A place to share and discuss the practice of Zen Buddhism without teachers. Debates about whether practicing without teachers is possible or desirable are not appropriate here, nor are criticisms of Zen Buddhist practice with teachers.
A place to share and discuss the practice of Zen Buddhism without teachers. Debates about whether practising without teachers is possible or desirable are not appropriate here, nor are criticisms of Zen Buddhist practice with teachers.
12 posts • Page 1 of 1
I've always had a complicated practice, having migrated through various schools and traditions (not formally)--from traditional/orthodox to non-traditional/unorthodox--and always with great sincerity. Looking back I can see a whole coherent topography of A-led-to-B-led-to-C (Phillip Kapleau led to an interest in Toni Packer, which led to an interest in Krishnamurti, which, in turn, led to an interest in Advaita and Ramana Maharshi, etc.) And each time I shifted towards a new tradition, I felt my practice shift slightly (and sometimes dramatically), too. I often felt a sense of jealousy towards people who just stuck with a tradition and its forms and practices. Some of the shifts reflected practical life-situation changes, as when I moved from Korea back to the states and was no longer able to find a Kwan Um Zen Center, but many of the changes just resulted from a kind of restless searching for a dharma home. With no teacher, just this: the wandering, like a nomad. After 10 years of such, I've come full circle and am back to the practice that got me started in the first place, which makes me think that if I ever wrote an autobiography, I'd have to borrow the LOTR subtitle: There and Back Again.
Now, as I walk down the street, I suffer from a kind of practice schizophrenia: should I stay with my breath? Notice my feet? Label my thoughts? Label my body sensations? Label nothing and just experience? Perceive sound? Hold a hwadu? Carry a kong-an? Chant? Practice choiceless awareness? Some combination? Maybe nothing? Maybe just walking?
All of which leads to the overwhelmingly obvious conclusion that it's time for me to rely on my own experience honestly. It is to that end that I post this, wondering if others out there have walked a similar path or can offer advice on how to cut dead wood, grab the root, and just go straight.
Are you asking for another method? Is there a method that leads to truth?
How do you meditate? Maybe its time to reread Krishnamurti? Have you read Huangpo? Do you have a wife and kids?
Some people say : follow this method
Krishnamurti said: freedom is in the first step
some people say : just believe this
Huangpo says : its just thoughts, let them go
Personally I have found that drug abuse during adolescence and also the intense suffering of close relationships; followed with a long sesshin accompanied by constant doubt, can bring on a total letting go of excess beliefs.
Basically, if one has a natural interest in the truth, all that is lacking is an unyielding need to let go.
I always like this letter from Zen Master Seung Sahn. Of course this is only part of it.
Zen Master Dae Kwang would always say "Just put it all down" Then one day someone asked him "Well, how do you put it all down?" He answered "Sorry, I can't tell you how to do that. You have to find that out for yourself" They were not that fond of that answer!
How do you cut dead wood? Maybe just stop thinking so much?
Kill a cat, with a dried shit stick, under a cypress tree in the courtyard, while eating three pounds of flax! Only a cow goes Moooo!
Hi Wei Wu Wei
There was a new book published (2012) on the subject of willpower http://www.amazon.com/Willpower-Redisco ... 0143122231
If the idea presented in it is true, it is relevant for us practitioners.
You probably don't fully realize how much (negative) effect such thinking has on you.
You have a limited stock of willpower each day.
Every time you make a decision, or think about making a decision, a part of your willpower gets depleted.
You need willpower to resist desires. If you lack willpower you will have a hard time going to sleep early, doing your work without getting lost in distractions, holding back on your food consumption, you will be more prone to getting into arguments with people and more. Anything you need to control yourself for during the day. Basically you'll have a hard time getting the things done you want to get done.
From the book: "compulsive spending and borrowing, impulsive violence, underachievement in school, procrastination at work, alcohol and drug abuse, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, chronic anxiety, explosive anger. Poor self-control correlates with just about every kind of individual trauma: losing friends, being fired, getting divorced, winding up in prison."
So don't fuck yourself up with that kind of thinking! Choose the thing you think is likely the best in the situation and leave it at that. You can check with a teacher later. Just be mindful in whatever way you think appropriate. Different teachers tell you different things to be mindful of, chances are big when you are mindful of something you will be practicing according to the instructions of some great teacher.
In my experience, I've had the same thing. I think knowing this ^ is what has "fixed" it. Also seeing that all these different teachers give different advice, the common factor is mindfulness...
I'll leave you with a quote
Thanks to those who took time to comment; it's always nice to have a (cyber) hand reach out, for whatever it's worth. I found some comments very helpful. I still wish more people would chime in, though: we live in a day and age where we have UNPRECEDENTED access to vast bodies of teachings/sutras/schools, a watershed of Buddhist philosophy and practice that would have been unimaginable even just 50 years ago. How did you, kind reader, arrive at your practice? While the practices all point to the same thing, let's be honest: they are vastly different in application. Intense koan practice and choiceless awareness, for example, are horses of entirely different colors.
i can't say from experience what it is like to change traditions/teachers, etc. i've had two. from age 4 to 11 it was master guangqin; from age 11 to 41 was master sheng yen. i changed the first to the second teacher because i moved to the states; stopped with sheng yen because he passed away (although i'm still learning from his teachings). however, reading your post... if you have come a full circle, why not just return to your first teacher's (kapleau?) method?
Founder and teacher of Tallahassee Chan Center of the Dharma Drum Lineage of Chan Buddhism
Received inka from Master Sheng Yen (1930-2009) in 1995
I make no claim to being able to answer your question .... but since you asked i will pass on something that helped ME personally.
Thise things that you call the 84,000 aids .... what i learned as the 84,000 myriad objects ,,,, are NOT seperate.
Theu are really only illusionary reflections .... illusions and delusions created by our minds,,, of one interlocked and interdependent entity.
What the "true" nature of that interdependent reality is .... who can say?
I certainly don't know.
All I do know is that I am NOW sitting beside my open window on a warm day in Bangkok. There is the sound outside of traffic and people talking.
The Sun is shining today and it is a Holiday..... the Kings Birthday...., here in Bangkok.
I hear the sounds outside, I feel the warmth , I see the sunlight .... these things are not seperated.
I do not NEED to make an effort to hear the sounds, I do not need to make an effort to feel the warmth, I do not need to make an effort to see the light of the Sun.
They just are part of the NOW ..... right here and now.
Those 84,000 myriad do not need to make an effort just to be NOW .... and neither do you need to make that effort.
If you can find that freedom from effort .... maybe you can find a great secret.
In Quietness is the beginning of all Things
Yes, the access is unprecedented! Even more wonderful are the vast numbers of spiritual teachers.
So I’ve meandered along the path . . . but it has been a path motivated first to relieve my youthful suffering about self, transformed into a search for enlightenment, and now is a simple practice of sitting with body and mind at ease (sometimes) and of living in accord with my understanding (sometimes).
I made an early, perhaps foolish decision to trust my heart/mind on this path, so I’ve studied this sutra and that text, and read/listened to this tradition teacher and that sect teacher, and even sat with a few Chan/Zen teachers. I resonated with most of these teachings, learned, and moved on.
And I occasionally worried whether this was good or bad. I don’t doubt the great value of being a long-time student of one of these great teachers. And I’ve envied their senior students’ relationships. But that hasn’t been my path, at least not yet, so I’ve accepted that. And since I don’t have any current aspiration to teach, it hasn’t seemed terribly important that I don’t belong to a tradition/sect/lineage.
It’s not clear if you practice alone now, but I think that belonging to a sangha and having ‘dharma friends’ (practice buddies) is incredibly beneficial and I strongly encourage people to find a sangha. I practiced alone for many years, but joining a sangha which sits together once a week had a profound effect on my practice and understanding.
Take care and be well.
A fellow wayfarer,
“Enlightenment means to see what harm you are involved in and to renounce it.” David Brazier, The New Buddhism
DO NO HARM
The only 84000 I'm aware of are our hair follicles.
I mean, really, really aware.
"The abundance of Nature is not a matter of its 'providing' ". -- William James, c. 1901.
I am inclined to argue that as long as we feel the need to rely on aids, doors will remain shut, or at best slightly ajar. If we are not prepared to become a lone ‘rotten piece of wood’ shackles remain. Being completely alone in body and mind during practice is an essential prerequisite to the objectives of our path (IMO). When we meet the coal face there is no help, no props, no aids. This could be during sesshin within a group, or alone in the forest.
While I won’t quibble with the relentless advice on this forum that we HAVE to have Sangha and a teacher I feel that this can be misleading. Having the best teacher in the world while not being prepared to regularly practice in an alone state is useless.
We are alone. What is this aloneness? It is only within our aloneness that we find truth.
Just as I am seeing it right now.
1. I tried many practices from different traditions, including Sufist, Taoist, Nagualist, Hinduist, Cabbalist etc. But I never felt lost, because there always was a core rod that held all my path together. That was contemplation of myself (actions, intentions, views, states of mind)... I feel too agitated - I may think to practice some shamatha method. I feel drowning in attachments - I may think to contemplate death and decay etc. Having a central rod, you almost always can see (or discover soon) what the practice do with you, and you can feel what is more useful (or more interesting) right now.
2. Maybe I was fortunate to concentrate on huatou at the beginning of my practices journey. So I'm sure you must know, if you ever did huatou (/koan) or silent illumination (/shikantaza): there are some main practices and some supplementary. I think you always - up to some point - must have one main practice and press it to the end. If you ever was able to practice huatou (hwadu/wato) well, why did you ever stopped? You should press it on and on, till the end.
Give all of yourself to the main practice, whatever it is - that's it.
_/|\_ Upasaka Chang Zhao (Constant Illumination), Dharma teacher since 2001.
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