View Full Version : 4/11 - Before Time and I Effort p. 65

04-11-2008, 03:29 PM
It is now time for you and I ... to forget about time, you and I ...

Gassho, Jundo

04-13-2008, 01:22 AM
" Our legs hurt and we become filled with boredom, and there is nothing else to do but live out time as the reality of life, moment by moment." p.35

It was nice to hear that Uchiyama thinks that long sittings are uncomfortable too (I know, that's a real "duh!" statement). I have only done a few retreats, but each time I would have a bit of frustration with myself for wishing for something more exciting to do. It has gotten MUCH better since starting shikantaza, but still some of the moments of boredom can be intense. Like Neil Postman argues, I guess I am used to being entertained during nearly every waking moment.

" . . . it is the life of the self that creates the appearance of time." p. 66

I have noticed strange perceptions of time during zazen. Sometime 25 minutes feels like and eternity, other times 40 minutes feels like 10 or 15. I am learning (in the experiential sense) that it doesn't matter whether it feels like short or long, it is what it is. I loved the line about time passing of its own accord. It really removes us from the center of the universe in the egocentric sense.

I'm still working on trying to understand the last sentence of the reading:

"Sesshin is the practice we carry on prior to the distinction of one's own power and the power of others, prior to time, and prior to persevering." p. 68

Is this simply another way of saying that in zazen we cultivate and live in that moment just before the ordinary distinctions of this and that, self and other, time and timelessness, etc? The word "power" is the sticky point for me, I think.


04-13-2008, 12:20 PM
The tyranny of time is a hard obstacle for me. Like everyone else, sitting for long periods makes me physically uncomfortable. But I expect that and can adjust to it. Time, on the other hand, is more of a problem because it is unexpected. Everything I do is governed by the clock. I get up, meditate, go to work, go to lunch, come home, go to bed based on the clock. What I get from this chapter is that clock time is as much of a mental construct as all the other attachments.

I've never been to a long sesshin. But is does seem freeing if you can cut yourself free from planning what to do with the next minute, or even anticipating what will occur in the next minute. If you can't let it go, sesshin must seem like Time Hell. (Uchiyama says "there is no way we would be able to sit through a five-day sesshin simply by persevering." I think that is true.) But, persevering is embedded in my culture; it is one of the few things I have in my tool box to deal with obstacles (like the pain in my legs). Does this chapter suggest that the pain in my legs is only a obstacle due to my enslavement to time? Hmmmmm.

I begin to suspect that there is a lot more to this section than meets the eye.



04-14-2008, 12:44 AM
Bill, as a jazz musician, you may be familiar with this quote by Miles Davis

"I always listen to what I can leave out."
I can think of so many ways to apply that to Buddhist practice -- not acquiring things we don't need, not adding unnecessary motion to oryoki, not adding unnecessary layers of thoughts, etc. And I imagine Uchiyama saying that in this section. "Time exists for us because we come one moment with another," he wrote. We can leave out our thoughts of the past and we can leave out our thoughts of a goal (like how many more minutes remain in our sitting).

It might be helpful for me to know more about the phrase "The bottom of our thoughts. . . falls out", which footnote 40 indicates is a paraphrase of the expression taha shittsu. I don't have a copy of the Blue Cliff Record. If someone knows more about the use of this expression in that collection, I'd welcome more background on its use there. We talk about dropping thoughts frequently as we discuss shikantaza. I just wonder if there's the possibility of further beauty with this imagery of the bottom of our thoughts falling out.


04-14-2008, 04:11 PM
It might be helpful for me to know more about the phrase "The bottom of our thoughts. . . falls out", which footnote 40 indicates is a paraphrase of the expression taha shittsu. I don't have a copy of the Blue Cliff Record. If someone knows more about the use of this expression in that collection, I'd welcome more background on its use there. We talk about dropping thoughts frequently as we discuss shikantaza. I just wonder if there's the possibility of further beauty with this imagery of the bottom of our thoughts falling out.

It wouldn't be this one would it, Janice? It's a good koan anyway :)

"THE NUN Chiyono studied for years but was unable to find
enlightenment. One moonlight night she was carrying an old pail,
filled with water. She was watching the full moon reflected in
this water, when the bamboo strip that held the pailstaves broke.
The pail fell all apart; the water rushed out; the moon's
reflection disappeared. And Chiyono found enlightenment. She wrote
this verse:
This way and that way
I tried to keep the pail together
Hoping the weak bamboo
Would never break.
Suddenly the bottom fell out:
No more water:
No more moon in the water:
Emptiness in my hand!

I don't see it in the Blue Cliff Record though:

http://perso.ens-lyon.fr/eric.boix/Koan ... index.html (http://http://perso.ens-lyon.fr/eric.boix/Koan/Hekiganroku/index.html)


04-14-2008, 07:23 PM
Thanks for the koan, John. I'd never heard it before, but I don't know much about koans. I really like the metaphor.

Thanks, Janice. Yes, I had heard that quote . . . Miles was really interesting in his opinions on jazz. He actually learned the sparse approach from one of his idols, Ahmad Jamal. Ahmad's music is full of space, even more than Miles' sometimes, and it was an intentional break from the note-heavy virtuosity of the bebop period. I know I'm completely biased, but I find so many parallels with my jazz training and Zen training. Of late, I have tried to not mention it on the forum so much because I don't want to sound like a broken record, but impermanence, being in the moment, dropping evaluative judgments, absence of discursive thought, and practice, practice, practice are all ideas that are critical to being a good jazz player. Maybe it is that way in all fields.

Linda, I've often wondered what a day or two spent without a clock would do for/to me. I think that living in subjective time referenced against objective time measurement is an odd concept anyway, but I imagine it would be difficult for the modern world to function otherwise. I'm reminded of it daily with my kids. They are still young enough that their sleep cycles are dictated "organically." They get sleepy when the sun goes down, they wake when the sun comes up, they eat when they are hungry, etc. Not sure it is any better, but it is definitely different than the clock-driven schedules that many of us adhere to.


04-14-2008, 11:35 PM
John, I am grateful that you are resourceful and can offer a koan like this at my request. :D Thank you for sharing this. It met my need for beauty and offered that link to what Uchiyama may have been referencing.

Bill, I enjoy the way you bring connections between jazz and zen. And your concrete example of the alarm clock really helped me connect on a more personal level with Linda's posting about the tyranny of time. I'm with your kids on this one -- if I don't have an appointment, I often don't set the alarm clock -- I let the sunshine and the chirping of the birds awaken me (or my dog, whichever comes first). This winter, there were many times I went to bed earlier than usual because the sunlight faded my body felt this signaling the end of the day. It felt perfectly natural.


04-16-2008, 12:26 PM
Hi Guys,

Sorry it too so much "time" for me to find an "answer" to this, if "time" and "answer" are the right words here ,,,

It appears, according to my scholar friend, to be a quote from Yuan-Wu's commentary to Koan 22 of the Blue Cliff Record, entitled "Hseh-feng and the Turtle-Nosed Snake".

If you would like to read it, go to Amazon, "search inside" for turle-nosed snake" here, and then go to page 146 ...

http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Cliff-Record ... 496&sr=8-1 (http://http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Cliff-Record-Thomas-Cleary/dp/159030232X/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1208347496&sr=8-1)

If you wish, the underlying Koan can be read here ...

http://home.pon.net/wildrose/BCR-Eng.htm (http://http://home.pon.net/wildrose/BCR-Eng.htm)

But, yes, it is referring to the bottom dropping out of the bucket. So, I think the story from John of the nun Chiyono is the intended meaning.

Gassho, Jundo

04-16-2008, 02:35 PM
I really appreciate the effort to track down the reference linked to note 40 in order to shed more light here.

04-16-2008, 10:12 PM
on pg. 72 at the bottom of the second paragraph Uchiyama writes"It is not that the cessation of all thought is satori and good,and the arising of thoughts and the tendency to chase after them is delusion and bad. Just sitting, transcending good or evil, satori or delusion,is the zazen transcends the sage and the ordinary man."
this seems to get to the point of defining "just sitting". i find this extremely helpful in my beginning practice. Kent

05-20-2008, 06:50 AM
This is a fascinating chapter. Lovely koan, too.

I got rid of my watch four years ago as an experiment when I was studying in Belgium and saw that people there were more relaxed about time. I now wake up 2 min before the alarm clock goes off (at 4 am or 5 am to sit for 30 min before getting ready to work). Five years ago that seemed impossible.

Uchiyama writes on p 66:
...then we are able to transcend this swiftness or comparison that we call time.

I only perceieve time because I compare the length of one moment to another! So true! :D

I only think of time when I experience something as uncomfortable or when I finished doing something I really enjoyed doing and realise that hours passed since I started on it.

Listening to the podcast from the Interdependent Project today I was reminded that sometimes I think of my mind as a monkey mind, but even the most energetic monkey can be only at one place at a time. I only sit with one thoight at a time and wake up from one thought at a time. Somehow, I get this time blur: I think of all the thoughts in a bundle in one time continuum but even the flow consists of moments and at each moment there is only one thought to think (or not), one thing to do...

I find it helpful that Uchiyama mentions the importance of committing to the posture:
Only by sitting still and leaving everything up to the posture will time pass of its own accord. It seems like a reliable anchor.

I look forward to and a little bit nervous before the 5 days long summer seshin (my first) and this chapter is etxremely helpful in preparing me to drop the thoughts "of persevering and suffering" that arise in advance. Luckily for my joints I will be going from the "seshin island" in the Stockholm archipelago directly to another one for 6 days of intensive yoga. :mrgreen: