jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
User avatar
johnny
Posts: 151
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2012 5:52 am

jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Post by 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

User avatar
Cittasanto
Posts: 6625
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin
Contact:

Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Post by Cittasanto » Thu Aug 02, 2012 6:37 am

johnny wrote: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 technique 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?
it maybe helpful if you spell out what it is you mean by Shikantaza, as you note that there are other interpretations and I am not familiar with all of the styles it could refer to such as exactly what is the Dogen style.
I had a check on Wiki and see that silemt illumination is a combination of Samantha & Vipassana so yes it is all over the place as the two are joined together in the pali canon quite allot, and the modern interpretation of just siting can be seen as the clear comprehension section mind and Feelings tetrads of the satipatthana sutta.
Blog, Suttas, Aj Chah, Facebook.

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.
John Stuart Mill

User avatar
Dan74
Posts: 3012
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Post by 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.

http://www.abuddhistlibrary.com/Buddhis ... henjue.htm
_/|\_

User avatar
daverupa
Posts: 5980
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Post by daverupa » Thu Aug 02, 2012 3:26 pm

johnny wrote:did the buddha only teach meditation that leads through the jhanas?
He taught that sammasamadhi had seven prerequisites, the first seven of the eightfold path. Therein, sammasamadhi means the rupajhanas & sammasati means satipatthana. Without this, the meditation isn't correct for Dhamma practice.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

User avatar
johnny
Posts: 151
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2012 5:52 am

Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Post by johnny » Fri Aug 03, 2012 12:09 am

Cittasanto wrote:
johnny wrote: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 technique 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?
it maybe helpful if you spell out what it is you mean by Shikantaza, as you note that there are other interpretations and I am not familiar with all of the styles it could refer to such as exactly what is the Dogen style.
I had a check on Wiki and see that silemt illumination is a combination of Samantha & Vipassana so yes it is all over the place as the two are joined together in the pali canon quite allot, and the modern interpretation of just siting can be seen as the clear comprehension section mind and Feelings tetrads of the satipatthana sutta.

i know a little about sheng yen's version of silent illumination which is based on hongzhi's work who was an early promoter of the technique. he recommends developing it in stages.

dogen shikantaza is literally just sitting, nothing else. he taught that sitting in the lotus position is itself nirvana. his whole approach too zen is very much it's own thing and doesn't really have much of a counter part in other schools.
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

User avatar
johnny
Posts: 151
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2012 5:52 am

Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Post by johnny » Fri Aug 03, 2012 12:12 am

daverupa wrote:
johnny wrote:did the buddha only teach meditation that leads through the jhanas?
He taught that sammasamadhi had seven prerequisites, the first seven of the eightfold path. Therein, sammasamadhi means the rupajhanas & sammasati means satipatthana. Without this, the meditation isn't correct for Dhamma practice.
indeed. in my readings of the canon the buddha says more than once that development of jhana is quite necessary. nonetheless, i wonder about the merits of silent illumination as it seems too fit in with some ideas i have about meditation and reality. however i know very little about it.
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
johnny
Posts: 151
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2012 5:52 am

Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Post by johnny » Fri Aug 03, 2012 12:14 am

Dan74 wrote:"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.

http://www.abuddhistlibrary.com/Buddhis ... henjue.htm



hmmm. you're right. it's difficult. from a zen perspective, many teachers will just plain tell you that the jhanas are inferior and explain why. clearly you don't feel this way about jhana, or at any rate theravada, meditation being superior too zen meditation. so i think if you were very opinionated on the topic it would have applied too you a little more. you would have read it and said "of course jhana is better! for a, b, and c reasons!" or the other way around, depending on your disposition. i'm in the same boat as you in that i really don't know, i think they may be identical and i don't have enough info to be very opinionated about it. i feel like you develop the first jhana and learn a great deal of concentration, and then silent illumination can be practiced. but again, i don't really know.

and you're right, the advice too bahiya does sound a lot like silent illumination.
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
Dan74
Posts: 3012
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Post by Dan74 » Fri Aug 03, 2012 12:56 am

johnny wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:
johnny wrote: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 technique 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?
it maybe helpful if you spell out what it is you mean by Shikantaza, as you note that there are other interpretations and I am not familiar with all of the styles it could refer to such as exactly what is the Dogen style.
I had a check on Wiki and see that silemt illumination is a combination of Samantha & Vipassana so yes it is all over the place as the two are joined together in the pali canon quite allot, and the modern interpretation of just siting can be seen as the clear comprehension section mind and Feelings tetrads of the satipatthana sutta.

i know a little about sheng yen's version of silent illumination which is based on hongzhi's work who was an early promoter of the technique. he recommends developing it in stages.

dogen shikantaza is literally just sitting, nothing else. he taught that sitting in the lotus position is itself nirvana. his whole approach too zen is very much it's own thing and doesn't really have much of a counter part in other schools.
I don't think you are doing justice to Dogen here. Have you read him? His teachings are very much to do with uprooting a dualistic mind and this has lots of precedents in Mahayana at least (cf Vimalakirti Sutra for example). I am no scholar of Mahayana and even less of a Dogen scholar but his teachings seem to be misunderstood. Just sitting is very simple, but can you "just sit"?
_/|\_

User avatar
johnny
Posts: 151
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2012 5:52 am

Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Post by johnny » Fri Aug 03, 2012 1:08 am

Dan74 wrote:


I don't think you are doing justice to Dogen here. Have you read him? His teachings are very much to do with uprooting a dualistic mind and this has lots of precedents in Mahayana at least (cf Vimalakirti Sutra for example). I am no scholar of Mahayana and even less of a Dogen scholar but his teachings seem to be misunderstood. Just sitting is very simple, but can you "just sit"?
i have read the fukan zazenji and am currently reading moon in a dew drop which is a collection of his works. he is very good! i wasn't speaking ill of him. his zen is very different from most others, that's not a negative thing, it's just true. and i read a section, written by the man himself, that said that sitting in the lotus posture is itself nirvana.
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
Dan74
Posts: 3012
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Post by Dan74 » Fri Aug 03, 2012 1:31 am

johnny wrote:
Dan74 wrote:


I don't think you are doing justice to Dogen here. Have you read him? His teachings are very much to do with uprooting a dualistic mind and this has lots of precedents in Mahayana at least (cf Vimalakirti Sutra for example). I am no scholar of Mahayana and even less of a Dogen scholar but his teachings seem to be misunderstood. Just sitting is very simple, but can you "just sit"?
i have read the fukan zazenji and am currently reading moon in a dew drop which is a collection of his works. he is very good! i wasn't speaking ill of him. his zen is very different from most others, that's not a negative thing, it's just true. and i read a section, written by the man himself, that said that sitting in the lotus posture is itself nirvana.
But do you understand what he means by "nirvana"? What is the difference between zazen and nirvana?

Do you think he is saying that when you sit in the lotus posture you are enlightened? And when you get up, you are not?

PS I don't really know what other Zen teachers say about jhanas. Do you have any references? They are not "the be all, end all" of practice in any tradition, I think. The main thing is insight and liberation and jhanas, as I understand, help quieten down fermentations, so that insight can take place. I mean what is koan introspection doing? Isn't it sweeping away fermentations with the koan and keeping the focus alive with inquiry? I have read accounts of deep koan introspection which had many similarities to jhanas. Perhaps the difference is that you are meant to carry on with it 24/7.

What is silent illumination? It's when fermentations have already been silenced to a great extent, so that awareness is spacious and luminous and as Honzhi taught formations and old habits can be seen and swept away.

Such is my provisional understanding but of course I may be wrong. But one thing for sure - this isn't the proper forum for discussing this. ZFI has Zen teachers and senior students and it would be not only more appropriate to discuss it there, but you would get more responses.
Last edited by Dan74 on Tue Aug 28, 2012 9:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
_/|\_

User avatar
johnny
Posts: 151
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2012 5:52 am

Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Post by johnny » Fri Aug 03, 2012 2:20 am

Dan74 wrote:
johnny wrote:
Dan74 wrote:


I don't think you are doing justice to Dogen here. Have you read him? His teachings are very much to do with uprooting a dualistic mind and this has lots of precedents in Mahayana at least (cf Vimalakirti Sutra for example). I am no scholar of Mahayana and even less of a Dogen scholar but his teachings seem to be misunderstood. Just sitting is very simple, but can you "just sit"?
i have read the fukan zazenji and am currently reading moon in a dew drop which is a collection of his works. he is very good! i wasn't speaking ill of him. his zen is very different from most others, that's not a negative thing, it's just true. and i read a section, written by the man himself, that said that sitting in the lotus posture is itself nirvana.
But do you understand what he means by "nirvana"? What is the difference between zazen and nirvana?

Do you think he is saying that when you sit in the lotus posture you are enlightened? And when you get up, you are not?

PS I don't really know what other Zen teachers say about jhanas. Do you have any references? They are not "the be all, end all" of practice in any tradition, I think. The main thing is insight and liberation and jhanas, as I understand, help quieten down formations, so that insight can take place. I mean what is koan introspection doing? Isn't it sweeping away formations with the koan and keeping the focus alive with inquiry? I have read accounts of deep koan introspection which had many similarities to jhanas. Perhaps the difference is that you are meant to carry on with it 24/7.

What is silent illumination? It's when formations have already been silenced to a great extent, so that awareness is spacious and luminous and as Honzhi taught formations and old habits can be seen and swept away.

Such is my provisional understanding but of course I may be wrong. But one thing for sure - this isn't the proper forum for discussing this. ZFI has Zen teachers and senior students and it would be not only more appropriate to discuss it there, but you would get more responses.

i don't know what he meant, but i think he left many statements like that open and he often wrote in vague and ethereal speech. i have also read that he didn't write in the same standard of japanese as most people of his time, making translation difficult. i have even heard it called "dogenese". some things he said were puns rather than literal statements but it doesn't always come across in translation.

in the pali canon it says that one may go into the forth jhana and then up too the fourth of the formless realms and develop insight into reality, not too mention knowledge of past lives and a slough of supernormal powers (can't remember where, i know it's in visuddimaggha, anyone know where in the canon?). jhana is required according too the buddha. it is indispensable. so if you decide not too develop the jhanas, you may be missing out, at least according too theravada. there are other sections in the canon that talk of developing insight and what not in other ways, i do not know if any allow one too exempt oneself from practicing jhana though.

that's why it matters which one you practice. many zen masters will say you don't need jhana, most theravada say you do.

references too zen masters saying not too enter jhana? no. i've read it in books long ago and can't remember titles, i've seen people say their teachers said things about it on forums and seen it in articles on line, and i heard a teacher at a zen monastery and the abbott say it. i'm positive it is a "thing" in zen that jhana is not often taught or recommended.

maybe try looking around on some zen sites, you won't find many (i've never seen a single one) that talk about jhana, they all talk about zazen which usually sounds like mindfulness of breathing with no stages listed, instead you go see a teacher periodically and they tell you where too go from there (as opposed too the standardized progression of mindfulness of breathing, access concentration, and then the jhanas) or they teach silent illumination (shikantaza). i've read more than ten books on zen and never once came across any techniques for practicing jhana. it's a theravada thing for the most part. other traditions may practice it by default, but they generally don't use the theravada systematized explanation and progression.

EDIT:
if you search specifically for a zen site that teaches jhana, of course you will find it. they are out there. so if you want too just find one that does and conclude that i am misinformed then enter a search like: "zen jhana" and you will find one. but try searching random zen sites, that way you get a fair screening of who teaches what. i'm willing too bet if you search ten random zen sites without using the word "jhana" in the search, and then check each one's instructions on how too meditate, none will mention jhana. does this mean that they discourage it? no, and usually not in today's world where we all try too be understanding and not step on toes, but the fact that they don't teach it implies that they do not see a need too teach it. not that there's anything wrong with that, i really don't know either way. obviously, that's why i made this thread too begin with lol!
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

User avatar
johnny
Posts: 151
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2012 5:52 am

Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Post by 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

User avatar
LonesomeYogurt
Posts: 900
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2012 4:24 pm
Location: America

Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Post by LonesomeYogurt » Fri Aug 03, 2012 4:46 am

johnny wrote: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.
If you're going to have a firm base in the Pali scriptures then Jhana is a requirement, unless you're willing to do some textual gymnastics.

Check out Buddhadasa or Ajahn Chah - both are firmly grounded in Theravada but have a Zen approach that many find refreshing.

Here is Buddhadasa's main meditation approach - it is very close to some Zen styles of open, calm awareness.

http://what-buddha-taught.net/Books3/Bh ... athing.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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

Stuff I write about things.

twelph
Posts: 112
Joined: Thu Oct 06, 2011 9:03 pm

Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Post by twelph » Fri Aug 03, 2012 6:13 am

LonesomeYogurt wrote: Here is Buddhadasa's main meditation approach - it is very close to some Zen styles of open, calm awareness.

http://what-buddha-taught.net/Books3/Bh ... athing.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
This is excellent, thank you!

User avatar
johnny
Posts: 151
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2012 5:52 am

Re: jhana vs silent illumination or other zen methods

Post by johnny » Fri Aug 03, 2012 6:21 am

LonesomeYogurt wrote:
johnny wrote: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.
If you're going to have a firm base in the Pali scriptures then Jhana is a requirement, unless you're willing to do some textual gymnastics.

Check out Buddhadasa or Ajahn Chah - both are firmly grounded in Theravada but have a Zen approach that many find refreshing.

Here is Buddhadasa's main meditation approach - it is very close to some Zen styles of open, calm awareness.

http://what-buddha-taught.net/Books3/Bh ... athing.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
whoa! this is really impressive!

lol! textual gymnastics! it's so funny seeing those play out, where you can really see someone trying too circumvent something they just don't want too do! "well if he meant this by this word, then i don't have too do such and such practice! even though he said too do such and such practice 500 times and only said that one word once..."
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

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 9 guests