Monday, July 10, 2006

if only I can make a perfect rakusu...

I've always been wary of adhering to any sort of belief system, but I've found little in Soto Zen to object to on that front. For me it's more about releasing attachment to beliefs than gaining new ones. I do wonder though whether some of the people I practice with are attached to the trappings of the practice - the ceremonies, the wearing of kimonos and kesas, the chanting in archaic Sino-Japanese. I wonder if they will eventually burn the raft of the dharma in order to achieve greater liberation or whether they will float around in circles anchored to the Buddha.

I just go there to sit. The only time I wore a kimono was on an occasion when I was asked to lead a sitting - it seemed inappropriate not too. I do see usefulness in ritual acts in terms of mindfulness though. And I am sewing a rakusu.

However, I wonder whether this rakusu is just another useless attachment. When it is complete I don't know whether I will get ordained in it, give it away or destroy it. What would lead to the least attachment, bearing in mind that rejection is a form of attachment too? It's a sort of 'koan' for me right now. I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. So I'm just focussing of practicing detachment - I'll just see what I do.

It seems possible to wear robes etc without attachment. For myself I wonder if it creates a sense of separation between ordinary life and spiritual life.

I question the motivation for wanting to wear a special costume enough that I would make substantial efforts to own one. Is it that we want to belong? Or feel holy? I know people I practice with who seem very attached to their rakusus and kesas - not at all surprising when they painstakingly stitched them by hand. They get ever so upset if they get dirty? Am I not creating one more thing to cling to ? More conditions for freedom and happiness?

I see the Believers of other religions around me practicing similar things to Zen. Are they doing it because it is a raft to take them to enlightenment? All of them? And we see similar things with ideologies of all sorts. They all have their rationalisations for while such things are needed. Maybe it has more to do with a sense of belonging to something 'special' and 'sacred'? Maybe it has everything to do with social psychology and nothing to do with the furtherment of enlightenment. I don't know. Maybe it can be both.

What this is really about deep down is this: I have a fear of having my mind melted by religious indoctrination. This isn't something I associate with zazen (which is a good anti-BS tool) but with religious trappings and beliefs - even the minimal ones of Zen. I practice Zen in part because it is so minimal in this regard, but it is there nevertheless.

'Fear' is a bit strong, but I have a slight anxiety that by accepting the uniform of a faith I am discouraging myself from testing for myself, thinking for myself and replacing that with conformity to doctrine and blind (or at least only partially sighted) faith. Zen is gooood....Zen is gooood...Zen is the solution to all problems...if only I can make a perfect kesa... Within Zen I believe this is sometimes called 'Zen sickness'.

Here is a fairly extreme attitude of importance attached to religious trappings in Soto Zen. I suspect that this attitude has a more to do with protecting and furthering Zen as a social institution than it has to do with individual awakening.

Not just a garment, the kesa itself is zazen. It is the robe of zazen and the robe of true Zen practice. Since the time of Shakyamuni, all of the masters of the transmission received, respected, wore, taught and passed on the kesa. Like zazen, it is nothing mysterious or mystical, but a natural part of our daily practice.

Some might say the kesa is not really important: "It's a formalism, unnecessary, zazen alone is enough, I don't need to wear it." And of course someone can do zazen without a kesa, it is not absolutely necessary. But without the kesa, zazen becomes only a method of body-mind training, not a true religion. For those who seek the Way, the kesa has a great value.

Wearing the kesa and doing zazen, unconsciously, naturally, automatically, we can receive the great merits of the true Way. Anyone can wear the kesa, and whether it be the grand kesa or the rakusu (mini-kesa), the merits are the same. It protects us as it protects the Way itself.


Comments? Advice? Anecdotes?

42 Comments:

At July 10, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

This is a good honest post.

The obvious anecdote is that in building a raft you do not then take it with you once you reach the far shore.

I wrote about this whole issue in my recent blog entry Fear of Freedom

I would say that your approach looks healthy. If you feel that your practice warrants doing something and you can see no mental justification for doing it then by all means go ahead and do it. I do not see in what you write any attachment to practice, merely practice. There is as you know a whole world of difference between the two.

For my own practice I mostly do not know why it is that I do what I do until sometime after I have done it - because I work from intuition.

So, if you feel the need to sew. By all means sew. Maybe for you it is a holy act a way of externalising your internal committment. There could be many reasons for doing it at this time. There might come a time when that same cloth is used to wash the car.

If you question your motivation and find none then I would suggest that your motiviation is for now correct.

 
At July 10, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

I hear ya. An issue that I'm starting to get a little sensitive about is political correctness. I've been thinking of sitting with another group of people who just seem more genuine. The sangha I sit with now is a great bunch of people, but a few of them seem like they're putting on a show (not the teacher, she's great). Lately sometimes I feel like I have a hard time being genuine with them myself, like I don't want to mess up the pretty little world they've created in their heads. And sometimes I feel like I'm still putting on a show myself. I want to learn to stop doing that. So I'm starting to think that once I've completed the commitments I've made with the current group (through August) it's time I sat with another group. People who will notice when I'm full of shit and... uh, bring it to my attention. :-) I'm lucky I have a choice. I haven't talked with my teacher about this yet, but I'm sure she'll understand, she knows most of the people in the other group too.

 
At July 10, 2006, Blogger Dan said...

i've read that the original kesas were made out of used sanitary towels. can you imagine?

i dont wear a kesa when i sit but i do wear all black cos of the practical reason that, if like me you sit with your eyes open, subdued colours are much less distracting in your peripheral vision. that's why i think, from a practical point of view, the kesa is a good idea too. it disguises the form of your body so it's kind of one less thing to notice. it makes it less personal as in it helps break down the subject object distinction maybe since your own body, disguised by the kesa, is not in view.

i think a little bit of formality is ok and again wearing a kesa to sit zazen adds that element of formality. you're more likely to take it seriously (wrong word more like sincerely) if you're wearing the same robe as the buddha wore.

if i ever get round to sewing a kesa mine's gonna be made out of tampax though none of this silk nonsense. :¬)

 
At July 10, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

"Lately sometimes I feel like I have a hard time being genuine with them myself, like I don't want to mess up the pretty little world they've created in their heads"

I've had the same issue myself recently with the group I attend. I took two weeks out in part to think about it.

Most of the time I remain quiet and am quite happy to let people believe whatever they want to believe and that it is none of my business.

In one discussion however, their beliefs and then consequent actions had caused suffering to themselves and another being. I waded into that discussion with my own understanding of Dharma and Karma. I did however wade in quite strongly. It was all mindfully done and in the momement but it was still strongly done. After contemplation I was comfortable that it was the right thing to do.

So, mostly I keep my views to myself, but sometimes I do speak - but only spontaneously.

I don't expect to find any group who is 100% genuine but I can at least be genuine myself. The biggest issue I had to address with this incident was that being genuine meant sometimes behaving in a way that people might not like.

Anyway, I've made committments to this group to attend a weekend retreat but beyond that I don't know how much I will be attending in the future.

Whatever I decide (and it will be probably day by day rather than definitive) I wont be consulting anyone over it.

 
At July 11, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

Sacred robes made of used Tampax - imagine that... actually its pretty 'Zen'.

Jules,

When I first got involved with Buddhism as an undergrad I found some of the group to be over-nice and I felt a pressure to be 'nice' and 'insincerely sincere'. It put me off-balance and made me feel vulnerable.

I don't feel that with my current Soto Zen group at all, although I do know myself better now and wouldn't make that mistake. Maybe three years back I went along to a Community of Interbeing/Thich Nhat Hahn group (like you go to as I recall) and I caught myself doing it again. They were lovely people but there seemed to be a pressure to be 'nice' - not a deliberate pressure, it was just a temptation caused by the emphasis of the practice. Anyway, I caught myself being nice at a time when I should have been assertive. And it took a bit of reflection to figure out.

Doing the right thing, the compassionate thing, is not the same as being 'nice' - some times you have to be tough and you should be be compassionate to yourself too not a martyr.

 
At July 11, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

Thanks for the advice. I sat with my usual group again last night (yes, Thich Nhat Hanh's school), and came away refreshed and optimistic about the sangha again. But the other group seems very genuine and down-to-earth (from the few people I've met), and that's the direction I want to go.

They were lovely people but there seemed to be a pressure to be 'nice' - not a deliberate pressure, it was just a temptation caused by the emphasis of the practice.

Yeah, that's it exactly.

 
At July 11, 2006, Blogger flecktones said...

Wearing a Kesa seems like a good thing to do. Although all the time spent preparing it, and comntemplating whether to use it could be used for zazen. Are you making a big deal about nothing? If you are only sitting a couple times a week and wearing these beautiful robes, it reminds me of "40 year old Virgin" when he lights all the candles and uber-prepares to have a wank. You said that when you sit, you sit for an hour at a time. That is very impressive, but seems like you've really built up the practice (zazen on a pedestal :-) This may be holding you back from regular practice, because its been built up so much to sit.
For me, I started practicing 5 minutes in the morning, and 5 minutes at night...an amount of time every human being on earth can afford. 5 gradually turned into 10, and 10 to 15 etc... Anyhow I hope I got my point across clearly, and wish everyone the best in their practice.
Fleck

 
At July 11, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

Here we go with more tales of chicken-raising (who has the biggest rooster, whose hens sit the longest...)

If you want to chide people for wasting time, I imagine this time spent blogging could be better spent. Not doing even more zazen. Maybe taking the dog for a walk or buying the wife flowers or finding a girlfriend (or boyfriend) or something. Some people use zazen as a way to run away from life, instead of learning to face it and engage with it.

Um... when I'm talking about the wife and the girlfriend, I mean, some people here have wives or husbands, and others have (or don't have) girlfriends or boyfriends. Hopefully the wives belong to different people than the girlfriends, right?. I'm just making it seem worse by explaining, aren't I? I'll just shut up now. :-)

 
At July 11, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

Although all the time spent preparing it, and comntemplating whether to use it could be used for zazen. Are you making a big deal about nothing?

In one sense I am making a big deal about nothing, but it is really about detachment and equinamity which is important.

If you are only sitting a couple times a week and wearing these beautiful robes, it reminds me of "40 year old Virgin" when he lights all the candles and uber-prepares to have a wank.

Hmm...slightly offensive comparison? But maybe not so far from the truth. Can Zen trappings become almost fetishistic (in the non-sexual sense, obsessive)? Like I said, I don't wear robes among other reasons because I don't want to make it too special and separate.

You said that when you sit, you sit for an hour at a time. That is very impressive, but seems like you've really built up the practice (zazen on a pedestal :-) This may be holding you back from regular practice, because its been built up so much to sit.

I sit for an hour because the group sits for an hour. On my own I usually sit for 20mins - half an hour. I find that my mind doesn't settle doesn't settle properly in the first few minutes.

 
At July 11, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

On reflection, what I think I may do is avoid wearing a rakusu (and thus ordination) until I can wear it without attachment or rejection.

 
At July 11, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

Ah ordination is a whole different thing to just sewing. Ordination is saying "I am a 'real' Buddhist rather than a lay-practicioner".

There could be many reasons why you want to do this and most of them will arise from the ego - like you hint it is attachment.

It may be the approriate thing to do I don't know. But you need to ask yourself what it is that you think ordination will give you.

Sitting or breathing (i.e. the most common practices) do not require special clothes or secret teachings, merely time and sincerity.

[I might have a personal bias since I am not ordained or anything. I just don't see the point of buying into any particular set of beliefs and giving any credence to the importance of lineage.

The sangha that I attend has the idea of empowerment ceremonies - someone - a senior teacher says some magic words and that somehow allows you to do meditation practices that you could not do before. It's nuts! It is merely a control mechanism.]

 
At July 12, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

Ah, I was under the impression that the rakusu could only be worn after lay ordination. So, the question or whether to wear that or not is linked to the whole question of ordination too.

Surely ordination is essentially just a public expression of committment?

 
At July 12, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

Ah, I was under the impression that the rakusu could only be worn after lay ordination.
You might be right. I don't know. To me it is a piece of cloth. Wearing it or not may or may not have significance to you.

"Surely ordination is essentially just a public expression of committment?"
It might well be. The question that must then arise is why do you think that such a thing is necessary. Who are you trying to convince?

When you sit at home, no-one knows how often you sit or for how long, but you still sit and the effect is the same.

 
At July 12, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

I found this here. It explains it.

I see people wearing bib-like garments around their necks, what are they?
The rakusu is a miniature ‘buddha robe’ and signifies that the wearer has taken refuge and a vow to follow the Bodhisattva precepts (Buddhist ethical guidelines). Typically, the wearer has practiced for a year or so with the teacher and community, and studied the precepts, before making the commitment. The commitment ceremony is called “Jukai.”

Some people are wearing more elaborate robes and have bowing cloths. What does that mean?
The novices who wear the traditional Soto robes are training to serve as priests. These are practitioners who over the course of practice feel that they wish to take on the role and appearance of a caretaker of the Zendo and its community. Being a novice or a priest indicates nothing about a person’s spiritual insight, seniority, or position in the community. The majority of advanced practitioners at the Zendo are not ordained.

 
At July 12, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

It's not a matter of trying to convince anyone. The purpose of an ordination ceremony, like the purpose of a marriage ceremony, is to make a commitment to follow a difficult path in front of your community. The role of the community is to help you stay on the difficult path, and their presence over the years will remind you of the vows you chose to make. They will provide support when you're having trouble. The reason the ceremony exists is because almost everyone has serious trouble staying on the path at some point. Again, like a marriage.

 
At July 12, 2006, Blogger Dan said...

that's interesting that it said that being a priest indicates nothing about a person's 'spiritual insight'. i always thought that you couldnt choose to be a priest. it was a decision made by the head person (the nishijima figure) based on his/her evaluation of the students' progress. isnt that the whole point of dharma transmission? it doesnt make sense if anyone can just choose to be ordained based on their own personal whims does it?

 
At July 12, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

jules:

OK, so it seems that the thing that is important to you is the commitment and the rakusa is a merely a sign of that.

With the marriage analogy, some people get married to show commitment, some so that they can have a wedding, some so that they can wear a ring, some so that they can stay in the country and so on.

In the Sangha I attend the custom is that monks/nuns wear robes all the time and lay practicioners (who have taken some vows) wear everyday clothing.

I know other groups where monks will wear the robes only for sitting and not during the day.

Would it be fair to say that in your group you have some people in full robes, some people with rakusas and some people (newbies) with nothing?

If that is the case then obviously one danger is that a hierarchy of smugness can develop.

Fundamentally, if you want to make a commitment then by all means do so. If you want to just dress up and be part of the in-crowd then again, by all means feel free.

The only thing that really matters I think is that you are honest with yourself about your motivation for what you choose to do.

There is I think no point in Buddhism in starting out with anything but total honesty with yourself since that is the inevitable goal anyway.

I haven't taken such vows myself, but that doesn't mean that I think such things are either good or bad. Instead, for me at this time I feel that taking vows would be artificial for me - but I made strong commitments to the Christian faith in the past and here I am now.....

Likewise, I was married in the past but don't expect to be able to remarry and take the vows sincerely.

For some people taking the vows would be a help and for others a hindrance - and it is not for me to say which group anyone might fall into; it is their call.

 
At July 12, 2006, Blogger Anatman said...

My guess is that if you are concerned about something being an attachment, then it probably is.

 
At July 12, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

Mikedoe:

The only thing that really matters I think is that you are honest with yourself about your motivation for what you choose to do.

There is I think no point in Buddhism in starting out with anything but total honesty with yourself since that is the inevitable goal anyway.


Absolutely!

I haven't taken such vows myself, but that doesn't mean that I think such things are either good or bad. Instead, for me at this time I feel that taking vows would be artificial for me - but I made strong commitments to the Christian faith in the past and here I am now.....

Likewise, I was married in the past but don't expect to be able to remarry and take the vows sincerely.


Yeah. I know exactly what you mean. I have been on the edge of divorce for months now, sometimes things seem better, sometimes worse. I have thought a lot about the whole institution of marriage, whether it makes sense at all. Whether there's any point in making vows when the people making the vows become different people as time goes by.

I don't have any real answers yet, but I think there probably is a good reason why traditions involving making vows have survived for thousands of years, because people find them useful as tools for personal growth.

I know exactly what you mean though. You make a promise to yourself, and then later you break it... what was the point? I've done that to myself a million times.

Perfect example: about a month ago I started smoking again. I quit again yesterday, so I'm a little twitchy right now. The only thing keeping me from running to the convenience store next door right now is that I made a promise to myself. In order to be successful, I have to forget about the million times that I broke my promise to quit smoking.

I have to remember that I'm keeping my promises right now. I can trust myself right now. That vow is valuable right now. One day at a time, as the AA guys and gals say. After something as difficult as a divorce, if that should happen, I think it will be really hard to learn to trust myself again, to believe that my own promises can be valuable again, to let go of the broken promises of the past.

I've often thought that after a divorce, it would be a lot easier to just hole up somewhere and just lead a simple, single life. But I think I'd probably wind up with a family again eventually. I'd rather have all the hard work and ups and downs of family life than a nice easy boring single life.

 
At July 12, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

Would it be fair to say that in your group you have some people in full robes, some people with rakusas and some people (newbies) with nothing?

If that is the case then obviously one danger is that a hierarchy of smugness can develop.


In our tradition, the only special clothing I'm aware of is monastic ordinees get a brown cloth jacket. I've taken lay ordination vows (and some days I've been a lot better at living up to them than others), but I don't have a rakusa.

Anyway, I think the "hierarchy of smugness" is always a danger, whether you have special robes, bibs, and haircuts, or just a perception of seniority and a holier-than-thou attitude. Two out of three churches/mosques/temples of any faith can probably provide examples. :-)

 
At July 12, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

jules:
"I have to remember that I'm keeping my promises right now. I can trust myself right now. That vow is valuable right now"

This is the one thing that I hesitated in saying to you.

I think that really, like much of Dharma, the Vows are expedient means. They are a way of setting a framework that provides a path and a method of training.

When you follow the vows naturally then you are no longer following the vows but living - but it would be difficult for an outsider to tell the difference.

Going with your smoking analogy a vow is necessary initially to go through the pain of withdrawal. After some time the vow is academic - you are no longer keeping the vow, it keeps itself.

With the marriage thing the vows act as a glue to help through the rough patches rather than the smooth patches.

The only danger that I see with vows [in Buddhism] is that they can act as a trap wherby you can find ways to load yourself up with either guilt or smugness depending on your behaviour.

I'd also cautiously agree with anatman, if you are concerned about attachment then there probably is some. When there is no attachment there is a sense of arbitrariness and freeness and lightness to the action.

So, if you were just enjoying the act of sewing itself then that would suggest non-attachment. If you whilst sewing were thinking of things relating to what wearing it means that might suggest attachment.

I have to use words like suggest and might because actions and thoughts do not have to correlate with attachment. Two people can do the same things - one with attachment and one without.

From what you write I think you know your own mind, you maybe just need a bit more courage to accept what you see.

As for the smoking thing, well last christmas for the fist time ever I mindfully took a very big inhale of a cigarette and felt everything that it did to my body. Boy could I see where the addiction arises. There was the instant desire there for another inhale - and only a panicked smoker stopped it. I haven't done another one since, but I sometimes still feel the tug when I see someone else smoking. I counter it with the negatives...

 
At July 12, 2006, Blogger Kalsang Dorje said...

Guys! Really, it's just a piece of cloth!

 
At July 13, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

kalsang dorje:
If it was JUST a piece of cloth then it would not have a special name and symbolic status.

To some it will be just a piece of cloth and others it will not.

If I went to a Soto group dressed in a full Kesa then everyone would think that I was a monk. If I were to say thatI was just in fact dressing up I suspect some would have a sense-of-humour failure.

The same would also be true of the Sangha that I attend if I dressed up in either Soto robes or this Sangha's robes

 
At July 14, 2006, Blogger Kalsang Dorje said...

I still maintain that it's just a piece of cloth.

The rest of the story that goes on around the cloth exists in mind. But right now, if you go see your potential kesa, whether finished or not, it's just cloth, nothing more.

 
At July 14, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

Well yes and maybe a reminder is helpful, but what you said is obvious. The piece of cloth has no inherent meaning - it only has what meaning we give it. However, the point is that the Soto Zen community do give it a lot of meaning and I've been considering the best way to approach these bits-of-cloth-bestowed-with-meaning while avoiding attachment and rejection.

 
At July 14, 2006, Blogger Dan said...

its kind of like saying money is just bits of paper.... literally true but doesnt really add anything to an understanding of why money is valued etc.

 
At July 14, 2006, Blogger gniz said...

I believe (oh no, don't say you have beliefs) that Kalsang is playing the part of the prototypical PC Zenbot here.
"It's just cloth, the rest is in our minds."
I liked the tone of the discussion before. It was a good honest post as Mike Doe pointed out, answered with some good, honest responses until that point.
There are actually a handful of seriously thoughtful people on these blogs. Although I tend to be dismissive I faithfully read Mikedoe's blog, have read some of Jules blog, etc.
Its nice that there are indeed some folks trying to be more aware and not just subscribing to the bullshit.
I think I have been brainwashed in the past to say or think things such as "its all just cloth" or "money has no meaning but what we give it."
Those trite sayings dont help anyone.
Of course, nothing anyone says helps anyone for the most part.
Being aware helps...but just ourselves...which is enough for now.

Aaron

PS Yes I am aware that paying attention and helping myself could help others indirectly.

 
At July 14, 2006, Blogger me said...

I don't know... I like the comment about it being just a piece of cloth. And I particularly like the idea of fooling a bunch of zennies by showing up with a kesa you didn't "earn" just for fun... it reminds me of Andy Kaufmann - his sense of humor cut through everyone's preconceptions. He pulled the rug out from under people.

Lots of old zen stories are about masters trying to break students out of rigid thinking patterns so they can think for themselves rather than rely on a structure of rigid responses.

We can spend all day speaking and behaving in cliches - saying the usual "hellos, how's it going?" etc. Tons of crap that we've said and heard a million times before - all appropriate for the situation. But then someone like Andy Kaufmann comes along, or a real zen master, and the rules are out the window. Suddenly, instead of having a reliable program of behaviors and phrases we are left in the lurch wondering how to respond. THAT forces one into reality and out of a dream-like automatic response state.

Give me more Andy Kaufmann's! Don't sew the cloth in the usual way so you can fit in. Sew it with some originality. Sew it to provoke or otherwise help others wake up. We're not trying to become, as gniz points out, brainwashed parrots.

 
At July 14, 2006, Blogger me said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At July 15, 2006, Blogger gniz said...

The reason I took issue with the "its just a piece of cloth" comment is cuz--well, i'm an idiot...you all know that by now.

But also, because its too easy to say stuff like that. Oh, and for that matter, a "chair" is actually just a composition of materials, there is no real "chair" there at all...!
Yeah, tell me a new one.
Sure, its nice to hear and say stuff like that, about things not having meaning or not being what they appear to be.
The problem with those kinds of statements are that most of the people saying them and listening to them are merely "parroting" ideas and not living those truths.
As far as attachment, non-attachment, right thinking, all of these things that Buddhists are striving to live up to--rather than puzzling out every emotional attachment, just continue paying attention.
Again, saying "pay attention" sounds cliche. The problem is, i am willing to bet that most of us dont do it much. The biggest attachments I have are related to dreaming and avoiding the moment.
When I can deal with that attachment, I'll tackle the others.

Aaron

 
At July 17, 2006, Blogger Kalsang Dorje said...

I realize the cloth statement is rather trite. The thing is that when we don't recognize what is actually in front of us, we are prone to fantasy (good and bad kinds). The post seemed to be agonizing over the stuff we create in mind about certain items and the specialness we give them. Pointing this out to a practitoner is probably more kind than just letting them spin that wheel. Yes, 'pay attention' and 'it is thus' is a bit overdone but when I regard these ideas as trite I know I'm shifting to a more samsaric way of thinking. Even reacting to the further comments on my post may be wrong action. Perhaps I should have said nothing.

To some extent some of these ideas are just parroting from my end, but I feel if they are added to my habitual personality, eventually after telling them to myself a thousand times, they will come to light.

 
At July 18, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

kalsang dorje:
It is not so obvious on the internet, but in the real world I have found that there is a huge difference between someone who is parroting a thing and someone who understands it from their own practice.

In this situation, for this post I kindoff assumed that it was a given that Jules and others here would assume that we accept the two truths simultaneously that it is both a cloth and had symbolic status.

The issue as I understand it was whether or not Jules had attachment to the symbolic status and therefore by sewing and wearing it (and taking the requisite vows) would increase both attachment and pride.

If there was no attachment - ie "this represents where I am today so I migt as well wear the cloth" there would have been no question.

Jules wasn't even questioning whether or not his attachment was there he was perhaps more seeking to get to the root of his attachment.

To be honest I do not personally think that parroting an idea in the hope that you will one day believe it is at all useful. You will always sound like a parrot. Gniz used the term Zenbot elsewhere. This is how Zenbots are made.

Instead I would suggest an alternative approach. If you have not yet realised something in your own practice, just accept that fact. Do not try and 'believe' anything and to not try to parrot anything. This will just lead to problems and is a long way from Buddhism.

At it's heart Buddhism is about understanding yourself and reality first-hand. Adding all sorts of beliefs on top of this can just cloud the issue.

I would even go so far as to caution you that rushing too far down the path of 'believing' or parroting things in Buddhism is doing no more than running the risk of creating more delusions for yourself.

There is also the issue that while a person will fight to defend a belief, no-one bothers to fight to defend reality. It would be almost impossible for the two of us to argue over whether or not grass was green - unless one of us had never seen green grass.

Take for example emptiness. As an idea it is hard to grasp and even harder to explain. It is possible to reach a complex intellectual understanding and belief about what emptiness might be and this may actually prevent you experiencing it. The alternative is to be more pragmatic and to choose to hold the idea in a state of skepticism and to meditate openly in a way that will one day lead to tastes of emptiness.

After you have tasted emptiness for yourself firsthand it will then be easy to accept the truth of the teachings in this area and AFTER the event to reach an intellectual understanding of it.

 
At July 18, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

Mikedoe:
Justin posted the original article, not me. The tradition I was ordained in doesn't use rakusas.

 
At July 18, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

Sorry jules. I'm tired. I wasn't paying sufficient attention.

 
At July 18, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

Mike, these are good insights.

Jules' tradition doesn't wear rakusus. They wear parrots and pirate costumes...and chant in Swedish.

 
At July 18, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

Yarr! Bork de bork bork. Not enough pirates in the world today, I'm afeard.

 
At July 19, 2006, Blogger Kalsang Dorje said...

Mike,

A good set of points here. There's some points of practice that are less than sharp with me :)

One of them is that quick, one-pointed apprehension of phenomena which proves the dharma in that moment. Being able to let that proof go and allow reality is the next tricky part.

And yet all of this is a very little intellectual process working out my Little Mind with my Little Mind. Valuable but little.

I think you've helped me to find a touch of self-grasping here. My ego doing it's best to assert 'Great Dharma Practitioner' on a self and dumping it on my externalized world. Very tricky stuff my friend.

Thank you all for enduring my obstructions. I hope there was some value for the readers of this post.

 
At July 19, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

kalsang:

"Thank you all for enduring my obstructions. I hope there was some value for the readers of this post"

It was a great help to me. Your comments helped me to more fully understand where Justin might be coming from.

The purpose of Flapping Mouths was so that we can have discussions like this where we can all learn bits of the truth about ourselves and reality and so move each other's practice forward.

 
At July 21, 2006, Blogger Anatman said...

Very helpful, very thoughtful string. Thank you all.

 
At August 18, 2006, Blogger Genryu said...

You analyze too much. You separate yourself from your practice this way, from your life this way. The Rakasu and the Kesa - they symbolize your life, the 'boundless field of benefaction'. It doesn't really matter if it's a shoddy field of benefaction, an insincere field of benefecation or a beautiful field of benefaction. These things have nothing to do with the inherent completeness of your practice. Sewing your Rakasu is learning how to get to the point where you no longer ask even yourself, "How am I doing?". Where you no longer compare yourself to others or your practice to others.

 
At October 31, 2007, Blogger John said...

Ha...so Zen got you to sew!!!!!!!!!!!!
So much for not doing trappings.
You wore a kimono more than once I think.
Let go of letting go.
You already know what to do if you see Buddha.
I fucked up my Rakasu, I made a lot of mistakes. They haunt me every time I put it on, isn't that amazing? Just shut up and sew.

 
At November 17, 2007, Blogger GEORGE ALAN FRAMPTON said...

I know this is an old blog entry, but I just came across it and wanted to comment. What I see is your attachment to a belief, and an aversion to "the raft." Two of the three poisons that the Buddha taught us not to have. Some people need a raft, some don't. When you go to sit, you just sit. If you are going then feeling uncomfortable because of something that you have an aversion to, you've missed the entire point. The 4 Brhma Viharas that the Buddha taught, included Equanimity. If you have that, then they could all be wearing kasa's or clown outfits, it won't matter to you.

 

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