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Thread: A Bit of a Crisis as a Young Practitioner

  1. #1

    A Bit of a Crisis as a Young Practitioner

    Hello, I am not 100% sure that this is the right place and content for here, so please let me know if it isn't. And sorry about the length.

    Recently I have become very conflicted and confused about the many things I have been reading about Buddhism. It seems to me that depending on who you ask, you will always get a very different answer on just about any topic in Buddhism, almost certainly seeming to be contradictory to each other. It seems that this problem or my attempts to solve it (searching for answers) are causing me a very large amount of suffering at the moment. I feel completely lost and have no idea where to go from here. Whether to stop reading for a bit or to try to let go of these thoughts, because currently my desire is to leave Buddhism and indulge in sensory pleasures as a form of escapism. In a word, I would call it despair.

    As an example of this, something that I don't understand is the celibate monastic practices that are common. If one wants to save all beings (Bodhisattva), then surely they would advise others to take up their practice, no? But taken to its logical conclusion, if everyone became monastic Buddhists, there would be the extinguishing of all people. It seems that there are certain Buddhists (maybe all or most?) that view birth as a cause of suffering to the point that they say it should be avoided to stop said suffering. Taken to all things, the only way to end all suffering, would be to end all the things capable of suffering, but this seems to be at odds with the impermanence and inter-connectedness of all things. A quote summarizing this idea is:

    "Buddha states his propositions in the pedantic style of his age. He throws them into a form of sorites; but, as such, it is logically faulty and all he wishes to convey is this: Oblivious of the suffering to which life is subject, man begets children, and is thus the cause of old age and death. If he would only realize what suffering he would add to by his act, he would desist from the procreation of children; and so stop the operation of old age and death."

    H. Singh Gour, The Spirit of Buddhism, Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing, 2005, pp. 286–288.

    Is this a mis-interpretation of the Dharma? If it is how can one distinguish between what is and isn't, given that Buddhists seem to have similar conflicts almost everywhere? It seems that Kosho Uchiyama would be directly against this if I understand his teachings. Even reading within Soto Zen it seems clear that at least Dogen and Kosho Uchiyama are quite vocal in their disagreements with other views within Buddhism. Another thing I've noticed is that it seems almost that when Zen teachers write, they have a different standard from when they speak. In "Opening the Hand of Thought" by Kosho Uchiyama, as I read, it appeared that what was asked was the impossible and full of the striving that caused me to suffer so much that I came to Buddhism. Perhaps these things are simply too soon for me?

    But in reading someone a bit more contemporary/secular like Brad Warner and in the videos of the beginner's series I have seen from Jundo, there isn't what felt to me as an attitude of "All the way, or nothing" that I felt in reading the older writers. I can't imagine it's healthy to compare myself with the standard that practitioners of many many years set themselves to as a goal they know they cannot ever truly reach (at least that's how I interpreted it).

    All in all, I ask this: In guiding myself down this path, with others help, I cannot tell what should be my focus. In zazen these issues don't come up, only the letting go of thoughts. Zazen seems to me completely separated from all of the stuff I have written above. Would it be wise to sit zazen without reading for a while? When Jundo talks about taking this practice, or zazen, out into the world, does that life look more like the one I have now, or the one these practitioners have set out to create? Do I change my life to fit Buddhism, or does Buddhism naturally change my life as I practice? If I am lost on my path, how do I find my way back?

    I'm sure I've mis-interpreted many things in this post and could be very off, please let me know if this is the case.

    Thank You,
    Joshua
    Sat Today

  2. #2
    Hi Joshua,

    Others will come along with a more authoritative answer. My short answer would be: more sitting, less thinking (reading).

    Your post brought to mind a story that I haven't thought of in a long time. When I searched for it I was surprised to learn that it can be found in a Buddhist text. Anyway it is the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant. This is borrowed from the Wikipedia page:

    A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: "We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable".

    So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said "This being is like a thick snake".

    For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan.

    As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk.

    The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said the elephant, "is a wall".

    Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope.

    The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.

    The Dharma is a complex thing and as soon as a person tries to start describing it our language limits our ability to communicate it completely. And sometimes people find a path that works for them, but then think it is the only path. And people start to argue about the best path and so on. All of it reflects parts of the truth. But sometimes it is hard to perceive the whole elephant.

    If you try to reconcile all of the teachings of Buddhism you are in for a life long task I think. Probably best to start with understanding one that resonates with you.

    But mostly just sit more and think less.

    That is what I think today.

    Gassho, Shinshi

    SaT-LaH
    空道 心志 Kudo Shinshi
    I am just a priest-in-training, any resemblance between what I post and actual teachings is purely coincidental.

  3. #3
    Hello Shinshi,

    Thank you so much for your reply. I will do the best I can to implement this.

    Gassho, Joshua
    Sat Today

    P.S. The elephant story was very illuminating.

  4. #4
    HI Joshua,

    Like any religion, philosophy, political view or recipe on the right way to cook chicken soup, there are people who interpret things differently. So what? Some people use more salt than others, some people are more conservative or insistent on certain rules than others. That is what human beings do. Find the path that is right for Joshua! Don't get so confused by the different opinions, because it is just people who have different viewpoints. I don't know which is right, because my path might be right for me but wrong for somebody else (and their path may be wrong from me).

    Rome wasn't built in a day, so don't expect to figure out the entire 2500 year history of Buddhism (and 1500 year history of Zen Buddhism as part of that history) in a few weeks. What's the rush?

    Let me recommend a couple of books for you that are easy to read, and give a nice overview (my reviews below).

    On the celibacy, some Buddhist priests are celibate and some are not (it is like Catholic priests and Protestant priests that way). However, the Buddha never said that EVERYONE should be celibate, precisely for the reasons you mention. Japanese priests marry, Chinese and Thai priests are celibate, but non-ordained people are generally not celibate everywhere. One does not need to be celibate to benefit from Buddhism, and different people have different paths to walk.

    Finally, WHERE did you find this book "The Spirit Of Buddhism" by Hari Singh Gour? As far as I can tell, that book was written about 90 years ago (1929 to be exact) by a Hindu intellectual from India, and is not exactly a modern or objective analysis. i would not consider that my go to source for information about Buddhism.

    Let's chat more.

    Gassho, Jundo

    SatTodayLAH

    • Buddhism For Dummies by Jonathan Landaw & Stephan Bodian (Jundo: I have been looking for a very long time for a book for people very new to Buddhism who want to know basic information and all the many flavors of Buddhist schools, their beliefs and practices. Despite the silly title, this is a very smart, well written, comprehensive and detailed yet easy (and fun) to read, humorous and serious guide, covers most of the major bases and in quite some detail, gives fair treatment to the many flavors of Buddhism, is very down to earth about the more magical aspects of Buddhism (it tries to present a more psychological than literal take on Karma and Rebirth, for example) .... and it covers everything and the kitchen sink. I learned a thing or two. I just wish they would change the title. If I have one criticism, I wish they had done a better job in contrasting the various approaches of Zen. I recommend this book primarily for people very new to Buddhism in general.)
    .................................................. .................................................. .................................................. .................................................. ...................**

    • Simple Guide to Zen Buddhism by Diana St. Ruth (Jundo: For folks who are completely new, puzzled and perplexed about Zen Buddhism's history and practices of various flavors. It is detailed in its explanation, balanced and quite comprehensive in the many topics it covers. I would not recommend the book for anyone who had been practicing for even a few months, but it may still answer some questions and be good to give to your dad or sister who is completely confused by what we are doing here ... and may think that we are wearing bed sheets while dancing in drum circles with the Dalai Lama during the Soltice. As with any book, it is not perfect. It could still do even a better job in explaining the various different approaches of Soto and Rinzai, Koan Centered Zazen and Shikantaza ... but they are touched upon. But compared to most other books on the subject, it is well researched, comprehensive, very balanced and gets it right.)
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-03-2019 at 12:00 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  5. #5
    Hello Jundo,

    Thank you for the clear reply. To clarify on the quote I used, I actually had not read the book (I couldn't even find it). I probably should have said that in my post. I was looking around on the topic of celibacy and saw the natural outcome if everyone was celibate, and found a wikipedia page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antinatalism on a philosophical idea a friend of mine had brought up. The quote is from there, I thought it couldn't be right, but I had no external evidence to say it was wrong from a sutra or Buddhist teacher.

    Thank you for the book recommendations, I will be sure to read them. They seem to be a good contrast to the less directed and tradition specific books I have been reading recently. I will also take to mind Shinshi's wonderful advice and try to "mostly just sit more and think less." Even for all the conflicts it brought me, "Opening the Hand of Thought" was a wonderful book and clarified many of the things I didn't understand, as were the several I read off of your recommended list.

    It was from a lot of looking around through Buddhism that I eventually came to Soto Zen, zazen, and Treeleaf and I'm really happy that I did.

    Gassho, Joshua
    Sat Today

  6. #6
    Hi Joshua!

    I think that the state of confusion you are experiencing is very common for people who are new to Buddhism. I know that I sure experienced it when I first began to study and practice!

    The best advise that I was ever given (note that I had to hear it from more than one person before listening!) was to read less, practice (sit) more. Now after a decade I have certainly read many books, text books, sutras, gathas etc. But my practice is simply to sit.

    Now when I encounter (both online, and in "real" life) newcomers to Buddhism, I pass along the same advice I was given. Understand the 4 noble truths and the 8 Fold path, and sit. In fact don't even worry about the other stuff, just sit. The rest comes when it comes!

    Gassho,

    Junkyo
    SAT

  7. #7
    Hi Joshua!

    Yes, it is really confusing at first! There are so many different Buddhist traditions and even then different teachers within the traditions don't always agree!

    Some people are very keen on having arguments over philosophy and definitions. A lot of these end up going nowhere and are not very helpful. Internet groups contain a multitude of voices from the newest students to experienced teachers. Not everything that is said is based in a correct understanding of Buddhist teachings and it can be hard to differentiate the truth from speculation.

    Sitting is a much better way to ground yourself in the tradition and as you read more and absorb teachings directly from teachers, you start to get your own feel for things.

    Really, you could practice just with a few books. Most of us like to read a bit deeper but there are some really good ones picked out in our reading list as especially suitable for beginners (and that does not mean they are simple or lacking in depth) which should help a lot. Books like Opening the Hand of Thought are great as they focus on practice.

    If you have any questions of things you hear elsewhere, you are always welcome to bring them up here. That is not to say that we will give you a definitive answer, but we tend to be a pretty moderate voice and can at least help to untangle some of the complexity and extreme views.

    If you read something and don't understand or don't feel ready for it, it is completely fine to put it down and go back to it at a later date. Or not at all! You do not need to be able to engage in debates with all and sundry but instead find a way of practicing that works for you.

    Great you have found your way here!

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
    Last edited by Kokuu; 07-02-2019 at 08:08 PM.
    ------------------------------------
    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.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Kokuu View Post
    If you read something and don't understand or don't feel ready for it, it is completely fine to put it down and go back to it at a later date. Or not at all! You do not need to be able to engage in debates with all and sundry but instead find a way of practicing that works for you.
    Thank you Kokuu,
    Often I don’t understand what seems to be simple to others when reading essays, texts and books that are presented and recommended in our Sangha. Or even written by Jundo, the Unsui or other Treeleafers that are more educated ...
    Lately I try not to feel stupid and let the things I don’t understand keep their mystery after all there are many mysteries on our path and in a way that is part of the practice for me.
    “Shikantaza/just sitting” is the heart of my practice together with the precepts.
    Sure, I read too, but the simple teachings are the ones that reach me (my heart) the most. The more academic ones often just make me feel humble, witch is good too.
    Thank you again,
    Thank you all.

    Gassho/SatToday
    流道
    Ryū Dou

  9. #9
    I used to get very confused, but after a while I limited my study of practice to just Soto Zen, and then eventually to just what we study here as a sangha and what Jundo recommends. Because Jundo is the teacher I chose, I defer my confusion to him. I feel that nothing was lost, and the essential was what remained.

    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.

  10. #10
    Hi Joshua!

    One of the most helpful teachings I have had here from our Jundo Roshi is that even all the conflict and confusion we experience is whole. ALL of those seemingly contradictory aspects of Buddhism you mentioned can be as they are, and yet they are still just leaves on a tree, and the tree is the leaves and the leaves are the tree. Not Two. If you sit Zazen, you sit with everything that is, and the truth is that all of those conflicting viewpoints are just fingers trying to point at a moon that can’t be adequately explained in words. So sometimes just sit and drop all the words Then go back to reading the stuff Jundo suggests you read.

    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).

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Jakuden View Post
    Hi Joshua!

    One of the most helpful teachings I have had here from our Jundo Roshi is that even all the conflict and confusion we experience is whole. ALL of those seemingly contradictory aspects of Buddhism you mentioned can be as they are, and yet they are still just leaves on a tree, and the tree is the leaves and the leaves are the tree. Not Two. If you sit Zazen, you sit with everything that is, and the truth is that all of those conflicting viewpoints are just fingers trying to point at a moon that can’t be adequately explained in words. So sometimes just sit and drop all the words Then go back to reading the stuff Jundo suggests you read.

    Gassho
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro


    Gassho, Shinshi

    SaT-LaH
    空道 心志 Kudo Shinshi
    I am just a priest-in-training, any resemblance between what I post and actual teachings is purely coincidental.

  12. #12
    Hi Joshua,

    I think everybody here gave you great answers and I will not repeat the arguments, but, as someone who studies and teaches Philosophy professionally, I have to add a little observation that can, perhaps, clarify your thinking.

    You wrote:

    As an example of this, something that I don't understand is the celibate monastic practices that are common. If one wants to save all beings (Bodhisattva), then surely they would advise others to take up their practice, no? But taken to its logical conclusion, if everyone became monastic Buddhists, there would be the extinguishing of all people.
    Your conclusion here is not as logical as you might think. This form of thinking in Moral Philosophy is called universalization: you take some good action or rule and universalize it, as you did. If lying is wrong then nobody should ever lie; if celibacy is good, then everybody should be celibate.

    For your conclusion above to be logical you must accept the hidden premise of universalization: “Every good action and every good rule ought to be followed by everyone independently of the situation”.

    But this is a very controversial kind of moral reasoning. In fact, it’s a form of reasoning that only became accepted after Kant. So kantian and kantiano influenced ethics (like many of modern moral thinking) accept universalization. But other moral systems don’t accept it. Asian and Ancient Greek ethics, for exemple, don’t use the strategy of universalization and some thinkers in these traditions even openly reject it altogether.

    Buddhism, and especially Mahayana Buddhism, don’t go well with universalization. The very idea of skillful means depends on the rejection of universalization. And, in the specific case of celibacy, even the Pali sutras and the Chinese Agamas are clear in stating that the Sangha is to have not only ordained monks and nuns, but also laypeople. There are instances of non celibate laypeople who became enlightened in the Pali Canon. So even the Theravada Buddhism rejects the idea that only celibate monks can became enlightened. More so in Mahayana Buddhism.

    Hope I could be of use to you.

    Gassho,
    Mateus
    Sat today/LAH

  13. #13
    Member Onka's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Rural Queensland, Australia
    Hi Joshua
    I'm a new practitioner and even newer member of Treeleaf Sangha.
    My brain's unique design features make it a challenge on the best of days to filter out the brilliance from the bullshit.
    I ended up here (Soto Zen Buddhism) after reading a Brad Warner book and then here (Treeleaf - my home Sangha) thanks to the environment Jundo has created.
    In all honesty I've read very little and I can't ever see myself as becoming incredibly well read on Buddhism as a scholarly subject so for me I do what Shinshi suggested - sit more and read less.
    I couldn't begin to explain to you my lived experience or how I ended up at this point but for me, this works... For me.
    I already know I'm committed and already know that I will take/receive the Precepts and I know that this journey will entail me to read many things as guided by Jundo but it will always be my Zazen practice that will be central to my Buddhist life.
    Be kind to yourself Joshua.
    Gassho
    Anna



    Sat today Lent a hand

  14. #14

    A Bit of a Crisis as a Young Practitioner

    Hi Joshua,

    Relax.

    IMG_0065.jpg

    Gasho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  15. #15
    Joshua:

    One more thought, because so many of us can relate to your experience. . .

    . . . about a month after I joined Treeleaf, as an absolute beginner, I became as muddled as you over quite the same thing: conflicting ideas from what I'd been reading. I shared this with Treeleaf, and Jundo said the same thing to me: just sit.

    So I did. I abandoned everything and just sat. In two months, it will be a year of just sitting.

    What I learned is that our Soto Zen practice is bodily. Everything must be grounded by the sitting.

    This is not a rejection of intellectualism. It is a different way of encountering thought. Buddhism begins with the sitting. It is sitting.

    That's not to say that I haven't pondered issues along the way (I had a brief muddle over tiny buddhas, for example... you can read the posts...), but now I take it all back into the sitting. I try to let the sitting guide the knowing. I just sit, and I am a Buddhist.

    With a deep bow to you,
    Kate

    SAT/lah
    Hensho 編 礁 Knitting Strands / Stranded on a Reef
    "Knit on with confidence and hope through all crises." -Elizabeth Zimmerman

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Kate View Post
    Joshua:

    One more thought, because so many of us can relate to your experience. . .

    . . . about a month after I joined Treeleaf, as an absolute beginner, I became as muddled as you over quite the same thing: conflicting ideas from what I'd been reading. I shared this with Treeleaf, and Jundo said the same thing to me: just sit.

    So I did. I abandoned everything and just sat. In two months, it will be a year of just sitting.

    What I learned is that our Soto Zen practice is bodily. Everything must be grounded by the sitting.

    This is not a rejection of intellectualism. It is a different way of encountering thought. Buddhism begins with the sitting. It is sitting.

    That's not to say that I haven't pondered issues along the way (I had a brief muddle over tiny buddhas, for example... you can read the posts...), but now I take it all back into the sitting. I try to let the sitting guide the knowing. I just sit, and I am a Buddhist.

    With a deep bow to you,
    Kate

    SAT/lah


    Meitou
    Satwithyoualltoday lah
    命 Mei - life
    島 Tou - island

  17. #17
    Treeleaf Unsui / Engineer Sekishi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Virginia, USA
    Hi Joshua,

    As many have alluded to already, I think your struggles are not uncommon and most of your brothers and sisters here have faced some version of this (I know I have).

    A few views I have that hopefully are correct and helpful in your struggle with "many different answers":

    1. The Dharma simply "is". The Buddha did not invent it. Dogen did not create it. Jundo does not make it up. Gautama Buddha made a discovery and as some say "set the wheel in motion". Teachers have been trying to help their students discover it for themselves ever since.

    2. Teachings are not themselves "truth" - they are a means to help sentient beings awaken to their true nature. They may not always look the same on the surface.

    3. Enlightenment / awakening / Nirvana is beyond all concepts and extremes. Language, logic, mathematics, philosophy, science, etc. - none of them can quite ferry sentient beings to the other shore. So when teachers use language and logic, they are doing their best to help sentient beings, but they will by definition "fall short". If one were to use words and scientific language to explain how an acorn becomes and oak, we will always fall short - we would have to explain the history of the entire universe and all of physics, chemistry, biology, and likely fields of study not yet discovered - it would be a book with as many pages as there are atoms in the universe, and yet we can put an acorn in soft earth and if conditions are right, a tree will appear.

    4. It has been my experience that the more I've read and absorbed, the more the rough edges and seeming contradictions have fallen away. I find my faith routinely strengthened by just how many similarities I find when reading or listening to teachings from apparently widely "different" traditions.

    You are very lucky to have discovered the Buddha Dharma and people to practice with. Please practice. May you awaken to your true nature.

    Deep bows,
    Sekishi
    #sat
    sekishi
    石志

    As a novice priest-in-training, this is simply an expression of my opinion. Please take it with a grain of salt.

  18. #18
    Welcome back Sekishi. I always enjoy reading your perspective.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah

  19. #19
    Hello there,

    Coming from someone who has struggled with this question, and not just within Buddhism but within religions as well (led me to graduate with a B.A in Philosophy of Religion—as if that means anything.)

    But what has helped me is a sense of “what works?”

    When we look at Buddhism, we can go back to the earliest teachings where the Buddha expounded on the four noble truths. But why start with that? Why teach that first as opposed to something else that arose from his experience of enlightenment.?

    Well, its because that is where we currently are. We are in suffering and we don’t see a way out, so that is where the teachings start—where the one receiving the teachings is.

    With this in mind, we begin to see all of Buddhism as upaya, skill means. Where I am and what I need in this moment might be very different from where you are and what you need.

    Maybe if the Buddha was to speak to me now he will tell me to go on a 6 month retreat, and maybe for you he’ll tell you to simply focus on your day to day life and treat it as practice.

    If this is taken from a purely academic view, it may seem like these are two contradictory teachings, (monastic versus lay life) but in actuality, the teachings aren’t supposed to be systematic in such a way that we are to create a concert religious structure out of them (although it has been done and also works for many) but the teachings are there to help us “see.”

    And what will get me to “see” and what will get you to “see” may seem contradictory from an outsider looking in, but once “seen” we will see that it was all a set of skillful means to get us back exactly where we have always been.

    Gassho



    Sat today
    Humbly,
    清竜 Seiryu

  20. #20
    Hi Seiryu! Still playing the guitar (cuatro)?



    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Hi Seiryu! Still playing the guitar (cuatro)?



    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Wow! This is fantastic! I could listen to it all day.

    Gasho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  22. #22
    The ultimate goal is happiness.. no more no less. Buddhism is a way of acheiving inner peace and happiness. That you are asking and meditating on these questions indicates you are on the right path. It is about the goal of sorting out your mind and finding peace, not doctrine. My advice on where to go is to meditate and look through the past difficulties of your life. One at a time. Look at everything that led to them and came from them. Look at each persons actions and why they did what they did. Take your time to delve deeply and find your own answers to these. Once you understand why people do what they do you discover that everyone is very similar at heart. Not many want to suffer or be in pain. People do the best they can with the information they have at the time and their reasons, weather right or wrong, are not always known to us, moulded by experiences and thoughts. Look over the events of your past and present and see how everything is connected. We are in an age where information is everywhere and so much of it that we need to take time to process experiences and information. Take time to meditate deeply on your thoughts and information and seek out the base truths, the ones that have been thought all the way through and challenge those as much as possible until you are guarenteed of their truth. Even then go back and review and challenge even your most basic assumptions and beliefs. But to tackle in more detail your post.. i cannot say much about celibacy except that it allows one to focus on other things like finding enlightenment, without the distraction of sex and the resulting trouble that comes from it. However, while it would be good for all people to find peace and end suffering from war and greed and anger etc. There has to be realism. Not everyone will or should be celibate and life should procreate like it has for billions of years. Liberation of all beings is a great idea and a worthy goal but its simply one process in balance, its a long process that may never fully happen but we do what we can. Perhaps one day everyone will live happy and peaceful lives without anger or fear or greed but its a long way off if it ever comes. Finding peace and understanding for yourself is the goal. As you work to improve yourself and live happier and healthier and more sustainably and mindfully your life will slowly change around you. Buddhism and zen will guide you through the storms of life and as you go through life and practice, the parts that seem confusing will make more and more sense. As you find answers and wisdom you will, naturally and maybe unknowingly, change the world and those around you, often for the better. Find peace within yourself, and the world around you will grow brighter. I do not know if this is the message others have but this is what i have found from my own life and experiences. Do not worryabout doctrine and theory as much as finding your own inner peace and true understanding of the world. You read the basics but in the end you have to experience the stuff to truly understand it rather then just knowing it. For example I had an aunt that was consumed by greed and fear and although she had wealth (teachers pension). She was always paranoid and miserable. The happiest person recorded in the world is a buddhist monk who has very little possessions. (Look up happiest man in the world). I live in a 27 foot rv with two other people and got rid of a lot of stuff when we downsized from a 2 story big house but i found i dont need a lot of stuff and we have been very happy living this way. The goal in my opinion is to find true inner peace and self improvement.
    P.s. it is 2am right now for me so if something here is incorrect or misinformed or arrogant or anything let me know.
    Gassho
    David
    Sat today

  23. #23
    Treeleaf Unsui / Engineer Sekishi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Virginia, USA
    Hi David,

    Thank you for your lovely and heartfelt reflection and enthusiasm and for responding so completely to Joshua's post! I do have a quibble though. Perhaps it is just semantics, but I'm not sure Buddhist practice promises all of the things you are asking of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by serenewolf View Post
    The ultimate goal is happiness.. no more no less. Buddhism is a way of acheiving inner peace and happiness.
    Peace? Yes. Happiness? Dukka / suffering hides in happiness as much as sadness IMHO. Happiness and sadness create each other - they are peaks and troughs of the same wave. There is a way beyond / through both.


    Quote Originally Posted by serenewolf View Post
    Do not worryabout doctrine and theory as much as finding your own inner peace and true understanding of the world.
    Peace? Yes. True understanding of the world? I'm not sure so. Intimate understanding of how we create the world - maybe. Intimate understanding of the depth of mystery that is the world - definitely.


    Quote Originally Posted by serenewolf View Post
    The goal in my opinion is to find true inner peace and self improvement.
    Peace? Yes. Self improvement? How about letting go of the idea of self completely - no "self" anywhere you look and nowhere for it to hide. But yes, somehow being a little better person in the midst of no self too.


    But these are my views. Perhaps they are mistaken.


    Quote Originally Posted by serenewolf View Post
    ... in the end you have to experience the stuff to truly understand it rather then just knowing it.


    Gassho,
    Sekishi
    #sat
    sekishi
    石志

    As a novice priest-in-training, this is simply an expression of my opinion. Please take it with a grain of salt.

  24. #24
    Hi Joshua,

    Zen Buddhism is super confusing at first because all schools, even when they all practice the Buddhadharma, they all take different stances on topics like rebirth or celibacy.

    Like others have said, you need not to worry too much on finding an intellectual understanding of things, but you should spend more time sitting zazen. Most of your answers will come when you let go of the questions themselves.

    I would add too that your path doesn't mean you have to go about Buddhism by yourself. This will only create more conflict and confusion. You need to settle on a sangha and follow a teacher. Then stay for a couple of years and then decide if that's what you want.

    As you can see, our teacher here is very open and sometimes too avant garde in many ideas, but that's what this world needs. But you'll have to decide. All you have to do is to follow his suggestions and put them to the test. In the meanwhile, go sit some zazen

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Sat/LAH
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by serenewolf View Post
    The ultimate goal is happiness.. no more no less. Buddhism is a way of acheiving inner peace and happiness.
    Yes, as Sekishi says, Buddhists tend to have a subtle view of "happiness." Many modern Teachers, if you look closely, are actually doing a bit of "bate and switch" on their use of "happiness," which turns out to be much the same as the "joyous and content to be joyful, joyous and content to be sad, joyous and content to be healthy, joyous and content to be sick sometimes" message that you hear around our Sangha quite often. I have spoken about this and all the Dalai Lama's books on "happiness":

    The Tibetans tend to speak of "Happiness" quite a bit in their books and talks ... but when looked at closely, it is much the same as the subtle Joy and Peace that we speak of in the Zen corner of the woods ... a Joy that holds comfortably the happy times and sad times, a Peace that is wholly all life's many pieces.

    I feel that westerners are too much focused on feeling good, attaining and winning. They need to know more the equanimity of sometimes not feeling good and sometimes losing.

    I sometimes think that the Tibetans writers chose the word "Happiness" in their literature to impress Westerners. The problem is that some folks may hear that and think that they are going to find the key to 24/7 "laughing gas" happiness ... or that "happiness" is being used to mean "feeling happy," when the real meaning is more a message of acceptance, equanimity and stoic balance and calm. Many people are disappointed when in fact what is delivered is something much more subtle (though fathomlessly richer). I once wrote ...

    Even in Tibetan Buddhism's emphasis on "happiness" ... such words might disguise the real teaching of the Dalai Lama and most Tibetan Teachers I know (same message as here at Treeleaf, in fact) that the point of this Practice is not the attaining of a happy happy ha ha happy happiness all the time (I have never met such a constantly giddy Tibetan teacher, and who would want such a state ... like only watching the comedy movies and never the drama!), but of a certain subtle Happiness (big "H") that transcends AND yet fully contains both the happy times and the sad, smiles and tears, the rainy days and sunny days, as judged by small human eyes in this life of Samsara. I do not think they are teaching people to feel happy that their mother died or tickled that there is a war somewhere in the world ... but a Boundless Joy and Buddha's Smile that shines through all that life can dish out. It is more about peace and equanimity, acceptance and a willingness to be sad and to lose sometimes.

    A Buddha's Happiness transcends and holds small human "happy and sad".

    By the way, we don't look at past difficulties during Zazen, and just let everything be in radical equanimity. That is not the time for intentional analysis like that. After sitting is fine, but even then, see what happens if one does so with the equanimity and acceptance that one encountered in Shikantaza.

    All beings are already liberated and always have it but, alas, most do not seem to realize so.

    Gassho, J

    Sat TodayLAH
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-10-2019 at 02:06 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  26. #26
    Hello Everyone,

    While I've been checking in on this thread frequently and reading the very on the point advice, I haven't been active myself since recently after making the post. Through both long and short posts, my 'crisis' has been brought to its core and explained thoroughly. I wanted to express my gratitude for all of the people that have commented here and all that will later. It was a very interesting experience to see how I created this problem for myself and how quickly it disappeared after I stopped reading so much and then came back when I followed the questions that arose in my head. I especially wanted to point out the usage of skillful means, which I think is a major answer to the problem I originally posted about, and was demonstrated beautifully in the responses I received.

    I will be sure to return to this post when I run into this problem again, as I surely will. One observation of my own, while it might not be completely accurate, is about how the Buddha actually delivered his message, which eventually became the materials I read to construct this 'problem.' When the Buddha taught, he taught to direct problems and people, and almost certainly never intended for what he taught to be learned as a list of correct/Buddhist views, but as guidance on the path towards Dharma. Or so that's how I currently see it.


    Gassho,
    Joshua
    Sat Today

  27. #27
    Thank you for your insight. I should clarify a few terms used in my post. When I said happiness I am referring to the ability to choose your own mood including feeling joy if you wish it, seperate from MOST external influences. Perhaps a permanent contentment would be a better term. The line "buddhists tend to have a subtle view of "happiness." Many modern Teachers, if you look closely, are actually doing a bit of "bate and switch" on their use of "happiness," which turns out to be much the same as the "joyous and content to be joyful, joyous and content to be sad, joyous and content to be healthy, joyous and content to be sick sometimes" this gives me much to meditate on, thank you Jundo. Also i dont know how to do the green quote thingy, I shall look it up asap.
    When i say true understanding of the world I am referring more to being able to see the interconnectedness in all things and understanding how everything affects one another, for the most part and an understanding of base undeniable and thoughroughly tested thruths that help you figure out and understand the rest, as well as what you said. As for self improvement, the concept of no self may be hard to grasp for those who havent gotten there yet and so it is easier to talk using self language rather than no self language, for example saying that I have done or said something rather than trying to explain quantum theory. Those who arent there yet see themselves and others as "self" and "individual" and so learn from these terms. I admit i do sometimes feel a bit awkward using "I" and "me" knowing this. Working to improve what one calls self, will improve the aoe anyway. These posts have given me much to think about. Thank you.
    Last edited by serenewolf; 07-10-2019 at 03:10 AM.

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by serenewolf View Post
    Thank you for your insight. I should clarify a few terms used in my post. When I said happiness I am referring to the ability to choose your own mood including feeling joy if you wish it, seperate from MOST external influences. Perhaps a permanent contentment would be a better term.
    I really don't think that is possible and, if it were possible, I kind of think that it would not be fully human. Something like only watching Disney movies all the time without the drama and tragedies. Or taking happiness drugs.

    I would much rather be content to be happy sometimes, and content to be heart broken sometimes. I am at peace with being content sometimes, and at peace with not being content sometimes (content about not always being content ).

    At the still point amid all life's ups and downs, that is the place we sit.

    Yes, we do develop more control, and learn to not buy into all the bullshit and clutter in the attack between the ears. That is so.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  29. #29
    Joshua, glad to hear you are doing better.

    4. It has been my experience that the more I've read and absorbed, the more the rough edges and seeming contradictions have fallen away.
    You read the basics but in the end you have to experience the stuff to truly understand it rather then just knowing it.
    Couldn't agree more. I have now read at least 10 books from very different authors, most of them from Zen lineages but not all. The similarities are uncanny. It's like a million fingers pointing at the moon. They're all pointing at the same thing, but they are not giving you the thing itself, because they can't. The most they can do is point in their own way, from their own experiences and limited perspectives, with words we might prefer or not prefer. We have to do the work to get to the moon ourselves. Once you've caught a glimpse of the moon, you'll likely figure out the same thing, that they're all pointing at the thing you just saw.

    Gassho,
    Kenny
    Sat Today

  30. #30
    Kenny you've explained that perfectly. Those fingers have been pointing since ages ago. Thank you.
    Gassho
    David
    Sat

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