Koan Meditation

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Koan Meditation

Postby clw_uk » Wed Aug 05, 2009 7:43 pm

Greetings



I have been thinking about incorporating Koans into my practice. Was wondering if anyone has any experience with using them, if so did you find it helpful (or not)?



Also, from the Theravada POV, are Koans useful for "reaching" nibbana or not? I realize they arent in the suttas and developed later but they seem very helpful from what i have read


metta
“ Your mind is likewise blocked. But the right road awaits you still. Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule , then the mind is their subject." Boetius
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Re: Koan Meditation

Postby Individual » Wed Aug 05, 2009 8:34 pm

The title of this sub-forum is Theravadin meditation. Not sure why you'd ask this here.
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Re: Koan Meditation

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Aug 05, 2009 9:37 pm

Koan meditation is not something can meaningfully do by yourself. It is very much a teacher - student practice, and it is grounded in Mahayana Madhyamaka and Yogachara systems of thought.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Koan Meditation

Postby clw_uk » Wed Aug 05, 2009 9:39 pm

Individual wrote:The title of this sub-forum is Theravadin meditation. Not sure why you'd ask this here.



True but many other things have been discussed here. Also i wanted a Theravadin POV and had nowhere else to ask it
“ Your mind is likewise blocked. But the right road awaits you still. Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule , then the mind is their subject." Boetius
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Re: Koan Meditation

Postby clw_uk » Wed Aug 05, 2009 9:42 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Koan meditation is not something can meaningfully do by yourself. It is very much a teacher - student practice, and it is grounded in Mahayana Madhyamaka and Yogachara systems of thought.




Thanks Tilt


Mahayana Madhyamaka and Yogachara systems of thought


That is a problem for me, Zen (as i understand) leans more towards Yogachara which isnt a system of thought that i entirely agree with
“ Your mind is likewise blocked. But the right road awaits you still. Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule , then the mind is their subject." Boetius
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Re: Koan Meditation

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:07 pm

clw_uk wrote:
That is a problem for me, Zen (as i understand) leans more towards Yogachara which isnt a system of thought that i entirely agree with


Depends upon whose Yogacara. Don't believe the Tibetan tenet system yogacara.

Recall that from the perspective of the Buddha’s teachings in the Pali, the ‘All’ {SN IV 15} is composed entirely of phassa, contact between sense base and sense object. We can only directly know phenomena within this ‘world of experience’, so from the Theravadin perspective, we cannot know whether there really exists a ‘brain’ or a ‘body’ apart from moments of intellectual consciousness, of seeing (the image of a brain), and so on. The discourses of the Pali describe an individual world of experience as composed of various mental and physical factors, nama and rupa. These two are not the separate, independent worlds that Rene Descartes envisioned.

"…the Buddha spoke of the human person as a psychophysical personality (namarupa). Yet the psychic and the physical were never discussed in isolation, nor were they viewed as self-subsistent entities. For him, there was neither a ‘material-stuff’ nor a ‘mental-stuff’, because both are results of reductive analyses that go beyond experience."53

The physical and mental aspects of human experience are continually arising together, intimately dependent on one another.

53 Kalupahana 1976: 73, refers to D.15{II,62}, where the Buddha speaks of both
physicality and mentality mutually dependent forms of contact (phassa).
Physicality is described as contact with resistance (pat.ighasamphassa),
mentality as contact with concepts (adhivacanasamphassa).


STRONG ROOTS by Jake Davis, page 190-1.http://www.dharma.org/bcbs/Pages/publications.html
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Koan Meditation

Postby Individual » Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:13 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Koan meditation is not something can meaningfully do by yourself. It is very much a teacher - student practice, and it is grounded in Mahayana Madhyamaka and Yogachara systems of thought.

I'd agree with that. I think reading koans and trying to figure them out on your own is beneficial, but without a teacher, you have no means by which to gauge whether you've actually figured out any of the koans.
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Re: Koan Meditation

Postby Dan74 » Thu Aug 06, 2009 12:51 am

I don't have a Theravada perspective, just some background:

Eshin Godfrey Oso is a ZFI member and uses koans. There is an interview with him here:

http://www.sweepingzen.com/Eshin_Godfrey_Interview.html


In Chan and also Korean Zen (Seon) they often used hua-tou (hwadu) which is like an abbreviated koan. Common examples are "What is is?" and "Who is doing this practice?"

But the right approach to doing this practice is subtle. From what I understand it's like a gentle but relentless inquiry that becomes a 24/7 affair, accumulating ever more energy until everything else pretty much falls by the wayside. It is essentially a form of meditation having both samatha and vipassana, as the practitioner concentrates to the exclusion of all else, with a subtle sense of dukkha (Great Doubt) driving the inquiry.

Here's some instruction from contemporary teacher Hsu Yun, there is also quite a lot on the koreanbuddhism.net site:

http://hsuyun.budismo.net/en/dharma/chan_sessions2.html

But frankly I don't see how these practices can be meshed well with Theravada. Even the terminology (Self, Buddha-nature, etc) will rub people the wrong way and produce lots of misunderstanding.


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Last edited by Dan74 on Thu Aug 06, 2009 1:36 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Koan Meditation

Postby jcsuperstar » Thu Aug 06, 2009 1:18 am

the rinzai way of doing a koan is i guess what youre after, i have no experience with this. in soto we would talk about koans, they werent these secret things one had to figure out. they were more of a way to reach understanding logically.
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Re: Koan Meditation

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Aug 06, 2009 10:52 am

jcsuperstar wrote:the rinzai way of doing a koan is i guess what youre after, i have no experience with this. in soto we would talk about koans, they werent these secret things one had to figure out. they were more of a way to reach understanding logically.


Didn't know there was another tradition in doing the Koan Meditation
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