What the Zennies say...?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Beautiful Breath
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What the Zennies say...?

Post by Beautiful Breath »

I recently spoke to a Seon nun who suggested that practices like Anapanasati, Jhana and so on can actually exagerate the ego instead of revealing its nature. She recommended practices like Hwadu/Koan in order to directly address the ego.

Thoughts...?

BB...
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Sam Vara
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Re: What the Zennies say...?

Post by Sam Vara »

Beautiful Breath wrote:I recently spoke to a Seon nun who suggested that practices like Anapanasati, Jhana and so on can actually exagerate the ego instead of revealing its nature. She recommended practices like Hwadu/Koan in order to directly address the ego.

Thoughts...?

BB...
I don't have any experience of Hwadu or Koan, but I'm happy to stick with Anapanasati because in my case it seems to be extremely beneficial. Sometimes it makes me very much more aware of my ego, and if this is what the nun meant by "exaggerates", then it is to that extent completely compatible with it revealing the nature of the ego.

It might of course be beneficial for some people to try other techniques, but you might also check out the wisdom of this with your teacher, if you have one.
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Anagarika
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Re: What the Zennies say...?

Post by Anagarika »

Her comment is interesting in that jhana et al are the practices that the Buddha taught as recorded in the early suttas. Seems to me that her tossing aside Buddhavacana (and substituting Tang Dynasty origins koan practice) has a bit of unhealthy ego involved. Attachment to koan practice might be unskillful. I am always a bit surprised that some in Mahayana have little idea what is the teaching (as best as we can understand it from the early texts), and what is not.
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Kim OHara
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Re: What the Zennies say...?

Post by Kim OHara »

BuddhaSoup wrote:Her comment is interesting in that jhana et al are the practices that the Buddha taught as recorded in the early suttas. Seems to me that her tossing aside Buddhavacana (and substituting Tang Dynasty origins koan practice) has a bit of unhealthy ego involved. Attachment to koan practice might be unskillful. I am always a bit surprised that some in Mahayana have little idea what is the teaching (as best as we can understand it from the early texts), and what is not.
Hi, BuddhaSoup,
That's a bit harsh, IMO.
Surely "the teaching" for the Mahayanists is "the teaching" they received and "the teaching" they find beneficial?
And surely most of them are not "tossing aside" early teachings but simply - humbly - sticking to the teachings they have received?

See also http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.ph ... 1136#p7150 for a wise mahayanist's viewpoint on what is Buddhavacana.

:namaste:
Kim
floating_abu
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Re: What the Zennies say...?

Post by floating_abu »

Beautiful Breath wrote:I recently spoke to a Seon nun who suggested that practices like Anapanasati, Jhana and so on can actually exagerate the ego instead of revealing its nature. She recommended practices like Hwadu/Koan in order to directly address the ego.

Thoughts...?

BB...
Well firstly it is problematic and as this is a Theravadan forum, the answer will be a resounding no, IMO.

But as a semi-accomplished student, I have not heard of this being a common view in Zen Buddhism or Mahayana. Words might mean different things to different people. Koan practice also leverages samatha after all and zazen also provides great clarity and insight symptomatic of some advanced concentrative states. She might (if I had to guess) mean that there is a risk of attachment to Jhanas, something even esteemed teachers like Luang Por Chah have talked about.

Anyway as the opening sentence seems to be a condescension of anapanasati and jhana, it is bound to get negative reviews on the forum but I think respect for the different traditions (and the means and mode of teaching within them) is still a primary objective. And that we might not have the full context, or similarity of word usage, from this quote.
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kirk5a
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Re: What the Zennies say...?

Post by kirk5a »

Beautiful Breath wrote:I recently spoke to a Seon nun who suggested that practices like Anapanasati, Jhana and so on can actually exagerate the ego instead of revealing its nature. She recommended practices like Hwadu/Koan in order to directly address the ego.

Thoughts...?

BB...
I think if you are working with a particular teacher, you should try to follow their teaching. Or find another teacher.

On the other hand, if the context of this exchange was just opinion-sharing, then I would be curious to know more precisely what she means by "exaggerate the ego" and why she thinks anapanasati and jhana result in that. Personally I think that sometimes we can benefit from what might conventionally be called "ego-strengthening" but really doesn't have anything to do with an "ego." I heard a Zen teacher once say that first we have to have a strong sense of self, in order to abandon it. At the time I thought this was nonsense. I still think it is nonsense, in a way. Insofar as talking about "egos" is all rather misleading. But in the sense that it is not always appropriate to shoot right at insight from the get-go, it makes sense. The qualities of stability and centeredness are crucial, and some (maybe most) people might need to develop that first. Otherwise, shooting right for hard-core insight could potentially be destabilizing. My two bits.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Sekha
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Re: What the Zennies say...?

Post by Sekha »

Beautiful Breath wrote:I recently spoke to a Seon nun who suggested that practices like Anapanasati, Jhana and so on can actually exagerate the ego instead of revealing its nature. She recommended practices like Hwadu/Koan in order to directly address the ego.

Thoughts...?
From what I have seen, this kind of thing happens a lot with monks who practice in a way that I would qualify of unbalanced, by practicing only samadhi and not pañña, whether through anapanassati or by other means. I don't want to give names, but it happens in some well-known places where it is believed that samadhi should be mastered thoroughly before practicing vipassana (and where by the way there is a general deprecation of techniques in which vipassana gets started sooner, as "artificial vipassana" and the like). It depends on people though. Some have a proclivity to inflate their ego when they gain jhanas without practicing vipassana, whereas some others don't. So I would totally agree with the first sentence, all the more that it is confirmed by the scriptures imo (see below).

Of course, the second sentence reveals a mahayana perspective. In Theravada, the advice would rather be to practice vipassana. In my experience, there are much less ego problems in places where meditators develop vipassana alongside with concentration.

My stance on this subject is backed by AN 2.32:
Samatho, bhikkhave, bhāvito kam-attham-anubhoti? Cittaṃ bhāvīyati. Cittaṃ bhāvitaṃ kam-attham-anubhoti? Yo rāgo so pahīyati.
When tranquillity is developed, what purpose does it serve? The mind is developed. And when the mind is developed, what purpose does it serve? Passion is abandoned.

Vipassanā, bhikkhave, bhāvitā kam-attham-anubhoti? Paññā bhāvīyati. Paññā bhāvitā kam-attham-anubhoti? Yā avijjā sā pahīyati.
When insight is developed, what purpose does it serve? Discernment is developed. And when discernment is developed, what purpose does it serve? Ignorance is abandoned.

Rāg·upakkiliṭṭhaṃ vā, bhikkhave, cittaṃ na vimuccati, avijj·upakkiliṭṭhā vā paññā na bhāvīyati. Iti kho, bhikkhave, rāga-virāgā cetovimutti, avijjā-virāgā paññāvimuttī.
Defiled by passion, the mind is not released. Defiled by ignorance, discernment does not develop. Thus from the fading of passion is there awareness-release. From the fading of ignorance is there discernment-release.
Those who practice samatha remove raga and dosa (craving and aversion), but not avijja (ignorance). And ego is a matter of avijja.
They need to practice vipassana in order to remove avijja and thereby resolve their ego problems.
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

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Anagarika
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Re: What the Zennies say...?

Post by Anagarika »

Kim OHara wrote:
BuddhaSoup wrote:Her comment is interesting in that jhana et al are the practices that the Buddha taught as recorded in the early suttas. Seems to me that her tossing aside Buddhavacana (and substituting Tang Dynasty origins koan practice) has a bit of unhealthy ego involved. Attachment to koan practice might be unskillful. I am always a bit surprised that some in Mahayana have little idea what is the teaching (as best as we can understand it from the early texts), and what is not.
Hi, BuddhaSoup,
That's a bit harsh, IMO.
Surely "the teaching" for the Mahayanists is "the teaching" they received and "the teaching" they find beneficial?
And surely most of them are not "tossing aside" early teachings but simply - humbly - sticking to the teachings they have received?

See also http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.ph ... 1136#p7150 for a wise mahayanist's viewpoint on what is Buddhavacana.

:namaste:
Kim
Hi, Kim:

I regret if my post seems harsh...I didn't intend harshness. Thank you for the cite to the dharmawheel thread. Even that thread reveals a split of opinion as to what might be seen as authentic (or close to authentic) and what might be seen as later writings that advocate a "higher teaching," or a "hidden with the Nagas" teaching, that seems to me speaks to an effort in CE Mahayana to imbue new teachings with 'Buddhic' authenticity, when the teaching was truly woven of new cloth and constructed to appeal to the lay people of that time and culture.

I have only respect for any teaching that allows a practitioner to actualize Buddha qualities. If a 13th century sutra causes one to be more kind, more compassionate, wiser and more focused on benefiting one's fellow sentient beings, then I'm all for it.

I'm not a scholar (not by a long shot) but I appreciate the scholarship from all sides that seeks to identify what is Buddhavacana, and what is a later development. For example, it might be useful for someone in Rinzai practice to understand that the Buddha did not teach koan practice. The Buddha may have taught using case studies/examples (and the suttas reflect this), but not in the way that koan practice is understood in Mahayana (ie Blue Cliff).

I ordained in Theravada and have practiced in Mahayana. I respect all. I see in Mahayana a tendency for students to be taught that Buddha taught something, when it is clear even to the teacher that the teaching is apocryphal. To me, in my stodgy brain, the Heart Sutra is far more beautiful and relevant when its origins and history are properly understood.

Namaste and Metta. Gassho, too. :)

M
Last edited by Anagarika on Fri Jun 07, 2013 5:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Dan74
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Re: What the Zennies say...?

Post by Dan74 »

Beautiful Breath wrote:I recently spoke to a Seon nun who suggested that practices like Anapanasati, Jhana and so on can actually exagerate the ego instead of revealing its nature. She recommended practices like Hwadu/Koan in order to directly address the ego.

Thoughts...?

BB...
Any practice, if done incorrectly, can "exaggerate the ego", including hwadu/koan.

My teacher is a Seon nun in Chinul's lineage and she taught me anapanasati and still teaches that it is a very profound practice. She also teaches hwadu. They can be combined too - "what is this sensation of breath?", "what is this sensation?", "what is this?" Hwadu keeps the inquiry going, it's an alert curiosity that I suspect is necessary for any sort of meditation practice to break through to insight.

As for Jhanas, I think there is not much emphasis on jhanas in Zen traditions, but they happen anyway when people meditate a lot. Perhaps what she meant is that jhanas can be a source of attachment and one can build a big ego around them? I am sure this happens but that's not the fault of the teaching...
_/|\_
daverupa
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Re: What the Zennies say...?

Post by daverupa »

Kim OHara wrote:Surely "the teaching" for the Mahayanists is "the teaching" they received and "the teaching" they find beneficial?
Whatever the truth of that may be, it certainly is not the teaching of the Buddha as found in the Nikayas.

Hwadu and koans; how do they align with satipatthana? How are the hindrances dealt with in these terms? Or, which aspect of the gradual training to these methods embody?

I also wonder about their understanding of anapanasati - maybe it's mistaken, or piecemeal, or taught alongside a pre-existing attitude about it which occluded important aspects.

:shrug:
  • "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]
Dan74
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Re: What the Zennies say...?

Post by Dan74 »

daverupa wrote:
Kim OHara wrote:Surely "the teaching" for the Mahayanists is "the teaching" they received and "the teaching" they find beneficial?
Whatever the truth of that may be, it certainly is not the teaching of the Buddha as found in the Nikayas.

Hwadu and koans; how do they align with satipatthana? How are the hindrances dealt with in these terms? Or, which aspect of the gradual training to these methods embody?

I also wonder about their understanding of anapanasati - maybe it's mistaken, or piecemeal, or taught alongside a pre-existing attitude about it which occluded important aspects.

:shrug:
These questions can be answered, Dave, but I don't get the impression that you are particularly interested.

In case I am wrong, let me add that doubts borne of ignorance are best cleared by asking respectfully (of a teacher) rather than poured out in public as a slight on a tradition one does not understand.
_/|\_
santa100
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Re: What the Zennies say...?

Post by santa100 »

Beautiful Breath wrote:I recently spoke to a Seon nun who suggested that practices like Anapanasati, Jhana and so on can actually exagerate the ego instead of revealing its nature. She recommended practices like Hwadu/Koan in order to directly address the ego.
Thoughts...?
The Anapanasati teaching is everywhere. It's actually in the Ekottara Agama, which Mahayana schools learn and practice just like Theravada does with the Nikayas...( http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Ekottara_ ... S%C5%ABtra )
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Re: What the Zennies say...?

Post by Nyana »

santa100 wrote:The Anapanasati teaching is everywhere. It's actually in the Ekottara Agama, which Mahayana schools learn and practice just like Theravada does with the Nikayas...
It's also taught in the Arthaviniścaya Sūtra and the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra (one of the main sūtras outlining the bodhisattva path), as well as in a number of śāstras included in the Chinese canon.
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Re: What the Zennies say...?

Post by daverupa »

Dan74 wrote:
daverupa wrote:Hwadu and koans; how do they align with satipatthana? How are the hindrances dealt with in these terms? Or, which aspect of the gradual training to these methods embody?
These questions can be answered, Dave, but I don't get the impression that you are particularly interested.
Let's have some answers... except I'm supposed to ask a teacher, which presumably is a role you won't be taking up in this case. Perhaps another will be able to respond to my request to lay these chronologically late materials alongside the earliest available Dhamma for comparison. It's certainly true that I expect a certain result, but this is a defeasible bias on my part; accordingly, I await discussion on these points.
In case I am wrong, let me add that doubts borne of ignorance are best cleared by asking respectfully (of a teacher) rather than poured out in public as a slight on a tradition one does not understand.
Where was the slight? I conveyed an historical fact, asked some questions, and ruminated about Mahayana-style anapanasati pedagogy - this last has been addressed a bit already, leaving the rest unattended as yet.

:popcorn:
  • "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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Sekha
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Re: What the Zennies say...?

Post by Sekha »

As I said earlier, it seems quite clear that in Chinese Chán and Korean Seon, the practice of koans, especially Hua Tous, replaces the practice of sampajañña or insight:
Hua Tou (types of koans) can be practiced during sitting meditation, after the mind has been calmed through an initial period of breath meditation.

Hsu Yun said of practicing Hua Tou: "The important thing is to stick to Hua Tou at all times, when walking, lying, or standing. From morning to night observing Hua Tou vividly and clearly, until it appears in your mind like the autumn moon reflected limpidly in quiet water. If you practice this way, you can be assured of reaching the state of Enlightenment."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hua_Tou
Since in Theravada it is through insight that ego is dealt with, it seems logical that Zen teachers would in turn recommend the practice of koans to achieve that same aim.
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

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