Zen Buddhism Discussion


If you want to discuss zen, assume a lotus or half-lotus posture, defocus your eyes, fold your hands in your lap, aim your spine at the sky, and breathe as slowly as possible. Force all discussive processes into a point about one inch below your navel. If, on the one hand, you'd prefer to waste useless words on deaf ears, please contribute here.

If you know Zen: then what would you say if I asked you what it is? Just sit?

It might be more meaningful to discuss what ZenBuddhism is. There is a vast amount of factual knowledge available regarding the foundations of Buddhism, and regarding the formation of the Zen (Ch'an, Son) form of it. There is information available regarding the specifics of practice and the differences found in the sects. There is material that discusses both the core values central to Buddhist thought, and many writings describing how this corresponds to Zen training. All these things are available, but by reading all this, one has still not experienced it, however these things may provide information for the potential student to determine if they wish to pursue Zen training. Would you claim this to be a bad thing?

<repetitive ThreadMess refactored> refactored from a mess into a bigger mess more like

I've refactored it again. There are at least 4 voices in this dialog. I've tried to separate them out in presentation.

Hey, what happened to the cool koan at the end of all this mess? In fact most of what was worthwhile yesterday is gone now. Separating voices seems to be a refactoring AntiPattern.

Best to start again from scratch I expect. This page is a good example of WhyWikiWorksNot. Whoever refactored it today should be ashamed.

I didn't offer the Koan deleted from the page, so forgive me if it's not exact:

A young man approached a Zen temple and was greeted by one of the monks. "I want you to teach me to be enlightened." said the man. "You are enlightened" replied the monk. "No, no," said the man, "you need to teach me to sit still and meditate, and quiet my thoughts." "Why?" replied the Monk, "Do you wish to learn to sit still and meditate and quiet your thoughts?"

Upon hearing this, the man became enlightened.

"Dual aspects of a single distinction" - So what is the distinction if not another concept? You say they arise - where do they arise from?

Try WhatsaDistinction ...

Zen looks directly at reality; not through the use of any concepts. If there are no distinctions, what remains? As soon as you conceptualize you can not reach understanding of Zen.

Reality can't be perceived, so looking at it won't do you any good. All you can see is the state of your eyeballs. Zen can't be understood. All you can understand is the state of your brain. Give up looking at reality and become real.

Then what is it that you're perceiving? The un-perceptable? If Zen can't be understood, then what understanding did the Buddha reach?

Zen is not the world of objects, it is not phenomena. The Buddha had postulated that the everything is here because of DependentArising?. Everything we think, feel, see, understand, own, breathe .. etc, is dependent on something else in order to exist. This is what buddhists call the concept NoThing? and hence why annihilation is valued. Although our present reality appears to exist, it is all based off a circular reference and therefore cannot truly have substance. To fully understand this and fully relinquish grasping at this illusion of objects (mental or physical) is to become enlightened. --JoshuaRobinson

Zen grasps that some things are similar. A master calls a tree a tree. Zen also grasps the real tree which lies beyond the conceptual tree.

Zen seems to be telling me that because I can't understand the whole universe, I can't possibly single out some part of it like a dog and gain any understanding of that. As such, it doesn't seem to handle the distinction between partial and complete knowledge of something - the latter is not a prerequisite for the former - and so rather than lying beyond such distinctions, seems not to be far enough along for them. See below.

What you refer to is WorldlyKnowledge which should be diffentiated from UniversalKnowledge? - the knowledge that is truth from all experiences --JoshuaRobinson

What is the "part of reality" that corresponds to "me"? What is your "me"-ness? Where did "me" come from? Where will it go? How is "me" different from a glass of water that you drink?

All of reality corresponds to you. Including your you-ness. And also where your you-ness came from. And where it goes. You are identical with a glass of water that you drink.

All of reality has nothing to do with the concept of 'you'. In Buddhism, much meditation is put on the fact there is no 'you'. If you doubt this, don't let me prove it to you - ask yourself - Where is this thing called me? Where does it exist? What is it's substance? Continue on like this and you'll find (if you are truthful), that this 'you' or self isn't available for quantifcation. --JoshuaRobinson

So how are you different? When does the glass of water stop being a glass of water and start becoming "me"?

That distinctions have to be imposed on reality doesn't make them any less effective. I don't see what the use in lying is, it certainly doesn't convince me that "direct understanding" is worthwhile.

Zen is not in direct understanding. There is no direct understanding. Zen is not anywhere, or anything. The moment I tell you what zen is, I've told you a lie. If you understand this, you've told yourself a lie. Understand?

Direct understanding leads to understanding your true nature, which is free from suffering. And some other stuff which I'll not go into, but essentially all of it is of great practical and spiritual value in your life.

'All this said, if Zen doesn't resonate with you, perhaps it isn't your path. In the end all paths are the same, so find that which resonates with you!'

If all paths are the same then why do YOU personally do what you do and not something else?

'By Zen in the above statement, my meaning was "formal training in the Zen tradition" which might include Zazen, Okyo, aesthetic arts and/or martials arts training. Sorry if that was not clear."

There are no paths to zen. There are only paths from zen. If you want to understand, stop resonating. Understand.

The first makes sense, the second is just more understanding-without-using-one's-mind.

Do you understand understanding?

Do you ever talk sense?

Zen might well be thought as the state of being "in the moment" and has been called other things ("FLOW" was a recent western popular term from a bestseller regarding athletic performance.) If you ask a major league baseball player how he hits a homerun, he'll probably be hard pressed to tell you. The mechanics have been practiced and ingrained, and also he's learned not to "think" about the pitch (is it too high, too low, too fast, etc.) The batter steps to the plate, and becomes aware. At this point, the distinction between self, bat, pitcher, ball all becomes blurred into a single whole. When you look at the martial and aesthetic arts in the zen tradition, the training is somewhat similar to that of the baseball player, with the distinction that this final stage of quieting the mind is actively included. The student learns technique mastering the movements of the activity. They must also learn to quiet their thinking, as anything but total focus can manifest itself in their activity. The art is to bring ones full awareness into the moment, allowing one to act with complete intention and spontaneity. The goal of Zen training is to realize ones TrueNature?, however talking about it is simply talk, and one cannot expect to realize the teaching without the realization.

Historically, Zen (Ch'an) was in a sense a reform movement in the buddhist establishment by those who felt that the pageantry and ritual was detracting from the pursuit of the true goal. For them, elaborate procedures, and to a certain extent even the study of the sutras was not necessary. In order to realize ones true nature, to sit still and quiet the mind is enough.

Not at all. Zen texts do refer to being "in the moment", but it is not the whole teaching. If it were then a baseball batter would be a Zen master.

How do you know a baseball player is not a Zen master? Does a baseball player have buddha nature? If you'll note, the above paragraph suggests the notion of being "in the moment" as an attempt to give those unfamiliar something on which to relate, which is how I believe this discussion begain. Of course the description/analogys above are not the whole, but (and by your own argument) no description can possibly be complete. That this is true does not mean we should resort to cryptic chatter, which many find discouraging (judging by the responses to some of your comments.) Additionally, the comment regarding "to sit still, and quiet the mind is enough" is given above in relation to the reform movement from whence the formal school of Zen Buddhism emerged. The growth of ceremony and pageantry was thought to be detracting from the true values of the teachings, and thus was pared down to a minimum. I'm not sure why you find that statement so problematic.

I quote "Zen is this state, nothing more.". This is not correct. Not even close. Unfortunately there is no way to get straight to the fundamental understanding at the heart of Zen using words. If it comes across as cryptic chatter then I'm sorry. But perhaps you should look deeper into it. Sitting still with a quiet mind happens in meditation, but it is not enlightenment.

Look deeper into what? What is there to be seen? I agree with you that my comment above was not the best phrasing (to define something is to limit it), and have tried to refactor it into a more acceptable format, but also for you to say that the comment is "not even close" implies there is a definition that is, or that there is another definition that would be closer. I also agree that the realization itself cannot be put into words, however in the realm of discourse, analogy is a useful tool, allowing people to make logical inferences based on the analogies offered. When you say ''Unfortunately there is no way to get straight to the fundamental understanding at the heart of Zen using words." how did you arrive at this? How did you know you were studying Zen? The word is a symbol, used to define a concept, no matter how abstract. We use other symbols to describe the symbol Zen which though incomplete might capture certain aspects. Of course, I'm already anticipating the "zen has no aspects since there is nothing to perceive and no-one to act as perceiver" or some other such thing, but don't feel that is meaningful to the general reader.

Perhaps a meaningful question would be: What do you feel is the purpose of this discussion?

Understanding the heart of Zen lies outside of definitions. Analogy is useful up to a point. But making logical inferences will not help you see into the very heart of Zen. The rest of Zen and Buddhism arise from this heart. Koans are illogical to stop you trying to use your conceptual or dualistic mind. The heart of Zen simply can not be reached in that manner. You must learn to see beyond your concepts of things. Symbols and concepts - what lies beyond them? What is 'real' reality? Who are you beyond these concepts?

Ah yes, but you must learn to see beyond your concept of my concept of things.

Why? Where would that get me? Do you think you really understand the heart of Zen?

What is there to understand?

Reality. Your true being.

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