Mystical Unity and Kensho

Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Koji » Sun Jul 14, 2013 4:58 pm

Astus wrote:
Koji wrote:Probably understanding what abandon means in Pali might help. Even the eye is to be abandoned according to the Buddha.


I'm simply asking for your explanation of the views you have put out here. Since at the moment I don't see it as in agreement with what is taught in the Pali Canon (and Mahayana especially), I don't see how it could be matched with any Pali term. But if you have one for it and references, please bring them here.


The problem with explanations Astus, is they can turn, easily, into eisegesis, which then turns into logomachy which is where it seems Buddhism is today, at least in forums like this. Shifting gears, I like the topic of "Mystical Unity and Kensho" which lets us see how deeply divided Buddhists really are. You and I, I am guessing, are about as far apart on Buddhism as can be. But this is not that unusual in religion. When I read the Nikayas or Mahayana discoures I see only mysticism, which is all about transcending samsara, realizing the deathless—your read is probably different. Buddhist will always have diametrically opposed views, even trying to kill each other. Digressing a bit, when a graduate student has to read Hegel's Phenomenology of S. some students can't even understand his introduction. Finally, in a year or two, they get it. That is a dialectical voyage. Buddhism has one, also, which we are experiencing with our disagreements and counter opinions.
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Koji » Sun Jul 14, 2013 5:14 pm

Astus wrote:
jeeprs wrote:But there is, as you acknowledge, 'a mindstream' which functions as a quasi-self (or, more likely, a rhetorical device necessitated by a dogmatic intepretation of 'anatta'.)



There is no self of any kind (provisional or ultimate). If there is a state that one is unable to discover how do you know about it? How can anyone know about it?



Just curious, what is your basis for concluding there "is no self of any kind"? Are the skandhas your basis insofar as the Buddha said they are self-less (Pali, anattâ)?
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Astus » Sun Jul 14, 2013 10:14 pm

Koji wrote:While the typical profane person hangs on to them, the ariya disciple doesn't.


Not hanging on to the skandhas is not the same as eliminating them, because what is to be removed is one's attachment to the aggregates. This is explained often, as in SN 23.1 where the Mara theme is introduced.

When I read the Nikayas or Mahayana discoures I see only mysticism, which is all about transcending samsara, realizing the deathless—your read is probably different.


It is the kind of trascendentalism (similarly to Philosophia Perennis, Theosophy, etc.) that posits an ultimate thing above and beyond dependent phenomena that I'm arguing against, as that is the background of Ford's article. I'm not denying the validity of the third noble truth at all. What I'm saying is that the actual nature of all things is deathless and that there is no deathless beyond the things themselves, in other words, "Cyclic existence is not the slightest bit different from nirvana. Nirvana is not the slightest bit different from cyclic existence." (MMK 25.19)

Just curious, what is your basis for concluding there "is no self of any kind"? Are the skandhas your basis insofar as the Buddha said they are self-less (Pali, anattâ)?


The aggregates are neither self nor the possessions of a self, they neither me nor mine. That rules out both an internal and an external self. SN 22.7 explains in brief how understanding this makes all the difference. A rather elaborate way of showing this is Candrakirti's sevenfold reasoning. As Nagarjuna summed it up:

"[The Buddha] has declared that form is not self, self is not form,
There is no form in a self, and there is no self in form.
These four ideas are conceived in relation to the form aggregate.
Any link of a “self” to the other aggregates is in all respects the same.
These twenty ideas are inverted views.
If one can cut them off entirely, this is the most superior [insight]."

(Letter From a Friend, v. 40; tr. Bhikshu Dharmamitra from Gunavarman's)
"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: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby illarraza » Mon Jul 15, 2013 12:20 am

Astus wrote:Inspired by this post, I'd like to raise the topic here about the meaning of seeing the nature of mind. James Ford mentions the mystification of kensho. However, as long as "kensho" is considered some special experience, it is mystified. How can a sense of unity with every being or the entire world make a difference in our attachment to thoughts and emotions? In Shengyan's system the experience of unity is the second stage of three. But if you look at what Shangyan taught as the actual insight, does that sound clear or rather vague and mystical? How about the following descriptions:

Q: What does "not dwelling anywhere or on anything" mean?
A: Not to dwell anywhere or on anything means not to dwell on good or evil, existence or non-existence, within or without or on the middle, nor on concentration nor dispersion, and neither to dwell on the void nor on the non-void. This is the meaning of "not dwelling anywhere or on anything". Just this alone is real abiding. This stage of achievement is also the non-abiding Mind, and the non-abiding Mind is the Buddha Mind.

Q: What is the non-abiding Mind like?
A: The non-abiding Mind is not green, yellow, red or white. It is not long or short, nor does it come or go. It is not pure or impure, nor does it have birth or death. It is only deep and permanent stillness. This is the non-abiding Mind, which is also called the Original Body. The Original Body is the Buddha's Body, which is also called the Dharmakaya.

(Treatise On Entering The Tao of Sudden Enlightenment)

And this one:

Those whose mind has transcended
Existence and non-existence and abides no more [in them],
They’ve realized the meaning of conditioned existence,
The profound absence of objectification.
...
If one possesses a locus,
One becomes attached or detached;
But the great beings who’re devoid of locus,
They have neither attachment nor detachment.

(Sixty Stanzas of Reasoning, 1, 58)

And this:

"Everything is coming and going, and we just let things come up freely and let them go away freely. We don’t try to fight against our thoughts or any other mental condition, and we don’t try to interact with them, either. The intention is not to grasp what is coming up from your consciousness. We actually do nothing but let the things happening within the mind just flow."
(Zazen instruction)

What if we were told that the nature of mind is that all experiences are impermanent? That's quite obvious, isn't it? Is there anything mystical about that?

Then the question is, why isn't that what is taught in Zen?


Shengyam should cite his sources [the Buddha]:

"Serene is his wisdom, calm his emotion,
And stable his prudence.
His thought is settled, his consciousness is extinct,
And thus his mind is quiet.
Long since, he removed false thoughts
And conquered all the laws of existence.
His body is neither existing nor nonexisting;
Without cause or condition,
Without self or others;
Neither square nor round,
Neither short nor long;
Without appearance or disappearance,
Without birth or death;
Neither created nor emanating,
Neither made nor produced;
Neither sitting nor lying,
Neither walking nor stopping;
Neither moving nor rolling,
Neither calm nor quiet;
Without advance or retreat,
Without safety or danger;
Without right or wrong,
Without merit or demerit;
Neither that nor this,
Neither going nor coming;
Neither blue nor yellow,
Neither red nor white;
Neither crimson nor purple,
Without a variety of color.
Born of commandments, meditation,
Wisdom, emancipation, and knowledge;
Merit of contemplation, the six divine faculties,
And the practice of the way;" -- Sutra of Infinite Meanings

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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Koji » Mon Jul 15, 2013 3:31 pm

Astus wrote:
Koji wrote:Just curious, what is your basis for concluding there "is no self of any kind"? Are the skandhas your basis insofar as the Buddha said they are self-less (Pali, anattâ)?


The aggregates are neither self nor the possessions of a self, they neither me nor mine. That rules out both an internal and an external self.


What I read is that you have no basis for concluding there is "no self of any kind (provisional or ultimate)."
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Jul 17, 2013 7:23 am

As I have said before, in the one place where the Buddha is directly asked in the Pali suttas whether the self does not exist, he does not answer, which he later explains to Ananda, is because to teach that there is no self is to teach a nihilistic view. He does not teach 'there is no self'. Buddhism teaches 'everything is without self'. 'A-natta' is an adjective, not a noun - but it is a very difficult differentiation to make.

Astus wrote: If there is a state that one is unable to discover how do you know about it? How can anyone know about it?


I believe that when the Buddha said there are 'dharmas deep, profound and subtle and discernable only by the wise' that he is correct in saying that. In other words, there are things the Buddha sees, which the ordinary person does not see. There is a fundamental difference between the Buddhas and the ordinary being, even if in some ultimate sense the 'ordinary being is Buddha'. It is the ordinary being's non-realization of that 'true nature' which constitutes ignorance, which is the ordinary state. To 'realize the true nature' is in some profound sense 'to die to the known'. I am not claiming to know that, or to have realized that state, but I think the case can be made for it on the basis of documentary sources.

This is why there is a dimension of insight, knowledge, or prajna, which is totally beyond 'worldly knowledge'. You seem to deny that yet whilst quoting sources that I think are referring to such states.

Astus wrote:Mind-stream simply refers to the mental aggregates. It's not some separate entity, but the flow of the moments of mental phenomena.


Please recall the context in which the question was raised regarding 'mind-streams':

Astus wrote: But to think that there is something beyond this realm of experience as a place of escape is still grasping and self-construction.


jeeprs wrote:So you are in fact saying 'As I understand the Teaching explained by the Blessed One, a monk with no more (mental) effluents, on the break-up of the body, is annihilated, perishes, & does not exist after death."


Astus wrote:No. Where did I say that the mind-stream is annihilated at death? Nowhere. All I'm saying is that looking for buddha outside the mind is mistaken.


then

Astus wrote:Mind-stream simply refers to the mental aggregates. It's not some separate entity, but the flow of the moments of mental phenomena.


So, is the Buddha identical to 'the mind-stream'? I thought the theory was that when 'the effluents' were extinguished, the 'mind-stream' is no more, which would seem to indicate not.

Again, the point of the 'Yamaka sutta' which you introduced several pages back, is that it is incorrect to say that the nirvana of the enlightened monk is 'annihalation' or 'non-being'. When such a one has gone totally beyond 'mindstreams' yet they still are not non-existent. What kind of being is that?
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Astus » Wed Jul 17, 2013 9:50 am

jeeprs wrote:I am not claiming to know that, or to have realized that state, but I think the case can be made for it on the basis of documentary sources.

This is why there is a dimension of insight, knowledge, or prajna, which is totally beyond 'worldly knowledge'. You seem to deny that yet whilst quoting sources that I think are referring to such states.


So it is a matter of looking at the scriptures and treatises. I have brought here various works from different authors of Mahayana treatises to show how claiming that there exists something beyond the five aggregates cannot be established. Although Nikaya/Agama schools state that there is a nirvana without remainder where the skandhas are eliminated, that is not the Mahayana view (e.g. see here).

So, is the Buddha identical to 'the mind-stream'? I thought the theory was that when 'the effluents' were extinguished, the 'mind-stream' is no more, which would seem to indicate not.

Again, the point of the 'Yamaka sutta' which you introduced several pages back, is that it is incorrect to say that the nirvana of the enlightened monk is 'annihalation' or 'non-being'. When such a one has gone totally beyond 'mindstreams' yet they still are not non-existent. What kind of being is that?


The mind is not just the afflictions, in fact, those are only "adventitious defilements" and the nature of the mind itself is pure. This is the buddha-nature doctrine. When the mind-stream is purified we get to the buddha-mind (that includes the three bodies, four wisdoms, etc.). So, to say that the mind-stream is extinguished is not true.
"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: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Jul 17, 2013 12:12 pm

Astus wrote: I have brought here various works from different authors of Mahayana treatises to show how claiming that there exists something beyond the five aggregates cannot be established.


Astus wrote:The mind is not just the afflictions, in fact, those are only "adventitious defilements" and the nature of the mind itself is pure. This is the buddha-nature doctrine. When the mind-stream is purified we get to the buddha-mind (that includes the three bodies, four wisdoms, etc.). So, to say that the mind-stream is extinguished is not true.


In the first quote 'nothing beyond the aggregates'. In the second 'pure mind' which is 'not extinguished. Aren't these statements in conflict?
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Astus » Wed Jul 17, 2013 12:56 pm

jeeprs wrote:In the first quote 'nothing beyond the aggregates'. In the second 'pure mind' which is 'not extinguished. Aren't these statements in conflict?


How so? The mind exists only from moment to moment, but there is a causal continuity. The death of the body is not the death of the mind. Liberation is not the elimination but the purification of the mind-stream. In other words, one has to see the nature of this mind and not go and find another one.
"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: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Jul 17, 2013 1:26 pm

Astus wrote:The death of the body is not the death of the mind. The death of the body is not the death of the mind. Liberation is not the elimination but the purification of the mind-stream.


So I am still unclear. If body dies, but mind doesn't, this implies that a mind thoroughly purified is 'beyond death', does it not? And therefore not 'the same' as the aggregates. You said earlier that this mind was simply 'lack of substance'. But it is not merely an absence, simply nothing at all. That is nihilistic, isn't it?

Many of the Mahayana books I have talk about 'one mind' or 'Big Mind' or simply Mind with a capital M. That is a mystical idea, no matter how you slice and dice it. I'm not saying they're right, and you're not, but I prefer those intepretations, and as far as I am concerned, it is not nearly so cut-and-dried as you seem to think you have made it.

:namaste:
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Astus » Wed Jul 17, 2013 2:45 pm

jeeprs wrote:So I am still unclear. If body dies, but mind doesn't, this implies that a mind thoroughly purified is 'beyond death', does it not? And therefore not 'the same' as the aggregates. You said earlier that this mind was simply 'lack of substance'. But it is not merely an absence, simply nothing at all. That is nihilistic, isn't it?

Many of the Mahayana books I have talk about 'one mind' or 'Big Mind' or simply Mind with a capital M. That is a mystical idea, no matter how you slice and dice it. I'm not saying they're right, and you're not, but I prefer those intepretations, and as far as I am concerned, it is not nearly so cut-and-dried as you seem to think you have made it.


The skandhas can be split into two parts: rupa and nama (body and mind). The four mental aggregates represent one of the possible categorisation of mental functions. It doesn't mean there are 4 minds or anything like that. They are what the mind-stream is. Since the mind-stream is maintained not by material things (rupa) but by previous mental phenomena, with the death of the body the mind does not cease to function. That's why there is rebirth. And when the mind is purified there are the three bodies, etc., that is, all the buddha qualities and functions. This is not nihilistic at all, rather it might look like some eternal soul, but it isn't that.

The terms you mention are mostly the work of translators. There is no such thing as upper and lower case in Chinese or Sanskrit. Another difficulty is that in Zen literature they often use the same word (心 - mind) for both ordinary and buddha mind. Capitalising it is meant to help the reader, but at the same time it gives the impression as if there were two minds. Zongmi often said, "That which is clear and capable of awareness right now is your Buddha-mind." (Jinul quotes it a few times, e.g. Collected Works of Chinul, p 272) Mystical or not, it is right here for everyone to recognise.
"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: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Jul 18, 2013 12:38 am

Astus wrote:The skandhas can be split into two parts: rupa and nama (body and mind). The four mental aggregates represent one of the possible categorisation of mental functions. It doesn't mean there are 4 minds or anything like that. They are what the mind-stream is. Since the mind-stream is maintained not by material things (rupa) but by previous mental phenomena, with the death of the body the mind does not cease to function.


I think you are conflating the abdhidhamma categories with the primarily mystical attitude that began to appear with Mahayana Buddhism. In fact in the abdhidhamma mind is usually understood as 'manas' being the 'organ which grasps ideas'. I think the terms that are generally rendered as 'mind' in the more mystical sense are derived from 'citta' (as in 'bodhicitta') rather than 'manas'.

I know there are no capitals in Sanskrit (I actually did pass an exam on the subject a long time ago) but the point about Capital-M Mind is that it is a really different category to what is generally found in the Pali suttas. The idea of 'mind' underwent a complete transformation, or a number of them, in Mahayana and Tibetan Buddhism, where you have texts like 'liberation through knowing the One Mind'. I found an essay called Consciousness Mysticism in the Discources of the Buddha which argues that many of these developments were latent within the original discourses. My belief is that there are mystics within Buddhism itself, and have been from the very earliest times, and that there are a number of levels or layers within the teaching, mysticism being one of them. You can say that without saying that Buddhism is primarily or only mystical. It is many things.

I do understand why Buddhism doesn't talk in terms of 'soul' or 'God' but 'mindstream' and 'Mind' at least play analogous roles within the Buddhist tradition to those terms in other philosophical traditions. This is not to say they are 'the same' as all such terminology is addressing something that is beyond comparison. But there are somewhat 'quasi-theist' streams in Mahayana, notably, for instance, scriptures such as 'Awakening of the Faith in the Mahayana'.

Apart from that, I think the dogmatic interpretation of 'anatta' that is very commonly encountered on Buddhist forums is mistaken. 'Everything is impermanent' applies to 'the phenomenal realm', and 'the objects of experience', and so on. That is a very large domain, being, among other things, the domain of the natural sciences. But there is another 'domain', if you like, namely the domain of laws, one form of which is the idea of 'dharmakaya', which is not the subject of the notion of 'impermanence'. Of course one has to tread carefully here because neither is 'dharmakaya' an 'object of perception' for that very reason, so discussing it in terms of permanence and impermanence might be misleading. However suffice to say that the Mahayana idea of the 'cosmic Buddha', a class of being that has appeared and will continue to appear 'through aeons of Kalpas', is only meaningful if the underlying principle, namely Dharma, is not something that is subject to change and decay.
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Astus » Thu Jul 18, 2013 11:31 am

jeeprs wrote:I think you are conflating the abdhidhamma categories with the primarily mystical attitude that began to appear with Mahayana Buddhism. In fact in the abdhidhamma mind is usually understood as 'manas' being the 'organ which grasps ideas'. I think the terms that are generally rendered as 'mind' in the more mystical sense are derived from 'citta' (as in 'bodhicitta') rather than 'manas'.


What mystical attitude started with Mahayana? Madhyamaka refutes the ultimate reality of the abhidharma categories, but as relative things they are OK. Yogacara embraces the abhidharma system and even expands it, further elaborating on the functioning of mind. Regarding mental activities in abhidharma, it sets up the two mental categories as citta and caitasika. Here is a Theravada explanation:

"According to the Pali or Sanskrit language, the citta, or mind, has many different synonyms. The most important ones are mano, manas, and vinnana. In the commentaries of the Abhidhamma, manas, vinnana and cittam are considered to only be synonyms. Also in the Vissudhi Magga. Their difference is only in discussing different aspects of the subject matter.

Citta is defined as, “Alambanam cintaeti iti cittam,” that which cognizes the object. That is the mind. When we speak of mana, what is emphasized is that which is thinking. “Yena minnyatae tat manas.” So, the mind is considered as an instrument of thinking, as the action of thinking, cettana, and also as that which thinks about the object. Then, we have the vinnana, from vi- janati: that which differentiates. So, the mind is also that which differentiates the objects.

All of these meanings are there, and they are synonyms for the same thing. In the Theravada tradition, all are synonyms for the same phenomena, mind. What is most important is that the mind is understood as cetana, just thinking. What it means is that there is no possibility of what is common in European philosophy, “Cogito ergo su,” or “I cognize, therefore I am.”

In Buddhism, there is only, “Cogito er cognatio es,” or “I think therefore there is cognition.”

Cognition. There is nothing else to the mind. That mind, which is cognition, is also the instrument of cognition, and it is that by which the object is cognized."

(Abhidhamma with Ven. Dhammadipa)

If you check Madhyamaka, they recognise the normal six consciousnesses, while in Yogacara there are eight. In Vajrayana they match the five aggregates with the five buddha families and the five wisdoms, in Yogacara the eight consciousnesses with the four wisdoms. In the Awakening of Faith in Mahayana the tathagatagarbha is matched with alayavijnana. And all these consciousnesses correspond to the mental aggregates in the five skandhas. Where is the extra mystical component?

My belief is that there are mystics within Buddhism itself, and have been from the very earliest times, and that there are a number of levels or layers within the teaching, mysticism being one of them. You can say that without saying that Buddhism is primarily or only mystical. It is many things.


What do you mean by "mystics"? Not the I have any problem with the term, but it'd be good if you could clarify what its significance is.

But there are somewhat 'quasi-theist' streams in Mahayana, notably, for instance, scriptures such as 'Awakening of the Faith in the Mahayana'.


What quasi-theist streams are you referring to? Could you point to it in Asvaghosa's treatise?

But there is another 'domain', if you like, namely the domain of laws, one form of which is the idea of 'dharmakaya', which is not the subject of the notion of 'impermanence'. Of course one has to tread carefully here because neither is 'dharmakaya' an 'object of perception' for that very reason, so discussing it in terms of permanence and impermanence might be misleading. However suffice to say that the Mahayana idea of the 'cosmic Buddha', a class of being that has appeared and will continue to appear 'through aeons of Kalpas', is only meaningful if the underlying principle, namely Dharma, is not something that is subject to change and decay.


If there is a domain that cannot be experienced it has zero relevance to us. On the other hand, in the Awakening of Faith and many other teachings it is explained how one can understand and realise the true nature of mind. For example:

"If they understand that, concerning all things, though they are spoken of, there is neither that which speaks, nor that which can be spoken of, and though they are thought of, there is neither that which thinks, nor that which can be thought of, then they are said to have conformed to it."

"There is only the insight into Suchness transcending both the seer and the seen; we call this the experience of the Dharmakaya."

And if you look at the practical instructions from the treatise:

Cessation:
"All thoughts, as soon as they are conjured up, are to be discarded, and even the thought of discarding them is to be put away, for all things are essentially in the state of transcending thoughts, and are not to be created from moment to moment nor to be extinguished from moment to moment; thus one is to conform to the essential nature of Reality (dharmata) through this practice of cessation. ... It should be understood that this "correct thought" is the thought that whatever is, is mind only and that there is no external world of objects as conceived; even this mind is devoid of any marks of its own which would indicate its substantiality and therefore is not substantially conceivable as such at any moment."

Observation:

"He who practices "clear observation" should observe that all conditioned phenomena in the world are unstationary and are subject to instantaneous transformation and destruction; that all activities of the mind arise and are extinguished from moment to moment; and that, therefore, all of these induce suffering. He should observe that all that had been conceived in the past was as hazy as a dream, that all that is being conceived in the present is like a flash of lightning, and that all that will be conceived in the future will be like clouds that rise up suddenly."

Their Unity:

"That is to say, he is to meditate upon the fact that things are unborn in their essential nature; but at the same time he is to meditate upon the fact that good and evil karma, produced by the combination of the primary cause and the coordinating causes, and the retributions of karma in terms of pleasure, pain, etc., are neither lost nor destroyed. Though he is to meditate on the retribution of good and evil karma produced by the primary and coordinating causes [i.e., he is to practice "clear observation"], he is also to meditate on the fact that the essential nature of things is unobtainable by intellectual analysis."

If you look through these teachings, these meditation instructions from Asvaghosa, it talks about not grasping at phenomena and also seeing that all phenomena arise inter-dependently. That is the realisation of the middle way. Same as in Madhyamaka and Yogacara. Also in Tiantai and Zen. It doesn't talk about anything beyond appearances, it says that the nature of appearances is unborn and empty. That is what has to be realised.
"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: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Jul 18, 2013 1:25 pm

Astus wrote:What mystical attitude started with Mahayana?


You're looking at it but you can't see it. 'Emptiness', 'transcendent wisdom', 'bodhicitta', 'one mind', are all the language of mysticism. You keep pasting in all of these passages as if they prove something else, but that is how I understand all of them.

Anyway - what are you trying to say? What was your original question?

What if we were told that the nature of mind is that all experiences are impermanent? That's quite obvious, isn't it? Is there anything mystical about that?


Yes, as a matter of fact. Zen Buddhism is deeply mystical. How did it start? With the Buddha gazing at a flower and smiling. One particular monk 'gets it' and also smiles. There you go, birth of a grand tradition, via 'mind to mind transmission outside the scriptures'. How is that not mystical? What do you think we're discussing?

If you check Madhyamaka, they recognise the normal six consciousnesses, while in Yogacara there are eight. In Vajrayana they match the five aggregates with the five buddha families and the five wisdoms, in Yogacara the eight consciousnesses with the four wisdoms. In the Awakening of Faith in Mahayana the tathagatagarbha is matched with alayavijnana. And all these consciousnesses correspond to the mental aggregates in the five skandhas. Where is the extra mystical component?


The alayavijnana is a mystical conception. It is often equated with Jung's idea of 'the collective unconscious'. Go into any University - say, the psychology department, or the philosophy department, and say 'hey, there's this entity call alayavijnana, it's the 'collective consciousness'. What are they going to say? 'How do you demonstrate it? How do you prove that it exists? What is it?' If you talked to a normal academic outside Buddhist studies or Indian philosophy, they would not have even the slightest idea of what you were talking about. (They don't even study Carl Jung outside religious or cultural studies departments.) There is no way you can point to 'the collective unconscious' and say 'that is what it is'. The conception is only meaningful within a realm of discourse. Of course it is meaningful in Dharma Wheel, because that is a realm of discourse within which such concepts are meaningful to the contributors. But that doesn't mean that such ideas as 'alayavijnana' and 'one mind' are what most people would understand as empirical realities. They're meaningful to you because you're immersed in reading texts about them, but outside that, what are they? What is the reality they signify? You seem to think they are something very quotidian, everyday, clear for all to see. But they're not.

Here I have a book called 'No River to Cross', by Zen Master Daehaeng. Almost every page is about 'one mind', which, she says in one place:

Juingong is the fundamental mind with which each one of us is inherently endowed, and the mind that is directly connected to every single thing. Through this connection, Juingong functions together with everything as one.


There are many such statements throughout this text, which also says in various places that you can call this one mind 'God' or 'Love'. I am not criticizing this book or it's author. It is a very edifying book. Passages from it could also be taken directly from (for instance) Maimonedes or Plotinus. That is what I mean by 'quasi theistic' - 'contains ideas which can plausibly equated with Deity'. I perfectly understand there are many Buddhists who *don't* like that approach and that's fine, also. I am not saying it is the right or only approach, but it is an approach.

Granted, many translations of the Awakening of the Faith are influenced by the fact that one of the original translations were by Samual Beal who was a Christian chaplain. But the text is about 'the world soul' and 'the one mind'. These are religious ideas, they are not simple straightforward descriptions of phenomena. If you study comparitive religions there are analogous ideas in Kabbalah, Hermeticism, and other traditions. That doesn't mean they're all the same, or saying the same things, but they're analogous. And they are, broadly speaking, religious and mystical ideas. And why is that a problem? What is the problem with the mystical? To the mystics, it is a fact of life, but one which, apparently, many people don't see.

(Asvaghosa) talks about not grasping at phenomena and also seeing that all phenomena arise inter-dependently.


Right. But this *is" a 'renunciate philosophy'. It is not like a worldly philosophy, like European existentialism or linguistic analysis or logical positivism. Those texts by and large originated with renunciates, sages and yogis. They do have a perspective which is quite different to that of the worldly mind, or the modern mind, in most cases. They are different kinds of people.

It doesn't talk about anything beyond appearances, it says that the nature of appearances is unborn and empty.


And I don't think you're conveying a sense of what 'unborn and empty' actually mean. It isn't just a mental attitude or a way of combining words. What does it mean? How does that give rise to 'great compassion'? What is the dynamic?

And I emphatically disagree with 'seeing nothing beyond appearances'. The notion of the 'equality of nirvana and samsara' - and remember that is a very radical idea, which to this day the Theravada Buddhists have never accepted - is not that the uninstructed worlding is no different to the Buddha. How does Suzuki put it:

D T Suzuki wrote:Buddhism is the story of relationship between the two groups of beings: the one is called Buddha who is the enlightened, the Tathagata, the Arhat, and the other is generally designated as Sarvasattva, literally "all beings", who are ignorant, greedy for worldly things, and therefore in perpetual torment. In spite of their hankering for worldly enjoyments, they are conscious of their condition and not at all satisfied with it; when they reflect they find themselves quite forlorn inwardly, they long for real happiness, for ultimate reality, and blissful enlightenment. They look upwards, where the Buddha sits rapt in his meditation serenely regarding them with his transcendental wisdom. As he looks down at his fellow-beings inexplicably tormented with their greed and ignorance and egotism, he is disturbed, for he feels an inextinguishable feeling of love stirring within himself—the feeling now perfectly purified of all the defilements of selfishness, which embraces the whole world in pity though not attached to it. The Buddha leaves his transcendental abode. He is seen among sentient beings, each one of whom recognises him according to his own light.

Transcendental wisdom (prajna) and a heart of all-embracing love (mahakaruna) constitute the very reason of Buddhahood, while the desire or thirst for life (trishna), and ignorance as to the meaning of life (avidya), and deeds (karma) following from the blind assertion of life-impulse— these are the factors that enter into the nature of Sarvasattva, all ignorant and infatuated ones. The one who is above, looking downward, extends his arms to help; the other unable to extricate himself from entanglements looks up in despair, and finding the helping arms stretches his own to take hold of them.


So - we're quoting the same texts, talking about the same ideas, but we're obviously seeing very different things in them.
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Astus » Thu Jul 18, 2013 9:44 pm

jeeprs wrote:Yes, as a matter of fact. Zen Buddhism is deeply mystical. How did it start? With the Buddha gazing at a flower and smiling. One particular monk 'gets it' and also smiles. There you go, birth of a grand tradition, via 'mind to mind transmission outside the scriptures'. How is that not mystical? What do you think we're discussing?


The story of raising a flower was first mentioned in the Tiansheng Guangdeng Lu (Zen Classics, p 203), a Song Dynasty text propagating the Linji faction (The Linji Lu and the Creation of Chan Orthodoxy, p 39f) and their idea of "transmission outside the scriptures". Previous Zen records have no knowledge about it. It is at best the mythological beginning of Zen.

The alayavijnana is a mystical conception. It is often equated with Jung's idea of 'the collective unconscious'.


I agree, the alayavijnana is not a common term, however, it is well known among Mahayana Buddhists. On the other hand, it is definitely not a "collective unconscious". Everybody has their personal karma, their own habitual tendencies. Yogacara denies even the possibility of perceiving another's mind, sharing it among each other is even less likely.

Here I have a book called 'No River to Cross', by Zen Master Daehaeng. Almost every page is about 'one mind'


Look at how she defines the term Juingong:

"Why is it called Juingong? It is the doer, so it is called "Juin (主人)," and it is completely empty, that is, it is always changing, without any fixed shape, so it is called "Gong (空)". Thus Juingong means your fundamental, underlying essence, which is always changing and manifesting."
(No River To Cross, p10)

How is that different from Linji?

"What is dharma? ‘Dharma’ is the dharma of mind. Mind is without form; it pervades the ten directions and is manifesting its activity right before your very eyes."
(The Record of Linji, p 11. tr. Sasaki)

"Followers of the Way, mind is without form and pervades the ten directions.
In the eye it is called seeing, in the ear it is called hearing.
In the nose it smells odors, in the mouth it holds converse.
In the hands it grasps and seizes, in the feet it runs and carries.
Fundamentally it is one pure radiance; divided it becomes the six harmoniously united spheres of sense. If the mind is void, wherever you are, you are emancipated."

(p 9-10)

Later Linji also says,

"when it is realized that these six—color, sound, odor, taste, touch, and dharmas— are all empty forms, they cannot bind the man of the Way, dependent upon nothing. Constituted though he is of the seepage of the five skandhas, he has the supernatural power of walking upon the earth."
(p 20)

Daehaeng Sunim often explained that there is no point in praying to Juingong waiting for some sort of solution to our problems. What one has to do is to trust in Juingong, the true nature of the mind, and let go of everything, let Juingong take care of it. This is the essential practice of Zen, letting go. Although Daehaeng Sunim may sound like someone talking about Juingong as if it were God, a careful look at her teachings show that it's nothing like any deity of any religion, it is simply the nature of our own mind. Yotaku Bankei was also mistaken for a Christian by some because of his teaching of the Unborn. This is similar to people who confuse buddha-nature with a soul. It's all because people lack the necessary training in the fundamental teachings of the Buddha. It is one of the reasons I say that emphasising impermanence makes things easier.

Granted, many translations of the Awakening of the Faith are influenced by the fact that one of the original translations were by Samual Beal who was a Christian chaplain. But the text is about 'the world soul' and 'the one mind'.


Hakeda's translation is quite good. It does talk of one mind, and by that it means the mind of the sentient beings that is the tathagatagarbha, it has the two aspects of principle (emptiness) and function (dependent origination), and they are not two separate things or realms. This is what one recognises through the meditation practice described in the treatise.

And I emphatically disagree with 'seeing nothing beyond appearances'. The notion of the 'equality of nirvana and samsara' - and remember that is a very radical idea, which to this day the Theravada Buddhists have never accepted - is not that the uninstructed worlding is no different to the Buddha. How does Suzuki put it:


Is emptiness outside of appearances? No, appearances themselves are empty. The teaching of emptiness is a statement about the nature of phenomena. I don't know how radical this is when it is a core Mahayana doctrine and found in every tradition. It doesn't mean that there are no ignorance and enlightenment. In fact, wisdom is seeing that all things are empty, while not seeing that is being deluded.
"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: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Jul 19, 2013 1:52 am

Astus wrote:
Linji wrote:Constituted though he is of the seepage of the five skandhas, he has the supernatural power of walking upon the earth.


What do you think is the significance of 'supernatural' in this quotation?

Astus wrote:Daehaeng Sunim often explained that there is no point in praying to Juingong waiting for some sort of solution to our problems. What one has to do is to trust in Juingong, the true nature of the mind, and let go of everything, let Juingong take care of it.


Substitute the word Juingong with 'God' and any Christian would say the same.

Although Daehaeng Sunim may sound like someone talking about Juingong as if it were God, a careful look at her teachings show that it's nothing like any deity of any religion, it is simply the nature of our own mind.


But she herself says in that passage I quoted, that it might be thought of as God. She doesn't have a problem with that, even if you do. And if you spoke to a non-Buddhist about 'the nature of your own mind' what would that mean to them? If I stopped the man in the street and said 'look here, trust in the true nature of your own mind', how would he respond? If he even wanted to begin, he would be undertaking a sadhana. That is why such things as 'Zen Buddhism' exist. If 'the true nature of mind' was obvious to everyone, then there would be no need of any teachings, schools, or even Buddhism itself. It only exists as a remedy for ignorance, but ignorance is the normal condition and we're all deeply embedded in it.

'The true nature', 'big mind', 'buddha nature', these are concepts from within a religious tradition, namely, Buddhism. I don't see how you can keep quoting them, referring to them, and saying 'this is what they mean', without acknowledging that elementary fact.

What it 'deity', anyway? I'm sure that for a lot of people, God is actually 'Jupiter', meaning 'sky-father'. That seems to be the kind of 'God' that many people pray to and atheists deny. But the mystical understanding of 'God' is completely different to that. That is why you can have Christian Buddhist meditation retreats, and why, for instance, there is an entire school of Zen Christianity, with teachers that are trained in both traditions. There are certainly differences between them but not an unbridgeable gulf.

I don't confuse 'Buddha Nature' with 'soul' but I believe both terms signify something profoundly real, and they're not mutually exclusive.

I don't know how radical this is when it is a core Mahayana doctrine and found in every tradition. It doesn't mean that there are no ignorance and enlightenment. In fact, wisdom is seeing that all things are empty, while not seeing that is being deluded.


Mahayana Buddhism is radical. Radical means 'of the root'. A radical difference means 'changing the very basis' of something. 'Seeing that things are empty' is not an intellectual position, but a different way of life altogether.
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby LastLegend » Fri Jul 19, 2013 5:54 am

I praise you two Astus and jeepers for your knowledge, understanding, intentions, points, and teaching passages that you bring here.

Here is my piece (not exactly mine) but:

As long as we are not enlightened, aspects of our mind will remain mystical. We can only experience Buddha when we are Buddha. So then Buddha remains mystical to us. The experience of oneness (i.e., matter and mind are one, no separation) will remain unknown until we become Buddha. At the same time, we know all we can experience is our mind, which is the closet thing to us. We have not experienced any other concepts that are spoken of, including Buddha, then how do we know if those concepts are true for us? So then we should not chase those concepts. In Chan tradition, for example "Who is I?" or "Who recites Buddha?" is to be contemplated until one becomes enlightened...while at the same time, we are to honor teachings of and about previously enlightened Buddhas. Pure Landers will always honor the teaching of Amitabha. We are to always honor the teaching of cause and effect.

Lastly, for the infamous 'emptiness,' Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Thanh Tu put it, "Before there was a vase and flowers in it, there was emptiness." So then emptiness is the default state. Fundamentally, Huineng said, "There is not a thing there."

:namaste:
Last edited by LastLegend on Fri Jul 19, 2013 6:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Jul 19, 2013 6:12 am

Well stated!

But - you better make sure there is water in the vase! If there is nothing, the flowers will not last long.

:namaste:
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Koji » Fri Jul 19, 2013 6:23 am

LastLegend wrote:I praise you two Astus and jeepers for your knowledge, understanding, intentions, points, and teaching passages that you bring here.

Here is my piece (not exactly mine) but:

As long as we are not enlightened, aspects of our mind will remain mystical. We can only experience Buddha when we are Buddha. So then Buddha remains mystical to us. The experience of oneness (i.e., matter and mind are one, no separation) will remain unknown until we become Buddha. At the same time, we know all we can experience is our mind, which is the closet thing to us. We have not experienced any other concepts that are spoken of, including Buddha, then how do we know if those concepts are true for us? So then we should not chase those concepts. In Chan tradition, for example "Who is I?" or "Who recites Buddha?" is to be contemplated until one becomes enlightened...while at the same time, we are to honor teachings of and about previously enlightened Buddhas. Pure Landers will always honor the teaching of Amitabha.

Lastly, for the infamous 'emptiness,' Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Thanh Tu put it, "Before there was a vase and flowers in it, there was emptiness." So then emptiness is the default state. Fundamentally, Huineng said, "There is not a thing there."

:namaste:


I was hoping a ray of light could have been shed on Buddhist mysticism. But the conversation seemed to get bogged down in the mud of semantics. I didn't sense any clarity of thought.

I found this in my old notes. At least it's attempts to shed some light, even firefly light.

“Mysticism has been characterized in a variety of ways: an apprehension of an ultimate nonsensuous unity of all things, a direct apperception of deity, the art of union with reality, an immediate contact or union of the self with a larger-than-self.” The Perennial Dictionary of World Religions
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby oushi » Fri Jul 19, 2013 7:52 am

Short quote from Bodhidharmas Wake-up Sermon:
'When you're deluded, buddhahood exists. When you’re aware, it doesn't exist. This is because awareness is buddhahood.'

This shows that characteristics of Kensho are delusions.
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