Bliss in Zen (sukha)

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Bliss in Zen (sukha)

Post by DGA »

In a different thread, it was claimed that there's no bliss in Zen. Or perhaps no mention made if it in Zen discourse, if not in experiences. I'd like to know what people think about this.

http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f= ... 44#p332144

In my own admittedly limited experience--there's no shortage of bliss in Zen. Have I misunderstood something?
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Re: Bliss in Zen (sukha)

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

DGA wrote:In a different thread, it was claimed that there's no bliss in Zen. Or perhaps no mention made if it in Zen discourse, if not in experiences. I'd like to know what people think about this.

http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f= ... 44#p332144

In my own admittedly limited experience--there's no shortage of bliss in Zen. Have I misunderstood something?
This is purely from having done Soto Zen meditation for a few years, then jumping to Vajrayana, and I should make the disclaimer, I'm *very* light on the conceptual side of Zen teachings, if there is even such a thing, is there?

Anyway, I noticed no difference whatsoever in the meditation experience of Zazen vs. anything else, other than the fact that in Vajrayana the instructions were much more my speed, and questions about how to proceed were more adequately answered to my tastes. I had the same experiences of bliss, clarity, non thought and all that in sitting Zazen that accompany (I assume) nearly any form of Mahayana Buddhist meditation. For me, the Zen approach was a little too light on instruction, but I don't really feel it was particularly different experientially. In fact, I don't really see how Zazen is particularly different from the union of Shamatha and Vipaysana you can find in basic Mahayana, other than the fact that in Zen for the practitioner things are happening "all at once", and there are no sequential steps. You could say the same for obvious parallels with some instructions in Mahamudra, Dozgchen etc., I think. Not trying to conflate the two, just saying in terms of what one experiences in meditation generally, that is sort of independent of school isn't it? I mean you don't suddenly have a Zen(tm) mind because you are practicing Zazen, you gravitate towards instructions that speak your language etc.
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Re: Bliss in Zen (sukha)

Post by Grigoris »

Jhana are jhana, I believe the accompanying experiences are identical, even for non-Buddhist practices/practitioners.

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Re: Bliss in Zen (sukha)

Post by Thomas Amundsen »

Pardon my ignorance, but does sukha/dewa really mean "bliss"? Tony Duff seems to disagree in his Illuminator Dictionary. I think Jundo would probably be less contrary if the term "ease" was used instead of "bliss". Sorry this is long, but it's possibly worth the read given that this entire topic is centered around this one word. Here's a tl;dr version, followed by the full entry:
This is translated, as a matter of course these days, with "blissful" and the related term བདེ་བ་ཆེན་པོ་ is translated as "great bliss". However, the meaning is more usually "easy / at ease" and བདེ་བ་ཆེན་པོ་ more usually means "consummate ease".
 bde ba
 I. <noun> This is a term which, with the general sense of being at ease, being without difficulty, has many connotations and wide range of usage. It is often written as བདེ་བོ་ with the same meaning. The term is primarily the translation equivalent of the Sanskrit "sukha / sukhaṃ" but was used to translate a variety of Sanskrit terms, mostly but not only containing the root "su".
1) Translation of the Sanskrit "sukha" specifically as the opp. of the Sanskrit "duḥkha" (whose Tibetan is སྡུག་བསྔལ་ q.v.). Sukha in Sanskrit and still these days in Hindi simply means "everything on the side of things going well" and duḥkha means "everything on the side of things going badly". Because both terms are so broad in their meaning, there are many specific words that fit into their meaning. For example, "suffering" is included in the overall meaning of duḥkha and "well-being" is included the meaning of sukha. However, it is a key point in Buddhist usage, that these two terms are very inclusive in their meaning and are not so particular as "suffering" and "happiness". Thus duḥka really corresponds to the English "unsatisfactoriness" and sukha, as its direct opp. "satisfactoriness" and in many Buddhist contexts it has to be understood that way. For example, cyclic existence was described by the Buddha as སྡུག་བསྔལ་བ་ meaning nothing but unsatisfactory by nature. In these usages, it is imperative that the meaning "unsatisfactory" be understood and not merely the particular form of that, called "suffering". After all, not all things in cyclic existence are suffering—there are real points of happiness in cyclic existence! However, all of these things both suffering and happiness are unsatisfactory by nature. It is important to translate these meanings correctly. Still, there are many times when བདེ་བ་ contains a particular meaning of overall satisfactoriness and སྡུག་བསྔལ་བ་ of overall unsatisfactoriness, e.g, the very common Buddhist statement འཁོར་བར་བདེ་བ་དང་སྡུག་བསྔལ་གཉིས་ཀ་ལས་ལ་བརྟེན་ནས་སྐྱེ་གྱི་ཡིན། means literally "in cyclic existence both happiness and suffering are produced in dependence on karma". 2) The general opposite of སྡུག་བསྔལ་ suffering / unsatisfactoriness which is widely used to mean "ease / easy / at ease", "comfort / comfortable", "well-being", "pleasure / pleasant", "healthy", and variants there. 3) "Pleasure". Translation of the Sanskrit [NDS] "sukha". One of the འཇིག་རྟེན་གྱི་ཆོས་བརྒྱད་ eight worldly dharmas. It is one of a pair; སྡུག་བསྔལ་ "pain" is its opposite q.v. In fact, this means that one has happy, likeable circumstances in contrast to unsatisfactory, unpleasant circumstances.
II. <adj> 1) "Pleasant". Translation of the Sanskrit "sukhaḥ". Specifically, meaning one of the ཚོར་བ་གསུམ་ three types of feeling experienced in the mind or body upon རེག་པ་ contact with an object of the senses. This feeling called ཚོར་བ་བདེ་བ་ is the "pleasant" feeling / sensation that is experienced due to the object being categorized as likeable by contact. 2) Heavily used in Buddhist texts to translate the Sanskrit "sukhaḥ" meaning the state སིམ་པོ་ which is easy, which is without སྡུག་བསྔལ་མེད་པ་ unsatisfactoriness of suffering or whatever other form could be thought of. This is translated, as a matter of course these days, with "blissful" and the related term བདེ་བ་ཆེན་པོ་ is translated as "great bliss". However, the meaning is more usually "easy / at ease" and བདེ་བ་ཆེན་པོ་ more usually means "consummate ease". This is true in the tantras, too. Human beings on the whole, let alone spiritual seekers, look for bliss of some kind as the alternative to their basically unsatisfactory state. Therefore, there is the presumption that terms such as བདེ་བ་ and བདེ་བ་ཆེན་པོ་ must refer to some kind of blissful state. However, when the Buddha's words are carefully examined, and also according to all of the Tibetan masters I've ever received teachings from, the meaning is not so much "bliss" but the consummate lack of bother that comes from practising the spiritual path properly. Some might say that, within the tantras, which are such esoteric practices, it must be bliss being referred to, but the same comments apply. Ven. Thrangu Rinpoche made this point to a large gathering of Trungpa Rinpoche's students in the 1980's. 3) Leaving aside spiritual considerations, i) the term is used as the equivalent of the conventional idea of being in a happy frame of mind which is written as སྐྱིད་པོ་ q.v. ii) It is also used in [Coll.] as an equivalent of general well-being "well" or "well-being" e.g., in the comment greeting བདེ་བ་ཡིན་པས། "Are you well ?". 4) Meaning ལས་སླ་པོ་ or "easy" and being the opp. of difficult ཁག་པོ་ "hard" or "difficult". E.g., གོ་བདེ་བོ་ "easy to understand". E.g., ཐབས་བདེ་བོ་ "a good method / technique" one that is both easy and efficacious compared to other methods. 5) "Facile" or "skilled" e.g., ལག་པ་བདེ་བོ་ "skilful hands", ཁ་བདེ་བོ་ "facile mouth" meaning someone who can speak skilfully or cleverly.
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Re: Bliss in Zen (sukha)

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

Isn't it pretty much a a term which is the functional opposite of dukkha? If so I guess "ease" makes more sense to me too.
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Re: Bliss in Zen (sukha)

Post by Wayfarer »

I think there's a misunderstanding in this topic - we're not encouraged to seek experiences, or to become attached to feelings of bliss, and so on. They come and go, they are transient. But when dukkha ceases, what remains? Apathy? Emotional dullness? I think not!
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Re: Bliss in Zen (sukha)

Post by Astus »

坐禅は...安楽の法門なり - "The zazen ... is simply the dharma gate of joyful ease" (Fukanzazengi)

The expression for "joyful ease" is anraku 安楽 (Ch. 安樂), where raku 楽 is sukha (i.e. 大樂 - mahasukha, 極樂世界 - Sukhavati). Also, anrakukoku 安楽国 is another name for Sukhavati. So Dogen might wanted to counter Pure Land teachings.

In ch 7 of the Platform Sutra bliss is mentioned in relation to nirvana, the ultimate reality.

"Even though the eon-[ending] fire burns to the floor of the ocean
And the winds pound upon the mountains like drums,
The true bliss of permanent quiescence—
The characteristic of nirvana—is suchlike."


There is a poem "Enjoying the Way" (Ledaoge 樂道歌), but it doesn't speak about bliss (le 樂, i.e. enjoying) in particular.

Otherwise, it seems that bliss/sukha doesn't play any particular role, beyond it being one of the four characteristics of buddha-nature in the Nirvana Sutra. At the same time, it is one of the "eight winds" (pleasure), so it is to be avoided.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Re: Bliss in Zen (sukha)

Post by DGA »

Astus wrote:坐禅は...安楽の法門なり - "The zazen ... is simply the dharma gate of joyful ease" (Fukanzazengi)

The expression for "joyful ease" is anraku 安楽 (Ch. 安樂), where raku 楽 is sukha (i.e. 大樂 - mahasukha, 極樂世界 - Sukhavati). Also, anrakukoku 安楽国 is another name for Sukhavati. So Dogen might wanted to counter Pure Land teachings.

In ch 7 of the Platform Sutra bliss is mentioned in relation to nirvana, the ultimate reality.

"Even though the eon-[ending] fire burns to the floor of the ocean
And the winds pound upon the mountains like drums,
The true bliss of permanent quiescence—
The characteristic of nirvana—is suchlike."


There is a poem "Enjoying the Way" (Ledaoge 樂道歌), but it doesn't speak about bliss (le 樂, i.e. enjoying) in particular.

Otherwise, it seems that bliss/sukha doesn't play any particular role, beyond it being one of the four characteristics of buddha-nature in the Nirvana Sutra. At the same time, it is one of the "eight winds" (pleasure), so it is to be avoided.
Thanks for another helpful and on-point post, Astus.
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Re: Bliss in Zen (sukha)

Post by DGA »

Wayfarer wrote:I think there's a misunderstanding in this topic - we're not encouraged to seek experiences, or to become attached to feelings of bliss, and so on. They come and go, they are transient. But when dukkha ceases, what remains? Apathy? Emotional dullness? I think not!
I was a bit vague in framing the question because I don't like to discuss experience in meditation at all, and especially not in public. But I can confirm that blissful experiences--not just ease, but all-in bliss--sometimes happens in the course of Zen practice, as it does in other Buddhist traditions. I don't mean to suggest that seeking any particular experience in meditation is an objective of practice per se.
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Re: Bliss in Zen (sukha)

Post by Wayfarer »

I didn't mean to imply a misunderstanding on your part - more just a question of general interpretation.
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Re: Bliss in Zen (sukha)

Post by Wayfarer »

Astus wrote:Otherwise, it seems that bliss/sukha doesn't play any particular role...
You mean, "otherwise" from it being infinite and eternal? :smile:
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Re: Bliss in Zen (sukha)

Post by Matylda »

DGA wrote:In a different thread, it was claimed that there's no bliss in Zen. Or perhaps no mention made if it in Zen discourse, if not in experiences. I'd like to know what people think about this.

http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f= ... 44#p332144

In my own admittedly limited experience--there's no shortage of bliss in Zen. Have I misunderstood something?

yes there is... one can check basic kanjis in zen writtings like first of all 楽 raku and its verb forms; 安楽 anraku or 至福 shifuku and how they appear in the context. There are many other forms with the meaning of sukha in Japanese buddhism and zen in particular... it is enough to check Namkaura's Hajime Bukkyo Daijiten. My tip is - go to the sanskrit index first then one will find everything needed to clarify the point.. there are meny entries and one may consult them with zen texts.

And, if we talk in the meaningful sense of the term sukha , then it goes beyond any question that it has nothing to do with joy and bliss of ordinary dhyanas or experiences which by nature are delusive and not real sukha or 楽 raku and 安楽 anraku.. but those things come mostly with direct instruction from the teacher in the course of ones practice and downing experiences... there are no manuals concerning it.. there are some indirect admonitions or warnings about falling prey to such immature experiences, even in the case of experienced practitioners. In Shobogenzo one may find it in SHIZEN BIKU. In rinzai I think Hakuin or Torei were pretty clear about it...

but sukha generally in the zen context would mean the state of enlightened being who is not anymore a subject of suffering, which by itself turns into bliss. The same is for ordinary perception of ordinary phenomena etc. This one can trace in Hokyoki...
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Re: Bliss in Zen (sukha)

Post by Astus »

Wayfarer wrote:You mean, "otherwise" from it being infinite and eternal?
Otherwise, that is, apart from what's been listed above. As for being "infinite and eternal", it is only figurative speech, like calling it the "bliss of nirvana". Sounds good, but it is meant to express a contrast between the drawbacks of samsara and the advantages of liberation, therefore it is not a pleasurable experience at all, since all such experiences are samsaric.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Re: Bliss in Zen (sukha)

Post by Wayfarer »

Are you familiar with the distinction between 'experience' and 'realisation'?
Astus wrote:Sounds good, but it is meant to express a contrast between the drawbacks of samsara and the advantages of liberation, therefore it is not a pleasurable experience at all, since all such experiences are samsaric.
Experience is indeed samsaric, but realisation is of a different order. That is why 'what is good' is the opposite to 'what is bad' in the ordinary sense, but that the bliss of liberation is not simply some relative good. It is a 'good with no opposite', so it's of a different order to merely a good experience. (Reference here.)
Last edited by Wayfarer on Wed Apr 06, 2016 10:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bliss in Zen (sukha)

Post by Anders »

Wayfarer wrote:Are you familiar with the distinction that is sometimes made between 'experience' and 'realisation'?
Astus wrote:Sounds good, but it is meant to express a contrast between the drawbacks of samsara and the advantages of liberation, therefore it is not a pleasurable experience at all, since all such experiences are samsaric.
Experience is indeed samsaric, but realisation is of a different order. That is why 'what is good' is the opposite to 'what is bad' in the ordinary sense, but that the bliss of liberation is not simply some relative good. It is a 'good with no opposite', so it's of a different order to merely a good experience.
I think it would be more fitting to say of no order at all. What is of a different order is by definition samsaric.
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I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

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Re: Bliss in Zen (sukha)

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OK the key point from the source above is this (it's not a Zen text but a Mahamudra text):
Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche wrote:In Buddhism we distinguish between spiritual experiences and spiritual realisations... . Spiritual experiences are usually more vivid and intense than realisations because they generally have physiological and psychological changes attached to them. On the other hand, realisations may be felt, but their tone is less pronounced. Realisation is about acquiring insight; while realisations arise out of our spiritual experiences, they are not identical with them. Spiritual realisations are considered vastly more important because they cannot fluctuate.
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Re: Bliss in Zen (sukha)

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Wayfarer wrote:Experience is indeed samsaric, but realisation is of a different order. That is why 'what is good' is the opposite to 'what is bad' in the ordinary sense, but that the bliss of liberation is not simply some relative good. It is a 'good with no opposite', so it's of a different order to merely a good experience.
Zen and Mahamudra agree that what needs to be realised is buddha-nature, however, their methods and terminology somewhat differ. The realisation of buddha-nature in Zen means that one realises that there is nothing to realise. As for Mahamudra, from the same book:

"When the emptiness of physical and mental phenomena is directly experienced as a subjective reality and the mind is stable and able to maintain awareness, the luminous clarity of the mind gives rise to a sense of well-being that transcends both happiness and unhappiness. This is the experience of all-pervasive bliss, the goal of Mahamudra ·practice. When we no longer fixate on our thoughts and emotions but let them arise. without interference and without hope and fear, our minds will become blissfully clear."
(Mind at East, p 20-21)

We might suppose that with the realisation of emptiness, regardless if it's through Zen or Mahamudra, one attains the mentioned bliss. And that bliss, as noted earlier, is one of the four characteristics of buddha-nature. Since both systems agree that this bliss is not a feeling or emotion, the word "bliss" stands for the complete lack of "suffering" (duhkha), and that is the very meaning of nirvana.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Re: Bliss in Zen (sukha)

Post by jundo cohen »

This is a very interesting thread.

I believe I have identified the source of my possible misunderstanding. DJ pointed me to a poem by "Saraha" and instructed that I should include the footnotes. The footnotes say at several points statements such as ...

Tantric Buddhism is particularly notable for its description of the ultimate as blissful (see, e.g., HT 1:8, 44, ST 33:22) and for cultivating techniques that stimulate and utilize bliss—including sexual bliss—to attain that ultimate. “Bliss” (Apa. suha; Skt. sukha) is roughly synonymous with such terms as ecstasy (Skt. a¯nanda), delight (Skt. ra¯ga), and rapture (Skt. sura). ... It is through such processes that various drops are activated and controlled, and blisses and ecstasies experienced. ... one moves the blissful drop that resides at the crown cakra up and down through the cakras of the central channel, and experiences various degrees of ecstasy ...

http://tsony.com/wp-content/uploads/201 ... ackson.pdf

That is what it says explaining the poem, and I see "bliss" being called a synonym for "esctasy, delight, rapture" and that one seeks to attain "various degrees of ecstasy" through use of Cakras and such. However, is this an incorrect reading, and the consensus here is that the footnotes are not correct? That is not an accurate description of Tibetan Buddhist use of the cakras, or this is actually not what Sahara meant by "bliss", so the footnotes are misleading? If so, I plead that as the source of my confusion. Is it possible that the footnotes are right after all, and that Sahara did mean states of "esctasy, delight, rapture" (or is it the case that even "esctasy, delight, rapture" do not mean "esctasy, delight, rapture" as normally experience?) Please inform and correct me, and I apologize if I misunderstand the footnotes to the poem.

The subtle forms of "bliss" being described by some in this thread seems more right on the money to me, if that is what Sahara meant. Shikantaza is perhaps better described as a "to the bone mirror-like equanimity" as the borders and frictions between the self and non-self drop away. That sounds more like Tom describes as "ease" ... although I would call it a Big E Ease because of the transcendence of subject-object. As I have usually heard taught in Soto circles these days, "Sukkha" is the wheel that spins freely without friction, the converse of Dukkha (although as I usually say, from a Soto view, we may actually find that "Sukkha" is so "Sukkha", that "Dukkha and Sukkha" are not two, and Sukkha is discovered so much at the heart of Dukkha that, while Dukkha remains it is no longer the friction and lack of satisfaction of "Dukkha" as it was before ... mountains are mountains again).

If the word "bliss" means more (contrary to the footnotes I mentioned) what Astus described as " the "bliss of nirvana" .... is meant to express a contrast between the drawbacks of samsara and the advantages of liberation, therefore it is not a pleasurable experience at all, since all such experiences are samsaric." ... well, that sounds more like it!

Thus, I prefer a translation of "peaceful ease/comfort" for anraku 安楽. I would ask Astus, who is the expert in such things, if he thinks that "安楽" had the meaning in Dogen's time or earlier in China of "peaceful/joyful ease/comfort" rather than "bliss" as "esctasy, delight, rapture"?

If I understood Matylda correctly, students are dissuaded in her experience away from experiences of "bliss" as "esctasy, delight, rapture" in most of the Zen world. It may be encouraging to students for a time, and we all experience such "esctasy, delight, rapture" in Shikantaza from time to time, but it is ultimately a trap and dead end. Shikantaza is sitting Wholly and Thoroughly, without the lease resistance, to the ecstasy and the agony, delight and dullness, rapture and rupture ... with all the equanimity and clarity of a bright, boundless mirror reflecting those things.

One final note: I was hesitant to speak for "Zen", and only a bit more confident about speaking from the framework of Soto Zen, because I actually believe (as an outsider there too, however) that some corners of the Zen world do actually value Kensho experiences containing "bliss, esctasy, delight, rapture". For example, the famous book "Three Pillars of Zen" by Sambokyodan teacher Philip Kapleau contains statements such as;

"The blissful state which flows from concentration on the breath and the value of breathing
in terms of spiritual development are lucidly set forth by Lama
Govinda: "From this state of perfect mental and physical equilibrium
and its resulting inner harmony grows that serenity and happiness
which fills the whole body with a feeling of supreme bliss like
the refreshing coolness of a spring that penetrates the entire water of
a mountain lake. . . .

http://selfdefinition.org/zen/Philip-Ka ... of-Zen.pdf

Some these days, especially in corners of the Soto world that I am familiar with, these days criticize that book and the emphasis in it on Kensho as a certain type of peak experience.

However, I dare not speak for all corners of "Zen" on this issue, let alone even everyone in "Soto Zen."

Gassho, Jundo
Last edited by jundo cohen on Wed Apr 06, 2016 1:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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DGA
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Re: Bliss in Zen (sukha)

Post by DGA »

Hi Jundo,
jundo cohen wrote:This is a very interesting thread.

I believe I have identified the source of my possible misunderstanding. DJ pointed me to a poem by "Saraha" and instructed that I should include the footnotes. The footnotes say at several points statements such as ...

Tantric Buddhism is particularly notable for its description of the ultimate as blissful (see, e.g., HT 1:8, 44, ST 33:22) and for cultivating techniques that stimulate and utilize bliss—including sexual bliss—to attain that ultimate. “Bliss” (Apa. suha; Skt. sukha) is roughly synonymous with such terms as ecstasy (Skt. a¯nanda), delight (Skt. ra¯ga), and rapture (Skt. sura). ... It is through such processes that various drops are activated and controlled, and blisses and ecstasies experienced. ... one moves the blissful drop that resides at the crown cakra up and down through the cakras of the central channel, and experiences various degrees of ecstasy ...

So, I see "bliss" being called a synonym for "esctasy, delight, rapture" and that one seeks to attain "various degrees of ecstasy". Is the an incorrect reading, and the consensus here is that the footnotes are not correct? That is not an accurate description of Tibetan Buddhist use of the cakras, or this is actually not what Sahara meant by "bliss", so the footnotes are misleading? If so, I plead that as the source of my confusion. Is it possible that the footnotes are right after all, and that Sahara did mean states of "esctasy, delight, rapture" (or is it the case that even "esctasy, delight, rapture" do not mean "esctasy, delight, rapture" as normally experience?) Please inform and correct me, and I apologize if I misunderstand the footnotes to the poem.

The subtle forms of "bliss" being described by some in this thread seems more right on the money to me, if that is what Sahara meant. Shikantaza is perhaps better described as a "to the bone mirror-like equanimity" as the borders and frictions between the self and non-self drop away. That sounds more like Tom describes as "ease" ... although I would call it a Big E Ease because of the transcendence of subject-object. As I have usually heard taught in Soto circles these days, "Sukkha" is the wheel that spins freely without friction, the converse of Dukkha (although as I usually say, from a Soto view, we may actually find that "Sukkha" is so "Sukkha", that "Dukkha and Sukkha" are not two, and Sukkha is discovered so much at the heart of Dukkha that, while Dukkha remains it is no longer the friction and lack of satisfaction of "Dukkha" as it was before ... mountains are mountains again).

If the word "bliss" means more (contrary to the footnotes I mentioned) " the "bliss of nirvana" .... is meant to express a contrast between the drawbacks of samsara and the advantages of liberation, therefore it is not a pleasurable experience at all, since all such experiences are samsaric." ... well, that sounds more like it.

Thus, I prefer a translation of "peaceful ease/comfort" for anraku 安楽. I would ask Astus, who is the expert in such things, if he thinks that "安楽" had the meaning in Dogen's time or earlier in China of "peaceful/joyful ease/comfort" rather than "bliss" as "esctasy, delight, rapture"?

If I understood Matylda correctly, students are dissuaded in her experience away from experiences of "bliss" as "esctasy, delight, rapture" in most of the Zen world. It may be encouraging to students for a time, and we all experience such "esctasy, delight, rapture" in Shikantaza from time to time, but it is ultimately a trap and dead end. Shikantaza is sitting Wholly and Thoroughly, without the lease resistance, to the ecstasy and the agony, delight and dullness, rapture and rapture ... with all the equanimity and clarity of a bright, boundless mirror reflecting those things.

One final note: I was hesitant to speak for "Zen", and only a bit more confident about speaking from the framework of Soto Zen, because I actually believe (as an outside there too, however) that some corners of the Zen world do actually value Kensho experiences containing "bliss, esctasy, delight, rapture". For example, the famous book "Three Pillars of Zen" by Sambokyodan teacher Philip Kapleau contains statements such as;

"The blissful state which flows from concentration on the breath and the value of breathing
in terms of spiritual development are lucidly set forth by Lama
Govinda: "From this state of perfect mental and physical equilibrium
and its resulting inner harmony grows that serenity and happiness
which fills the whole body with a feeling of supreme bliss like
the refreshing coolness of a spring that penetrates the entire water of
a mountain lake. . . .

http://selfdefinition.org/zen/Philip-Ka ... of-Zen.pdf

Some these days, especially in corners of the Soto world that I am familiar with, these days criticize that book and the emphasis in it on Kensho as a certain type of peak experience.

However, I dare not speak for all corners of "Zen" on this issue, let alone even everyone in "Soto Zen."

Gassho, Jundo
I don't understand the distinction you make between the method described in the footnotes, and the experience of bliss that coincides with realization. If I read you correctly, you seem to think these are in contradiction. I don't see the contradiction, merely a difference in description and method. (this takes us back to our earlier conversation about "hara" and channels and so on, I suppose.)

Anyway, I think Saraha means "bliss" precisely in terms of ultimate realization. This corresponds to Matylda's earlier remarks in this thread:
Matylda wrote: In Shobogenzo one may find it in SHIZEN BIKU. In rinzai I think Hakuin or Torei were pretty clear about it...

but sukha generally in the zen context would mean the state of enlightened being who is not anymore a subject of suffering, which by itself turns into bliss. The same is for ordinary perception of ordinary phenomena etc. This one can trace in Hokyoki...
EDIT: the discussion I alluded to above regarding methods involving "hara" and so on in Zen practice can be found at the link below, for those who may not remember or were not around for that. It gets going here, but picks up steam in the following pages. It's a good discussion.

http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f= ... 91#p321188
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Astus
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Re: Bliss in Zen (sukha)

Post by Astus »

jundo cohen wrote: "peaceful ease/comfort" for anraku 安楽. ... "安楽" had the meaning in Dogen's time or earlier in China of "peaceful/joyful ease/comfort" rather than "bliss" as "esctasy, delight, rapture"?
The word is the combination of "peace" and "happiness", where 樂 also means "harmony" and "music". Besides anraku's meaning as a name for Sukhavati, there is another explanation: "peaceful body, happy mind" (身安心樂) and "not threatened body is peaceful, not anxious mind is happy" (身無危險故安,心無憂惱故樂). So, I would say it's virtually nothing to do with ecstasy and rapture.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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