How can I be sure its valid

Zafutales
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How can I be sure its valid

Post by Zafutales » Mon May 22, 2017 11:47 am

Hello everyone

First post here and I hope that you will be able to offer some assurances regarding my practice. I sit in Shikantaza, I have been practicing hard for some time now. I thought for a while that everything was going 'ok'. But I am now overwhelmed with doubts as to the validity of my practice. Its odd as i am more than able to sit, as prescribed for long periods of time but I absolutely cannot shrug off the feeling that all I am doing is avoiding what the Buddha taught, being indifferent to everything or zoning out. I can feel myself being drawn away from the practice due to these feelings of doubt which might well be a pity after all these years.

I suspect you may suggest I ask my teacher. I have but he seems unconcerned about my concerns. How can I regain a confidence that Shikantaza is in line with what Buddha taught without feeling the massive sense of contradiction that I feel - I am sitting to alleviate my suffering and to experience the true nature of my mind - but then being told that sitting with an agenda is NOT the practice.

Thank you for reading.

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Re: How can I be sure its valid

Post by Anonymous X » Mon May 22, 2017 4:05 pm

Zafutales wrote:Hello everyone

First post here and I hope that you will be able to offer some assurances regarding my practice. I sit in Shikantaza, I have been practicing hard for some time now. I thought for a while that everything was going 'ok'. But I am now overwhelmed with doubts as to the validity of my practice. Its odd as i am more than able to sit, as prescribed for long periods of time but I absolutely cannot shrug off the feeling that all I am doing is avoiding what the Buddha taught, being indifferent to everything or zoning out. I can feel myself being drawn away from the practice due to these feelings of doubt which might well be a pity after all these years.

I suspect you may suggest I ask my teacher. I have but he seems unconcerned about my concerns. How can I regain a confidence that Shikantaza is in line with what Buddha taught without feeling the massive sense of contradiction that I feel - I am sitting to alleviate my suffering and to experience the true nature of my mind - but then being told that sitting with an agenda is NOT the practice.

Thank you for reading.
Do you sit there and indulge yourself in the doubts? Carry on a running conversation about it? Doubt is just thoughts. The practice is not about thinking or getting involved with your subjectivity. What you are describing is common and is a kind of fixation. Try moving your attention back to the sitting each time you drift away. Breath into your lower abdomen. It helps take the attention away from being in your head. Your deeper feeling will return and you will feel more centred/balanced again. Embrace your contradiction and doubt. Love it to death.

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Re: How can I be sure its valid

Post by Astus » Mon May 22, 2017 5:24 pm

Zafutales wrote:avoiding what the Buddha taught, being indifferent to everything or zoning out
Shikantaza is the practice of non-abiding, where one directly experiences the reality of appearances as ungraspable. Avoiding, indifference, and zoning out are all concepts one may be mistakenly attached to, if they are conceived as the correct states to be maintained.
due to these feelings of doubt
There are three ways you can address doubts. The first method is through learning - both from texts and oral explanations. The second method is through contemplating the teachings that are already learnt, particularly the teaching of dependent origination is recommended for overcoming the hindrance of doubt. The third method is applying the understanding gained through contemplation where one verifies the teaching in direct, personal experience. Shikantaza is this third method of verification practice (i.e. practice-enlightenment).
I am sitting to alleviate my suffering and to experience the true nature of my mind
Have you already clarified what suffering and the true nature are? If not, you might start there, before attempting to find something you do not know what it is - in other words, when looking for a flower it is good to be clear about what it looks like first.
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"

Matylda
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Re: How can I be sure its valid

Post by Matylda » Mon May 22, 2017 5:42 pm

Zafutales wrote:Hello everyone

First post here and I hope that you will be able to offer some assurances regarding my practice. I sit in Shikantaza, I have been practicing hard for some time now. I thought for a while that everything was going 'ok'. But I am now overwhelmed with doubts as to the validity of my practice. Its odd as i am more than able to sit, as prescribed for long periods of time but I absolutely cannot shrug off the feeling that all I am doing is avoiding what the Buddha taught, being indifferent to everything or zoning out. I can feel myself being drawn away from the practice due to these feelings of doubt which might well be a pity after all these years.

I suspect you may suggest I ask my teacher. I have but he seems unconcerned about my concerns. How can I regain a confidence that Shikantaza is in line with what Buddha taught without feeling the massive sense of contradiction that I feel - I am sitting to alleviate my suffering and to experience the true nature of my mind - but then being told that sitting with an agenda is NOT the practice.

Thank you for reading.
Hello

Of course I do not know who is your teacher. But let me say a few words if your really would like to practice zen, and soto zen in particular. The main point is teacher. You have to rely on him 100%. If your teacher is not concerned, but you are concerned, then it does not make any sense.

What one needs on this path is complete confidence in teacher, complete devotion to him and his lineage. And firm believe that he is the right refuge and guide who is able to take you all way long to the goal - buddhahood. If one lacks this, then no matter what will one practice, there will be no result, only deeper doubts. Wether shikan taza, or koan or whatever, zen or no zen. One will aim to nothing. It is all about faith in shikan taza.

But if one thinks that it misses all Buddha teaching, one may start buddhist studies or look for another tradition. why not?

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Re: How can I be sure its valid

Post by boda » Mon May 22, 2017 7:02 pm

Matylda wrote:It is all about faith in shikan taza.
Hello Matylda,

If you know that Soto Zen is all about complete faith in the teacher & shikan taza I imagine that you should be able to explain why.

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dharmagoat
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Re: How can I be sure its valid

Post by dharmagoat » Mon May 22, 2017 11:40 pm

Zafutales wrote:Hello everyone

First post here and I hope that you will be able to offer some assurances regarding my practice. I sit in Shikantaza, I have been practicing hard for some time now. I thought for a while that everything was going 'ok'. But I am now overwhelmed with doubts as to the validity of my practice. Its odd as i am more than able to sit, as prescribed for long periods of time but I absolutely cannot shrug off the feeling that all I am doing is avoiding what the Buddha taught, being indifferent to everything or zoning out. I can feel myself being drawn away from the practice due to these feelings of doubt which might well be a pity after all these years.

I suspect you may suggest I ask my teacher. I have but he seems unconcerned about my concerns. How can I regain a confidence that Shikantaza is in line with what Buddha taught without feeling the massive sense of contradiction that I feel - I am sitting to alleviate my suffering and to experience the true nature of my mind - but then being told that sitting with an agenda is NOT the practice.

Thank you for reading.
I empathise with what you are saying. Doubt stifled my practice for many years. I would ask myself the question "why do I sit?" and other than "because I must", I couldn't answer it. So I didn't sit, and that may have been the breakthrough.

My ease returned when I began to take my shikantaza practice outdoors to quiet and empty places. Free of pressures and unwanted influences, I was able to enjoy the moment and sit for short times, open up to my surroundings and completely embrace everything within my perception. In that settled and receptive state I was able to accept the world for what it is and establish a connection with all things. Even as people and machinery encroached on my sanctuary, I was able to expand my goodwill and acceptance to include them too. Rather than being a grim acquistion of skills, my practice has become a living and heartfelt engagement with the world.

Obviously everyone's experience is different, and each of us has a unique solution. I am sharing this because it is the best way I know how to give assurance that there is a way through these times of stagnation and doubt. They may even be necessary.

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Re: How can I be sure its valid

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Mon May 22, 2017 11:48 pm

Well, you need actual confidence in the abilities of the teacher and teachings to liberate you...if you don't have that,you can't even get an accurate diagnoses of what is wrong, let alone have a plan to fix it.

Just my two cents of course.

I know you say you have asked your teacher, but it sounds like there is something underlying your question regarding the validity of Zen, Mahayana generally or something
How can I regain a confidence that Shikantaza is in line with what Buddha taught without feeling the massive sense of contradiction that I feel
What do you mean "is inline with what the Buddha taught"? Soto Zen is a form of Mahayana Buddhism, what are the issues?
all I am doing is avoiding what the Buddha taught
How would you be avoiding what the Buddha taught?
"it must be coming from the mouthy mastermind of raunchy rapper, Johnny Dangerous”

-Jeff H.

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Re: How can I be sure its valid

Post by Wayfarer » Tue May 23, 2017 1:50 am

Zafutales wrote: I am now overwhelmed with doubts as to the validity of my practice.
Sceptical doubts are indeed one of the main hindrances to practice. Notice that the impulse that arises from that is to cease from practicing. If you do that, then the sceptical doubts will have won! Whereas if you calmly contemplate the doubts, without trying to change them, ratinoalise them, or explain them away, but simply seeing doubts for what they are, then they might be ameliorated.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

Matylda
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Re: How can I be sure its valid

Post by Matylda » Tue May 23, 2017 10:51 am

boda wrote:
Matylda wrote:It is all about faith in shikan taza.
Hello Matylda,

If you know that Soto Zen is all about complete faith in the teacher & shikan taza I imagine that you should be able to explain why.
Since there is no point of reference, only teacher and shikan taza.. in many zen manuals it is clearly stated. Shikan taza belongs to saijojo or unsurpassable path, or unsurpassable vehicle. It is for those of the highest potential.
It takes 20-30 years of strenuous pratice without any results... common person cannot do it, that way. Moreover only teacher may show or manifest shikan taza to the disciple, and there are many different ways how and when he may do it. Shikna taza does not exclude koan of course, since koan may be good check point for disciple experience as well. All depends on the lineage and ways which were developed by previous masters.

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dharmagoat
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Re: How can I be sure its valid

Post by dharmagoat » Tue May 23, 2017 11:15 am

Matylda wrote:It takes 20-30 years of strenuous pratice without any results... common person cannot do it, that way.
Please let's not go putting people off shikantaza practice with scary talk of how austere it is. I can vouch that it doesn't have to be strenuous and that results are forthcoming, and I am as common as they come. We are not required to be warriors to practice farmer Zen.

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Re: How can I be sure its valid

Post by Wayfarer » Tue May 23, 2017 11:51 am

I second that Dharmagoat. To tell people that they have to commit to '20 years of strenuous practice with no results' is not a useful thing to say. Better to say that we have already experienced the benefit, but we have forgotten how to appreciate it. :smile:
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: How can I be sure its valid

Post by Astus » Tue May 23, 2017 11:58 am

Matylda wrote:in many zen manuals it is clearly stated.
Like what manuals? For instance, the one published on the official site (How to do Zazen) gives a clear description of what and how to do. And in the video on zazen it is said "Anyone can practice it anytime and anywhere." Furthermore, if the instructions are considered, they are very simple and straightforward, especially compared to practices like Tendai's shikan, Theravada's satipatthana, or Vajrayana's deity yoga.
It is for those of the highest potential.
How so? The Fukanzazengistates: "intelligence or lack of it is not an issue; make no distinction between the dull and the sharp-witted"

And in the Bendowa:

"When people just practice with right belief, the clever and the stupid alike will attain the truth. Just because our country is not a nation of benevolence or wisdom and the people are dullwitted, do not think that it is impossible for us to grasp the Buddha-Dharma. Still more, all human beings have the right seeds of prajñā in abundance. It may simply be that few of us have experienced the state directly, and so we are immature in receiving and using it."
(SBGZ, vol 1, BDK ed, p 21)
It takes 20-30 years of strenuous pratice without any results
Are you of the view that realisation is separate from the practice itself?
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: How can I be sure its valid

Post by Matylda » Tue May 23, 2017 3:04 pm

dharmagoat wrote:
Matylda wrote:It takes 20-30 years of strenuous pratice without any results... common person cannot do it, that way.
Please let's not go putting people off shikantaza practice with scary talk of how austere it is. I can vouch that it doesn't have to be strenuous and that results are forthcoming, and I am as common as they come. We are not required to be warriors to practice farmer Zen.
If you check original writtings of Daiun Sogaku, Yasutani Hakuun or Sawaki Kodo and Hara Tanzan you may find easily.. and the masters of Tokugawa era were almost same on the subject.

It is not scary at all. Do people expect realisation just by simple sitting in meditation? And they think that realisation of the master is minor issue here? Wholeheartedly sitting shikan taza under the guidence of true teacher is most essential, otherwise there will be pits and barriers of uncertainity and doubt.
Last edited by Matylda on Tue May 23, 2017 3:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Matylda
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Re: How can I be sure its valid

Post by Matylda » Tue May 23, 2017 3:14 pm

Astus wrote:
Matylda wrote:in many zen manuals it is clearly stated.
Like what manuals? For instance, the one published on the official site (How to do Zazen) gives a clear description of what and how to do. And in the video on zazen it is said "Anyone can practice it anytime and anywhere." Furthermore, if the instructions are considered, they are very simple and straightforward, especially compared to practices like Tendai's shikan, Theravada's satipatthana, or Vajrayana's deity yoga.
It is for those of the highest potential.
How so? The Fukanzazengistates: "intelligence or lack of it is not an issue; make no distinction between the dull and the sharp-witted"

And in the Bendowa:

"When people just practice with right belief, the clever and the stupid alike will attain the truth. Just because our country is not a nation of benevolence or wisdom and the people are dullwitted, do not think that it is impossible for us to grasp the Buddha-Dharma. Still more, all human beings have the right seeds of prajñā in abundance. It may simply be that few of us have experienced the state directly, and so we are immature in receiving and using it."
(SBGZ, vol 1, BDK ed, p 21)
It takes 20-30 years of strenuous pratice without any results
Are you of the view that realisation is separate from the practice itself?

It is enough to check similar instructions coming from rizai temples in Japan.. there are almost the same. So do you think that popular instructions for zazen just for common people are all? and the similar way rinzai does it, exhausts entirely the issue?

It doesnt matter what view I hold... it is just reality for common people, to get used to zazen under master and to continue for long long years.... then one may arrive at the point where practice and realisation are one. Just to talk about it does not enlighten anyone.. about this matter I prefer to base my confidence on words and teachings of genuine masters of soto zen in Japan.

Anyway even if one is of the view that practice and enlightenment are inseperable, then one has to have great confidence, faith etc. not to say total devotion. It is what in soto is really required.

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Re: How can I be sure its valid

Post by Astus » Tue May 23, 2017 4:18 pm

Matylda wrote:So do you think that popular instructions for zazen just for common people are all? and the similar way rinzai does it, exhausts entirely the issue?
Could you be more specific, like what manuals? The most elaborate meditation instruction from a Soto author that I have seen was Keizan's Yojinki, otherwise it's the same every time, even if it takes up a whole book, talking about the posture and hishiryo.
It doesnt matter what view I hold... it is just reality for common people, to get used to zazen under master and to continue for long long years.... then one may arrive at the point where practice and realisation are one. Just to talk about it does not enlighten anyone.. about this matter I prefer to base my confidence on words and teachings of genuine masters of soto zen in Japan.
Is Dogen considered a genuine master of Soto Zen from Japan? He wrote:

"In the Buddha-Dharma practice and experience are completely the same. [Practice] now is also practice in the state of experience; therefore, a beginner’s pursuit of the truth is just the whole body of the original state of experience. This is why [the Buddhist patriarchs] teach, in the practical cautions they have handed down to us, not to expect any experience outside of practice. And the reason may be that [practice itself] is the directly accessible original state of experience."
(Bendowa, SBGZ, vol 1, BDK ed, p 12)
Anyway even if one is of the view that practice and enlightenment are inseperable, then one has to have great confidence, faith etc. not to say total devotion. It is what in soto is really required.
Certainly, those qualities are essential in every Buddhist school.
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: How can I be sure its valid

Post by boda » Tue May 23, 2017 5:54 pm

Matylda wrote:
boda wrote:
Matylda wrote:It is all about faith in shikan taza.
Hello Matylda,

If you know that Soto Zen is all about complete faith in the teacher & shikan taza I imagine that you should be able to explain why.
Since there is no point of reference, only teacher and shikan taza.. in many zen manuals it is clearly stated.
So you can't explain why, it's just something you read in a manual. Fair enough. :namaste:

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Re: How can I be sure its valid

Post by Matylda » Tue May 23, 2017 6:41 pm

boda wrote:
Matylda wrote:
boda wrote:
Hello Matylda,

If you know that Soto Zen is all about complete faith in the teacher & shikan taza I imagine that you should be able to explain why.
Since there is no point of reference, only teacher and shikan taza.. in many zen manuals it is clearly stated.
So you can't explain why, it's just something you read in a manual. Fair enough. :namaste:
because genuine realisation depends on complete surrender to the teacher, entirely... and unspoken following the instructions on shikan taza.. one cannot get realisation on ones own wits, doubts, and ostensible intelligence...

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Re: How can I be sure its valid

Post by Anonymous X » Tue May 23, 2017 6:53 pm

Matylda wrote:
boda wrote:
Matylda wrote:
Since there is no point of reference, only teacher and shikan taza.. in many zen manuals it is clearly stated.
So you can't explain why, it's just something you read in a manual. Fair enough. :namaste:
because genuine realisation depends on complete surrender to the teacher, entirely... and unspoken following the instructions on shikan taza.. one cannot get realisation on ones own wits, doubts, and ostensible intelligence...
I'm not opposed to a relationship with a teacher, but not all teachers are realized. How can an unrealized teacher help an unrealized student? Would that same surrender apply?

Also, why did the Buddha, and many Chan masters exhort their students to work it out for themselves? Suzuki Roshi never told me to surrender to him. In fact, none of my teachers ever told me to surrender to them. Oh, wait, one did, he was sort of a megalomaniac and at the time, I was a bit naive. That didn't last long.

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Re: How can I be sure its valid

Post by boda » Tue May 23, 2017 8:11 pm

Matylda wrote:
boda wrote:
Matylda wrote: Since there is no point of reference, only teacher and shikan taza.. in many zen manuals it is clearly stated.
So you can't explain why, it's just something you read in a manual. Fair enough. :namaste:
because genuine realisation depends on complete surrender to the teacher, entirely...
As stated, this would appear to mean that shikan taza is superfluous to genuine realization. All anyone would need to do is completely surrender to a zen teacher. Maybe you would like to rephrase, or at least show what you read in the manual?

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Re: How can I be sure its valid

Post by Matylda » Tue May 23, 2017 8:13 pm

Well teacher may say it or not.. depends on situation... some did. One exapmle Daiun Sogaku, Ban Tetsugyu, Nishiari Bokusan.. and many others as well.. Just within zen culture it is well known thing.. one must follow a master. You may find it in Shushogi or Gakudo yojin shu.. if you like classic texts.

Generally teacher does not have to say it, anyway. It is work for disciple.. if one is not ready for strict selfless training, forgetting ones own agenda, then teacher does not have to push even a bit..

look for good examples.. like Oka Sotan.. all his disciples followed him unquestionably. Among them such famous like Ishizawa Ian - teacher of Shunryu Roshi, Gyokujun So-on, Eko Hashimoto, Sawaki Kōdō, Harada Sōgaku, and I met disciples of most of them, all were giving this example of total surrender... there is no question about it. Oka Sotan passed inka shomei to Sawaki Kodo and Eko Hashmoto.. Eko Hashioto disciples spoke of satori in very direct way.. generally it is line of Nishari Bokusan who spoke about it as well, what one may find in his commentaries on Shobogenzo.. just his view was not same as Tekei Denson for example.

Wether teacher is genuine or not, is another problem... there are many so called soto teachers at the moment in the West... it is my impression. But I have never heard from them about important points.. however they had a lot of private views... and they use easily sayings like practice-realisation are one etc. but I have doubts if they really know what they are talking about.

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