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Thread: Conducting solitary zen practice

  1. #1

    Conducting solitary zen practice

    I loved this text, and think it fits me, it fits people here, and other zen practictioners perfectly...

    Please feel free to share your opinions about it...



    強 Kyō
    声 Sei

    Namu kie Butsu, Namu kie Ho, Namu kie So.

  2. #2
    A. It's not either/or (or shouldn't be). Unless you live in a residential center, even those of us with a brick-and-mortar sangha only sit together a couple of times a week. The rest of the time, practice is solitary, but one builds upon and supports the other; they are not two. With all due respect to Suzuki roshi, Yasutani roshi once said that it's better to sit 5 minutes every day than an hour once a week.

    B. Bodhidharma sat in his cave waiting for a student to appear; waiting for sangha, not out of preference for solitary practice, but because there wasn't one. In this day and age with resources like Treeleaf, anyone, no matter how remote, can practice within the context of a sangha.

    C. The sangha is one of the Three Jewels of Buddhism, and not without reason. Despite the common caricature of the bearded and robed arhat sitting alone on top of a mountain, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Precepts, the Paramitas are all practiced, developed, and come to fruition within the context of community; they cannot be practiced in isolation.

    “Sawaki Roshi often said that a monastery is like a charcoal fire in a hibachi. If you put in just one little coal, it will go out right away. But if you gather many small coals, each glowing just a little bit, then the fire will flare up…”
    Kosho Uchiyama Roshi; Opening the Hand of Thought

  3. #3
    I might go further than that gentleman. In is out and out is in.

    When practicing with a group, be thoroughly there. When out in the world or on one's own, be thoroughly there.

    There are times to Practice by sitting Zazen each day, bowing or chanting and such ... yet times to Practice in the world or at home. All of life is Practice in a Buddha's eye, and nothing in this life escapes "Practice Time".

    Group Practice is essential to Zen and Buddhism and always has been (I disagree with his portrayal of early Zen history). Yet individual Practice has also always been essential. Monks would gather in monasteries for the rainy season retreats and such, at other times go off on the road or into the hills to live as hermits. One complements and strengthens the other. There are times to Practice solo, times to Practice together Online, times to go to a bricks and mortar place and sit a week-long Sesshin and such. If too much driven by the group, then one misses the Practice where the rubber meets the road of life. If too independent, one has a tendency to go in circles or spin off into some eccentric direction, or just to miss out on the power and learning that group practice offers. Neither just one or the other is best.

    While here in Korea (heading back to Japan today), I read the Song of T’aego Hermitage by the 14th Century Korean Zen master of that name from his grass hut in the lonely mountains (at other times, he lived in a monastery not forsaking that) ...

    I’ve lived in this hermitage how long I don’t know deep and secret and without obstructions. Heaven and earth meet like box and cover: there’s no turning toward or turning away. I do not stay in the east, west, south or north the jewel tower and the jade palace. Do not stand opposite me. I do not take guidelines from Bodhidharma as a model as the light shines freely through eighty four thousand gates.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 08-14-2013 at 12:04 AM.

  4. #4
    What I've learned in Treeleaf is that, dropping all thought of "here" and "there" and "when" (to borrow Jundo's words), even as I sit in my house cut off from even the Internet, I still sit with the sangha. That is why, though sometimes I feel silly doing it, I bow towards the cushion and then turn and bow away from the cushion.



  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    There are times to Practice by sitting Zazen each day, bowing or chanting and such ... yet times to Practice in the world or at home. All of life is Practice in a Buddha's eye, and nothing in this life escapes "Practice Time".
    Just one of the many wonderful teachings you teach Jundo, thank you.


  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    nothing in this life escapes "Practice Time".
    with deep thanks
    Last edited by Oheso; 08-14-2013 at 04:07 AM.
    and neither are they otherwise.

  7. #7
    While I do like his idea of group sitting and private sittings, I feel he separates the two too much,from a Zazen perspective. As Jundo and Pinoybuddhist have said, there is only now (which is an ever dynamic world full of interdependence and life). From an intellectual perspective, I really enjoy what he says about group practice being a sort of 'Zen lesson'. I feel it is highly similar to my clarinet practice, since my teacher at Brevard was adamant on saying that 99% of the work we get done is on our own. So this resonates with me a bit

    Though this is a bit ironic, me saying he separates things too much, considering I am separating my intellectual perspective and Zen perspective


  8. #8
    While I agree with what has been said here I'd like to add that it might also depend on the individual person.
    I think that some people are able to practice alone, but IMHO most have it better with a teacher as a guide and a sangha as support (I certainly prefer having teachers and a sangha).


    no thing needs to be added

  9. #9
    Practicing alone would have been a bad idea at one time for me, because it would have just been a mental trip. Now it would not be. Practicing in a remote cabin is something I would like to do for a period. In a way it is always "alone" everyday. Not isolated or solitary, just alone, if that makes sense. Fellow practitioners and teachers are good company. It is like being with kin, but I am not seeking teachings. Company, yes, and teachings that spill my way, of course, but I'm not looking for guidance.

    Gassho Daizan

  10. #10
    I also feel in my heart that there is an obligation, a face of the Bodhisattva Vow and refuge in Sangha, to support the Practice of others and not to be a pratyekabuddha. It is not a matter simply about what "I" want, what "I" need to teach or learn, staring into my own navel.

    In Buddhism, one who attains enlightenment through his own efforts rather than by listening to the teachings of a buddha. The way of the self-enlightened buddha was retained only in the Theravada tradition. Mahayana Buddhism rejects the path of self-enlightenment as too limiting and embraces the ideal of the bodhisattva, who postpones final enlightenment to work for the salvation of others.
    It is much like family and children, who we tend to and spend time with ... whether we selfishly always want to or not, and whether or not we would rather run away. Community activity is vital. Sure, there is a place for "time alone" (whether in my "man cave" in the house or my "Bodhidharma cave" in the mountains), but in the end we have a duty to the community ... and to ourself ... to help and be together.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 08-15-2013 at 01:53 AM.

  11. #11
    I also agree that teachers, sangha and community are very important. I feel that with without them, my practice is like a stagnant muddy puddle.


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