Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Aloka
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Post by Aloka » Mon Dec 23, 2013 10:12 am

Myotai wrote: Spent the last month or so looking into the teachings of Dogen and how they're used by the Soto school. A few things that I have come away with, and in advance these are not meant to offend, merely my personal observations - but I would value your opinions:
Hi Myotai,

Why not take your queries to Zen Forum International ? There's an "Ask a teacher" forum there with several Zen teachers available to answer questions.

http://www.zenforuminternational.org/

With kind regards,

Aloka

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convivium
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Post by convivium » Tue Dec 24, 2013 6:16 am

dogen is the probably most important buddhist philosopher for westerners to get into. undercuts our whole way of seeking after experiences and sensations, along with the whole instrumental and technological outlook, and ressentiment. opens up the needed realm of communal spirit and focal practices. really the most profound and relevant buddhist thinker for our times.
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php

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m0rl0ck
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Post by m0rl0ck » Tue Dec 24, 2013 9:17 pm

Truth is perfect and complete in itself. It is not something newly discovered; it has always existed. Truth is not far away. It is nearer than near. There is no need to attain it, since not one of your steps leads away from it. Don’t follow the advise of others; rather, learn to listen to the voice within yourself. Your body and mind will become one, and you will realise the unity of all things. Even the slightest movement of your conceptual thought will prevent you from entering the palace of wisdom. The Buddha meditated for six years; Bodhidharma for nine. If such effort was required of these ancient Masters, how much more is required of you. Your search among books, sifting and shuffling through other people’s words, may lead you to the depths of knowledge, but it cannot help you to see the reflection of your true self. When you have thrown away all conceptions of mind and body, the original person will appear, in all his fullness. To obtain the inestimable benefits of meditation, you should first make a firm decision to practice everyday.

Your meditation room should be clean and quiet. Wear loose clothing and remove your shoes. Sit on a cushion, with legs crossed, in as comfortable a manner as possible. Keep your back straight. Don’t lean to the left or right; don’t tip forward or bend back. ……Breathe through your nostrils. Before you begin meditation, take several slow, deep breaths. Hold your body erect, allowing your breathing to become normal again. Many thoughts will crowd into your mind. Don’t dwell on thoughts of good or bad. Don’t desire to attain enlightenment. Let thoughts come and go, without getting involved in them or trying to suppress them. Think the unthinkable. In other words think no-thinking. Meditation is not a way to enlightenment, nor is it a method of achieving anything at all. It is peace and blessedness itself. It is the actualisation of wisdom, the ultimate truth of oneness with all things. In your meditation, you yourself are the mirror reflecting the solutions to your problems. The human mind has absolute freedom within its true nature. You can attain freedom intuitively. Don’t work toward freedom; but allow the work itself to be freedom. When you want to rest, move your body slowly, and quietly stand up. Practice this meditation in the morning or in the evening, or at any leisure time during the day.
http://www.goldcoastyogacentre.com/welcome/page71.php

Actually i think the idea that just sitting is enlightenment came from the above passage. The bolding is mine.
I have been a student of zen/chan for about 20 years, its been worth the effort, and in some small way i think i may at times approach the ideal of "just sitting" as outlined in the above quote.
If you are going to get some understanding of zen, or any tradition for that matter, you will need longer than a month and should probably contact a teacher of that tradition. If you are looking for a zen / chan teacher i would look for one that uses both rinzai and soto techniques. I have read that many of the great teachers, including dogen, used both kinds of methods.

EDIT: Thank you to the OP for inspiring me to look this up, i havent read it in a while and its one of my favorites :)

EDIT: i actually like this translation better http://www.dailyzen.com/zen/zen_reading0401.asp
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

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convivium
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Post by convivium » Sun Feb 16, 2014 11:37 pm

what madhyamaka does i think is allow for the inversion of the mundane/transcendental... just how N inverted the suprasensory/becoming... what schopenhauer had in mind with 'positive nothingness' and what heidegger had in mind with conealment/unconcealment for the completion of nietzsche's aforementioned overturning of metaphysics is tightly knit with what dogen does. the idea of instant enlightenment is working within the madhyamaka, heraclitean, heideggerean etc. paradigm of language as the house of being; dogen says 'those who are enlightened are not deluded about enlightenment; those that aren't are deluded about enlightenment'. you should check out heine's book 'existential and ontological dimensions of time...'
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php

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waterchan
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Post by waterchan » Mon Feb 17, 2014 3:36 am

tiltbillings wrote:Give us an actual quote.
He wasn't a monk, but wasn't it Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki who used the Zen Buddhist concept of emptiness to justify Japan's militaristic expansion efforts in the 1940's?

His reasoning went along the lines of: once you reach enlightenment, you find that there's no self, and so whatever action you commit, ethically pure or not, is not yours. So when you kill someone, it's not you who's doing the killing. Rather, at some point during the cosmic dance of the knife, your enemy's face just happens to fall on its tip.

:D
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)

Dan74
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Post by Dan74 » Mon Feb 17, 2014 11:48 pm

waterchan wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Give us an actual quote.
He wasn't a monk, but wasn't it Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki who used the Zen Buddhist concept of emptiness to justify Japan's militaristic expansion efforts in the 1940's?

His reasoning went along the lines of: once you reach enlightenment, you find that there's no self, and so whatever action you commit, ethically pure or not, is not yours. So when you kill someone, it's not you who's doing the killing. Rather, at some point during the cosmic dance of the knife, your enemy's face just happens to fall on its tip.

:D
The trouble is probably that Japanese Buddhism had become somewhat cut off from the broader Mahayana. There are many warnings in all schools of Buddhism about what you describe. As far as DT Suzuki goes, his fault is a matter of controversy. See, for example, from the wiki page:
Kemmyō Taira Sato states that Victoria's criticism of D.T. Suzuki is misplaced, since Suzuki did not support the Japanese militarism in his writings:

In cases where Suzuki directly expresses his position on the contemporary political situation—whether in his articles, public talks, or letters to friends (in which he would have had no reason to misrepresent his views) — he is clear and explicit in his distrust of and opposition to State Shinto, rightwing thought, and the other forces that were pushing Japan toward militarism and war, even as he expressed interest in decidedly non-rightist ideologies like socialism.[19]

Victoria himself quotes critical remarks by Suzuki on the war and the support given to it by the Zen-institutuins:

[T]hey diligently practiced the art of self-preservation through their narrow-minded focus on "pacifying and preserving the state"
There is also a detailed article on the subject discussed here: http://www.tricycle.com/feature/fog-world-war-ii
_/|\_

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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Post by alan » Tue Feb 18, 2014 5:00 am

Just been reading Max Hasting's great book the Japan/America conflict. His opinion is that no one is spared blame on the Japanese side for their gross atrocities. But besides that, David McMahan absolutely destroys whatever pretense D.T. Suzuki may have had in chapter five of The making of modern Buddhism.

Zen has slipped into popular culture, but has never been vetted, just accepted as "wisdom". Phrases such as "everyday life is enlightenment" seem nonsensical to me. "Just sit" may appeal to stressed-out executives or hippie-dippie dropouts--those who need stress relief, or those who don't want to do anything at all. But I have yet to find any value in it.

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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Post by culaavuso » Tue Feb 18, 2014 5:23 am

alan wrote:Phrases such as "everyday life is enlightenment" ... "Just sit"
"Every day life is enlightenment" is a phrase that can cause people to stop thinking they will win an enlightenment prize from some ritual of sitting. It encourages constant mindfulness practice constantly in daily affairs as opposed to occasionally as a separate activity not integrated with the rest of life. Saying "Just sit" is a challenge to stop fabricating things physically, verbally, and mentally. It's a challenge that makes the not-self nature of phenomena clear, and is also related with the notion of "non-fashioning". Saying to "just sit" implies stopping all other activities other than sitting, including the mental acts of construing or delineating.

A Still Forest Pool
Ajahn Chah wrote: Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing.
MN 118
MN 118: Anapanasati Sutta wrote: He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'
...
He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming mental fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming mental fabrication.'
MN 113
MN 113: Sappurisa Sutta wrote: But a person of integrity notices, 'The Blessed One has spoken of non-fashioning even with regard to the attainment of the first jhāna, for by whatever means they construe it, it becomes otherwise from that.' So, giving priority to non-fashioning, he neither exalts himself for the attainment of the first jhāna nor disparages others. This is the quality of a person of integrity.
...
A person of integrity, completely transcending the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, enters & remains in the cessation of feeling & perception. When he sees with discernment, his effluents are ended. This is a monk who does not construe anything, does not construe anywhere, does not construe in any way.
DN 15
DN 15: Maha-nidana Sutta wrote: To what extent, Ananda, does one delineate when delineating a self? Either delineating a self possessed of form and finite, one delineates that 'My self is possessed of form and finite.' Or, delineating a self possessed of form and infinite, one delineates that 'My self is possessed of form and infinite.' Or, delineating a self formless and finite, one delineates that 'My self is formless and finite.' Or, delineating a self formless and infinite, one delineates that 'My self is formless and infinite.'

alan
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Post by alan » Tue Feb 18, 2014 5:44 am

"Everyday life is enlightenment" is not true, and causes people to believe they have something they don't.
"Just sit" may mean to still the mind, but without any other instructions, it will lead to blankness.
The first quote is a good example of relaxing into meditation, but it is just a first step, not a path.
The second quote is part of a long exposition of how to meditate correctly. Note that Buddha gave instructions, not a blanket phrase.
The third refers to a Jhanic state, which is not relevant to the discussion.
The last one is a discussion about how we think about ourselves, not instructions for meditation.

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Mkoll
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Post by Mkoll » Tue Feb 18, 2014 6:09 am

alan wrote:"Everyday life is enlightenment"

...

"Just sit"
As usual, the meaning of these phrases depends on interpretation and context.

With the first, without a spiritual or Buddhist context to it, that could mean that enlightenment is always present and is not to be strived for. For someone interpreting that phrase without knowledge of the spiritual background, it could just reinforce their belief that spiritual practice is not necessary. For those of us with a background in spiritual practice, it can be interpreted as a call to mindfulness at all times. However, this is stretching it and I would incline towards the former interpretation. Amending it to "practicing for enlightenment can be done in everyday life" is much better because it introduces the element of effort.

It's relatively similar with the second phrase.

I don't think one would be responsible by saying these phrases to someone unless one has reason to believe that person has the tools and means to correctly understand what one is trying to say.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Post by alan » Tue Feb 18, 2014 6:21 am

Asserting that daily life is enlightenment is wrong by any standard. At least, it devalues mindfulness by equating it with basic awareness. At worst it completely ruins practice.

Dan74
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Post by Dan74 » Tue Feb 18, 2014 7:22 am

Who is asserting that everyday life is enlightenment, actually?

The two instances that are sound similar that I recall are Nan-chuan saying "ordinary mind is the way" and Linchi saying "Chop wood, carry water." Both have very specific context.
_/|\_

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Myotai
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Post by Myotai » Wed Apr 09, 2014 9:54 am

I hear it all the time...though currently in work so cannot offer any definitive examples. But statements like, this very sitting is Buddha or sitting upright with no thought of up or down is enlightenment....its all unnecessarily poetic for me with little that explains anything....or if it does it only intimates.

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m0rl0ck
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Post by m0rl0ck » Wed Apr 09, 2014 11:57 am

alan wrote: The first quote is a good example of relaxing into meditation, but it is just a first step, not a path.
Actually to me it seems to be more than that, possibly the entire path. If you are grasping at nothing and resisting nothing you are free. As far as "everyday life is enlightenment" i dont think i have actually read that anywhere. I have seen "ordinary mind is the way" but that doesnt mean what you think it means.
There is just no cure for willful misunderstanding and your aversions and graspings are regrettable, but they are yours to give up.

EDIT: corrected my "ordinary mind..." statement above. Thanks Dan.
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

Dan74
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Post by Dan74 » Wed Apr 09, 2014 12:57 pm

Myotai wrote:I hear it all the time...though currently in work so cannot offer any definitive examples. But statements like, this very sitting is Buddha or sitting upright with no thought of up or down is enlightenment....its all unnecessarily poetic for me with little that explains anything....or if it does it only intimates.
Well, if in sitting, there is a dropping off of all conceptual proliferation, of a notion of attainment, no progress or regress ("up or down") - no duality of any sort, and yet there is a keen alertness, that's at the very least, a very good sit, IMO. Maybe that's where these instructions are pointing?
_/|\_

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