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Mahamudra, dzogchen, nibbana, & Satori

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Mahamudra, dzogchen, nibbana, & Satori

Postby Christopherxx on Sat Aug 30, 2014 8:51 pm

Hi there Teachers, So this is kind of a heavy question.

In Theravada right now we have teachers like Ajahn Amaro, Ajahn Sumedho, Ajahn Sucitto, and others talking about nibbana as being "Awareness". In Dzogchen we have the same kind of term being used for rigpa.

In Mahamudra which I know absolutely nothing about. The common thing said is "Emptiness/Bliss" which I understand as meaning that the mind is empty of an entity and that all phenomena is perceived by the mind and thus has to be seen as each a new moment totally it's own. So maybe just "awareness" of this moment. Though I am sure someone can correct me as I probably am misunderstanding this tradition.

Is Satori understood in this awareness type way? And if so can some of the masters here help describe awareness a bit. Even if it's just talking around the issue. I just feel like there is some kind of pointing out or descriptions that could help but aren't easily found online that maybe those more well read in compassion can share.

Thank you masters who choose to partake!
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Re: Mahamudra, dzogchen, nibbana, & Satori

Postby Meido on Sun Aug 31, 2014 3:00 pm

Satori and kensho do not refer to a kind of fundamental awareness, but rather to a recognition and resultant certainty of knowledge. Personally I prefer "seeing", "awakening" or "wakefulness" to "awareness", since the latter can more easily be mistaken by beginners to refer to the basic activity of dualistic mind, which is so deeply ingrained and subtle as to seem fundamental.

In any case, beyond generalities like this, it is enough to understand (if one cares to) that this recognition is the gate of Zen practice, and that it happens in various ways. It's not that we can't talk on and on about these things. But if someone is actually interested in Zen practice, it's usually not helpful to do, and often causes more deluded conceptual shit to pile up. For example, we can say that what is recognized is one's nature...and most will immediately form a conception, however subtle, of "nature" as some thing that is recognized.

So most important is to first lead the student to have the recognition for him/herself, using whatever language and means best fits the individual. And teachers have limited lives and time, the same as anyone: there's barely enough time to answer questions from people who practice.

Of course if someone wants to read stuff on their own, i.e. without recourse to a teacher's guidance on what to read/practice/work with given their particular situation and capacity, sure...there's actually plenty which is easily found online. For examples of direct pointing, we can look at (in no particular order) the Record of Rinzai, the Sixth Patriarch's Platform Scripture, Bankei, Bassui, the Kamakura Zen records, Hakuin and Torei, and many, many more. Zen writings, particularly recorded talks and anecdotes, are often essentially kuden (orally transmitted and intimate teachings, i.e. upadesha). So we can easily read examples of what teachers did in a particular time and place, to help a particular student. Also, general Mahayana writings may also be read in this light, since Zen uses them in a unique manner. For example, there is a method of direct pointing through the body found in the Vimilakirti sutra. There is also the manner in which Mahayana precepts are viewed in Zen.

However, one should not assume that the ease of finding writings online in translation means that they are easily grasped, that they are not speaking from an advanced perspective quite beyond the reader's capacity, or that they are not best unpacked with recourse to a teacher's guidance regarding not only content but also when each text is most appropriate within the course of one's training. Often, all of this is the case.

Finally, it's good to understand that the most effective and direct pointing will be experienced in person, i.e. when a teacher of sufficient realization encounters a student of sufficient capacity. We could discuss the various means by which that occurs: verbal, through the body, or other methods. But, as you may have guessed, there's no real use in doing so here.

~ 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
Madison Rinzai Zen Community/Ryugen-ji [機山龍源寺]: http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community: http://www.rinzaizen.org
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Re: Mahamudra, dzogchen, nibbana, & Satori

Postby Christopherxx on Sun Aug 31, 2014 8:01 pm

Incredible Reply
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Re: Mahamudra, dzogchen, nibbana, & Satori

Postby Christopherxx on Sun Aug 31, 2014 8:10 pm

I wonder if Denko still posts here because if I remember right he is a dzogchen practicioner and also a zen priest. So maybe could shed some light on the two traditions :)
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Re: Mahamudra, dzogchen, nibbana, & Satori

Postby Nonin on Mon Sep 01, 2014 5:04 pm

Meido wrote:Satori and kensho do not refer to a kind of fundamental awareness, but rather to a recognition and resultant certainty of knowledge. Personally I prefer "seeing", "awakening" or "wakefulness" to "awareness", since the latter can more easily be mistaken by beginners to refer to the basic activity of dualistic mind, which is so deeply ingrained and subtle as to seem fundamental.

In any case, beyond generalities like this, it is enough to understand (if one cares to) that this recognition is the gate of Zen practice, and that it happens in various ways. It's not that we can't talk on and on about these things. But if someone is actually interested in Zen practice, it's usually not helpful to do, and often causes more deluded conceptual shit to pile up. For example, we can say that what is recognized is one's nature...and most will immediately form a conception, however subtle, of "nature" as some thing that is recognized.

So most important is to first lead the student to have the recognition for him/herself, using whatever language and means best fits the individual. And teachers have limited lives and time, the same as anyone: there's barely enough time to answer questions from people who practice.

Of course if someone wants to read stuff on their own, i.e. without recourse to a teacher's guidance on what to read/practice/work with given their particular situation and capacity, sure...there's actually plenty which is easily found online. For examples of direct pointing, we can look at (in no particular order) the Record of Rinzai, the Sixth Patriarch's Platform Scripture, Bankei, Bassui, the Kamakura Zen records, Hakuin and Torei, and many, many more. Zen writings, particularly recorded talks and anecdotes, are often essentially kuden (orally transmitted and intimate teachings, i.e. upadesha). So we can easily read examples of what teachers did in a particular time and place, to help a particular student. Also, general Mahayana writings may also be read in this light, since Zen uses them in a unique manner. For example, there is a method of direct pointing through the body found in the Vimilakirti sutra. There is also the manner in which Mahayana precepts are viewed in Zen.

However, one should not assume that the ease of finding writings online in translation means that they are easily grasped, that they are not speaking from an advanced perspective quite beyond the reader's capacity, or that they are not best unpacked with recourse to a teacher's guidance regarding not only content but also when each text is most appropriate within the course of one's training. Often, all of this is the case.

Finally, it's good to understand that the most effective and direct pointing will be experienced in person, i.e. when a teacher of sufficient realization encounters a student of sufficient capacity. We could discuss the various means by which that occurs: verbal, through the body, or other methods. But, as you may have guessed, there's no real use in doing so here.

~ Meido


Excellent reply, Meido. There is no substitute for direct experience. Reading about Zen Buddhist practices and practitioners' experiences is like going to a restaurant and eating the menu.

Hands palm-to-palm,

Nonin
Soto Zen Buddhist Priest. Transmitted Dharma Heir of Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
Abbot and Head Teacher, Nebraska Zen Center / Heartland Temple, Omaha, Nebraska, USA
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Re: Mahamudra, dzogchen, nibbana, & Satori

Postby Christopherxx on Mon Sep 01, 2014 5:43 pm

Very nice metaphor lol!
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Re: Mahamudra, dzogchen, nibbana, & Satori

Postby Guo Gu on Tue Sep 02, 2014 5:27 am

Christopherxx wrote:Hi there Teachers, So this is kind of a heavy question.

In Theravada right now we have teachers like Ajahn Amaro, Ajahn Sumedho, Ajahn Sucitto, and others talking about nibbana as being "Awareness". In Dzogchen we have the same kind of term being used for rigpa.

In Mahamudra which I know absolutely nothing about. The common thing said is "Emptiness/Bliss" which I understand as meaning that the mind is empty of an entity and that all phenomena is perceived by the mind and thus has to be seen as each a new moment totally it's own. So maybe just "awareness" of this moment. Though I am sure someone can correct me as I probably am misunderstanding this tradition.

Is Satori understood in this awareness type way? And if so can some of the masters here help describe awareness a bit. Even if it's just talking around the issue. I just feel like there is some kind of pointing out or descriptions that could help but aren't easily found online that maybe those more well read in compassion can share.

Thank you masters who choose to partake!


dear christopher,

thanks for your important question. there is a lot of talk of awareness. it is a fashioniable word. but different ppl mean different things. it may seem like ppl are referring to the same thing as a liberating kind of awakening experience but they're not. many other terms are tossed around: choiceless awareness, bare attention, clarity, pure awareness, the kind of nondual awareness that doesn't grasp this or that--just let things be or seeing "things as they are." there is a lot of rhetoric and clout associated with these terms but what it actually referred to, in most cases, is just the fundamental ignorance: the root of self-grasping. in other words, the root of samsara. yes, even the most fundamental sense of "knowing" (what may seem to be without object or nondual) is the manifestation of fundamental ignorance or avidya, irrespective of how ppl may want to dress it up. none of these "states" are what chan/zen refers to as seeing the self-nature (jp. kensho) or kaiwu (jp. satori).

for example, in sitting one notices forms and sounds but seemingly are not grasping them. they believe they are "just aware," and letting them go. in those moments of awareness, before concrete conceptualization arises (idea, words, language), while there are no obvious identity of this or that, gross kinds of grasping, the mind is actually already captivated/grasping after these forms and sounds... the mind's intentionality is already steered toward those objects. some ppl (even teachers) may say that's no grasping or it's just choiceless awareness, where one allows forms and sounds to be without holding on to them. but the reality is that the mind is already conditioned by them. there's arising and cessation, coming and going. this is like a thief comes into a house and robs the house clean. then, the owner comes out and say, i'm not affected, i'm fine. it's already too late!

all of these are states, experiences, concepts. like the scenery on the path... like side shows... they are not awakening in chan/zen. even in glimpses of what seems to be pure awareness, without object, the objectless clarity is already reified into a thing. if one continues to cultivate this kind of awareness, at best, one can enter samadhi. but for most, one perpetuates fundamental ignorance and vexations are ever present, lurking beneath the surface of this clarity. as soon as challenging occasions arise, one's practice goes out the window, one transgresses-breaks precepts.

seeing self-nature, awakening, is not an experience or a state, and definitely not an idea or concept. thus, it is essential to cut through the veil of fancy talk and spiritual jargon and engage in practice under a qualified teacher who can recognize the pitfalls of these states. genuine practice and awakening is not something that can be cultivated or mimic'd. but it can be realized under proper causes and conditions.

to a casual reader, these terms sound the same. using nonin's analogy, reading a menu from this restaurant or that restaurant, one can't tell the difference at all. the only way to tell is to eat the food.

be well,
guo gu
Founder and teacher of Tallahassee Chan Center of the Dharma Drum Lineage of Chan Buddhism
http://www.tallahasseechan.org/
Received inka from Master Sheng Yen (1930-2009) in 1995
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Re: Mahamudra, dzogchen, nibbana, & Satori

Postby Christopherxx on Tue Sep 02, 2014 5:33 pm

This was probably one of the best replies I have ever seen.

However I guess I am left with one question. What then is awakening?
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Re: Mahamudra, dzogchen, nibbana, & Satori

Postby Nonin on Tue Sep 02, 2014 7:34 pm

Meido and Guo Guo have clearly answered this question. Please re-read their posts.

Let me put it this way: Awakening is the direct realization of one's true nature.

Hands palm-to-palm,

Nonin
Soto Zen Buddhist Priest. Transmitted Dharma Heir of Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
Abbot and Head Teacher, Nebraska Zen Center / Heartland Temple, Omaha, Nebraska, USA
http://www.prairiewindzen.org
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Re: Mahamudra, dzogchen, nibbana, & Satori

Postby Guo Gu on Thu Nov 12, 2015 6:20 am

Christopherxx wrote:This was probably one of the best replies I have ever seen.

However I guess I am left with one question. What then is awakening?


christopherxx,

this evening, i came across something by chan master chushi fanqi (1296-1370), a descendant of great chan master dahui's line. his words reminded me of this thread... so i wanted to add "witnesser" to the list of "choiceless awareness, bare attention, clarity, pure awareness, nondual awareness" that have in recent years become fashionable.

here's a quick translation of fanqi's admonition:

some ppl congeal their minds and freeze their thoughts, returning all to emptiness. as soon as a thought arises, they block it. this is what is meant by falling into dead emptiness—a spiritless, zombie practice of the outer path.

there’s also another type of ppl who believe that if they are able to apprehend the one who is able to be angry, the one who is able to be happy, the one who is able to see, and the one who is able to hear, then their lifetime's practice would come to a completion. to them, i ask, “when impermanence arrives, and you become a pile of ashes, where is this witnesser who’s able to be angry, to be happy, to see, and to hear? practicing chan like this is like investigating “mercury-silver chan.” mercury is not genuine silver; it immediately melts in fire.

once i asked such a practitioner, “what do you normally investigate?” he replied, “i was taught ‘all dharmas return to one, where does this one return to? [as if the witnesser is this one]’ but now i know this is not it.” that practitioner asked, “please, venerable, give me a huatou [to investigate].” i said that there’s nothing wrong with the gong’ans of the ancients. your [dharma] eye is originally correct—it’s your former teacher whose understanding is crooked. he persisted to ask me [to give him a gong’an]. i said, “investigate this huatou, ‘dog has no buddha-nature.’ when you shatter the lacquer bucket [of ignorance], come and receive your beating!”

as for your question, "what is awakening?" to tell you is to completely ruin of wisdom life. pls don't ever accept anything as the answer. it is something that only you alone must realize. chew on this: who is aware? what is aware? just let this questioning simmer deep inside, always... no need to haste or seek anything. when your questioning along with the world shatters, that's the time and season for a good beating!

be free,
guo gu
Founder and teacher of Tallahassee Chan Center of the Dharma Drum Lineage of Chan Buddhism
http://www.tallahasseechan.org/
Received inka from Master Sheng Yen (1930-2009) in 1995
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