Untraditional zazen?

Untraditional zazen?

Postby ZenChai » Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:51 pm

I am beyond frustrated at this point and in dire need of some advise concerning meditation.
I'v been practicing zazen for 7 years. In these 7 years I have only rarely experienced my mind at rest, being in the now, one pointedly concentrated.
By now I have done every single permutation of beginning zazen there is from different breath counting techniques, focusing on the dantien, the breath coming and going from the nose, the lot.

Recently a friend of mine wanted me to try a sahaja meditation technique. To my amazement I came into a focused yet relaxed state of one pointed concentration.
The technique is simple as can be: but your attention on the breath and the mind on the top of the head. Not visualizing but just resting the mind there.
It seems to me a permutation of basic zazen, however. What now kills me is that though I'v reached a state of one pointed concentration I am affraid it's not zazen and I'm not doing Buddhist practice.

My question is: Can I use this technique in my zazen even though it's not a traditional approach?

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Re: Untraditional zazen?

Postby Jikan » Mon Jun 16, 2014 3:44 pm

I'm going to venture a hypothesis here. Please forgive if my hunch is completely wrong.

Over time, have you accumulated a certain amount of tension or frustration regarding your meditation practice? In contrast, when you tried the Sahaja technique you describe, did you let yourself relax into it a bit, because you're just giving it a whirl with no pressure and no expectations?

If you can honestly answer "yes" to both questions, then I think you may have some insight into the difference you experienced. Stable concentration requires an element of relaxation. Not too loose but not too tight either. Expectations and frustrations are not friends to stable concentration.

If so, then what would happen if you kind of snuck up on yourself in a sense, or just allowed yourself to sit there like you're waiting on a train platform but with no ticket and no itinerary, no past and no future, counting to ten with your breath? going nowhere, doing fine...

This kind of advice was helpful to me once, so I hope it's helpful to you.
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Re: Untraditional zazen?

Postby Astus » Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:05 pm

There are all sorts of methods that people call zazen. How is it different if you focus on your belly or your head? It is still something you focus on. And if you prefer your head, or your toe, or whatever, that's fine as long as it helps you gain some level of relaxed concentration. Once you are relaxed and focused at the same time, you can then start to go to the next level.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Untraditional zazen?

Postby duckfiasco » Mon Jun 16, 2014 5:28 pm

From one monkey mind addict to another, I've found this book and particularly this passage helpful:

Ezra Bayda, 'The Authentic Life' wrote:The third major obstacle we encounter on the spiritual path is our deep-seated desire to feel a particular way, whether it's calm or clear or spacious or simply free of anxiety. This obstacle is so universal and so deeply entrenched that we are guaranteed to get stuck in it again and again. In fact, whenever we feel frustrated in any way, if we simply ask, "How is it supposed to be?" we'll see that our discomfort is based, at least in part, on the entitled belief that we should feel different, namely better.

Probably all of us share in the illusion that if we practice long enough and hard enough, we'll get what we want -- enlightenment, good health, a satisfying relationship, or whatever else we're seeking. The hope is that in getting the reward, we will then feel the way we want to feel, and be happy.

We can tell that we're still harboring this illusion if we believe that not feeling good or experiencing distress means that something is wrong -- or even that something is wrong with us. This persistent belief drives us to do whatever we can to alleviate our discomfort. We think if we just practice harder, we're sure to feel better. We should never underestimate the extent to which we equate feeling better with being awake. But a key point about spiritual practice is that we don't have to feel any particular way.


Also don't be afraid to begin your session with mantras such as manis or the nembutsu, or whatever may help you relax or at least put you in a more receptive state of mind to what's going on right now.
The nembutsu specifically has helped me no longer be so distressed and "nothing works" about my practice and the restlestnsess.
You may also benefit from the perennial classic "Opening the Hand of Thought" by Kosho Uchiyama which helped me clarify greatly just how much practice includes.
Namu Amida Butsu
The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.
- Sengcan (tr. Suzuki)
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Re: Untraditional zazen?

Postby seeker242 » Mon Jun 16, 2014 6:29 pm

Sounds fine to me. :smile:
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!
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Re: Untraditional zazen?

Postby ZenChai » Mon Jun 16, 2014 9:12 pm

Jikan: You have really given me something to think about. I have noticed that I always tense up when I hear the bell ring. I'v tried to change my experience by sitting in a different position and meditating on a whim rather then always going by the book as it where.

Astus: I'm very happy to hear your thoughts. It makes me feel much more relaxed about my sitting periods knowing that the technique is not "heretical" if I need to use it :)

duckfiasco: I'm very intrigued by nembutsu. I'd like to learn more if you have resources. I tried it for one session and it did set the mood in a very relaxing way so thank you for that. The quote was good food for thought.

I'd love to hear more responses :)
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Re: Untraditional zazen?

Postby Jikan » Mon Jun 16, 2014 9:34 pm

This approach may or may not be of interest.

http://www.culturabuddhista.it/joomla/i ... ation.html

I've found chanting practice generally (including nembutsu but not limited to that) to be a tremendous form of meditation practice in itself. It also complements seated meditation in remarkable and unexpected ways.

Enjoy your practice, ZenChai!
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Re: Untraditional zazen?

Postby theanarchist » Mon Jun 16, 2014 10:35 pm

Not a Zen advice, but you might find the approach of Tibetan buddhist dzogchen useful. if you have a problem with too much tension/subtle expectations creeping in as soon as you are supposed to "meditate"
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Re: Untraditional zazen?

Postby duckfiasco » Mon Jun 16, 2014 11:14 pm

ZenChai wrote:duckfiasco: I'm very intrigued by nembutsu. I'd like to learn more if you have resources. I tried it for one session and it did set the mood in a very relaxing way so thank you for that. The quote was good food for thought.

I'd love to hear more responses :)

That was my experience also. I said the nembutsu without much idea of what it was, and there seemed to be some kind of "response". For me, it changed the direction of my practice from a primarily Soto Zen approach to introducing the nembutsu and elements of Pure Land Buddhism, specifically the Jodo Shinshu school.

I really relate to your frustration because I also feel like I'm dragged around by the nostrils into all kinds of daydreams and mental chatter. Really stupid stuff, like a TV channel turns on and I can't help but watch it. It's not a fun place to be in.
A big part of my practice has become tenderly working with this discouragement.
A mantra, and specifically for me the nembutsu as an expression of Other-Power, can be a most skillful medicine for a mind trying to strangle itself into peace, seemingly unable to let go of its own craziness.

I started a thread recently that might be of help: http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=34&t=16683

Let us know how things go for you :cheers:
Namu Amida Butsu
The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.
- Sengcan (tr. Suzuki)
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Re: Untraditional zazen?

Postby Wayfarer » Tue Jun 17, 2014 7:34 am

I've been practicing zazen for 7 years.


Good work! Soon you will understand perfectly how to relinquish all expectation.
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
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Re: Untraditional zazen?

Postby oushi » Tue Jun 17, 2014 7:46 am

Wayfarer wrote:
I've been practicing zazen for 7 years.


Good work! Soon you will understand perfectly how to relinquish all expectation.

Really? If I may ask, how many year did it take you to arrive at that wonderful stage of perfect understanding? Certainly you must be talking from that place now.
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Re: Untraditional zazen?

Postby Matt J » Tue Jun 17, 2014 11:24 am

Zazen, as it is typically taught in Soto schools, is not quite the same as other meditation techniques. I know this having spent a great deal of time in Theravada practices which can be very specific. But zazen is not like that at all. In zazen, there is no goal to reach. It is not that one forces the world to change according to preference, but one comes to the world as it is.

Here is an article on that matter:

http://susuddho.blogspot.jp/2012/05/issho-fujita-zazen-is-not-shuzen.html
The Great Way is not difficult
If only there is no picking or choosing
--- Xin Xin Ming

http://nondualism.org/
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Re: Untraditional zazen?

Postby kirtu » Tue Jun 17, 2014 1:48 pm

Astus wrote:There are all sorts of methods that people call zazen. How is it different if you focus on your belly or your head?


The difference is that meditating on certain points on the body really has different effects.

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"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
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Re: Untraditional zazen?

Postby kirtu » Tue Jun 17, 2014 2:03 pm

ZenChai wrote:It seems to me a permutation of basic zazen, however. What now kills me is that though I'v reached a state of one pointed concentration I am affraid it's not zazen and I'm not doing Buddhist practice.

My question is: Can I use this technique in my zazen even though it's not a traditional approach?


In my opinion you can use it. However, as mentioned in other postings, you do need to drop your expectations. However if this helps you maintain a one-pointed mind then you should probably use it. This is also a Taoist technique btw. You will need to be careful as, from a Taoist perspective, this is stimulating qi. The Sahaja lineage is designed too result in kundalini awakening so it is also a subtle energy system. As a result you will need to be careful. Probably you will want to alternate between focusing on the top of the head and the dantien.

BTW - changing one's focus in various forms due to individual conditions/situations is in fact found in all Buddhist meditation lineages. Technique is not what distinguishes Buddhism and non-Buddhism. Zen transcends technique even though it has a set of traditional techniques.

If you want to attain some degree of samadhi, one-pointedness is not samadhi by itself.

Kirt
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Re: Untraditional zazen?

Postby Luke » Tue Jun 17, 2014 5:22 pm

ZenChai wrote:Recently a friend of mine wanted me to try a sahaja meditation technique. To my amazement I came into a focused yet relaxed state of one pointed concentration.
The technique is simple as can be: but your attention on the breath and the mind on the top of the head. Not visualizing but just resting the mind there.
It seems to me a permutation of basic zazen, however. What now kills me is that though I'v reached a state of one pointed concentration I am affraid it's not zazen and I'm not doing Buddhist practice.

My question is: Can I use this technique in my zazen even though it's not a traditional approach?

I'll give my opinion, but I am very much a beginner at Zen and I am perhaps the worst Soto Zen Buddhist on the planet, so keep this in mind... lol

In shikantaza, you continually bring your attention back to keeping your spine and straight and back to your breathing (although later you can let go of these things). Your technique of focusing on the top of your head isn't bad, but maybe just extend your focus to keep your spine straight as well. I remember reading one Soto Zen teacher saying that your spine should be "straight like a spear which is piercing the ceiling."

Also, have you ever meditated with a Buddhist group? This can make a world of difference! Not everyone can meditate well on their own.

Best of luck to you. :namaste:
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Re: Untraditional zazen?

Postby Astus » Tue Jun 17, 2014 5:37 pm

kirtu wrote:The difference is that meditating on certain points on the body really has different effects.


If what matters is to gain a calm, steady, concentrated mind, then practically any meditation object can be used as long as it works. The 40 kammatthana are as good as all the peaceful and wrathful deities. However, Huineng's tradition is not about developing a serene mind and gaining various levels of one pointedness. Although, it could be said that if one wants to master samatha, one might as well follow some reliable path for that.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Untraditional zazen?

Postby duckfiasco » Tue Jun 17, 2014 7:38 pm

Also important to remember that coming back again and again is zazen. It's not as though zazen is having some blank mind, and if you don't have that, your zazen is a failure.
I can't recommend that Uchiyama book strongly enough.
Namu Amida Butsu
The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.
- Sengcan (tr. Suzuki)
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Re: Untraditional zazen?

Postby rory » Wed Jun 18, 2014 7:56 am

I tried zen Soto, Rinzai, Korean you name it for years as a teenager. I had no problem sitting, but had no results even though I calmed my mind a bit. I didn't change. I found chanting really great, I started with Pure Land chanting and then tried a multi-practice school like Tendai. I recommend it. I could see the change in myself. There is an excellent technique of walking Nenbutsu, prescribed by Zhiyi the founder of Tiantai in his massive book on meditation Maka Shikan, it might be just the thing for you. This is Rev. Jikai Dehn's practice so you could ask him. Multi-practice schools are much more helpful to the individual, as there are so many different practices you can try and then you find what works for you. I chant mantras, have a devotion to Kannon-sama, meditate and study Yogacara and Avatamsaka philosophy.
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Re: Untraditional zazen?

Postby lobster » Wed Jun 18, 2014 11:59 pm

Some useful encouragement from the guys :twothumbsup:

Untraditional zazen, non Buddhist . . . whatever next . . . heretical Zen perhaps?

After effort, ease, after ease, effort.

We haz plan! :meditate:
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Re: Untraditional zazen?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu Jun 19, 2014 3:39 am

My understanding is that for meditation on an object, it really doesn't matter so much whether you use belly, nostrils, head, a visual object, or whatever. Anyway, One-pointed concentration meditations exist all over the spiritual spectrum, they are not only in Buddhadharma.

Really though, if you're having trouble, asking/getting a teacher is always a great idea...hearing "yes you can use your head" from someone you trust as a teacher will likely have a great effect on your practice, I would think.
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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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