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Thread: Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

  1. #1

    Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

    Hi,
    I found this talk by Ryushin sensei, one of the heir of Daido Roshi, he was giving beginning instruction, but it wasn't the instruction that made me want to share this, it was the explanation about completely being one with your experience that I liked...anyway let me hear your thoughts

    [youtube] [/youtube]

    Gassho


    Seiryu

  2. #2

    Re: Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

    Thanks for posting this! I listen to the zmm's (Zen Mountain Monastery's) podcasts regularly. good stuff

  3. #3
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    Re: Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

    Quote Originally Posted by Risho
    Thanks for posting this! I listen to the zmm's (Zen Mountain Monastery's) podcasts regularly. good stuff
    Ditto...was interesting to see him actually after listening to so many talks. He's much more animated than I envisioned. Was a good talk...thanks for the post!

    Gassho,

    Shawn

  4. #4

    Re: Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

    Thanks for sharing this Seiryu, I found his style quite engaging.

    Gassho

  5. #5

    Re: Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

    Thank you for the link, Seiryu.

    When I listened, I had the feeling that Ryushin is one of those folks combining a bit of psycho-analysis into his description of Zen practice and, sure enough, he was a psychiatrist before becoming a Zen priest. But all in all, a lovely description of Zen practice.

    I noticed that he tended to put bit more emphasis on breath practice than we encourage around here, but I find that very common in the mountain and rivers order. All Zazen has some point of focus, but I encourage that point to be more a place of spaciousness.

    Gassho, Jundo

  6. #6

    Re: Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

    Jundo,

    So you recommend no-thought more so than focus on the breath or counting breaths or similar?

    Thanks...

    _/_ Nate

  7. #7
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

    Quote Originally Posted by Risho
    I listen to the zmm's (Zen Mountain Monastery's) podcasts regularly. good stuff
    I'll have to download some and check it out!

    Gassho,
    John

  8. #8

    Re: Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

    Quote Originally Posted by natezenmaster
    Jundo,

    So you recommend no-thought more so than focus on the breath or counting breaths or similar?

    Thanks...

    _/_ Nate
    Hi Nate,

    The phrase "no thought" is very misleading in our way, because folks get the impression that they are to kill all thinking.

    I wrote about the focus of Zazen here ...

    There are many small variations in Shikantaza, teacher to teacher. One has to place and focus (and simultaneously not place/focus) the mind somewhere!

    So, for example, Uchiyama Roshi was a "bring your attention back to the posture" guy. Nishijima Roshi is a "focus on keeping the spine straight" fellow, and there are others who emphasize focusing on the breath or the Hara (also called the "Tanden", the traditional "center of gravity" of the body, and a center of Qi energy in traditional Chinese medicine) ...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dantian

    Some recommend following the breath for a lifetime, others for just a time.

    All are forms of Shikantaza ... so long as the objectless nature of sitting is maintained even if focused on an object.

    In fact, all forms of Shikantaza have an "object of meditation", a place to focus or place the mind to build concentration and quiet the thoughts (hopefully to soften the border and pass through "object" and "subject"), while dropping all effort to attain and releasing all judgments. At Treeleaf, I teach counting the breaths, or observing the breath, merely as a way to settle the mind for beginners or to settle down on particularly cloudy, stormy days. As our central "objectless" object of meditation, I recommend open, spacious sitting centered on everything and nothing at all ... sitting with open, spacious awareness ... sitting with the whole world but without being lost in trains of thought (which I also sometimes describe as having the mind focused on "no place and everyplace at once"). That open stillness is our "object of concentration". My reason for that is simply that I believe it makes it a bit easier to take this practice off the Zafu and out into the world.

    If you need a place to feel you are "placing the mind", I recommend on the top of the palm in the left hand while in the Mudra (another traditional place for the focus in Shikantaza). Yet, keep that "spacious, unobstructed, everywhere and no one place" emphasis.

    If you have not read it before (or even if you have), Uchiyama has one of the most elegant "diagrams" of Shikantaza's way in his book "Openning the Hand of Thought". Lovely.

    Please go here, search the word "line", find page 52, entitled "Waking Up To Life", and read to page 60 (about the diagram drawing on page 54) ... notice especially the part where he says "Zazen is not being glued to line ZZ'" (what I might call "returning to the clear, open, blue sky 10,00 times and 10,000 times again")

    http://books.google.com/books?id=fOU_1v ... ne&f=false

    Whether you focus on the posture, the breath, the top of the left hand, the Hara, or the sensation of clear, open blue sky (with clouds drifting out) that I recommend ... one should eventually sometimes attain to an open, unobstructed, holding everything without discrimination or division feeling ... What Uchiyama calls "line ZZ" in his essay, and what I call clear open sky.

    However, I say "sometimes" (and Uchiyama says "don't stay glued to ZZ") because the whole thing is the trip, reject nothing ... not the thoughts and emotions that drag you away from ZZ", not the clouds which sometimes block the clear blue sky. It is all life, all perfectly what it is. Sometimes it will be "bare awareness", sometimes awareness of this or that. Drop all judgments, drop all goals and need to get someplace else or to be any other way.

    Yet, nonetheless, return again and again to ZZ, to the clear blue sky (allowing the thoughts and emotion clouds to drift away). If you notice you are engaged in trains of thought, release them, drop them, and return to ZZ. Repeat endlessly.

    All that, at once, is "Shikantaza".
    In Shikantaza practice as encouraged around here, we teach counting the breaths, or observing the breath, merely as a way to settle the mind for beginners. (After a few weeks or months, the training wheels come off, and we begin open, spacious sitting centered on everything and nothing at all.) On the other hand as mentioned, different teachers, even within the Soto school, will teach somewhat different perspectives on this, and observing the breath can even be a lifetime practice for some!

    However, generally, we do not do anything with the breath, except to allow it to find its own, natural , easy rhythm. Master Dogen (the founder of the Soto lineage in Japan) did not really say very much about breathing. In fact, I often think that he could have said more (breathing is so important in the martial arts, for example). But, Dogen did not really seem to say much more than "know that long breaths are long, short breaths are short ... and that they are neither long nor short'. And breathe from the tanden [the physical center of gravity located in the abdomen three finger widths below and two finger widths behind the navel], ... in other words, breathe deeply ... but know that they come and go no where.

    It is, after all, goalless "just sitting".

    We usually just let the breath settle into a natural rhythm. I find that 2 or 3 breaths per minute is a sign of a very balanced Zazen. Let it come and go so naturally that you forget you are breathing.

    I gave a "sit-a-long" talk on this as part of our "Zazen for Beginners" series, and I hope that you will have a look at that (and the whole series ... with Taigu too) when you have a chance ...:

    viewtopic.php?p=41798#p41798

    Gassho, J

  9. #9

    Re: Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

    Jundo sensei,

    Thanks for the post and repost. I practice as you instruct though if I get taken away by a train of delicious thoughts (which is not an uncommon occurrence) then I tend to use the breath to resettle and then dissipate away.. or perhaps expand.. from awareness of breath to just awareness.. so to speak..

    I also much enjoy the Opening the Hand of Thought Book.

    Thanks again... _/_ Nate

  10. #10
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

    I wish I could keep up on more of these lectures, and even sit-a-longs that are being posted-- I share a room and there are very often a lot of things going on and I can't add a lecture to the mix-- only at certain times of the day.

  11. #11
    disastermouse
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    Re: Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

    Wow, still pretty psychological - still pretty goal-oriented. Doubtless there are benefits to training the mind to stay on one thing, but what about addressing the ego that thinks it chooses a focus point?

    Have I misunderstood the talk, or is what he describes still a far cry from Shikantaza? I'm reminded of part of The Unfettered Mind:

    If one puts his mind in the action of his opponent's body, his mind will be taken by the action of his opponent's body.

    If he puts his mind in his opponent's sword, his mind will be taken by that sword.

    If he puts his mind in thoughts of his opponent's intention to strike him, his mind will be taken by thoughts of his opponent's intention to strike him.

    If he puts his mind in his own sword, his mind will be taken by his own sword.

    If he puts his mind in his own intention of not being struck, his mind will be taken by his intention of not being struck.

    If he puts his mind in the other man's stance, his mind will be taken by the other man's stance.

    What this means is that there is no place to put the mind.
    I first heard this passage in a Steve Hagen talk. He says that after saying there is no place to put the mind, students almost invariably reply, "Oh right, no place to put the mind." Then they ask some less obvious version of, "Ok, so when I sit zazen, where do I place the mind?"


    Gassho,

    Chet

  12. #12

    Re: Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Wow, still pretty psychological - still pretty goal-oriented. Doubtless there are benefits to training the mind to stay on one thing, but what about addressing the ego that thinks it chooses a focus point?

    Have I misunderstood the talk, or is what he describes still a far cry from Shikantaza? I'm reminded of part of The Unfettered Mind:

    If one puts his mind in the action of his opponent's body, his mind will be taken by the action of his opponent's body.

    If he puts his mind in his opponent's sword, his mind will be taken by that sword.

    If he puts his mind in thoughts of his opponent's intention to strike him, his mind will be taken by thoughts of his opponent's intention to strike him.

    If he puts his mind in his own sword, his mind will be taken by his own sword.

    If he puts his mind in his own intention of not being struck, his mind will be taken by his intention of not being struck.

    If he puts his mind in the other man's stance, his mind will be taken by the other man's stance.

    What this means is that there is no place to put the mind.
    I first heard this passage in a Steve Hagen talk. He says that after saying there is no place to put the mind, students almost invariably reply, "Oh right, no place to put the mind." Then they ask some less obvious version of, "Ok, so when I sit zazen, where do I place the mind?"


    Gassho,

    Chet
    Lovely Chet. Your (non-goal oriented, nothing to aim at) bowling is still hot.

    Gassho, J

  13. #13
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    Re: Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Have I misunderstood the talk, or is what he describes still a far cry from Shikantaza?

    I have followed MRO for some time now and actually will practice there in September. I discussed their 'style' with Jundo in the past and I think the key take away with this lineage is keeping in mind they are a hybrid Rinzai/Soto school. So each teacher at MRO (and some that have moved on to other things) seem to have a bit of a different weighing on which area they are more focused on. Both Ryushin & Shugen Senseis, I personally find, are more introspection focused than Daido Roshi was. They extol shikantaza, however their talks are primarily koan focused which I think is the reason for this type of discourses.

    For me, while I enjoy reading koans and hearing discourses on them, my practice is shikantaza and choose not to mix it as such. I think Shobo Genzo sums up my thinking nicely:

    "...without devoting yourself to one thing, you cannot penetrate the one wisdom."

    Gassho,

    Shawn

  14. #14
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

    That 4.6 seconds that he talks about if fairly accu-

    What? Huh? Oh yeah...

    -rate. Bt the last thing my mon-

    Umm... uhh... right, got it...

    -key mind needs is a stop watch.

  15. #15

    Re: Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

    Hello,

    just two novice cent-thoughts regarding the underlying question of "when is Shikantaza truly Shikantaza".

    In my limited understanding, not only are there different flavours of Shikantaza being taught, but depending on the teacher what is being taught as Shikantaza at a particular time might be more closely associated with Shamatha, and sometimes with Vipashyana at another time. Now I don't want to open another can of worms here to dissect these broad standard divisions within certain currents of Buddhist meditation, but I would just like to point to the fact that although people always use this very comprehensive term Shikantaza, the setting and the people who are being taught must be taken into account. Some teachers might see the need to underline the concentration aspect a bit more (especially at the beginning of one's practise), others will stress the spacious insight aspect. It all depends on the time, place and person receiving the teachings as well as the teacher.

    Gassho,

    Hans

  16. #16
    disastermouse
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    Re: Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans
    Hello,

    just two novice cent-thoughts regarding the underlying question of "when is Shikantaza truly Shikantaza".

    In my limited understanding, not only are there different flavours of Shikantaza being taught, but depending on the teacher what is being taught as Shikantaza at a particular time might be more closely associated with Shamatha, and sometimes with Vipashyana at another time. Now I don't want to open another can of worms here to dissect these broad standard divisions within certain currents of Buddhist meditation, but I would just like to point to the fact that although people always use this very comprehensive term Shikantaza, the setting and the people who are being taught must be taken into account. Some teachers might see the need to underline the concentration aspect a bit more (especially at the beginning of one's practise), others will stress the spacious insight aspect. It all depends on the time, place and person receiving the teachings as well as the teacher.

    Gassho,

    Hans
    Hans,

    Allow me to respectfully disagree (gassho). In the White Plum lineage, Shikantaza is taught much as it is taught here - the difference being that one doesn't engage in it until after koan practice is finished (usually). I remember when my ex-girlfriend asked me how I meditated (she was a White Plum student), and when I described my practice, she said, "So you do Shikantaza?" There was an air of disapproval in her question, as she thought I was practicing Shikantaza prematurely. In a way, White Plum places Shikantaza on an even higher pedestal than do we here at Treeleaf...beginning students are almost in awe of it, as one only practices it after he or she is very advanced.

    If we stretch the term 'Shikantaza' to cover any sort of practice, we dilute the meaning of the word, IMHO. Some limited concentration may in fact be taught in a school where the emphasis is Shikantaza - especially to beginners, and it may be called 'Shikantaza' - however, the talks and general push is away from concentration practice, away from the identification with an observer, and away from methods with foci or goals. In Hagen's Sangha, breath-counting is dropped as soon as possible - in our Sangha, I'm not sure it's taught at all. Please correct me if I'm mistaken.

    Whether or not we agree on semantics, do you not agree that what is taught here in Treeleaf Sangha is very much different than what is discussed in the talk in the original post?

    Once again, respectfully,

    Chet

  17. #17

    Re: Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

    Hello Chet,

    believe it or not, but I fully agree with your last post. IMHO Jundo and Taigu have a very specific view regarding Shikantaza, a view I am happy to embrace as my own daily practise. However to me at least the fact is that the term Shikantaza is being interpreted in a slightly different way depending on the teacher. My bottom line is that Jundo and Taigu repeatedly explain their take on Shikantaza, which is what I practise I believe

    The bottom line to me at this moment is
    a) one should be aware of what one's own Sangha/lineage means by the term and practise
    b) one should be aware that there are related approaches possibly even going by the same name that might help or confuse one's own practise.

    My original posting was just a quick-fire thought that most people do indeed involuntarily pass through a period where they are more working on trying to keep up some level of concentration, even if their aim is Shikantaza as we understand it in the long run.


    Gassho and all the best,

    Hans

  18. #18

    Re: Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

    Hi,

    Yes, let me make this simple (maybe too simple).

    There are many flavors of meditation, and Zazen, seeking calm, centering or some intensity of focus, or special mental states or experiences, or cultivating insight. That is fine.

    And sometimes, some teacher will call a flavor of Zazen as "Shikantaza" even though the flavor seems to be about calming, centering or attaining some intensity of focus, or even attaining special mental states or experiences or insights. That is fine too. No one chef has the exclusive recipe for tomato soup, and one can call anything by any name ya want!

    However, I believe that real "Shikantaza" is the Calming beyond calm or chaos, the Centering that includes everything and all, the seeking of that which cannot be sought and is found by "to the marrow" not looking or needing to look ... like a dog giving up the hunt for its own tail that makes that tail seem farther and farther away ...




    ... the Clean which includes clean and dirty (yet we scrub scrub scrub nonetheless), the most miraculous and wondrous of "special states" right here all along, in both the mind bending and most "ordinary".

    And while we seek no special insights from this ... world changing insights arise.

    Among all forms of "meditation" ... this radical stopping and stilling dancing amid and as the constant change/moving of all life and the self's selfish games ... is perhaps the most subtle and sublime of all practices.

    Now, while I do not practice Shikantaza as merely counting or following the breath, I did recommend that just today to someone whose seems in a real stormy state of mind, who might need it for a time ...


    I'm exhausted and burnt out, and wasted a lot of time now (before the summer even started) not recovering. I am only now starting to understand why my mind is so overactive that I am restless, anxious, can't follow through on projects (my final papers from spring semester are *still* not done!), can't sit still
    Well, at least you have located the most immediate source of the chaos ... right between your eyes. Plus, yes, cutting back on over-stimulation from media and other outside sources is helpful (one reason that Zen adepts appreciate time in empty shacks in the deep mountains ... with just the sound of the river). Usually, we sit with "what is" and all the chaos ... finding the Quiet and Stillness which sweeps in both motion and stillness, quiet and noise. However, sometimes it can be overwhelming for any of us ... and a quiet, non-stimulating setting helps.

    Also, although we usually sit with "just what is", you sound like a perfect candidate for a time of breath counting in your Zazen ... until you can calm the mental storms down a bit. Just focus on the breath at the point where it enters the nostrils ... and count from 1 to 10 each time you reach the top of a breath. Focus only on that, letting all other extraneous thoughts go or just float along. Do this practice until you feel settled and can return to "just sitting".

    viewtopic.php?p=57858#p57858
    Gassho, J

  19. #19
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    Re: Zazen Talk by Ryushin sensei

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    There was an air of disapproval in her question, as she thought I was practicing Shikantaza prematurely. In a way, White Plum places Shikantaza on an even higher pedestal than do we here at Treeleaf...beginning students are almost in awe of it, as one only practices it after he or she is very advanced.
    Just for the record, I was "allowed" by a White Plum teacher to sit shikantaza in sesshin without entering into Koan study, and they do have students at Zen Mountain Monastery who do not start on koan study for various reasons but go from following the breath to shikantaza. But I agree there is some (mis-)understanding among students as you describe it.

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