practice question

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practice question

Postby Oheso » Sat Oct 05, 2013 3:36 pm

gassho and greetings to all, I have been practicing in a Soto-mode for a few years now and have the following question I'd like to ask the Sangha:

What is the proper way to think of the relationship between actual sitting and the quest for a more intellectual understanding as in the reading and study of Sutras and precepts?

gassho, and thank you,

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Re: practice question

Postby dude » Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:39 pm

The two ways of practice complement and reinforce each other.
Practice without understanding is limited to the working of our ordinary reason.
Study without practice is limited to the realm of theory and doesn't penetrate illusion.
Faith, the willingness to accept the teaching and carry out practice and study in the aspiration for enlightenment makes both practice and study possible.
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Re: practice question

Postby ClearblueSky » Sat Oct 05, 2013 8:24 pm

That they are both needed. Thinking in terms of the Eightfold path, the sitting meditation is part of right concentration and the sutra study is part of right wisdom.
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Re: practice question

Postby Alfredo » Sun Oct 06, 2013 12:04 am

Hard to say. Most of us are feeling our way through this just as you are.
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Re: practice question

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Oct 06, 2013 2:51 am

It's important to understand why you are meditating, what it is you aim to "achieve" (probably not the right word but you get the idea) through practice. To understand the worldview of Buddhism, though granted there isn't just one version of that .The more vague your ideas of what you are trying to do, the greater chance of going in the wrong direction, or spinning your wheels, this is the reason for intellectual practice.. At least that's my understanding of it, based on what i've read, and my small bit of experience.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: practice question

Postby disjointed » Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:20 am

Without study you're just imitating.

If you ask a young child with no education to do a math problem, they can scribble on paper and imitate a mathematician.
That's the worldly equivalent of a Buddhist who has not learned the Buddha's instructions.

Don't fall for the rhetoric of a teacher that tells you you're already enlightened or all you have to do is sit and clear your mind.
Those kinds of teachers are only good for making jokes about.
If there is a radical inconsistency between your statements and the position you claim to hold,
you are a sock puppet.
Make as many accounts as you want; people can identify your deception with this test.
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Re: practice question

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:38 am

disjointed wrote:Without study you're just imitating.

If you ask a young child with no education to do a math problem, they can scribble on paper and imitate a mathematician.
That's the worldly equivalent of a Buddhist who has not learned the Buddha's instructions.

Don't fall for the rhetoric of a teacher that tells you you're already enlightened or all you have to do is sit and clear your mind.
Those kinds of teachers are only good for making jokes about.


:good:
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: practice question

Postby Oheso » Sun Oct 06, 2013 5:21 pm

thank you all for thoughtful replies.

sometimes I feel zazen to be "deconstructive" in literally removing/ dissolving the constructs I've built and accumulated, standing in the way of realizing my (our) capacity for fuller experience and
study to be in the manner of beginning that construction anew. cross purposes?

or should study be similarly deconstructive in disassembling opinions and attitudes? "nothing needs adding or subtracting", but often from my
"feeling my way through" point of view, it seems like a whole lotta subtracting needs to be done to see clearly.

gassho,

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Re: practice question

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Oct 06, 2013 6:59 pm

I'll just be blunt with you here, IMO sometimes what alot of Zen people say about "realization outside of scripture" etc. is great advice..and sometimes it's because they don't want to bother learning or thinking about anything, and want a catch-all answer. I know that sounds judgmental and snotty, it's nothing againt Zen, I loved my time in it, but I think alot of western Zen practitioners use that sort of thing as an excuse to not study. Sorry if that's mean..Buddhism has a long history of philosophy and logic, and sutta/sutra are an important thing to study. I . You can't deconstruct something or find where you are blind without some intellectual work I think..
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: practice question

Postby disjointed » Sun Oct 06, 2013 8:47 pm

If you want to use the idea of enlightenment being a process of removing concepts then I would use an image like this.

The work of becoming enlightened is like cleaning a very messy tile floor with 10 year old trampled gum, spit and dirt worn into it and piled high with trash.

Just sitting is like letting the wind blow away the trash. Some stuff blows away, some stuff gets blown in. It's only useful to a degree.

Meditating, which is distinctly different from just sitting, is like picking up all the trash and disposing of it and then using solvents and mopping.
Studying is like having a cleaning instructions on how to remove gum and a picture of what tile floor looks like when clean so you know exactly where it needs work.

When you combine meditation with study it's like using a mechanical floor cleaner. You know what you're doing and the job gets done relatively quickly.
If there is a radical inconsistency between your statements and the position you claim to hold,
you are a sock puppet.
Make as many accounts as you want; people can identify your deception with this test.
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Re: practice question

Postby dude » Sun Oct 06, 2013 9:06 pm

Oheso wrote:thank you all for thoughtful replies.

sometimes I feel zazen to be "deconstructive" in literally removing/ dissolving the constructs I've built and accumulated, standing in the way of realizing my (our) capacity for fuller experience and
study to be in the manner of beginning that construction anew. cross purposes?

or should study be similarly deconstructive in disassembling opinions and attitudes? "nothing needs adding or subtracting", but often from my
"feeling my way through" point of view, it seems like a whole lotta subtracting needs to be done to see clearly.

gassho,

Robt

I struggle with that too. I reach a conclusion, then read something or think of something that doesn't line up with it, or even contradicts it. I feel like "what do I do, how can I change what I think or feel by just an effort of will?"
So I deeply empathize with you, and have difficulty just as you do. All progress I have made, which is not yet perfect, but it has been progress, has come from looking within myself and making efforts to uncover the wisdom that the teachings say is inherent within.
I don't subtract or add, I just look at it from a standpoint of belief that the teachings are true, and if I don't believe or understand them, I still have work to do.
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Re: practice question

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Oct 06, 2013 11:24 pm

Also a useful metaphor here is using your trash as fertilizer, while just sitting might accomplish that to some degree, it makes sense to me that you need some intellectual work to know how do transform your trash.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: practice question

Postby duckfiasco » Mon Oct 07, 2013 5:08 am

The wrinkle is the process that can remove defilement is the same one that creates it, and we've been doing it for so long that it's almost completely transparent.

Technique and understanding can be just as much of obstacles as anything else.
For some who may get too much in their own heads and theories, something like just sitting can be a way to see these habits for what they are.
My own habits of self are strongest around thoughts and mind as "mine" versus the body or emotions or other things.
Just sitting has been helpful in loosening this grip.

I wouldn't presume to discard an entire meditation practice, because it likely comes from a place of insufficient experience and incomplete ideas.
Not everything's for everybody!

I find the "just sitting" styles of practice I've learned from the local Soto center to be invaluable.
It's not the entirety of what I do, though :)
The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.
- Sengcan (tr. Suzuki)
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