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Thread: A potentially pendandic question about "volition"

  1. #1
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    A potentially pendandic question about "volition"

    Hi folks,


    I was reading one of documents for the precept study, http://www.chzc.org/pat09.htm, and Phelan Roshi describes volition (about 6 paragraphs down) as "the mind with which we act." I'm kind of curious about that wording and I was wondering if she is just explaining what she meant in the context of the discussion or if there is additional writings on volition in any of the sutras? Does anyone know?


    Gassho
    Hoseki
    sattoday/lah

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  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Hoseki View Post
    Hi folks,


    I was reading one of documents for the precept study, http://www.chzc.org/pat09.htm, and Phelan Roshi describes volition (about 6 paragraphs down) as "the mind with which we act." I'm kind of curious about that wording and I was wondering if she is just explaining what she meant in the context of the discussion or if there is additional writings on volition in any of the sutras? Does anyone know?


    Gassho
    Hoseki
    sattoday/lah
    I feel that Zen folks don't make such a fine analysis of the definition as in the Theravada tradition, and basically "intentional" is enough. Unlike the Jains in India who believed that we are responsible for all our acts, even the harms we cause by totally innocent action (one of the reasons they wear a face mask to avoid inhaling bugs, see picture below long before covid, and brooms to sweep bigs off the path where they walk), the emphasis in Buddhism is more on responsibility (much like the criminal law) only for what we do intentionally or with such great neglect and recklessness that we might as well intend the action (like driving drunk knowing that there is a high risk of harm) or looking the other way when something is obvious (like walking past a drowning person that one could save).

    So, if you think of responsibility in that way, it is basically the same as "volition" for all intents and purposes.

    (Sorry, I intentionally went over 3 sentences)



    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 09-25-2020 at 02:33 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I feel that Zen folks don't make such a fine analysis of the definition as in the Theravada tradition, and basically "intentional" is enough. Unlike the Jains in India who believed that we are responsible for all our acts, even the harms we cause by totally innocent action (one of the reasons they wear a face mask to avoid inhaling bugs, see picture below long before covid), the emphasis in Buddhism is more on responsibility (much like the criminal law) only for what we do intentionally or with such great neglect and recklessness that we might as well intend the action (like driving drunk knowing that there is a high risk of harm) or looking the other way when something is obvious (like walking past a drowning person that one could save).

    So, if you think of responsibility in that way, it is basically the same as "volition" for all intents and purposes.

    (Sorry, I intentionally went over 3 sentences)

    [IMG]https://miro.medium.com/max/600/1*ktJVE58LhFEgtCHlNabYAg.jpeg[/IMG]

    Gassho, Jundo
    Hi Jundo,

    OK! I was wondering about it because reminded me of something Iíve observed when Iíve been sitting. Sometimes having a thought is like watching a leaf blowing down the road. Other times Iím just thinking and I donít have that kind of sense that Iím observing a thought.

    I was wondering if there was a vocabulary that describes it. Maybe itís one of those cases where I should let it go that is to say I will intentionally forgot it

    Apologies for going over 3 sentences.


    Gassho
    Hoseki


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  5. #5
    Hi Hoseki

    चेतना (cetanā, volition) is the primary force in the creation of karma. "The mind with which we act" seems a pretty good way of putting it or, as we might say in common English, our intention. Do we mean perform an act with malice or with good intentions?

    As Josho Pat goes on to explain:

    In Buddhism, volition, or the mind with which we act, determines whether an action is "good" or "bad," wholesome or unwholesome, rather than the activity itself being inherently good or bad.

    In the Pali Canon there is a sutta known as the Volition or Intention Sutta (Cetanā Sutta): https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipi....038.than.html

    Volition is also a major part of the fourth skandha (aggregate) which is saṅkhāra (mental or volitional formations or fabrications). In the Khajjaniya Sutta it is described thusly:

    "And why do you call them 'fabrications'? Because they fabricate fabricated things, thus they are called 'fabrications.' What do they fabricate as a fabricated thing? For the sake of form-ness, they fabricate form as a fabricated thing. For the sake of feeling-ness, they fabricate feeling as a fabricated thing. For the sake of perception-hood... For the sake of fabrication-hood... For the sake of consciousness-hood, they fabricate consciousness as a fabricated thing. Because they fabricate fabricated things, they are called fabrications.
    More simply, these are the mental conditioning which cause someone to act i.e. to create karma, when they come into contact with certain sense objects. They are categorised into six classes of volition (cetanākaya) as related on each of the six senses, so hearing volition, seeing volition etc.

    Saṅkhāra is also the second link in the twelve Nidānas demonstrating the sequence of dependent-arising and itself giving rise to consciousness.

    Is that helpful or were you looking more for something Zen? Mostly, I think of volition as related to descriptions in early Buddhism which is why it is more commonly spoken of in Pali suttas.

    Apologies for length on this.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    ------------------------------------
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kokuu View Post
    Hi Hoseki

    चेतना (cetanā, volition) is the primary force in the creation of karma. "The mind with which we act" seems a pretty good way of putting it or, as we might say in common English, our intention. Do we mean perform an act with malice or with good intentions?

    As Josho Pat goes on to explain:




    In the Pali Canon there is a sutta known as the Volition or Intention Sutta (Cetanā Sutta): https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipi....038.than.html

    Volition is also a major part of the fourth skandha (aggregate) which is saṅkhāra (mental or volitional formations or fabrications). In the Khajjaniya Sutta it is described thusly:



    More simply, these are the mental conditioning which cause someone to act i.e. to create karma, when they come into contact with certain sense objects. They are categorised into six classes of volition (cetanākaya) as related on each of the six senses, so hearing volition, seeing volition etc.

    Saṅkhāra is also the second link in the twelve Nidānas demonstrating the sequence of dependent-arising and itself giving rise to consciousness.

    Is that helpful or were you looking more for something Zen? Mostly, I think of volition as related to descriptions in early Buddhism which is why it is more commonly spoken of in Pali suttas.

    Apologies for length on this.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    Hi Kokuu,


    Thanks! This gives me a sense of use in the older texts. I'm going to take a quick look at the sutta as well as its rather short.


    Gassho
    Hoseki
    Sattoday/lah

  7. #7
    Yes, one of the inspirations for "Zen" was to step away from all the analysis and intricate systemizing of the abhidharma and the early Sutta interpretations of words like "volition," with Zen rejecting the habit of philosophizing in detail about what it is and is not. You won't find much of that in traditional Zen writings. Master Dogen would teach, "Just do good, don't do bad," with a general sense that we are responsible for what we intend.

    So, I would not concern myself, except for reasons of historical interest in the earlier Buddhist teachings, on detailed discussions of "what is 'volitional' and what is not."

    And in modern terms, for those of us who tend to reject overly mechanical systems of Karma and rebirth, the discussion is rather moot to start with. In the old days, it was literally a matter of life and death (and life again) to know which of one's daily actions would send one to heaven or send one packing to hell in the next life. Can one kill an ant? How about if I "intend" to pick a vegetable but do not intend to kill the ant in doing so, but do it accidently? Is it okay just to think about sex? How about while dreaming? etc. etc.

    The basic rule of thumb in Zen is that it is more important what you do intentionally than how you analyze what you do. Just seek to avoid intentional harm, no need to pick it apart.

    (I absorb the Karma of having intentionally run long)

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Yes, one of the inspirations for "Zen" was to step away from all the analysis and intricate systemizing of the abhidharma and the early Sutta interpretations of words like "volition," with Zen rejecting the habit of philosophizing in detail about what it is and is not. You won't find much of that in traditional Zen writings. Master Dogen would teach, "Just do good, don't do bad," with a general sense that we are responsible for what we intend.

    So, I would not concern myself, except for reasons of historical interest in the earlier Buddhist teachings, on detailed discussions of "what is 'volitional' and what is not."

    And in modern terms, for those of us who tend to reject overly mechanical systems of Karma and rebirth, the discussion is rather moot to start with. In the old days, it was literally a matter of life and death (and life again) to know which of one's daily actions would send one to heaven or send one packing to hell in the next life. Can one kill an ant? How about if I "intend" to pick a vegetable but do not intend to kill the ant in doing so, but do it accidently? Is it okay just to think about sex? How about while dreaming? etc. etc.

    The basic rule of thumb in Zen is that it is more important what you do intentionally than how you analyze what you do. Just seek to avoid intentional harm, no need to pick it apart.

    (I absorb the Karma of having intentionally run long)

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    I've definitely noticed this, especially after coming from reading some of the Dalai Lamas books, they have these rich, detailed analysis of the human mind. And I sometimes find myself torn, because on one hand I like to over analyze things, on the other hand there is beauty in simplicity and not over thinking things. Though i will admit I was off put when he started getting into these super mechanical definitions of karma and such...


    Evan,
    Sat today, lah
    Just going through life one day at a time!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Yes, one of the inspirations for "Zen" was to step away from all the analysis and intricate systemizing of the abhidharma and the early Sutta interpretations of words like "volition," with Zen rejecting the habit of philosophizing in detail about what it is and is not. You won't find much of that in traditional Zen writings. Master Dogen would teach, "Just do good, don't do bad," with a general sense that we are responsible for what we intend.

    So, I would not concern myself, except for reasons of historical interest in the earlier Buddhist teachings, on detailed discussions of "what is 'volitional' and what is not."

    And in modern terms, for those of us who tend to reject overly mechanical systems of Karma and rebirth, the discussion is rather moot to start with. In the old days, it was literally a matter of life and death (and life again) to know which of one's daily actions would send one to heaven or send one packing to hell in the next life. Can one kill an ant? How about if I "intend" to pick a vegetable but do not intend to kill the ant in doing so, but do it accidently? Is it okay just to think about sex? How about while dreaming? etc. etc.

    The basic rule of thumb in Zen is that it is more important what you do intentionally than how you analyze what you do. Just seek to avoid intentional harm, no need to pick it apart.

    (I absorb the Karma of having intentionally run long)

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    Hi Jundo,

    Sometimes I like to read Zen adjacent stuff like the sutta's (though I do find them to be a little difficult to get through) or Poets like Hanshan or Saigyo. I'm planning to do a little reading on Jodo Shinshu after Ango. It's sort of like meeting a cousin you didn't know you had.

    Gassho
    Hoseki
    Sattoday/lah

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Hoseki View Post
    Hi Jundo,

    Sometimes I like to read Zen adjacent stuff like the sutta's (though I do find them to be a little difficult to get through) or Poets like Hanshan or Saigyo. I'm planning to do a little reading on Jodo Shinshu after Ango. It's sort of like meeting a cousin you didn't know you had.

    Gassho
    Hoseki
    Sattoday/lah
    Oh, it is wonderful to study other things and to know our history, reading widely (I do). It is just for Zen practice itself that such kinds of philosophical analysis of the exact meaning of certain teachings is not so important. I came across a lovely example today, in a lecture by Uchiyama Roshi on Dogen's reference in his Maka-hannya-haramitsu (Dogen's take on the Heart Sutra in Shobogenzo) to several important, basic Sutta teachings such as "once returner" and "Arhat, the states of "Jhana" which are the goals of of some forms of meditation and more as all swept into "prajnaparamita" ... Emptiness.

    Śāriputra, all bodhisattva mahāsattvas, the independently awakened, arhats, those beyond returning, those who will return once, those received into the stream, and so on, always attain realization by virtue of prajŮāpāramitā. And because, Śāriputra, all of the ten virtuous paths of action in the world, the four states of meditation [the Four Jhanas], the four immaterial [Jhanas], and the five mystical powers are always realized by virtue of the prajŮāpāramitā.”
    Here is Uchiyama's comment on this section:

    These are Buddhist technical terms that are not important unless you are a Buddhist scholar, so I won't explain them now. They all come from prajnaparamita.



    Of course, it is possible that he was just running out of time in his lecture.

    (Sorry, ran long)

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Oh, it is wonderful to study other things and to know our history, reading widely (I do). It is just for Zen practice itself that such kinds of philosophical analysis of the exact meaning of certain teachings is not so important. I came across a lovely example today, in a lecture by Uchiyama Roshi on Dogen's reference in his Maka-hannya-haramitsu (Dogen's take on the Heart Sutra in Shobogenzo) to several important, basic Sutta teachings such as "once returner" and "Arhat, the states of "Jhana" which are the goals of of some forms of meditation and more as all swept into "prajnaparamita" ... Emptiness.



    Here is Uchiyama's comment on this section:

    These are Buddhist technical terms that are not important unless you are a Buddhist scholar, so I won't explain them now. They all come from prajnaparamita.



    Of course, it is possible that he was just running out of time in his lecture.

    (Sorry, ran long)

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    Gassho,

    Hoseki
    Sattoday/lah


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  12. #12
    If I were not disabled, if I did not have mental illness, and all my knowledge could make a difference, conditions being equal, I would study for the Zen priesthood. I say this with Stoic acceptance for Buddhist, for Christian for Stoic realizations for my sisters and brothers, "Acceptance is the answer to all my problems." All science cannot change reality; this may be reality, may be Sidhartha's realization.
    Gassho
    Deepest Bows
    sat/ lah
    Tai Shi
    Last edited by Tai Shi; 09-29-2020 at 05:47 PM. Reason: spelling. lol
    The object of practice is not transcendence but transformation, yet ultimately we must transcend ourselves. (Elucidation of Dogen) in HOW TO RAISE AN OX

  13. #13
    I agree, Jundo, and so I reconsecrate my life to the writing of free verse poetry, and will change my Ango readings at this point. It is less important that I study Buddhist approaches to abstinance from intoxicants having read 1 book which was in my estimation eronous-- I left that 33 yrs ago. Loving Kindness I studied and lectured on at my Church (UU) about 8 yrs ago. I am studieing Haiku: A Poet's Guide, and Reviewing The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms.
    Gassho
    sat/ lah
    Gassho
    The object of practice is not transcendence but transformation, yet ultimately we must transcend ourselves. (Elucidation of Dogen) in HOW TO RAISE AN OX

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