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Thread: 2/15 - Depending on Others is Unstable p.21

  1. #1

    2/15 - Depending on Others is Unstable p.21

    I am depending on everyone to post something for this section ... Don't disappoint me.

    Gassho, Jundo

    P.S. - For a less elegant talk than Uchiyama Roshi's on a related theme, please see our Valentine's Day Sit-a-long ... ... s-day.html

  2. #2

    To start things off, here are a few observations.

    Uchiyama's discussion of identity brings to mind David Riesman's classic study of the American character, The Lonely Crowd, in which he distinguishes between "tradition-directed," "inner-directed," and "outer-directed" personalities. The third of these types is particularly useful to the industrial state. However, in Uchiyama's discussion, I find no mention of the "tradition-directed" personality. That seems a curious omission, especially from a writer steeped in Japanese culture.

    To my ear the rest of this section sounds a tragic note. Uchiyama's image of naked humanity calls to mind Shakespeare's image, in King Lear, of man as a "bare forked animal." Those who are familiar with that play may remember that the aged king, stripped of his pomp and power, has a moment of awakening, in which he realizes his connection to common humanity:

    Poor naked wretches, whereso'er you are,
    That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
    How shall your unhoused heads and unfed sides,
    Your looped and windowed raggedness defend you
    From seasons such as these? Oh, I have ta'en
    Too little care of this. Take physic, pomp,
    Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel
    That thou may'st shake the superflux to them
    And show the heaven's more just.
    (III, iv)



  3. #3
    I have nothing at all to add here except that I very much like Kõdõ Sawaki Roshi's comment: "Zazen is the self doing itself by itself."

  4. #4
    Shiju, great quote! This section also reminded me of Shakespeare:

    All the world's a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players:
    They have their exits and their entrances;
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
    Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
    Last scene of all,
    That ends this strange eventful history,
    Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
    Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

    Being a zen kind of guy, I might add "sans nothing". We all are playing our parts and wearing our costumes (I love Uchiyama's take on "Clothes make the man"). That seems to be unavoidable. Yet we are more than just the part we play. The movie actors I enjoy the most seem to bring something deep within themselves into their characters. Uchiyama might be saying that we should bring our own special uniqueness into our character. Be more than just "of the world" but "in the world".



  5. #5

    I think the message in this chapter is really essential. Joko Beck talked about this in Everyday Zen as well, saying that the only thing we can really depend on is life itself. I'm currently under quite a bit of stress with my job situation, freelancer blues... My Zen practice isn't reducing that stress or causing it to be covered up with something more pleasant, but it is helping me to look it in the face without wincing and to recognize it for what it is. It's just what my life is at this particular point in time. No more, no less.


  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Kenneth
    My Zen practice isn't reducing that stress or causing it to be covered up with something more pleasant, but it is helping me to look it in the face without wincing and to recognize it for what it is. It's just what my life is at this particular point in time. No more, no less.

  7. #7
    What Ken wrote (and Jundo quoted) is a nice illustration of the stability to which Uchiyama often refers. Seeing through the “clothes,” observing what is going on without adding something extra provides stability. There is a foundation – what we are doing in our practice is learning how to know this basis.



  8. #8
    "You feel a hollowness in your life because you have always lived only in relation to other people and things, and haven't been living out your true self"
    That "hollowness" is something I can attest to before I began studying and practicing Buddhism. I cannot say for sure that I have found my "true self" but that hollowness is gone (for the most part).



  9. #9

    Of course our ‘clothes’ aren’t made only of cloth; there are also the clothes of class, status, fame, and wealth, all the clothes of our busy roles and cherished identities. There comes a time when we are stripped naked of all these things.
    I found this section very difficult. I agree with Uchiyama that we do seem to spend our lives comparing ourselves with others. We are so hungry for approval and even get a sense of identity from noticing that we can do some things better than others. He/she is great/the best/a genius/ at ……. And we don’t even question it. People spend years of their lives training so that they can run around a track a few fractions of a second faster than anyone else in the world. But how do we let go of this? Would we then have any motive for trying to accomplish anything? But maybe all our much vaunted human endeavours and accomplishments aren’t as important as we think they are. Why can't we let go of self-promotion and see what really needs to be done to help others?

    Unrestrained competitive urges seem to have got us to a point ( ok, it's a cliche, I know) where we are in danger of destroying the planet. We need to find more harmonious ways of living with nature and with each other and perhaps we can do that best by being more in tune with ourselves. By allowing each ‘self to settle on itself’ we learn to feel more comfortable and contented with ourselves - less envious of others and their wealth and attainments, and therefore with less need to prove anything about ourselves to others. It seems to me that the Native Americans could teach us a lot about that kind of living.

  10. #10
    I am very glad he clarified his title for this section at the very end of it by saying:

    To rely on others in order to know yourself is to be unstable.

    My first thought when I read the title was: yes, it is unstable but utterly necessary. We must learn to rely on others for many reasons, not the least of which is to thoroughly understand our interdependence and the lessons of causation.

    He further clarifies this, again, at the section: to live in isolation in order to validate a self view that is false is folly as much as to live in such a way that your self view is exclusively maintained only by the perceived opinions of, and interactions with, others. Which is very true, but I tend to want to swing between these two modes. :?

    A tangential thing I am still chewing on is the thought that "we die alone." I always wonder about this because it is true in one sense, but when we die we are also an aggregate of our lives. Again, back to the issue of interdependence, we have not lived in a vaccum. We have continually interacted with others our who lives. Each interaction has been an opportunity for the development of our practice, an opportunity to grasp or let go, an opportunity to do harm, to do good, to practice neutrality. So, don't those other people who have provided those opportunities die right along side us no matter if they are family or that beggar you passed once on the streets of San Francisco who asked you for a quarter and whom you turned away from? Anyway, that's probably esoteric and I'm wandering into the realm of karmic entanglements, so just bleep over all that cuz it's probably way off topic.... :roll:

    In Gassho~

  11. #11
    I don't have much to add other than I enjoyed the clothing simile. It works on so many levels. Whatever wardrobe we amass, however we combine the outfits, it is all derived from the exterior and in someone else's vision.


  12. #12

    Depending on other is unstable

    It has always worried me that when I have read or heard that "we are all one" I still feel separate - even from people I consider myself close to.
    Am I understanding Uchiyama correctly when I think he is telling us that we are actually each living our own unique life experience, and the "oneness" is in fact where Universal Self is living freshly through each one of us, but our experience of that, moment by moment, is ours alone?

  13. #13
    Hi Jenny,

    Boy, that's a real "Just go sit with that" question if I ever heard one!

    So, just go sit with that. I mean, you could say it like you said it. Just don't get too caught up in ideas of it. Cause, otherwise, it is like me trying to summarize the reality of Jenny with just some label and idea called "Jenny", when the truth of Jenny is richer, deeper and more vibrant that any name or label can capture. Got my point? "Jenny" is much more than just an idea in my brain, a name I attach to it and a snapshot image in my wallet. Concepts like "Universal Self" are much the same.

    So, go sit with that.

    Gassho, Jundo

  14. #14
    "Did it ever occur to you that this feeling of dissatisfaction or emptiness might be caused by your searching for the value, the basis, or recognition of your existence only in things outside yourself, such as in your property, or in work, or in your reputation?"
    p. 22.

    This is me. I think most of my problems stem from looking outside of myself for justification or recognition. It is a scheme that has gotten me far. I have a great job, I am liked at work, I'm offered more gigs than I can take, etc. But, because all of those things are external, I'm not sure how to behave simply for myself. I see, however, that when I am on the zafu, that is the only time where I am being/doing for myself alone. Pretty cool . . . I had realized this before, but the directness of Uchiyama's language made it particularly poignant to me.
    I also appreciated the careful wording he used that didn't condemn living in the real world (where we do have to rely on others) but that it is ultimately unreliable. I can rely on others for help in everyday matters, but the big issues (happiness, satisfaction, etc.) are found internally.


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