The goal/stages/results of Zen meditation?

The goal/stages/results of Zen meditation?

Postby /johnny\ » Thu Jul 19, 2012 3:58 am

THE SHORT VERSION

Are there stages in Zen meditation? What is progress? how does it work? Why is it not clearly laid out by teachers and in books? I meditated Zen style for years and went from scattered thoughts in the beginning too eventually a totally calm mind, and I sat with this blank mind, it led too sleep, clearly this is wrong. what am I missing?

THE LONG VERSION

As I stated in another post, I've never really done much training with a teacher. What little instruction I did receive was mostly "focus on your breathing" and nothing more. When I asked about stages and progression I got vague statements and kind of brushed off, I didn't know it at the time but I was asking the teacher about the different levels of jhana, he just said "those are just mind states" and we moved on too another topic.

In reading probably fifteen too twenty books on Zen I have never seen any talk of different stages or progression in Zen meditation (at least not any that was clearly laid out). What am I missing here? Even if there's not clearly laid out stages like in some types of Theravada meditation, there has too be signs of progress and changes in the mind that lead too development, right?

If so, why has no one systematized it? Why is there no "stages of meditation" manual for Zen?

In my own experience with some odd years of Zen meditation went like this:

sit with breath, scattered thoughts mostly. six months later, sit, more focus. six months later, more focus. six months later, even more focus... repeat, repeat, repeat, and then, after years of this, I came too a stalemate where there was total focus and next too zero thoughts. I started falling asleep and got too the point where this was what happened every time, within five minutes or less, I was nodding. no matter how much I tried or how long I meditated, sleep. Hence, I moved too Theravada meditation. But obviously I was doing something wrong, right?
/johnny\
 
Posts: 57
Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2012 7:06 pm

Re: The goal/stages/results of Zen meditation?

Postby Sara H » Thu Jul 19, 2012 4:27 am

This is something that is highly likely to bring you a lot of different answers and opinions based on people's notions, strongly held beliefs, and personal experiences.

My personal advice, is that this is something I would bring up and talk to a qualified Buddhist Monk about.

I'm sure some people may say yes, some people may say no, some people may say in between, some people may say depending upon...
And it's possible there will be discussion back and forth regarding who is or is not correct.

There is an answer to this question.
And,

I would talk to an expert about this.

Simply because even if some people here know the answer to that question, and it's entirely possible some do, a Monk has been trained specifically in explaining the Dharma, so they will be better prepared to answer that question more fully and with more experience in answering that question so as to avoid explaining it incorrectly.

You can at least be sure, (and be able to verify), that a monk has been trained in the Dharma and in teaching it, and has received some certification that they have some idea what they are talking about.

In Gasshō,
Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
User avatar
Sara H
 
Posts: 531
Joined: Sat Jun 23, 2012 11:51 pm
Location: On Hiatus from Dharmawheel.

Re: The goal/stages/results of Zen meditation?

Postby Meido » Thu Jul 19, 2012 5:00 am

/johnny\ wrote:Are there stages in Zen meditation? What is progress? how does it work? Why is it not clearly laid out by teachers and in books?


It is very clearly laid out by teachers and in books.

On the Ch'an side, check out the late Sheng-yen's writings. He is well known for his very lucid descriptions of the stages and progress of practice.

On the Japanese Zen side, read Torei Enji's Shumon Mujintoron, translated as The Inexhaustible Lamp of the Zen School (London Zen Centre version) and The Undying Lamp of Zen by Cleary. It lays out the Rinzai training system from beginning (recognition of one's true nature/kensho) to end (integration/embodiment of that recognition, actualization of 4 wisdoms/3 bodies), including common pitfalls and what happens when one gets stuck in stages or doesn't complete the training.

Another important, pithy and very kind explanation of the entire Zen path is Hakuin's Keiso Dokuzui, available online here: http://www.kaihan.com/fives.htm. In fact, any of Hakuin's writings - and a lot have been translated - would be valuable.

As for the Soto side of things I'm less familiar with texts but I'm certain someone else here can offer more suggestions.

/johnny\ wrote:I meditated Zen style for years and went from scattered thoughts in the beginning too eventually a totally calm mind, and I sat with this blank mind, it led too sleep, clearly this is wrong. what am I missing?


The entire path of Zen practice is summed up in the well-known lines, "Direct pointing at the mind/Seeing [one's true] nature and becoming Buddha". Settling of the mind is wonderful but not yet Zen. Blank sleepiness is, as you've grasped, a mistaken direction. I don't know you or the details of your practice history, but what you are/were missing may be a teacher who can clarify what "direct pointing", "seeing nature" and "becoming Buddha" actually mean.

~ Meido
User avatar
Meido
 
Posts: 149
Joined: Mon Mar 21, 2011 2:50 am

Re: The goal/stages/results of Zen meditation?

Postby Astus » Thu Jul 19, 2012 9:41 am

There are stages described from early on. Things about Zen are confusing because it is not a unified method and teachers say so many different things, and so on and on.

It is wonderful you got to a very calm state. That is samatha as you know. Unfortunately, even samatha requires awareness. That you fall asleep, it's normal. However, to look for proper instructions in Zen books about this is a lost cause, you won't really find it. Why? Because Zen comes later, it deals with high class vipasyana. So, your choice of switching to Theravada was appropriate, if you managed to get the right training. If you want to use what the Zen trainees used, you should study the meditation manuals of Zhiyi. You can find great translations of two important works of him on Ven. Dharmamitra's site and you can also order them as books.

Other sources you can use besides Theravada ones that you are probably already familiar with (e.g. Ajahn Brahm's books), you can use Tibetan manuals that are mainly based on Indian works, like Gen Lamrimpa: Calming the Mind, Lati Rinpoche: Meditative States in Tibetan Buddhism and Khenchen Thrangu: The Practice of Tranquility and Insight.

If you are looking for Zen's stages of realisations, there are some, but it's nothing unified. So, like there are three steps descibed by Baizhang Huaihai (alleged teacher of Linji Yixuan) as (1) don't grasp appearances, (2) don't attach to not grasping, (3) don't make a concept of not attaching. And there are others like this. However, these are not really meditation stages but wisdom. It is the realisation of the middle way, the unity of samadhi and prajna, emptiness and dependent origination, essence and function, etc. Since the nature of mind is already empty and aware, there is nothing to develop or attain, only to realise this fact for yourself. That's how Zen has no real stages. But, it is still possible to devise some levels, like using the 10 bodhisattva stages, or the whole 52 stages system, or as Ven. Shengyan summarised it as (1) calm mind, (2) unified mind, (3) and no mind.
"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)
User avatar
Astus
Former staff member
 
Posts: 4170
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:22 pm
Location: Budapest

Re: The goal/stages/results of Zen meditation?

Postby Meido » Thu Jul 19, 2012 4:54 pm

Astus makes the important point that "Zen" is not a single unified entity. It's a family of lineages with often unique styles and methods passed down in teaching lines. I would not say there is disagreement, though, on the general course and goal of practice even when "house styles" - practice methods and emphasis - differ. Again, a good teacher should be able to apply appropriate methods to help you deal with whatever obstacles arise, e.g. blankness/dullness in meditation. The calmness and stability you developed are in fact necessary, and foundational practices are often given in many Zen lines to develop exactly those qualities.

Astus wrote:Since the nature of mind is already empty and aware, there is nothing to develop or attain, only to realise this fact for yourself. That's how Zen has no real stages. But, it is still possible to devise some levels, like using the 10 bodhisattva stages, or the whole 52 stages system, or as Ven. Shengyan summarised it as (1) calm mind, (2) unified mind, (3) and no mind.


While "to realise this fact for yourself" is the point of Zen practice, it's important to point out that "realise" in the sense of the fruition of Zen practice means "integrate, embody, bring all activities of body/speech/mind into accord with". It is possible for a practitioner to come to that full fruition all at once. But since this is not the case for almost everyone, again, I think it important to stress that Zen does indeed have defined stages and progress...even if the insight into one's nature which is the gate and basis of Zen practice is not something new one "gains", and so is not something progressively attained.

So we always end up talking about levels, real stages, development and attainment. As Astus points out, there are various formulations of these stages. Whichever of them one uses (according to the tradition of one's teacher, I presume) is not so important: the important thing is not to stop halfway through, and I think all traditions of Zen would agree on that. Sheng-yen's three stages of calming mind, unifying mind and no-mind are a description of the approach to the initial entering into the "realm of Ch'an", or seeing one's nature...not the entire course of practice. Thus he will also say: "Nevertheless, a newly enlightened person who has just entered the realm of Ch’an is still at the starting section of the entire passage of Ch’an. He is like one who has just had his first sip of port. He knows its taste now, but the wine will not remain in his mouth forever. The purpose of Ch’an is not just to let you take one sip, but to have your entire life merge with and dissolve in the wine, even, to the point that you forget the existence of yourself and the wine."

At least on the Japanese Rinzai side of things, the understanding of stages and progress along the path is shared in a unified manner from line to line. If you have any interest in that, check out the text I mentioned from Torei for a good overview of how it's concretely applied in practice.

~ Meido
User avatar
Meido
 
Posts: 149
Joined: Mon Mar 21, 2011 2:50 am

Re: The goal/stages/results of Zen meditation?

Postby /johnny\ » Thu Jul 19, 2012 8:41 pm

Meido wrote:
/johnny\ wrote:Are there stages in Zen meditation? What is progress? how does it work? Why is it not clearly laid out by teachers and in books?


It is very clearly laid out by teachers and in books.

On the Ch'an side, check out the late Sheng-yen's writings. He is well known for his very lucid descriptions of the stages and progress of practice.

On the Japanese Zen side, read Torei Enji's Shumon Mujintoron, translated as The Inexhaustible Lamp of the Zen School (London Zen Centre version) and The Undying Lamp of Zen by Cleary. It lays out the Rinzai training system from beginning (recognition of one's true nature/kensho) to end (integration/embodiment of that recognition, actualization of 4 wisdoms/3 bodies), including common pitfalls and what happens when one gets stuck in stages or doesn't complete the training.

Another important, pithy and very kind explanation of the entire Zen path is Hakuin's Keiso Dokuzui, available online here: http://www.kaihan.com/fives.htm. In fact, any of Hakuin's writings - and a lot have been translated - would be valuable.

As for the Soto side of things I'm less familiar with texts but I'm certain someone else here can offer more suggestions.

/johnny\ wrote:I meditated Zen style for years and went from scattered thoughts in the beginning too eventually a totally calm mind, and I sat with this blank mind, it led too sleep, clearly this is wrong. what am I missing?


The entire path of Zen practice is summed up in the well-known lines, "Direct pointing at the mind/Seeing [one's true] nature and becoming Buddha". Settling of the mind is wonderful but not yet Zen. Blank sleepiness is, as you've grasped, a mistaken direction. I don't know you or the details of your practice history, but what you are/were missing may be a teacher who can clarify what "direct pointing", "seeing nature" and "becoming Buddha" actually mean.

~ Meido


Indeed, perhaps I should speak too a teacher. I'm reading "wild ivy" by hakuin. It's fantastic!
Last edited by /johnny\ on Thu Jul 19, 2012 8:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
/johnny\
 
Posts: 57
Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2012 7:06 pm

Re: The goal/stages/results of Zen meditation?

Postby /johnny\ » Thu Jul 19, 2012 8:41 pm

Astus wrote:There are stages described from early on. Things about Zen are confusing because it is not a unified method and teachers say so many different things, and so on and on.

It is wonderful you got to a very calm state. That is samatha as you know. Unfortunately, even samatha requires awareness. That you fall asleep, it's normal. However, to look for proper instructions in Zen books about this is a lost cause, you won't really find it. Why? Because Zen comes later, it deals with high class vipasyana. So, your choice of switching to Theravada was appropriate, if you managed to get the right training. If you want to use what the Zen trainees used, you should study the meditation manuals of Zhiyi. You can find great translations of two important works of him on Ven. Dharmamitra's site and you can also order them as books.

Other sources you can use besides Theravada ones that you are probably already familiar with (e.g. Ajahn Brahm's books), you can use Tibetan manuals that are mainly based on Indian works, like Gen Lamrimpa: Calming the Mind, Lati Rinpoche: Meditative States in Tibetan Buddhism and Khenchen Thrangu: The Practice of Tranquility and Insight.

If you are looking for Zen's stages of realisations, there are some, but it's nothing unified. So, like there are three steps descibed by Baizhang Huaihai (alleged teacher of Linji Yixuan) as (1) don't grasp appearances, (2) don't attach to not grasping, (3) don't make a concept of not attaching. And there are others like this. However, these are not really meditation stages but wisdom. It is the realisation of the middle way, the unity of samadhi and prajna, emptiness and dependent origination, essence and function, etc. Since the nature of mind is already empty and aware, there is nothing to develop or attain, only to realise this fact for yourself. That's how Zen has no real stages. But, it is still possible to devise some levels, like using the 10 bodhisattva stages, or the whole 52 stages system, or as Ven. Shengyan summarised it as (1) calm mind, (2) unified mind, (3) and no mind.


wow, thanks for all the ideas! I'll look into these.
/johnny\
 
Posts: 57
Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2012 7:06 pm

Re: The goal/stages/results of Zen meditation?

Postby seeker242 » Thu Jul 19, 2012 9:54 pm

I really like Chan Master Sheng Yen's "3 stages of practice".

The Three Stages of Chan Meditation

At present [1977], the methods of meditation that I am teaching in the United States are divided into three stages.

Stage 1: To Balance the Development of Body and Mind in order to Attain Mental and Physical Health

Stage 2: From the Sense of the Small 'I'

Stage 3: From the Large 'I' to No 'I'


Of course he elaborates on each stage but that would be a long post! Easier to just post the link. :) http://www.westernchanfellowship.org/li ... t-is-chan/
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!
User avatar
seeker242
 
Posts: 727
Joined: Sat Mar 17, 2012 2:50 pm
Location: South Florida, USA

Re: The goal/stages/results of Zen meditation?

Postby /johnny\ » Thu Jul 19, 2012 10:27 pm

seeker242 wrote:I really like Chan Master Sheng Yen's "3 stages of practice".

The Three Stages of Chan Meditation

At present [1977], the methods of meditation that I am teaching in the United States are divided into three stages.

Stage 1: To Balance the Development of Body and Mind in order to Attain Mental and Physical Health

Stage 2: From the Sense of the Small 'I'

Stage 3: From the Large 'I' to No 'I'


Of course he elaborates on each stage but that would be a long post! Easier to just post the link. :) http://www.westernchanfellowship.org/li ... t-is-chan/



I keep hearing a lot of great things about this guy, I'll have too look his stuff up! thanks!
/johnny\
 
Posts: 57
Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2012 7:06 pm


Return to Zen

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 9 guests

>