Historic interruption of sitting silent practice

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Historic interruption of sitting silent practice

Postby Jox » Mon Sep 09, 2013 9:42 pm

Hi all,

it seems to me that "meditation" and "meditation retreats" have died out until the end of the 19th century, until the Eastern Buddhists saw interest by Westerners, in particular British, in meditation. The same was for yoga and Hindu practices.

Nobody in Asia meditates as we in the West do, this is something new: my teacher was ShiFu Sheng-Yen, but including teachers Mauzemi Roshi, Chogyam Trumpa, and Goenka reading biographies it is not clear how far the meditation lineage goes, or doesn't.

Was "sitting practice" reinvented, including the retreats? In those lines the format of Zen retreats, where does it come from? Indian meditation and yoga masters are clear that the practice died out and was "reinvented".

Are any academic works about this topic?

thank you
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Re: Historic interruption of sitting silent practice

Postby dzogchungpa » Mon Sep 09, 2013 10:53 pm

I don't know about other countries, but certainly in Tibet sitting practice existed. Here is a quote from Chagdud Tulku's autobiography:
One day, when I was about four, a nun arrived at the door. She had made the long journey from Lhasa at the request of my father, Sera Kharto Tulku, and she was there to teach me how to meditate. She gave me no instructions regarding what to contemplate or how to hold my mind, but she was an expert in enforcing proper meditation posture. She made me sit with my back absolutely straight and rigid, my legs crossed and my feet resting soles-up on my thighs, my hands on my knees, my chin tucked in and my tongue curled back to the roof of my mouth. Some days she made me close my eyes, and if I opened them, she thumped me on the forehead and said, "Meditate." Some days my eyes had to be open in an immovable gaze. If I dozed, she thumped me. "Meditate." This went on from the moment I awoke until bedtime, for weeks or perhaps months.
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Re: Historic interruption of sitting silent practice

Postby Jinzang » Mon Sep 09, 2013 11:06 pm

Jox wrote:Hi all,

it seems to me that "meditation" and "meditation retreats" have died out until the end of the 19th century, until the Eastern Buddhists saw interest by Westerners, in particular British, in meditation. The same was for yoga and Hindu practices.

Nobody in Asia meditates as we in the West do, this is something new: my teacher was ShiFu Sheng-Yen, but including teachers Mauzemi Roshi, Chogyam Trumpa, and Goenka reading biographies it is not clear how far the meditation lineage goes, or doesn't.


If you read the biographies of Buddhist masters from any century you will see that this is not the case.
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Re: Historic interruption of sitting silent practice

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Sep 10, 2013 3:10 am

My teacher has said that the reason this seems so is because Eastern laypeople tend not to practice much sitting meditation, nor be terribly interested in philosophy, they are more into ritaul and merit making aspects. Whereas, in the West, laypeople's interests (success in the endeavor is another question totally heh) tend to line up somewhat closer to those of monastics and yogis. Again no statement on whether anyone is or isn't successful, but it is seems to be the case.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Historic interruption of sitting silent practice

Postby Wayfarer » Tue Sep 10, 2013 7:53 am

There was a column on about a year back by lay Zen teacher Lewis Richmond called Why Most Buddhists In The World Don't Meditate.

These days, monks in Asia, weighed down by centuries of tradition and custom, have in some cases lost touch with this universal aspect of sitting, and no longer have a clear understanding of why to do it. One Zen monk from Japan who was visiting a Zen retreat center in America observed the enthusiasm and numbers of meditators with astonishment. "How do you get them to meditate without beating them?" he asked. In his training temple in Japan, the young monks disliked meditation, and saw it as an unpleasant burden.


It's hard to generalize, though. I think the Thai and Burmese Forest tradition have always maintained an emphasis on 'sitting'. I'm sure, despite the above article, that there have been some Zen centres in Japan where the practice has continued also.

Quite why sitting meditation is given such significant in Western Buddhism is an interesting question. I suppose the other book I could mention is The Making of Buddhist Modernism by David McMahan. I have only read excerpts of it, but it seems quite a good critical study.
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
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Re: Historic interruption of sitting silent practice

Postby Jox » Tue Sep 10, 2013 4:16 pm

Hi all,

thank you for your answers. I read all the sources, and I feel very.... not even able to say how... maybe hurt and cheated, I am a Zen practicioner, and in 25 years of uninterrupted practice it seem that I was practicing discovering the lies of teachers.

In blog referd: Why Most Buddhists In The World Don't Meditate, in SF Zen Center, I could say the same, but in the 1990's, while I was part of Ch'an center in NYC. It was a very painful experience over years discovering that my teacher is actually "preaching" and lying about his own practice.

After I came to terms that my theacher Shi Fu Sheng Yen actually doesn't care about meditation, and on the other hand advertises himself that he spend 6 years in the cave, I came to another dissapointment in Daramshala India, living among Tibetan monks... nobody meditated to say the least.

Was Suzuki Roshi the same as my master? the same as Chogyam Trumpa..... and then I saw this article:

http://www.tm.org/blog/meditation/buddhist-monks/

Sorry guys for the confusing post, I feel like crying more then anything else. I will create another cohesive post regarding what is going on in my path.

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Re: Historic interruption of sitting silent practice

Postby Seishin » Tue Sep 10, 2013 5:49 pm

I think you may be confused. The article you posted says that the monks were learning Transcendental Meditation. As this forum states:
TM is a Hindu form of mantra meditation, and it has no counterpart in classical Theravada.

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=11203
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Re: Historic interruption of sitting silent practice

Postby Seishin » Tue Sep 10, 2013 5:54 pm

Meditation is part of Buddhism. A big part. It is indeed practised by the ordained members of sangha throughout the world. What has changed is the number of lay people practising meditation. This had increased exponentially since Buddhism came to the west.

It is also worth noting, that meditation is just one part of ones practice. If you live in a monastery, you don't meditate all day everyday. There are chores to be done, lessons to give, reading, discussing, eating, sleeping, cleaning.....

I'm not sure where you got the idea that Master Sheng Yen doesn't care for meditation. Care to share the source?

Gassho,
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Re: Historic interruption of sitting silent practice

Postby Jox » Tue Sep 10, 2013 8:13 pm

Seishin,

I am in mourning, confusion, and feel betrayed by meditation teachers, when my minds gets more clear, and my emotions calm down, I will be glad to answer your questions regarding my teacher Shi-Fu Seng Yen.

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Re: Historic interruption of sitting silent practice

Postby Seishin » Tue Sep 10, 2013 8:19 pm

I'd be interested in hearing exactly how your meditation teachers have betrayed you. Take all the time you need.

Gassho
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