Results 1 to 15 of 15

Thread: Reading

  1. #1

    Reading

    A couple of weeks ago I was listening to Jundo and Kirk's podcast about zen books. One of the things Jundo said was that from book to book, writers can tend to disagree with each other about certain things. While I do find this to be true, to me it kind of works more the other way. That is to say, after a while many zen books tend to say the same thing.

    I don't mean this to be a negative criticism or anything. I really do like to read dharma material and books about practice. Usually I keep a yellow underliner and a pencil on hand to make notes for later reference. Months later I'll pull a random book from the shelf and see what I wrote in the margins. Sometimes something really does jump out at me. Its just that sometimes while reading a book, I get the feeling I've pretty much read this same thing in the last two books I've read. Or during the course of reading a book I will think; Alright already! It's just repeating the same thing. I got it already. (Or do I?). Sometimes I just say. OK enough reading for now. I just want to go sit zazen for a while. So maybe that's the intent of reading. It always comes down to zazen being the main thing.

    Sometimes I think of zen reading like listening to jazz. I could hear John Coltrane play a song and then hear Miles Davis play the same song but it's different. Slower tempo, trumpet instead of saxophone, different solo, different band. But the same melody. You can still have a different listening experience.

    Or perhaps I should read like I sit zazen. Don't expect to gain anything, no goals. And then with that approach, you sort of actually do "gain" something. Not complaining. Just wondering if anybody else ever feels this way and how you approach reading.


    Gassho
    ST-lah
    James

  2. #2
    Hi Shoki

    I find that my Zen reading happens for several different purposes. One is as a pointer to practice and there, I would agree that many teachers say the same thing in different ways. But usually, I cannot hear those same messages often enough!

    Another reason I read Zen texts is to inspire me to practice and that is often in the form of biographies and hagiographies of past and present teachers and students. This can also say some of the same things but the personal stories are something that makes me feel part of a global and timeless sangha all doing the same thing.

    The third reason for my reading is to learn about Zen history and traditions which is more of a factual thing to put teachings and practice into context and part of priest training.

    I think you are definitely onto something about approaching reading like zazen - just read for the sake of reading and enjoying the words without looking to gain anything. I like that idea a lot! And, yes, having reading breaks is not a bad thing either.

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

  3. #3
    Shoki, I relate to that.

    Kokuu good thoughts.

    I don’t spend every day reading about zen (decades ago I just kept reading trying to find the answer) but several times in a week listen to a talk, read something on this forum or occasionally pick up one of my many unread zen books I bought thinking the “answer” must be within. I do that to keep me somewhat on the path. I seem to hear the same thing often. Sometimes I am flustered that I am “not getting it” . Sometimes I listen to talks and wonder what did she/he say. Reading science is easier for me. Other times I think what’s to get it is right here and just sit. All this to say your thoughts above help me see it is not just me, even if it is sometimes.

    Be Safe, Stay Well

    Doshin
    St

  4. #4
    I tend to be a voracious sponge when it comes to something that interests me but when it comes to Zen, Buddhist, Dharma etc readings Iíve learned to slow down. It used to frustrate me the speed at which we go through some books in the book club here but I realize I donít need to read more. Iíve also stopped supplementing my reading. I stick with the readings here (ok not entirely but I am much better).

    Kyonin has a principle heís stated before that I really like. For every hour of reading sit 10 hours. Whether he does that or not is irrelevant. The point is that this is an active practice.

    Btw.... I get that same impression that I keep reading the same thing over and over regardless of the author. To me thatís a good thing.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah

  5. #5
    Member Koki's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Parma Ohio (just outside Cleveland)
    Hi Shoki...
    I read..A LOT! Sometimes I think I'm filling my cup too much and will not have room for what counts.

    I understand your point. I try to read with an open mind. I have a collection of different spiritual books, Bible. Koran, etc from many disciplines, and after awhile, just change the names, and it all reads the same, with some minor differences of course.

    I try to read for comprehension of how to apply teachings to my life. How can I improve? How could I help others improve?
    I'm certainly no expert at it, but I try.

    So much to the point, that in just reading what I wrote, I realized how many times I used the word "I".

    I've picked up an old practice of practicing "Bonsai". The art of growing little trees in pots.
    These little trees, can also be my "books" I read. They can be my teachers too (after all, what are books made from?,LOL)

    They teach me patience. They teach me about depending on each other. They teach me about life, death, growth and so many things, that we as humans, share with them, and how alike we are.

    I wrote here about how little trees teach me, but I could substitute trees for, family, Sangha, books, anger, jealousy, cats, jobs, etc.

    Opening a book to learn, is a good thing, especially when your mind is open to accept that teaching with humility, comprehend it, apply it...and come out into the light at the end, better for it.

    That's why I read. That's why I sit. That's why I'm here.

    Signed.. "I".
    Koki
    Satoday...��

  6. #6
    LOL Shoki, you are not alone.

    In my younger years when I was trying to be a freelance writer, I read a lot of publishers' guidelines. There was one company that specialized in self help books, and I wish I still had a copy of their guidelines, because they were very candid about the business. Among other things, they said the target audience for any new self help book was someone who had already bought 3-4 books on that topic. I still think about that when I buy yet another book on starting a small business (I haven't started one yet) or cooking (have I used the last cookbook?) or zen practice (did I sit today? Yesterday? Only a little?)

    Still, I buy one every now and then (sometimes I even get around to reading them!) I like your comparison to jazz, because that's kind of how I see it now, a lot of the same thing but different voices and experiences and flavors.

    Gassho

    Nenka

    ST

  7. #7
    I, too, have noticed that across authors and even traditions and religions, the same things seem to keep coming up again and again. Which is not at all surprising. The Buddha, IIRC, did say he discovered the Dharma and did not invent it. The truth is true regardless of who comes across it. What we seem to struggle with are the inadequate words and ideas we use to point to what's true.

    Gassho
    Kyōsen
    Sat|LAH
    橋川
    kyō (bridge) | sen (river)

  8. #8
    I found something similar to this recently. My go-to book on the precepts has always been Aitken Roshi's "The Mind of Clover," which Jundo assigned for precepts study. I refer to it often. But a few months back, I found a used copy of a book called "Being Upright," by Tenshin Reb Anderson of the SFZC. It's a wonderful book, and you get a lot of the same lessons, but Anderson could not be any more different from Aitken in his approach to teaching the precepts.

    I also just shelled out 19 bucks for the new book by Donald Lopez, Jr., "Buddha takes the Mound." Being a huge baseball fan, I couldn't resist. This is one of the more creative approaches to teaching Buddhist ideas I've ever run across. In the book, Buddha stands on the mound at Yankee Stadium and delivers "The Baseball Sutra" to the assembled masses. It's funny in parts, informative and very effective.

    Gassho,
    Juki

    Sat today and lah
    "First you have to give up." Tyler Durden

  9. #9
    Member Onka's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Rural Queensland, Australia
    Quote Originally Posted by Kokuu View Post
    Hi Shoki

    I find that my Zen reading happens for several different purposes. One is as a pointer to practice and there, I would agree that many teachers say the same thing in different ways. But usually, I cannot hear those same messages often enough!

    Another reason I read Zen texts is to inspire me to practice and that is often in the form of biographies and hagiographies of past and present teachers and students. This can also say some of the same things but the personal stories are something that makes me feel part of a global and timeless sangha all doing the same thing.

    The third reason for my reading is to learn about Zen history and traditions which is more of a factual thing to put teachings and practice into context and part of priest training.

    I think you are definitely onto something about approaching reading like zazen - just read for the sake of reading and enjoying the words without looking to gain anything. I like that idea a lot! And, yes, having reading breaks is not a bad thing either.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
    What he said
    Gassho Onka
    ST
    On Ka
    穏 火
    aka Anna Kissed.
    No Gods No Masters.
    Life is too serious to be taken seriously.

  10. #10
    Yes, sometimes all these books I love point to the same moon, but every once in a while, someone will phrase something I've heard a million times before in a way that hits me just right and I go, "Ah ha!"
    My go-to books are like old friends.

    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.

  11. #11
    What I find interesting is that rereading a book - a Zen book or otherwise - at different times in my life, I get totally different things from it. There are novels I've read a half dozen times, and Zen books that I've read multiple times over 40 years. In that podcast episode, I mention that one of the first books on Zen I bought was Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, and I've probably read it a half dozen times since then, and each time it tells me something new, because my experience has deepened.

    I like having a couple of Zen books on the small reading table next to the comfy chair in my office, and by my bedside, to pick up and read a few pages at a time. Sometimes I read Zen books more deliberately - such as when I first get them - but other times they are there to remind me and inspire me.

    Gassho,

    Kirk

    SAT
    -----
    I know nothing.

  12. #12
    I do something very similar to what you described Kirk. I find it interesting that passages that were once opaque make sense now. Of course there are some passages that remain a mystery


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

  13. #13
    Member RobD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2020
    Location
    Massachusetts, United States
    Much great insight has already been shared above, but I'd also like to mention how each Dharma book is generally written (either intentionally or unintentionally) for a particular audience. That is, certain books will resonate more with certain folks due to the author's background, writing style, word choice, etc. And that is a wonderful thing as it opens the door wide to let more and more people discover the Dharma.

    There is also the fact that books that were written even only 10-20 years ago (that feels like last year to some of us ) may not be as engaging to a younger generation as something more contemporary. That's not to say that the older books lose merit over time. On the contrary, they all contribute to the body of written Dharma that we can all draw upon as needed. It's just that some folks, especially those new to the Dharma, often need to start with some familiar voices to help them ease into practice and understanding. Only then will they find it beneficial to explore the larger library. So having a steady stream of new books, written by contemporary teachers, is key to maintain the Buddhadharma as a living practice.

    Additionally, I have found many books that have started to resonate with me more after multiple readings and (most importantly) many years of practice. As others have said, new things can be discovered upon each reading (and re-reading) depending on what we are ripe to learn at that moment.

    Gassho,
    Rob

    SatToday

  14. #14
    Lots of great responses. I could find something helpful in every single comment. Thank you for all your output.

    Gassho
    ST-lah
    James

  15. #15
    Same, Shoki! Nodded at the original post and every single reply.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH
    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).

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •