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What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

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What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby jiinlin on Thu Mar 30, 2017 6:28 pm

I have meditated for a few years and I can sense my mind when it wanders. I am just not clear the sense of 'doubt' that the Masters often advice. Is it a feeling of not believing my wandering thought. For example when walking, if there is wandering thoughts should I just 'doubt' them and maintain a blank mind?

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Re: What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby Jok_Hae on Thu Mar 30, 2017 7:37 pm

"Doubt", from my limited knowledge, is a deep sense of inquiry or questioning. I don't think "blank mind" is the direction to be sought after, rather just a non-attachment to thoughts. They come and go, like clouds in the sky. I have always considered "doubt" to be kind of a clumsy word, when applied to practice. It will interesting how others respond. :peace:

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Re: What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby Caodemarte on Fri Mar 31, 2017 12:12 am

From my even more limited perspective as a fellow student, I would suggest a blank mind is what we are warned against, time and again. What I have been told is: Why do you practice? What do you need to resolve? Is it, like the Buddha, why there is suffering and death? Is it what is reality? Is it who or what am I? Is it what stops me? There are many ways to phrase real, existential doubt. As long as it is real, not artificial, and personally felt it is the doubt you are talking about, if taken all the way through.

Boshan briefly describes the barrier (also called the great matter) of life-and-death, the Doubt [疑情; literally “doubt sensation”] that arises from it, how this fundamental religious question differs from ordinary doubt and skepticism, and its final congealing into the Doubt Block[疑團] or Great Doubt[大疑]:

In Zen practice, the essential point is to arouse Doubt. What is this Doubt? For example, when you are born, where do you come from? You cannot help but remain in doubt about this. When you die, where do you go? Again, you cannot help but remain in doubt. Since you cannot pierce this barrier of life-and-death, suddenly the Doubt will coalesce right before your eyes. Try to put it down, you cannot; try to push it away, you cannot. Eventually this Doubt Block will be broken through and you’ll realize what a worthless notion is life-and-death – ha! As the old worthies said: “Great Doubt, Great Awakening; small doubt, small awakening; no doubt, no awakening.”


https://beingwithoutself.files.wordpres ... _doubt.pdf).
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Re: What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby Jok_Hae on Fri Mar 31, 2017 12:15 am

when you are born, where do you come from?


Well quoted, Caodemarte! In the tradition I practice in, we call this "Great Question". :)
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Re: What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby Caodemarte on Fri Mar 31, 2017 12:23 am

Jok_Hae wrote:...Well quoted, Caodemarte! In the tradition I practice in, we call this "Great Question". :)


Thank you. I can quote well. I can pass on advice given to me by others. Pity that has nothing to do with actually resolving the question myself :blush: Oh, well. Back to the cushion!
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Re: What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby Jok_Hae on Fri Mar 31, 2017 12:26 am

Caodemarte wrote:
Jok_Hae wrote:...Well quoted, Caodemarte! In the tradition I practice in, we call this "Great Question". :)


Thank you. I can quote well. I can pass on advice given to me by others. Pity that has nothing to do with actually resolving the question myself :blush: Oh, well. Back to the cushion!


I had a very vivid dream the other day. In this dream, I was asked to give a Dharma talk. I began the talk by saying to the group: "Giving a Dharma talk is big problem, because you might believe what I have to say!" Lol! Then I woke up... I guess the universe was talking to me. It's okay to talk. It's also okay to realize most of what we "believe" and "don't believe" is bullshit.

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Re: What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby jiinlin on Fri Mar 31, 2017 1:29 am

In my example of walking, what should I be doing if there is wandering thought. When I say 'blank' mind, I meant I just walk not thinking of anything.

I sense from the replies that 'doubt' only is used during zazen? is this correct?
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Re: What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby Jok_Hae on Fri Mar 31, 2017 1:47 am

jiinlin wrote:In my example of walking, what should I be doing if there is wandering thought. When I say 'blank' mind, I meant I just walk not thinking of anything.

I sense from the replies that 'doubt' only is used during zazen? is this correct?


If the wandering thought is important to the situation, then pay attention. If it isn't let it go. Not sure how it works for others, but i might use a walk or time spent driving to plan my day out. Nothing wrong with that, imho.

I do happen to think that maintaining doubt for lay folks can be a dicey proposition. You don't want to get run over by a car while digging away at a koan!

The phrase "what should I do..." pops up often in practice conversations. The question assumes that somehow life should be other than it is just now. It might worth considering that life as it is doesn't need fixing. Just pay attention. :peace:

Bodhidharma had this to say about the subject:

Third, seeking nothing. People of this world are deluded. They're always longing for something-always, in a word, seeking. But the wise wake up. They choose reason over custom. They fix their minds on the sublime and let their bodies change with the seasons. All phenomena are empty. They contain nothing worth desiring. Calamity forever alternates with Prosperity. To dwell in the three realms is to dwell in a burning house. To have a body is to suffer. Does anyone with a body know peace? Those who understand this detach themselves from all that exists and stop imagining or seeking anything. The sutras say, "To seek is to suffer. To seek nothing is bliss." When you seek nothing, you're on the Path.


From here.

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Re: What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby Caodemarte on Fri Mar 31, 2017 5:08 am

Could I add for that if you want to learn Chan/Zen practice in general, and especially huatou practice, it is really imperative that you establish personal contact with a good qualified teacher? That is sometimes difficult, but even prisoners with life sentences have found a way to do it.
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Re: What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby macdougdoug on Fri Mar 31, 2017 1:50 pm

jiinlin wrote:In my example of walking, what should I be doing if there is wandering thought. When I say 'blank' mind, I meant I just walk not thinking of anything.

I sense from the replies that 'doubt' only is used during zazen? is this correct?


Doubt means 'intense need to know without being able to come to any conclusions'. Sometimes it is cultivated but only within the master/student relationship (koans). Sometimes it comes up naturally as part of the practise, but it should not be sought after. In fact nothing should be sought after in order to avoid reinforcing our karma. What we seek is due to our conditioning; reinforcing our conditioning is not part of the practise.

If we seek anything I suppose it is to come back to mindfulness; if you notice that your thoughts are wandering there is nothing more to do: you have already noticed that your thoughts are wandering, you are already back to mindfulness.
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Re: What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby Gregory Wonderwheel on Sat Apr 01, 2017 11:01 pm

jiinlin wrote:I have meditated for a few years and I can sense my mind when it wanders. I am just not clear the sense of 'doubt' that the Masters often advice. Is it a feeling of not believing my wandering thought. For example when walking, if there is wandering thoughts should I just 'doubt' them and maintain a blank mind?

Thanks


Doubt is not skepticism.
Doubt is not just not having a stable focus.

Doubt is a sincere question, wonder, sense of inquiry about WHY you hear the words of the Buddha and Ancestors and you don't get it and still feel deluded or confused.

If you read a sutra and you think, "that sounds weird" or "that sounds nice, but I don't get it" or "that sounds like an enlightened person's lofty understanding but I can never get there" then you have half a doubt. If you read the Zen texts of the dialogues in the koan collections, the sermons of Baijang, Hunagbo, Linji, Dongshan, Yunmen, etc. the essays of Dogen, or the Chan/Zen verses of Sengcan, Shitou, Hakuin, etc, and you are amazed but it sounds like a joke that you just don't get, then that is half a doubt.

The other quarter of the doubt is stirring up the sincere vow with the strong determination to discover what it is that seems so attractive in what they say but seems just out of reach of your understanding in what you are reading.

The final quarter of the doubt is to then turn the light of awareness around from looking "outward" or "externally" for the way to resolve your doubt and to turn your light of awareness back to the root of awareness at the fountainhead of a single word-thought to inquire directly and immediately, i.e., meditation without mediation, what is the root of this awareness?

jiinlin wrote:In my example of walking, what should I be doing if there is wandering thought. When I say 'blank' mind, I meant I just walk not thinking of anything.

I sense from the replies that 'doubt' only is used during zazen? is this correct?

No, it is not correct. Dahui Zonggao said that huadou practice was the best for lay people exactly because it was not confined to use while sitting on the zazen cushion.
In your example of walking, you could be inquiring "Who is the one carrying this skin bag around?" When a wandering thought gets your attention, then you turn your attention back to the question "What is carrying this skin bag around?" Turning the attention back to the method is the Seventh of the Eightfold Path called "Right Mindfulness" or "Aligned Recollection," i.e., Samyak Smrti, the recollection that aligns one to the method one is using.

_/|\_
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Re: What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby Meido on Sun Apr 02, 2017 12:09 am

Gregory Wonderwheel wrote:In your example of walking, you could be inquiring "Who is the one carrying this skin bag around?" When a wandering thought gets your attention, then you turn your attention back to the question "What is carrying this skin bag around?" Turning the attention back to the method is the Seventh of the Eightfold Path called "Right Mindfulness" or "Aligned Recollection," i.e., Samyak Smrti, the recollection that aligns one to the method one is using.


Or in the words of kindly Uncle Torei (not technically Chan, apologies):
Look at what is, at who sees, hears, walks, sits—now, here! With all your heart, look at everything. Without giving rise in the heart to being and not being, to yes and no, without discrimination and without reasoning, just look!


~ Meido
The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺]: http://www.korinji.org
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Re: What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby Jok_Hae on Sun Apr 02, 2017 11:55 pm

Gregory wrote:

Dahui Zonggao said that huadou practice was the best for lay people exactly because it was not confined to use while sitting on the zazen cushion.
In your example of walking, you could be inquiring "Who is the one carrying this skin bag around?" When a wandering thought gets your attention, then you turn your attention back to the question "What is carrying this skin bag around?" Turning the attention back to the method is the Seventh of the Eightfold Path called "Right Mindfulness" or "Aligned Recollection," i.e., Samyak Smrti, the recollection that aligns one to the method one is using.


Today I went for a bike ride. Riding on the road requires a great deal of attention. It's actually a wonderful opportunity to practice "just do it". Feeling the wind, listening for cars behind me, paying attention to the things around me. If I let my mind wander too far, I could hit by a car or worse.

I wonder what Dahui would say about that?

Our little tradition suggests that when someone is doing a task that requires strong attention, then just do that. If the task is more routine, we can pick up our practice. For us, we just raise the question: "What am I?"

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Re: What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby Gregory Wonderwheel on Mon Apr 03, 2017 2:28 am

Jok_Hae wrote:Today I went for a bike ride. Riding on the road requires a great deal of attention. It's actually a wonderful opportunity to practice "just do it". Feeling the wind, listening for cars behind me, paying attention to the things around me. If I let my mind wander too far, I could hit by a car or worse.

I wonder what Dahui would say about that?

Our little tradition suggests that when someone is doing a task that requires strong attention, then just do that. If the task is more routine, we can pick up our practice. For us, we just raise the question: "What am I?"

thanks,
Keith


Yes, I take "just do it" as a modern rendition of the "Samadhi of One Act/One Practice/One Doing", Ch. 一行三昧, yīxíng sānmèi; J. ichigyō zanmai; Skt. ekavyavahara, ekakara, or ekavyūha samadhi. There is the oneness of sharp single focus on a point, and the oneness of a wide open focus on everything in the depth of field of awareness, and the oneness of focus that is scanning like a radar from one thing to the next.

In the Platform Sutra Hui Neng says this is the most important Samadhi and warned against thinking that the Samadhi of One Act was an unmoving practice like just sitting in place.
HuiNeng wrote: The master instructed the assembly saying, "Virtuous companions, that which is the Samadhi of One Act (alt. Samadhi of the Practice of Oneness, Samadhi of One Practice, One Doing), at every place, walking or staying, sitting or lying down, is always acting with a singularly direct mind! [Vimalakirti] said, ‘A direct mind is the arena of the Way (J. dojo, Skt. bodhimanda); a direct mind is the pure land.’ Do not act deceitfully with the mind. However the mouth may explain “direct” or the mouth may explain the “Samadhi of One Act”, it is not the acting direct mind. However, the acting direct mind does not have grasping attachment to every thing (dharma). Deluded people attach to the characteristics of things (Skt. dharmalaksana) and grasp at the Samadhi of One Act by the direct words: ‘Always sitting and not moving (so that) foolishness does not rise in the heart-mind is namely the Samadhi of One Act.’ Those who regard this as release then are the same as the insentient and still are obstructed in the primary and secondary causes of the Way.

Hui Neng paired the Samadhi of One Act with the Samadhi of One Characteristic or Appearance or Samadhi of Uniformity, 一相三昧.

Hui Neng wrote:The Master again stated, “You various Virtuous Companions. For you equally, each and every one, purify your mind and listen as I articulate the Dharma.
“If you want to bring to perfection the seed-wisdom (bija-jnana, sarvakara-jnana), you should achieve the Samadhi of Uniformity (一相三昧) and the Samadhi of One Act (一行三昧).
“If at every place you nevertheless do not abide in appearances, or otherwise in the middle of appearances do not give birth to dislikes and likes, and likewise have no grasping or relinquishing, do not retreat from blessings or complete poverty in the same affairs, and you are peaceful, leisurely, calm, silent, humble, harmonizing, tranquil, and anchored; this is called the Samadhi of Uniformity.
“If at every place, whether walking or stopped, sitting or lying down, to be sincerely singly direct in mind, unmoving in the arena of the Way, is truly becoming the Pure Land; this is called the Samadhi of One Act.
“If a person possesses these two samadhis, then, like the ground with seeds held hidden and nourished for a long time that ripen into their true fruit, the Uniformity and the One Act likewise respond like this. My now articulating the Dharma is similar to the seasonal rain universally moistening the great earth. You who are ranked [as Dharma heirs], in the Buddha nature it compares to the various kinds of seeds encountering the extensive soaking and without exception are able to germinate.
“Those who undertake my intention surely will recover the attainment of Bodhi. Those who follow my practice, certainly will testify to the marvelous fruit.


Though 一行三昧 ekavyuha-samadhi or ekakara-samadhi and 一相三昧 ekalaksana-samadhi are similar and related in their reference to oneness or ekatva, I see them as different perspectives on or orientations to the manifestation of oneness. The 一行三昧 “samadhi of one act” refers to the manifestation of oneness in the our straightforwardness of each single doing, act, or practice, and the 一相三昧 “Samadhi of one characteristic” refers to the inherent oneness of reality in our perceptions of apparently different characteristics, attributes, and qualities. The term ekavyuha etymologically refers to “one arrangement of the parts of the whole” or “one distribution or disposition of the whole.” It conjured up the image of an army host all marching together in unison as one body so that all separate actions of the universe are seen as marching together in unison as one body of reality (Dharmakaya).

_/|\_
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Re: What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby Jok_Hae on Wed Apr 05, 2017 12:13 am

Thanks Gregory. It's interesting to see how pithy Zen sayings are often supported by deeper teachings.

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Re: What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby desert_woodworker on Wed Apr 05, 2017 3:30 am

j.,

jiinlin wrote:For example when walking, if there is wandering thoughts should I just 'doubt' them and maintain a blank mind?

Negative. When walking, let there be only walking (such is the way I was was taught, and have practiced).

When walking, entertain no ideas of "mind", or "blank mind", nor other pointed-irrelevancies which interject. Just don't entertain them, nor feed them. There is just walking. Not even ONE who is walking. But just walking. Attend to walking.

Our practice is EASY. Just ONE thing at a time. For example, just walking. "Just", in a strong sense. Nothing else going on.

When you find a teacher, ask the teacher about this, too, if it's not made clear after a while.

best!,

--Joe

p.s. by "walking", I assume you mean kinhin, say, as practiced in the zendo with your teacher and sangha, as a part of communal Zen Buddhist practice.
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Re: What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby desert_woodworker on Wed Apr 05, 2017 3:37 am

j.,

jiinlin wrote:I am just not clear the sense of 'doubt' that the Masters often advice.

Become clear about this when you are able to learn from a teacher about it, face-to-face.

There is "doubt" (as sometimes translated... ) to be aroused in gung-an, huatou, or koan practice, and then there is also the "doubt-sensation", that arises -- or may arise -- in such practice. See Lu Kuan Yu's (20th Century) writings for some discussion about these things (he is/was the late author and Ch'an practitioner also known as "Charles Luk").

Best Greetings,

--Joe
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Re: What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby TigerDuck on Wed Apr 05, 2017 4:20 am

desert_woodworker wrote:
Our practice is EASY. Just ONE thing at a time. For example, just walking. "Just", in a strong sense. Nothing else going on.


I have heard this kind of things many times.

When walk, JUST walk.
When sit, JUST sit.
When washing plates, JUST washing plates.

I doubt that is the proper practice.

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Re: What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby desert_woodworker on Wed Apr 05, 2017 4:34 am

TD,

TigerDuck wrote:I doubt that is the proper practice.

Good for you: back to "doubt"!, I see.

Whatever it takes.

Strong practice,

--Joe

p.s. If you're saying that you are a multi-tasker in practicing, I would say that I DOUBT that THAT is proper practice. Make up your mind... . :Namaste:
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Re: What is 'doubt' in Chan huatou practice?

Postby TigerDuck on Wed Apr 05, 2017 4:38 am

As long as the practice has a focus, we better doubt it, as it won't go far.

As long as the practice has a direction, we better doubt it, as it won't go far.

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