Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 28, 2011 2:41 pm

Nyogen Senzaki (Like a Dream, Like a Fantasy, p. 73-74)
A Lecture on Meditation: For Beginners

"Quietness is an element in meditation, but merely striving to attain quietness leads nowhere. It is like putting a paper bag over a cat’s head: It will walk backward but will never be able to advance. A cranky old man who scolds children for making noise violates with his loud voice the very quietness he upholds. The same thing happens when one forces oneself to enter quietness. It is only when one forgets both the world of noise and the realm of quietness that one is able to enter into the kingdom of true silence. This, however is not what we are gathered here for, either. Watching movies or resting in the park is just as good as sitting in a zendo, if what you want is quietness. Strangers to a zendo usually are unable to see anything more than its atmosphere of quietness; the vastness lying beyond can only be detected by those who know what real Zen practice is all about.

You should never for a moment think that you are dwelling in quietness. You are students of nonthinking—what right have you to tarry in tranquillity! Just march on bravely, regulating your breath or working on your köan. Zen meditation is the most simple method in the world for mind-training. Meditation is complicated and difficult only when one becomes more interested in one’s own opinions and ideas than in disentangling oneself from all traces of dualistic thinking. As Zen Master Nanin once said: “Unless you empty your teacup, I cannot fill it.”

In the beginning, you aim to empty your mind and try to drive all thoughts away. But aiming and trying are also thoughts! So aiming and trying keep you from your goal, of becoming emptiness itself. When you think you are in emptiness, you are not in emptiness. When you think you have discovered your Buddha-nature, you are far away from it. When no thought arises, there is no need to drive thoughts away. When nothing is born, nothing dies. When nothing is good, nothing is bad. What you never had, you will never miss. What you do not see does not disappear. What cannot increase cannot decrease. This is true emptiness. This is samädhi. ‘When you enter into this condition, then you are walking in the Palace of Realization. Never to think—even for a moment—that you are enlightened: This is the ideal of Zen meditation."


Some points to ponder about this text:

You don't work on attaining quietness but you have to regulate your breath.
Students of nonthinking has to work bravely on their koans.
No aiming, no trying - a student has to cultivate zazen to attain it.
When there is no thought they don't have to be driven away, but if there are thoughts of emptiness and buddha-nature it is bad.
True emptiness is that non-existent things are non-existent.
If you don't think you're enlightened you've attained Zen meditation.
"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: Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby Dechen Norbu » Fri Apr 29, 2011 4:46 pm

:roll:
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Re: Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby Astus » Fri Apr 29, 2011 5:54 pm

Not much interest in discussing Zen, is there, DN? :shrug:
"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: Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby Jikan » Fri Apr 29, 2011 6:06 pm

Astus wrote:Not much interest in discussing Zen, is there, DN? :shrug:


It's a shame. So many online discussions of Zen & Zen practice, at least among North Americans I've encountered, usually descends into crypto-koan speak, or just bad poetry, or personal narrative rather than critical engagement.

I do not think this is the fault of the tradition or the participants. I think we just don't know how to talk about this material, so we struggle at it.
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Re: Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby Astus » Fri Apr 29, 2011 8:13 pm

Jikan,

Look at this text quoted in the original post. Read it like any normal English text and add your knowledge of Buddhism. What can you make of it then? Zen teaching is not more difficult than any other Buddhist doctrine. Its way of expressing itself, yes, that can get pretty messed up.
"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: Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby Dechen Norbu » Fri Apr 29, 2011 8:16 pm

Astus wrote:Not much interest in discussing Zen, is there, DN? :shrug:

No, not that. I'm all about discussing Zen.
Let's do it. I'll write the first thing that goes through my mind when reading the text.

"Quietness is an element in meditation, but merely striving to attain quietness leads nowhere. It is like putting a paper bag over a cat’s head: It will walk backward but will never be able to advance."
I wouldn't consider the state of shamatha going nowhere, much less putting a bag over a cat's head. Said like this, it seems like shamatha is "walking backward". Very unfortunately, I think nowadays shamatha is more needed than ever. Our mind is subjected to such a load of stimuli that plain mindfulness doesn't cut it.

"The same thing happens when one forces oneself to enter quietness. It is only when one forgets both the world of noise and the realm of quietness that one is able to enter into the kingdom of true silence."
Although some pressure is needed to achieve quiescence, force is not the favored method by any means. Forgetting the world of noise and of quietness is a very eloquent form of saying exactly what? It's not by forgetting what is concentration that we achieve it. We need to know what obstacles we will face like gross, medium and subtle torpor/agitation and the methods to overcome them. We need concentration, at least to a degree, to make full use of mindfulness. The kingdom of true silence is exactly what besides a poetic expression to someone untrained?

Watching movies or resting in the park is just as good as sitting in a zendo, if what you want is quietness.
This sort of sentences forget that initially training conditions are useful. By watching movies one doesn't achieve quietness. Quite the opposite in fact. I've never seen someone progressing in the path by watching movies... again, another nice sentence that I find counter productive. It's not that we can't practice mindfulness in any kind of situation. It's just that it's not that easy to do so before we master this skill. Developing concentration to a certain degree is important. Having a zendo to sit while doing it seems useful, IMO. Striving for quiescence meditation in a zendo is not the same as watching movies.

You are students of nonthinking
The swing of a bat straight in the head should do it then...
Context is very important. Thoughts aren't enemies.

Meditation is complicated and difficult only when one becomes more interested in one’s own opinions and ideas than in disentangling oneself from all traces of dualistic thinking. As Zen Master Nanin once said: “Unless you empty your teacup, I cannot fill it.”
There are so many factors that can make it difficult...
Disentangling ourselves from dualistic thinking is probably the hardest think on Earth. We can empty the cup by turning it upside down. The problem is that after it will be impossible to fill, unless we turn it up again. This means learning. I always see a lot of concern regarding the emptying part, but almost nothing about how and what should we fill it with.

In the beginning, you aim to empty your mind and try to drive all thoughts away. But aiming and trying are also thoughts! So aiming and trying keep you from your goal, of becoming emptiness itself. When you think you are in emptiness, you are not in emptiness.
Emptiness is an experience, not a thought. If one thinks about anything at all, such experience doesn't happen. It's quite a remarkable experience that you don't mistake by anything else. It also scares the shit out of those unprepared to have it.

When you think you have discovered your Buddha-nature, you are far away from it
Again, this is not something one thinks. Unless someone has no idea whatsoever about what Buddha-nature means. That is avoided by studying, not just being mindful of one's neurosis.

When no thought arises, there is no need to drive thoughts away.
I wonder about what stating the obvious achieves...

When nothing is good, nothing is bad.
Unpacking is useful. Otherwise it's a silly slogan.

What you never had, you will never miss. What you do not see does not disappear. What cannot increase cannot decrease. This is true emptiness. This is samädhi.
I'm sure poor people miss the money they never had, people who born blind miss the eyesight they never had, those born slaves miss the freedom they never had, and so on.
I know what the author is pointing, but the excess of these slogans without unpacking leads to the sad scenario we actually see in western Zen. Ignorants repeating these slogans like parrots and having no idea about their meaning. I would also disagree that this is samadhi. The experience of emptiness and samadhi may be very different things.

‘When you enter into this condition, then you are walking in the Palace of Realization. Never to think—even for a moment—that you are enlightened: This is the ideal of Zen meditation."
I wonder if those who realize enlightenment think they are unenlightened.

Let me try to put in words what I'm thinking. It's not that duly interpreted what the author says doesn't make sense. But you have a succession of slogans there that aren't of much use to the practice.
It's all oh so very humble, so very paradoxical, so very trendy and intellectually challenging, so aesthetic and disconcerting... for sure there's a public that loves that sort of stuff. I just don't see it leading anywhere without clear (down to earth, didactic, not so trendy, non paradoxical and intellectually challenging) instructions, a la Theravada or a la Tibetan style. Precise, clear instructions instead of cool paradoxical slogans. Instructions for the dumb and limited unenlightened beings that are us.

Now, to rattle the discussion :ugeek: , I'll say this:
I wonder if the way high profile Zen teachers placed themselves regarding Japan's involvement in WWII it isn't a result of plain bad practice resulting of the lack of clear instructions, Zsolt. If those were their best la creme de la creme of Zen masters, something's definitively wrong and perhaps that's an excess of trendily challenging slogans with too little useful instructions.

So, I'm sure there's a lot of wrong ideas in my post. We can start there.

EDITED for clarity purposes
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Re: Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby Dechen Norbu » Fri Apr 29, 2011 8:32 pm

Do you get what I'm saying, Zsolt? The author of the text studied a lot! When I say a lot I do mean it. So, if you remember what he is aware of and then think about what he says, then you see the meaning of his words.
But guys that read a few lines of Buddhadharma read these texts and understand shit about them. They miss the subtle meaning behind what is said there and fall prey to some sort of "emptiness/mindfulness" disease, going around saying nonsense.
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Re: Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby Jikan » Fri Apr 29, 2011 8:47 pm

Astus wrote:Jikan,

Look at this text quoted in the original post. Read it like any normal English text and add your knowledge of Buddhism. What can you make of it then? Zen teaching is not more difficult than any other Buddhist doctrine. Its way of expressing itself, yes, that can get pretty messed up.


I agree, it's not more difficult, it's just that many of us are poor students. I'm including myself in that category. In other words, this:

Dechen Norbu wrote: They miss the subtle meaning behind what is said there and fall prey to some sort of "emptiness/mindfulness" disease, going around saying nonsense.


Astus, I'm contemplating the piece you posted now, particularly with regard to this:

If you don't think you're enlightened you've attained Zen meditation.


more later.
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Re: Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby Astus » Sat Apr 30, 2011 12:30 am

I hear you, DN. Scholars believe it is one of the long lasting effects of Shenhui's (684?-758?) arguments against gradualist teachings that later teachers adopted a subitist rhetoric. Putting aside the whole Zen history, it is indeed the lack of common Mahayana knowledge that is missed by the Western non-Buddhist lay audience. On the other hand, just as Senzaki says, "Zen meditation is the most simple method in the world for mind-training". It's just that while TNH can use a straightforward everyday language in teaching mindfulness for some reason most of the Zen teachers are stuck with technical lingo. I wonder when the Western Zen community will realise that one of the main attractions of Zen in China was its ordinary language (later that has changed of course).

As for the quality and moral integrity of Japanese Zen I'm sure there are a couple of people who know more about it than me to compose proper critiques. The style of the quoted instruction for beginners obviously suffers from negligent wording that lacks consideration of its audience. On the other hand, if we care to make an interpretation of it, it's in line with common teachings of meditation similar to Dogen's (Fukan)Zazengi, what is also full of old platitudes. What I mean is that there is some level of validity in it and does represent Zen, but not in an original and user friendly manner.

If you consider those points I've mentioned after the quote they show how the text appears to be radical while it in fact advices ordinary practice of samatha (breath meditation) and vipasyana (koan introspection).
"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: Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby LastLegend » Sat Apr 30, 2011 12:51 am

My capacity for Chan or Zen is low due to my karma, for someone like me I am more likely to be deluded by reading texts about Chan or Zen. To me cultivating Chan or Zen is no difference than cultivating other forms of Buddhism. So the foundation is crucial. Merely talking about Chan or Zen without any real practice is not going to do it. I will have to say it's just delusion...as for sudden enlightenment it requires high high capacity, and nowadays I have not seen or heard of any even for Chan or Zen masters. So if someone's capacity is low and trying to cut some slack through Chan or Zen is not going to do it. Words spoken by enlightened beings are not meant for us to reach emptiness or enlightenned through thinking since thinking is nothing more than illusion.


Again capacity.
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
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Re: Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby Dechen Norbu » Sat Apr 30, 2011 4:40 am

Astus wrote:I hear you, DN. Scholars believe it is one of the long lasting effects of Shenhui's (684?-758?) arguments against gradualist teachings that later teachers adopted a subitist rhetoric. Putting aside the whole Zen history, it is indeed the lack of common Mahayana knowledge that is missed by the Western non-Buddhist lay audience. On the other hand, just as Senzaki says, "Zen meditation is the most simple method in the world for mind-training". It's just that while TNH can use a straightforward everyday language in teaching mindfulness for some reason most of the Zen teachers are stuck with technical lingo. I wonder when the Western Zen community will realise that one of the main attractions of Zen in China was its ordinary language (later that has changed of course).

As for the quality and moral integrity of Japanese Zen I'm sure there are a couple of people who know more about it than me to compose proper critiques. The style of the quoted instruction for beginners obviously suffers from negligent wording that lacks consideration of its audience. On the other hand, if we care to make an interpretation of it, it's in line with common teachings of meditation similar to Dogen's (Fukan)Zazengi, what is also full of old platitudes. What I mean is that there is some level of validity in it and does represent Zen, but not in an original and user friendly manner.

If you consider those points I've mentioned after the quote they show how the text appears to be radical while it in fact advices ordinary practice of samatha (breath meditation) and vipasyana (koan introspection).


Take a look at this topic:
viewtopic.php?f=66&t=1548&start=80
See the post about the psychobullshit dharma I've placed there. IMO, that's the result of what you pointed out so well.
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Re: Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby Jikan » Sat Apr 30, 2011 12:28 pm

Dechen Norbu points to this as one moment among many that Senzaki sensei's language is confusing...
You are students of nonthinking
The swing of a bat straight in the head should do it then...
Context is very important. Thoughts aren't enemies.


But if you draw it out from the context, I think there's less space between DN and Senzaki than one might think:

You should never for a moment think that you are dwelling in quietness. You are students of nonthinking—what right have you to tarry in tranquillity!


I don't think this is an argument in favor of retreat into a soft land of no-thought. Quite the opposite: he's exhorting his students *not* to succumb to a passive life of tranquility and quietness, to avoid becoming advanced researchers in nonthinking. Remember, he was trying to teach Zen to Theosophists and skeptics. He died without a Dharma heir (he taught Robert Aitken and Sufi Sam Lewis though).
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Re: Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby Dechen Norbu » Sat Apr 30, 2011 6:36 pm

If we read the author while having a background in Buddhist philosophy, he makes perfect sense.
Let me give you an example (one that I chose to criticize).

What you never had, you will never miss.

Possession can only happen when we believe there's a subject/object duality. Truly, there's no such thing beyond conventionality. We can't ever miss something that we truly never had, simply because the "we" that possesses the "what" are but empty concepts.

So, what looks like a platitude at a first glance has deep meaning. The problem is that this text is supposed to be for beginners. Conventionally, we have things and we miss things. If someone thinks otherwise, please send me all your money. :lol:

Introducing the path with that style of writing may lead beginners to an unskilful mix of relative and absolute with catastrophic effects. If this isn't corrected soon enough, nothing good comes out of practice, not mattering the amount of time we spend doing it. Perhaps that's the reason you see Zen teachers placing the kind of posts I pasted in that other topic, and doing so while feeling very happy with themselves like they've accomplished a great thing. It's sad, really.
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Re: Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby James418 » Sun May 01, 2011 11:40 am

Now, to rattle the discussion :ugeek: , I'll say this:
I wonder if the way high profile Zen teachers placed themselves regarding Japan's involvement in WWII it isn't a result of plain bad practice resulting of the lack of clear instructions, Zsolt. If those were their best la creme de la creme of Zen masters, something's definitively wrong and perhaps that's an excess of trendily challenging slogans with too little useful instructions.

So, I'm sure there's a lot of wrong ideas in my post. We can start there.

EDITED for clarity purposes


Yes, D.T. Suzuki, for example, has been accused of being a nationalist - but as someone who knows many people who knew him, not one would agree with this view of him. I am a bit wary of publishers and revisionist historians. For example, the prevailing academic view in the West is that Tibet was little more than a slave state presided over by a corrupt, theocratic, reactionary government. Just take a look at Goldstein's work. While there is some truth in that view (Goldstein presents persuasive evidence), I believe such revisionist histories are exaggerated and distorted by the anti-religious bias of the authors and because of the need to sell books with sensational new perspectives. I think using them to attack the reputation of enlightened beings just to make a sectarian point is a bit silly.

If you undergo traditional Zen training you get very clear instruction of how to practice. My own teacher used to laughingly tell me how when they visited a western Buddhist retreat retreat for all the major traditions and saw westerners practicing "mindfulness", one of the Thai Therevadan monks eyes stood out on stalks, it was so pitiful. That is what happens when people are left to books filled with instructions. N.B. A firm understanding of the Buddhist teachings is assumed prior to entry to a sodo.

In zen, you "learn by doing", and you are immediately scolded and corrected if what you are doing is incorrect - including in the Zendo. But you are not really "shown" what to do. You have to learn to adapt. In the West we think if we are only told what to do, we can get it right - but who is it that meditates? No "I" can meditate, no matter how complex or perfect the instructions. Would you read a book on swimming and then dive into a lake? But we do get clear instruction on it, and it is corrected and adjusted at the regular interviews because in traditional Zen the teacher only has to look at you to know what your problem is. I can't stress the awesome power of these beings enough, but you have to experience it in a full interview to understand. Also the Jiki will correct you several times in a session, so I think in many ways we are given the most instruction of any school of buddhism.
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Re: Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby Astus » Sun May 01, 2011 10:03 pm

"A firm understanding of the Buddhist teachings is assumed prior to entry to a sodo."

I seriously doubt people who go to any Western Zen group have studied Buddhism to the point they can understand clearly what the Awakening Mahayana Faith, as a primary text of East Asian Buddhism, talks about. On the other hand, in Japan monks first have to study Buddhism at a university and then they can go to practice meditation. Such systematic education for monks also exists in Korea and Taiwan too. Of course, after years of studying texts and passing exams it is normal for a meditation instructor to go straight to the point.

But we do get clear instruction on it, and it is corrected and adjusted at the regular interviews because in traditional Zen the teacher only has to look at you to know what your problem is.

Certainly there is difference between a short text and regular training under a teacher. On the other hand, if one relies solely on a single person who he believes to be a living buddha, that is very much like blind faith. Being educated has the same advantages in Buddhism as in any other areas of life. Exchanging knowledge for relying on a person is like illiterate people asking for a bank loan.
"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: Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby James418 » Mon May 02, 2011 12:37 am

Astus wrote:"A firm understanding of the Buddhist teachings is assumed prior to entry to a sodo."

I seriously doubt people who go to any Western Zen group have studied Buddhism to the point they can understand clearly what the Awakening Mahayana Faith, as a primary text of East Asian Buddhism, talks about. On the other hand, in Japan monks first have to study Buddhism at a university and then they can go to practice meditation. Such systematic education for monks also exists in Korea and Taiwan too. Of course, after years of studying texts and passing exams it is normal for a meditation instructor to go straight to the point.

But we do get clear instruction on it, and it is corrected and adjusted at the regular interviews because in traditional Zen the teacher only has to look at you to know what your problem is.

Certainly there is difference between a short text and regular training under a teacher. On the other hand, if one relies solely on a single person who he believes to be a living buddha, that is very much like blind faith. Being educated has the same advantages in Buddhism as in any other areas of life. Exchanging knowledge for relying on a person is like illiterate people asking for a bank loan.


Hello Astus, Zen stresses the limits of intellectual thought. Knowledge of the basics of Buddhism is necessary, but in the Zen tradition the sixth patriarch was illiterate.

The Buddha likened his teaching to a raft. Once you reach the other shore, it should be put down, not carried around. This is because its not ultimate truth. It is not ultimate truth because it is intellectual knowledge - and the intellect is a useful tool, but is limited and deals in opposites - yes, no, this, that. This is the problem of the beginner, and that is why the zen teacher mentions the opposites in the text. The fact that you take the text and start analysing them further, breaking them down, and further analysing them is probably not what he intended lol

The intellect is a useful tool - as you say - but there are a few other tools in the tool box that can only be developed when the discriminating intellect is cut off, and that is why Zen can appear baffling at times.
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Re: Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby Jinzang » Mon May 02, 2011 2:20 am

Nyigen Senzaki's remarks seem pretty straight forward. One needs to distinguish between the ordinary sense of meditation by removing thoughts and the true sense of meditation which is seeing the empty nature of thoughts. What seem like contradictions are instructions aimed at different people. Meditation is like a ladder, and there are different rungs on it.
Lamrim, lojong, and mahamudra are the unmistaken path.
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Re: Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby Jinzang » Mon May 02, 2011 2:25 am

Hello Astus, Zen stresses the limits of intellectual thought.


True enough, but without a grounding in Buddhist philosophy one inevitably falls back on one's previous way of understanding things. And the Western world view is dualistic and pretty hostile to the purposes of Zen.
Lamrim, lojong, and mahamudra are the unmistaken path.
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Re: Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby James418 » Mon May 02, 2011 3:26 am

Jinzang wrote:Nyigen Senzaki's remarks seem pretty straight forward. One needs to distinguish between the ordinary sense of meditation by removing thoughts and the true sense of meditation which is seeing the empty nature of thoughts. What seem like contradictions are instructions aimed at different people. Meditation is like a ladder, and there are different rungs on it.


He is just talking about the "I" consciousness. All "I" intended action "misses the mark".
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Re: Meditation for Beginners by Nyogen Senzaki

Postby Astus » Mon May 02, 2011 10:39 am

James418 wrote:Hello Astus, Zen stresses the limits of intellectual thought. Knowledge of the basics of Buddhism is necessary, but in the Zen tradition the sixth patriarch was illiterate.

The Buddha likened his teaching to a raft. Once you reach the other shore, it should be put down, not carried around. This is because its not ultimate truth. It is not ultimate truth because it is intellectual knowledge - and the intellect is a useful tool, but is limited and deals in opposites - yes, no, this, that. This is the problem of the beginner, and that is why the zen teacher mentions the opposites in the text. The fact that you take the text and start analysing them further, breaking them down, and further analysing them is probably not what he intended lol

The intellect is a useful tool - as you say - but there are a few other tools in the tool box that can only be developed when the discriminating intellect is cut off, and that is why Zen can appear baffling at times.


Yes, in the Platform Sutra we are told that Huineng was illiterate. Those who made up the story were obviously literate people, not to mention that the Platform Sutra itself warns people in chapter 10: "You must not revile the sutras, which is a transgression immeasurable." Also, considering that to become a monk one first had to pass examinations (it was imperial law for quite a few centuries), it was practically impossible for any monk to be totally unfamiliar with writing and some common Buddhist texts. Plus Zen was elite Buddhism in China and East Asia (few Westerners realise that those who have received dharma transmission and became recognised Zen teachers were abbots of monasteries, that's why the so called Zen monastic rules of Baizhang talk a lot about the abbot but there's little mention of any Zen master per se) that thrived in literary production, you just have to check out the number of Zen related texts in the Buddhist canon that exceeds the works of any other Buddhist school.

The Buddha has certainly told the simile of the raft. It means that once you're on the other shore you don't need the vehicle. However, it is nonsense to talk about letting go of the raft before we even have one. Here is a good example of completely misunderstanding both Zen and the simile.
"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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