Welcome Visitor !

It is currently Fri Aug 22, 2014 2:41 pm
Pathway:  Board index General Buddhist Discussion Mahayana Buddhism

Vipassana & shikantaza: does it matter?

Discussion of general East-Asian Mahayana Buddhism, Sutras & Shastras.

Vipassana & shikantaza: does it matter?

Postby Earthling on Sat Sep 25, 2010 1:09 pm

For a beginner, is there any substantial difference between vipassana & shikantaza?

The reason I ask is that I have some meditation material that speaks from a Soto angle (John Daido Loori & a brief DVD by Cheri Huber), but I have also got some new (mostly) Theravada books that I have recently ordered which I will be delving into. I would like to make sure I get on the right foot-- I don't want to get myself mixed up with two different approaches. Or does it matter? Or perhaps it will matter only later down the track?

I've read here and there about the similarities between vipassana/Theravada & shikantaza/Soto but it is all rather confusing to me!

thanks,
josh
Earthling
 

Re: Vipassana & shikantaza: does it matter?

Postby genkaku on Sat Sep 25, 2010 2:10 pm

Josh -- I'm sure others will sort out the differences and similarities for you, but for your own purposes, you might be well served by actually doing one thing/practice or another. Experience trumps sagacity every time. :)

How many Josh's could there actually be?
genkaku
 
Posts: 3847
Joined: Sun Feb 08, 2009 2:24 am

Re: Vipassana & shikantaza: does it matter?

Postby Shonin on Sat Sep 25, 2010 3:27 pm

genkaku wrote: you might be well served by actually doing one thing/practice or another.


Yeah, or both. I don't think there is any incompatibility there at all. I practice both shikantaza and techniques from insight meditation. Not only that but Shikantaza is essentially the same as a practice found in the insight meditation tradition called 'Choiceless Awareness' or 'Objectless Awareness' - only I think it is quite rare.
The Victorious Ones have announced that emptiness is the relinquishing of all views. Those who are possessed of the view of emptiness are said to be incorrigible.
- Nagarjuna
User avatar
Shonin
 
Posts: 3443
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2009 9:21 pm
Location: UK

Re: Vipassana & shikantaza: does it matter?

Postby Jok_Hae on Sat Sep 25, 2010 4:56 pm

Hi Earthling,

Any practice that can be called "meditation" has at it's core one very simple thing: Notice (you are not paying attention) and return (to paying attention). So vipassanna, shikantanza, hwadu practice, Tibetan visualizations, Christian mystical practice, etc., all have at their core notice and return. The rest is just window dressing. I would just do what your doing. Try doing some different styles, pick one that feels comfortable and then do some practice every day. Sure you'll miss a day here and there, but just do some the next day. Make it a habit, like brushing your teeth. Take it slow, be patient, and be kind to yourself.

Everyone here and over at Dhamma Wheel feels that whatever they are doing is the best kind of practice, and I include myself in that generalization. But, in the end it is your practice. Thanks for making an effort!

Keith
Last edited by Jok_Hae on Sat Sep 25, 2010 11:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
You make, you get

New Haven Zen Center
User avatar
Jok_Hae
 
Posts: 3924
Joined: Mon Feb 16, 2009 1:53 am
Location: CT, USA

Re: Vipassana & shikantaza: does it matter?

Postby songhill on Sat Sep 25, 2010 9:34 pm

Earthling wrote:For a beginner, is there any substantial difference between vipassana & shikantaza? ...
thanks,
josh


Probably not if you are just starting out. When I look at shikantaza in Chinese (chih-kuan ta-tso) it breaks down into chih which refers to shamatha and kuan which refers to vipashyana. Ta-tso means generally sitting, the Chinese character of two men sitting on the earth face to face to talk. So vipassana (the Pali) is not that far from shinkantaza.

In Soto Zen (Dogen's) shikantaza means "just sitting" which is a unique form of meditation based on Dogen's understanding of Buddhism. If you can, take a look at Carl Bielefeldt's book Dogen's Manuals of Zen Meditation. It's pretty heady reading but well worth it if you want to really understand the roots of shinkantaza.
User avatar
songhill
 
Posts: 275
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2010 3:22 am

Re: Vipassana & shikantaza: does it matter?

Postby Carol on Sat Sep 25, 2010 9:54 pm

Vipassana meditation is taught within the Theravadin Buddhist school. Shikantaza is taught within the Mahayana Zen Buddhist School. So there is some difference in the framework of the teaching. Here is an interesting article that might be helpful: Arahants, Bodhisattvas and Buddhas, written by a Theravadan Monk with experience also living in a Mahayana Chan Buddhist monastery. It might be helpful to give you a sense of which direction/framework resonates more for you.

But I also agree with those who say try it out ... If I were unsure, I would visit both a Soto Zen Center and a Theravadan practice center ... sit for awhile both places and see where you feel most at home. You can't go wrong, though we make many missteps along the way. :)

:Namaste:
Practitioners who cultivate the personal realization of buddha knowledge dwell in the bliss of whatever is present and do not abandon their practice.
~Lankavatara Sutra
User avatar
Carol
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 10095
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 2:52 am
Location: Santa Rosa, CA

Re: Vipassana & shikantaza: does it matter?

Postby Gregory Wonderwheel on Sat Sep 25, 2010 11:58 pm

Earthling wrote:For a beginner, is there any substantial difference between vipassana & shikantaza?

For a beginner this is a difficult question to answer.

What is a "method" of meditation? People come with the issues and mental constructions that they have and method is used to help lead them to awakening. No one method will work the same for all people because people start with different positions and views. This is why a live teacher is useful to see how a person responds to the method. A good teacher won't be tied to only one method, or if the teacher is strictly a one-method teacher then to be a good teacher that teacher will be able to direct the student who is not suitable for the method to another teacher. There are famous Zen teachers with stories about them sending a student to another teacher. For example, Mazu sent students to Shitou when they were promising but didn't break through with Mazu's teaching method.

Vipassyana has several meanings around the common field of "observation," "insight," "introspection," "intuition," etc. It is often translated as “insight meditation.” One thing that bothers me is that some American Insight Meditation teachers seem to have tried to separate vipassana from samatha. Samatha-vipassana is the traditional meditation method of Buddhism. In Chinese they are translated as 止観, written in our alphabet as "zhiguan" in Pinyin and “shikan” in Japanese. In the Mahayana 止 (zhi, shi) is stopping or cessation and 観 (guan, kan) is observation or introspection. Bodhidharma taught "wall gazing" meditation which is a metaphor for zhiguan, "wall" meaning stopping (calming, cessation, samatha) and "gazing" meaning introspection (insight, observation, vipassana).

In Chinese Zen, zhi-guan was seen as the method of meditation and samadhi-prajna were the respective outcomes or realizations from the method, That is, zhi/samatha is realized in samadhi, and guan/vipassana is realized in prajna. The Sixth Ancestor Huineng made a point to instruct that samadhi and prajna are inseparable and one cannot be realized without the other. At that time there was debate in Buddhist circles that argued that samadhi was a prerequisite for prajna with the idea of first samadhi then prajna. Others argued that prajna was not related to samadhi and prajna could be realized without samadhi and only after prajna was realized would one know real samadhi This is like saying vipassana could be realized without samatha, that is, that one can practice insight meditation without practicing cessation meditation or vice versa. Huineng cut off all such claims and said samadhi and prajna could not be separated.

The Platform Sutra, Chapter 4 wrote: The master instructed the assembly saying, "Learned and virtuous ones, In this Dharma door of ours samadhi and prajna are considered to be the root. Great assembly, do not be confused. The words “samadhi” and “prajna” are different, but samadhi and prajna are one substance and are not two. Samadhi is the substance of prajna; prajna is the function of samadhi. Immediately at the time of prajna, samadhi is in prajna. Immediately at the time of samadhi, prajna is in samadhi. If one knows this meaning, then samadhi and prajna are equally learned. You various people who study the Way, do not say, 'First samadhi, then comes prajna,' or 'First prajna, then comes samadhi,' to separate them. Those with this view make the Dharma have the characteristic of duality.


Dogen, the creator of designating shikantaza (只管打坐) as a method of meditation, was trained in the Tendai branch of Buddhism that centered its meditation practice on the traditional method and practices of shikan (止観) as expounded by the Tiantai Master Zhiyi whose teaching was edited by his disciple Kuan-ting in the classic Chinese opus treatise on samatha-vipassana called Mohezhiguan (Maha Samatha-Vipassana, 摩訶止観, Moho Chih Kuan). I’ve never seen scholarly discussion about this but it has always been my position that it was no coincidence that Dogen named his method of shikantaza using the same homonym of shikan (只管, “only minding”) as the shikan (止観, “samatha vipassana”) of the traditional Tendai meditation method. I see this as Dogen’s sly pun saying “I’m talking about the real ‘shikan’ here.”

But Dogen’s protestations aside, there is less difference than similarity between his shikantaza and the shikan he was trained with in either his Japanese Tendai training or Chinese Chan/Zen training. In his introduction to Zhiyi’s Mohezhiguan, Kuan Ting says that Zhiyi passed on the teaching transmitted from his teacher Hui-su the three kinds of zhiguan that are responsive to the three degrees of capacity in practitioners: (1) gradual and sequential, (2) variable (indeterminate) and (3) complete and sudden. These are not three different types of zhiguan as they are three avenues or ways of approaching zhiguan. The complete and sudden zhiguan is the core of Zhiyi’s teaching and Kuan Ting summarizes it saying within the Dharmadhatu there is not a single sight nor smell that is not the middle way, no suffering that may be discarded, no path that may be cultivated, no path that may be cultivated, no being of the world, and no leaving the world, Realizing the serene tranquility of the nature is called cessation (samatha, zhi) and the illumination of the serene tranquility is called insight (vipassana, guan).


The method of Dogen’s shikantaza is notoriously elusive to direct description. Mostly people describe it by what it is not, rather than what it is. Shikantaza is not really a beginner's method because it is more akin to the complete-sudden shikan (zhiguan) than to the gradual or variable shikan stages of the beginner or intermediate capacity practitioners. It is generally characterized as goalless meditation, that is, it is the methodless method of meditation or the method of no method. I have neither read nor seen anything written by Dogen that actually and substantially distinguishes Dogen’s shikantaza from the complete and sudden zhiguan (shikan) of Zhiyi nor from the themeless concentration of awareness of the Pali canon. What does distinguish it is only the manner of talking about it as if it is distinguishable. That is, Dogen distinguishes shikantaza from shikan in the same manner that Zhiyi distinguishes the complete and sudden zhiguan from the gradual zhiguan.

So I would conclude that to the degree that vipassana is not the complete and sudden samatha-vipassana, i.e., the unified samadhi-prajna of the Sixth Ancestor, then vipassana is different from shikantaza, but to the degree that vipassana is the complete and sudden samatha-vipassana of the themeless concentration of awareness that has gone beyond the eight jnanas of form and the formless and is the realization of the unification of samadhi and prajna and actualization of the meditation of no method, then there is no substantial difference or distinction between vipassana and skikantaza,
Why you do not understand is because the three carts were provisional for former times, and because the One Vehicle is true for the present time. ~ Zen Master 6th Ancestor Huineng
User avatar
Gregory Wonderwheel
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 3927
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:07 am
Location: Santa Rosa, California

Re: Vipassana & shikantaza: does it matter?

Postby Huifeng on Sun Sep 26, 2010 2:31 am

songhill wrote:
Earthling wrote:For a beginner, is there any substantial difference between vipassana & shikantaza? ...
thanks,
josh


Probably not if you are just starting out. When I look at shikantaza in Chinese (chih-kuan ta-tso) it breaks down into chih which refers to shamatha and kuan which refers to vipashyana. Ta-tso means generally sitting, the Chinese character of two men sitting on the earth face to face to talk. So vipassana (the Pali) is not that far from shinkantaza.


Hi Songhill,

If you break down the Japanese term "shikantaza" into the Kanji 漢字 / Chinese characters, you'll find that it is actually 只管打坐 zhi3guan3 da3zuo4. The Chinese term for "samatha-vipasyana" is 止觀 zhi3guan1. Although the sound is similar "zhi guan" (though the tone of the "guan" is different), they are actually completely different characters. And the phrase 打坐 da3zuo4 although being literally "sit", is really only used in the context of "sit in meditation". It is never used for just a general sense of "sit down" at all.

However, it has been mentioned before, that this particular choice of term may have quite a bit to do with the Chinese / Kanji for "samatha vipasyana", as a kind of pun / play on words. But the characters themselves are totally different.
Bhikṣu & Mahāyāna bodhisattva ordination by Ven Master Hsing Yun (星雲大師) et al, Foguang Shan Monastery (佛光山寺) Taiwan.
Teaching: http://buddhist.fgu.edu.tw/main.php Blog: http://prajnacara.blogspot.com/
User avatar
Huifeng
Teacher
 
Posts: 1394
Joined: Mon May 18, 2009 11:42 am
Location: Fo Guang University (佛光大學), Ilan (宜蘭), Taiwan.

Re: Vipassana & shikantaza: does it matter?

Postby songhill on Sun Sep 26, 2010 3:21 am

OmegA wrote:Hi Songhill,

If you break down the Japanese term "shikantaza" into the Kanji 漢字 / Chinese characters, you'll find that it is actually 只管打坐 zhi3guan3 da3zuo4. The Chinese term for "samatha-vipasyana" is 止觀 zhi3guan1. Although the sound is similar "zhi guan" (though the tone of the "guan" is different), they are actually completely different characters. And the phrase 打坐 da3zuo4 although being literally "sit", is really only used in the context of "sit in meditation". It is never used for just a general sense of "sit down" at all.

However, it has been mentioned before, that this particular choice of term may have quite a bit to do with the Chinese / Kanji for "samatha vipasyana", as a kind of pun / play on words. But the characters themselves are totally different.


Sorry I didn't make that clear enough. To be sure Dogen's shikantaza is a horse of a different color—or maybe its not even a horse. Dogen's shikantaza nor arguably its notion is easily found in the Mahayana or the Pali canon, if at all. (Sorry Dogenists.) It's Dogen's baby. It well could be a pun which in that case it is not all that helpful for a beginner.
User avatar
songhill
 
Posts: 275
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2010 3:22 am

Re: Vipassana & shikantaza: does it matter?

Postby Gregory Wonderwheel on Sun Sep 26, 2010 7:15 am

songhill wrote: When I look at shikantaza in Chinese (chih-kuan ta-tso) it breaks down into chih which refers to shamatha and kuan which refers to vipashyana.

This is a common mistaken idea based on the curious homonym of "shikan" being pronounced the same even though they have two separate meanings and different written characters. The "shikan" that means samatha-vipassana (zhiguan) are the characters 止観, but the "shikan" of shikantaza is 只管 which means "only minding," "just taking care of," "merely heeding", etc. The characters "taza" 打坐 literally mean the idiom "hitting sitting" or "hitting the seat" and has the same meaning as the English idiom "hitting the books" when one is studying diligently. Hitting sitting means to sit dilligently. So shikantaza means "only minding hitting sitting" or "just taking care of diligent sitting", etc.

_/|\_
Gregory
Why you do not understand is because the three carts were provisional for former times, and because the One Vehicle is true for the present time. ~ Zen Master 6th Ancestor Huineng
User avatar
Gregory Wonderwheel
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 3927
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:07 am
Location: Santa Rosa, California

Re: Vipassana & shikantaza: does it matter?

Postby Earthling on Sun Sep 26, 2010 2:03 pm

For the time being I'm going to do sitting practice based on my Cheri Huber DVD (yesterday doing "guided" sitting with the DVD for ten minutes). For purely practical purposes, I have created different sound files with different time lengths with bells at the beginning and end for timing purposes here at home (everything in between is silent, of course). I'll be sticking to just 15-minute sessions for a long time I imagine (silently counting the breath), once in my "morning" and once in my "evening" (I have very peculiar hours with my job in the ER). I'll just take things as they come and see what happens.

I am thankful to all of you for the various suggestions, ideas and opinions (I think of the old saying about asking three rabbis a question and getting three answers!) and the encouragement. Tonight on my "lunch" break at work (my job has strange hours), re-reading a book on zazen, I came across this encouraging passage, which I wanted to share:

"You must be true to your own way until at last you actually come to the point where you see it necessary to forget all about yourself... But if you make your best effort just to continue your practice with your whole mind and body, without gaining ideas, then whatever you do will be true practice. Just to continue should be your purpose. When you do something, just to do it should be your purpose." (Shunryu Suzuki, "No Dualism" from The Art of Just Sitting, edited by Jon Daido Loori, pg. 69)

--Or, as the Frank Zappa album title goes, "Shut up 'n' play yer guitar"!

I've "brushed my teeth" and now its time for bed! Goodnight!

~ josh
Earthling
 

Re: Vipassana & shikantaza: does it matter?

Postby Jok_Hae on Sun Sep 26, 2010 2:09 pm

Earthling wrote:For the time being I'm going to do sitting practice based on my Cheri Huber DVD (yesterday doing "guided" sitting with the DVD for ten minutes). For purely practical purposes, I have created different sound files with different time lengths with bells at the beginning and end for timing purposes here at home (everything in between is silent, of course). I'll be sticking to just 15-minute sessions for a long time I imagine (silently counting the breath), once in my "morning" and once in my "evening" (I have very peculiar hours with my job in the ER). I'll just take things as they come and see what happens.

I am thankful to all of you for the various suggestions, ideas and opinions (I think of the old saying about asking three rabbis a question and getting three answers!) and the encouragement. Tonight on my "lunch" break at work (my job has strange hours), re-reading a book on zazen, I came across this encouraging passage, which I wanted to share:

"You must be true to your own way until at last you actually come to the point where you see it necessary to forget all about yourself... But if you make your best effort just to continue your practice with your whole mind and body, without gaining ideas, then whatever you do will be true practice. Just to continue should be your purpose. When you do something, just to do it should be your purpose." (Shunryu Suzuki, "No Dualism" from The Art of Just Sitting, edited by Jon Daido Loori, pg. 69)

--Or, as the Frank Zappa album title goes, "Shut up 'n' play yer guitar"!

I've "brushed my teeth" and now its time for bed! Goodnight!

~ josh


I can't think of a better way to handle the beginning steps to your practice! Well done. :)

Keith
You make, you get

New Haven Zen Center
User avatar
Jok_Hae
 
Posts: 3924
Joined: Mon Feb 16, 2009 1:53 am
Location: CT, USA


Return to Mahayana Buddhism

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

 
RocketTheme Joomla Templates

Who is online

In total there is 1 user online :: 0 registered, 0 hidden and 1 guest (based on users active over the past 5 minutes)
Most users ever online was 146 on Fri May 29, 2009 2:49 am

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest