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Thread: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

  1. #1

    Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    I have been researching (very lightly) some things on jhana. How long it takes to form, what it's like etc - and all I know about the entire subject is that they typically take 40minutes and come with a sense of bliss.

    After learning this, it quickly became my goal to sit for 40minutes and wait on a sense of bliss. Within days I realized my goal was causing suffering. Nothing severe but enough to hinder progress.

    Now I'm back to just sitting. I was wondering, would it be better for me to just sit, and forget about jhanas and mind maps?
    I was considering mapping my experiences for myself and then later comparing them to the traditional jhanas and other mind maps. I've heard that everyone goes through the same stages at some point so this would just prove that for myself.

    Anyway, thoughts?

  2. #2

    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    Sitting with a goal in mind, or a sense of one should expect from it, is not going to help. Because instead of sitting with what is, you are then sitting with what you think ought to be, and what we think ought to be, is certainty different from what is actually the case.

    Don't get caught up on other people's time frames or what they get out of their practice, whether it be a sense of bliss or not. Each practice is individual to the person sitting. Sit with what you have, and drop all sense of what you expect to happen, by doing that you allow things to unfold for them selves. Comparing to others isn't always good, because we once again get caught up in the ideas of "If I experience this then its right, if not then I'm doing something wrong"

    If you want to prove this practice for yourself, sit quietly, when thoughts come, see them, then simply let them go. If you do this, then you have proven the practice.

    Gassho

    Seiryu

  3. #3
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    Could you please forget the bliss, the 40 minutes, other people's maps and even your own...

    A good point to start from is doing a good house cleaning job here.

    just sit. Without expecting, checking, measuring, comparing...Otherwise, it is just the old good goal oriented mind at it, the materialist turned spiritual.

    Of course you may carry on but it would just be loosing your time.

    gassho


    Taigu

  4. #4

    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    Yes, our way is not to seek or run after Jhanas, highly concentrated Samadhi or extra-ordinary mental states or bliss ... although there will be times when such arises. If such arises, also let such go.

    There will also be times (most times!), also special and sacred, when nothing special arises! All is miraculous! The most ordinary is anything but ordinary! Just This is a Miracle!

    Please review the way of Shikantaza I pointed you to on the other thread ...

    viewtopic.php?p=53619#p53619

    ... and the reason for what I say should be clear.

    Gassho, Jundo

    __________________________________________________ ______________________________

    PS - Now, for our "wonks" who may be wondering what this whole thing about "Jhanas" is about ... let me repost this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by Janne H
    Right concentration is part of the Eightfold Path, so it should be there in our practice, right?

    Shikantaza seems to have a different approach to concentration, maybe the open awareness and concentration co-exist when praticed correctly, they are not one and also not two.
    This may run a bit long, for which I apologize ...

    Well, a funny thing about the "concentration" in "Right Concentration" (samyak-sam?dhi in Pali, samm?-sam?dhi, in Sanskrit) ... the meaning and content of what constitutes "Samadhi" can be very wide, very varied throughout history, depending on the school of meditation and the perspective. The etymological root (thank you to translator Greg Wonderwheel) of samadhi means "“putting together,” “to join,” and “to combine.” He offers translations of samadhi as “union”, “unification”, and “absorbtion” in which all discriminations are joined or combined into a realization of the great non-dual harmony of true suchness." An important section of the Platform Sutra (Greg's translation) states the following, and notice the emphasis on being "unperturbed" "unstuck" "unattached" to circumstances, dropping thoughts about conditions ...

    Learned and virtuous ones, what is called zen-samadhi (dhyana-samadhi)? Outwardly, to be free from characteristics is doing zen. Inwardly, to not be perturbed is doing samadhi. Outwardly, if one attaches to characteristics, inwardly, the heart-mind is immediately perturbed. Outwardly, if one is free from characteristics, the heart-mind is immediately not perturbed. The root nature by itself is pure, by itself is samadhi. Only by seeing conditions and thinking about conditions is one immediately perturbed. If someone sees various conditions and the heart-mind is not perturbed, this is real samadhi. Learned and virtuous ones, outwardly, to be free from characteristics is immediately zen. Inwardly, to not be perturbed is immediately samadhi. Outwardly, zen, inwardly, samadhi, this is doing zen-samadhi.
    So, Zen practice tended to take a view of Samadhi very different from those schools of meditation which held to to be a deep state of one pointed concentration leading to "Jhana" (which leads to another story ... the "Jhana" story)

    A book that should be mentioned is the recent "The Experience of Samadhi" by Richard Skankman, a survey of historical and modern Theravadan interpretations of Samadhi and Jhana. What is particularly interesting in reading the book is the extent of disagreement and widely varied interpretations from teacher to teacher, Sri Lankan vs. Burmese vs. Thai vs. Westerners, Lineage to Lineage even in that neck of the Buddhist world. Here is a Buddhistgeeks interview the author gave ... and as he discusses, there is little agreement, either currently or in centuries past, among the South Asian traditions either about "what the Buddha taught", or at least, how to interpret "what the Buddha taught" on the subject of Jhana. In the book, he interviews about two dozen teachers in South Asian traditions, and gets about two dozen, often very dissimilar interpretations.

    We continue our discussion with insight meditation teacher and author, Richard Shankman. In this episode we continue to dissect the different kinds of samadhi and their respective fruits--what in the Theravada tradition are called jhana (or "meditative absorption"). According to Shankman there are two ways of approaching the attainment of jhana, one as was taught in the original canonical texts of the Theravada, the Pali Suttas, and the other from the later commentaries on the Buddha's teachings, the Vishudimagga. As a result we get two different forms of jhana--one called Sutta jhana and the other called Vishudimagga jhana. ...

    http://personallifemedia.com/podcasts/2 ... 1166-power
    http://personallifemedia.com/podcasts/2 ... shudimagga
    Richard Skankman's book makes one very interesting point that, perhaps, can be interpreted to mean that practices such as Shikantaza and the like actually cut right to the summit of Jhana practice. You see, it might perhaps possibly be argued (from some interpretations presented in the book) that Shikantaza practice is very close to what is referred to as the "Fourth Jhana in the Suttas" ... as opposed to the highly concentrated, hyper-absorbed Visuddhimagga commentary version. The Fourth Jhana in the Pali Suttas was considered the 'summit' of Jhana practice (as the higher Jhana, No. 5 to 8, were not encouraged as a kind of 'dead end') and appears to manifest (quoting the sutta descriptions in the book) "an abandoning of pleasure.pain, attractions/aversions, a dropping of both joy and grief", a dropping away of both rapture and bliss states, resulting in a "purity of mindfulness" and "equanimity". Combine this with the fact that, more than a "one pointed mind absorbed into a particular object", there is a "unification of mind" (described as a broader awareness around the object of meditation ... whereby the "mind itself becomes collected and unmoving, but not the objects of awareness, as mindfulness becomes lucid, effortless and unbroken" (See, for examples. pages 82-83 here))

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

    A bit of the discussion of the highest (in Buddhist Practice) "Fourth Jhana", and its emphasis on equanimity while present amid circumstances (and a dropping of bliss states), can be found on page 49 here:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=lQ_ZzF ... th&f=false

    This is very close to a description of Shikantaza, for example, as dropping all aversions and attractions, finding unification of mind, collected and unmoving, effortless and unbroken, in/as/through/not removed from the life, circumstances, complexities which surround us and are us, sitting still with what is just as it is.

    There has always been the tendency in meditation (including, but not limited to, Buddhist meditation schools of many flavors) to seek for special, extraordinary states of mind. Such states can be attained too with sufficient effort and concentration. It is possible and even highly likely that the Buddha himself taught forms of meditation emphasizing various Jhana states, although perhaps just to certain kinds of people needing it, as skillful means perhaps. Many paths, One Vehicle.

    In any event, there are always those who are seeking to escape from this world, attain various bliss or unusual mental states. And (coming at it from another approach) there have been those (such as in my own tradition of Shikantaza Zazen) who have instead found that this very world, and this ordinary life-mind is the most special, miraculous and extra-ordinary state when realized as such (and even when, in our delusion, not).

    SO, IN ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION ... ops:

    maybe the open awareness and concentration co-exist when praticed correctly, they are not one and also not two.
    Shikantaza and intense concentration practices can certainly "co-exist". Yet (for the reasons stated), when practiced correctly ... as the complete and whole-some path to 'at one-ness with/as/realizing just this' which it is ... there is no other meditation path needed for/as/realizing Realization than Shikantaza. (And to do more may be like hitting the gas pedal and the brakes on the car at once ... counter-productive at best.)

    Gassho, Jundo

  5. #5
    Friend of Treeleaf Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    Hi,
    I had to look up “Jhana”, I didn’t know what it was. I’m so bad with such technical terms...
    Bliss, stillness, joy, fear, anxiety, boredom ... they come and go in zazen, it seems to me. Behind it all is the ground of being and non-being. It is there before and after 40 minutes. It is there in an instant. It is there before and after that instant. When I think it is there, it is not there. When I don’t think it is there, it is there. The opposite of this is also the case (!).
    So, it is better if I just sit.
    ...and when my knees are too painful, I stretch my legs and get up.
    Gassho,
    Soen
    PS: It is great to practice with you all! Excuse my idiotic ramblings. What do I know ...

  6. #6

    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    It's always difficult in the beginning. Jhana seem to me to be an idea. True Zen, the zen of shikantaza, doesn't really make distinctions on ideas like this. When you sit with the idea of "I will experience this!", often the only thing you will experience is "not this". Zazen is the physical expression of our understanding of Shakyamuni's Way. Stillness, harmony, being (wholly and completely being) the rich perfection of the imperfect, the absence of karma, the boundlessness of just sitting. When you sit in this fashion, everything is jhana. The times when you are so frustrated that you can't stop thinking about that news paper article you read earlier, especially when you're trying to meditate! That's jhana. The cat running over your lap when sitting, is jhana, the peaceful moments when the clear blue sky of shikantaza are unobscured is jhana. When there is absolutely no jhana, no place for jhana to exist, and no one experiencing jhana; that's jhana too.

    Sitting to experience jhana is like trying to fill a bucket with air. You cannot contain the boundlessness of zazen in a container, especially a container made from ideas - such as the idea of jhana. Sure there is air in the bucket, but there is air outside too, where does the air from one stop and the other begin?

  7. #7

    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Sitting to experience jhana is like trying to fill a bucket with air.
    Cool analogy. Thanks for this.

    Question. If IMPERMANCENCE is the nature of ALL THINGS, then is enlightenment also impermanent?

    I mean, can one person attain enlightenment while there are others still living in ignorance? If so, would this not imply seperate existences? There's probably a really obvious and smart answer to this but hey, it's me here. Go slow.

    gassho
    Greg

  8. #8

    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    Quote Originally Posted by ghop
    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Sitting to experience jhana is like trying to fill a bucket with air.
    Cool analogy. Thanks for this.

    Question. If IMPERMANCENCE is the nature of ALL THINGS, then is enlightenment also impermanent?

    I mean, can one person attain enlightenment while there are others still living in ignorance? If so, would this not imply seperate existences? There's probably a really obvious and smart answer to this but hey, it's me here. Go slow.

    gassho
    Greg
    Hello Greg,

    Who is doing this "attaining?"

    Metta,

    Saijun

  9. #9

    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    Is ignorance bliss I ask myself? I have been sitting and "studying" Zen for 6 years and I never even heard of jhanas until today!! It seems that you, like I was/am, are a bit prone to intellectualizing your "spiritual experiences" - believe me, it's a relief when you can drop all that and just let go!

    Hisoka

  10. #10

    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Seiryu
    Sitting with a goal in mind, or a sense of one should expect from it, is not going to help. Because instead of sitting with what is, you are then sitting with what you think ought to be, and what we think ought to be, is certainty different from what is actually the case.

    Don't get caught up on other people's time frames or what they get out of their practice, whether it be a sense of bliss or not. Each practice is individual to the person sitting. Sit with what you have, and drop all sense of what you expect to happen, by doing that you allow things to unfold for them selves. Comparing to others isn't always good, because we once again get caught up in the ideas of "If I experience this then its right, if not then I'm doing something wrong"

    If you want to prove this practice for yourself, sit quietly, when thoughts come, see them, then simply let them go. If you do this, then you have proven the practice.

    Gassho

    Seiryu
    Thankyou, this is very much the response I expected.

  11. #11

    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Could you please forget the bliss, the 40 minutes, other people's maps and even your own...

    A good point to start from is doing a good house cleaning job here.

    Taigu
    I understand what you are saying, and I whole heartedly agree with it. However forgive me for not making myself clear - I was in the understanding that jhanas were specific mind 'states', for example beta/alpha brainwaves, slow-wave/deep sleep etc.
    Coming from lucid dreaming meditation - Time plays a huge role. I'm not saying that to meditate properly it must be x minutes long, or someone can only attain 'enlightenment' after 'this' amount of time. Rather my question was from the point of view of research/psychology. The mind (or perhaps I should say brain) WILL enter certain states after certain amounts of time. A person cannot instantly enter a dream - they must wait 90minutes, (unless they had slept a little while ago). So from this point of view, 40minutes made sense as this is when certain stages are entered every night when we fall asleep.

    Now of course I'm not speaking of 'meditation' as a form of loosing attachment and just 'being' - that I believe happens 'now'.

    Yes, our way is not to seek or run after Jhanas, highly concentrated Samadhi or extra-ordinary mental states or bliss ... although there will be times when such arises. If such arises, also let such go.

    There will also be times (most times!), also special and sacred, when nothing special arises! All is miraculous! The most ordinary is anything but ordinary! Just This is a Miracle!

    Please review the way of Shikantaza I pointed you to on the other thread ...

    viewtopic.php?p=53619#p53619

    ... and the reason for what I say should be clear.

    Gassho, Jundo
    I love your way of describing everything as miraculous, I have began to see that myself recently. Again, the jhana question came from a place of interest in how the brain works rather than 'do i need to do this to reach enlightenment?'.

    Is ignorance bliss I ask myself? I have been sitting and "studying" Zen for 6 years and I never even heard of jhanas until today!! It seems that you, like I was/am, are a bit prone to intellectualizing your "spiritual experiences" - believe me, it's a relief when you can drop all that and just let go!

    Hisoka
    Thankyou for your response Do not fret, I let go all the time.

    Some of us are interested in fishing, some in tennis, I like to explore the mind both in the way we describe 'loosing our attachments' and analyzing the brain like one might analyse a machine. The desire to analyse and experience is there, but the attachment to it is not. If I forced out all my desires then I believe I'd become attached to the idea of having no attachments. I'm impartial either way :P

    It's always difficult in the beginning. Jhana seem to me to be an idea. True Zen, the zen of shikantaza, doesn't really make distinctions on ideas like this. When you sit with the idea of "I will experience this!", often the only thing you will experience is "not this". Zazen is the physical expression of our understanding of Shakyamuni's Way. Stillness, harmony, being (wholly and completely being) the rich perfection of the imperfect, the absence of karma, the boundlessness of just sitting. When you sit in this fashion, everything is jhana. The times when you are so frustrated that you can't stop thinking about that news paper article you read earlier, especially when you're trying to meditate! That's jhana. The cat running over your lap when sitting, is jhana, the peaceful moments when the clear blue sky of shikantaza are unobscured is jhana. When there is absolutely no jhana, no place for jhana to exist, and no one experiencing jhana; that's jhana too.

    Sitting to experience jhana is like trying to fill a bucket with air. You cannot contain the boundlessness of zazen in a container, especially a container made from ideas - such as the idea of jhana. Sure there is air in the bucket, but there is air outside too, where does the air from one stop and the other begin?
    Thankyou.

    I was under the impression that jhanas were 'states'. The video I watched on the subject described each as having particular brainwave properties - much like the states we go through every night when we sleep. However I like the description of jhana being everything, though I've never heard it described that way before.


    Just to re-state, I in no way believe that these 'states' are a necessary part in ones meditation 'journey' - but one can enjoy a hobby without becoming 'attached'.

  12. #12

    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    Quote Originally Posted by ghop
    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Sitting to experience jhana is like trying to fill a bucket with air.
    Cool analogy. Thanks for this.

    Question. If IMPERMANCENCE is the nature of ALL THINGS, then is enlightenment also impermanent?

    I mean, can one person attain enlightenment while there are others still living in ignorance? If so, would this not imply seperate existences? There's probably a really obvious and smart answer to this but hey, it's me here. Go slow.

    gassho
    Greg
    Asking me about the nature of enlightenment? A bit of the blind leading the blind, huh? :wink:
    Well, keep in mind that I'm going to have to try and answer this from the perspective of what I believe enlightenment might entail, as I can't say definitively. I don't think it implies separate existences, but rather separate understandings of the same existence. Like asking how a microwave works, you'll get two answers from a layman and a physicist. Enlightenment is probably both impermanent and permanent, in that we all die, so nothing can last forever, yet if there is a succession, a constant stream of people who reach enlightenment, then does it ever truly end? Could it not be said to be the same enlightenment? While probably being different for each person who experiences it? I don't know. I don't know that I'll ever know.

    But if I ever find out, I'll post the answer here first. :mrgreen:

  13. #13

    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    Maybe Enlightenment is just the realization that there is no inherent ignorance of suffering at all. For if it was inherent that there can not be any possibility for anyone to escape from ignorance. Maybe enlightenment is just the understanding that there is nothing to understand, only things to live and experience.

    but then again....what do I know :wink:

    Gassho

    Seiryu

  14. #14

    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    Quote Originally Posted by ghop
    Question. If IMPERMANCENCE is the nature of ALL THINGS, then is enlightenment also impermanent?

    I mean, can one person attain enlightenment while there are others still living in ignorance? If so, would this not imply seperate existences? There's probably a really obvious and smart answer to this but hey, it's me here. Go slow.

    gassho
    Greg
    Maybe to say ... enlightenment is enlightenment, whether still or moving as enlightenment, enlightenment thoroughly enlightenment ... but we may not taste that all the time. The taste comes and goes.

    There are no separate beings, thus nobody living in ignorance, ever in need of help. Now, that being said, go help other sentient beings.

    It ain't rocket science. 8)

    Gassho, J

  15. #15
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dizkovery
    I have been researching (very lightly) some things on jhana. How long it takes to form, what it's like etc - and all I know about the entire subject is that they typically take 40minutes and come with a sense of bliss.

    After learning this, it quickly became my goal to sit for 40minutes and wait on a sense of bliss. Within days I realized my goal was causing suffering. Nothing severe but enough to hinder progress.

    Now I'm back to just sitting. I was wondering, would it be better for me to just sit, and forget about jhanas and mind maps?
    I was considering mapping my experiences for myself and then later comparing them to the traditional jhanas and other mind maps. I've heard that everyone goes through the same stages at some point so this would just prove that for myself.

    Anyway, thoughts?
    Careful with thinking that we sit in order to achieve anything. Like all the good and wise folks up there said, we just sit in order to break away from attachments, goals and achievements.

    Do not label or put levels into your experience. Just sit. Do it every day. Do it often.

    But don't try to achieve.

  16. #16
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    It ain't rocket science, doesn't require secret empowerments...
    A smile, just doing what you have to do, not adding or taking away, not judging yourself or others, a million ways of helping, just like the sun shines, or good stuff takes place, automatically, without even knowing. Kannon is not even aware of the one thousand arms although it takes a single arm to realize instantly Kannon, on the spot.

    gassho


    Taigu

  17. #17

    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Kannon is not even aware of the one thousand arms although it takes a single arm to realize Kannon, on the spot.
    deep bows for this

    Greg

  18. #18
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    Taigu wrote:
    Kannon is not even aware of the one thousand arms although it takes a single arm to realize Kannon, on the spot.
    Thank you for these profound words Taigu Sensei _/_

    Gassho,
    John

  19. #19

    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Kannon is not even aware of the one thousand arms although it takes a single arm to realize instantly Kannon, on the spot.
    Wow...that is incredible

    Gassho

    Seiryu

  20. #20
    Friend of Treeleaf Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    Thank you Taigu.
    Gassho
    Soen

  21. #21

    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    Dizkovery/Kyle

    Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    I hazard to say that my mind likes to think it 'knows' what I'm doing. Or I like to think 'I know,' but I hazard to say that my 'knowing' (or thinking 'I' know) and doing are a narrow gap and worlds apart.
    In my experience "Doing" has it's own 'knowing' and my thought filled mind has practically nothing to do with it.

    Just sit is just do (sitting)
    what bubbles up into the brain pan is what bubbles up

    For me, this is not a question of better/worse as it is to see so much of my knowing is penciled in, yet I treat it as if it were chiseled in stone.

    In watching babies: doing seems to be how to get to knowing.
    And I will offer that curiosity for me, is 'knowing' at its most open, most accepting, and a kissing cousin of awareness.

    What do I know? Not much, but playing with words here sure is fun!

  22. #22
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    I love playing with words but, I can become very tired of it.

    Every once in a while it is good that a Taigu comes along to give everyone an 'Aha' moment (thanks Oprah :shock: )

  23. #23

    Re: Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Keishin
    Dizkovery/Kyle

    Is it better to not know what I'm doing?

    I hazard to say that my mind likes to think it 'knows' what I'm doing. Or I like to think 'I know,' but I hazard to say that my 'knowing' (or thinking 'I' know) and doing are a narrow gap and worlds apart.
    In my experience "Doing" has it's own 'knowing' and my thought filled mind has practically nothing to do with it.

    Just sit is just do (sitting)
    what bubbles up into the brain pan is what bubbles up

    For me, this is not a question of better/worse as it is to see so much of my knowing is penciled in, yet I treat it as if it were chiseled in stone.

    In watching babies: doing seems to be how to get to knowing.
    And I will offer that curiosity for me, is 'knowing' at its most open, most accepting, and a kissing cousin of awareness.

    What do I know? Not much, but playing with words here sure is fun!

    I can identify with a lot of what you say and i enjoy your words.

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