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Thread: Opening the Hand of Thought - Chapter 5

  1. #1

    Opening the Hand of Thought - Chapter 5

    Zazen and the True Self ...


    I am writing a book with an old friend, a theoretical physicist, in which he shoots out an idea from physics and I respond from a Zen point of view (not sure if the book will ever be finished, as we only have a few pages so far) ...

    ... but one idea we both kinda agree with is that, from one point of view, we are not just separate individuals. Whatever the universe is, that is the stuff that we are. As I put it in the book, when you sneeze, one way to look at it is that it is the universe sneezing with your nose (which is just the universe too). We are literally the universe come alive, the life of the party! An aspect of our Zen Practice is to get past our small self to realize such fact. Enjoy the Party!

    Uchiyama Roshi may be a little fuzzy in nailing down what is this Universal Self ... but perhaps one has to be. The more one tries to stick a name and definition on it, the further one gets. If you try to call it Amida Buddha, God, Stanley, the Universe, Matter and Energy, Emptiness, True Mind, True Self, Universal Self ... well, you do an injustice. Best perhaps to say (in my opinion) that Zen Folks know some viewless view which is very Whole and Positive which is us and us just that.

    Some people struggled in Chapter 1 with Uchiyama's statements such as "when you die, your universe goes with you", so I will briefly link to what I said there:

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...l=1#post170279

    Remember that, as you read this book, it is the universe reading!

    So, what does the universe have to say about this chapter?

    Gassh, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Hi,

    The universe pleases itself with text bellow found in this chapter:

    "Sawaki Roshi used to describe zazen as “the self selfing the self.” Usually people assume that they are born onto a stage or into a world that already exists, that they dance around on the stage for a while and then leave when they die. Actually, though, when I am born, I give birth to my world as well! I live together with that world; therefore, that world forms the contents of my self. Then, when I die, I take the world with me; that is, my world dies with me. That is the rationale behind Sawaki Roshi’s noncommonsensical expression, “self selfing the self.” I describe it as living out your own life through all the circumstances you may encounter. You give birth to, live out, and die together with your world."

    "Heaven or hell, love or hate,
    No matter where I turn
    I meet myself.
    Holding life precious is
    Just living with all intensity
    Holding life precious."

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

  3. #3
    Hello,

    Describing the ineffable cures boredom.^^


    Gassho
    Myosha sat today
    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

  4. #4
    Member ForestDweller's Avatar
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    I, too, like Jundo, am writing a book which I'm pleased to say is half finished (roughly). The core is around my martial arts teacher's life and teachings -- he's also a Buddhist priest and the lineage holder for his samurai family. I bring this up because in answer to Jundo's question -- what does the universe have to say about this chapter? -- my work with my teacher would answer: Don't just say something; do something. The only way to understand the lives we are living is through experience, even when that experience is just breathing in and out -- truly, this is one of the better ways. Too often we are caught in struggling to shape the ineffable through language which is an exercise in repetitive futility. Most of us have experienced the feeling of merging, losing the boundaries of self whether it be in meditation, sex, mountain climbing, or martial arts (and innumerable other EXPERIENCES); however when we try to bring that experience into a permanent statement, it always falls short. So why do we try? We try because we are attached to the sensations of such experiences, and well, we all know where that takes us. Still, we are the apes with language and we feel forced to try to frame our universal experiences into neat little letters and words. As Myosha says, "Describing the ineffable cures boredom." Well, that's one reason to keep trying. The other is that here and there we are blessed with "turning words" that actually do take us deeper into experience and understanding. ^^ForestSatToday^^ ForestDweller

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by ForestDweller View Post
    I, too, like Jundo, am writing a book which I'm pleased to say is half finished (roughly). The core is around my martial arts teacher's life and teachings -- he's also a Buddhist priest and the lineage holder for his samurai family. I bring this up because in answer to Jundo's question -- what does the universe have to say about this chapter? -- my work with my teacher would answer: Don't just say something; do something. The only way to understand the lives we are living is through experience, even when that experience is just breathing in and out -- truly, this is one of the better ways. Too often we are caught in struggling to shape the ineffable through language which is an exercise in repetitive futility. Most of us have experienced the feeling of merging, losing the boundaries of self whether it be in meditation, sex, mountain climbing, or martial arts (and innumerable other EXPERIENCES); however when we try to bring that experience into a permanent statement, it always falls short. So why do we try? We try because we are attached to the sensations of such experiences, and well, we all know where that takes us. Still, we are the apes with language and we feel forced to try to frame our universal experiences into neat little letters and words. As Myosha says, "Describing the ineffable cures boredom." Well, that's one reason to keep trying. The other is that here and there we are blessed with "turning words" that actually do take us deeper into experience and understanding. ^^ForestSatToday^^ ForestDweller
    Nicely said.

    Doshin
    Sattoday

  6. #6
    Member Roland's Avatar
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    Opening the Hand of Thought - Chapter 5

    I struggle with this chapter. For now I hardly had this feeling of deep connection with the whole of the universe. I do realize the atoms in my body ultimately relate to the deep cosmos, but I would not call those atoms and molecules a Self, universal or not, they are just atoms and molecules like the dirt on my shoes. It seems even more problematic to talk about 'life pervading the whole of the universe' - how to define 'life' in this way? An animal, a flower, a micro-organism can be called 'alive' while we would refrain from calling a rock 'alive' - especially a rock devoided of living organisms. Of course one can stretch words - but then one ends up in 'the night in which all cows are grey' as Hegel said. I guess deep meditative states make us experience a kind of universal unity, but forgive me for being sceptical as I think that such feelings are responses of our bodies which are forced into long periods of relaxed motionless states and not so much insights into a Universal Self.

    Gassho
    Roland
    #SatToday

  7. #7
    We are so caught up in our minds that we have lost the ability to feel the energy of a tree 🎄 or rock. The connection is found in our hearts. Long live tree huggers -)😊

    SAT today
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Roland View Post
    I struggle with this chapter. For now I hardly had this feeling of deep connection with the whole of the universe. I do realize the atoms in my body ultimately relate to the deep cosmos, but I would not call those atoms and molecules a Self, universal or not, they are just atoms and molecules like the dirt on my shoes. It seems even more problematic to talk about 'life pervading the whole of the universe' - how to define 'life' in this way? An animal, a flower, a micro-organism can be called 'alive' while we would refrain from calling a rock 'alive' - especially a rock devoided of living organisms. Of course one can stretch words - but then one ends up in 'the night in which all cows are grey' as Hegel said. I guess deep meditative states make us experience a kind of universal unity, but forgive me for being sceptical as I think that such feelings are responses of our bodies which are forced into long periods of relaxed motionless states and not so much insights into a Universal Self.

    Gassho
    Roland
    #SatToday
    Zen's all about skepticism; please don't stop questioning. If you just accept what you are told, what the hell good is that? What Myosha said is pretty funny and aptly said: "Describing the ineffable cures boredom" I love it

    So how the hell do you describe it? That's why I think being a zen teacher has got to be pretty difficult. You are trying to use words to point to something that is completely beyond description. Some things are so frustrating because if a zen teacher means that, why don't they just say that? Why all the crazy talk?

    But I've found that after practicing, something just opens up and it starts to make sense. And then it won't, and then it does again; it's an unending rabbit hole: practice and realization.

    Gassho,

    Risho
    -sattoday

  9. #9
    Member Roland's Avatar
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    Opening the Hand of Thought - Chapter 5

    Yes Risho, it's also about 'how to describe it'. I do like the expression 'softening of the boundaries' between self and the other, that's something I do experience. I'm even able to feel the energy of trees and the power of a mountain. But yet talking about a Universal Self makes me uneasy.

    Gassho,
    Roland
    #SatToday

  10. #10
    Eishuu
    Guest
    I really liked this chapter, although I think I need to read it a couple more times. I was particularly struck with the phrase "Nor should it be aiming at decreasing delusion and finally eliminating it altogether". I sit with this attitude of wanting to decrease delusion....I'm not sure how to drop it.

    I'm also having difficulty understanding "We don't gradually become enlightened and eventually attain buddhahood by means of zazen. This small individual I we talk of will always be deluded, but regardless and that, zazen is buddha." I'd be grateful if anyone is able to explain what he means here. Thanks.

    Gassho
    Lucy
    sat today

  11. #11
    "Letting go" means "letting go." If we "let go" of our small self, we are not truly "letting go" unless we "let go" of "letting go" of the small self. The deluded small self and the enlightened Big Self are the same. If we become attached to sequestering our deluded self to some other place or suppressing it altogether in favor of the Big Self we aren't really "letting go". We aren't really accepting life as is.

    There's a great quote attributed to our 1st Ancestor Bodhidharma:

    “In countless ages gone by, I’ve turned from the essential to the trivial and wandered through all manner of existence, often angry without cause and guilty of numberless transgressions. Now, though I do no wrong, I’m punished by my past. Neither gods nor men can foresee when an evil deed will bear its fruit. I accept it with an open heart and without complaint of injustice.” The sutras say, “When you meet with adversity don’t be upset, because it makes sense.” With such understanding you’re in harmony with reason. And by suffering injustice you enter the Path." (Outline of Practice)

    Karma is complex. When most westerners use the term they tend to be expecting something good or bad to happen because something good or bad was done. But that's an incomplete view. "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." reflects the true nature of karma better.

    We do things in hope of specific results. But things don't always go as planned. In reality, things never go as planned. Not really. Because our plans are just our thoughts, our delusions. One person's plans cannot override the karma of the whole Universe. Attachment to to our expectations causes suffering. This was a pivotal moment in my practice. When I began to understand that my anxiety was just as important as my serenity, both equally empty and relevant to all aspects of my life. Good, bad, happy, and sad. All delusions experienced as reality. But to exclusively call them either delusions or reality is painfully incomplete. Our delusions are our reality. Our reality is one of delusion.

    Gassho

    Sat Today

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Lucy View Post
    I really liked this chapter, although I think I need to read it a couple more times. I was particularly struck with the phrase "Nor should it be aiming at decreasing delusion and finally eliminating it altogether". I sit with this attitude of wanting to decrease delusion....I'm not sure how to drop it.

    I'm also having difficulty understanding "We don't gradually become enlightened and eventually attain buddhahood by means of zazen. This small individual I we talk of will always be deluded, but regardless and that, zazen is buddha." I'd be grateful if anyone is able to explain what he means here. Thanks.

    Gassho
    Lucy
    sat today

    I don't pretend to know exactly what he means but I'll give my opinion on delusion. We continually identify and attach to our thinking so in an instant it becomes delusion. We can't want or desire to stop this because that just creates more delusion. so our practice is to watch and just let it go.

    Zazen itself is enlightenment. The small I is ego, mind created. We are part of something huge called Buddha nature, big mind, universal mind, god.....

    Hope this helps

    SAT today
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  13. #13
    Eishuu
    Guest
    That makes a lot of sense, thanks Rich.

    Gassho
    Lucy
    Sat today

  14. #14
    Thanks Rich

    Gassho,

    Risho
    -sattoday

  15. #15
    Member ForestDweller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doshin View Post
    Nicely said.

    Doshin
    Sattoday
    Thank you, Doshin. Your attention tells me I'm not just spewing into the void which being online sometimes lends itself to.
    ^^ForestSatToday^^ Forest Dweller

  16. #16
    Hi.

    Yes, good start rich.

    And thank you all for your efforts.

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen

    #Sat2day

  17. #17
    Joyo
    Guest
    I will admit, I'm a bit behind on our weekly readings. However, the turtle is plugging along---slowly =)

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today

  18. #18
    The turtle of no rank? Sorry, it's Daizan's fault

    Gassho,

    Risho
    -sattoday

  19. #19
    Joyo
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Risho View Post
    The turtle of no rank? Sorry, it's Daizan's fault

    Gassho,

    Risho
    -sattoday
    lol!!! that's a good one.

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today (as a turtle of no rank)

  20. #20
    This is a great discussion. I needed to read this chapter a few times to make sense of it. Today I saw Jundo's "Buddha Basics XIII No Self No Problem" (a sit-a-long), and that helped me better understand this chapter.

    I liked the story, about the squashes, showing interconnectedness.

    Gassho,
    Onkai
    SatToday
    Last edited by Onkai; 02-06-2016 at 09:57 PM.

  21. #21
    We are more or less halfway through the book. Let's take another week here to allow some folks to catch up, and also catch our breath.

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  22. #22
    Joyo
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    We are more or less halfway through the book. Let's take another week here to allow some folks to catch up, and also catch our breath.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Thank you =)

    Gassho,
    joyo
    sat today

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by ForestDweller View Post
    Thank you, Doshin. Your attention tells me I'm not just spewing into the void which being online sometimes lends itself to.
    ^^ForestSatToday^^ Forest Dweller
    Sometimes I wish this forum had a "like" button (I think maybe it does actually, on Tapatalk, but no one seems to use it) just because I often read wonderful things but do not wish to comment on every single one of them. I appreciate every post and mostly keep up on all the threads going even though I don't always comment.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  24. #24
    Sometimes I wish this forum had a "like" button (I think maybe it does actually, on Tapatalk, but no one seems to use it)
    That's the reason I sometimes go to Tapatalk to just hit the like without commenting anything (looks like we're spoiled by facebook in this regard )

    Gassho
    Washin
    ST

  25. #25
    Joyo
    Guest
    I have to admit, having read this chapter and reading the words "faith" and "believe" being used, my initial reaction was to cringe and be somewhat turned off. I've shared this here before, I was raised very strict Christian and devoutly practiced for many years. When I walked away from this religion, my father shunned me for 2 years, and I had many other family members treat me very poorly. To this day, I have to keep my distance from them, for my own mental well-being.

    Time has healed many of my wounds, and I have learned to live, very happily, with very little to no contact from parents and other relatives. However, I found it interesting to notice my reaction when I read these words today. It was like pressing on a pressure point on a painful spot on your body. It hurt. I don't think I'm open to using the words faith and believe in my Buddhist practice. However, I'm also beginning to see how the universal self somehow embraces all of my story, my experiences, and somehow it is all ok just as it is.

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today

  26. #26
    I have to admit, having read this chapter and reading the words "faith" and "believe" being used, my initial reaction was to cringe and be somewhat turned off.
    Hi Joyo,
    Having been raised Roman Catholic, I had the same gut reaction. However, the simple way to get past this is by sitting Zazen. There "faith and Be leaf" are replaced with experience and reality.

    Gassho,
    Sozan

    s@2day

  27. #27
    Member Hoseki's Avatar
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    Hi folks,

    I finished reading the chapter at least a week ago and I thought about what I would post a few times. So my ideas might be over cooked and I'm tired but here goes.

    I think Uchiyama Roshi discussion of the small self and big self can get gestured at in a few ways.

    The first way I think we can approach is it through a first person/ 3rd person point of view distinction. When I'm on the bus I'm busy thinking about this or that and many of these ideas are related to my plans or things I don't like/ do like etc... they are very relevant to me and my life. But if someone else is on the bus and they see me there I'm just a person riding the bus. I'm not the center of anything in particular I'm just a piece of landscape or furniture. For this other person, unless I'm known to them, that is I have some special significance (love, hate, curiosity etc...) Neither perspective is wrong I'm both a thing that thinks and also a thing

    The second way is consider Anatta (or non-self) and Anicca (impermanence.) If we try to apply Anatta to things in the world we look for the causes of things (events and occurrences that are the precursors to other things and events e.g. my parents meeting etc... ) So thing that we encounter, including ourselves are thing that are some point didn't exist at some point won't exist. Not only this, the time that we do exist we require constant interaction with our environment to maintain the stability of our bodies e.g. oxygen, gravity, food and water lest we die sooner rather than later. Not only our external environment but also the environment for any particular part of our body (the relationship between my heart and other parts of my body) need to be just so to keep this body going. Why does my heart beat? I don't know but I'm pretty sure its not because I will it. But without a beating heart the body dies and the small self comes undone.

    We don't see this because we are busy with our activities and projects and fears etc... Mostly things that deal with immediate issues such as survival and status. But when we can let go of those ideas and we start to see impermanence of the things we encounter and how they are the product of products (or caused by causes) we can see how we are at home in this world the way an apple is at home in an apple tree.


    I had a few other thoughts on the faith stuff but I can't remember.


    Gassho
    Sat today
    Adam

  28. #28
    I am late with the book Opening The Hand of Thought as I am changing medications and have received a powerful shot in my right knee, and yet I have begun reading and I plan to stay home all day and read. So far I find this book very beautiful.

    Elgwyn
    sat today
    Gassho
    "Nothing is so beautiful as spring--/ When weeds in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush: Thrush eggs look little low heavens, and thrush/ Through the echoing timber does not rise and wring/ The ear it strikes like lightening to hear him sing;.." Hopkins

  29. #29
    Up early I have finished all but a few of the notes of Uchiyamas beautiful book and as I will have time now to respond and participate in discussion, soon I shall read other's comments and give some thought to zazen for the sake of zazen and not expecting reward, and as a lay member, I hope to do a lot of listening.

    Elgwyn
    Calm Poetry
    sat today
    Gassho
    "Nothing is so beautiful as spring--/ When weeds in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush: Thrush eggs look little low heavens, and thrush/ Through the echoing timber does not rise and wring/ The ear it strikes like lightening to hear him sing;.." Hopkins

  30. #30
    Belief: 1) to become clear and pure in actualizing the reality of universal life, and to do zazen is to express this belief; 2) to not doubt that we are already living out the reality of our indivisible life. In other words, since we are already living out a universal/indivisible life (whether we know it or not), then actualize it by doing zazen (in order to more fully know it). I enjoy how these definitions reflect back on each other. This is the chapter, and specific section, that gave me the first line of my signature below: Falth/Trust. I had forgotten where it came from, so this was a nice reunion for us.

    Heaven or hell: Since both form life's scenery, and are just scenery, there is no point in liking one scene over another, because whatever scene I am in will pass at some point on to another scene, so all I can do is play the scene I am in the best way I can in order to do justice to the whole play we call life. Such is the Buddhist Way that everything is sacred, even hell. This is sort of the Courage/Love signature line, but I think there are more direct references somewhere in my previous studying.
    AL (Jigen) in:
    Faith/Trust
    Courage/Love
    Awareness/Action!

    I sat today

  31. #31
    I've read the chapter two times, and slowly it's starting to make sense to me. I understand now the statement: "Sitting zazen is the universal self sitting alone. At the same time, all things are the content or the scenery of that zazen or self." and the "self selfing the self." I might mark this chapter for another reading later.

    Gassho
    Theophan
    (Sekishi)
    Sat Today

  32. #32
    Kyotai
    Guest
    Still working my way through. Slowly..

    Gassho, Kyotai
    Sat today

  33. #33
    Some Global Thoughts on Uchiyama's book;

    First, I will now reread the book,

    Second, in a historical sense Uchiyama is not just dealing with small self and Big self. In an overt way he trys to come to grips with Japan's 20th century situation. He mentions the "Holocaust." Japan's part in WWII as Holocaust involved the atomic bombs dropped by the US. There is an attempt to reach out to the West to understand the Why of this. Uchiyama sends disciples to the west to spread the "Good" of Japanese culture. Even today some 71 years after the end of the war, most Japanese do not deal with this part of the Holocaust well. The work force in Japan is drooping as young people chose either not to marry or not to have children, and Japan, remaining in some ways medieval, is not dealing well with change. There are fewer jobs with fewer workers. Uchiyama chooses to retire into a life of contemplation after 10 years as Abbot thus in his words allowing for one more job in Japan. This allows his search for the Big Self to take on Global proportions. I have to reread the book in light if this search for the Big self. I will continue after rereading. Please consider lines by Andrew Marvell--"But at my back I always hear/Times winged chariot "drawing" near, And yonder before us ..vast eternity..." How is Uchiyama facing his own death?

    Elgwyn
    Tai Chi
    sat today
    Gassho _/|\_
    "Nothing is so beautiful as spring--/ When weeds in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush: Thrush eggs look little low heavens, and thrush/ Through the echoing timber does not rise and wring/ The ear it strikes like lightening to hear him sing;.." Hopkins

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