sameness is there right in the various differences. Many ways to skin a cat (or cut it in two!). I will discuss this below, but the "Basic Buddhist" teachings are the same now as they were then, even if wrapped a bit differently.

    Now, a couple of more words on this subject ... I recently wrote this on reading the Sutta/Sutras in general ...

    Reading the Sutras is important at some point in the practice of a Buddhist, although there is something about them that we now understand which was not so well known even 100 years ago: Namely, none of them (and I mean none of them) were actually "written during the lifetime of the historical Buddha" (even the oldest that we have were not written down until several hundred years after his death, before which the tradition was passed from generation to generation orally). The teachings were passed down orally alone (which may or may not have been a sloppy process, with much corruption of the original), until somebody finally wrote them all down hundreds of years after he was dead ... and then all the Buddhists immediately set to disagreeing about which of them had the "authentic" teachings, and exactly what they meant!

    What is more, teachings evolved and developed in all schools (even the South Asian "Theravadan" traditions, which have the image of being "closer to the original" than the Northern Asian Mahayana traditions have themselves been evolving and developing for 2500 years, and don't even agree among themselves on important details).

    Nobody knows exactly what the original Buddha taught, not even the greatest Buddhist scholars, historians or monks. (I just finished a book by Bronkhurst (discussed here: http://www.westernbuddhistreview.com/vo ... ation.html), one of the great Buddhist historians ... they can only guess.

    What is more, the Mahayana traditions, of which China, Japan, Korea and much of Vietnam are part, including all the Zen schools (and don't even bring in Tibet and "Vajrayana Esoteric Buddhism"!), are a conscious break from the original flavor of Buddhism (with Sutras that are, each and every one, the works of later authors who pretended that what they were writing were "the revealed words of the Buddha". Of course, they don't say that they are a conscious break, but rather that they are teaching the "real" teachings of the Buddha, who did not really mean (or considered to be "lesser" teachings) everything else attributed to him. In fact, they are each the works of writers (sometimes a mix of many writers), each with a particular philosophical view, who put words in the Buddha's mouth. In addition, commentators on these Sutras come in 1001 flavors, depending on who the commentator is (for example, the Heart Sutra can be read several different ways ... and has been).

    In other words, anyone reading these Suttas/Sutras/Commentaries must be an educated reader about what they are reading, how it is translated, and what the philosophical bent of the true writer(s) was, and where that particular work fits in the complex universe of Buddhist writings. They can often (even within the same book) say things in complete disagreement, and from radically different philosophies of Buddhism.
    Second, on evolution in Buddhist ... all things are change, even some expressions of Buddhist timeless Wisdom ...

    But one thing for folks to remember is that Buddhism did change and evolve over many centuries, as it passed from culture to culture in Asia. The Buddha lived 2500 years ago in ancient India, whereupon the philosophy passed to China 1000 years later, and then to someone like Master Dogen who lived about 1000 years after that in medieval Japan. You and I live in the strange world known as the 21st century. Certainly, some changes arose along the way in some important interpretations and outer forms. For example, the Chinese made Zen Practice very Chinese, the Japanese very medieval Japanese, and now we are making it very Western.

    However, the Heart of the Buddha's teachings ... the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, Non-Self, Non-Attachment, the Middle Way, etc. etc., ... All are here now as much as there then!!

    How?

    On the one hand some outer stuff is, well, changed. For example, when Buddhism came to China it was heavily influenced by, and pretty much merged with, Taoism (not to mention that it was already "Mahayana Buddhism" by that time, a very different flavor from the original). The result was this little thing we now call "Zen Buddhism". So, congratulations, we are already "Taoists" and "Mahayana Buddhists" ... not just "Buddhists". When it got to Japan, the Japanese added Japanese culture to it. In the West, we are now making some very good changes (although we have to, of course, try to avoid bad changes). These good changes include equality of the sexes and a greater emphasis on lay practice.

    But it is still Buddhism. What Dogen taught was Buddhism. What we do around Treeleaf (I do believe) is as Buddhism as Buddhism can be.

    I will even go so far as to say (and this is the kind of statement that has gotten me into all kinds of trouble on with some folks in Buddhism's own fundamentalist quarters) that maybe, just maybe, later Buddhism actually made some big and important "improvements" to the Buddha's original formulation with all those additions, and a couple of thousand years of working out the kinks and bugs. It is much like saying that Buddha was Henry Ford, who first thought up the brilliant idea of sticking 4 wheels on an internal combustion engine, but now we can drive a Prius! I even say that maybe, just maybe, the Buddha was not infallible on every darn thing. Not on the vital heart of the teachings, mind you. But while he was 90% right in his proposals, he maybe also had some klunkers and narrow ideas here and there (as fits a man who lived in a traditional, myth based society some 2500 years ago in ancient India) ... like the whole thing about an overly mechanical view of rebirth, the place of women, the need to abandon the world and family in order to Practice and to repress or extinquish (as opposed to moderate & balance & pierce) the desires and emotions. ...

    Dogen was different from Shakyamuni Buddha, who are both different from all of us.

    But when we are sitting a moment of Zazen ... perfectly whole, just complete unto itself, without borders and duration, not long or short, nothing to add or take away, containing all moments and no moments in "this one moment" ... piercing Dukkha, attaining non-self, non-attached ... then there is not the slightest gap between each of us and the Buddha.
    I am a "different strokes for different folks, many paths up the mountain (anyway, WHAT MOUNTAIN?)" Buddhist ... meaning that I believe the Buddha recommended somewhat different paths, perspectives and practices to folks with different characters and needs.

    That is about the only way to reconcile all the recommendations made to come out of the mouth of the Buddha (and other teachers) in all the varied Sutra and writings over the millenia (that and the fact that they had different authors, believing different things, and were written centuries apart and not by the Buddha at all). But I believe that people of different character need their medicine, and dosage, a little varied.

    I happen to recommend Shikantaza and Zen practice because I believe it will be a path for so many people, if not most people in some way. However, I also believe that there are other paths ... Koan-centered Zazen paths, the paths of worship of Amida Buddha and/or Jesus, being a Muslim, Jew, Christian, Agnostic or Atheist (and sometimes we can mix and match ... Shikantaza with Christianity or Agnosticism, for example ... although one must be very very careful in doing so, lest one spoil the soup. Chocolate cake is good, onion soup is good ... but not necessarily chocolate cake in the onion soup. ).

    In a nutshell.

    Gassho, Jundo

  10. #10

    Re: Shikantaza or Hwadu

    Jundo and others,

    Thanks so much for your replies. I have my final exam today (Post graduate in Mental Health) so will read with more enthusiasm when thats out of the way.

    I'm 46 and a llittle long in the tooth for all this exam stuff...but they made me do it :wink:

    _/_

  11. #11

    Re: Shikantaza or Hwadu

    Gassho.

    It gave me a giggle to hear a reference to Mike Nesmith of the Monkees... I always had a crush on him when I was little!

    Maybe we are all practicing our own form of Buddhism, some of us may not even know it? I mean even the "non-Buddhists"?

    Speaking of evolution, the more I learn about evolution in the scientific sense, and in the sense of other teachers such as Rudolf Steiner, the more I see a consilience of ideas about evolution, a common-sense and very useful idea. Not an idea to cling to, but an idea to consider as possibility.

    Everyone might be on their own path, different sized gears turning at different speeds and numbers of revolutions ("33.5 revolutions per Monkee"-- sorry, had to say it --- but the crankshaft is the same?

    Sometimes thinking about reality, or our perceptions of reality, seems like working a Rubik's Cube, too.

    ETA: the concept of just holding out an idea for consideration, without "believing or not believing" in it is valuable to me.

    AND! Every teacher/artist/person I've known who was worth their salt had a few clunker ideas now and then. It seems to almost be a hallmark of curiousity.


    Fun stuff to consider. At the end of (and the beginning, middle, whatever) the day, I sit zazen. With you!

    Mandy

  12. #12

    Re: Shikantaza or Hwadu

    Thanks so much for all your replies.

    I have been trying hard of late to practice Shikantaza. Its soooo different from my previous very analytical practices.

    Coming from a Tibetan Buddhist background but starting to sit firmly on the Zen/Vipassana/Samatha/Shikantaza fence (its quite a long fence currently) its tricky.

    I guess the main hurdle if you like is how we can experience a non-conceptual experience of Emptiness - particularly of the 'self' - without first of all identifying the object of negation ('me') then investigating until its unfindability, and thus its Emptiness becomes manifet in our minds?

    I can see the validity in both methods...but like the man said:

    "...two men say they're Jesus, one of them has to be wrong..."

    Maybe?

  13. #13

    Re: Shikantaza or Hwadu

    Quote Originally Posted by myotai
    I guess the main hurdle if you like is how we can experience a non-conceptual experience of Emptiness - particularly of the 'self' - without first of all identifying the object of negation ('me') then investigating until its unfindability, and thus its Emptiness becomes manifet in our minds?
    How can one find the ability of one's body to lose itself floating in a river?

    One can analyze the weight and density of one's own body, the downward pressure of gravity, the upward pressure of a solid mass against the thermodynamic surface resistance of the water as measured by Boyle's Law (**), all of which allows flotation ... and which will give one an understanding of floating ...

    ... or one can simply jump right in, cast out one's arms while lying on one's back, give up all resistance and float ... just at one with the river ... all separation of self and water dropped away ... down the ever changing river ... heading no where but the sea ...

    I believe that Shikantaza is closer to the second method. 8)

    Gassho, J

    PS - ** I just semi-made up half that science talk ... as I last studied what makes objects float in high school. ops:

  14. #14
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Shikantaza or Hwadu

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by myotai
    I guess the main hurdle if you like is how we can experience a non-conceptual experience of Emptiness - particularly of the 'self' - without first of all identifying the object of negation ('me') then investigating until its unfindability, and thus its Emptiness becomes manifet in our minds?
    How can one find the ability of one's body to lose itself floating in a river?

    One can analyze the weight and density of one's own body, the downward pressure of gravity, the upward pressure of a solid mass against the thermodynamic surface resistance of the water as measured by Boyle's Law (**), all of which allows flotation ... and which will give one an understanding of floating ...

    ... or one can simply jump right in, cast out one's arms while lying on one's back, give up all resistance and float ... just at one with the river ... all separation of self and water dropped away ... down the ever changing river ... heading no where but the sea ...

    I believe that Shikantaza is closer to the second method. 8)

    Gassho, J

    PS - ** I just semi-made up half that science talk ... as I last studied what makes objects float in high school. ops:
    You forgot to mention that tripping on LSD or mushrooms makes this much, much easier.

    Chet

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