Huatou in Daily Life

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juexing
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Huatou in Daily Life

Post by juexing » Sat Apr 29, 2017 12:43 pm

I recently spent several days at Nanhua Temple in Guangdong, where Huineng lived and taught, as well as Masters Xuyun and Xuanhua. I've never practiced the huatou method, but since it seems to be the common practice there, I wanted to try it. I had always thought of it as picking and sticking to one question, and while "Who is reciting the Buddha's name?" or "Who is dragging this corpse around?", for example, ultimately boil down to "Who?", your chosen question is always your jumping-off point. If you investigate "What is my original face before I was born?", then you constantly investigate that.

In talking with some of the monks there, and one in particular, about continuing the practice in daily life, it became clear that they (or at least this monk) adjust the formulation of the huatou according to what is being experienced. This monk was saying that in investigating "Who is reciting the Buddha's name?", in daily life, if he is reaching out his hand he would wonder "who is reaching?", walking "who is walking?", seeing "who is seeing?", etc. Sorry if this is old hat for those who are more educated on huatou practice than I am, but I had never heard of it quite in this way. I knew of course that you would ideally carry on investigating the huatou throughout daily life, not just on the cushion, but the way this monk talked made it sound almost reminiscent of satipatṭhāna, although still ultimately concerned with drilling into the doubt surrounding "Who?"

Thoughts? Experiences to share?

:anjali:

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juexing
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Re: Huatou in Daily Life

Post by juexing » Mon May 01, 2017 11:29 am

Maybe I'm misunderstanding, so sorry if that's the case!
Doubt is usually found when you either don't know the answer to a question or you are unsure of the answer.
Giving rise to doubt, and hopefully a great doubt, is a/the central feature of huatou practice. This doubt surrounding the question of "Who?" is not the same as the traditional hinderance of doubt about the Dharma, the efficacy of the method, the teacher, etc. And yes, in using a word, it is a method of using poison to fight poison, so to speak. Huatou is definitely not the ideal method for everybody, but it's not a practice only for the keenest by any means.

And a practice of the four foundations of mindfulness is definitely not only for the keenest.
Both techniques do not recognize the inherent nature of true mind and its unity that is present in every moment.
Not sure I understand this, sorry--are you saying that both practices have a wrong view regarding the mind?

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seeker242
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Re: Huatou in Daily Life

Post by seeker242 » Tue May 02, 2017 2:25 am

"The Way of Korean Zen" by Kusan Sunim is a good book on this. The question practice is central to Korean style zen. :smile:
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!

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Re: Huatou in Daily Life

Post by juexing » Tue May 02, 2017 8:26 am

There is no poison in True Mind, only original purity.
Indeed. The reference to poison is using a word as an expedient on the path to seeing one's own nature. Master Xuyun woke up after prolonged huatou practice based on "Who is dragging this corpse around?" As Master Xuanhua said, the principle is to "use one false thought to stop all false thoughts".

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Re: Huatou in Daily Life

Post by juexing » Tue May 02, 2017 2:24 pm

Buddhanature is not about stopping thoughts. You can have thoughtless samadhi, but once you stop your concentration, thoughts come again, maybe even worse than before because you've set up a polarisation between thinking and not-thinking.
Maybe we are talking past each other--I don't think that huatou practice or seeing Buddhanature is about stopping thoughts. I would read that quote from Xuanhua in terms of using the "poison" of a word as a tool to help break through to a realization of the truth (which is of course beyond language). "Stopping all false thoughts" meaning something like "Awakening/seeing one's true mind/etc." I wouldn't read it as him saying that the end goal of the practice is to just cultivate a thoughtless samadhi.
Concentration is only to calm oneself from habit energy. Sometimes you need to do that but that is not what Chan teachings are all about.
Obviously some level of calming and concentration is a help in meditation, particularly in the beginning, but I definitely don't think of huatou as a concentration practice. I suppose the distinction of calming and insight isn't used so explicitly in Chan, but I would say huatou is most definitely an insight practice--there's no emphasis on cultivating any kind of focused, pleasant state (at least not in anything I've read or heard so far).

I'm curious where you're coming from in terms of not being a fan of huatou practice. Do you practice another method of Chan? Another school of Buddhism? It's my impression that while huatou practice is not really suitable or ideal for everybody, it is considered a perfectly legitimate method, at least within the bounds of Chan and Chinese Mahayana. You seem to have some fundamental qualms with it, just curious. :)

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juexing
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Re: Huatou in Daily Life

Post by juexing » Tue May 02, 2017 2:32 pm

seeker242 wrote:"The Way of Korean Zen" by Kusan Sunim is a good book on this. The question practice is central to Korean style zen. :smile:
Thanks for the recommendation. I know hwadu practice is central to Korean Zen, but I've never read any of their literature. Maybe I should start!

:anjali:

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aflatun
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Re: Huatou in Daily Life

Post by aflatun » Tue May 02, 2017 2:34 pm

Just subscribing. Funny coincidence :twothumbsup:

other thread
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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Meido
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Re: Huatou in Daily Life

Post by Meido » Tue May 02, 2017 2:58 pm

juexing wrote: It's my impression that while huatou practice is not really suitable or ideal for everybody, it is considered a perfectly legitimate method, at least within the bounds of Chan and Chinese Mahayana.
In Rinzai Zen also. The huatou (wato) from Joshu's Mu, or the wato "Who [what] am I [is this]? are common entrances into the path of koan practice. There are other koan approached in the manner of wato as well, sprinkled throughout the training.
Anonymous X wrote:But, Buddhanature is not about stopping thoughts.
Neither is huatou/wato practice.

~ Meido
Even though you have attained insight into the True Nature (kensho), there is yet the barrier of differentiation, and there is the One Path of Advanced Practice. If you have not yet even seen into the True Nature, what a lot there is yet to do! - Torei

The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community [機山龍源寺] - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org

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Re: Huatou in Daily Life

Post by anjali » Tue May 02, 2017 9:39 pm

juexing wrote:In talking with some of the monks there, and one in particular, about continuing the practice in daily life, it became clear that they (or at least this monk) adjust the formulation of the huatou according to what is being experienced. This monk was saying that in investigating "Who is reciting the Buddha's name?", in daily life, if he is reaching out his hand he would wonder "who is reaching?", walking "who is walking?", seeing "who is seeing?", etc. Sorry if this is old hat for those who are more educated on huatou practice than I am, but I had never heard of it quite in this way. I knew of course that you would ideally carry on investigating the huatou throughout daily life, not just on the cushion, but the way this monk talked made it sound almost reminiscent of satipatṭhāna, although still ultimately concerned with drilling into the doubt surrounding "Who?"
I just quoted Master Hsu Yun about this very approach in response to another thread here.

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juexing
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Re: Huatou in Daily Life

Post by juexing » Wed May 03, 2017 4:10 am

I just quoted Master Hsu Yun about this very approach in response to another thread here.
Ah, great. Thanks! Wonderful explanation.

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