Zen is Tough - Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

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  • chicanobudista
    Member
    • Mar 2008
    • 864

    Zen is Tough - Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

    At our sangha, we are currently reading "Mindfulness In Plain English" by Ven. Henepola Gunaratana. At this point, we are currently on Ch. 3 ("What Meditation Is"). He proceeds to give brief descriptions of different meditational practices, Buddhist and non-Buddhist.

    He gets to the Zen part and describes it as such:

    All Buddhist meditation aims at the development of awareness, using concentration as a tool. The Buddhist tradition is very wide, however, and there are several diverse routes to this goal. Zen meditation uses two separate tacks. The first is the direct plunge into awareness by sheer force of will. You sit down and you just sit, meaning that you toss out of your mind everything except pure awareness of sitting. This sounds very simple. It is not. A brief trial will demonstrate just how difficult it really is. The second Zen approach used in the Rinzai school is that of tricking the mind out of conscious thought and into pure awareness. This is done by giving the student an unsolvable riddle which he must solve anyway, and by placing him in a horrendous training situation. Since he cannot flee from the pain of the situation, he must flee into a pure experience of the moment. There is nowhere else to go. Zen is tough. It is effective for many people, but it is really tough.
    I am kind of flattered in a macho way that my practice is tough. :P

    I understand he is writing a popular book on meditation and is writing a very brief description since the main point of the book is vipassana meditation. Also, I know he is not writing to demean Zen. Nevertheless, I feel this passage somehow gets it half-right.

    Am I reading wrong his Zen meditation practice description? :|
    paz,
    Erik


    Flor de Nopal Sangha
  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39392

    #2
    Re: Zen is Tough - Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

    Having been called myself from time to time by folks for misdescribing aspects of the vipassana tradition (and yesterday, the Koan Zen tradition), well, it is always hard for someone to fully describe the other guy's game when you don't play it. That's all.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    Comment

    • chicanobudista
      Member
      • Mar 2008
      • 864

      #3
      Re: Zen is Tough - Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

      I think this is what makes it tough:


      :P
      paz,
      Erik


      Flor de Nopal Sangha

      Comment

      • Jundo
        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
        • Apr 2006
        • 39392

        #4
        Re: Zen is Tough - Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

        Let me add that meditation comes in as many flavors as the Zoo has animals. So, there are many flavors that make a more aggressive effort to "empty the mind" of its contents. Even for the "Just Sitting" Shikantaza form of meditation, I believe that Yasutani Roshi (root of the Sanbo Kyodan, Diamond Sangha, White Plum and others), who was the "Big Explosive Kensho" teacher who mixed Rinzai and Soto practices, emphasized a more "sweat pouring down your brow" species of Shikantaza. Please read his essay on Page 51 to 53 of this book

        http://books.google.com/books?id=k6O9Sv ... t#PPA52,M1

        also viewable here (you can search the word "Yasutani) ...

        http://www.amazon.com/Art-Just-Sitting- ... 086171394X

        We don't push the (thought) tiger out of the cage by confronting him head on, but just let him wander out naturally though the wide open door. He will wander out whenever he wanders in and, anyway, in the end, we need to realize that the tiger is not our enemy.

        (If you have not guessed, I am taking Leon to the Zoo today).

        Yasutani Roshi's approach to Shikantaza is not "main stream" in Soto Zen world, and I often compare it to two Ai-ki-do groups that my wife attends here in Tsukuba. Ai-ki-do is a martial art that uses the opponents own power to throw the opponent (as opposed to a frontal attack). However, one group is surprisingly gentle, almost like a dance, while the other is very forceful about it.

        Both tame the tiger. But, in our way, in the end, we must realize that the tiger is not our enemy.

        Gassho, J
        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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        • disastermouse

          #5
          Re: Zen is Tough - Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

          I think some of us let the tiger tame us and fool ourselves about the nature of the relationship!

          Chet

          Comment

          • Brock
            Member
            • Jan 2009
            • 70

            #6
            Re: Zen is Tough - Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

            I have read that book several times. It's great.

            Bhante G also describes in the book that vipassana is tough. A lot of times, his message is, VERY roughly paraphrased, "suck it up and do it and don't let the little things stop you, you baby." (I'm pretty sure that the "baby" part is not a part of the message, but I see it when I read the book.)

            As he says at the first of the book, it takes gumption. It takes "toughness," in a sense.

            Comment

            • disastermouse

              #7
              Re: Zen is Tough - Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

              Originally posted by Brock
              I have read that book several times. It's great.

              Bhante G also describes in the book that vipassana is tough. A lot of times, his message is, VERY roughly paraphrased, "suck it up and do it and don't let the little things stop you, you baby." (I'm pretty sure that the "baby" part is not a part of the message, but I see it when I read the book.)

              As he says at the first of the book, it takes gumption. It takes "toughness," in a sense.
              I think what's interesting about the Buddhist path, both in Zen and Vipassana - is that you have to really want to know the truth. I have often thought that Zen was for the truly hopeless - those among us who can no longer fool ourselves into believing that any achieved state or conditioned situation can lead to lasting happiness. Why else would anyone tolerate such a seemingly harsh and cold religion? It offers no heaven and frequently states that its own methods lead 'nowhere'.

              In that way, I guess it could be said to be 'hard'. In truth though, it is harder on us the harder we cling.

              Both Zen and Vipassana coax us into opening our eyes.

              IMHO, IANAT.

              Chet

              Comment

              • Jundo
                Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                • Apr 2006
                • 39392

                #8
                Re: Zen is Tough - Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

                Originally posted by disastermouse
                It offers no heaven and frequently states that its own methods lead 'nowhere'.
                As you know so well, Chet, 'nowhere' ain't just 'nowhere'
                ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                Comment

                • disastermouse

                  #9
                  Re: Zen is Tough - Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

                  Originally posted by Jundo
                  Originally posted by disastermouse
                  It offers no heaven and frequently states that its own methods lead 'nowhere'.
                  As you know so well, Chet, 'nowhere' ain't just 'nowhere'
                  Right. But it isn't a magical, mystical place.

                  Oh wait. I take that back.

                  Chet

                  Comment

                  • will
                    Member
                    • Jun 2007
                    • 2331

                    #10
                    Re: Zen is Tough - Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

                    We don't push the (thought) tiger out of the cage by confronting him head on, but just let him wander out naturally though the wide open door. He will wander out whenever he wanders in and, anyway, in the end, we need to realize that the tiger is not our enemy.
                    That about sums it up.

                    And if we actually look at a real tiger in the wild, we might learn something

                    Gassho
                    [size=85:z6oilzbt]
                    To save all sentient beings, though beings are numberless.
                    To penetrate reality, though reality is boundless.
                    To transform all delusion, though delusions are immeasurable.
                    To attain the enlightened way, a way non-attainable.
                    [/size:z6oilzbt]

                    Comment

                    • humblepie
                      Member
                      • Jan 2009
                      • 205

                      #11
                      Re: Zen is Tough - Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

                      Originally posted by will
                      We don't push the (thought) tiger out of the cage by confronting him head on, but just let him wander out naturally though the wide open door. He will wander out whenever he wanders in and, anyway, in the end, we need to realize that the tiger is not our enemy.
                      That about sums it up.

                      And if we actually look at a real tiger in the wild, we might learn something

                      Gassho
                      Look in the mirror. There is not so much difference.

                      Gassho,
                      Dave
                      1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18, and 1 in 6 boys.
                      These figures only represent reported cases.

                      Comment

                      • will
                        Member
                        • Jun 2007
                        • 2331

                        #12
                        Re: Zen is Tough - Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

                        And then the lion said to the tea cup. "Where are you going Mr. Gravy?"

                        W
                        [size=85:z6oilzbt]
                        To save all sentient beings, though beings are numberless.
                        To penetrate reality, though reality is boundless.
                        To transform all delusion, though delusions are immeasurable.
                        To attain the enlightened way, a way non-attainable.
                        [/size:z6oilzbt]

                        Comment

                        • Dosho
                          Member
                          • Jun 2008
                          • 5784

                          #13
                          Re: Zen is Tough - Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

                          Zen meditation uses two separate tacks. The first is the direct plunge into awareness by sheer force of will. You sit down and you just sit, meaning that you toss out of your mind everything except pure awareness of sitting.
                          This is how I looked at shikantaza for the first couple months I was at Treeleaf and it was only after I let go of the "toss out" part that I began to understand. Next comes letting go of the "understand" part.

                          Comment

                          • humblepie
                            Member
                            • Jan 2009
                            • 205

                            #14
                            Re: Zen is Tough - Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

                            Originally posted by will
                            And then the lion said to the tea cup. "Where are you going Mr. Gravy?"

                            W
                            Something tells me you would be great with children's stories Bottoms up!

                            Zen is tough. Anyone who has dropped ego or at least come close can attest to that. Honesty is tough, and Zen makes you see what you don't want to within yourself, be it tiger or mouse.

                            Gassho,
                            Dave
                            1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18, and 1 in 6 boys.
                            These figures only represent reported cases.

                            Comment

                            • disastermouse

                              #15
                              Re: Zen is Tough - Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

                              Originally posted by humblepie
                              Originally posted by will
                              And then the lion said to the tea cup. "Where are you going Mr. Gravy?"

                              W
                              Something tells me you would be great with children's stories Bottoms up!

                              Zen is tough. Anyone who has dropped ego or at least come close can attest to that. Honesty is tough, and Zen makes you see what you don't want to within yourself, be it tiger or mouse.

                              Gassho,
                              Dave
                              Dave,

                              I think you'll get to a place where it will finally dawn on you that no matter how difficult honesty may be - it's dishonestly and self-deception that are actually so much harder. And then the whole thing - all of life, really - gets much easier.

                              Chet

                              Comment

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