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mushotoku

mushotoku

Postby Jugglesaurus on Wed Sep 18, 2013 9:52 am

Hey guys,

In soto, we are really into mushotoku. It's emphasised pretty hard. I was wondering how that compares to other traditions. How much do you all emphasise no goal in yoir tradition/practice?
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Re: mushotoku

Postby Chrisd on Wed Sep 18, 2013 12:15 pm

So my teacher often says "let all come to rest", "allow all to come to a complete stop" that kind of stuff. And the attitude of: "done with seeking".
Which he then follows up by "and then see what's there". So there is the done with seeking, no goal stuff, but also the goal which is to bring everything to rest and then see what's there.
This is Rinzai based, but not strictly Rinzai.
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Re: mushotoku

Postby Guo Gu on Thu Sep 19, 2013 4:09 am

mushotoku or wusuoqiu (nothing to seek) is just a basic principle in buddhist practice, so i would imagine any practice tradition therein would emphasize that. the term is particularly emphasized in the prajnaparamita sutras, and since chan/son/zen is an heir to this teaching it too emphasize this idea.

beyond practice, nothing to seek is also the fruit of practice... it is the end of craving (tanha), the end of the fuel that keeps samasara going. it is not something that one can "will it" to happen. in the course of practice, one just uses the method, and stop thinking of getting "results" or "experiences," trying to get from point "a" to point "b." does that mean one stops practicing? no. when seeking stops, the ever present craving stops, then if one's fortunate one realizes there's no one who's craving in the first place.

be well,
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Re: mushotoku

Postby Jugglesaurus on Thu Sep 19, 2013 11:57 am

Hey, the forum claims we have three replies to this - but only two are visible. Weird.
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Re: mushotoku

Postby Hosei on Thu Sep 19, 2013 2:13 pm

Ok.. so I have a question for the Rinzai folks on this topic.

Is it at all accurate to say that part of Rinzai practice is to seek kensho experiences? If you are given a koan to solve , would it be correct to say that solving that koan, or breaking through it, is a goal?

Unfortunately most of my understanding of rinzai koan practice comes from Janwilliam Vanderwetering's books and in the 2nd of those books, it certainly made it sound like each breakthrough is a step towards something.

In my group, i'm usually very clear with people, when I give introductions to zazen - to shikantaza, that there are no levels of attainment... that the practice they learn on their first day is the same one they'd do on the last day of their life - oh, sure, the physical posture might become easier, or more difficult, and you might become more accustomed to the little tricks your brain plays to distract you from what's present... but there's no badges to be won.

I was chatting with a Sanbo Kyodan teacher once who was confused about what we did. I told him I teach posture and went over a little on being present, still and upright.. and he said.. but what do you give them though? do you give them "mu" ? .. I said.. um.. no.. I give them a cushion.. or maybe this bench if the cushion doesn't work for them. He was a nice guy .. too bad our space wasn't suitable for them to hire :-)

:-)
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Re: mushotoku

Postby unsui on Thu Sep 19, 2013 3:28 pm

Hosei wrote:Ok.. so I have a question for the Rinzai folks on this topic.

Is it at all accurate to say that part of Rinzai practice is to seek kensho experiences? If you are given a koan to solve , would it be correct to say that solving that koan, or breaking through it, is a goal?

Would have to say "no" to both your questions. Koans are just tools, just like sitting in a stable posture, counting breaths or becoming more present. If one considers that one has attained something, then s/he has not "got it".
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Re: mushotoku

Postby Jok_Hae on Thu Sep 19, 2013 3:43 pm

unsui wrote:
Hosei wrote:Ok.. so I have a question for the Rinzai folks on this topic.

Is it at all accurate to say that part of Rinzai practice is to seek kensho experiences? If you are given a koan to solve , would it be correct to say that solving that koan, or breaking through it, is a goal?

Would have to say "no" to both your questions. Koans are just tools, just like sitting in a stable posture, counting breaths or becoming more present. If one considers that one has attained something, then s/he has not "got it".


A teacher in my tradition says that the secret to kong an (koan) practice is that it has nothing to do with right or wrong answer.

There is much dogma associated with the no-goal stuff, imho. Chasing goals, just like any other chasing, leads to dukkha. That is not just a Soto teaching, it's plain ol' Four Noble Truths. So, we practice. :rbow:
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Re: mushotoku

Postby Hosei on Thu Sep 19, 2013 4:04 pm

unsui wrote:Would have to say "no" to both your questions. Koans are just tools, just like sitting in a stable posture, counting breaths or becoming more present. If one considers that one has attained something, then s/he has not "got it".


Yes.. I think that that is a common sentiment amongst all the zen folks.

I don't know if I would call sitting in a stable posture a tool, I think that might suggest that we 'use' zazen for something, a zafu is a tool that helps us to sit in a stable posture.

:-)
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Re: mushotoku

Postby Meido on Thu Sep 19, 2013 5:02 pm

I suspect that comparison of Zen practice with "goals" or "levels" to that with "no goal" and "no levels" is something that mostly arises from long traditions of inter-sect critique (and so is perhaps inherited by many of us without even knowing it). I find it mostly useless except in conversation with one's teacher regarding the actualities of one's own practice.

The reasons I say this are the following:

1. All Zen practice, if correctly undertaken, certainly has goals, aspiration and motivation. Our goals are the same as Shakyamuni's (these are also expressed clearly in the Four Vows). Along with these we of course all have personal goals driven, I daresay, by some form of perception that what is expressed in the Four Noble Truths is indeed true...namely the truths of dukkha and its cessation.

2. All Zen practice, if correctly undertaken, can be said to have levels. Why? Because if we choose we may examine our practice from the standpoint of change within our existence, which is within time. If we choose one of those moments in time, or examine pivot points upon which liberation occurs, we naturally could identify the difference between one point and another. Certainly, if we look at our existence from this standpoint and see no difference over time (or, negative development) it is likely our practice is incorrect. This is one of the most important uses of this tool.

3. All Zen practice, correctly undertaken, is clear regarding non-attainment and non-goal. Which is to say, all traditions agree there is no "thing" to attain, nothing outside oneself to seek, nothing inherently lacking, and so on. To hold such a view of some "thing" is dualistic fixation. Recognition of our nature is not the recognition of something we didn't "possess" and then somehow "found".

4. All Zen practice, correctly undertaken, will stress that while examining stages, levels or moments within our practice can be a useful tool, actual practice itself is not done with any fixation, worry or thought regarding these things at all. When we practice, we just practice completely whatever method we're using. For example, we may reaffirm our aspiration by chanting the Four Vows, but when we then sit down to count breaths, just sit or use whatever method we've been given we do only that.

We should remember that ultimately the dualistic distinction between "practice" and "non-practice" is meant to dissolve in the fruition of true practice, which is effortless and seamless i.e. all activities are integrated and encompassed within it. Reaching that "level" (sorry, couldn't resist) even to speak of "practice" no longer has meaning.

Whether or not any of us has brought our practice to this fruition is something that will no doubt be clear to both ourselves and our teachers.

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Re: mushotoku

Postby Guo Gu on Thu Sep 19, 2013 5:43 pm

well said, meido.

if i may add two more axioms:

5. all zen practice, if correctly undertaken, does not lead to "realization," in the sense that whatever is "gained" will be "lost." gaining and loosing, grasping and rejecting, belongs to the realm of birth and death--delusion. it has nothing to do with our self-nature.

this is like climbing a glass mountain covered in oil. should one climb the glass mountain? yes! does one really get anywhere? no! climbing up, one slips down, climbing up, one slips down. the oil is slippery--the obstacles are many (obstacles comes from delusion). in this process, one practices without grasping at the idea of getting on top of the mountain peak (mushotoku). but just climb! when one personally and experientially drops away attachments to notions of "getting on top," "gaining experiences," "leaving behind birth and death," this and that (all of which stems from the delusion of self), then suddenly one realizes that there's no glass mountain, no oil, no climber. now, is there just nothingness then? no. everything is there, it's just all things are no longer filtered through self-grasping. no obstructions, no opposition. if one has not personally realized this, then one better continue to climb the glass mountain!

6. all zen teachings, if correctly understood, should not be attached to as some kind of ultimate truth. any teaching held up as a truth claim becomes poison.

we actually see this a lot. ppl attached to what certain old masters' saying at one time or another and then believe that that's the answer or correct way of practice and enforce it on oneself and others. for example, ppl attach to the idea of mushotoku and literally believes that there's no levels, stages, nothing to experience, no attainment, no signposts, which is really a way to render the practice meaningless. yet, even the heart sutra--mahayana buddhism 101--states that there's no attainment, no attachment, therefore bodhisattva attains enlightenment." ppl confuse a mere teaching as some kind of ultimate truth. sometimes ppl also repeat the words of others, like a parrot, "there are no enlightened people, just enlightened activities," as if this is ultimate truth or mimic the actions of others, like yelling or shouting. the point in all these were originally to rid delusions, but once attached to these teachings become delusion. medicine becomes poison. chan/zen has nothing to give, no fixed teaching--all teaching has a single purpose: eradicate delusion or discrimination. there's no room for fixed views.

hope this doesn't rub people the wrong way. i tend to be direct, but my hope is to clarify.
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Last edited by Guo Gu on Thu Sep 19, 2013 10:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: mushotoku

Postby Hosei on Thu Sep 19, 2013 5:50 pm

Meido wrote:I suspect that comparison of Zen practice with "goals" or "levels" to that with "no goal" and "no levels" is something that mostly arises from long traditions of inter-sect critique (and so is perhaps inherited by many of us without even knowing it). I find it mostly useless except in conversation with one's teacher regarding the actualities of one's own practice.

...

1. All Zen practice, if correctly undertaken, certainly has goals, aspiration and motivation. Our goals are the same as Shakyamuni's (these are also expressed clearly in the Four Vows). Along with these we of course all have personal goals driven, I daresay, by some form of perception that what is expressed in the Four Noble Truths is indeed true...namely the truths of dukkha and its cessation.

2. All Zen practice, if correctly undertaken, can be said to have levels. Why? Because if we choose we may examine our practice from the standpoint of change within our existence, which is within time. If we choose one of those moments in time, or examine pivot points upon which liberation occurs, we naturally could identify the difference between one point and another. Certainly, if we look at our existence from this standpoint and see no difference over time (or, negative development) it is likely our practice is incorrect. This is one of the most important uses of this tool.


Thanks for that Meido - I hope it's clear from my post that I asked not to seek to draw up comparisons between sects, reinforce any inter-sectarian dogma or any other such nonsense. I asked out of ignorance and seeking purely to be educated on what Rinzai practise is exactly so that I can clarify and see more clearly the hundreds of years of critique which many of us, and certainly myself, have unquestionably inherited .

I'm not sure I can agree though about the levels... the word levels just rubs me wrong - yes, of course I can look at me now and compare me to 13 years ago and say .. 'cor blimey.. things have changed'. But is that a 'level' of practice? Perhaps we can have a compromise word ? I suggest 'maturity' of practise (like a good cheddar?) or maybe vintage?' and absolutely examining moments in our practise in a very useful tool
'
on your first point, you have presented the compromise words yourself.. aspiration - motivation.. even diligence or steadfastness.

So here's another question... good ole' Dogen was pretty hardcore about the whole oneness of practice and realisation... Is that also a common er.. doctrine (is that the right word? maybe tenet?) ?

:-)
-hs
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Re: mushotoku

Postby Meido on Thu Sep 19, 2013 7:07 pm

:Namaste: for those points, Guo Gu.

Hosei wrote:Thanks for that Meido - I hope it's clear from my post that I asked not to seek to draw up comparisons between sects, reinforce any inter-sectarian dogma or any other such nonsense. I asked out of ignorance and seeking purely to be educated on what Rinzai practise is exactly so that I can clarify and see more clearly the hundreds of years of critique which many of us, and certainly myself, have unquestionably inherited .


No worries, Hosei...I didn't take your post as sectarian, and was speaking more to this in a general sense.

Hosei wrote:I'm not sure I can agree though about the levels... the word levels just rubs me wrong - yes, of course I can look at me now and compare me to 13 years ago and say .. 'cor blimey.. things have changed'. But is that a 'level' of practice? Perhaps we can have a compromise word ? I suggest 'maturity' of practise (like a good cheddar?) or maybe vintage?' and absolutely examining moments in our practise in a very useful tool


To me the important thing to recognize is that Zen itself is not limited in any way, even by the word "Zen"...and so it is useful for us to see through our various house styles, practices and methods. "See through" means use skillfully, but not be "used by" them, i.e. not reify them as having inherent worth.

So in that sense, to set up definitive "levels" rubs me the wrong way too. We agree I believe that it is still useful to recognize that the process of transformation ("maturation", "ripening", "fruition", "actualization", "integration", "embodiment" and so on are words I like!) does involve some commonly-experienced features that can serve as useful landmarks telling us where we are and what direction we might need to go next. It is clear to me when having discussions with folks from different traditions on this level that the landmarks are essentially the same, no matter how they may be described or emphasized/de-emphasized.

Hosei wrote:So here's another question... good ole' Dogen was pretty hardcore about the whole oneness of practice and realisation... Is that also a common er.. doctrine (is that the right word? maybe tenet?) ?


Regrettably I'm personally rather ignorant of the Soto-shu side of things, and am no Dogen expert (one reason why I so appreciate the contributions that Soto sisters/brothers make here).

The best I might do is lay out the Rinzai side of things. So from that standpoint I would say generally that practice can have varying (at times simultaneous) purposes: to remove obstructions to recognizing our nature, to directly point it out and so bring about such recognition, and to actualize/embody that recognition. In other words: "direct pointing at the human mind/seeing nature/becoming Buddha".

With this as the general intent of practice, there are many actual methods that could be used according to the needs/capacity of the student and the background/ability of the teacher: breath-focused methods, wato/koan practice, examination and integration of the jewel mirror samadhi (hokkyo zanmai) and the alternating samadhis of hen and sho (hen sho ego zanmai), internal cultivation practices for health and to balance the energetics, and so on.

Whatever the methods a student may use, the fulfillment of all practice would be viewed as the unceasing (seamless) upwelling of the recognition of one's nature in the midst of - and as not different from - the situations/activities of life. This could be described as the unity of samatha and vipashyana, in that recognition of one's nature is the fulfillment of vipashyana, and its continuity is the fulfillment of samatha. This could also be called the unity of samadhi and prajna, the oneness of practice and enlightenment, the continuation of right mindfulness, etc.

So in that sense, from a Rinzai standpoint there is certainly a necessary fruition of practice in which we may say clearly that "practice is enlightenment, enlightenment is practice." Arriving at that fruition, we could not say there is "practice" vs. "non-practice" or "obstructions/defilements" vs. "wisdom", or that there is anything in particular to do, cultivate or integrate. The experience and functioning of this is expressed in our line by a saying: "Sitting in the dojo of suigetsu (moon-reflected-in-water)/Slashing at the flowers of emptiness".

Does that make sense? In any case, from this standpoint I could fully accept that the unity of practice and enlightenment is the fruition of all Zen. I'm ignorant of the Soto understanding of the process, but hope I'm not being too presumptuous in saying that I have no doubts as to a common understanding of what this fruition is.

~ Meido
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