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What is Zen?

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.
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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.

Re: What is Zen?

Postby chankin1937 on Tue May 26, 2015 6:30 pm

Huang-po says:
"The Buddha-essence is.....illuminating, peaceful and productive of bliss."

When the great Zen Masters describe Nirvana as bliss – perfect happiness, they are not teaching us anything . They are simply telling us what the Zen goal is. When they tell us it’s bliss, are they deliberately deceiving us?
If it’s not bliss what is it?
Can you answer the question about the first Buddha? No one could instruct and guide him because no one knew!
Besides that, other religions have come to the same conclusion.
I have given you a "logical, penetrating understanding of the essence" developed over fifty years of study and practice. As recommended by experts we can all trust.
You mentioned in one of your posts that these are permanent records open to researchers. Let's wait and see how our contributions are assessed by them shall we?
Colin
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby desert_woodworker on Tue May 26, 2015 7:29 pm

Colin,

Let's wait and see how our contributions are assessed by them shall we?

(Ah, I'm guessing that you are addressing me).

No time to wait!

And I don't look for appreciation from future people.

"I do not sing for adulation". --Victor Jara (1932-1973)

"Life and death
are of supreme importance.
Time swiftly passes by, and opportunity is lost!
Each of us should strive to awaken. Awaken!
Take heed, do not squander this precious life
." --Dogen Zenji

Bliss is over-rated. Better to be awake.

A 3-D teacher can show you the ropes, in three-dimensions.
All one need do is begin correctly; and continue.

best,

--Joe

chankin1937 wrote:When the great Zen Masters describe Nirvana as bliss – perfect happiness, they are not teaching us anything . They are simply telling us what the Zen goal is. When they tell us it’s bliss, are they deliberately deceiving us?
If it’s not bliss what is it?...
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby chankin1937 on Wed May 27, 2015 12:33 pm

Joe said,
Bliss is over-rated. Better to be awake.

Hello Joe,
When we are enlightened we have access to bliss. Because of this we are said to be awakened to it.
I would be very interested to read what else you think being “awake” implies.
The last couple of lines of Dogen’s Lancet tells us that the world will look pretty much the same as it did before.

A fish goes along like a fish.
The sky is vast straight into the heavens,
A bird flies just like a bird.


“Awake” is simply a synonym of “enlightened”. If it’s not, please explain exactly what it is.
Colin
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby fukasetsu on Wed May 27, 2015 12:43 pm

chankin1937 wrote:I have given you a "logical, penetrating understanding of the essence" developed over fifty years of study and practice.


It indicates that your current sense of "happiness or bliss" is stuck between two sorrows, past and future.
If it were otherwise you wouldn't have any need of Zen.

True happiness is not self-conscious, your conception of bliss is time-space dependend, thus nothing perfect about it.
I have nothing to worry about, not cluttered by memories and expectations. You are merely happy. :heya:

Blessings!
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby desert_woodworker on Wed May 27, 2015 1:18 pm

Colin,

No use holding-out for "enlightment", without correct practice. It's not like some kind of "second-coming" that's always just a few decades off, and yet to come.

Of course enlightenment is awakening. But the Buddha said he is "awake", not "enlightened".

However, I'll tell you something else. "Awakening" is quite a much better word, scientifically. The reason is that -- for a practitioner, and let's say a practitioner of Zen Buddhism, who has learned correct practice with Teacher, and sangha -- multiple awakenings are possible, and are in fact the norm. Sometimes they are called "openings", which I feel is even a little less grandiose a word, on the prevalent spectrum. So, a Teacher (or other practitioner) might mention a "first opening" experienced while studying with a certain teacher, and then a later opening with so-and-so, etc. Or a teacher might speak about many openings (such as Ch'an Master Hsu Yun, in his autobiography, EMPTY CLOUD).

Others here at this board might recall additional figures who have written on the "opening" phenomenon. In Ch'an parlance, they are "Wu" experiences. Where "wu" is translated roughly "nothing" (and in Japanese, this is "mu". So, Chao Chou actually said "Wu", not "mu"). ;)

And Ch'an masters speak of "kai wu", the experience and phenomenon of awakening, and being awake. This is literally (actually, I mean), "to have nothing", and is the genuine experience of awakening, within which, and for the duration of which, there is too the experience of emptiness ("wu").

Although I use the word "experience" here, I do not mean that the experience of the practitioner is fleeting, or a " 'flash' of insight ", as some popularizing writers mistakenly render it, by re-mouthing what other popularizers have blabbed about, making things up from whole cloth. No. Awakenings or openings may last for weeks and months. Usually they erode, and the practitioner begins to carry a heavy weight again, the reason being that "The Three Poisons" arise endlessly. And, thus, practice is endless. Practice after awakening is necessary, and is usually rather different (again, see your teacher, there).

But practice is not endless unless one makes a beginning with it. As I've written, and as I like to say, all one must do is begin, and continue. There is one correct way to begin, and that is with a teacher and sangha. Without that, one is unendingly in a dream, jousting at windmills with Sancho Panza. Entertaining!, but not Zen Buddhism. And at the mercy of the slings and arrows of Samsara, never to awaken (not even once... ).

"Enlightenment" is a poor word, a poor translation of the Buddha's "awake", because it carries an implication of permanence. Permanence?! Nothing could be further from the truth... especially in BUDDHISM!

yours,

--Joe

chankin1937 wrote:Joe said,
Bliss is over-rated. Better to be awake.

When we are enlightened we have access to bliss. Because of this we are said to be awakened to it.
I would be very interested to read what else you think being “awake” implies.
The last couple of lines of Dogen’s Lancet tells us that the world will look pretty much the same as it did before.

A fish goes along like a fish.
The sky is vast straight into the heavens,
A bird flies just like a bird.


“Awake” is simply a synonym of “enlightened”. If it’s not, please explain exactly what it is.
Colin
Last edited by desert_woodworker on Wed May 27, 2015 1:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby chankin1937 on Wed May 27, 2015 1:28 pm

fukasetsu said:
It indicates that your current sense of "happiness or bliss" is stuck between two sorrows, past and future. If it were otherwise you wouldn't have any need of Zen.
True happiness is not self-conscious, your conception of bliss is time-space dependend, thus nothing perfect about it. I have nothing to worry about, not cluttered by memories and expectations. You are merely happy.


Hello Fukasetsu,
I’m afraid we are all pretty much stuck between the past and the future. The mechanics of happiness is universally relevant to every creature with our kind of central nervous system .I chose Zen because it was the clearest ancient expression of the psychology of the common human gaol – happiness.
I must admit that my memory is not good but I remember to look both ways before I cross the road and I expect to get to the other side safely. :)
Keep up the good work.
P.S. If you want to wade through the “The Theory of Meditation” on my web page, press the blue button under my avatar. (None of the contact details on it work now.)
Colin
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby fukasetsu on Wed May 27, 2015 1:55 pm

chankin1937 wrote:Hello Fukasetsu,
I’m afraid we are all pretty much stuck between the past and the future.


Hi Colin, I'm afraid your dead wrong.

What you claim to be Zen (your understanding and application of it) I see as just another psychology model for "common" people.
I'm happy to your happy and are enjoying life, and on occassion can be beneficial to others.
Thingy is, it's like you use your (mis)understanding of Zen Buddhism and claim to others that "this is Zen" it would be preferable if you would be a little less certain about that, and don't say to others, "I understand Gautama, Zen etc"
Not that I care much for all I care you put a Zen label on a piece of soap and distribute it the way you see fit, but in this topic I'd say,
it's not. (Zen)

So perhaps it would be kind if on your website you open with a disclaimer as "my understanding and application of...inspired by" instead of how you put it, "explaining" meditation (etc) and please lose the contribution too.

Blessings on your path.
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby chankin1937 on Wed May 27, 2015 2:25 pm

Joe said:
And Ch'an masters speak of "kai wu", the experience and phenomenon of awakening, and being awake. This is literally (actually, I mean... ), "to have nothing", and is the genuine experience of awakening, within which, and for the duration of which, there is too the experience of emptiness ("wu").

Hello Joe,
This experience of emptiness (of an empty mind )- is the same as the experience of zero conscious mental activity .
If being awake implies a sporadic acquaintance with the extreme condition, then enlightenment must have other connotations.

If the experience is real then it must be verifiable independently outside Zen.
And it has been- many times.
Zen may be one way to become perfectly happy but there are others and they all did it without a Zen teacher.
However, in an important way they are all Zen because that is the method with the longest tradition and the clearest expression.

"Enlightenment" is a poor word, a poor translation of the Buddha's "awake", because it carries an implication of permanence.


I believe that implication is not one of permanent familiarity with Nirvana but one of permanently understanding that Nirvana is the extrapolation of an ordinary human experience. An understanding of the mechanism of the common human goal – happiness. After all, the word buddha with a small “b” meant “one who knows”.
In which case I would rather be enlightened than merely awake.
Colin
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby desert_woodworker on Wed May 27, 2015 4:23 pm

Colin,

Colin wrote: This experience of emptiness (of an empty mind )- is the same as the experience of zero conscious mental activity.

Negative. A dead person is not awake. And as Meido Roshi explained here last week, you may just be speaking of a sense of lack of gross movements, and are not mentioning the subtle ones.

Emptiness is definitely not what you think it is.

Emptiness is not an empty mind. Emptiness is no mind. And Emptiness is seeing one's true nature, and that of everyone. That's about all there is to it.

If being awake implies a sporadic acquaintance with the extreme condition, then enlightenment must have other connotations.

Negative. There's nothing "sporadic" about awakening. Sporadic is just a word. And awakening can come, and then be covered-up again. Obviously! It was covered the first time, wasn't it? Well, it's not over when it's over. It's never "over". Practice is forever. And practice keeps on changing. Hmpf, kind of like everything else, no? Hail!

If the experience is real then it must be verifiable independently outside Zen.

Crikey, THAT'S a naive philosophical position! But a legitimate one. It's called Naive Realism.

The way to verify an awakening is to enter your teacher's door, and do what comes next. You'll either be sent back to your cushion in the Ch'an hall, or, ...well, I won't say.

A Roshi I respect was asked by a newcomer to the zendo, following Teisho, "Roshi, has all this 'practice' you speak of really changed you?" Roshi said, "Ask my wife!" Such a nice answer. Perfect verification (or falsification, he didn't say which, and the wife was elsewhere that evening). So, yeah, you might ask another person. Your Teacher would be good. And people may comment to you that you are different. "Are you wearing a new after-shave?" Like that. That's not proof, but "don't be surprised" if you hear it. :tongueincheek:

Zen may be one way to become perfectly happy but there are others and they all did it without a Zen teacher.

Happiness is over-rated. Especially perfect happiness. And it does not automatically save sentient beings. It can, however, entomb people (oneself, and one's unfortunate associates!) under a mountain of ego-satisfaction (and suffering), and harden the illusion(s) of a separate or actual "self". Danger!!

"Psychological adjustment is not Liberation".

However, in an important way they are all Zen because that is the method with the longest tradition and the clearest expression.

There is no "Zen". There is Zen Buddhism, though. Zen Buddhism concerns experience, not expression in literature and scholarship. It is salvific, not academic, and not informational. Zen Buddhism has no fixed teaching -- therefore, nothing else is "like" it. Zen Buddhism is a stream possessing and transmitting skill in opening the true heart of human beings. "It" has no message, no information to impart. It is a METHOD, like Science. It is not a body of knowledge, not a corpus, like Scientific Knowledge. People speak of a "philosophy" of Zen Buddhism, but they always do so in error. Zen Buddhism may appear to be close to Madhyamika and Yogacara philosophy, when certain slant-angles-of-view are taken, but appearances do not always encompass the true nature of a thing, do they? In this case, "never".

Joe wrote:"Enlightenment" is a poor word, a poor translation of the Buddha's "awake", because it carries an implication of permanence.
Colin wrote:In which case I would rather be enlightened than merely awake.


Nope. Nothing permanent. The Three Poisons arise endlessly. One's recollection of the fact of one's true nature may be intermittent at BEST. Except when it ISN'T intermittent. When one is awake, one is living from one's true nature (the true nature of all, that is). And there's no "recollecting" in that life (way). Note, too, that reality does not respect one's "rather" this, "rather" that. "Rather" is usually fictionalizing. Picking-and-Choosing. That way does not lie the Tao.

After all, the word buddha with a small “b” meant “one who knows”.

Negative. It meant, and still means, one who is awake. There's nothing to know. And nothing one knows can help one to wake up.

Colin wrote:In which case I would rather be enlightened than merely awake.

There is neither, without correct practice, Colin. So, one takes one's choice. Nothing; or, nothing!

I, for one, would wish for you that you were at least merely awake... .

Practice is (always) key. Ch'an and Zen is the meditation-school, the mind-dharma school. There is no realization of the path, no awakening, without correct practice. It is not accomplished by thinking about it, nor not thinking about it, nor by reading. One's body must undergo a re-tooling. There is no mind. The thoughts or no-thoughts you mention are illusions. Combust all your karma, at once, and have nothing. Then, one is awake, if you align perfectly with your teacher. Your teacher is like this. A hair's breadth of difference? Then, work harder! Teachers are nothing if not the most compassionate (beings). The sound of a pebble striking bamboo may burst your samadhi bubble, and you instantly see your nature, but you want to see the teacher to prove it's burst. That's "proof" in Zen Buddhism. The only touchstone. This is the mind-transmission. It's not "outside" proof, it's inside proof. The only kind.

Some will naturally quibble and say there's no inside, either. Kudos! I'm not one to deny it.

Well, then, Strong practice All,

--Joe
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby fukasetsu on Wed May 27, 2015 10:04 pm

chankin1937 wrote:J
This experience of emptiness (of an empty mind )- is the same as the experience of zero conscious mental activity .


Ouch! The actual experience of emptiness is not like anything philosophical or what one imagines it to be, even if expediently conceptually it corresponds with holy thought (the dharma) But even conceptually your understanding of "emptiness" is dead wrong, I didn't even make that particular mistake as an arrogant beginner who was all over the internet claiming to understand emptiness, Zen, etc.
Emptiness is not the absence or zero of anything, rather it's full of service.

Again, please don't claim to understand emptiness, zen, etc.. a note, the conceptual mind is always wrong.
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby desert_woodworker on Wed May 27, 2015 10:38 pm

Fuki,

fukasetsu wrote:Emptiness is not the absence or zero of anything, rather it's full of service.

By golly, I believe that reply deserves a gold star! 22 karats!

You've done a service.

--Joe

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Re: What is Zen?

Postby Chrisd on Wed May 27, 2015 10:40 pm

remove cuz I post too much.
apologies.
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby another_being on Wed May 27, 2015 11:21 pm

Forum rules
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.
"Some people think they are enlightened, some people think they are not enlightened." -- Denko
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby chankin1937 on Thu May 28, 2015 12:48 pm

another_being said:
Forum rules
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.

Colin,
You are right, I read those rules. Unfortunately it is impossible to discuss the topic and keep to them. Fortunately, everyone else thinks that way too. :)

“Put down all your thinking and opinions and see this world exactly as it is.” -- Zen master Seung Sahn


This advice is the constant message of the Zen Masters. It is the way to go. Allow your mind to empty of all conscious mental activity while remaining alert and aware.

Ma-tsu said: "Only let a man exhaust all his thinking and imagining; he then holds the unparalled treasure."

However, a commonly held view is that this recommendation applies to the whole of life. It does not. How could it? We have to continue to solve the array of problems ordinary life presents us with and we do that by employing CMA, by filling our mind from time to time with useful thoughts. It applies just to our meditation practice which ,of course is what Ma-tsu specialised in and intended.
However to get our just and proper reward for successful action we must limit CMA to is proper role.
Colin
Last edited by chankin1937 on Thu May 28, 2015 1:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby chankin1937 on Thu May 28, 2015 1:27 pm

Fukasetsu said
chankin1937 wrote:
This experience of emptiness (of an empty mind )- is the same as the experience of zero conscious mental activity .

Fukasetsu said:
D:Ouch! The actual experience of emptiness is not like anything philosophical or what one imagines it to be,

Colin,
Very true!
Fukasetsu said:
Emptiness is not the absence or zero of anything, rather it's full of service.


At first glance that statement appears controversial. How can emptiness be full?
However, what you have probably discovered for yourself is that once we allow the mind to empty of conscious mental activity, we become aware of what remains – an overwhelming experience of bliss – what some Masters call our original mind.

Fukasetsu said;
a note, the conceptual mind is always wrong.


That’s going to take some backing up! After all, you are using your conceptual mind to write your posts. (See my post to another being.
Colin
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby chankin1937 on Thu May 28, 2015 1:55 pm

Joe said
There's nothing to know. And nothing one knows can help one to wake up.


Which leaves me wondering what on earth do teachers teach and what is the point of seeking their guidance?
Colin.
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby desert_woodworker on Thu May 28, 2015 2:44 pm

Colin,

chankin1937 wrote:
Joe said
There's nothing to know. And nothing one knows can help one to wake up.

Which leaves me wondering what on earth do teachers teach and what is the point of seeking their guidance?

Yessir, I know you're wondering.

It has nothing to do with knowing.

In general, one seeks their guidance in practice. Chan and Zen and Seon and Thien is the Meditation School, in which the Mind-Dharma is transmitted. This is done in sanghas, with a teacher at the head. All the people that your story-book Masters taught to were monastics. Monastics have a teacher, and a sangha. Take the words of those Masters out of context (out of the practice-context), and they are squashed-flat road-kill... unless you have an actual 3-D teacher and sangha. Out of context, they are poison, serving mostly to increase delusion, infatuation, attachment, and conceits of readers. Without the 3-D cohorts mentioned, one dies of thirst on the bank of the river. This is the way it's always been for human beings. Up to today.

Correct practice is key. 3-D teachers teach it.

To discuss this further, Colin, we can't do it here. Start a new thread, please, if you're interested.

Why beat a dead donkey, though.

--Joe
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby desert_woodworker on Thu May 28, 2015 3:19 pm

Colin,

chankin1937 wrote:Ma-tsu said: "Only let a man exhaust all his thinking and imagining; he then holds the unparalled treasure."

What is that treasure, and where is it "held"? What on earth did old Ma have in mind?

--Joe
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby Avisitor on Fri May 29, 2015 12:14 am

chankin1937 wrote:Which leaves me wondering what on earth do teachers teach and what is the point of seeking their guidance?
Colin.

Teachers are like GPS, dude.
They let you know which way to turn and how far up an alley or street you should go ... for the quickest way to get to your destination
Without it, you may still end up at your destination but it might take a bit longer ... or you might not get there at all

Zen Buddhism all points towards the destination, so to speak
Teachers just teach the route to get there ... if one is willing and able to learn from them
Still no guarantee ....

Whoa, that coffee ready yet???? :coffee:
Disclaimer: There is no intent to be offensive in my posts. None was intended and none should be interpreted as such.
Sorry, got a message that I was not being PC.
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby Linda Anderson on Fri May 29, 2015 6:14 am

With no disrespect for teachers, it seems to me that they do not show us the quickest way to our destination... not their fault. There is no such thing. Teachers hold up the mirror. I could be wrong here, but I do not recall that I have ever heard that zen buddhism points the way to the destinaton. Zen may point the way, there is no destination.

Chankin... it's a bit ironic that this conversation seems eternal. This place (see pink disclaimer above) was originally created as a place to quell the debates about whether practicing without teachers is possible or desirable ... the history of debate is long on this forum. There is no answer IMO, we are all free to choose our path and practice. Indeed, it may not conform to Zen Buddhism, or it may. Why in the world are we still trying to justify ourselves... it seems a case of choosing our way and respecting the way of others. If we stand tall, we listen to our inner calling and if we are lucky we can feel into the calling of our brothers and sisters whether we agree or not.
:Namaste:
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not this morning;
Melon flowers bloomed.
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