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Thread: LIVING by VOW: The Heart Sutra - pp 177-185 (Stopping at No Attainment)

  1. #1
    Treeleaf Unsui Shugen's Avatar
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    LIVING by VOW: The Heart Sutra - pp 177-185 (Stopping at No Attainment)

    Let’s keep dancing....

    I found quite a lot in this section that spoke to me...

    Shohaku gives us some background information on the Heart Sutra and continues to explain some of the key Buddhist philosophy it contains. But, he also reminds us that it is important to “go beyond the study of his…[Buddha’s]… teachings as recorded in scripture “. To make the truth of those teachings our reality, that even going “beyond Buddhism” is still Buddhism.

    Shohaku also gets more personal. He describes how the sand shifted under his feet when he had to return back to Japan and how that experience changed his practice, his zazen, making it “free of ignorance and selfish desire”. He reminds us that there is no “bad” zazen, that even our “mistakes” and struggles are a part of our practice.

    I would say, for me, what really stood out, what keeps circling around in my mind is this quote:

    “Eliminating the negative is less important than nurturing the positive. We can be free from selfish desires without fighting against them when we are trying to help others. This is a more joyful way to practice”.

    Did anything stand out for you?

    Gassho,

    Shugen

    Sattoday/LAH

    Meido Shugen
    明道 修眼

  2. #2
    Thank you Shugen. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    Sat/LAH

  3. #3
    Thank you Shugen.

    A few things caught my attention in this section

    I wanted to live a better life than ordinary people.
    Reading this admission shocked me but if I am completely honest there is a bit of this in my own practice. I am a quiet practitioner. If someone wants to know about my beliefs I may discuss in some small detail but otherwise I just try to live my life. Obviously my family in the house knows and my wife sits daily with me. But I have to admit that part of me is doing this so I can be a better person than I would be otherwise.

    This aspiration is called bodhi-mind. When we practice with this Way-seeking mind we are confronted with a terrible contradiction. The aspiration that motivates us to find a way of life free of suffering is merely another selfish desire. We substitute a desire for emancipation or enlightenment for the desire for fame and wealth
    I definitely realized this contradiction long before I read this passage. I think this is why Shikantaza Zazen appeals to me more than say Koan based Zazen. I did study Koans for a short while but I found it impossible to not desire to solve the puzzle. My ego got in the way. I wanted to show I was smart and understood. Shikantaza takes away my ego's opportunity to latch on to something. I am literally just sitting. I am not trying to solve a puzzle or prove anything.

    I think additionally this is one of the interesting aspects about TreeLeaf. No one here sees me. No one can verify that I am or am not sitting. No one here can verify my practice. Somehow that is truly liberating. I am free to practice without a checkmark or gold star from Jundo or anyone else. If I choose to sit or not sit is totally on me. I choose to sit

    When we directly see and experience the Buddha's truth in our own lives, his teachngs and the scripture are irrelevant. The truth becomes a vivid reality. Seeing the reality of our lives with our own eyes through our practice is the wisdom that see emptiness. This is the wisdom that is called prajna.
    In other words "All of life is our temple". To me this speaks to the seemingly dual definition of Dharma meaning both as the Buddha's teaching and the reality of all things. Open your eyes and look around. There are teachings everywhere if you put down your baggage and just see.

    It occurs because we can never make the world completely conform to our desires.
    I think I made this comment on the last section too. Part of the stress in my life was my desire to be in control. I tried to plan for every eventuality and analyze things to death so there was no surprises. But the universe is too complicated and the interactions too complex for any one person to control it all. There are just things beyond my control. It was the last car we bought that really settled this for me. When buying our previous car I poured over every car's manufacturing specification, I read every review and comparison. It was draining. The new car I took a simpler approach. Once we narrowed it down to the 2 cars we wanted I decided that I wasn't going to compare them. I'd assess each car on its own merits. It was liberating. I've used this approach repeatedly since. Does the outcome of the decision I need to make actually matter? Is it my need to control or can I let it go?

    Hopefully my ramblings make sense.


    Tairin
    Sat today & LAH
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  4. #4
    Member Seishin's Avatar
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    Just my two pence on this section, which I'll keep brief as I feel I could go on for ever.

    In summary i follow the need of dropping Buddhism is Buddhism but what struck me is the same reference Tairin makes above, regarding Bodhi Mind. Reading this passage has generated lots of conflicts, contradictions and a whole library of Catch 22.

    The section on Bodhi Mind has made me question my motives and "desires" for practicing. Do I have a desire to be a better person ? Yes its why I'm here and practicing, trying to follow the Eightfold Path. Is that desire strong enough to actually be a hindrance? I don't know. While I make progress in trying not be attached to "normal" desires, am I becoming too attached to the desire of following the path? I don't know. And on and on and on. Always the same answer.

    So I pressed ahead into the next section and maybe things are a little clearer but I still don't know. Anyway, desire or not attached or not I will keep on practicing, until i learn to let go of such thoughts or they dissolve of their own accord.

    Thank you.


    Seishin

    Sei - Meticulous
    Shin - Heart

  5. #5
    Treeleaf Unsui Shugen's Avatar
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    “I don’t know” and the “Catch 22” are a huge part of practice. How do we handle two seemingly opposite ideas at the same time? What do we do when we really don’t know what to do?

    Gassho,

    Shugen

    Sattoday/LAH


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    Meido Shugen
    明道 修眼

  6. #6
    Chop wood, fetch water.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_ , LAH

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Shugen View Post
    “I don’t know” and the “Catch 22” are a huge part of practice. How do we handle two seemingly opposite ideas at the same time? What do we do when we really don’t know what to do?

    Gassho,

    Shugen

    Sattoday/LAH


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    That's the big question, Shugen. Zen Master Shin’ichi Hisamatsu called this the ‘fundamental koan’ . Nothing will do. What do you do. i have been pondering this one the last weeks, after the shooting.


    coos
    std
    Last edited by aprapti; 02-21-2018 at 01:55 PM.

    Let silence take you to the core of life (Rumi)


    Aprāpti (अप्राप्ति) non-attainment

  8. #8
    Desiring to be a better person isn't a hindrance to practice. The hindrance is the suffering caused by mistakenly thinking that we are not already the better person we think we are trying to be.

    Gassho, sat today, lah
    求道芸化 Kyudo Geika
    I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

  9. #9
    Eishuu
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    I enjoyed this section. I imagine that most of us have mixed motivations for practice, some of them selfish...is it necessary to have a completely pure motive? Will the motivation be purified through practice itself? We can't necesarily purify our ego driven motives conceptually, we'd just get into knots. I like the emphasis on the positive, on helping all beings...I think the Bodhissatva Vow is helpful there.

    What I like about Shikantaza is that the ego driven part of me ends up banging it's head against the wall.

    The line "Isn't the desire to eliminate ignorance caused by ignorance?" really stayed with me and is something I want to reflect on. In Shikantaza, if we are letting go of thoughts and desires then maybe this big knot of ego starts to untangle by itself..?

    One thing that did confuse me was why Okumura talked about not being able to practice because of health issues. Many of us here practice lying down. Why is there such a strong connection between posture and practice in many Zen circles?

    Gassho
    Eishuu
    ST/LAH

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Eishuu View Post
    One thing that did confuse me was why Okumura talked about not being able to practice because of health issues. Many of us here practice lying down. Why is there such a strong connection between posture and practice in many Zen circles?
    My guess is it is a simple matter of tradition and this-is-the-way-it-is-done-ness.


    Tairin
    Sat today & LAH
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geika View Post
    Desiring to be a better person isn't a hindrance to practice. The hindrance is the suffering caused by mistakenly thinking that we are not already the better person we think we are trying to be.

    Gassho, sat today, lah
    Thank you for this Geika.

    Jishin - you cannot of heard my chainsaw way out in Texas, could you ?


    Seishin

    Sei - Meticulous
    Shin - Heart

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Seishin View Post

    Jishin - you cannot of heard my chainsaw way out in Texas, could you ?


    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_ , LAH

  13. #13
    Hi all

    Shohaku Okumura offers such wisdom in his commentary on the Heart Sutra and this passage particularly stuck out for me:

    "The lessons of the four noble truths are straightforward. We spend out lives trying to fill the emptiness we feel. When we succeed we are happy and feel as if we are in heaven. When we fail we are miserable as if we are in hell."

    This is such a wonderful way to approach the noble truths that we can all understand. Instead of dealing with what reality gives us and opening up to the good and bad feelings of life, we construct a layer on top trying to cover up impermanence and dukkha. When one fun thing ends we look for the next. Finished a Netflix series? Find something else on Sky or Amazon Prime. Ended a relationship? Get straight back onto online dating sites to get the next hit of feeling good.

    I once saw a book about stress and anxiety called "Too Tired to Keep Running, Too Scared to Stop." This phrase seems to sum up the experience of a lot of people in the western world. We don't want to stop and feel what is actually going on. Let us instead live vicariously through our favourite film stars and musicians and interactions on social media that give us dopamine hit after dopamine hit.

    The Heart Sutra tells us that all of these are (literally) empty experiences. That being the case, so is everything else. However, if we just sit we can see that all of this beauty and magic around us arises and passes, seemingly from nowhere. We don't need to keep grabbing onto experience, just let it rise and fall in its own time.

    Stop. Sit. Be.

    That is all there is.

    All this being said, I am a novice priest who often gets things wrong so take the above with a cellar full of salt.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  14. #14


    Gassho
    Meishin
    Sat today LAH

  15. #15
    A whole cellar, huh, Kokuu?

    Gassho, sat today, lah

    Sent from my SM-G950U using Tapatalk
    求道芸化 Kyudo Geika
    I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Kokuu View Post
    Hi all

    Shohaku Okumura offers such wisdom in his commentary on the Heart Sutra and this passage particularly stuck out for me:

    "The lessons of the four noble truths are straightforward. We spend out lives trying to fill the emptiness we feel. When we succeed we are happy and feel as if we are in heaven. When we fail we are miserable as if we are in hell."

    This is such a wonderful way to approach the noble truths that we can all understand. Instead of dealing with what reality gives us and opening up to the good and bad feelings of life, we construct a layer on top trying to cover up impermanence and dukkha. When one fun thing ends we look for the next. Finished a Netflix series? Find something else on Sky or Amazon Prime. Ended a relationship? Get straight back onto online dating sites to get the next hit of feeling good.

    I once saw a book about stress and anxiety called "Too Tired to Keep Running, Too Scared to Stop." This phrase seems to sum up the experience of a lot of people in the western world. We don't want to stop and feel what is actually going on. Let us instead live vicariously through our favourite film stars and musicians and interactions on social media that give us dopamine hit after dopamine hit.

    The Heart Sutra tells us that all of these are (literally) empty experiences. That being the case, so is everything else. However, if we just sit we can see that all of this beauty and magic around us arises and passes, seemingly from nowhere. We don't need to keep grabbing onto experience, just let it rise and fall in its own time.

    Stop. Sit. Be.

    That is all there is.

    All this being said, I am a novice priest who often gets things wrong so take the above with a cellar full of salt.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-


    Doshin
    stlah

  17. #17
    Thank you, everyone on this thread. It is an eye-opener.

    In the reading, I especially liked the following paragraph, on p 184
    One day something made me sit on a cushion. I had no desire, no reason, no need to sit, but found myself sitting at the apartment by myself. It was very peaceful. I didn't sit because of the Buddha's teaching. I didn't need a reason to sit; I just sat. There was no need to compete with others or with myself. Thereafter I didn't need to sit as often as I had before. I could sit just as much as my physical condition allowed. Finally I felt free of my understanding of the Buddha's teachings and my desire to be a good monk. I felt free to be myself and nothing more. I was still a deluded, ordinary human being with ignorance and desires. But when I just sat and let go of thoughts, I was - or more precisely, my zazen was - free of ignorance and selfish desires.
    Gassho,
    Onkai
    Sat/LAH

  18. #18
    Member Seishin's Avatar
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    Thank you for you wisdom Kokuu.


    Seishin

    Sei - Meticulous
    Shin - Heart

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Tairin View Post
    My guess is it is a simple matter of tradition and this-is-the-way-it-is-done-ness.


    Tairin
    Sat today & LAH
    My comment on this from time to time: Many Japanese tend to FETISHIZE the Lotus Posture. Yes, that is what is said .... "FETISHIZE", as Japanese culture often gets caught up in appearance and "form for the sake of form" more than substance sometimes. I have written about this before ...

    Sorry that this comment is a bit long, but worth going into in detail I think ...

    Posture is vital. But I think we have to keep a couple of things in mind about the history of the Lotus Position itself, its real benefits and purposes, monastery life, the Japanese tendency to fetishize the "correct" way (yarikata) to do things, and the Buddha's and Dogen's central philosophical perspectives on Practice.

    Yes, the Lotus Position has been the traditional yogic position for meditation for thousands of years, even before the time of the Buddha. And certainly the Buddha sat that way (as every statue of a sitting Buddha demonstrates). And certainly there are tremendous benefits to the posture in providing balance and stability conducive to 'dropping body and mind' and engaging in balanced, stable Zazen. In that posture, we literally can give no thought to the body. The comfort and balance of the body is directly connected, and conducive to, comfort and balance of mind.

    But I would hesitate to go much further in attributing any special power or physical effect to the position itself.

    First off, I believe the Buddha himself sat that way because, well, he needed to sit some way for hours on end -- and the "lotus position" was then the custom in India for how people sat on the ground and very good for marathon sitting. It is a good way to sit on a rock or under a tree, which is what folks did back then (in fact, he may have sat with his posterior flat on the ground, by the way, or on a short pile of grass without a cushion or 'Zafu' ... which is very different from how we sit). As I said, it is very balanced and stable. But there is no evidence in the early Sutras and Shastras that he himself ever focused on the position itself as having some special power, always emphasizing the philosophical and psychological aspects of Buddhist philosophy far over the purely physical. Certainly, he did not encourage engaging in any other yoga positions as were common in India at the time (e.g., we do not stand on our heads as a normal part of practice), so I do not think he was a great proponent of the positional type of yoga itself.

    When Buddhism spread to China, Japan and other countries, I believe that people continued to follow the custom. However, even then there have been a tremendous degree of small variations in the details of the Lotus Posture, e.g., hand position, back angle and such.

    Now, when Zazen came to Dogen, well, it came to a fellow who also left us with detailed instructions about how to carry our towels in the washroom, clean our nose, bow, place incense, use a pillow while sleeping and wipe ourselves in the toilet (really, he did ... pages and pages on each). Dogen, like many Japanese of ancient and modern times, was something of a control freak who emphasized that there is "one right way" to do things (the aforementioned (yarikata). I have seen Japanese get the same way about the proper way to wear socks and enter an elevator. Here is that wonderful short film that makes fun of it (I know that you have seen it 100 times):



    and here is another



    Now, that is not a bad thing, mind you, for Zen Practice. Don't get me wrong. It is the same mentality exactly as in "Oryoki" meal taking in a Zen monastery by which the simple act of eating requires dozens and dozens of set gestures that must be mastered in the body memory. It is conducive to many aspects of Practice, including focused mindfulness. Sitting in a set way such as the Lotus Posture has the same benefits of allowing the action itself to be forgotten as it is mastered by the body memory.

    Also, of course, in a monastery ... like in army boot camp ... you don't want folks just running around and flopping down any which way they feel, eating and sleeping whenever they wish. Quite the contrary. Discipline is required, so naturally, is the demand that everyone march around the monastery and sit in exactly the same way.

    If you look at Shobogenzo and other writings by Dogen, he actually spends very little time explaining the details of how to sit. In Fukanzazengi, for example, he explains the barebones act of sitting on a cushion, crossing the legs and such ... but for sentence after sentence after sentence he is focused on the "cosmic significance" of Zazen and the mental game. It is much the same when he describes how to carry a towel in the bath, wear our robes, bow or go to the toilet. He describes the procedure, but then is much more focused on the philosophical view of the act.
    Gassho, J

    SatTodayLAH
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  20. #20
    PS - When I sat at a monastery in China a couple of years back, I found the monks sitting in all manner of positions ... please watch here from the 6:30 mark (also, you can catch my big cameos at about the 00:20 and 02:50 marks, in the inside "slow lane" during the very fast Kinhin) ...

    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Kokuu View Post
    Hi all

    Shohaku Okumura offers such wisdom in his commentary on the Heart Sutra and this passage particularly stuck out for me:

    "The lessons of the four noble truths are straightforward. We spend out lives trying to fill the emptiness we feel. When we succeed we are happy and feel as if we are in heaven. When we fail we are miserable as if we are in hell."

    This is such a wonderful way to approach the noble truths that we can all understand. Instead of dealing with what reality gives us and opening up to the good and bad feelings of life, we construct a layer on top trying to cover up impermanence and dukkha. When one fun thing ends we look for the next. Finished a Netflix series? Find something else on Sky or Amazon Prime. Ended a relationship? Get straight back onto online dating sites to get the next hit of feeling good.

    I once saw a book about stress and anxiety called "Too Tired to Keep Running, Too Scared to Stop." This phrase seems to sum up the experience of a lot of people in the western world. We don't want to stop and feel what is actually going on. Let us instead live vicariously through our favourite film stars and musicians and interactions on social media that give us dopamine hit after dopamine hit.

    The Heart Sutra tells us that all of these are (literally) empty experiences. That being the case, so is everything else. However, if we just sit we can see that all of this beauty and magic around us arises and passes, seemingly from nowhere. We don't need to keep grabbing onto experience, just let it rise and fall in its own time.

    Stop. Sit. Be.

    That is all there is.

    All this being said, I am a novice priest who often gets things wrong so take the above with a cellar full of salt.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-

    Gassho
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH

    PS what a great thread!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    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).

  22. #22
    Thank you all for this discussion - so much wisdom.

    Gassho

    Sat today

    Peter

    Sent from my SM-G935L using Tapatalk

  23. #23
    I have no desire to eliminate desire. That's just silly. Living with desire is Zen, and so I practice the dropping of not dropping it as well as the not dropping of dropping it
    AL (Jigen) in:
    Faith/Trust
    Courage/Love
    Awareness/Action!

    I sat today

  24. #24
    Treeleaf Unsui Shugen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa View Post
    I have no desire to eliminate desire. That's just silly. Living with desire is Zen, and so I practice the dropping of not dropping it as well as the not dropping of dropping it
    Meido Shugen
    明道 修眼

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