torstai 19. lokakuuta 2017

Quotes from Zen Buddhist-teachers with Comments

Quotes from Zen Buddhist-teachers 
with Kim's Comments

By James Ford, Soto Zen and Sanbo Kyodan Zen

"In the Western Zen scene today words like enlightenment, kensho, and satori have been pushed to the background. Any emphasis on the experience of awakening has been minimized. There are reasons for this. And I think some of them are legitimate.
However, that acknowledged, the great project of Zen is nothing less than awakening. And, sliding over that, shifting the point to something else, is making a terrible mistake...
As it happened this minimizing of kensho was also the general stance within the Soto school. In a delightful illustration of this Huston Smith tells of visiting the “other Suzuki,” the renowned Shunryu Suzuki Roshi:

When, four months before his death, I had the opportunity to ask him why satori didn’t figure in his book, his wife leaned toward me and whispered impishly, “It’s because he hasn’t had it”; whereupon the Roshi batted his fan at her in mock consternation and with finger to his lips hissed, “Shhhh! Don’t tell him!’”When our laughter had subsided, he said simply, “It’s not that satori is unimportant, but it’s not the part of Zen that needs to be stressed.”

Kim's Comment: While jokes are good, old zen-master (roshi) admitting never having had an insight (awakening, opening of the 1st bhumi) is alarming. It is a direct indication of admitting not understanding the essence of buddhism. How can one present oneself as a buddhist teacher, without having a single insight into the selfless nature of the mind? This has been warned by generations of ancient zen and dzogchen masters. Bhumi-analysis on Suzuki Roshi confirms that he was not awakened.
In his book "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind", Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, says, "If you feel that you are somebody, you have to practice zazen harder". I wonder what Suzuki Roshi meant with practicing zazen, or "just sitting" harder? If by practicing harder he meant paying more attention, the whole practice becomes reduced into calmness meditation (shamatha) of beginning stages (see nine stages of shamatha meditation). This is not at all what "just sitting" (shikantaza) is. See  below for more about just sitting.

"In fact others practicing within the Soto school would go much farther, denying the experience itself or denigrating it or its pursuit as nothing but a “gaining thought,” another dualistic trap...
So, in a reaction to D. T. Suzuki’s many writings, and in particular the focus found in that first book on Zen practice the Three Pillars a baby was thrown out with the bath water. Zen without awakening is a hobbled eagle. I suggest if we want Zen to be more than a mindfulness practice that will get us an edge in whatever project we want an edge in, we need to reclaim awakening as the central purpose of the project."

Kim's Comment: What many Soto Zen Buddhists don't understand is that kensho is not an experience in the same way as other experiences are. Kensho means to see one's true nature, one's buddhanature and by definition it is not a kensho if it has no irreversible effect. Zen Buddhism, like dzogchen, is correct in its view that the buddhanature cannot be created or generated but it makes a horrible mistake in its attempt to "just sit" without any kensho which for samsaric beings is an impossibility.

"Zen is a spiritual process completely bound up with the actual world; it is not meant to be a philosophy. Nor is it psychology. It is about our awakening. And when awakening is brought together with our practices and the precepts, we begin to see the contours of what Zen actually offers to the world..."
"Kensho means “to see,” and its related term is Satori, which means “to know.” Both point to the great opening of heart and mind. Sometimes, in Zen mostly, they’re synonyms for that big thing. Although I’ve seen kensho to be used for lesser insights and satori for either the big one or sometimes even for the cumulative place that one on a path that attends to these things may at some point find themselves.
The reality is dynamic, even messy. And I like the term to be a bit messy, as well. I suspect it cannot be fully described. But we can take a stab at it. At least I’m going to here.
First, I would like to hold up the big thing that is awakening as I understand it. The deepest thing is a collapsing of one’s sense of self and other and finding a place of radical openness.
The rhetoric attached to this awakening is that it is a once and forever. I have a sense of that. And at the same time I’ve seen in others who have been recognized for their awakening as well as in myself that it isn’t an escape from one’s place in karma. As the famous Fox koan reminds us, awakening does not free us from the consequences of our actions. It doesn’t even free us from taking actions in the future that will have negative consequences. What awakening is, is an existential stance of radical openness. It does not mean there are no blind spots. It does not mean one is free of the play of those endlessly arising constellations of grasping, aversion, and death-grasping certainties. But, it does mean some part of the person who has had this experience sees or knows the freedom as well as being fully in the play of life and death. So, yes, once and forever. And, no, not free from karma or even stupid or possibly evil actions."

Kim's Comment: We have to be clear about a few things: 1. The need for insights into the empty nature of the mind, 2. The range of our self-delusion and psychology so that 3. We can understand how our self-delusion (dukkha) and the path of insight meet each other. If these three points are not understood it becomes impossible to understand our position in reference to the ultimate attainment of buddhahood. It is precisely this lacking in knowledge that has been depicted by many zen- and other buddhist masters through their harmful actions and scandals. 

- James Ford, Zen-teacher of Soto and Sanbo Kyodan schools

Quotes from:

By Sheng Yen, Chinese Chan-master of Caodong and Linji-schools

So they (the students) hoped I can give them a way to sudden enlightenment. It seems to them that, given the way to sudden enlightenment they would get enlightened immediately. I told them, ”I'm sorry. If there is such a way, I would have used it first. But up until now I have not invented it.” Up until now no Chan Buddhism literature has shown who had used it. It's like making a pill from a thing called sudden enlightenment and then once you swallow it, you'd be enlightened immediately. Or like getting a morphine injection. You want enlightenment? No problem. I have this thing that you inject and you become enlightened at once. Or how about something like an acupuncture needle? One needle at the acupuncture point and enlightenment at once. All these are sudden enlightenment, aren't they? I say, what a pity, no one has yet made the discovery... Some attain enlightenment gradually while others attain enlightenment at once.”

Sheng Yen's quote from: The difference between gradual and sudden awakening:

Kim's Comment: It is very unfortunate that someone as influential as master Sheng Yen, spreads such misleading views. The view of there not existing practices that directly generate sudden awakening is very widely spread, especially in the world of zen buddhism. However, such practices do exist.  It is a great pity that such techniques have been kept secret in Tibet but, nevertheless such techniques do exist. Refer to Daniel Brown's instruction given here and The Two-Part Formula openly shared by Open Heart.

By Shinzen Young, Rinzai Zen, Shingon and Theravada

Shinzen Young, who trained extensively in Rinzai Zen, was interviewed by the Buddhist Geeks in 2010,

BG: ”
How common is that dramatic, sudden experience of enlightenment as
compared to the more gradual and even integration?”

Shinzen Young: ”
The sudden epiphany that’s described in many books about enlightenment, that has definitely happened to some of my students. And when it happens, it’s similar to what is described in those books*. How frequently does it happen? I don’t know. I don’t keep statistics, but maybe a couple times a year.”

*Visuddhimagga and Three Pillars of Zen were mentioned earlier in the interview

By Robert Aitken Roshi, Sanbo Kyodan

Aitken Roshi's student wrote: ”Aitken Roshi often noted that awakening doesn't happen by a one-size fits all formula and is as unpredictable as a lightening strike, but that while there is an "accidental" quality to the timing of one's awakening, we can make our selves "accident prone" by our cultivation of samadhi power”. 

Kim's Comment: I know zen-practitioners who had their first kensho on their first retreat, who had it after 8 years of dedicated practice and retreats or who never had it, despite of the practice aiming at it. It is unfortunate that Robert Aitken Roshi, a prioneer of American Zen spreads this misleading view, because it is incorrect. It may be the case in zen buddhism that awakenings are "unpredictable" and "accidental" but in the light of better knowledge, it is like saying that "We don't really know what we are doing". To better understand my criticism, read this. The level of dharma in the present world is regrettably low. When dharma holders and their respective methods are inable to assist people coming to them properly, I think it is logical to question the validity of the concerned tradition and its particular techniques. The methods of dharma should meet the needs of those who turn to them. This should always be the priority. Without authentic insight, a tradition, its long history, valuable ites and rituals are of little use. 
Refer to instructions that directly generate awakening here (Daniel Brown) and here. 


By Sokuzan Bob Brown, Soto Zen and Tibetan Kagyu

"There is only one awakening. There is not a shikantaza awakening, mahamudra awakening, zen awakening or tantric awakening. There is only reality. If you awaken to it, you know it. You are not in doubt, you are in certainty."

By Denko John Mortensen, Rinzai Zen

Rinzai zen-teacher called John Denko Mortensen, who took up dzogchen after decades of getting trained as a zen-teacher, said in dharma talk given in 2012, "While zen-masters say weird things, dzogchen-people actually explain things"

Kim's Comment: Please refer to my long article on Pedagogy of Dharma here

By Kobun Chino Roshi, Soto Zen

Someone wrote: "My first buddhist teacher was Kobun Chino Roshi. In one class, someone asked him how to get closer to his lineage or more involved with his lineage. His answer was to look into dzogchen." 

Kim's Comment: Kobun Chino's recommendation is like fresh air! A teacher who can admit the weak points of one's own lineage, is one among hundreds. It is a common trait that a follower of a certain method is self-sufficient and has no interest in expanding his knowledge beyond one's own system. To rely on a single lineage or a school can cause a faulty sense of confidence and authenticity. A blog about the authenticity of a dharma teacher can be found here.  

By Meido Moore Roshi, Rinzai Zen

"If I were to critique some aspects of Western Zen I have observed, though, it would be that in some quarters a misunderstanding of words like "just sit" and "ordinary mind" leads many practitioners to go off in a mistaken direction, often for years or decades. Their "just sit" is, in fact, just sitting there within the habitual arising of stale habit, and their "ordinary mind" is really just ordinary, delusional mind. Yet they are immune to correction, as they have read and been told for years that "just sit" is sufficient, that "practice IS enlightenment," etc... and have interpreted those words according to their own understanding/experience, rather than as goads to genuine realization and descriptions of the radical confidence/faith that arise within the fruition of practice."

By Yasutani Hakuun Roshi, founder of Sanbo Kyodan Zen

When people get fixed about a teacher/lineage/school and stuff like that they easily loose their sight of what they are actually doing and then say stoopid stuff like "My roshi teaches just sitting but it seems different from what sifu from China teaches with silent illumination". I've seen such discussions so many times. It's madness. It beats me how folks can loose sight of the fact that all beings have buddhanature and all these direct path meditations are solely about recognition of one's buddhanature and familiarisation of it. I think such debates are just indications how rare the recognition and familiarisation of it is.

Here is a fine example how faulty instructions can be, from one of the most highly respected Japanese zen masters of the last century, Yasutani Hakuun Roshi:

"In doing shikantaza you must maintain mental alertness, which is of particular importance to beginners-and even those who have been practicing ten years could still be called beginners! Often due to weak concentration, one becomes self-conscious or falls into a sort of trance or ecstatic state of mind. Such practice might be useful to relax yourself, but it will never lead to enlightenment and is not the practice of the Buddha Way. When you thoroughly practice shikantaza you will sweat-even in the winter. Such intensely heightened alertness of mind cannot be maintained for long periods of time. You might think that you can maintain it for longer, but this state will naturally loosen...To do shikantaza does not mean to become without thoughts, yet, doing shikantaza, do not let your mind wander. Do not even contemplate enlightenment or becoming Buddha. As soon as such thoughts arise, you have stopped doing shikantaza...Sit with such intensely heightened concentration, patience, and alertness that if someone were to touch you while you are sitting, there would be an electrical spark! Sitting thus, you return naturally to the original Buddha, the very nature of your being."

He says he is teaching just sitting, recognition of buddhanature, the highest practice in zen buddhism, but is actually describing three-dimensional attention with very high intensity. This is developmental shamatha, not the natural state. He is basically narrating a huge misunderstanding. In mahamudra, this is known as shamatha without support, although I've never seen any Tibetan recommend sitting with so much intensity that you sweat in Winter's cold. I perfectly admit the value of momentary heightened attention, which is what I call dynamic concentration, but this simply is not shikantaza, buddhanature sitting. On longer scale, practicing like this is not healthy either.