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WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

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WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby jundo on Tue Mar 14, 2017 4:13 am

Dear All.

I am writing an article for a magazine that points up some aspects of sitting Shikantaza that seem to be often missing, misunderstood or understated in many explanations I've read and heard regarding "how to" Shikanataza. I would like to put this suggestion out for the many experienced folks here. I have some theories why it has been under-emphasized in Shikantaza explanations, but I will leave those for later.

In my belief, neglecting these points robs Shikantaza of its power, like fire without its fuel.

A few excerpts ...

----------------------.

What is this missing piece of the puzzle?

Shikantaza Zazen must be sat, for the time it is sat, with the student profoundly trusting deep in her bones that sitting itself is a complete and sacred act, the one and only action that need be done in the whole universe in that instant of sitting. This truth should not be thought about or voiced in so many words, but must be silently and subtly felt deep down. The student must taste vibrantly that the mere act of sitting Zazen, in that moment, is whole and thoroughly complete, the total fruition of life’s goals, with nothing lacking and nothing to be added to the bare fact of sitting here and now. There must be a sense that the single performance of crossing the legs (or sitting in some other balanced posture) is the realization of all that was ever sought, that there is simply no other place to go in the world nor thing left to do besides sitting in such posture. ... Zazen is the one task and experience that brings meaning and fruition to that time, with nothing else to do. This fulfillment in “Just Sitting” must be felt with a tangible vibrancy and energy, trusting that one is sitting at the very pinnacle of life.

...

Maybe the reason that the message was lost is that many practitioners (and even some teachers) cannot get beyond the belief that “Shikantaza” is just a way to get untangled from thoughts, or to feel some balance, or develop some concentration, or realize some peace and clarity. (It is all those things, but so much more.) Some may take too literally the admonition that “just sitting is all there is” without sufficient understanding of the fact that the body must resonate with energy and an awareness that “JUST SITTING HERE IS ALL THAT EVER COULD BE!”

...

Almost all experienced teachers agree on the basics: One should sit in the Lotus Posture (or, these days, some other balanced way such as Burmese or Seiza or in a chair), focus on the breath or the body or just be openly aware, letting one’s thoughts go without grabbing onto them. If finding oneself caught in trains of thought, return to the breath or posture or spaciousness. Sit daily for a certain length of time, but without objective or demanded pay-off. Do not seek anything from your Zazen, whether “enlightenment” or to become “Buddha” or anything at all. Just Sit!
That’s all correct. But by leaving out the vital ingredient, such explanations can miss the mark too. The description can leave students thinking of Zazen as just some relaxation technique or place to sit quietly without purpose. One may assume that “Just Sitting” is to sit like a bump on a log, the joined fingers but thumb twiddling. Talk of “nothing to attain” or that “Zazen is useless” may falsely lead hearers to the conclusion that there is no great value and treasure in sitting, that it is a silly waste of time rather than a state beyond all time and measure. Or, the student may fail to distinguish Shikantaza sufficiently from other meditation forms, which seek some gold ring as their prize. Failing to understand how and why Shikantaza is a taste of the end of all searching, the student eventually gives up, running hungrily to the next method or guru or self-help book. The point is missed that, in not seeking to obtain “enlightenment” nor grabbing after “peace” or “joy”, a certain Peace, Joy and, yes, Enlightenment is obtained which can only come in the freedom of not seeking.

...

I tell my new students to trust in the method until it proves itself. If need be, “fake it ‘till you make it” in nurturing these feelings. “Just Sitting is Buddha” is not a mantra that should be voiced in words during Zazen, nor something that must be unfailingly felt at each and every moment of sitting. Rather, there only needs to be a subtle, yet vital sense and faith, felt deep down in the gut while sitting, that “THIS IS IT! THERE IS NO OTHER IT!”

...

In fact, there's a somewhat counter-intuitive trick to Zazen: I sometimes compare Shikantaza to the children’s puzzle of “Chinese finger-cuffs” which are escaped, not by forceful effort and pulling harder, but by non-resistance and letting go; by dropping the hunt for “enlightenment”, by giving up the chase, by allowing all to rest in the complete wholeness and acceptance of Just Sitting, by quenching all thirsts in the sheer satisfaction of sitting alone, one realizes a freedom and way of being which otherwise alludes us in this world of endless chasing and constant dissatisfactions.

...

The ability to be at rest completely, to realize the preciousness and wholeness of life in this moment is a skill we have lost in this busy world. We chase after achievements, are overwhelmed with jobs that feel undone, and feel that there are endless places to go and people to see. The world can seem a broken and hopeless place. Thus, it is vital that we learn to sit each day with no other place in need of going, no feeling of brokenness nor judgment of lack, nothing more in need of achieving in that time but sitting itself. We sit with the sense that there is nothing to fix or place in need of getting, because this “not needing” is a wisdom that we so rarely taste. How tragic if we instead turn our Zazen into just one more battle for achievement, a race to get some peaceful place, attain some craved prize or spiritual reward. Or, on the other hand, how equally tragic if we use Zazen just as a break from life, a little escape, never tasting the wholeness and completeness of life. By doing so, Zazen becomes just one more symptom of the rat race, and the prize is out of reach. True peace comes not by chasing peace, but by resting now in peace.

...

Then, rising from the cushion, we may experience the world in a new way. The wisdom of sitting is portable. We bring the stillness of the cushion into the motion and calamity of life. Getting on with our busy day of places to go and goals to fulfill, a part of us is now beyond going and goals (nonetheless, we go and try to do what needs to be done). Working hard in the office or doing housework at home, we equally experience that there is no job yet undone (nonetheless, we roll up our sleeves and get to work). Seeing this world with all its problems and suffering, we experience that there is nothing to fix (yet we get busy to fix what we can and make this world better). It is as if we now encounter the world two different ways that are truly one: working for goals on the one hand, yet on the other, all goals dropped away; busy and pressed for time, yet tasting something beyond all measure of time. ... When the doctor hands us the diagnosis we feared, when our loved one dies or leaves us, one may also experience a Wisdom free of coming and going, all life or death. Even as tears of grief pour down our cheeks, we may simultaneously bask in the warm embrace whereby there can be no separation, grateful for it all.

Gassho, Jundo
Founder Treeleaf Zendo, Japan. Member SZBA. Treeleaf is an online Sangha for those unable to commute to a Sangha, w/ netcast Zazen, interaction with other practitioners and teachers & all activities of a Soto Sangha, fully online without charge (http://www.treeleaf.org) Nishijima/Niwa
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Re: WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby desert_woodworker on Tue Mar 14, 2017 4:37 am

Cast all aside. Just sit. There's time for other things, sometime. This is time for just sitting: "Just sitting", in a very strong sense. Relax... . So enjoyable; liberating. Don't miss it. :peace:

--Joe
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Re: WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby organizational on Tue Mar 14, 2017 9:53 am

:peace:
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Re: WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby TigerDuck on Wed Mar 15, 2017 4:23 am

I think Shikantaza can only be performed and called as shikantaza when the practitioner experiences:
- there is no one who is sitting right now.
- there is no activity of sitting right now.
- there is no object/phenomena which can be possibly engaged right now.

As Long as there is this view of:
There is something, there is no something.

It cannot be called as shikantaza.

Posture has nothing to do with shikantaza as there is no posture in Shikantaza.

Whoever sees that is sitting or just sitting, he is already out of shikantaza.

Through nonconceptuality, he is immovable.

[Nagarjuna]
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Re: WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby Guo Gu on Wed Mar 15, 2017 4:30 am

jundo,
i appreciate your care. thank you!
from what you write, it is utter and complete trust in the act of sitting that is the key to shikantaza. this is the correct attitude to cultivate. you write, "trust in the method until it proves itself. If need be, “fake it ‘till you make it” in nurturing these feelings."
in your tradition, how do you deal with:

1. the fact that in the reality of the actual sitting, trust is just as much a fleeting feeling as any other wandering thought? do you teach ppl to generate that feeling of trust again and again when lost? trust, as you know, is just a mental factor; it is momentary, generated by the discriminating sixth consciousness. its nature is fleeting, self-referential (for most ppl), and for the most part just an abstract idea (i.e., trust that shikantaza is "whole and thoroughly complete, the total fruition of life’s goals, with nothing lacking and nothing to be added").

2. do you recognize the reality of awakening? as in an actual experience. that literally there's nothing beyond the act of sitting? in your words, “JUST SITTING HERE IS ALL THAT EVER COULD BE!” or do you only accept shikantaza as the expression of awakening or awakening as the moment to moment clarity? of course, no practitioner should seek after awakening experiences--the seeking mind is the disease. one must let go of that.

3. if you do recognize that there is such a thing as awakening (as, for example, what occurred to dogen when he was in china... or shakyamuni buddha for that matter), what is the difference btn shikantaza before and after that experience?

just curious your thoughts on these. i do not mean to challenge. i hope we can start a healthy conversation about shikantaza. clarifying these will be helpful to students. thanks!
be well,
guo gu
Founder and teacher of Tallahassee Chan Center of the Dharma Drum Lineage of Chan Buddhism
http://www.tallahasseechan.com/
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Re: WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby jundo on Wed Mar 15, 2017 5:54 am

Hi Guo Gu,

Good to be in touch. I am always happy to chat about this.

I am afraid that I am rather a simpleton in some of this, and not so analytical.

Guo Gu wrote:in your tradition, how do you deal with:

1. the fact that in the reality of the actual sitting, trust is just as much a fleeting feeling as any other wandering thought? do you teach ppl to generate that feeling of trust again and again when lost? trust, as you know, is just a mental factor; it is momentary, generated by the discriminating sixth consciousness. its nature is fleeting, self-referential (for most ppl), and for the most part just an abstract idea (i.e., trust that shikantaza is "whole and thoroughly complete, the total fruition of life’s goals, with nothing lacking and nothing to be added").


Just Trust in the Wholeness of Sitting. And if there is no feeling of trust for a time, sit anyway until there is a knowing of such Trust.

2. do you recognize the reality of awakening? as in an actual experience. that literally there's nothing beyond the act of sitting? in your words, “JUST SITTING HERE IS ALL THAT EVER COULD BE!” or do you only accept shikantaza as the expression of awakening or awakening as the moment to moment clarity? of course, no practitioner should seek after awakening experiences--the seeking mind is the disease. one must let go of that.


Just Sit. There is no place to go, nothing to add or take away, nothing lacking, no Buddha not present in the moment of the very act of Sitting. In sitting, all the universe, all things, all Buddhas, the kitchen sink and whatever might be beyond and right through the heart of all that is Sitting.

And if there is no such feeling for a time, sit anyway until there is a knowing of such.

3. if you do recognize that there is such a thing as awakening (as, for example, what occurred to dogen when he was in china... or shakyamuni buddha for that matter), what is the difference btn shikantaza before and after that experience?


Oh, I most certainly do recognize Awakening, and that the world is the same ... yet not the same at all ... before and after the timeless realizing of 'Woke. In Shikantaza, this realization (here meaing = understanding) comes from radically giving up the hunt and measuring and longing and separation in the very moment and completeness of this action. Some things are best discovered by giving up the feelings of separation, and then the distant proves herethereeverywhere all along, and the hidden becomes obvious.

Then, rising up from the cushion, we also embody this realization (here meaning = "make it real in life") by our actions in life. We return to a world of places to go and people to see, knowing also no pursuit and no where to get. We live in a world of lack, yet know also that nothing is lacking. Falling down or getting up, winning or losing, we know that there is no place to fall and nothing possibly lost -- for so present that never gained. This is our "practice-enlightenment" in each moment and action of the day-to-day. We turn away from excess desire in a world of things, although no "thing" to crave and no craver. We avoid anger and jealousy in a world of me and you, also knowing that there are no two separate people to fight or to compare. No good or bad, yet we choose to live gently, for otherwise we fall into the divisions of mind. We experience a life of happiness and tears, but also a Joy which is present in every smile and equally in every tear, a kind of Clarity and Silence that is present in and as all worldly silence and all of life's most chaotic noise.

Then, life in samsara is just the catastrophe it always has been ... but also, life in samsara is not life in samsara at all.

I don't know if that just muddled things more. Say "hi" to everyone in the Sunshine State for me.

Gassho, J

SatToday
Last edited by jundo on Wed Mar 15, 2017 1:13 pm, edited 7 times in total.
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Re: WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby Michaeljc on Wed Mar 15, 2017 6:18 am

If I may ask a question

Jundo -

What of the abrupt realisation that results in the student losing control of their body e.g. falling down as described by Hakuin. We know this happens and that it can profoundly influence the student for days or weeks. Being "encased in ice" is a common report. Apparently some teachers/practitioners see this as an important gateway.

How does this fit into your approach?

:Namaste:

M
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Re: WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby jundo on Wed Mar 15, 2017 6:28 am

Michaeljc wrote:If I may ask a question

Jundo -

What of the abrupt realisation that results in the student losing control of their body e.g. falling down as described by Hakuin. We know this happens and that it can profoundly influence the student for days or weeks. Being "encased in ice" is a common report. Apparently some teachers/practitioners see this as an important gateway.

How does this fit into your approach?

:Namaste:

M


Yes, it happens. For some, it is very helpful or life changing. For others, they return to the same confusion as before.

It is a point, but not an ending point of Practice, and the question is what happens from then. In any Practice, what happens then ... what happens right now?

Yes, some may be encased in ice which breaks into all the pieces of the world, and some other folks awake with Realization just subtly manifesting in their bones as if left soaking wet from mist as they walk forward. In either case (to quote Master Hakuin), "water and ice, without water no ice, outside us no Buddhas" ... do not be "one in water crying 'I thirst'".

Did I just muddle this more, Michael?

Gassho, J
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Re: WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby Michaeljc on Wed Mar 15, 2017 6:43 am

Nope :)
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Re: WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby jundo on Wed Mar 15, 2017 1:51 pm

By the way, Guo Gu, What experiences how a jeweled moment of sitting is all strands of Indra's Net!

Gassho, J

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Re: WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby macdougdoug on Wed Mar 15, 2017 2:24 pm

I am constantly reacting. Trust and doubt are forever dancing. This is why we sit. To embrace it all.
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Re: WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby Guo Gu on Wed Mar 15, 2017 5:48 pm

jundo,
i'm a simpleton in some of this, too.
i read your reply as, basically, trust! ... and trust... and trust, where trust is basically a feeling, a conviction.
i appreciate the not-twoness approach to things, including the awakened perspective with the deluded. or the inseparability of the two truths.
i see your approach--the practice of giving up, of letting go, of separateness--as a cure to the vexing tendency to craving, seeking, separating ppl and things into this and that.
why not just teach this in all actions of life from the beginning, and not focusing so much on sitting? you emphasis sitting and then rising from the cusions, bringing this wholeness/trust into "real life."
in my limited experience, a couple of decades ago, when i emphasized sitting a lot to practitioners, the result was that students tended to unconsciously bifurcate btn sitting (= practice) and "real life" (= where practice is tested). when my teacher, out of compassion, stratified silent illumination into stages, ppl tarted to attach to sitting and to the stages. do you find your students attach to sittings?
for many years now, i avoided this caveat (still encourage sitting but) and don't define silent illumination in terms of siting-only but emphasize the practice in all activities of life right from the beginning.... requiring them to change the way they live their life.
there's a key word in master hongzhi's teachings that is often lost in representations of his teaching. the word is jiu or kyu in jp 究, which means investigate. for example, he often said mojiu or in japanese it would mokukyu 默究. he also spoke of "purifying and grinding away the various deluded conditioning and illusory habits." so clearly, in addition to teaching intrinsic awakening, he also urged ppl to definitely get rid of vexations.
i found this to be true also in dogen's teaching. is this something you've observed too?
be well,
guo gu
Founder and teacher of Tallahassee Chan Center of the Dharma Drum Lineage of Chan Buddhism
http://www.tallahasseechan.com/
Received inka from Master Sheng Yen (1930-2009) in 1995
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Re: WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby flutemaker on Wed Mar 15, 2017 8:44 pm

In my limited experience, specifically, when spending roughly 5 years in a remote settings trying to put into practice that which I back then considered as the master hongzhi's silent illumination way, the result was that the ONLY factor that really matters for me now is to "investigate".

Short of that, in my opinion, when a student is practicing with much emphasis on "trust in sitting itself as a complete and sacred act", "no goals", "nothing to seek", "already enlightened", and the like, he may very well accept the position of someone absolutely "relaxed", and "not worrying", who at the same time, deep inside, may be awaiting/expecting that some miraculous door would open for them suddenly. Like when an already ordered item will arrive by mail sooner or later. "There is no need to worry, and meanwhile I can have a nap, and then just sit back and relax." Even further, the student may be awaiting/expecting nothing, while "trusting" in that "everything is just fine as is". But in reality -- just wasting his time in wain.

There is no way without "investigation", which is a continuous effort of a certain kind. Though the true meaning of that effort (expressed by the word "investigate") is hard to put in words. And this is probably good, as each one has to arrive at that meaning on their own.

P.S. I do recognize the reality of awakening, and am currently learning to live without it, which seems to be a "Way" by itself, by no means less difficult to follow than any other Way.
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Re: WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby flutemaker on Wed Mar 15, 2017 9:01 pm

jundo wrote:I am writing an article for a magazine ...

... not by forceful effort and pulling harder, but by non-resistance and letting go

But letting go is sometimes pulling harder, and non-resistance is sometimes a forceful effort, and this is by no means the matter to be put into an article for a printed magazine, but rather this is the matter to be silent about, and only through a one-to-one communication this silence has to be voiced.
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Re: WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby desert_woodworker on Wed Mar 15, 2017 9:29 pm

TD,

TigerDuck wrote:I think Shikantaza can only be performed and called as shikantaza when the practitioner experiences:
- there is no one who is sitting right now.
- there is no activity of sitting right now.
- there is no object/phenomena which can be possibly engaged right now.

Hmm, I agree to a very large extent, if I understand correctly (and maybe even if not). :tongueincheek:

I don't say this anymore, ;) , but I used to like to say that shikantaza is... :

    ...as much a result as it is a practice.
And, Hmm, I do not think that Master Dogen would disagree!, especially in view of his constant, kindly, consistent, and insistent teaching that zazen itself is awakening. To be very cautious, though, I ought to add the word "correct", which makes it "correct zazen". This is to distinguish what is properly Ch'an Buddhist and Zen Buddhist zazen from what other people (and schools... ) call (rather loosely!) "meditation".

But I assert certainly that the nature (and feeling) of the practice changes as one deepens, over time, and transitions to deeper ("higher-numbered... ") jhanas, to take the word that the Vipassana people in particular use in their teaching in detail about the nature of "them" [the formally-enumerated 8 deep states... ], especially for those on very long retreats,
where such sinking-deeply is particularly advantaged and enabled).

best regards,

--Joe
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Re: WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby Nothing on Wed Mar 15, 2017 10:06 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:
To be very cautious, though, I ought to add the word "correct", which makes it "correct zazen". This is to distinguish what is properly Ch'an Buddhist and Zen Buddhist zazen from what other people (and schools... ) call (rather loosely!) "meditation".


--Joe


Joe, can you explain a little more about the distinction that you have mentioned? I am not sure if i think what you think when using the word correct :)

Victor
"There is no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end" - James Hutton
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Re: WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby desert_woodworker on Wed Mar 15, 2017 10:12 pm

fm,

flutemaker wrote:P.S. I do recognize the reality of awakening, and am currently learning to live without it, which seems to be a "Way" by itself, by no means less difficult to follow than any other Way.

Unfortunately, that "way" is not the natural way, which is entered-on only with the good influence(s) of teacher and sangha, and then neither encounters difficulty nor requires effort. Well, quite as I've repeated (before... ). ;)

It's regrettable (lamentable... ) to observe how it appears that some people think they have to scheme to substitute something for which there is no substitute.

--Joe
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Re: WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby flutemaker on Wed Mar 15, 2017 10:24 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:It's regrettable (lamentable... ) to observe how it appears that some people think they have to scheme to substitute something for which there is no substitute.

--Joe

It's regrettable to observe how it appears that some people think they know better what some other people think than those other people themselves.
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Re: WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby desert_woodworker on Wed Mar 15, 2017 10:24 pm

Victor, hi,

Nothing wrote:
desert_woodworker wrote: To be very cautious, though, I ought to add the word "correct", which makes it "correct zazen". This is to distinguish what is properly Ch'an Buddhist and Zen Buddhist zazen from what other people (and schools... ) call (rather loosely!) "meditation".

Joe, can you explain a little more about the distinction that you have mentioned? I am not sure if i think what you think when using the word correct :)

Well, let others speak about this, too, if there's no risk to de-rail this thread. Else, at length in a new thread... .

But I'll try to differentiate it or distinguish it (by "finger-pointing" in distinction toward something else) by saying that there was an English fellow here at ZFI who, for the better part of a year, spoke of "meditation", not zazen, who insisted that correct Zen Buddhist sitting practice was simply "abstaining from conscious mental activity". He was untrained, however, and admitted from the beginning that he was just a reader of books.

I will not say what "correct" practice is, though, because that is learned only from a genuine teacher, and is refined during practice with that teacher and with the sangha surrounding that teacher.

Suffice it to say, though, for our purposes, that "correct practice" is not what one THINKS it is if one is untrained by a proper master.

I do not want to risk to de-rail this thread, so I stop there. ;) thanks, and best greetings!,

--Joe
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Re: WHAT's OFTEN MISSING in SHIKANTAZA EXPLANATIONS ....

Postby desert_woodworker on Wed Mar 15, 2017 10:29 pm

flutemaker wrote:
desert_woodworker wrote:It's regrettable (lamentable... ) to observe how it appears that some people think they have to scheme to substitute something for which there is no substitute.

It's regrettable to observe how it appears that some people think they know better what some other people think than those other people themselves.

"Think"? If we were talking about "thinking", then we could talk about Philosophy. Any time! (I truly love it, and would be glad for the opportunity; thanks).

I was addressing (proper-) practice.

:Namaste:,

--Joe
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