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Thread: Beginner's mind and impermanence?

  1. #1

    Beginner's mind and impermanence?

    Hi all, greeting to you.

    I would like to ask a question about impermanence and beginner's mind.
    Does the before thinking mind ever change? Or is it fixed as in no time and space, such as the belief in a spirit that continues to live on after death?
    Sorry if this topic has been covered before.

    Many thanks Lance
    (Sat Zazen last night)

  2. #2
    Hi Lance,

    Show me your mind.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Lance View Post
    Hi all, greeting to you.

    I would like to ask a question about impermanence and beginner's mind.
    Does the before thinking mind ever change? Or is it fixed as in no time and space, such as the belief in a spirit that continues to live on after death?
    Sorry if this topic has been covered before.

    Many thanks Lance
    (Sat Zazen last night)
    Hi Lance,

    Sounds as if you are asking if there is some "ultimate consciousness," some abiding, underlying "mind" before thinking.

    I would say that the Zen Masters avoid a straight answer to the question, and the physicists and biologists don't know either.

    With regard to the scientists, they do not yet have a good theory on the origins of consciousness and the nature of mind. Is it only the brain? Certainly the brain seems absolutely central and vital to our personal thoughts, feelings and self-awareness, and when the brain dies (or when we are in a coma or the like) our personal thoughts, feelings and self-awareness seem to become impossible. Some argue, however, that the brain may be more like a radio receiver, picking up and translating some underlying "consciousness" source to which it adds its particular thoughts, feelings and self-awareness (like your computer is one terminal picking up the wifi signal, thus contributing its own bits to the whole Grand Internet cloud, so is your mind just like that one "Lance" terminal yet also a facet of the Whole Internet ). While most scientists seem to lean toward the former "brain only" interpretation now, there just is no solid understanding yet. Whatever the case, the brain seems so vital that, when it dies, most of "Lance" will go with it, at least the "Lance" who you are most concerned with and who is reading this post (whether or not some aspect of "Lance" carries on to a future life is a separate question that Buddhists also argue about, and which I leave aside here.)

    The Zen Masters and other Mahayana Buddhists seem to also lean various ways in their writings, with some speaking of "Mind" (Big M) and "Buddha Nature" and such in ways that seem to lean toward some underlying basis like a "Grand Consciousness." However, it is really the wrong question for the Zen folks, so most stay fuzzy in answering. Why?

    In a nutshell, Zen folks do tend to agree on a wholeness of identity of "you" and "the whole of reality" that is "not one, not two" or "one beyond one" (i.e., not just one thing, but neither two separate things, and anyway even the words "one" or "two" are limiting), and they also step beyond words like "time" and "timeless" or "here" and "there" or "permanent vs. impermanent" or even "birth and death." Thus, in Zazen, we are encouraged to sit while dropping from mind all analysis of the world and its things into opposites and categories.

    The result is a kind of understanding of reality as some flowing wholeness that is also all these separate pieces, moving so thereby impermanent and constantly changing, yet somehow beyond the movement and change that occurs to its pieces. You are you, who will someday die with that brain, yet you and I and all things are also that flowing wholeness that goes on and on before and after birth and death too (like a sea that continues to flow on while the waves on its surface appear to rise and fall, although the waves are just the sea all along and never other than the waters of the sea. Like the whole internet cloud that goes on and on before during and after a particular terminal being plugged in.) You are this, and this is you, yet you are you too (between birth and death). It is all both "permanent" and "impermanent" at once, or better said, maybe some third category which steps beyond small human limited ideas of "permanent" or "impermanent" or "time" or "timeless" that our stupid human brains struggle to understand as we day to day live in this world that seems bound by change and time. (Certainly, even the scientists now know that time is fluid and "relative," and that there must be an aspect to reality that is beyond ordinary time, for "before" the Big Bang what came "before" that etc. etc.)

    The one thing the Zen masters know is that "you" are not just "you," that "death" is not the complete finale at least from the standpoint that the wave is also the ongoing sea, that you are the "Whole Enchilada," the "Whole Internet" , the whole ongoing Flowing Wholeness of all the separate pieces swirling together (what we Mahayana Buddhists sometimes somewhat misleadingly call "Emptiness," meaning that things and beings are "empty" of only having separate self existence).

    The Zen masters also tend to agree that our "mind" is not limited only to what is going on between your ears because, in a nutshell, for Buddhists, when you see a "tree" apparently standing at a distance outside of "you" for example, your "mind" is not only the experience of seeing the tree as a viewer behind your eyes and between your ears, but the whole feedback loop of subject seer and object seen, as well as the sun in the sky, the earth where you and the tree stand, and all the events of time and space that directly and indirectly contribute to that moment of seeing. In other words, the whole feedback loop of seer and seen, and the whole world that contributes to your seeing, is "mind" ... not just the one part between your ears. We usually think of "my mind" as only the subjective part, but the Buddhists point out that the subjective is totally dependent on having some "objective," that "seen in the eyes and brain" needs "something seen outside the eyes," and that the hard barriers and divisions of "inside" vs. "outside" and "subject/object" can be merged and dropped away. Also, the exploding stars and the planet and all that allows there to be atoms and photons and ground for the tree to grow on and you to walk on ... all are facets of the loop, thus all are also your "mind." Or "Big Mind" as the Zen folks sometimes say (to contrast with the little mind that feels separate between your ears).

    Also, since you are the universe, and the universe is you, we can say that the universe is at least conscious in that way. In other words, when you sneeze, it is also the universe sneezing since you are a facet of the universe, and likewise when you love or hate or do whatever you think, feel or do. It is something like saying that if your finger hurts when you slam it in a drawer, "you" hurt, because your finger is you. Or like saying that, when I add two carrots to a big soup (a soup as vast as the universe), then "the soup has carrots" even though the soup may have many other things besides carrots such as beans and peas. You are the soup, the soup is you.

    However, that is kind of side-stepping the question as to whether there is some "Grand Consciousness" to the universe that is actually aware, in a God-like sense, and over-arching Super-Intelligence to the universe or beyond. Zen masters tend to duck that question and avoid being too specific. Why?

    First, I would say that most Zen folks (not all) have some sense and suspicion that there is some aspect to reality, some overriding elegance or intelligence or harmony, beyond mere cold, meaningless, aimless matter that just exists by brute fact and naked chance. It is just too weird that you and I popped up alive in the middle of time and space, and that the world is so reasonably organized to allow that fact, such that something must be "afoot" and some point to it all beyond just a fart of blind nature. So, Dogen and most of the old Zen masters had some sense of something special going on that they called Buddha (with a Big B).

    However, we also know that we are too stupid to really know what is going on (even Zen masters) any more than an ant, crawling across the wing of a Boeing 777, can understand aerodynamics let alone fly the plane. Our scientists are trying to understand, but we human beings have a long way to go, and may never be able to understand fully with our tiny little heads. Even "enlightened" Zen masters know that, with these little brains, we are still too stupid to get the whole big picture ... but also that it's is okay just to just get some of it. Happy to be the ant and keep crawling, happy to taste the soup even if we don't know the total recipe.

    So ... Zen masters are content simply to know that we are the sea, the soup, the "Whole Enchilada" beyond "birth and death," the trees and sun and super novas, the whole Flowing Wholeness somehow beyond inside/outside, subject/object, time and timeless, permanent and impermanent. Is it "conscious" or "not conscious" ... we just keep on crawling, just keep on tasting and savoring the rich soup.

    That is the best that we little ants and waves and carrots can understand ... but it is enough for now.

    Did that kind of respond to your question, or did I merely duck it too?

    Now, go sit Zazen ... dropping thoughts of this and that, outside and inside ... and taste the soup please.

    Gassho, J

    STLah

    PS - I like that your personal computer "terminal" is also the "Whole Internet" in microcosm, but when your "terminal" is terminal and terminates , all its particular data and memory photos and such will be gone ... and yet the Whole Internet cloud which it is goes on and on and on ...
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-11-2019 at 09:53 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4
    Wow Jundo, just give out the answer key to all the Koans in one post, why doncha

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH



    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    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).

  5. #5
    Hello Lance ,

    Brad Warner just did a video on this you may want to check out here it is below :



    I'm no Zen Master or anything like that but personally I don't go into my own Zazen with Shushin more try to focus on the sitting . I consider lt more like a form a method that helps in Zen but not the practice par excellence of Zazen such a smetta or koans .Through just sitting I find I experience Shushin more afterward because of the realizations I have had during my sittings that have humbled me. This is just my personal experience I didn't know Shushin had become "A Thing" until I watched Brad warner's video.Hope this helps.

    Gassho,

    Karl,ST/LaH

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by karlmalachut View Post
    Hello Lance ,

    Brad Warner just did a video on this you may want to check out here it is below :



    I'm no Zen Master or anything like that but personally I don't go into my own Zazen with Shushin more try to focus on the sitting . I consider lt more like a form a method that helps in Zen but not the practice par excellence of Zazen such a smetta or koans .Through just sitting I find I experience Shushin more afterward because of the realizations I have had during my sittings that have humbled me. This is just my personal experience I didn't know Shushin had become "A Thing" until I watched Brad warner's video.Hope this helps.

    Gassho,

    Karl,ST/LaH
    Brad NOT being "political" again.

    Shoshin is vital in Shikantaza, keeping the innocent and open mind of a child or a beginner for each sitting and each day. As Shunryu Suzuki Roshi said "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."

    Always taste the soup as if it is the first time, it will be different every time.

    I think it is a bit older teaching than just something invented by Suzuki Roshi, and that freshness and openness has been vital throughout Soto Zen history. But Brad is correct that it is a bit over-used in popular media lately.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-11-2019 at 02:12 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    The expression "never forget the beginner's mind of youth" (初心忘るるべからず) is actually a much older expression in Japanese culture than Suzuki, and is found in many Zen related arts such as tea ceremony, Martial Arts and Noh theatre.

    Zeami Motokiyo (世阿弥 元清 c. 1363 – c. 1443 Japanese aesthetician, actor and playwright) established Noh as a stand-alone art form and his formulation is continued to the present day. Zeami likens a Noh actor to a flower. Zeami left the works ‘Fushikaden’ ... which contain the aphorism ‘shyoshin wasureruru bekarazu’, ‘Never forget the beginner’s spirit’. This aphorism reveals a beautiful truth. To elucidate, the beginner’s mind (shoshin) is divided into three stages over a lifetime:

    1. Forget not the beginner’s mind of youth (zehi no shoshin o wasureruru bekarazu「是非の初心忘るるべからず」). When a teen or person of their 20s takes the Noh stage for the first time, their wholehearted concentration is comparable to a blossoming flower. However, this impassioned concentration becomes stale at some point, the performer matures to a point and the blossoming flower of impassioned youth withers and disappears from the stage. So what should one do? Zeami continues:

    2. Forget not the beginner’s mind of maturity (tokidoki no shoshin o wasureruru bekarazu 「時々の初心忘るるべからず」).

    Now one must tread the stage while cultivating their original expression, and successfully executing their original ideas. When a person of their 30s or 40s is on stage, their sincere heart is comparable to a flower, a flower they must bud and make bloom themselves through the execution of their own original creation. Zeami’s time was a time when an average life was but 50 years, and passing from the beginner’s mind of youth and beginner’s mind of maturity, there was one more beginner’s mind:

    3. Forget not the beginner’s mind of old age (ro no shoshin wasureruru bekarazu 「老の初心忘るるべからず」).

    In their 50s, even by moving but one metre over the stage, the beauty of the spirit of a Noh performer is comparable to a flower blossoming on an ancient wood. This is a very beautiful metaphor. And this is the metaphor one must carry to death; the blossoming flower of the performance withers and falls when the life-force has withered from and left the ancient root.

    Zeami’s aphorism embodies the repetition of Dōgen, the thought that through repetition humans continue to blossom throughout all stages of their life.
    Dogen actually has a section on beginner's mind in Hokyoki, although it is a little different. It emphasizes that, in Zen perspective, we are originally enlightened as beginners, and all along, but just do not realize that fact. In Hokyoki (Dogen's diary of his time in China), he quotes his conversation with his Teacher, Master Rujing, as follows:

    I [Dogen] asked, "... In the beginning, when we first arouse our mind to understand dharma, it appears that there is a buddha way, but later when we become established in our understanding, it appears that there is no buddha way. On the other hand, when we begin to practice, it appears we have not yet attained enlightenment.

    "... My question is: where is real enlightenment? At the beginning or later on?"

    Rujing replied: " .... On the one hand it is taught that the dharma does not increase or decrease. If so, how can there be such a thing as attaining enlightenment? ...

    "It is also taught that enlightenment is the same in the beginner's mind and the experienced practitioner's mind. But how can this be possible? If this is so, then immediately upon arousing the bodhisattva aspiration for enlightenment, you would already be a buddha.

    "On the other hand, if there is no enlightened beginner's mind, how can we make steps toward the enlightened fulfillment of dharma? So the enlightened fulfillment of dharma must be the fruition of the beginner's enlightened experience. And the beginner's enlightened experience must be the seed of the fulfillment.

    "Let me explain this more clearly with an analogy. It is like a candle with its illuminating flame. When the candle is lit there is a flame. As the candle burns there is still the same flame. So there's no difference between the beginning time and the later time of the candle burning. The flame is neither new nor old. It is neither the possession of the candle nor does it exist apart from the candle.

    "The flame is like the light of the beginner's mind. The candle, when it is flameless, is like the lack of vision of one who has not begun the way. The wisdom flame of the beginner's mind is complete at the onset. The all-inclusive samadhi of buddha ancestors is the completion of that same wisdom over time, burning down the confusion of ignorance till the candle is no more.

    "Can you see how this practice has no beginning and no end, how now and later are not really different? This is the essential teaching correctly transmitted by buddha ancestors."

    Dogen 1226

    https://books.google.co.jp/books?id=...ion%22&f=false
    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Jakuden View Post
    Wow Jundo, just give out the answer key to all the Koans in one post, why doncha

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH



    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    ... pretty darn good eh?

    Thanks Jundo,



    Jinyo

    sat today

  9. #9
    Wow Jundo, just give out the answer key to all the Koans in one post, why doncha

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH
    Thank you, Jundo

    Gassho,
    Washin
    sat/lah
    Wa (和) Harmony
    Shin (心) Heart-Mind

  10. #10
    Thank you all for your reply on this question of mine,
    I appreciate all of your input, I am now going to watch the video From above and digest all that was said. Thank you Jundo for your in depth response, much appreciated.

    Gassho, Lance
    (Sat today)

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    First, I would say that most Zen folks (not all) have some sense and suspicion that there is some aspect to reality, some overriding elegance or intelligence or harmony, beyond mere cold, meaningless, aimless matter that just exists by brute fact and naked chance. It is just too weird that you and I popped up alive in the middle of time and space, and that the world is so reasonably organized to allow that fact, such that something must be "afoot" and some point to it all beyond just a fart of blind nature. .
    I guess I'm in the "not all" camp. The god of the gaps gets smaller each day. I would also represent the "not all" camp by saying my doubt of an overriding intelligence doesn't mean I'm cold, meaningless, aimless matter, or a fart of blind nature. I am warm, have (and give) meaning, and have direction. I do have a point. I'm always dubious of the suggestion that if there is no overriding harmony/supreme being/universal intelligence, then life is meaningless; or more to the point that my life is meaningless.

    Shinshou (Dan)
    Sat Today

  12. #12
    Hi,

    Life is absolutely meaningless and without purpose with the exception of teaching others that life is meaningless and without purpose.

    My worthless 2 cents.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post
    Hi,

    Life is absolutely meaningless and without purpose with the exception of teaching others that life is meaningless and without purpose.

    My worthless 2 cents.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_
    "Jishin, that's absurd!" - Albert Camus

    Shinshou (Dan)
    Sat Today

  14. #14

  15. #15
    Jishin,

    From the biological perspective the purpose of life is to survive and reproduce. Evolution selects for that goal. Going to the moon, making music, creating art, zazen etc are wonderful benefits of existence
    😁

    Doshin
    St

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Doshin View Post
    Jishin,

    From the biological perspective the purpose of life is to survive and reproduce. Evolution selects for that goal. Going to the moon, making music, creating art, zazen etc are wonderful benefits of existence
    ��

    Doshin
    St
    That is a value judgement and interpretations as much as the religious people make about the meaning of creation. Perhaps biology and reproduction have some greater significance in the wide scheme of things ... we just don't know. Jury is out, one way or the other.

    I am thinking of this book I read a few years ago, very good ...

    Biocosm: The New Scientific Theory of Evolution

    For many years, traditional cosmologists and proponents of faith-based "intelligent design" have fought over the origin of the universe. One side maintains that pure chance can explain everything; the other that there must be a God. In Biocosm, James Gardner examines the evidence and finds a third hypothesis, one that has the approval of a number of noted skeptics and scientists. He calls it the "Selfish Biocosm," in a nod to Richard Dawkins, and outlines it in this homage to Charles Darwin. Gardner states his hypothesis:

    The basic idea is that the anthropic, or life-friendly, qualities that our universe exhibits are logical and predictable consequences of a cosmic reproduction cycle in which a cosmologically extended biosphere, developed and evolved over billions of years to unimaginable levels of sophistication, serves as the device by which our cosmos duplicates itself and propagates one or more "baby universes."
    Like many of the sentences in Biocosm, this one requires multiple readings before its meaning and ramifications sink in. This is not an easygoing, blow-your-mind look at the universe. Gardner is meticulous in outlining his ideas, explaining their falsifiability and scientific rigor, and offering deep chaos theory to support them. Did our universe create intelligent life in order to ensure its own reproduction? Gardner thinks so, though he knows his position will irk many cosmologists exhausted from battling pseudoscientists and creationists. His impressive list of scientific supporters includes Sir Martin Rees (Britain's Astronomer Royal), Michael Shermer (publisher of Skeptic magazine), and John Casti (Santa Fe Institute honcho). Biocosm synthesizes many disciplines and theories in its conclusions, offering much food for cosmological thought.

    More here

    https://www.kurzweilai.net/biocosm-t...f-the-universe

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  17. #17
    Thank you for that perspective. All interesting and intriguing. Biocosm has yet to be widely heard of in the biologist community...yet. New ideas often evolve slowly. From personal experience over the last half century I will comment that biologists are an odd lot of folks

    Doshin
    St
    Last edited by Doshin; 06-13-2019 at 04:03 AM.

  18. #18
    I have discovered a little book by one priest John Daido Loori called Beginning the Sacred to Life: daily practice of Zen Ritual. After perusing these pages, I gather my scattered wits to read more deeply into what it means to be a Zen practitioner; for example, the morning (ritual before one's alter). Now consider, after a few pages I have learned before my altar to bow three times either standing or full prostration. As I am told stand for me because of back condition, I hold hands in Gassho, this meaning to raise tips of closed palms level with one's nose. These simple actions I can do alone before my alter, and here description of my alter. I have several statues of Buddha, the largest front center holding electric candle, then beautiful electric candle holder of four votive candles in reflective container. Then several large electric candles. Next a prayer bell, and several other Japanese statues on the actual horse denoting the year I became Lay member. At the back are a statue of Jesus holding a lamb, picture of my wife and daughter with hands raised, pictures of flowers, and picture of my wife smiling, finally incense burner, never lit but with incense from Japan. All items are from wife and daughter sitting on hand-made table from my father. Two items gifts from Jundo, a container decorated with congi of Heart Sutra, and Japanese incense which I do not use. I never use fire, These are for me essentials. I have taken and printed the pictures myself an accomplished photographer.

    Tai Shi
    sat
    Gassho
    Last edited by Tai Shi; 06-13-2019 at 11:55 AM. Reason: spelling
    "We cannot enjoy life if we spend a lot of time worrying about what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow." Thich Nhat Hanh

  19. #19
    This is a wonderful description, Tai Shi.

    gassho
    doyu sat today
    土 Do Earth
    友 Yū Friend
    上 Shō True
    人 Nin Person

  20. #20
    The shifting drops in the ocean.

    Gassho
    David
    Sat

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