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Thread: Opening the Hand of Thought - Chapter 6 Part 1

  1. #1

    Opening the Hand of Thought - Chapter 6 Part 1

    Dear All,

    Chapter 6 (The World of Self Unfolds) has a lot of content, so I am going to take only the first portion this week ... "The Dissatisfactions of Mondern Life."

    We will take the remainder of the Chapter next week.

    Uchiyama Roshi describes a human race that is so intent on moving forward, and getting more, that it cannot be at peace. We think that if we are truly satisfied and know peace, we will let life drift by, become stagnant and achieve nothing.

    But is that true?

    I always point to Zazen as a way to know stillness and wholeness which is not only a matter of sitting still. One can embody stillness in motion. I sometimes use the example of climbing a mountain or running a race, but a pursuit in which each step by step forward is itself a total arrival. Each twist and turn is itself complete, and yet we keep heading around the next bend in the road. We take all things just as they are, up or down ... we know some great Up which transcends all little ups or downs ... yet seek to head upwards and avoid the losses as best we can.

    I also think it important not to be a prisoner of our goals even as we pursue them diligently ... seeking for the best with all one's might perhaps, yet with equanimity toward what eventually turns out.

    The content of one's goals are also important. Maybe our consumer driven, Nike shoe and Gucchi bag obsessed, money oriented society is running after the wrong things. Can we appreciate and seek the truly important matters in life, and the things that money cannot buy?

    Anyway, that is my little way of explaining and facing the situation Uchiyama Roshi describes. I believe it is the way of Shikantaza found on the cushion, as we rise from the cushion and get on with life, putting stillness and satisfaction into motion.

    What about you? What do you feel about all this?

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-14-2016 at 01:38 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Thank you Jundo,

    This so ties into the talk you just did on generosity. Greed and power have become a huge aspiration in a lot of people's lives in this modern world - it is hard to see how some flourish with so much, while others suffer to just get by.

    I do believe if these people did know peace they would be different, more caring and giving. The question is, how do you help them see peace? This chapter is going to be one of discovery.

    Gassho
    Shingen

    #sattoday

  3. #3

  4. #4
    For me equanimity in the face of 'whatever outcome' resonates. I don't have to be passive, and can act to help myself and others.
    Poorly put, but deeply felt.

    Gassho,
    Sozan

    s@2day

  5. #5
    Thank you, Jundo, for focusing on this part of the chapter.

    The sentence that stood out to me was on page 91: "The problem is that dissatisfaction with the present easily leads to impatience for our desires to be fulfilled, and that engenders a behavior of daggers drawn toward any and all competitors, resulting in the total loss of any peace in our lives."

    I don't consider myself to be very competitive by nature, yet I can think of times I have been competitive, in perhaps an unhealthy way, and that was certainly at odds with being at peace with my situation.

    Jishin, your video was beautiful.

    Gassho,
    Onkai
    SatToday

  6. #6
    Doshin remarked in another thread (forgive me if I don't have it exactly right) that in his early introduction to Buddhism he did not fully realize its compatibility with an engaged, active role in changing the world for the benefit of others. My earliest issues with Zen were in some ways similar, but probably more egotistical.... in my 20's I did a lot of hoping that blue could be red and red could be blue... caught in the delusion that "happiness" could be attained by some tangible achievement in the world, and that I could achieve "happiness" on my own, without help from others. This chapter contains the truths that some of us have to sit with so long to awaken to: that we are all interdependent (no matter how fiercely independent we would like to claim to be) and that so many of our thoughts and judgements are arbitrary and relative, for example that a particular job, status, financial or life situation will make us "happy" (or that other situations, conversely, will make us "unhappy"). Joy is actualizing our life as it is according to the Middle Way and realizing its interconnection with all other beings and the universe.

    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).

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I also think it important not to be a prisoner of our goals even as we pursue them diligently ... seeking for the best with all one's might perhaps, yet with equanimity toward what eventually turns out.
    I really like this line. Thank you! Regarding the chapter, I really loved the section where he wrote about comparing our situation to that of the ancient Egyptians. That is not a line of thinking that I have engaged in much (if at all), and I found it quite illuminating.

    Gassho,
    Rick
    Sat today

  8. #8
    Joyo
    Guest
    I appreciate what Jundo and others posted. Many good reminders. Yes, there is nothing wrong with goals, and wanting to achieve certain things such as an education to get a particular job. However, like everything, there is the middle way. I really do like the analogy of every step being complete and whole just right there, yet we continue to climb the mountain, not getting stuck on the steps behind or ahead.

    I enjoy working. I recently got a good job that I am very thankful for. However, work is just work. Life has so many beautiful things that easily get forgotten about because people are too busy chasing a paycheque, possessions, and status. It's nice to have these reminders to keep it all in perspective.

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today

  9. #9
    This past year for me has been a great opportunity to live more and expect less.

    Gassho

    Sat Today

  10. #10
    Eishuu
    Guest
    In terms of our Nike shoe and Gucchi bag obsessed culture, yes I think we are running after the wrong things if we expect lasting happiness from them. Though not a fan of Nike or Gucchi, I do like sparkly things and have since an early age thought that material things could make me happy permanently. I remember when I was seven feeling that if I could just have the latest My Little Pony, I would be happy for the rest of my life. I was happy for a bit, then I wanted a different one and was unsatisfied again. In my experience acting on craving just produces more craving, and it is the intention that is important. I think that our consumer society encourages us to be in a constant state of lack and craving. Whereas the real reason we feel incomplete is because we are disconnected from the whole, thinking that we are separate.

    I wonder about creativity, because I don't think that necessarily comes from a place of craving and desire.

    So I don't think it's our goals but the motivations and intentions behind them which are important. Hope this makes sense; my brain is not firing on all cylinders today.

    Gassho
    Lucy
    Sat today

  11. #11
    That makes sense. Thanks.

    I think creativity comes from our connection to the whole.

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

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  12. #12
    Eishuu
    Guest
    Yes, I think that's right.

    Gassho
    Lucy

  13. #13
    Member Hoseki's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    St. John's Newfoundland, Canada.
    Hi guys,


    When I first read this section I felt like something was missing but as I thought about everything that came to mind it could be related back to a avoidance/grasping dichotomy. These impulses seem to be forces driving the wheel Samsara. I don't know if we can be engaged in a myriad of activities while still keeping that still point. I'm not saying I doubt it but I don't think I have really experienced it. But I wonder if my trying to find something or to feel a certain way is keeping me from experiencing it. Either way, I think Uchiyama Roshi is correct in his assessment.

    Lucy, I liked your story about the My Little Pony. I used to think that our desires deceive us by promising lasting satisfaction but I don't know if they do. I just think they shine so brightly we are blinded by their beauty. Filled with our lust and longing we try to embrace the object of our affection thinking neither of time nor place. But like anything else it eventually it looses its luster; our finger prints obscuring the reflected light. Or what have you...




    Gassho
    Sat today
    Adam

  14. #14
    Member ForestDweller's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Beltrami Island Forest in Minnesota
    Yes, I recognize a former self of mine in Jundo's comments. I now call the dis-ease I had a "performance addiction." I wasn't an addict in a material-acquisition sense, but I was addicted to accumulating college degrees, better and better jobs, and higher and higher salaries, all as a mark of my worth, not what it could buy. Now, as many of you know, my husband, two dogs, and I live in a small log cabin in a remote boreal Forest on the Canadian border. Simplify! Simplify! And simplify again! That's what we've done. And the less we have, the more there is. It's always enough. I'm reasonably sure that we now "appreciate and seek the truly important matters in life," but continuous vigilance is necessary. The intangible "things" are always up for attachment. Still, I have to give us some credit, as we've progressed a long way from complexity to simplicity. It is wonderful to simply look out the window and be grateful for the Forest, the red squirrel eating the bird seed we've put out, the hairy woodpecker eating more seed far above the squirrel, my German Shepherd at my feet snoozing, my beloved husband. Yes, everything changes, and all is impermanent. Still, feeling gratitude for what is now isn't the worst way to live, and it's a whole lot less cluttered than it once was. ^^ForestSatToday^^ CatherineS

  15. #15
    I've noticed that in different places people have very different senses of self. In the part of NY I grew up in a person's sense of self tended to revolve around status oriented things. What your job is. Who your family is. Who you're married to. How much money you make. Later, I moved to South Carolina where the focus of who one was extended to their community. Where they grew up. With who they grew up with. For how long their family had been part of that community. What church they go to. Naturally, there are elements of both perspectives in both places, but what was emphasized shifted. In NY, one could talk trash about other people, or the town all day, but when someone's self worth was someone questioned, a very hostile reaction generally ensued. By contrast, when I first came to the south I was shocked by how easily offended people became when harsh criticisms of the area were expressed. I'd often hear, "Well I wouldn't walk into someone's home and start pointing out all the flaws." Eventually I realized that for many of these folks where they ended and their community or place began was blurred. Strong words about Charleston SC felt like strong words about them. Just like someone from New York getting made fun of for the amount of money they make.

    From both perspectives there is a heavy attachment that is the same. Politicians exploit the hell out of these attachments. In many parts of America older ways of life are going extinct. I've personally witnessed several cities on the east coast (Charleston, Charlotte, New York, DC, for example) explode with a huge influx of wealth. Buildings are going up, restaurants are getting insane (my old tiny neighborhood in Charleston has not one but two small plates and wine places on the same block. Really. They need two.) Life is good in those places for some and not so great for others. When money comes into an area one needs money themselves to keep up. Those who can't afford the changes are swept under the rug. The ghettos, lacking access to decent education in many of these cities are full of violence and hopelessness. Some individuals and communities benefit from certain conditions and some don't. It is extremely difficult for anyone to actually see how empty ourselves and our communities are when we are constantly obsessed with what we do or do not have. It is extremely difficult to really know how to benefit everyone through our actions. I don't think anyone can actually do that.

    In western North Carolina tech companies like Google have received huge tax breaks (and an anti-Union sentiment) to open up data processing centers in depressed mountain towns that used to manufacture furniture until those jobs got shipped over seas. The tech companies aren't creating many jobs for the local people, as those jobs aren't that numerous and highly specialized. As a consequence many people are watching their way of life (and extension of their ego) dwindle into obscurity. This causes a lot of tension and suffering.

    In West Virginia (a state with a long history of exploitation and violence) the coal industry has been hit very hard as a result of federal government policies. The political billboards along the highway make a big deal out of this. While it may be good for the environment (and the blood on that industry's hands is still quite fresh) it does not always help the people, especially the uneducated people dependent on that industry. For many it feels like their whole way of life is under attack. Not just jobs, but their entire way of life. This breeds a political culture of resentment. It's worth noting that while less mining may be very good for the environment in WV, the focus of mining energy hasn't stopped. Now the focus has shifted several hundred miles north, where the coal industry died down long ago, to fracking for natural gas which may be even more destructive.

    But I'm a white dude in America who was fortunate to get a decent public education and found rich folks to help me out along my way through constant hustle. It's easy for me to sit back and observe what's going on. I have to always remind myself that I'm a part of the good and the bad too.

    We can't win. Whatever our way of life is in the western world it is at the cost of a lot of violence. America in particular is always violent and bombing the hell out of someone. Even if we pair down all our material items, we are still at the mercy of old age, sickness, and death. Living blissfully in the woods without the fear of being bombed is a luxury item in and of itself. I have a lot of freedom and as far as my taxes are concerned I'm waaaay below the poverty level. I'm still typing this on a nice iPhone. So how poor am I really? This is very difficult to comprehend from a moral perspective. The question I often ponder is, "If we are always fighting, why are we fighting for?" Some people feel that we need to fight to hold onto what we have because they see what their parents and grandparents had slipping from their grasp. Some people feel we need to fight to uphold our moral ideals for the betterment of society. This may be the wiser approach as all things are impermanent and we want the future to be a better place for everyone, but how to properly do that is a little hairy and many people find themselves marginalized.

    I keep coming back that we need to relax our expectations and move with what comes to the best of our abilities whether it's the ups and downs of an individual's condition or society's. They are one and the same. We must have goals. But we need to be goalless too.

    Gassho

    Sat Today

  16. #16
    Hi,

    If it can be said that a minimalist life is best, then it is implied that a life of comfort and excess is not desired.

    If it can be said that it is desirable to live like a beggar on the streets, then it is implied that not to do so is preferable.

    If it can be said that peace is desirable, then war is created for when this arises that arises.

    Romancing Buddhism is creating distinctions. Things are just as they are. It is what it is. Do the right thing with what you are and got and cut it out!



    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by ForestDweller View Post
    Yes, I recognize a former self of mine in Jundo's comments. I now call the dis-ease I had a "performance addiction." I wasn't an addict in a material-acquisition sense, but I was addicted to accumulating college degrees, better and better jobs, and higher and higher salaries, all as a mark of my worth, not what it could buy. Now, as many of you know, my husband, two dogs, and I live in a small log cabin in a remote boreal Forest on the Canadian border. Simplify! Simplify! And simplify again! That's what we've done. And the less we have, the more there is. It's always enough. I'm reasonably sure that we now "appreciate and seek the truly important matters in life," but continuous vigilance is necessary. The intangible "things" are always up for attachment. Still, I have to give us some credit, as we've progressed a long way from complexity to simplicity. It is wonderful to simply look out the window and be grateful for the Forest, the red squirrel eating the bird seed we've put out, the hairy woodpecker eating more seed far above the squirrel, my German Shepherd at my feet snoozing, my beloved husband. Yes, everything changes, and all is impermanent. Still, feeling gratitude for what is now isn't the worst way to live, and it's a whole lot less cluttered than it once was. ^^ForestSatToday^^ CatherineS

    Thanks. Feeling gratitude is the place to be.

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

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  18. #18
    I really don't have anything to add; what you all have said strikes home. I don't think we can solve the worlds problems, but we can practice and in that way we can help a bit. I think we can strive towards goals always knowing where we are, without being obsessed, just watching and being ready, acting when we need to, resting when we don't. But losing ourselves completely when we need to do something and losing our selves completely when we don't need to do anything. I don't think there is one formula that fits everyone; we have to each figure it out for ourselves. That's probably why zen teachers always have to speak from both sides of their no-sided mouth.

    Gassho,

    Risho
    -sattoday

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    ... Uchiyama Roshi describes a human race that is so intent on moving forward, and getting more, that it cannot be at peace. We think that if we are truly satisfied and know peace, we will let life drift by, become stagnant and achieve nothing.

    But is that true?
    Hi All,

    I think this section of the book touches on something essential. Itís too big to put into words, and yet itís as simple as saying, ďenough, thank youĒ.

    This moment is enough. Right now is what it is and it contains everything. This moment is the fulfillment and realization of everything and every other moment, quite literally. It may or may not align with our temporal desires but nothing is missing. Seeing and experiencing this fullness, this wholeness, is dwelling in peace. This is a point of stillness and perfection in the midst of all arising and passing. But this still point is not the whole story; we donít just rest on our laurels and say, okay I found it, good for me, the end.

    Because life continues to arise. The moment moves on, and that still point is only a place to put your foot down as you step forward into the next moment, responding and dealing with what arises next. There is always work to be done, and always hope for better, and always room for improvement, even as we accept and find gratitude for the wholeness of this moment. We move forward in stillness, we carry it within us, we embody the stillness even as we embody motion.

    This, to me, is shikantaza, on and off the cushion: resting, abiding in completeness, still, while in constant motion.

    For whatever reason, we humans seem to be wired, or socialized, or cursed, or whatever, to always want something else, something better, something more. Instead of fighting that very real and constant drive, I wonder if we can learn to direct it toward the good. Use the momentum of that drive toward a better end. We can incorporate it and use it in our bodhisattva vow. I suppose some would say we need to totally conquer and get rid of it, but Iím starting with what I have, here and now. That drive is, for better or for worse, an abundant and renewable source of energy. Iím working with what is at hand. If that drive (for more, for something different, something better than what is here now) can be trained away from the short-sighted (the never-ending cycle of self-ish desire & craving) toward a larger perspective (lessen suffering, do good, save all sentient beings), then weíre at least moving in the right direction. The way to stay oriented toward the good is to find the still point, again and again, constantly, and move forward from there.

    I donít know if that makes sense, but thanks for letting me ramble.

    Gassho
    Byōkan
    sat today

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