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Proposed group

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Re: Proposed group

Postby Meido on Wed Apr 19, 2017 5:02 pm

Well, if we are talking about samadhi, we say that realizing the unity of samadhi and prajna is the true Zen samadhi. We could also say that this true samadhi is the unity of shamatha and vipashyana talked about in some traditions. "Unity" means it fulfills both: awakening, the recognition of kensho, is the fulfillment of vipashyana/prajna, and the seamless upwelling of that recognition is the fulfillment of shamatha/samadhi. Just that state is what is meant by hokkyo zanmai, shikantaza, etc. in my understanding. They have nothing to do with the act of sitting per se; it is seeing clearly that all phenomena are nothing other than one's original face, and entering bodily into the situations of life illuminating them in that manner. There is absolutely no difference between Rinzai and Soto in regards to this understanding, I think.

We can call such things "practices" as a convenience, because one commonly experiences the need for a practice over time of making that state seamless i.e. there is a long stage in which one sometimes rests within it, and sometimes gives rise to habitual dualistic seeing. This has been likened to a dragon playing with a jewel, which sometimes grasps it and sometimes loses it. So "practice" is spoken of as a path. There are many instructions one can receive about how to traverse that path, how to deal with obstructions, etc.

We have to remember, though, that it is not actually a path to awakening; it is a path already taking awakening as its foundation, of returning again and again to what one has recognized as never having been lacking.

The tendency, especially if we have not yet entered a "pathless path" (Jundo Osho, that one's for you :) ) founded upon awakening, though, is to reify "practices" and focus on "methods" - even methods that are called methodless. Practices and methods are important, but they are not the essential point. And my point is that the essential point is primarily grasped through the manifested state, words, and actions of the teacher which frame and give life to practices.

Some may feel this is a reification of the teacher, of course! But I would counter by saying that a good teacher will knock that wedge out also.

~ Meido
Last edited by Meido on Wed Apr 19, 2017 5:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Proposed group

Postby organizational on Wed Apr 19, 2017 5:05 pm

jundo wrote:As I said, I am completely biased and opinionated on this Way of "Dropping all bias and opinions". :PP:

Gassho, J

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Re: Proposed group

Postby desert_woodworker on Wed Apr 19, 2017 5:46 pm

Meido,

You take me too seriously (or literally, I mean), in my suggestion that all or most states can be considered "samadhi"; Rather, just a little joke! I've now edited my post and added emotograms at the end of my postscript. :)

But I've learned from your reply. Thank you! And I realize it's for others, too. Thanks again.

Meido wrote:We can call such things "practices" as a convenience, because one commonly experiences the need for a practice over time of making that state seamless i.e. there is a long stage in which one sometimes rests within it, and sometimes gives rise to habitual dualistic seeing. This has been likened to a dragon playing with a jewel, which sometimes grasps it and sometimes loses it. So "practice" is spoken of as a path.

Such a neat metaphor, "a dragon playing with a jewel"; I hadn't encountered that before. I'll share it. Thanks!

One I've liked is the "stone skipping on water" metaphor. Sometimes tasting the water at intervals, but, then, ...submerged! Merged with water. (Or, in some cases, just totally all wet :wink: ).

Image below.

--Joe

stone_skipping.jpg
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Re: Proposed group

Postby jundo on Wed Apr 19, 2017 5:59 pm

Hi Meido,

Best I have been able to fathom about Matylda, the writer in the link you posted, is that he/she is connected to a particular temple and Lineages with their own insular beliefs and very traditional views. She is extremely familar with the situation in Japan, and speaks as if such is authorative, but that is not the be all and end all of Soto.

https://dharmawheel.net/posting.php?mod ... 9&p=330783

https://dharmawheel.net/posting.php?mod ... 9&p=285197

She often speaks as if her views are representative of all Soto, and she is very well versed in Japanese Soto history and culture, but actually she seems to speak from that corner where she sits. She/he knows (by her own admission) very little about modernizing tendencies outside Japan and tends to write them off too quickly, in my view.

https://dharmawheel.net/posting.php?mod ... 9&p=100586

https://dharmawheel.net/posting.php?mod ... 7&p=164636

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Re: Proposed group

Postby Meido on Wed Apr 19, 2017 7:18 pm

Joe, sorry for being too serious...those skulls I mentioned are smiling at least :)

Jundo, right, I understand your point here in light of your own approach and critique of elements of traditional practice and belief. It may be that you carry your own teacher's torch here, and Matylda has acknowledged that Nishijima Roshi was himself not representative of the Soto mainstream (not intended as a critique at all).

In any case, I have also found her to be very knowledgeable regarding traditional understandings of practice, both Soto and Rinzai, in Japan, which is why I always read her posts with some interest. In particular I have valued her reminders that Zen practice is much more varied than folks in the West tend to think i.e. different teaching lines contain a great deal of sometimes surprising stuff according to the interests and backgrounds of their lineage holders. I also appreciate her point that the rigid distinctions between Rinzai and Soto have not historically been so rigid, and that there are still teachers today who integrate aspects of practice from both (not just Sanbo Kyodan).

There are some aspects of Zen in the west which are modernizing, yes. There are others which are just plain idiosyncratic, because some of the Japanese teachers who laid foundations here were themselves idiosyncratic. And finally there are aspects of what is going on in the west that manifest as a raining down of mingled babies and bathwater. In my discussions with folks here, both Rinzai and Soto, I sense a mixed sense of excitement and despair regarding the direction things are going (and I do not refer to scandals, just to elements of practice emphasis as it has developed).

I quoted Matylda in my earlier post, though, mostly because it matches my own view vis a vis a teacher's role in practice.

:Namaste:

~ Meido
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The Rinzai Zen Community: http://www.rinzaizen.org
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Re: Proposed group

Postby jundo on Wed Apr 19, 2017 7:24 pm

By the way, Meido, are you familiar with Miriam Levering's old thesis, "Chan Enlightenment for Laymen: Ta-hui and the New Religious Culture of the Sond"

https://www.google.co.jp/url?sa=t&rct=j ... RO8LQZXWSg

Perhaps Ta hui might not perhaps have agree with you on all points or, at least, he was willing to forsake some of the oversight to cultivate practice "long distance" with lay folks far and wide. In those days, of course, the only communication with students at a distance would be by letter, with meetings few and far between if any. It did not stop him. Maybe Hakuin too, in his "Beating the Cloth Drum" letters, took a similar attitude with his long distance students too?

[A]ll of the characteristic features which Ta-hui shared with or contributed to the Ch'an Buddhism of his time can be seen to be related wholly or in part to his desire to bring laymen, particularly scholar-officials, to enlightenment. ...

... Other notable aspects of Ta-hui's teachings, such as his spirited defense of the necessity of a moment of awakening (~,~ satori) as the beginning of true Ch'an practice, and his insistence that hua-t'ou (koan) practice was :uperior to all other current forms of Ch'an practice, can be shown to be related at least in part to his belief that laymen can reach enlightenment in daily life and to his specific desire to enable them to do so. He believed strongly that hua-tou practice toward a moment of awakening was not only the most effective means to enlightenment, it was also the one means that laymen could practice successfully in the midst of their usual activities.

...

But the real thrust of Ta-hui's teaching is the view that appears
later, Mahayana,Buddhism, that such retreat to monastic or retired
life, while helpful if convenient, is unnecessary: wisdom can be
cultivated and enlightenment achieved in any worldly or monastic circumstances.
Ta-hui asserts that it is not physically leaving the
but mentally going beyond the world in a moment
enlightenment. It is one's habits of mind, not one's outward
circumstances, that obstruct the path to enlightenment

...

Monastic life is conducive to enlightenment, because monks hear, read and think only about the Buddhist Dharma, and engage in only such activities as lead toward enlightenment. But for this very reason laymen, who have so many distractions to contend with, actually achieve a deeper and stronger enlightenment than a monk because of the greater obstacles in their path. ...



I am wondering if the degree of constant and close supervision of students is really so necessary to the process, versus being available for advice and correction as needed. Perhaps the average lay Zen practitioner these days is receiving better information, better education and guidance at a distance and with online and sometime visits and consultations than the monks of the superstition and arcane tradition riddled monasteries of the past with their idiosyncratic and often questionable training methods and standards. Was the ideal of good Training actually available to the majority of rank and file monks, let alone lay folks in the past? [Anyway, a favorite topic of mine, but best for another day. ].

Gassho, Jundo
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Re: Proposed group

Postby Michaeljc on Wed Apr 19, 2017 7:37 pm

Wonderful exchange, is this

Thanks to all

:Namaste:

I am about to write a story with an ironical twist

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Re: Proposed group

Postby jundo on Wed Apr 19, 2017 7:39 pm

And a PS -

My Teacher, Nishijima, was a reformer but a mosquito on the ass of the Soto-shu, barely noticed or heeded. His message of stepping beyond the traditional role of priest and layperson tended to go down like a lead balloon among the priestly class in Japan with their vested interest in maintaining the current status quo and the economic health of funeral supported temples. From the obituary I wrote when he died:

---------------

STEPPING THROUGH THE TRADITIONAL FOURFOLD CATEGORIES OF PRIEST & LAY, MALE & FEMALE: Unlike most Buddhist clergy in Asia, Japanese priests typically marry and are not celibate. Some look at this as a great failing of Japanese Buddhism, a break from 25 centuries of tradition. In Japan and the West, even some Japanese lineage priests and lay teachers themselves are unsure of their own identity and legitimacy, and of their roles compared to each other. With great wisdom, Nishijima transcended all such questions and limiting categories. He advocated a way of stepping right through and beyond the whole matter, of finding living expressions where others saw restriction, and of preserving the tradition even as things change. While he was a champion of the celibate way (Nishijima Roshi, although married, turned to a celibate lifestyle for himself upon ordination), he never felt that celibacy was the only road for all priests. Nishijima advocated a form of ordination that fully steps beyond and drops away divisions of “Priest or Lay, Male or Female”, yet allows us to fully embody and actuate each and all as the situation requires. In our lineage, we are not ashamed of nor try to hide our sexuality and worldly relationships, nor do we feel conflicted that we are “monks” with kids and mortgages. When I am a parent to my children, I am 100% that and fully there for them. When I am a worker at my job, I am that and embody such a role with sincerity and dedication. And when I am asked to step into the role of hosting zazen, offering a dharma talk, practicing and embodying our history and teachings and passing them on to others, I fully carry out and embody 100% the role of “Priest” in that moment. Whatever the moment requires: maintaining a sangha community, bestowing the Precepts, working with others to help sentient beings. The names we call ourselves do not matter. In Nishijima’s way, we do not ask and are unconcerned with whether we are “Priest” or “Lay”, for we are neither that alone, while always thoroughly both; exclusively each in purest and unadulterated form, yet wholly all at once. It is just as, in the West, we have come to step beyond the hard divisions and discriminations between “male” and “female”, recognizing that each of us may embody all manner of qualities to varying degrees as the circumstances present, and that traditional “male” and “female” stereotypes are not so clear-cut as once held. So it is with the divisions of “Priest” and “Lay”.

...

Now, in modern societies with better distributions of wealth (compared to the past, although we still have a long way to go), ‘leisure’ time, literacy and education, media access and means of travel and communication across distances, many of the economic and practical barriers to practice and training have been removed. This is the age when we may begin to figuratively “knock down monastery walls”, to find that Buddha’s Truths may be practiced any place, without divisions of “inside” walls or “outside”. For some of us, the family kitchen, children’s nursery, office or factory where we work diligently and hard, the hospital bed, volunteer activity or town hall are all our “monastery” and place of training. We can come to recognize the “monastery” located in buildings made of wood and tile as in some ways an expedient means, although with their own power and beauty too. There are still times when each of us can benefit from periods of withdrawal and silence, be it a sesshin or ango, or the proverbial grass hut in distant hills. Yes, this Way still needs all manner of people, each pursuing the paths of practice suited to their needs and circumstances, be they temple priests catering to the needs of their parishioners, hermits isolated in caves, celibate monks in mountain monasteries, or “out in the world” types demonstrating that all can be found right in the city streets and busy highways of this modern world. Nishijima, a zen priest yet a working man, a husband and father most of his life, stood for a dropping of “inside” and “out”. He was someone that knew the value of times of retreat, but also the constant realization of these teachings in the home, workplace and soup kitchens.


More here ...

http://sweepingzen.com/eight-ways-gudo- ... -buddhism/
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Re: Proposed group

Postby Michaeljc on Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:03 pm

I am getting to the stage in life where we old codgers repeat ourselves. I have told this story before, way back

I had booked into a weekend sesshin in Auckland. It coincided with spring shearing of the flock. While lambs are still on their mothers they get shorn, along with their mothers. We were able to ‘cut out’ (finish) just hours before I needed to leave. Throughout the last hour it began to rain. I had that well covered as the ewes were waiting in a very grassy paddock that was well sheltered from the light southerly rain. As long as the lambs are able to get a quick full belly of milk and grass (having been in the yards for 24 hours) they can handle rain. I rushed them in with their mothers and took off for Auckland.

When I drove back past that paddock 3 days later there was shock – 80 dead bodies littered the paddock. My wife could not contact me. My dear loyal cousin who has helped me so much through the years had responded to a SOS and saved several hundred by manually loading them on a trailer and taking them back to the shed.

Apparently, within half an hour of my leaving, the wind had swung to the north bringing in torrential rain. Those that did not have time to fill their bellies had huddled up and succumbed.

A moral to this story? Not really. Call it a koan

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Re: Proposed group

Postby Meido on Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:44 pm

Well, yes, Dahui is famous for his openness to lay practice, and for championing the wato/koan method as being most suited to that purpose.

As I have understood, though, his letters are not to people he never met. They were to laypersons known to him, government officials and others who came and went, visiting and then returning to their duties, sponsoring ceremonies and donating to the monasteries, etc. His ability and willingness to guide them through correspondence, encouraging their daily practice outside the monastery, is indeed wonderful. But it is not the case that they were strangers to him.

Listen, I do not discount the usefulness of such distant guidance, and am all for using technology to further that. What I don't agree with is the idea that distant guidance alone is going to be sufficient, except perhaps in very rare cases. Also required: a teacher of great ability and clear eyes.

I personally am not of any great capacity as either student or teacher, so I choose the more dependable, safe way of close contact with a teacher. That, also, is what Dahui pursued in his own training under various masters. Did the 1700 or so students who it is said gathered in his community at Ching Shan all have close contact with him? I have no idea...but they certainly thought it important to be as close as possible.

It is similar with Hakuin. We have letters he wrote guiding distant lords with whom he was acquainted, and giving advice to various folks. But his energy was primarily put into the students who came to study with him directly...so many at one point that they could not be housed, and scattered each evening to bunk whereever they could in the surrounding countryside, enduring the elements and lack of food. Why bother with all that, if just sending an occasional letter and reading his books would have been sufficient?

jundo wrote:I am wondering if the degree of constant and close supervision of students is really so necessary to the process, versus being available for advice and correction as needed. Perhaps the average lay Zen practitioner these days is receiving better information, better education and guidance at a distance and with online and sometime visits and consultations than the monks of the superstition and arcane tradition riddled monasteries of the past with their idiosyncratic and often questionable training methods and standards. Was the ideal of good Training actually available to the majority of rank and file monks, let alone lay folks in the past?


I agree that "constant and close" may not be needed. Certainly a useful model can be periodic guidance from a distance, interspersed with the "sometimes visits" you mention. For some folks that's fine. However, another aspect to all this aside from "how effective," is "how long is my life?" Something for all of us to consider as we choose paths, surely.

As for "superstition and arcane tradition riddled monasteries of the past with their idiosyncratic and often questionable training methods and standards"...well, you outdid yourself with that one! :)

RE your teacher being a reformer and mosquito, I definitely have no problem with that. Omori Roshi could be called the same, though they couldn't completely ignore him because of his position. His solution: send it west. In any case, please don't think I'm tradition-bound for tradition's sake...really just a guy from NJ here, and not any kind of Nihophile. What you may not see from where you are, though, is what we see here in the USA: people sometimes throwing out tradition left and right because they think it's somehow liberating to do so, and because "Zen must adapt to American culture."

Of course, I would think the people throwing things out should first deeply grasp the sometimes hidden uses of those things before doing so. That seems, often, to not be the case. The guy wearing blue jeans and a rakusu because he thinks robes are archaic and non-modern, but whose body reveals he hasn't the faintest idea how those traditional garments can be used to support aspects of practice, is sadly ridiculous in some ways...but worse, a thief stealing the practice of future students. Such reflexive rejection of the old sometimes speaks not to clear-eyed modernization, but just to the preferences and discomforts of the one rejecting.

A complex subject to be sure, and I'm grateful for discussion and exchange as we all participate in this process. We may leave it for another day (another thread) perhaps, as you say, but thank you for the conversation.

~ Meido
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Re: Proposed group

Postby flutemaker on Wed Apr 19, 2017 9:18 pm

20170419_152918.jpg


Meido-sensei:

Just returned from a walk, and here is what has attracted my attention. On the sandy Pacific coast an old abandoned plastic bucket lies, cracked at one side, next to an empty hole. The OP may look like an attempt at investigating the old bucket rather than raising questions about the person who was using the tool, and what for, maybe he was digging for gold, maybe he was about to cross the great ocean.

Yes I hear you. The methods don't generate awakening. As Guo Gu Lao shi said, ALL methods are placeboos. Regardless. No matter how childish, foolish, irrelevant is that, I have been investigating that which makes me feel "me" from moment to moment. I've been doing this for quite a while. And I do remember as someone said (was it you?) that there is no thread, just beads. I cannot reconcile the outcome of the investigation with the "there is no thread". And see no way to discuss such matters in the public area predicting the fruitfulness of such discussion. Am I mistaken?
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Re: Proposed group

Postby Meido on Wed Apr 19, 2017 9:32 pm

Here is a thread in which we discussed that image you mention, FM: viewtopic.php?f=64&t=9182

I wonder if what's written there is helpful?

To not worry about maintaining a continuity - trying to be like the thread of a mala which connects moments in time (beads) - but rather just to become each bead with all one's senses, body, breath, and mind, is a description of how to practice.

If you are practicing with a wato like, "What is this?" or "Who is seeing, hearing, thinking, etc.", these words point out how to unify oneself with the wato, both in sitting and activity.

Again, here is the limitation of this format: I couldn't say for sure if that is good advice for you, or a good method for you, in your particular situation, at this moment. But I don't necessarily see a limitation to discussion about it, based on public vs. private.

~ Meido
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Re: Proposed group

Postby partofit22 on Thu Apr 20, 2017 3:08 am

I think somewhat along the lines of what Carol expressed in the thread Meido shared a link to- We are companions- That said, there's nothing the matter when some companions share a specific interest and wish to discuss it without interruption -- and be a bit more intimate- Any individual might be inclined to speak a little more freely in a small closed group opposed to an open one-
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Re: Proposed group

Postby Caodemarte on Thu Apr 20, 2017 3:37 am

We can always tweak the technical aspects and improve the form of our practice, for example, posture. For many reasons, Zen students seem to often forget that this is a yoga, a physical practice (as well as the rest), and we have bodies. I was surprised to hear that that many US students have never been told that a non-slouching, erect, "straight" back is extremely useful in zazen and that "sit anyway you want" is not good advice. As long as we don't go from the extreme of ignoring the body and techniques to obsession with it, tweaking can be helpful. At least, that is my impression as a a student.

Meido wrote:...You know, I recently wrote a book in which I do describe, in detail, some foundational practices. A person wanting to begin practicing could take that and start working with the instructions.

At the risk of diverting a thoughtful discussion, may I ask Meido if his book introducing such practices will be published and if so when, or is it for internal use?
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Re: Proposed group

Postby jundo on Thu Apr 20, 2017 6:09 am

Caodemarte wrote: I was surprised to hear that that many US students have never been told that a non-slouching, erect, "straight" back is extremely useful in zazen and that "sit anyway you want" is not good advice. As long as we don't go from the extreme of ignoring the body and techniques to obsession with it, tweaking can be helpful. At least, that is my impression as a a student.


Hi,

I am curious where you would have ever heard that, and I do not recall ever hearing that from a Western teacher that I can recall. The closest I can think is that, when I have students with a physical disability or chronic condition, I advise them to find the positionS right for them (including, for example, a few people we have had "sitting" Zazen in traction in a hospital bed, stand because of a back injury, or on their side in the "Lion's Position" much as the "Reclining Buddha").

I also emphasize that "Zazen" in its wider meaning is not ONLY sitting, although we sit traditionally each day. It is also many a physical and life activity. If the mind of Shikantaza is manifested "off the cushion", Zazen is also changing a baby diaper, gardening, exercising, painting the barn, eating Oryoki or simply cooking dinner for the family. All are physical and mental (mind-body not two) activities in which one can pour one"self" and find the Self again.

I will say that there are perhaps "two schools of non-thought" on Posture. One group is much of the belief that correct placement and position in posture, especially the Lotus Posture, is necessary or indispensible to proper Zazen, and that the posture itself brings about certain physical and mental effects. Do X with the spine has some effect on "Ki" for example, which results in a certain energy flow in the body etc. etc. I don't partake of such beliefs (My own teacher, Nishijima, was leaning in that direction ... pun intended ... and he and I disagreed on that sometimes. Even going overboard in detailing the physiological effects of certain postures in Indian Yoga has been shown to be quite unsubstantiated for the most extreme claims too).

I represent that other more moderate wing on this issue, and feel that a balanced, stable, comfortable position (with a straight, but not rigid, back if one is free of disability and physically able) is important and nurturing of a balanced, stable mind. I believe that some in the Japanese traditions tend to fetishize Lotus as "THE POSTURE" much more than even most Asian continental Buddhists. The Lotus Posture is a wonderful, balanced posture for those who can, and extremely stable which facilitates stability in body and mind. However, it is just the scaffold for the work of art. Now, outside of Japan (and even there a little) alternatives such as Seiza benches and chairs have become acceptable, although one should find balance, stability and comfort even in using those.

I am not a "one size fits all" fellow when it comes to "proper" Zazen posture. There are many balanced and comfortable positions and, if someone has health issues, they have to find the one (or several) that suits them. You may want to check out this wonderful book. The author says that you will know by listening to your own body and, further, even during a single sitting the "right" posture may change as the body changes.

Book Recommendation: - THE POSTURE OF MEDITATION
http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showthread.php?6913-Book-Recommendation-THE-POSTURE-OF-MEDITATION&p=31651&viewfull=1#post31651

http://www.shambhala.com/the-posture-of-meditation.html

Gassho, J

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Re: Proposed group

Postby jundo on Thu Apr 20, 2017 7:11 am

Meido wrote:
As I have understood, though, his letters are not to people he never met. They were to laypersons known to him, government officials and others who came and went, visiting and then returning to their duties, sponsoring ceremonies and donating to the monasteries, etc. His ability and willingness to guide them through correspondence, encouraging their daily practice outside the monastery, is indeed wonderful. But it is not the case that they were strangers to him.


Oh, I so much agree! In the days before trains and cars, I wonder how often the folks were able to get up to the monastery for personal attention from Dahui and the other great masters however, especially if he had 1700 priests in residence at the place demanding his attention too!

This is our most recent Zazenkai at Treeleaf ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imAo1bHgnms

The people at the bottom of the screen are, one and all, folks who I have interacted and practiced with on a nearly daily basis (our place is open and available timelessly 24/7/365) for over 5 years each (some much longer, as Treeleaf is now in its 11th year). That means that, for all those years, we have discussed the Dharma, sat together, gone through cancer and sick children together, corrected postures together, engaged in Samu together, laughed together, Sat together more, Chanted together, cried together, meat met in the flesh once in awhile (I am about to do a rail tour of the Western U.S. to meet dozens of Treeleafers there), sewn robes together (we have online live sewing circles), studied and done our best to live the Precepts together, Sat together more ... and the days, months and years deepen. We are perhaps the only non-residential community in the world where Sangha members can sit and share the most intimate moments of the Practice and all of life together on a daily basis should they wish. It is like Dahui and the other masters sharing letters back and forth and with the most sensitive times of peoples' lives and feelings, but the interchange is nearly instant ... with video and sound added ... and does not need to wait for delivery by pony. Spiritual friendship can be nurtured in many ways. One thing I am fairly confident about is that we provide more instruction and support than a VIP's brief tea and chat with Dahui or Dogen face-to-face once in a long while likely could.

As for "superstition and arcane tradition riddled monasteries of the past with their idiosyncratic and often questionable training methods and standards"...well, you outdid yourself with that one! :)


Oh, but it is True! Why do we tend to emphasize the "Shangri-la" aspects of monkhood and monastic life, and the "ideals" of training and general Zen Practice, but ignore the realities of the ground. (This is another objection I often have to Matylda sometimes, who is extremely well versed in Soto Zen traditions and talks up her version of the wonders of traditional Japanese Zen training, often mixed with just a touch of "Nihonjinron" flavoring on the uniqueness of the Japanese, but tends to emphasize the ideal over the more complicated picture of traditional training and the positives that can come from reform). In fact, our way tends to find a "good" way in a world (including a Zen world) that often transcends "good and bad" and is quite a bit of both. Even in modern times, the serial abusers like Joshu Sasaki and Eido Shimano offered very "traditional" residential training here is the West, and some other Zen groups are quite cultish and questionable. It is not always a good thing.

I will "bump" a very old thread by me (got me in trouble with Nonin back then) in which I spelled out what perhaps, a little, were some potential negatives of traditional monastic Training versus the situation that lay people in the modern West encounter today. I think there are 4 or 5 separate essays and talks by me in the Thread. I do not mean that there were/are no positives to monastic training (far from it! just the opposite!), but that it was not all positives ... and sometimes anything but positive.

I in no way intend to deny the beauty and power of the monastic path for those called that way. There are depths and lessons to be encountered and awakened to and lived in that simple life, in the silence, in the sincere effort and routine. So much of that may not be easily perceived in the noise and distraction of an "in the world" practice. (Although, in my view, stillness is stillness, and the very same stillness can be encountered "out in the world" with a bit of diligence and attention to day-to-day life). I do not in any way intend to discount the importance of monastic practice for some folks ... and at appropriate times and doses for all of us.

However, there is also a beauty and power in paths of practice outside monastery walls that may be unavailable to those within the walls, with lay practice having depths and opportunities for awakening all its own. There are aspects of an "in the world" practice that are denied to those following a monastic way. There are depths and lessons of practice that can be encountered and awakened to only out in the city streets, in our work places, families, raising kids. Where is the Dharma not present?

...

In some important ways, sincere lay practitioners today may enjoy better surrounding circumstances for practice than did the average monk in, for example, Dogen's day. Things in the "Golden Age" were not so golden as we too easily romanticize. Most monks back then were half-educated (even in Buddhism), semi-literate (or what passed for literacy in those times), superstition driven, narrow folks who may have understood less about the traditions and teachings they were following ... their history and meaning and depth ... than we now know. The conditions for practice within old temples and monasteries might have been less than ideal, many teachers less than ideal, despite our idealization of the old timers. Studying Sutras by smoky oil lamp, living one's days out in Japan or Tibet while having no real information grasp on China and India and the customs of prior centuries, living in a world of rumor and magic and misunderstanding (in which all kinds of myths and stories and superstitions were taken as explanations for how the world works), unable to access a modern Buddhist library, or to "Google" a reliable source (emphasis on making sure it is reliable however!) to check some point, or to ask a real expert outside one's limited circle, being beholden to only one teacher at a time (no matter how poor a teacher), with no knowledge of the human brain and some very important discoveries of science ... and after all that effort ... getting sick and dying at the age of 40 from some ordinary fever. (Can you even imagine trying to listen to Dogen Zenji recite "live" a Shobogenzo teaching from way across the room ... without a modern microphone and PA system and "Youtube" to let one replay it all? I suppose many never heard a word!)

The "Good Old Days" were not necessarily the "Good Old Days".

...

Although there are many stories of true seekers "getting in", there were tremendous hurtles to doing so, and the monastery also frequently served as a place where those "already in" could keep what they had by keeping others out ...

Certainly, anyone familiar with the history of Buddhism sees a disproportionate number of teachers mentioned who came from elite backgrounds, the sons of aristocrats, samurai, wealthy farmers and other societal elites. The story of Hui-neng (the illiterate rice grinder) aside, most peasants and others were shooed away at the door ... assuming they made it to the door in the first place despite the many economic and social obstacles ... (and even Hui-neng was just put in the workhouse, grinding rice).

Most of us are familiar with the countless complaints by Dogen, Hakuin and others about the generally low quality of the monks at many institutions that they were encountering in China, Japan and elsewhere. Does this possibly show that these institutions were better at admitting those, perhaps, not so well qualified to be there, or who were there for the wrong reasons, than folks there for the right reasons? Much of that could be due to the fact that, throughout their history, most monasteries have been places of refuge ... not for the spirit ... but also for bastard children of the elite, those who did not wish to work morning to night in the hot sun (compared to the peasant lifestyle), and the like ... as well as true spiritual seekers (I do not mean to say that ALL residents of monasteries were like that ... only lots and lots). Granted, ALL the great Teachers in Buddhist history have been the product of monasteries (Although, ya know, that is not true ... as the likes of Layman Pang and Vimalakirti and many others attest ... though even they had some bucks. Perhaps the old woman in the "rice cake" Koan besting Te-shan is a better example). How many excellent potential monks and Teachers never had a chance because they were peasants, working people, or decided to stay at home to nurse an aging relative or child without having the economic means (as the Buddha himself did) to leave one's family in the charge of the servants in the family palace? ... On the other hand, even today, it takes a certain social freedom and economic means to head to a monastery for months or years. There are many folks who might truly sell their houses and quit there jobs to do so ... and that is to be commended. But a disproportionate number of folks who head to monasteries, even today, will do so only after figuring out how to have "themselves covered", sufficient savings, a job to return to after (can that truly be called "home leaving", or only "home leasing"?). They are not really giving up their wealth and property to "leave home", so much as calculating how they can "swing it" for a few months.

...

To each his or her own, and his or her heart, and we celebrate and support each and all in keeping their own attic! Someone's silly or dusty magic-spell and mumbo-jumbo filled ceremony (like the ceremony asking for the kind benefaction of the Earth Protector Deity as I recently participated in during a brief stay at a Soto monastery in Japan) is a lovely dance filled with endless significance. (By the way, when at the monastery, I threw my "self" through and through into the ceremony with all my body and heart ... for when in Rome.)

But for some of us, "Grandpa Buddha" is now dead, and we need to make room for the real, living Buddha which is still here in each of us. We might do without the "Earth Protector Deity", and perhaps 1000 other boxes of "gathered by Grandpa over the years" stuff. ... To each his own, and I also know the great value and Teachings found in some practices such as extended times of silence and retreat, bowing, chanting, even Oryoki eating ... and, of course, lots and lots of Zazen! Some can be kept, some recycled, some put out with the trash. But would the vessel for such practices resemble anything like the Sino-Japanese image of what that institution is/was? I think it might be very different (precisely the same, but very very different). Some may not even be located as and when or where "traditionalists" might locate theirs.

To each his own, but some of us make very new vessels to hold timeless flowers ... boundless vessels that barely resemble the containers of old.

...

Since the marketplace for temples is tight (especially in modern times), with parishioners being lost to age, death and disinterest, and temples are often desperately fighting to preserve the requisite quantity of "Danka" (temple parishioner families) in order to fund the temple (because someone has to pay the rent, and we can't just go out begging for it!), the "guiid" serves to keep additional potential competitors out of the market by not recognizing any but "official" temples. (At various times in Japan, the government and temples mutually benefited by the government's requiring each family to join a temple, a system which both served as a method of forced funding for temples and of close record keeping and social control for the government). The connections between "high" Zen/Chan and other Buddhist prelates and high government officials throughout Asia, right until today in many countries, are well known. At times, the fight for "territory" "property" and "government influence" became so heated that we have seen examples such as the "sect riots" of recent years in South Korea over control of various key Son/Zen temples:

http://amarillo.com/stories/1998/12/31/bel_monks.shtml

One proper role of a "guild" is to work to insure that "quality" is maintained in goods and services, and that the public is not presented with shoddy or defective work. At their best, the "medical society" or "bar associations" are fine modern "guilds" which serve the public in this way through their requirements for proper education and examination. In the Western Zen Buddhist world, organizations such as the Soto Zen Buddhist Association and American Zen Teachers Association are working very hard to play a like, positive role in order to prevent "quacks" and charlatans from deceiving the public, and to ensure that Zen clergy receive proper and necessary training in basic skills and traditions. It is a proper and necessary role, and they are to be saluted for their work and efforts.

However, in Japan right now, it is questionable whether some sect organizations and their monasteries are serving primarily to "assure quality" or simply to assure the economic position of their members. For example, as is well known, becoming a Soto Zen priest (other sects in Japan have similar systems) requires ... not that the person be spiritually inclined or necessarily a quality clergyman or teacher ... but primarily that one's father be a priest and that one have a "family owned and operated" temple that the son (sometimes daughter) is bound to take over. Anyone who can spend the required number of months at the monastery/company training school ... learning the "brand image" of the sect such as "our chants, our ceremonies, our dogma" ... almost automatically (on payment, of course, of the requisite fees to the sect, with proper forms filled out and stamps affixed) ... ... receives full ordination and "Transmission" as an "enlightened master". One is left to wonder whether the system is truly turning out so many "enlightened masters", or merely "newly minted managers" to take over local chain franchise stores of the Sect, familiar with "our spiritual products" ... primarily the funeral and memorial services (and little else, maybe the once a month or less Zazenkai) that the temples offer.

http://antaiji.dogen-zen.de/eng/201007.shtml



More here ...

viewtopic.php?f=17&t=6926&hilit=knocking+down+monastery+walls+lamp

I honestly do not mean my words just as an attack on traditional Training, Monasteries or the mainstream sects in Japan, but merely as a counterbalance (all things in moderation!) to the overly idealized and romanticized images, as well as as an answer to folks (like Matylda) who might not see that here in the modern west, with our great Buddhist experiments, we might actually be doing some things better than back in the "old country."

Gassho, Jundo
Last edited by jundo on Fri Apr 21, 2017 4:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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: Proposed group

Postby desert_woodworker on Thu Apr 20, 2017 1:22 pm

p., T.,

partofit22 wrote:Any individual might be inclined to speak a little more freely in a small closed group opposed to an open one-

Yes!

For his purposes, I hope flutemaster will follow through and start such a group at some other private URL as I think he means to.

--Joe
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Re: Proposed group

Postby Caodemarte on Thu Apr 20, 2017 5:48 pm

jundo wrote:
Caodemarte wrote: I was surprised to hear that that many US students have never been told that a non-slouching, erect, "straight" back is extremely useful in zazen and that "sit anyway you want" is not good advice. As long as we don't go from the extreme of ignoring the body and techniques to obsession with it, tweaking can be helpful. At least, that is my impression as a a student.

...I am curious where you would have ever heard that, and I do not recall ever hearing that from a Western teacher that I can recall... I will say that there are perhaps "two schools of non-thought" on Posture. One group is much of the belief that correct placement and position in posture, especially the Lotus Posture, is necessary or indispensible to proper Zazen, and that the posture itself brings about certain physical and mental effects...I represent that other more moderate wing on this issue, and feel that a balanced, stable, comfortable position (with a straight, but not rigid, back if one is free of disability and physically able) is important and nurturing of a balanced, stable mind. ( in using those.

I am not a "one size fits all" fellow when it comes to "proper" Zazen posture. There are many balanced and comfortable positions and, if someone has health issues, they have to find the one (or several) that suits...


As a person who can't even sit with crossed legs a "good enough" or the best I can stable posture of any kind is my goal, not the fetishization of posture! I have repeatedly heard introductions to zazen in the US that say sit as comfortablely as you wish, in the manner you wish, and offer no useful guidance. I have been told by others that they find the same. Most recently, at my local Zendo sangha meeting several people pointed out that help in physical posture was wanted, needed, and ignored at both that Zendo and generally in US Zen as a whole. At an out of state sesshin I recently participated in, the Japan-based teacher said he was struck by the same thing talking to Zen students across the US and that so many of the Americans had never been told not to slouch and of the benefits of posture or a "straight'" back (actually an S curve). The same teacher also noted that he had been sent many American students in Japan who had fallen down the other rabbit hole of obsession with posture or breathing. It was hard to get them to breathe without strain and effort or sit without forced rigidity. Others have noted more generally the uncomfortable relationship with the body that many in the US have (too stiffly rigid or too artificial in trying to be natural and relaxed).
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Re: Proposed group

Postby Meido on Thu Apr 20, 2017 6:24 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:For his purposes, I hope flutemaster will follow through and start such a group at some other private URL as I think he means to.


partofit22 wrote:That said, there's nothing the matter when some companions share a specific interest and wish to discuss it without interruption -- and be a bit more intimate- Any individual might be inclined to speak a little more freely in a small closed group opposed to an open one-


Still wondering, though: what criteria to be invited?

I could see the usefulness of such a private group for folks sharing a common background, for example, students of the same teacher.

Will watch with interest to see what develops with this.

Caodemarte wrote:At the risk of diverting a thoughtful discussion, may I ask Meido if his book introducing such practices will be published and if so when, or is it for internal use?


It will be published by Shambhala, should be available Feb/March of next year. Will keep folks posted.

~ Meido
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The Rinzai Zen Community: http://www.rinzaizen.org
Korinji monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺]: http://www.korinji.org
Madison Rinzai Zen Community/Ryugen-ji [機山龍源寺]: http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
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Re: Proposed group

Postby flutemaker on Thu Apr 20, 2017 6:57 pm

Meido wrote:Here is a thread in which we discussed that image you mention, FM: viewtopic.php?f=64&t=9182

I wonder if what's written there is helpful?

To not worry about maintaining a continuity - trying to be like the thread of a mala which connects moments in time (beads) - but rather just to become each bead with all one's senses, body, breath, and mind, is a description of how to practice.


What's written there is helpful in that it clarifies yours, Omori Sogen's and some other posters position. It doesn't exactly relate to what I would want to inquire about.

I am by no means considering "a conscious effort to continue a state, thought or mode of being". Nor "trying to be like". How? Let's look at the Omori's "writing a line". I can put my total effort into "writing" (as in "doing"), or I can put it into "observing" how the line is coming out (as if, for example, you were writing that line, not me). Or I can split the effort: while "writing" -- at the same time "observing" that which is coming out -- simultaneously. Even further, I can (maybe "suddenly" or "unexpectedly") realize that there is something deep and "underlying", the "core" -- in the "background" of all and everything that's going on, both the "writing" and the "observing" including. I have difficulty selecting the right wording for expressing this, as none of that which I wrote above here would hit it.

To further complicate the issue, Gregory says, "continuity is inconceivable". To go even further, he states strongly that all this relates to only the post-awakening mode of practice, i.e. the place where I have never been to. I'd only guess that when one unintentionally follows that which has to be practiced at this stage, one is like a blind man building a house, or a deaf one playing music. Doesn't mean the blind can't accomplish it, doesn't mean there are no musicians of such sort, but just means that the one with the eyes open is always in a much better position.

Anyways, my "gut feeling" and "intuition", though cannot replace clear eye of wisdom, are telling me against that which Gregory is putting as "continuity is inconceivable". Nor can they lead me to the clear seeing that which would qualify for the "continuity".

And not exactly "What is this?" nor "Who is seeing, hearing, thinking, etc." is expressing this properly. Rather, just following the naturally arising inquiry into that "place" where intuition is pointing, with no exact location, definition, direction, taste, smell, or feeling that I can clearly define. But this is an inquiry. And related to the "continuity" (?) which is "underlying" (??) the ever-changing stream ("impermanence").

That's it. Thoroughly complicated, unclear and messy in words. But very much clear [for me] practice-wise.
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