Thursday, August 8, 2013

Zazen: Recoiling from the World, or Being Realised By/In It?

There is an aspect of zazen, an emotional aspect (how one approaches the practice of it), that, I think, is very important but that is not discussed very much in meditation instructions. It's about ones attitude in approaching zazen, and is related (in my case at least) to what one might think zazen is for, and to some dimly held assumptions as to what I am doing in zazen.

Basically, I think a certain constricted/constricting emotional approach to doing zazen can be indicated by contrasting the notions of zazen as being about opening up and being 'realised by the myriad things' and zazen as being a retreat into a sort of numb, never-never zone, or escaping the world by embracing some remote state of 'emptiness'/shunyata or some other such negation.

Dogen seemed to be pretty much about the first position there; about ceasing picking and choosing and allowing our experiences and the things of the world come forth as they are in zazen, and, to Dogen, this 'coming forth as they are' is realisation itself, and is the vivid experience of shunyata, and is the real/realising 'myriad things' coming forward as 'instances of prajna'. This is the view of immanence; about realisation in and through and with all the things of the world. There is quite a stark contrast to be made between this and another strong theme in Buddhist tradition; that of transcendence or sloughing off the world of suffering and things and designations. This latter position, the idea that we can get away from all our troubles, might be very attractive, especially if we are suffering in the world of messy detail. I wonder, however, if it isn't a sort of emotional rejection of life, a type of suicide, to sit and basically reject the world for 30 or 40 minutes at a stretch? I doubt anyone really gets stuck in this sort of practice for too long (zazen seems to have its own sort of inbuilt corrective gravity, but it may be something to watch out for).

All this because I tend to find myself unconsciously sinking into a sort of emotional 'numb' place in zazen from time to time, and this because at that time I am using zazen as a sort of escape from the messy details of life. This isn't emptiness or 'transcendence' however; it's just a sort of emotional dead zone where I hide and rest. I'm sure it has its valid functions at time of stress, but it's not somewhere I think a person should hang out in for very long (especially if I am mistaking it as some state of balance or insight or transcendence or whatever).

This state can be contrasted to practice where everything is clear and vivid, and where any occurrence of 'the myriad things' (a thought, a physical sensation, a sound, a sight etc etc) seems to support and enhance that clarity and awareness, carrying one along in the open current of awake experience with everything presently occurring... Can this sort of practice be validly discussed in terms of 'transcendence'? I think it can, but it would be a mistake to confuse this 'transcendence' with a sort of emotional rejection of life and every thing it contains: It would have to be acknowledged that the 'transcendence' is a function of the very things themselves that are 'transcending', as far as I can see.

In practical terms, it might be the difference between allowing things to exist in zazen in their manifest free condition (and keeping awake to this), and rejecting or avoiding their real existence which, in a very direct sense, may be to reject and avoid a fundamental aspect of how our life is unfolding.

Regards,

Harry.

32 comments:

Dave St.Germain said...

What do you mean by "zazen", and how do you behave in this "emotional dead zone"?
In other words, what practice are you doing that makes you feel dead? And why should you assume that that practice is "zazen"?

Harry said...

Hi Dave,

I mean 'zazen' consistent with the instructions of Dogen Zenji as outlined in Fukanzazengi. I am not too precious about zazen as some perfect reified 'state', but I do find myself noticing and waking up from snoozing and dull mind-states (as described) from time to time, which I think is an important part of doing zazen.

Regards,

Harry.

Dave St.Germain said...

(this comment form is finicky...)

Ok, having read fukanzazengi, what about this:
Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest. If you want to attain suchness, you should practice suchness without delay.
and
Devote your energies to a way that directly indicates the absolute.

in your practice, does "body and mind drop away"?

Harry said...

Hi Dave,

It depends, I suppose, on what you think the translated term 'body and mind dropping away' means (I think it can mean several things).

Body and mind are constantly dropping away because that's just the way we are, but zazen affords the opportunity of more directly experiencing this than we might generally observe.

Allowing physical sensations, mind states, thoughts, perceptions etc to come and go without interference is 'body and mind dropping away', and I suspect everyone does this to some degree from the very start of zazen (even though we might find ourselves getting caught up in thoughts or mind states... which is a good thing, cos then we can stop doing it). But my own feeling is that Dogen also uses that term in another way to indicate a certain stability of awareness that arises where the practitioner is no longer 'pushed around' or befuddled by thoughts (mind) and sensations (body)... He also referred to a state of 'non-thinking' also translated as 'before thinking', or being in a mode of activity where we are aware of thoughts arising and aren't getting caught up in habitual chain-of-thought activity where we hook onto a thought which leads to another, and another, and another... I think anyone who has practiced in this way for a while will be familiar with what Dogen was indicating there. So, 'body and mind dropping away' can mean a few things I think, and, yes, it can be observed pretty soon on in practicing zazen, although the appreciation and very broad ramifications of it can be further appreciated and refined for a very long time, I suspect.

Regards,

Harry.

an3drew said...

"Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest. If you want to attain suchness, you should practice suchness without delay."

body is an image of mind, what is mind an image of : o)


when you see the absence of image, you won't be fooled by crap such as "suchness " : o)

an3drew said...

harry writes

I am not too precious about zazen as some perfect reified 'state', but I do find myself noticing and waking up from snoozing and dull mind-states (as described) from time to time, which I think is an important part of doing zazen.

my

reply


actually

i

think

one

of

the

few

positive benefits of zazen (as opposed to its contraries of creating potentially dangerous impaired/thrombotic circulation restrictions in the legs, joint damage to the knees and hips and disruption of the circadian rhythm)

is you learn

to wake up again as the head drops/nods off which is very useful for driving when you are tired

when i lived in Auckland (ed. new zealand!) and drove out to the west coast beaches i was always nodding off at the wheel when coming back in the dark and it was very dangerous (years before as a teenager i had abad accident possibly nodding off at the wheel and there may have been alcohol in a punch at dance i had just been to and i certainly wasn't used to it !)

now if i think there's any danger of nodding of like that i just pull over for a while ! :o()

oddly dogen is a complete paradigm for zen, not just because he was good at writing volumes of meaningless nonsense that you can pretend means something useful, but his health was a disaster and you can see several instances in his life where he completely missed the boat health wise (sundried msuhrooms contain vitamin D !) and i am sure that zazen contributed to his early demise (from TB !)

my web page on sleep

http://mueller_ranges.tripod.com/links/compendium/sleep.html

Harry said...

"oddly dogen is a complete paradigm for zen, not just because he was good at writing volumes of meaningless nonsense that you can pretend means something useful..."

Hi Andrew,

If you, as a poet, have not learned to appreciate the elasticity (and downright absurdity) of 'truth' and 'meaniong', and the pursuit of it, then I wonder why you'd bother getting out of bed in the morning.

Seems to me that part of growing up is realising the nature of 'truth', and that the 'truths' we convince ourselves are more often no more than redundant swaddling shit. More valid truths may actually involve us unconvincing ourselves.

Again, it seems to be a question of what we are doing with 'truths', it may really be a question of our intention: For example, are we trying to project some comfortingly neat and tidy, or maybe more powerful and confident, image of ourselves to the world...?

People's intentions are usually quite easy to discern from the way in which they express their 'truths'.

Regards,

Harry.

an3drew said...

you can make sense of Emily dickinson and james Thurber, in part because you read them unbutchered by any translator (tho Emily Dickinson is a revelation in her own handwriting and not edited :o)

the trouble with zen is you are taught to revere voynich meaninglessness ......... truly "empty" of course but in acrucifying way.........

you are in denial about there being such a thing as a competent understanding...............

stupidity only hurts ourselves and those close to us and those further away :o()

http://izquotes.com/author/james-thurber/6

Harry said...

"you are in denial about there being such a thing as a competent understanding..............."

Hi Andrew,

No, that's not what I'm saying at all; but it may be what you are reading, based on your intention to do so.

What I'm saying is that 'competent understanding' of 'truth' may be more a matter of intention and experience rather than observing some consensus, 'normalising', remote truth. That sort of 'truth' may offer cold comfort to scared children, but it robs us of some of our more interesting functions in the world.

And, yes, my intention there is to say this to you because your intention seems to stink a lot of the time, as can be clearly seen in your use of language. Zen, for all it's bullshit, recognized one valid thing at least: It's always easier to talk the talk (and, Christ, do we go on...)

Regards,

Harry.

an3drew said...

well don't stand in judgment of me then, despite my seeming to of you, it is not, it's factual and that's what I mean by denial !

no-one is completely right or wrong and I take that view with you too, but you need to unhook your uncritical regard of dogen and nishijima and ask, well what do they have wrong because you have to steer past that

otherwise and this is the most important thing !!!!!!!!!!!

you take on their errors as well as your own and the compounded errors annihilate any hope you have of making progress !

my personal opinion is having seen the inevitability of "married with and without children" come to grief with zen is that the focus needs to be on the observation of your life itself and how it really works, the shards and illusions and momentary realness, the proverbial "wisdom literature" of jesus son of sirach, james Thurber and that sort of thing !

that unitizes the need to support your family and yet takes one somewhat out of the blind following one immediate and non-immediate needs

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

as screwed up as dogen was, he was progressively getting it right and it's apity he died so young, but that's celibacy, you have no other demands on your time and going the extra mile is something you can do, you have very limited opportunity to do that when married or in a relationship let alone with children and no I don't think breaking up relationships is any answer either :o(

most celibates waste their time too, but not all : o ) (

Harry B said...

"no-one is completely right or wrong and I take that view with you too, but you need to unhook your uncritical regard of dogen and nishijima and ask, well what do they have wrong because you have to steer past that."

Hi Andrew,

There's much that I disagree with in both Dogen and Nishijima, and there is much that I've written on this blog that I'm sure they would disagree with. Again, maybe your intention in reading what I write is clouding your idea of my waffle, and your impression of how I hold the 'holy word' of Nishijima and Dogen.

At any rate, that other dysfunctional zen artefact Homeless Kodo said a good one when he was being eyed up by an adoring student (in translation again): "What are you gawping at? Don't you see it's about you!"

Blaming gurus (dead or alive) for our own failings is just another longstanding religious excuse for not taking responsibility for ourselves; a sort of inverted version of adoring them as if the sun rose from their anuses.

I'm all for 'good' judgement. I judge a lot of your commentary to be a load of old dung, and it's quite clear you find much of mine to be a steaming heap too... but that doesn't mean we can't get along! I'll promise not to save your soul if you promise not to save mine: Conversions get so tiring after the fourteenth or fifteenth time.

Regards,

Harry.

an3drew said...

give a specific instance of my writing being dung ! ?

as regarding yours to be dung, I don't find that, like fred of the hardcore zen blog writes complete dung and that's an artform in it's own right :o)

but your belief in zazen is wrong, it's having a contrary effect that's for sure !

sawaki was not dysfunctional in exploring what zen was about, tho to my mind wrong about zazen, he was celibate and therefore not too tied by that impediment !

there is large depth and context to my writing that takes time to work through, but as I say you don't have and don't make the time and you slip away from the issue of celibacy and being celibate which "homeless kodo"/sawaki was

you just hit away not giving the time necessary and as such are like a fish flapping above the tide, I can point it out and you can sorta see it in fact but your unintelligent self-esteem prevents you from taking the right road and looking at what needs looking at !

to get abead on what zen is about you need not to give up when you go through something the 100th time, again married with or without children compared to being celibate does not allow this !

have more respect for yourself, your own thinking and resources are only impeded by the cake tin box of zen :o)

if you read eihei dogen, kodod sawaki,ekahu hakuin etc. you realize how difficult
this process is, why married types with many competing responsibilities think that the 1/8th arse approach they take yields anything except going in the wrong direction I don't know !

and for your information harry I have spent my entire lifetime on this one way or another, most of that time unintentionally celibate and done the work and gone through the difficulty which involves some sort of trajectory aligned with death which is why I can't recommend the process at all !

married/relationship/children, that trajectory with death doesn't match at all so that is why my recommendation as per my previous post is a "wisdom literature" and naturalistic approach

you haven't done a fucking thing except go down the wrong road of egoic investment in voynich and crap and have the cheek to say my writing which you neither investigate or understand is dung !

every word I write bleeds me and stands me on the verge of death, when you understand zen you will understand that, but until then, NO !

Harry said...

Hi Andrew,

You needn't take it so personally (as per your own advice on 'egoic investment'). I think your means of expressing what you want to say (in writing, that is) is very good, but I think much of what you are meaning to say about Buddhism and other people is misguided, egoistic dung; much like you think that I am way wide of the mark in a similar fashion. C'est la vie.

At any rate, I very much agree with your idea about 'egoistic investment' (even if I do observe that the term 'ego' is often used in misguided/misguiding ways), so, we big boys and girls who are not too convinced (or claim to be not too convinced) by the little voices in our head need not take it all too personally.

Regards,

Harry.

Dave St.Germain said...

Putting aside the matter of who is more full of dung, what about the point of your blog post? You wondered whether there's a side of "zazen" that is an escape from the world, and you find yourself emotionally numb as a result of your meditation.
But when I asked what you mean by zazen in the first place, you said you do just like what dogen says. Among those things is "Devote your energies to a way that directly indicates the absolute". So, how do you do that? You seem to be avoiding the elephant in the room – maybe your conception of zazen isn't what dogen had in mind, or at the very least, maybe you're doing something wrong! Is that a possibility for you to consider?

Some Christians practice contemplative prayer. Do they report an emotional numbness? There's a wide variety of meditative styles and "ways of directly indicating the absolute"; what makes you think that what you're doing is worthwhile? I've heard a definition of shikantaza that sounds a lot different from how it's often described by Dogen fanatics.

The point is, if what you're doing makes you feel inert and as if you're escaping from the world, then do something else!

Oh, that reminds me. I came across a video that might help, too. :)

Harry B said...

Hi Dave,

You seem to have missed the point of my post, which was to indicate something in practicing zazen that I stop doing when I find myself doing it. If it was an unavoidable aspect of sitting on a cushion then I would surely stop doing it, but it's not. It's just something that I find arising from time to time and I think it's a pitfall that may be important to indicate, because it seems to me that meditation is sometimes used as an escape from life as opposed a way of engaging with life and the world in a more direct way.

You wrote: "You seem to be avoiding the elephant in the room – maybe your conception of zazen isn't what dogen had in mind, or at the very least, maybe you're doing something wrong! Is that a possibility for you to consider?"

Maybe that's always good to consider, but simply sitting on a cushion isn't wrong until we start picking and choosing or otherwise making it 'wrong'. The clarification of sitting; noticing the various habits or 'pitfalls' (such as doubt, zoning out, daydreaming, boredom, emotional retreat etc etc or whatever), is all part of it.

"Some Christians practice contemplative prayer. Do they report an emotional numbness?"

I don't know, but I suspect they have their own sets of issues which arise in doing their practices.

"There's a wide variety of meditative styles and "ways of directly indicating the absolute"; what makes you think that what you're doing is worthwhile?"

I think the 'absolute' can be a very fluzzy (mix of 'fluffy' and 'fuzzy') concept. So it depends on what you mean by that. I don't believe in an 'absolute', and I think the notion can be a dangerous religious concept. Any 'absolute' contingent on my belief in it can't be that absolute.

"I've heard a definition of shikantaza that sounds a lot different from how it's often described by Dogen fanatics."

Can't be any harm in diversity. I've heard of several other definitions myself, some from within Soto Zen, which claims to have Dogen as its Japanese founder. I've practiced many types of meditation, including koan zazen, breath practices, and visualisations from the Tibetan Kagyu and Dzogchen movements, and I think all can be valid, but at the end of the day I think people will just go the way that seems the best for them.

Regards,

Harry.

Harry B said...

...BTW, nice to 'e-meet' you. How are you doing?

an3drew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
an3drew said...

harry writes "but at the end of the day I think people will just go the way that seems the best for them"

see that's voynich, you need to be guided by the sense of infinity which can be quite contrary to what we think is best for us ! :o)


this is the hard work as you have to test and observe and really disturbs your life

if you read dogen he talks about sitting out under the trees and that sort of thing, the last retreat I ever attended had us all boxed up inside the rotoiti lodge outdoor education centre at lake rotoiti in the south island of new zealand in mid summer in a spectacularly beautiful area when we should have all been roaming those hills and water.................... it was quite clear that neither john loori or anyone else had the slightest understanding of what zen was about :o)

that fugue with infinity in beautiful natural surroundings
:o)

congratulations on handling my post btw harry, skillful even and not banning me is so much more real than what passes for zen on the internet with the precious "zen masters" and know-it alls who can't tolerate one criticism before banning :o)

none of us are that open most of the time, but not forcibly removing what we don't like is the hugest step forward :o)

Harry said...

Hi Andrew,

That 'the truth should hurt' is actually very Catholic. I always suspected that you were an undercover priest what with all that talk of celibacy and wanking! :-p

I just ignore your offensive remarks, Andrew, so no great skill involved on my part there. I do think you are letting yourself down as a poet and a person in making those remarks, so that's how that works.

I don't believe our sense organs can comprehend infinity, however much we might like to 'think' they can; so I won't be vying with God or whoever on that front.

Regards,

Harry.

an3drew said...

politeness is the sham walls of social deceit

Harry said...

If your intention was clarified it wouldn't be an issue. You are merely replacing the 'sham walls' of politeness with your own glaringly apparent (and rather unconvincing) sham walls.

I can tolerate a poet being offensive when the intention is good (as will be apparent in the context and in his/her language) but I really have little time for a poet who is repetitive and boring due to shallow self indulgence.

Do try harder.

Regards,

Harry.

an3drew said...

since you have so little time then I would suggest you don't "bore" yourself by replying to me :o)

Harry said...

Hi Andrew,

Well, yes, that was my approach until recently as you may have noticed but, you know, sometimes its just good to chat. I may go back to "bore" mode very soon until you stumble upon something remotely interesting again.

Regards,

Harry.

Dave St.Germain said...

Hi Harry,
Not to continue a thread that you may want to move on from, but since you e-greeted me, it's only right and proper to respond. :)
Nice to meet you. I'm fine; how are you?

You said:
"The clarification of sitting; noticing the various habits or 'pitfalls' (such as doubt, zoning out, daydreaming, boredom, emotional retreat etc etc or whatever), is all part of it. "

The clarification also includes why you sit there in the first place. What's the direction? I understand the Soto way is often described as "goalless", but I find that's often applied too sloppily, as an excuse not to engage with intention or acknowledge hidden desires. I mean, why do you get out of bed in the morning? Someone told me, "everyone serves something/someone"...so, who or what do you serve?

You also said:
" I don't believe in an 'absolute', and I think the notion can be a dangerous religious concept. Any 'absolute' contingent on my belief in it can't be that absolute."

For the people who go on and on about Infinity/Absolute/God, it's no longer about belief, any more than you can say you believe in the chair you're sitting on.

Yesterday's find in a used bookstore is "Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist (the eastern and western way)" by D.T. Suzuki from 1957. He compares Meister Eckhart with various Buddhist mystics, including some interesting perspective on Pure Land which I've never given much thought about. In a chapter called "The Basis of Buddhist Philosophy", he says:
"Enlightenment consists in seeing into the meaning of life as the interplay of the relative ego with the absolute ego. In other words, enlightenment is seeing the absolute ego as reflected in the relative ego and acting through it."

Well, maybe this comment is more appropriate for your other post, so I'll leave it at that.

Finally, it's fascinating to read the back and forth bickering here, and the defensive postures coming into play. It's important to look at these postures. For instance, you said: "we big boys and girls who are not too convinced (or claim to be not too convinced) by the little voices in our head need not take it all too personally." But your tone in subsequent comments certainly indicates that you're taking it personally. Otherwise, why would you think any of it is "offensive"? If you can acknowledge the unreality of the whole kit-and-kaboodle, then these comments aren't offensive or words to be selectively ignored. What fixed "person" is there to offend? Then, you can engage with the underlying content, however clumsily worded.

Dave

Harry said...

"we big boys and girls who are not too convinced (or claim to be not too convinced) by the little voices in our head need not take it all too personally." But your tone in subsequent comments certainly indicates that you're taking it personally. Otherwise, why would you think any of it is "offensive"?

----------

Hi, Dave.

I'm pretty good, thanks, but am a bit busy with a house move.

The 'we big boys and girls statement' was a bit tongue-in-cheek. A part of the troll bating that goes on on Buddhist blogs/forums has a lot to do with this notion that a Buddhist practitioner should have 'transcended the ego'. I think that's a load of waffle actually. We need a sense of self to exist in the world, otherwise we'd think nothing of eating shit rather than chocolate ice cream, for example, and then Buddhism would just be more of a nonsense that we already make of it (this sort of interpretation is not uncommon, but is more like ultra-self indulgent libertinism than Buddhism). We can, however, I think, view the self in a broader context in zazen. But, yes, I am no great Buddhist mystic or yogi or guru and I have never claimed to be, and I often screw up. At the end of the day, if someone comes on a blog and acts like an asshole then maybe he/she deserves to have it pointed out. Our friend Andrew has done it on many other Buddhist blogs causing the authors to enable comment moderation... and he seems to think this is a failing of those blog authors, not a failing of his own in his not being able to regulate his urge to say nasty things to/about people. That someone who is basically acting like an ass may be 'channelling the infinite/absolute' is exactly the sort of waffle that will inhibit progress in practice, and very possibly inhibit that person making the right sort of effort.

>>>If you can acknowledge the unreality of the whole kit-and-kaboodle, then these comments aren't offensive or words to be selectively ignored. What fixed "person" is there to offend? Then, you can engage with the underlying content, however clumsily worded.<<<<

I don't agree with this. This leads to the sloppy arrangement where I am taking up the slack for someone else's lack of effort, which really isn't fair to the other party in the long run. I think those other blog authors who moderate are being kind to Andrew in not facilitating him indulging his gross urges on their blogs.

There is nothing manifest that is not real. Interpreting shunyata/emptiness as 'unreality' is a mistake which leads to nihilistic conclusions. The intention of shunyata is rather to point to the nature of real, manifest things (in all their great diversity).

A lot of people seem to (however shallowly) observe that 'form is emptiness' as per the famous statement in the Heart Sutra... and then everything is empty, empty, empty; so why shouldn't I act and say whatever I want, because you can't 'hurt' and empty thing and surely pain is just empty? But fewer seem to realise the moral implications of where the Heart Sutra goes on to say '...and emptiness is form'.

The simple thing is to see this as some sort of cute philosophical paradox. The not-so-easy thing is to see it as an imperative in how we act. The even not-so-easier thing is to do this within all the messy details of a life. Zazen is really the easy bit in many regards IMO: It's easy to be moral and to abide with what the Sutra is indicating on the cushion, not so in the quick of the moment off the cushion.

As to what I serve: I suppose I serve the present situation... not always well, I may add, but I just try to do what's best given what's going on.

All the best,

Harry.

Dave St.Germain said...

"We need a sense of self to exist in the world, otherwise we'd think nothing of eating shit rather than chocolate ice cream, for example, and then Buddhism would just be more of a nonsense that we already make of it (this sort of interpretation is not uncommon, but is more like ultra-self indulgent libertinism than Buddhism). We can, however, I think, view the self in a broader context in zazen."

Well, I never brought up eating shit thinking it chocolate ice cream; my point was to inquire about what it is you're defending (or feeling offended by).

"That someone who is basically acting like an ass may be 'channelling the infinite/absolute' is exactly the sort of waffle that will inhibit progress in practice, and very possibly inhibit that person making the right sort of effort."

While that may be true, what about your reaction. That's really what you have control over. You perceive someone as an ass, and so you react with hostility or by ignoring. But what makes you feel offended in the first place? If somebody told me, in the harshest possible way, that I suck at golf and will never make it in the golf circuit, I'd find that very strange because I don't play golf and have no interest in playing the game. How could I be offended by something so irrelevant?
I'm offended when something cuts close to home – when it touches on an insecurity I already have. At those times, I have to look at what makes me feel uncomfortable about the words, what does it say about me? Alternatively, I could punch the other person in the face and feel like I've really taught him a lesson in manners...

"This leads to the sloppy arrangement where I am taking up the slack for someone else's lack of effort, which really isn't fair to the other party in the long run."

It may not seem fair, but compassion involves taking up a lot of slack for everybody else. If you start thinking it's unfair, you increase the separation (I'm in the right here! I'm not going to be kind until you're kind!). Today I was driving on the highway, and a guy in a minivan pulled in front of me and proceeded to fiddle with his phone while slowing down and swerving back and forth (he was driving his family, I should add). Wanting not to be behind a potential accident, I passed him on the right and slowed down to a reasonable speed. He then honked and passed me on the right. As he passed, I could see him scowl at me and say, "what the fuck?!" You know, "how dare you upset my reckless driving!"

I agree with your assessment about the moral implications of the Heart Sutra, but what does this have to do with protecting yourself, your opinions, and so on? Although it can give you a compass as to how to treat other people, it doesn't prescribe how other people should treat you. At the end of the day, what is it that offends you, and why?

The "dropping ashes on the buddha" koan deals with this form = emptiness problem. So, what are you supposed to do? Walk away? Call the police? Shoot the man? If you feel like the person's understanding isn't right, you try to help however you can.

"As to what I serve: I suppose I serve the present situation... not always well, I may add, but I just try to do what's best given what's going on."

If I could be so bold, I'll say that the direction of meditative practice is to figure out without a doubt what it is you're serving and how to function in the present situation.
Another thing I could say is that a dog serves the present situation, too. When it's time to eat, he runs to the bowl; when a car goes by, he barks. How is your "serving" any different?

Dave

P.S. moving a house is such a pain; that's one of the reasons why I built my house on wheels. :-)

Harry said...

"I agree with your assessment about the moral implications of the Heart Sutra, but what does this have to do with protecting yourself, your opinions, and so on? Although it can give you a compass as to how to treat other people, it doesn't prescribe how other people should treat you. At the end of the day, what is it that offends you, and why?"

Hi Dave,

That's an interesting post.

Basically, I think my opinions are fair game for any sort of criticism, and I don't mind them being challenged in a constructive way, or even a remotely reasonable but challenging way. I don't think that is dear Andrew's sole agenda by a long stretch however. Again, it's not what's said, it's how it's said and, more importantly, the intention for saying it that is apparent in the language. I think he just gets some twisted kick out of being unpleasant, and I think that's regrettable, because I have reason to believe that he's actually not really like that. Regardless of what Buddhism says, he just needs to try harder. I might be wrong on that, but I don't think so.

"If I could be so bold, I'll say that the direction of meditative practice is to figure out without a doubt what it is you're serving and how to function in the present situation."

If I could be so bold, I'll say that if you've figured out what it is we're serving then we might be deluding ourselves because we can't hope to understand anything other than our own disposition.

"Another thing I could say is that a dog serves the present situation, too. When it's time to eat, he runs to the bowl; when a car goes by, he barks. How is your "serving" any different?"

People are different from dogs in several respects. I can only really realistically aspire to understand one person in particular, and even that one seems to throw up some strange surprises (and dogs do too, I think).

Anyway, this is all getting to be a bit like an unwatchable episode of Oprah, so I'm going to go pack some boxes or something with a view to getting them on wheels.

I'm going to let it all slide and stop making the same old Buddhist blog/forum stink that is catered for in so many other places. Encouraging troll-like behaviour (either my own or others') is not what this misguided enterprise is about (if it's about anything at all!)

Regards,

Harry.

Andy said...

Dave St. Germaine, "have you heard the expression, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”?

Judging by the how often you comment, time seems not to be an issue for you. So, why do you blab so indiscriminately?..."

I didn't want to resist that one.

On a slightly less self-serving note, whereas only one of the three contributors to the above discussion evince a long-standing commitment to the practise on which they pronounce, it does seem that everyone has been involved in the same core practice: that of honing their choice mode of expression through written dialogue on a subject of 'importance'.

Re your words on an 'emotional dead zone' in practice, I have noticed that often, but not always, that I gravitate towards the kind of linguistic challenge I've suggested above when I'm going through a similar (what I'd call) 'battening down phase' on the cushion.

Something to do with entering into moments of intellectual magnanimity, a cypher and syphon for some vulnerability, which in itself, I've found acts like a kind of scaffold for that vulnerability. A vulnerability which then yearns/leans/floods towards a free open play - both linguistically, on the cushion, and in other aspects of my life.

And so I wonder, also, if ironically, the tendency in some quarters of the zen et al world to disavow or put derogatory limits on intellectual play (and taking it too seriously being one of those ways) might also play a part in inhibiting the fruition of other modes of expression. The kind as unsure about the turn it's taking as the twists which led to it?

Harry said...

Hi Andy,

Yes, good points. Real 'play' is powerful, and it can be hard for me to remember how to do at times cos I obscure it with my shoddy agendas (and this from someone who is required to 'play' music from time to time as part of my livelihood).

Humour seems important too. The old koan cases are full of it, but it rarely makes it into our 'serious' and emotionally sanitized cartoon perceptions of 'what zen is' methinks.

Regards,

Harry.

andy said...

I certainly obscure it with my shoddy agendas.

But I'm starting to realise more often that I'm obscuring it with my 'shoddy agendas' too.

The intellectual magnanimity which I spoke about above is also a form of formal, moral/ethical play, like wearing a suit, which is amusing considering I'm all pink and hairy, and everyone's knows it.

And then there's that free open Play with a big P, which can become a kind of suit too (see fast on e.e. cummings imitators, or professional hipsters).

For me the crux appears to be where we have to and have been in the midst of painful necessities (imagined or real) playing out; how, clinging to that branch with our teeth the joke seemed, at best far too tragic for it to be funny, or sadly too grievously absurd.

And yet there I am, Frank Spencer.


Harry said...

Dear Frank/ Andy,

"I certainly obscure it with my shoddy agendas.

But I'm starting to realise more often that I'm obscuring it with my 'shoddy agendas' too."

I'll bow to them apples.

"I'm all pink and hairy, and everyone's knows it."

I'll happily accept your word on that one. ;-)

"And then there's that free open Play with a big P, which can become a kind of suit too (see fast on e.e. cummings imitators, or professional hipsters)."

Yes, indeed. Although, imitation itself can be a form of free play too, but I get what you mean (and again maybe the difference between mere imitation and play is a matter of the intention and/or lack of).

"For me the crux appears to be where we have to and have been in the midst of painful necessities (imagined or real) playing out; how, clinging to that branch with our teeth the joke seemed, at best far too tragic for it to be funny, or sadly too grievously absurd."

Yes, Dogen used a nice term that Nishijima/Cross translated as 'the pivot point' (the pivot of the clinging jaw?): turning a flower or being turned, or turning a flower while being turned... When the shit hits the fan it's not at all always easy to see it in those clear terms however, as I think you indicate.

Regards,

Harry.

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