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Spirituality

Spirituality

  1. 17 Apr '05 08:09 / 1 edit
    The Japanese word "zen" is what happened to the Chinese word "ch'an" when the Japanese tried to pronounce it. The Chinese word "ch'an" is what happened to the Sanskrit word "dhyan" when the Chinese tried to pronounce it. The Sanskrit word "dhyan" means "meditation".

    Zen is the lineage of Buddhist tradition that is regarded by many as the purist embodiment of the Buddha's original teachings of 2,500 years ago.

    During the Buddha's long teaching ministry of about 40 years, he once gave a sermon on the essence of his teaching. In this sermon, he simply sat in front of his disciples and held out a flower in the palm of his hand...and said nothing.

    The disciples were baffled. The Buddha simply continued sitting in silence, holding out this flower. Then suddenly, one disciple by the name of Maha Kasyapa, burst out laughing.

    "Very good," said the Buddha. "You have understood today's sermon."

    And Maha Kasyapa became regarded as the first Zen master. About a thousand years after this event, the Indian Buddhist monk Bodhidharma transmitted Zen from India to China, when he founded the Shaolin monastery. About 600 years after that, Zen made it to Japan, where it developed into its most sophisticated forms.

    When Bodhidharma first arrived in China, he was escorted to the court of Emperor Wu, who considered himself an enthusiastic Buddhist patron but who had never met a real master. The Emperor was looking forward to the meeting. But when Bodhidharma arrived, things did not go smoothly. Wu wanted to know what "karmic merit" he'd attained by buidling some Budhist temples in China. "No merit at all" was Bodhidharma's reply. Confused, Emperor Wu then asked him what the deepest spiritual teaching was. "Empty mind" came the Zen master's reply. Now getting irritated, Wu said to him, "who are you?" Bodhidharma answered, "I don't know." And with that the Emperor, now fed up, banished the Zen master from his court.

    Emperor Wu could not understand that Bodhidharma was giving him the highest teachings. The essence of Zen is that we live in a kind of dream world created by the ego. This dream world is based on the idea that our ego is real, and we need to "attain things" -- be that karmic merit, a 2000 rating in chess, the kingdom of God, or a million bucks -- in order to validate who we think we are. According to the Buddha, this endless drive to self-validate and "prove" our existence to others is the root of all suffering.

    Zen meditation is the art and practice of being present, in the moment. When we're truly present, our state of mind and action have a clarity and precision to them. What stops us from being present is confused, deluded thinking.

    To meditate is not to force the mind to be quiet, as is sometimes mistakenly assumed. That is simply repression. But nor is it to indulge the mind, which is simply daydreaming. To meditate properly is to simply learn to OBSERVE the mind, impartially, without judging it. That is, to simply take note of one's thoughts, and let them move on, with grasping or clinging to them.

    As we practice this, sooner or later we become aware of the "field" or "context" in which all thoughts are arising. That field or context is pure awareness (or consciousness) itself. Not awareness "of" anything; simply awareness itself.

    To become aquainted with this awareness is to become aquainted with its qualities -- most immediately noticeable of which is spaciousness and natural wisdom. This is a wisdom that transcends deductive thought, and sees directly into things (insight). Sometimes this "seeing into things" deepens suddenly and dramatically, a breakthrough known in Zen as "satori" or "sudden awakening". It is an insight that understands reality without having to "figure it out". This is why Maha Kasyapa was able to understand Buddha's sermon on the flower even though Buddha said nothing. And this is why Bodhidharma answered "I don't know" in reply to the Emperor's question "who are you?" His "I don't know" was the same in spirit as Socrates famous line, "the more I know, the more I realize I know nothing at all."

    This "not knowing" is not the same thing as simple ignorance. It's rather a recognition of the limitations of the conceptual mind. As long as we conceive of something, there remains separation between subject and object. To relax the conceptualization process is to approach things with an open, fresh mind, and to be able to see deeply into reality. For example, when standing in front of a tree. we can think about the tree in all sorts of ways -- about its biology, its nomenclature, even its mystical attributes. Or, we can simply be present with the tree, by observing our mind without repressing it our indulging it -- simply watching our thoughts, and then paying full attention to the tree. If we are only 30% present with the tree, it is dull in our perceptual field. But if we are 100% present, not lost in conceptualizing, then the tree becomes 100% real in our perceptual field. We begin to see into its deeper essence.

    That's the simple basis of Zen. Simple in principle, but both extremely difficult to realize (because of how difficult the mind can be to tame), and vastly meaningful in implication. To actually train the mind to quiet down whenever we want is to open a door to a deeper dimension. Few people experience this because few people break out of their identification with the mind and its constant conceptualizing.
  2. 17 Apr '05 21:11 / 1 edit
    Very Interesting, re Satori try this exercise from Body Mind Mastery by Dan Millman

    Instant Satori

    Take your keys, a piece of fruit, or any handy object, and go outside. Throw the object up into the air. Staying relaxed and easy, catch it. Be sure to catch it. Then come back inside, and continue reading this exercise.

    Now consider the moment the object was in the air. At that moment you weren't thinking of what you'd have for dinner or what you did yesterday. You weren't thinking of anything else, either. you may have been attending thoughts before you threw it or after you caught it, but during the throw, you were pure attention, reaching out , waiting for the object's descent. In that same moment your emotions were open, and your body was alert and vitalized- a moment of satori.
  3. Standard member Omnislash
    Digital Blasphemy
    17 Apr '05 23:49
    Originally posted by Jay Peatea
    Very Interesting, re Satori try this exercise from Body Mind Mastery by Dan Millman

    Instant Satori

    Take your keys, a piece of fruit, or any handy object, and go outside. Throw the object up into the air. Staying relaxed and easy, catch it. Be sure to catch it. Then come back inside, and continue reading this exercise.

    Now consider the moment the ...[text shortened]... same moment your emotions were open, and your body was alert and vitalized- a moment of satori.
    I have alwasy found the teachings of Millman to be very useful. Indeed, anyone who has read The Way of The Peaceful Warrior knows the meaning behind my profile.

    Regardless of what a person may "believe", I have suggested his books for reading to people of all walks of life.
  4. Standard member Wheely
    Instant Buzz
    18 Apr '05 13:04
    Originally posted by Metamorphosis
    The Japanese word "zen" is what happened to the Chinese word "ch'an" when the Japanese tried to pronounce it. The Chinese word "ch'an" is what happened to the Sanskrit word "dhyan" when the Chinese tried to pronounce it. The Sanskrit word "dhyan" means "meditation".

    Zen is the lineage of Buddhist tradition that is regarded by many as t ...[text shortened]... use few people break out of their identification with the mind and its constant conceptualizing.
    When I was younger I used to ponder life, the universe and everything. Almost constantly I would investigate, read, think and wonder. It took up a lot of time. One day, sitting on a bus on the way to work, looking at trees out the window, I was struck, hard by a thought. "I don't know". It wasn't an "I don't know" as in I can't find out or can't be bothered to find out, it felt like an "I don't know" that was the answer to the question and I have never felt the urge to "find out" since then.

    Your post, together with a couple of others you have posted bother me because they makes me feel I should be a Buddhist and yet I don't want to be.
  5. 18 Apr '05 20:05
    Originally posted by Wheely
    When I was younger I used to ponder life, the universe and everything. Almost constantly I would investigate, read, think and wonder. It took up a lot of time. One day, sitting on a bus on the way to work, looking at trees out the window, I was struck, hard by a thought. "I don't know". It wasn't an "I don't know" as in I can't find out or can't ...[text shortened]... posted bother me because they makes me feel I should be a Buddhist and yet I don't want to be.
    LOL. Well, hopefully you don't feel obligated...😉

    Actually what is interesting is that the monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) are crucially dependent on the literal factuality of certain historic events, and thus are religions based preeminently on faith, not reason. Chess, being a game with no random elements, really has nothing to do with faith, except in peripheral ways. Buddhism would seem to be a tradition more in tune with a chessplayer's mentality than monotheistic religions as Buddhism does not depend on the historical factuality of Buddha or his ministry. It depends entirely on applying the teachings in order to understand one's mind and live a better life, and that's basically it. It is a tradition of reason and practicality, and the usage of reason to break through into deeper epiphanies of realization, much like chess, in some respects.

    Regarding the "I don't know" experience, this is the basis of satori, or the Zen description of "sudden awakening". It's the wall that the mind puts up when it encounters its own self-made boundaries. For example, the question "what is the color blue?" has certain rational answers. But finally we are left with "I don't know", that is, we're left with simply the bare experience of "blue-ness". Likewise, in trying to understand what a tree is, we can enumerate our various conceptualizations of "tree" -- chlorophyll, photosynthesis, the morphology of the tree, etc. -- but in the end, we do not truly know what the tree is. We have only a set of conceptual designations for it. It remains a fundamental mystery that can only be directly experienced.

    The Zen "koan" is a device used by Rinzai Zen practitioners to break through the limitations of the conceptualization process. Famous ones are "what is the sound of one hand clapping?" or "what is outside of the universe?" These "riddles" are meditated on for hours and sometimes days, weeks, or months on end, all the time knowing that there is no real intellectual answer. Eventually the mind relaxes and there occurs a paradigm shift in which the observing subject (your consciousness) is seen to be not truly separate from the object (the phenomenological universe).

    Re Dan Millman, yes, his Way of the Peaceful Warrior was a good read, the character of Socrates reminded me very much of Castaneda's "don Juan", the old Yaqui Indian shaman. Much of Castaneda's material appears to have come from Tibetan Buddhism, incidentally.
  6. Standard member Wheely
    Instant Buzz
    18 Apr '05 20:41 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by Metamorphosis
    LOL. Well, hopefully you don't feel obligated...😉

    Actually what is interesting is that the monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) are crucially dependent on the literal factuality of certain historic events, and th ...[text shortened]... material appears to have come from Tibetan Buddhism, incidentally.
    I enjoy your posts Sir, or maybe Madam. I met a Buddhist lady once, I didn't know she was one before I had asked her for a date. She told me over the resulting meal that she was a Buddhist. I asked her about what being a Buddhist meant and what she believed and a host of other questions because I knew little of what Buddhism was. I don't remember the things she said but I do remember asking her, when she had finished, how she knew she was a Buddhist. There didn't seem to be much in what she had told me that could define her as being one. Apart from, perhaps, that she wouldn't eat meat but lots of people don't eat meat. She couldn't answer that question and admitted as such which didn't bother her at all. I had a lot of respect for her and her views after that.

    I would ask you the same question but feel, to some, extent, it is answered in the above post. The feeling I get from this lady and from your posts is that it wouldn't really matter if nobody was a Buddhist. It would still be there.

  7. Standard member KneverKnight
    Strawman
    18 Apr '05 21:06
    One thing I find attractive about this is that questioning is encouraged eg, I believe that Castaneta's writings are all made up stories but that doesn't mean I throw out the book.
  8. 19 Apr '05 09:29
    Zen is practical - it will always survive because it appeals to spiritual AND rational philosophies. Above all, it is about truth. And that is the meaning of religion.
  9. 21 Apr '05 10:09 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by Wheely
    I enjoy your posts Sir, or maybe Madam...

    I would ask you the same question but feel, to some, extent, it is answered in the above post. The feeling I get from this lady and from your posts is that it wouldn't really matter if nobody was a Buddhist. It would still be there.

    A male here, and in this case, with a beard and Buddha-like bald head...

    Regarding it "mattering" whether one is Buddhist or not, traditionally Buddhism does not have a missionary component or aggressive outreach program, so to speak. But ironically the Chinese annexation of Tibet in 1959 has served to spread Buddhism (the Tibetan form of it, at least) around the world, owing to the exodus of great Tibetan *lamas* (teachers).

    A few more comments on "enlightenment" in the Buddhist context...

    1. The basic idea is that our inner nature is already enlightened. We can't see that, however, because of the tendency of the mind to obscure our naturally awake consciousness. The mind obscures it via deluded thinking.

    2. Deluded thinking is arising from ignorance of who we really are. This ignorance is programmed into us by many external forces, found within family, society, etc.

    3. This ignorance is identification in all its forms. To identify in this context means to believe that we are something that we ultimately are not. For example, to believe that we are nothing but a body. Or nothing but a racial type, or a nationality, or a political persuasion, or our vocation, etc.

    4. Identification is a kind of madness that infects people. People will easily kill each other over identifications. These identifications can be racial ("I'm white, you're black, he's yellow," etc.), or sexist, or political, or religious, etc. It takes very little evidence to see how identification lies behind most forms of human craziness stemming from divisiveness and the need to oppose others because of their different identifications.

    5. If we are tired of identifications and the generally shallow life they engender, there is the possibility of seeing beyond them. To see beyond them it's necessary to grasp the deepest and most problematic identification of them all -- the belief that we are the mind, and nothing more.

    6. We believe we are the mind when we identify with thinking. To identify with thinking means to believe that "I am my thoughts".

    7. Since thoughts are changing all the time, arising and subsiding in consciousness, we can see a certain craziness in identifying with thinking. And since the ego, the central basis of who we think we are, is nothing but a collection of thoughts, we can easily see how identifying with thinking results in identifying with the ego, or separate self.

    8. Buddha taught that the separate self or ego is much like a phantom, or dream -- something we come to staunchly defend and fortify, and "believe in". But by reinforcing the ego or separate self we create the conditions for future suffering because our deeper nature is not contained or confined by the arbitrary boundaries of the ego. We are, in a sense, always pretending to be something that we are not. This basic inauthenticity often translates into a lack of truthfulness in relationships with others (even if we mean well). But this is understandable, in a sense. How can we be truthful in all our relationships if we do not know who we are?

    9. To begin to know who we are, at deeper levels, it is first necessary to observe the mind. We observe the mind by practicing objectively witnessing thoughts as they arise in consciousness.

    An experiment -- observe the mind. See if you can watch a thought arise in your awareness.

    How does the thought arise? By what mechanism is this thought being made to appear? Is there anyone really in the "background" deciding "okay, now I'm going to have this thought"?

    And if so, can you find that person?
  10. Standard member Wheely
    Instant Buzz
    21 Apr '05 13:23
    Originally posted by Metamorphosis
    A male here, and in this case, with a beard and Buddha-like bald head...

    Regarding it "mattering" whether one is Buddhist or not, traditionally Buddhism does not have a missionary component or aggressive outreach program, so to speak. But ironically the Chinese annexation of Tibet in 1959 has served to spread Buddhism (the Tibetan form of it, at l ...[text shortened]... deciding "okay, now I'm going to have this thought"?

    And if so, can you find that person?
    Thanks again. As I mentioned before, this is very refreshing reading.
  11. 26 Apr '05 22:03 / 1 edit
    Zen master Ryokan once came across one of his disciples meditating strenuously under a tree.

    "What are you doing?" asked the Zen master.

    The disciple, surprised that his master should disturb him this way, replied, "Meditating, my master."

    "For what purpose?" asked the old master.

    "To become enlightened, of course," replied the disciple.

    Hearing this, Zen master Ryokan sat down beside him, removed one of his shoes, and put it on his head.

    The disciple began to suspect that possibly the old man had finally gone mad, after years of trying to mentor stupid disciples.

    "What are you doing?" asked the young monk.

    "Trying to become enlightened," replied the Zen master, as he continued to sit in blithe calm with his shoe on his head.

    "But master," began the disciple, clearing his throat. "How can you become enlightened with a shoe on your head?"

    The Zen master opened his eyes and looked at his student piercingly. "And so too," he said, "how can you become enlightened by meditating?"

    "I don't understand," said the student.

    "Enlightenment is already your natural state," explained the Zen master. "It is simply your natural awareness of this moment. Do you have to do anything to create this natural awareness? No, it is already the case! Cease all effort and foolish striving for something to be attained in the future. Just rest here, now, and be truly present in this moment."
  12. Standard member frogstomp
    Bruno's Ghost
    27 Apr '05 15:35
    Originally posted by Metamorphosis
    Zen master Ryokan once came across one of his disciples meditating strenuously under a tree.

    "What are you doing?" asked the Zen master.

    The disciple, surprised that his master should disturb him this way, replied, "Meditating, my master."

    "For what purpose?" asked the old master.

    "To become enlightened, of course," replied the dis ...[text shortened]... ething to be attained in the future. Just rest here, now, and be truly present in this moment."
    Splash
  13. 27 Apr '05 15:35
    In order to become a master of Zen, did Ryokan practice meditation?

    If so, what for?
  14. Standard member KneverKnight
    Strawman
    27 Apr '05 16:26
    Originally posted by eagles54
    In order to become a master of Zen, did Ryokan practice meditation?

    If so, what for?
    Are you the thoughts that you think? Or the quiet place between your thoughts?
  15. 27 Apr '05 16:29
    Originally posted by KneverKnight
    Are you the thoughts that you think? Or the quiet place between your thoughts?
    Do you experience a quiet place between thoughts?