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Tomás Sard
04-13-2021, 02:21 PM
Recently I read a very short book, that goes straight to the point in clear language. I think it might be one of the best zen books I have read, though I haven't read that many, but I think many of you in this Sangha would enjoy it. It is "Instant Zen" by the 12th century zen master Foyan. You can ignore the preface by the author if you wish, it's the only part of the book I don't like at all.

Gassho, Tomás
Sat&LaH

Nikos
04-13-2021, 03:36 PM
Thank you Tomás. A lot of people recommended this book on Reddit, so I would love to hear other treeleafers' opinion on it.

Gassho, Nikolas
Sat/Lah

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Tomás Sard
04-13-2021, 04:02 PM
Yes, I also found it through reddit! It is quite unique. The book does criticize sitting meditation practice at some points (especially in the preface). But I take it as a criticism against attachment towards any kind of practice. In Soto zen there is a fundamental importance in sitting meditation, but I think a good zen teacher is the one who points out that zazen is not only sitting practice, but an on going practice in all aspects of life.

Gassho, Tomás
Sat&LaH

Jundo
04-13-2021, 04:41 PM
Different teachers had different styles, like varied cooks or artists. (I also warn you to be cautious with any translations by Thomas Cleary, who can be very loose and bends meaning to his vision of Rinzai style practice.)

But what passages make you think that Foyan was critical of Zazen? As a matter of fact, one of his writings on "Sitting Meditation" is as follows. He seems to recommend something resonating of non-seeking Shikantaza, just allowing thoughts to come and go without latching on:

Thoughts arise, thoughts disappear;
don't try to shut them off.
Let them flow spontaneously –
what has ever arisen and vanished?
When arising and vanishing quiet down,
there appears the great Zen master;
sitting, reclining, walking around,
there's never an interruption.
When meditating, why not sit?
When sitting, why not meditate?
Only when you have understood this way
is it called sitting meditation.
Who is it that sits? What is meditation?
To try to seek it
is using Buddha to look for Buddha.
Buddha need not be sought;
seeking takes you further away.

Gassho, J
STLah

Tomás Sard
04-13-2021, 05:51 PM
Thank you for the heads up Jundo, I didn't know that about Cleary. You are right, the book in itself doesn't criticize sitting practice directly (that I remember), but the preface by Cleary is quite direct in some points (although one could argue that he isn't necessarily talking about sitting meditation):

While it is common knowledge that Zen Buddhists used meditation of various sorts in their arts of mind cultivation, original Zen and imitation Zen cultism may also be distinguished in a parallel manner by comparison of specific attitudes toward meditation. Zen that is exaggerated into a meditation cult, in which meditation assumes the status of a value in itself, or attention is fixated on a given posture or procedure presented as inherently sacrosanct, is a characteristic deterioration. This is more of the nature of fetishism than enlightenment, as is particularly evident in cases where meditation is done ritualistically in random groups according to fixed schedules, even under pressure; such activity results in obsession, not liberation. This was not the procedure of the masters, and it is not recommended in classical Zen meditation texts.

Although then he adds: I just want you to be in Zen meditation whether you are working or sitting, to be essentially at peace whether you are speaking, silent, active, or still.

I have been in Soto Zen groups that didn't let me sit in a chair to practice despite my physical pain and illness. I felt very welcome when I saw that members of this Sangha could adjust their posture to their personal needs. Despite the preface, I found that the book was a joy to read. This is perhaps my favorite passage:

In my school, there are only two kinds of sickness. One is to go looking for a donkey riding on the donkey. The other is to be unwilling to dismount once having mounted the donkey. You say it is certainly a tremendous sickness to mount a donkey and then go looking for the donkey. I tell you that one need not find a spiritually sharp person to recognize this right away and get rid of the sickness of seeking, so the mad mind stops. Once you have recognized the donkey, to mount it and be unwilling to dismount is the sickness that is most difficult to treat. I tell you that you need not mount the donkey; you are the donkey! The whole world is the donkey; how can you mount it? If you mount it, you can be sure the sickness will not leave! If you don’t mount it, the whole universe is wide open!

Gassho, Tomás
Sat&LaH

Sorry for going way over 3 sentences, my bad.

Jundo
04-14-2021, 05:30 AM
Hi Tomas'




While it is common knowledge that Zen Buddhists used meditation of various sorts in their arts of mind cultivation, original Zen and imitation Zen cultism may also be distinguished in a parallel manner by comparison of specific attitudes toward meditation. Zen that is exaggerated into a meditation cult, in which meditation assumes the status of a value in itself, or attention is fixated on a given posture or procedure presented as inherently sacrosanct, is a characteristic deterioration. This is more of the nature of fetishism than enlightenment, as is particularly evident in cases where meditation is done ritualistically in random groups according to fixed schedules, even under pressure; such activity results in obsession, not liberation. This was not the procedure of the masters, and it is not recommended in classical Zen meditation texts.

Yes, that quote is just the attitude of Mr. Cleary, not Foyan, and shows something of the personal bias which Thomas Cleary sometimes injects into his translations. However, while I don't agree with half of it, I don't completely disagree.

There is a tendency, in Japanese Zen particularly, to fetishize perfect posture, most especially the Lotus Posture. I agree, and I believe that it is much more vital to sit in a way that suits YOUR particular body, and feels balanced, stable and comfortable.

That said, his attitude toward some "meditation cult" is just wrong, for several reasons. First, nobody in the Zen world whom I know talks ONLY about sitting, for it is a way of practice and life to be brought off the cushion into all of life. There is ONLY sitting, but ONLY DURING the time of sitting when there is nothing else. It is a value unto itself, because we sit with the attitude of goalless sitting that is fully complete and sacrosanct WHILE SITTING, i.e., when sitting, we sit with the attitude that sitting is precious and complete. Second, his description of the great masters of the past not engaging in Zazen daily, at certain times and with certain Zendo procedures, has been totally disproven by historians and the historical record. These folks lived in monasteries, the monasteries followed monastic ritual and procedure including with daily periods of Zazen. We know this because we have the monastic schedules and writings of the old masters. There were almost no old masters who said otherwise. Obviously, even Foyan was big into his Zazen.

In any case, now you can see a little of the reason why people have to be careful with Thomas Cleary translations, and why they are rarely cited if a better alternative translation is available.



In my school, there are only two kinds of sickness. One is to go looking for a donkey riding on the donkey. The other is to be unwilling to dismount once having mounted the donkey. You say it is certainly a tremendous sickness to mount a donkey and then go looking for the donkey. I tell you that one need not find a spiritually sharp person to recognize this right away and get rid of the sickness of seeking, so the mad mind stops. Once you have recognized the donkey, to mount it and be unwilling to dismount is the sickness that is most difficult to treat. I tell you that you need not mount the donkey; you are the donkey! The whole world is the donkey; how can you mount it? If you mount it, you can be sure the sickness will not leave! If you don’t mount it, the whole universe is wide open!

That is very much like Dogen's view of the simile of the "raft" of practice that one puts down when one reaches the "other shore" of enlightenment. However, for Dogen, one never stops riding the raft every day, for one has never picked up the raft so can never put it down, and each moment of riding the raft is "the other shore" which is "this shore" and every drop of the river.

Sorry to run long.

Gassho, J

STLah

Tomás Sard
04-14-2021, 06:13 AM
gassho2gassho1[gassholook]

Gassho, Tomás
Sat