Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Postby duckfiasco » Wed Mar 21, 2012 8:49 pm

How does the idea of meditation in Zen mesh with Right Concentration? It seems that concentration itself is antithetic to zazen, especially shikantaza. I'm thinking specifically of the nine levels of meditative absorption mentioned in several books I have on the Noble Eightfold Path. Am I conflating different traditions? I feel that I must be fundamentally misunderstanding one or both of these concepts.

Thank you!
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Re: Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Postby Astus » Wed Mar 21, 2012 11:59 pm

Developing concentration is very beneficial in both inside and outside of Buddhism. That's Right Concentration if you do it in a Buddhist context following the relevant instructions. Zen, while a Buddhist tradition, is a direct path of what is called prajnaparamita, or buddha-nature. In Zen there are no gradual stages - well, there are differences between lineages and teachers within Zen, but let's not go into that right now - but it is about immediately realising the enlightened mind. One can of course, and is advised, to use techniques to develop a certain level of mental peace within Zen, however, that is more of a preliminary practice before one can actually come to the point of doing Zen practice, which is no-practice. So, the two can be related, but they are not the same.
"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: Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Postby seeker242 » Tue Apr 03, 2012 3:11 pm

Right concentration in Zen is called "samadhi". Not antithetic to zazen, especially not shikantaza. Shikantaza requires skill in concentration in order to be able to properly do it, which is why it is sometimes only recommended by some teachers to more experienced students. Students that have already gained skill in concentration from breath following, etc. Shikantaza without concentration is impossible. Concentration is an essential part of zazen and all zen practice.

The nine levels of meditative absorption that you are referring to are the Theravada "jhanas" as describen in the Pali Canon. They are basically very detailed descriptions of various stages of samadhi. However, zen really does not go into "explanations" very much, so you really don't find these explanations in zen, but samadhi is an essential part of zen. Even the word "Zen" means meditation or meditative state AKA samadhi
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Re: Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Postby Astus » Tue Apr 03, 2012 3:52 pm

Right concentration is "samyak samadhi", in Chinese 正定 (zheng ding), while it is in the different dhyanas where "chan" is used (1st dhyana, 2nd dhyana, etc. - 初禪、二禪), however, this is not the meaning of the word as it is used for the Chan/Zen school, but only a common misunderstanding. In fact, Zen doesn't have much to do with meditation practice itself.

See the fourth chapter of the Platform Sutra on the subject of concentration (samadhi 定) and wisdom (prajna 智): here.

"Good Knowing Advisors, there are those who teach people to sit looking at the mind and contemplating stillness, without moving or arising. They claim that it has merit. Confused men, not understanding, easily become attached and go insane. There are many such people. Therefore you should know that teaching of this kind is a great error."
"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: Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Postby seeker242 » Wed Apr 04, 2012 12:22 am

Astus wrote:Right concentration is "samyak samadhi", in Chinese 正定 (zheng ding), while it is in the different dhyanas where "chan" is used (1st dhyana, 2nd dhyana, etc. - 初禪、二禪), however, this is not the meaning of the word as it is used for the Chan/Zen school, but only a common misunderstanding. In fact, Zen doesn't have much to do with meditation practice itself.

See the fourth chapter of the Platform Sutra on the subject of concentration (samadhi 定) and wisdom (prajna 智): here.

"Good Knowing Advisors, there are those who teach people to sit looking at the mind and contemplating stillness, without moving or arising. They claim that it has merit. Confused men, not understanding, easily become attached and go insane. There are many such people. Therefore you should know that teaching of this kind is a great error."


Ok. :) But does chapter 4 of the platform sutra not say that samadi is fundamental?

Learned Audience, in my system (Dhyana) Samadhi and Prajna are fundamental. But do not be under the wrong impression that these two are independent of each other, for they are inseparably united and are not two entities. Samadhi is the quintessence of Prajna, while Prajna is the activity of Samadhi. At the very moment that we attain Prajna, Samadhi is therewith; and vice versa. If you understand this principle, you understand the equilibrium of Samadhi and Prajna. A disciple should not think that there is a distinction between 'Samadhi begets Prajna' and 'Prajna begets Samadhi'.


Learned Audience, to what are Samadhi and Prajna analogous? They are analogous to a lamp and its light. With the lamp, there is light. Without it, it would be darkness. The lamp is the quintessence of the light and the light is the expression of the lamp. In name they are two things, but in substance they are one and the same. It is the same case with Samadhi and Prajna.


It seems to me that a zen without Samadhi is a zen without Prajna, which would basically mean it's not even zen to begin with. A zen without the lamp is a zen without the light. Which lies in the darkness of samsara. Is that not correct?

The Master instructed the assembly: "Good Knowing Advisors, the Single Conduct Samadhi is the constant practice of maintaining a direct, straightforward mind in all places, whether one is walking, standing, sitting, or lying down. As the Vimalakirti Sutra says, 'The straight mind is the Bodhimandala; the straight mind is the Pure Land.'

"Do not speak of straightness with the mouth only, while the mind and practice are crooked nor speak of the Single Conduct Samadhi without maintaining a straight mind. Simply practice keeping a straight mind and have no attachment to any dharma.


How can you keep a straight mind with no skill in concentration? That seems impossible to me. But perhaps I misunderstood what you were trying to say. That is possible. :)

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Re: Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Postby Astus » Wed Apr 04, 2012 9:35 am

There is the common practice of concentration where one focuses on a single thing, that is not what Huineng talks about. The meaning of concentration in the Platform Sutra is being free from phenomena. It says in the fifth chapter: "Not being confused inwardly is 'concentration.' --- The original nature is naturally pure, in a natural state of concentration. Confusion arises merely because states are seen and attended to. If the mind remains unconfused when any state is encountered, that is true concentration." This kind of concentration is not developed by any means but it is the natural state of buddha-mind. So in the fourth chapter Huineng says, "this Dharma-door of mine, from the past onwards, has been established from the first with no-thought as its doctrine, no-mark as its substance, and no-dwelling as its basis." Obviously, the common practice of concentration is a form of dwelling on a mark with a maintained thought.
"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: Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Postby seeker242 » Wed Apr 04, 2012 1:03 pm

Astus wrote:There is the common practice of concentration where one focuses on a single thing, that is not what Huineng talks about. The meaning of concentration in the Platform Sutra is being free from phenomena.


I guess I'm still trying to figure out what you are trying to say. :) Do you think the common practice of concentration where one focuses on a single thing, is unnecessary?

This kind of concentration is not developed by any means but it is the natural state of buddha-mind.


If the monkey mind is jumping all over the place, clinging to this and clinging to that, how can one realize or manifest the natural state of buddha mind? Does that not entail training the mind to be focused, aka concentrated, rather than letting it do whatever it wants? Isn't that the whole point of "Taming the Ox"?

The whip and rope are necessary,
Else he might stray off down some dusty road.
Being well trained, he becomes naturally gentle.
Then, unfettered, he obeys his master.
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Re: Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Postby DarwidHalim » Wed Apr 04, 2012 1:27 pm

duckfiasco wrote:How does the idea of meditation in Zen mesh with Right Concentration? It seems that concentration itself is antithetic to zazen, especially shikantaza. I'm thinking specifically of the nine levels of meditative absorption mentioned in several books I have on the Noble Eightfold Path. Am I conflating different traditions? I feel that I must be fundamentally misunderstanding one or both of these concepts.

Thank you!


Yes, concentration is antithetic to zazen. Actually not only to zazen, but also to Mahamudra and Dzogchen teaching.

Look, when we say concentration, or we try to concentrate, at that particular moment, we are actually reinforce the sense of self.

There is no idea at all to concentrate for someone who has realize emptiness perfectly. There is such word called concentrate in their dictionary.

Perfect concentration is without concentration, without any effort.

It is wrong to say my concentration is effortless, because when you concentrate, there is always an effort there no matter how small it is. That how small it is determines your how small your sense of self as well.

If you want to know this more, you should read Moonlight of Mahamudra and Supreme Source (Dzogchen teaching)
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
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Re: Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Postby Jikan » Wed Apr 04, 2012 1:45 pm

DarwidHalim wrote:Yes, concentration is antithetic to zazen. Actually not only to zazen, but also to Mahamudra and Dzogchen teaching.

Look, when we say concentration, or we try to concentrate, at that particular moment, we are actually reinforce the sense of self.


I disagree with many of your claims here. Zazen *is* concentration: you bring your focus to the feeling of the breath. The attention becomes one-pointed and undistracted. That's concentration. If it reifies a sense of self, then concentration has become disrupted by some kind of mind game ("yay for me! I'm concentrated!").

When you count breaths, for instance, the mind becomes concentrated. This is a contrivance. Then what? You stop, you give up, you do nothing, and there is the uncontrived nature of mind. This is where Astus' discussion of Huineng fits in.

If you want to know this more, you should read Moonlight of Mahamudra and Supreme Source (Dzogchen teaching)


This may be good advice, but we're discussing concentration in Zen practice. If anyone would like advice on Mahamudra or Dzogchen practice, then please address that discussion to the appropriate venue, the Tibetan Buddhism forum. Thanks!
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Re: Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Postby DarwidHalim » Wed Apr 04, 2012 1:52 pm

No.

I am not trying to bring Mahamudra and Dzogchen here.

The point we are talking here is shikantaza, not the normal zazen meditation that we focus on breathing etc.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!
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Re: Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Postby Jikan » Wed Apr 04, 2012 2:45 pm

Thanks for the clarification, DarwidHalim.

Actually the OP is asking about zazen & shikantaza.
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Re: Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Postby Astus » Wed Apr 04, 2012 2:47 pm

seeker242,

I'm not saying that concentration in its common form is pointless. But it is not the concentration taught within the context of (high class) Zen, like the Platform Sutra. There are meditation teachers who even go in details about dhyanas, like Rev. Cheng Kuan's Sweet Dews of Chan. And if you look at my first post here, I've referred to all the different methods there are. But, and this I find important, the Chan way is about seeing the nature of mind and not the myriad practices. It doesn't mean they can't complement each other, or that one has to choose between them. However, unless it is about directly realising the nature of mind, it is not specifically Zen.
"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: Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Postby DarwidHalim » Wed Apr 04, 2012 3:43 pm

Actually I should edit my previous statement, to change all zazen with shikantaza. Because that statement is made with shikantaza in my mind as the OP.

If we are discussing normal zazen with breathing, definitely concentration is required.

However, hopefully it doesn't give the impression that in shikantaza there is no concentration.

There is a big difference between

Concentration without concentration, and concentration with concentration.

The first one is you naturally concentrate, and it is always there. Because it is always there, there is no such thing we increase the concentration or my concentration is decreasing so I add it more.

This concentration is effortless because we know precisely that actually we are always in concentration mode. If we see ourself, actually our concentration is very good. Almost everyday we are concentrating. Even in day dream, we are actually concentrating, we are concentrating on the content of that daydream.

The problem with our normal concentration is te object of concentration is shifting between one self to another self. Although there is no self, because we don't know that the concentration that we are having is the concentration with that mistake.

But, once we can see the emptiness of self, you can see that there is no way this reality in its actual mode can run away from this emptiness. It is always there. Even wen we think it has a self, this reality is still running in the selfless mode.

Because we can see that in whatever condition, whether during we aware of this ad during we don't aware of this, everything will always running in selfless mode, it really give us a shocking question: What am I doing? What am I focusing?

Since everything is always selfless, even we are concentrating on the breathing, in reality we are actually doesn't have focus. But, we think we have the focus.

By knowing that we are actually in really cannot have any focus, naturally we will always notice this selflessness. Because this monkey mind always active, now this monkey mind will be very active in concentrating of selflessness.

It bring us to the next step, if there is no focus, how can there is concentration?

So, it bring us to the state where there is really no effort or no intention at all to focus, because we know exactly there is no concentration due to selflessness, but at the same time this concentration is there naturally.

It is really a meditation without a meditation.

We cannot understand this with logic, because if following logic the statement of meditation without meditation is the logically flaw statement. Logically, someone who is impair in their logic will say this statement and that people is normally classified as crazy.

But, if we don't try to understand that by thinking but by doing it, we can actually know it.

I also don't know it by the way, :pig:
I also don't know what I am talking about.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!
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Re: Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Postby seeker242 » Thu Apr 05, 2012 4:33 am

Astus wrote:seeker242,

I'm not saying that concentration in its common form is pointless. But it is not the concentration taught within the context of (high class) Zen, like the Platform Sutra. There are meditation teachers who even go in details about dhyanas, like Rev. Cheng Kuan's Sweet Dews of Chan. And if you look at my first post here, I've referred to all the different methods there are. But, and this I find important, the Chan way is about seeing the nature of mind and not the myriad practices. It doesn't mean they can't complement each other, or that one has to choose between them. However, unless it is about directly realising the nature of mind, it is not specifically Zen.


I would agree with all that. :) I personally feel that the myriad practices is the thing that enables one to be able to see the true nature of mind. I don't think the nature of mind appears all by itself because if it did, everyone would already be enlightened and no one would suffer. As I see it, the practice techniques is what causes us to be able to see the true nature of mind to begin with so the practices are about directly realising the nature of mind because they are what cause this realization to occur. However, my personal definition of "concentration" is not just restricted to "sitting on a cushion breathing in and out" and that's it. It also mean when your body is eating breakfast, your mind is also eating breakfast. When your body is driving a car, your mind is also driving a car. When your body is chopping wood and carrying water, your mind is also chopping wood and carrying water and not worrying about something in the past or something in the future, etc. So the "practice" is really a 24/7 activity. I don't think that Samadhi is just limited to the time on the cushion.
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Re: Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Postby catmoon » Thu Apr 05, 2012 9:43 am

There's a strange broken logic to this.

If you try to concentrate on the nature of mind, all you will see is the nature of a mind attempting to concentrate, not the mind in it's undisturbed state. The very act of concentration makes the nature of the mind a busy one, filled with effort. If you just watch the mind, you will see a mind watching. In time one may notice, good grief this is hopeless, This mind thing is like a mirror and just shows me what I'm doing. How do you stop a mirror from reflecting?


But wait... what just happened?
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Re: Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 05, 2012 9:58 am

It is a good question. What makes one see the nature of mind? The so called myriad practices are useful for sure in this case. The direct cause, however, is vipashyana meditation, as far as the gradual path is concerned. But in the case of Zen, there is directly pointing to the nature of mind, immediately severing conceptual attachments. Even what appears to be meditation is nothing but abiding not on a single thought, that is non-dwelling and no-thought. But, to put it back into the normal gradual context, this is simply the final level of vipashyana, prajnaparamita itself.

Still, it is not easy to find a teacher who actually instructs in seeing the nature. Most of them are just lost in techniques like sitting, bowing, contemplating a phrase, etc.
"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: Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Postby LastLegend » Thu Apr 05, 2012 10:06 am

I will take a jab for something that I have not experienced. Liberation can be reached through letting go of attachment to all-including wealth, sex, fame, eating, and sleeping, and especially conceptual grasping to enlightenment. At this point, one longer has any arousal desires for any of that. I think that is liberation my friend. And I think this is along the line of one mind to liberation.
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NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
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Re: Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Postby Wesley1982 » Mon Apr 09, 2012 5:21 am

The ability to concentrate properly comes from -training yourself- to focus. Haven't read any material about Zen yet.
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Re: Zen meditation and Right Concentration

Postby Megha » Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:32 am

duckfiasco wrote:How does the idea of meditation in Zen mesh with Right Concentration? It seems that concentration itself is antithetic to zazen, especially shikantaza. I'm thinking specifically of the nine levels of meditative absorption mentioned in several books I have on the Noble Eightfold Path. Am I conflating different traditions? I feel that I must be fundamentally misunderstanding one or both of these concepts.

Thank you!


In Rinzai training one would count the breath until Samadhi has been developed. Samadhi isn't really concentration in the sense that "I concentrate" and my awareness narrows to a little spotlight, excluding everything else. It's a wide, spacious awareness. That is the important point.

I don't know much about other types of zen, sorry.
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