How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby /johnny\ » Fri Jul 27, 2012 5:00 am

too be clear this is not an attack on zen by any means. I LOVE zen and find it too be indispensable in the development of buddhism. I'm just curious about why everyone is so firm in that you MUST have a teacher, you can't learn from texts. I actually agree that you need a teacher after years of frustrating solo practice (having seen a teacher only a few times). I'm just wondering why it's like that. anyway:

How can Zen be considered it's own thing if every teacher's instructions are so unique to each student that every practitioner is dependent on a teacher?

you must have a teacher. you cannot learn from texts, But there must be some standardization, or else it wouldn't be the "Zen" school, it would be the "huineng" school and the "hakuin" school and the "linji" school, and so on. every school being one hundred percent dependent on totally unique teachings from it's master, each school would be it's own separate entity.

I understand that each school is very different, but they still call themselves zen or chan or whatever. If there is nothing but teacher student interface, each teacher must be teaching totally unique ideas and therefore there is no unity whatsoever. If there is unity, then teachings can be written and learned by reading and there can be some standardization because they are using the same methods. If they're not, then why call it the same thing when it's totally different for each and every person?

If the only way too understand Buddhism was too talk directly too the buddha because instruction too each student would be totally different, then buddhism would not exist after his death in any unified form at all. it would exist in versions created by his disciples but each would be different. and there would be no use at all for sutras too exist. but the buddha standardized his teachings and they have been further standardized again and again. why is zen different?

I know some agree that there is standardization. This question is mainly for those that adamantly insist that there is no point in practicing Zen without a teacher, which I kind of agree with since I made zero progress without one (other than mental control and happy feelings and peaceful thinking, which is great, but not the goal), even though I read a lot of Zen literature. Then I switched too the largely standardized Theravada, and even though a teacher is recommended in that school too, I started making immediate progress just from practicing what I read.

What are the masters telling the students that is so different? What is so unique that it cannot be conveyed on paper? I don't get it.

Again, Zen is awesome! If I had a teacher nearby I would probably still be practicing it. I switched too Theravada because I didn't have a steady, nearby teacher and I still practice some Zen stuff (most is found in Theravada practice anyway) and i'm still almost always reading something here and there on Zen.
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Re: How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby DarwidHalim » Fri Jul 27, 2012 7:20 am

I personally do not think we must have a teacher.

What we need is the teaching. It can be in the form of visual, or text.

Of course if you have a living teacher that can guide you in private, that is beneficial.

But, I do not believe in something like no teacher in private, no enlightenment.

If the teachings are not equivalent to the teacher, what is the point to write down his teachings?
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!
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Re: How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby Astus » Fri Jul 27, 2012 10:14 am

Why do you need a teacher? Because people are lazy and careless, they don't make the effort to fully comprehend the teachings and be able to apply it in their practice and then their life. Having a teacher is similar to calling the plumber to fix the toilet. You could fix it yourself, if you cared to learn how. Or, an even closer example is learning a language or profession. Anyone can learn a foreign language simply from books and podcasts, but without regular classes people tend to postpone learning and eventually give up. Also, just as a Zen teacher, the language teacher can point out your mistakes immediately, while to do it yourself you have to do tests and such.

Can one learn Zen without a teacher? Of course you can. Can you learn from books? Sure. Are you up to the task of actually doing it?
"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)
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Re: How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby Matylda » Fri Jul 27, 2012 11:04 am

/johnny\ wrote:How can Zen be considered it's own thing if every teacher's instructions are so unique to each student that every practitioner is dependent on a teacher?

you must have a teacher. you cannot learn from texts, But there must be some standardization, or else it wouldn't be the "Zen" school, it would be the "huineng" school and the "hakuin" school and the "linji" school, and so on. every school being one hundred percent dependent on totally unique teachings from it's master, each school would be it's own separate entity.



Teacher is needed for some specific reasons:

1. can check on the way we practice. there are many mistaken ways even if student received proper instructions
2. variety of instructions depend on student particular need and state
3. to clarify experiences, there are many which could be easily misunderstood as sort of insight or realization
4. to give blessing of the authentic lineage, and authenticity will be eventually confirmed by realization
5. students are just ordinary beings with big amount of obstacles which only master can remove
6. there is no way to learn from the texts, the texts could be only support
7. standardization is good thing, but has danger of unification all disciples though they are very different with different obstacles
8. student is a patient and master is a doctor, there is no illness which could be cured with the same medicine
9. different illnesses and different sick people need different medicines, only a skilled doctor knows what and how to apply correct medicine
10. we are stupid enough so we need teachers.
11. only buddha can go along on his own
12. even buddha before he became one relied on masters
13. there are many more points to write but above is enough to understand why one needs a realized master in one efforts
14. if one is doing zazen for relax one does not need maybe a teacher, but I am not sure of this
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Re: How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby seeker242 » Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:53 pm

Because it is a special transmission outside the scriptures, not dependent on words and speech? You aren't going to get enlightenment from a teacher. Just like reading a map isn't going to take you to a destination. But if you don't have a guide or can't read the map properly, it's pretty easy to get lost.
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Re: How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby Astus » Fri Jul 27, 2012 2:12 pm

Huineng gives the answers in the Platform Sutra,

Need of teacher,

"If you are one who enlightens himself, you need not seek a teacher outside. If you insist that it is necessary to seek a Good Knowing Advisor in the hope of obtaining liberation, you are mistaken. Why? Within your own mind there is self-enlightenment which is a Knowing Advisor. But if you give rise to deviant confusion, false thoughts, and perversions, although a Good Knowing Advisor external to you instructs you, he cannot save you."
(ch. 2)

Learning from books,

"Those who grasp at emptiness slander the Sutras by maintaining that written words have no use. Since they maintain they have no need of written words, they should not speak either, because written words are merely the marks of spoken language. They also maintain that the direct way cannot be established by written words, and yet these two words, 'not established' are themselves written."
(ch. 10)
"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)
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Re: How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby /johnny\ » Fri Jul 27, 2012 5:53 pm

hmm.

i appreciate all the answers. they are all great.

what is it that the master says too the student that is unique from what is on paper?

i don't see how having a master makes a difference in how much i practice unless i'm seeing him/her on a daily basis, which is almost never how it's done. i practice diligently, without fail, with no teacher. there have also been times when i had a teacher for a short period and was not practicing very well. and all in between.

that said, i think having a master who you interact with daily would be an amazing treasure and indispensable too your practice. if you have someone too spur you on with great frequency, you will almost undoubtedly practice more. but the general format where you see the master every couple of months or so doesn't seem very useful too me. what could they say that's not in a book?

again, i practiced fruitlessly for years, so i'm on the side of the "must have a teacher" people lol! but i want too understand WHY? why can't i just learn what too do from a book? what is truly unique that it MUST come directly from the mouth of a teacher?
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Re: How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby /johnny\ » Fri Jul 27, 2012 5:56 pm

seeker242 wrote:Because it is a special transmission outside the scriptures, not dependent on words and speech? You aren't going to get enlightenment from a teacher. Just like reading a map isn't going to take you to a destination. But if you don't have a guide or can't read the map properly, it's pretty easy to get lost.



thanks for the thoughts, i'm confused:

reading a map can easily get you too a destination.

and the whole "not dependent on words or speech" is so vague and bizarre it doesn't even make sense. no words, no speech, so... telepathy? pantomime dharma? all teachers use speech, and almost all use scriptures and writing. i've never understood this statement.
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Re: How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby Malcolm » Fri Jul 27, 2012 5:59 pm

/johnny\ wrote:what is truly unique that it MUST come directly from the mouth of a teacher?



Experience.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

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there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby seeker242 » Fri Jul 27, 2012 10:13 pm

/johnny\ wrote:hmm.

i appreciate all the answers. they are all great.

what is it that the master says too the student that is unique from what is on paper?



I would say a personal demonstration rather than an explanation, which is not always conveyed with speech. Master Linji was known for hitting people and shouting at them and that was his "dharma talk". But he did that to people who were already intellectually educated by the scriptures. His did things like that to push people from a mere intellectual understanding into a real life understanding with a personal real life demonstration, rather than just explanations.

/johnny\ wrote:
seeker242 wrote:Because it is a special transmission outside the scriptures, not dependent on words and speech? You aren't going to get enlightenment from a teacher. Just like reading a map isn't going to take you to a destination. But if you don't have a guide or can't read the map properly, it's pretty easy to get lost.



thanks for the thoughts, i'm confused:

reading a map can easily get you too a destination.

and the whole "not dependent on words or speech" is so vague and bizarre it doesn't even make sense. no words, no speech, so... telepathy? pantomime dharma? all teachers use speech, and almost all use scriptures and writing. i've never understood this statement.


Just reading a map can transport you to a destination? I don't think that is the case. If you sit at the computer and read a map on how to travel to China, does that now mean you have actually traveled to China? No. :smile:

To actually travel to China, you have to pack some bags, you have to walk out the door, get in a car, go to the bus station/train station, then go to the airport, then get on a plane, after first saving the money to buy plane tickets and then buying the plane tickets. After you get off the plane you now have to find a place to stay, get something to eat, etc, etc, etc.

A map, without doing all of those other things, is completely useless. A learned teacher has already done those other things. Has already learned all the lessons of how to actually do those other things. Without a teacher, there is no one to point out the fact that your are doing those things wrong when you start doing them wrong. Obviously, if you get on the wrong bus, that is going the opposite direction of the airport, then you are never going to make it to the airport, so to speak. A teacher is there to say "Hey Idiot! You are on the wrong bus!" :lol: Even with the map, it's quite easy to get on the wrong bus.

All teachers use speech but the speech is pointing at something else that is before speech, it's points at one's "true essence of mind." as it is called, a non-conceptual type of understanding that arises from directly from seeing one's "true essence of mind" or "Buddha Nature" or "true self" or whatever you want to call it. That "thing" is not dependent on words. That "thing" is what the Buddha discovered sitting under the Bodhi Tree. He called it "the deathless realm". Even Shakyamuni Buddha maintained that this is something that defies descriptions with words. He also maintained that, yes, it's often difficult to understand.
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Re: How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby Matt J » Fri Jul 27, 2012 11:21 pm

Off of the top of my head:

1. Books can't answer your questions or respond to your arguments.

2. Books can't give you feedback. Books can't bring you back when you go down a wrong path.

3. Books can't point out your personal weak spots.

4. Hearing a live human being tell you something is far different from reading it in private. When you talk to some one out loud, the words become vested with a sense of authority.

Specific to Zen, I don't find that Zen is a set of answers you can learn, like a language. It is more of an art.
The Great Way is not difficult
If only there is no picking or choosing
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Re: How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby Astus » Sat Jul 28, 2012 12:32 am

Let's look at it from another perspective. What is it one should learn in Zen? Saying that it's a "thing" or "art" is not a definition. What is Zen about? It is about seeing the nature of mind. What is the nature of mind? It is non-abiding awareness. How do you experience it? You don't attach to ideas and emotions. How can you not attach to them? You see them for what they are, impermanent mental phenomena. And it can go on with an extensive description of the many teachings of Mahayana. A teacher can help you clarify all the teachings in a way that can make sense to you. You may also find a book by a teacher that answers whatever question you have at that time. The Buddhist canon and auxiliary works contain thousands of years of experience. A living teacher has a few decades of experience. However, unlike books, a teacher can know you and speak in a way that matches your way of understanding. Of course, if you can find the right teacher.
"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)
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Re: How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby tomamundsen » Sat Jul 28, 2012 1:02 am

Astus wrote:Let's look at it from another perspective. What is it one should learn in Zen? Saying that it's a "thing" or "art" is not a definition. What is Zen about? It is about seeing the nature of mind. What is the nature of mind? It is non-abiding awareness. How do you experience it? You don't attach to ideas and emotions. How can you not attach to them? You see them for what they are, impermanent mental phenomena. And it can go on with an extensive description of the many teachings of Mahayana. A teacher can help you clarify all the teachings in a way that can make sense to you. You may also find a book by a teacher that answers whatever question you have at that time. The Buddhist canon and auxiliary works contain thousands of years of experience. A living teacher has a few decades of experience. However, unlike books, a teacher can know you and speak in a way that matches your way of understanding. Of course, if you can find the right teacher.

:good:
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Re: How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby /johnny\ » Sat Jul 28, 2012 5:57 am

seeker242 wrote:
/johnny\ wrote:hmm.

i appreciate all the answers. they are all great.

what is it that the master says too the student that is unique from what is on paper?



I would say a personal demonstration rather than an explanation, which is not always conveyed with speech. Master Linji was known for hitting people and shouting at them and that was his "dharma talk". But he did that to people who were already intellectually educated by the scriptures. His did things like that to push people from a mere intellectual understanding into a real life understanding with a personal real life demonstration, rather than just explanations.

/johnny\ wrote:
seeker242 wrote:Because it is a special transmission outside the scriptures, not dependent on words and speech? You aren't going to get enlightenment from a teacher. Just like reading a map isn't going to take you to a destination. But if you don't have a guide or can't read the map properly, it's pretty easy to get lost.



thanks for the thoughts, i'm confused:

reading a map can easily get you too a destination.

and the whole "not dependent on words or speech" is so vague and bizarre it doesn't even make sense. no words, no speech, so... telepathy? pantomime dharma? all teachers use speech, and almost all use scriptures and writing. i've never understood this statement.


Just reading a map can transport you to a destination? I don't think that is the case. If you sit at the computer and read a map on how to travel to China, does that now mean you have actually traveled to China? No. :smile:

To actually travel to China, you have to pack some bags, you have to walk out the door, get in a car, go to the bus station/train station, then go to the airport, then get on a plane, after first saving the money to buy plane tickets and then buying the plane tickets. After you get off the plane you now have to find a place to stay, get something to eat, etc, etc, etc.

A map, without doing all of those other things, is completely useless. A learned teacher has already done those other things. Has already learned all the lessons of how to actually do those other things. Without a teacher, there is no one to point out the fact that your are doing those things wrong when you start doing them wrong. Obviously, if you get on the wrong bus, that is going the opposite direction of the airport, then you are never going to make it to the airport, so to speak. A teacher is there to say "Hey Idiot! You are on the wrong bus!" :lol: Even with the map, it's quite easy to get on the wrong bus.

All teachers use speech but the speech is pointing at something else that is before speech, it's points at one's "true essence of mind." as it is called, a non-conceptual type of understanding that arises from directly from seeing one's "true essence of mind" or "Buddha Nature" or "true self" or whatever you want to call it. That "thing" is not dependent on words. That "thing" is what the Buddha discovered sitting under the Bodhi Tree. He called it "the deathless realm". Even Shakyamuni Buddha maintained that this is something that defies descriptions with words. He also maintained that, yes, it's often difficult to understand.


oh, okay i get it, i read it weird. i thought you were saying using a map will not get you too a destination. but now i get it, you were saying that simply reading a map will not literally transport you somewhere. thanks for explaining.

and yes a small number of masters taught by hitting and shouting, but if this is all they did there would be no progress at all. none. they also used speech and writing (either their own or scriptures). overall, saying "not dependent on words or speech" is border line nonsensical and it is never the case that someone can convey zen completely without speech or words. and the hitting and shouting is not found in the earliest schools of zen, so clearly this is not what they had in mind when they first started using that phrase. probably the hitting and shouting being non reliant on speech and words is a coincidence rather than an affirmation. especially because, as you said and i reiterated, all hitting and shouting teachers definitely, without exception, used speech and words.
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Re: How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby /johnny\ » Sat Jul 28, 2012 6:19 am

Astus wrote:Let's look at it from another perspective. What is it one should learn in Zen? Saying that it's a "thing" or "art" is not a definition. What is Zen about? It is about seeing the nature of mind. What is the nature of mind? It is non-abiding awareness. How do you experience it? You don't attach to ideas and emotions. How can you not attach to them? You see them for what they are, impermanent mental phenomena. And it can go on with an extensive description of the many teachings of Mahayana. A teacher can help you clarify all the teachings in a way that can make sense to you. You may also find a book by a teacher that answers whatever question you have at that time. The Buddhist canon and auxiliary works contain thousands of years of experience. A living teacher has a few decades of experience. However, unlike books, a teacher can know you and speak in a way that matches your way of understanding. Of course, if you can find the right teacher.



very astute, thanks. as i said before, i already agree with this. i'm just very interested in why this is the way it is.

can you explain progression in meditation specifically?
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Re: How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby Astus » Sat Jul 28, 2012 11:59 am

/johnny\ wrote:can you explain progression in meditation specifically?


It depends on the person who practises. The general stages are explained in several texts, covering the levels of calming and insight. The Zen part is at the final stages of insight with the realisation of the middle way, the unity of emptiness and dependent origination. The point where one sees not just that all phenomena are mind but also that the mind is unreal as well. But you alreadyhave a topic on 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)

"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)
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Re: How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby seeker242 » Sat Jul 28, 2012 1:34 pm

overall, saying "not dependent on words or speech" is border line nonsensical


It is nonsensical, but only if you use conceptual thinking to try to understand it. Bodhidharma was known to give people copies of the Lankavatara Sutra. It details the shortcomings of words and speech. It says things like this:

Then Mahamati said: Again, Blessed One, are words themselves the highest reality? or is what is expressed in words the highest reality?

The Blessed One replied: Mahamati, words are not the highest reality, nor is what is expressed in words the highest reality. Why? Because the highest reality is an exalted state of bliss, and as it cannot be entered into by mere statements regarding it, words are not the highest reality. Mahamati, the highest reality is to be attained by the inner realisation of noble wisdom; it is not a state of word-discrimination; therefore, discrimination does not express the highest reality. And then, Mahamati, words are subject to birth and destruction; they are unsteady, mutually conditioning, and are produced by the law of causation. And again, Mahamati, what is mutually conditioning and produced by the law of causation cannot express the highest reality, because the indications [pointing to the distinction between] self and not-self are non-existent. Mahamati, words are these indications and do not express [the highest reality].


A direct expression of the highest reality does appear completely nonsensical. But appearances can and are deceiving. Case 14 of the Mumonkan (Book of Koans) is a very good example

Mumonkan - Nansen Kills a Cat
Once the monks of the Eastern Hall and the Western Hall were disputing about a cat. Master Nansen, holding up the cat, said, "Monks, if you can say a word of Zen, I will spare the cat. If you cannot, I will kill it!" No monk could answer. Nansen finally killed the cat. In the evening, when Joshu came back, Nansen told him of the incident. Joshu took off his sandal, put it on his head, and walked off. Nansen said, "If you had been there, I could have saved the cat!'*


So here, Joshu delivered the "one word of Zen", that could have saved the cat, without even opening his mouth. When I first encountered zen, I did think this was completely nonsensical, Some guy putting a shoe on his head? WTF, this is ridiculous! But it really isn't, it has a much deeper meaning.


and it is never the case that someone can convey zen completely without speech or words.


I don't think that it the case. It can be conveyed, but the issue is whether or not the other person understands the conveyance. Joshu conveyed it in the below koan.
Case 38 of the Mumonkan An Oak Tree in the Garden
A monk asked Joshu why Bodhidharma came to China.

Joshu said: "An oak tree in the garden."

Mumon's comment: If one sees Joshu's answer clearly, there is no Shakyamuni Buddha before him and no future Buddha after him.
Words cannot describe everything.
The heart's message cannot be delivered in words.
If one receives words literally, he will be lost,
If he tries to explain with words, he will not attain enlightenment in this life.
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: How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby /johnny\ » Mon Jul 30, 2012 5:55 am

seeker242 wrote:
overall, saying "not dependent on words or speech" is border line nonsensical


It is nonsensical, but only if you use conceptual thinking to try to understand it. Bodhidharma was known to give people copies of the Lankavatara Sutra. It details the shortcomings of words and speech. It says things like this:

Then Mahamati said: Again, Blessed One, are words themselves the highest reality? or is what is expressed in words the highest reality?

The Blessed One replied: Mahamati, words are not the highest reality, nor is what is expressed in words the highest reality. Why? Because the highest reality is an exalted state of bliss, and as it cannot be entered into by mere statements regarding it, words are not the highest reality. Mahamati, the highest reality is to be attained by the inner realisation of noble wisdom; it is not a state of word-discrimination; therefore, discrimination does not express the highest reality. And then, Mahamati, words are subject to birth and destruction; they are unsteady, mutually conditioning, and are produced by the law of causation. And again, Mahamati, what is mutually conditioning and produced by the law of causation cannot express the highest reality, because the indications [pointing to the distinction between] self and not-self are non-existent. Mahamati, words are these indications and do not express [the highest reality].


A direct expression of the highest reality does appear completely nonsensical. But appearances can and are deceiving. Case 14 of the Mumonkan (Book of Koans) is a very good example

Mumonkan - Nansen Kills a Cat
Once the monks of the Eastern Hall and the Western Hall were disputing about a cat. Master Nansen, holding up the cat, said, "Monks, if you can say a word of Zen, I will spare the cat. If you cannot, I will kill it!" No monk could answer. Nansen finally killed the cat. In the evening, when Joshu came back, Nansen told him of the incident. Joshu took off his sandal, put it on his head, and walked off. Nansen said, "If you had been there, I could have saved the cat!'*


So here, Joshu delivered the "one word of Zen", that could have saved the cat, without even opening his mouth. When I first encountered zen, I did think this was completely nonsensical, Some guy putting a shoe on his head? WTF, this is ridiculous! But it really isn't, it has a much deeper meaning.


and it is never the case that someone can convey zen completely without speech or words.


I don't think that it the case. It can be conveyed, but the issue is whether or not the other person understands the conveyance. Joshu conveyed it in the below koan.
Case 38 of the Mumonkan An Oak Tree in the Garden
A monk asked Joshu why Bodhidharma came to China.

Joshu said: "An oak tree in the garden."

Mumon's comment: If one sees Joshu's answer clearly, there is no Shakyamuni Buddha before him and no future Buddha after him.
Words cannot describe everything.
The heart's message cannot be delivered in words.
If one receives words literally, he will be lost,
If he tries to explain with words, he will not attain enlightenment in this life.


lol! you're totally right! there is zero point in trying too argue logic into any zen statements! it's a tradition that relies heavily on non logical statements and statements that are incorrectly worded (as far as logic and proper social interaction are concerned). and the idea is always that you should look at it from a different perspective that is totally different than the way you normally do. saying anything in zen makes no sense can so easily be argued it's amazing. i don't know what i was thinking. seriously, totally sarcasm free.

it is a little frustrating, but it is entirely true! every statement can mean what it should mean, or something TOTALLY different! "not relying on words or speech" taken literally does imply pantomime or telepathic instruction, so i certainly am correct in that sense. but taken in a "zen" way can mean whatever the heck you want it too mean, so i am totally wrong in that sense.

one point i want too make though is you said:

seeker242 wrote:I don't think that it the case. It can be conveyed, but the issue is whether or not the other person understands the conveyance."


if the other person doesn't understand, then they are not being taught anything. for something too be "conveyed" successfully, there must be positive results in a recipient form. your idea of it being conveyed but the other person doesn't understand is a conveyor belt that drops things off into an abyss instead of loading them onto a truck. it failed too convey it's product too the desired location. if this is the only type of conveying a teacher did, they would have zero results. conveying things that the student does not understand is not teaching. even if the method theoretically could teach the right person. it would be like a theoretical physicist writing extremely advanced equations and theories on a blackboard for a group of people that do not know anything about physics, math, and that cannot even read. the teaching is correct, the method sound, but the students do not have the ability too comprehend, so the teaching is a total waste. whereas if the teacher explained it in a language they understood, there would be progress, and eventually they could work up too getting it. but again, the point is you can't have JUST this kind of super advanced teaching method, there HAS too be words and speech.

yes, a koan makes no sense at first but one can work up too understanding, but this working up too understanding is totally reliant upon having learned how to practice the koan, why too practice it, what zen is, etc., etc. and every single step of the way, including the speaking of the "oak tree in the garden" koan, involves words and speech.

also, if someone teaches zen only through pantomime, hitting and shouting, no one will ever learn zen from them. i suppose one could argue that with twenty or thirty years of dedicated viewing of this teacher a student could learn, but that's a stretch. even so, the bottom line is: not a single teacher has EVER taught entirely without using words and speech. it's unheard of.

really this is pointless semantics though. you really nailed it on the head with:

seeker242 wrote:It is nonsensical, but only if you use conceptual thinking to try to understand it.


seriously, this is a classic, unbeatable zen style argument-destroying statement. if you had stopped there i wouldn't have rambled on about conveyor belts and all the other nonsense lol! thanks for taking the time though :smile:
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Re: How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby /johnny\ » Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:12 am

Astus wrote:
/johnny\ wrote:can you explain progression in meditation specifically?


It depends on the person who practises. The general stages are explained in several texts, covering the levels of calming and insight. The Zen part is at the final stages of insight with the realisation of the middle way, the unity of emptiness and dependent origination. The point where one sees not just that all phenomena are mind but also that the mind is unreal as well. But you alreadyhave a topic on that.


yeah i know... i'm being lazy and was hoping you could summarize :D
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Re: How can Zen be considered it's own thing...

Postby seeker242 » Mon Jul 30, 2012 4:15 pm

/johnny\ wrote:
lol! you're totally right! there is zero point in trying too argue logic into any zen statements! it's a tradition that relies heavily on non logical statements and statements that are incorrectly worded (as far as logic and proper social interaction are concerned). and the idea is always that you should look at it from a different perspective that is totally different than the way you normally do. saying anything in zen makes no sense can so easily be argued it's amazing. i don't know what i was thinking. seriously, totally sarcasm free.

it is a little frustrating, but it is entirely true! every statement can mean what it should mean, or something TOTALLY different! "not relying on words or speech" taken literally does imply pantomime or telepathic instruction, so i certainly am correct in that sense. but taken in a "zen" way can mean whatever the heck you want it too mean, so i am totally wrong in that sense.


I pretty much agree with all of that ha! :)
one point i want too make though is you said:


seeker242 wrote:I don't think that it the case. It can be conveyed, but the issue is whether or not the other person understands the conveyance."

if the other person doesn't understand, then they are not being taught anything.


I completely agree with that too! Which is precisely why Zen Masters say things like "Nothing that I can say can help you!" And then they encourage you to practice more to find this stuff out for yourself. Because if you don't find it out for yourself, then it's pretty much useless. If "the truth" is not "your truth", then you really have not found the truth to begin with. A teacher can say how to practice so that you can find the truth for yourself, but he can not make you see the ultimate truth. If he could, all you would have to do is read a book or listen to a dharma talk and get enlightenment without doing any actual practicing. But obviously that does not happen all too often.

yes, a koan makes no sense at first but one can work up too understanding, but this working up too understanding is totally reliant upon having learned how to practice the koan, why too practice it, what zen is, etc., etc. and every single step of the way, including the speaking of the "oak tree in the garden" koan, involves words and speech.


The point is that a reflection of the moon in a pond, is not the same as the moon itself. The words are just the reflection of the moon, not the moon itself.

really this is pointless semantics though. you really nailed it on the head with:


seeker242 wrote:It is nonsensical, but only if you use conceptual thinking to try to understand it.


seriously, this is a classic, unbeatable zen style argument-destroying statement. if you had stopped there i wouldn't have rambled on about conveyor belts and all the other nonsense lol! thanks for taking the time though :smile:


I agree Zen is totally nonsensical! It defies logic and reason, but that is the whole point to begin with. But considering that zen is a "non-dual tradition", this is not that inappropriate. IMO, Zen is really about the actual daily life practice, rather than philosophizing about stuff. My teacher says "We don't read books to get understanding, we read books to get motivation to practice!"

But if you don't agree, that is fine. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. :smile: But what it really comes down to is the actual, real life, day to day practicing. I think pretty much everyone would agree with that...maybe!

:anjali:
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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