Seeking enlightenment (satori/bodhi)

Post Reply
MattiV
Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2018 2:14 pm

Seeking enlightenment (satori/bodhi)

Post by MattiV » Thu Jan 25, 2018 10:26 am

Hi, I'm a new member of this forum. Also, I'm a neophyte as far as Zen Buddhism is concerned, only for about two and a half years of daily
practice of just sitting. My introduction is here.

Now, one of the most remarkable things about certain ideas in Zen Buddhism is that it seems to be aimless in the every day sense of the word.
Yet millions of practitioners of various schools of Buddhism seek enlightenment. But in Zen Buddhism - as I have understood it - the very act
of seeking is an obstacle, a hindrance, a no-no. Am I right or just confused?

As for me, I'm happy to just sit and try to improve my awareness. I'm seeking neither my true self nor an egoless pure awareness.
Why? Because I'dont have the slightest idea what those are about, what they mean.

Of course I want to become a better person. But it seems to me that words like 'trying' 'improving', 'wanting', 'becoming' etc. have been blown to
pieces in Zen Buddhism, or in some versions of it.

Any comments on this topic (I'm sure it has been discussed on this forum in various threads) or any pointers to sources which explore this topic
in a reasonable digestible way?

User avatar
Dan74
Founding Member
Posts: 2474
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2012 3:59 pm
Location: Lyss, Switzerland

Re: Seeking enlightenment (satori/bodhi)

Post by Dan74 » Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:09 am

There are various books about Zen, but not too many about Zen practice and what's it really like. Forums are full of ideas about Zen like 'nothing to attain' which can be good to go into, if one is ready, or just be an annoying confusing thing. Or worse.

But fundamentally Zen, like the rest of Buddhism, is about the mind. So learning to become aware of what's actually going on with us, is fundamental. This very moment, reading the words on the screen, sitting on a chair or sofa or floor, breathing, what is going on? What is the very process of becoming aware of this? Relaxing into it, opening up, developing an alert presence to what is happening, is fundamental, IMO. A skill to attain or maybe an innate ability to uncover, once we get out of the way, depending on the perspective.

And it's not easy for most of us. There are practices that help. Teachers are vital, in my experience and according to most traditional texts, if not all. Alone, there are too many pitfalls and little chance of finding the right direction for practice.

All the Best!!!

_/|\_

ItsRaining
Posts: 235
Joined: Fri May 12, 2017 7:45 am

Re: Seeking enlightenment (satori/bodhi)

Post by ItsRaining » Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:51 am

So why is it that terms like Satori, Kenshi, Realising the Mind and Seeing the Nature are used and coined by Zen? Why did Zen master compile books of just stories of practitioners becoming enlightened?

MattiV
Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2018 2:14 pm

Re: Seeking enlightenment (satori/bodhi)

Post by MattiV » Thu Jan 25, 2018 12:44 pm

Thanks for the comment.
Dan74 wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:09 am
This very moment, reading the words on the screen, sitting on a chair or sofa or floor, breathing, what is going on? What is the very process of becoming aware of this?
As an ex-scientist, I'd say this sounds like you are describing a kind of science.

User avatar
Astus
Former staff member
Posts: 7012
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:22 pm
Location: Budapest

Re: Seeking enlightenment (satori/bodhi)

Post by Astus » Thu Jan 25, 2018 1:38 pm

MattiV wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 10:26 am
Now, one of the most remarkable things about certain ideas in Zen Buddhism is that it seems to be aimless in the every day sense of the word.
Yet millions of practitioners of various schools of Buddhism seek enlightenment. But in Zen Buddhism - as I have understood it - the very act
of seeking is an obstacle, a hindrance, a no-no. Am I right or just confused?
A Zen practitioner definitely must have goals, particularly those specified in the four great vows of every bodhisattva: save all beings, eradicate defilements, learn all teachings, and attain buddhahood. Without those vows there is no Zen.

Aimlessness (apranihita) is one of the three gates of liberation, the other two are signlessness (animitta) and emptiness (sunyata). When it is taught that one should not seek anything, it means that there is nothing to seek, because all appearances are ungraspable. It is not about intentionally trying to not look forward to enlightenment or to pretend that one is merely sitting without any purpose.
As for me, I'm happy to just sit and try to improve my awareness. I'm seeking neither my true self nor an egoless pure awareness.
Why? Because I'dont have the slightest idea what those are about, what they mean.
If, as you wrote, your practice is counting/following the breath, then you should consider reading up on how breath awareness should be actually cultivated. On the one hand, you can find good resources by Theravadin authors on Anapanasati, or you can check out teachings closer to Zen, like The Six Dharma Gates to the Sublime, The Fundamentals of Meditation Practice, Keys to Buddhism, and various works by Thich Nhat hanh.
Of course I want to become a better person. But it seems to me that words like 'trying' 'improving', 'wanting', 'becoming' etc. have been blown to pieces in Zen Buddhism, or in some versions of it.
That is a misinterpretation, somewhat. True, if one can actually get to see that all experiences are originally unestablished hence there is nowhere to abide, then that is realising the futility of seeking. But to intentionally not seek peace, liberation, and wisdom, that is the wrong direction.
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"

User avatar
KeithA
Posts: 151
Joined: Tue May 24, 2011 11:02 pm

Re: Seeking enlightenment (satori/bodhi)

Post by KeithA » Thu Jan 25, 2018 2:31 pm

As a good friend was always saying: Practice and see what happens.

Whatever we think will happen, it isn't that.

I am always littering the forums with this poem, but I love it for when this subject arises:

As long as I don't aim,
I won't miss.
With the catalpa bow,
I shoot an arrow
Toward the open sky.
-Zen Master Ryokan, Trans. Sensei Kazuaki Tanahashi


There are two elements here. One is you have to do something, fire that arrow! The second one is aimlessness, which Astus mentioned above.

If you are interested in some perspective on kensho/satori, etc, check Dosho Port's blog series about Hakuin.

_/|\_

User avatar
fuki
Posts: 210
Joined: Thu Nov 09, 2017 3:51 pm
Location: Netherlands

Re: Seeking enlightenment (satori/bodhi)

Post by fuki » Thu Jan 25, 2018 4:08 pm

MattiV wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 10:26 am
as I have understood it - the very act
of seeking is an obstacle, a hindrance, a no-no. Am I right or just confused?
Seeking on behalf of, or for, a (fabricated) enitity, self or person(ality) yes, seeking as a spontaneous function that arises naturally instead of a thought "I must seek or I must not seek" is just a function of one's true nature, call it an "inner calling" a thirst for the true (nature) the Source etcetera.
As for me, I'm happy to just sit and try to improve my awareness.
Perfect.
Of course I want to become a better person. But it seems to me that words like 'trying' 'improving', 'wanting', 'becoming' etc. have been blown to
pieces in Zen Buddhism, or in some versions of it.
Then to you it doesn't matter if those words are used in Zen or not, or if you use them or not. ;)
The obstacle therefore is attaching to words or ideas not whether words are used or not. Seeking, non-seeking are afterall just ideas right?
Instead of seeking we could also just call it listening, listening to an "inner calling" or "awareness only"
If one practises correctly it doesn't matter if we think seeking is an obstacle or not.
Go check a Buddhists attachments when you use words like atman on this forum and look what can of worms open up :lol:
meldpunt seksueel misbruik in boeddhistische gemeenschappen nederland.
https://meldpuntbg.nl/

User avatar
fuki
Posts: 210
Joined: Thu Nov 09, 2017 3:51 pm
Location: Netherlands

Re: Seeking enlightenment (satori/bodhi)

Post by fuki » Thu Jan 25, 2018 4:20 pm

MattiV wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 12:44 pm
As an ex-scientist, I'd say this sounds like you are describing a kind of science.
No such thing as an ex-scientists, once a saturated carbon, always a saturated carbon. :tongue:
meldpunt seksueel misbruik in boeddhistische gemeenschappen nederland.
https://meldpuntbg.nl/

User avatar
Meido
Posts: 457
Joined: Mon Mar 21, 2011 2:50 am
Contact:

Re: Seeking enlightenment (satori/bodhi)

Post by Meido » Thu Jan 25, 2018 5:41 pm

Astus' post sums things up nicely.

IMO, this whole discussion of "not seeking" in Zen has wasted more time on online forums than any other (no offense intended to the OP...it's precisely because of common confusion that the subject keeps coming up, and it's a good thing to ask about).

Of course Zen practitioners seek awakening and liberation. Their practice, if correct, is founded upon the most profound aspiration and loftiest goals possible. The Four Vows sum up the entirety of Zen.

Of course what is sought is not originally lacking. It is not something apart from the treasures of one's own house. This is not some big revelation to plant one's flag on and use to avoid practicing or convince oneself that "Just this is it, nothing to do!" It's just Zen 101, and it's meant as a challenge, pointing out the disconnect or dis-ease in one's actual daily functioning.

Of course an effortless practice, in which all the activities of body/speech/mind do not depart from the seamless unity of prajna/samadhi, is the goal of practice. As Shido Bunan said when asked about the Supreme Vehicle: "It is to let the body be free, with nothing particular to observe. For this reason it is a great matter, and a rare thing in the world." It is rare. It is a goal that not many, unless they enter wholeheartedly and bodily into practice for many years, will reach. This "goal-lessness" and "nothing to attain" is a goal that is not easy to attain.

In some Zen rhetoric (Soto Zen since Meiji, perhaps, which de-emphasized awakening and some activity of the teacher...and certainly in some corners of Western Zen where it seems that to be a teacher one needs only to be ordained) this idea of "nothing to obtain, nothing to seek" has become fetishised. People forget that it is medicine for particular people, only making sense within the context of practice undertaken with great aspiration and seeking. Often online we see it staked out as a position by people who don't in fact practice, or who believe that an intellectual grasp of Zen = awakening, or who think that affirmation of self-affirming preferences and aversions = "to let the body be free, with nothing particular to observe."

I heard Sheng Yen at a retreat say it this way, and something like this really should be stamped on the inside of "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" and other popular texts (I paraphrase):

We practice Chan with deep vows and seeking great enlightenment. But when we sit down on the cushion to practice, we forget everything but the method and just practice, forgetting about seeking or enlightenment.

Good advice.

~ 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

The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

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

User avatar
Dan74
Founding Member
Posts: 2474
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2012 3:59 pm
Location: Lyss, Switzerland

Re: Seeking enlightenment (satori/bodhi)

Post by Dan74 » Thu Jan 25, 2018 8:03 pm

MattiV wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 12:44 pm
Thanks for the comment.
Dan74 wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:09 am
This very moment, reading the words on the screen, sitting on a chair or sofa or floor, breathing, what is going on? What is the very process of becoming aware of this?
As an ex-scientist, I'd say this sounds like you are describing a kind of science.
It is similar. There is the spirit of inquiry expressing itself as a gentle curious openness.

MattiV
Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2018 2:14 pm

Re: Seeking enlightenment (satori/bodhi)

Post by MattiV » Thu Jan 25, 2018 8:13 pm

Meido wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 5:41 pm
IMO, this whole discussion of "not seeking" in Zen has wasted more time on online forums than any other [...]
I had an inkling that this indeed could be the case :smile: .
Of course Zen practitioners seek awakening and liberation. Their practice, if correct, is founded upon the most profound aspiration and loftiest goals possible. The Four Vows sum up the entirety of Zen.
OK, so despite all the 'playful' paradoxes Zen Buddhism is famous for here in the West - like 'seeking non-seeking' - it is after all serious business. People make vows. I guess this tends to be forgotten by people like me who come to Zen Buddhism from self help techniques like - dare I say: 'stripped-down' mindfulness meditation. I don't know what Zen Buddhists or Buddhists in general think about Kabat-Zinn and his mission. But I'm a bit wary and here's why:

I suffer from a serious mental illness and one psychiatric clinic promoted mindfulness among its patients. As you might know, that's not so uncommon nowadays. But as soon as I heard that the technique has Buddhist origins, I didn't want to ignore that fact. You see, I was raised an Eastern Orthodox Christian and had learned to think in terms of that particular tradition. So a sense of tradition is very important to me.

User avatar
Meido
Posts: 457
Joined: Mon Mar 21, 2011 2:50 am
Contact:

Re: Seeking enlightenment (satori/bodhi)

Post by Meido » Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:45 pm

MattiV wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 8:13 pm
I don't know what Zen Buddhists or Buddhists in general think about Kabat-Zinn and his mission.
You'll find plenty of opinions here if you search.

Inasmuch as someone might benefit from what's being taught under the banner "mindfulness", wonderful...no need to worry about Buddhism unless it interests one. Now, if it becomes a gateway to interest in exploring Buddhadharma - as it sounds may be have happened in your case - that's exceptionally wonderful.

That being said: I've met a lot of folks who have taken courses in currently popular forms of secularized mindfulness. Many of those having only that background seemed to believe they understood what Buddhist meditation is. They didn't.

~ 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

The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

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

Monlam Tharchin
Posts: 1691
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 am

Re: Seeking enlightenment (satori/bodhi)

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Fri Jan 26, 2018 12:05 am

Thank you Astus, Meido, and Dan for cutting through the fog.
:twothumbsup:

Matylda
Posts: 642
Joined: Mon May 14, 2012 3:32 pm

Re: Seeking enlightenment (satori/bodhi)

Post by Matylda » Fri Jan 26, 2018 12:15 am

Most people nowdays are just very beginners and are like blind cubs still... though they believe in their intelectual power of understanding buddhism or zen...
So they end up in bubbling about no attainemnet, no goal, or whatecer they read and believe to understand.. then there is a lot of talk about wisdom or whatever, even if they have never sensed anything like that..
Zen was never aimless, was not stupid or overloaded with intelectual stupidity.. it is enough to confront any real zen master to wake up from very stupid dreams about zen...
zen needs a lot of effort and practice and close scrutiny by zen master.. then maybe after decades one may arrive at some understanding...

SunWuKong
Posts: 333
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2017 11:15 pm

Re: Seeking enlightenment (satori/bodhi)

Post by SunWuKong » Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:29 am

MattiV wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 8:13 pm
Meido wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2018 5:41 pm
IMO, this whole discussion of "not seeking" in Zen has wasted more time on online forums than any other [...]
I had an inkling that this indeed could be the case :smile: .
Of course Zen practitioners seek awakening and liberation. Their practice, if correct, is founded upon the most profound aspiration and loftiest goals possible. The Four Vows sum up the entirety of Zen.
OK, so despite all the 'playful' paradoxes Zen Buddhism is famous for here in the West - like 'seeking non-seeking' - it is after all serious business. People make vows. I guess this tends to be forgotten by people like me who come to Zen Buddhism from self help techniques like - dare I say: 'stripped-down' mindfulness meditation. I don't know what Zen Buddhists or Buddhists in general think about Kabat-Zinn and his mission. But I'm a bit wary and here's why:

I suffer from a serious mental illness and one psychiatric clinic promoted mindfulness among its patients. As you might know, that's not so uncommon nowadays. But as soon as I heard that the technique has Buddhist origins, I didn't want to ignore that fact. You see, I was raised an Eastern Orthodox Christian and had learned to think in terms of that particular tradition. So a sense of tradition is very important to me.
Welcome to the crowd! I too came from Mindfulness practices to Zen.

Aside from the seeking/not seeking issue, there's a thing that interests me lately. Some times i use breath for an object when i sit, sometimes not. But whether or not i use the breath, i remain quite naturally still, centered, at ease, attention to the fore (e.g. right here with me), presence of mind, restful, relaxed. It might even come more naturally than an object-centered (breath, etc.) as when the attention encounters an empty, peaceful mind, it just drops into center. But maybe its just me? I know in the past with breathing meditation at times i use too much force, it's a personal weakness. I thought it worth adding to the discussion. :anjali:
"We are magical animals that roam" ~ Roam

MattiV
Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2018 2:14 pm

Re: Seeking enlightenment (satori/bodhi)

Post by MattiV » Sun Jan 28, 2018 1:21 am

SunWuKong wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:29 am
Some times i use breath for an object when i sit, sometimes not. But whether or not i use the breath, i remain quite naturally still, centered, at ease, attention to the fore (e.g. right here with me), presence of mind, restful, relaxed. It might even come more naturally than an object-centered (breath, etc.) as when the attention encounters an empty, peaceful mind, it just drops into center. But maybe its just me? I know in the past with breathing meditation at times i use too much force, it's a personal weakness. I thought it worth adding to the discussion. :anjali:
The book I follow (mentioned here) to learn to practice zazen suggests the following steps:
  1. counting the breath from one to ten (at first for about ten minutes, then for twenty minutes etc. until you can comfortably practice
    for about an hour)
  2. 'watching' the breath without counting
  3. 'watching' the mind
  4. simple awareness of the moment
Then he goes on to talk about the walking meditation and all kinds of methods and considerations. Also, he emphasizes that the above
steps are just a rough outline. People develop differently.

Of course, ideally, one would have a teacher to give personalized guidance.

thecowisflying
Posts: 59
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2017 12:35 am

Re: Seeking enlightenment (satori/bodhi)

Post by thecowisflying » Sun Jan 28, 2018 12:36 pm

MattiV wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 1:21 am
SunWuKong wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:29 am
Some times i use breath for an object when i sit, sometimes not. But whether or not i use the breath, i remain quite naturally still, centered, at ease, attention to the fore (e.g. right here with me), presence of mind, restful, relaxed. It might even come more naturally than an object-centered (breath, etc.) as when the attention encounters an empty, peaceful mind, it just drops into center. But maybe its just me? I know in the past with breathing meditation at times i use too much force, it's a personal weakness. I thought it worth adding to the discussion. :anjali:
The book I follow (mentioned here) to learn to practice zazen suggests the following steps:
  1. counting the breath from one to ten (at first for about ten minutes, then for twenty minutes etc. until you can comfortably practice
    for about an hour)
  2. 'watching' the breath without counting
  3. 'watching' the mind
  4. simple awareness of the moment
Then he goes on to talk about the walking meditation and all kinds of methods and considerations. Also, he emphasizes that the above
steps are just a rough outline. People develop differently.

Of course, ideally, one would have a teacher to give personalized guidance.
This sounds a lot more like Tiantai Breath Meditation than Zen, specifically the Six Dharma Gates of the Sublime.

MattiV
Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2018 2:14 pm

Re: Seeking enlightenment (satori/bodhi)

Post by MattiV » Thu Feb 01, 2018 5:08 pm

thecowisflying wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 12:36 pm
This sounds a lot more like Tiantai Breath Meditation than Zen, specifically the Six Dharma Gates of the Sublime.
Thanks for the reference, I'll look into it.

Post Reply

Return to “Zen”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 32 guests