Shouting, Hitting, etc.

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Dgj
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Shouting, Hitting, etc.

Post by Dgj » Sun Jun 09, 2019 2:21 am

So the gong ans (koans) are filled with records of masters enlightening others via shouting, hitting, and dialogue. They seemed to know the exact right moment and right thing to do and/or say to push someone into enlightenment.

Today, many Zen (Chan) schools practice observing phrases from these gong ans. An effective method to be certain.

I am wondering though: is there any Zen school or schools today that use the exact same techniques as the masters in the gong ans and do not use the gong ans themselves?

I understand that schools that teach gong an study also use the techniques from the gong ans like hitting, shouting, dialogue, etc., however, I'm wondering two things:

1. if any modern schools are identical with the masters in the gong ans and don't use gong an study at all, but rely on pushing students into enlightenment with shouts, dialogue, etc., as opposed to relying mostly on sitting meditation and Dharma study?

And

2. Why gong an study was added in the first place when it seems like, from the gong ans, the masters had perfected leading people to enlightenment without them, rapidly and efficiently?

Zen that relies mostly on meditation and Dharma study as the means to enlightenment is wonderful, but does not appear to be the Zen of the gong ans, ditto for Zen that relies on study of the gong ans themselves. The gong ans seem to be the sudden enlightenment of Shen Hui: rapid, instantaneous, and not necessarily reliant on the prerequisite of years of study and practice. People reach enlightenment out of nowhere, due to the skill of their teachers use of unconventional means. Enlightenment appears to be transmitted via a shout or dialogue, instantaneously, rather than worked up to over years of arduous practice, using the same practices found in most other schools of Buddhism. This seems to be what set Chan dramatically apart in the first place. From wiki on sudden enlightenment: "The term is used in Chan Buddhism to denote the doctrinal position that enlightenment (kenshō, bodhi or satori) is instantaneous, sudden and direct, not attained by practice through a period of time, and not the fruit of a gradual accretion or realisation."

As it is, there is a period in which the gong ans themselves are recorded to have taken place, and before, where it appears that gong an study was not used as a method to reach enlightenment. Practitioners certainly studied texts about past masters but not in the same way that we do today; being assigned a single word or phrase to question as the means to reach enlightenment. This didn't become a standard practice until near the end of the Tang dynasty. Then, after a certain point, studying stories of others enlightenment in the form of gong ans replaced the methods found in those very gong ans as the standard practice.

Does anyone else find this puzzling?

Gong an is the records of masters transmitting enlightenment. Those masters did not use gong ans. Today the lineage is unbroken but instead of using solely the same methods, we read the stories of those methods and focus on a phrase or word from them for months or years at a time. What happened? Shouldn't the gong ans be pointers to exactly what Zen practice should look like, rather than themselves the object of meditation, and the vehicle for enlightenment? Were the methods of the past masters less effective? They seem to be instantaneous and highly effective, but perhaps gong an study, as opposed to the methods in the gong ans, is superior?
I wish I knew what I was talking about but, let's face it, I probably don't.

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Astus
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Re: Shouting, Hitting, etc.

Post by Astus » Sun Jun 09, 2019 9:06 am

First of all, gongans are literary works and not historical accounts. As religious anecdotes they have their place and function, but their use depends on the users, i.e. how one reads them. Although it was Dahui who spread the kanhua method that became the dominant technique in Chan, the use of stories as a way to establish a Chan identity can be traced back as far as the Record of the Transmission of the Dharma Jewel (Chuan Fabao Ji 傳法寶紀) and the Record of Teachers and Disciples of Lanka (Lengjia Shizi Ji 楞伽師資記), both being early 8th century texts found in the caves of Dunhuang.
So, if you're looking for masters who teach like those in the stories, that is understandable, but not realistic. Although there are rituals that replicate gongan-like events (e.g. Dharma combat ceremony - called hossen shiki 法戰式 in Soto), and there can be individual situations where a shout or a hit is used, but unfortunately there is no simple and easy way to awakening. Hanshan noted: "If it was actually so easy to become awakened to the Way as [claimed by] people of the present, then considering the integrity of practice of ancients such as Chang Ching who wore out seven sitting cushions and Chao Jou who for thirty years permitted no unfocused use of mind, those ancients had to have been of the very dullest of faculties. They wouldn't even be fit to serve you moderns by holding your straw sandals!" And Xuyun said (p 54): "When the ancient masters received their students, either they used their staffs (to beat them) or they shouted (to wake them up) and there were not so many complications. However, the present cannot be compared with the past, and it is, therefore, imperative to point a finger at the moon."
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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Re: Shouting, Hitting, etc.

Post by Dgj » Sun Jun 09, 2019 3:11 pm

Astus wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 9:06 am
First of all, gongans are literary works and not historical accounts. As religious anecdotes they have their place and function, but their use depends on the users, i.e. how one reads them. Although it was Dahui who spread the kanhua method that became the dominant technique in Chan, the use of stories as a way to establish a Chan identity can be traced back as far as the Record of the Transmission of the Dharma Jewel (Chuan Fabao Ji 傳法寶紀) and the Record of Teachers and Disciples of Lanka (Lengjia Shizi Ji 楞伽師資記), both being early 8th century texts found in the caves of Dunhuang.
So, if you're looking for masters who teach like those in the stories, that is understandable, but not realistic. Although there are rituals that replicate gongan-like events (e.g. Dharma combat ceremony - called hossen shiki 法戰式 in Soto), and there can be individual situations where a shout or a hit is used, but unfortunately there is no simple and easy way to awakening. Hanshan noted: "If it was actually so easy to become awakened to the Way as [claimed by] people of the present, then considering the integrity of practice of ancients such as Chang Ching who wore out seven sitting cushions and Chao Jou who for thirty years permitted no unfocused use of mind, those ancients had to have been of the very dullest of faculties. They wouldn't even be fit to serve you moderns by holding your straw sandals!" And Xuyun said (p 54): "When the ancient masters received their students, either they used their staffs (to beat them) or they shouted (to wake them up) and there were not so many complications. However, the present cannot be compared with the past, and it is, therefore, imperative to point a finger at the moon."
You are so knowledgeable that I often reference things you have posted over books when I have conversations lol! I really appreciate you always clearing things up for everyone and I appreciate your patience with my stupidity, stubbornness and ignorance.

Anyway, I understand that the solid historicity of gong ans is debated, and by some scholars flatly denied. I was thinking some may still have seen them as historical and tried to emulate the masters in them, though.

That aside, what of Shen Hui's Zen? He spoke of a Zen in which sitting meditation is not practiced at all and is actually incorrect (Mcrae Seeing Through Zen 2003 P 54). Yet all Zen schools I've ever heard of use sitting meditation. Further, he taught instant enlightenment with no build up of years of practice. Again, all Zen schools I know of recommend years of practice that build up to enlightenment, or at least teach that regular practice is important, whatever they say about enlightenment. Since all schools trace their roots to Shen Hui, shouldn't all, or at least a few teach this Zen?

Perhaps this should be a separate post, since it is kind of not directly related?
I wish I knew what I was talking about but, let's face it, I probably don't.

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Re: Shouting, Hitting, etc.

Post by Astus » Sun Jun 09, 2019 6:14 pm

Dgj wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 3:11 pm
what of Shen Hui's Zen? ... Since all schools trace their roots to Shen Hui, shouldn't all, or at least a few teach this Zen?
The only notable person who claimed to be a descendant of the Heze School was Guifeng Zongmi, and he actually included seated meditation as an important practice, furthermore, he was the one advocating the format of "sudden enlightenment, gradual practice" based on Shenhui's teachings. After Zongmi there is no outstanding teacher of the Heze line, although his ideas lived on in the teachings of Yongming Yanshou and Bojo Jinul. By the Song era all schools traced their lineage through Huineng's two putative disciples: Qingyuan Xingsi and Nanyue Huairang; while Shenhui was put aside as a second rate student who stuck to the concept of awareness/knowing (zhi 知).

If you're looking for teachers who did away with the various methods, Bankei Yotaku was one such individual, and more recently Daehaeng Kun Sunim.
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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Re: Shouting, Hitting, etc.

Post by Dgj » Sun Jun 09, 2019 11:35 pm

Astus wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 6:14 pm
Dgj wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 3:11 pm
what of Shen Hui's Zen? ... Since all schools trace their roots to Shen Hui, shouldn't all, or at least a few teach this Zen?
The only notable person who claimed to be a descendant of the Heze School was Guifeng Zongmi, and he actually included seated meditation as an important practice, furthermore, he was the one advocating the format of "sudden enlightenment, gradual practice" based on Shenhui's teachings. After Zongmi there is no outstanding teacher of the Heze line, although his ideas lived on in the teachings of Yongming Yanshou and Bojo Jinul. By the Song era all schools traced their lineage through Huineng's two putative disciples: Qingyuan Xingsi and Nanyue Huairang; while Shenhui was put aside as a second rate student who stuck to the concept of awareness/knowing (zhi 知).

If you're looking for teachers who did away with the various methods, Bankei Yotaku was one such individual, and more recently Daehaeng Kun Sunim.
Thank you.
I wish I knew what I was talking about but, let's face it, I probably don't.

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Meido
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Re: Shouting, Hitting, etc.

Post by Meido » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:17 pm

Astus wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 9:06 am
1. if any modern schools are identical with the masters in the gong ans and don't use gong an study at all, but rely on pushing students into enlightenment with shouts, dialogue, etc., as opposed to relying mostly on sitting meditation and Dharma study?

And

2. Why gong an study was added in the first place when it seems like, from the gong ans, the masters had perfected leading people to enlightenment without them, rapidly and efficiently?
As to your first question: such methods of direct pointing are still used in modern schools. But to grasp them, one would need to understand the transmitted teachings RE why, when, and how they are used. In other words: what are the conditions of the student that warrant such methods (and, assuming a teacher has the eye to discern this and use such methods?) If these points are not understand, it's pretty useless to discuss things like the shout and the stick. One will have no idea what their actual function is. In fact, there is even an important koan dealing with this very issue, considered indispensable for would-be teachers to penetrate.

RE your second question, wato/koan practice is just another tool. It is not appropriate for everyone, true, but as a whole has been rather widely useful and effective. So it is not an either/or situation of the shout and the stick, or the koan. Methods arise when there is a need, and are preserved when they prove useful. It is thus natural for practice "toolboxes" to evolve, and possibly expand, over time.
Dgj wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 11:35 pm
If you're looking for teachers who did away with the various methods, Bankei Yotaku was one such individual...
Bankei's recorded talks aside, I haven't seen any evidence that the daily practice of his students was terribly unusual compared to that of other Zen monks of the time. For example this from Haskel's introduction to Bankei Zen: Translations from the Record of Bankei...

Unfortunately, we know little of the actual details of practice at these kessei or at Bankei's temples generally. In certain respects, at least, life in Bankeis assemblies was apparently different from that in other teachers' establishments. Bankei, for example, would not tolerate repressive behavior such as the beating or scolding that still characterizes training at many Zen temples; nor would he allow begging by his monks, though the practice was standard in Buddhist monasteries and entirely legal. Nevertheless, in common with most Zen monks, Bankei's students observed daily periods of meditation and chanting, and Bankei himself, like other Japanese Zen teachers of the day, received students in private interviews, performed funeral and memorial services for his patrons and scrupulously upheld the Buddhist precepts in his personal life. All in all, what distinguished Bankei s assemblies from those elsewhere seems to have been more a matter of atmosphere than one of procedure.

In other words, Bankei's approach was his own and certainly brilliant, and his style was what it was. But it doesn't mean there was not methods or practices in his community. I had myself believed otherwise in the past, based purely on a reading of Bankei's talks: an approach that of course often leads to false assumptions.
It is relatively easy to accomplish the important matter of insight into one’s true nature, but uncommonly difficult to function freely and clearly [according to this understanding], in motion and in rest, in good and in adverse circumstances. Please make strenuous and vigorous efforts towards this end, otherwise all the teachings of Buddhas and patriarchs become mere empty words. - 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

Dgj
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Re: Shouting, Hitting, etc.

Post by Dgj » Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:14 am

Meido wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:17 pm
Astus wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 9:06 am
1. if any modern schools are identical with the masters in the gong ans and don't use gong an study at all, but rely on pushing students into enlightenment with shouts, dialogue, etc., as opposed to relying mostly on sitting meditation and Dharma study?

And

2. Why gong an study was added in the first place when it seems like, from the gong ans, the masters had perfected leading people to enlightenment without them, rapidly and efficiently?
As to your first question: such methods of direct pointing are still used in modern schools. But to grasp them, one would need to understand the transmitted teachings RE why, when, and how they are used. In other words: what are the conditions of the student that warrant such methods (and, assuming a teacher has the eye to discern this and use such methods?) If these points are not understand, it's pretty useless to discuss things like the shout and the stick. One will have no idea what their actual function is. In fact, there is even an important koan dealing with this very issue, considered indispensable for would-be teachers to penetrate.

RE your second question, wato/koan practice is just another tool. It is not appropriate for everyone, true, but as a whole has been rather widely useful and effective. So it is not an either/or situation of the shout and the stick, or the koan. Methods arise when there is a need, and are preserved when they prove useful. It is thus natural for practice "toolboxes" to evolve, and possibly expand, over time.
Dgj wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 11:35 pm
If you're looking for teachers who did away with the various methods, Bankei Yotaku was one such individual...
Bankei's recorded talks aside, I haven't seen any evidence that the daily practice of his students was terribly unusual compared to that of other Zen monks of the time. For example this from Haskel's introduction to Bankei Zen: Translations from the Record of Bankei...

Unfortunately, we know little of the actual details of practice at these kessei or at Bankei's temples generally. In certain respects, at least, life in Bankeis assemblies was apparently different from that in other teachers' establishments. Bankei, for example, would not tolerate repressive behavior such as the beating or scolding that still characterizes training at many Zen temples; nor would he allow begging by his monks, though the practice was standard in Buddhist monasteries and entirely legal. Nevertheless, in common with most Zen monks, Bankei's students observed daily periods of meditation and chanting, and Bankei himself, like other Japanese Zen teachers of the day, received students in private interviews, performed funeral and memorial services for his patrons and scrupulously upheld the Buddhist precepts in his personal life. All in all, what distinguished Bankei s assemblies from those elsewhere seems to have been more a matter of atmosphere than one of procedure.

In other words, Bankei's approach was his own and certainly brilliant, and his style was what it was. But it doesn't mean there was not methods or practices in his community. I had myself believed otherwise in the past, based purely on a reading of Bankei's talks: an approach that of course often leads to false assumptions.
Thank you.
I wish I knew what I was talking about but, let's face it, I probably don't.

Dgj
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Re: Shouting, Hitting, etc.

Post by Dgj » Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:36 am

Astus wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 6:14 pm
Dgj wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 3:11 pm
what of Shen Hui's Zen? ... Since all schools trace their roots to Shen Hui, shouldn't all, or at least a few teach this Zen?
The only notable person who claimed to be a descendant of the Heze School was Guifeng Zongmi, and he actually included seated meditation as an important practice, furthermore, he was the one advocating the format of "sudden enlightenment, gradual practice" based on Shenhui's teachings. After Zongmi there is no outstanding teacher of the Heze line, although his ideas lived on in the teachings of Yongming Yanshou and Bojo Jinul. By the Song era all schools traced their lineage through Huineng's two putative disciples: Qingyuan Xingsi and Nanyue Huairang; while Shenhui was put aside as a second rate student who stuck to the concept of awareness/knowing (zhi 知).

If you're looking for teachers who did away with the various methods, Bankei Yotaku was one such individual, and more recently Daehaeng Kun Sunim.
I looked into Bankei. He sounds like he taught what Shen Hui spoke about: Instant enlightenment with no practices whatsoever.


Thank you for the recommendation. I read up on the other master as well, but couldn't find much available and so may pick up a book.

Are there any other teachers who taught Zen with no practices and with instant enlightenment as Shen Hui spoke of?

Here are some relevant quotes from works by and about Bankei:

Bankei on Koan study:
What's worse, they tell practicers that unless they can raise a "great ball of doubt" and then break through it, there can't be any progress in Zen. Instead of teaching them to live by the unborn Buddha-mind, they start by forcing them to raise this ball of doubt any way they can. People who don't have a doubt are now saddled with one. They've turned their Buddha-minds into "balls of doubt." It's absolutely wrong.
-The Unborn: The Life and Teaching of Zen Master Bankei, Norman Waddell 1984, p. 37
As Bankei saw it, the whole approach of koan Zen was hopelessly contrived. He rejected the need for familiarity with classical Chinese as an unnecessary encumbrance, and rejected the koan itself as an artificial technique. The original koans, he argued, were not "models," but actual living events. The old masters had simply responded to particular situations that confronted them, naturally accommodating themselves to the needs of the students involved. That was the business of any Zen teacher, to meet each situation on its own terms. There was no need to make people study the words of ancient Chinese monks when you could simply have them look at their own "cases," the way in which the Unborn was at work here and now in the actual circumstances of their lives.

This was what Bankei called his "direct" teaching, as opposed to koan practice, which he referred to disparagingly as "studying old waste paper." The koan, said Bankei, was merely a device, and teachers who relied on it, or on any other technique, were practicing "devices Zen." Why rely on a device, he argued, when you could have the thing itself?
-BANKEI ZEN
Translations from the
Record ofBankei
by PETER HASKEL, 1984
introduction p. xxxv
On Zazen:
Here, I always urge people simply to live in the unborn Buddha-mind. I don't try to make anyone do anything else. We haven't any special rules. But since everyone got together and decided they wanted to spend six hours (for a period of twelve sticks of incense) doing zazen, I let them do as they wish.
-The Unborn: The Life and Teaching of Zen Master Bankei, Norman Waddell 1984, p. 56-7
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Re: Shouting, Hitting, etc.

Post by Astus » Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:53 pm

Dgj wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:36 am
Are there any other teachers who taught Zen with no practices and with instant enlightenment as Shen Hui spoke of?
First of all, Shenhui instructed people to abide by the precepts, to read and recite Mahayana sutras, and to recognise the nature of their mind in meditation. Secondly, the teaching of no-thought of Shenhui is well known and accepted all over the Chan school, since it is present in the Platform Sutra and the teachings of other masters. In a way, Hongzhou teachers like Mazu and Huangbo were more radical than Shenhui, plus there were the teachings of Wuzhu. This direct path of no-thought, that is based on the prajnaparamita teachings, is fine with likely every Mahayana teacher, but the problem usually is that just learning about the fact that all appearances are empty and no thought has ever arisen not only does not trigger awakening in people, it hardly makes any sense at the beginning either.

'When people of highest intelligence and knowledge hear the preaching of prajnaparamita, they are able to understand (what they hear), take it to heart, preach it and put it into practice; those of average intelligence, though not capable to grasp (the meaning), might yet succeed when they take pains to find a teacher (who can help them); those of the lowest intelligence, let them only believe and not relapse, might in the future also be able to embrace the ten points of the Mahayana creed (and in consequence get understanding).'
(The Sermon of Shen-Hui, tr W. Liebenthal)
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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Re: Shouting, Hitting, etc.

Post by Dgj » Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:03 pm

Astus wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:53 pm
Dgj wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:36 am
Are there any other teachers who taught Zen with no practices and with instant enlightenment as Shen Hui spoke of?
First of all, Shenhui instructed people to abide by the precepts, to read and recite Mahayana sutras, and to recognise the nature of their mind in meditation. Secondly, the teaching of no-thought of Shenhui is well known and accepted all over the Chan school, since it is present in the Platform Sutra and the teachings of other masters. In a way, Hongzhou teachers like Mazu and Huangbo were more radical than Shenhui, plus there were the teachings of Wuzhu. This direct path of no-thought, that is based on the prajnaparamita teachings, is fine with likely every Mahayana teacher, but the problem usually is that just learning about the fact that all appearances are empty and no thought has ever arisen not only does not trigger awakening in people, it hardly makes any sense at the beginning either.

'When people of highest intelligence and knowledge hear the preaching of prajnaparamita, they are able to understand (what they hear), take it to heart, preach it and put it into practice; those of average intelligence, though not capable to grasp (the meaning), might yet succeed when they take pains to find a teacher (who can help them); those of the lowest intelligence, let them only believe and not relapse, might in the future also be able to embrace the ten points of the Mahayana creed (and in consequence get understanding).'
(The Sermon of Shen-Hui, tr W. Liebenthal)
Thanks!
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Re: Shouting, Hitting, etc.

Post by Matylda » Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:05 pm

Dgj wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 2:21 am
So the gong ans (koans) are filled with records of masters enlightening others via shouting, hitting, and dialogue. They seemed to know the exact right moment and right thing to do and/or say to push someone into enlightenment.

Today, many Zen (Chan) schools practice observing phrases from these gong ans. An effective method to be certain.

I am wondering though: is there any Zen school or schools today that use the exact same techniques as the masters in the gong ans and do not use the gong ans themselves?

I understand that schools that teach gong an study also use the techniques from the gong ans like hitting, shouting, dialogue, etc., however, I'm wondering two things:

1. if any modern schools are identical with the masters in the gong ans and don't use gong an study at all, but rely on pushing students into enlightenment with shouts, dialogue, etc., as opposed to relying mostly on sitting meditation and Dharma study?

And

2. Why gong an study was added in the first place when it seems like, from the gong ans, the masters had perfected leading people to enlightenment without them, rapidly and efficiently?

Zen that relies mostly on meditation and Dharma study as the means to enlightenment is wonderful, but does not appear to be the Zen of the gong ans, ditto for Zen that relies on study of the gong ans themselves. The gong ans seem to be the sudden enlightenment of Shen Hui: rapid, instantaneous, and not necessarily reliant on the prerequisite of years of study and practice. People reach enlightenment out of nowhere, due to the skill of their teachers use of unconventional means. Enlightenment appears to be transmitted via a shout or dialogue, instantaneously, rather than worked up to over years of arduous practice, using the same practices found in most other schools of Buddhism. This seems to be what set Chan dramatically apart in the first place. From wiki on sudden enlightenment: "The term is used in Chan Buddhism to denote the doctrinal position that enlightenment (kenshō, bodhi or satori) is instantaneous, sudden and direct, not attained by practice through a period of time, and not the fruit of a gradual accretion or realisation."

As it is, there is a period in which the gong ans themselves are recorded to have taken place, and before, where it appears that gong an study was not used as a method to reach enlightenment. Practitioners certainly studied texts about past masters but not in the same way that we do today; being assigned a single word or phrase to question as the means to reach enlightenment. This didn't become a standard practice until near the end of the Tang dynasty. Then, after a certain point, studying stories of others enlightenment in the form of gong ans replaced the methods found in those very gong ans as the standard practice.

Does anyone else find this puzzling?

Gong an is the records of masters transmitting enlightenment. Those masters did not use gong ans. Today the lineage is unbroken but instead of using solely the same methods, we read the stories of those methods and focus on a phrase or word from them for months or years at a time. What happened? Shouldn't the gong ans be pointers to exactly what Zen practice should look like, rather than themselves the object of meditation, and the vehicle for enlightenment? Were the methods of the past masters less effective? They seem to be instantaneous and highly effective, but perhaps gong an study, as opposed to the methods in the gong ans, is superior?
Shouting in zen is pretty false notion. Why? when one reads about masters of the past, one has to remember that a few stories quoted on one page may embrace many centuries. Like from the 8th up to 12th century, and then one will find less then 10 cases. Satistics and math say a lot. Practice may take several years before will come any crucial moment of awakening, and all decades before are pretty much in silence and effort. Not in shouting scolding hitting kicking etc. It may happen once in all life. This is not any method by which one is awakened in zen practice, it is totally wrong view. It may happen but very cery seldom.

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Re: Shouting, Hitting, etc.

Post by Meido » Tue Jun 11, 2019 5:02 pm

Matylda wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:05 pm
Satistics and math say a lot.
Yes. I think it was the late Ven. Sheng Yen who wrote something to the effect that everyone fixates on unusual occurrences like Nansen's cutting a cat in two, or Ummon's leg being broken by Bokushu...but in all the centuries of Zen history only one Zen master cut a cat, and only one broke his student's leg in a gate.

The reality of exhaustive practice over many years - and especially after awakening - is less glamorous.
It is relatively easy to accomplish the important matter of insight into one’s true nature, but uncommonly difficult to function freely and clearly [according to this understanding], in motion and in rest, in good and in adverse circumstances. Please make strenuous and vigorous efforts towards this end, otherwise all the teachings of Buddhas and patriarchs become mere empty words. - 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

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Re: Shouting, Hitting, etc.

Post by Sentient Light » Tue Jun 11, 2019 11:20 pm

Meido wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 5:02 pm

The reality of exhaustive practice over many years - and especially after awakening - is less glamorous.
Maybe. I think it might depend on culture though. In China and Vietnam, we reify 'gongfu' in spiritual praxis, and while many of the texts do promote this image of bizarre methods and instant awakening in a moment, the rest of the culture surrounding this is glamorizing hard work, dedication over many years at a time, and almost pathological approach to practice as the highest priority. In terms of Sinitic movies and television series and novels, I do think we glamorize this kind of effort.

In American/western culture, I think the closest thing to this type of glamorization is how Batman's discipline and training is depicted.
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