Zen, Dogen and being put off...

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

Postby 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...

Postby 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...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postby daverupa » Wed Apr 09, 2014 1:54 pm

Dan74 wrote:no duality of any sort, and yet there is a keen alertness, that's at the very least, a very good sit, IMO.


Does right effort comprise a duality (wholesome/unwholesome) that is, on this view, to be set aside?
    "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]
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Postby Dan74 » Wed Apr 09, 2014 2:38 pm

daverupa wrote:
Dan74 wrote:no duality of any sort, and yet there is a keen alertness, that's at the very least, a very good sit, IMO.


Does right effort comprise a duality (wholesome/unwholesome) that is, on this view, to be set aside?


There is time to exert it and time to set it aside. We know not to attach to the raft, don't we? So in the context of Dogen's shikantaza, my limited understanding is that his exortations not to seek results and yet perservere in meditation and posture, his descriptions of non-judgmental non-grasping clear awareness constitute Right Effort. Trust the raft (shikantaza) and gradually let go of the notion of a being that is crossing over to superbeing/nonbeing (conceit). I guess wholesome/unwholesome proceed from (absence of) grasping and aversion, so the kind of awareness Dogen advocates in shikantaza does exactly that. In my limited (and probably quite incorrect) understanding, shikantaza is a little crucible of liberation. In this fairly non-challenging situation which after some practice we feel reasonably comfortable in, we gradually learn to practice non-attached radiant awareness.

Of course even earlier it can be very liberating to allow oneself to just sit, without adding expectations, notions of correct/incorrect, fast/slow, cannonical/extracannonical. To just sit, one has to let go of the garbage. There is a lot to process, a lot to clear. It can and usually does take years. Right Effort, the way I see it, is to persevere with correct practice, motivated by something other than personal desires and ambitions, seeing through the appearances and dualities as empty and letting them go. Until there is shikantaza in every moment, not just the cushion.

Ven Sheng-Yen, who studied shikantaza under Soto masters in Japan writes:

While you are practicing just sitting, be clear about everything going on in your mind. Whatever you feel, be aware of it, but never abandon the awareness of your whole body sitting there. Shikantaza is not sitting with nothing to do; it is a very demanding practice, requiring diligence as well as alertness. If your practice goes well, you will experience the 'dropping off' of sensations and thoughts. You need to stay with it and begin to take the whole environment as your body. Whatever enters the door of your senses becomes one totality, extending from your body to the whole environment. This is silent illumination.


There is also the following description from the scholar Hee-Jin Kim:

The prototype for the unity of practice and enlightenment, as all Dogen students know, is “zazen-only” (shikan taza). In a nutshell, it consists of four aspects:

(1) It is that seated meditation which is objectless, imageless, themeless, with no internal or external devices or supports, and is nonconcentrative, decentered, and open-ended.
Yet it is a heightened, sustained, and total awareness of the self and the world. (2) It seeks no attainment whatsoever, be it enlightenment, an extraordinary religious experience,
supernormal powers, or buddhahood, and accordingly, is non-teleological [lacks “purposeful development towards a final end”] and simply ordinary. (3) It is “the body and mind cast off” (shinjin datsuraku) as the state of ultimate freedom, also called “the samadhi of self-fulfilling activity” (jijuyu zammai). And (4) it requires single-minded earnestness, resolve, and urgency on the part of the meditator.


There is also this beautiful though perhaps not always easily accesible article on shikantaza by Taigen Dan Leighton

http://www.ancientdragon.org/dharma/articles/the_art_of_just_sitting
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Postby Anagarika » Wed Apr 09, 2014 4:06 pm

I regret that my comments following this quote may not be Right Speech, but:

"
The prototype for the unity of practice and enlightenment, as all Dogen students know, is “zazen-only” (shikan taza). In a nutshell, it consists of four aspects:

(1) It is that seated meditation which is objectless, imageless, themeless, with no internal or external devices or supports, and is nonconcentrative, decentered, and open-ended.
Yet it is a heightened, sustained, and total awareness of the self and the world. (2) It seeks no attainment whatsoever, be it enlightenment, an extraordinary religious experience,
supernormal powers, or buddhahood, and accordingly, is non-teleological [lacks “purposeful development towards a final end”] and simply ordinary. (3) It is “the body and mind cast off” (shinjin datsuraku) as the state of ultimate freedom, also called “the samadhi of self-fulfilling activity” (jijuyu zammai). And (4) it requires single-minded earnestness, resolve, and urgency on the part of the meditator."


This is not what the Buddha taught as jhana (as described in the Suttas), the meditation that he admonished his monks to practice. As the title of the original post was "being put off," this is what put me off of Zen many years ago, the idea (maybe in my own mind) that Dogen had intentionally departed from the Agamas, departed from even the early Chinese dhyana meditation masters ( ie Zhiyi), and fashioned his own brand of meditation and dharma in order to curry favor with the laity, the Emperor, and government in Japan. He knowingly rejected the Dhamma that was certainly available to him, and created his own brand. To me, this is "Dogenism," rather than Buddhism. Dogenism has value and It is practiced by many good people, but I feel that the embrace of Dogen is essentially a rejection of much of what the Buddha taught.
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Postby beeblebrox » Wed Apr 09, 2014 4:53 pm

m0rl0ck wrote:As far as "everyday life is enlightenment" i dont think i have actually read that anywhere.


This might be an (erroneous) paraphrasing of the "every day is a good day" that was said by venerable Yunmen, in a koan. I think it was a comment he made about the Chinese New Year.

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

Postby Dan74 » Wed Apr 09, 2014 5:02 pm

Anagarika, you are of course free to choose and not obliged to like or appreciate Dogen. I take absolutely no offense at your words (I am not even a formal practitioner of Soto Zen, but even if I was...)

If a point can be made here it is that Dogen, as far as I can make out, tried in the best way he knew, to embody and pass on the Dharma, the Way to Liberation. These motives you ascribe to him, are a grave charge and you should back it up. I think it is very naive and misguided to think of Mahayana masters as rejecting the Dhamma as embodied in the Agamas or the Pali Canon. They were of course a product of their tradition and worked within it. Luckily there is plenty of Dharma in Mahayana.

Not to say that people whose heart in Theravada practice necessarily need to care, but since this is the topic of the thread...
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Postby Anagarika » Wed Apr 09, 2014 5:19 pm

These motives you ascribe to him, are a grave charge and you should back it up. I think it is very naive and misguided to think of Mahayana masters as rejecting the Dhamma as embodied in the Agamas or the Pali Canon.


I'm only offering an opinion on a forum that I believe invites opinion, and others can weigh in on the subject. If my comments are misguided, then I can only hope to be corrected. I'm trying not to appear to be naïve or vindictive regarding Soto Zen and Dogen, for example, I do feel it's fair to suggest that what emerged in medieval Japan is a departure from the Dhamma that preceded its arrival into China and then Japan. There's an entire body of literature on this subject, and I feel I'm not the first to make this suggestion. In fact, I make this observation based on some of the scholarship I've been exposed to and yes, I may be naïve in the sense that I am not a student or scholar of medieval Japanese Buddhism. Is Japanese Mahayana a departure from the early teachings of the Buddha regarding, for example, meditation? In many respects, I do believe that it is. I am not being critical of anyone that practices zazen, for example. I am hugely in favor of any person that opens their minds and hearts to the practice of Buddhism, and does so with the intention of being mindful, compassionate, and wise. I view the Bodhisattva ideal very favorably, and feel that Mahayana has brought to the west many positive attributes that Theravada may not have previously focused on, including the engaged practices (hospice care and training, for example) that some western Zen practitioners have developed.
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Postby culaavuso » Wed Apr 09, 2014 6:38 pm

Dan74 wrote:There is also the following description from the scholar Hee-Jin Kim:

The prototype for the unity of practice and enlightenment, as all Dogen students know, is “zazen-only” (shikan taza). In a nutshell, it consists of four aspects:

(1) It is that seated meditation which is objectless, imageless, themeless, with no internal or external devices or supports, and is nonconcentrative, decentered, and open-ended.
Yet it is a heightened, sustained, and total awareness of the self and the world. (2) It seeks no attainment whatsoever, be it enlightenment, an extraordinary religious experience,
supernormal powers, or buddhahood, and accordingly, is non-teleological [lacks “purposeful development towards a final end”] and simply ordinary. (3) It is “the body and mind cast off” (shinjin datsuraku) as the state of ultimate freedom, also called “the samadhi of self-fulfilling activity” (jijuyu zammai). And (4) it requires single-minded earnestness, resolve, and urgency on the part of the meditator.



This sounds similar to the themeless awareness-release described in the suttas in places like SN 41.7 or MN 121. One possible risk with teaching this method to early students is that the suttas describe this state of mind as a rather advanced practice developed after the formless attainments. Without an understanding and practice of earlier stages of jhana, it could be easy to misunderstand such instructions and simply indulge in letting the mind wander. This could be one reason why at least some instructors at Soto Zen temples choose to teach basic mindfulness of breathing which can develop the earlier jhanas before giving more advanced instructions like shikan taza.

MN 121: Cula-suññata Sutta wrote:Further, Ananda, the monk — not attending to the perception of the dimension of nothingness, not attending to the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception — attends to the singleness based on the theme-less concentration of awareness. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its theme-less concentration of awareness.

He discerns that 'Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of the dimension of nothingness are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, are not present. And there is only this modicum of disturbance: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.' He discerns that 'This mode of perception is empty of the perception of the dimension of nothingness. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. There is only this non-emptiness: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.' Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: 'There is this.' And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

Further, Ananda, the monk — not attending to the perception of the dimension of nothingness, not attending to the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception — attends to the singleness based on the theme-less concentration of awareness. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its theme-less concentration of awareness.

He discerns that 'This theme-less concentration of awareness is fabricated & mentally fashioned.' And he discerns that 'Whatever is fabricated & mentally fashioned is inconstant & subject to cessation.' For him — thus knowing, thus seeing — the mind is released from the effluent of sensuality, the effluent of becoming, the effluent of ignorance. With release, there is the knowledge, 'Released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Postby Anagarika » Wed Apr 09, 2014 7:05 pm

This could be one reason why at least some instructors at Soto Zen temples choose to teach basic mindfulness of breathing which can develop the earlier jhanas before giving more advanced instructions like shikan taza.


This is a terrifically interesting comment. I would applaud the possibility that within Soto Zen there are teachers that teach "basic mindfulness of breathing which can develop the earlier jhanas" while introducing "For him — thus knowing, thus seeing — the mind is released from the effluent of sensuality, the effluent of becoming, the effluent of ignorance. With release, there is the knowledge, 'Released." I am unsure if we can equate zazen with what is described in MN 121, but the idea of this is intriguing. I regret that my comments were seemingly not Right Speech. My own experience with Soto Zen did involve an outright rejection of jhana by the Roshi, as well as a statement that samatha-vipassana was "aggravating." I recall being a bit shocked by this, and understood at least from that perspective, that the jhana practices introduced by the Buddha were being tossed out with the Dhammic bathwater in this particular zendo. Endless periods of sitting and facing a wall were the norm, and there was no effort made at teaching anapanasati or understanding satta sambojjhaṅgā. If there are Zen teachers teaching anapanasati as the Suttas describe it, then I am glad, and hope that this approach is more common than what I experienced in a major city zendo.
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Postby santa100 » Wed Apr 09, 2014 7:51 pm

Anagarika wrote:If there are Zen teachers teaching anapanasati as the Suttas describe it, then I am glad, and hope that this approach is more common than what I experienced in a major city zendo.

Famous Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh is a big proponent of Anapanasati..

http://www.amazon.com/Breathe-You-Are-A ... 1888375841
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Re: Zen, Dogen and being put off...

Postby m0rl0ck » Wed Apr 09, 2014 8:23 pm

If you are a theravadan and want some real hardcore chan you dont have to look very far
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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