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'A last shred of affliction'

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'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Jechbi on Tue Dec 07, 2010 7:50 am

According to Sariputta, there are five reasons people ask questions:
... through stupidity and foolishness; with evil intentions and through covetousness; with a desire to know; out of contempt; with the thought: "If he answers my question correctly, it is good; if not, then I shall give the correct answer."
I'd like to pose a question with a desire to know. I understand the question may reflect some underlying stupidity or foolishness, and if so, then I will be happy to learn better. This is a question regarding the Mahayana approach to practice. For context, my practice and approach are more grounded in Theravada, but I have a great deal of respect for the practices of other traditions and I have sat with people of other traditions. I'm sure this question has been asked and answered in other times and places, but I'd be interested in any fresh perspectives here.

In this thread, Ven. Huifeng talks about the bodhisattva path:
The bodhisattva path involves a very difficult practice: Insight into emptiness, while having the compassion to remain in samsara. This last point means that a last shred of affliction remains - if it is cut off, then one becomes at best a sravaka arhat. Developing compassion is thus very important, as a counter to premature sravaka exit from samsara.
My sense is that our practice should not get in the way of our "chanda" drive to fully cut the roots of greed, hate and delusion for one's own benefit and the benefit of all beings. But if we practice in a manner so that a last shred of affliction remains, why does that not mean practicing to hold onto some shred of greed, hatred and/or delusion?
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Seigen on Tue Dec 07, 2010 2:10 pm

That comes across as both a pretty and an urgent question. I don't have an immediate answer, and am here to merely cast an inflection on your words. Tomorrow, December 8th, is the last day of traditional Rohatsu Week,and the day we celebrate Buddha's enlightenment. Here is a bit of Hakuin's exhortations:

You monks, all of you, without exception, have a father and a mother, brothers and sisters and countless relatives. Suppose you were to count them all, life after life: there would be thousands, ten thousands and even more of them. All are transmigrating in the six worlds and suffering innumerable torments. They await your enlightenment as keenly as they would await a small rain cloud on the distant horizon during a drought. How can you sit so halfheartedly! You must have a great vow to save them all! Time passes like an arrow. It waits for no one. Exert yourself! Exhaust yourself! (From Master Hakuin Zenji's Rohatsu Exhortations, The Zen Studies Society, c. 2006, p. 14: published to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-ji on July 4th, 2006.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby TTT on Wed Dec 08, 2010 2:20 am

Time passes like an arrow. It waits for no one


What does it mean? Time passes like an arrow?
:O:
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Seigen on Wed Dec 08, 2010 2:30 am

It waits for no one.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Huifeng on Wed Dec 08, 2010 3:10 am

TTT wrote:
Time passes like an arrow. It waits for no one


What does it mean? Time passes like an arrow?
:O:


It moves very fast, and once past, does not return.
It's just an idiomatic expression, eg. tempus fugit memento mori.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby termite on Wed Dec 08, 2010 5:29 pm

Huifeng wrote:It moves very fast, and once past, does not return.


Where does it go? :lol2:
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Jechbi on Wed Dec 08, 2010 5:45 pm

Thank you Seigen for sharing that quote.
Huifeng wrote:tempus fugit memento mori.

Bhante, if you are inclined to answer to the question I asked in the OP, I feel I would benefit from your words.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Huifeng on Thu Dec 09, 2010 4:13 am

Jechbi wrote:But if we practice in a manner so that a last shred of affliction remains, why does that not mean practicing to hold onto some shred of greed, hatred and/or delusion?


Because we already hold onto these, we are already experts and masters at holding onto, rationalizing and even making sacred, a huge mountain of greed, hatred and delusion.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby christopher::: on Thu Dec 09, 2010 5:55 am

Jechbi wrote:
In this thread, Ven. Huifeng talks about the bodhisattva path:
The bodhisattva path involves a very difficult practice: Insight into emptiness, while having the compassion to remain in samsara. This last point means that a last shred of affliction remains - if it is cut off, then one becomes at best a sravaka arhat. Developing compassion is thus very important, as a counter to premature sravaka exit from samsara.


My sense is that our practice should not get in the way of our "chanda" drive to fully cut the roots of greed, hate and delusion for one's own benefit and the benefit of all beings. But if we practice in a manner so that a last shred of affliction remains, why does that not mean practicing to hold onto some shred of greed, hatred and/or delusion?


Is "affliction" the best word there? If one is practicing for the benefit of all beings and *truly* develops the compassion to remain in this world then isn't that "bodhichitta" we're developing and expressing?

Huifeng wrote:
Jechbi wrote:But if we practice in a manner so that a last shred of affliction remains, why does that not mean practicing to hold onto some shred of greed, hatred and/or delusion?


Because we already hold onto these, we are already experts and masters at holding onto, rationalizing and even making sacred, a huge mountain of greed, hatred and delusion.


But we are speaking of compassion, so - might "last shred of attachment" be a more appropriate term?
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Huifeng on Thu Dec 09, 2010 7:55 am

Usually, the term "attachment" is used to refer to the first of the three root poisons, ie. craving.
But, compassion is not necessarily an affliction.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Jechbi on Thu Dec 09, 2010 10:39 am

Huifeng wrote:Because we already hold onto these, we are already experts and masters at holding onto, rationalizing and even making sacred, a huge mountain of greed, hatred and delusion.

Thank you. So when we practice as you describe, we understand that affliction remains, but we are not practicing to hold onto it, is that right? Rather, we merely allow it to remain to some extent?

From a practice perspective, the notion of engaging directly with these afflictive mind states (rather than avoiding them) makes sense to me. But from a practice perspective, I have the impression that if we aim to avoid nirvana, that seems to imply moving in the direction of continued kilesa on some level, which would seem to be harmful to self and others. If we wish to practice in a manner to benefit all beings, then it seems we would want to eradicate these defilements of the mind (even if that means abandoning some hope for what might occur in the still-imagined future as a result of perpetuating them and tolerating them for the time being).

In the practice that you describe, how does one reconcile the effort to enable some shred of affliction to remain with the effort to benefit all beings? They seem like fundamentally opposed intentions. I'm viewing this through the lens of a specific practice orientation, so I may be missing something obvious.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Huifeng on Thu Dec 09, 2010 11:40 am

Well, rather than "allow it to remain", for most of us, myself included, even if we were to spend 100% of our effort to eradicate our afflictions, there would still probably be plenty left for now. It's more of an issue once one gets close to becoming an arya. Just have to make sure that the old bodhicitta kicks in once we arrive at the door. But, please, for now, let us go and eradicate to our hearts' content! :lol2:
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Kojip on Thu Dec 09, 2010 4:05 pm

To me this question comes down to what exactly "Maha" means, not in the scriptural sense but in the sense of living. Some of the most big hearted people I've known have been Theravadin Monastics, yet having straddled both traditions (Theravadin and Zen) there has been an acutely felt difference. The key difference has been the metaphysical judgement, implicit in seeking to be "no longer born into the world", that being born into the world is somehow, in some way, an error. The sensory bloom of life is a mistake, a trap we find ourselves in, and so we must get out. Realizing 'Maha" means including the full bloom of life and not shrinking from the suffering that entails, understanding that it is just.
Wisdom means stepping back into an ever bigger embrace with no end. Greed, hatred, and delusion is endlessly metabolized.

This may seem way off to some, and that is O.K. Just one meditators take on things. Besides, when sitting there is just sitting, regardless.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby ed blanco on Thu Dec 09, 2010 4:31 pm

As long as we live in the samsaric world karma will be created. Even the Buddha after enlightment felt shreds of affliction. No?

How can one live and not feel some anger or greed or ignorance? What being is that? Certainly not human.

Embrace it and take the "backward step" (zazen/meditation/self awareness) and the suffering will diminish, it will never disappear in the world.

No?

in gassho,

Seido.

:O:
Last edited by ed blanco on Fri Dec 10, 2010 3:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Carol on Thu Dec 09, 2010 6:05 pm

Kojip wrote: Realizing 'Maha" means including the full bloom of life and not shrinking from the suffering that entails, understanding that it is just.
Wisdom means stepping back into an ever bigger embrace with no end. Greed, hatred, and delusion is endlessly metabolized.

This may seem way off to some, and that is O.K. Just one meditators take on things. Besides, when sitting there is just sitting, regardless.


Doesn't seem "off" to me ... that's the feeling I have from Zen practice/meditation, too.

Reminds me of the Leonard Cohen song "there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in" we're listening to in the other thread here
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Huifeng on Fri Dec 10, 2010 5:03 am

ed blanco wrote:As long as we live in the samsaric world karma will be created. Even the Buddha after enlightment felt shreds of affliction. No?


er, no.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Dan74 on Fri Dec 10, 2010 6:18 am

Kojip wrote: Realizing 'Maha" means including the full bloom of life and not shrinking from the suffering that entails, understanding that it is just.
Wisdom means stepping back into an ever bigger embrace with no end. Greed, hatred, and delusion is endlessly metabolized.

This may seem way off to some, and that is O.K. Just one meditators take on things. Besides, when sitting there is just sitting, regardless.


Kojip, thank you for your post. I don't have a problem with any of it but I'd like to clarify a couple of things if you can spare more time on this.

How much of this "full bloom of life" and the suffering it entails is just life as it is and how much is due to ignorance ie lack of wisdom? (ie it is very easy to confuse the two due to a blind spot where wisdom is not present. It seems to me that suffering can be personal and basically due to clinging and conceit or it could have a universal aspect to it, more like recognition of human condition and my place in it.)

This "great embrace" that you speak of, does it include equanimity even as it holds suffering? In this case suffering has a very different quality to it, doesn't it?

To "metabolise the poisons" does this takes a true insight into their empty nature? Or at the very least, an ability to hold them in this great embrace rather than being held by them? What makes this possible, do you think?
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Jechbi on Fri Dec 10, 2010 9:07 am

Huifeng wrote:Well, rather than "allow it to remain", for most of us, myself included, even if we were to spend 100% of our effort to eradicate our afflictions, there would still probably be plenty left for now. It's more of an issue once one gets close to becoming an arya. Just have to make sure that the old bodhicitta kicks in once we arrive at the door. But, please, for now, let us go and eradicate to our hearts' content! :lol2:

Thanks venerable for taking the time to share some great comments. Thanks also to Kojip and others for responding. One thing I appreciate is the practice of going to the heart of suffering and engaging with whatever comes up in a direct way according to our ability. I sense that's underlying some of the seemingly different approaches here.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby Kojip on Fri Dec 10, 2010 12:51 pm

Dan74 wrote:How much of this "full bloom of life" and the suffering it entails is just life as it is and how much is due to ignorance ie lack of wisdom? (ie it is very easy to confuse the two due to a blind spot where wisdom is not present. It seems to me that suffering can be personal and basically due to clinging and conceit or it could have a universal aspect to it, more like recognition of human condition and my place in it.)

Oh gee, now I gotta think :lol2:
A trace of affliction is a trace of greed hatred and delusion. It means attachement. I don't buy the notion of a special species of non-attached compassionate attachement by whatever name. Attachment is attachment, even when it is deeply caring. Life-itself in the sense of sheer presence is non-suffering, but engagement involves partialities, unequal loving and so forth. So there are times of non-suffering and times of suffering. People who are completely free of greed hatred and delusion abide in sheer presence (non-suffering), and once they die are no longer born into the world. This is just how it looks from here, maybe it will change.
Dan74 wrote:This "great embrace" that you speak of, does it include equanimity even as it holds suffering? In this case suffering has a very different quality to it, doesn't it?.)

It is an expanding capacity to include more and more with equinimity. What yesterday knocked me off balance and into reactivity today does not. There also a pointing to profound equinimity in the inherent disequilibrium of conditions. Disequilibrium is becoming is existence. This changing world has the quality of a self-luminous perfect gesture. In a sense the world is experienced as perfect, it just hurts.
Dan74 wrote:To "metabolise the poisons" does this takes a true insight into their empty nature? Or at the very least, an ability to hold them in this great embrace rather than being held by them? What makes this possible, do you think?
Yes I thinks so. It is just a matter of ongoing practice.


Others may have a very different view and experience of things.
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Re: 'A last shred of affliction'

Postby ed blanco on Fri Dec 10, 2010 2:20 pm

Huifeng wrote:
ed blanco wrote:As long as we live in the samsaric world karma will be created. Even the Buddha after enlightment felt shreds of affliction. No?


er, no.



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