sunnuntai 23. joulukuuta 2018

Discussing Awakening and Two-Part Formula at Dharma Overground

Discussing Awakening and
Two-Part Formula at
Dharma Overground

Parts of discussion copied from this thread at DhO-forum.

JP wrote: My general impression is that this is a situation where there's not much consensus on here about the accuracy of the attainment claims for Kim's students. I think there are a few different reasons why this is the case, most of which generally apply to the question of how accurate it's possible to be with remote dharma diagnosis.

- Unless I'm missing something,
there aren't any detailed practice logs being kept here by Open Heart practitioners other than Jehanne.  Diagnosing stream entry requires a fair amount of information about people's sits over the course of the weeks prior, in-depth discussion on the exact phenomenology of what happened when they think cessation occurred, and maybe even some information on how daily life and their regular perspective in the world changed between before and after.  Very few people, including me, post frequently enough to provide the necessary level of detail.

- It seems to take people several paths to have confidence in definitively saying that a certain event was fruition as opposed to a mimic for it.  So it's probably only DhO posters who're on at least third path who are going to be able to assess this.

Kim's method of diagnosing path attainments based on assessing the energy body through pictures/videos of practitioners is non-standard, at least among the experienced pragmatic dharma practitioners here.  Maybe it works and maybe it doesn't -- this is probably something where we'd need him to teach Daniel Ingram or other experienced practitioners how he does it and have them tell us whether it lines up with their judgment.

Most of us just have our own experience to go by, and are going to judge other tradition's maps and timetables accordingly.  So both "awakening is nearly impossible and takes your whole life" and "awakening is super-easy and you can do it in a weekend" don't line up with most of our experiences.

I haven't tried it, but the technique itself seems like it could be a useful technique, especially as a corrective to over-efforting in the dark night. 
I also think that this is a question that's going to continue until there's a large group of Open Heart practitioners who are also familiar with MTCB and The Mind Illuminated, who start regularly posting detailed phenomenomological practice logs, and who are very open to their Open Heart attainments being questioned or mapped differently

I'd encourage you to think seriously about how you feel about the technique and whether you'd want to be involved in Open Heart as an organization, rather than just about whether it can "get" you an attainment.  I personally really like the analytic framework by
David Chapman in Approaching Aro as a guide to how to consider different spiritual traditions.  It's also a great example of how a non-traditional Tibetan Buddhist lineage can address outside concerns respectfully, and I'd love to see a similar effort by Open Heart.
Kim wrote: Hi JP and thanks for a well composed post.

Before matters presented in the above post, I'd like to say that as there is much more to buddhism than the first shift/awakening/kensho, there is also more to Open Heart as a method. It's a small piece in a big puzzle. Just a reminder.

I've presented a lot of material reg. 2PF and awakening it generates. You can find them, for free, for example from Awake-ebook. Dialogues and photos in the book, gives the reader some sense what happens to these people.

In OH, we mainly use our own terminology, instead of theravadan or other, that has developed over the years. It's still based on common buddhist theory and meditative experiences but also has distinct features because we do some things differently. I am confident that this is one of the reasons why there seems to be a wall of sorts between traditional buddhists, as here, and those who in OH have had the experiences and know first hand what the terms point to.

I guess a lot theravadans consider cessation, if not the most important, then at least very important indicator of stream-entry, and the way how the analysis proceeds is to consider the specifics of the event. Because of the difference in the way we look whether or not the shift has occurred, I have never really looked it that way, although I know well what cessation is. I just don't look at it that way. My way of looking at it, is closer to rinzai zen-style, where the teacher asks the student questions and meters his or hers energetic feel, and a possible change in it. This is typical in rinzai zen. I guess all teachers use this to some degree, knowingly or unknowingly. The point is that there is not only one way to measure shifts that deal with lessening of self-based suffering.

The only reference I have seen about seeing attainments from photos, is from Shinzen Young. Here:
”I was at a student's house and I saw this book. Its one of these photo books that people would put on coffee tables. What's interesting is that there's nothing by the photographer, the author of the book, but there is an intro, a preamble by Tony Morrison who is a fairly important person in the world of art and literature. This tells you that this is a significant book but there is nothing by the person who actually took the photos, in other words the photos have to speak for themselves. Its this huge book of photographs (indicates a large size) and I start to look through these photographs. These are allportraits and I'm freaking out because its very evident to me what this book is about and I had never seen a book like this, ever.

I go to my friend and say, ”This book is amazing!” and she says, ”The photographer, is a distant relative of mine”. ”Well, can you get his telephone number?”, I asked. We called him up and he was there. I told him what I thought his book was about and he freaked out. He said that I was the only person who ever understood what the book was about, of all the people that had seen it at exhibitions or whatever.

The name of the book is A Kind of Rapture by Robert Bergman. He went through the rust belt of United States, the old decaying cities, photographing street people, who for whatever reason, usually a combination of hard life and physical, and mental illness, had been thrust into a no-self state, in other words, people for whom the blows of life had driven them to a rapturous no-self experience. He went around the country looking for those kind of people, catching them at the moment when they manifested non-ego, that their hard life had taken them to. You know, if you see one or two pictures like that it doesn't have an impact like that but if you see 50 pictures like that, picture after picture after picture, then it hits you, what the whole thing is about.
The reason why I thought they were so extraordinary is that although there is a lot of books about enlightenment or no-self coming about through practice, and there are number of books written by people who have had spontaneous enlightenment experiences, what no one has looked at is this whole thing, this whole other aspect. In terms of a subject matter it is very unsual and the message and the medium is very unsual. Instead of writing a book, talking about this phenomena, he shows it to you and you either get it or you don't.”

-Shinzen Young in Shaktipat or Energy Transmission in Buddhism, 25:00 minutes:

Curiously Shinzen Young has a history in rinzai zen. He says at the end of the quote (underlined) that it is extraordinary to display enlightenment from a photo and states that no one has looked into this way. I have emailed Shinzen's assistant about this but I don't know if he ever got or read my email. Daniel said he'd like to join one of our retreats next year, so maybe he has some interest towards bhumi analysis.

Years ago when it occurred to me that awakening and post-awakening stages should by reason be detactable from a good photo, I didn't know whether it was actually possible or not. After many hundreds of photos and thousand live analyses, and many mistakes, it turned out to be. Before this thought ever occurred to me, I had done many years of healing arts, like shiatsu and reiki, as well as zen calligraphy, which all have the common denominator of reading or sensing subtle energy. I can understand how to someone who doesn't have any such experience all this can be nonsense, just like it is to most OH-practitioners in the beginning. Well, that also is a learnable skill and while myself I don't have a theravada background and am not fluent in using that terminology, some in our sangha do, and are working on their own texts and materials. Why so few OH'ers are in DhO, I think there are few reasons to this, which I won't list here, but just wanted to mention that in our sangha we have people who have focused on theravada practice for up to two decades.

I recommend reading MCTB to my students, because of it's general education, but like I said we don't use that method, nor use the techniques that people here commonly do. So there is a communication gap there, even if some OH folks showed up and were ready for the scrutiny of people here. A similar gap exists between hard ass rinzai zen teachers who demand demonstrations of shifts in traditional zen poems and abstract language. A similar gap could be if I started to demand a description of kundalini shooting up above the head and descending down to the heart, which is something that both buddhists and hindus mention, but perhaps not all students can detect, despite of theoretically knowing about it. Maybe it has been unskillful of me to present non-theravada style expositions on mostly a theravada influenced forum. 

I like David Chapman's expositions but I doubt I can ever produce expositions like his simply because I am not an intellectual, nor a native English speaker. My teaching-style and expression is work in progress. I am also aware that despite of my efforts in trying to be as polite and politically correct as possible, I don't always succeed but nevertheless at the moment I am happy that at least some get what I'm trying to say.

Samvega wrote: I wonder if there is any short cut to enlightenment, atleast the first stage of enlightenment (sotapanna).
I went through this blog:
The author claims to have helped hundreds of yogis get awakened with a 98% success rate. That too in just a few days? Really? I mean, what the!!
It looks so damn attractive for someone like me who's struggling in dark night for years.
Here I am, thinking of taking a sabbatical and go backpacking to Thailand or Burma in search of good practice and hopefully stream entry, even if it takes a year or so..
And here is this Author promising stream entry (aka 1st bhumi opening) within days of practice!!
I couldn't push it aside either, as I didn't feel it was a complete scam.
I just started wondering if something like a short cut really do exist? I'm very scared to even start the practice, because the results look scarily quick! I'm just worried I shouldn't go crazy and unknowingly become part of a cult.
But I agree that I am quite attracted to try out the practice once, which he calls the two part formula aka open heart practice.
It looks like the Author (Kim) is quite a known face on this forum? But why don't I find many people talking about this technique here except for one person who's recommending it? Why haven't many tried it yet? Could you throw some light on this technique if you ever tried it once especially if you had an Insight meditation (Vipasana) history? Why did you feel the need to shift from Insight meditation and what did you gain through this practice?
I'm also wondering if these practitioners are confusing themselves the A&P phenomenon for actual awakening, considering how varied and vague the A&P can be.
This is definitely not put out in a bad intention, with all due respects to the Author. He looks like a good man to me. I'm just genuinely concerned and any help is appreciated. It's a desperate attempt of a dark night yogi to get done with this shit ASAP!


Kim wrote: Hello Samvega,

I believe some OH-practitioners have contributed to this thread but just to clarify that Two-Part Formula is not a
short cut. Out of 138 guidances that I've given so far, many had to haul ass for more than two weeks, and when I say haul ass, I mean they were exhausted afterwards, although also greatly relieved. There has been few people to whom awakening dropped on their lap, so to speak. One lady in our sangha got the nickname Page 12, because she woke up by getting to page 12 of Awake-book. A few people woke up on first or second day of email guidance. These people got it easily, but most had to work hard, and I had to work hard to make them work hard. Getting awakened quickly in not unknown in buddhism. Particularly in zen buddhism, there are many cases who woke up on their first retreat.

Reg. the relation between dark night and awakening. Maybe Culadasa's approach does nullify all tough emotional rollercoasting, that I cannot confirm becaue I don't follow his system but I am not aware of any other system that accomplishes that. There are more and less smart ways of dealing with dark nights, but a single or even a whole bunch of shifts doesn't prevent that. In my view, one isn't free from waves, unless one is fully liberated, a buddha.

I have never
promised awakening or stream entry. I have presented statistics, which as you can read from the book, does contain a fail margin of 2% within the first 100 cases.

You ask, "But why don't I find many people talking about this technique here except for one person who's recommending it? Why haven't many tried it yet?". DhO isn't the only place where 2PF and Open Heart is discussed. I can say that based on wesbite stats, roughly 15 000 people have seen the instructions but why only about 1% took it up (based on the number of guidances that I was asked to do), I can only guess.

Some people get really pissed off because we ask for financial compensation, that might be one reason. People reason that because it has a price tag, even when it's a sliding scale and one can still take it up if one doesn't have any money, it's a hoax because they think that real dharma doesn't cost money.

Another train of reasoning, that has been a huge surprise to me, is that buddhists of all traditions are so fixed with the idea that there is no technique that can literally generate an awakening and that there is no one size fits all technique for it, that it prevents them from taking a good look. I have come across and collected direct quotes from a handful of renown zen masters, who specifically deny such a thing but little did they know, like most other traditions.

Here is a teaching given by Daniel Brown, the author of Pointing Out the Great Way (mahamudra/dzogchen):

Now bring to mind your usual sense of self, your personal identity. You can evoke this and use it as an object of reflection. For example I would evoke Dan, Danness, and look squarely at Danness. The thing about self-presentation is that you can evoke it and you can observe it... So evoke your sense of self and observe it. Notice any personal characteristics you associate with that sense of self. Familiarise yourself with the target of your search... And now take your awareness... And let your awareness roam thought the regions of your body. See if you can find any thing in itself, any independently existing thing that is that personal identity, anywhere in the field of bodily experience. You have to actively search... And the more you search anything  independently existing, any thing in itself, the more what you search for will be seen from your awareness as unfindable.
Emptiness practice... is in the unfindability of the target... If you think you find the independent basis for that sense of self, if you
find any thing that's substantial, roam around in that area and break it down to smaller units of analysis... OK, now evoke your sense of self, your personal identity once again... Familiarize yourself with the target of the search. Evoke your personal identity and notice any personal characteristics you associate with that sense of self... Now, take your awareness and let it roam through mental content. Do you find any independently existing thing that is that self?... As you continue to search at some point there is a shift in your basis of operation. What remains right here is the awareness itself, no longer obscured by the empty construction of the personal identity. You open up to the level of awareness that is cleaned up of the cloud of self. And you start operating from that instead of operating out of self-mode.”

The quote can be found from ”Meditation on Insight Training or ”Emptiness” at

Now, if you understand what is done in the two modes of the Two-Part Formula, you can see that it is almost the same instruction, with the greatest difference being that in 2PF one uses the affirmation of "me/I/mine", instead of one's own name, as in Brown's instructions. Personally, I find that Brown's instructions could be clearer but anyway.

If you wish to find out exactly how Brown learned this practice, and whether it is part of age old vajrayana tradition he is part of, you can contact him and ask. However, it is my understanding that techniques like this, and very similar to 2PF (that I didn't learn from any living teacher) has been taught and used within some traditions of Tibetan buddhism, particularly kagyu and nyingma traditions, for many centuries. Why they weren't shared openly with others, I don't know who made that call, but a lot of Tibetan buddhist teachings are guarded by a vow of secrecy.

The key point is that, like it or not, there is and has been for centuries specific techniques that do specifically generate awakening. They have been hidden away but existent nonetheless. I didn't know of such a thing during the first several years when I started practiting, and would have probably been keen to deny and fight for the views I had been fed with, but little did I know. And yes, I am happy to (again) say that I haven't invented anything new.

This bits are from an exchange with a teacher from Tibetan buddhist tradition, who shall go anonymous:

"The equivalent to kensho in TB is known as sem-ngo tropa. Your style of teaching in the two-steps is almost the same as the one I use. I added something from you into a teaching in --- (on a retreat he taught). It works very well. Usually I introduce the questioning attitude with gentle presence, but this time I said to chant silently me-me-me, in their own language. Very good. What I shared in the retreat is the practice received from --- (his teacher, one of the most famous dzogchen masters of recent times) and other masters, which is pretty much identical with yours. The process of combining inquiry with simply resting is not common, most teach one or the other, but some of my teachers used it."

When you asked, "Could you throw some light on this technique if you ever tried it once especially if you had an Insight meditation (Vipassana) history?", I thought of one particular student of mine who practiced Goenka diligently for 20 years, and woke up with 2PF. I wish I had his written account but I don't, at least not this time. He has been one of the most enthusiastic promoters of 2PF since he woke up earlier this year.

I find that it is rather easy to discern between A&P and a shift. Well, we use bhumi analysis, along with verbal descriptions, which indicates that any bhumi center does not open up unless the student has had an insight, it only happens with an emptiness insight. These centers do not open through A&P-like experiences. Closedness and openness is the key discerning factor.

perjantai 14. joulukuuta 2018

Dharma Transmission and Zen Issues by Stuart Lachs

Dharma Transmission and Zen Issues by Stuart Lachs

NDM:  If someone were to have a satori experience while meditating or some other way, how would this roshi determine if this student had really woken up?   Would this be through a  series of tests, or interviews of some kind?
Stuart Lachs: It seems you are asking if someone thinks they had a satori experience, how would the Zen master/roshi determine if this student had really woken up.
The master/roshi would interview the student and prod him/her with questions to see how they answer. The student’s demeanor when answering the questions can also be used to gauge the experience. He/she would also be looking to determine the depth of the experience. Depending on the tradition, the roshi may use set or given testing questions that the particular tradition uses. Different traditions maintain secrecy about what these questions are and what are the standard replies. I have been told that different traditions may have different replies as accepted understanding of a given koan. I also think that even if the roshi had not seen his own nature, he would still interview the student with questions.
It should be understood that judging someone's meditation experience is not like asking if there was a war between Southern and Northern states in the USA in 1865. It is not necessarily a black or white issue. I think at times certain masters/roshi pass someone with a "oneness" experience, which by my view is not a Chan/Zen experience. A “oneness’ experience is where a practitioner may feel a oneness of their own body and mind, and/or as if they are unified with their immediate surroundings or even with the entire universe. Telling someone they have seen the nature may be given for other reasons as well. For instance, I have seen a master tell a disciple he had "seen the nature," that is, had a Chan experience, when the master knew he did not. In this case the master told the student that he had "seen the nature" because the teacher wanted to give this disciple a "present" and to "encourage him to continue practicing" as the student, after many years and much work for the Center, was moving away. It struck me as a rather strange "present" and hardly the only way to encourage some one to continue in their practice. But that is what I was told by the master when I questioned him about his public acknowledgement of "seeing the nature" for this person. Another reason may be to empower someone for whatever reason, or because they are making them a leader or a roshi.  In a word there can be a number of motives for "approving" someone's Zen experience; the same goes for giving Dharma transmission. Perhaps close to this, but slightly different, is moving the student along going through the koan course.
NDM:  Now if someone had seen their "Buddha nature" and this person wished to teach others. What kind of training would this person undergo and for how long before they could teach?  Then how long before one would be a candidate for becoming a roshi?
Stuart Lachs: There are no set answers for these two questions.
It is NOT necessary for someone to have seen their Buddha nature to become a roshi or to teach. I know all the classical Zen stories lead one to believe this, but it is simply not true across the Zen board. This is especially so in Soto Zen at least since the 17th century or so and probably way earlier, probably always. The Rinzai tradition in Japan maintains that all their roshi had kensho (seen their Buddha nature) but I do not think that is a hard and fast rule. I believe Soen Nakagawa roshi was made a roshi before he had kensho. Unfortunately I do not have the source for this now. On the other hand, someone who sees the nature may not become a master/roshi for any number of reasons.
According to the recently deceased Taiwanese Chan master Shifu Sheng Yen it is not necessary to have "seen the nature" to become a Dharma heir, which is to say , a Zen master in his lineage. He had three pre-requisites for giving Dharma transmission: first is to have a correct understanding of Buddha Dharma, second is to have a stable life, to live a life of purity (this has to do with a stable character and their emotional life), and third is to have the vow to deliver and help sentient beings,  There are a number problems with Sheng Yen’s pre-requisites, not the least being that his disciples lived far away from him and saw him mostly on retreats so he had little idea about the purity of their life. What seemed important to him though not stated, was that the person, especially so for his foreign heirs, had a group of people practicing with them.
In Rinzai Zen, and in the newer Sanbokyodan sect of Zen founded by Yasutani roshi in the 20th century, which is popular in the West, people have to go through, that is, complete the koan course of that particular lineage before receiving Dharma transmission. Ideally after kensho, the roshi would watch his disciple and continually be teaching and watching to see that he/she internalizes and makes alive, that is, lives whatever experience(s) the disciple had as he/she goes through the koan course. In the Rinzai sect in Japan, the teacher would have the student prepare talks on the koans that he would judge. Part of this would be so the disciple learns to talk like a Rinzai roshi. But keep in mind that is the ideal. Soen Nakagawa roshi seems to have been a counter example to the rule. He had not finished the koan course when he was made abbot of Ryutaku-ji.  Soen's Dharma heir Eido Shimano roshi who was given Dharma transmission in 1972 has been implicated in scandals from the 1960's into the present. Philip Kapleau took the title roshi himself, only later admitted that he did not finish Yasutani roshi's koan course, though he still maintained the self taken title roshi. That was in the Sanbo Kyodan line started by Yasutani roshi who has a somewhat tarnished image himself because of his strong militaristic and right wing thoughts. Kapleau was disowned by his teacher Yasutani, so in reality he started his own line. This is not to say that Kapleau was more or less qualified than others with the title roshi. There are many other examples like the above. 
It is not uncommon for some one to be given teaching responsibilities with certain limitations before they are made a Zen master/roshi. There is no set time frame for how long it takes to become a master/roshi. Some acquire the title quite young, even in their early twenties; some only get full authorization much later. For example Shaku Soen roshi, the teacher of the famous D.T. Suzuki received Dharma transmission at the age of twenty-five.
The more important question to my mind is what does receiving Dharma transmission mean?
Also, how has it been used historically? These questions are rarely discussed in any depth around Zen centers; instead the focus is on who has it and who does not have it. But in reality most people know they will never get it. Zen institutions lead you to believe that having Dharma transmission is a hard line in the sand separating the master/roshi, whose mind is supposedly unfathomable by regular folk, from the rest of ordinary humanity. In reality it is mostly shades of grey, while depending on the variable or quality being measured, a different hierarchy of people will occur. 

NDM: In the Zen book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, Richard Baker, says: A roshi is a person who has actualized that perfect freedom which is the potentiality for all human beings. He exists freely in the fullness of his whole being. The flow of his consciousness is not the fixed repetitive patterns of our usual self-centered consciousness, but rather arises spontaneously and naturally from the actual circumstances of the present. The results of this in terms of the quality of his life are extraordinary-buoyancy, vigor, straightforwardness, simplicity, humility, security, joyousness, uncanny perspicacity and unfathomable compassion. His whole being testifies to what it means to live in the reality of the present. Without anything said or done, just the impact of meeting a personality so developed can be enough to change another's whole way of life. But in the end it is not the extraordinariness of the teacher that perplexes, intrigues, and deepens the student, it is the teacher's utter ordinariness.
Would being a roshi supposed to mean that one is like the original Buddha?  "Fully enlightened" as they say? 

Stuart Lachs: Good- this question is a good follow-on to the previous one. Let’s lookat this quote a little closer. It was actually written by Trudy Dixon, though used by Richard Baker in his introduction to his teacher,Shunryu Suzuki roshi's book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. I think the book is the biggest selling book about Zen in the English language; at least it for some time. It has certainly sold well over a million copies.
There is some interesting background to know about this quote. For one, when Baker used this in his introduction to the book, he already knew that he was chosen by Suzuki to be his Dharma heir. From that perspective, he was painting a picture of how he would like to be viewed by his followers when he took leadership of the San Francisco Zen Center and would be known as Baker roshi. The quote supposedly was about Suzuki as the book contains his words and teachings. But the quote begins, "A roshi is a person..." implying that all roshi fit this description. In reality this is the most idealistic description of a roshi in the English language, perhaps any language. It is also highly questionable if even one roshi fits this description, not alone the "A roshi is..." implying all roshi, as Baker inserted it in his introduction...
But back to your question about being a roshi; “Would being a roshi supposed to mean that one is like the original Buddha?  "Fully enlightened" as they say?”  
I guess it depends on who you ask and when. I can imagine that some people may think this about their master/roshi, though clearly I am not one of those people. I also think anyone believing this is part of a small minority of believers. Roshi is a very broad term that covers an enormous range of cases. I think each case has to be looked at individually to get any sense of what the title means, but in virtually no case does it mean "Fully enlightened." “Roshi” is basically an institutional title for a role necessary to maintain Zen’s constructed or made-up form of legitimacy, that is, an unbroken lineage of supposedly enlightened teachers going back to the historical Buddha. One could argue that the roshi supposedly has had the same insight/enlightenment experience as the "original Buddha" in the sense of having a direct experience of their true or Buddha nature. Also recall that having an enlightenment experience is not a criterion for many master/roshi.  For those roshi or other people who have had a Zen experience to say it is the same as the original Buddha's seems quite speculative to me. This clearly side steps issues like the depth of the experience, the integration into one’s life, other qualities/powers the historical Buddha supposedly had, and so on. Too, what was the enlightenment experience of the historical Buddha, which was only put in writing hundreds of years after his death? Basically, we should be careful about mixing up an institutional role, however it is defined or talked about, with spiritual attainment, especially with being "fully enlightened."  

NDM: It seems that some roshis scatter their seeds far and wide, in more ways than one, while others seem to be more careful with this.  For example Richard Baker has been publicly criticized for his behavior at San Francisco Zen Center. Former students have said that he was addicted to power, abusive of his position, extravagant in his personal spending, and inappropriate in his love life.  Another Zen teacher named Maezumi, after many years spent struggling with his alcoholism, died in Japan in 1995 following a night of drinking—drowning in a bath after falling asleep.
In your article  "Richard Baker and the Myth of the Zen Roshi"  You wrote "The San Francisco Zen Center "scandal" was not unique in American Zen history. In fact there are few major centers not touched by sexual or other scandals, but the SFZC case suffices for the discussion we will have here".     
Beginning in 1965 and continuing to this day, a series of scandals has erupted at one Zen center after another revealing that many Zen teachers have exploited students sexually and financially. This list has included, at various times, the head teachers at The Zen Studies Society in New York City, the San Francisco Zen Center, the Zen Center of Los Angeles, the Cimarron Zen Center in Los Angeles, the now-defunct Kanzeon Zen center in Bar Harbor, Maine, the  Moon Spring Hermitage in Surry, Maine, the Providence Zen Center and the Toronto Zen center. These are some of the largest and most influential centers. In most cases the scandals have persisted continually for years, or seemed to end only to arise again. At one center, for example, sex scandals have recurred for approximately forty years with the same teacher involving many women. These scandals have been pervasive as well as persistent, affecting almost all major American Zen Centers. It should be emphasized that the source of the problem lies not in sexual activity per se, but in the teachers' abuse of authority and the deceptive (and exploitative) nature of these affairs. These affairs were carried on in secret and even publicly denied. The students involved were often lied to by the teachers about the nature of the liaison. In some cases the teacher claimed the sexual experience would advance the student ' s spiritual development. One teacher justified his multiple sexual affairs after their discovery as necessary for strengthening the Zen center. Presumably, this was because the women involved were running satellite centers of his and having a secret affair with the "master" would deepen their understanding and practice.  
If someone supposedly had this so called "Buddha nature", then why would all these scandals happen?  Could there be some kind of a flaw with this dharma transmission procedure? Is there a flaw with Buddhism itself?

Stuart Lachs: Yes- it is true that some Zen masters/roshi "scatter their seeds far and wide, in more ways than one, while others seem to be more careful." There is no fixed law or rule on how many or by what criteria some one gives Dharma transmission. I do not think whether some one gives few or many or no Dharma transmissions is a measure of anything but that. Maezumi and Katagiri each had twelve Dharma heirs, Suzuki had one heir in America, Richard Baker, and two in Japan, his son Hoitsu who did not study with him and some one he did not know but transmitted to as a favor to a friend. Sasaki has no heirs. 
I think it is widely believed that Dharma transmission (D.t.) is given to people because of some high level of spiritual insight, attainment and practice. Popular Zen books would like you to think this about their roshi but THIS IS JUST NOT TRUE!!! It is really sectarian propaganda. Dharma transmission (D.t.) is given for many reasons most of which are not related to any high level attainment or especially deep level of insight. For instance, Katagiri roshi of the Minneapolis Zen Center gave Dharma transmission to twelve priests (no lay people) at once shortly before he died. "He said no one was ready to take over, but he hoped to avoid his heirs becoming competitive and political, and maybe in time someone would ripen and would step forward." This is from The Great Failure by Natalie Goldberg, a well known author and long time student of Katagiri. The book also discusses Katagiri's own scandals with female students that only came to light after he died. 
In your question, above, you mention Richard Baker. No one knows for sure why Suzuki roshi gave D.t. to only Baker, and not to another person or other older students in addition to Baker, but that is what Suzuki roshi did. This presents us with a quandary. If Suzuki gave D.t. to Baker based on what he thought was some high level of spiritual attainment, then it appears that he made a mistake in his assessment of Baker, with whom he spent over 15 years in close contact. After all, Suzuki said that Baker's transmission was "real." So we are left to see that the roshi's supposed deep insight and mind-to-mind transmission which Zen claims is only understandable by their roshi and Dharma heirs, is really quite fallible. This calls into question the validity of the unbroken lineage going back to the Buddha, the basic supposed unquestioned claim to Zen legitimacy and authority. 
On the other hand we can say Suzuki gave D.t. to Baker for other reasons besides spiritual attainment and insight. For instance, he may have given only Baker D.t. and skipped other older students because he knew as every one knew that Baker had terrific administrative ability far above everyone else’s, was an outstanding fund raiser, was interested in the growth of the S.F. Zen Center as perhaps was Suzuki and importantly and singularly of all Suzuki’s students, he had the ability to make this growth happen. Baker was also a good speaker so could give fine sounding Zen talks to his followers and to the public. From a certain perspective all these abilities can be important for a Zen group, but none of them have anything to do with spiritual attainment. There could be other reasons that Suzuki picked Baker alone: perhaps a personal attachment to Baker as if Baker was the kind of son he wanted but did not have, Baker's ease and ability among important people and wealthy people, Baker's outgoing public persona, Baker's ability to generate satellite centers across the country, and so on. Whatever the reason, if this is the case, D.t. is not based on spiritual attainment and again Zen's self defined basis for unquestioned legitimacy and authority is open to question.  
Of course, this is only one example, but with the amount of scandal and questionable behavior known around Zen, it is hardly the most questionable or is it isolated. So in either case, there is a problem with the unquestioned authority for the Chan/Zen master/roshi and the supposed authority that accompanies Zen sanctioned Dharma transmission. In point of fact the two cases above and all sorts of permutations and combinations of these and other reasons are used as a basis  for giving Dharma transmission and historically, have been used that way.  
Zen is an old and large institution that in the Far East has worked hard to gain and hold State and elite support that was necessary for its survival and growth. It is perhaps naive to think that they based their existence, growth, and continuity solely on individuals with great spiritual attainment and deep insight into their true nature.   
According to Zen, every sentient being has "Buddha nature," not just the Dharma transmitted master or roshi. Some people realize their "Buddha nature" or see into their "Buddha nature" and some do not. Realizing one's "Buddha nature" is not a criterion for becoming a roshi in some sects or lineages of Chan/Zen. It is not in Soto Zen; by far the largest Zen sect in Japan, roughly fifteen times larger than the Rinzai sect, and it is not in Sheng Yen's Taiwanese sect of Chan...

The big flaw to my mind in the "Dharma transmission procedure" is not being crystal clear about what it actually means and afterwards, not being being crystal clear that all the Zen stories and the roshi commenting on the stories of iconic Zen masters of the past does not mean that the living roshi is anything like the roshi in the story. In fact, the roshi in the written text was probably not like the roshi as presented in the text. Zen "biographical" texts were all highly edited over long periods of time to match a desired self image and institutional needs of Zen at the time. These written stories/Zen texts essentially created perfected Zen masters and were meant to serve as models of ideal Zen masters and their behavior and words, probably to be imitated, rather than being biography in the modern sense of our understanding of describing an actual life.

NDM:  What is the criteria for a roshi to pass on the dharma transmission to a student?  Is there some kind of a test, examination they would undergo to root out this ego, lust for ambition, power, money, sex, fame, position, authority,  narcissism, psychopathology and so on? 
Stuart Lachs: There is no agreed upon criteria for giving Dharma transmission. There is no test "to root out " attachments or strong interests/concerns for ego, lust, money, sex, fame, ...aside from the specific Zen roshi's judgment of his disciple. As an example, the recently deceased Chan master Sheng Yen received Dharma transmission from Master Ling Yuan who he had spent exactly one night with. Sheng Yen has written that he had a Chan experience at the end of the night, in the morning they parted. Many years later Sheng Yen visited Ling Yuan and told him that he was teaching Chan. Ling Yuan then gave him Dharma transmission. Sheng Yen also received Dharma transmission from another Master he had spent two years with. 
As we both have noted, there is a problem with Dharma transmission as so many major Zen Centers have had to deal with scandals involving sex, power, money,…aside from too much concern for fame, narcissism, adoration which pass under the scandal bar, and then there is plain old psychopathology  on the part of master/roshi.

NDM:  Is there a fundamental flaw of some kind with Buddhism itself. Or have his teachings been misinterpreted, distorted somehow?  
Stuart Lachs: I do not think there is "a fundamental flaw... with Buddhism" nor do I think the teachings have been "misinterpreted, distorted somehow." First I think we should be clear that there are many Buddhisms. Like any living tradition or religion it must evolve to reflect the concerns, language, and mentality of place and time as well as the political situation. Buddhism does not occur in a vacuum; it is always embedded in a given society and culture at a given time. Buddhism like any other religion must develop as an institution if it is to thrive in a given society. 
Chan is a Chinese development that spread to Korea (known as Son Budd.) and then to Japan, (known as Zen, as we mostly call it today in the West) that is the form of Buddhism we are discussing here. Zen chose Dharma transmission, that is, the supposed mind-to-mind transmission between a master and his heir. The claim is that Zen holds the heart/mind of Buddhism transmitted silently from one generation to another in a unilinear (one person per generation), unbroken chain like manner. Chan mythology has this chain beginning with the historical Buddha Sakyamuni through twenty-eight Indian generations to Bodhidharma the First Chan Patriarch who brought Chan from India to China through to Huineng, the Sixth Chinese Patriarch after whom it split into a many branched tree and continues that way to the present. 
Zen claims it has the heart/mind of Buddhism while other sects are dependent on texts and translations from quite foreign languages that introduce mistakes and problems.
Because of this manner of establishing legitimacy and authority, the Chan/Zen master/roshi is supposedly connected by Dharma transmission, which is the institutional ritual symbolizing mind-to-mind transmission that connects each roshi with the historical Buddha. It is common in Zen books written by a master/roshi to point out their specific lineage at least for a few generations back and often all the way back showing their connection  to the historical Buddha.  
That this scheme of legitimation is all pretty much made up is another issue. That the institution needs to keep sanctifying new roshi in large numbers presents another problem. That these roshi must also serve the institutional and as is common of old institutions, their conservative needs is yet another issue. The problem in the end, at least as I see it, is that the master /roshi is conceived and presented as some thing he is not: a highly enlightened/attained individual beyond the understanding of "ordinary" people. He is presented this way along with institutional rituals, the use of liturgical implements as well as a vast array of texts and parts of the liturgy that in one way or another repeat this claim. Not surprisingly people who read Zen literature come to believe it and all too often, the roshi himself internalizes the role and thinks of himself as such. In a sense then, the group and its master/roshi act like theater or play acting, certainly there is a large element of fantasy and wishful thinking. 
This is not to say that Zen practice is fake or theater or anything negative, but there are problems. Zen practice, in my opinion is a wonderful practice. It has made my life richer and more fulfilling while helping me be in the world and relate to people in what I feel is a better way, but certainly not without fault and error. I have been at it since 1967...

NDM: I would like to address this roshi named Hakuyū Taizan Maezumi. He ordained sixty-eight priests gave his transmission to a lot of people, but he was also an alcoholic.  Jan Chozen Bays said of Maezumi's drinking, "We in subtle ways encouraged his alcoholism. We thought it was enlightened behavior that when he would drink, elements of Roshi would come out we had never seen before. He would become piercingly honest. People would deliberately go—everybody did this—and see what he would say and do when he was drunk, and how he could skewer you against the wall."
Stuart Lachs: Yes, by now it is well known that Maezumi was an alcoholic. He entered a detox program but while visiting his brother's temple in Japan, apparently was drinking again and died in a hot tub. I spoke with a person knowledgeable about alcoholism and he said that Maezumi probably drowned on his own vomit. The circumstances of his death were kept secret for some time. I had also heard that his students not only "in subtle ways encouraged his alcoholism" but also supplied the alcohol. It should also be noted that Maezumi had a number of affairs with his students, one of which was with Jan Chozen Bays.
At least some of Maezumi's students saw every act he did as teaching. This is standard Zen rhetoric. Maezumi's students did not make this up. So what Jan says above, "We thought it was enlightened behavior ..." is completely, 100% believable. I heard a story about his "Jisha," his personal assistant. She supposedly said that when roshi threw up, which of course was from his heavy drinking, that he did it intentionally so she would get used to cleaning vomit and not be repelled by it. She saw all Maezumi's actions and behavior as teaching- that is, roshi, according to this view, are teaching in every second of their life. Whether students get it or not is the other part of the Zen rhetoric. It seems hard to believe, but that is the standard Zen line and people believed it and lived by it, as these two stories illustrate.

NDM: Do you think that since he was an alcoholic, his judgment may have suffered and his transmissions should be questioned or investigated or qualified in some way to reflect this?
Stuart Lachs: Let's go back a step. We can ask what does Maezumi's Dharma transmission mean if he was an alcoholic? As stated above he went through detox but as is common with alcoholism, he relapsed, which caused his death. He also had some secret affairs with students while being married. He had to drink to become "piercingly honest." At the least, this is not the picture Zen presents of a Dharma transmitted roshi.
Some people will bring up the example of Ikkyu as a hard drinking carousing priest who liked prostitutes. He entered the brothel wearing his black robes because he viewed sexual intercourse as a religious rite. But he did this openly and lived the life of a vagabond, poet, artist…Late in life he was made abbot of Daitoku-ji, a major monastery in Japan. He was really one of a kind. I think it is dangerous to point to Ikkyu as is commonly done, to justify or excuse questionable behavior of a roshi.
I ask the readers, “Do you know anyone who is an alcoholic whose judgment is not impaired?”
Why would you think someone with the title roshi is any different? Apparently the Tibetan tradition is quite similar to the Zen tradition. Remember, the world famous Tibetan teacher Trungpa drank himself to death. Was his judgment impaired? His number one dharma heir, Osel Tendzin, a westerner from New Jersey was made successor and sanctified with the title Vajra Regent by Trungpa, thought he was special too. Unfortunately he contracted AIDS, knowingly had unprotected sex with his students, and passed it on to some of his partners, at least one of who died. He thought the Dakinis (female embodiment of enlightened energy, sky dancers) were protecting everyone. Trungpa wrote of Tendzin, “As a student and child of mine, Ösel Tendzin has developed his natural ability to respond to the teachings of egolessness.” Interestingly, we see here that the Tibetan tradition of “enlightened “ masters’ as does Zen, refer to their students as a “child of mine”. Their enlightened masters seem as fallible and as affected by alcohol as do the Zen masters/roshi.

NDM: Should his judgment in giving Dharma transmission be questioned?
Stuart Lachs: Well, more basic, and I keep coming back to this, is, "What does Dharma transmission really mean?" How has it been used historically? Look at other people with Dharma transmission; how do they look when examined closely? Look at the history of Zen in America and the recurring scandals and the ineffectual response from the Zen Soto, Rinzai, and Sanbo Kyodan institutions in Japan and other Zen roshi. Look at the history of roshi in Japan, look at the history of the Soto and Rinzai sects say from 1900 through 1945 and beyond to 1995 or so. It is time I think, to stop fetishizing the titles roshi and Zen master, and look at them as regular people with an institutionally sanctioned title. Look at what people do rather than what some old text or a new text claims “a roshi is.” The old texts are mostly "prescriptive," that is,telling us how a Zen master/roshi should act and talk; rarely are they "descriptive", actually describing a real person's life in the modern sense of the word.  Are roshi really so special? Some may have some good qualities but it is rare that there are no bad or weak qualities tagging along.  Let us do everyone a favor and keep this on the human level. We should not steal the roshi's humanity or throw away our own to satisfy a wish for a perfected person...

NDM: Do you think this roshi business is this simply to keep this hierarchical power structure in certain peoples hands?  Are we living in a time that this could even be done away with and to take this back to basics? How it started off ?
Stuart Lachs: The Chan master/roshi system or idea developed in China. Though I am not an expert on this, I believe it arose because of the social structure in China which is mostly based on a Confucian hierarchical model. In some ways, Chan/Zen is the most Confucian of  Buddhist sects in China. Chan based its legitimacy and authority on a genealogical model (unbroken lineage from the historical Buddha) as  Chinese society was based on the family model, with its great emphasis on ancestor worship. The Chan master of a student is viewed as the father, students of the same teacher were viewed as brothers, the teacher's teacher was your grandfather, there is great emphasis on lineage and so on. This is still the situation in Zen circles today...

Quoted from Nonduality Magazine, Interview with Stuart Lachs, 2010.

Dharma Transmission in Zen by Stuart Lachs

Dharma Transmission in Zen
by Stuart Lachs

Despite its iconoclastic image, Zen has in actuality been a remarkably conservative institution throughout its history, almost always tied to and controlled by the state and elite elements of society. There is certainly nothing anti-authoritarian about the notion of unbroken lineage going back to the historical Buddha. Likewise, Dharma transmission was as much about institutional prosperity, prestige, authority, continuity and acceptance and control by imperial authorities as it was about notions of enlightenment and spiritual perfection. The Zen master is a role that stands as a representative of the entire Zen institution. He occupies an authoritative place in East Asian cultures that have already been imbued with a special level of hierarchy since ancient times. It could fairly be said that what is effectively transmitted by Dharma transmission is institutional authority, rather than religious wisdom. However, I do not mean to imply there is no inner spiritual content to the Zen tradition.

Dharma transmission has been awarded and is still awarded for many reasons besides spiritual attainment. In fact, it was often not based on spiritual attainment at all, most especially so in Japanese Soto Zen, which is the sect of Suzuki, Baker and the San Francisco Zen Center. In this sect, Dharma transmission is commonly a father-son transmission ritual culminating in the son's inheritance of the family temple. Spiritual attainment, insight into timeless truth(s) or any other profound changes in one's inner life play virtually no part in the majority of these Dharma transmissions or in the every day functions of these roshis.

But the Soto sect tries to have it both ways. It allows bureaucratic transmission, but it also uses "historical" biographies of eminent masters presented as desireless beings, the koans, and the many Zen stories and dialogues (mondo) to legitimize and to enhance authority, that make clear that transmission is given because of a deep insight into reality or spiritual attainment. Read any of these texts of Zen, The Book of Serenity, a Soto sect koan collection, being one prominent example, and this will be abundantly clear.

"Hollow" transmissions such as those between father and son are incorporated into the unbroken lineage to the Buddha. (If the reader wants to argue that Dharma transmission in the Rinzai sect or in the modern Sanbokyodan sect so popular in the West matches the ideal of Zen rhetoric, please feel free to email me at my address listed in the Notes.)
Even when Dharma transmission does reflect some level of something we may call spiritual attainment, it is not based on the idealized version proffered by the Zen institution: a mystical meeting of minds between teacher and disciple sharing a timeless truth that unvaryingly matches the minds of all teachers going back in the lineage, through the six Chan Patriarchs in China, and the twenty eight generations of the supposed Indian lineage going back to the historical Buddha, and beyond. This is a mythology of Zen, a pure fiction. The Zen institution requires the master because he is supposedly a living example of the ideal of Zen and, as such, represents all of its legitimacy and authority. A large institution like Zen requires hundreds of such living role players. This necessitates the production of virtual quotas of such highly exalted people, while in the realm of "spiritual attainment" it is rare to produce just one such person. Therefore, in the living world of flesh and blood we have people with some very limited level of attainment occupying a role that is defined as Buddha-like, actualizing perfect freedom and unfathomable compassion beyond the ordinary person's understanding and hence above question. However Zen texts may define the role, Zen masters have not been fully enlightened beings beyond question.

Quoted from Richard Baker and the Myth of the Zen Roshi by Stuart Lachs.

Find the full article here:

maanantai 10. joulukuuta 2018

How Zen Buddhism Can Be Bettered

How Zen Buddhism Can Be Bettered

In this text, I will use Hakuun Yasutani Roshi's instructions on just sitting, as a source for commentary of my own, where I present an idea how the training paradigm of zen buddhism, could be greatly enhanced. For those not familiar with Yasutani Hakuun Roshi, a rather famous figure of Japanese and Western Zen of the 20th century, I recommend reading his Wikipedia page.

Yasutani Roshi's instruction of shikantaza, or just sitting, are from the book ”On Zen Practice: Body, Breath and Mind” by Taizan Maezumi and Bernie Glassman. You can read this chapter that I will quote and comment below, from here. I would ask the reader to read his instructions carefully, to be sure that with my comments I am not mispresenting him.

Quotes from Yasutani Roshi, with added comments.

Yasutani: ...I will briefly explain how to practice shikantaza... This is the key to practicing shikantaza... Casting all sorts of self-centeredness away and making yourself as a clean sheet of paper; sit, just firmly sit...
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...
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. So sit half an hour to an hour, then stand up and do a period of kinhin, walking meditation.
During kinhin, relax the mind a little. Refresh yourself. Then sit down and continue shikantaza.
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.

Kim's Comment: In his instructions, Yasutani quotes Dogen (see the original text), to indicate what shikantaza is. However, Yasutani's take on shikantaza is clearly different to Dogen's, because his instructions describe ”intensely heightened concentration”. Anyone who has studied vajrayana buddhism, and its clear expositions of meditation practices, can see that Yasutani confuses concentration practice or cultivation of one-pointedness (skt. samadhi, j. zanmai), as it is termed in zen buddhism, with effortless buddhanature sitting, which is what just sitting is. He confuses effort-based heightened concentration or heightened attention, with knowing awareness.

Yasutani: Then, almost anything can plunge you into the sudden realization that all beings are originally buddhas and all existence is perfect from the beginning. Experiencing this is called enlightenment...

Kim's Comment: Here, Yasutani describes how ”anything can plunge” the practitioners into ”sudden realization”, or kensho. This is where he unknowingly explains his erroneous pedagogy of just sitting. In the above bits, he gives instructions of sitting with high alertness, that can only be maintained for short periods of time, until it loosens. This is a classical description of samadhi meditation, which as many zen stories depict, is shattered by some sight, sound or event, which makes one see one's true nature (j. kensho). In a nutshell, Yasutani describes concentration practice of heightened intensity that is then plunged or shattered, which makes the natural state appear, to effect an insight, and he calls all of this with one term, that of shikantaza. This is where the pedagogical mistake is, for heightened concentration, or heightened attention is not the same as kensho, which is a synonym for shikantaza. For this reason, there is a significant difference between Yasutani's and Zen master Dogen's instructions.

Yasutani: In short, shikantaza is the actual practice of buddhahood itself from the very beginning - and, in diligently practicing shikantaza, when the time comes, one will realize that very fact. However, to practice in this manner can require a long time to attain enlightenment, and such practice should never be discontinued until one fully realizes enlightenment. Even after attaining great enlightenment and even if one becomes a roshi, one must continue to do shikantaza forever, simply because shikantaza is the actualization of enlightenment itself.

Kim's Comment: In correct buddhanature sitting, there is no beginning, realization or diligent practice. In correct shikantaza, there is no effort, nor distraction, such as drowsiness, to a slightest degree. I offer my further comments. 
Samsaric beings, such as myself, have two kinds of minds: one bound by confusion (samsaric mind) and the other one free (buddhanature). The way to illuminate the samsaric mind and its many traits, in Rinzai-style of zen buddhism, is to focus strongly and keep focusing strongly (samadhi), for in some cases several years, until some spontaneous event from outside occurs, breaks the samadhi, and in consequence, the practitioner momentarily sees his or her buddhanature. What happens with concentration practice, is that one becomes focused, instead of being distracted, while at the same time, establishing calmness of the mind. This is how it ideally is, but in some cases strong concentration, carried over a long period of time, can also create great health problems. For this reason instructions like this, without learning how to relax well, can be altogether counterproductive. In regards to strong sitting, I find it questionable what is the benefit of this for older people, from middle-aged and older, who many are already calm and in general have less vitality than younger people.
Being concentrated is in a way, being self-immersed, self-indulgent. Because the mind is restless and distractive, it requires a lot of training to be able to create a samadhi, a state of complete self-immersion or absorption. In rinzai zen, the logic is to create this samadhi which when it is accomplished, will be automatically smashed into bits by a sound or a sight, such as view of mountains, red Autumn leaf falling from a tree, barking of a dog, sound of rain, seeing of a flower or a yell of a zen master. The main point here is that the cause that shatters the samadhi, never comes from the mind of the practitioner him- or herself, because the mind is in samadhi, in a state of immersion, without thought. In tantric terms, the cause that generates kensho, always comes from outside of the practitioner's energy field.

In my view and experience, as well as those of my students, it is not necessary to generate samadhi first. I have discussed this in Rethinking Zen and Kensho, which mentions how the whole process could be made more efficient, through dynamic concentration. In the instruction above, Yasutani speaks of dynamic concentration, done silently, actually at a medium, rather than high intensity.

If the reader is not familiar how concentration is used in Open Heart, as in Tibetan dzogchen, we use short sharp shouts, like short vocal explosions, to cut through the many layers of the mind, to access and recognise the natural state. This is not unfamiliar to zen buddhism where teachers and students yell to each other, or in some lineages have shouted MUUU! for hours on end to have kensho.

The main difference between medium and (truly) high intensity focus is that with short explosion the desired outcome, that of recognition of buddhanature which is kensho, is accomplished in few seconds, while with medium concentration it takes a lot longer, for the above mentioned reason that one constantly gets distracted. Medium intensity concentration also needs to be fed with energy which makes it demanding of vitality and can even ruin one's health, as in the cases of young zen master Hakuin, and my own, for example.

It is a simple fact that the process of samadhi can be bypassed, while prioritizing the recognition of buddhanature. The essential point is that it is not through concentrative focus but through many kenshos that one becomes familiar of one's buddhanature.

Thank you for reading,
- Kim Katami, 10.12.2018
Helsinki, Finland.

In my book, available free of charge, I have given detailed instructions about dynamic concentration and its effectiveness, What's Next? On Post-Awakening Practice.

See demonstrations of dynamic concentration, playlist here.

lauantai 8. joulukuuta 2018

Just As It Is – All Beings Are Free

Just As It Is – All Beings Are Free

Few days ago, compassionate motivation of enlightenment (skt. bodhicitta, j. bodaishin/菩提心), from the relative perspective, was discussed at Facebook. Mahayana and vajrayana approaches of buddhism are big on bodhicitta, where practitioners remind themselves of the suffering and confusion of all sentient beings, while mentally praying and physically acting for the liberation of all beings. This is what bodhisattvas, those aiming at full liberation, do, with great spiritual benefits. Bodhicitta is the tip of the spear of mahayana buddhism, which reveals our innate buddhanature while uncovering our selfish confusion in all of its forms, including those that are not easy to detect.

There is also another perspective to bodhicitta, ultimate bodhicitta, where all beings are already free. This perspective exists simultaneously with the relative one. The ultimate perspective doesn't deny the relative one, this is essential to understand.

In my experience, ultimate bodhicitta can be glimpsed along the way, as we keep praying and acting for the liberation of others. Then at some point, the fact that all beings are free already, sneaks on us, and we experience both perspectives. This makes our practice mature, as well as realistic. It is realistic because sentient beins are both, free and imprisoned, buddhas and samsaric beings, until we cease to be samsaric beings.

In my article, Nuts and Bots of Bodhicitta (to be published at, I gave a simple meditative exercise to boost one's experience and understanding of bodhicitta.

The gist of this exercise is this: Be or sit with all beings.

This is a highly useful meditation for those who work to understand one's true nature. When familiarity increases, this exercise ceases to be an articial practice, and becomes what we actually are, a mind of perfect clarity and stability, that is shared by all life, in a dynamic lively way.

This can also be used to check if one's atiyoga (t. dzogchen atiyoga), or nonmeditation is correct. If we generate bodhicitta during nonmeditation, and our energyfield disappears by blessings shooting outwards from our body, and by consequence we become connected with sentient beings outside our energy field, it is an indication that our atiyoga is still unripe. It is unripe because atiyoga is ”buddhanature sitting” and in buddhanature all beings are already connected. In this case, we need to keep generating bodhicitta and focus on tantric practice. However, if nothing happens by saying a prayer, our practice is sound and correct.

This is how I understand, ”just as it is”, a phrase often used in zen buddhism, and this is what I believe, correct just sitting (j. shikantaza/只管打坐) is.

Thank you for reading,

- Kim Katami, 8.12.2018.

sunnuntai 2. joulukuuta 2018

Rethinking Zen and Kensho

Rethinking Zen and Kensho

There are many examples of zen practitioners, both monastics and laypeople, who experienced seeing one's true nature, or kensho, first by cultivating one-pointedness (skt. samadhi, jp. zanmai), and then shattering that one-pointedness through various spontaneous or purposeful ways. What happens when one-pointedness becomes shattered is that one's mind shifts from self-based and self-experienced concentrative calm, to one's natural state, or buddhanature.

I have questioned the necessity of cultivating samadhi because, from the point of view of having kensho, it seems quite useless, that takes a lot of time and effort to come up with. While from one perspective being mindfully concentrated is better than being distracted, neither of these conditions are the natural state, that is, kensho. Thousand hours of concentration on one's breath or koan is little, based on queries and observations, and still it is not certain that kensho will happen. All in all, it is very unreliable. The good side is that it needn't be so.

Buddhism teaches that all sentient beings have buddhanature, so the question is how can we most effectively access this buddhanature of ours, instead of remaining in our samsaric state? If we managed to recognise our natural state correctly, on regular basis, we'd be glimpsing and familiarising (kensho) our buddhanature all the time.

In my view, the reason why kensho zen is near to extinction is because training in samadhi has taken the place of prioritising kensho. It's all backwards. If recognition of one's buddhanature was prioritized, we would instantly see a change in our sanghas and in the whole zen culture.

The thing is that in order to have kensho, we need not cultivate samadhi. We need not go through the hardship of learning how to concentrate but by the means of dynamic concentration (pg. 21 in What's Next? On Post-Awakening Practice) can access the natural state as soon as we utter a sharp shout. In this way we can bypass samadhi cultivation and save a lot of time and energy, while inevitably having one kensho after another.

Thank you.

-Kim Katami
Open Heart Sangha,