The Noble Truths as Skillful Means

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
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Meido
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Re: The Noble Truths as Skillful Means

Post by Meido »

JimTempleman wrote: Wed Sep 08, 2021 12:53 pm As you can see, it has it's roots in Zen, but I cannot classify it further.
Only inasmuch as Tohei co-opted Zen or general Buddhist ideas widely known in Japan. For example, Takuan's description of fudoshin in Fudochi Shimmyo Roku, a well-known Zen text that most everyone doing martial arts will read. The idea of intoku, good deeds done in secret. And so on.

He was not a Zen practitioner. In fact, he disparaged Zen and discouraged his students from practicing it. He was interested in founding his own new religion. And he did so, though with marginal success, and continually decreasing relevance on the Aikido side too.

All off topic, though (if there is a main topic here anymore). So I'll stop there.
JimTempleman wrote: Wed Sep 08, 2021 4:19 pm Generally what I would do (have done as a teacher) is to give them a rough sketch of why it wouldn't work. If it were close enough to salvage I'd tell them how to fix it, without dictating all the details.
Reading from the beginning, I see Malcolm having done precisely this a number of times. As was said, you can lead a horse to water...
PeterC
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Re: The Noble Truths as Skillful Means

Post by PeterC »

JimTempleman wrote: Wed Sep 08, 2021 4:19 pm
JimTempleman wrote: Wed Sep 08, 2021 1:46 pm Turns out that most respondents don't want to touch its content with a hundred foot pole.
Malcolm wrote: Wed Sep 08, 2021 2:50 pm If someone wrote a post on neural net theory, which was predicated on insufficient learning, would you "touch its contents," or would you tell that person to go to school and get it right?
Generally what I would do (have done as a teacher) is to give them a rough sketch of why it wouldn't work. If it were close enough to salvage I'd tell them how to fix it, without dictating all the details. The problem is that with computer models the results are viewed objectively. With meditation it's one's own experience which cannot be directly shared with others (except transmission, so I've heard). Subjective matters are always at least 10x more difficult to gauge. (& I've done a lot of 'usability' testing).

I cannot fault you're responses to me. It's clear that you're giving me what you believe I need to hear. I thank you for that. I wish you the best in your studies.
You’re still not really getting it. If you’re serious about training in zen practice - if that is your interest - you should actually try it. Do a period of proper retreat at a monastery. Present the results of your practice to a teacher and see what he or she says. Otherwise you’ll just keep tying yourself up in concepts and convincing yourself you know best.
Malcolm
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Re: The Noble Truths as Skillful Means

Post by Malcolm »

JimTempleman wrote: Wed Sep 08, 2021 4:19 pm Subjective matters are always at least 10x more difficult to gauge. (& I've done a lot of 'usability' testing).

I cannot fault you're responses to me. It's clear that you're giving me what you believe I need to hear. I thank you for that. I wish you the best in your studies.
These things are not subjective.

Dhyāna/samādhi/samapatti states, in Buddhadharma, are defined by specific mental factors which arise in predictable and repeatable fashions.

These things are discussed in Abhidharma, which concerns the first principles upon which Mahāyāna exegesis, including Chan/Zen are predicated.

The observation of the arising, abiding, and passing away of concepts in the mind is an instruction for beginners in every school of Mahāyāna Buddhism, at least those that actually engage in the cultivation of śamatha and vipaśyanā.

Further, there are many manuals, such as Asanga's text on śamatha, Kamalashila's manuals on cultivation and so on, as well as a very influential set of meditation manuals, which had great influence on people like Dogen, etc., by the fifth century Chinese master Chih-I. You should study them (which a teacher).

Buddhism has an extremely rich literature on contemplative phenomenology, if you will, a literature that most people have no access to, because most of it is still locked away in Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, Chinese, and Japanese. Further, all of the great masters spent years mastering these curriculums, combining their study with practice. This is why your post and subsequent remarks have met with general incredulity. You are simply out of your depth here.

Since you are a modern, educated person, you have the Western attitude that somehow these pre-modern systems, which are not based on a modern medical understanding of anatomy and physiology, need to be helped in some way, an attitude that is frankly mere cultural chauvinism, not grounded in any facts. For example, while in Tibetan medicine they did not recognize things such as neurons, etc., they certainly were aware of circulation, the connection between the brain, sense organs, and the functions of limbs and organs in the body via nerves, since at least the 10th century (they dealt with a lot of traumatic injuries from warfare, and their methods of diagnosing organ and brain damage from traumatic injuries are remarkable and accurate). One of the consequences of this attitude is that you feel, based on a couple of short, classical texts, that you have somehow grasped the entirety of Buddhadharma and are now in a position to offer your esteemed opinion on such matters, arrogating to yourself the position of having discovered "a brand new method of using the the 4NT as a skillful means." You haven't discovered anything new.

Even more ridiculous, you somehow insist that if your English phraseology is not found in classical texts, somehow this validates your so-called "discovery," as if all this is merely an exercise in creating a computational algorithm based on your conceptual observation of rising, abiding, and passing away of thoughts. You certainly do not know how to do meditation according to Buddhist instructions. You do not know how eliminate lethargy, nor avoid agitation, and a hundred other flaws and obstacles one confronts in meditation. You are talking to people, who in some cases, have spent years in solitary retreats practicing between 10-12 hours a day for extended periods of time.

So you must forgive us for finding your tone hubristic and arrogant.
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JimTempleman
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Re: The Noble Truths as Skillful Means

Post by JimTempleman »

JimTempleman wrote: Wed Sep 08, 2021 12:53 pm As you can see, it has it's roots in Zen, but I cannot classify it further.
Meido wrote: Wed Sep 08, 2021 4:31 pm He was not a Zen practitioner. In fact, he disparaged Zen and discouraged his students from practicing it. He was interested in founding his own new religion. And he did so, though with marginal success, and continually decreasing relevance on the Aikido side too.
Never heard that before. No one in our Dojo treated it that way: just as a helpful foundation.
It's possible, just never saw it that way before.
Meido wrote: Wed Sep 08, 2021 4:31 pm Reading from the beginning, I see Malcolm having done precisely this a number of times. As was said, you can lead a horse to water...
Appreciate, your responses. Enjoyed your book.
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JimTempleman
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Re: The Noble Truths as Skillful Means

Post by JimTempleman »

JimTempleman wrote: Wed Sep 08, 2021 4:19 pm Subjective matters are always at least 10x more difficult to gauge. (& I've done a lot of 'usability' testing).
I cannot fault you're responses to me. It's clear that you're giving me what you believe I need to hear. I thank you for that. I wish you the best in your studies.
Malcolm wrote: Wed Sep 08, 2021 5:01 pm These things are not subjective.
All I meant by 'subjective' here is that no one except a highly trained teacher or a Bodhisattva can know what another person's mental state is.[/quote]
Malcolm wrote: Wed Sep 08, 2021 5:01 pm Dhyāna/samādhi/samapatti states, in Buddhadharma, are defined by specific mental factors which arise in predictable and repeatable fashions. ...
I am not questioning any of your theory or practices. I hold them in high regard!
If I meant unpredictable or unrepeatable I would have said so. That is my training.
Malcolm wrote: Wed Sep 08, 2021 5:01 pm Further, all of the great masters spent years mastering these curriculums, combining their study with practice. This is why your post and subsequent remarks have met with general incredulity. You are simply out of your depth here.
I don't claim to be a great master & I fully acknowledge to be out of my depth here. But I have the understanding I have. And I am not deliberately misrepresenting my experiences. I could well be misclassifying them. I have no way of ruling that out, without a good teacher.
Malcolm wrote: Wed Sep 08, 2021 5:01 pm Since you are a modern, educated person, you have the Western attitude that somehow these pre-modern systems, which are not based on a modern medical understanding of anatomy and physiology, need to be helped in some way, an attitude that is frankly mere cultural chauvinism, not grounded in any facts.
If you've missed what I've said in earlier posts: I am in awe of Buddhist traditions!
Malcolm wrote: Wed Sep 08, 2021 5:01 pm Even more ridiculous, you somehow insist that if your English phraseology is not found in classical texts,
I'm just working with what I've got to work with. I've never been any good at learning new languages. I envy people who can.
Malcolm wrote: Wed Sep 08, 2021 5:01 pm You do not know how eliminate lethargy, nor avoid agitation, and a hundred other flaws and obstacles one confronts in meditation.
Yes, I've tried to strip things down to their bare essentials & focus on a basic method. As simple as possible, but no simpler. -That's how I've learned to design user interfaces.
Malcolm wrote: Wed Sep 08, 2021 5:01 pm So you must forgive us for finding your tone hubristic and arrogant.
Please forgive me if I came across that way.
I respect the path you are on & thank you for your advice.
Malcolm
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Re: The Noble Truths as Skillful Means

Post by Malcolm »

JimTempleman wrote: Wed Sep 08, 2021 6:27 pm
All I meant by 'subjective' here is that no one except a highly trained teacher or a Bodhisattva can know what another person's mental state is.
Yes, correct, and part of that training is learning how to discover these mental factors that are associated with contemplative states experientially, so one can guide others. While it is not rocket science, it is knowledge that is earned with a lot of sweat equity and guidance from qualified people, like Meido, and so on. I have heard good things about Guo Gu as well. There are a number of Korean Son centers out there as well.

I am a Tibetan Buddhist, so, I am not that familiar with the Chan/Zen/Son scene in the US.

But the basic principles are the same: find a teacher, rely on their guidance, do as much retreat as one's life will permit; most importantly, be humble. Buddhadharma is so vast, no one can master it all. But that is not necessary, all one has to do is stick with one qualified practice in a qualified lineage under the guidance of a qualified teacher/s, and then one will generate true bodhicitta, overcome one's afflictions, understand emptiness, and rouse great compassion for all sentient beings, with a bit of concerted effort and study. When all this is complete, one can say one is really on the Mahāyāna path of liberation

My advice, especially with Zen and Chan, is that there are a lot of fools out there pretending to be internet Zen masters, teachers of "Nonduality" and so on, who are really just bolstering their own egos and lining their pockets. Avoid them like you would avoid sleeping with someone who has syphilis. Not everyone with a book published by Wisdom or Shambhala is really a qualified teacher. So be careful who you choose as a mentor.

Please forgive me if I came across that way.
I respect the path you are on & thank you for your advice.
Of course. Please take our collective advice to heart. In this life, at this moment, you are a beginner, please begin to act like one.

You are welcome.
yinyangkoi
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Re: The Noble Truths as Skillful Means

Post by yinyangkoi »

Your post was very helpful for me. I noticed there is a sort of anticipation for the future (what you meant by enthusiasm). When I was drinking water and eating food, I noticed I was anticipating the next gulp or bite, instead of being fully present drinking or eating.
thaijames
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Re: The Noble Truths as Skillful Means

Post by thaijames »

Really enjoyed your post, Jim. Very much appreciated! What many critics with their strong views have not realized in all their wisdom is that the Buddha's original teachings easily get lost in the massive amount of reverberation. What you pointed out, which is often overlooked by the average person like me, is that the Four Noble Truths are not just truths; they are the core of the practice. The Four Noble Truths are also applicable on a micro level for each step of the Eightfold Path, including concentration.

Regarding this dogmatic view of not having a teacher, perhaps those who hold it have the karma to access the best teachers. However, someone like me doesn't have that privilege, and the teachers I have come across don't discuss the Four Noble Truths in this way. So, your post was very helpful!
thaijames
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Re: The Noble Truths as Skillful Means

Post by thaijames »

I would like to add that what you call fading thoughts from the Future might actually be what the Buddha calls fermentations, bubbles, proto thoughts, effluents or asavas. See MN2.

These are mental formations that are ready to burst to the surface, and feel bubble like, but can only be perceived in deep meditation.

Often it feels like they're coming from a certain place.
I have often found that by fading, softening, relaxing that place you can stop the effluents from developing into mental Fabrications.

And what, friends, is the noble truth of the cessation of stress? The remainderless fading & cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, & letting go of that very craving. MN141

What you have brought to attention is that most people talk about the third Noble Truth as the cessation of stress, but hardly anybody talks about this being a process, that is the fading, renunciating, relinquishment, releasing and letting go of all fabrications.

In my opinion and experience it's the core of how you practice the eightfold path.
Last edited by thaijames on Sat Jan 13, 2024 12:34 am, edited 2 times in total.
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JimTempleman
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Re: The Noble Truths as Skillful Means

Post by JimTempleman »

thaijames wrote: Fri Jan 12, 2024 4:54 pm Really enjoyed your post, Jim. Very much appreciated!
I am delighted that you enjoyed the post.
Yes: “the Four Noble Truths are not just truths; they are the core of the practice.” So many take them as ‘a guide to daily living’, as one might take the Golden Rule. Which is a good practice. But given when he announced them and the stress The Buddha placed upon them, they must be taken as a key to awakening.

Regarding not having a teacher:
(1) I came to the study of Chan/Zen based on a modern understanding of human perception that does not appear to be reflected in most approaches to Buddhism. The nearest I can come to it in Zen is this quote from Dainin Katagiri (1988) “Returning to Silence”
Identity Action:
“… We have to see equality, but not in the realm of equality; we have to see equality in the realm of differentiation. Differentiation must be formed not in differentiation, but in equality. Then, differentiation and equality are working in identity action.
Identity action does not function in a small area called ego, but in the vastness of existence. When we clean a room, we just clean the room. The room is not something different from us. …”

(2) If I had taken the normal route of finding a local teacher, I’m almost certain that I wouldn’t have stumbled into discovering the method that worked so well for me.

(3) Upon rereading the entirety of Master Sheng Yen (2012) “The Method of No Method.” I came across this:
“… we need a way to calm our mind, to become aware that thoughts come and go beyond our control, rising and falling only to be succeeded by others.
One method for calming the mind is to contemplate the transient nature of our thoughts. When you are aware that your thoughts arise and perish of their own accord, there will be no need to be ruled or conditioned by them. Your mind will settle into observing them with detached awareness and your emotions will become even. If you can do this, you will soon be able to pacify your mind.” p. 22

In the context of Silent Illumination, when he says “to contemplate” he means illumination, otherwise called vipassana. So: “One method for calming the mind is to contemplate.” What a perfect merger of silence and illumination.

(4) In retrospect, I have concluded that Master Sheng Yen was my teacher, even though I never met the man. Anyone who’s sincerity is strong enough to give one the confidence to ‘take the step off of the hundred-foot pole,’ is your teacher.

What was funny is that, at the time when I was watching thoughts arise as bubbling up, without seeing into their content, it all felt perfectly normal, as if: What else could they have meant?

I hope you get to enjoy the depths of the experience. I still feel blessed to have gotten as far as I did.
thaijames
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Re: The Noble Truths as Skillful Means

Post by thaijames »

JimTempleman wrote: Tue Jan 16, 2024 3:19 am “… We have to see equality, but not in the realm of equality; we have to see equality in the realm of differentiation. Differentiation must be formed not in differentiation, but in equality. Then, differentiation and equality are working in identity action.
Identity action does not function in a small area called ego, but in the vastness of existence. When we clean a room, we just clean the room. The room is not something different from us. …”
Thank you for your Insight Jim.

I'm sorry I'm not familiar with Zen so I'm probably in the wrong forum. But in terravada Buddhism, if mindfulness of the body is practiced correctly then this is the same contrast that is needed to see reality. We use the body as the foundation of mindfulness not paying attention to or getting carried away by any sensations, perceptions thoughts etc. it's kind of the contrast paper needed to see things clearly. In other words you can't understand sensations by being in sensations. Perceptions by being in perceptions. Thoughts by being in thoughts.
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JimTempleman
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Re: The Noble Truths as Skillful Means

Post by JimTempleman »

thaijames wrote: Tue Jan 16, 2024 3:46 am Thank you for your Insight Jim.
I'm sorry I'm not familiar with Zen ...
Thank you for considering what I wrote.
I would not worry too much about the differences between terravada Buddhism and Chan/Zen. Everyone is going back to the source, by the best way they can find.

Master Sheng Yen (2012) “The Method of No Method.”
-- From Guo Gu’s Translator’s Introduction:
---- (Guo Gu is founder & Dharma teacher of the Tallahassee Chan Center, USA)

‘In the 1980s, Master Sheng Yen actually tried to teach a more “formless” method of Silent Illumination in which the mind does not hold on to anything but has to maintain utter clarity. It was also stageless. He simply told us to sit and let go of everything without allowing the mind to “abide” anywhere, whether it be in sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, or thought. As soon as we discovered that the mind was caught up with something, we were instructed to let it go and return to the natural clarity of awareness itself. This method stemmed from his six-year solitary retreat and his first encounter with Master Hongzhi’s teachings. Master Sheng Yen told me that at one time during his retreat he simply “sat in natural clarity without any sense of self or time.” It was the most natural “practice” to him, one that accorded with his realization of the nature of mind and the truth of “non-abiding” and “formlessness” as taught in the “Platform Sutra.” In the latter part of his retreat, when he read Hongzhi’s teachings, he felt a natural and deep resonance with Silent Illumination. He once said to me, “This teaching is truly wonderful; more people should know about it.” Later, when he went to Japan, he discovered a similar practice taught by the late Ban Tetsugyu Soin Roshi (1910–1996), a Dharma heir of Harada Daiun Sogaku (1871–1961).”
thaijames
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Re: The Noble Truths as Skillful Means

Post by thaijames »

Thank you I'm reading silent illumination now it seems to fit in very well with my current understanding.
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Re: The Noble Truths as Skillful Means

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Because the latest communication within this thread seems to be completed, I'd like to lock this topic now. It's already quite old and I'd like to encourage you to rather start a new thread (maybe referring to this old one with a link), if there is further need of discussion.
Please see our Terms of Service. They explain the useful anti-necro rule. _()_
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