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TOPIC: Sucking, not sucking, and personhood

Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 07 Jan 2011 13:06 #944

"As I recall Chris' story of his experience, it, too, has this sense of being an unexpected, subtle recognition of what has never been elsewhere or unavailable, or from which any of us is disqualified."

Yep.

What was subtle about it was the ever-so-slight change in perspective - the razor's edge aspect - but the practical effect was world-shattering.
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 07 Jan 2011 17:28 #945

This perennial instant/gradual conversation will probably keep coming up as long as there are practitioners ;-)

My growing conviction is that:

innate buddhahood is to be taken literally, it isn't a model or a skillful means (although it is that too, sure). There is something about us which is always true, but yet isn't a fact about experience such as the three characteristics, which needs to be recognized in order to be actualized.

No, the actual nature of our experience right here and now is that it is happening to a buddha, literally. Few if any first appreciate this and then live from this appreciation forever after, just like that. For myself and everyone I know there is, following insight into this core truth of our nature, a process of learning to see and understand the mechanism by which we fail to appreciate this natural state.

But it's not like the natural state is there when you do something like "recognize" it, or "appreciate" it, and is not there when you don't. It's literally always there, and it IS awake. And furthermore it occurs to me more and more that practice which is based on relying on this simply has to become more of a non-practice practice. Then life expresses this nature here and now, instead of expressing our dualistic tensions.

As for the mechanism of "missing" this, it seems tied to holding a standard by which to evaluate thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions. So for example it's like "yes, I just thought that; no I definitely didn't just think that; I did feel this, but I should feel this other way instead" and so on. I think of this as like a five second tape delay, like they use on "live" television to censor anything inappropriate.

In the first fresh instant of any "moment" (live experience) everything is arising as a clarity-movement of this open clearing, and that each is dependently arisen on all and all is dependant on the clearing is just simply, humbly clear without any pretense or sense of specialness in this.

Even if the "standard" arises, if it is seen in that first fresh instant, it is just part of the clarity flow and no problem, like any other arising-- anger, fear, jealousy, and so on. There is no "suffering" although there are all emotions and physical pain and thoughts, but it's like things reflected in a very clear pure mirror: it is just simply clear that nothing "stains".

But if the standard arises and "tricks" me, then I am definitely in suffering! And there is no way to "practice" without such a standard. On the other hand, there is no stopping a progressive series of transformative insights or deepening stages of concentration from arising in non-practice either. In retrospect, I have to admit than even shifts and attainments which arose during a "gaining" practice, while practicing with a "standard", actually only occurred in a moment of dropping the standard and being completely authentic in that moment!!!

So I am inclined to be skeptical when folks attribute any shifts or attainments to deliberate effortful practice, and wonder if upon reflection they find a "letting go" moment preceding or accompanying the permanent shift rather than a continuous effort leading to a change. Please note that I am not denying the obvious fact that we undergo a process or many processes, nor am I downplaying the importance of these shifts and processes to our lives, senses of identity and our relations. I am merely questioning-- based on honest self-assessment-- whether anything "I" ever "did" lead to such shifts or progress, or whether in fact it wasn't a simple letting go of some layer of "I" and "doing" which unfettered a corresponding quality or capacity of innate buddhahood to play out more freely in my life.

Insofar as there is a trajectory to this, it seems to be a gaining confidence in this natural state, which is synonymous with relying on it or taking refuge in it rather than taking refuge in conditioned arisings. Meanwhile, this natural state in no way is unconditioned as opposed to conditioned. It's all-inclusive, humbly and naturally, without artifice. Everything which arises is completely inseparable from it. This fact is the key to the non-practice practice; and ignoring this fact is the key to holding a "standard" of what is and isn't acceptable to arise.

Believing in the standard and living from it is more or less unsatisfying and alienating. Appreciating and living from this naturally awake wholeness is simple, free, clear, and easy. This key point is especially important once some recognition or appreciation of this natural state has occurred, since the natural and understandable tendency at this point is to then start to revise the "standard" in order to try to engineer this natural state's continuity.

We take a snapshot of whatever is happening on the conditioned level of our being in a moment of recognition and try to create a standard which will give us "access" to our natural state. Careful examination shows-- IMO- that this is a dead end, as are any notions of training in innate buddhahood other than the admittedly challenging non-practice practice of relying on this innate nature in both daily life and formal sitting. Letting go of any notion that an extraordinary experience has to arise to confirm innate buddhahood, just rest here-and-now in the first fresh instant of experience. There is a complete continuity of clarity here which is never stained or distorted. A mental-emotional movement of anger is exactly equal to a mind-blowing experience of "awakening"-- in the first fresh instant it arises!!!

Again, to emphasise: my understanding is that such a non-practice practice is based on a clear appreciation of the dynamics of buddhanature/delusion. At first it is based on a clarifying understanding of buddhanature, then a progressively deeply felt-understanding of delusion. In order to practice this way, first there must be clear insight into innate awakeness. Then this must be followed up with growing appreciation of the dynamics of delusion, of "missing it", understood in the context of this innate awakeness. These together form a very easy-going, non-dramatic life and practice of increasing ease and clarity.
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 07 Jan 2011 17:49 #946

Jake, thank you for this very clearly written post.

If I may, I'd like to discuss just one small fraction of it. You wrote...

"So I am inclined to be skeptical when folks attribute any shifts or attainments to deliberate effortful practice, and wonder if upon reflection they find a 'letting go' moment preceding or accompanying the permanent shift rather than a continuous effort leading to a change."

I think you're touching on something really important here, Jake. In fact, I think the two of us are highlighting different aspects of the same process.

One of the key ideas of early Buddhism (or key insights of the Buddha as stated in the Pali canon) is that it is possible to develop a skill. This is true on a very basic, mundane level of experience. If I want to learn how to drive a car, I can (assuming I am physically and mentally developed enough to perform the task). It may take some time, but I can learn to do all of the activities that result in driving a car from point 'A' to point 'B'. The same is true for learning a musical instrument. I can, through practice, learn to use my fingers to push keys or frets in a way that produces a sound I want to play. So far so good, yeah?

So, when we talk about "effort", that's the kind of effort I'm referring to - the effort involved in learning a skill. The "skill" being developed could very well be a non-action, like surrender, or relaxation. Or, it could be an active "doing", like noting or anapanasati. In either case, through practice I am developing a skill I did not have before.

Personally, I see meditative training in a similar light. The various stages of meditation are designed to bring one to an optimal condition, which then allows a going beyond conditions. It's a way of gaming the system, so to speak. A way of reaching non-doing through doing, or non-action through action. This paradox is difficult to explain, but is experienced very clearly through practice. From a Progress of Insight point of view, the whole point of navigating the stages is to make one's way to the Equanimity ñana. For, it is from this quality of mindful, non-judgmental attention that gives way to release. Prior to release, letting go is necessary. There are technologies of awakening that set one's body/mind up in such a way that allows them to let go in just the right way.

Perhaps some people can just let go, just surrender, in just the right way to experience release. I have not met very many people for which this is the case, but I'm not denying the possibility. So, I'm not saying that awakening is achieved through effort alone. But I am suggesting that the effort/non-effort (meditation/non-meditation) dichotomy doesn't really hold up to experience. Both aspects affect the process of practice-realization. There's a play of back-and-forth sometimes, as one balances their way to release.

What do you think?

Jackson
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 07 Jan 2011 20:22 #947

"But it's not like the natural state is there when you do something like "recognize" it, or "appreciate" it, and is not there when you don't. It's literally always there, and it IS awake. And furthermore it occurs to me more and more that practice which is based on relying on this simply has to become more of a non-practice practice. Then life expresses this nature here and now, instead of expressing our dualistic tensions."

Yes. This is why I describe certain experiences as an uncovering, unveiling, or radical simplification. It is a revealing of what is already there but hidden by conditioning, habit and all means of obscuration.
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 07 Jan 2011 20:33 #948

I used to do this thing, that doesn't seem to work as well anymore, in which I would tell myself "there is no buddha," "there is no zen," "there is no practice, god, jesus, etc." as those were just thoughts and concepts and images in all of our minds. As I'd say it, I was able to really see it and believe it. Most of the time, then, the world would begin to look bright and luminous all around me and my body and mind would feel weightless and free of friction and everything was cool. There have been times when I could sustain this for hours or days at a time and times when it only lasted an instant.
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 07 Jan 2011 21:17 #949

Hi Jackson, well thought out and clearly written yourself!

Yes, I think when you and I carefully define our terms there is often more overlap than at first glance. When you give such a meaning to effort, then I would say: yes, with proper effort, progress happens. Quite right.

Again, there is something already true about us which IS this proper effort. And the progress that counts is the progressive dropping of layers of artificiality and self-manipulation, which increasingly reveals the already-operative activity (effort) of the natural state. This goes for all the myriad facets of the jewel of primordial awakening. Whatever we could set up as a "standard", and then try to adjust our experience to be "more like that", whether right effort, patience, concentration or what have you, there is something primal in the "first instant" which corresponds to the given quality and is already operative in our experiencing. Investigation seems to reveal (to me, needless to say!) that all of experience, even the secondary and tertiary "folds" that arise "after" the first instant, are enabled by these qualities and capacities of primordial experience. So I do think that the basic orientation towards practice can radically shift as we become disinclined to cultivate from those secondary and tertiary levels of derivative aspects and instead content ourselves with bringing forth the primal qualities. I say "content ourselves" because it seems that at this point the emphasis is much more on ordinary states of consciousness rather than special yogic states, but in any case, whatever conditioned state is arising, appreciated as part of the natural state.

If someone, like me or you or just abut anyone I know, needs to start out by experimenting with such secondary and tertiary practice, in order to optimize conditions to see beyond them as you say, then so be it-- nothing wrong with that. It's just that, in retrospect, it seems wise to acknowledge what was going on. Why? Well, I think for a very important reason! Namely, when you arrange conditions to realize that which is beyond them, you are playing a very tricky game; not understanding what is going on leads to some very funny results.

In my own practice I have seen beyond conditions in at least two ways, by optimizing conditions (practicing, i.e.) according to two different paradigms. The progress of insight, 11th nana, and cessation on the one hand and shamatha leading to the self-clearing of primal innate wakefulness on the other. IN each case there was an increasing similarity at the point closest to the insight-- i.e., high EQ and stable calm abiding are very similar-- but the next point, cessation and the natural state respectively, couldn't be more different, while the practices leading up to the convergence point are also quite different.

The nature of the practices paradoxically conditioned the understanding of the unconditioned in profound and subtle ways, divergent ways. I believe this is likely due to the mechanism I alluded to above, namely, we take a snapshot of what's happening on the conditioned level when we have our insight beyond conditions, and then immediately use that snapshot as a reference point for understanding the unconditioned. This seems to be where huge battles over the metaphysics of enlightenment come in.

Compare the Pali metaphysics to the major Mahayana varients, Madhyamaka and Yogachara, and the latter to each other. Compare the conventional Mahayana metaphysics to that of primordial schools like Chan, Shin or Vajrayana. In each case there is a variable specification of what to "do" in order to glimpse freedom beyond conditions. Depending on how "loaded" that initial orientation is in terms of how much gaining idea and how much self-effort, the subsequent interpretations of what reality is seem to differ greatly.

Furthermore I shall be straight with you and say, I don't believe all such interpretations are "equal". So I'm also saying that I'm not sure all modes of practice based on them are "equal". However, the ultimate criteria for which orientation is "right" for a given practitioner at a given time is which is getting traction at that time.

On the other hand, based on where I'm at now, I look back at that last paragraph and I have to say: well, that was all fine when I hadn't seen these dynamics of the "standard" and of non-practice. But having seen these things, the whole notion that there is something in my experience which needs to be reformed in any way is absurd. The problem, such as it is, is something like this:

In the first instant, whatever "pops up" is completely perfect and inalienably belongs to awake wholeness. No arising has any intrinsic karmic momentum in terms of compelling further thought or acts of word or deed. In the second moment, in applying the "standard", everything which is arising is given an illusory "spin" with an illusory sort of past and future (I'm not saying time is illusory, that's nonsense, just that there are illusory modes of past present and future). At that point I'm in the soup!

Now, how does that relate to what we're talking about? Well, like this: as the conditions under which I can reliably see the "standard" for what "it" ( he natural state) is expand, I gradually gain skill (nod to what you are saying) at remaining in authenticity, in the first instant. In terms of gaining this skill there has definitely been a general progress from being able to rest there while sitting quietly in a state free from most thoughts and feelings, to extending into sitting quietly while all manner of thoughts and feelings arise, to walking and driving, to perpetuating thoughts or deliberately thinking about something (rather than just allowing initial thoughts to arise and dissolve; allowing prapanca, in other words), to talking a little, and so on.

These last two points are key, because they are the cutting edge of my non-practice practice, my developing skill in abiding peacefully in the first instant. When engaging in a chain of thoughts, such as I seem to require for understanding what someone else is saying or for responding in situations like this (though not for interacting in less intellectually engaged social settings) my non-practice practice is more challenging. So it's easier to enter into a secondary level of experiencing in which I can take a construction for granted and become hypnotized by the assumption that something needs to change here (in order to be awake, free and peaceful).

On a side note, I will re-iterate what I said above in a few places, but in a different way. I don't think there's anything wrong with seeking and exerting effort. I just think it's nice when my teachers and sangha are telling me that I am already free, and pointing out my innate nature in myriad skillful friendly ways, while also acknowledging a host of skillful ways to come to this insight for myself. I sense that all forms of spiritual discourse, and all elitist communities which go with them, which are based on the notion that something needs to change are violent, a violation of true nature. I don't want to lay those trips on anyone anymore, and I don't want them laid on me. I don't want anyone laying them on anyone! That's really my chief "temperament", perhaps.

And I think it's difficult to overestimate the key value and importance of the interactive dimension of the path. This is really key, and not just or even especially in terms of practice guidance so much as the reinforcing or illuminating critique of key assumptions (view teaching). Just like how we are parented and our relationships with siblings will have a huge impact on how we are as adults, so will how we are mentored and our peer relationships on the path have a huge influence on how we manifest realization or fruition later on. And just as an adult with less-than-stellar parents can re-learn how to be an adult often only with hard painful work, so too a practitioner with some liberation whose practice and development occurred in a dysfunctional community still has that liberation but may need a lot of soul-searching to express it in a healthy way.

So I guess the ideal, for me, is a situation in which the view which orients practice is radically clear and simple and pure and constantly points at this truth and reinforces this truth, both between teacher and student and student and student-- between all practitioner-peers whatever each one's depth of understanding. And at the same time, there are an endless host of practices which can be employed on a secondary level to come to this direct insight for oneself. But having come to it, my experience is that a combination of relying on this primal dimension in everyday life as well as sitting (rather than, from this point on, practicing with a gaining idea) combined with as many interactions as possible on the level of buddha-meeting-buddha in which this first instant is affirmed and pointed out and celebrated, IS the optimal arrangement of conditions-- at least for me! ;-)

"Perhaps some people can just let go, just surrender, in just the right
way to experience release. I have not met very many people for which
this is the case, but I'm not denying the possibility".

I hear you, like I said, I hear those folks are exceedingly rare, and it's a moot point cuz you either are or you aren't! However, I think that a simple shamatha practice of calm-abiding here and now, using one of the senses, an imagined object, the whole body, or the whole sensorium, combined with clear view teachings about the natural state and exploration of the assumptions one has about what "awakening" "should" look like, is a potent approach with little room for reinforcing the sense of doer-ship or inauthenticity.

I suppose noting practice could totally function in such a context and be an amazing vehicle for really helping people to discover and rely on their true nature, but someone with an affinity for and skill in that practice mode would have to frame it that way. I like Howard Cohen's talks on dharmaseed, he seems great at this integration of vipassana, advaita, zen and dzogchen/mahamudra..

And there's nothing wrong with being straightforward about any map of progress such as the progress of insight, the stages of mahamudra or semde or so on. But it's good to remember that the experiences and stages and states aren't really the point, and that not everyone has an affinity for the yogic exploration of consciousness which such maps and practicing according to them entail. The practice I outlined two paragraphs up seems to have the advantage that for those with no natural desire to seek such an adventure in consciousness as is entailed by hard-core developmental practice, but who nevertheless intuit that life can be easier and that they can be kinder and more easy-going, can still come to an understanding of their true nature which transforms the way they experience themselves and their life and relationships!!! And for the record, I'm talking about them becoming living buddhas, in Bankei's terminology-- not saying that they are settling for second best, for a sort of householder life inspired by dharma. I'm suggesting that folks can come to a deep transformational awakening without passing through all the stages and states of yogic exploration of the highs and lows and nears and fars, the macros and micros and so on. All that stuff is fun (mostly, and if you have the time to log the long cushion hours) but I firmly believe it's entirely secondary to awakening (even if some sort of process is central to awakening for 99.999999%, and usually involves the training of attentional capacity for sure!!!).
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 07 Jan 2011 21:32 #950

"Yes. This is why I describe certain experiences as an uncovering,
unveiling, or radical simplification. It is a revealing of what is
already there but hidden by conditioning, habit and all means of
obscuration." Chris

Yeah, totally!
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 07 Jan 2011 22:21 #951

Hey Jake, you make a lot of great points. A few notes...



"Furthermore I shall be straight with you and say, I don't believe all such interpretations are 'equal'. So I'm also saying that I'm not sure all modes of practice based on them are 'equal'. However, the ultimate criteria for which orientation is 'right' for a given practitioner at a given time is which is getting traction at that time."



I'm with you there. I don't believe that all interpretations are equal, nor even that all roads lead to the same place. I know that the map is not the territory, but there are better maps than others. Substitute "map" for "view" there, and we're getting into some interesting waters. (Though, I know that "view" means different things to different traditions. A topic for another discussion, I suppose.)



"I don't think there's anything wrong with seeking and exerting effort. I just think it's nice when my teachers and sangha are telling me that I am already free, and pointing out my innate nature in myriad skillful friendly ways, while also acknowledging a host of skillful ways to come to this insight for myself. I sense that all forms of spiritual discourse, and all elitist communities which go with them, which are based on the notion that something needs to change are violent, a violation of true nature. I don't want to lay those trips on anyone anymore, and I don't want them laid on me. I don't want anyone laying them on anyone! That's really my chief 'temperament', perhaps."



I don't know if I agree that all teachings that include a "something needs to change," component are violations of true nature, but maybe I'm missing the point. What I hear you saying is that it's good to know that your innate/intrinsic nature doesn't need to change. It is already good, and awake, etc. I agree with you here. But I'm of the opinion that what often obscures the actualization of this basic goodness are the unwise habit patterns we've been reinforcing. This is why practices that teach us to "be" are so important. Reacting to appearances leads to reacting again in the future. Dismantling these reactive tendencies allows one to rest in being/presence better than they could before. In that sense, what needs to change are the ways we interact with our experience. I think that the transformative aspect of spiritual practice shouldn't be overlooked. Neither should the always-already aspect. We run into another paradox here - the Now and Not Yet - Realization and Actualization. Not easy to explain.



"I suppose noting practice could totally function in such a context and be an amazing vehicle for really helping people to discover and rely on their true nature, but someone with an affinity for and skill in that practice mode would have to frame it that way. I like Howard Cohen's talks on dharmaseed, he seems great at this integration of vipassana, advaita, zen and dzogchen/mahamudra."



I think you're right. Noting practice is not incompatible with Buddha Nature-like views. It's just a really good way of learning to stay present with experience, without drifting off into fantasy or rumination. And noting practice works mostly with body sensations, which is where karmic patterns are "stored", so to speak. If noting helps us not to react, than we're on the right track, in my opinion.



"... I'm suggesting that folks can come to a deep transformational awakening without passing through all the stages and states of yogic exploration of the highs and lows and nears and fars, the macros and micros and so on. All that stuff is fun (mostly, and if you have the time to log the long cushion hours) but I firmly believe it's entirely secondary to awakening (even if some sort of process is central to awakening for 99.999999%, and usually involves the training of attentional capacity for sure!!!)."



I've actually been thinking about this quite a bit lately. Strange experience, states, stages, and so on and so forth, arise due to causes and conditions. I remember how when I first started experiencing A&P events (4th ñana), strange imagery nearly always accompanied the energy surge. After awhile the images stopped popping up, but lights and bodily contractions, as well as a big zooming feeling, still accompanied the energy surge. Now, when energy surges it is more evenly dispersed throughout the body. There are fewer bodily contractions, and they are less intense.



I say all of this because it seems that some degree of strange experience is par for the course with meditative training. It becomes a problem only when we go chasing after experience, or trying to compulsively re-experience the trappings of inner-spiritual materialism. The more we relax into experience and let go of reaction, the less the energy causes strange experiences. The images, lights, contractions, etc. arise due to karma. When the karma burns up, so do the experiences. That's my going theory, anyway. Over time one's experience become more and more every day, ordinary, "old hat", nothing special - in a good way!!! :-)
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 08 Jan 2011 02:15 #952

Hi Jackson--

Yes, I'm with you on experiences. The way I frame it is "decompression". The funny self-manipulation loops we superimpose on ourselves block and distort our energy. When we learn to let go of the activities of self-manipulation and drop some of the cover-ups, all kinds of funny and wonderful things bubble up. There is also a sense in which what we experience can be heavily conditioned by the contemplative culture we find ourselves in.

Great conversation!
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 08 Jan 2011 03:27 #953

This has been great to watch unfold!

Your most recent explanations put me in mind of what Ngak'chang Rinpoche has taught about 'nyams' [Tibetan for 'meditational experiences']. They come in 3 basic flavors: blissful/pleasant; horrific/unpleasant; and 'weird'. When asked 'But what do they MEAN?' he always says, they mean that you're practicing, and that it's having an effect; that, physiologically and mentally, we're like rubber bands wound up into a gnarly little lump. Nyams are little spasmodic releases of the tension; the way when you stop winding it tighter, the band eventually resumes its smooth circle/oval shape; but it does so in fits and starts.

Zen shares with Dzogchen this attitude of, they aren't good or bad things to happen, just more conditioned experience; and the content-- whether frightening, seductive, or fascinating-- is irrelevant. If you're having the traditionally sanctioned, blissful ones-- this could seem like a real downer. Likewise if you have a big investment in being a heroically suffering yogi slogging through the horrific ones. But if enlightenment as 'relaxing into the natural condition' moment by moment is what you really want-- then having the time-wasting detours pointed out is a wonderful thing, indeed.
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 08 Jan 2011 13:41 #954

Yeah!!!!!!!!!!
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 09 Jan 2011 07:26 #955

Kate, I second Jake's "Yeah!!!!!!!!!!" :-D

I'm going to have to make a greater effort to look into Ngak'chang Rinpoche's way of teaching dharma. It seems very practical and down to earth.

On "experience" - I think the reason it's so easy to fall into the trap of making a big deal out of experiences -- trying to decipher their meaning or wearing them as a merit badge -- is because there is not yet a clear understanding of the goal (to use misleading language). That kind of understanding necessarily comes through practice, as do the nyams. I can see why pointing out instructions are helpful in this regard. It gives one the 'view', so they can waste less time with activities that are much less productive; e.g. ruminating over the latest experience.

-Jackson
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 09 Jan 2011 14:18 #956

Quite right Jackson-- and when the Goal is the very Ground of ordinary experiencing, and when we begin to gain confidence in this, it really takes a lot of wind out of the sails of pride and self-importance, as well as fascination with or derogation of passing experiences.

I really foresee the emergence of a hard-core peer-to-peer open source dharma which emphasises such an approach and employs any skillful means to help directly introduce each other to and gain confidence in this natural state that is the very nature of each moment of conditioned experiences.

I find it really intriguing that in places where this teaching has been strongly emphasised-- some lineages of Tibetan yogis in the first, "unreformed" translation period; Bankei's Zen; certain movements in Western and Orthodox Christianity, and so on, there is often a massive reduction in the institutional controls on individuals, a powerful re-orientation from conformity to ritual, dogma, and social convention towards a committment to authenticity, freedom, simplicity and mutuality without a lot of rules and roles. Very interesting!

I'm reminded of the similarity between Namkhai Norbu's admonishment to allow natural awareness to govern one's activity rather than rules, and Bankei's "the Unborn manages everything perfectly allready"--- and apparently he ran a fairly laid back scene especially in the context of his time and place.
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 10 Jan 2011 03:21 #957

OK guys, now -- take a deep breath here, and let it out slowly -- please allow this stumble bum, wild west Zen priest in the Soto tradition to say a few words that will make absolutely no difference except to further confuse matters.

Ready?

"The name that can be spoke is not the eternal Name" wrote Lao Tzu as the first line of his Tao Teh Ching.

Dogen's famous statement to the effect that zazen (seated Zen meditation) is awakening is the equivalent of saying "the eternal name is being spoken now."

This is a paradox.

This is a joke.

This is the truth.

This is easily misunderstood.

Here's another take on it:

Awakening is Reality. No one -- not you, not your brother, not your mother, not anyone -- has ever been separated from Reality for even the tiniest fraction of a second.

Almost no one -- only a tiny fraction of humanity in any era, albeit an actual total of many people in every era -- comes to recognize that they are non-separate from Reality. When it does happen, this event -- this awakening -- has consequences in their psyches, their bodies, and their ways of relating in the world. It does not make them morally perfect, always joyful, or incapable of error. What it does is show them with blinding clarity that everything is always all right, even in the worst moments, while at the same time challenging them in an almost taunting way to help alleviate the apparent suffering of others and themselves. (An end to suffering as a consequence of awakening does not mean an end to pain and problems. So get back to work!)

All of which is totally crazy, right, since everything is always already all right?

Like Shunryu Suzuki famously said to his Zen students in California:

"You are all perfect just the way you are. But you could use a little improvement."

So sit zazen -- which statement itself is semantically redundant, since "zazen" means "seated Zen meditation". Yet that statement is also wise beyond its apparent error, because anyone who believes that seated meditation is the cause of awakening or realization is completely missing the point! Zazen is very useful and it is completely redundant. Nothing anyone has ever done has ever enlightened him or anyone else. Every valid spiritual practice has value only insofar as it increases the odds that the person doing it will finally notice that he or she has never been outside of Reality (that is, awakening) ever!

End of Zen rant.

Peace, out!

-- Mike "Gozen" LaTorra
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 10 Jan 2011 04:46 #958

Just as I suspected, even this and this is non-separate from reality. How could it be?
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 10 Jan 2011 10:20 #959

I like the Zen rants ;-)
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 10 Jan 2011 11:09 #960

From ZMBM, pg 32:

"Whatever we see is changing, losing its balance. The
reason everything looks beautiful is because it is out of balance,
but its background is always in perfect harmony. This
is how everything exists in the realm of Buddha nature,
losing its balance against a background of perfect balance.
So if you see things without realizing the background of
Buddha nature, everything appears to be in the form of suffering.
But if you understand the background of existence,
you realize that suffering itself is how we live, and how we
extend our life. So in Zen sometimes we emphasize the
imbalance or disorder of life."

This reminds me of the first time I encountered a teaching on the three characteristics in a piece of writing by Thich Nhat Hahn-- and there were four, not three. Can you guess what the "fourth" characteristic of each and every conditioned phenomena is? ;-)
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 10 Jan 2011 12:39 #961

Nirvana = peace

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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 10 Jan 2011 20:51 #962

you read that book too? ha hahahahaha ;-)
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Sucking, not sucking, and personhood 10 Jan 2011 20:59 #963

Me too, actually. :]
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