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Thread: 7/20 - What Practice Is Not p.23

  1. #1

    7/20 - What Practice Is Not p.23

    And our subject might be (or not) ...

    ... what is practice 'not' to you?

    Gassho, J

  2. #2
    Practice is NOT the anticipation of the 5 day sesshin I'm about to leave for in 20 minutes. It will be an 8 hour drive to the Mountain Lamp retreat center which gives me plenty of time to get mentally discombobulated.

    Practice is not about anything I can grasp or explain. I get to work with this at the sesshin - yahoo! See ya on the flip-side of the sesshin.

  3. #3
    I am compelled to just say “Mu!” but that is overdone and to leave it at that would likely lead a lot of folks in the wrong direction.

    And some would offer that “Mu!” is practice.

    Will, your anticipation is your practice in action. Your "Will" to the truth. Eagerness to train.

    “Not practice” is when your practice has matured to be like a hand reaching back to adjust a pillow in the middle of the night. Spontaneous!

    Sorry if I sound like Yoda on this one, it seems to be a natural tendency of mine to say as much as possible with as few words as possible. I think this may be because a lot of commentaries I have read seem to use so many words to express a simple concept.

    Blaa, I ramble!


  4. #4
    To repeat wills, practice is not anything I can grasp or explain. Someday maybe, but for now practice is, well, practice...

  5. #5

    A good retreat to you! (Unless it is a bad one, which is also good).

    May you find your inner banana!

    Gassho, J

  6. #6
    This is weird. . . .

    I just posted about practice on my blog and on the message board. ... e-is-life/

    I did not even realize that the next chapter of the book was about the same topic.

    I'll have to do the reading in order to find out how off base I really am, lol :shock:

  7. #7
    practice is not procrastinating about the 30km hitch each way to the grocery store. i'll bring you back some chocolate.

    gassho, cd

    donald buddha A.jpgdonald buddha B.jpg
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-13-2018 at 03:20 AM.

  8. #8

    Great stuff. My brothers like to tease me. Whenever there is any sort of conflict or issue they always ask me WWBD? or "what would buddha do", with shit eating grins on their faces!

    Funny thing is as much as they are being jerks about it, throwing it in my face in a very mocking way, it happens to be a good reminder. . .so I cannot get to upset with them.

    I like the idea of stating that, "I just sit quietly", I used that same line earlier today when somebody asked me about what Zazen was. As you say it is the truth after all.


  9. #9

    I think this chapter, although short, is quite an important one. There are so many misconceptions out there about what Zen is and I think Joko does a great job here of refuting many of those misconceptions by stating concisely what it isn't.


  10. #10
    Practice is not:

    -worrying if I'm breathing too loud for the person next to me to focus
    -berating myself because I haven't made the time to sit for the last 4 days
    -complaining that the statues labeled "Buddhas" at the mall are not actually depictions of Budda
    -calling myself a Zen Buddhist on Facebook
    -buying Buddhist books
    -explanations of what practice is

    Practice is practice.

    But MOST crucially, I want to hear more about these "special powers" Joko has! Haha. Thanks to all for the insightful replies.


  11. #11
    Is anyone else finding it difficult to restrain from reading ahead to What Practice Is?

    A group of us went out for tea following my weekly group sit on Wednesday. One lady said that she'd been "practising for years, but had never had a successful meditation."

    I said that I thought practising for years was a success in itself. She said that was a nice thing to say, but untrue.

    I said I didn't think that one could really "fail meditation" - what does that mean? She said I didn't understand her.

    I guess I don't.

  12. #12
    Hi Paige,

    Quote Originally Posted by paige
    Is anyone else finding it difficult to restrain from reading ahead to What Practice Is?
    Yep, I couldn't resist. To be honest, I've read the whole book a while back, so strictly speaking it wasn't cheating. I even got my wife to read those two sections. Sometimes she tries to tease me, referring to my Zazen as 'hocus-pocus' or something similar. However, since she's read those sections she doesn't seem to do that anymore. :lol:


  13. #13
    Whoops, this was me. I forgot to log in. . .again.


    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymous

    I don't think I understand her either. Unless, she is saying that her meditations don't feel successful because they are not leading her somewhere she wants to go. Hopefully, she is not looking at practice from such a materialistic viewpoint. Perhaps, she feels that she is never able to concentrate. . .that would be frustrating.

    I'm trying to take the good with the bad, sometimes the mind cannot concentrate but that does not make it a bad Zazen, its just doing the hard work of letting yourself see all of those thoughts,fears,dreams,memories,fantasies ect. . .so we can let go of them.

    I'm not sure if this is such a Zen perspective, but there is a certain truth about how by doing the meditation we see these things and learn a great deal about ourselves. I've found that when these things bubble up from my subconscious, that simply sitting with them until they peter out does a lot of good in helping me to let go. I suppose this is what Joko meant earlier in the book when she talked about letting the mind wear itself down.

    Maybe I've really got the wrong idea here, but it does not seem wrong. Then again over intellectualizing any of this stuff is dicey territory. I'm coming to prefer just doing the practice. . .or should I say letting the practice do me. :idea:

  14. #14
    I've had a "vision" or two during zazen. Most of what I've read has suggested that these visions/insights should be released like any other thought, if only because (whether these experiences are genuine or not) the danger exists that one will cling to such a dramatic (and suspicious) moment as somehow more significant than the rest of what we learn in our practice.

    "Practice is not 'special visions,'" I suppose is what I mean to say. :wink:

  15. #15
    My vision gets all blurry sometimes when i don't blink for a while - does that count? Maybe that's my "special power" :wink:

    Paige, I found reading ahead quite useful. Like Kenneth, I read (almost) the whole book before we started, but that's mainly because I didn't realize we were going to have a schedule. I saw a note about starting the book discussion in two weeks, so i got the book and tried to finish it before those two weeks.

    I found it quite useful as now when I reread sections I have a better understanding of Joko's voice, and it's easier to figure out what the heck she's talking about (or at least have a rough idea). I don't think it's cheating, but if you're concerned we could appeal to His Royal Enlightenedness who seems to be an Authority around here :wink:

    gassho, cd

  16. #16
    Hi Justin,

    Yeah, I think just about anyone who practises meditation for any real length of time will have a 'paranormal' experience or two.

    Regardless of whether they are "real" or artifacts of the mind, I'm told by my teachers that they're really nothing special or unusual.

    Interestingly (or not), it always seems to happen that, after I experience some kind of "special state" in zazen, for the rest of the week I spend every session with a Ramones song (or songs from the Muppet Show - did I mention my sister's kids were visiting?) stuck in my head.

    Really, there's no experience like realising 45 minutes into a sitting at a Ch'an temple that you've been humming "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" under your breath for who knows how long. ops:

  17. #17
    Here's what Dogen Zenji has to say about 'spiritual powers'. Gotta love it. :P

    A Demonstration of the Six Spiritual Powers
    195. Dharma Hall Discourse

    A capable master must be endowed with the six spiritual powers. The first is the power to go anywhere; second is the power to hear anywhere; third is the power to know others' minds; fourth is the power to know previous lives; fifth is the power to see everywhere; sixth is the power to extinguish outflows [attachments].

    Everyone, do you want to see the power to go anywhere?
    The teacher Dogen raised his fist.

    Do you want to see the power to know others' minds?
    Dogen let one of his legs hang down from his seat.

    Do you want to see the power of hearing everywhere?
    Dogen snapped his fingers once.

    Do you want to see the power of knowing previous lives?
    Dogen raised his whisk.

    Do you want to see the power of seeing everywhere?
    Dogen drew a circle in the air with his whisk.

    Do you want to see the power of extinguishing outflows?
    Dogen drew a single horizontal linek [the character for 'one'] with his whisk and said: Although this is so, ultimately, six times six is thirty-six.*

    * 'Six times six is thirty-six' is simple, like 'one plus one equals two.' So this could be understood as saying that spiritual powers are simple, everyday matters. But 'six times six is thirty-six' also implies many powers beyond just six, indicating that there are not just thirty-six but innumerable spiritual powers. (Leighton & Okumura)

    -- Eihei Koroku, translated by Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by cdshrack
    I don't think it's cheating, but if you're concerned we could appeal to His Royal Enlightenedness who seems to be an Authority around here :wink:

    gassho, cd
    You must confuse me with someone else. Dick Cheney perhaps.

    G, J

  19. #19
    for the rest of the week I spend every session with a Ramones song (or songs from the Muppet Show - did I mention my sister's kids were visiting?) stuck in my head.
    Haha Paige, I sat this morning with "Blitzkrieg Bop" stuck in my head.

  20. #20
    Heh, I love y'alls sense of humour. Thanks muchly.

    And thank you Jundo for keeping on top of the spam. If there's one thing that practice is not, it's "Cheap cialis online!!" :roll:

  21. #21
    Hi Guys,

    I looked closely at the paragraph regarding "special powers", and Joko's claimed ability to see "what was being served for dinner two doors away." I don't think that she is implying very much in that section, or that it is much of an ability even so. If I have had any similar experience over the years, it would have to have been a very heightened sense of hearing during one Sesshin in which every pin drop in the room seemed like a metal girder being dropped down the stairs (I exaggerate a little bit, but you get the point). I could hear individual crickets in a chorus, the building settling, all kinds of things that I had otherwise ignored. Another time (or three) I saw the normal colors of objects so vibrantly that I felt like I had stepped into an animation. I also think that, over the years, I became slowly better at noticing people's facial expressions, small gestures and body language during conversations and the like ... a kind of mind reading without any special psychic ability.

    In our Zen practice (facing the wall or floor in a quiet room, quieting the mind), we are experiencing a form of sensory deprivation. We are also learning how to focus the mind, through mindfulness, on surrounding phenomena that we usually ignore (in other words, we learn to notice things in our surrounding environment that our busy minds had overlooked due to distraction). I would not be surprised if Joko's sense of smell became very sensitive because of her practice, and she could "see" in her mind's eye what she was smelling. Something like that.

    Joko seems to imply that she is open minded to the existence of some types of "special powers". Many people are. Myself, I am skeptical due to a lack of evidence regarding most claimed powers (such as ESP, telekinesis and the like. When I attended Duke University many years ago, they had a laboratory to test such things over a couple of decades ... as far as I know, they never found substantial evidence of such powers). However, as I said, I do believe that our practice can lead, naturally, to certain enhanced sensory abilities that are not so mysterious.

    And as Joko rightly points out, they are side effects and small amusements, not the central point of Zazen Practice.

    My talk today on the blog is about all this. Please have a listen if you can.

    There are also links in the comments section to a couple of organizations of scientists who debunk false seers, psychics, gurus claiming powers of levitation and the like. That is worth a look too.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS- Visually impaired individual, I understand, may have a heightened sense of hearing and smell ... in part because the brain is compensating by strengthening those other senses, and in part because of their focusing on data from those other senses more than sighted folks.

  22. #22

    I've re-read the section about Jokos alleged ability a few times, and think that one of the reasons why it struck me as so odd was simply based on the fact that it was written down for everyone to see in a book. Since (to my understanding) most of the material in her book had basically been taken from lectures she had at one point given face-to-face, the impact of such a statement may have been really different at the time of her uttering it. What might appear like an unassuming and rather unimportant remark when spoken to someone face-to-face, can equally appear slightly ridiculous in a different context (like a book). The mere fact that this chapter was so short highlighted the "I can see through walls and/or have telesmellokinetic powers" even more.

    I have heard more than my share of anecdotal evidence relating to ESP and stuff from people who are no new-age-fluff-bunnies, I love Mr. Randi etc. but what it really comes down to for me at the end of the day with regards to Zazen is that practice is definitely not about siddhis....whether they exist in some form or not.



  23. #23
    I suppose that practice is not a lot of things, but at the same time it really encompasses just about everything we do in life. Perhaps, practice had little to do with what we think or what we want. . .and just has more to deal with who we really are and what we do organically.

  24. #24
    When Bankei was preaching at Ryumon temple, a Shinshu priest, who believed in salvation through the repetition of the name of the Buddha of Love, was jealous of his large audience and wanted to debate with him.

    Bankei was in the midst of a talk when the priest appeared, but the fellow made such a disturbance that Bankei stopped his discourse and asked about the noise.

    "The founder of our sect," boasted the priest, "had such miraculous powers that he held a brush in his hand on one bank of the river, his attendant help up a paper on the other bank, and the teacher wrote the holy name of Amida through the air. Can you do such a wonderful thing?"

    Bankei replied lightly: "Perhaps your fox can perform that trick, but that is not the manner of Zen. My miracle is that when I feel hungry I eat, and when I feel thirsty I drink."
    from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki

  25. #25
    I'm a little bit behind, and no one's probably going to read this, but so what?

    Regarding this:

    A group of us went out for tea following my weekly group sit on Wednesday. One lady said that she'd been "practising for years, but had never had a successful meditation."

    I said that I thought practising for years was a success in itself. She said that was a nice thing to say, but untrue.
    I find that interesting, in part because we've probably all been there, but in part because it shows that this person, while practicing for a long time, hasn't learned anything. It also suggests that she either doesn't have a teacher, or her teacher is not very competant. Sitting for years and still thinking about whether meditation is successful is a sign that the person is essentially on the wrong path. (IMHO)


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