How can one's progress be tested?

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
zenman
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How can one's progress be tested?

Post by zenman » Sat Oct 17, 2015 4:12 pm

How can one's progress in meditation and in the buddhist path be tested?

Thanks.

Caodemarte
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Re: How can one's progress be tested?

Post by Caodemarte » Sat Oct 17, 2015 4:37 pm

Are you a little kinder? Less arrogant?

Of course, if you are a Zenman (or if not), you would get checked by a legitimate, authorized, trained Zen teacher in a real lineage (I understand that there are good teachers everywhere, but this is the way to bet given the number of fakes and sincerely self-deluded running around).

However, if the answer to the first questions is "no" then something is wrong.

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jundo cohen
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Re: How can one's progress be tested?

Post by jundo cohen » Sat Oct 17, 2015 6:05 pm

zenman wrote:How can one's progress in meditation and in the buddhist path be tested?

Thanks.
Hi,

Well, if you are speaking with regard to Zen meditation, I am not the kind of Zen guy who says it is based on picking the right ancient Chinese poem to match an old Koan in the Dokusan room. That is all well and good, but in the style I practice (just one practitioner's view) I deal with life's endless Koan.

So, I would advise you instead to get cancer. :shock: Yes.

That is the real litmus test. Or any event, large or small, in which the rubber of Buddhist Practice meets the road of Samsara, and the Dukkha hits the fan.

I wrote this to one of our Sangha members who announced he had cancer and needed surgery ...
This is the MONASTERY. Not some building in Kyoto made of wood, but THIS!

I will tell everyone what I told [the fellow with cancer], the closest I will ever come to laying down the "Litmus Test for Satori" ... (and I don't mean passing some "One Hand Clapping" Koan in a Dokusan room with the appropriate Chinese poem).

I mean this:

If one can have a diagnosis like this, be in treatment like this, face all the natural questions and doubts and midnight worries and "what ifs" and confusion sometimes ...

... yet every now and then find the Silence, Illumination, Wholeness, "IT's OKness", JUST THISness ... right at the heart, shining through this experience, and all the doubt and midnight worries etc. ... sometimes find a crazy "Joy" that holds all small human joy and sadness, a "Peace and Wholeness" that envelops all the broken pieces, ups and downs of life ...

... shining right through all the midnight fears and sense of frustration and confusion and all the rest ...

... Well, if that ain't Satori, then what is?
The following guidance to someone facing troubles at his job, and of course, the advice is meant to be most applicable to Shikantaza sitting ... Strange as it sounds, in our way, "progress" comes with the total dropping of all need for "progress" because one learns to sit in the satiation and quenching of being totally "at home" with the things as-they-is, the peace shining through all life's sharp and broken pieces, all Dukkha and thirst dropped away.
I am going to advise you (and someone on another thread with their own headaches) to "mirror mind" this in sitting. I am sure you have heard of sitting with a mind "as a mirror" ... not judging good or bad, not rejecting any of what transpired, yet sitting with a great shining crystal clarity which holds all.

The mirror does not push away nor run toward, does not rate as beautiful or ugly, whatever is shown within ... a glass which is clear and illuminated in all directions.

(There was a talk on mirror mind this and that a couple of months ago if interested) ...

http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showthre ... AZENKAI%21

Let me know if that helps.
Just one practitioner's approach. If you have a Teacher, address this with your Teacher. If you don't have one, you probably would benefit from such a friend.

Gassho, Jundo

PS - Likewise with Compassion ... One knows one is making "progress" because one is acting more peacefully, lovingly and with Compassion in life's situations where, perhaps in the past, one acted less so. The proof is in the Buddha Pudding.
Priest/Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha. Treeleaf Zendo was designed as an online practice place for Zen practitioners who cannot easily commute to a Zen Center due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or work, childcare and family needs, and seeks to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Zen Buddhist Sangha, all fully online. The focus is Shikantaza "Just Sitting" Zazen as instructed by the 13th Century Japanese Master, Eihei Dogen. http://www.treeleaf.org

odysseus
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Re: How can one's progress be tested?

Post by odysseus » Sat Oct 17, 2015 6:38 pm

After "I became a Buddhist", I notice mainly some of these things:

- More peaceful/calm (I'm chilling down more in stressful situations)
- Better mental health (no anxiety and depression)
- Better self-confidence
- Higher level of general happiness (in a more linear and constant way)
- Increase in civilised communication with others (mostly good responses)
- Less of the heat of anger
- Experiencing the breath of fresh air from reality (more individual freedom with responsibility)
- Healthier diet; I'm mostly vegetarian now
- I'm not lonely (Buddha is family)
- I've grown into an adult, lol

These are some tests if studying and applying Buddhism has done something worthwhile for me. I still suffer, but my suffering has decreased a lot.
Last edited by odysseus on Sat Oct 17, 2015 6:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

gloriasteinem
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Re: How can one's progress be tested?

Post by gloriasteinem » Sat Oct 17, 2015 6:43 pm

Caodemarte wrote:Are you a little kinder? Less arrogant?

Of course, if you are a Zenman (or if not), you would get checked by a legitimate, authorized, trained Zen teacher in a real lineage (I understand that there are good teachers everywhere, but this is the way to bet given the number of fakes and sincerely self-deluded running around).

However, if the answer to the first questions is "no" then something is wrong.
I think the question is pretty good and arrogance and irritation is found rather in your question. He is asking if an average person could test it, the teacher if genuine is supposed to know, not test it, advanced people should be able to know it. And I don't understand this obsession with lineages, I'm pretty sure some people in lineages still don't have a clue about these maters.
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Losal Samten
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Re: How can one's progress be tested?

Post by Losal Samten » Sat Oct 17, 2015 6:48 pm

zenman wrote:How can one's progress in meditation
By reference to the stages leading up to shamatha, the four dhyanas, and the four formless dhyanas.
and in the buddhist path be tested?
For Mahayanis, the five paths and ten grounds. The Abhisamayalankara is a good text on this.
Lacking mindfulness, we commit every wrong. - Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔
ཨོཾ་ཧ་ནུ་པྷ་ཤ་བྷ་ར་ཧེ་ཡེ་སྭཱ་ཧཱ།།
ཨཱོཾ་མ་ཏྲི་མུ་ཡེ་སལེ་འདུ།།

Jesse
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Re: How can one's progress be tested?

Post by Jesse » Sat Oct 17, 2015 7:09 pm

It's really a hard question in my opinion. Namely because it's very easy to fool yourself about lots of things. Are you really kinder? Are you really more compassionate and less afflicted? Or has your ego grown two more sizes, only now your ego is wearing a monks robe and spinning a mandala?
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
-Henry David Thoreau

zenman
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Re: How can one's progress be tested?

Post by zenman » Sat Oct 17, 2015 7:44 pm

I understand that talking about making progress is sort of upside down. And yet, surely there is progress as we change and can notify the change in us, and others can observe it in us, as we practice.

It is a difficult one to answer for sure. I have many times read of people saying that the ultimate test for progress of buddhahood is to expose one to nature's elements, like fire and cold. Or be taken to a torture chamber and if there is shouting to be heard, that would speak of not high enough attainment. Hmm... I don't know if ascetics are able to sit in fire without getting hurt which would demonstrate their state of liberation but I do know that one can tolerate extremely cold weathers and survive merely wearing swimming trunks. There is also the story of 6th (if I recall right) Dalai Lama who in front of Potala Palace started to pee but then pulled the urine back to his bladder to demonstrate his attainment. Well, I have never seen such a thing happen and cannot sit in fire, survive in extremel cold or pull back urine to my bladder. Just mentioning this kind of tests or demonstrations that I have heard and read about. I am not really into this sort of things.

To accept serious illness without any hassle. That's a good one. Anyone know where I could get one? Just kidding.

All who practice meditation or some other practices go through transformation and are therefore able to explain what has changed in them. Sure.

But how can this transformation be tested? That is the question. Is there even any point testing or demonstrating attainments that are less that buddhahood?

Fortyeightvows
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Re: How can one's progress be tested?

Post by Fortyeightvows » Sat Oct 17, 2015 8:01 pm

i think you can look to the canon for this

zenman
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Re: How can one's progress be tested?

Post by zenman » Sat Oct 17, 2015 8:29 pm

Fortyeightvows wrote:i think you can look to the canon for this
Pali canon? In what respect exactly? It is a huge set of works. Which one to look?

Fortyeightvows
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Re: How can one's progress be tested?

Post by Fortyeightvows » Sat Oct 17, 2015 8:33 pm

sure a google search brought up what seem like an excellent artical
http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?tit ... Sensations

its written by a very dedicated practicioner who we all owe some serious thanks to!

Fortyeightvows
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Re: How can one's progress be tested?

Post by Fortyeightvows » Sat Oct 17, 2015 8:36 pm

mahayana follows 十地 ten Bhūmis. there are paralles

Jesse
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Re: How can one's progress be tested?

Post by Jesse » Sat Oct 17, 2015 8:38 pm

zenman wrote:Is there even any point testing or demonstrating attainments that are less that buddhahood?
No. The entire attainment, progress, 'levels' stuff is all ego. When we are thinking about stuff like this we are about as far from enligthened mind as we can get haha. I think to genuinely gauge your progress you need to be able to tell when your in a deluded state, when we are afflicted by stong emotions this is pretty easy, but it get's more difficult at a more refined level. Clinging, Attachment, Aversion comes in strong and subtle flavors. There is a point where you are able to be in a deluded state and simultaneously know it. So if you find that your in deluded states more often than not, it's probably a sign we should be practicing more.
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
-Henry David Thoreau

Jesse
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Re: How can one's progress be tested?

Post by Jesse » Sat Oct 17, 2015 8:41 pm

Fortyeightvows wrote:mahayana follows 十地 ten Bhūmis. there are paralles
Yea, but who really understands the bhumi states? Just reading them I find them insanely confusing. Also I'm not really sure how high the Bhumi's are supposed to be. What is the likelyhood any of us will even encounter someone in the bhumi's in our lifetimes? Or are they actually something common?

Also the Jhanas are meditative absorptions, they aren't really that telling about our spiritual progress.. they are more telling of if you are a good meditator though. :P
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
-Henry David Thoreau

Fortyeightvows
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Re: How can one's progress be tested?

Post by Fortyeightvows » Sat Oct 17, 2015 8:55 pm

i probabley shouldnt have chimed in on this one, beacause i dont know. but when i read the title question before and it made me think about it and it just seems to me like the sort of thing that would be done by checking the texts.
i hadnt really went any further with it.

measuring ones own progress seems like a slippery slope.
the advice to simply find out from your teacher is best.

Caodemarte
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Re: How can one's progress be tested?

Post by Caodemarte » Sat Oct 17, 2015 9:30 pm

gloriasteinem said
I think the question is pretty good and arrogance and irritation is found rather in your question.
In case there is any confusion, my answer was a quite sincere one. If you don't find yourself becoming kinder and your heart a little softer, you are not making progress and are probably not on the right path.

In Zen, if you need to check that you are on the Buddhist path and want to be on that path or need encouraging words, you go meet a Zen teacher. Given the name Zenman, I assume that this is the tradition you are interested in. If someone purports to be a Zen teacher, but has no training or history with a tradition of competence and no one reputable vouches for that person, the odds are not good that this person is a good Zen teacher. Your best bet is to find someone with a checkable history, good training, and authorisation to teach from a tradition of competence. None of that guarantees anything, but the odds are better of finding something useful.

If, on the other hand, you are seeking attainments in the sense of powers or miracles then the Buddhist path as a whole seems irrelevant to that sort of thing.

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jundo cohen
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Re: How can one's progress be tested?

Post by jundo cohen » Sun Oct 18, 2015 4:18 am

Caodemarte wrote:
If, on the other hand, you are seeking attainments in the sense of powers or miracles then the Buddhist path as a whole seems irrelevant to that sort of thing.
This is right to some of us. (The following is just the voice of one practitioner, others may disagree. I do not mean to be the final word on the final stages. :smile: )

In one traditional Zen Buddhist take on the 10 Bhumis, all are realized at once in the Emptiness of a moment of sudden realization or in a moment of Zazen. Since there was no where to get, and the ladder was Empty, the 10 Bhumis are Empty. As Taigen Dan Leighton notes on Dogen and the appearance of the underground Bodhisattvas in the Lotus Sutra ...
This might then imply that the underground bodhisattvas in chapter fifteen of the Lotus Sutra emerge through immediate insight into the emptiness of all bhumis, or stages .... These bodhisattvas, diligently practicing in the open space, or emptiness, under the ground, would thus be ever ready to emerge and benefit beings in any future evil age, thanks to their seeing into the ultimate emptiness of all systems of progressive cultivation, and the unmediated emptiness of any and each particular stage or position in such systems.
http://www.ancientdragon.org/dharma/art ... _and_space
I stumbled upon Lama Surya Das seemingly echoing a like viewless view of the Bhumis during my search (page 50 here) ...

https://books.google.co.jp/books?id=6tC ... en&f=false

Dogen seemed to say that the bottom of the Buddha mountain and the Buddha top is all the Buddha mountain. In other words, to the Clear Eye, every step of the journey is total arrival ...
Here, it is expressly denied that enlightenment occurs as a distinct
event at the end of the whole eons-long career of the
Bodhisattva. Enlightenment is a fact even in the person who
first directs his thought to attaining the Way. In fact, it is present
even in the individual who has not started practice. There
are numerous passages in Shobogenzo that equate realization or
enlightenment with such events or states of mind as assurance
(or "faith" is ), arousing an aspiration for enlightenment (hotsu
bodai shin), and home-departure (shukke). All of these are traditionally
conceived as being very early stages in the religious
career of the aspirant, and it is significant that Dogen claims
that all are equivalent to realization and Buddhahood. The
reason can be found in his teachings concerning Buddhanature.
All events or states of mind, such as assurance, home departure,
and the like, are concrete manifestations of an utter
self-transcendence that Dogen refers to as shinjin datsuraku,
"casting off mind and body," and this self-transcendence is the
actualization of Buddha-nature or realization.
The whole question of practice and realization, and their
relationship, is inseparable from the doctrine of Buddhanature.
* In various chapters of Shdbdgenzo, and particularly in
the Bussho chapter, the continental Chinese doctrine that holds
that all beings possess Buddha-nature is completely transformed
and radicalized in conformity with Dogen's attempt
absolutely to overcome all dualisms, such as those of acquired
and intrinsic enlightenment, Buddha and ordinary beings,
practice and enlightenment, and the like. Dogen's point, and it
is one of the hallmarks of his brand of Buddhism, is that all
beings are Buddha ...
https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/i ... /8591/2498
That does not mean that we don't get better and better in this Practice, but that Buddha (or Mara) are manifested in each individual choice we make, whether Buddha wise or Mara ignorant. We do get to be more capable mountain climbers, even as the entire mountain is Buddha all along the way.

I recommend the wonderful article on the Siddhis in Zen tradition, Disarming the Superpowers, by scholar Carl Bielefeldt, at the following link ... regarding the inability of living Zen masters to fly without an airport ...
The real powers of the Chan masters in Song Chinese literary records, or what made them alien and dangerous to the established Buddhist community, were precisely their dismissal of the traditional use of the supranormal powers or abhijna (jinzū ) as detailed in early Buddhist lore, and thus their refusal to play by the rules of standard buddhology. ... [Enni points to] three different sorts of answers. First, he claims that the buddha’s supernormal attributes are not visible on the ordinary human body produced by past karma. Next, he dismisses interest in the psychic powers as the “way of Mara and the pagan paths” (tenma gedō) and points out that foxes may have magical powers but are hardly revered for that. Finally, he offers a “higher,” metaphorical reading of the buddha’s attributes and powers: his six psychic powers, are really just the six senses of the enlightened person; his marvelous functions are but the sudden awakening to the buddha nature; his glorious halo is simply a symbol of the radiant light of wisdom.

These three answers provide a fairly good summary of the varied strategies already worked out in the Chinese Chan sources for dealing with the issue of the powers. Put crudely, they may be summarized as (1) we do not display our powers; (2) we dismiss the powers as trivial; and (3) we have a higher, esoteric understanding of the powers.

...

Chan masters could celebrate their inability to fly as a sign that they had flown beyond the buddha—that is, had transcended the traditional definitions of buddhahood. Indeed, it was precisely their ordinary—if often highly eccentric—behavior that was the true sign of their powers. As the famous line by the Layman Pang put it, “The psychic powers and the marvelous functions: bearing water and carrying firewood.” Thus, in the hagiographic accounts of the masters, Dongshan could demonstrate his “psychic powers and marvelous functions” by paying respects to his teacher and leaving the room; and Guishan’s students show powers exceeding those of Maudgalyayana when they bring the master a wash bowl and tea bowl. In such stories, the buddha’s powers, like the traditional understanding of buddhahood itself, have become a kind of in-house joke for the trickster Chan master.

...

Again, Dōgen’s comments on these passages are too extended to examine here. For our purposes, what is most important to note is that, although his quotations all reflect the celebration of the Chan master’s freedom from the powers, Dōgen seems to see the masters not just as free agents, acting spontaneously, but as agents, so to speak, of a higher power acting through them. In his comment on Layman Pang’s famous verse, for example, he remarks that the great power of bearing water and carrying firewood operates whether or not we know it as such; whether or not we know it, this power is never extinguished; whether we know it or not, the power remains just as it is (hōni).

http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/1 ... -chapter-8
Just the take of one small corner-non-corner of the Mahayana.

Gassho, Jundo
Priest/Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha. Treeleaf Zendo was designed as an online practice place for Zen practitioners who cannot easily commute to a Zen Center due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or work, childcare and family needs, and seeks to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Zen Buddhist Sangha, all fully online. The focus is Shikantaza "Just Sitting" Zazen as instructed by the 13th Century Japanese Master, Eihei Dogen. http://www.treeleaf.org

Punya
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Re: How can one's progress be tested?

Post by Punya » Sun Oct 18, 2015 6:08 am

Here's a similar thread on this topic http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=34&t=17666
We abide nowhere. We possess nothing.
~Chatral Rinpoche

zenman
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Re: How can one's progress be tested?

Post by zenman » Sun Oct 18, 2015 9:05 am

From the linked thread. This is a good one.
Punya wrote:Here's a similar thread on this topic http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=34&t=17666
Jinzang wrote:From an article by Sherab Dorje:

Here are some of the signs, as described in meditation practice manuals. You will:

• remember your guru’s kindness, or your bodhisattva aspiration, or your commitment to practice, first thing when you wake up in the morning and last before you slip into sleep at night;
• remember to offer each pleasing sense experience for the enjoyment of the enlightened ones, and dedicate the merit of that offering for the welfare of all sentient beings;
• feel a soft, accomodating wound in your heart each time you are confronted with the suffering of any being, including the suffering that comes from that being’s pride, jealousy and anger directed at you;
• frequently remember the kindness of your teachers and the wondrous qualities of the teachings for no apparent reason at all, such that you become tearful and your heart aches in a happy but wistful way;
• see absolutely no downside to being kind or forgiving;
• feel a parental pride in the kind or generous acts of total strangers, without concerning yourself with their motivation;
• be able to stop your chattering and outwardly focused mind in an instant, and effortlessly remain in a state of clarity and rest, without grasping.

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Mkoll
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Re: How can one's progress be tested?

Post by Mkoll » Sun Oct 18, 2015 9:08 am

zenman wrote:How can one's progress in meditation and in the buddhist path be tested?

Thanks.
I think that as long as one's practice in meditation and the factors of one's path is consistent, progress is being made and if we are cultivating contentment, this should be enough. As far as judging one's spiritual progress, my experience is that it sometimes it feels like it's going great, sometimes it feels like 2 steps forward 1 step back, and sometimes even 1 step forward 2 steps back. So I don't put too much stock into those judgments because things change.

Some practical measurements that I've found, to name a few, are that one has more enthusiasm for meditation and practice, the ratio of ease to hardship during meditation increases, one has more moments of calm that arise throughout the day, one becomes quicker to recognize stress and not get (too) lost in it, and it's generally easier to be around and communicate with all sorts of people. I think it's important to try to hold these things in such a way that they don't contribute to self-aggrandizement.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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