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Internal practices: Hakuin and other resources

Discussion of Japanese Rinzai Zen (臨済宗) including Obaku Zen (黄檗宗).

Internal practices: Hakuin and other resources

Postby Meido on Tue Oct 23, 2012 10:21 pm

A resource thread for anyone interested.

Rinzai training contains various practices working with the body/energetics in unique ways. Some other traditions or teaching lines do as well.

For example, Hakuin's writings Yasen Kanna ("Idle Talk on a Night Boat") and Orategama ("The Embossed Tea Kettle") contain the best-known general descriptions of two practices used to cultivate energy and remedy imbalances: naikan no ho and nanso no ho. These practices have been discussed in other threads, but below are a few translations of Hakuin's works which are available.

I'd be interested to see any other resources not listed here, coming from Hakuin or other sources, and dealing with these or any other practices. Please post if you know of any. Two requests only if I may:

- That anything shared has some connection to a Zen training, i.e. please do not post information on the kundalini yoga or Tibetan vajrayana practices you do, as useful as they may be.

- If you practice something transmitted to you by a teacher, before sharing anything about it publicly please do be certain that you have permission to do so.

Final caveat: there are often further oral instructions regarding these things which are not contained in texts. This is the case with Hakuin's practices. I would therefore recommend that anyone interested in actually practicing something listed here do so with a teacher's guidance, and thus with a clear understanding of where it fits into the larger context of one's Zen training.

In the case of Hakuin's practices, however, my own opinion is that his written instructions alone - if followed - are sufficient to produce some benefit at least and will not cause harm. Since these writings were widely known and not hidden, we may assume that Hakuin's intention was indeed just that: for people to read and use them in that manner.

But again: best to check with one's teacher first. End of caveat.


A good translation of the preface to Yasen Kanna, in which the naikan method is summarized, may be found in one of Shodo Harada Roshi's articles here:

http://www.onedropzendo.dk/nyhedsbreve/nr_80_jun09.pdf


For those with access to JSTOR, an older translation of Yasen Kanna is here:

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2 ... 1142921043


Yampolsky's The Zen Master Hakuin contains a translation of Orategama:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Master-Hakuin ... 0231060416


Wild Ivy, Waddell's translation of Hakuin's autobiography:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/157062 ... B000N9FVM0


Waddell's book Hakuin's Precious Mirror Cave contains Yasen Kanna as well:

http://www.amazon.com/Hakuins-Precious- ... 1582434751


Also, here is a Waddell translation of Yasen Kanna side-to-side with one by Leggett:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/60202616/Yasenkanna-Compare


Translations of both Orategama and Yasen Kanna be found in this volume which has been posted online (pdf):

http://www.naturalthinker.net/trl/texts ... Kettle.pdf
Last edited by Meido on Tue Oct 23, 2012 11:58 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Rinzai internal practices: Hakuin and other resources

Postby another_being on Tue Oct 23, 2012 10:44 pm

Thank you. It seems that this below might be a more direct link to that last one at naturalthinker.net:

http://www.naturalthinker.net/trl/texts/Hakuin/EmbossedTeaKettle.pdf
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Re: Internal practices: Hakuin and other resources

Postby Meido on Tue Oct 23, 2012 11:10 pm

Thanks for correcting that link.

Here are links for the "Eight-form Moving Meditation" developed by the late Ch'an teacher Sheng-yen.


Description of movements with drawings:

http://www.dharmadrumretreat.org/teachi ... =eightform


Video:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid ... 2468229538
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Re: Internal practices: Hakuin and other resources

Postby Meido on Wed Oct 24, 2012 12:11 am

The Hojo kata: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pd7IXus0RZo

Originally part of the Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage Ryu, a tradition of Japanese swordsmanship, these forms are used by some students in the Rinzai lines stemming from the late Omori Sogen Roshi (who is seen in the video). Within that context they are not practiced as martial art, but rather to impart fundamental principles of posture, breath and kiai (intense energy) useful for Zen training as a whole. Their purpose is described thus: "To remove all habits acquired since birth and reveal the originally pure and bright body".

The four kata are performed using the dynamic "A-Un" breathing method. Handed down with each is a traditional phrase describing it, which may be taken up as koan within the movement.
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Re: Internal practices: Hakuin and other resources

Postby Meido on Mon Nov 05, 2012 5:15 pm

A few books which are classics:

Durckheim's Hara, the Vital Center of Man:

http://www.amazon.com/Hara-Center-Karlf ... 1594770247


Trevor Legget's Zen and the Ways, which contains some relevant training exercises:

http://www.amazon.com/Zen-Ways-Trevor-L ... d+the+ways


Another Legget book, The Warrior Koans: Early Zen in Japan. This contains a number of anecdotes revealing the physicality of the training done during the Kamakura period when native Chinese Ch'an teachers, fleeing the Mongols, were showing up in Japan. These include koan requiring concrete demonstration of one's internal development and power of the katsu in order to be passed. Very interesting reading.

http://www.amazon.com/Warrior-Koans-Ear ... rrior+koan


Finally, an interesting little book called The Art and the Way of Hara, by Rev. Seigen Yamaoka, a well-known Shin Buddhist leader. Recently found this one in a used bookstore. It contains an overview of how the hara and its development are viewed by, and reflected in, various aspects of Japanese culture and language. A few simple exercises are included. Most interesting to me is an endorsement from Joshu Sasaki Roshi on the back cover: I would like to give praise to Seigen Yamaoka's great effort and kindness in making thsi book available for the the benefit of English-speaking people. He has brought the fundamental teaching of Buddhism into clear focus through his clear discussion and methods of training the hara, the core of Buddhist meditation. Practicing hara, as the author shows well, takes one to the Buddha's fundamental experience.

http://www.amazon.com/Art-Way-Hara-Haru ... ay+of+hara
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Re: Internal practices: Hakuin and other resources

Postby Carol on Mon Nov 05, 2012 9:06 pm

Thanks, Meido!
Practitioners who cultivate the personal realization of buddha knowledge dwell in the bliss of whatever is present and do not abandon their practice.
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Re: Internal practices: Hakuin and other resources

Postby Meido on Tue Nov 06, 2012 12:02 am

:Namaste:

One more today, for any interested in how this aspect of practice impacts artistic endeavor...or in how artistic endeavor may be used to cultivate this aspect of practice: Zen and the Art of Calligraphy, the Essence of Sho. Out of print, but used copies available...

http://www.amazon.com/Zen-Art-Calligrap ... 0710092849

Though focused on calligraphy, the principles discussed apply to the arts in general. The book gives the reader a good sense of how and why "Zen art" exists.
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Korinji monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺]: http://www.korinji.org
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Re: Internal practices: Hakuin and other resources

Postby Michaeljc on Tue Nov 06, 2012 12:21 am

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Re: Internal practices: Hakuin and other resources

Postby Meido on Tue Nov 06, 2012 6:27 pm

Simple method of adjusting and settling one's breathing preliminary to zazen, from Omori Sogen Roshi:

Initial deep breathing:

Deep breathing harmonizes the mind and the body.

a. Exhale slowly through the mouth as if to connect the atmosphere with the lower abdomen. Empty all stale air with the strength created by the contraction of the lower abdomen. At the end of exhalation, relax the lower abdomen.

b. Due to atmospheric pressure, new air will naturally enter through the nose and fill the vacuum in the lungs.

c. After inhaling fully, pause slightly before exhaling (count 1 to 6). Repeat this type of breathing 7 to 21 times (usually 10 times will be sufficient). [after this begin the breathing used in meditation]
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Re: Internal practices: Hakuin and other resources

Postby Chrisd on Tue Nov 06, 2012 6:51 pm

Meido wrote:Simple method of adjusting and settling one's breathing preliminary to zazen, from Omori Sogen Roshi:

Initial deep breathing:

Deep breathing harmonizes the mind and the body.

a. Exhale slowly through the mouth as if to connect the atmosphere with the lower abdomen. Empty all stale air with the strength created by the contraction of the lower abdomen. At the end of exhalation, relax the lower abdomen.

b. Due to atmospheric pressure, new air will naturally enter through the nose and fill the vacuum in the lungs.

c. After inhaling fully, pause slightly before exhaling (count 1 to 6). Repeat this type of breathing 7 to 21 times (usually 10 times will be sufficient). [after this begin the breathing used in meditation]


Thank you for sharing all this stuff Meido!

With this technique you describe above, relaxing the lower abdomen, does this mean that you allow it to come forward? That would be relaxing it fully, would it not? A previous sesshin I suddenly got scared because I noticed that I wasn't relaxing my abdomen fully. I noticed that if I really relaxed it totally that it would pop forward after breathing out. I struggled with it for a day!
I was then reassured that this was not necessary, it's normal for the lower abdomen to remain contracted a bit. :blush:
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Re: Internal practices: Hakuin and other resources

Postby Meido on Tue Nov 06, 2012 6:59 pm

Hi Chris,

Yes, in this case "relax the abdomen" means to let it fall outward naturally.

In An Introduction to Zen Training, Omori Roshi describes this practice in more detail:

There are many ways of deep breathing but the following method is the one I use [before beginning zazen]. I exhale long with my mouth open as if trying to connect the air around me with my lower abdomen. Without using my throat or chest, I keep exhaling a long fine stream of air using the contracting power of my lower abdomen and try to empty the bottom of my chest. It will take about thirty seconds for the bad or stale air from the chest to be exhaled. However, the wonder of it is that in one breath, I attain a mental state which is detached from my former state and circumstance.

After exhaling all of my air, I relax my lower abdomen. Due to atmospheric pressure, air naturally enters my nose; I inhale naturally until the air fills the area from my chest to my abdomen. After I finish inhaling, I pause for a very brief moment. With my lower abdomen extended slightly forward (while contracting the anus), I gently push my breath into my lower abdomen and squeeze it slightly there with a scooping feeling. At this point in the breathing cycle it is very important not to use a lot of force or to strain oneself. The key point is to keep the anus closed. Then before it becomes uncomfortable, I begin to exhale the air in the manner described earlier.

If we repeat this type of breathing four to ten times, besides completely freeing ourselves from our attachment to our surroundings, we will fee warm even in the winter for such a way of breathing improves blood circulation. Not only that, it is a good way to enter the samadhi condition.

When this type of deep breathing has ended, we should close our mouth, breathe through our nose and use our diaphragm and stomach pressure to do lower abdominal breathing [i.e. begin the breathing to be used in zazen].


Does that help?

Note again that this is just a preliminary exercise to be done before zazen proper. The breathing done during zazen uses the body in a similar manner but would not involve exhalation with the mouth open.

More information (with drawings) of this preliminary method as well as the actual breathing used in zazen may be found in the mentioned book An Introduction to Zen Training:

http://www.amazon.com/Introduction-Zen- ... 0804832471

~ Meido
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The Rinzai Zen Community: http://www.rinzaizen.org
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Re: Internal practices: Hakuin and other resources

Postby Chrisd on Thu Nov 08, 2012 7:38 pm

Thanks Meido, that does help!

The first part happens naturally, hm? The breathing out. Then you consciously drop the abdomen, to get that atmospheric pressure he is talking about. This does not happen if you let nature run its course.
So first he breathes out completely, then he drops his abdomen and immediately follows up on the air that comes into the nose with the dropping of the abdomen.
It feels quite amazing and refreshing doing that. But he breathes out for 30 seconds? I get to 10 seconds with much effort. Is it suppose to be done as slow as possible, the breathing out?

30 seconds. Is that normal for a Zen teacher?

Related. Meido, I've heard teachers recommend to their students to not worry about keeping a long breath. But I feel like when I do it it increases my concentration. Also, I've heard a teacher describe the exhalation as effort, and the inhalation as relaxation. What do you think?
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Re: Internal practices: Hakuin and other resources

Postby Meido on Sun Nov 11, 2012 7:54 pm

Chrisdd wrote:The first part happens naturally, hm? The breathing out


Well, sort of. When he says that he first exhales using the "contracting power of my lower abdomen" without using the throat and chest, this means that he is already breathing while using the hara in a particular manner. So it's best to just read this as a description of how to train the entire breath cycle.

Also, when he says that in zazen we then close our mouths and "use our diaphragm and stomach pressure to do lower abdominal breathing", this actually sums up the previous instructions. It's just that in zazen it is done in a silent, very refined manner.

All of this takes practice, but it's not as complicated as it sounds. It's much easier to get when someone teaches it in person and can see what you're doing, or put their hands on you to show how the breath moves. Around here we have a curriculum for teaching tanden kokyuho which is easily imparted from person to person and can then be practiced on one's own.

I should probably repeat again that there can be a real danger from breathing incorrectly, so if we want to practice things that are openly described in books we should still be certain to check in with a living person at some point.

Chrisdd wrote:But he breathes out for 30 seconds? I get to 10 seconds with much effort. Is it suppose to be done as slow as possible, the breathing out?

30 seconds. Is that normal for a Zen teacher?


The depth and length of the breath will develop with practice. No need to force or time anything. In general, emphasis is placed on the exhalation in meditation because of the effect it has on the mind's activity/depth of concentration and entrance into samadhi. But if one relaxes, practices consistently after having received good instruction and just works to integrate posture/breathing/method, all of this will manifest naturally.

It is common for an experienced practitioner to breathe 2-4 times a minute during zazen. The preliminary exercise we've been discussing involves a greater use of lung capacity and effort than is used in zazen: I can exhale well past a minute doing it, and so could you with practice. But again, the length is not important...learning the body usage and integrating it into one's practice is.

~ Meido
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The Rinzai Zen Community: http://www.rinzaizen.org
Korinji monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺]: http://www.korinji.org
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