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Thread: Opening the Hand of Thought - Chapter 2

  1. #1

    Opening the Hand of Thought - Chapter 2

    We continue to Chapter 2, The Meaning of Zazen ...

    Some suggested themes (please ignore or bring up anything else you might wish):

    By what comparisons do you define yourself (literally, define your "self")?

    What would life be like if you dropped the comparisons?

    Granted, we cannot drop all the comparisons and function in this daily world (the Social Services would certainly be at my door if I suddenly forgot the category "parent" to my "child" ), so can we perhaps learn to drop the comparisons even with and amid the comparisons? Perhaps keep the comparisons for functional purposes, but not be so tightly bound and tied by them?


    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    Last edited by Jundo; 01-11-2016 at 01:43 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post

    1- By what comparisons do you tend to define yourself (literally, define your "self")?

    2 - What would life be like if you dropped the comparisons?

    1- Form vs form. Jishin vs Jundo. Jishin taller, better looking, etc. Or maybe the other way around, depends who you ask.

    2 - Jishin = Jundo. Form = emptiness, emptiness = form. Jundo sleeps with Jishin's wife, empties Jishin's bank accounts and goes to Disney World. No problem. Big happy family singing kumbaya around the campfire. But really, no-self to compare, thus no-thing. No-thought, just...

    Not 1. Not 2. Perhaps things are just as they are. Jundo is just Jundo. Jishin is just Jishin. Jundo is a teacher and teaches. Jishin is a student and studies. Jundo and Jishin practice. Save sentient beings. Decrease suffering in others and thereby Self. This is Zazen.

    I don't know.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

  3. #3
    Member Getchi's Avatar
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    Still waiting for my physical copy, but one way ive been defining myself is "sucks to be them".

    I think it's almost a sort of elitism, that I am content with my ways and feel bad for those deluded and ignorant fools I have to work with. Its a bit harsh, but I suspect many here can relate. For example; the idea of getting drunk every weekend with a group of friends who do exactly the same thing seems to me a complete waste of life an one of the most horrible things I could imagine. As does waking people up because they've slpet too long, criticising there use of butter or getting into those fights where things are said that cause heartache in our loved ones and take a long time to get over.

    All of those are examples from teh past week ive had to live through. Again, my language says it all - I didnt actually live through it, it was just in front of me and repulsed me.

    Loosening up those boundaries has let me see these people are perfect "just-as-they-are". I still think they coul dbe happier and more content living differently (more in line with my ideals and mores, of course ) and I think it would be unskillful to drop that desire, but in general I was creating extra suffering for myself that I (not-I) didnt need.

    Without that comparison, im gaining a deeper insight into Anicca and Anatta and can start to see that because all things are change, and conditional, that teh "future" (what ever that really is) does not need to necessarily be our past actions. Old habits can be dropped, new ones taken up. Anyone can follow there "buddha-nature" and find peace.

    And for that im deeply grateful to Treeleaf's many lovely people and teachers!



    Gassho,
    Geoff.
    A student.


    SatToday, and was thankful.
    Nothing to do? Why not Sit?

  4. #4
    Member ForestDweller's Avatar
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    Start With Self

    Even people who have studied and practiced Buddhism for a long time continue to search for a “cure” to the loneliness spoken of in Chapter 2, and often, that search is conducted “outside yourself.” Paradoxically, if the search is not turned inward (“shine the light inside the hut”), the external will never come right. Defining ourselves by other people and things is never going to work; we know this. Before we can successfully move outward, we need to build that “foundation of the self.” Sometimes I think the brahmaviharas are a two-part business, with joy (empathetic or not) and tranquility needing to be established first, internally, before we can move out into the world with loving kindness and compassion. I know it’s not linear, but to me, this makes sense. It would seem also, to take off on a topic of this week’s chapter, that unless we really get to know “the naked self,” we will never really know anything at all. Perhaps a place to start is the self, the life, that continues when we are asleep or comatose. Who is this? Has this self become the “universal self,” and if so, how can we retain awareness of this “true self” when we awake(n)?
    ^^ForestSatToday^^ _ CatherineS
    Last edited by ForestDweller; 01-10-2016 at 09:18 PM. Reason: punctuation

  5. #5
    Uchiyama seemed to me to be saying that to live with raw reality is to be aware of our relations to other people, which may be comparisons, but not identifying fully with these externals. The life force is coursing through us regardless of our comparisons, yet the comparisons are also a part of life.

    Gassho,
    Laurie/On Kai
    SatToday

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post
    ... Jundo sleeps with Jishin's wife, empties Jishin's bank accounts and goes to Disney World.
    How did you find you!? It was just that one time, I swear.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    How did you find you!?
    Stopped looking.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

  8. #8
    Like Getchi, I'm also still waiting for the hardcopy. In that line alone is already a mound of comparison and selfication
    For normal functioning indeed comparison is a nescessity.
    But dropping comparison makes every thing so clear and simple! I try to continuously be aware of rising comparisons and always see through them while using them for normal funcitoning at the same time.
    Many comparions that at first seem nescessary, are not at all if you look at them closely.

    Hope to add more when I've read the chapter, hopefully by the end of this week.

    Gassho
    Ongen
    sat today
    Ongen (音源) - Sound Source

  9. #9
    Hello,

    As living is ever-changing and unpredictable, the least odious comparison to a (small 's')self is the cherry blossom:

    Picture a gorgeous cherry tree in full bloom. When it's time the flowers start to be blown away with the wind.
    Some of the cherry blossoms are quick to go. Yet others stay in bloom longer.
    But, depending on conditions, even the very last cherry flower on the tree is blown away by the wind.
    - from a Japanese saying

    As the wind blows, so does it go.

    Dropping the comparison leaves (leafs?) the living tree.


    Gassho
    Myosha sat today
    Last edited by Myosha; 01-11-2016 at 10:36 PM.
    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Getchi View Post
    Still waiting for my physical copy, but one way ive been defining myself is "sucks to be them".

    I think it's almost a sort of elitism, that I am content with my ways and feel bad for those deluded and ignorant fools I have to work with. Its a bit harsh, but I suspect many here can relate. For example; the idea of getting drunk every weekend with a group of friends who do exactly the same thing seems to me a complete waste of life an one of the most horrible things I could imagine. As does waking people up because they've slpet too long, criticising there use of butter or getting into those fights where things are said that cause heartache in our loved ones and take a long time to get over.

    All of those are examples from teh past week ive had to live through. Again, my language says it all - I didnt actually live through it, it was just in front of me and repulsed me.
    Just came across this today while reading from Shobogenzo:

    Do not be concerned with the faults of others. Do not see others’ faults with a hateful mind. There is an old saying that if you stop seeing others’ faults, then naturally seniors are venerated and juniors are revered. Do not imitate others’ faults; just cultivate virtue. The Buddha prohibited unwholesome actions but did not tell us to despise those who practice unwholesome actions.

    Dogen, Zen Master (2013-02-05). Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dogen's <i>Shobo Genzo</i> (Kindle Locations 2550-2552). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.

    -satToday
    Thanks,
    Kaishin (Open Heart aka Matt)
    Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

  11. #11
    Thank you for this quote, Kaishin. Indeed, this is one of the hardest parts of the practice, IMHO, to regard people without judgement. To be honest, I have become better at this, but those moments do sometimes hit hard. Then I catch myself and ask myself why the judgmental attitude.

    Thanks again!
    Gassho,
    John
    SatToday

  12. #12
    Member Getchi's Avatar
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    Yes, thankyou Kaishin - "Just cultivate virute" - perhaps this is one of the great gifts ive encounterd through Treeleaf. Not to know, not to attain as we read in the Grass Hut

    Uchiyama seemed to me to be saying that to live with raw reality is to be aware of our relations to other people
    - absolutely, anything more then that starts to feel like just another division, and like we seem to hinting here - regardless of whether we approve or disprove of another's actions still we have to face the fact that "just this is it".

    Learning to be more accepting of my own prejudice is another thing that has helped me greatly. Instead of critiicising myself, I can accept that it is a natural part of the human psychology that we all inherit at birth, and that all of us here are trying to understand/accept/transcend through our deepening practice.

    Just knowing Im not alone feels like half the struggle!


    Geoff,
    SatToday.
    Nothing to do? Why not Sit?

  13. #13
    Perhaps in grasping to comparisons we are not being free, like water, to flow.
    Not just a father, but a husband also.
    Not just a husband, but a friend also.
    Not just a friend, but a human also...just like all of us...individual, but many.
    Letting go, not grasping to title.

    You know the story of the monkey who reached into the gord to get the banana out. Once he held on so tightly, he could not get his hand out to get free....all he had to do was relax his grasp, and he was free.

    im thinking not to hold on so tightly, flow like water, release your grasp of comparison, and be free.

    just my two cents

    Gassho
    Frank

    Sat today....needs to sit some more

  14. #14
    Kyotai
    Guest
    "To depend on others is unstable" and "living only in relation to other people and things"

    This chapter is wonderful and puts into words how I felt through much of my adolescents and early adult years.

    Gassho, Kyotai
    Sat today

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyotai View Post
    "To depend on others is unstable" and "living only in relation to other people and things"

    This chapter is wonderful and puts into words how I felt through much of my adolescents and early adult years.

    Gassho, Kyotai
    Sat today
    You too eh Kyotai ... same here. This has been a wonderful chapter ... a little walk down memory lane. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    #sattoday

  16. #16
    Agree with all the wonderful comments here, in regard to living in relation/comparison to everything else and others. For me, this chapter was a bit of an epiphany in another way when I first read it, as it helped me realize how an education and career in Science had limited my perspective in some ways. Science was the "key to understanding everything," or so I thought. And, in the beginning, when you first begin to study, you realize that you are trying to pin down the vast unknown by defining a piece at a time, like putting together a puzzle. However, after a time, it is easy to get so comfortable with the part of the puzzle you feel has been "defined" that you find yourself within artificial boundaries, a separation your mind has created. This seems to me what Uchiyama is saying... "some Westerners try to grasp 'self' and even the life force itself by definition. The life of the self does not come about by being defined." Similarly, language itself puts a severe limitation on what can be only understood by experience.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday
    Last edited by Jakuden; 01-13-2016 at 03:23 AM.

  17. #17
    Lots spoke to me in this chapter. I must say (and this is just my own mental block), it bothers me when Zen teachers start talking about God and "life force." I know they are trying to relate teachings to concepts Westerners are more familiar with, but I think it muddies the waters and for me, I have a gut aversion (yes yes a poison) to Abrahamic traditions, so I tend to mentally close off.

    For example:
    This inclusive self is at heart the creative power of life. It is related to what the Judeo-Christian tradition calls the creative power of God.

    Uchiyama, Kosho (2005-06-10). Opening the Hand of Thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice (p. 29). Wisdom Publications. Kindle Edition.
    or

    where did I get the power to choose it? I cannot help but conclude that this choice, too, has been given life by a great power that transcends my own willpower and thought, whether you call it chance, fate, life itself, or the providence of God.


    Uchiyama, Kosho (2005-06-10). Opening the Hand of Thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice (p. 34). Wisdom Publications. Kindle Edition.
    He early on says that there is nothing mystical about this universal self, but I feel that a lot of what follows is very mystical sounding, like the above quote.

    Ultimately, for me, there is just one sentence that's really needed in this chapter:
    “[universal] self is what is there before you cook it up with thought.”

    Uchiyama, Kosho (2005-06-10). Opening the Hand of Thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice (p. 30). Wisdom Publications. Kindle Edition.

    Sorry to bring some criticism into this thread! Again, I know this is just my own mental blockage, but thought I'd say something in case anyone else has that issue.

    -satToday
    Last edited by Kaishin; 01-13-2016 at 04:55 PM.
    Thanks,
    Kaishin (Open Heart aka Matt)
    Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

  18. #18
    Kaishin,

    I had that same gut reaction, mostly to Christianity, for many years. Sitting with that reaction and letting that resistance go has helped me come a long way, to the point where I can allow the concept of God in without aversion, because after all, it is just another concept, and comparing it to what we call "Buddhism" is just another comparison. It's a work in progress.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday

  19. #19
    Thanks, Jakuden. I'm not so resistant to those things in interactions/life anymore, just when I encounter it in Zen writings/teachings. A bit like oil and water, I guess.

    -satToday.
    Thanks,
    Kaishin (Open Heart aka Matt)
    Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

  20. #20
    Hi all
    I have decided to be more active on the forums this year, to take more part in that side of our sangha.
    Chapter 2 was a struggle for me. I understand/accept, that what is being pointed to, truth and jiko, is beyond "mere" concepts, and hence cannot be conceptualised, that only continued proper practise will reveal the meaning of zazen. The way Uchiyama tries to explain it is however lost on me. But I did come to think of if the truth before we cook it up (with inspiration from Schopenhauer and his idea of the world as will and representation) as blind will before any concept, which is very close to Uchiyama p. 29: "Our whole self is the force or quality of life that enables conscious thought to arise, and it includes that personal, conscious self, but it also the force that functions beyond any conscious thought".
    Zazen is...very important to me, and the method of shikantaza is what I have been looking for, for many years. However I am not convinced that the truth it reveals is any more absolute than anything else (doesn't mean it is less true either). There seems to be a lot of circular reasoning going on, both in Uchiyamas' book and generally in zen literature, which I have a really hard time digesting. The method one uses to investigate something in part determines which results can be found. I am open to debating wether or not I am using (directly and indirectly) too narrowly. Anyway, frustrating yet seminal work on this praxis of ours.
    Gassho
    Jesper
    Sat today

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by somanaut View Post
    Hi all
    I have decided to be more active on the forums this year, to take more part in that side of our sangha.
    Great, welcome!!!

    that only continued proper practise will reveal the meaning of zazen.
    The meaning of zazen is just zazen itself

    The way Uchiyama tries to explain it is however lost on me.
    I agree that it is a bit unwieldy at times.

    Zazen is...very important to me, and the method of shikantaza is what I have been looking for, for many years. However I am not convinced that the truth it reveals is any more absolute than anything else (doesn't mean it is less true either).
    Shikantaza (only-just-sitting) doesn't reveal any truths. It is simply embodying truth itself: life just-as-it-is.

    There seems to be a lot of circular reasoning going on, both in Uchiyamas' book and generally in zen literature, which I have a really hard time digesting. The method one uses to investigate something in part determines which results can be found.
    I think this is the "western" desire to describe and over-analyze that Uchiyama is warning against:

    Using our intellect to come up with some answer to this we can only come up with a one-sided or abstract answer. Ultimately, all we can say is that the reality of life is as it is. The reality of the life of the self is simply to live life just as it is. Self does not exist because I think about it or because I don’t think about it. Either way, this self, universal and personal, is my life. Zazen is a way of truly putting this reality of life into practice.

    Uchiyama, Kosho (2005-06-10). Opening the Hand of Thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice (p. 34). Wisdom Publications. Kindle Edition.
    and

    The life of the self does not come about by being defined. Life lives as real experience even if it is not understood or defined.
    ...
    This ought to be clear to us naturally, but all the Western rationalists’ attempts at explanation leave it muddled. If one thinks about a reality that exists before the definitions of speculative thought, that in itself creates a kind of definition, recreating the problem. The speculated-about and redefined reality no longer exists prior to definition. You can easily wind up thinking that definitions are reality.

    Uchiyama, Kosho (2005-06-10). Opening the Hand of Thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice (p. 32). Wisdom Publications. Kindle Edition.
    Just some thoughts from this layman.

    -satToday
    Thanks,
    Kaishin (Open Heart aka Matt)
    Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

  22. #22
    Hi Kaishin thanks for the welcome and your thoughts. One thing I would like to address is:
    "I think this is the "western" desire to describe and over-analyze that Uchiyama is warning against"
    Maybe, but that doesn't change the fact, that it's circular argument, where the conclusion produces the premise.
    It's hard for me to discern when Uchiyama is trying to describe the ineffable nature of the dharma (I hope that I used that correctly), and when he is making more of a philosophical argument, because he seems to switch between the two.
    To me it's quite clear, that shikantaza produces a certain skill (I might be critiqued for putting it that way, but that is how I see it), and that skill can at a certain point perhaps become intrinsic and thus lead to non-grasping. But that in itself doesn't prove non-grasping to be more true than conceptual grasping. You have now just become skilful in non-grasping, which is a wonderful thing. To be clear, I am not arguing against the method or actuality of what Uchiyama says, else why would I practise (or atlas attempt to) shikantaza. I believe he is right (just can't see it yet), but I think his argument for it is troublesome.
    Gassho
    Jesper
    Sat today

  23. #23
    Member Hoseki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by somanaut View Post
    Hi Kaishin thanks for the welcome and your thoughts. One thing I would like to address is:
    "I think this is the "western" desire to describe and over-analyze that Uchiyama is warning against"
    Maybe, but that doesn't change the fact, that it's circular argument, where the conclusion produces the premise.
    It's hard for me to discern when Uchiyama is trying to describe the ineffable nature of the dharma (I hope that I used that correctly), and when he is making more of a philosophical argument, because he seems to switch between the two.
    To me it's quite clear, that shikantaza produces a certain skill (I might be critiqued for putting it that way, but that is how I see it), and that skill can at a certain point perhaps become intrinsic and thus lead to non-grasping. But that in itself doesn't prove non-grasping to be more true than conceptual grasping. You have now just become skilful in non-grasping, which is a wonderful thing. To be clear, I am not arguing against the method or actuality of what Uchiyama says, else why would I practise (or atlas attempt to) shikantaza. I believe he is right (just can't see it yet), but I think his argument for it is troublesome.
    Gassho
    Jesper
    Sat today
    Hi,

    I don't think Uchiyama Roshi is saying one is more true than the other. Maybe he is and I missed it but I think he's saying that a life where one is constantly grasping leads to a certain kind of understanding of oneself and the world. A life where one can open the hand of thought leads to another. Each life giving rise to thoughts and emotions that reflect their origin. Neither right, wrong, good or bad but verying degrees of suffering.

    Would you mind outlining the circular reasoning. I don't have a good sense for that kind of think.

    Sorry about the brevity I have little time at the moment.

    Gassho
    Adam
    Sat today


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Kaishin View Post
    Thanks, Jakuden. I'm not so resistant to those things in interactions/life anymore, just when I encounter it in Zen writings/teachings. A bit like oil and water, I guess.

    -satToday.
    Yes it's kind of funny, I'm almost a little startled every time I run across a reference to God in a Zen book. Just evidence that we are conditioned from early in our lives to have strong feelings of one kind or another about that word!

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by somanaut View Post
    However I am not convinced that the truth it reveals is any more absolute than anything else (doesn't mean it is less true either). There seems to be a lot of circular reasoning going on, both in Uchiyamas' book and generally in zen literature, which I have a really hard time digesting. The method one uses to investigate something in part determines which results can be found. I am open to debating wether or not I am using (directly and indirectly) too narrowly. Anyway, frustrating yet seminal work on this praxis of ours.
    Gassho
    Jesper
    Sat today
    Well, Zazen is a way for us to encounter the world free of divisive categories (such as the comparisons that Uchiyama describes) and judgments, this vs. that frictions, measures of time, dreams about the future and memories of the past, including even the divisive categorization of "us vs. world".

    I believe we are in fact creating a new "mental model" of reality (one free or freer of divisions, judgments and frictions) to replace [or run together with] our usual mental model (which is based on divisions, judgments and frictions). It may be a mental model, but it is a perfectly valid ... not to mention beautiful and freeing ... way to encounter who we are in and as the world. (It is much as we have never actually seen and felt the ocean ... only light and other sensations coming through the senses which the brain recreates as an image with qualities such as saltiness to taste and wetness to touch and blueness to vision. Nonetheless, how beautiful it is, and how useful for sailing across and catching fish! Thus, whether we are encountering actual "ultimate reality" or just a wonderful alternative mental encounter with this life-self-world is not so important, any more than whether we are swimming in the ocean or just swimming in its mental image experienced between our ears).

    Keep on sitting, our way of swimming!

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    Last edited by Jundo; 01-14-2016 at 06:32 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  26. #26
    Joyo
    Guest
    It's been a busy week for me, I will try to read this chapter either today or Saturday.

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Well, Zazen is a way for us to encounter the world free of divisive categories (such as the comparisons that Uchiyama describes) and judgments, this vs. that frictions, measures of time, dreams about the future and memories of the past, including even the divisive categorization of "us vs. world".

    I believe we are in fact creating a new "mental model" of reality (one free or freer of divisions, judgments and frictions) to replace [or run together with] our usual mental model (which is based on divisions, judgments and frictions). It may be a mental model, but it is a perfectly valid ... not to mention beautiful and freeing ... way to encounter who we are in and as the world. (It is much as we have never actually seen and felt the ocean ... only light and other sensations coming through the senses which the brain recreates as an image with qualities such as saltiness to taste and wetness to touch and blueness to vision. Nonetheless, how beautiful it is, and how useful for sailing across and catching fish! Thus, whether we are encountering actual "ultimate reality" or just a wonderful alternative mental encounter with this life-self-world is not so important, any more than whether we are swimming in the ocean or just swimming in its mental image experienced between our ears).

    Keep on sitting, our way of swimming!

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    THIS! Exactly this was/is my point. Thanks Jundo. Maybe it's true, maybe it isn't, who cares about truth, it's a wonderful world and life that "deserves"/is more than analytical-conceptual-dichotomies. My argument was purely "technical". I agree what has to be done (to paraphrase the old buddhist saying), I just think, that we can do without the (in my mind) circular reasoning.

    @Dude
    I saw an example of circular reasoning on page 12.: "When we let go of our conceptions, there is no other possible reality than what is right now...". Yes of course, you just abandoned any other way of seeing it, hence you are "left" with this, but that doesn't in any way prove, that what is here is the only possible reality. You (Uchiyama) have just construed it to be so. Again, I agree with the method (zazen, especially as shikantaza), but disagree, or at least see problems in the theory. The praxis whoever is wonderful.
    Gassho
    Jesper
    sat today

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by somanaut View Post
    @Dude
    I saw an example of circular reasoning on page 12.: "When we let go of our conceptions, there is no other possible reality than what is right now...". Yes of course, you just abandoned any other way of seeing it, hence you are "left" with this, but that doesn't in any way prove, that what is here is the only possible reality. You (Uchiyama) have just construed it to be so. Again, I agree with the method (zazen, especially as shikantaza), but disagree, or at least see problems in the theory. The praxis whoever is wonderful.
    Gassho
    Jesper
    sat today
    Hi Jesper,

    I agree with you ... but not.

    First off, some tautologies and bits of circular reasoning are vital to expressing Zen because they cut across our usual way of encounter the world. So, for example, if I say "it is what it is", it sounds like just stating the obvious, "a chair is just a chair". However, it is packed with meaning, namely, there is nothing more to add or take away from just this. How often do you encounter life with the perspective "this is so itself and complete, there is nothing for comparison or change"?

    Next, I think you misunderstand "there is no other possible reality than what is right now". When you stop thinking about maybes and "what ifs", fading memories of yesterday and dreams of tomorrow ... then what other reality is possible than right now? The minute you start to think of such an alternative, you create a canyon between the "what if" and right now. Give up the comparisons and I ask you: what other reality is possible apart from right now?

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Hi Jesper,

    ...tautologies and bits of circular reasoning are vital to expressing Zen because they cut across our usual way of encounter the world.
    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

  30. #30
    Hello everyone,

    I also really enjoyed reading this chapter. Tantalizing name, The Meaning of Zazen. With the discussion on the futility of comparing yourself against others (which I love), and the significant effort to describe “the self that lives the whole truth”, it seems that this “meaning” of zazen is to put away the monkey mind,what I believe is meant by the phrase “opening the hand of thought”, in order to realize this self. “Living out the reality of the life of the self.”

    These lines really struck me, “The self is not universal in an abstract way; it is so in a most concrete way. There is nothing abstract about all human beings living out one and the same fresh, original life force.” The word God is such a loaded word in our culture. My experience has led me to believe that using this word can evoke strong feelings in people (often negative). I can only assume it is used here because the intended audience may be westerners, and therefore have a frame of reference with which to use in approaching the concept of “the actual reality of life”, “our universal self, jiko”. While perhaps not mystical, this concept certainly is at least metaphysical.

    The discussion of Living Out the Reality of Life is comforting. “Whatever our way of life may be, that is the reality of life, so there is no possibility of living outside the reality of life.” Helps me to think that perhaps I won’t require multiple lifetimes to find that elusive Nirvana paradise I keep hearing about on TV.

    Then again, I am probably thinking too much.

    Gassho,

    Jason

    sat today

  31. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    We continue to Chapter 2, The Meaning of Zazen ...

    Some suggested themes (please ignore or bring up anything else you might wish):

    By what comparisons do you define yourself (literally, define your "self")?

    What would life be like if you dropped the comparisons?

    Granted, we cannot drop all the comparisons and function in this daily world (the Social Services would certainly be at my door if I suddenly forgot the category "parent" to my "child" ), so can we perhaps learn to drop the comparisons even with and amid the comparisons? Perhaps keep the comparisons for functional purposes, but not be so tightly bound and tied by them?


    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    Up until about 15 years ago I defined my self by my profession, income, social status, and possessions. I wasn't very happy though and began to feel like something was "missing". I had my family, career, etc, and should have been happy. After searching I discovered that nothing was "missing" at all and it was only my perception of my self that was lacking. After I stopped looking outside of me for "validation" along with the constant comparing myself with others my life changed for the better. I stopped feeling like something was "missing". I was still had my family, had a career, and everything else that I previously had except my perceptions changed and that's when I became a happier person.

    Life is SO much better without the comparisons that I had going on. My relationships with friends, family, and co-workers got much better too. I no longer felt like something was "missing" because there really wasn't anything lacking. I learned that I was whole and complete just as I was. I also learned that when we compare ourselves with others we will always loose but once we understand that we, you and I, are the same we, ourselves, will feel complete and content and will be able to connect with anyone.

    I hope that I made sense here, hahaha.

    Gassho

    Nanto



    Sat2Day

  32. #32
    Juno thanks for taking the time to give a reply.
    I like zazen, even when it's hard/painful/boring. I tried it the first time in my early twenties in a rinzai led zendo. And during that first sitting, I involuntarily (or felt like it was) said to myself/my self: "welcome home", and that statement was the truest that I have ever uttered. Zen texts doesn't as such speak to me, it doesn't resonate, but I try to read something once in a while, or listen to a dharma talk. I much prefer sitting. But I realise that I need to read/listen and talk/write about zen now and again, even if my failure to understand shines through, so I don't become complacent with "my own" praxis. With such a thing as zazen and zen, it's easy (for me at least) to become lost in habit and monotony. I feel different than I did a year ago, when I returned to zazen. But how much is age, how much are the events of a year, and how much is the effect of zazen. As most people in Treelaf, I have a job (masseur, for which I feel truly blessed to have), a family and a girlfriend that think it weird to sit facing a wall 2 times a day for 30+ min. And a society that believes it to be at best useless. I am not a strong person, so it's easy to become wrapped up in concepts of this and that. So participating in these forums is a way to bring zazen more of the zafu (rolled up blanket) and into the world.
    Gassho
    Jesper
    Sat today

  33. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by CK732 View Post
    Up until about 15 years ago I defined my self by my profession, income, social status, and possessions. I wasn't very happy though and began to feel like something was "missing". I had my family, career, etc, and should have been happy. After searching I discovered that nothing was "missing" at all and it was only my perception of my self that was lacking. After I stopped looking outside of me for "validation" along with the constant comparing myself with others my life changed for the better. I stopped feeling like something was "missing". I was still had my family, had a career, and everything else that I previously had except my perceptions changed and that's when I became a happier person.

    Life is SO much better without the comparisons that I had going on. My relationships with friends, family, and co-workers got much better too. I no longer felt like something was "missing" because there really wasn't anything lacking. I learned that I was whole and complete just as I was. I also learned that when we compare ourselves with others we will always loose but once we understand that we, you and I, are the same we, ourselves, will feel complete and content and will be able to connect with anyone.

    I hope that I made sense here, hahaha.

    Gassho

    Nanto



    Sat2Day
    Amen!! (Are we allowed to say that here?)

    Gassho,
    Jakuden/Sierra
    SatToday

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by somanaut View Post
    Juno thanks for taking the time to give a reply.
    I like zazen, even when it's hard/painful/boring. I tried it the first time in my early twenties in a rinzai led zendo. And during that first sitting, I involuntarily (or felt like it was) said to myself/my self: "welcome home", and that statement was the truest that I have ever uttered. Zen texts doesn't as such speak to me, it doesn't resonate, but I try to read something once in a while, or listen to a dharma talk. I much prefer sitting. But I realise that I need to read/listen and talk/write about zen now and again, even if my failure to understand shines through, so I don't become complacent with "my own" praxis. With such a thing as zazen and zen, it's easy (for me at least) to become lost in habit and monotony. I feel different than I did a year ago, when I returned to zazen. But how much is age, how much are the events of a year, and how much is the effect of zazen. As most people in Treelaf, I have a job (masseur, for which I feel truly blessed to have), a family and a girlfriend that think it weird to sit facing a wall 2 times a day for 30+ min. And a society that believes it to be at best useless. I am not a strong person, so it's easy to become wrapped up in concepts of this and that. So participating in these forums is a way to bring zazen more of the zafu (rolled up blanket) and into the world.
    Gassho
    Jesper
    Sat today
    Sounds lovely.

    You know, I think that Massage for you can be Zazen too. It is a ritual, is it not, and a great giving to someone. Lose yourself in the motions. Kinhin with your fingers.

    Yes, Zen texts and ways of putting things can be hard sometimes to get one's teeth into, especially when those old guys start babbling on about "The Sound of One Hand Clapping" and "The Cypress Tree in the Garden" and all that. But, like a good massage, the sometime moments of pain are relieving and freeing in the end. Stick with it.

    And even if the books or other writings don't resonate ... just keep sitting. If the sitting resonates, that is enough.

    Gassho, J

    PS - Oh, and Nanto Clarisse ... lovely!
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  35. #35
    Hi there,

    Jesper, Jason, Kaishin and Adam, I relate to what you say. Jundo's thoughts also resonate with me.

    If we read Uchiyama with a philosopher's hat on it can be frustrating - it's not hard to deconstruct and pick out anomalies.

    But Uchiyama knows this and he's sort of saying '- look - at the end of the day I have to use these useless words - and it's not even that I'm trying to describe
    something metaphysical - it's actually concrete - but it sounds mystical and somehow unfamiliar.If we don't relax our brain's 'conceptual fist' we can't get near to
    our intuitive knowledge and the way I'm suggesting to do this is by sitting Zazen.'

    Sometimes I feel like that philosopher's hat is a band of steel around my brain - it's really good to take it off and just sit.

    Gassho

    Willow/Jinyo

    sat today

  36. #36
    Hi Willow
    That is a really nice and good way to look t it. Thank you for your words.
    Gassho
    Jesper
    sat today

  37. #37
    Joyo
    Guest
    Kyotai, Shingen, I too can relate to what you both said. This chapter describes much of my life as well.

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today

  38. #38
    Kyotai
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Joyo View Post
    Kyotai, Shingen, I too can relate to what you both said. This chapter describes much of my life as well.

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today
    Yes, I was taken aback on the first half of this chapter. The example of the businessman who goes to Antaij as well. Very clear and precise. I just couldn't have put it into words myself.

    Gassho Kyotai
    Sat today

  39. #39
    Member Hoseki's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    St. John's Newfoundland, Canada.
    Hi folks,


    I think we might be encountering Uchiyama Roshi writing in the very way he suggests we try not to. He suggest we try not to get caught up in thought. I take this to mean not that we don't think and thinking isn't useful but think is a rather purposeful activity. Even when its a rambling random kind of thought (perhaps not for psychosis) it tends to be directed to things or about things or plans or fantasy or descriptions or a kind of act (e.g. "I do" at a wedding.) Language and thought tends to have a kind of direction or motion that highlights some things while obscuring others. Which is find and dandy for most of activities we engage in. But we tend to always be thinking about this or that. When we can relax the influence that language and thought has on us we can see how it works. We can also get a more even view of the world.

    For example, when I see stick on the ground I just see a stick and move on. If I were trying to build a fire than I would see the stick as firewood, if I was trying to get a Frisbee out a tree I would have a handy de-tree-Frisbee-i-e-r device. If my dog would see a stick on the ground he would see something to smell and that smelling would tell him a lot about the history of that stick. He might also see something to chew on or maybe something that he can use in a game of fetch with his old buddy El Duderino The context informs the impression of the stick. All of those impressions of those are fine. The stick like all beings are capable of sustaining multiple interpretations. How the world is to me at any moment depends on the moment before it. This is part of the historical contingency that Uchiyama Roshi was talking about. (I think I have William James' "A certain kind of Blindness in Human Beings" floating around in the back of my head here.) There are so many different actors in the world as well as actors without agency (weather patterns, solar flares, volcanic eruptions, chemical reactions, etc...) All these things share the world I encounter and yet I still see only the world through the lens of past.

    An effect of Sitting Zazen is relaxing the fixedness of the interpretation (or that which arises) of our encounters. Does a dog have buddha-nature? Apparently it depends on whose asking Thus the Zen master speaks out of two sides of his/her mouth because they can juggle these kinds of perspectives or they are not ensnared. When one thinks what is Zazen good for what else can they say but nothing? Being good for something is a judgment of the affective and thinking parts of the mind (I don't actually think they are two... but not one.) Without this judgment an action is an action stop. Its simply something I bore witness to.

    So as for mysticism, I don't think Uchiyama Roshi is suggesting that to sit Zazen is to merge with a greater power or God or the Buddha-nature so much as allow the small self to realize what is always the case. That we are Buddha-nature! But I think we read this and we go hunting for the Buddha-nature because we are always in the quagmire of thought. I think Uchiyama Roshi is saying that Buddha-nature is all encompassing <were threw the looking glass here people!>

    For example, as I'm writing this I'm sitting a chair. When I went into the room I saw the chair and sat down. But when I started thinking about the chair I notice that is made of fabric, it has some metal wheels with rubber on them, and I'm sure it has oily ball bearings as well. So this chair is actually a bunch of things put together in a particular way. After realizing this would I say its not a chair but the description I just mentioned? Or is "chair" short hand for that description? I don't have a good answer to these questions but they are questions that arose when wrote this. So my point, is the chair a multiplicity or a unity? Many or one? I think the answer is both or maybe neither. So I think Uchiyama Roshi is saying that when we are encountering the world with a more or less relaxed desirous mind we just see things and these things are manifestations of Buddha-nature. They are separate from each other yet they all participate in Buddha-nature in a way similar to the parts of the chair. That said, its just a analogy and pushed enough and it will fall apart e.g. the chair doesn't exist until the parts are brought together but Buddha-nature is present all along.

    Anywho just my thoughts after reading the chapter and comments. I recognize they are a bit muddled but there are "lotta strands in old Duder's head." I really think Uchiyama Roshi is saying something simple that is hard to express.


    Gassho
    Sattoday
    Dude (Adam)

  40. #40

  41. #41
    Very nice Adam, thank you for this. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    #sattoday

  42. #42
    Hi folks, sorry I'm late. I have been meaning to reread this book for a long time, so I was excited that it got "assigned" here to short circuit my procrastination.

    I know we have move on from chapter 1, but I want to make one quick comment before getting to chapter 2, and that comment is that I like the term accidental reality because I think it reflects the impermanence of things a bit better than conditioned or dependent reality. Dependent, codependent, conditioned, all might be better overall descriptors, but thinking of our reality as an accident really drives the point home.

    As for chapter 2 and the debate/discussion above, Uchiyama does use circular reasoning, and thank goodness for that! Zen is beyond rationalism, so what might be the best way to rationally explain that? Circular reasoning. Think of it sort of like the swirly water when we flush the toilet... just let that stinky rationality that bogs you down go and discover the feeling of freedom

    As for Jundo's questions, I define my self through relations with everything outside of me. Developmentally speaking, one of the first things babies learn is that they are no longer joined with their mother, which tends to suck, and continuously learning the depth of that separateness throughout the rest of life's journey means it's pretty much downhill from there. That's the bad news. The good news is that life would be pretty damn confusing if we didn't live by these endless definitions that separate us from what Uchiyama calls undeniable reality. So, while I may not be happy with all my definitions and comparisons, I am happy that (1) I am able to make them at all, and (2) that I can practice letting go of them by practicing zazen, which I am gong to do right noq=w.
    AL (Jigen) in:
    Faith/Trust
    Courage/Love
    Awareness/Action!

    I sat today

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