Zazen and the Jhanas

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Dec 09, 2012 7:02 pm

convivium wrote:it seems important to distinguish between dogen zen and soto zen in general. i prefer the former, while i don't resonate with a lot of the teachings that fall under the wider umbrella of 'soto'. in the suzuki roshi lineage, they are open to satipatthana practice. however, the jhanas are not taught. certain teachers within the lineage will sympathize with jhana practice while others won't. however, if you 'do' jhana without making distinctions or maps (in general) and just by way of anapanasati (in it's minimalist forms) then it's essentially zazen. that's what i gathered from my three months at tassajara.


I have read and heard that dogen used koans, what are the other differences between dogen and soto ? I thought dogen was revered as the founder of soto zen and that was where soto looked for its methodological grounding, ie "just sitting".
"Even if you've read the whole Canon and can remember lots of teachings; even if you can explain them in poignant ways, with lots of people to respect you; even if you build a lot of monastery buildings, or can explain inconstancy, stress, and not-self in the most detailed fashion ... The only thing that serves your own true purpose is release from suffering.

"And you'll be able to gain release from suffering only when you know the one mind."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby convivium » Sun Dec 09, 2012 7:14 pm

Dogen's koans aren't in the rinzai style. they are more like poetic sutras. To answer your question very handwaivingly, other soto teachers emphasize doctrines like buddha nature etc. in a way i don't like. if you are interested in dogen studies i'd recommend anything by Okumura to begin with. Also if your interested in reading the Shobogenzo itself the Nishijima/Cross edition as the Tanahashi version are the best, if you can get your hands on them. Having said that, there's a lot of bad Dogen scholarship to watch out for. edit: soto is a mahayana school; these schools don't often stay the same over time.
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Dec 09, 2012 7:25 pm

convivium wrote:Dogen's koans aren't in the rinzai style. they are more like poetic sutras. To answer your question very handwaivingly, other soto teachers emphasize doctrines like buddha nature etc. in a way i don't like. if you are interested in dogen studies i'd recommend anything by Okumura to begin with. Also if your interested in reading the Shobogenzo itself the Nishijima/Cross edition as the Tanahashi version are the best, if you can get your hands on them. Having said that, there's a lot of bad Dogen scholarship to watch out for. edit: soto is a mahayana school; these schools don't often stay the same over time.


Ive read some dogen various places by various translators, just wanted to know your thoughts, thanks :)
"Even if you've read the whole Canon and can remember lots of teachings; even if you can explain them in poignant ways, with lots of people to respect you; even if you build a lot of monastery buildings, or can explain inconstancy, stress, and not-self in the most detailed fashion ... The only thing that serves your own true purpose is release from suffering.

"And you'll be able to gain release from suffering only when you know the one mind."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby alan... » Mon Dec 10, 2012 5:33 am

m0rl0ck wrote:
convivium wrote:it seems important to distinguish between dogen zen and soto zen in general. i prefer the former, while i don't resonate with a lot of the teachings that fall under the wider umbrella of 'soto'. in the suzuki roshi lineage, they are open to satipatthana practice. however, the jhanas are not taught. certain teachers within the lineage will sympathize with jhana practice while others won't. however, if you 'do' jhana without making distinctions or maps (in general) and just by way of anapanasati (in it's minimalist forms) then it's essentially zazen. that's what i gathered from my three months at tassajara.


I have read and heard that dogen used koans, what are the other differences between dogen and soto ? I thought dogen was revered as the founder of soto zen and that was where soto looked for its methodological grounding, ie "just sitting".



dogen did use koans, for some reason long after his death the soto school decided to stop using them. as far as i know he is revered as the founder and in some circles his writings are far more important than sutra. yes soto looks to him for "just sitting" but he was taught the idea from a caodong teacher in china, the original method is silent illumination popularized by hongzhi. dogen took it to japan and dogenized it. now it's fairly different from silent illumination but still the same at the core i believe, although many would differ on that point.
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Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby lojong1 » Mon Jan 14, 2013 7:15 am

Christopherxx wrote:Is it possible for their practice to have such experiences as defined in our tradition.

Taiwanese Dharma Drum Mountain Soto and Rinzai Master Sheng Yen (deceased; not the shady Living Buddha Sheng Yen) talked about Jhanas happening with his methods--nothing special but a sign of progress--and they looked doable to me, at least on the Soto side, with personal guidance.
One of his students in North America (though not the head successor) considers breath meditation inferior, only useful for the most just-startingest of beginners. I think Shen Yen had good Dhizzle, and hope he left it in good hands.
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Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby alan... » Mon Jan 14, 2013 8:18 am

lojong1 wrote:
Christopherxx wrote:Is it possible for their practice to have such experiences as defined in our tradition.

Taiwanese Dharma Drum Mountain Soto and Rinzai Master Sheng Yen (deceased; not the shady Living Buddha Sheng Yen) talked about Jhanas happening with his methods--nothing special but a sign of progress--and they looked doable to me, at least on the Soto side, with personal guidance.
One of his students in North America (though not the head successor) considers breath meditation inferior, only useful for the most just-startingest of beginners. I think Shen Yen had good Dhizzle, and hope he left it in good hands.


this is how zen goes, whoever says things and is believed can re write or change whatever they want, when they pass their successors can do the same. there is no solid base to look upon for hard and fast rules.
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Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 14, 2013 9:23 am

alan... wrote:
lojong1 wrote:
Christopherxx wrote:Is it possible for their practice to have such experiences as defined in our tradition.

Taiwanese Dharma Drum Mountain Soto and Rinzai Master Sheng Yen (deceased; not the shady Living Buddha Sheng Yen) talked about Jhanas happening with his methods--nothing special but a sign of progress--and they looked doable to me, at least on the Soto side, with personal guidance.
One of his students in North America (though not the head successor) considers breath meditation inferior, only useful for the most just-startingest of beginners. I think Shen Yen had good Dhizzle, and hope he left it in good hands.


this is how zen goes, whoever says things and is believed can re write or change whatever they want, when they pass their successors can do the same. there is no solid base to look upon for hard and fast rules.
Though, what you are saying about Zen teachers is something of an exaggeration, you do not think that is not true for Theravadin teachers?
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: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby alan... » Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:19 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Though, what you are saying about Zen teachers is something of an exaggeration, you do not think that is not true for Theravadin teachers?


it is to a degree but the deliberate non reliance on texts in zen makes this more of a snowball kind of issue. the ball keeps getting bigger and bigger and nothing stops it whereas in theravada if some teacher gets too far from the original texts someone will melt that ball by holding it up to the heat of the canon. compare the dogen version of zen to what it was before. VERY different. soto maintains some consistency today because they use dogen's writings very much in the same way theravada uses the pali canon, but other schools such as modern caodong lineages and what not are constantly changing. also compare different teachers of zen to their fore bearers teachings and to their contemporaries, huge differences. look at what bodhidharma supposedly taught and compare it to linjii or hakuin. compare yunmen wenyan to dogen and so on. it's night and day. of course held together with some key points but other than that they are frequently totally different.

however if we look at theravada we have more consistencey between teachers. the reason for this being that these teachers have to be able to reconcile their teachings with the pali canon. even if it's a forced match up with ambiguous definitions of the suttas, it still has to fit. in zen they can do whatever they want and as long as the master is respected it will be accepted as fact. in theravada if we compare different teachers there is less stark contrast. surely there is great variation and differences but not as dramatic as in zen.
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Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby Dan74 » Mon Jan 14, 2013 6:31 pm

alan... wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Though, what you are saying about Zen teachers is something of an exaggeration, you do not think that is not true for Theravadin teachers?


it is to a degree but the deliberate non reliance on texts in zen makes this more of a snowball kind of issue. the ball keeps getting bigger and bigger and nothing stops it whereas in theravada if some teacher gets too far from the original texts someone will melt that ball by holding it up to the heat of the canon. compare the dogen version of zen to what it was before. VERY different. soto maintains some consistency today because they use dogen's writings very much in the same way theravada uses the pali canon, but other schools such as modern caodong lineages and what not are constantly changing. also compare different teachers of zen to their fore bearers teachings and to their contemporaries, huge differences. look at what bodhidharma supposedly taught and compare it to linjii or hakuin. compare yunmen wenyan to dogen and so on. it's night and day. of course held together with some key points but other than that they are frequently totally different.

however if we look at theravada we have more consistencey between teachers. the reason for this being that these teachers have to be able to reconcile their teachings with the pali canon. even if it's a forced match up with ambiguous definitions of the suttas, it still has to fit. in zen they can do whatever they want and as long as the master is respected it will be accepted as fact. in theravada if we compare different teachers there is less stark contrast. surely there is great variation and differences but not as dramatic as in zen.


Dogen was a Mahayana scholar and would not dream of contradicting the scriptures. His Zen as I see it, is in line with at least a large portion of Mahayana and earlier Chan canon. What did you find in Dogen that was a departure from Mahayana Buddhism as it then was?
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Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby alan... » Mon Jan 14, 2013 8:32 pm

Dan74 wrote:
alan... wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Though, what you are saying about Zen teachers is something of an exaggeration, you do not think that is not true for Theravadin teachers?


it is to a degree but the deliberate non reliance on texts in zen makes this more of a snowball kind of issue. the ball keeps getting bigger and bigger and nothing stops it whereas in theravada if some teacher gets too far from the original texts someone will melt that ball by holding it up to the heat of the canon. compare the dogen version of zen to what it was before. VERY different. soto maintains some consistency today because they use dogen's writings very much in the same way theravada uses the pali canon, but other schools such as modern caodong lineages and what not are constantly changing. also compare different teachers of zen to their fore bearers teachings and to their contemporaries, huge differences. look at what bodhidharma supposedly taught and compare it to linjii or hakuin. compare yunmen wenyan to dogen and so on. it's night and day. of course held together with some key points but other than that they are frequently totally different.

however if we look at theravada we have more consistencey between teachers. the reason for this being that these teachers have to be able to reconcile their teachings with the pali canon. even if it's a forced match up with ambiguous definitions of the suttas, it still has to fit. in zen they can do whatever they want and as long as the master is respected it will be accepted as fact. in theravada if we compare different teachers there is less stark contrast. surely there is great variation and differences but not as dramatic as in zen.


Dogen was a Mahayana scholar and would not dream of contradicting the scriptures. His Zen as I see it, is in line with at least a large portion of Mahayana and earlier Chan canon. What did you find in Dogen that was a departure from Mahayana Buddhism as it then was?

he was not departing from Scripture he was departing from traditional zen methods and created his own school, probably without realizing it.
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Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 14, 2013 8:42 pm

alan... wrote:
he was not departing from Scripture he was departing from traditional zen methods and created his own school, probably without realizing it.
Basically, Dogen was importing a Ch'an school from China where he studied, adding his own commentary.
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: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby alan... » Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:31 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
alan... wrote:
he was not departing from Scripture he was departing from traditional zen methods and created his own school, probably without realizing it.
Basically, Dogen was importing a Ch'an school from China where he studied, adding his own commentary.


and now the soto school is totally dependent on dogens writings. this is exactly what i was saying. the deliberate non dependence on sutra can lead anywhere. in the case of soto it lead to a completely new school dependent on dogens texts, in other schools it has lead in different directions. in theravada it always comes back to the pali canon.

even the few mahayana sutras that are usually circulated around zen schools are fairly ambiguous and easily reinterpreted to suit whatever a school wants to do. although even if one took the entire mahayana canon as a whole it would allow one to do pretty much anything as there is a huge amount of variation and conflicting ideas from one sutra to another. for example just grabbing onto the skillful means thing from the lotus sutra can get one out of just about any examination of ones methods even though said methods may conflict with a rule in another sutra. some say one must reach nirvana through self effort, others that one can just pray to amitabha and be reborn in his realm and reach it there, and so on. whereas theravada is held totally accountable with regards to the canon which is very specific and largely consistent, especially where morality and personal conduct on what is and is not appropriate is concerned. just look at the battles between vipassana only schools and traditional schools that teach jhana. just web search "nibbana without jhana" or "is jhana necessary" and you get a ton of pages where this is being debated, all with scriptural references. even though these schools are somewhat different they all rely on and are careful to stay within the limits of the canon. one may say no jhana, another jhana is essential, both are supported in the suttas in varying degrees. however one could not go the way some zen schools have and say meditation is not necessary or that scriptural learning is useless as these are in direct opposition to what is in the canon. theravada can only justify things that have support from the suttas or risk being discredited, ignored or will simply become an offshoot school that is unincorporated and not considered theravada.

but if you read a large number of different zen schools they are all over the place depending on who is doing the teaching and they answer to no sutras to justify their views. i'm not saying this is a bad thing. i'm pretty darn sure zen works if you find the right teacher or right teacher's method. i'm just noting a contrast and backing it up with examples. the idea is that theravada is preserved perfectly in the pali canon and zen is only preserved through direct transmission and cannot be learned any other way. so each teacher or teachers school is independent and one must have complete faith in a certain recension and hope it isn't the wrong one. zen is not even one thing, calling it zen is really misleading. it would be more appropriate to only speak of soto, rinzai, yunmen, and so on and so on since they are so different one could even go so far as to only talk about each individual master! so we only talk about dogen and forget everything else or only talk about yunmen or whatever. if we do that then we can have a consistent debate about that one teachers ideas. when we just talk about "zen" everyone is right and wrong at the same time since it is so loosely defined due to each master and school having their own unique definition it's absurd.
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Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:42 pm

alan... wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
alan... wrote:
he was not departing from Scripture he was departing from traditional zen methods and created his own school, probably without realizing it.
Basically, Dogen was importing a Ch'an school from China where he studied, adding his own commentary.


and now the soto school is totally dependent on dogens writings. this is exactly what i was saying. the deliberate non dependence on sutra can lead anywhere. in the case of soto it lead to a completely new school dependent on dogens texts, in other schools it has lead in different directions. in theravada it always comes back to the pali canon.
You are still way over stating the Zen business, but quite frankly it is not worth the time to argue. As for the Theravada, it may come back to to the Pali Canon, but that still does not mean that thereare not going to be rather radical divegencies such a Buddhadasa's interpretations or the Thai forest tradition's citta, ot Vimalaramsi's finding finding the true practice of the Buddha in the suttas while all others flounder about.
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: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby alan... » Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:52 pm

tiltbillings wrote:You are still way over stating the Zen business


this is why it sounds like i'm overstating it: zen is not even one thing, calling it zen is really misleading. it would be more appropriate to only speak of soto, rinzai, yunmen, and so on and so on since they are so different one could even go so far as to only talk about each individual master! so we only talk about dogen and forget everything else or only talk about yunmen or whatever. if we do that then we can have a consistent debate about that one teachers ideas. when we just talk about "zen" everyone is right and wrong at the same time since it is so loosely defined due to each master and school having their own unique definition it's absurd.

you probably have an idea in your mind about what zen is and it is probably largely colored by one or two similar schools so what i'm saying sounds outlandish when in fact there are so many schools and so much variation that talking about them as one thing inevitably leads to overstatement of zen such as i have allegedly done above. it is an offshoot of an offshoot of an offshoot and it keeps going. there are very few rules or boundaries as to what can be a zen school or how to define it. most would even say it cannot be defined.

but if this is true:

tiltbillings wrote: but quite frankly it is not worth the time to argue.


what have we been doing this whole time? why are you talking about it at all? what is worth the time to argue?

is it worth talking about:
tiltbillings wrote: Buddhadasa's interpretations or the Thai forest tradition's citta, ot Vimalaramsi's finding finding the true practice of the Buddha in the suttas while all others flounder about.


because i'm quite interested, i haven't heard about these things.
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Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby Dan74 » Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:54 pm

Alan, if you say there is less orthodoxy in Zen than in Theravada, then I will say - very likely so. And yet having heard and read Zen teachers from Chan, Japanese Zen and Seon, I found a remarkable commonality. The differences are more to do with their actual penetration of the Great Matter - their ability, than the actual divergence of traditions, if any. Yes, methods may differ somewhat, emphasis may differ somewhat, but the flavour is still the same. Different restaurants, same cuisine.
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Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby alan... » Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:58 pm

Dan74 wrote:Alan, if you say there is less orthodoxy in Zen than in Theravada, then I will say - very likely so. And yet having heard and read Zen teachers from Chan, Japanese Zen and Seon, I found a remarkable commonality. The differences are more to do with their actual penetration of the Great Matter - their ability, than the actual divergence of traditions, if any. Yes, methods may differ somewhat, emphasis may differ somewhat, but the flavour is still the same. Different restaurants, same cuisine.


a lot of the masters would disagree with you as they disagreed with each other. many schools saw themselves as superior, holding the true lineage or true methods and saw others as inferior at best or at worst as counterfeits or frauds. the same surely is true in theravada but again, theravada masters meet up at the canon and zen masters meet no where unless they choose to or happen to by coincidence.
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Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 14, 2013 11:02 pm

alan... wrote:
you probably have an idea in your mind about what zen is and it is probably largely colored by one or two similar schools so what i'm saying sounds outlandish when in fact there are so many schools and so much variation that talking about them as one thing inevitably leads to overstatement of zen such as i have allegedly done above.
You have not a clue as to what is in my mind or what I do and do not know about the history of Ch'an/Zen.

why are you talking about it at all?
After this, I am not talking about it any further.
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: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby alan... » Mon Jan 14, 2013 11:07 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
alan... wrote:
you probably have an idea in your mind about what zen is and it is probably largely colored by one or two similar schools so what i'm saying sounds outlandish when in fact there are so many schools and so much variation that talking about them as one thing inevitably leads to overstatement of zen such as i have allegedly done above.
You have not a clue as to what is in my mind or what I do and do not know about the history of Ch'an/Zen.

why are you talking about it at all?
After this, I am not talking about it any further.


i'm sorry. i felt like what you said

tiltbillings wrote: but quite frankly it is not worth the time to argue.


was a little harsh in that it was implying i wasn't worth talking to anymore. all i was asking is if you are going to blatantly say i'm not worth talking to then why are you talking about it at all?
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Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 14, 2013 11:10 pm

alan... wrote:
was a little harsh in that it was implying i wasn't worth talking to anymore. all i was asking is if you are going to blatantly say i'm not worth talking to then why are you talking about it at all?
You need to not take things so personally. It has nothing to do with you personally. It is, rather, I do not find this topic interesting enough to argue about.
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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