Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

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Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby Rakshasa » Mon Nov 19, 2012 8:41 am

It is generally believed that the Taoists and Tantric Buddhists believe in cultivating both body and mind in their paths towards spiritual cultivation (or even enlightenment) because they are deeply connected, but the general Sutrayana schools (Zen, Pure Land etc) only concentrate on the cultivation of mind.

As far as I know, a strong body gives rise to a strong mind and vice versa. So if we cultivate our bodies physically (physical exercises) and prepare a strong body we could get a strong mind as a base for further cultivation.

Do you think that we should solely concentrate on mind (as in Mahayana) so that we get a strong body as a secondary result automatically (since mind-body are connected) or we should practice the body and mind together?

Of course, while talking about Sutrayana schools, I am not talking about all of them because sects like Shaolin are famous for their martial arts and even the Legend says that Bodhidharma developed physical exercises to keep the monks fit for mind training.
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Re: Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby Jikan » Mon Nov 19, 2012 4:22 pm

The Mahayana practices I am most familiar with are indeed embodied. That is to say, you need a body to do it, and you do it with your body. Buddhism is already "noetic" in that respect (apropos of Reginald Ray's book Meditating with the Body).
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Re: Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby Meido » Mon Nov 19, 2012 6:08 pm

Rakshasa wrote:It is generally believed that the Taoists and Tantric Buddhists believe in cultivating both body and mind in their paths towards spiritual cultivation (or even enlightenment) because they are deeply connected, but the general Sutrayana schools (Zen, Pure Land etc) only concentrate on the cultivation of mind.


Just a nitpick: "Sutrayana" of course is not a term used in the schools so-called, and does not accord with the manner in which some of them define themselves. We have to be clear which traditions' triumphalist hierarchies and terminologies we're using.

And it seems all traditions have such hierarchies. Zen, for example, defines itself clearly as a tradition not depending upon sutras, and as an expression of the One Vehicle (Ekayana) which encompasses all the teachings of the Three Vehicles (Sravakayana, Pratyekabuddhayana and Mahayana) and transcends them in that it takes direct recognition of one's nature as both its initial gate and path. "Mahayana" here includes Mantrayana (known in Japan via Shingon and Tendai).

The result of this self-view is that sutras certainly may be used in Zen, but so may any other text or method which helps one to recognize one's nature or integrate/embody that recognition as realization. If all the sutras disappeared, Zen would not.

Aside from sutras, Zen practice methodology may primarily be found within written and oral teachings that are passed down within the various teaching lines. In the Japanese Rinzai tradition (the one I'm familiar with), these detail an understanding of practice which encompasses the body and its subtle energetics, and contain many methods for working with the latter. There is also, of course, an emphasis on physical culture as a complementary practice. And monastic training, with its use of form and valuing of physical labor, is far from a solely mental exercise.

The writings of Hakuin and Torei clearly lay out the manner in which the 4 wisdoms and 3 bodies are actualized in Zen, and what "embodiment" means; these may be found in English translation.

Of course if by "Sutrayana" one specifically means that Zen did not historically make use of tantric texts, sure that's fine. But again, Zen would never call itself by this term because it does not reflect Zen's own understanding of its basis or praxis.

So in short: Like Jikan, I know of no Mahayana tradition in which practice is viewed as solely mental in nature. And many traditions like Zen (one may call them Mahayana, or Sutrayana, or whatever one likes) have an understanding that does not fit into the boxes constructed by other traditions.

~ Meido
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Re: Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby lowlydog » Mon Nov 19, 2012 10:55 pm

Your body is your temple.
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Re: Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby lobster » Tue Nov 20, 2012 11:51 am

As far as I know, a strong body gives rise to a strong mind and vice versa. So if we cultivate our bodies physically (physical exercises) and prepare a strong body we could get a strong mind as a base for further cultivation.


Absolutely.
These things are part of an integrated whole. As well as practicing Buddhist yoga and martial arts, I once attended dance classes in order to develop a sense of grace. Some martial arts are particularly graceful, Taoist and Capoeira arts come to mind. I must admit this is against my teachers advice, 'you are not dancers' was a particular admonishment of bad technique . . . :smile:
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Re: Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Tue Nov 20, 2012 1:51 pm

I think what should be differentiated is that outside of Anuttarayogatantra the bodily practices, if used in any community or tradition, are not part of the path to enlightenment but are simply exercises for health. But even in AYT I'm not sure what could be considered actual body trainings.
"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: Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby Jikan » Tue Nov 20, 2012 2:55 pm

Astus wrote:I think what should be differentiated is that outside of Anuttarayogatantra the bodily practices, if used in any community or tradition, are not part of the path to enlightenment but are simply exercises for health. But even in AYT I'm not sure what could be considered actual body trainings.


Would you say that prostrations are primarily a meditative practice, or a practice for health? How about circumambulation or pilgrimage?
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Re: Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Tue Nov 20, 2012 3:01 pm

Jikan wrote:Would you say that prostrations are primarily a meditative practice, or a practice for health? How about circumambulation or pilgrimage?


They are not meant to train your body but to train your 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)

“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: Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby Jikan » Tue Nov 20, 2012 3:43 pm

Astus wrote:
Jikan wrote:Would you say that prostrations are primarily a meditative practice, or a practice for health? How about circumambulation or pilgrimage?


They are not meant to train your body but to train your mind.


Yes, I agree. And for that reason, I disagree with the part in bold below:

Astus wrote:I think what should be differentiated is that outside of Anuttarayogatantra the bodily practices, if used in any community or tradition, are not part of the path to enlightenment but are simply exercises for health. But even in AYT I'm not sure what could be considered actual body trainings.


Am I misunderstanding your point of view?
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Re: Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Tue Nov 20, 2012 4:41 pm

I understand "cultivating body" as a practice used to attain liberation by training the body. Prostrations, etc. are bodily activities - just as reading, listening, reciting, etc. - meant to assist the mind, and by training the mind one reaches enlightenment. Therefore, there is no cultivation of body in Buddhism.
"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: Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby Yudron » Tue Nov 20, 2012 5:29 pm

Prostrations are mutlipurpose, in addition to training the mind are also for exercise so that meditators don't sit all day and rot. Unfortunately, they are not suitable to people with certain physical problems.
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Re: Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby Lhug-Pa » Tue Nov 20, 2012 7:51 pm

It has been said that prostrations also help to purify the Tsa or Inner Channels.

Anyway, look up Tummo, Karmamudra, Tsa-Lung, and Trul-Khor, 'Khrul-'Khor, or Yantra Yoga, etc.

See also the informative posts by Malcolm in the following threads:

What is Tantric Teaching in Buddhism?

Tantric Sexual Bliss vs. Dhyanic Bliss

And:

Malcolm wrote:"Vajrayāna is more popular because it promotes liberation in a single body and a single lifetime. Second, it is intrinsically more adapatable to our highly technilogical civilization because it is very much based on a yogic understanding of liberation i.e. how the body is an instrument of liberation, not just the mind alone."

"Empowerment into that knowledge is the defining feature of Vajrayāna."
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Re: Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby lobster » Tue Nov 20, 2012 7:54 pm

Therefore, there is no cultivation of body in Buddhism.


Perhaps.
Perhaps some forms of Buddhism see the body as an extention or part of the mind. My first samadhi and kensho were body induced, through physical Buddhist practice.
http://www.mushindokai.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=65&Itemid=38
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Re: Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby Namgyal » Tue Nov 20, 2012 10:22 pm

Astus wrote:outside of Anuttarayogatantra the bodily practices, if used in any community or tradition, are not part of the path to enlightenment but are simply exercises for health.

Sorry that's nonsense. Tibetan kungfu incorporates anuyoga breath control. Indeed all forms of internal training purify the winds and channels to some extent and so they are all beneficial on the path to enlightenment. Training the body is a very effective method for training the mind.
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Re: Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Wed Nov 21, 2012 12:39 am

The "Mushindokai" page refers to a Tantric form of practice. Others also refer to Tantric body practices. And the question in the OP was if there is any kind of body training in non-Tantric Buddhism. That's how my answer is no. Even the concept of the system of channels, winds and drops is unknown outside of Tantra, if they can be viewed as body related practices or explanations for such yogas.
"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: Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby Meido » Wed Nov 21, 2012 1:01 am

As mentioned, in Zen there are body and breath practices predicated on an understanding of subtle energetics, energy centers, and their utility for the integration or embodiment of realization. These are of course not practiced with reference to tantric texts.

Even basic meditation in Rinzai practice is concerned primarily with unifying a specific breathing method (involving a sealing of the pelvic floor and gathering of energy into the navel center) with one's bodily posture. In other words, the mental "method" of practice is understood, established and deepened through a specific use of the body, not separately from it or even alongside it.

~ Meido
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Re: Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby Namgyal » Wed Nov 21, 2012 3:14 am

Astus wrote:Even the concept of the system of channels, winds and drops is unknown outside of Tantra

Indian yoga and Chinese chi-gung both work with the subtle energy body, indeed all advanced forms of shamanism, what scholars call 'Shamanic Science', have practices relating to the system of channels, winds and drops. Buddhist tantric practices are themselves descended from the Shamanic Science of aboriginal Indians.
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Re: Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Wed Nov 21, 2012 10:48 am

Meido wrote:As mentioned, in Zen there are body and breath practices predicated on an understanding of subtle energetics, energy centers, and their utility for the integration or embodiment of realization. These are of course not practiced with reference to tantric texts.

Even basic meditation in Rinzai practice is concerned primarily with unifying a specific breathing method (involving a sealing of the pelvic floor and gathering of energy into the navel center) with one's bodily posture. In other words, the mental "method" of practice is understood, established and deepened through a specific use of the body, not separately from it or even alongside it.


Let's add that that kind of Rinzai Zen technique started with Hakuin and used to strengthen the body to avoid illness generated by extensive asceticism. It does not lead to realising the nature of mind, nor is it used in any other Zen school outside of Hakuin's followers. There are of course others who do different forms of yoga, qigong, etc., but again, not for liberation itself but as supportive methods to maintain health. As such, they are not much different from a healthy diet and proper clothing.
"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: Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby Namgyal » Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:57 am

Astus wrote:There are of course others who do different forms of yoga, qigong, etc., but again, not for liberation itself but as supportive methods to maintain health. As such, they are not much different from a healthy diet and proper clothing.

Simply repeating an ill-informed opinion that you hold does not lend it any more weight. It seems that you at least acknowledge the existence of physical yogic practices in the Vajrayana, so why do you keep repeating that in other equally valid contexts the same things are no more than healthy lifestyle choices? There is no logic to your sweeping statements, and indeed no evidence to support them. In China, Indian Buddhist practices were combined with native yogic traditions to great effect. Although better known for martial arts, Shaolin temple was actually a centre for the study of meditation combined with chi-gung, and it became a veritable production line for Buddhist saints.
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Re: Cultivating both Body and Mind in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Wed Nov 21, 2012 12:12 pm

Raksha,

The Shaolin monastery was first associated with Bodhidharma around the beginning of the 8th century by the Northern School's lineage story. But connecting Bodhidharma with martial arts happened almost a thousand years later in 1642 (see Faure: Chan Buddhism in Ritual Context, p. 91 and McRae: Seeing Through Zen, p. 26).

For me to see connection with body cultivation and the path of liberation would require instructions given in the sutras and the writings of the masters. So far I have not encountered any sutra or manual in Mahayana Buddhism that teaches such techniques, unlike in Vajrayana.
"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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