On being fearful of Shikantaza

Zafutales
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On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by Zafutales » Tue Feb 04, 2020 4:56 pm

Hi, its been a while.

I have developed a fear, an non-descript anxiety when practising Shikantaza.

Why?

Because I feel like I can slip into it a little too easy of late. I sit and I am there....with nowhere else to go and its worrying. I have developed a mistrust of what others might perceive as a success and progression. How can I remove this odd obstacle.

Thanks

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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Tue Feb 04, 2020 6:12 pm

Zafutales wrote:
Tue Feb 04, 2020 4:56 pm
Hi, its been a while.

I have developed a fear, an non-descript anxiety when practising Shikantaza.

Why?

Because I feel like I can slip into it a little too easy of late. I sit and I am there....with nowhere else to go and its worrying. I have developed a mistrust of what others might perceive as a success and progression. How can I remove this odd obstacle.

Thanks
It sounds like you are resting in a dull, vaguely anxious state. In the actual state of shikantaza anxiety and dullness should dissolve of their own accord. In other traditions the instruction would be to examine the nature the emotion or obstruction itself, or to find the "experiencer" of the emotion. Have you asked your teacher what they think?
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Re: On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Tue Feb 04, 2020 7:21 pm

Why cling to the perceptions of others?
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People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.

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Re: On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by Zafutales » Tue Feb 04, 2020 8:13 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
..... Have you asked your teacher what they think?
Interestingly he said it was good and I should develop confidence in my practice.

Dammed if I do (...dull vaguely anxious state)

Dammed if I don't (... perpetuate the status quo)

Almost Koan like.

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Re: On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Tue Feb 04, 2020 8:24 pm

Zafutales wrote:
Tue Feb 04, 2020 8:13 pm
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
..... Have you asked your teacher what they think?
Interestingly he said it was good and I should develop confidence in my practice.

Dammed if I do (...dull vaguely anxious state)

Dammed if I don't (... perpetuate the status quo)

Almost Koan like.
Since "meditation" is actually what is there when we stop grasping, It's not weird that you slip into it easily after some practice, I don't think. It's not something you made or created. However, the thoughts of other people's opinion and the anxiety over it are a grasping at movement of the mind are at issue, I do not know how a Zen teacher would approach them, it's been years and I never got much formal Zen instruction.

My own teachers would (I think uniformly) say to relax, perhaps to gently examine the location, color, status, and existential mode of the experience of anxiety.

Anyway, this is a thing that I think is pretty much the same in Zen and some Tibetan teachings, you cannot really solve grasping through effort or strategy.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Re: On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by kusulu » Sun Feb 09, 2020 6:27 am

Zafutales wrote:
Tue Feb 04, 2020 4:56 pm
Hi, its been a while.

I have developed a fear, an non-descript anxiety when practising Shikantaza.

Why?

Because I feel like I can slip into it a little too easy of late. I sit and I am there....with nowhere else to go and its worrying. I have developed a mistrust of what others might perceive as a success and progression. How can I remove this odd obstacle.

Thanks
How long has this been going on? If it goes more than a few times maybe it is "something" but if it just goes away it's probably "nothing" In Soto, I'm not sure that there is an iron-clad rule against feeling "success" or "progression" - Dogen stresses that zazen itself is "enlightenment" but surely that's a wrong translation. I'd like to see a more literal translation of that. Read the Dogen, as he does lay out serious groundwork that one doesn't just "pop into". I wouldn't worry about what people might think, people tend to be concerned about one's well being rather than the particularities of what happens on the zafu, it's kind of like basic manners. Actually I would limit how much anyone knows about your inner path. It is information easily misunderstood.

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Re: On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by narhwal90 » Sun Feb 09, 2020 6:37 pm

I like Dogen's instruction for entering meditation like a dragon entering water.

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Re: On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by Meido » Sun Feb 09, 2020 6:56 pm

kusulu wrote:
Sun Feb 09, 2020 6:27 am
Dogen stresses that zazen itself is "enlightenment" but surely that's a wrong translation. I'd like to see a more literal translation of that.
It is a wrong translation.

This may serve:

http://wonderwheels.blogspot.com/2015/1 ... s.html?m=1
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

Hidden Zen: Practices for Sudden Awakening and Embodied Realization

Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org

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Re: On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by Anders » Sun Feb 09, 2020 7:45 pm

Meido wrote:
Sun Feb 09, 2020 6:56 pm
kusulu wrote:
Sun Feb 09, 2020 6:27 am
Dogen stresses that zazen itself is "enlightenment" but surely that's a wrong translation. I'd like to see a more literal translation of that.
It is a wrong translation.

This may serve:

http://wonderwheels.blogspot.com/2015/1 ... ce-is.html
I'm afraid Greg may have jumped the gun on this one. Professior Hee-Jin Kim discusses his choice of "enlightenment" as his preference in Dogen on Meditation and Thinking: A Reflection on His View of Zen and reveals the kind of breadth translators need whereby one can not just rely on the dictionary when it comes to spheres that often have their own terminology (see also "buddhist hybrid sanskrit" for examples of how sanskrit knowledge does automatically not translate to knowledge of how sanskrit is used in Buddhism):

Image

I'd put my money on the professor here.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra

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Re: On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by HePo » Sun Feb 09, 2020 7:51 pm

Meido wrote:
Sun Feb 09, 2020 6:56 pm
kusulu wrote:
Sun Feb 09, 2020 6:27 am
Dogen stresses that zazen itself is "enlightenment" but surely that's a wrong translation. I'd like to see a more literal translation of that.
It is a wrong translation.

This may serve:

http://wonderwheels.blogspot.com/2015/1 ... s.html?m=1
According to Gregory the original term is 修證 shusho.
According to most others (Heine,Cook, Dumoulin) the original term is 修證一如 shushō-ittō / shushō-ichiny.

If you Google shushō-ittō you can find far better explanations of the term than "zazen itself is "enlightenment".

ps i noticed while i wrote this post Anders already responded.

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Re: On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by Meido » Sun Feb 09, 2020 7:55 pm

I should say that i'm not going primarily by Gregory here...just using his article as a reference. Primarily I'm going by the words of my native Japanese Zen teacher, who agrees that "practice is enlightenment" is an inaccurate and needlessly confusing translation.

I have no problem with "practice and its confirmation are one thing" (shusho ichinyo), since to my mind shikantaza is not in fact usefully viewed primarily as a meditation "method" (even though we commonly discuss it as such), but rather as embodied fruition. In other words, it is a confirmation of what Zen practice after awakening entails, and takes as its basis.

Apologies if this is a veering off topic.
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

Hidden Zen: Practices for Sudden Awakening and Embodied Realization

Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org

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Anders
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Re: On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by Anders » Sun Feb 09, 2020 8:26 pm

kusulu wrote:
Sun Feb 09, 2020 6:27 am
Zafutales wrote:
Tue Feb 04, 2020 4:56 pm
Hi, its been a while.

I have developed a fear, an non-descript anxiety when practising Shikantaza.

Why?

Because I feel like I can slip into it a little too easy of late. I sit and I am there....with nowhere else to go and its worrying. I have developed a mistrust of what others might perceive as a success and progression. How can I remove this odd obstacle.

Thanks
How long has this been going on? If it goes more than a few times maybe it is "something" but if it just goes away it's probably "nothing" In Soto, I'm not sure that there is an iron-clad rule against feeling "success" or "progression" - Dogen stresses that zazen itself is "enlightenment" but surely that's a wrong translation. I'd like to see a more literal translation of that. Read the Dogen, as he does lay out serious groundwork that one doesn't just "pop into". I wouldn't worry about what people might think, people tend to be concerned about one's well being rather than the particularities of what happens on the zafu, it's kind of like basic manners. Actually I would limit how much anyone knows about your inner path. It is information easily misunderstood.
As for practise/cultivation = verification/enlightenment, it makes good sense once you unpack a bit where he is going with it and where he comes from with it.

Basically, it is the answer to Dogen's own koan: 'if all beings already possess awakening, why did all the Buddhas find it necessary to seek enlightenment and cultivate practises?' The classical stumbling block of hongaku Buddhism basically, that Hakuin would rail against centuries later in his criticisms of silent illumination practitioners.

Dogen's formulation of shushō ittō (however you wish to translate it) was one that leaned on many of the assumptions of hongaku, and then he gave them a kind of Wittgensteinian twist (wittgenstein, in his early philosophy of language argued that meaning of words lie in the objects they represent in the world - something that is not experienced is not a meaningful object to speak of) - Enlightenment that is not actualised is not a meaningful concept, nonsense in fact. Enlightenment is always in reference to the actualisation of enlightement and vice versa.

"...practice and enlightenment are one and the same. Because it is the practice of enlightenment, a beginner’s wholehearted practice of the Way is exactly the totality of original enlightenment. For this reason, in conveying the essential attitude for practice, it is taught not to wait for enlightenment outside practice. This must be so because this practise is the directly indicated original enlightenment"

Alternate translation:

"...practice and realization are completely one and the same. Because it is a practice based on being spiritually awake at this very moment, the diligent training which springs forth from our initial resolve to seek the Way is, in itself, the whole of one’s innate certainty. For this reason, we teach that you should not hold in mind any expectation of being enlightened as something outside of, or apart from, practice, since this practice directly points you towards your own original, innate certainty."

This is basically Dogen's rendition of sudden practise wherein there are no stages or gradations but where a beginner's wholehearted practise is the same as the practise of a Buddha. This is actually quite radical, as more classic 'sudden path' teachings are more leaning towards saying that, like Huineng, "one thought of bodhi makes you the equal of a Buddha, while one thought of delusion makes you a sentient being". The implication being that one must have awakened first before this is the case. But not according to Dogen, who argues:

Do not suppose that what you realize becomes your knowledge and is grasped by your consciousness. Although actualized immediately, the inconceivable may not be apparent. Its appearance is beyond your knowledge.

This is something I've only seen echoed in dzogchen - which is that all the sudden principles also apply to sudden (or, as Dogen might have insisted: wholehearted) practise prior to awakening, even though the practitioner does not cognise the awakening that is being actualised yet.

Dogen's vision of what practise means obviously come with a lot for the practitioner to unpack. I think this passage is a delightful take on the depths of it:

On the great road of buddha ancestors there is always unsurpassable practice, continuous and sustained. It forms the circle of the way and is never cut off. Between aspiration, practice, enlightenment, and nirvana, there is not a moment’s gap; continuous practice is the circle of the way. This being so, continuous practice is unstained, not forced by you or others. The power of this continuous practice confirms you as well as others. It means your practice affects the entire earth and the entire sky in the ten directions. Although not noticed by others or by yourself, it is so.”

Showing how all the components of the path come together (note again, how Dogen talks of the profoundities of it we may not ourselves notice).

Anyway, tying it back to the conversation here, my two cents on WWDD: Whatever may be the case in your just sitting, engage with the whole of it wholeheartedly. Like Narwhal said "entering meditation like a dragon entering water."

Anyway, I feel iffy enough about online diagnosis as it is here, so will leave it at that.
Last edited by Anders on Sun Feb 09, 2020 8:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra

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Anders
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Re: On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by Anders » Sun Feb 09, 2020 8:32 pm

Meido wrote:
Sun Feb 09, 2020 7:55 pm
I should say that i'm not going primarily by Gregory here...just using his article as a reference. Primarily I'm going by the words of my native Japanese Zen teacher, who agrees that "practice is enlightenment" is an inaccurate and needlessly confusing translation.

I have no problem with "practice and its confirmation are one thing" (shusho ichinyo), since to my mind shikantaza is not in fact usefully viewed primarily as a meditation "method" (even though we commonly discuss it as such), but rather as embodied fruition. In other words, it is a confirmation of what Zen practice after awakening entails, and takes as its basis.

I did think to myself in writing here that an alternative (unsubstatiated) rendition mirroring Vajrayana terminology might be "cause/path and fruition are one."

edit: reading that back, I am blerh-ing on the self-admiring prapanca i'm working here. Enough DW for me for today, I think. :coffee:
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra

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Re: On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by LastLegend » Sun Feb 09, 2020 9:17 pm

Sorry to say people can be stuck in silent illumination for decades but are not quite clear why that is. It’s not enlightenment still a state of ‘white’ consciousness.
Make personal vows.

End of the day: I don’t know.

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Re: On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by Wayfarer » Sun Feb 09, 2020 11:06 pm

Zafutales wrote:
Tue Feb 04, 2020 4:56 pm
I have developed a fear, an non-descript anxiety when practising Shikantaza.
Perhaps it's a manifestation of the 'hindrance of doubt'. It might be the mind-ego-self's resistance to the practice. There's a barrier that meditators speak of, called 'rolling up the mat', where practitioners hit an obstacle and can't persist. I think what is needed at that stage is resolute persistence. I suppose if sitting shakes loose some inner daemons, then that is a good time to connect with a teacher. But otherwise, I think, working with doubt is like working with any other mental/emotional phenomena - try to observe it dispassionately, to contemplate it as something arising, rather than letting it shape your response.

:namaste:
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by Zafutales » Mon Feb 10, 2020 2:40 pm

LastLegend wrote:
Sun Feb 09, 2020 9:17 pm
Sorry to say people can be stuck in silent illumination for decades but are not quite clear why that is. It’s not enlightenment still a state of ‘white’ consciousness.
Harsh!

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Re: On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by Zafutales » Mon Feb 10, 2020 2:45 pm

Anders wrote: .....reading that back, I am blerh-ing on the self-admiring prapanca i'm working here. Enough DW for me for today, I think. :coffee:
blerh-ing or not, your words and time are very much appreciated! :anjali:

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Re: On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by Zafutales » Mon Feb 10, 2020 2:54 pm

I think I made the error early on, like 20 years ago, initially having an academic interest in the Dharma - as such ended up studying pretty much ALL traditions and consequently being able to see the validity in all. I started practising seriously about 15 years ago and have struggled with this throughout. Particularly where the practices are concerned. But you can only drive one car at a time (as it were).....I suspect I am now just in a state of attrition drowning in all the information I have gleaned over the years none of which is at all helpful to me now.

I envy the newbie who sits and ardently follows his breath to the exclusion of any other aspiration (no pun intended) other than to just do that.
  • Hongzhi and Dogen = .....just sit no analysis required, anything other than this is chasing your own shadow
  • Tsongkhapa and Nargajuna = ....a stone can just sit and not think....we must use our conceptual minds to great use
That type of thing :thinking: Given the relative sense of urgency to 'leave Samsara' whilst we have the capacity to do so....but not knowing which [path is valid (as they're the antithesis of each-other) the anxiety is palpable.

Metta

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Re: On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by WuMing » Mon Feb 10, 2020 6:17 pm

here is some food for thought - a quote from Jiyu Kennett Roshi:
If you're afraid of being grabbed by God,
dont' look at a wall.
Definitely don't sit still.
maybe it helps one way or the other.
Life is great and death has to be just as great as life.
- Mike Tyson
People not only don't know what's happening to them, they don't even know that they don't know.
- Noam Chomsky

Zafutales
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Re: On being fearful of Shikantaza

Post by Zafutales » Mon Feb 10, 2020 7:06 pm

WuMing wrote:
Mon Feb 10, 2020 6:17 pm
here is some food for thought - a quote from Jiyu Kennett Roshi:
If you're afraid of being grabbed by God,
dont' look at a wall.
Definitely don't sit still.
maybe it helps one way or the other.
Or both!

I guess there is still an inherent need/wish to be made safe!

Anyway, maybe I am disclosing a little too much.

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