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Thread: Informal Reading Group: REALIZING GENJOKOAN 2021 Edition Begins Week of 11 April 2021

  1. #101
    I really liked Charity's comment "...by seeking we are trying to control things, but our sense of being a fixed person who controls a changing world is a delusion..." You are right - I often see myself as a fixed being in a changing universe, as the fixed point around which everything changing revolves. This reminds me how delusional this is. Thanks

    Gassho

    Dick

    Sat/lah

  2. #102
    What is the importance of "the concrete life experience of practice?"


    It's crucial, isn't it? The embodiment of Buddha's teachings. He showed us the path, and we only can use his teachings as signposts. The true practice is us embodying the Dharma, through our bodies.

    Is enlightenment dependent on recognizing delusion (On the philosophical level of: Are we born having sinned? Do the ultimate rewards of faith come from faith alone, or are good works required?)?
    I think that enlightenment is dependent on realising our true nature, and that delusion exists within this true nature - they are not separate. We are born with true nature and delusion, I don't believe in original sin.
    Faith is not enough, we need to cultivate compassion and good deeds are required to dissolve chains of self absorption.

    Why do you do Zazen?
    After sitting every day for nearly a year I have actually stopped doing zazen for about 2 weeks (with occasional sitting here and there as opposed to aiming for 2 hrs per day) to see what happens, to check if I haven't become a bit to preoccupied with the practice, attached somehow and to re-evaluate my motivation.
    I can't put it into words but in that period it felt sometimes like if Zazen was seeking Zazen during my daily activities. I would sometimes naturally fall into this accepting, observing spaciousness. I'm back to my regular routine now, I've missed it. I thought I knew why I did Zazen before, now I'm not sure anymore. It just feels right, even if the stuff arising during Zazen is "not right".

    Does the bell make the sound, or does the wind make the sound?
    "Ding-dong-a-ling ding-dong"
    "Does the sound exist even if no one hears it?"


    Gassho
    Sat

  3. #103
    Onkai and Seikan nailed it. I find it hard to comment on the readings because there are many ďah haĒ moments that I just canít even begin to express in better words than those Okumura used. Plenty to sit with.

    Why do I sit Zazen? No question that initially it was to gain something. Enlightenment? Peace? Calm? Yes and more. Now? Well honestly I am not so sure anymore why I sit. It has become a habitual part of my day. Having said that it is also a (usually) enjoyable part of my day that I look forward to.

    Thank you all for your thoughts.

    Side note: I like the pace we are reading the book at. Not too fast and not too slow.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah

  4. #104
    Great discussion happening here, folks! You are going to get a couple of extra days before the next chapter post as I am working ten days in a row, long shifts. I'm off on Tuesday so should have your next set of discussion questions sometime on that day.

    Gassho,
    Nengei
    Sat today. LAH.

  5. #105


    Gassho,
    Onkai
    Sat
    On (Warm)
    Kai (Sea)

  6. #106
    Informal Reading Group: REALIZING GENJOKOAN 2021 Edition WEEK 8, 20 June - 26 June


    Dear Sangha, okay, break's over. My apologies for the delay in continuing our discussion of this excellent text. I have been overwhelmingly busy as I am retiring from a 30-year career in nursing today, and preparing to open an art school in a couple of months.

    This week we will move on to Chapter 8: Past and Future are Cut Off. This will take us through page 126 in the paperback; all of chapter 8 if you are using the ebook. The section of Genjōkōan being consider has a heavy message of now-ness: As the firewood never becomes firewood again after it has burned to ash, there is no return to living after a person dies.

    Once you have read and considered this week's portion, please come back to this thread and comment. Below are some ideas for questions to think about as your read, and perhaps to stimulate the conversation and posts. These are questions that came to me while reading the chapter; perhaps other ideas will come to you and you will share them with us. Even if you don't comment about the text, it would be nice to simply post that you are reading along.

    Questions for Chapter 8:Past and Future are Cut Off:

    1. What are your thoughts about past, present, and future after reading this chapter?

    2. What transmigrates? Should we care?

    3. What are we assured of, when our practice is facing our own life and death?

    I look forward to your thoughts about Past and Future are Cut Off. Next week, we will continue with the following chapter, through page 142 in the paperback, which is Chapter 9, The Moon in Water.


    Gassho,
    Nengei
    Sat today. LAH.

  7. #107
    Thank you, Nengei, and everyone here. I tried jotting down notes about what this chapter brought up for me and my associations, but my notes read like the gibberish of trying to write down the contents of a dream. The only thing I noted that really made sense was that the last part, "Life, Death, and Time" was a lesson in for me and changed my focus. The best I can express it is that it made me see how immediate practice and the present moment are, and yet how ungraspable. I want to dwell on it more, including Uchiyama Roshi's poems.

    Gassho,
    Onkai
    Sat/lah
    On (Warm)
    Kai (Sea)

  8. #108
    1. What are your thoughts about past, present, and future after reading this chapter?

    Past, present, future – the whole concept of “time” is somewhat mysterious. Is “time” something that we discovered…. Or invented? I was struck by the comment “… Commonly, we think of time as a stream that flows like a river from the beginningless past to the endless future…Yet this is not the true nature of life and death…Each stage or dharma position of living and dying can only be experienced in the present moment, and the present moment does not have any length…” I previously thought about time in a linear fashion – past, present and future happen one after another in a straight line. We emphasize living in the present, saying the past is over and the future has not happened yet. We treat the present as a defined block of time on which we can focus. Yet, in this chapter, we see that the “present” exists only in relation to the past and to the future AND that this “present” exists only as a momentary meeting of past and future. Like everything else, this “present” is empty. How can you focus on something which instantly changes? Yet, this “present” is the only reality which actually exists!

    My thoughts?
    1. Time is not linear but rather is spherical. Beginning, birth, life, death, ending do not happen in a straight line. Rather, birth, life, death simply follow after each other continuously.
    2. Conventionally, we spend most of our time regretting and re-living the past or imagining the future. While learning from the past and planning for the future are critical, consistently bringing our thinking back to the present can significantly reduce our suffering. However, I now see this version of the “present” as nothing more than a shortened combination of my past and future.
    3. Perhaps, the only way to really reduce my focusing on the past and the future is NOT to try to focus on the present, but rather to just stop thinking about the past and the future, period – exactly what we do in zazen.


    2. What transmigrates? Should we care?

    For linear thinkers, death is a major problem. We are born, we live, we age, we die, and then… what? Some think we are reborn. How does that work? Who decides what we are reborn AS? Very problematic. After death, what is left to be re-born? Certainly, not form. And, without form, you can’t have sensations, perceptions, or consciousness. You are left with mental formations or mental dispositions, affected but not determined by our karma. So, what is available to be reborn is a habitual mental tendency. Perhaps this is why identical twins, from the moment of birth, often react differently to the same stimuli. For spherical thinkers, death is not an end but just a continuation of existence in another form. I like the metaphor of life as a drop of water. A drop of water evaporates and becomes a cloud, which condenses and becomes snow, which falls, melts and becomes a river, which winds down to the sea, which forms a wave, which crashes upon the shore, showering the land with – drops of water.
    In the end, perhaps, we shouldn’t care if anything transmigrates after death. After all, all that really exists is the present. Perhaps, we should simply focus on that.


    3. What are we assured of, when our practice is facing our own life and death?

    This chapter was a little confusing to me on this topic. We are assured that things will change. And, that both life and death are impermanent. Life and death are simply positions in time. Death is not the “end” of anything, but simply a stage on a continuum. Just as a drop of water evaporates and “dies”, only to become a cloud, so too, at the end of life, we “die” and become – what? That remains the great unknown, but it is “something”, And, won’t it be exciting to find out what?

    I am really interested in what other readers have to say about this chapter.

    Gassho

    Dick

    Sat/lah

  9. #109
    This is by far my favourite chapter, so much to unpack.

    1. What are your thoughts about past, present, and future after reading this chapter?

    My thoughts rarely dwell in the past, and if they do bring it back it's like remembering
    a dream.
    My thoughts also rarely imagine future, just the necessary planning stuff. I've always struggled to answer to popular interview question "where do you see yourself in 5 years time". I guess that's why I've never achieved any success.

    Present moment : how could we even define it? What would be the smallest measure of time we could come up with to mesure it? Yet it seems like there is no other moment than the one in which we experience our existence.

    2. What transmigrates? Should we care?

    Okumara asks the same question I've struggled a lot with "is there anything in impermanence that doesn't change"? The more I sit the less I'm concerned about it and the more I enjoy the flow of change.
    There's a popular story that many people find comforting how TNH after his mother's death found her presence in his own steps, in the reflection of moonlight, etc.

    For me though, Dogen's words:

    "As the firewood never becomes firewood again after it has burned to ash, there is no return to living after a person dies."
    brought the final closure after my father's death. A shock and a relief. And I don't understand completely why.


    3. What are we assured of, when our practice is facing our own life and death?

    That we don't really have much time.
    In this precious relatively short existence we are fortunate enough to have come across Dharma, yet how much time do we genuinely dedicate to practice? 1-2hr a day? What do we do with the rest of 22-23 hrs left?
    Having realised the sanctity of it all, how do I express it moment by moment, in my speach, conduct and each action? How do I treat everything with the same sacredness that I treated my newborn son, that I treat Zazen?

    Gassho
    Sat

  10. #110
    Thank you Nengei for leading these discussions. Thank you everyone for your thoughts.

    1. What are your thoughts about past, present, and future after reading this chapter?
    2. What transmigrates? Should we care?
    3. What are we assured of, when our practice is facing our own life and death?


    For me all of these questions really come back to “Who am I? Who is this self?” I once was so sure. I had spent a lifetime of building up the stories and mythology that made up my life. I felt certain about some sort of constant (ego perhaps) between my past, present, and future, where that future also included time after death. Certainly as I get older and the more I practice the more i see that I’ve been constraining myself to someone I thought I should be. As I unravel my stories I see a freedom to be who I am now. That freedom lessens the burden of being like my past self or obsessing about my future.

    I think it comes down to not knowing and being ok with not knowing.

    I know I didn’t directly answer the questions but I hope my answer makes some sense.



    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    Last edited by Tairin; 06-26-2021 at 03:21 PM.
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  11. #111
    Tairin - I really liked your comment "...it comes down to not knowing and being ok with not knowing...." Very powerful insight.

    Gassho

    Dick
    Sat/lah

  12. #112
    I have enjoyed reading everyone’s comments, thank you all.

    And thank you Nengei for the time you have spent on writing questions for us amid your busy schedule. I can tell you these have been very valuable for me. When I've had time, I've been pre-reading the chapter before your post questions, and returning to it again after you post questions. I find this way I see new things or get more depth out of thinking it through to share with this group.

    1. What are your thoughts about past, present, and future after reading this chapter?

    Cause and effect (karma) depends on time. But it is through our conceptualisations that we see things becoming other things - we draw mental borders around segments of reality and give them names. A person. Firewood. Ash.

    Okumura uses an acorn as an example. He says as we see it from our usual view, an acorn sprouts and becomes a tree. But, we see it this way because we draw a mental border around part of the universe—an acorn—and as we focus on that segment we see it become a tree. But actually, the process of growing and sprouting involves many more aspects of the surrounding environment, the dirt, the sunshine, the air, all coming and going and giving and taking in the process.

    If I drop the mental borders around things, the conceptual descriptions, then… I don’t know what my thoughts are about past, present and future!

    Okumura discusses the present moment being all that we ever experience at any time. This makes sense, but it is hard to grasp while I constantly think in concepts about the past and future. Oh, but then he explains this too: our mind cannot grasp it.

    I liked this paragraph: “Reality unfolds only within this present moment, and yet our mind cannot grasp this present moment. This is so because even to think a very simple thought we need some length of time, yet the present moment has no length; the present moment is the only actual moment, the only actual immediate experience, and it cannot be grasped by the mind. Yet we each think of the present moment as having some length of time, and we place it in the midst of our own story, a story in which we are the hero or heroine.” (p. 78, Google books version)

    2. What transmigrates? Should we care?

    Any segment of reality we draw a border around will transmigrate into something else, as things are changing all the time. Perhaps it is better to think of transmigration as a process, a universal doing, rather than thinking of what or who is doing it?

    3. What are we assured of, when our practice is facing our own life and death?

    When we practice, it is the best thing to do with our time.

    ,
    Charity
    sat/lah

  13. #113
    Any segment of reality we draw a border around will transmigrate into something else, as things are changing all the time. Perhaps it is better to think of transmigration as a process, a universal doing, rather than thinking of what or who is doing it?
    I find this statement by Charity to be a new and helpful way to express the constant change and birth and death of each moment. Thank you.

    Gassho,
    Onkai
    Sat/lah
    On (Warm)
    Kai (Sea)

  14. #114
    Member Seikan's Avatar
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    1. What are your thoughts about past, present, and future after reading this chapter?

    I'm honestly still digesting this one, but there's something in how Okumura described the present moment in this chapter that really resonated with me. It wasn't a radical departure from how I have conceptualized it in the past, but thanks to this reading, my zazen has a fresh "sharpness" of focus (if that makes sense). It's still too soon to comment further.

    Like with every chapter in this book so far, I have an initial reaction immediately following the reading, but Okumura's teachings take a while to settle in and ripen. After a few periods of zazen over several days, his words start to sink in deeper and take root. I'm finding that I don't have much to verbalize about each chapter, yet each one has had a very tangible effect on my own practice. I wish I could elucidate more right now, but perhaps with more time and practice.

    That said, with regard to all notions of a "self" and transmigration, etc., I thought that Okumura's inclusion of Uchiyama's poem "Life and Death" sums it all up perfectly:

    Water isn't formed by being ladled into a bucket
    Simply the water of the whole Universe has been ladled into a bucket
    The water does not disappear because it has been scattered over the ground
    It is only that the water of the whole Universe has been emptied into the whole Universe
    Life is not born because a person is born
    The life of the whole Universe has been ladled into the hardened "idea" called "I"
    Life does not disappear because a person dies
    Simply, the life of the whole Universe has been poured out of this hardened "idea" of "I" back into the Universe
    Gassho,
    Seikan

    -stlah-
    聖簡 Seikan (Sacred Simplicity)

  15. #115
    Very humbled and pleased by this discussion. I bow to you all. _()_ _()_ _()_

    gassho
    sat and some lah, d shonin
    Visiting unsui, take w/salt.

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