Shikantaza and Mahamudra

Justmeagain
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Shikantaza and Mahamudra

Postby Justmeagain » Mon Jan 09, 2017 4:28 pm

Its been suggested I post this question here as well as on the Mahamudra forum - seems to make sense:

I keep reading that the Soto Zen practice of Shikantaza, 'Just Sitting' with no focus or any sort of analytical investigation into the mind.....can be equated to Sutra Mahamudra practices....can someone clarify how or if this is even correct?

Thanks...

PS. Original post here: viewtopic.php?f=100&t=24539

passel
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Re: Shikantaza and Mahamudra

Postby passel » Wed Feb 08, 2017 5:54 am

Yeah, people sometimes make that equation- notice that it's subtly denigrating- zen tends to talk about itself in terms closer to essence mahamudra. But since it's not connected to the tantras people with a TB background often slot it into Sutra practice in the same way they might call a vipassanist a hinayanist. It's all just using terms from one tradition to define (and subtly dismiss?) another.

They're both complete, or potentially complete religious/ contemplative systems that only seem to have encountered eachother in the last century, chiefly in the west but also in China to a degree. Trungpa's students hold him to have been a master of mahamudra among other things, and he befriended Shunryu Suzuki early on, and there was a lot of traffic between those two communities back in the day. He pretty much lifted and modified Suzuki's forms to use as the foundation practices for his community- that blending seems to be an underground thread in the overall emerging tradition, but actually a pretty important one- could say a lot about that...

I have a strong hunch Kobun Chino practiced some mahamudra, and in China, Garma Chang, CM Chen, Nan-Huai Chin and Yin Shi Zi all did at least a bit. Sheng yen also seems to have had some exposure to it and refers to it a little in his books.

In the end, no point to really compare them, they're tools and they're meant to be used, so you find the teachings and teachers that resonate with you and put them into practice, see what happens. There are a lot of people who have found blessings from practicing both, or each at different times. For some people that would be confusing, particularly if they're tripping out on the similarities and differences. That would be a dead end.

One real tangible benefit of mahamudra is that it preserves a whole body of very practical, explicit instruction that is hard to come by in western zen contexts. It absolutely exists in non western zen, but it gets lost in translation. Western zen teachers usually just borrow from Vipassana (usually only dimly aware they are) when they need more than Dogen- if they want to not sound like a nut job, for example, and give people instructions that they can understand.(I love Dogen, but context is everything.)

One real tangible benefit of zen practice is the forms. Sesshin is a great support for any formal sitting practice, including mahamudra, imo, whereas group sitting retreats just really aren't in the wheelhouse of the typical TB aimed at westerners. That sounds rude but it's just math. Long on teaching, short on sitting. The mahamudra instructions can really give you something to work with on a sesshin, though, that zen instructions may not.
"I have made a heap of all that I have met"- Svetonious

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Sprouticus
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Re: Shikantaza and Mahamudra

Postby Sprouticus » Wed Feb 08, 2017 10:33 am

passel wrote:It absolutely exists in non western zen, but it gets lost in translation.


Could you expand on that a little? And maybe steer me in the direction of the relevant material by Master Sheng Yen?

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Namo Buddhaya

Matylda
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Re: Shikantaza and Mahamudra

Postby Matylda » Wed Feb 08, 2017 10:44 am

Justmeagain wrote:Its been suggested I post this question here as well as on the Mahamudra forum - seems to make sense:

I keep reading that the Soto Zen practice of Shikantaza, 'Just Sitting' with no focus or any sort of analytical investigation into the mind.....can be equated to Sutra Mahamudra practices....can someone clarify how or if this is even correct?

Thanks...

PS. Original post here: http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=100&t=24539


I cannot understand why there are so often attempts to compare different traditions.. what are we looking for in that way? I think that both shikan taza of soto zen and mahamudra of any sarma traditions are complete in their own respect.. I do not mean seperation to the extreme, i.e. that one cannot
receive mahamudra instructions while doing shikan taza, and other way round, but this two ways should be clearly taken seperately.. even if there are any similarities.
And those similarities are of no importance after all..
Last edited by Matylda on Wed Feb 08, 2017 10:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

Matylda
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Re: Shikantaza and Mahamudra

Postby Matylda » Wed Feb 08, 2017 10:54 am

passel wrote:Yeah, people sometimes make that equation- notice that it's subtly denigrating- zen tends to talk about itself in terms closer to essence mahamudra. But since it's not connected to the tantras people with a TB background often slot it into Sutra practice in the same way they might call a vipassanist a hinayanist. It's all just using terms from one tradition to define (and subtly dismiss?) another.

They're both complete, or potentially complete religious/ contemplative systems that only seem to have encountered eachother in the last century, chiefly in the west but also in China to a degree. Trungpa's students hold him to have been a master of mahamudra among other things, and he befriended Shunryu Suzuki early on, and there was a lot of traffic between those two communities back in the day. He pretty much lifted and modified Suzuki's forms to use as the foundation practices for his community- that blending seems to be an underground thread in the overall emerging tradition, but actually a pretty important one- could say a lot about that...

I have a strong hunch Kobun Chino practiced some mahamudra, and in China, Garma Chang, CM Chen, Nan-Huai Chin and Yin Shi Zi all did at least a bit. Sheng yen also seems to have had some exposure to it and refers to it a little in his books.

In the end, no point to really compare them, they're tools and they're meant to be used, so you find the teachings and teachers that resonate with you and put them into practice, see what happens. There are a lot of people who have found blessings from practicing both, or each at different times. For some people that would be confusing, particularly if they're tripping out on the similarities and differences. That would be a dead end.

One real tangible benefit of mahamudra is that it preserves a whole body of very practical, explicit instruction that is hard to come by in western zen contexts. It absolutely exists in non western zen, but it gets lost in translation. Western zen teachers usually just borrow from Vipassana (usually only dimly aware they are) when they need more than Dogen- if they want to not sound like a nut job, for example, and give people instructions that they can understand.(I love Dogen, but context is everything.)

One real tangible benefit of zen practice is the forms. Sesshin is a great support for any formal sitting practice, including mahamudra, imo, whereas group sitting retreats just really aren't in the wheelhouse of the typical TB aimed at westerners. That sounds rude but it's just math. Long on teaching, short on sitting. The mahamudra instructions can really give you something to work with on a sesshin, though, that zen instructions may not.


This is good point you made above I think..

BTW among Chinese mentioned by you I read only CG Chang, who did mahamudra 3 year retreat in Kham with some mahamudra master.. was he Lama Kunga? I do not recall the name of that lama... and Chang wrote about mahamudra and zen practice from his own perspective.. Unfortunately I do not reember even the title of the book... maybe one may find somewhere in his bibliography..

Sheng Yen? I wonder but as far as I know he did not do any of the mahamudra practice.. might be he read something about it...

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Astus
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Re: Shikantaza and Mahamudra

Postby Astus » Wed Feb 08, 2017 11:33 am

passel wrote:I have a strong hunch Kobun Chino practiced some mahamudra, and in China, Garma Chang, CM Chen, Nan-Huai Chin and Yin Shi Zi all did at least a bit. Sheng yen also seems to have had some exposure to it and refers to it a little in his books.


John Crook, a disciple of Sheng-yen, did practise and teach Mahamudra. Anzan Hoshin of the WWZC has also published a Mahamudra manual. On the other side, Ken McLeod implemented some Zen teachings into his courses.

One real tangible benefit of mahamudra is that it preserves a whole body of very practical, explicit instruction that is hard to come by in western zen contexts. It absolutely exists in non western zen, but it gets lost in translation.


Do you have examples? It seems to me Zen - not just Soto - is intentionally without gradual instructions, although this is apparently not understood by many nowadays. One can actually find a good amount of them in the works of Zhiyi and others. It is no accident that one of the first zazen manuals (that was eventually used by Dogen to compose his own) refers one to other works: "as it is explained in the Śūraṃgama-sūtra, in the Tiantai Practice of Śamatha and Vipaśyanā (Tiantai zhiguanfamen) by Zhiyi (538–597), and in the Manual of Practice and Realization (Xiuzhengyi) by Guifeng (Zongmi, 780–841)." (Baizhang Zen Monastic Regulations, BDK ed, p 257)

The mahamudra instructions can really give you something to work with on a sesshin, though, that zen instructions may not.


It sounds somewhat misguided to go to a Soto sesshin and try to use Mahamudra teachings.
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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Karma Dondrup Tashi
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Re: Shikantaza and Mahamudra

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Wed Feb 08, 2017 3:21 pm

Matylda wrote:I cannot understand why there are so often attempts to compare different traditions ...

If we can't denigrate other traditions what else would there be to talk about?
What I want is a view. Hannibal Lecter

Matylda
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Re: Shikantaza and Mahamudra

Postby Matylda » Thu Feb 09, 2017 2:01 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:
Matylda wrote:I cannot understand why there are so often attempts to compare different traditions ...

If we can't denigrate other traditions what else would there be to talk about?


Denigrating is highly improper and stands in opposition to the dharma intent... it may bring much suffering in fact. Therefore all traditions deserve respect since their source is Buddha.. denigrating one of them is denigrating Buddha in fact... it should never happen.

In the past it was done for political reasons as we see the history of Buddhist religious institutions in different countries.. there was much to gain.. power and property. But today it is rather an expression of emotional confusion, it does not reflect understanding dharma...

All, zen, mahamudra, dzogchen, tantra, theravada serve peole seeking liberation.. we should respect them highly, and give no ear to any criticism...

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Astus
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Re: Shikantaza and Mahamudra

Postby Astus » Thu Feb 09, 2017 3:55 pm

Matylda wrote:In the past it was done for political reasons as we see the history of Buddhist religious institutions in different countries.. there was much to gain.. power and property. But today it is rather an expression of emotional confusion, it does not reflect understanding dharma...
All, zen, mahamudra, dzogchen, tantra, theravada serve peole seeking liberation.. we should respect them highly, and give no ear to any criticism...


:twothumbsup:
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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Karma Dondrup Tashi
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Re: Shikantaza and Mahamudra

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Thu Feb 09, 2017 4:09 pm

Buddhists are even more humorless than the Catholics.
What I want is a view. Hannibal Lecter

Matylda
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Re: Shikantaza and Mahamudra

Postby Matylda » Sat Feb 11, 2017 7:20 am

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:Buddhists are even more humorless than the Catholics.


perhaps so it is...
however as for zen practice it is famous for its humor, and so many zen masters...

Matylda
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Re: Shikantaza and Mahamudra

Postby Matylda » Sat Feb 11, 2017 7:49 am

http://outsiderjapan.pbworks.com/w/page ... en%20Humor


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFyl9PY85g0

this is famous rakugo - Japanese style stand up comedy talk by my favorit roshi - master of Kasuisai.. if someone could translate for you then please enjoy, though there could be play of words, then it is difficult to translate real meaning behind the words

passel
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Re: Shikantaza and Mahamudra

Postby passel » Wed Feb 15, 2017 6:33 am

Just came across this- one man's opinion:
https://www.lionsroar.com/zen-mind-vajra-mind/
"I have made a heap of all that I have met"- Svetonious


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