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Jundo
02-17-2017, 10:15 AM
Dear All Path Finders,

We continue with the sections "Path" and "Transcendence?" on pages 9 through 18.

A few suggested questions ... they are just suggested themes, so feel free to say something else or nothing ...

-Before you began your Buddhist Practice (and/or now), how do you picture or imagine "nirvana"? What would it be like to finally realize "nirvana"? (Don't feel the need to be logical about it, and please feel free to speak from your imagination. What do you hope that "nirvana" will be like?).

-Do you lean toward a "transcendent" interpretation of Nirvana as a realm unborn, or a more "immanent" psychological interpretation as an overcoming of craving and attachment, or both, or neither, or something else?

-Does it matter to you that we may never know what was the "original teaching" of the historical Buddha?

-Would later traditions and interpretations that deviate from some "original teaching" be less legitimate?

-What do you feel about the notion of Buddhist doctrinal development as, rather than "branches that diverge from the same tree trunk", something better described as "a braided river [of] multiple interacting streams that do not derive from a single source"?

-What is your feeling about the Joseph Campbell quote?

Gassho, Jundo

SatToday

PS - Please remember this about "Beyond Word & Letters Book Club" participation ...


Feel free to talk among yourselves here too, and comment on each others' comments, if you want. Visualize that we are all sitting in a circle with coffee and donuts (mmmm, Donuts!) at the local book store (those are becoming more and more imaginary too!). Everyone says their piece if they wish, but you can also ask each other questions or talk of impressions and insights from other members' words if you want.

However, okay not to as well, and just lay back and listen too. You can just stay for the coffee and donuts too, all free. :)



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(IN MODERATION!)

RonanJH
02-17-2017, 12:16 PM
The Campbell quote is wonderfully provocative but may end up being too rigidly binary. I have an Anglican priest friend who can happily accept that much of the Bible is metaphor but who draws the line at the resurrection of Jesus, on the literal truth of which his own faith partly rests.

s@t
Ronan

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Myosha
02-17-2017, 02:23 PM
Hello,

Nirvana is still extinction?

Original teaching: Four Truths, Eight-Fold Path, Realization, Pass it on. No, guess it's never to be known. *wink*.

Joseph Cambell has always been dialectical. So . . . .?


Gassho
Myosha
sat today

Mp
02-17-2017, 03:11 PM
Thank you Jundo. =)

Gassho
Shingen

s@today

Byrne
02-18-2017, 02:06 AM
I truly don't care about the historical accuracy of the entire Theravada and Mahayana traditions. I don't care if Buddha or Bodhidharma or Dogen ever existed in the first place. What matters most to me is my personal experience engaging with these teachings while taking refuge in the three treasures.

I love learning about Buddhist history. I love reading sutras. I love engaging with a sangha and learning from other perspectives and challenges. The value I place on Buddhism is informed by its place in my life and how the teachings manifest themselves before me.

I've stopped thinking about the more fantastical stuff in terms of metaphors vs facts. I just take it as is and seek to understand it with the guidance of the sangha to the best of my abilities.

Gassho

Sat Today

Jakuden
02-18-2017, 02:57 AM
Gosh this reminds me of "A Heart to Heart Chat With Old Master Gudo." Nishijima Roshi, if I understood it correctly, put Buddhism in a third category of religion--where the first was a transcendent or idealistic form, the second was a materialistic form, and the third was based on action. This is the "Middle Way" that contains all other ways. We cannot meet the extreme of idealism, nor can we find peace in the cold world of materialism.

I honestly can't remember what I ever thought enlightenment was, but I think in the beginning I actually felt it to be a scary, nihilistic letting-go of all attachments. Probably because I came to it from a materialistic, anti-religious POV. Bringing a bit of the idealistic into it, as in the Four Vows and the Eightfold Path, brought it alive. (Whatever it is. I still don't know).

Gassho
Jakuden
SatToday


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Myosha
02-18-2017, 07:53 AM
Gosh this reminds me of "A Heart to Heart Chat With Old Master Gudo." Nishijima Roshi, if I understood it correctly, put Buddhism in a third category of religion--where the first was a transcendent or idealistic form, the second was a materialistic form, and the third was based on action. This is the "Middle Way" that contains all other ways. We cannot meet the extreme of idealism, nor can we find peace in the cold world of materialism.

I honestly can't remember what I ever thought enlightenment was, but I think in the beginning I actually felt it to be a scary, nihilistic letting-go of all attachments. Probably because I came to it from a materialistic, anti-religious POV. Bringing a bit of the idealistic into it, as in the Four Vows and the Eightfold Path, brought it alive. (Whatever it is. I still don't know).

Gassho
Jakuden
SatToday


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You.

Wish smiles could be all over.

Don't have PC; 'K?


Gassho
Myosha
sat today

Ryumon
02-18-2017, 09:40 AM
This begins the most important part of this book: the question of whether awakening is immanent or transcendent.

Going back to my comments on the previous section, I think a good way of defining a religion is that it is a system of thought that is based on a transcendent goal. Just as Christians live to attain heaven, certain Buddhist sects live to attain good rebirth, and eventually nirvana. And remember that religion, specially that which tells people to be good now so they have a good afterlife, is a great way to control people and make them satisfied with their (often dismal) lot in life.

But we, as Soto Zen practitioners, don't think that way. If, as Loy suggests in this section and later in the book, awakening is immanent, then this fits with Dogen's idea that (I paraphrase) the very act of zazen is enlightenment itself. In Dogen's view, awakening is immanent. "To study the self is to forget the self." I'm far from an expert on Dogen's writings, but does he ever espouse the idea of nirvana as a transcendent event?

As for the original teachings of the Buddha, it's obvious that we'll never know, unless, by miracle, some scrolls are found that are older than the ones that Loy mentions. (Hence the criticism of Stephen Batchelor who, in an attempt to find "the original Buddha," is cleanly picking and choosing among a vast collection of texts.)

But, again, as Soto Zen practitioners, does that matter? We look more toward Dogen and his followers for inspiration. Sure, Dogen's writings are based on what he knew of Buddhist sutras - the few he knew, since, most likely, there weren't that many collected in his time - but it's his special sauce that changed the dharma to take on its zen flavor.

If, as Loy says, what really matters is that the Buddha taught "dukkha and how to end it," it seems to me that focusing on those (profound) teachings is more than sufficient. The Buddha certainly discussed many other things during his many years of teaching, but we don't know if anything that has been handed down in the Pali canon is true, or if it is embellishment.

Joseph Campbell gets it right, as he does so often. Literal interpretations of texts as old as those of the various religions of the world are ludicrous. We know, for example, that the bible was aggregated by committee, and that many texts that discorded with the rest were cast aside. We also know that metaphor is a powerful way to tell stories, especially in pre-literary society, as those tales made it easier to remember the ideas that were being presented.

In response to Jundo's first question, my first contacts with the dharma were with Tibetan Buddhism, which I followed for many years. One is indoctrinated that "nirvana" is something that no one can achieve, but that there's a path to achieve it. If you're lucky, you'll get reborn as a human again in a few gazillion kalpas. This made it seem too magical, and contrasted with the down-to-earth teachings of the Dalai Lama and others, who did focus on living in this world. (Not that they ignored that concept of nirvana; they just knew it didn't sell very well.) I never bought into this, and it was a relief to discover that, in zen, there is no vast cosmology of gods and demons to overcome, but just an idea of being. To be fair, since I've been practicing zen, I don't think about awakening; it's not a goal, and it's not something that I even see mentioned often in the books I read.

Gassho,

Kirk

#sat

AlanLa
02-20-2017, 05:01 PM
Nirvana meant peace when I was young, and it still does, but I define that peace differently now. It's more about immanence than transcendence for me these days. What good is the hereafter if the here-now isn't taken care of?

Once I got old enough to think more independently, I stopped buying into the literal interpretation of the Bible as a set of facts. Even as little kid, I remember having questions that did not get satisfactory answers. I was confirmed as a Lutheran because that was the thing to do. One of my confirmation classmates had to drop out right at the end because she said she didn't believe the resurrection story, and I always admired her for that. My faith in God is strong, however, so I am not an atheist. Anyway, it doesn't bother me in the least that the Buddhist canon might not be completely literal. My faith in and practice of Buddhism has zero to do with those fantastic stories; they are not helpful to me in any way whatsoever. What is helpful is the basic teachings: the four noble truths, the vows and precepts, the eight-fold path, etc., all the tools that help guide my actions on the Path to immanent nirvana.

I find the dogmatic belief in the ancient teachings of the Bible and Buddhism miss the point and sometimes lead to troublesome behaviors in the name of chosen designated dogma. I think Zen's middle way has it about as right as can be. But if people want to take different streams to get to the same place of compassion towards others in the present moment, then that's fine with me. We each need to find our own Path, or river. Specific arguments about what the Buddha did and did not teach miss the broader point and can sometimes be silly. I mean, he taught a lot of stuff! I didn't realize the Pali canon was so huge.

Joseph Campbell has had a huge influence on my thinking in these matters. In his fantastic series of interviews with Bill Moyers, I remember him saying something about how an understanding of the old stories as myths rather than factual realities can actually deepen a person's understanding of their faith due to their archetypal nature, which seems like a lot more of a middle way than his quote in the book, and that's not how it worked for me when I changed my thinking on any of the old religious stories. I generally find dichotomous thinking to be in error on both sides of the artificial divide, and my not being an atheist is an example of how that quote errs.

Hoseki
02-20-2017, 05:32 PM
Hi folks,

I definitely lean towards the immanent interpretation of Nirvana. I suspect it has to do with my intellectual history (perhaps conceptual karma is a better definition.) Where I went to school
what I did there, the influence of my Father etc... I recall getting upset one time when I a close friend of the family (a good Catholic) told me that dogs didn't have souls and didn't go to heaven. I think that might have made me skeptical
of the whole thing. Either way, these influences steered my thinking towards of life as a one time deal and a kind of materalist-reductionist world view (I'm not sure if I still hold that.) Either way, the idea of Nirvana as immanent fit
better with the other ideas floating around in the "old Duder's head."


I don't think it matters to me much if we never know the "original teaching" in fact it might be better if we don't. It might be pretty disappointing :) But in all seriousness it could be used as a way to try and discredit newer traditions. In addition,
ambiguity in the original source can also promote the development of newer traditions as new people come to grips with the various teachings.

I found Campbell's quote to be amusing and I think we can see what hes talking about when we look around. However, when we are dealing with such ideas I think its good to keep in mind that they are very broad brush strokes and there will be a lot
of people who don't fit neatly into either category.

Anywho just a few of my thoughts.

Gassho
Sattoday
Hoseki

Hoko
02-21-2017, 01:25 AM
-Before you began your Buddhist Practice (and/or now), how do you picture or imagine "nirvana"? What would it be like to finally realize "nirvana"? (Don't feel the need to be logical about it, and please feel free to speak from your imagination. What do you hope that "nirvana" will be like?).

I remember Brad Warner quoting Nishijima Roshi when asked "can a person realize her own enlightenment?" responded "no".
This gets to the heart of the matter. If we can't realize our own enlightenment then why bother? This is what Kodo Sawaki Roshi would call "ordinary person thinking".
We're an attainment oriented species. Everybody's tuned in to WII-FM "What's In It For Me?"
I was no different. When I started Zen practice nearly a decade ago I was VERY attainment oriented. I still struggle with it now and then.
I imagined nirvana would be some magical thing that would transform me into something else. But it's not. So if you can't realize your own enlightenment then why bother?
If nirvana is satori or kensho that occurs as part of deep samadhi then it's the complete extinguishing of the self.
If the self is utterly destroyed during meditation then how would you recognize it? It would be like being knocked unconscious. How is that helpful to ordinary life?
Why would the Buddha preach "suffering and the cessation of suffering" and then recommend making yourself black out? I don't think that's it at all.
I imagine nirvana to be a fluid thing, like a skill. Some days you're on point, others not so much. It's here, it's now, some days coming, some days going. Just like life.
By becoming less reactive, more aware of both the relative and the absolute we become liberated. We can't be caught.
To me THAT'S nirvana: being so skilled at the dance of emptiness and form that we can slough off attachments before they lead to "rebirth" into a realm of suffering.


-Do you lean toward a "transcendent" interpretation of Nirvana as a realm unborn, or a more "immanent" psychological interpretation as an overcoming of craving and attachment, or both, or neither, or something else?

Neither. Both. Something else. If it's transcendent then what are you transcending? Stepping "outside" of ordinary life is nihilism. There is no "outside" reality. If it's immanent then it's nothing more than Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Hegelian Dialectic. It becomes just another brittle philosophy that inevitably fails to capture the vicissitudes of actual existence.
In my experience most of the suffering in my life has come from trying to categorize reality into "this or that". The greatest moments of peace have come from simply halting that process and bowing to IT.
As-it-is-ness.
And not in a "just accept it like a big, fat doormat" kind of way but in the way the Buddha described pulling out the arrow without stressing over the make and model. Flathead, spade shaped? Who cares, get it out!


-Does it matter to you that we may never know what was the "original teaching" of the historical Buddha?

Nope. I like this Soto Zen practice. It resonates with me. But I also know that it's an interpretation of the "original teaching". I have spent some time studying the more "traditional" vipassana flavors of Buddhism and while I enjoy the historical aspects of the Pali canon I recognize that it's always going to be someone else's interpretation. Similarly I enjoy reading koans but to really get the most out of them you sometimes need some historical understanding so you can sort out the cultural references. Having someone like Jundo or Shishin Wick perch metaphorically on your shoulder and guide you towards the "original teaching" is far more helpful to this ordinary person than is groaning "MU" endlessly. We're all in this together and if we're going to work towards the end of suffering we need to breathe life into the teachings so that they remain relevant and applicable to modern life. Ananda's teachings were inevitably going to be different from the Buddha's and Jundo's teachings are going to be different from Nishijima's and that's OK! Different hands pointing to the same moon.


-Would later traditions and interpretations that deviate from some "original teaching" be less legitimate?

I would argue the reverse is true. The more culturally relevant the teachings the more effective they are.


-What do you feel about the notion of Buddhist doctrinal development as, rather than "branches that diverge from the same tree trunk", something better described as "a braided river [of] multiple interacting streams that do not derive from a single source"?

As long as the water is the same I'm fine with it.


-What is your feeling about the Joseph Campbell quote?

I think it's a pretty good argument for the non-dualism baked into Buddhist philosophy.
A metaphor is there for a reason just as a word is there to convey meaning.
The word is not the thing and the metaphor is not the essence of the teaching.
If you allow yourself to become mired in fundamentalism; confusing blind acceptance as some sort of merit badge proving your piousness you've missed the point entirely.
And if you can't see past the metaphors and accept the underpinning ideas behind them then you're just as lost.


Gassho,
Hoko
#SatToday

Shokai
02-21-2017, 01:55 AM
being so skilled at the dance of emptiness and form that we can slough off attachments before they lead to "rebirth" into a realm of suffering.

Ya gotta love it; thanks Hoko:encouragement:
gassho,

sattoday

Byrne
02-21-2017, 07:25 AM
A metaphor is there for a reason just as a word is there to convey meaning.
The word is not the thing and the metaphor is not the essence of the teaching.
If you allow yourself to become mired in fundamentalism; confusing blind acceptance as some sort of merit badge proving your piousness you've missed the point entirely.
And if you can't see past the metaphors and accept the underpinning ideas behind them then you're just as lost.


Gassho,
Hoko
#SatToday

Well said.

Gassho

Sat Today

Ryumon
02-21-2017, 09:35 AM
If nirvana is satori or kensho that occurs as part of deep samadhi then it's the complete extinguishing of the self.
If the self is utterly destroyed during meditation then how would you recognize it? It would be like being knocked unconscious. How is that helpful to ordinary life?

Why do you say this? First, I don't believe it would be "the complete extinguishing of the self," but rather a profound, visceral understanding of the impermanence and emptiness of the self. Why would that be like being knocked unconscious?

Gassho,

Kirk

Sat

Jeremy
02-21-2017, 12:33 PM
Interesting section this. I think it's worth noting that David Loy could have used the Bahiya Sutta alone to show the ambiguity he's talking about.

He quotes from the Bahiya Sutta on p17 "In the seen, there is only the seen...", using this as an example demonstrating the immanent nature of nirvana. If you take a look at this sutta e.g. at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.1.10.irel.html, you'll find right at the end another passage quoted 2 pages earlier on p15 "Where neither water nor yet earth...". But this passage was used to exemplify the transcendent nature of nirvana.

So what is the Bahiya Sutta saying - does it point to the transcendent or to the immanent nature of Nirvana? The Bahiya Sutra is a good story, and when you read the sutra as a whole, rather than relying on quotes taken out of context, it's pretty clear that you've got to be dead to attain Nirvana, implying that Nirvana is something transcendent... (If you don't know the story, you'll have to read it to see what I'm talking about).

...Or, speaking from modern perspective, is the story of Bahiya a myth, and we modern folks are so clever (I'm being sarcastic) that we don't need to take it literally? In that case the 'death' of Bahiya can be interpreted figuratively and his attainment of Nirvana can be seen as immanent.

Just one more note - reading Joseph Campbell's quote in context is another good story (p1 and p2 if you click "Look inside" at https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Transforming-Religious-Metaphor-Collected-Works-Joseph-Campbell/1608681874/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487678573&sr=8-1&keywords=campbell+thou+art+that)

Not that any of this is terribly important - just an entertaining way to pass the time (-:

Jeremy
SatToday

Tairin
02-21-2017, 12:39 PM
-Does it matter to you that we may never know what was the "original teaching" of the historical Buddha?

-Would later traditions and interpretations that deviate from some "original teaching" be less legitimate?

No to both questions. The way I see it Buddhism isn't about one man. The teachings of Buddhism reflects the collective wisdom handed down through the ages. It continues today. Jundo and the Unsui here but also the members of the Sangha just through their postings and responses. I try to have an open mind to receive the wisdom.

The Buddhism I have come to know is a good set of guiding principles to live my life by. Whether they come directly from the historical Buddha or have been refined over time doesn't matter to me.

Gassho
Warren
Sat last night

Hoko
02-21-2017, 02:05 PM
Why do you say this? First, I don't believe it would be "the complete extinguishing of the self," but rather a profound, visceral understanding of the impermanence and emptiness of the self. Why would that be like being knocked unconscious?

Gassho,

Kirk

Sat
OK, so first understand that we're discussing what we'd "imagine nirvana to be" so this is all just hypothetical intellectualizing. There's a few interpretations of annata (no self) that you can kick around. For the sake of the argument I picked 2; call them intrinsic and experiential. Intrinsically (or perhaps "absolutely") no-self means there's no self to experience "no self"! No memory of the experience would remain. There is no self to remember the experience of no self! Maybe that condition exists; I can only guess. Maybe one can attain swami-like powers where brain activity can be stopped or the heart rate slowed while lying on a bed of nails? If so I don't think this is what the Buddha intended nor can I see it in any way helpful for achieving the end of suffering. How would this be any different from dying in a frozen lake and then being revived by paramedics? Is that a process we're aiming to replicate on the zafu? I don't think that's it; but again, this is all hypothetical.
The other angle to look at it is experiential. To be able to perceive the emptiness of the self while at the same time, on another channel, maintaining a point of view and a memory of the experience. To me, this seems more apropos to real life. In real life we have two completely opposite truths existing in perfect harmony. Society tells us you can't be both for AND against something! That's illogical! But reality isn't always logical. Sometimes we're perfectly comfortable with the temperature in the room and at the same time our spouse is "freezing to death". Who's right?
So perhaps I bungled my explanation. Perhaps we're saying the same thing but in a different way? Who knows? People have been trying to articulate nirvana and annata and satori and failing miserably for centuries. Why would I be any better at it? 😉

Gassho,
Hōkō
#SatToday

Ryumon
02-21-2017, 03:32 PM
Yes, but isn't that very different from what they say in Zen? There's that thing about rivers being rivers and mountains being mountains before and after enlightenment… So that suggests that everything is the same — in the Zen point of view — but we just understand it differently.

Edit: Heres one version of the quote I found:

"At first, I saw mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers. Then, I saw mountains were not mountains and rivers were not rivers. Finally, I see mountains again as mountains, and rivers again as rivers."

Gassho,

Kirk

Hoko
02-21-2017, 03:52 PM
Yes, but isn't that very different from what they say in Zen? There's that thing about rivers being rivers and mountains being mountains before and after enlightenment… So that suggests that everything is the same — in the Zen point of view — but we just understand it differently.

Edit: Heres one version of the quote I found:

"At first, I saw mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers. Then, I saw mountains were not mountains and rivers were not rivers. Finally, I see mountains again as mountains, and rivers again as rivers."

Gassho,

Kirk
I totally don't disagree. I think we're having a non-argument. 😁

Gassho,
Hōkō
#SatToday

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Byrne
02-22-2017, 04:20 AM
Jeremy,

Thanks for sharing the whole Sutta. I enjoy it very much. I'm not sure that the Buddha is saying Nirvans requires one to be dead. Parinirvana refers to the physical death of one who had attained nirvana. Since the Buddha who is perfectly enlightened was alive in the story, that doesn't really make sense.

Gassho

Sat Today

Jeremy
02-22-2017, 10:22 AM
Jeremy,

Thanks for sharing the whole Sutta. I enjoy it very much. I'm not sure that the Buddha is saying Nirvans requires one to be dead. Parinirvana refers to the physical death of one who had attained nirvana. Since the Buddha who is perfectly enlightened was alive in the story, that doesn't really make sense.

Gassho

Sat Today

Thanks Byrne, you're right. I guess in terms of nibbana and paranibbana, when for Bahiya "in the seen is only the seen...", he attains 'Nibbana with remainders'. Then at the end after he has died, he is confirmed as having attained 'final Nibbana', or 'Parinibbana'.

With respect to David Loy's question about the immanent or transcendent nature of Nirvana, in this story, the Nibbana state is immanent whereas the Parinibbana state is transcendent. The ultimate goal is transcendent, with an immanent goal on the way there. That's David Loy's ambiguity problem solved, isn't it (-:

Jeremy
SatToday

Jakuden
02-22-2017, 04:37 PM
After reading through this discussion several times, it starts to look like the optical illusion pictures that can be seen in more than one way. Nirvana is immanent, but how can it also not be transcendent, because everything is. We can't be aware of transcendence by definition, can we? We have to use our immanent awareness as the finger pointing to the moon. Perhaps then death is pure transcendence, as conscious awareness ceases.
Gassho
Jakuden
SatToday


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Hoko
02-22-2017, 04:48 PM
After reading through this discussion several times, it starts to look like the optical illusion pictures that can be seen in more than one way. Nirvana is immanent, but how can it also not be transcendent, because everything is. We can't be aware of transcendence by definition, can we? We have to use our immanent awareness as the finger pointing to the moon. Perhaps then death is pure transcendence, as conscious awareness ceases.
Gassho
Jakuden
SatToday


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I agree.

We (small, immanent self) can't know transcendent Nirvana but WE (large, universal self) know It. If we (small self) were not present, how could we see that no one is there? And were we to remain in the intellectual realm we'd go round and round eternally (samsara).

Like Dongshan said "I now am not it; it now is me". We (small self) can only "imagine what it's like" and consequently we (small self) will only be able to create dead, static ideas about it.

Maybe the best Way is not to swallow the hook in the first place. "Is Nirvana transcendent or immanent?"

MU!

Gassho,
Hōkō
#SatToday

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Hoseki
02-22-2017, 05:48 PM
In response to Jundo's first question, my first contacts with the dharma were with Tibetan Buddhism, which I followed for many years. One is indoctrinated that "nirvana" is something that no one can achieve, but that there's a path to achieve it. If you're lucky, you'll get reborn as a human again in a few gazillion kalpas. This made it seem too magical, and contrasted with the down-to-earth teachings of the Dalai Lama and others, who did focus on living in this world. (Not that they ignored that concept of nirvana; they just knew it didn't sell very well.) I never bought into this, and it was a relief to discover that, in zen, there is no vast cosmology of gods and demons to overcome, but just an idea of being. To be fair, since I've been practicing zen, I don't think about awakening; it's not a goal, and it's not something that I even see mentioned often in the books I read.

Gassho,

Kirk

#sat


Hi Kirk,

Given your use of the word "indoctrinated" I was wondering if felt that your teachers weren't sincere in belief in nirvana?

Gassho
Sattoday

Hoseki

Risho
02-23-2017, 08:54 PM
Some of these answers may have been presented already; I apologize for any redundancy, but I haven't had a chance respond yet, so I just want to get through my responses then start into a dialogue with others in a separate posting.



-Before you began your Buddhist Practice (and/or now), how do you picture or imagine "nirvana"? What would it be like to finally realize "nirvana"? (Don't feel the need to be logical about it, and please feel free to speak from your imagination. What do you hope that "nirvana" will be like?).

I think they are great; it's a shame what happened to the lead singer. lol

Seriously, I've never really cared much for deva's dancing or maidens handing me endless beers, etc. Carrot and stick tactics don't draw me into things. One of the key reasons I really like Zen is that it's down to earth. Like the Heart Sutra says, nirvana is here and now; sitting brings us back to the here and now. Everything is our practice.

Do you lean toward a "transcendent" interpretation of Nirvana as a realm unborn, or a more "immanent" psychological interpretation as an overcoming of craving and attachment, or both, or neither, or something else?

This is a tricky one. In way, I think by being with things and sitting with them and being open enough to face the resistance and the situations that we encounter and understanding that we create a lot of the situations in our minds, we sort of transcend them.

If we think of Nirvana as this ultimate heaven like place and samsara as this place full of shit we don't like, and if we practice with an aim to only do things we like, then we are stuck in this cycle (see the Faith in Mind Sutra if you don't believe me. lol). But if we treat everything as our ground of practice (and I'm stealing that term from I think Joko Beck - but I can't remember), then that is big 'N' nirvana because we appreciate our entire life instead of being damned miserable because things never meet our expectations.


Does it matter to you that we may never know what was the "original teaching" of the historical Buddha?

Yes and no. Yes, from a historical perspective because I'd like to understand him better just out of curiosity; similar to how I really like to know what Jesus was actually like, before all the crap we added on (Zealot is a really, really good book btw). At the same time, from a practice perspective, it really isn't so important because really 2500 years later, I know way more about my practice than the historical Buddha just by virtue of being a person of my time. I think the spirit is more important than the letter of the law, which is how most things change over time. I think the spirit of our practice is still the same; or maybe not, since we don't know. lol For the most part I think the spirit of it is on point, i.e. exploring who we are, what it means to be human, etc. In the end, no matter what you call it, I think that this practice hits home for me, and that's what matters to me personally.


Would later traditions and interpretations that deviate from some "original teaching" be less legitimate?

Now that depends on how we judge the legitimacy of the practice. If we were restricted to its historicity (even if we knew the exact history/etc) we would have to keep it an oral tradition, speak, dress etc in the same way. The beauty of this practice, to me at least, is how relevant it is in my life as a 21st century dude. I love it because I can practice with my life as opposed to having to mimic some completely different way of life that has no relevance just for historical accuracy.

What do you feel about the notion of Buddhist doctrinal development as, rather than "branches that diverge from the same tree trunk", something better described as "a braided river [of] multiple interacting streams that do not derive from a single source"?

I think that's really interesting and it would sort of make sense. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Although we attribute all of this to one man, I really think that there were groups of people that were on this same wavelength so to speak. So it would make sense that different groups would have diverging views, on and on, the same as it ever was. Different humans feel more akin to different groups/views and so they practice in that manner, etc.

What is your feeling about the Joseph Campbell quote?

To be fair, I think his quote sounds sort of off the cuff. I think there is a balance to be struck here; I think all good religions worth their salt have some crazy myths and stories to keep their audience interested and explain why their way is the best or just to hammer home their point of view. I don't think we should get hung up on the myth or discount any piece of wisdom just because it isn't conveyed in a way that we assume it should be. Remember, historical accuracy and the scientific method are newer inventions that just didn't matter 2000+ years ago; so we are presented with these books of wisdom that tell stories not for accuracy but to get across a point.

At the same time, and all that being said, I think it's cool to read about flying Bodhisattvas and crazy miracles because isn't this life a crazy, inexplicable miracle? I mean those religious myths are unbelievable, but nothing is as unbelievable as this awesome life, as tasting an ice cream cone, or viewing stuff -- just amazing. I don't mean to get corny here, and it's stuff I take for granted, but I mean look at this life; that's a miracle, that's nirvana. The whole messy, beautiful thing. Nothing we invent, nor any expectation we could set for ourselves could ever hope to touch an iota of the grandeur that this real, actual life gives us every moment.

Gassho,

Risho
-sattoday

Hoko
02-24-2017, 07:41 PM
I just came across this article in Lion's Roar and I thought it was relevant to this discussion.
Here is the link:
https://www.lionsroar.com/the-choice-is-yours/

The article addresses dependent origination by framing it in terms of two ways to approach it: immanent and transcendent.

The immanent way stresses proceeding forward in the world in a moral fashion with a retention of the sense of self.
The transcendent way is for "those aiming higher" and focuses on "letting go of self, that everything is not-self and nothing is worth clinging to as me or mine".

Ajahn Buddhadasa says "If both levels are understood, there is no conflict between them. They can coexist for the sake of both those who want to live in and of the world (lokiya) and those aiming to live above and free of the world (lokuttara), in it but not of it."

So I wonder: who "understands both levels" if there is no self in the transcendent view?

Dongshan (Tozan) asks a monk in Recorded Sayings "where have you come from?"
The monk answers "from wandering in the mountains"
Dongshan asks "did you get to the peak?"
The monk answers "yes"
Dongshan asks "was there anyone on the peak?"
The monk says "no"
Dongshan says "if that's so then you didn't reach the peak"
The monk is unrepentant and replies "If I didn't reach the peak then how would I know there wasn't anyone there?"

I keep coming back to this in my head over and over because it's tightly tethered to WHY I practice Zen Buddhism in the first place.
When I started off I imagined enlightenment as a form of escape from reality (mountains are mountains).
Years of constant introspection, study and practice led me to recognize that the need to escape reality was the very source of suffering itself (mountains are not mountains)
Then, by constantly reminding myself of this perspective I was able to better navigate the exigencies and vicissitudes of life.
To generate a strong foundation of faith in this perspective is the practice of a lifetime.
This is why I practice. This is why I will continue to practice.
There's no running away from reality. You take your problems with you wherever you go (mountains are mountains again)

So there's a part of me that bristles when we discuss "transcendence" because it sounds a lot like "escapism" and if you're goal is to escape reality then you're not facing reality, you're creating delusion.
What are you transcending then?

And yet... there IS a part of you that transcends "reality" (in parenthesis because what your small self defines as "reality" is perhaps not the same as Reality with a capital R).
When I am angry, ignorant or greedy I know, deep in my bones that "there is one who is not busy" (to quote Ungan from Case 21 of the Book of Equanimity "Ungan Sweeps the Ground").
There IS a part of me that ISN'T greedy, that ISN'T angry, that ISN'T ignorant. It KNOWS.
Not two moons. Not one.
It's boundless and eternal. IT transcends this ordinary existence but only I can know it.
It needs me as much as I need it.

Dongshan (Tozan) was asked by a monk which of the three bodies of Buddha didn't fall into categories and he replied "I am always close to this".
That's how I feel about transcendence. If I SAY what transcends then I immediately fall into categories.
BUT at the same time "I am always close to this". It's right HERE. It's NOW. I mean now. Now. Now...

It's immanent.
It's transcendent.

But I can't speak of it without putting a head on top of my own. I can't avoid it without cutting off my own head.
So shout MU! or raise your fly whisk and draw an Enso or point at the moon or say "the cypress tree in the front garden".
But if you really want to put it into practice then just sit. Everything at once and nothing in particular.

I already answered the question when sitting zazen this morning.
I will address this issue again when I sit zazen this evening.
I didn't stop sitting when I got off the zafu at 7 am and I will not start sitting when I get on the zafu at 7:30 pm tonight.

Gassho,
Hoko
#SatToday

Risho
02-24-2017, 10:06 PM
I like that about answering the question by sitting zazen, but I would just extend it to saying by practicing throughout the day as well - but still I'm totally stealing that answer because I like it :)

Seriously though Hoko, your post made me think that really this practice, if we are really doing it consistently, is pushing us beyond ourselves. So in that respect it very much is transcendent. Simultaneously I think it is immanent because our practice and sitting with our lives and all the crap in them allows us to give ourselves space, which inevitably provides psychological relief in some respects.

Perhaps the view isn't that we transcend the world (I'm not quite sure what that means) but instead we go beyond the thoughts of anything to grasp or anything to improve or anyone to help, even as we do our best to improve and help "others". But that could just be the Jundo in me talking. lol

We have the one side of absolutism - where there is no one to save, then the other side, which is the same side of saving everyone. So how do we reconcile that? My answer right now is sort of a nod to the diamond sutra in a way. I practice by not practicing, therefore it is practice, and that is a subtle way of saying - practicing for the sake of practice. Just sitting to sit, not to get anything out of it. And that's the way to get something out of it, but it's not an "I" that gets something. I don't know how to explain it. It's sort of like when you want to get really really proficient at software development, if you focus on how long it will take, it will take longer than if you just dig in and practice over and over consistently. Then one day, you are a badass software engineer; not because you come in with a goal that is external the process but because you completely focus on the process. Every step is the goal bla bla bla.

So, if we go into practice with an aim of feeling better, then that's a problem. And that goes back to Dogen's question about why do we have to practice if we are already enlightened, and that's the kicker. We all come to this practice looking for something, but we have to learn to practice without any goal by just practicing and sitting with everything, which includes the goal we may have to practice, but just letting it go over and over. Old habits die hard.

Gassho,

Risho
-sattoday

Jundo
02-25-2017, 02:32 PM
But we, as Soto Zen practitioners, don't think that way. If, as Loy suggests in this section and later in the book, awakening is immanent, then this fits with Dogen's idea that (I paraphrase) the very act of zazen is enlightenment itself. In Dogen's view, awakening is immanent. "To study the self is to forget the self." I'm far from an expert on Dogen's writings, but does he ever espouse the idea of nirvana as a transcendent event?

Hmmm. I believe that Loy later in the book actually encourages a path that transcends and embraces both the "immanent" and the "transcendent" without neglecting either, and I certainly feel that Dogen was a pretty "transcendent" and mystical fellow but with an "immanent" view of Practice in the here and now. Let's see what Loy says in later sections when we get there.



In response to Jundo's first question, my first contacts with the dharma were with Tibetan Buddhism, which I followed for many years. One is indoctrinated that "nirvana" is something that no one can achieve, but that there's a path to achieve it. ... I never bought into this, and it was a relief to discover that, in zen, there is no vast cosmology of gods and demons to overcome, but just an idea of being. To be fair, since I've been practicing zen, I don't think about awakening; it's not a goal, and it's not something that I even see menti

Just to note that it depends on which Zen teacher, and Dogen could be quite literal on "rebirth" in many of his writings. Also, we have our share of "gods and demons" in traditional belief. Many folks in the West like me, a bit more "modern" minded, tend not to emphasize such as much, but they are there. Whether folks believed in them as myth and metaphor, or literal truth, is hard to say. I assume more the latter or (like Byrne) unconcerned about the question.

From the opening pages of Dogen's beloved Lotus Sutra, describing those in attendance at the Buddha's Teaching ...



At that time the entire great assembly of Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, Upasikas, gods, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, mahoragas, beings human and non-human, as well as the minor kings, the wheel-turning sage kings, all attained what they had never had before. They rejoiced and joined their palms and, with one heart, gazed upon the Buddha.



Gassho, J

SatToday

coriander
02-28-2017, 05:15 AM
So there's a part of me that bristles when we discuss "transcendence" because it sounds a lot like "escapism" and if you're goal is to escape reality then you're not facing reality, you're creating delusion.
What are you transcending then?

And yet... there IS a part of you that transcends "reality" (in parenthesis because what your small self defines as "reality" is perhaps not the same as Reality with a capital R).
When I am angry, ignorant or greedy I know, deep in my bones that "there is one who is not busy" (to quote Ungan from Case 21 of the Book of Equanimity "Ungan Sweeps the Ground").
There IS a part of me that ISN'T greedy, that ISN'T angry, that ISN'T ignorant. It KNOWS.
Not two moons. Not one.
It's boundless and eternal. IT transcends this ordinary existence but only I can know it.
It needs me as much as I need it.


Thanks Hoko, many of your posts in this section have really resonated for me. I didn't find time to make my own comments so I was glad to see you writing so many things I felt agreement with :)

Gassho,
Charity
SatToday

Jishin
02-28-2017, 11:52 AM
4018

Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

Hoko
02-28-2017, 05:49 PM
4018

Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

Jishin,

I love these Buddhist comics you share! Where do you find them?
I've come across some good ones on the Buddhist Humor Facebook page but you've always got something new that I haven't seen before.
Would you be willing to share your source?

Gassho,
Hoko
#SatToday

Jishin
02-28-2017, 07:37 PM
Jishin,

I love these Buddhist comics you share! Where do you find them?
I've come across some good ones on the Buddhist Humor Facebook page but you've always got something new that I haven't seen before.
Would you be willing to share your source?

Gassho,
Hoko
#SatToday

No!

:)

Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

Tom
03-01-2017, 02:52 AM
How much of this is really a question about whether or not there's an afterlife? We'd feel a bit silly if other Buddhist traditions (or even religions) got it right. "I was just messing with you with that whole Zen thing," said the Buddha as I entered the afterlife. "I hope you read the Tibetan book of the dead."
Byrne said it well:


I love learning about Buddhist history. I love reading sutras. I love engaging with a sangha and learning from other perspectives and challenges. The value I place on Buddhism is informed by its place in my life and how the teachings manifest themselves before me.

Gassho,
Tom
Sat.

AlanLa
03-01-2017, 12:25 PM
Google image search says Pinterest for the comics.
4029

Jishin
03-01-2017, 03:07 PM
Don't give away my secrets.

[emoji2]

Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

Tom
03-02-2017, 04:15 AM
thanks Jeremy. I love the linking to accesstoinsight.org discussed from a Zen perspective. My what times we live in.
Gassho, Tom
About to Sit.

Jeremy
03-02-2017, 05:48 PM
thanks Jeremy. I love the linking to accesstoinsight.org discussed from a Zen perspective. My what times we live in.
Gassho, Tom
About to Sit.
Yes, it's amazing to have such easy access to great resources like accesstoinsight.org [emoji4]

Jeremy
SatToday

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