'meditation' on Zen coans

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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devaloka
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'meditation' on Zen coans

Post by devaloka » Mon Apr 17, 2017 9:12 pm

In Zen monasteries the monks 'meditate' on the coans given to them by the teacher.

What does this 'meditation' mean? Is it thinking? It can't be vipassana? What technique do they use to work these coans?

Also is it a good idea to practice on Zen coans? If so how should one go about doing this?

Mere suffering exists, no sufferer is found;
The deed is, but no doer of the deed is there;
Nibbàna is, but not the man who enters it;
The path is, but no traveler on it is seen

Caodemarte
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Re: 'meditation' on Zen coans

Post by Caodemarte » Mon Apr 17, 2017 11:27 pm

devaloka wrote:In Zen monasteries the monks 'meditate' on the coans given to them by the teacher.

What does this 'meditation' mean? Is it thinking? It can't be vipassana? What technique do they use to work these coans?

Also is it a good idea to practice on Zen coans? If so how should one go about doing this?
I am not sure why you are asking about Zen on a Theravada board, but the almost universal response by Zen practioners would be a resounding no to your last question about koan practice without a personal relationship with a competent, qualified teacher.

Zen meditation does not involve or avoid analytical thinking. It has been described by Zen teachers as the essence of vipassana and samatha. It is like talking about swimming. The only way to understand what people are talking about is to try it and see. I would suggest visiting a local Zen group. There are also many books and instructions available on basic Zen meditation (which will also warn you about getting lost by practicing koans without a teacher). I am a big fan of "Zen Mind, Beginners Mind," a book widely praised by Theravada teachers as well.

rajitha7
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Re: 'meditation' on Zen coans

Post by rajitha7 » Mon Apr 17, 2017 11:42 pm

devaloka wrote:What does this 'meditation' mean? Is it thinking?
Meditation is the process used by a Buddhist to attain Nibbana.

The Buddha said, “ragakkhayo Nibbanan, dosakkhayo Nibbanan, Mohakkhayo Nibbanan“, i.e., one attains Nibbana via getting rid of raga, dosa, moha in our minds. Thus cleansing our minds is the only way to Nibbana.

Nibbana “Exists”, but Not in This World

Make sure the meditation achieve this objective and it has been recommended in the Sutta's.

Check here -> The correct way to meditate
Unsurpassed is the Lord’s way of teaching the Dhamma concerning one’s proper moral conduct. One should be honest and faithful, without deception, chatter, hinting or belittling, not always ready to add gain to gain, but with the sense-doors guarded, moderate in food, a promoter of peace, observant, active and strenuous in effort, a meditator, mindful, with proper conversation, steady-going, resolute and sensible, not hankering after sense pleasures, but mindful and prudent. This is the unsurpassed teaching concerning a person’s proper ethical conduct. - Sampasādanīya, Dīgha Nikāya 28

devaloka
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Re: 'meditation' on Zen coans

Post by devaloka » Tue Apr 18, 2017 12:59 am

Caodemarte wrote:
devaloka wrote:In Zen monasteries the monks 'meditate' on the coans given to them by the teacher.

What does this 'meditation' mean? Is it thinking? It can't be vipassana? What technique do they use to work these coans?

Also is it a good idea to practice on Zen coans? If so how should one go about doing this?
I am not sure why you are asking about Zen on a Theravada board, but the almost universal response by Zen practioners would be a resounding no to your last question about koan practice without a personal relationship with a competent, qualified teacher.

Zen meditation does not involve or avoid analytical thinking. It has been described by Zen teachers as the essence of vipassana and samatha. It is like talking about swimming. The only way to understand what people are talking about is to try it and see. I would suggest visiting a local Zen group. There are also many books and instructions available on basic Zen meditation (which will also warn you about getting lost by practicing koans without a teacher). I am a big fan of "Zen Mind, Beginners Mind," a book widely praised by Theravada teachers as well.
Well this is the connection to other paths subforum so I thought it could be posted here. I am not talking about Zen meditation. When dealing with koans they are 'meditating on' the koans. How does this meditation practice that works with koans looks like?

Mere suffering exists, no sufferer is found;
The deed is, but no doer of the deed is there;
Nibbàna is, but not the man who enters it;
The path is, but no traveler on it is seen

paul
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Re: 'meditation' on Zen coans

Post by paul » Tue Apr 18, 2017 3:58 am

The process in samatha meditation involves focussing on a single object until you split it and then a whole new range of subtleties opens up and it's the same process with a koan. It's a method of strengthening concentration.

whynotme
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Re: 'meditation' on Zen coans

Post by whynotme » Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:17 am

devaloka wrote:In Zen monasteries the monks 'meditate' on the coans given to them by the teacher.

What does this 'meditation' mean? Is it thinking? It can't be vipassana? What technique do they use to work these coans?

Also is it a good idea to practice on Zen coans? If so how should one go about doing this?
Koan is a method to concentrate by using natural curiosity. But how do you ask it on Therevada forum?

Concentration is a state of mind, which can be achieved by many method. For example, if you are in love, all your mind are concentrated on the subject, or if you like a sport, a movie, a conversation, then your mind concentrates on the matter.

Koan is one of that, the teacher makes the student be doubt/curious on the subject matter to suppress other thinking.

I don't think it is a good practice, while it has some benefit, it has its negatives as well. The most negative thing about zen/koan is that the teacher is not enlightened yet, so he can give the student the false teaching. If the teacher is enlightened, then he does not need koan at all.

No one zen master is enlightened, and zen was not taught by the Buddha.

PS: Koan is like prank, it has its time. It works the first time/era, but not the second time when people mind are prepared.
Last edited by whynotme on Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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whynotme
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Re: 'meditation' on Zen coans

Post by whynotme » Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:25 am

paul wrote:The process in samatha meditation involves focussing on a single object until you split it and then a whole new range of subtleties opens up and it's the same process with a koan. It's a method of strengthening concentration.
This is far from truth. While meditation requires concentration, the jhana is very different from koan. Koan is like critical thinking/ feeling to recognize a problem. Koan does not provide pleasure feeling.

OTOH, jhana is concentration on the body, it is quite of relaxed and provide extreme pleasure feeling.

I don't know if you call jhana is concentration, or if you can suppress your mind to achieve it. Quite the opposite, to achieve jhana you must give up, not trying to concentrate.

The way you talk, you don't know jhana. So don't give advice on the matter.

If anyone is lucky to meet a teaching by enlightened people, then IMO it is quite easy to achieve first jhana. Most people do it wrongly.
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Caodemarte
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Re: 'meditation' on Zen coans

Post by Caodemarte » Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:29 pm

devaloka wrote:...I am not talking about Zen meditation. When dealing with koans they are 'meditating on' the koans. How does this meditation practice that works with koans looks like?
To be pedantic, Zen practioners do not mediate on or about koans or analyze them. Those who use use koans practice or resolve koans. When they sit formally to do this it looks like any other Buddhist meditation session (Zen literally means meditation or dhyana). Koans are an artificial device to focus, crystallize, penetrate, and resolve the existential doubt that motivates practice, a question that the practioner feels must be resolved. For example, the Buddha asked why there was suffering, old age, and death. According to some stories, he fully focused on this question as a device (and because it is in words it is artificial) to get to the bottom of things. As to how this is done and what it feels like, I would think very similar to (but not exactly the same as) any other Buddhist meditation properly done. It certainly has the same end (liberation). However, it is especially important to do koan practice, if you are driven to go do, only with a qualified teacher as otherwise you will quickly run into blind alleys, intellectualize, or falsely convince yourself that you have resolved the koan.

Santi253
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Re: 'meditation' on Zen coans

Post by Santi253 » Thu May 11, 2017 9:26 am

In countries like China and Korea, the Nianfo is meditated upon as a Zen koan, with the meditator asking oneself, "Who is the one doing the reciting?" The point is to come to the realization of non-self, that there is no separate self reciting the Nianfo, and that there is no distinction between oneself and the Buddha.
Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. - Mahatma Gandhi

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