Shinzen Young - How Meditation Works

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Shinzen Young - How Meditation Works

Postby Moggalana » Sun May 23, 2010 8:02 pm

I stumbled upon a nice litte article today. It is written by Shinzen Young and called How Meditation Works. It is about the relationship between Shamatha and Vipassana, how these two work together, and how they are interpreted and put into practice in the three major buddhist traditions Theravada, Vajrayana and Zen.
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Re: Shinzen Young - How Meditation Works

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Sun May 23, 2010 10:07 pm

Interesting that he gives Sanskrit terms for vipassana and samatha (vipayshana and shamatha) as being Pali. It makes one wonder how much he knows about the Theravada.
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

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Re: Shinzen Young - How Meditation Works

Postby Dan74 » Mon May 24, 2010 12:39 am

Khalil Bodhi wrote:Interesting that he gives Sanskrit terms for vipassana and samatha (vipayshana and shamatha) as being Pali. It makes one wonder how much he knows about the Theravada.


This is a typo I think since the same terms are introduced in the text (on the same page) as sanskrit.

What I do wonder is who this man studied with and for how long.
Last edited by Dan74 on Mon May 24, 2010 9:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Shinzen Young - How Meditation Works

Postby Wind » Mon May 24, 2010 6:46 am

That is a good read. I learn to understand some of the different approaches from other traditions.
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Re: Shinzen Young - How Meditation Works

Postby Moggalana » Mon May 24, 2010 7:52 am

Hah! I knew that would be coming ;) I recognized it, too. It's a good read nontheless. From Wikipedia:

Shinzen Young (真善, Shinzen?) is a Vipassana meditation teacher. Although Vipassana is traditionally a Theravada technique, Shinzen was originally ordained in Japan as a monk in the Shingon tradition[1]. He has studied and practiced extensively in other traditions, including Zen and Lakota Sioux Shamanism.

He frequently uses concepts from mathematics as a metaphor to illustrate the abstract concepts of meditation. As a result, his teachings tend to be popular among academics and professionals.[2] His interest in integrating meditation with scientific paradigms has led to collaborations with neuroscientists at UCLA and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is working on various ways to bring a secular mindfulness practice to a wider audience, using revamped terminology and techniques and automated expert systems
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Re: Shinzen Young - How Meditation Works

Postby Nibbida » Tue May 25, 2010 9:24 pm

Dan74 wrote:
Khalil Bodhi wrote:Interesting that he gives Sanskrit terms for vipassana and samatha (vipayshana and shamatha) as being Pali. It makes one wonder how much he knows about the Theravada.


This is a typo I think since the same terms are introduced in the text (on the same page) as sanskrit.

What I do wonder is who this man studied with and for how long.



That's certainly a typo. Shinzen did doctoral work in the University of Wisconsin in Buddhist Studies and Asian Languages. He knows extensively about Theravada, Pali, and the Pali canon. He's "ABD" (all but dissertation) because he went to Japan to study Shingon, but in order to study them they required him to ordain as a monk. He disrobed several years later and has been a meditation teacher full-time ever since. Here he talks about the etymology of vipashyana/vipassana: http://www.youtube.com/user/expandcontr ... uRbQsQxDRk

Shinzen has training in Vajrayana (e.g. deity yoga, chanting, etc.) from his Shingon training. However he has also done extensive training in the U Ba Khin lineage and has done months in retreat with U Pandita (i.e. Mahasi Sayadaw tradition). For the past 20 years or so, he has studied under Joshu Sasaki Roshi. (Incidentally Sasaki Roshi is 103 years old, and he ordained as a Zen monk when he was 14. So he's been practicing intensively for about 90 years, longer than most people have been alive.) Sasaki Roshi is Rinzai, but Shinzen doesn't teach koans, only vipassana. He emphasizes mindfulness of body sensations, like U Ba Khin (along with other aspects of experience), but also incorporates a simplified form of noting from the Mahasi Sayadaw lineage.

He talks about his influences here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoUJPcWBgXk

An interesting story about his first meditation retreat. He did 100 days in isolation in a shack on Mt. Koya, Japan. There was no external heat source, only the clothes he was wearing. Every day at noon (I think) he had to go out to a well, crack the ice, and pour a bucket of ice water over his head. It was so cold that the towel he used to dry himself was freezing as he was drying himself, so that he had to whack the towel and break up the ice. However, by day 3 he realized that when he was in a state of samadhi, it wasn't so bad. It was tolerable. So he either could spend the next 97 days in misery, give up, or stay in samadhi as much as possible. He chose the latter and said that that state of high concentration has never left him since. The Japanese monks had effectively developed a giant biofeedback mechanism to get people into samadhi.
"Dispositions of the mind, like limbs of the body, acquire strength by exercise." --Thomas Jefferson

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Re: Shinzen Young - How Meditation Works

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Tue May 25, 2010 9:39 pm

My apologies then. I stopped reading once I saw the mix up. From what you describe it sounds as if this guy might know a thing or two about samadhi. I'll take another look. Metta.
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

Uposatha Observance Club:http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=148031379279&v=info
Kiva-Theravada Buddhists:http://www.kiva.org/team/theravada_buddhists
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Re: Shinzen Young - How Meditation Works

Postby Nibbida » Wed May 26, 2010 3:20 pm

No apologies needed. There certainly are plenty of hucksters out there and it's not so easy to discern them without investing some time in reading their work (but only 24 hours in a day). Something like that would certainly raise a red flag for me if I didn't know the teacher better.


He has a channel on youtube called expandcontract with a bunch of his talks. My favorite I think is "Six Common Traps on the Path to Enlightenment"

http://www.youtube.com/user/expandcontr ... 288Lnb7NOk
"Dispositions of the mind, like limbs of the body, acquire strength by exercise." --Thomas Jefferson

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Re: Shinzen Young - How Meditation Works

Postby PeterB » Wed May 26, 2010 3:27 pm

RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING !!!!!
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