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Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

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.

Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Nisargadatta_fan on Sun May 31, 2015 8:19 pm

:heya:

I have been practicing zazen for 3 weeks now on my own and it has been remarkable.

The other formal aspects of my practice are:
1. chanting of the Heart Sutra morning and evening
2. daily chanting of the Prajnaparamita mantra (x108)

My external "teachers" are Katsuki Sekida, (i.e. the book, Zen Training - Methods and Philosophy) and Sunryu Suzuki, (i.e. the book, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind).
Maybe it's a result of my previous immersion in Nisargadatta Maharaj, but I cannot avoid the very real feeling of having an internal teacher also. Right from the first zazen session, (one 30min session each day), I had the experience of there being nothing but a breath cycle. No-one was breathing - it was just a breath cycle. The complete forgetting of myself for the majority of the session was like dreamless sleep except fully awake and alert. But no-one in particular was awake and alert....there was just wakefulness. I hope that makes sense - it is very difficult to describe. This experience is slowly permeating my entire life and it is enough. There have been so many wonderful transformations. The "internal teacher" is just that impersonal presence - impersonal life force. I would never have had these experiences were it not for Mr Sekida's book, which I read carefully before I began zazen. I am continuing to read over that book in a cycle, simply because it is the natural thing to do. As for Suzuki's book - I find I instantly understand everything he's getting at and it feels more like companionship of the most auspicious kind rather than teaching.

I'm not quite sure what I expected before beginning zazen..........but I don't think it was this. No doubt there will be many other experiences to come but the thing I find most surprising is the complete absence of any feeling of need. Is this normal??
"Who understands the mind? What is there prior to mind?" Nisargadatta Maharaj
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby desert_woodworker on Sun May 31, 2015 8:45 pm

Nf,

Nisargadatta_fan wrote:No doubt there will be many other experiences to come but the thing I find most surprising is the complete absence of any feeling of need. Is this normal??

Interesting. Do you mean absence of need of various things? Or, absence of need to practice zazen? It's not clear.

Normal or not, it may pass. Practice keeps on changing. Normal, anyway, is just an average. And averages hide all sorts of (extreme and interesting) details. Which themselves are "normal". ;)

:Namaste:,

--Joe
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby fukasetsu on Sun May 31, 2015 9:40 pm

Nisargadatta_fan wrote:I have been practicing zazen for 3 weeks now on my own and it has been remarkable.


You know Brother, it's the sincerity of the effort that matters, the results are not our concern. Sincerity is just to not be distracted, that is all. It is invariably enough, just to not be distracted. Your notions of "impersonal presence" are normal but will pass too, analyzing it is just another distraction, forget about personal and impersonal, you are neither. You can trust that you will always be presented with the teachings you need, the order of books or teachers is of no interest, nature simply provides, when seeds mature under the right conditions it will bear fruit, it's only natural, but forget about the analytical approach, remain free from the lure of interpretation, as each trace goes on its way.
Be aware that whatever is experienced arises and passes, and all you can say about it now is from memory, but that which cannot be remembered or forgotten, those are the real transformations. Perseverance is the key.
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Nisargadatta_fan on Sun May 31, 2015 9:45 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:Nf,

Nisargadatta_fan wrote:No doubt there will be many other experiences to come but the thing I find most surprising is the complete absence of any feeling of need. Is this normal??

Interesting. Do you mean absence of need of various things? Or, absence of need to practice zazen? It's not clear.

--Joe

Hi Joe,
Absence of need for things - for achievement. 3 weeks ago I felt driven by the need to realize my true nature, but now I don't feel like that and it is definitely because of the zazen, the sutra and the mantra. Everything is fine and it's as if a great oppressive pressure, (a formless anxiety), has just disappeared.
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Nisargadatta_fan on Sun May 31, 2015 9:55 pm

fukasetsu wrote:
You know Brother, it's the sincerity of the effort that matters, the results are not our concern. Sincerity is just to not be distracted, that is all. It is invariably enough, just to not be distracted.

Yes, I get that. The impersonal/internal thing cannot be distracted simply because it is impersonal. Yet I get to personally experience that now.
fukasetsu wrote:Your notions of "impersonal presence" are normal...

Ah, right!
fukasetsu wrote:...but will pass too, analyzing it is just another distraction, forget about personal and impersonal, you are neither.

It's more of a conscious reflection really - I don't know - I'm analyzing again! :lol2:


fukasetsu wrote:You can trust that you will always be presented with the teachings you need, the order of books or teachers is of no interest, nature simply provides, when seeds mature under the right conditions it will bear fruit, it's only natural, but forget about the analytical approach, remain free from the lure of interpretation, as each trace goes on its way.
Be aware that whatever is experienced arises and passes, and all you can say about it now is from memory, but that which cannot be remembered or forgotten, those are the real transformations. Perseverance is the key.

No problem. :)
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby fukasetsu on Sun May 31, 2015 10:07 pm

Nisargadatta_fan wrote:Yes, I get that. The impersonal/internal thing cannot be distracted simply because it is impersonal. Yet I get to personally experience that now.


Nothing is the way we think it is. :daisy:
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby desert_woodworker on Sun May 31, 2015 10:15 pm

Nf,

Thanks!, clarifying.

May the miracle of everyday life be bright before you always. Brighter and brighter!

What is this mind?!

:Namaste:

--Joe

Nisargadatta_fan wrote:
desert_woodworker wrote:Nf,

Nisargadatta_fan wrote:No doubt there will be many other experiences to come but the thing I find most surprising is the complete absence of any feeling of need. Is this normal??

Interesting. Do you mean absence of need of various things? Or, absence of need to practice zazen? It's not clear.

--Joe

Hi Joe,
Absence of need for things - for achievement. 3 weeks ago I felt driven by the need to realize my true nature, but now I don't feel like that and it is definitely because of the zazen, the sutra and the mantra. Everything is fine and it's as if a great oppressive pressure, (a formless anxiety), has just disappeared.
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Michaeljc on Sun May 31, 2015 11:33 pm

Hi Joe,
Absence of need for things - for achievement. 3 weeks ago I felt driven by the need to realize my true nature, but now I don't feel like that and it is definitely because of the zazen, the sutra and the mantra. Everything is fine and it's as if a great oppressive pressure, (a formless anxiety), has just disappeared.


NF -

Some people are very sensitive to Zazen. It is a physical practice that influences our psycho/physiological state. This feeling of contentment is quite normal for such people. Consider yourself lucky. You have a totally reliable tool for the remainder of your life

Nevertheless it cant stop there: Seeking the goodies when we sit will inhibit us. Sitting at least 40 minutes every day will gradually clear the confusion. You wont find it in words and letters

If you are as receptive as you appear it may be time to spend a weekend at a centre, but don't go in with any expectations. It may be a disappointment

Throssel Hole Abbey is not far from Scotland. I spent a few days there years ago. They have plenty of opportunities for people like yourself. Start with an introductory workshop. Intensive programs can become very painful. We must build up slowly to them -over years if need be. Time is of no importance

Best

Michael
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Avisitor on Mon Jun 01, 2015 5:06 am

Nisargadatta_fan wrote:Absence of need for things - for achievement. 3 weeks ago I felt driven by the need to realize my true nature, but now I don't feel like that and it is definitely because of the zazen, the sutra and the mantra. Everything is fine and it's as if a great oppressive pressure, (a formless anxiety), has just disappeared.


Everything is fine??
That is great .. even though one is without a teacher ... one is not without contact to others who have greater understanding
Books are fine as a sign post along the path ... but seeing the same sign post over and over on a path ...
Does it mean one is just going in circles??? Or Not??
If one is on this path without a teacher .. wouldn't it be better to have some personal instructions in the beginning to ensure a good foundation??

Please don't mistake curiosity for offense
None is intended nor meant
Nothing personal
It is just my ignorance showing

Too late for coffee ... who could sleep anyway?? ... :coffee:
Disclaimer: There is no intent to be offensive in my posts. None was intended and none should be interpreted as such.
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Nisargadatta_fan on Mon Jun 01, 2015 7:24 am

Hi Michaeljc :heya:

Michaeljc wrote:
NF -

Some people are very sensitive to Zazen. It is a physical practice that influences our psycho/physiological state. This feeling of contentment is quite normal for such people. Consider yourself lucky. You have a totally reliable tool for the remainder of your life

...which makes me very happy. Yet I don't think of it in a utilitarian way now. When I was preparing for zazen by reading Mr Sekida's book I was conceptualizing zazen as a tool and, to a lesser extent, as an aesthetic practise. Almost instantly my experience was neither utilitararian nor aesthetic, it was just "authentic human being". Being authentically human - that's about the best way I can describe the Zen experience after 3 weeks. :lol2:

Michaeljc wrote:Nevertheless it cant stop there: Seeking the goodies when we sit will inhibit us. Sitting at least 40 minutes every day will gradually clear the confusion. You wont find it in words and letters

Cool. My plan is to increase the session (sesshin?) time by 5min every month until I get to one hour and then eventually to have two sessions, morning and evening.
With the words and letters....I find myself naturally drawn to them at this time, that's all. Mr Sekida's book is still important in a technical sense because my posture still needs correcting from time to time during the session and I'm not yet at the "Bamboo method" of breathing. I plan to dedicate the second session to the Bamboo method when I eventually get to the point of having two sessions.
Michaeljc wrote:If you are as receptive as you appear it may be time to spend a weekend at a centre, but don't go in with any expectations. It may be a disappointment

Throssel Hole Abbey is not far from Scotland. I spent a few days there years ago. They have plenty of opportunities for people like yourself.

Yes! I have indeed checked out their site and their videos etc. :O:
It looks great and Hexham, (the closest town), is not really that far from where I live in the Scottish Borders.

Michaeljc wrote:Start with an introductory workshop. Intensive programs can become very painful. We must build up slowly to them -over years if need be. Time is of no importance

Best

Michael

I'm sure will it all be very natural - thank you! :)
"Who understands the mind? What is there prior to mind?" Nisargadatta Maharaj
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Nisargadatta_fan on Mon Jun 01, 2015 7:35 am

Avisitor wrote:Everything is fine??
That is great .. even though one is without a teacher ... one is not without contact to others who have greater understanding

Exactly - like here on this forum for example. The internet certainly has been a revolution.
Avisitor wrote:Books are fine as a sign post along the path ... but seeing the same sign post over and over on a path ...
Does it mean one is just going in circles??? Or Not??

If it's an ascending spiral.....ah, the fun we have with concepts! :dance:
Avisitor wrote:If one is on this path without a teacher .. wouldn't it be better to have some personal instructions in the beginning to ensure a good foundation??

One would think so - but so far Mr Sekida's book plus this forum is a good preparation at least. The Throssel Hole Abbey, (it is Soto), is another resource for me.
:Namaste:
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby desert_woodworker on Mon Jun 01, 2015 1:57 pm

Nf,

Mr. Sekida's book was a good one for me to live with, too, before I met my teacher Sheng Yen, a Ch'an monk.

That book, especially along with Kapleau's THREE PILLARS gave me a sense of what it might be like to learn from and practice with a teacher (although neither gave much if any sense of how it would be to practice with a sangha!).

Even after I learned methods from my teacher, however, I still nonetheless sometimes used Sekida's "bamboo breathing", along with my method of meditation. I didn't follow Sekida's graph of depth and frequency, nor regularity of breath, usually, but I varied the breath naturally, randomly, stochastically. I did this -- used the bamboo breathing -- in a sit after I had settled deeply and felt I could settle some more.

You know?, it was like wiggling a plug, to get it into a socket more easily, wiggling side-to-side, to surmount the difficulty of a tight fit. Or, like when a wooden peg is of a diameter of close-tolerance to the hole it is to fit into, one wiggles it, a little fast, a little slow, and can sense with the fingers when the fit is made-up and the peg is settling to depth.

Well...

...I found it valuable to vary the breath this way, at a certain point in sits. It allowed a change in the mind for the remaining duration of a sit.

I would not put much stock in Sekida's names for the states on either side of the bamboo-breathing, however. He calls one side of it "relative samadhi", and the other side "absolute samadhi". I'd say it suffices instead to say that one sinks somewhat deeper into our practice if the bamboo-breathing does its work. Maybe the wooden peg bottoms-out in the drilled hole, maybe it doesn't bottom-out. But the fit is deeper, allowing fuller encompassing of the method of meditation, with less intermittence, or no intermittence. And, well, it's maybe better to suppose that there IS no bottom. There is only deeper.

I feel that even just Sekida's "bamboo-breathing" is truly worth the price of the book, say, even 100 times the price of the book (but don't tell the publisher). One might have discovered it on one's own, but one doesn't need to. It's a gift.

I'd only say, gently, gently, GENTLY! I hope people won't use force in using that breathing tweak (adjustment). Of course, it's not a method of meditation itself, it's just a physical tweak, like straightening and then relaxing the spine. But a physical tweak that can change, well, everything. No guarantees, though, and it's good to have no expectations.

Hail!, old Sekida!,

--Joe

ps By the way, a "sesshin" is a secluded period of intensive practice, usually 7 days, with teacher and sangha. Its name is pronounced by most English-speakers a lot like "session". Sesshin has many sessions of sitting! :tongueincheek:
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Jesse on Mon Jun 01, 2015 4:06 pm

There's a preview of Mr. Katsuki Sekida's Zen Training in Google Books:
http://books.google.com.au/books/about/Zen_Training_Methods_and_Philosophy.html?id=t9Q-ZlOohNEC&hl=en

And it seems someone scanned and uploaded a copy of it to Scribd, but anyone wanting to download the PDF would need to create an account.
http://www.scribd.com/doc/96016634/Zen-Training-Sekida

I'm definitely going to be hunting around for a second-hand copy.
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Nisargadatta_fan on Mon Jun 01, 2015 4:17 pm

Thank you very much for all of that, Joe - I really appreciate it.

It will probably be around November before I get into the bamboo breathing....so I may well get back to you on that then.
"Following the breath" is something I am also considering. Can you say something about that?
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Nisargadatta_fan on Mon Jun 01, 2015 4:29 pm

Jesse wrote:There's a preview of Mr. Katsuki Sekida's Zen Training in Google Books:
http://books.google.com.au/books/about/Zen_Training_Methods_and_Philosophy.html?id=t9Q-ZlOohNEC&hl=en

And it seems someone scanned and uploaded a copy of it to Scribd, but anyone wanting to download the PDF would need to create an account.
http://www.scribd.com/doc/96016634/Zen-Training-Sekida

I'm definitely going to be hunting around for a second-hand copy.


Hi, Jesse!

I bought mine from Amazon and it cost me £17.99. That is way more than I would ever consider paying for a book - but in this case I had the intuitive sense that money should not be an obstacle.
I was first and foremost looking for a book that would enable me to begin zazen; the first half, roughly, of the book is perfect for that. The second half contains a lot of incredibly deep and penetrating material, although it is not immediately obvious just HOW deep it goes. I would recommend it absolutely unreservedly but then different individuals need very different things in various contexts.
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby desert_woodworker on Mon Jun 01, 2015 5:24 pm

Nf,

You're welcome!

I'd better not say much about following the breath as a method, because I am not a (meditation) teacher. I mean, I am not authorized to teach anything but the simplest meditation method. I am authorized to teach the physical methods and self-massage taught by Sheng Yen, however, in his Beginner's Classes. He trained a number of us disciples in 1980 at the Ch'an Meditation Center in Queens, New York, how to teach them, if we promised that we would indeed afterward teach. I promised, and I've been teaching them ever since, as the major part of what I call my class series in "Buddhist Yoga".

Usually I teach the physical methods to people who already have an established meditation or contemplation practice, in various traditions. I am also not authorized to teach as a "Dharma Teacher" in Sheng Yen's way, although he has so appointed some of his other lay disciples to do that. These are non-monastic lay people, who have NOT received Dharma transmission from Sheng Yen formally. I'm happy to teach the physical methods, which have been so helpful to all of us who practice Ch'an in Sheng Yen's line.

I think that the meditation methods -- including following the breath -- are best taught face-to-face, by your teacher. I'll say, though, that usually, a practitioner first practices counting the breath for a period of weeks, months, or what have you, if you work with a teacher. That is, following the breath usually "follows" a good long period of using breath-counting. I've practiced it. But I'd better not presume to teach it.

Teachers here might have something helpful to say about it. If you have a question, you might pose the question in the "Ask a Teacher" area of this board.

best wishes!,

--Joe

Nisargadatta_fan wrote:Thank you very much for all of that, Joe - I really appreciate it.

It will probably be around November before I get into the bamboo breathing....so I may well get back to you on that then.
"Following the breath" is something I am also considering. Can you say something about that?
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Michaeljc on Mon Jun 01, 2015 9:34 pm

N J

This topic is under practicing without a teacher. Therefore I feel quite justified in throwing something into the soup

According to my observation most/many teachers start a student with counting/following the breath. Some people use no other method throughout their entire lives. It can be enough. The difficulty is to have the faith that such a simple method is enough

The tendency to disregard aspects of Zen as being too simple to be credible is a natural obstacle that turns those looking for something fancy away. Accepting and fully appreciating extreme simplicity is very difficult and requires a degree of realisation

A study and adoption of methods can aggravate this obstacle, "I am failing, I cannot keep following the breath, nothing is happening, I need a better method"

There is the method: "'Just Sit". It is often criticised as being insufficient: "There must be a method or you will turn into a sleepy blob". I don't agree

I feel the impact of this 'no-method' depends on the individual. Like following breath it can be enough throughout an entire life-time. The good thing about it is that it can do no harm. Some teachers adopt it as their prime 'method' for students

In spite of its' obvious simplicity, it is fascinating to observe how so many people grapple with accepting it. There is still a tendency to try to do it 'correctly'. This is all part of our human tendency to think that something is missing

Just sitting is in fact throwing our entire faith into Zazen and that we already have everything that is required. This is a very powerful submission

In my own case it often results in the following of breath quite naturally. It just comes. So does what I will Shikantaza: being in a state of 'no-thought' and simply following time. These two methods manifest naturally. Why then should we force them?

My suggestion is that for a specific period of time (say 2 weeks) sit every day for no less than 40 minutes allowing the mind to wonder where-ever it wants. Zazen takes time to kick in - in my own case around 30 minutes.

No one can predict how you will respond to Zazen. It's your road. As long as you keep sitting regularly the fog will clear

Cheers

m
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Nisargadatta_fan on Tue Jun 02, 2015 6:52 am

Michaeljc wrote:
This topic is under practicing without a teacher. Therefore I feel quite justified in throwing something into the soup

Too right! All ingredients are welcome. :)
Michaeljc wrote:According to my observation most/many teachers start a student with counting/following the breath. Some people use no other method throughout their entire lives. It can be enough. The difficulty is to have the faith that such a simple method is enough

I can honestly say that I do have that faith in simplicity. My personal journey to this point has been an extremely varied one including much study of esoteric spirituality, where complication is the order of the day. I now have a healthy mistrust of complication.
Michaeljc wrote:The tendency to disregard aspects of Zen as being too simple to be credible is a natural obstacle that turns those looking for something fancy away. Accepting and fully appreciating extreme simplicity is very difficult and requires a degree of realisation

This is very interesting. I had found a great deal of real value in the Hindu traditions, focusing eventually on Advaita Vedanta and finally Nisargadatta Maharaj, (who is in fact an exemplar of the sheer penetrating power of simplicity); and the last aspect of the traditional Hindu resource that I found necessary was the focus on Ganesha, who is the remover of obstacles. There was an intuitive sense that an obstacle that I could not see was still there. I believe what you have just said is the essence of that obstacle.
Michaeljc wrote:A study and adoption of methods can aggravate this obstacle, "I am failing, I cannot keep following the breath, nothing is happening, I need a better method"

Yes, that is a very pertinent observation.
Michaeljc wrote:

There is the method: "'Just Sit". It is often criticised as being insufficient: "There must be a method or you will turn into a sleepy blob". I don't agree

Right....I have seen mentions of this. I can see the value of it, especially in the light of Nisargadatta's words.
Michaeljc wrote:I feel the impact of this 'no-method' depends on the individual. Like following breath it can be enough throughout an entire life-time. The good thing about it is that it can do no harm. Some teachers adopt it as their prime 'method' for students

In spite of its' obvious simplicity, it is fascinating to observe how so many people grapple with accepting it. There is still a tendency to try to do it 'correctly'. This is all part of our human tendency to think that something is missing

I totally get that.
Michaeljc wrote:Just sitting is in fact throwing our entire faith into Zazen and that we already have everything that is required. This is a very powerful submission

In my own case it often results in the following of breath quite naturally. It just comes. So does what I will Shikantaza: being in a state of 'no-thought' and simply following time. These two methods manifest naturally. Why then should we force them?

Indeed!
Michaeljc wrote:My suggestion is that for a specific period of time (say 2 weeks) sit every day for no less than 40 minutes allowing the mind to wonder where-ever it wants. Zazen takes time to kick in - in my own case around 30 minutes.

I will do that. I will keep the breath counting cycle going in my 30min sitting and give just sitting an hour a day for two weeks and get back to you.
Michaeljc wrote:No one can predict how you will respond to Zazen. It's your road. As long as you keep sitting regularly the fog will clear

Cheers

m

Cheers!
"Who understands the mind? What is there prior to mind?" Nisargadatta Maharaj
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby lobster on Tue Jun 02, 2015 7:38 am

:buddha: ... three weeks and already a plan. Soon you will be Zen Ninja :ninja:

:>.>:

Your discipline and capacity to take advice are admirable :daisy:

Great advice about simplicity and just sitting with the neti-neti shikantaza which requires no Hindu Elephants
... but hey elephants are cool :dance:

No advice here :hide:
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Re: Internal-Impersonal External-Personal

Postby Nisargadatta_fan on Tue Jun 02, 2015 8:33 am

lobster wrote::buddha: ... three weeks and already a plan. Soon you will be Zen Ninja :ninja:

:>.>:

Your discipline and capacity to take advice are admirable :daisy:

Great advice about simplicity and just sitting with the neti-neti shikantaza which requires no Hindu Elephants
... but hey elephants are cool :dance:

No advice here :hide:

:lol2: Yes, elephants are exceedingly cool, (Hindu or not).

The neti-neti shikantaza approach seems very natural for me.
It is very important for me to avoid any kind of dogmatism about method but at the same time consistency with what works is important also.
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