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jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods - Dhamma Wheel

jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
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johnny
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jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby johnny » Thu Aug 02, 2012 4:12 am

many chan/zen teachers do not recommend traditional jhana meditation and instead teach silent illumination (in japanese shikantaza, although i think this is a dogen version of it and is a little different).

is one better than the other?

are they technically the same?

is there anything like silent illumination or other zen methods in the pali canon?

did the buddha only teach meditation that leads through the jhanas?
Last edited by johnny on Fri Aug 03, 2012 12:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.
There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

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Cittasanto
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Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Aug 02, 2012 6:37 am



He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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Dan74
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Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby Dan74 » Thu Aug 02, 2012 9:21 am

"Is one better than the other?" is not only a very loaded but a pretty pointless question. Better for whom?

We all have our particular obstructions and some respond better to a particular method while other may respond better to another. Even people with the same sickness don't always respond in the same way to the same medication.

Here there would not be many people who have practiced the methods you ask about, but perhaps you can ask the few who have to describe their experiences. Again I am not sure what use that would be to you.

Advice to Bahiya that has already been mentioned in one of your threads, I think, has strong parallels to silent illumination. Ven Nyanaponika taught meditation he called bare attention which also has similarities.

As for jhanas vs shikantaza, I think there is a lot of evidence to show that shikantaza is an advanced practice and the practitioner would have reached a level of maturity before practicing silent illumination. This maturity may involve some mastery of the jhanas, I am not sure. In any case most teachers I have heard and the one Soto teacher I have sat with taught breath awareness meditation much like anapanasati, first.

Have a look at the teachings of Honzhi on silent illumination. He was one of its great proponents and Dogen held him in highest regard so it should be relevant both to Chan and Soto Zen.

_/|\_

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daverupa
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Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby daverupa » Thu Aug 02, 2012 3:26 pm


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johnny
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Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby johnny » Fri Aug 03, 2012 12:09 am

Last edited by johnny on Fri Aug 03, 2012 12:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.
There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

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johnny
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Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby johnny » Fri Aug 03, 2012 12:12 am

The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.
There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

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johnny
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Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby johnny » Fri Aug 03, 2012 12:14 am

The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.
There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

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Dan74
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Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby Dan74 » Fri Aug 03, 2012 12:56 am

_/|\_

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johnny
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Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby johnny » Fri Aug 03, 2012 1:08 am

The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.
There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

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Dan74
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Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby Dan74 » Fri Aug 03, 2012 1:31 am

Last edited by Dan74 on Tue Aug 28, 2012 9:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
_/|\_

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johnny
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Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby johnny » Fri Aug 03, 2012 2:20 am

Last edited by johnny on Fri Aug 03, 2012 6:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.
There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

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johnny
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Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby johnny » Fri Aug 03, 2012 2:56 am

oh wait, what am i saying? jhana is frequently listed as exactly the definition of "right concentration"! so it's firmly in the pali canon as a very important step.
The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.
There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

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LonesomeYogurt
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Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Fri Aug 03, 2012 4:46 am

Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta


twelph
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Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby twelph » Fri Aug 03, 2012 6:13 am


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johnny
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Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby johnny » Fri Aug 03, 2012 6:21 am

The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.
There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

User avatar
Cittasanto
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Location: Ellan Vannin
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Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:52 am



He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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Dan74
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Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby Dan74 » Sat Aug 04, 2012 11:17 am

Johnny, perhaps the trouble with Zen books is

1. people may take them as self-contained manuals for practice and substitutes for practicing with a teacher - they are neither
2. in regards to classical texts, there is translation bias in favour of material that is specifically zen rather than the stuff that is shared

Both of these issues can provide a very incomplete and skewed perspective on what Zen practice actually entails.
_/|\_

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Cittasanto
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Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Aug 04, 2012 12:03 pm



He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

wildfox7
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Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby wildfox7 » Sat Aug 18, 2012 10:23 pm

Johnny,
I have practiced both jhana and Silent Illumination meditation methods for several years, separately. Different sides of the same street. If you become proficient at both, I think you will share my view that it is the same stuff.

Since you are seeking concise instructions on meditation, you can dismiss the traditional literature, as it never survives translation enough to be useful to modern readers. Dogen has little to say about meditation, in particular. Sounds like you are not ready to go to a teacher of Silent Illumination. As you are already practicing jhana, I will say nothing about that, except to caution to stay with the meditation object and not fall into the phenomena of experiences. This technical point is stressed more in zen instructions than in Theravada. Your mention of zen teachers discounting jhana practice is nothing more than the zen version of the ongoing slapping between 'concentration' and 'insight'. All the jhana teachers that I know of insist and argue that jhana practice excludes 'insight' practice. This is an important technical argument that I decline to speak about, as people are so intractable and take offense at disagreement.

All you need to know about SI can be found in "The Method of No-Method" and Chap. 8 of "Hoof Prints of the Ox", the latter being more concise. Both by Sheng Yen. Each 10 bucks cheap.

Shikantaza is to sit with complete awareness ('concentration' is too strong a word) of your sitting posture, completely still. When you have that down pretty good, you cannot help but notice that the only part of your body still moving is due to the action of breathing. So you watch that, too. Soon you do not feel the body posture any more because you are sitting so still. So you are left with the breathing to notice. Not just at the nose, but the entire body breathing. You have transitioned from Shikantaza to beginning SI.

The disadvantage of practicing from written instructions is overestimating your progress. If both interest you, then commit to one for a year and then the other for a year. No mixing. Habituation is the most important element of any meditation practice. If you have problems or bad days with jhana, go back to anapana for a week. With SI problems, go back to shikantaza or even the "10 breath counts". Forget 'insights', they come on their own.

pegembara
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Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Postby pegembara » Sun Aug 19, 2012 2:58 am

Now I would like to explain how to use the method of shikantaza. First, your posture should be upright. Do not lean in any direction. Be clear about your posture, because if you practice shikantaza, just sitting, at the very least you should be conscientious about sitting. It is also important to remain relaxed.
Next, be aware of your body, but do not think of it as yourself. Regard your body as a car you drive. You have to handle the car well, but it is not you. If you think of your body as yourself, you will be bothered by pain, itchiness and other vexations. Just take care of the body and be aware of it. The Chinese name for this method can be translated as "just take care of sitting." You have to be mindful of your body as the driver must be mindful of the car, but the car is not the driver.

After a period of time, the body will sit naturally and cause no problems. Now you can begin to pay attention to the mind. If you were eating, your mind should be the "mind of eating," and you would pay attention to that mind. When you are sitting, your mind should be the "mind of sitting." You watch this sitting mind. Two different thoughts alternate: the mind of sitting and the mind, or thought, that watches the mind of sitting [see viewtopic.php?f=16&t=13376&start=20]. First you watch the body sitting with little attention to the mind. When the body drops away, watch the mind. What is the mind? It is the mind of sitting! When your attention dissipates, you will lose awareness of this sitting mind and the sensations of the body will return. Then you should again watch the body sitting. Another possibility is that while you watch the mind you fall into a dull state, like "Being on the dark side of the mountain in a cave inhabited by ghosts." When you become aware of this situation, your bodily sensations return, and you should go back to watching them. Thus these two objects of attention, the body and the mind, are also used alternately.

In the state where you watch the mind, are you aware of the external environment, sound for example? If you want to hear sound, you will, and if you do not want to hear sound, you won't. At this point, you primarily pay attention to your own mind. Although you may hear sounds, they do not create discriminations.
There are three stages in this practice. You should start at the beginning and progress to deeper levels. First be mindful of your body[kayaupasana]. Then be mindful of your mind[vedana, cittaupasana], and of the two thoughts alternating in it. The third stage is enlightenment. The mind is clear and, as the poem quoted said, "In silence, words are forgotten. In utter clarity, things appear." When you first practice, you will probably be in the first or second level. If you use this method correctly you will not enter into samadhi.

This last point needs clarification. It depends on how we use the term "samadhi." In Buddhadharma, samadhi has many meanings. For instance, Sakyamuni Buddha was always in samadhi. His mind was not moving, yet he still continued to function. This is wisdom. Sakyamuni Buddha's samadhi is great samadhi and this is the same as wisdom. When I said that in the practice of Silent Illumination, you should not enter samadhi, I meant worldly samadhi[trance] where you forget about space and time and are oblivious to the environment. The deeper kind of samadhi, which is the same as wisdom, is in fact the goal of Silent Illumination.

http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=241704616435
Shikantaza and Silent Illumination, Master Sheng Yen
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.


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