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Thread: Just sitting vs silent illumination

  1. #1

    Just sitting vs silent illumination

    Hi:

    I hear the terms shikantaza and "silent illumination" used by different sources and am not quite clear on the distinction. Shikantaza (????) literally means "just sitting" and my understanding is that it is done without any conscious striving towards a goal. But if we sit down to practice something called "silent illumination" (???), this seems to imply a purpose or desired result -- that is, the result of being illuminated.

    What is the relationship between the two? And how does either practice tie in with the calming/insight (samatha/vipassana) combo found in earlier Buddhism?

    Gassho,

    Rob

  2. #2
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    You know that these are all just 'tags' don't you? There may be subtle differences, but this is a subjective and intersubjective process. You can learn some things reading about 'silent illumination' - but ultimately, it's you and the cushion.

    Also, shikantaza isn't 'effortless' full-stop. It's effortless [I]effort[/].

    IMHO

    Chet

  3. #3

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    Hi Robert,

    Time for a little history!

    Quote Originally Posted by robert
    Hi:

    I hear the terms shikantaza and "silent illumination" used by different sources and am not quite clear on the distinction. Shikantaza (????) literally means "just sitting" and my understanding is that it is done without any conscious striving towards a goal. But if we sit down to practice something called "silent illumination" (???), this seems to imply a purpose or desired result -- that is, the result of being illuminated.

    What is the relationship between the two?
    This has come up a couple of times in the Forum in the past ... In a nutshell, they are the same: goalless, silent and illuminating, spacious, dropping categories and judgments ... That which is tasted thus is that "Same" sweeping in "sameness" and "difference". Any true "difference", in my view, is primarily a matter of Chinese vs. Japanese vs. Modern language and poetic sensibilities, and that different teachers express the music in their own way of playing the same tune: Chinese teachers (like the great Master Hongzhi) sometimes described it in language with a very ancient, flowery Chinese feel, Dogen in a Dogenesque Jazzy/Samurai Medieval Japanese way (and modern teachers in a 21st century western way). Perhaps Dogen did flavor his Zazen with a bit more emphasis on the perfectly complete sacredness of the act of sitting itself ... but that is just like a chef who adds a bit more oregano to his version of a classic soup recipe.

    For an well written, clear, detailed answer by someone who has "written the book" on the subject, please read this short essay by Soto Priest and Historian Taigen Dan Leighton ... "Introduction: Hongzhi, Dogen and the background of Silent Illumination" (Pages 1 to 10 here) ... As Taigen mentions as well, "Silent Illumination" seems to have been the "main way of Zazen" in China from centuries before Hongzhi ...

    http://books.google.com/books?id=k6O9Sv ... &q&f=false

    His book on the subject of Hongzhi is this one:

    Cultivating the Empty Field, The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi

    http://www.amazon.com/Cultivating-Empty ... 0865474745

    Master Sheng-yen is a wonderful teacher who left this visible world this year, and I do love his writings on "Silent Illumination" and especially "The Method of No Method". But he also had his own flavor and perspective, sometimes a little differently focused from the emphasis here (I find that his view of "Silent Illumination" can be very close to, but sometimes a bit different from "Just Sitting" Shikantaza, as Sheng-yen often emphasises ... in some of his writings on Silent Illumination anyway, although not so much in others ... attaining various states of deep concentration as the ultimate objective. He sometimes speaks of meditation as a means to the attaining of various highly concentrated states and world-removing attainments of Samadhi. I have in the past year re-read his "Hoofprint of the Ox" book, for example, and there he presents a quite instrumentalist, goal oriented view of what he calls "Silent Illumination" ... as a means to attain very deep states of "one pointed" mind.

    While that may be a wonderful path, it is not the exclusive way "Silent Illumination" has been described over the centuries and others (such as me) interpret "Silent Illumination" as more "open, spacious, unified, illuminated mind". It is not "one pointed", so much as unified and found "neither inside, nor outside, nor in between" wholly with one's environment and circumstances. What Sheng Yen presents is of a rather different flavor from that view of "Silent Illumination", and is also different, I believe, from the "Silent Illumination" of Hongzhi or "Just Sitting" in Dogen's meaning.


    Quote Originally Posted by robert
    And how does either practice tie in with the calming/insight (samatha/vipassana) combo found in earlier Buddhism?
    This has come up a couple of times in the past too (so I get to be lazy and 'cut and paste' what I usually say in response)

    Buddhist Practice is usually described as flying upon the twin wings of ?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). That is true in Zen practice no less than most other forms of Buddhist practice.

    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).

    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.

    For example, in the case of anger ... We need to develop a sensitivity to how anger arises within us, the triggers which tend to set it off, the first feeling of it starting to arise and the cycle it follows until vanishing. We need to catch ourself more and develop the ability to say, "I am feeling the emotion of anger now, but it is only the mind created theater which is present in this moment ... it need not be so." We need to see it as a story the self writes for itself, "catch it" and thus not be "sucked in" and fooled as much. (Most people who feel anger do not realize it is just a mind created bit of theater which can be replaced by something else ... it is not the way things "have to be". E.g., most people think, when they become upset, that they have "reason to be upset, and it is true and justified", not an optional response to the circumstances). That realization and understanding of how our inner theater works is a step to developing the ability to "rewrite and change the story" at will.

    So, yes, "samatha/vipassana" are both important.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - Chet said

    You can learn some things reading about 'silent illumination' - but ultimately, it's you and the cushion.

    Also, shikantaza isn't 'effortless' full-stop. It's effortless [I]effort[/].
    Yep

  4. #4

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    This whole thing seems very confusing for those of us who struggle to understand. It seems to me that the entire point of sitting is a long-term "thing", that over time we begin to realize that there are really no distinctions between our "selves" and everything else. It seems as though (just my experience) we need to to see that "we" are simply a construction and that, in essence, we really don't have an actual beginning or an ending.
    This has become very comforting to me as I approach old(er) age (if there is such a thing!) I realize now that the "me" that I know isn't really as independent as I always imagined - in fact, "I" am simply another in a long line of "stuff" that makes "me" who "I" am.
    It seems to go round and around! We are not really who we think we we are! In fact, we are nobody! I know that this sounds like a pile of hooey, but in fact, it's what is happening.
    We have an imagination that is beyond what we can imagine! (How's that for for a mind picture!).
    So when we sit, the purpose is not to "get" to enlightenment (so to speak), the whole purpose (it seems to me), is simply to become who we already are! Wow! What a mind-fuck!
    I still don't understand it all and that's what keeps me challenged - will I ever understand?

    Good luck searching,
    -Jim

  5. #5

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    Hey - Disastermouse;

    Not really sure what you mean by "intersubjective". Maybe I'm just too old and feeble, but what do you mean by this term?

    P.S. I'm always up for more "English" education!

    -Jim

  6. #6
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    By intersubjective, I mean 'relating to shared internal events that do not have simple location'.

    Literary interpretation is intersubjective. Culture is intersubjective (as opposed to sociology, which is 'objective'). Anything that relates to meanings of shared experience is intersubjective. Studies of the function of such events is objective.

    Does that clear it up?

    Chet

  7. #7

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    Disastermouse;

    I think I've got it - I think you're simply saying that it's open to interpretation? I feel like I'm really out of the loop on this one!

    Man, getting old can be shitty - or is it? I can pretend I don't understand or need help and I get the attention of many pretty girls - did I "think" that out loud? Oops!

    -Jim

  8. #8

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    Jundo,

    Interesting that you mentioned Sheng-Yen -- he was the source of my question, actually. I've been wanting to read his work and was all set to check out "Method of no Method" and perhaps also his book on the Heart Sutra. But then it occurred to me that his "silent illumination" might or might not be a different animal, as opposed to shikantaza, which got me to wondering what the relationship was exactly (since there are two distinct terms in Chinese). After all, when you sit down to jam with folks, you want to know what key you're in. Unless you're Ornette Coleman, maybe.

    So thanks for the history lesson -- appreciate your taking the time to lay it all out.

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    There may be subtle differences, but this is a subjective and intersubjective process. You can learn some things reading about 'silent illumination' - but ultimately, it's you and the cushion.
    That's a good point. Although "you and the cushion" still leaves room for discussion, no? Any number of things can take place on a zafu, from compiling grocery lists to advanced states of jhana to the "effortless effort" you mention. I'm still at yer basic breath meditation stage, so mostly I'm asking out of idle curiosity.

    Intersubjectively yours,

    Rob

  9. #9
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    Quote Originally Posted by robert
    Jundo,

    Interesting that you mentioned Sheng-Yen -- he was the source of my question, actually. I've been wanting to read his work and was all set to check out "Method of no Method" and perhaps also his book on the Heart Sutra. But then it occurred to me that his "silent illumination" might or might not be a different animal, as opposed to shikantaza, which got me to wondering what the relationship was exactly (since there are two distinct terms in Chinese). After all, when you sit down to jam with folks, you want to know what key you're in. Unless you're Ornette Coleman, maybe.

    So thanks for the history lesson -- appreciate your taking the time to lay it all out.

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    There may be subtle differences, but this is a subjective and intersubjective process. You can learn some things reading about 'silent illumination' - but ultimately, it's you and the cushion.
    That's a good point. Although "you and the cushion" still leaves room for discussion, no? Any number of things can take place on a zafu, from compiling grocery lists to advanced states of jhana to the "effortless effort" you mention. I'm still at yer basic breath meditation stage, so mostly I'm asking out of idle curiosity.

    Intersubjectively yours,

    Rob
    "If you go to war with your mind, you will be at war forever." - Adyashanti's quote of his Zen teacher. Yeah, I know Adyashanti has started his own little thing, but this is something his Zen teacher said to him when he was still practicing Zen - and I think it's important to realize.

    Let your mind compile grocery lists - just unhook your identity from it - don't enter 'into' it. When you find your attention focused on your grocery list, 'unhook' it from the list and go back to an expansive, diffuse awareness. The list may or may not continue going on, but it will be one of many things floating around. There will also be the creaking of your house or the barking of a neighbor's dog. But where is this 'creaking'? Where is this 'barking'? The sense of 'location' of these sounds is a construction - the direct perception of these things is right 'here'. The sensation is rather immediate when location isn't constructed. The witness also disappears when location disappears.

    Zazen is just the process of constant unhooking, then back to diffuse awareness in which everything happens. The diffuse awareness of shikantaza is the 'natural state' - but it seems unnatural in light of so much conditioning and the confusion of conception with perception. That is to say, you may think the 'neighbor's dog barking over there' is something you perceive, but the idea of 'neighbor's dog' is thought and the sense of 'over there' is a conceptual construction. Without investment in these thoughts and constructs (they may still happen, but one is not invested in them), all things are driven first into 'one' and then into 'none'. Driven is the wrong word, it's simply that diffuse awareness is maintained and no conceptual constructions arise. Neither the idea nor the conceptual, spacial construction is directly immediate. You can't just fight these constructions, you simply let them go again and again. Drop, drop, drop, drop. Back to immediacy in which nothing is left out. First all 'things' are driven into 'one' (witness stage), and then even the witness construction is dropped...the moment 'moments' itself.

    Having arrived at the state of 'nothing' (it's actually more like 'having not left the state of 'nothing'), all constructions become the expression of that 'nothing' - instead of the solid, imprisoning things they had seemed, an eternally arising and decaying panoply of dissatisfaction, they radiate the beauty and energy of immediate experience. Knowing that this is a dream of sorts, you can enter the dream fully without fear! There can even be 'fear without fear'. Seeing all perspectives as provisional, you take them only provisionally. In this way, all conditioned arisings become an ally! Because no conditioned arising need be maintained, you can work with whatever arises. You can say 'yes' to whatever arises, even when saying 'no'. You can even say 'yes' to 'no'. Don't get locked into any view, even the view of 'yes' to all things. There is no need to be locked in, and so you can say 'yes' to 'no' - that is, let 'no' happen.

    Of course, don't think for a moment that I'm talking about some perpetually maintained state. This is not a maintained state - it actually requires no energy to 'maintain' this state, it simply requires not expending energy to create an identification state. So there is often a lot of fluctuation between forgetfulness and awakened-ness...but you can't pit stupidity against wisdom and try to just pick wisdom. That's just more stupidity.

    I'm explaining this terribly poorly, I'm afraid. Suffice to say, if wisdom is not to bias any perspective, then that means not even biasing wisdom and pitting it against stupidity. And yet, this is not permission to continue stupidity in a self-justifying way.

    This is ridiculously difficult to talk about accurately. But if you sit and unhook again and again, if you maybe even look forward to being caught so you can unhook....at some point the subtlety of what I'm describing may begin to make sense.

    If you don't get it yet, don't worry! Sit shikantaza, unhook, unhook, unhook...and cherish that you're caught because it will teach you to unhook. Enlightenment is your birthright, ever-present.

    As the Buddha said, 'Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth."

    Be sincere, be honest enough to admit what you don't know. Unhook. Not much more is needed.

    IMHO.

    Chet

  10. #10

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    Quote Originally Posted by Sloppy_Zen
    This whole thing seems very confusing for those of us who struggle to understand. It seems to me that the entire point of sitting is a long-term "thing", that over time we begin to realize that there are really no distinctions between our "selves" and everything else. It seems as though (just my experience) we need to to see that "we" are simply a construction and that, in essence, we really don't have an actual beginning or an ending.
    ...
    It seems to go round and around! We are not really who we think we we are! In fact, we are nobody! I know that this sounds like a pile of hooey, but in fact, it's what is happening.
    We have an imagination that is beyond what we can imagine! (How's that for for a mind picture!).
    So when we sit, the purpose is not to "get" to enlightenment (so to speak), the whole purpose (it seems to me), is simply to become who we already are!
    And to make things even more confusing ... 8)

    "You" are simulaneously also completely, precisely and perfectly "you" ... the "dewdrop" which holds the moon (in Taigu's today's talk) ... a shining jewel in Indra's net ...

    http://www.shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=16627

    ... whole and straight and flawless, despite being a "limited, deluded, twisted self" ... with not one thing to change about you, not one thing to add nor one thing to take away (even as, hand in hand, you may have many things about you in need of change ... also another perspective, true at once :shock: Nothing to "fix" about you, even as there are so many things you probably had better fix. ).

    There is no "you", never was from the start ... and to boot, "you" are absolutely "you", as "you" as you could possibly be.

    You are, in fact, the center and whole of all the universe, all reality (but, before it goes to your head ... so's everyone and everything else)!

    All these perspective are "true at once" ... all our ways in which we should come to experience our self-life-world through this practice ... all are realized and made real in a moment of Zazen.

    You cannot "become" who you really are ... for you are already all of that.

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Zazen is just the process of constant unhooking
    ... and rehooking ... and no hooking ... that which was never unhooked.

    The diffuse awareness of shikantaza is the 'natural state'
    ... by which we also realize that there is no "unnatural state" and never can be ... even the ones we should best avoid for a balanced and as harmless-as-possible life.

    Gassho, J

  11. #11
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    ... by which we also realize that there is no "unnatural state" and never can be ... even the ones we should best avoid for a balanced and as harmless-as-possible life.

    Gassho, J
    It's so hard to put it in a way that makes sense, but yeah. Like I said, say 'yes' to everything, even 'no' or even 'silence'. I'm not trying to pit natural vs. unnatural, or awakened vs. deluded...it's more like you can't really know the truth of either without knowing both.

    I really don't mean to pit 'awakened', 'natural', or 'enlightened' against 'asleep', 'unnatural', or 'deluded'....it's just so hard to talk about this in any sort of way that makes sense.

    Chet

  12. #12

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse

    I really don't mean to pit 'awakened', 'natural', or 'enlightened' against 'asleep', 'unnatural', or 'deluded'....it's just so hard to talk about this in any sort of way that makes sense.

    Chet
    A couple of thousand years' worth of Mahayana teachers and poets have faced the very same dilemma of expressing "enlightenment" in/as/through/transcending/washing away/fully manifesting by/etc. "delusion/samsara" ...

    "Buddha" is a crack whore ... and the "Pure Land" is an oil spill covered beach.

    We might even say that there was never "someone" to be addicted, no drugs to be addicted to, no oil and no beach ...

    Now, that does not mean that we should just choose to live as crack addicts, or find no need to "save all the sentient beings" who happen to be crack whores. That does not mean that we should not seek as we can to clean up the oily sand.

    The Lotus blooms in the mud ... and is just the mud ... yet is not ...

  13. #13

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse

    Let your mind compile grocery lists - just unhook your identity from it - don't enter 'into' it. When you find your attention focused on your grocery list, 'unhook' it from the list and go back to an expansive, diffuse awareness. The list may or may not continue going on,
    This is not my experience. Once I "unhook" from a train of thought, it is gone, by MY definition of being unhooked. If it reappears, I am "hooked" again, and have to unhook. This is similar (for me) to having a song running through your mind. Unless the song is GONE, it is still running through your head. Now maybe someone who understands minds/thoughts better than I do (apparently everybody else here ops: ) might be able to demonstrate the song is still running in my head, I'm just not focusing on it.

    This is what makes shikantaza difficult. With other forms of meditation, I can "unhook" from some thoughts by focusing on something else (usually breathing). With shikantaza, I have nothing else to focus on - except everything else. Much more difficult (for me).

    Good thing Jundo keeps assuring us "you can't do it wrong", or I would suspect I'm doing it wrong...

    Craig

  14. #14

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    Good thing Jundo keeps assuring us "you can't do it wrong", or I would suspect I'm doing it wrong...

    Craig
    I would counter that you can't do it right either. I've gotten myself into all sorts of trouble thinking I'm doing something "Right."
    I am grateful when those misconceptions are pointed out to me and I am able realize a little bit more of my own ignorance.

    Yours in practice,
    Jordan

  15. #15

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuken
    Good thing Jundo keeps assuring us "you can't do it wrong", or I would suspect I'm doing it wrong...

    Craig
    I would counter that you can't do it right either. I've gotten myself into all sorts of trouble thinking I'm doing something "Right."
    I am grateful when those misconceptions are pointed out to me and I am able realize a little bit more of my own ignorance.

    Yours in practice,
    Jordan
    Gassho!

  16. #16

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    Quote Originally Posted by CraigfromAz
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse

    Let your mind compile grocery lists - just unhook your identity from it - don't enter 'into' it. When you find your attention focused on your grocery list, 'unhook' it from the list and go back to an expansive, diffuse awareness. The list may or may not continue going on,
    This is not my experience. Once I "unhook" from a train of thought, it is gone, by MY definition of being unhooked. If it reappears, I am "hooked" again, and have to unhook. This is similar (for me) to having a song running through your mind. Unless the song is GONE, it is still running through your head. Now maybe someone who understands minds/thoughts better than I do (apparently everybody else here ops: ) might be able to demonstrate the song is still running in my head, I'm just not focusing on it.
    Not sure if you both are describing the same thing ... but in your own ways.

    So much of our practice is experiential on the cushion, experiencing sitting in all sitting's moods, and known to be right when felt as right.

    Sometimes the grocery list or song is completely filling your thoughts, and you are actively thinking about what you need to buy or humming along. We are hooked like a fish who can't break free. That --is not-- Zazen (even though "everything is Zazen" in one meaning,).

    Sometimes the song and shopping list are fully gone ... not there at all. No more there than "horns on a cat". "We" are not there at all. There is nothing there to hook onto, no one to cast a line. That is Zazen.

    Sometimes the song and grocery list are there, but translucent, seen through, not attached to ... not stirred up. Whether we are "hooked" or "unhooked" are not even in question, for all feels whole, balanced and clear. That is Zazen.

    Sometimes we are hooked like a fish, dragged around a bit by life ... yet too feel free and still. At one with life's hooks. Humming a tune as silence, compiling lists with nothing to acquire. That is Zazen.

    If Zazen is "right" it usually feels "right" (even though, of course, there is no "wrong" or "right" Zazen) ...

    "Right" Zazen and "Wrong" Zazen

    viewtopic.php?p=22966#p22966

    Gassho, J

  17. #17

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    So much of our practice is experiential on the cushion, experiencing sitting in all sitting's moods, and known to be right when felt as right.

    Sometimes the grocery list or song is completely filling your thoughts, and you are actively thinking about what you need to buy or humming along. We are hooked like a fish who can't break free. That --is not-- Zazen (even though "everything is Zazen" in one meaning,).

    Sometimes the song and shopping list are fully gone ... not there at all. No more there than "horns on a cat". "We" are not there at all. There is nothing there to hook onto, no one to cast a line. That is Zazen.
    So far, "I" am always there when I sit. On the blue sky days, I sense that there are few clouds, but there is ALWAYS an "I" that is witnessing those clouds/blue sky. I don't yet get the concept of "not being there". I'm guessing that is one of those things that you can't understand until it happens to you.

  18. #18

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    Quote Originally Posted by CraigfromAz
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    So much of our practice is experiential on the cushion, experiencing sitting in all sitting's moods, and known to be right when felt as right.

    Sometimes the grocery list or song is completely filling your thoughts, and you are actively thinking about what you need to buy or humming along. We are hooked like a fish who can't break free. That --is not-- Zazen (even though "everything is Zazen" in one meaning,).

    Sometimes the song and shopping list are fully gone ... not there at all. No more there than "horns on a cat". "We" are not there at all. There is nothing there to hook onto, no one to cast a line. That is Zazen.
    So far, "I" am always there when I sit. On the blue sky days, I sense that there are few clouds, but there is ALWAYS an "I" that is witnessing those clouds/blue sky. I don't yet get the concept of "not being there". I'm guessing that is one of those things that you can't understand until it happens to you.
    Sometimes "I" is there - Sometimes "I" is not there. Sometimes it is not even a question of "either/or" ... Sometimes "I" is there and seen through too ... translucent, whole, clear.

    But where is "I" when "I" simply stops thinking about "I", or about "I" and "not I"?? Sometimes "I" is asleep or unconscious. Sometimes "I" is "you" or "me and you and the rock over there". Always changing.

    Where is "I" when we stop looking for "I", or worrying where the real "I" should be?

    Sometimes we find true "I" by forgetting "I". Sometimes we find true "I" by just letting "I" be "I" in its own true place.

    As Dogen put it ...

    To learn Buddhism is to learn ourselves. To learn ourselves is to forget ourselves. To forget ourselves is to be experienced by millions of things and phenomena. To be experienced by millions of things and phenomena is to let our own body and mind, and the body and mind of the external world, fall away. [Then] we can forget the [mental] trace of realization, and show the [real] signs of forgotten realization continually, moment by moment. When a person first seeks the Dharma, he is far removed from the borders of Dharma. But as soon as the Dharma is authentically transmitted to the person himself, he is a human being in his own true place.
    Ya know, looking for "self" could be much like floating in water wondering "where is the water" and "what is this that's wet"? Wondering about "self" and "not self" might be like wondering "am I floating in the water, or is the water floating me?" When we stop thinking about the question, there it is ... just there, and soaking wet.

    Suzuki Roshi had something on this that I was reading today (in his Suzuki Roshi way of putting things) ...

    Wherever I Go, I Meet Myself

    Most of us want to know what the self is. This is a big problem. I am trying to understand why you have this problem. It seems to me that even though you try to understand who you are, it is an endless task, and you will never see your self. You say that to sit without thinking is difficult, but it will be even more difficult to try to think about your self. To reach a conclusion is almost.impossible, and if you continue trying, you become crazy, and you won't now what to do with your self. ...

    Tozan, the founder of the Chinese Soto Zen School, said, "Don't try to see yourself objectively." In other words, don't try to seek for information about yourself that is the objective truth. That is information. He says that the real you is quite different from any information you have. The real you is not that kind of thing. "I go my own way. Wherever I go, I meet myself."

    ... When you empty your mind, when you give up everything and just practice zazen with an open mind, then whatever you see you meet yourself. That is you, beyond she or he or me. As long as you are clinging to the idea of self and trying to improve your practice or discover something, trying to create an improved, better self, then your practice has gone astray. You have no time to reach the goal, so eventually you will get tired out, and you will say, "Zen is no good. I practiced zazen for ten years, but I didn't gain anything!" But if you just come here and sit with sincere students and fmd yourself among them, and you continue in that way, that is our practice. You can have this kind of experience wherever you are. As Tozan said, "Wherever I go, I meet myself." If he sees water, that is to see himself To see water is enough for him, even though he cannot see himself in the water. So the way to understand yourself is not by understanding yourself objectively or gathering information from various sources. ...

    If you cling to an idea you create, like a self or an objective reality, you will be lost in the objective world that you create with your mind. You are creating things one after another, so there is no end. There may be various worlds you are creating, and to create and see many things is very interesting, but you should not be lost in your creations. The other side of our practice is that we think and we act. We do not try to be like a stone. Everyday life is our practice. Instead of being enslaved by the thinking mind or the imagination or emotional activity, we just think in its true sense. Thinking comes to us from our true self, which includes everything. Before we think about it, trees, birds, and everything are thinking. And when they think, they groan or they sing. That is their thinking. There is no need for us to think more than that. If we see things as it is, thinking is already there. This kind of pure thinking is the thinking we have in our practice, so we always have freedom from ourselves too. We can see things as it is, and at the same time we can think about things. Because we do not cling to any particular standard for thinking, for us there is no true way and no false way.

    Thank. you very much.

    (From 'Not Always So')

  19. #19
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    The sense of witness is subtle and pervasive. 'Sink into', don't float above. If you try to make self and other 'one' it will never work because you're starting from separate. The assumption has already been made.

    Look closely into this witness. What is its substance? Where is this persistent witness? What are it's boundaries?

    It can take time for the witness to dissolve, but it's not a matter of doing, it's a matter of subtle restraint. It's the cornerstone of 'renunciation'.

    Keep sitting, there are no strategies. The witness is not dissolved through effort, it dissolves when the subtle effort to maintain it ceases.

    But you can't see what you can't see. Methodically drop everything as it comes up. Eventually only the witness is left. Then drop that.

    Chet

  20. #20

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    The sense of witness is subtle and pervasive. 'Sink into', don't float above. If you try to make self and other 'one' it will never work because you're starting from separate. The assumption has already been made.

    Look closely into this witness. What is its substance? Where is this persistent witness? What are it's boundaries?

    It can take time for the witness to dissolve, but it's not a matter of doing, it's a matter of subtle restraint. It's the cornerstone of 'renunciation'.

    Keep sitting, there are no strategies. The witness is not dissolved through effort, it dissolves when the subtle effort to maintain it ceases.

    But you can't see what you can't see. Methodically drop everything as it comes up. Eventually only the witness is left. Then drop that.

    Chet
    That was a beautiful expression Chet.
    Thank you.
    Jordan

  21. #21

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    But you can't see what you can't see. Methodically drop everything as it comes up. Eventually only the witness is left. Then drop that.

    Chet

    I don't get too caught up in this "witness", or worry about finding him/that/whatever too much. He/She/Whatever is just always witnessing, so what's to look for?

    Sometimes only the witness is left, sometimes not even that ... sometimes songs and shopping lists ... sometimes all at once. Sometimes we are aware of that, sometimes not even that. Always true self, always the witness no matter what.

    Looking for this witness, even by trying too hard to "drop the search and chase", is a bit like a dog worried where its tail is ...



    Even if it tries to "find its tail" by the technique of dropping the looking ... it may still be trying too hard, and engaged in a pointless effort. Maybe you are then just a dog laying in wait for the tail to come to the dog..

    The tail is always there (I believe this was Suzuki Roshi's point above).

    Gassho, J

  22. #22

    Re: Just sitting vs silent illumination

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    Even if it tries to "find its tail" by the technique of dropping the looking ... it may still be trying too hard, and engaged in a pointless effort. Maybe you are then just a dog laying in wait for the tail to come to the dog..

    The tail is always there (I believe this was Suzuki Roshi's point above).

    Gassho, J

    Classic! And yeah, I've found myself guilty of that engagement in pointless effort too.

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