Mystical Unity and Kensho

Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Koji » Wed Aug 14, 2013 7:59 pm

Astus wrote:
Koji wrote:A good analogy might be made of the difference between a pot of clay and clay itself or of a gold lion and gold.


And for that a good explanation is Candrakirti's sevenfold reasoning of the chariot. Or, to make it more complicated, there is Fazang's Treatise on the Golden Lion. Candrakirti shows how no essence can be established anywhere, Fazang shows how emptiness and phenomena are inseparable and interpenetrated.

Reading your comments you seem to be championing samsara/conditionality and maculate minds over nirvana/unconditionality and immaculate minds.


As above, not established and interpenetrated. The dichotomy of samsara and nirvana is only a skilful means, but there is no nirvana outside of samsara.

Candrakirti's analogy doesn't apply. As for the Fa-tsang's Gold Lion Treatise it appears to me that you are unfamiliar with its important parts. My analogy fits perfectly insofar as Fa-tsang drew a distinction between the gold/noumenon and the lion shape/phenomenon. He described the noumenon as the substance or essence which is by nature clear and pure and all perfect, not to mention luminous. This substance he explains is Dharmata, the nature underlying all things.

As for your last remark "there is no nirvana outside of samsara," nirvana cannot exist in samsara because its own nature is unconditioned. Escape from all conditioned states is only possible because we have as our own nature that which is the antithesis of conditionality, namely, the unconditioned element (cp. Itivuttaka-atthakathâ II.2.6).
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Koji » Wed Aug 14, 2013 8:12 pm

Astus wrote:
Treetop wrote:What about a “universal non-substance”? We all share a Buddha nature, is that universal?


Universal non-substance is emptiness, no-self, i.e. nothing has a substance. Buddha-nature has many interpretations, it generally refers to the capability to attain buddhahood and not some hidden soul.


The definition of emptiness in the Nikayas/Agamas and according to Asanga has nothing in it like "universal non-substance". This is clearly a reification of emptiness into something like sarva-abhâvat (universal nothingness).
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Astus » Wed Aug 14, 2013 11:01 pm

Koji wrote:My analogy fits perfectly insofar as Fa-tsang drew a distinction between the gold/noumenon and the lion shape/phenomenon. He described the noumenon as the substance or essence which is by nature clear and pure and all perfect, not to mention luminous. This substance he explains is Dharmata, the nature underlying all things.

As for your last remark "there is no nirvana outside of samsara," nirvana cannot exist in samsara because its own nature is unconditioned. Escape from all conditioned states is only possible because we have as our own nature that which is the antithesis of conditionality, namely, the unconditioned element (cp. Itivuttaka-atthakathâ II.2.6).


First let's look at what Fazang calls the five doctrines. This strong distinction you mention between gold and form is OK for the first stage of Sravakayana. But already at the second of basic Mahayana dependent origination is identified as emptiness, thus they are not two. In the final Round Doctrine of the One Vehicle there is the interpenetration of phenomena with phenomena (the fourth dharmadhatu) where "whatever arises is absolutely true" and "myriad manifestations, despite their variety, interpenetrate without confusion or disarray".

Right before the list of the five doctrines Fazang simply states: "There is nothing apart from the gold." And before that: "Emptiness does not have any mark of its own; it is through forms that [Emptiness] is revealed". That is, whatever is seen is gold, just as it is. He explains it in detail in the ten mysteries, where "the gold and the lion are simultaneously established", "the gold and the lion both establish and include each other in harmony", "The one is the other. The principal and the companion interchange their radiance." and "the gold and the lion may be manifest or hidden, one or many, but they are both devoid of a Self-being [Svabhāva]".

In practical terms Fazang teaches: "when we look at the lion, we see at once that all conditioned things, without going through the process of disintegration, are from the beginning in a state of quiescent non-existence." The appearances are not destroyed, no external peaceful state gained, simply the actual nature of appearances are seen. So he says: "To comprehend the fact that from the very no-beginning all illusions are in reality non-existent is called Enlightenment."
"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: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Aug 15, 2013 12:59 am

Where is the joy in all this? Where is the energy that fuels the bodhicitta that feels compassion for all beings? If Zen enlightenment is simply 'disillusionment', then why strive for anything? If it is such an ordinary matter, if there really is 'no gold', then what is the point?

From the James Ford opinon piece in the original post:

James Ford wrote:Other Zen writers and teachers downplay the whole thing. Joko Beck would never speak of awakening experiences as anything but “small intimations.” Other teachers go even farther and suggest kensho is totally alien to the Zen experience and a problem to be avoided.

I find this last bit very sad, a selling of one’s inheritance for a bowl of mush.

Here’s the deal. Zen without kensho is not Zen. It’s that important.


I'm with him on that.
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby LastLegend » Thu Aug 15, 2013 6:12 am

I like Buddhism because after all the conceptual teaching that I have learned, it all comes down to my own experience. Not saying conceptual teaching is not necessary, in fact it is necessary. At the same time, I think it is good to be versed in conceptual teaching so that we can pass it on to people who want to learn.
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby LastLegend » Thu Aug 15, 2013 6:43 am

The mind is not a substance of itself, yet it is there. It implies in appearances or objects, interdependent on it-where there is mind, there is appearance, and where there is appearance, there is mind. Yes, there are states of enlightenment...can be colorful and all of that because "from emptiness, everything arises." So why not? If I have to conceptualize what enlightenment is like, I would say it is not blackness or nothing or whatever we imagine it to be. But we can definitely imagine it to have appearances. Now what those appearances look like, I don't know. For example, Pure Land has some appearances also...yes, I do think that emptiness is really difficult for non-buddhists to understand.

The unconditioned or unborn is no substance of itself either and it manifests through the conditioned because without it we would not be aware of anythinng. That's why it is empty? The way I understand the unconditioned or unborn is, "if there is birth, there is death. If there is no birth, then there is no death." The same way I understand cause and effect, "If you grow apple, you will have apples."

Don't beat me up just my opinion.

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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby LastLegend » Thu Aug 15, 2013 6:50 am

jeeprs wrote:Where is the joy in all this? Where is the energy that fuels the bodhicitta that feels compassion for all beings? If Zen enlightenment is simply 'disillusionment', then why strive for anything? If it is such an ordinary matter, if there really is 'no gold', then what is the point?


I think Buddhists can definitely incorporate bodhicitta into practice.
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Astus » Thu Aug 15, 2013 11:44 am

jeeprs wrote:Where is the joy in all this? Where is the energy that fuels the bodhicitta that feels compassion for all beings? If Zen enlightenment is simply 'disillusionment', then why strive for anything? If it is such an ordinary matter, if there really is 'no gold', then what is the point?


Kensho, seeing nature, is disillusionment with one's objects of attachment. Because one sees the actual nature of mind as ungraspable, unattainable, unborn, that is, dependently appearing like dreams and magic tricks. As Zhiyan explains the metaphor of Indra's net (Entry into the Inconceivable, p 136), there is no special power involved when the teachings talk about things like "infinite buddha-lands in a single atom" etc. In Zen this is called the functioning of the mind. Case 4 of the Book of Equanimity is an example:

"When the World-Honored One was walking with his assembly, he pointed to the ground with his hand and said, "This place is good for building a temple." Indra took a stalk of grass and stuck it in the ground and said, "The temple has been built." The World-Honored One smiled."

Or as Yuanwu said in the intro to case 8 of the Blue Cliff Record: "Sometimes we take a blade of grass and use it as a sixteen foot golden body [of the buddha]; sometimes we take a sixteen foot golden body and use it as a blade of grass."

If this is viewed as mystical and magical one automatically distances oneself from the immediate reality. That is, thoughts come and go, change and move around, but they are no problem as long as one does not take them to be anything substantial.
"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: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Aug 15, 2013 11:53 am

how does this give rise to compassion? What is the link? In my experience it is not a matter of 'incorporating Bodhicitta' because it is something beyond your will. It has to happen to you. It is not something you do, but something you yield to, or so it seems to me.
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Astus » Thu Aug 15, 2013 12:11 pm

jeeprs wrote:how does this give rise to compassion? What is the link? In my experience it is not a matter of 'incorporating Bodhicitta' because it is something beyond your will. It has to happen to you. It is not something you do, but something you yield to, or so it seems to me.


Great compassion comes from opening up for all appearances, from not hanging on a supposedly unconditioned state (the usual theme of sravakas stuck in nirvana), but through seeing our human-sentient nature we understand the struggle of all beings and can only wish for their well being and liberation. That's how emptiness and compassion are inseparable.
"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: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby LastLegend » Thu Aug 15, 2013 2:44 pm

My opinion is since everything exists by relationship, so there is no really separation between sentient beings; and there is no separation between sentient beings and Buddhas. There is no separation between minds of sentient beings and mind of Buddhas. Where is the separation? "All is one, one is all." Some thing like this: a body is consisting of organs and parts, and those organs and parts are sentient beings. There is a saying like this (not exact wording), "All Buddhas of 10 directions share one Dharma body." I think Dharma body is synonymous with Dharmakaya.
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Aug 15, 2013 9:58 pm

I perfectly agree. Hence, 'mystical unity'.
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Koji » Thu Aug 15, 2013 10:20 pm

As I read Astus he is saying that the conditioned cannot be transcended (nirvana-ed) because there is nothing beyond conditionality (nirvana is thus not real). In this respect, the unconditioned (nirvana) has no relevance for us. This is hardly a recipe for mystical unity and especially kensho which in every way implies transcendence of conditionality.

Nirvana, the unconditioned, has as different meaning in the Milindapañha 269–71:

"Just so it is possible to point out the way to the realization of Nirvana, but impossible to show a cause for its production.  Could a man, who with his natural strength has crossed in a boat over the great ocean, get to the farther shore? – 'Yes, he could.' – But could that man with his natural strength bring the farther shore here? – 'No, he could not' – Just so one can point out the way to the realization of Nirvana, but one cannot show a cause for its production. And what is the reason for that?  Because that dharma, Nirvana, is unconditioned. – 'Is then, Nagesena, Nirvana unconditioned?' – So it is, O king, unconditioned is Nirvana, not made by anything.  Of Nirvana one cannot say that it is produced, or unproduced, or that should be produced; that it is past, or future, or present; or that one can become aware of it by the eye, or the ear, or the nose, or the tongue, or the body. – 'In that case, Nagasena, you indicate Nirvana as a dharma which is not, and Nirvana does not exist' – Nirvana is something which isIt is cognizable by the mindA holy disciple, who has followed the right road, sees Nirvana with a mind which is pure, sublime, straight, unimpeded and disinterested." (Emphasis is mine.)


We see that nirvana, the unconditioned, certainly exists and is relevant if we wish to escape from samsara.
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Astus » Thu Aug 15, 2013 10:53 pm

Koji wrote:As I read Astus he is saying that the conditioned cannot be transcended (nirvana-ed) because there is nothing beyond conditionality (nirvana is thus not real). In this respect, the unconditioned (nirvana) has no relevance for us. This is hardly a recipe for mystical unity and especially kensho which in every way implies transcendence of conditionality.


What I'm saying is that there is no unconditioned outside of the conditioned. Conditioned is essentially unconditioned. That is, appearances are originally empty. There is no emptiness outside of appearances. And looking for an unconditioned somewhere else is following mistaken ideas.
"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: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Aug 16, 2013 2:40 am

I think what you're saying is one interpretation of Mahayana philosophy, grounded in the teaching that Nirvana and Samsara are not ultimately separate. But in practice such an idea can be misleading. 'The Buddha', i.e., 'the fully realized being', is radically different from the 'man in the street'. That is why I mentioned the verse which says:

the Tathagata is deep, boundless, hard to fathom, like the sea.


There are also innumerable passages which stress that the 'Dharma the Buddha sees is deep, difficult to see, hard to fathom, perceivable only to the Wise'. Again these passages stress the profound difference between the Buddha and the 'ignorant worldling'.

Suzuki puts the traditional view of this difference succinctly in his introduction and commentary on the Lankavatara:

From the Mahayana point of view, beings are divisible into two heads: those that are enlightened and those that are ignorant. The former are called Buddhas including also Bodhisattvas, Arhats, and Pratyekabuddhas while the latter comprise all the rest of beings under the general designation of bala or balaprithagjana—bala meaning "undeveloped", "puerile", or "ignorant", and prithagjana "people different" from the enlightened, that is, the multitudes, or people of ordinary type, whose minds are found engrossed in the pursuit of egotistic pleasures and unawakened to the meaning of life.


It is true that Zen in particular stresses the 'extraordinary in the midsts of the ordinary' (like the 'moon in the dewdrop') but I think Astus is reading this in a somewhat 'deflationary' way, to dismiss or discount the essentially 'world-transcending' attributes and characteristics of 'the Tathagatha'. It is possible to interpret many Zen passages in support of that view, but I don't read those passages the same way.

However:

koji wrote:We see that nirvana, the unconditioned, certainly exists and is relevant if we wish to escape from samsara.


I think one has to be very careful with the word 'exists' in this matter. To say that something 'exists' is exactly to bring it within the realm of name and form, to make it 'that' as distinct from 'this'. If you say nirvana 'exists', the question will naturally be asked 'where does it exist? What is it? Hence the significance of the Buddha's 'silence' in response to many such questions about ultimate matters.
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Koji » Fri Aug 16, 2013 6:10 am

jeeprs wrote:I think what you're saying is one interpretation of Mahayana philosophy, grounded in the teaching that Nirvana and Samsara are not ultimately separate. But in practice such an idea can be misleading. 'The Buddha', i.e., 'the fully realized being', is radically different from the 'man in the street'. That is why I mentioned the verse which says:

the Tathagata is deep, boundless, hard to fathom, like the sea.


There are also innumerable passages which stress that the 'Dharma the Buddha sees is deep, difficult to see, hard to fathom, perceivable only to the Wise'. Again these passages stress the profound difference between the Buddha and the 'ignorant worldling'.

Suzuki puts the traditional view of this difference succinctly in his introduction and commentary on the Lankavatara:

From the Mahayana point of view, beings are divisible into two heads: those that are enlightened and those that are ignorant. The former are called Buddhas including also Bodhisattvas, Arhats, and Pratyekabuddhas while the latter comprise all the rest of beings under the general designation of bala or balaprithagjana—bala meaning "undeveloped", "puerile", or "ignorant", and prithagjana "people different" from the enlightened, that is, the multitudes, or people of ordinary type, whose minds are found engrossed in the pursuit of egotistic pleasures and unawakened to the meaning of life.


It is true that Zen in particular stresses the 'extraordinary in the midsts of the ordinary' (like the 'moon in the dewdrop') but I think Astus is reading this in a somewhat 'deflationary' way, to dismiss or discount the essentially 'world-transcending' attributes and characteristics of 'the Tathagatha'. It is possible to interpret many Zen passages in support of that view, but I don't read those passages the same way.

However:

koji wrote:We see that nirvana, the unconditioned, certainly exists and is relevant if we wish to escape from samsara.


I think one has to be very careful with the word 'exists' in this matter. To say that something 'exists' is exactly to bring it within the realm of name and form, to make it 'that' as distinct from 'this'. If you say nirvana 'exists', the question will naturally be asked 'where does it exist? What is it? Hence the significance of the Buddha's 'silence' in response to many such questions about ultimate matters.


My use of the term "exits" means "vastu" (the worthy object) certainly not bhava. Switching gears, we also need to be clear that the Buddha's dharma was not hammered out by reasoning. This doesn't leave us with much of an alternative expect the transcendental. I realize this is not popular with some Buddhists. The tendency in secular Buddhism, as I follow it, is to assume that Buddha's dharma is hammered out by reasoning. This is quite wrong.
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Aug 16, 2013 6:23 am

The key text in this debate which casts light on the way the Buddha used the term 'exists' is this one:

Then the wanderer Vacchagotta went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there he asked the Blessed One: "Now then, Venerable Gotama, is there a self?"

When this was said, the Blessed One was silent.

"Then is there no self?"

A second time, the Blessed One was silent.

Then Vacchagotta the wanderer got up from his seat and left.

Then, not long after Vacchagotta the wanderer had left, Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, "Why, lord, did the Blessed One not answer when asked a question by Vacchagotta the wanderer?"

"Ananda, if I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is a self — were to answer that there is a self, that would be conforming with those brahmans & contemplatives who are exponents of eternalism [the view that there is an eternal, unchanging soul]. If I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self — were to answer that there is no self, that would be conforming with those brahmans & contemplatives who are exponents of annihilationism [the view that death is the annihilation of consciousness]. If I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is a self — were to answer that there is a self, would that be in keeping with the arising of knowledge that all phenomena are not-self?"

"No, lord."

"And if I — being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is no self — were to answer that there is no self, the bewildered Vacchagotta would become even more bewildered: 'Does the self I used to have now not exist?'"


Note - neither 'is' nor 'is not'. 'Does exist' is 'eternalism', 'does not exist' is 'nihilism'. The self cannot be said to either exist or not exist.
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Astus » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:55 am

jeeprs wrote:But in practice such an idea can be misleading.


Only if one believes that there is nothing to change about identifying with phenomena. Otherwise it is actually pointing to the practice to be done, because one has to see the emptiness of one's own everyday experience and not look for some supernatural realm outside of that. Also, obtaining the "ordinary mind" is right here and not some other place.

Again these passages stress the profound difference between the Buddha and the 'ignorant worldling'.


The difficulty is not in the teaching but the abilities of the practitioner. Thick and dull people should busy themselves with repentance, purification practices and merit accumulation, not high level wisdom teachings that only confuses them.

I think Astus is reading this in a somewhat 'deflationary' way, to dismiss or discount the essentially 'world-transcending' attributes and characteristics of 'the Tathagatha'. It is possible to interpret many Zen passages in support of that view, but I don't read those passages the same way.


As I see it, Zen is the path of sudden enlightenment for those with the proper abilities. Otherwise one should look at the general Mahayana teachings and follow the gradual training. It is useless to follow a method meant for high level practitioners when one has lesser abilities.

"Those of dull faculties who cannot bring this into effect
Must continuously strive at repentance
Of their beginningless crimes.
When all hindrances are extinguished
The Buddha-state appears before your eyes."

(Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment, ch 11)

"Therefore, being with no place to dwell is the way of all Buddha activity. The Mind that does not abide anywhere is the Perfect Awakening, Without understanding the Unconditioned Truth, even with much learning and diligent practice, one still does not recognize one's own Mind. ... Because one lacks the capacity for sudden Awakening, one must study the Tao of Dhyana for 3, 5, or 10 years. There is no special arrangement or negotiation for achieving Buddhadharma. However, this Teaching of the Tathagata exists as an expedient for the purpose of transforming all beings. For example, one shows a yellow leaf to a crying baby and pretends that it is gold. This is not really true, but it stops the crying of the baby. If a teaching says that there is truly something to obtain, then it is not the Teaching of my sect, nor would I be a member of such an heretical sect."
(Huang-po: Chung-Ling Record)
"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: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby Practice » Fri Aug 16, 2013 2:28 pm

Are humility and a deep respect for what I don’t know a part of Buddhist practice?
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Re: Mystical Unity and Kensho

Postby oushi » Fri Aug 16, 2013 2:34 pm

Treetop wrote:Are humility and a deep respect for what I don’t know a part of Buddhist practice?

Yes, and dropping the desire to know is the fruit of it.
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