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John Tarrant - Koan practice articles

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Re: John Tarrant - Koan practice articles

Postby Sevidal on Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:03 am

Chrisd wrote:
Pedestrian wrote:Indeed. Here's another from up-topic:

Chrisd wrote:Who cares whether or not a dog has buddha nature?


That one's more relevant aint it! :peace:


I don't know but I know it for a fact that Zen Masters and serious Zen Students cares for everything.
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Re: John Tarrant - Koan practice articles

Postby desert_woodworker on Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:07 am

Well, we realize that we are Legally liable for everything, so we feel keenly that we must take an active interest, yes. You betcha.

--Joe

Sevidal wrote:
I don't know but I know it for a fact that Zen Masters and serious Zen Students cares for everything.

"The abundance of Nature is not a matter of its 'providing' ". -- William James, c. 1901.

"Least said is soonest disavowed". -- Ambrose Bierce (c. 1900)

"Politeness: noun. The most acceptable hypocrisy." -- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
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Re: John Tarrant - Koan practice articles

Postby Carol on Tue Jun 18, 2013 5:29 am

"Who cares?" is the same question as "Who is asking the question?" That is the fundamental koan ... turn the light around and see your own nature.
Practitioners who cultivate the personal realization of buddha knowledge dwell in the bliss of whatever is present and do not abandon their practice.
~Lankavatara Sutra
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Re: John Tarrant - Koan practice articles

Postby Sevidal on Tue Jun 18, 2013 5:58 am

Carol wrote:"Who cares?" is the same question as "Who is asking the question?" That is the fundamental koan ... turn the light around and see your own nature.


Thank you for explaining. I really missed what it meant. Maybe it is just like asking What is Mu or Who is Mu.
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Re: John Tarrant - Koan practice articles

Postby Sevidal on Tue Jun 18, 2013 6:01 am

I hope someone could elaborate on the "vast background" John Tarrant is talking about. I never heard my Teachers mentioned a vast background.
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Re: John Tarrant - Koan practice articles

Postby Chrisd on Tue Jun 18, 2013 6:50 pm

Sevidal wrote:
Carol wrote:"Who cares?" is the same question as "Who is asking the question?" That is the fundamental koan ... turn the light around and see your own nature.


Thank you for explaining. I really missed what it meant. Maybe it is just like asking What is Mu or Who is Mu.


Yeah it should be just like asking Mu :heya:
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Re: John Tarrant - Koan practice articles

Postby Pedestrian on Tue Jun 18, 2013 7:11 pm

Sevidal wrote:I hope someone could elaborate on the "vast background" John Tarrant is talking about. I never heard my Teachers mentioned a vast background.


Here's the quotation:

[W]hat do koans do in terms other than internally, in the koan system? And as far as I can tell, they do two things. One is that they get you in touch with the vast background, they take away everything else, and they do that by making all your stories about who you are and what the world is like irrelevant. All your stories get thrown overboard.


In my understanding of Tarrant's approach, foreground/background, figure/ground, and front/back are all his attempts to give a name to the perceptual and conceptual tools we use to differentiate things in the world, tools that obscure the boundless reality that koan practice attempts to engage. The back/ground is a placeholder for that boundless reality, first conceptualized in self/other differentiation and then through (koan) practice realized to be, itself, a reality so boundless than no self can be differentiated from or found within it. It's like that highway billboard says, "You aren't stuck in traffic. You are traffic."

That is to say, I think that the "vast background" is one of his many attempts to translate classic Zen metaphors for a modern North American community. For example, his "figure/ground reversal" references the familiar "backward step" into which one comes to realize that there is no one, no self, no figure, no front, no foreground. Hakuin's Great Death and Tarrant's "vast background" share that sense of boundlessness -- and a ruthless humor about having your stories thrown overboard!

I spent a long time with that figure/ground reversal when first working on Mu -- or, rather, when Mu was first getting its hooks on me. ;)
"Buddha, to liberate beings, cultivates practices everywhere." Avatamsaka Sutra.

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Re: John Tarrant - Koan practice articles

Postby Pedestrian on Fri Jun 28, 2013 5:36 pm

I'm reading Dan Leighton's Zen Questions, and thought that this passage would contribute to the discussion. It's from the section titled, "The Background Beyond Thinking" (p 16-7); I've bolded one paragraph for emphasis and added a note about sixth consciousness in the quotation below:

The Zen master Yaoshan Weiyan was sitting very upright and still and a student asked him, "What are you thinking of, sitting there so steadfastly?" Yaoshan said, "I am thinking of not thinking," or another way of translating it is, "I am thinking of that which does not think."

This student was very good, and so we remember this dialogue. He said, "How do you do that? How do you think of not thinking?" Or maybe, "How is thinking of that which does not think?" Yaoshan responded using a different negative. He said, "Beyond thinking." It has also been translated as "Nonthinking."

This concerns foreground and background. We are used to thinking about the thoughts that are floating around in our sixth consciousness. [Note: briefly, mind consciousness, the thoughts that come and go, that arise and that we let go in Zazen.] We have been trained as human beings to have an ego; this is not only a problem in our culture, and it is not necessarily a bad thing. We need to be able to get through the day, pay the rent, take care of our lives. Buddhist practice is not about getting rid of the ego, it is about not getting caught by it and instead seeing this background that Yaoshan refers to as "beyond thinking."

In terms of foreground and background, we do not exactly shift from the foreground to the background; it is more a kind of access between them, a link created. The background maybe can only be expressed in the foreground, but we begin to find more access to the background, or perhaps it has more access to us. Foreground and background have many layers, but a connection with this deeper awareness becomes available. When we intellectualize about the background and make up stories about it, that only becomes more of the foreground. But this background can emerge in each fresh breath.

Zazen offers this actual experience of a deeper awareness. It cannot exactly be called thinking, but it is a kind of awareness, a kind of consciousness. We could call it "beyond thinking," thinking that goes beyond our usual thinking, thinking of the beyond, or thinking that is beyond any thinking that does not go beyond. It is a kind of thinking, but not thinking that cuts things up into little pieces. This awareness puts things together into wholeness and allows a deeper wholeness to emerge.
"Buddha, to liberate beings, cultivates practices everywhere." Avatamsaka Sutra.

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Re: John Tarrant - Koan practice articles

Postby Carol on Fri Jun 28, 2013 9:34 pm

Pedestrian wrote:I'm reading Dan Leighton's Zen Questions, and thought that this passage would contribute to the discussion. It's from the section titled, "The Background Beyond Thinking" (p 16-7); I've bolded one paragraph for emphasis and added a note about sixth consciousness in the quotation below:

The Zen master Yaoshan Weiyan was sitting very upright and still and a student asked him, "What are you thinking of, sitting there so steadfastly?" Yaoshan said, "I am thinking of not thinking," or another way of translating it is, "I am thinking of that which does not think."

This student was very good, and so we remember this dialogue. He said, "How do you do that? How do you think of not thinking?" Or maybe, "How is thinking of that which does not think?" Yaoshan responded using a different negative. He said, "Beyond thinking." It has also been translated as "Nonthinking."

This concerns foreground and background. We are used to thinking about the thoughts that are floating around in our sixth consciousness. [Note from Chris: briefly, mind consciousness, the thoughts that come and go, that arise and that we let go in Zazen.] We have been trained as human beings to have an ego; this is not only a problem in our culture, and it is not necessarily a bad thing. We need to be able to get through the day, pay the rent, take care of our lives. Buddhist practice is not about getting rid of the ego, it is about not getting caught by it and instead seeing this background that Yaoshan refers to as "beyond thinking."

In terms of foreground and background, we do not exactly shift from the foreground to the background; it is more a kind of access between them, a link created. The background maybe can only be expressed in the foreground, but we begin to find more access to the background, or perhaps it has more access to us. Foreground and background have many layers, but a connection with this deeper awareness becomes available. When we intellectualize about the background and make up stories about it, that only becomes more of the foreground. But this background can emerge in each fresh breath.

Zazen offers this actual experience of a deeper awareness. It cannot exactly be called thinking, but it is a kind of awareness, a kind of consciousness. We could call it "beyond thinking," thinking that goes beyond our usual thinking, thinking of the beyond, or thinking that is beyond any thinking that does not go beyond. It is a kind of thinking, but not thinking that cuts things up into little pieces. This awareness puts things together into wholeness and allows a deeper wholeness to emerge.


Who wrote the note about 6th consciousness, you or Fischer?
Practitioners who cultivate the personal realization of buddha knowledge dwell in the bliss of whatever is present and do not abandon their practice.
~Lankavatara Sutra
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Re: John Tarrant - Koan practice articles

Postby Pedestrian on Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:08 pm

I wrote the note using Leighton's phrases.
"Buddha, to liberate beings, cultivates practices everywhere." Avatamsaka Sutra.

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Re: John Tarrant - Koan practice articles

Postby Michaeljc on Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:29 pm

Leighton' answer refers to 'thinking about not thinking', and the 'background'. I find his explanation far too wordy on both counts, insinuating that this stuff is complex and difficult; most unhelpful, even counter-productive, for someone starting out in practice, I would say. Why do teachers do this? Because they have to fill a book or a lecture maybe. Sixth consciousness? Ha! Show me the other five.

Thinking of not thinking is easy. Anyone can do it for a period of time. It is not 'thinking of that which does not think' IMV

Let go of thoughts during Zazen? Why bother when they go of their own accord? Both 'dropping' and 'letting go' imply manipulation and are in conflict with the basic principles of Zen practice. Thoughts: the great, nasty obstacles to enlightenment. I am glad I was not born a thought to be treated like a leper.

The background is that that has always been there. We have always had it. It is that into which we rot when we die.

The Great Way is not difficult and needs little explanation. Physical practice is difficult: the discipline to say now over taking time out to sit. That, and the physical discomfort are the only difficulties we need contend with.

Just my view as I am seeing it right now

m
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Re: John Tarrant - Koan practice articles

Postby Sevidal on Sat Jun 29, 2013 5:56 am

I think those explanations are so engrossed with duality. It cannot go out of duality, background and foreground, yes and no, good and bad. And how can a beginner understand it.
To me it seems the statement ..."thinking of not thinking" .. is some kind of a double jeopardy.
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