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Thread: The Dark Night, the Abyss, Nihilism?

  1. #1

    The Dark Night, the Abyss, Nihilism?

    Has anyone else experienced anything like the Dark Night of the Soul, existential crisis, or anything similar from the process of awakening to reality as it is? I know that Buddhism is not a nihilistic philosophy, but I sometimes forget why. Any thoughts?

    Gassho,

    Joshua
    SatToday

    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk

  2. #2
    Hi,

    I used to have disturbing dreams that I was out in space surrounded by darkness and nothing else.

    The dreams went away after a while.

    I am not sure if this addresses your question.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post
    Hi,

    I used to have disturbing dreams that I was out in space surrounded by darkness and nothing else.

    The dreams went away after a while.

    I am not sure if this addresses your question.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__
    It absolutely does, thank you for your input, it's reassuring to know that others experience similar things.

    Gassho,

    Joshua
    SatToday

    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk

  4. #4
    I will say this, before people jump in, as the topic has come up before.

    That kind of thing usually occurs with very intense, high pressure, kinds of meditation or practice. Shikantaza is actually a rather gentle, "let things be," way of sitting as we practice it. (There are intense versions too, and hard retreats in Soto too, but we are not doing that here.) So, it is unlikely.

    If such a thing does happen to someone sitting our way, my feeling is that it is usually just an ordinary case of depression, anxiety or other personal issues that happens to anybody, and the trigger is not Zazen or Zen practice itself. I have rarely, if ever, had anyone come to me because Shikantaza has pushed them into some dark place. On the other hand, I have encountered people who are just depressed, or suffering panic issues in life, and I immediately encourage them to talk to their doctor.

    Follow the doctor's orders. It is rare, but if the sitting of Zazen becomes too much to handle for someone, stop ... talk to the doctor. When the person feels better, they can come back to sitting with their doctor's okay.

    Gassho, Jundo


    STLah

    (Ooops, needed to overdo my three sentences!)
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-22-2020 at 11:44 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I will say this, before people jump in, as the topic has come up before.

    That kind of thing usually occurs with very intense, high pressure, kinds of meditation or practice. Shikantaza is actually a rather gentle, "let things be," way of sitting as we practice it. (There are intense version too, and hard retreats, in Soto too, but we are not doing that here.) So, it is unlikely.

    If such a thing does happen to someone sitting our way, my feeling is that it is usually just an ordinary case of depression or other personal issues that happens to anybody. The trigger is not Zazen or Zen practice itself. I have rarely, if ever, had anyone come to me because Shikantaza has pushed them into some dark place. On the other hand, I have encountered people who are just depressed, or suffering panic issues in life, and I immediately encourage them to talk to their doctor.

    Follow the doctors orders. It is rare, but if the sitting of Zazen becomes too much to handle for someone, stop ... talk to the doctor. When the person feels better, they can come back to sitting with their doctor's okay.

    Gassho, Jundo


    STLah
    I think that's wonderful advice, I really only experienced similar things when diving deep into Vipassana practice (part of the reason I stopped), but I was curious if Zazen ever led people to similar outcomes. Thank you Jundo.

    Gassho,

    Joshua
    SatToday

    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk

  6. #6
    Hi Joshua

    My own experience has not been like that and I think that if we see reality as it really is, then we see how completely full and interconnected we all are.

    However, I believe it is possible to get lost in ideas of what emptiness and lack of self are that can seem dark and maybe there are stages of practice that can feel like that.

    If I have had difficult times, I find that going from a focus on wisdom practices which look at the nature of self and reality, to compassion practices, which affirm our common humanity, connection and interdependence, can be really helpful. Also volunteer or yard work if possible to ground us in the body and action rather than the head.

    The Advaita teacher Nisargadatta Maharaj has a nice phrase about this which captures the balance of practice:

    “Wisdom is knowing I am nothing,
    Love is knowing I am everything,
    and between the two my life moves.”


    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.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Kokuu View Post
    Hi Joshua

    My own experience has not been like that and I think that if we see reality as it really is, then we see how completely full and interconnected we all are.

    However, I believe it is possible to get lost in ideas of what emptiness and lack of self are that can seem dark and maybe there are stages of practice that can feel like that.

    If I have had difficult times, I find that going from a focus on wisdom practices which look at the nature of self and reality, to compassion practices, which affirm our common humanity, connection and interdependence, can be really helpful. Also volunteer or yard work if possible to ground us in the body and action rather than the head.

    The Advaita teacher Nisargadatta Maharaj has a nice phrase about this which captures the balance of practice:

    “Wisdom is knowing I am nothing,
    Love is knowing I am everything,
    and between the two my life moves.”


    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
    Thank you for the input Kokuu, back in the day before I had started any Buddhist practice my therapist had recommended loving-kindness meditation, and it worked very well. Yard work is a wonderful idea also, I suppose that's why Zen gardens are so popular

    Gassho,

    Joshua
    SatToday

    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by SlappyPenguin View Post
    I think that's wonderful advice, I really only experienced similar things when diving deep into Vipassana practice (part of the reason I stopped), but I was curious if Zazen ever led people to similar outcomes. Thank you Jundo.

    Gassho,

    Joshua
    SatToday
    And as I recall, you did a rather intense version of Mahasi Sayadaw meditation, sometimes very intense and highly concentrated. Yes, that can set one off.

    Anyone can be particularly sensitive to any situation. The sitting quietly of Shikantaza, turning off the mental "noise," can cause things to "come up" (for example, old memories, an unexplained moment of sadness, a touch of fear) because QUIET does that to people.

    However, it should not be either overwhelming or more than for a passing short time. Not something that lasts.

    If it is more than that, it is probably some other issues that happen to be arising in the person's life not due particularly to Buddhist practice. They should talk to a professional, because dealing with such things in therapy can go hand in hand with Zazen.

    Gassho, j

    STLah

    (needed to exceed 3 sentences)
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-22-2020 at 11:45 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  9. #9
    I usually chime in to the nihilism discussion because I used to have a pretty hard time with it, prior to joining Treeleaf. Then I learned here that, indeed nothing matters, but also everything matters very much! Now when I get nihilistic thoughts, I know I need to just get out of my head and go help someone else.

    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).

  10. #10
    And as I recall, you did a rather intense version of Mahasi Sayadaw meditation, sometimes very intense and highly concentrated. Yes, that can set one off.
    Someone who came to my sitting group had a long period of depression triggered by mindfulness practice. He was a clinical psychologist and undertaking mindfulness training in order to see if it helped his clients on the Autism spectrum or not. As part of that he had to engage in daily practice and that was when his depression occurred. Of course, it may have been unrelated, but it does seem advisable to notice the signs if it is something we are predisposed towards.


    I usually chime in to the nihilism discussion because I used to have a pretty hard time with it, prior to joining Treeleaf. Then I learned here that, indeed nothing matters, but also everything matters very much! Now when I get nihilistic thoughts, I know I need to just get out of my head and go help someone else.


    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.

  11. #11
    Kobun Chino Otagawa described a similar state, in three sacred sentences, no less:

    "It is very important to experience the complete negation of yourself which brings you to the other side of nothing. People experience that in many ways. You go to the other side of nothing, and you are held by the hand of the absolute."

    On an unrelated note, the nihilists in "The Big Liebowski" were posers.

    Gassho,
    Juki

    Sat today and lah
    Last edited by Juki; 07-22-2020 at 07:49 PM.
    "First you have to give up." Tyler Durden

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by SlappyPenguin View Post
    Has anyone else experienced anything like the Dark Night of the Soul, existential crisis, or anything similar from the process of awakening to reality as it is? I know that Buddhism is not a nihilistic philosophy, but I sometimes forget why. Any thoughts?

    Gassho,

    Joshua
    SatToday

    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk
    When talking about this subject with others I bring up the point that life has 2 purposes, the primal purpose (eating bananas) and a secondary purpose (a philosophical question raised by human kind for thousands of years as a development of our cognitive capabilities).

    Life always has a purpose in the primal sense (to live) and people tend to forget this by placing too much focus on the secondary purpose (by speculating what it all means by cognitive means).

    Any meaning found in life above and beyond the primal purpose is a bonus.

    Gassho, ST
    Last edited by Jishin; 07-22-2020 at 07:14 PM.

  13. #13
    Refusing to live in an anarchist echo chamber I find our Practice reaffirming of my own outlook in that we all have more in common than not. My own chronic severe depression and anxiety, as well as other physical stuff are actually helped by our gentle Practice. I came to Zen with no expectations and no pressure on myself so maybe that's helped me in avoiding things of this nature coming up.
    Gassho
    Onka
    st

    Sent from my SM-A205YN using Tapatalk
    Life's too serious to be taken seriously.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Juki View Post
    Kobun Chino Otagawa described a similar state, in three sacred sentences, no less:

    "It is very important to experience the complete negation of yourself which brings you to the other side of nothing. People experience that in many ways. You go to the other side of nothing, and you are held by the hand of the absolute."
    The aspect of Zen which drops away ideas of "me and you" "right and wrong" "good and bad" can push some people into a vision of meaningless, barren nihilism where nothing has significance, there is no point to existence, and maybe even killing and stealing is "okay" because ultimately there is nobody to kill and nothing to steal!

    But the Buddha, Dogen and all the Zen masters, bar none, absolutely rejected that kind of vision of "nihilism."

    In Zen practice, rather than meaningless barrenness, one finds a Wholeness which sweeps in all things, and is somehow filled with creativity and all the meaning and significance that we wish to bring to it, a realm in which we plant seeds and can nurture what we wish ... and it is up to our hearts and our behavior as to how we see this world and how we choose to act in it for good or bad.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-22-2020 at 11:46 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  15. #15
    After my grandfather died, I felt this really spastic and anxious push to discover what "I was about." I was deep into practicing Wicca before that but I felt very disorganized and powerless after his passing, and very fearful of death, manifesting symptoms of nausea and panic on a daily basis, and missing work and school until I quit both. I related very much to the idea of the "dark night of the soul" during that time-- I was so painfully confused.

    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.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by SlappyPenguin View Post
    Has anyone else experienced anything like the Dark Night of the Soul, existential crisis, or anything similar from the process of awakening to reality as it is? I know that Buddhism is not a nihilistic philosophy, but I sometimes forget why. Any thoughts?

    Gassho,

    Joshua
    SatToday

    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk
    Sometimes you need to let go of everything and just rest. This allows the creative energy of the universe to fill your being. Nihilism is a false philosophy because it is the attachment to thinking that blocks / obscures your true nature.

    Sat

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    Sometimes you need to let go of everything and just rest. This allows the creative energy of the universe to fill your being. Nihilism is a false philosophy because it is the attachment to thinking that blocks / obscures your true nature.

    Sat

    Meitou
    Sattoday lah
    命 Mei - life
    島 Tou - island

  18. #18
    Treeleaf Unsui / Engineer Sekishi's Avatar
    Join Date
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    Virginia, USA
    Quote Originally Posted by SlappyPenguin View Post
    I know that Buddhism is not a nihilistic philosophy, but I sometimes forget why. Any thoughts?
    I'm going to break the three-sentences rule. Sorry everyone - I'll still try to be brief!

    Shunyata is often translated in English as "emptiness" (or even "voidness" in some 20th century translations). It is an OK translation, but Shakyamuni's "empty" is not the "nothing" of Turgenev or Bakunin. Shakyamuni *explicitly* taught a middle way between nihilism (belief in non-existence) and eternalism (belief in the existence of permanent "things").

    To realize the great emptiness of Buddhism is to understand that no "thing" has an independent self-existence - nothing inherently exists by itself alone. It is not that nothing exists, it is that each "thing" is full of everything.

    Take off your shoes and socks and turn one of socks inside out. Do you see how this sock still contains your foot, and your shoe, and your home, and the planet Earth and the whole universe? Everything is like this!

    Gassho,
    Sekishi
    #sat #barefootinasock
    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.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Sekishi View Post
    I'm going to break the three-sentences rule. Sorry everyone - I'll still try to be brief!

    Shunyata is often translated in English as "emptiness" (or even "voidness" in some 20th century translations). It is an OK translation, but Shakyamuni's "empty" is not the "nothing" of Turgenev or Bakunin. Shakyamuni *explicitly* taught a middle way between nihilism (belief in non-existence) and eternalism (belief in the existence of permanent "things").

    To realize the great emptiness of Buddhism is to understand that no "thing" has an independent self-existence - nothing inherently exists by itself alone. It is not that nothing exists, it is that each "thing" is full of everything.

    Take off your shoes and socks and turn one of socks inside out. Do you see how this sock still contains your foot, and your shoe, and your home, and the planet Earth and the whole universe? Everything is like this!

    Gassho,
    Sekishi
    #sat #barefootinasock
    Love the analogy and thank you for the response, and for everyone's response, I've greatly enjoyed all the thoughts on the matter. The no-self of other practices can become ego destroying and cause some weird sensations and perceptions of one's role in consciousness and reality. I love Zen and shikantaza, and I must sometimes remember that plain old depression can still kick in even while sitting, and it's all just a part of the beautiful dance.

    Gassho,

    Joshua
    SatToday

    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk

  20. #20
    Treeleaf Unsui / Engineer Sekishi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Virginia, USA
    Quote Originally Posted by SlappyPenguin View Post
    Love the analogy and thank you for the response, and for everyone's response, I've greatly enjoyed all the thoughts on the matter. The no-self of other practices can become ego destroying and cause some weird sensations and perceptions of one's role in consciousness and reality.
    I realize now that I left out an important part in my silly analogy: turning your sock inside out was actually superfluous!

    Also, I went digging for two teachings on this subject that I have always found illuminating (and better than the sock analogy):

    1. From Ajahn Sumedho (who is from a different tradition than ours, but points to the same "moon"):
    In English, “nothingness” can sound like annihilation, like nihilism. But you can also emphasize the “thingness” so that it becomes “no-thingness.” So nibbana is not a thing that you can find. It is the place of “no-thingness,’” a place of nonpos-session, a place of nonattachment.
    2. From Thich Nhat Han's short book / commentary on the Heart Sutra - "The Heart of Understanding":

    If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.

    "Interbeing" is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix "inter" with the verb "to be", we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud, we cannot have paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.

    If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger's father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.

    Quote Originally Posted by SlappyPenguin View Post
    I love Zen and shikantaza, and I must sometimes remember that plain old depression can still kick in even while sitting, and it's all just a part of the beautiful dance.
    Yes. I have a Buddhist teacher and a therapist. I recommend this to all who feel they could use both. This is caring for all beings.

    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.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Sekishi View Post
    I realize now that I left out an important part in my silly analogy: turning your sock inside out was actually superfluous!
    Yes, I did not get that right away, and my first thought was that if the universe smelled like the inside of my socks, I would be a nihilist!

    I emphasize again that this practice should leave us with an overriding sense of Wholeness, Possibility, Peace, Life and, yes, even Meaning to the universe that is anything but "nihilistic."

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by SlappyPenguin View Post
    Has anyone else experienced anything like the Dark Night of the Soul, existential crisis, or anything similar from the process of awakening to reality as it is? I know that Buddhism is not a nihilistic philosophy, but I sometimes forget why. Any thoughts?

    Gassho,

    Joshua
    SatToday

    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk
    Hello Joshua,

    Just a couple of thoughts - but more than 3 sentences - apologies.

    'awakening to reality' is probably fleeting and not that easy to grasp/hold onto because a lot of the time we live in fragmentation. I think perhaps we become more aware of fragmentation when we are meditating upon interdependence - because as healing/enlightening as an awareness of interdependence may be, as human beings it's not possible to stay within that awareness. Existential crisis - the Dark Night of the Soul is a given. We can't leapfrog over this aspect of our lives. For many spiritual sages the Dark Night of the Soul is a creative force - an impulse to search out meaning and connection. I think I might distrust the experience of anyone who says they have experienced an awakening without also experiencing fragmentation. But - as Jundo teaches - Zazen at its core has no implicit force to drive a meditator to 'dark thoughts'. It is a gentle practice.

    Maybe we need to create our own metaphors for what we experience as 'awakening'? The teachings are there - and provide a solid grounding - a secure base if you like we can return to. Regarding 'emptiness' I like Thich Nhat Hahn's commentary on the Heart Sutra a lot - for its directness and simplicity in putting 'emptiness' into words. Another book I return to - when I get snagged up on our western connotation of the meaning of the word 'Emptiness' is Guy Armstrong's 'Emptiness - A Practical Guide for Meditators'. The latter is an excellent, well researched book, that covers all traditions in a pragmatic fashion - but always handing our practice back to ourselves.

    Gassho

    Jinyo

    Sat Today

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Jinyo View Post
    'awakening to reality' is probably fleeting and not that easy to grasp/hold onto because a lot of the time we live in fragmentation. I think perhaps we become more aware of fragmentation when we are meditating upon interdependence - because as healing/enlightening as an awareness of interdependence may be, as human beings it's not possible to stay within that awareness. Existential crisis - the Dark Night of the Soul is a given. We can't leapfrog over this aspect of our lives. For many spiritual sages the Dark Night of the Soul is a creative force - an impulse to search out meaning and connection. I think I might distrust the experience of anyone who says they have experienced an awakening without also experiencing fragmentation. But - as Jundo teaches - Zazen at its core has no implicit force to drive a meditator to 'dark thoughts'. It is a gentle practice.
    I feel that everyone is different, and people come to experience the fruits of this practice in their own ways, so not everyone needs to pass through a "Dark Night." That said, many people come to this practice because they originally are lost in depression (I was, in my youth), alcoholism, personal confusion or trauma of other kinds. Sometimes, Buddhists, artists, musicians and others might pass through a dark time somewhere midway in their practice that is romantically called "Dark Night" or the like, but often it is just another ordinary spell of depression or personal confusion as anyone might suffer, not something particularly caused by their practice although someone might connect the two.

    I have seen, for example, many cases where old demons creep up in folks (including some Zen teachers), addictive tendencies reappear, someone has a "midlife crisis" or the like, there is a bout of depression ... but it is much the same as anyone can have old demons creep up, alcoholism in the DNA, depression because we are human beings ... and it is not really caused by their Buddhist practice. (In fact, the Buddhist practice is usually a help to get them back out of it).

    Further, I just don't think it is necessary that people have gone through some trauma, depression, addiction during life in order to practice. I know quite a few people who seem to have skipped that part, lucky them.

    (more than three sentence )

    I like Thich Nhat Hahn's commentary on the Heart Sutra
    I will check out Guy Armstrong's book, but I would express one hesitancy about TNH's explanation of emptiness perhaps. Surprisingly, he is quite the materialist in his explanation, and maybe misses something. By that I mean that his explanation is based maybe too much on physical parts and pieces being related (the paper contains the tree and the sun that makes the paper, and the ground in which the tree grows and the lumberjack who cuts down the tree, etc.). That is all good and true, but somehow misses the wondrous experience of the whole "something more" and a bit mystical which sweeps it all in.

    It is much like saying that a Chopin Sonata on the universe's piano is the wood and keys of the piano, the bricks of the theatre, the cells and blood of the pianist's hands, the lights overhead, the ink and paper of the score ... but somehow missing the music, the life, the emotive power. It is hard to explain.

    Well, the whole of reality is actually a dance, a grand symphony which is playing, and our bones are its very vibrations ...

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-25-2020 at 05:47 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post

    I will check out Guy Armstrong's book, but I would express one hesitancy about TNH's explanation of emptiness perhaps. Surprisingly, he is quite the materialist in his explanation, and maybe misses something. By that I mean that his explanation is based maybe too much on physical parts and pieces being related (the paper contains the tree and the sun that makes the paper, and the ground in which the tree grows and the lumberjack who cuts down the tree, etc.). That is all good and true, but somehow misses the wondrous experience of the whole "something more" and a bit mystical which sweeps it all in.

    It is much like saying that a Chopin Sonata on the universe's piano is the wood and keys of the piano, the bricks of the theatre, the cells and blood of the pianist's hands, the lights overhead, the ink and paper of the score ... but somehow missing the music, the life, the emotive power. It is hard to explain.

    Well, the whole of reality is actually a dance, a grand symphony which is playing, and our bones are its very vibrations ...
    Thank you for putting this into words, Jundo. I have tried to pin this down regarding TNH and couldn't. That really nails it.

    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).

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I will check out Guy Armstrong's book, but I would express one hesitancy about TNH's explanation of emptiness perhaps. Surprisingly, he is quite the materialist in his explanation, and maybe misses something. By that I mean that his explanation is based maybe too much on physical parts and pieces being related (the paper contains the tree and the sun that makes the paper, and the ground in which the tree grows and the lumberjack who cuts down the tree, etc.). That is all good and true, but somehow misses the wondrous experience of the whole "something more" and a bit mystical which sweeps it all in.

    It is much like saying that a Chopin Sonata on the universe's piano is the wood and keys of the piano, the bricks of the theatre, the cells and blood of the pianist's hands, the lights overhead, the ink and paper of the score ... but somehow missing the music, the life, the emotive power. It is hard to explain.

    Well, the whole of reality is actually a dance, a grand symphony which is playing, and our bones are its very vibrations ...

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    Thanks.
    🙏💜
    Sat/lah
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  26. #26
    Further, I just don't think it is necessary that people have gone through some trauma, depression, addiction during life in order to practice. I know quite a few people who seem to have skipped that part, lucky them.




    I will check out Guy Armstrong's book, but I would express one hesitancy about TNH's explanation of emptiness perhaps. Surprisingly, he is quite the materialist in his explanation, and maybe misses something. By that I mean that his explanation is based maybe too much on physical parts and pieces being related (the paper contains the tree and the sun that makes the paper, and the ground in which the tree grows and the lumberjack who cuts down the tree, etc.). That is all good and true, but somehow misses the wondrous experience of the whole "something more" and a bit mystical which sweeps it all in.

    I agree it's not necessary to have experienced trauma to practice - but it does feel the essence of practice at least addresses 'everyday unhappiness' and its roots in attachment and our difficulty in understanding/accepting impermanence and no-self.

    It's interesting that you describe Thich Nhat Hahn as materialist in his expression of interdependence - and I don't disagree that there is a lack of the mystical/transcendent - but this doesn't seem to be his aim. I've noticed (and this still puzzles me a bit) that TNH has a very particular response to questions about loss/grief (which are in essence questions about attachment). In one book (I think 'No death, no Fear) he shares the overwhelming grief he felt at the loss of his mother. For TNH his grief was assuaged by contemplating interconnectvity -by feeling close to his mother by seeing her in the clouds and the rain, etc Whenever he is asked about grief he uses this example and it is used repeatedly in his writings and oral teachings. It can come across as simplistic - and interestingly never differs - whether the person asking is a child or an adult. I feel with TNH his teachings are practical - and therefore come across as material and maybe a bit sparse and lacking in any intellectual bite and at times utopian/naive. But - I do think they're a good place to start - clear, direct, uncomplicated - but personally I found I needed more and Zen seems to provide. That's not in any way a positive statement about myself because I've always felt my struggle with the simplicity of TNH's approach was a failing within myself and a propensity to gravitate towards more complexity.

    Too many words - apologies!

    Gassho

    Jinyo

    Sat Today

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Jinyo View Post
    For TNH his grief was assuaged by contemplating interconnectvity -by feeling close to his mother by seeing her in the clouds and the rain, etc Whenever he is asked about grief he uses this example and it is used repeatedly in his writings and oral teachings. It can come across as simplistic - and interestingly never differs - whether the person asking is a child or an adult. I feel with TNH his teachings are practical - and therefore come across as material and maybe a bit sparse and lacking in any intellectual bite and at times utopian/naive. But - I do think they're a good place to start - clear, direct, uncomplicated - but personally I found I needed more and Zen seems to provide. That's not in any way a positive statement about myself because I've always felt my struggle with the simplicity of TNH's approach was a failing within myself and a propensity to gravitate towards more complexity.
    Different ways resonate with different folks, not everything is one's cup of tea, but for me, it does not get to the heart of the matter just to say "still in the clouds, in the rain" to leaping through birth and death. There is a wonderful activity going on that is, yet is not, me and you, TNH and his mother, birth and death, clouds and rain.

    But that said, I don't feel that our Zen way is actually "more complexity," and is the very opposite of complexity. In fact, our home is precisely what is when all the complexity and categories, division and diversity, ideas and angles drop away into flowing wholeness. Then one realizes that all the complexity and categories, division and diversity, ideas and angles, me and you, TNH and his mother, birth and death, clouds and rain have been this very same wholeness flowing all along.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  28. #28
    Treeleaf Unsui / Engineer Sekishi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Different ways resonate with different folks, not everything is one's cup of tea, but for me, it does not get to the heart of the matter just to say "still in the clouds, in the rain" to leaping through birth and death. There is a wonderful activity going on that is, yet is not, me and you, TNH and his mother, birth and death, clouds and rain.

    But that said, I don't feel that our Zen way is actually "more complexity," and is the very opposite of complexity. In fact, our home is precisely what is when all the complexity and categories, division and diversity, ideas and angles drop away into flowing wholeness. Then one realizes that all the complexity and categories, division and diversity, ideas and angles, me and you, TNH and his mother, birth and death, clouds and rain have been this very same wholeness flowing all along.
    It is likely due to the brain damage caused by doing one too many (or a hundred too many) proofs "by induction" for recursive functions, but for me personally TNH's presentation rang like a bell. Yes, he starts in the completely "materialist" world of paper, raindrops, lumberjacks, socks, and mothers. But looking at dharmas in this way caused this small mind to follow the chain of origination into an infinite regress until *POOF* all distinctions between this, that, self, and other collapse into constructs and only a seamless whole remains.

    We can ride Fibonacci sequences, Sierpinski triangles, and the jewels of Indra's net into the heart of compassion for all beings.

    Gassho,
    Sekishi
    #IMHO #YMMV #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.

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Sekishi View Post
    It is likely due to the brain damage caused by doing one too many (or a hundred too many) proofs "by induction" for recursive functions, but for me personally TNH's presentation rang like a bell. Yes, he starts in the completely "materialist" world of paper, raindrops, lumberjacks, socks, and mothers. But looking at dharmas in this way caused this small mind to follow the chain of origination into an infinite regress until *POOF* all distinctions between this, that, self, and other collapse into constructs and only a seamless whole remains.

    We can ride Fibonacci sequences, Sierpinski triangles, and the jewels of Indra's net into the heart of compassion for all beings.

    Gassho,
    Sekishi
    #IMHO #YMMV #sat
    I feel similarly, I haven't read a lot of TNH yet, but I find those types of "Material" explanations can be a good bridging point to understanding. As someone who was initially turned off by anything that sounded too spiritual, that sort of explanation really helped me along quite a bit. (Maybe it's the computer programmer in me)

    Evan
    Just going through life one day at a time!

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by gaurdianaq View Post
    I feel similarly, I haven't read a lot of TNH yet, but I find those types of "Material" explanations can be a good bridging point to understanding. As someone who was initially turned off by anything that sounded too spiritual, that sort of explanation really helped me along quite a bit. (Maybe it's the computer programmer in me)

    Evan
    Oh, I agree with this, and don't want to imply otherwise.

    It is just that the thrill of the highway and the whole wondrous trip should not be confused just with tires and carburetors, pistons and gas, asphalt and exit ramps alone. On the one hand, each beat of a piston and inch of blacktop embodies the entire highway and whole wondrous trip, although the winding highway and whole ride is so much more than just metal, rubber and tar.

    However, I agree that such descriptions can be a doorway to truly understanding emptiness if we don't stop there.

    Emptiness is moving, breathing, hot, active right down to its little parts ... where the Dharma rubber meets the Buddha road.



    If Bodhidharma were heading back west, he'd drive.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-27-2020 at 11:51 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  31. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    And as I recall, you did a rather intense version of Mahasi Sayadaw meditation, sometimes very intense and highly concentrated. Yes, that can set one off.

    Anyone can be particularly sensitive to any situation. The sitting quietly of Shikantaza, turning off the mental "noise," can cause things to "come up" (for example, old memories, an unexplained moment of sadness, a touch of fear) because QUIET does that to people.

    However, it should not be either overwhelming or more than for a passing short time. Not something that lasts.

    If it is more than that, it is probably some other issues that happen to be arising in the person's life not due particularly to Buddhist practice. They should talk to a professional, because dealing with such things in therapy can go hand in hand with Zazen.

    Gassho, j

    STLah

    (needed to exceed 3 sentences)
    In the quite scientific book "The Mind Illuminated : A Complete Meditation Guide" there is a chapter on "The dark night of the soul" explaining that if the mind is not pacified/unified enough through samatha meditation then it may not be ready for such disturbing powerful insights. Just like a bud on a tree that with time and right conditions will bloom, but if you try to force and speed up its growth you'll destroy it.

  32. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Oh, I agree with this, and don't want to imply otherwise.

    It is just that the thrill of the highway and the whole wondrous trip should not be confused just with tires and carburetors, pistons and gas, asphalt and exit ramps alone. On the one hand, each beat of a piston and inch of blacktop embodies the entire highway and whole wondrous trip, although the winding highway and whole ride is so much more than just metal, rubber and tar.

    However, I agree that such descriptions can be a doorway to truly understanding emptiness if we don't stop there.

    Emptiness is moving, breathing, hot, active right down to its little parts ... where the Dharma rubber meets the Buddha road.



    If Bodhidharma were heading back west, he'd drive.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Jundo,
    I have been considering this material viewpoint for a while and your commentary has brought me a new way of looking at this. Thank you. Here's a picture of me getting my kicks.


    72F3E116-C6FE-40CF-9BAB-72266B45CE79_1_201_a.jpeg

    Gassho
    STlah
    Shoki

  33. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by Ania View Post
    In the quite scientific book "The Mind Illuminated : A Complete Meditation Guide" there is a chapter on "The dark night of the soul" explaining that if the mind is not pacified/unified enough through samatha meditation then it may not be ready for such disturbing powerful insights. Just like a bud on a tree that with time and right conditions will bloom, but if you try to force and speed up its growth you'll destroy it.
    Hi Ania,

    The author, John Yates (Culadasa) is again rather a combined Theravadan/Tibetan teacher emphasizing Samatha and a very stage oriented flavor of meditation, including emphasis on attainment of jhanas. Again, I don't believe this is very much like the easy letting go of Shikantaza, so I would say it is a different situation.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  34. #34
    Just like a bud on a tree that with time and right conditions will bloom, but if you try to force and speed up its growth you'll destroy it.
    I think that is a very fair point that we do not try and push into enlightenment but instead rest in our awakened state as it already is, noticing the flowers are already blooming, right here, right now.


    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -satttoday-
    ------------------------------------
    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.

  35. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by Kokuu View Post
    I think that is a very fair point that we do not try and push into enlightenment but instead rest in our awakened state as it already is, noticing the flowers are already blooming, right here, right now.


    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -satttoday-
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  36. #36
    I used to be extremely nihilistic with a side of hopelessness and I think my brand of nihilism and hopelessness is common these days for various reasons. Existence had lost all meaning and when not trying to ignore or distract myself from the void, I’d pitifully wallow in it. The remedy was deceptively simple: “I decide whether to feel empty or to have a little trust/faith!” A very short time (4-5 months) of sitting and studying Treeleaf teachings has taught me that I decide whether the universe and existence itself is an empty void to wallow in or to trust/have faith that it is meaningful beyond meaning, beyond nihilism, beyond conceptions, and with a value that is priceless.

    Gassho,
    Tom

    SAT/LAH


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

  37. #37
    I've had Dark-Night-ish experiences in my life, where I felt crushed by the the yawning abyss of the meaninglessness of everything. What helped me: "Stop looking for meaning in meaninglessness, and start creating it."

    Gassho
    Kyoshin
    satlah

  38. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by SlappyPenguin View Post
    Has anyone else experienced anything like the Dark Night of the Soul, existential crisis, or anything similar from the process of awakening to reality as it is? I know that Buddhism is not a nihilistic philosophy, but I sometimes forget why. Any thoughts?
    When I practiced in a Tibetan Buddhist circle, the practice was to be aware of awareness. I got tremendous bliss from this kind of meditation, but after the session I would have VERY high anxiety spikes and a bit of derealization. Also, I started to have very bizarre nightmares related to the void and nothingness, including lucid dreaming. Overall, my anxiety got worse. Since I have started to practice Shikantaza, I feel quite relaxed after it, no longer having high anxiety spikes or strange dreams.

    Gassho, Tomás

    Sat&LaH

  39. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyoshin View Post
    I've had Dark-Night-ish experiences in my life, where I felt crushed by the the yawning abyss of the meaninglessness of everything. What helped me: "Stop looking for meaning in meaninglessness, and start creating it."
    That is very helfpul, thank you for sharing Kyoshin. It reminds me quite a bit of Victor Frankl's book - Man's Search for Meaning. Great book and philosophy.

    Gassho, Tomás

    Sat&LaH

  40. #40
    You could say: "this is all there is"
    but you could just as easily say: "there is all this."

    Gassho,

    Andrew,

    Satlah

  41. #41
    A friend of mine whose dad died recently (and couldn't visit him due to covid) went into depression, racing thoughts and anxiety that last all waking hours. He's visiting therapist and taking meds but I also asked him to do zazen (counting breaths). Any other advice for him?

    Gassho,
    Sam
    ST

  42. #42
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    A friend of mine whose dad died recently (and couldn't visit him due to covid) went into depression, racing thoughts and anxiety that last all waking hours. He's visiting therapist and taking meds but I also asked him to do zazen (counting breaths). Any other advice for him?

    Gassho,
    Sam
    ST
    Listen to what the symptoms are trying to say.

    Gassho,

    Andrew,

    Satlah

  43. #43
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    A friend of mine whose dad died recently (and couldn't visit him due to covid) went into depression, racing thoughts and anxiety that last all waking hours. He's visiting therapist and taking meds but I also asked him to do zazen (counting breaths). Any other advice for him?

    Gassho,
    Sam
    ST
    Follow the instructions of his doctor and therapist, first and foremost. If the doctor and therapist approve of Zazen practice, then and only then should he sit Zazen. Also, something like Tonglen practice could be good, but it might be strange at first to someone with no Buddhist background at all.

    That said, you could tell him that the prime lesson of Zazen is to allow what is and happens in this life, even though what is and happens frequently is not just as we might want. We flow as what is, even though we love some of it, and do not love some of it.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  44. #44
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    A friend of mine whose dad died recently (and couldn't visit him due to covid) went into depression, racing thoughts and anxiety that last all waking hours. He's visiting therapist and taking meds but I also asked him to do zazen (counting breaths). Any other advice for him?

    Gassho,
    Sam
    ST
    Hi Sam,

    The last thing I want on my conscience is dishing out medical advice (this does sound like a medical problem) with a bad outcome. It's a huge responsibility and I would not want to play doctor if it can be avoided.

    I have no suggestions and am very thankful that there are professionals who are willing to take this responsibility on when a patient doctor relationship is formed.

    Gassho, Jishin, __/stlah\__

  45. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    A friend of mine whose dad died recently (and couldn't visit him due to covid) went into depression, racing thoughts and anxiety that last all waking hours. He's visiting therapist and taking meds but I also asked him to do zazen (counting breaths). Any other advice for him?

    Gassho,
    Sam
    ST
    Hey Sam
    The only thing I'd ask him or advise him to do would be follow the directions of his doctor, take his meds when he's supposed to, eat well and get sleep. I'd certainly never suggest Zazen without consultation with the doctor treating him.
    Gassho
    Onka
    ST
    Life's too serious to be taken seriously.

  46. #46
    ok thanks all. I will take back my advice to him

    Gassho,
    Sam
    ST

  47. #47
    Quote Originally Posted by shikantazen View Post
    ok thanks all. I will take back my advice to him

    Gassho,
    Sam
    ST
    The idea is that while zazen might have beneficial consequences, used as a tool to achieve something it’s basically useless. Suggesting it as a coping mechanism to someone automatically sets that person off on the wrong path. They will end up sitting not to sit but to achieve something, and zazen is good for nothing, so that will bring frustration and maybe even aversion.


    SatToday LaH
    Jake

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