basic Zen questions

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Johnny Dangerous
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basic Zen questions

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Jan 27, 2013 7:22 pm

So I have some basic questions about Zen, i'm involved in another tradition now but I consider my time in Zen really valuable...i'm actually finding more and more how valuable it was in the context of doing Shamatha. I've found that (I think) partially due to Zen, I have a fairly easy time with "just sitting"..i.e. I can find concentration on nothing or everything as easily as I can concentration on objects, call it non concentration too I guess lol...and in fact I think I prefer this in some ways to object-focused meditation.

Anyway:

The Zendo I went to (sort of a non-sectarian but I believe Soto-based) was pretty minimal in terms of instruction outside of Dokusan or something, there's just the han drum and you sit. I don't think I was ever actually instructed in specifics outside of ritual, Oryoki and whatnot. Maybe breath counting...

I'm wondering, how typical are detailed instructions on meditation in Zen? I gather that part of the point of Zen practice is the austerity and quietism, and that this is, in essence the "technique" in that there actually isn't a technique to be taught.. I'm no scholar, but i've read a general survey of more popular Zen writings, and i'm not recalling a whole lot on how to actually meditate in terms of instructions on mental focus and similar..am I missing something, or is this by design?
May the eyes of living beings be gladdened by skies made splendid by clouds
that lightnings garland, while on earth below, the peacocks dance with joy as
showers of rain, falling gently, approach.

-The Door Of Happiness

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Astus
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Re: basic Zen questions

Postby Astus » Sun Jan 27, 2013 7:50 pm

Many Zen groups provide instructions for newcomers. If they didn't you should just ask, or maybe it's on their website. Otherwise you can read online and in books.

Here is a good one from the Soto teacher Shohaku Okumura: Zazen instruction

This is a classic teaching by the great Hanshan Deqing: Essentials of Practice and Enlightenment for Beginners

You should also familiarise yourself with Zhiyi's shorter meditation instruction for a more in depth knowledge: The Essentials of Buddhist Meditation
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: basic Zen questions

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Jan 27, 2013 7:56 pm

Astus wrote:Many Zen groups provide instructions for newcomers. If they didn't you should just ask, or maybe it's on their website. Otherwise you can read online and in books.

Here is a good one from the Soto teacher Shohaku Okumura: Zazen instruction

This is a classic teaching by the great Hanshan Deqing: Essentials of Practice and Enlightenment for Beginners

You should also familiarise yourself with Zhiyi's shorter meditation instruction for a more in depth knowledge: The Essentials of Buddhist Meditation



Thanks Astus, this is what I am saying though...in traditions that use stuff like Shamatha and Vipasanna you are directed to use the mind in certain ways, this kind of method seems absent from Zen practice with little talk about directing the mind one way or another. Most of the basic instruction seems to be mudra, posture, but little talk about the mind making any sort of directed effort. Is this pretty much part and parcel of Zen, being "objectless"? Is it antithetical to Zen to actually try to direct the mind, or to "try" at all in that sense, this is the impression I have always had.

It definitely was not intended as a complaint of lack of instruction if it came out that way.

I guess i'm coming at it from the point of view of my own experiences, struggling to understand the relationship between Shamatha, say breath-focused, and Zen type meditation. Is Shikantaza the same as Shamatha without an object, or is it something else entirely? Is it Vipassana without analysis?

I know they are ridiculous questions but they are coming up for me now that I have moved to another tradition, and am trying to reconcile my habits.
May the eyes of living beings be gladdened by skies made splendid by clouds
that lightnings garland, while on earth below, the peacocks dance with joy as
showers of rain, falling gently, approach.

-The Door Of Happiness

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Astus
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Re: basic Zen questions

Postby Astus » Sun Jan 27, 2013 8:30 pm

Zen can utilise any meditation technique. Shikantaza is just one of them, while at the same time there are others too. So, if your question is about Shikantaza, then look at the first link by Okamura roshi.

The "mental technique" of Shikantaza is what is called no-thought (wunian/munen) in other Chan texts, the central method of sudden enlightenment since Heze Shenhui (or Huineng in traditional Zen history, see the Platform Sutra), otherwise called prajnaparamita in the sutras. It simply means not attaching to anything but being aware of everything at the same time. Just as Okamura writes, "In zazen we simply allow any thought, feeling or emotion to come up and then we simply let them go away; we actually do nothing." This is not shamatha nor is it vipashyana, if anything it is both at the same time. You don't block anything (shamatha - imperturbable), and you don't drop anything (vipashayana - aware).
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: basic Zen questions

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Jan 27, 2013 8:31 pm

Astus wrote:Zen can utilise any meditation technique. Shikantaza is just one of them, while at the same time there are others too. So, if your question is about Shikantaza, then look at the first link by Okamura roshi.

The "mental technique" of Shikantaza is what is called no-thought (wunian/munen) in other Chan texts, the central method of sudden enlightenment since Heze Shenhui (or Huineng in traditional Zen history, see the Platform Sutra), otherwise called prajnaparamita in the sutras. It simply means not attaching to anything but being aware of everything at the same time. Just as Okamura writes, "In zazen we simply allow any thought, feeling or emotion to come up and then we simply let them go away; we actually do nothing." This is not shamatha nor is it vipashyana, if anything it is both at the same time. You don't block anything (shamatha - imperturbable), and you don't drop anything (vipashayana - aware).


Both at the same time..that answers it for me pretty succinctly..thanks, and I will look in detail at that link.
May the eyes of living beings be gladdened by skies made splendid by clouds
that lightnings garland, while on earth below, the peacocks dance with joy as
showers of rain, falling gently, approach.

-The Door Of Happiness

Jinzang
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Re: basic Zen questions

Postby Jinzang » Mon Jan 28, 2013 12:54 am

It's not that unusual for a Soto Zen group not to give specific instructions on what to do during meditation. Not telling students what to do is part of the technique.
"It's as plain as the nose on your face!" Dottie Primrose

floating_abu
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Re: basic Zen questions

Postby floating_abu » Sun Feb 10, 2013 6:36 pm

You have to keep at it
:namaste:


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