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Thread: Opening the Hand of Thought - Chapter 7 Part 1

  1. #1

    Opening the Hand of Thought - Chapter 7 Part 1

    Dear All,

    The first portion of Chapter 7, "Living Wide Awake", also has much wisdom in a few pages, so we will take this chapter in two parts. Please rest at "The Bodhisattva Vow" on page 116. We will resume from there next time.

    This time, maybe I will suggest that you read the first part of the chapter twice. There is much to let sink in.

    - Does Uchiyama Rosho's attempts to find parallels with Christianity and the Bible resonate with you in any way? Do you think he succeeding in finding common ground?

    - What do your think of Zazen as Vow? Do any aspects of Uchiyama Roshi's comments strike home for you?


    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-02-2016 at 02:27 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Thank you Jundo. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    #sattoday

  3. #3
    Member Roland's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
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    Brussels and Antwerp, Belgium

    Opening the Hand of Thought - Chapter 7 Part 1

    I'm not christian, so it's difficult for me to say that what Uchiyama Roshi says resonates with me. I did study christian mystics and pantheists, I can imagine that their experiences are close to the experiences of mystics and meditators in other religions, but to me personally, living in a culture with a catholic history, christianity does not resonate at all. I realize this might be a boundary which is still too hard, but it's what I feel right now. Maybe it would be different in a protestant culture, I don't know.


    Gassho
    #SatToday
    Roland

  4. #4
    Kyotai
    Guest
    I find some of his examples to be a bit of a stretch, and am not sure many christian authorities would go out of their way to offer similar conclusions that some Buddhists seem to offer from time to time...

    "Zen Buddhism does not recognize any authority outside of the true self." pg 110. That most obvious fact, makes it difficult for me to then follow along with the finer points the author offers. I'm curious why it was a comparison between zazen and the bible, and not zazen and prayer. The author goes on to say that zazen is for the buddhist like god is for the christian. Some examples i'm sure are fine points. But to me, zazen and prayer seems like the more obvious link between the two. I believe very much, that although, when a christian prays with a rosary, focusing the mind on one thought...somewhat similar to meditation practice, following the breath, or mantra study. Maybe moreso then zazen.

    I do think, that one could drop Buddhism entirely if one choses, and just sit zazen. I am not sure I would call that a religion.

    Full disclosure, I was raised a catholic..so I have some difficulty when Buddhists link back my practice to that of the one I rejected. I feel the author making a bit of a stretch to find links, but putting aside so many obvious contradictions. I am not suggesting some of the comparisons are not valid.

    Much of the wisdom Jundo suggests in this section seems to elude me. And that is likely more a comment on my above difficulties, but that is how I feel nonetheless.


    Gassho, Kyotai
    sat today
    Last edited by Kyotai; 03-02-2016 at 04:07 PM.

  5. #5
    Joyo
    Guest
    Thank you, Jundo. This is great, I can dust off my old bible and replace the word "god" with "zazen"

    "Be still and know that I am zazen" Ps 46:10

    "We love zazen because zazen first loved us" 1 Cor 10:31

    "The kingdom of zazen is within you" Luke 17:20



    Like Kyotai, I feel he may have made a bit of a stretch, but with that being said, it helped me understand Zen a bit better. I am really enjoying this book.

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today

  6. #6
    Joyo
    Guest
    "Thought shall have no other zazens before me"
    Exodus 20:3

    oK, I'll stop now, I promise. =)

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    zazened today

  7. #7
    Hi Jundo and All

    As I said a while ago, the author is finding common ground between East and West to give the West a place of understanding the best of the East. Uchiyama believes he is offering a predominately Christian world the best that Japan has to offer. There is no disgrace in his comparison because compassion is the same in any language. After WWII Uchiyama was offering the best of the ancient culture that provides answers for a skeptical West. I believe he succeeded. A book, whether Bible or Sutra is simply a book. The Buddha would say that we must find out for ourselves, so why attack Uchiyama because he is making a simple offering? One need not accept the entire message to find a corollary.

    Elgwyn
    Tai Shi
    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

  8. #8
    Hi.

    I believe that if you only do it hard enough you can find commonality in everything.
    What people's opinion on the matter is a whole other matter, but that is just my opinion man..

    Here, in sweden, the christian Church is very divided on the matter of commonality and common practice.
    Some embrace it some resent it.
    But any which way, all we can do is our best. And smile, don't forget to smile. ��

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen

    #Sat2day

  9. #9
    Kyotai
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Elgwyn View Post
    compassion is the same in any language.
    Oh, you are very correct on that. Please take my comments as an opinion on one very small section of a wonderful book. I am with you, it is certainly not a disgrace to find common ground. Offering my perspective should not be interpreted as an attack on Uchiyama..just me calling down a humble opinion from the bleachers. You can find common ground between anything if you really work at it.

    Hockey and competitive swimming are both sports, and both require water....but they are also nothing alike. So if it helps to find some comparisons so the two can understand each other, so be it. I am simply also pointing out, they are nothing alike (from my seat in the bleachers). The question was asked, "Does Uchiyama Rosho's attempts to find parallels with Christianity and the Bible resonate with you in any way? Do you think he succeeding in finding common ground?"

    For me, the answer is No....and Yes. And thats fine.

    Gassho, Kyotai
    sat today

  10. #10
    Thank you, Jundo.
    I find this chapter very interesting and thought provoking.
    In the book "Zen for Christians" Kim Boykin is making some interesting points, I think.
    She writes:
    A contemporary Christian theologian, George Lindbeck, observes that there are currently three main ways of understanding Christian doctrines.
    First, doctrines can be understood as "informative propositions or truth claims about objective realities".
    Alternatively, Christian doctrines can be understood as "symbols of inner feelings, attitudes, or existential orientations".
    And, the previous two understandings can be combined so that doctrines are understood both as propositions about objective realities and as expressions of human experience (...especially among 'ecunemically inclined' Catholics).
    She further writes..
    If we understand Christian teachings as, at least in part, expressive of human experience, then we can see some significant similarities between Zen teachings and Christian teachings regarding the human condition.
    As I see it, Zen and Christianity share this fundamental insight about human life: Things Are a Big Mess, but it's OK Anyway
    This is, perhaps, where Uchiyama is trying to direct the reader's attention when making comparisons between two traditions. The firsthand experience.

    Another interesting fact Boykin mentions in the book:
    In recent decades, some Christians have been dusting off the Christian contemplative practices and popularizing them. One popular form of contemplative prayer is centering prayer, a practice that comes from the medieval mystical tradition, especially 'The Cloud of Unknowing'. Centering prayer is a practice of sitting silently in simple opennes to God's presence and God's will and in the longing to know God more fully. Since the mind is prone to wander, you choose a "sacred word" to help bring you back to stillness with God--- a word like God, Jesus, love, or mercy. When you become aware of thoughts, you return gently to the sacred word, a symbol of your intention to rest in opennes to God.
    This approach, even though not shikantaza, resembles the practice of zazen with a koan or a head word (hua-tou) pretty much. Similarity again.

    Gassho
    Washin
    sat-today
    P.S. Pardon me for maybe a bit long comment and quoted text. Just felt like sharing

  11. #11
    Thanks Washin. The centering prayer or meditation is pretty cool. IMHO Jesus was completely misunderstood. The church which developed after him was more of a political organization. There is a big gap in the history of Jesus 's life which may have been when he traveled to the east and spent time with Buddhist and Jain masters and mystics.

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

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  12. #12
    Interesting posts; I'm still re-reading and letting it sink in, but I saw the recent posts and felt compelled to recommend a book. lol

    A really good book, with more of a historical take on Jesus is "Zealot".

    Gassho,

    Risho
    -sattoday

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post

    - Does Uchiyama Rosho's attempts to find parallels with Christianity and the Bible resonate with you in any way? Do you think he succeeding in finding common ground?

    - What do your think of Zazen as Vow? Do any aspects of Uchiyama Roshi's comments strike home for you?
    I think that he is trying to sell Zazen to Cristian's as a religion. Form vs form. His argument would not fly with most Christians I know. He succeeds in finding goodness of humans in whatever circumstances. Emptiness = form.

    There is no Vowel in Zzn. There is no consonant in Ae. There is nothing to think about in Zazen. He is making a distinction of Vow and Zazen when none needs to be made.

    I think he would have done better by keeping his mouth shut (unlike me and a
    Koan).

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

  14. #14
    I just happened to hear a wonderful short public radio interview with a Catholic monk and hermit who has also practiced Zazen for years ... and he explains why.

    Worth a listen ...

    "Religion always starts with mysticism," says David Steindl-Rast. Now 89, he's been a Benedictine monk since 1953. Brother David was one of the first Roman Catholics to engage in dialogues between Christians and Buddhists. He tells Steve Paulson about the joys of life in the monastery.
    http://www.ttbook.org/book/david-ste...nedictine-monk

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-04-2016 at 12:33 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  15. #15
    Thank you for the link! This book (from our book list) My Christian Journey with Zen by Gustav Ericsson is on my to-read list for this year.

    I'm a Christian and a Zen Buddhist, but I guess some Christians would think I'm a heretic. lol I've always been philosophical and religious; there were times in my life when I was younger where I got very religious with Christianity, but that was not me. I like Treeleaf because we engage in a constant dialogue to keep our lives focused on truth as opposed to just reading and listening to preaching, I feel we are engaging, learning, growing. And that's not to say there aren't Christian communities that do the same thing, just not in my experience.

    When I was in my late teens I started thinking about the Lord's Prayer, and I think it's interesting that Uchiyama Roshi talks about "Thy will be done." That's one of the critical focal points for me in my Christian practice, which is my zen practice. It's dropping all of the pettiness and separation and protection. It's letting be, but not laying down. It's being honest with what is now so that I can respond appropriately.

    It's not goopy, syrupy, bs, superficial love. It's a practical way of living in the world in a less harmful way.

    I think Christianity gets a lot of flack, but like with any religion, I think the criticism is not at what it means but at its manifestation through us. We are humans; we love our politics, etc. That's why I'm not part of a church; at the same time, I think the church has value; I think it needs to really do some soul searching to be relevant.

    The way I view my practice with Christianity and Zen is really focusing on what I consider the key elements of Christianity, and of course this is an entirely separate topic. But I think "Thy will be done" is critical. I don't think it's my concern about heaven or hell if in fact there is some place like that. I'm not sure I believe in that, but it's more like I don't know. I don't think that is the point anyway.

    I think as a child, you are more selfish and, ideally anyway, you get more selfless as you mature. I think the idea of Heaven and Hell is a tactic used to persuade people to join the group. I think it was Uchiyama Roshi, when asked the definition of a Bodhisattva, said an adult. I heard that I think in an Austin Zen center podcast. I really like that; I feel that it's true. And just like a child, we come to zen seeking something, but as we mature we realize that's not Zen at all.

    Christ was a Bodhisattva. I mean do not judge others, turn the other cheek, etc. Those are the key principals that I follow. I fail, but I get up and follow. I think a lot of what Christ said was beautiful.

    I think it's unfortunate that the message can get twisted into one of hatred toward groups that don't comply with a narrow viewpoint of the world. But that is not the Christian path.

    I don't think it is our place to judge another human being's value (unless they are harming other beings), and that's one of the key points that Christ conveys. Forgiveness is incredibly important; without it, we are holding onto the past and restricting our view of the future. We are living out of anger, etc. I mean these are just key values in my opinion for how to live a healthy life.

    Which is why I really find Zen an almost engaged way of living a spiritual life. I used to have reservations about this path when I was first starting out, but it just fits so well and it's all about taking care of each other, and I'd have it no other way.

    This is related to vow as well. I really like Uchiyama Roshi's view of zazen as vow. We are going to fail again and again, but we sit zazen to atone; we vow to stay the course and sit zazen to readjust to maybe tweak it a little better next time. But it's not something we'll ever attain. Life changes, and there's nothing to grasp after, we just need to be here. Practice is endless. We have to just keep getting up after we fall, and not be so self-centered and sit in our filth/feeling sorry for ourself. We need to dust ourselves off, metaphorically, get back on that cushion literally or get back on that horse in life.

    Someone calls you a racist slur, you turn the other cheek, you don't counter with a racist remark. As a bodhisattva, as a human being, someone who is engaged in the world, if you know better, do better. And in places where you don't know better, you will fall, but don't give up, learn and do better next time.

    Gassho,

    Risho
    -sattoday
    Last edited by Risho; 03-04-2016 at 05:42 PM.

  16. #16
    Kyotai
    Guest
    Thank you Risho. Your words have really resonated with me.

    Gassho, Kyotai
    Sat today

  17. #17
    Thank you

    Awesome talk - thank you for that link Jundo

    Gassho,

    Risho
    -sattoday

  18. #18
    Kyotai
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I just happened to hear a wonderful short public radio interview with a Catholic monk and hermit who has also practiced Zazen for years ... and he explains why.

    Worth a listen ...



    http://www.ttbook.org/book/david-ste...nedictine-monk

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    Thank you for this link Jundo. This interview was fascinating and very helpful for me.

    Gassho, Kyotai
    sat today

  19. #19
    Thank you for the link, Jundo. I listened to the interview twice and did enjoy it.

    "Thy will be done"
    Thank you for the words of wisdom, Risho.

    Gassho
    Washin
    sat-today

  20. #20
    Thanks for the link.
    Amen

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

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  21. #21
    Risho,

    You said it all very well and though I make no claim to be a Christian I relate to all you said. I left the church over a half century ago but I am married to a good Christian, a person who inspires others by her good deeds. I began to drift away from the religion of my parents (though I am not sure what their beliefs really were because they were gone long before I was wise enough to ask) because I was surrounded by so many then and more now, who profess to be Christians but their behavior far from supports their assertions. I am convinced Christ, like some other religious leaders, was a great teacher whose presence has helped many. I am not surprised by the commonality of the underlying values of good behavior in many of the world religions, they all contain wisdom gathered from tens of thousands of years of our species trying to live together. I don't pray but I live with and sit with the hope that those religious and non-religious values of good will rise, especially now in a world in so much need.

    Gassho
    Doshin
    Sattoday

  22. #22
    Member ForestDweller's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Beltrami Island Forest in Minnesota
    Everyone seems focused on the Christian-Buddhist topic. That's all well and good. Still, I found something else interesting about the first half of the chapter. Here it is.

    “Our ideas about a mind to be trained or a body to be made healthy are expressions of the view of existence, which presupposes that there are things that can be accumulated.” Some of us rack up hours of zazen as if we were keeping score instead of “just sitting.” The funny thing about this and other performance-driven behaviors in the spiritual life is that it assumes someone is keeping score, when in reality, we are almost certainly the only ones paying attention. If there is no “authority outside the true self,” then no judge, teacher or other scorekeeper has any meaning in practice. “Discovering the life within the self,” is far too busy to worry about accumulating anything, in that we ideally will treat every encounter as if our lives depended on it. Such intensity does not, however, involve any sacrifice, as Uchiyama points out. Only in religions where some authoritative figure is awatch and aware is there any reason to compromise authenticity for some merit on an imaginary scoreboard. Buddhism permits far more freedom and far less sacrifice than this dynamic. “Buddhism looks at life prior to the division of I and thou.” How freeing! Everything is “nothing but our own life,” and our motivation to act comes from “a spirit of looking after everything as our own life.” What a marvelous proposition! What an amazing way to live! ^^ForestSatToday-25 degrees^^ but who's keeping score? - CatherineS

  23. #23
    My friend Forest Dweller makes a point about Uchiyama that I missed, and a point that I am aware of, "But at my back I always hear/Times winged chariot hurrying near/And yonder all before us lie/Deserts of vast eternity." Andrew Marvel, To His Coy Mistress, and Marvel echoes what Uchiyama says that we do not live in the here and now, that the hound of time be frets our every move unless we stop and sit, and allow the moment to unfold. When I was young, first it was parties, then degrees, then the "hope" of success, and now moments of meditation, of sitting for more, and leading to that was a fruitless search for meaning and then Jesus and God, not to speak of the Holy Ghost, some mysterious spirit that made me make no sense. What drove me to stop was this Holy Ghost for I found tongues distasteful. So there is a point in which language of any sort cannot explain; it wrestles with thought and distinction and reason, and it chalks up points. I began my practice with a way of stepping out of pain, and now just stepping out at the still point of the turning world.

    Elgwyn
    Tai Shi
    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

  24. #24
    Catherine and Elgwyn,

    Thank you

    Gassho

    Risho
    -sattoday

  25. #25
    The desert fathers and mothers were Egyptian monastics from the 3rd century. They had this to say:

    "Joseph asked Poemen, ‘Tell me how to become a monk.’ He said, ‘If you want to find rest in this life and the next, say at every moment, “Who am I?” and judge no one.’"

    Sounds kinda Buddhist to me. At least, it's the same starting point. Where it can go from there varies wildly and the speculation is endless.

    I think comparing Buddhism to Christianity is getting a little sweaty in the west. Too many people are looking at Buddhism for what it isn't rather than what it is. The issue of God and Buddhism can be very distracting from he purpose of Buddhism. It's like fretting over the lack of dairy products in Japanese food.

    Uchiyama seems like a really open minded and genuinely curious guy. I didn't personally (big emphasis on the word "personally") think much about his analogies between Christianity and Buddhism. What I do admire is his sincerity in trying to reach out to many different people in ways they can relate to.

    Gassho

    Sat Today
    Last edited by Byrne; 03-07-2016 at 12:26 AM.

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Risho View Post
    Catherine and Elgwyn,



    Thank you



    Gassho



    Risho

    -sattoday

    And Byrne.
    Enjoyed the comments.

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

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I just happened to hear a wonderful short public radio interview with a Catholic monk and hermit who has also practiced Zazen for years ... and he explains why.

    Worth a listen ...



    http://www.ttbook.org/book/david-ste...nedictine-monk

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    Thanks for this - have just ordered a couple of David Steindl-Rast's books.

    My view has shifted considerably the past few years and I'm now all for inter-faith dialogue. I do feel Zen is a religion but thinking that requires 'opening the hand of thought' in a very literal way and not to cling to fixed notions of what the word 'religion' or 'God' means. Our understanding both at a personal level and shared level is truly a work in progress.

    I do feel there is a very strong link between Zazen and prayer and it would be very interesting to be able to swop minds with a person engaged in prayer. Would the touchstone to the 'ineffable' be experienced the same - when someone who prays explains that they feel in connection with 'God' - can speak to 'God' is that a very different experience to the touchstone of universal mind? Is Zazen really more direct than prayer?

    Strip away the connotations of words - what is left?

    In the section on Repentance and Vow - I feel Uchiyama falls into a degree of philosophical gesturing. I'm not sure the self in Zazen is really that different to the 'ideal' Christian self. In the world of I/thou - we actualize this notion of unity through ethics - and there is very little difference between Buddhist and Christian ethics.

    'taking as reality that which precedes division' is a path that can travelled in many ways. I'm also not convinced that living by Buddhist ethics is not dependent on sacrifice. Taking the relationship between mother and child as his example Uchiyama falls into the same idealization as Thich Nhat Hahn often does (as much as I admire his teachings).

    however - Uchiyama does reflect on our total inability to fulfil our vow -- thus the importance of repentance. Repentance is integral to the Catholic religion - do we seek forgiveness in Zazen - if so - from where?

    Again - I would like to swop minds with the person praying

    Thanks for an interesting thread,

    Gassho

    Willow/Jinyo

    sat/prayed today

  28. #28
    I think Buddha got it more right than Jesus. Buddha said drop desire and seeking, just look inside and be aware, just sit. Jesus said seek and ye shall find and didn't give direction on meditation .

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

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    I think Buddha got it more right than Jesus. Buddha said drop desire and seeking, just look inside and be aware, just sit. Jesus said seek and ye shall find and didn't give direction on meditation .

    SAT today


    Gassho
    Shingen

    #sattoday

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I just happened to hear a wonderful short public radio interview with a Catholic monk and hermit who has also practiced Zazen for years ... and he explains why.

    Worth a listen ...



    http://www.ttbook.org/book/david-ste...nedictine-monk

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    Have been reading a book by David Steindl - Rast (Music of Silence) - it certainly chimes with Buddhism.

    He also has a web site based on the practice of gratitude - remarkable for his age (now 90) - with some background on his Buddhist teachers.

    http://www.gratefulness.org/brother-...brother-david/

    Gassho

    Willow/Jinyo

    sat today

  31. #31
    Thank you for the link.


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

  32. #32
    A number of years ago I got as a present a book comparing the sayings of the Buddha and Jesus on various topics. It's an interesting read. The similarities are striking. (But Rich is right, Jesus did not give instructions for meditation ) That being said, in comparing the two religions, I fall back on the "not one," not two approach because there are clear similarities and differences between the two. As humans we spend too much time finding differences and too little time on finding common ground, a practice that serves us much better in the long and short run, so I applaud Uchiayama for trying to do both in this chapter. I agree with Kyotai above, though, that it was a bit of a stretch to show just how much they could be similar. I think he was stretching Buddhism, though, not Christianity. But Buddhists would likely be less likely to complain than their Christian counterparts, so I guess that made sense. I just kept getting the feeling he was trying to justify Buddhism as a religion when I don't think it needs that, or any, justification beyond its own trueness. Buddhism can stand on its own just fine, or it can stand with Christianity, or other religions, also just fine.
    AL (Jigen) in:
    Faith/Trust
    Courage/Love
    Awareness/Action!

    I sat today

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