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Thread: Realizing Genjokoan - Chapter 3 to P 31 to P 35

  1. #1

    Realizing Genjokoan - Chapter 3 to P 31 to P 35

    Dear Madhyamikans, Yogacarans, and Tathagata-garbh-ites,

    Well, I was going to make a longer reading this week, but the two pages entitled "Madhyamika, Yogacara, and Tathagata-garbha" are so dense that I thought we might spend this week just on that and the short Heart Sutra discussion (from p. 31 to top of page 35, stopping before "The Buddha Way: Dogen Zenji's Teachings")

    Okumura Roshi hurries quickly through the "Big 3" Mahayana Buddhist philosophical traditions, and I think it is a little hard to follow because it is so short. So, I thought to add a couple of comments here.

    The second sentence of the Genjo he references is the following, in boldface:

    (1) When all dharmas are the Buddha Dharma, there is delusion and
    realization, practice, life and death, buddhas and living beings.
    (2) When the ten thousand dharmas are without [fixed] self, there is
    no delusion and no realization, no buddhas and no living beings, no
    birth and no death.

    (3) Since the Buddha Way by nature goes beyond [the dichotomy of ]
    abundance and deficiency, there is arising and perishing, delusion and
    realization, living beings and buddhas.
    (4) Therefore flowers fall even though we love them; weeds grow even
    though we dislike them
    The first sentence is basically a world of seeming opposites. This is generally considered an incomplete or ignorant view. So, in this view, we have ignorance vs. enlightenment, practice (to achieve enlightenment), life vs. death, buddhas and ignorant ordinary beings. However in the second sentence, all those opposites are dropped into the blender of "emptiness" and vanish as separate things and poles. (We will see that, in sentence three, the separate things reappear, but now seen to be simultaneously empty too, so not quite the same as they were viewed in sentence one. )

    The three schools, Madhyamika, Yogacara, and Tathagata-garbha, offer three takes on what is "emptiness" and how it works. Some people say that they are very different schools, but I myself have never had much trouble to harmonize their views, and I find them complementary of each other.

    The first school is the Madhyamika, centered around the great Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna. His writings (most famously the Mulamadhyamakakarika) basically present logical arguments why everything ... and I mean everything! ... is empty of separate self existence. The solid chair you are sitting on is not really there as a "chair," and neither are you, and both vanish into the puree cycle of the blender.

    The Yogacara (or "mind only" school) might be thought of as Buddhist psychologists who developed a system (quite ahead of its time in some ways, rather fanciful in other ways) for how we develop a sense of "self," come to see the world as separate from our "self," and how the Karmic "seeds" of our good and bad actions are stored until they come to fruit as good and bad effects in this or future lives. The seed "storehouse" stores these seeds, and they somehow get passed on to future lives (that is the "fanciful" part, if you ask me). The "ahead of its time" part is the Yogacara idea that is surprisingly close to modern understanding of the human mind, namely, data enters our senses (sight, hearing, taste, etc.), and a part of our mind (called "manas") identifies separate things in the "puree," and separates our separate sense of "myself" standing apart from those things which are your "not myself." In turn, this causes the sixth consciousness, the "mano-vijinana," which is basically our ordinary, day to day, psychology of living in the world so created of "me vs. not me," "me and you and the other guy," "good and bad" "win and lose" "life and death" and all the other things and opposites.

    The Tathagata-garbha teachings might basically be summarized as "we are already Buddha deep down, but just don't really know that, and rarely live like so." Part of that may involve our being the "puree" of reality, but we don't know so and just feel like those limited and frustrated "myselfs" of the "me vs. not me" mano-vijinana world.

    Basically, most Zen folks believe in some versions of all of the above.

    Okumura then ties much of the above in with the Heart Sutra (the Sutra which we chant at the start of our weekly Treeleaf Zazenkai and many other times. It is the most common Sutra to study and chant in Zen and other places too including Tibetan Buddhism).

    Okumura Roshi discusses the five "skandhas" which is very similar to the Yogacara system of how we mentally create a world of ideas and judgments of separate things by, for example, the senses receiving some data from whatever material is outside us, and then turning that into a world of things which we categorize, label, judge and react to between our ears. The Heart Sutra does not reject the truth of that system, but also says that we should toss it into the blender "puree" with everything else (Okumura Roshi notes that early Buddhists said that the "skandhas" were not part of the "puree," but the Mahayanists said that they were too). Likewise for many other Buddhist teachings (like the Four Noble Truths and others) which, while true in one sense, also get tossed into the puree. The good news is that, by doing, so, we actually escape from the "Suffering" that the Four Noble Truths were worried about, e.g, when our self gets tossed in the soup, as well as concepts such as "death," we just escape from all the frustrations of being a separate self, including fear of death. By doing so, we actually accomplish the liberation that the Four Noble Truths was talking about!

    The "puree" is liberating because it is the "separate self" which is always bumping into, feeling threatened by, feeling it lacks etc. all the "other/not myself" world. In turn, becoming the "soup" means that there are not "two" to bump and have conflict in such way.

    QUESTION - Do you see how your mind may be creating, right now, most aspects of your experience of this world of things and events because the names and images of the same are imposed between your ears? (I like to give the example of how you see a "chair," but an ant crawling across it does not know it is a "chair," and a space alien without legs coming to earth might not see it as anything but a raw shape. So, you actual turn a group of atoms into "chair" in your mind because you associate a certain shape with a function and then a name, thus creating a "chair" thing from the raw shape. You might see a "blue" chair, but the chair is not "blue." Instead, there is a group of atoms in a certain shape releasing photons of a certain frequency. It is your eyes that reacts to the photons, and the brain which then creates a mental image and "inner movie" which experiences that frequency of photons as "blue." However, really, there is no "blue" apart from that).

    - Do you see how learning to toss yourself and all the things in the world into the "Puree" of Emptiness would be liberating?

    - Do you have some sense about transcending death via the "puree" of emptiness?

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 08-12-2019 at 12:32 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Lordy, tough questions.

    Yes, I do get all that, but usually in doses of under a second and a half. I entered samadhi once and it went on for about eight seconds. In view of the brevity of these moments and my fear of flagpole tops, I have hitherto taken some comfort in Uchiyama's remark that "no matter how enlightened we are, it isn't very much."

    gassho
    doyu sat and lah today
    特別な人ではない

  3. #3
    Thank you Jundo.

    And the stopping location is 748 for us Kindle folks,

    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.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    QUESTION - Do you see how your mind may be creating, right now, most aspects of your experience of this world of things and events because the names and images of the same are imposed between your ears? (I like to give the example of how you see a "chair," but an an crawling across it does not know it is a "chair," and a space alien without legs coming to earth might not see it as anything but a raw shape. So, you actual turn a group of atoms into "chair" in your mind. You might see a "blue" chair, but the chair is not "blue." Instead, there is a group of atoms in a certain shape releasing photons of a certain frequency. It is your eyes that reacts to the photons, and the brain which then creates a mental image and "inner movie" in that frequency of photons as "blue." However, really, there is no "blue" apart from that).

    - Do you see how learning to toss yourself and all the things in the world into the "Puree" of Emptiness would be liberating?

    - Do you have some sense about transcending death via the "puree" of emptiness?

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Thank you, Jundo.

    1. I think I sometimes grasp this during zazen and other times in my life. For example, my brother and I do not see colors the same way. He might see green but I see blue, so I've learned not to assume what an objects' color might be in regards to others. In that way, I can take it a step further and say that that is because there aren't really colors, to begin with. My blue is not his blue. My color is not his color; My chair is not his chair, and therefore there really isn't 'a chair' in that sense.

    2. I think this 'Puree' helps me disengage from the preconceived notions that I use to engage with the world- the labels I give myself and others, among other things like mentioned above. I am watching and rewatching the beginner videos as well as reading other materials in addition to this, and it feels as though I am being told to just 'let go.' (which I am being told for certain) And I feel like trying to toss myself and everything else into the puree of emptiness liberates me from 'trying' and brings me closer to the 'letting go.' No labels, no self, no pre-conceived notions while I sit. I need to think about tossing myself into this 'Puree' more often.

    3. This is the toughest piece to chew on. I don't know how to approach it after trying to absorb everything else... Maybe tossing myself and all things into the "Puree" of Emptiness will rid me of the delicately-pieced-together-idea of death that I hold onto so tightly, which will then allow me to transcend death? I think I need to chew on this more. I am still thinking about having "freedom from attachments," and maybe that includes an attachment to death as well?


    I hope my responses are okay. I am still processing and trying to absorb it well.

    Thank you for your time.


    Gassho
    krissy
    sat today/lah
    Last edited by krissydear; 08-12-2019 at 04:04 AM. Reason: fixing tenses, clarity, worrying about sounding pretentious
    Thank you for teaching me.

    I am very much a beginner and appreciate any words you may give me.

  5. #5
    By the way, I overspoke a bit about the "seed storehouse/consciousness" of the Yogacarans as being only "fanciful." It also has the two aspects, one far ahead of its time, and one more open to question.

    The "open to question" part (to me, although other more traditional Buddhists would disagree) is the aspect where "seeds" from our good and bad volitional actions in past lives get stored in this entity, get added to or subtracted from by our volitional actions in this life, and then get passed on somehow to shape our future, post-mortem lives. I am rather agnostic on such detailed descriptions of the workings of rebirth (so is Okumura, by the way), so I leave that as an open question, and I am generally skeptical.

    However, if one sees this "store consciousness" as the good and bad effects in this life (which is a constant serious of births and deaths of our life in each moment) of our past good and bad experiences or volitional actions, which shape our character and tendencies for how we may experience and continue to behave in this life, then I see great benefit there. (For example, a victim of a violent childhood may have "seeds" of violence planted in her psyche, which cause her to have a tendency to see this world today darkly and also maybe to act herself with violence with her own family). That view of psychology is very practical and very much ahead of its time. One of our jobs as Buddhists is to replace the negative Karma/seeds within us with positive and beneficial seeds for the future (as well as tossing the whole into the beautiful "Puree" of Emptiness too ... both replace seeds and toss into the soup! ). We can turn anger into peace, hate into love and respect, division into acceptance and harmony, etc.

    Our "nurturing seeds" practice in our Sangha is based on some lovely writings by Thich Nhat Hahn which actually take this second approach to the "seed consciousness," and which teaches us to replant those negative seeds.

    RECOMMENDED DAILY Nurturing Seeds PRACTICE
    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...Seeds-PRACTICE

    Please have a look at that.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 08-12-2019 at 12:54 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    I can understand, intellectually, that experience is created in the mind. I'm less sure about what language has to do with that. I suspect people who've never learned a language still divide up the world into concepts. I say "intellectually" because the illusion is too powerful to see through most of the time. I feel that zazen brings the illusory nature of thought into sharper focus for me, a continuous waking up within a dream.

    I can see how it could be liberating to realize that we don't experience a real world but rather a "language" of psychological symbols. In part, because it means that good and bad experiences are inside me already. This reminds me a little bit of Nurturing Seeds practice. The seeds of both positive and negative in any experience are within me to begin with, and I can nurture whichever one I choose.

    As for transcending death... I don't have a sense of transcending it physically through the emptiness puree. But I can get a sense of transcending habitual fearful thinking about it.

    Gassho,
    Kevin
    #SAT

  7. #7
    Member Seishin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shinshi View Post
    Thank you Jundo.

    And the stopping location is 748 for us Kindle folks,

    Gassho, Shinshi

    SaT-LaH


    Sat / lah


    Seishin

    Sei - Meticulous
    Shin - Heart

  8. #8
    Intellectually I understand the puree of emptiness (or at least i think I do at times) and the way I explain it to myself is by reminding myself that we and everything else are just made of different variations of atoms, and a bit like a lego set, when this current formation of atoms ceases to be they will go on to make something else, and that helps me appreciate how the puree (or lego set) transcends death, and that is liberating.

    Gassho,

    Neil

    StLah

  9. #9
    Other things from p31-35:

    I like the Yogacara view of consciousness because it rings true to experience. I think biological conditioning could be considered part of what is stored in Alaya. Then we associate ourselves with this bundle of conditioned reactions and memories and take it as truth. (I didn't understand the part about the debate between Yogacara and Madhyamika and what the source of contention was)

    (PS interesting to read about this "schism" in Buddhism between original and Mahayana - need to understand it better)

    Gassho,
    Kevin
    S@2Day

  10. #10
    Thank you Jundo for this teaching _()_ and for the questions you’ve asked.

    In the spirit of participating as fully and sincerely as i can in this discussion, i’m going to take a risk, and post my thoughts on Jundo’s questions. Even before i do so, i know i’ll be somewhat off the mark, so please forgive my comments as the conceptually flawed work-in-progress they are. From memory, i think Okamura Roshi deals with the Heart Sutra at greater depth in ‘Living by Vow’, and for anyone interested, listening to JDL read Genjokoan ( ) punctuates some of the subtle points Jundo has made, with rhythm and intonation, so its been helpful in sitting with passages from this wonderful book.

    If we carry forward the notion of living the two truths, we can be both relative and absolute positions concurrently and consciously, and perhaps at times Zazen is the embodied experience (the 'being-time') of precisely this. This allows us to situate the relative ‘mind’ (the usual stream of consciousness we assume to constitute a ‘Self’) in-the-context-of a more absolute mode of conscious experience (our true nature). When we do so, we see that the nature of relative mind (or ‘Self’) is as a labeling/classifying/dichotomising function (not that Self has a dichotomising function, but that it is a dichotomising function – and as a function, it is a process rather than an object, so yes, its inherently empty). Relative Self is ‘no-thing’ more or less than that function which categorises in languicised and visualised symbols, subsequently dichotomises, and then perpetuates itself through the game of black and white, pick and choose. To follow this line of reasoning, ‘death’ is one end of a polarised ‘life-death’ dichotomy. Because our relative Self is a dichotomising function, we are forever caught in the polarised dichotomies we fabricate – we prefer one end to the other, always wanting, pushing, striving, clinging – and in doing so we reinforce our felt sense that the dichotomy has some kind of substance. But even if we can achieve and sustain our preferred end of any polarised dichotomy, in doing so we just reaffirm the polarisation, we reinforce the snare. Perhaps this snare is Samsara. The answer to any polarised dichotomy cannot rest in one end over the other, but in achieving a position which both transcends and integrates the very polarising mechanism itself (as opposed to any specific or discrete dichotomies), and I wonder if this is what Nagarjuna’s affirmation qua negation achieves.

    A chair is a chair because one sits on it. If i put my coffee on it, it’s a table, or don’t sit on it because its too lovely, its an ornament, or tell people how expensive it was, a status symbol. If i stub my big toe on it in the middle of the night, its an obstacle. But the principle underlying all differentiation is objectification through languicising (and visual symbols/associations). When we undercut the dichotomising function of the relative subjective Self, death/life of course, is subsumed back into the unlanguicisable puree of more absolute modes of conscious experience (emptiness). In this way, the great matter of life and death (NB not just death) resolves itself, and we are left with – just this, ‘as it is’.

    If we take the languicising/dichotomising function to phenomena, then we reify the (relative) Self, whereas if we allow relative Self to recede and phenomena to come forward, then the ten thousand things manifest our true nature.

    _()_
    sosen
    stlah

  11. #11
    Member Anna's Avatar
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    I've now caught up with the reading but will leave thoughts beyond my previously expressed thoughts on the beginning couple of pages of chapter 3 until I've read it again.
    Life's too serious to be taken seriously. Laugh at yourself and try to find the space to laugh at life's challenges. Be kind to yourself and look out for each other.

  12. #12
    Treeleaf Unsui Geika's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Do you see how your mind may be creating, right now, most aspects of your experience of this world of things and events because the names and images of the same are imposed between your ears?...

    Do you see how learning to toss yourself and all the things in the world into the "Puree" of Emptiness would be liberating?...

    Do you have some sense about transcending death via the "puree" of emptiness?
    I can very easily see how my mind creates all this: I sometimes have lucid dreams, and I often sit and watch what my mind is creating and interacting with simultaneously, without my intervention and as clear as while awake. In waking life: the eyes take the information from the light and decides what it is seeing. Sometimes I see something that I think is there, and realize that my brain just decided to believe it and see it, when upon a second look I realize I was seeing something completely different. The brain puts information together rather quickly and fills in the blanks a lot, and is not as accurate as people think.

    In the same way as watching myself dream while sleeping, I can see how emptiness just is-- not only as a defined absence of a fixed state of existence or matter-- but as an absence of a fixed self, or th e intervention of a fixed self...

    But I may not be articulating this very well, at least not in the same way that I feel it...

    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.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Geika View Post
    ... I sometimes have lucid dreams, and I often sit and watch what my mind is creating and interacting with simultaneously
    I like the analogy. Then you realize that even your waking life and that fixed sense of self are just a lucid dream. And yes, frustrating to try to capture what you feel in words.

    I experience "form" - a solid sense of me and what's around me and who I am. But it happens in my head - a kind of dream state.

    As I currently understand it, Buddha and others woke up from this dream of form through their right concentration and effort, and quickly realized that the teaching itself was also form and hence also empty. Dream within a dream.

    At this early stage in my zen life my understanding is more intellectual than embodied. I guess this is why we're told to just sit, because it cuts through the "BS" (say) and encourages direct intimate experience.
    And maybe this why Genjokoan (and all Zen writing?) is so cryptic? Because such writing encourages exploration and returning, rather than argumentative debate that seeks to reach immediate conclusion.

    I know I'm talking too much and not listening enough. Two posts on the same topic may be poor form (so to speak).

    Gassho,
    Kevin
    S@2Day

  14. #14
    Member Seishin's Avatar
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    QUESTION - Do you see how your mind may be creating, right now, most aspects of your experience of this world of things and events because the names and images of the same are imposed between your ears? (I like to give the example of how you see a "chair," but an ant crawling across it does not know it is a "chair," and a space alien without legs coming to earth might not see it as anything but a raw shape. So, you actual turn a group of atoms into "chair" in your mind because you associate a certain shape with a function and then a name, thus creating a "chair" thing from the raw shape. You might see a "blue" chair, but the chair is not "blue." Instead, there is a group of atoms in a certain shape releasing photons of a certain frequency. It is your eyes that reacts to the photons, and the brain which then creates a mental image and "inner movie" which experiences that frequency of photons as "blue." However, really, there is no "blue" apart from that).
    Yes but its not just "physical" things I am labelling, it is also emotions and reactions to events, people and objects around me.

    - Do you see how learning to toss yourself and all the things in the world into the "Puree" of Emptiness would be liberating?
    Yes but I need to learn how and apply that to my life/worldview.

    - Do you have some sense about transcending death via the "puree" of emptiness?
    All the atoms and molecules that are in my current form will be here long after my human existence ceases. Given we are 9-10% hydrogen, whose to say those atoms currently residing in my form, countless lightyears from now/not how, get together and clusters of 4 and create some helium and they're "compressed" (simplified version) into a new star/sun and solar system. Wash rinse repeat.

    To quote Oasis "you and I are gonna live for ever"

    Sat
    Last edited by Seishin; 08-17-2019 at 08:50 AM.


    Seishin

    Sei - Meticulous
    Shin - Heart

  15. #15
    I have to admit that after years of practice I'm no nearer to transcending a fear of death.

    I think most 'religions', 'faiths' operate around this fear and I've sort of decided not to make it a 'goal' because I'm not even sure this kind
    of transcendence is something I want to aim for. For me personally it sets the emphasis and trajectory of my practice in a wrong direction.

    Understanding no-self, conventional/ultimate reality/ - the way in which our mental apparatus often deludes us/ cause and effect and how that plays out,
    is of greater significance in my practice.

    I can intellectually grasp what it might be to be free of all attachments - to be free of greed,anger/hatred and delusion and see that ultimately such a state of being would weaken the life/death dichotomy but in my simple way I just want to find a path that leads to my being better able to live a good life - to be less attached to self and more free to embrace others as 'not other'.

    I think the brief piece on the Heart Sutra and Twelve Links is a bit muddling. Just reading an excellent book by Rupert Gethin 'The Foundations of Buddhism' which has made me realise just how sketchy my understanding of buddhist philosophy is. I've had some real light bulbs moments of understanding reading this book because it deftly explains/interlinks the major concepts.

    Anyway, I won't be throwing away the raft any time soon!

    Gassho

    Jinyo

    Sat Today

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Jinyo View Post
    I have to admit that after years of practice I'm no nearer to transcending a fear of death.
    When I was awaiting my cancer surgery, I felt it was more transcending without transcending. I am not that Wallenda tight rope walker fellow crossing the grand canyon. I am a chicken. Yet, I was also beyond and thoroughly free of all fear at once.

    I think the brief piece on the Heart Sutra and Twelve Links is a bit muddling. Just reading an excellent book by Rupert Gethin 'The Foundations of Buddhism' which has made me realise just how sketchy my understanding of buddhist philosophy is. I've had some real light bulbs moments of understanding reading this book because it deftly explains/interlinks the major concepts.
    Never forget that it explains an interpretation of the major concepts. Most such books come from the authors perspective. The main areas of expertise of Rupert Gethin appear to be South Asian Buddhism focused on the Nikayas and Abhidhamma, and the book you mention has a relatively few number of pages devoted to the Mahayana, let alone the entirety of Japanese Buddhism, let alone Zen. So, expect it to be flavored in such way.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  17. #17
    I am glad I read this at the end of this section.
    And the Heart Sutra states that it contains the true teaching of the Buddha even though a “no” appears before all of the basic teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha in the text. It is therefore very important that we understand what these negations mean. These negations were written to help us realize the freedom that the Buddha taught of: freedom from attachment, in this case attachment to concepts that narrow our ability to respond to reality as it unfolds.
    As part of my practice I am trying (desperately at times) to not come to pin any of this practice to a set of definitions. Defining things, postulating, categorizing etc will just end up constraining my understanding as I then try to sift between this and that. Each day and each moment I am trying to see things as they are rather than through a lens. I appreciate what these schools of Buddhism are trying to do but I also recognize that there is a dogma of attaching to one or another view.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    When I was awaiting my cancer surgery, I felt it was more transcending without transcending. I am not that Wallenda tight rope walker fellow crossing the grand canyon. I am a chicken. Yet, I was also beyond and thoroughly free of all fear at once.



    Never forget that it explains an interpretation of the major concepts. Most such books come from the authors perspective. The main areas of expertise of Rupert Gethin appear to be South Asian Buddhism focused on the Nikayas and Abhidhamma, and the book you mention has a relatively few number of pages devoted to the Mahayana, let alone the entirety of Japanese Buddhism, let alone Zen. So, expect it to be flavored in such way.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    Yes - he's very clear that his approach is 'historical' - concentrating on the formative phase of Buddhism in India - but all the foundations are there and I haven't read anything yet that contradicts or muddles what I've understood thus far from a Mahayana approach. I can't sense any bias in it - it's well researched and written but I'm only half-way through so will see how it goes.
    I think his underlying approach is to point out 'family relationships' rather than to give definitive interpretations.



    sat today
    Last edited by Jinyo; 08-18-2019 at 09:31 AM.

  19. #19
    Understanding the negations of the Heart Sutra really hit the nail on the head. As a beginner, I had a hunch what it was trying to tell me but this part of the book has been really insightful to me. To me, the best part is where Okumura states that "The Heart Sutra says that even the teachings of Buddhism are empty and should not be clung to as irrefutable truths."

    When I was a teenager I started the quest to try to understand what life was all about. I'll keep it concise. In my early twenties I allowed myself to be persuaded by friends who attended a variety of religious flavors to join them a couple of times. In my free time I read many books about existentialism, religion, humanism, politics, and about other people who shared their views on reality by means of books, or other art forms. I could never commit to any of these perspectives as I noticed other people did or perhaps I should say allowed themselves to do. I studied religious studies for about a year before switching to a different major, got involved in politics, I had a fling with the Bhagavad Gita and Transcendentalism during my undergrad years and wrote my thesis about the notion of the self in Emerson's Self-Reliance, but couldn't really commit as if it were the only truth out there because I still felt something was missing about life and reality.

    Today, I still have a hard time defining Zen Buddhism as a religion. Most major religious flavors claim to have answers to truth, reality, death, life, human existence, purpose, and meaning, but to me they remain just that: definitions and claims, and to me, they do not show me life. They show me interpretations of the notions I just mentioned. Okumura, Jundo, and Uchiyama tell me that I should practice, that I should follow my own path, that I should try to understand the universal self "prior to all definitions," that I should see myself as "part of the soup of the universe" and at the same time acknowledge my personal self and life as I see it but with new awareness, and that I should not "cling to irrefutable truths."

    Isn't that wonderful? I think it is because Zen doesn't encourage me to define: it encourages me to undo the definitions, to disentangle, to practice and see reality for what it is, to be aware of all the mental creations, definitions, and perceptions I have as a human being.

    Concerning the question about grasping the idea of transcending death, I do have some sense of it. As an Astronomy enthusiast I can understand how we are just one big soup of atoms, and in my practice I sometimes have moments of clarity during which I perceive everything around me just as it is. Ever since I watched Jundo's beginners series and read Opening the Hand of Thought I can say that the idea of death seems more like a transformation of my physical self, and I have reconciled with the reality of impermanence. At this point in my life I still feel that this might not suffice to fully accept the end of my existence as I perceive it. I understand it intellectually, but if death drew near tomorrow I know I'd have a hard time with it.

    Gassho,
    Jack
    Sattoday/lah
    Last edited by Kakedashi; 08-18-2019 at 01:11 PM.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    QUESTION - Do you see how your mind may be creating, right now, most aspects of your experience of this world of things and events because the names and images of the same are imposed between your ears? (I like to give the example of how you see a "chair," but an ant crawling across it does not know it is a "chair," and a space alien without legs coming to earth might not see it as anything but a raw shape. So, you actual turn a group of atoms into "chair" in your mind because you associate a certain shape with a function and then a name, thus creating a "chair" thing from the raw shape. You might see a "blue" chair, but the chair is not "blue." Instead, there is a group of atoms in a certain shape releasing photons of a certain frequency. It is your eyes that reacts to the photons, and the brain which then creates a mental image and "inner movie" which experiences that frequency of photons as "blue." However, really, there is no "blue" apart from that).
    I am experiencing something related on a physical level. There are some issues with my back but the sensation I have is pins and needles in my shin and pain in my hip. But there is nothing wrong with either of them. Nerves in my spine are being stimulated and I experience that stimulation as experience in other parts of my body. So, basically, my body is lying to me.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    - Do you see how learning to toss yourself and all the things in the world into the "Puree" of Emptiness would be liberating?
    Mostly I feel understand some of this conceptually, the doing is a bit harder.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    - Do you have some sense about transcending death via the "puree" of emptiness?
    Again, I think I have a bit of an idea about this - but again it feels more like more of an intellectual understanding as opposed to knowing it in my bones.

    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.

  21. #21
    I have always been interested in the reality that exists before our mind starts to discriminate, label, etc. I think the feeling that I wasn’t experiencing life, but rather just creating a running commentary about it led to my early interest in Buddhism and Zen in particular. Now I realize that it’s not just our thoughts that shape our reality but all sensations, emotions, etc. Shikantaza seems to really drive at this point. The act of ‘just sitting’ allows us to try and experience each moment before our mind analyzes it and our emotions associate a feeling with it. Even the act of observing ourselves doing this can help close the gap between ourselves and the lives we’re experiencing.

    Gassho,

    Ryoku
    ST/Lah

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