Sunday, March 25, 2007

Suffering

Suffering is, quite simply, the sense that things should be other than they are.

That's all that suffering is, plain and simple.

If there is a genuine acceptance the way things are, then there is no suffering. In its place is what some Christians call "the peace that passeth understanding." It is not a "peace" where one is always placid, non-reactive, calm. That's more like brain-dead. :-))

There will still be emotional states. Anger, joy, lust, grief, laughter, jealousy, sorrow, affection, distrust, calmness...any emotion can arise. But the emotion itself is not equated with suffering.

Suffering is born when a belief is held (a thought is invested in) that is in conflict with Reality, with the way things are.


If there is an acceptance of what is, then there is no problem with any emotion. It arises, stays for awhile, and recedes. Like the tides. Some emotions will be pleasant, others, unpleasant. It's simply how it manifests in phenomenality.

Reading these words, there may be the thought, "That sounds great! How can I get that?" The fact is, you can't. You have absolutely no power whatsoever to invoke any state of being. If you did, you'd elect to be happy all the time. You'd think only pleasant thoughts. You'd feel just the nice emotions.

But you are not in control. While "doing" may occur through the bodymind mechanism you are identified with, you are not the author of any of its doings. The good news is that there is, at least, the potential for an acceptance of what is to be seen and lived. You'll just have to wait and see how things turn out.

So there may be the thought: "What good is that teaching?!? Grrrrrr......" and I must admit, on first blush, it does not appear to have any direct usefulness at all. But it has the potential to lead to something. Everything has the potential, actually. The list of practices is long and includes meditation, prayer, The Work (a particularly effective tool for deconstructing thought), ... even interactions, dialogues such as these may have an effect, an impact. Working with one or more truly interested people, talking, inquiring, examining long-entrenched beliefs, can, for some bodymind mechanisms, loosen the sense of entification and lead to an acceptance of what is.

There is the possibility, not the guarantee. As Krishnamurti says, "Then perhaps, if you are lucky, the window will open and the breeze will come in. Or it may not. It depends on the state of your mind." (David Bohm, the noted quantum physicist, who spent decades working with Krishnamurti, codified this process into something he called a "Dialogue Group" which is loosely described as "a group of people exploring the individual and collective presuppositions, ideas, beliefs, and feelings that subtly control their interactions.)

The most honest suggestion is for you to do whatever you feel compelled to do, with as peaceful a mind and as serene a heart as is possible, trusting that whatever is...is what is meant to be and could not have come into being without the convergence of the entire universe (what is sometimes alternately referred to as Consciousness, God, Totality, Source, the Buddha-Nature).

66 Comments:

At March 25, 2007, Blogger MikeDoe said...

Last night I was camping out in the wilderness. It's still winter in the UK and I had deliberately taken a less warm sleeping bag than I thought I needed with the hope that my clothing would be sufficient. I spent most of the night feeling quite cold and uncomfortable with the wind blowing against my face through the small vent in my bivy bag. As I lay there shivering from time to time I wondered to myself if this was 'pleasant' or 'unpleasant' or if I was 'suffering' or not.

I didn't come up with an answer. I was cold but it was my choice and I knew that it could happen. I was still safe. I could have safely walked back to the car within 3 hours. Being cold was to me as much a part of the experience as if I had been warm. I wanted to be out there at night in the wilderness and experience the weather. If I was not interested in the weather I would have taken a tent and a 5-season sleeping bag. I would have been guaranteed a warm and comfortable night but less of an outdoors experience.

Being out like this I could watch the lights of the nearest major town in the distance until the fog moved in.

Nearby there was a pheasant nesting less than 50 yards from me. I heard it settle down for the night (they cackle as they settle) and I heard it cackle when it woke up with the dawn.

The night was a reminder to me that suffering is the reaction that arises when I wish for reality to be other than it is. It is the disharmony between dreams and reality.

The end of suffering is not so much acceptance it is more a lack of an emotional reaction to the reality that presents itself.

The difference is that acceptance implies an act whether conscious or not whereas a lack of reaction does not require any action.

You can practice letting go of suffering by noting your reactions to events and then letting go of those reactions.

 
At March 25, 2007, Blogger Jinzang said...

The wish that things be different than they are is one kind of suffering. There are also others, including plain old physical pain.

The Buddhist point of view is that suffering is caused by ignorance. There is something that needs to be seen and meditation is the way to see it. (Which basically means to shut up and pay attention until the way you thinks things ae is shown to be false.) Submission to fate may have its good points (it's the old idea of karma yoga) but I think it falls short of resolving our basic problem.

 
At March 25, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

The wish that things be different than they are is one kind of suffering. There are also others, including plain old physical pain.


No. Physical pain, in and of itself, is not suffering. The actual pain itself is pure, crisp, clean, like a finely-honed knife-edge. Thoughts about the physical pain may, however, be akin to suffering. The pain itself is......innocent.


The Buddhist point of view is that suffering is caused by ignorance. There is something that needs to be seen and meditation is the way to see it.

I would not dispute that (although I would suggest that meditation is not the only way to see the truth of Buddhist - and other nondual - teachings).

OK. Now let's take what you state above and pair it with your initial assertion that physical pain is a kind of suffering.

Please explain how physical pain (aka suffering in your words), is "caused by ignorance." If there is physical pain, what is it that "needs to be seen" and how does meditation allow it to be seen?


Submission to fate may have its good points (it's the old idea of karma yoga) but I think it falls short of resolving our basic problem.


Which is?

I never used the word "fate" and was not suggesting submission to anything let alone pointing to karma yoga (which literally means union through action, and which contains mounds of silliness, such as its basic premise that one can attain "salvation" by performing one's duties in an unselfish manner for the pleasure of the Supreme. These kinds of notions simply reinforce the basic premise that there is an "I" which can attain "salvation.")

Now if one is going to believe such things, then that is what will happen. It's no one's fault and it isn't "wrong." No one is responsible for what they believe (or don't believe). It is just...misguided. But that too is part of Totality.

 
At March 25, 2007, Blogger karen said...

I agree that suffering is the result of wanting things to be other than they are. As regards physical pain, suffering is what we add to the "thought" of the physical pain that is or is to come.

 
At March 26, 2007, Blogger Jinzang said...

Well, the one thing I know about pain is that it hurts. It sounds to me like you're whistling past the graveyard.

I think you've read a lot about enlightenment and thought a lot about it. All of which is good. But it's not enough. I think it falls short of resolving our basic problem.

Which is?

You have to see what it is.

 
At March 26, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Well, the one thing I know about pain is that it hurts.

Yep. And hurting often sucks!

It sounds to me like you're whistling past the graveyard.

I whistle whenever I can, graveyard or not. :-) But truly, it doesn't sound like anything...until thought puts its particular spin on the sqiggles on a pc screen.


I think you've read a lot about enlightenment

Yep.

and thought a lot about it.

Yep.

All of which is good.

Perhaps.

But it's not enough.

Enough for what?

I think it falls short of resolving our basic problem.

Which is?

You have to see what it is.



Nicely done.

The basic problem is the belief that there is a problem, or, alternately, the belief that life should be without problems. :-)

 
At March 26, 2007, Blogger Jinzang said...

Nicely done.

This isn't a game. This is your fucking life. If you want some use of it, I'm begging you to practice.

The basic problem is the belief that there is a problem, or, alternately, the belief that life should be without problems. :-)

That is bullshit.

 
At March 27, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

This isn't a game.


Never said it was. But it could be seen in that manner, certainly.


This is your fucking life. If you want some use of it, I'm begging you to practice.


Where is your evidence that I don't practice?...................

...........Or are you begging me to practice in the same manner that you practice?


The basic problem is the belief that there is a problem, or, alternately, the belief that life should be without problems. :-)

That is bullshit.


Ohhhhhhh.....did someone's buttons get pushed? :-))

Seriously though, about the "basic problem,".....read up on the Buddhist parable regarding "The Eighty-Fourth Problem." The Buddha apparently had some things to say about "problems."

And you may want to consider that the emergence of liberation is not affected by anything that one does, and once you come to believe that you have to be a certain way, you have entirely missed the point.

 
At March 27, 2007, Blogger Jinzang said...

The view you hold does nothing and accomplishes nothing except stroke the ego of the person who holds it.

To quote Gampopa, "If you think confusion is going to disappear by itself, then understand that samsara is known to be endless. Therefore from this day onward, you should make as much effort as possible to achieve unsurpassable enlightenment."

 
At March 27, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

The view you hold does nothing and accomplishes nothing except stroke the ego of the person who holds it.

To quote Gampopa, "If you think confusion is going to disappear by itself, then understand that samsara is known to be endless."



Confusion may or may not disappear. We just have to wait and see (and, in the meantime, do whatever we cannot avoid doing).

But Gampopa is correct: samsara is endless. This is not, however, a problem, as nirvana is samsara, and samsara is nirvana. ;-)

It's all in how it's held.


Therefore from this day onward, you should make as much effort as possible to achieve unsurpassable enlightenment."


The achievement of unsurpassable enlightenment is the ending of the belief that there is someone who can achieve it. It is the realization that there is not -- nor was there ever -- any "one" who could achieve enlightenment.

Regarding "confusion"....I don't know how confusion disappears. In some bodymind mechanisms it appears to disappear, or, at least, it becomes much less obstreperous.

What is really clear, however, the confusion is removed by That which installed it. And by nothing else.

Are you suggesting that you have some power that will end confusion?

 
At March 27, 2007, Blogger karen said...

Wow. I feel as endofthedream does, that life is not without problems. I also feel that sometimes our practice, whatever it might be, can become a squirrel cage for us. We practice and expect to get somewhere or something from it and we are really spinning our wheels. Going back to the concept of pain and suffering. Pain does indeed hurt physically. But the suffering is an added entity. I am in pain almost all of the time. I have lupus which brings with it an unpredicatable kind of arthritis. I note that I am in pain, but I don't dwell on it because besides being more painful, it would drive me absolutely crazy, since I know the physical pain is not going to go away. That being driven crazy is the suffering. That being said, when I get hurt, cut myself, have to get an IV line put in for a CT scan, if it hurts, I have absolutely no qualms about yelping. It's a natural reaction.

 
At March 27, 2007, Blogger dan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At March 27, 2007, Blogger dan said...

"Where is your evidence that I don't practice?..................."


Endo, a few months ago you said that you do all your formal zazen in an easy chair......

 
At March 27, 2007, Blogger Justin said...

Endo,

The Buddha made it amply clear that there is a problem - suffering. He described it in quite vivid terms

All things are on fire; the eye is on fire; the body is on fire; the perception of the eye is on fire; the impressions received by the eye are on fire.

He also described the cause of the problem - attachment - and said that we there were steps we could take to escape from the suffering. These are the Four Noble Truths.

We all need to practice to escape from suffering. And sometimes it takes effort. The 'goal-less-ness' of Soto Zen is a method to resolve the problem, not a denial of the problem.

Nirvana is samsara transformed - it won't transform itself. Nor will a philosophy of fatalism transform it. Perhaps luck sometimes plays a part, but the main thing is practice.

To insist on speaking from (or trying to speak from) the Nirvanic perspective, and stuck in denials of ordinary conventions of thought and language, is surely attachment to the idea of nirvana. Enlightenment is not a dogma of denial.

 
At March 27, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

"Where is your evidence that I don't practice?..................."

Endo, a few months ago you said that you do all your formal zazen in an easy chair......



That does not....qualify....as practice? (I also do zazen on a sofa, in a hospital bed, standing on the subway...) Is practice reserved for a specific place, a particular posture?

Hmmmmm.....Is practice defined soley as doing "formal zazen"? And if so, what is formal zazen? Is it ONLY when sitting in a full-lotus? Of is the 1/2 lotus position OK? How about Burmese? When does it stop being zazen? Dogen points to "ceaseless practice" performed everywhere, anytime.

 
At March 27, 2007, Blogger Justin said...

You can practice anywhere IMO, although some places / postures may be easier to remain alert and relaxed in.

 
At March 27, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Hi Justin,

Thanks for the feedback. I enjoy reading your thoughts.

I'll offer some responses.

The Buddha made it amply clear that there is a problem - suffering...He also described the cause of the problem - attachment - and said that we there were steps we could take to escape from the suffering. These are the Four Noble Truths.


Just to correct a factual error above, the "steps we could take to escape from the suffering" are not the Four Noble Truths. The steps you are referring to are referenced only in the 4th Noble Truth. They are commonly known as the eightfold path.

Regarding suffering......suffering is not the problem itself, it is the consequence of the problem. And that problem is the underlying belief that there is an on-going, persisting "self." This belief arises in most bodymind mechanisms around the age of 3 or 4. The moment that belief is attached to, then the fear of death, the sense of separation from everything else, and the "ten thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to" has the fertile ground in which to flower.


We all need to practice to escape from suffering. And sometimes it takes effort. The 'goal-less-ness' of Soto Zen is a method to resolve the problem, not a denial of the problem.

There is no denying the problem.


Nirvana is samsara transformed - it won't transform itself.

That is not the teaching. You can rewrite it, but a primary Buddhist teaching is "Samsara is nirvana, nirvana is samsara." There is fundamentally no difference between them. What you wrote above says that samsara gets "transformed"? How does that happen?



Nor will a philosophy of fatalism transform [samsara into nirvana].

Agreed. Since any such transformation is impossible. Both samsara AND nirvana co-exist simultaneously, always, like the two sides of a coin.


Perhaps luck sometimes plays a part, but the main thing is practice.


If this is a belief you are invested in then you will practice. I wish you success.


To insist on speaking from (or trying to speak from) the Nirvanic perspective,


You'll need to educate me on this. What is "the Nirvanic perspective"? I never heard of it.


and stuck in denials of ordinary conventions of thought and language, is surely attachment to the idea of nirvana.

There may be attachment, as there may be anything in phenomenality, but there is no one who is attached to the idea of nirvana. This......understanding...... may seem like semantics or sophistry, and if so, that's how it is for you. But I assure, that's not what it is.


Enlightenment is not a dogma of denial.

I agree with you, it's not. It is the ending of the belief that there is someone who can attain enlightenment. When it is seen (by no one) that there is no individual who persists from moment to moment, then who is there who is going to achieve "enlightenment"? It is then clear that this individual (over which all the fretting is occurring), is simply a thought, or, more accurately, a succession of thoughts thought in very rapid succession and thus generating the illusory sense of an on-going "me." In the absence of these self-referential thoughts, there is just.....life....happening.

"Actions happen, deeds are done, but there is no individual doer thereof." -- the Buddha

 
At March 27, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

I'm enjoying the hell out of this!

ha ha ha ha!!!

carry on, please, all of you.

 
At March 27, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Hi Karen.

I'm sorry to hear about your medical issues, and am heartened to hear that they have apparently brought you some fertile fruit as well. I too have had serious health crises and have learned much from them.

Primarily, I discovered, firsthand, the validity of an old zen koan.

A monk asked Tozan, "When the heat of summer and the cold of winter arrive, how can we escape them?"

Tozan answered, "Why don't you go where there is no heat or cold?"

"Where is this place," asked the disciple, "where there is no heat or cold?"

At this the master replied, "When it is hot, be completely hot; when it is cold, be completely cold." (An alternate translation reads "When it is hot, the heat completely kills the monk; when it is cold, the cold completely kills the monk.")

In another vein, it brings to mind the question, "What is wrong with this moment, other than thinking about it?" :-)

Finally, it reminds me of the old zen story about a young monk who was appalled when he heard one of his masters screaming out in pain as he was being murdered by thieves.

Confused, he asked his master why the man had cried out as he did. "Does not zen practice free us from emotions?" he asked.

"Fool!" the master replied. "The purpose of zen is not to deaden human emotion but rather to let us feel, live, and express it fully when it is present."

 
At March 27, 2007, Blogger Jinzang said...

Buddhism teaches that our suffering is caused by our misapprehension of the nature of our minds and perceptions. I won't spend any time trying to justify this, except to note that most of our suffering is mental and if we don't understand our minds we're unlikely to be able to resolve its problems. The main practice that Buddhism offers to end this confusion about our minds is meditation. Buddhism divides meditation into two kinds. The first, shamatha, is focusing attention on the present moment. The idea is that by paying attention to the present moment one will eventually be able to understand mind and perceptions.

The practice of meditation goes through several stages. At first, the mind is very wild and it requires a lot of effort just to sit still on the cushion. And the physical discomfort associated with the seated posture doesn't make it any easier. So at first meditation practice is a struggle. You have to fight to do it.

After you get more accustomed to practice, you have to watch that you don't fall into a lazy attitude, taking the seated posture, but only daydreaming. You need to make a concerted effort not to let a single thought slip by without noticing it. This is not blocking thoughts or changing them, it's maintaining vigilance in seeing them. There's also a tendency to divide the mind in two and keep a running commentary on your practice. The same attention needs to be paid to these thoughts as any other. In short, you need a consistent, concerted effort to notice everything that happens in your mind.

When you are able to do this, eventually you will notice that the "you" that you think you are is just a pattern of thoughts like any other. It's a natural progression that inevitably happens when you are able to maintain a vigilant awareness of the mind, though it's impossible to say exactly when this insight will come. With this insight the second kind of meditation, vipashyana, becomes possible. Vipashyana practice is resting in the awareness that there is no self and noting when one deviates from this understanding. This meditation has a different character than shamatha. Shamatha requires a certain strictness and tightness, while vipashyana practice is looser and more relaxed. This is because the sense of strictness is associated through habit with ego and reinforces the sense of ego. Because one is used to how shamatha is done, at first one tries to do vipashyana in the same way. So when the meditator gets to point in their practice a lot of emphasis is placed on not trying, not striving, and similar instructions.

In a perfect world everyone practicing meditation would be in close contact with a teacher who would only give the instruction appropriate for what the student needs right now, to avoid confusing them. Unfortunately, we have people getting intermediate and advanced instructions out of books and from teachers who do not present meditation in a skillful way. Some people take the instruction that you should not strive or try to achieve anything, which is appropriate to a certain stage of practice, as noted above, combine it with the intellectual understanding that there is no self and come up with a pernicious and mistaken view of spiritual practice. In this view all effort is mistaken and one simply has to "know" that you are already enlightened. This view is mistaken because the intellectual understanding that there is no ego is not of much use. You have to see how you arw mistaken about the mind, what the sense of ego actually is to cut through the ego. It's the difference between having a general idea of what Los Vegas is like and actually visiting there. Because getting this definite understanding depends upon a strong, consistent effort in your practice, holding the mistaken view described here cuts you off from any genuine understanding of what you seek.

There are many ways to talk about meditation and the description here is according to my tradition. There are other equally valid ways of talking about meditation with different terminology and I mean no criticism of them. But I have given this explanation to show how the idea that all effort is wrong and one simply has to "know" you are enlightened is badly mistaken.

 
At March 27, 2007, Blogger Jinzang said...

Is practice reserved for a specific place, a particular posture?

One of the most common questions asked is how to maintain mindfulness off the meditation cushion. The simple answer is that you can't until you first develop it on the sitting cushion. Someone who claims to not need formal seated meditation and who has never practiced it much should be regarded with the same suspicion as someone who claims to be a musical virtuoso, but has never practiced the scales.

 
At March 27, 2007, Blogger Jinzang said...

At this the master replied, "When it is hot, be completely hot; when it is cold, be completely cold."

I think your understanding of this koan is slightly off. The biggest problem people have when they first encounter Zen is to think that they should be some sort of Zen person reacting to the world in a Zen way. Zen is not talking about behaviour, it's talking about a certain understanding, though only pointing to that understanding in an oblique way. They are tests, after all.

"Fool!" the master replied. "The purpose of zen is not to deaden human emotion but rather to let us feel, live, and express it fully when it is present."

I don't recall that this is part of the koan you mention and I think it distorts its meaning. There's nothing wrong with what you say, though it only expresses a part of the truth, for the reason explained above.

 
At March 27, 2007, Blogger Justin said...

Just to correct a factual error above, the "steps we could take to escape from the suffering" are not the Four Noble Truths. The steps you are referring to are referenced only in the 4th Noble Truth. They are commonly known as the eightfold path.

Yes - that's correct. You must have misunderstood me.

Regarding suffering......suffering is not the problem itself, it is the consequence of the problem. And that problem is the underlying belief that there is an on-going, persisting "self." This belief arises in most bodymind mechanisms around the age of 3 or 4. The moment that belief is attached to, then the fear of death, the sense of separation from everything else, and the "ten thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to" has the fertile ground in which to flower.

In all the sources I've read Buddha taught Suffering as the core problem, not philosophical incorrectness.

That is not the teaching. You can rewrite it, but a primary Buddhist teaching is "Samsara is nirvana, nirvana is samsara." There is fundamentally no difference between them. What you wrote above says that samsara gets "transformed"? How does that happen?

Life is transformed by changing the mind - by release from the Three Fires :
Delusion/Ignorance
Greed/Desire
Hate/Aversion/Anger

Agreed. Since any such transformation is impossible. Both samsara AND nirvana co-exist simultaneously, always, like the two sides of a coin.

To say that they are 'the same' means that they have the same 'essence', they do not form a real duality. Nirvana can be found right here and now in samsara. But that doesn't mean that abandoning effort will get you there (except perhaps at a particular moment as Jinzang said).

You'll need to educate me on this. What is "the Nirvanic perspective"? I never heard of it.

It is the perspective of emptiness, sometimes referred to as 'ultimate truth' in Buddhist philosophy. If I were to respond by saying 'there is no one to educate you on the 'Nirvanic Perspective, and no one to be educated, nor is there any education or non-eduaction to be had or even a Nirvanic perspective to be understood. All is emptiness.' That would be an example, but it can easily become a belief, an attachment and a dogma in itself. But that is missing the whole point. There is no need to speak in such terms except when a teacher is using 'turning words' in a particular instance for a student.

There may be attachment, as there may be anything in phenomenality, but there is no one who is attached to the idea of nirvana.

...nor lack of someone, nor idea, nor nirvana etc ad infinitum. Is this a helpful way to speak?

I agree with you, it's not. It is the ending of the belief that there is someone who can attain enlightenment. When it is seen (by no one) that there is no individual who persists from moment to moment, then who is there who is going to achieve "enlightenment"? It is then clear that this individual (over which all the fretting is occurring), is simply a thought, or, more accurately, a succession of thoughts thought in very rapid succession and thus generating the illusory sense of an on-going "me." In the absence of these self-referential thoughts, there is just.....life....happening.

OK. But it is not a belief in an absence of self either.

 
At March 27, 2007, Blogger Justin said...

Jinzang,

I liked your description of the stages of meditation. What is your practice?

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger MikeDoe said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger MikeDoe said...

"One of the most common questions asked is how to maintain mindfulness off the meditation cushion. The simple answer is that you can't until you first develop it on the sitting cushion. "

This is false. I did actually do it in the reverse order - off the cushion first and then on the cushion.

The reason is that they are not different.`

On or off the cushion 'all' you are doing is becoming aware of where it is that your awareness rests.

For most people awareness rests primarily with their own thoughts and specifically with the sense of self.

The cushion in the first instance directs your awareness to your own body and it's sensory information.

Mindfulness off the cushion is no more than this but with maybe a secondary object which is also an item of focus.

The cushion is the easiest place to start for many people. Other people find movement based activities to be more beneficial.

I started with mindfulness off the cushion because just sitting on the cushion was far too much for me - too many demons lurking under the surface.

With a dual focus - of breath and of object I could approach the demons gradually and not be overwhelmed.

I should be clear that whilst I talk of different focusses and split focus for expediency it would be more accurate for me to say that in fact there is no focus in any of it. Everything is just sensory 'input' and all you are doing is to be aware of what your senses are experiencing. To talk in terms of one or more object of focus is to label sensory input long after it has been experienced and is a function of mind.

We have 6 senses and all but the eyese can process stimuli that arise from inside or outside of our bodies. We can and do process all sensory input in parallel. To say that paying attention to one thing is easier than two things is to imply that in some way my eyes or ears can see or hear two things. In reality it is the mind that chops up the stream of input and labels these streams as one, two or n things.

...

Samsara and Nirvana exist if you make them exist and most people make at least one of them exist.

The sensory input from Samsara and Nirvana are identical. Only the mind inteprets as one or the other. If the mind is not interpreting then neither Samsara nor Nirvana exist. If the mind interprets then both exist and Samsara is the default experience.

For the semantically astute it would be more accurate to say that we experience nothing from outside of our bodies. All stimuli arise from within the body

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger Jinzang said...

I liked your description of the stages of meditation. What is your practice?

The practice is mahamudra according to the Kagyu tradition. What I gave was a very simplified explanation, lots more could be said.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Hi Mikedoe ~

Very nice post. Resonates. Some thoughts on yours.

"One of the most common questions asked is how to maintain mindfulness off the meditation cushion. The simple answer is that you can't until you first develop it on the sitting cushion."

This is false. I did actually do it in the reverse order - off the cushion first and then on the cushion...The reason is that they are not different....On or off the cushion 'all' you are doing is becoming aware of where it is that your awareness rests.



Yes. Although it can be asserted that for some bodymind mechanisms, the removal of distractions that happens when one "sits down and shuts up" may provide - for some - a more efficacious environment, laboratory, to become aware. This seems to be fairly standard. But it may not be so for all. And, quite frankly, who cares? Others and what they do are not my business.


Mindfulness off the cushion is no more than this but with maybe a secondary object which is also an item of focus.

The cushion is the easiest place to start for many people. Other people find movement based activities to be more beneficial.


Eggs-actly!


I started with mindfulness off the cushion because just sitting on the cushion was far too much for me - too many demons lurking under the surface.


I started with concentration meditation and eventually migrated, after five years or so, to a variant of mindfulness (basically it was shikantaza). This all evolved in this manner because that that was all I knew, that was how I was taught "it was." I was a docile, obedient "student" being trained in a particular tradition.


I should be clear that whilst I talk of different focusses and split focus for expediency it would be more accurate for me to say that in fact there is no focus in any of it. Everything is just sensory 'input' and all you are doing is to be aware of what your senses are experiencing. To talk in terms of one or more object of focus is to label sensory input long after it has been experienced and is a function of mind.

Yes, quite so.


Samsara and Nirvana exist if you make them exist and most people make at least one of them exist.


I would only question the "if you make them exist." Or ask, is there any choice in this happening or not happening? It is quite clear that what we make, or do not make, exist is not up to us. All our "choices" are like votes in a one-party political election. :-))


The sensory input from Samsara and Nirvana are identical.


Yes. Because they are identical.


Only the mind inteprets as one or the other. If the mind is not interpreting then neither Samsara nor Nirvana exist. If the mind interprets then both exist and Samsara is the default experience.

It might be useful to note that it is the innate conditioning-in-the-moment which is the interpreting mechanism (I find that more useful since it points to the non-stability of the interpreter..."the mind" is often taken as a frozen, static "thing" and "innate conditioning-in-the-moment suggests, to me at least, the fluidity of all that is).


For the semantically astute it would be more accurate to say that we experience nothing from outside of our bodies. All stimuli arise from within the body

Very nice conclusion. The clarity is a pleasure.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger Dan said...

"One of the most common questions asked is how to maintain mindfulness off the meditation cushion. The simple answer is that you can't until you first develop it on the sitting cushion. "

"This is false. I did actually do it in the reverse order - off the cushion first and then on the cushion."


but surely mike you have to agree that your case is an exception rather than the rule no?

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger Dan said...

btw, i liked your description of meditation too jinzang. it helped me to understand the difference between those two. something i wasn't entirely sure of

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Hi Justin ~

Previously, I wrote:

Just to correct a factual error above, the "steps we could take to escape from the suffering" are not the Four Noble Truths. The steps you are referring to are referenced only in the 4th Noble Truth. They are commonly known as the eightfold path.

To which you responded:

Yes - that's correct. You must have misunderstood me.

Let's be clear about this. There was no misunderstanding. You had written, "He also described the cause of the problem - attachment - and said that we there were steps we could take to escape from the suffering. These are the Four Noble Truths."

In your statement "These are the Four Noble Truths" what does the word "these" refer to? Grammatically, in the English language, the antecedent to "these are the Four Noble Truths" is "there were steps we could take to escape from the suffering." So, at least using English, my native tongue, you were equating the two. What you presented was a misstatement; it was not a misunderstanding on my part.


In all the sources I've read Buddha taught Suffering as the core problem, not philosophical incorrectness.

Problem with sources is that they were constructed 2000+ years ago. Who KNOWS!? if they were or were not accurate. Better then to test out any teaching with one's own direct experience, along with the recognition that as more experience is accumulated, the interpretation or understanding may well change.


We could be arguing semantics here. I can see how the problem could be understood to be suffering. But why not go further? What is at the root of suffering, what generates the suffering? To me, that is understood to be the primary problem. And that is the underlying belief that there is a "me" - a real, solid, persisting "self" - that can suffering. It also involves not understanding the nature of thought, how thought creates the world as well as "my" world.


In response to my question about how does samsara get transformed, you wrote "Life is transformed by changing the mind."

Now we're getting somewhere! :-) So let's go further: what changes the mind?

To say that [samsara and nirvana] are 'the same' means that they have the same 'essence', they do not form a real duality.


Right! That is it. There is no duality. There is unicity only. All the dualities, the ten thousand things (thank you Taoists), are constructs of the mind, a mechanism that generates the appearance of a world of duality, appearing to split up and divide what is Whole.

Nirvana can be found right here and now in samsara. But that doesn't mean that abandoning effort will get you there (except perhaps at a particular moment as Jinzang said).

You ... almost go it. Then slipped and fell. :-)

The point is: there is NOWHERE to get to. The notion that there is somewhere to get to is one of the fundamental beliefs that blinds. The second error is the belief that there is a "you" that is going to "get there" (or get anywhere). Now, at some level Justin you get this, you really do. Else you wouldn't be here. You'd be out catching some rays, practicing your surfing, doing some mathematics...whatever. Something wants to see this. But the old wiring is still predominating. And it will for as long as

What we all have is a deep longing and a deep fear of the discovery of what we are, and the mind devises any way it can to avoid this discovering. The most effective way it avoids awakening is to seek it...You just need to see that you cannot do anything to be what you already are; just open your eyes and see that this is it. Even your question is the answer to your question.

Thank you for the explanation of Nirvanic perspective.

You note that "it can easily become a belief, an attachment and a dogma in itself."

Certainly so (although I don't know about the "easily" part). Anything can become a belief. It's not up to us. We don't get to choose our thoughts, feelings, ideas, or beliefs. We are the recipients, not the Author.



But that is missing the whole point. There is no need to speak in such terms except when a teacher is using 'turning words' in a particular instance for a student.

Need? We speak as we are directed by the innate conditioning-in-the-moment. Need does not enter into it. It just.....happens.

...nor lack of someone, nor idea, nor nirvana etc ad infinitum. Is this a helpful way to speak?

I can't answer that in a general way. If it happens, it happens. To assess whether it is or is not helpful, one would have to look at the results. When? 5 minutes later, 5 days later, 5 months later? How can one know, NOW, what is, and what will have been useful (unless one can see into the future). We just don't know. And for many, that's a terrifying prospect. So we make up rules, devise strategies, construct scenarios. All to maintain a feeling, a sense of safety from what we don't fucking know. Watch the thoughts that arise in the localized consciousness that is you. See if you can see that is what the programming does (until it no longer works in that manner).

OK. But it is not a belief in an absence of self either.

Being Aware that there is no self, and that there never was, is not a belief. It is a knowing that is known outside of thought (but is rarely not shared verbally, or expressed in writing, via thought). There ARE cases where it is communicated outside of thought, the foremost example being Buddha, Mahakashyapa, and the flower.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Hi Jinzang ~

Previously I wrote: At this the master replied, "When it is hot, be completely hot; when it is cold, be completely cold."

You replied: I think your understanding of this koan is slightly off.

Where did you get that from? I never presented any "understanding" of the koan? If you're interested, go back and READ the post I wrote. Here's what I wrote, verbatim: "Primarily, I discovered, firsthand, the validity of an old zen koan," and then I gave the koan. That was all. I never discussed the validity, what it meant, or how I experienced it.


In light of that, then, tell me please, what IS "my understanding" of the koan since it is "slightly off"?

(Hint: you won't be able to. It isn't there. It was entirely your construction. As is everything. And so you are forgiven.)


You referenced the story I related which ended with "Fool!" the master replied. "The purpose of zen is not to deaden human emotion but rather to let us feel, live, and express it fully when it is present."

Then you commented,

"I don't recall that this is part of the koan you mention:


Clarification: I never wrote that it was from a koan. I said it was "an old zen story." Story doesn't equal koan, necessarily. The equating of the two was your doing, not mine.


You wrote: "and I think it distorts its meaning."


Well, since I didn't talk about the MEANING of the story, I don't know how you can say it distorts the meaning.


You wrote: There's nothing wrong with what you say, though it only expresses a part of the truth, for the reason explained above."

Yes. No story, no word, no teaching, an express truth. All of those, like these words right here, the squiggles on your pc screen, are not the truth. They are conceptual statements, and they may, perhaps, for some bodymind mechanisms, function as pointers TO the truth, but, in and of themselves, they are not the truth. The truth, like the Tao, cannot be spoken.

As the zen master Wu Kwang has written, "Open Mouth, Already A Mistake." :-) Even to say anything is to go astry.

So why do we do we open our mouths, why do sages and masters open theirs? As the late zen master Dainan Katagiri wrote, "You Have to Say Something."

Of course that's not strictly true either. There ARE sages who, to use Brad's words, simply "sit down and shut up," and don't offer up any teachings or responses to questions. THAT too is another way of being, an alternate expression of the Understanding. How It expresses itself varies from bodymind mechanism to bodymind mechanism, from moment-to-moment, and is entirely dependent on the time, the place, and the circumstances. To think there is "one way" is to be thoroughly confused.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Hey Dan ~

You wrote:

"One of the most common questions asked is how to maintain mindfulness off the meditation cushion. The simple answer is that you can't until you first develop it on the sitting cushion. "

"This is false. I did actually do it in the reverse order - off the cushion first and then on the cushion."


but surely mike you have to agree that your case is an exception rather than the rule no?



That would be my guess too. And it's not really important.

Instead, consider what prompts a bodymind mechanism to become a seeker. What provokes the actual, initial seeking? Where does the drive, the interest, the passion, come from? What perpetuates it?

That Source, which the the source of everything, can just as easily make itself known in a localized consciousness in any manner of ways.

Here, as the drive to do formal zazen waned, a new passion was born: to watch, to look, to pay attention (from time to time, especially when doing 85 mph on a highway!!) to ALL the objects of consciousness, most specifically, thought. Why did that happen? How did that happen? I don't know. I'm sure psychologists and psychiatrists would have a field day with theories (and their theories may be more or less "right"), but that's just speculation. I can pinpoint the specific day and a very specific event out of which this...drive....was birthed, but I can not say why it happened as it did, when it did.

What is most certain is that the focus shifted to doing what is sometimes referred to as shikantaza or simply paying attention. It was supported by a questioning technique founded on The Work that to this day I find invaluable. These two, together, along with a few other.......sources, contributed to the ending of the stream, the cessation of any and all questions. What might be called an acceptance of what is.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger Dan said...

"That would be my guess too. And it's not really important."

why is it not important?

btw, minus 3 million zen points for trying to say that you're enlightened without actually saying it.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

hey endo,
It is possible that you did misunderstand what Justin had written,
The Buddha made it amply clear that there is a problem - suffering. He described it in quite vivid terms...
...He also described the cause of the problem - attachment - and said that we there were steps we could take to escape from the suffering. These are the Four Noble Truths.

It may be written poorly, but the "These" in "These are the Four Noble Truths" may be taken to mean the entire paragraph, and not just the preceding sentence.

Are you OK? You seem a bit ruffled and snippy. Not that there's any you there to actually get ruffled or snippy. I should say that this current conditioning found that particular conditioning of the moment to appear ruffled and snippy.

I'm the same way, but in my case, for expediency I just say "I have a quick temper."

...which reminds me;
That bit about the Zenmeister screaming bloody murder (maybe he spilled his sake) and then justifying it with
"Fool!" the master replied. "The purpose of zen is not to deaden human emotion but rather to let us feel, live, and express it fully when it is present."
that was great!

but, I have one more line to add to that koan:
I'd have said to that old dead guy "you're fucking right, zenmeister!" SMACK! "I really felt like punching you for saying that, so I expressed myself fully!"

funny shit.

HA HA HA!
added to the 3-Stooges Zen file.

Funny, but I'm not sure I'm buyin' that one as sold.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger Jinzang said...

Where did you get that from? I never presented any "understanding" of the koan? If you're interested, go back and READ the post I wrote.

I'm sorry if I put words in your mouth on my way to make a point. It seems we have different ideas about what the spiritual path is about. Let's be friends and not let our disagreements stand in the way of that.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Where did you get that from? I never presented any "understanding" of the koan? If you're interested, go back and READ the post I wrote.

I'm sorry if I put words in your mouth on my way to make a point. It seems we have different ideas about what the spiritual path is about. Let's be friends and not let our disagreements stand in the way of that.



Excellent! Well-put! I'm with you on that. Friends it is. (With the understanding that what I may post in the future may be at odds with your expressions. We will agree, agreeably, to disagree.) Be well.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

"That would be my guess too. And it's not really important."

why is it not important?



Because imo, what IS important, or as important as anything is, is getting there, not how one gets there (cushion first or second or last or not at all). It's the looking, the awaring, that encompasses a significant change in how the mind usually operates.


btw, minus 3 million zen points for trying to say that you're enlightened without actually saying it.


Is that what I did?
:-))))))))))

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

"One of the most common questions asked is how to maintain mindfulness off the meditation cushion. The simple answer is that you can't until you first develop it on the sitting cushion."

This is false. I did actually do it in the reverse order - off the cushion first and then on the cushion...


and, here's another take on that: I learned through a combination of both. When I was learning to sit (my "teachers" were various Buddhist authors of different schools) I was also doing a lot of long distance and freestyle rollerblading, as well as a few other movement oriented sports. I found that being "in the zone", (although that's not not an accurate way of describing the experience, it's more like "being the action performed and nothing else" being in the action is quite the opposite, there should be no sense of anyone performing, just the performance itself and now I'm babbling.) was a lot like what sitting sounded like it was supposed to be, and I found that helpful.

Sitting is an evolving process, like both jinzang and endo and mikedoe have all pointed out.

It's not just one thing. It's not just clearing the mind, and it's not just an inquiry, it's all of those things and none of them.

Whatever it takes to get you to understand, whether it be the wisdom of exercise, or that of having to endure a long, cold night, or the ten thousandth repetition of "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream." is the right way.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger Jinzang said...

i liked your description of meditation too jinzang. it helped me to understand the difference between those two. something i wasn't entirely sure of.

The definition of vipashyana in my comment comes from the Kagyu tradition. In the Kagyu tradition vipashyana is a non-conceptual awareness. Other Tibetan traditions have other ideas.

Other Buddhist traditions have different explanations of what vipashyana is. In particular, the Theravadin practice of vipassana is quite different. The go to guy in Chinese Buddhism is Chih-i, who wrote a meditation manual translated by Cleary as Stopping and Seeing. Stopping=shamatha and Seeing=Vipashyana.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Hi Mudderpugger,

Good to hear from you again.

hey endo,
It is possible that you did misunderstand what Justin had written,
The Buddha made it amply clear that there is a problem - suffering. He described it in quite vivid terms...
...He also described the cause of the problem - attachment - and said that we there were steps we could take to escape from the suffering. These are the Four Noble Truths.
It may be written poorly, but the "These" in "These are the Four Noble Truths" may be taken to mean the entire paragraph, and not just the preceding sentence.



Could be. I was using conventional (pardon the word) English grammar. I'm constrained to interpret via my native conditioning. So perhaps the misinterpretation was mine. If so....apologies.


Are you OK? You seem a bit ruffled and snippy. Not that there's any you there to actually get ruffled or snippy. I should say that this current conditioning found that particular conditioning of the moment to appear ruffled and snippy.

Excellent! Yes, I'm OK. Thank you for asking. That was sweet. Actually it's right as rain. No, not ruffled nor snippy. Taking exception to having my words REinterpreted, prior to an explanation being asked, is often the case. But nothing sticks around long enough to matter.


That bit about the Zenmeister screaming bloody murder (maybe he spilled his sake) and then justifying it with
"Fool!" the master replied. "The purpose of zen is not to deaden human emotion but rather to let us feel, live, and express it fully when it is present."
that was great!

but, I have one more line to add to that koan:



It wasn't a koan, DAMNIT!! It was a stoooory, a tale (told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing).



I'd have said to that old dead guy "you're fucking right, zenmeister!" SMACK! "I really felt like punching you for saying that, so I expressed myself fully!"

funny shit.

HA HA HA!
added to the 3-Stooges Zen file.

Funny, but I'm not sure I'm buyin' that one as sold.



That's good. It's not for sale.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

I meant to add that sitting helped my rollerblading tremendously. It worked both ways.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger google said...

"but surely mike you have to agree that your case is an exception rather than the rule no? "

Actually no.

There are no rules. There are no exceptions. Everyone is different. Everyone who really wants to will find what works for them. Buddha did not proscribe one method but many.

Many many people will do something like Yoga or Tai Chi and then may go on to a cushion.

It does not matter. They only look different when you start.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

I cuaght that, too. I wanted to change it to story, but too late.
I'm guessing Karen is the one deleting her posts, because I couldn't find the post you were replying to, so I don't know what your point was, maybe just to accept pain and the resulting anguish? I don't know.
But, that story wasn't satisfying to me the way a lot of the old Zen stories are.

Seriously, as written, it would be proper to conclude the story with my version. Why couldn't the student fully express his anger at being called a fool by some guy who'd just screamed bloody murder over what apparently wasn't a big deal, by punching him in the mouth? That wouldn't be in disagreement with anything said in that story.

I'm not saying that when anger arises, one shouldn't be that anger completely, but acting upon it, whether through screaming or hitting, isn't what Zen is about or about what it teaches.


I felt like that was the point of the story, or as I put it, what was being sold, and I'm reminded of the Zen Kamikazis or Zen Samurai.

I'm calling bullshit.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

I'm having trouble scrolling smoothly and not missing bits.

endo said: Could be. I was using conventional (pardon the word) English grammar. I'm constrained to interpret via my native conditioning. So perhaps the misinterpretation was mine. If so....apologies

Stop being a dick.
Conventional grammar? WTF?
and, don't apologize to me, apologize to the guy you were being a dick to.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

I'm not saying that when anger arises, one shouldn't be that anger completely, but acting upon it, whether through screaming or hitting, isn't what Zen is about or about what it teaches.


Anger, true anger, is not screaming or hitting. Genuine anger, directly experienced, is very, very quiet.

Seriously, as written, it would be proper to conclude the story with my version. Why couldn't the student fully express his anger at being called a fool by some guy who'd just screamed bloody murder over what apparently wasn't a big deal, by punching him in the mouth? That wouldn't be in disagreement with anything said in that story.

If you're interested, I think you got the story wrong. A young monk overhears a zen master screaming in pain and fear while being stabbed to death by thieves. This young zen monk was under the impression that zen training diminished or eradicated all the "negative," painful emotions (such as fear). His question was, why did the zen master express verbal upset when being killed? When he asked his zen master about this apparent contradiction, his zen master called him a fool for misunderstanding the basic goal of zen: to allow one to be fully and completely what one is at any moment: a sage or a fool (or anything in between).

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger MikeDoe said...

"This young zen monk was under the impression that zen training diminished or eradicated all the "negative," painful emotions"

Lots of people believe that. I think it is partly true.

'Negative' emotions continue to exist and can be felt/experienced more fully when they arise. However the 'causes' of such negative emotions are fewer since for most people the major causes of such emotions arise out of the Sense of self and its disagreement with or dislike of reality as perceived.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger karen said...

I'm not deleting anything. I'm not writing, just reading. And it is all very interesting too.
karen

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Hi Mikedoe ~

"This young zen monk was under the impression that zen training diminished or eradicated all the "negative," painful emotions"

Lots of people believe that. I think it is partly true.

'Negative' emotions continue to exist and can be felt/experienced more fully when they arise. However the 'causes' of such negative emotions are fewer since for most people the major causes of such emotions arise out of the Sense of self and its disagreement with or dislike of reality as perceived.



It's complicated, yes? I'm not even clear about what emotions would and would not be classified as "negative." I think an effective dialogue about negative emotions will first require some general agreement about what emotions fall into that category.

For example, is anger a "negative" emotion? How about fear? What about grief? What qualities contribute to making an emotion be classified as "negative"? Once we've pinned that down, then a focused discussion on the above would make sense. In its absence, we may well be chasing our own tales. :-)

I see no emotion, in and of itself, as being inherently "negative." There are emotions that I prefer (e.g., happiness), but I suspect that if I were "happy" or "at peace" all the time, life would get quite monochromatic and boring. (It's actually silly to consider such things since we don't have any control over what emotional state arises, short of self-medicating with pharmaceuticals.)

I have some other thought on this topic so if anyone is interested, we can go into this further. But without some agreement on what we're talking about vis-a-vis "negative emotions," it doesn't seem productive.

 
At March 28, 2007, Blogger Justin said...

Let's be clear about this. There was no misunderstanding. You had written, "He also described the cause of the problem - attachment - and said that we there were steps we could take to escape from the suffering. These are the Four Noble Truths."

In your statement "These are the Four Noble Truths" what does the word "these" refer to? Grammatically, in the English language, the antecedent to "these are the Four Noble Truths" is "there were steps we could take to escape from the suffering." So, at least using English, my native tongue, you were equating the two. What you presented was a misstatement; it was not a misunderstanding on my part.


'These' refers to :

Truth 1. "The Buddha made it amply clear that there is a problem - suffering. "

Truth 2. "He also described the cause of the problem - attachment"

Truth 3 & 4. "there were steps we could take to escape from the suffering."

You ... almost go it. Then slipped and fell. :-)

You talk as you were my master.

I don't really agree with what you said, but I don't think you will be persuaded. And I have no need to try. So, I'm not going to continue with the discussion.

Hope you find what you're not seeking

 
At March 29, 2007, Blogger MikeDoe said...

eotd:
I don't actually think that it is any way sensible to label some emotions as negative and some as positive. I don't think such a designation actually works anyway.

What I do know is that with emotions will always be expressed in someway regardless of what you wish - like squeezing jello.

I also know that the strength of emotion that can be expressed is limited by the strength of the emotion you are least willing to express.

Emotions cannot be cherry-picked. You can turn down the volume of all emotions but you cannot really turn down the volume of just one or two.

Emotions generally arise out of the body and are a physical response to the environment/thoughts that is generally below conscious control. Thus genuine emotions appear to be both spontaneous, natural and appropriate. Compassion arises out of such an expression of emotion.

The wisest course of action is over time to allow yourself to feel and experience fully all emotions as they arise regardless of what your mind thinks about them. In this way you will become more sensitive to your emotional state and more able to express these emotions.

Without editting and monitoring of emotions they will become richer and stronger. Without editting they will also become relevant to the immediate situation.

A lot of 'negative' emotions often do not relate to the immediate situation but to thoughts that are not relevant at that time.

All these words are really no more than dancing around the same topic. In meditation you let yourself be as you are at that moment and whatever arises arises. That training can be carried through into life.

If you let yourself be there is no need for words to explain/justify/understand what you are or how you exist. You just are. You just exist. That is enough.

 
At March 29, 2007, Blogger karen said...

I think that "positive" and "negative" are just terms that we as humans give to states that arise in our body, given the stimulus that our senses need to produce the "emotion" or "feeling". Our bodies react in fairly predictable fashions whether we are feeding them with "thoughts" about how rotten someone is for having said something we thing they should not have said (anger, shaking, turning red) or if we suddenly come upon a large dog that starts snarling at us (fear, shaking, turning white). And I think these are pretty normal things. We are after all in a human body that is subject to break down, change, fail, etc. They are a big deal when we make them a big deal. I'm not saying that it is easy to watch yourself go through the phases of a full blown road -rage moment, or whatever it is that pushes your buttons. But, it can be done. And if you rest in this place of attention and observation it will become clear that these are after all thought driven reactions. I can try and explain through an example. I had what I would call a breakthrough during a period of time that I was sitting regularly with a group of people. I was reading the story about the young monk who was meditating, probably very seriously. An older monk was in the area of the young monk. The older monk was polishing a tile, seriously and repeatedly. The young monk asked the old monk why he was polishing that tile so much to which he replied, "So that it will become a mirror." and the young monk laughed and said "Don't you know that you can never turn a tile into a mirror?" And the old monk replied," Don't you know that you can never become Buddha by sitting." I had heard this story a hundred times, but this time when I read it, something struck me. I don't know what, but I knew that this was absolutely true. And, when I knew it was true, my practice became so much more fruitful. Because it seemed to me that as long as I made a "big deal" of my practice, or wanted to realize something from it, it was a big deal and it was forced. When I realized this truth, I could, as one of the saints said, "Love and do what you will." The practice was no longer a big deal. Ironically, it became a more intimate part of my life. Silence became more of a friend to me and less of an achievement. Now, I sit but not with intention. I sit and wait like a cat waitng for a mouse to come out of a crack in the wood. I had read somewhere that the soul is shy, like a deer, and you have to be very still and watchful for it to show itself. That is my practice. So, that is the long way of saying that our emotions are the same way. No big deal if they are positive or negative. In the right frame of mind it doesn't really matter.

 
At March 29, 2007, Blogger Anatman said...

Wow. I leave for a few days, and look what happens... Awesome! Great stuff, folks, thanks.

A few thoughts:

1. There are no rules.

2. Some people are natural athletes. Others are natural musicians...

3. People's life experiences are varied and colorful. Different starting points and different experiences result in different awareness. And even what may look like similar experiences can have varied results.

Two men are held as prisoners of war. One returns to society as a serial killer. The other, a wise man.

Two women spend 30 years sitting Zazen. One becomes a delusional ego maniac. The other, a saint.

 
At March 30, 2007, Blogger MikeDoe said...

Karen:

Lots of good points in what you write.

" I sit and wait like a cat waitng for a mouse to come out of a crack in the wood. I had read somewhere that the soul is shy, like a deer, and you have to be very still and watchful for it to show itself."

Why not just sit like a cat in the sunshine or a sleeping cat?

A cat that is waiting for a mouse can wait in several ways (I've had cats). It can wait with a body full of tension ready to spring.
It can also wait watchfully.

When waiting watchfully the cat will go about its normal cat life but one eye will always be kept on the mousehole. The cat will behave nonchalantly in a way that may make the mouse less timid.

The one thing that is clear that if the mouse sees a cat it will not appear. It is also clear that a hungry cat is much more interested in mice than a fed cat. Mice are very frigtened of hungry cats.

If the mouse were waiting for itself to appear you would of course have a long wait.

Your approach is good. Just sit. Anything else detracts from the sitting including any concept of waiting for something to happen.

Do you know the play "Waiting for Godot?" Two tramps sit on a bench waiting for a third tramp to arrive. The third one never does. Meanwhile the two tramps carry on with their lives whilst endlessly speculating about Godot.

Thought for the Day: How is Zazen different from sitting and watching TV? [Assuming one is an eyes-open rather than eyes-closed believer]

If it is different why is it different?

 
At March 30, 2007, Blogger karen said...

I am the cat and the mouse. If I see myself I will not come out.

 
At March 30, 2007, Blogger nina said...

A lot to think about :)

xoxo,
nina

 
At March 30, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Mikedoe, you wrote

Do you know the play "Waiting for Godot?" Two tramps sit on a bench waiting for a third tramp to arrive. The third one never does. Meanwhile the two tramps carry on with their lives whilst endlessly speculating about Godot.

This is the work that got me into reading theater of the absurd plays while I was in college. It was also my intro to Beckett. FYI, the play's original title was En Attendant, ... just "Waiting." Beckett's publisher pushed him to add the "for Godot" to make it more "palatable" for American audiences.

At one point in the play, one of the tramps gives a nice, succinct, description of what meditation can be like at times (I'm sure everyone has experienced this at some point):

"Nobody comes. Nobody goes. It's awful!"


Thought for the Day: How is Zazen different from sitting and watching TV? [Assuming one is an eyes-open rather than eyes-closed believer]

If it is different why is it different?


Ha! Funny. It's all in how the mind is operating. And the motivation behind doing zazen. I.e., if one is meditating "to escape" (to lose one's self in thought), or to calm down, or to be distracted, then there is no difference. If one is watching tv to learn something, then it's possible there might not be any difference.

 
At March 30, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Hi Karen,

I think that "positive" and "negative" are just terms that we as humans give to states that arise in our body, given the stimulus that our senses need to produce the "emotion" or "feeling".

Yes. Labels. We're taught from a very early age the "right" way to do such labeling. The feeling arises. That is all. The labeling is secondary and it is in the act of the labeling that the self is born. Prior to that, there is just the feeling, happening.


Our bodies react in fairly predictable fashions whether we are feeding them with "thoughts" about how rotten someone is for having said something we thing they should not have said (anger, shaking, turning red) or if we suddenly come upon a large dog that starts snarling at us (fear, shaking, turning white).

I suggest that is its really really important to see that we are not feeding our bodies with thoughts. There is just no choice. It is how each individual bodymind mechanism is wired. The thought that we can do differently is worth questioning.


And I think these are pretty normal things. We are after all in a human body that is subject to break down, change, fail, etc. They are a big deal when we make them a big deal.

Yes. As long as there is an attachment to things being the way we wish them to be (entification), then the state and future of "our" body is a big deal.


I'm not saying that it is easy to watch yourself go through the phases of a full blown road -rage moment, or whatever it is that pushes your buttons. But, it can be done.

Yes. Sometimes. As Krishnamurti says, it all depends on the state of your mind. About which you no control. ... do you? Now that's a concept worth looking at if the interest is there: do "you" have control, any control, over what thought/thoughts arise in your consciousness? And if not, what does suggest?


And if you rest in this place of attention and observation it will become clear that these are after all thought driven reactions.


What is not thought driven?


I can try and explain through an example. I had what I would call a breakthrough during a period of time that I was sitting regularly with a group of people. I was reading the story about the young monk who was meditating, probably very seriously. An older monk was in the area of the young monk. The older monk was polishing a tile, seriously and repeatedly. The young monk asked the old monk why he was polishing that tile so much to which he replied, "So that it will become a mirror." and the young monk laughed and said "Don't you know that you can never turn a tile into a mirror?" And the old monk replied," Don't you know that you can never become Buddha by sitting." I had heard this story a hundred times, but this time when I read it, something struck me. I don't know what, but I knew that this was absolutely true. And, when I knew it was true, my practice became so much more fruitful.

How so? In what way(s)?


Because it seemed to me that as long as I made a "big deal" of my practice, or wanted to realize something from it, it was a big deal and it was forced. When I realized this truth, I could, as one of the saints said, "Love and do what you will." The practice was no longer a big deal. Ironically, it became a more intimate part of my life.


Yes. Paying attention is very intimate. "You" are no longer "there" to pass commentary. It's just life, happening without all the subscript.


Silence became more of a friend to me and less of an achievement. Now, I sit but not with intention.


Except that the sitting itself is preceded by an intention, to wit, "to sit."



I sit and wait like a cat waitng for a mouse to come out of a crack in the wood. I had read somewhere that the soul is shy, like a deer, and you have to be very still and watchful for it to show itself.


What is this....soul?

Like the self, I've looked long and hard for it. And have not yet found it. Perhaps it too is just a thought?

 
At March 30, 2007, Blogger karen said...

Soul is perhaps just another thought. Or, maybe I am using that word to try and express something that cannot be expressed. It is difficult to put into words what is beyond words.
The thought of "no control" has occurred to me. I have described it to myself as "life" living "me". Not "me" living my life. I began to wonder about that when I was sitting, and I felt as though my body was being "breathed" by something. As though life was what I was. I know that may sound silly. But it was how I perceived those moments. And although this has little to do with suffering, there is another strange thought that pops into my head now and then. It is "How do I know that I'm really alive?" I can be in the midst of the most oridnary task and this thought will appear. It's quite startling sometimes.

 
At March 30, 2007, Blogger karen said...

endofthedream,
To answer the other question. How did my practice become more fruitful? It ceased to be practice. Although I refer to what I find myself doing as practice, the lines have blurred because the attention began to seep into all parts of the day and night. At this point in time, I can't say that I have a "genuine" Buddhist practice because I feel as though for those who practice formally with a group ( and I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that)there are certain disciplines, forms, rituals etc that are followed regularly. I don't do that. BUT, I can do it now, if I want, knowing that the form is totally empty. And that allows me to follow the form with complete abandon. That is a very differnt place then where I started from many years ago. As most people probably have, I started to sit, took precepts, etc. in order to make myself "better". When I practiced that way, practice was difficult. Now, it is with total appreciation of the smell and the sight of rising smoke that I light insence. I don't do prostrations anymore. But, every now and then I feel like I would like to bow to the earth as a way of showing an appreciation and a humility of being a part of something that is so wonderous. So, that is how my practice became more fruitful. I love to do what I do. Because I don't do it for any particular reason. Maybe to put it another way is that I realize any step away from what is genuine, anything that is forced or added to is a step away from reality.

 
At March 31, 2007, Blogger MikeDoe said...

" I love to do what I do. Because I don't do it for any particular reason. Maybe to put it another way is that I realize any step away from what is genuine, anything that is forced or added to is a step away from reality. "

That's beautiful to read. It's practice...

 
At March 31, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Hi Karen,

Soul is perhaps just another thought. Or, maybe I am using that word to try and express something that cannot be expressed. It is difficult to put into words what is beyond words.

OK. Fair enough. I only asked about soul because the way it functions here is to question, question, question. If it isn't so for you, fine.


The thought of "no control" has occurred to me. I have described it to myself as "life" living "me".

Excellent!


Not "me" living my life.

Yes, right, there is no "you." Except as a thought in-the-moment.


I began to wonder about that when I was sitting,

Yep. A side-effect of meditation.


and I felt as though my body was being "breathed" by something. As though life was what I was. I know that may sound silly.


No, not all. It sounds quite sane.



But it was how I perceived those moments. And although this has little to do with suffering, there is another strange thought that pops into my head now and then. It is "How do I know that I'm really alive?"


You are as alive as the characters who peopled your last-night dream.



I can be in the midst of the most oridnary task and this thought will appear. It's quite startling sometimes.


It is an invitation. If you are disposed, invite it in.


To answer the other question. How did my practice become more fruitful? It ceased to be practice. Although I refer to what I find myself doing as practice, the lines have blurred because the attention began to seep into all parts of the day and night.


Yes. A way-of-being. Simply living.

At this point in time, I can't say that I have a "genuine" Buddhist practice because I feel as though for those who practice formally with a group ( and I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that)there are certain disciplines, forms, rituals etc that are followed regularly.


Is it important to have a "genuine" Buddhist practice?


I don't do that. BUT, I can do it now, if I want,


.....if the drive to do it is strong enough and irresistible. :-)


knowing that the form is totally empty.

Yes. Empty in the sense that there is no on-going entity called "Karen." There is just the energy that is life-expressed. Nothing stands still long enough to coalesce into a solid, persisting thing, including the self.


And that allows me to follow the form with complete abandon. That is a very differnt place then where I started from many years ago. As most people probably have, I started to sit, took precepts, etc. in order to make myself "better".

Me too. Me too. Been there, done that. At some point it became clear how pointless it was. :-) But until that point it was viewed as the path to salvation. So how others embrace, attach to, any "ism" is well understood and neither criticized nor held in contempt. It appears as that until it transforms.


When I practiced that way, practice was difficult.


Perhaps because of the underlying belief that there was an "I" to fix, to repair....as there is NO "i"...it will be mighty difficult! :-)))


Now, it is with total appreciation of the smell and the sight of rising smoke that I light insence.

Gratitude.


I don't do prostrations anymore. But, every now and then I feel like I would like to bow to the earth as a way of showing an appreciation and a humility of being a part of something that is so wonderous. So, that is how my practice became more fruitful. I love to do what I do.

Can life get any better?

Because I don't do it for any particular reason. Maybe to put it another way is that I realize any step away from what is genuine, anything that is forced or added to is a step away from reality.


Sounds like peace.

 
At March 31, 2007, Blogger karen said...

endofthedream,
Yes, it is peace. And although I would never wish illness on anyone, the loss of good health played a large part in being led to acceptance of what is. When you are diagnosed with an illness that cannot be cured and that is painful at times, in the beginning you rail against it, cry, get angry at your "bad" genes etc. But the fact that there is no way around it eventually, for me, led to acceptance or a life of anxiety and worry about what might happen next. I chose to accept, knowing that I really had no choice. How lucky can you get?!
Karen

 
At March 31, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At March 31, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Dear Karen,

You wrote,

And although I would never wish illness on anyone, the loss of good health played a large part in being led to acceptance of what is.

Similar here. I'm sure my life-threatening illness played a role. What part, how much? I can't say.



When you are diagnosed with an illness that cannot be cured


I'm not suggesting false hope, but you might want to factor in that at this time there is no cure for lupus. You just don't know about tomorrow. Five years before I became ill there was no cure for what I contracted five years later. The particular illness was a death sentence. Things change. And so I was cured.

And I'm still under a death sentence. :-)


and that is painful at times, in the beginning you rail against it, cry, get angry at your "bad" genes etc. But the fact that there is no way around it eventually, for me, led to acceptance or a life of anxiety and worry about what might happen next. I chose to accept, knowing that I really had no choice. How lucky can you get?!

Indeed!

I'm touched and warmed by your story. What you point to above is one of the fundamental situation that leads many to the spiritual search: the fatal condition about which there is eventually no way around: death.

 

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