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Thread: In defense of holding on, sort of

  1. #1
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    In defense of holding on, sort of

    Our Zen practice is often very much about dropping. Drop thoughts, drop language, drop anger, drop sadness, etc. are just some examples from the forum recently. In the book club this week we read about how Dogen even dropped the concept of dropping. But in order to drop something we first have to hold on to it. To hold/drop seems a non-duality. Thereís wholeness there, a gestalt to it that I think might be helpful to recognize. While we canít have dropping without holding, I am arguing that it is the dropping that makes holding precious.

    We hold on to so many things in our lives, and it is important that we hold on to these things so that we can function. The one thing we often hold on to most tightly is our identity, our ego, but things like the car keys and the daily schedule are also important. All of these things, and more, help us; they support us as well as those around us. So in that sense they deserve to be held on to. They are forms just as precious as emptiness.

    Dogen says to study the self is to forget the self. To study the self is to hold on to the self in such a way as to get to know it intimately, so intimately that you exhaust its very essence to the point that you can then drop it as empty. Thus that self is precious and not to be dropped casually, but carefully and with full awareness.

    Do not think of hold/drop as either/or, because thatís just getting caught in another duality. So when you say drop, be aware of holding on. When you become aware that you are holding on to something, then you can also become aware of the possibility of dropping it away.

    These are just some thoughts about what Iím learning lately. Feel free to hold/drop them.

  2. #2

    Re: In defense of holding on, sort of

    Open the hand of thought and emotions ...

    ... and find that which can neither be held or let go ...

  3. #3
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: In defense of holding on, sort of

    To hold is to start the act of dropping.
    To drop is to complete the act of holding.
    Together you get the gestalt Jundo writes above.

  4. #4

    Re: In defense of holding on, sort of

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    To hold is to start the act of dropping.
    To drop is to complete the act of holding.
    Together you get the gestalt Jundo writes above.
    Maybe what should be said is not to analyze this too much.

    We do need to "hold on" to things in life ... from our car keys, our jobs, our home, to the people we love in our life. However, we Buddhists practice how to hold each lightly without clutching and over-attachment. As well, we learn the lesson of flowing with impermanence and letting go.

    Thus, we learn to savor and "fully be with" these people and things when we have them, then be willing to fully let each go when they go. So, for example, we can work diligently at that job or to maintain the house or relationship ... let them go when they crumple to dust. We may deeply love and savor the people we love, dropping barriers ... let them go when the time has come. We even practice how to maintain and savor our own life for each moment it lasts ... let it go when the time has come.

    As well, we open the hand of thoughts and emotions in Shikantaza, and taste SOMETHING EMBRACING AND HOLDING US FIRMLY, SWEEPING US UP INTO ITS ARMS that we have no need to clutch, cannot hold yet which cannot be released.

    But, as I said ... this is not something to over-analyze too much as an intellectual model. The reason is that it is something like riding a bicycle with a child's simple balance on a summer day ... and analyzing in words "how to ride a bicycle and keep balance". More than talking, one must learn what it feel like to ride.

    Gassho, J

  5. #5

    Re: In defense of holding on, sort of

    Tea Sensei Brisson,

    Is that not also a principle of the tea ceremony ... to be fully with the ceremony as it progresses, yet relaxed and holding all lightly? Then, when the ceremony is over it is simply over.

    Even the best tea bowls are a symbol of emptiness and impermanence, and we hold and savor each as long as it is in our hands ... then put it down and return it to the source. I suppose we even let it go when the bowl eventually drops and breaks.

    Is my description of tea ceremony off the mark?

    Gassho, J

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    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: In defense of holding on, sort of

    Jundo, you know I plead guilty to over analysis. That second post was just sort of a PS to the first, a short, succinct summing up of the process of hold/drop I was trying to get at in the first that just came to me later. I don't think I have anything else to say on the matter, at least not at this point. I have held it and now I drop it as I attempt to live it. I post these things from time to time to see if they hold up to scrutiny, because I know I will get caught here (and hopefully not dropped :shock: ) if I fall flat.

    A big YUP to all you say about holding lightly so as to drop more easily, and that thought was foundational to the original post, but I like to try and restate things in original ways as a way to make them new for me. I chew, then I digest, and then the toilet needs cleaning :mrgreen:

    I must say, though, a bike riding analogy for a life-long gimp like me is purely an intellectual exercise, because that's a skill that's entirely beyond my holding on to :wink:

    Happy cycling, everyone!

  7. #7

    Re: In defense of holding on, sort of

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    A big YUP to all you say about holding lightly so as to drop more easily, but a bike riding analogy for a life-long gimp like me is purely an intellectual exercise, because that's a skill that's entirely beyond my holding on to :wink:

    Happy cycling, everyone!
    That crossed my mind as I wrote ... but the "bike" or "chair" I speak of is not limited to place or time or two wheels or four. 8)

    Gassho, J

  8. #8
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: In defense of holding on, sort of

    Jundo wrote:
    Is that not also a principle of the tea ceremony ... to be fully with the ceremony as it progresses, yet relaxed and holding all lightly? Then, when the ceremony is over it is simply over.
    Yes this is so. Tea uses many concepts of Zen. A phrase often used in tea is "Ichi-go Ichi-e". Which roughly translates to "One time one moment". With the idea that this one time together is transient and never to repeat itself. When it is done it is done. So there is a strong idea of experiencing the present moment, in a relaxed way, and then just letting it go when our time together ends. If all comes together as intended the participants will feel this. Perhaps without direct thought of it. An example is that it is the hosts job to create a feeling of coolness in the summer and warmth in the winter. It should be done so subtly that the guests will experience this coolness or warmth rather than be distraced by thoughts of it. With that being said let me now take you into some of the other concepts of tea which are used to create a sense of the present moment.

    Before the final letting go of it all much care is put into focus on the present moment. From such things as food, flowers, architecture, to garden designe. All working together harmoniously to create this unique experience.

    Let's look at them one at a time to undestand how they all come together to create this Ichi-go Ichi-e experience. I will work from the outside in.

    First let's start with the garden. The first step into the tea garden is the first step away from the "outside world". The garden is divided in two. The outer garden, which one enters first, and inner garden. The two being separated by a gate. The inner garden is the most formal and is called the Roji(dew covered ground). The Roji is thus named after a passage from the Lotus Sutra.
    Escaping from the fire stricken habitations of the Three Phenominal Worlds they take their places on the dewy ground
    Entering the Roji is a further step in exiting the outside world. The steping stones are arranged in such a way as to slow ones pace. Further bringing you into the present moment. You can not rush through the Roji, but must rather be mindful of each step. I think of it as being similar to Kinhin.
    Before entering the Chashitsu one does a ritual purification with water at the Tsukubai(stone basin). Jundo Sensei I have seen a picture of yours and it is lovely! This is a practice adopted from Shintoism which is done before entering the shrine. The symbolism in tea we say, is to wash away the "dust of the world".

    Next in line is Architecture. The Chashitsu is built with a very unique entrance which is called the Nijiri-Guchi. It is a small doorway one must crawl through on their hands and knees. This was created by Sen No Rikyu(the man who codified tea as is studied today). There are a few theorys on how he came up with the idea. This is the one that seems most likely to me so it is the one i will share. Sen No Rikyu grew up in a port city, which at the time, was named Sakai. The Nijiri-Guchi is believed to be modeled after the low entrances to fishing boats. They were designed to be very small to keep the elements out while on the ocean. The philosophy of the Nijiri-Guchi is that everyone must humble themselves when entering the tea room. There was no royal entrance(Much later there was an addition of a Kinin-Guchi(nobleman's entrance) in some tea rooms but that is a story for another time!) and everyone whether merchant or samurai had to enter this way thus becoming equal. This was a revolutionary idea given that it was created over 500 years ago in a very cast minded society! Being as though the entrance is low, as an added metaphor we say that "chip on your shoulder" or "monkey on your back" gets knocked off when you pass through. Again with the idea of leaving problems, worries, ect behind

    Moving on to flowers. There are many rules governing the use of flowers for tea but flowers that bloom and die in a single day are most suitable. Offering more to the feeling of one time one moment encounter than flowers which last for days. It also signifies to the guests that ""hey these are all for you" as it is impossible to reuse flowers which have a life cycle of a single day.

    Lastly, food. Only food which is in harmony with the season is to be used. Anything out of season gives more of a feeling of permanence(as seasonal foods are only available for limited time) wich is undesirable. Think tropical fruit in winter?!

    As you can see there is much effort(and i have only scratched the surface here!) put into building up awareness of the present moment before letting go of it all.



    Jundo wrote:
    Even the best tea bowls are a symbol of emptiness and impermanence, and we hold and savor each as long as it is in our hands ... then put it down and return it to the source. I suppose we even let it go when the bowl eventually drops and breaks.
    Yes, however even the bowl(or any other piece of tea ware from kettles to tea caddys and other breakable utensils. But most often usually seen are bowls) which is broken can be savored. All is not lost and new life can spring forth, even from the destruction of the old. There are two ways of doing this. leave it as it is chips and all. Or if it is severly broken it can be painstakinly pieced back to gether and mended with gold lacquer. Both are expressions of the Wabi-Sabi aesthetic. In our tradition we reserve one month of the year devoted to the use of any broken teaware one may have. Of course to be most taseful a host must only use one broken piece per gathering.

    Gassho,
    John

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    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: In defense of holding on, sort of

    P.S.
    Thank you to all those who were able to read through the whole post above! Having an intense passion for the way of tea I have a hard time turning off the teacher in me, and can perhaps become.....well lets just say a little wordy on the subject ops:
    In my defense I did limit it because there is soooo much more I wanted to tell you all, but I could just imagine all the ZZZZZZ's out there if I went on! :lol:


    Gassho,
    John

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    Senior Member Ekai's Avatar
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    Re: In defense of holding on, sort of

    Quote Originally Posted by JRBrisson
    P.S.
    Thank you to all those who were able to read through the whole post above! Having an intense passion for the way of tea I have a hard time turning off the teacher in me, and can perhaps become.....well lets just say a little wordy on the subject ops:
    In my defense I did limit it because there is soooo much more I wanted to tell you all, but I could just imagine all the ZZZZZZ's out there if I went on! :lol:


    Gassho,
    John

    I can tell you really enjoy the tea ceremony. Thank you so much for sharing, I never knew what was really involved.

    Aikido relates to the same principle of holding on lightly. If you are rigid and muscle an Aikido technique, it doesn't flow and is not very effective. But if you relax completely and blend with your partner while harmonizing their energy, it just flows and is very effective. But Aikido takes a lot of practice. It also takes a lot practice in our daily life to let go of clinging and to just hold on lightly. But when you do hold on lightly and let go when it is time, there is more peace, harmony and life flows more easily like an Aikido move.

    Jodi

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    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: In defense of holding on, sort of

    Let go with a smile. :mrgreen:

    I have gained a lot from this thread. Gassho

    I don't remember which grade, but one year in middle school, we learned and practiced "the tea ceremony." I think I was the only student that really took any joy from it. :lol:

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    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: In defense of holding on, sort of

    John:

    You will notice we attempted to incorporate some of the characteristics you speak of in our own zen garden.





    I also built a tea house in our garden in British Columbia but the only items we moved here are the Buddha Statue and the Tsukubai.
    I agree with you all that there are some material things we need hold on to. Especially the tsukubai or zenibachi. :roll:
    It is carved in a beautiful piece of solid granite, weighs a ton(fig.) and can not be parted with.
    We got it for a song in a closing out sale at a garden center in Salmon Arm, B.C.

    Now i realize there will come a time when i am no longer visible to this world and i will have to drop it but, until then I will consider it to be my prime un-droppable human foible. 8)
    The inscription on the stone basin reads;
    Ware tada taru wo shiru
    hint: cut and paste the quote into Google
    OR, http://foundationphp.com/phpsolutions/cover.php

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    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: In defense of holding on, sort of

    John, I mean to ask this very gently. How hard might you be holding on to the tea ceremony? Being passionate about something, which you clearly are about the tea ceremony, can sometimes lead to holding onto that thing quite tightly, so tightly that is hard to conceptualize letting it also drop, letting it go. The process of holding on to and then letting go each aspect of the tea ceremony as it happens is one thing, but can you let the concept of tea ceremony go afterwards? Does it ever end (drop) in your mind, or is it always being held on to in there?

    We all have stories that define or at least fill out our lives, important stories, and we hold on to these stories tightly. We may tell them over and over again at the drop of a hat (saying "Did I ever tell you about..." for the 50th time), or we may expound on them ad infinitum (us professors are known for this), or we may not tell them at all out loud, only repeating them silently in our own minds (this would be me). These stories are precious and very important to hold on to, but we also have to be able to drop them by either stop telling them, stop expounding on them, or stop keeping them to ourselves. There are different ways to hold things, which then lead to different ways to drop things. But we can't drop until we are aware of the hold we have on something, or else it has a hold on us. Who might be holding what, John? Do you hold the tea ceremony, or does it hold you? My guess is that you are somewhere in between this false duality; but where? Do you know, by which I mean, are you aware?

    Both the holding and dropping of these things, these stories that we recognize as us, is what I was trying to get at when I started this thread. My practice is helping me become aware of my stories' hold on me so that I can begin to drop them. Reading your post helped me to see and explain this more clearly, or at least I hope I have done so. Thank you for that.

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    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: In defense of holding on, sort of

    Jodi wrote:
    Aikido relates to the same principle of holding on lightly. If you are rigid and muscle an Aikido technique, it doesn't flow and is not very effective. But if you relax completely and blend with your partner while harmonizing their energy, it just flows and is very effective. But Aikido takes a lot of practice. It also takes a lot practice in our daily life to let go of clinging and to just hold on lightly. But when you do hold on lightly and let go when it is time, there is more peace, harmony and life flows more easily like an Aikido move.
    Hi Jodi,

    I really agree with you here. Honestly when I was in Aikido I thought that the ladies at the dojo picked it up faster. As men, we are prone to attempting to muscle through the techniques. While that works, it is less effective in the long run and can become a crutch. I found that I always had better/more effective techniques when using my left side. It was very odd because I'm right handed?! One day I realized why. Since my left side was weaker it relied more on proper body mechanics than on muscle which I was prone to using on the dominant side!

    Gassho,
    John

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    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: In defense of holding on, sort of

    Hi Shokai,

    I enjoy the photos of the Roji you built
    You mentioned constructing a tea house. Could you share more about this?

    Ware tada taru wo shiru
    These words really help to set the mood for those who come to purify themselves at your tsukubai!

    Gassho,
    John

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    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: In defense of holding on, sort of

    Alan wrote:
    John, I mean to ask this very gently. How hard might you be holding on to the tea ceremony? Being passionate about something, which you clearly are about the tea ceremony, can sometimes lead to holding onto that thing quite tightly, so tightly that is hard to conceptualize letting it also drop, letting it go. The process of holding on to and then letting go each aspect of the tea ceremony as it happens is one thing, but can you let the concept of tea ceremony go afterwards? Does it ever end (drop) in your mind, or is it always being held on to in there?
    Hi Alan,
    You just asked the million dollar question!
    For me letting go of the Tea Ceremony would be akin to cutting off an appendage. Sure I could detach from my arm(by two definitions :shock: ) but unless the arm is causing a problem(gangrene) is there such a need? I see tea and my arm to be healthy attachments(especially when it's my arm attached to my body!). On such matters I don't let the idea of letting go become just one more thing to let go of. Don't hold on to letting go!

    Gassho,
    John

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    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: In defense of holding on, sort of

    I'm talking about wholeness here, John, both holding on and letting go. To hold the Buddha is precious, but for true liberation we also have to kill him at some time. Can you kill the tea ceremony?

    Just to be clear, I'm not asking you to, nor am I even suggesting that you need to or should, just if you can. There's lots of parts of us (little buddha selves), that we can't kill, at least not yet at this point on our Path. But isn't that what the Path is about? Most of us hold on to them out of awareness, not even knowing how desperately we cling to them. But once we become aware of that little part of the self we are holding on to, then make it precious by dropping it. If we keep holding on to something so tightly in awareness, don't we defile it? Clearly you are aware of your hold on the tea ceremony, but doesn't the tea ceremony itself tell you that you also need to drop it? Doesn't killing the tea ceremony make the tea ceremony itself even more precious than it already is?

    I'm trying to come to this concept of hold/drop as a whole process from a don't-know position. I'm investigating it in myself daily and part of that internal investigation is on here. Your views on the tea ceremony have given me a way to also investigate this externally. Thanks for your help.

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