Koan study

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Meido
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Re: Koan study

Postby Meido » Thu Dec 08, 2016 10:55 pm

Well, it does sound as if your teacher's words were correct: practicing too hard in some manner, you quit prematurely.

Your description of how you were practicing sounds energetic enough, but with a lot of conceptualizing about the method based on presuppositions of what should happen. It's not surprising that rather than merge with the koan, you could exhaust yourself with it.

We all have our own obstructions like this and have to figure out how to work with practice. The teacher's job (among other things) is to oversee and advise. Impossible if we don't go to see the teacher, though.

If I were in your shoes and wanted to enter this dharma gate, I'd go back to my teacher and commit to practicing under that person's guidance even if it takes 25 years or a lifetime to break through the first koan. Nothing is lost by that. The "answer" to the koan isn't something you lack anyway. What is certain, however, is that your teacher's activities to directly point out to you that essential principle won't have much effect if you aren't there.

Aside from this, Torei has good advice:

If at this point your spirit and morale slacken, all the more rely on this vow/aspiration [to practice for the sake of saving beings]. If faith in the heart is shallow and weak, all the more rely on this vow/aspiration. If obstacles are many, all the more rely on this aspiration. If you are intelligent and clever, all the more rely on this aspiration. If you are stupid and dull, all the more rely on this aspiration. If your seeing into the true nature becomes fully clear, all the more rely on this aspiration. If your insight and function become fully free, all the more rely on this aspiration. Right from the beginning, from the first aspiration of the heart to the final end, there is no time when you do not rely on the strength of this vow/aspiration.

Reciting the Four Great Vows, directing them from the mouth outwards, and inwardly ever holding them in the heart, invoking them as a prayer day by day and continuously pondering them, then just like a wondrous scent or an old strange custom, or like fine mist that yet drenches one's clothes, or as the smell of incense pervades and clings, so the awareness of Buddhas and patriarchs will ripen of itself and, benefiting oneself and others, everything will be accomplished.
...............
To state it concisely: by the power of the vow of Great Compassion all karmic obstacles disappear and all merit and virtue/strength are completed. No principle remains obscure, all ways are walked by it, no wisdom remains unattained, no virtue incomplete … The first requirement for trainees, therefore, is to let go of "I" and not to cling to their own advantage.
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

明道禅徹
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org

Matylda
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Re: Koan study

Postby Matylda » Fri Dec 09, 2016 12:22 am

Dgj wrote: I had already been practicing jhana for 13 years before being given a koan to study, so I do not believe it was lack of samadhi ability. Perhaps

I felt like I was tenaciously interrogating myself. "What is the answer?! What is it!? What!?" I practiced like this nearly at all times. Even in my dreams sometimes. I did two retreats as well. I thought this was right practice; to DEMAND an answer with great force until the koan was solved. It was exhausting and extremely stressful.


well koan is all about samadhi.. the proper or genuine one - zen samadhi.. and one understands from that point of view without much problem.. just read Hakuin zenji's first day rohatsu exhortation.. and following. samadhi in zen could be something completely else than it is understood in jhana. and it has nothing to do with peaceful state and so on.
on th other hand many people mix up thinking about the answer to koan, and work of self consciousness with practicing koan.. this is another no-zen illusion.
I mention Hakuin concerning the subject since his very simple approach always took my heart... but I think that no 1 hero in your story is just your teacher.

Dgj
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Re: Koan study

Postby Dgj » Fri Dec 09, 2016 1:14 am

Matylda wrote:
Dgj wrote: I had already been practicing jhana for 13 years before being given a koan to study, so I do not believe it was lack of samadhi ability. Perhaps

I felt like I was tenaciously interrogating myself. "What is the answer?! What is it!? What!?" I practiced like this nearly at all times. Even in my dreams sometimes. I did two retreats as well. I thought this was right practice; to DEMAND an answer with great force until the koan was solved. It was exhausting and extremely stressful.


well koan is all about samadhi.. the proper or genuine one - zen samadhi.. and one understands from that point of view without much problem.. just read Hakuin zenji's first day rohatsu exhortation.. and following. samadhi in zen could be something completely else than it is understood in jhana. and it has nothing to do with peaceful state and so on.
on th other hand many people mix up thinking about the answer to koan, and work of self consciousness with practicing koan.. this is another no-zen illusion.
I mention Hakuin concerning the subject since his very simple approach always took my heart... but I think that no 1 hero in your story is just your teacher.


Well that and Hakuin did not have a teacher for most of his career. After leaving Shoju Rojin he took "Spurring Students Through the Zen Barrier" as his teacher. I have read this book and it is extremely simple and clear. It has been awhile since I read "Wild Ivy" though, did he train under a teacher after that?
I wish I knew what I was talking about but, let's face it, I probably don't.

Dgj
Posts: 66
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2016 10:34 pm

Re: Koan study

Postby Dgj » Fri Dec 09, 2016 1:41 am

Meido wrote:Well, it does sound as if your teacher's words were correct: practicing too hard in some manner, you quit prematurely.

Your description of how you were practicing sounds energetic enough, but with a lot of conceptualizing about the method based on presuppositions of what should happen. It's not surprising that rather than merge with the koan, you could exhaust yourself with it.

We all have our own obstructions like this and have to figure out how to work with practice. The teacher's job (among other things) is to oversee and advise. Impossible if we don't go to see the teacher, though.

If I were in your shoes and wanted to enter this dharma gate, I'd go back to my teacher and commit to practicing under that person's guidance even if it takes 25 years or a lifetime to break through the first koan. Nothing is lost by that. The "answer" to the koan isn't something you lack anyway. What is certain, however, is that your teacher's activities to directly point out to you that essential principle won't have much effect if you aren't there.

Aside from this, Torei has good advice:

If at this point your spirit and morale slacken, all the more rely on this vow/aspiration [to practice for the sake of saving beings]. If faith in the heart is shallow and weak, all the more rely on this vow/aspiration. If obstacles are many, all the more rely on this aspiration. If you are intelligent and clever, all the more rely on this aspiration. If you are stupid and dull, all the more rely on this aspiration. If your seeing into the true nature becomes fully clear, all the more rely on this aspiration. If your insight and function become fully free, all the more rely on this aspiration. Right from the beginning, from the first aspiration of the heart to the final end, there is no time when you do not rely on the strength of this vow/aspiration.

Reciting the Four Great Vows, directing them from the mouth outwards, and inwardly ever holding them in the heart, invoking them as a prayer day by day and continuously pondering them, then just like a wondrous scent or an old strange custom, or like fine mist that yet drenches one's clothes, or as the smell of incense pervades and clings, so the awareness of Buddhas and patriarchs will ripen of itself and, benefiting oneself and others, everything will be accomplished.
...............
To state it concisely: by the power of the vow of Great Compassion all karmic obstacles disappear and all merit and virtue/strength are completed. No principle remains obscure, all ways are walked by it, no wisdom remains unattained, no virtue incomplete … The first requirement for trainees, therefore, is to let go of "I" and not to cling to their own advantage.


I left the teacher for other reasons. So I suppose now I'll seek another some day.

Why, if enlightenment is inherent, is it impossible to see it without a teacher?

Thank you for the quote by Torei!
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: Koan study

Postby Meido » Fri Dec 09, 2016 3:12 am

Dgj wrote:I left the teacher for other reasons. So I suppose now I'll seek another some day.

Why, if enlightenment is inherent, is it impossible to see it without a teacher?

Thank you for the quote by Torei!


Wishing you luck in finding someone you can trust.

Not impossible. Certainly there are people who enter the gate without prior practice with a teacher (most famously, the 6th Patriarch). It's after initial awakening where things go off the rails easily without guidance to clarify and deepen it, however. This is why even someone like the 6th Patriarch didn't stand on or self-verify his initial recognition, but went to a teacher. Later, in encounter with that teacher, he had a culminating experience.

Having the recognition we call kensho is not considered to be particularly difficult. But fully integrating and embodying it - the real meat and core of the path - has been called uncommonly difficult.

In any case, Dogen's motivation was fueled by a question very similar to what you asked...a koan of sorts. You might be interested to look into it.

~ Meido
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

明道禅徹
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org

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Astus
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Re: Koan study

Postby Astus » Fri Dec 09, 2016 10:08 am

Meido wrote:In any case, Dogen's motivation was fueled by a question very similar to what you asked...a koan of sorts. You might be interested to look into it.


That alleged question is not mentioned even in Keizan's Denkoroku, and the story of sudden realisation in Keizan's work is likely his own invention that is nowhere corroborated in Dogen's teachings. Quite the opposite actually, Dogen did not agree with the whole idea of kensho, as it contradicts his version of zazen as practice-enlightenment.
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
Posts: 494
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Re: Koan study

Postby Matylda » Fri Dec 09, 2016 11:27 am

Dgj wrote:
Well that and Hakuin did not have a teacher for most of his career. After leaving Shoju Rojin he took "Spurring Students Through the Zen Barrier" as his teacher. I have read this book and it is extremely simple and clear. It has been awhile since I read "Wild Ivy" though, did he train under a teacher after that?


yes of course he did.. Shoju Rojin was most important to him, however Hakuin visited many teachers of course. Even when he attained kensho he was in the monastery training under a teacher.. it was still before he met Shoju Rojin.. what he said is that all teachers did not agree on his attainmnet which he thought to be most important in last 500 years... it is not that those teachers were not experienced, he just did not have proper effinity with them.. it was Shoju Rojin with whom he has.. anyway Shoju thought that Hakuin was poor in his understanding like others, but it was him who pushed Hakuin deeper.
I visited some temples were are records of his stay like in Wakasa area and other places... so if you look at them you see easily that he had to be under strict discipline o the temple with master. Hakuin returned to Shoimji after years of search, and even then was sometimes travling.. it was a bit later when he rally took it as permanent abode.. in fact a teacher is one side, but most important is disciple's eagerness and effort, so to say one must give all to reach the goal... even Buddha had reallybad disciples, though he was a buddha.

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Meido
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Re: Koan study

Postby Meido » Fri Dec 09, 2016 12:41 pm

Astus wrote:That alleged question is not mentioned even in Keizan's Denkoroku, and the story of sudden realisation in Keizan's work is likely his own invention that is nowhere corroborated in Dogen's teachings. Quite the opposite actually, Dogen did not agree with the whole idea of kensho, as it contradicts his version of zazen as practice-enlightenment.


Though it is the opening question raised in Fukanzazengi.

But sure, as I'm sure you know there remains disagreement among scholars about Dogen, the degree to which later revisions of his work altered perceptions of his message, the misinterpretation (and even mistranslation) of the term rendered "practice-enlightenment", his view of koan and kensho, his seeming late emphasis on things at odds with earlier writings (such as insistence on monastic practice), etc.

You can take up the question of his conceiving that original question while on Mt. Hiei, leading him at first to Eisai's place, with Soto-shu if you like :) I mentioned it only to show that it is a valid question which others have had, and worth examining within the context of one's own practice.

~ Meido
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

明道禅徹
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org

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Astus
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Re: Koan study

Postby Astus » Fri Dec 09, 2016 2:30 pm

Meido wrote:I mentioned it only to show that it is a valid question which others have had, and worth examining within the context of one's own practice.


Certainly a good point. :twothumbsup:
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"

Dgj
Posts: 66
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Re: Koan study

Postby Dgj » Fri Dec 09, 2016 3:15 pm

Matylda wrote:
Dgj wrote:
Well that and Hakuin did not have a teacher for most of his career. After leaving Shoju Rojin he took "Spurring Students Through the Zen Barrier" as his teacher. I have read this book and it is extremely simple and clear. It has been awhile since I read "Wild Ivy" though, did he train under a teacher after that?


yes of course he did.. Shoju Rojin was most important to him, however Hakuin visited many teachers of course. Even when he attained kensho he was in the monastery training under a teacher.. it was still before he met Shoju Rojin.. what he said is that all teachers did not agree on his attainmnet which he thought to be most important in last 500 years... it is not that those teachers were not experienced, he just did not have proper effinity with them.. it was Shoju Rojin with whom he has.. anyway Shoju thought that Hakuin was poor in his understanding like others, but it was him who pushed Hakuin deeper.
I visited some temples were are records of his stay like in Wakasa area and other places... so if you look at them you see easily that he had to be under strict discipline o the temple with master. Hakuin returned to Shoimji after years of search, and even then was sometimes travling.. it was a bit later when he rally took it as permanent abode.. in fact a teacher is one side, but most important is disciple's eagerness and effort, so to say one must give all to reach the goal... even Buddha had reallybad disciples, though he was a buddha.


Oh okay my mistake. I suppose Hakuin was speaking figuratively in his autobiography when he said he took "Spurring Students Through the Zen Barrier" as his teacher?
I wish I knew what I was talking about but, let's face it, I probably don't.

Dgj
Posts: 66
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2016 10:34 pm

Re: Koan study

Postby Dgj » Fri Dec 09, 2016 3:19 pm

Meido wrote:
Dgj wrote:I left the teacher for other reasons. So I suppose now I'll seek another some day.

Why, if enlightenment is inherent, is it impossible to see it without a teacher?

Thank you for the quote by Torei!


Wishing you luck in finding someone you can trust.

Not impossible. Certainly there are people who enter the gate without prior practice with a teacher (most famously, the 6th Patriarch). It's after initial awakening where things go off the rails easily without guidance to clarify and deepen it, however. This is why even someone like the 6th Patriarch didn't stand on or self-verify his initial recognition, but went to a teacher. Later, in encounter with that teacher, he had a culminating experience.

Having the recognition we call kensho is not considered to be particularly difficult. But fully integrating and embodying it - the real meat and core of the path - has been called uncommonly difficult.

In any case, Dogen's motivation was fueled by a question very similar to what you asked...a koan of sorts. You might be interested to look into it.

~ Meido


Interesting, thank you. What was this question?
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: Koan study

Postby Meido » Mon Jan 02, 2017 1:35 am

Earlier I mentioned that Victor Sogen Hori's book Zen Sand has one of the best English-language overviews of the structure of Rinzai koan practice.

Was just reminded that the introduction to his book, which contains the actual overview, can be downloaded free (and legally) here:

http://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/en/files/201 ... uction.pdf
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

明道禅徹
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org

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dzogchungpa
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Re: Koan study

Postby dzogchungpa » Mon Jan 02, 2017 3:01 am

Dgj wrote:What was this (Dogen's) question?

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dōgen#Early_training
The whole purpose of Buddhism is to have fun, isn't it? - Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche

The secret of having fun is nongrasping. - Anam Thubten

Dgj
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Re: Koan study

Postby Dgj » Tue Jan 03, 2017 6:05 pm

Thank you!
I wish I knew what I was talking about but, let's face it, I probably don't.


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