Dukkha and Shikantaza

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39453

    Dukkha and Shikantaza

    Hi,

    Our recent discussion on "Just Sitting" Shikantaza as accepting life and this world (not two, by the way) "just-as-they-are" ... dropping "likes" "dislikes, thoughts of "good" and "bad", all resistance ... allowing all to be, like the stone Buddha in the garden ...

    viewtopic.php?p=24875#p24875

    ,,, made me want to repost this (for beginners especially, but we all can use a reminder from time to time). This is my explanation of the Buddha's "First Noble Truth", often phrased as "Life is Suffering" ... and a little explanation of why Shikantaza is a very powerful medicine for the dis-ease (notice the hyphen in "dis - ease")

    Hi,

    Here is my simple, yet totally effective and fulproof, teaching on "Dukkha" ...

    No one English word captures the full depth and range of the Pali term Dukkha. It is sometimes rendered as 'suffering', as in 'life is suffering'. But perhaps it's better expressed as 'dissatisfaction', 'anxiety', 'disappointment' 'unease at imperfection' or 'frustration', terms that wonderfully convey a subtlety of meaning.

    Your 'self' wishes this world to be X, yet this world is not X. The mental state that may result to the 'self' from this disparity is Dukkha.

    Shakyamuni Buddha gave many examples ... sickness (when we do not wish to be sick), old age (when we long for youth), death (if we cling to life),loss of a loved one (as we cannot let go), violated expectations, the failure of happy moments to last (though we wish them to last). Even joyous moments ... such as happiness and good news, treasure or pleasant times ... can be a source of suffering if we cling to them, are attached to those things. Wishing and clingin to X when life will become Y.

    In ancient stories, Dukkha is often compared to a chariot's or potter's wheel that will not turn smoothly as it revolves. The opposite, Sukkha, is a wheel that spins smoothly and noiselessly, without resistance as it goes.

    In life, there's sickness, old age, death and loss ... other very hard times ...

    But that's not why 'Life is Suffering'. Not at all, said the Buddha.

    Instead, it's sickness, but only when we refuse the condition ...
    ...old age, if we long for youth ...
    ... death, because we cling to life ...

    ... loss , when we cannot let go ...
    ... violated expectations, because we wished otherwise ...


    In other words, when your "self" wants and clings to X, but life hands you Y.

    So, for example, we might imagine this world and our lives as a garden of flowers and weeds. "Suffering" arises when we cannot close the gap between the world "as-it-is" and the world we dream "should be" or "we wish to be" in order for us to be happy and content. Our Buddhist practice allows us to be at one with this garden, both its flowers and weeds just as they are ... no gap, no resistance (accepting and "merging with" the weeds even as we do not accept the weeds ... we can still go ahead and nurture the flowers, and pull the weeds. We can do both at once, it is not an either/or proposition).

    http://www.zenforuminternational.org/vi ... 826#p24826

    Our 'dissatisfaction', 'disappointment', 'unease' and 'frustration' ... Dukkha ... arises as a state of mind, as our demands and wishes for how things 'should be' or 'if only would be for life to be happy' differ from 'the way things are'. The gap is the source of Dukkha. Our Practice closes the gap

    What's more, even happiness can be a source of Dukkha if we cling to the happy state, demand that it stay, are attached to good news, material successes, pleasures and the like ... refusing the way life may otherwise go.

    Our Zen practice closes the gap between how things go and how we would wish them to go ...

    And how do we do that, in our Shikanataza practice? How do we weaken the grip of the "self" which is that source of the gap of judgments and views between "how things are" and "how the self selfishly wishes they would be" ?

    Why, "Just Sit", dropping all thought of "good" and "bad" , "right" , "wrong" , "just" and "unjust" , experiencing a world that just is-what-it-is without gap or separation. It goes-the-way-it-goes, even if that way is not the way we personally might desire. Letting aside both "cruel" and "gentle" , "ugly" and "kind" , we no longer resist, do not judge, and embrace it all ... even the most terrible.

    Then the "self" loses its fuel, is put out of a job ... Dukkha is extinguished in a flash.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Ps Rev. Nonin liked it! But I must not be attached to a little bit of praise! ops:

    http://www.zenforuminternational.org/vi ... 882#p24882
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE
  • Eika
    Member
    • Sep 2007
    • 806

    #2
    Re: Dukkha and Shikantaza

    Many thanks for the repost, Jundo.
    Originally posted by Jundo
    made me want to repost this (for beginners especially, but we all can use a reminder from time to time).
    I'll say I could use all the reminders you can dish out. You never get too good to practice your scales!!!

    Like so many other things in this world, reviewing the basics, the foundational actions/concepts of a thing, maybe the most critical aspect of devoting one's life to a pursuit. I appreciate the constant effort made by all Buddhist teachers (especially Jundo and Taigu) to continue to find ways to spell out the Noble Truth(s) as they know them. It helps us/me.

    I've been playing the piano for about 30 years now and sitting down and practicing basic stuff like scales, fingerings, posture/relaxation, and pre-hearing what I'm about to play are still the things that help me the most. Looking at it one way, there really isn't anything but basics.


    Gassho,
    Bill
    [size=150:m8cet5u6]??[/size:m8cet5u6] We are involved in a life that passes understanding and our highest business is our daily life---John Cage

    Comment

    • will
      Member
      • Jun 2007
      • 2331

      #3
      Re: Dukkha and Shikantaza

      We can't pin point it, but it happens. The closest one can get to it is by saying "don't hold on to anything". Then what?

      Argument is the best example that I can think of where two people are holding on to their idea of right and wrong so much. What would happen if they just let it go, or if one of them let it go and forgot about it or dropped it.

      Sometimes we have all these ideas about things and are so eager to say what is right and what is wrong refusing to just accept the fact that we don't know.

      There are so many things in this world and so many ways of doing things. There are millions of individuals who have hard earned wisdom. Who's to say that "our" way is the "only" way.

      Accepting is the best term. Instead of arguing with someone, accept them. Their faults and our faults. Look deep and see the resemblance there (not two).

      However, don't turn it into some idea. Just practice.

      Gassho

      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

      • Jundo
        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
        • Apr 2006
        • 39453

        #4
        Re: Dukkha and Shikantaza

        Originally posted by will
        Argument is the best example that I can think of where two people are holding on to their idea of right and wrong so much. What would happen if they just let it go, or if one of them let it go and forgot about it or dropped it.

        Sometimes we have all these ideas about things and are so eager to say what is right and what is wrong refusing to just accept the fact that we don't know.

        There are so many things in this world and so many ways of doing things. There are millions of individuals who have hard earned wisdom. Who's to say that "our" way is the "only" way.

        Accepting is the best term. Instead of arguing with someone, accept them. Their faults and our faults. Look deep and see the resemblance there (not two).


        Gassho

        W
        Hi Will,

        Do you really think that there is nothing worth holding "right" and "wrong" about? Nothiing worth sometimes debating ... even arguing about and fighting for strongly in this world? Do you think that every "way" is a good way, and all the same? I notice you say that "our way is not the 'only' way", and that is true. We should be willing to admit "I don't know" most of the time. But some 'ways' are just plain harmful and wrong.

        I do not that we should always think "I don't know" or "all is the same". I think that there is good and bad, things to resist and change in this world. (I do agree, though, that the airwaves and internets are filled with people debating endless silly things ... things that they just want to pointlessly chew the fat about. But that is not true for all matters and subjects).

        Remember: We can hold and assert opinions of "right" and "wrong" ... so long as we simultaneously know how to drop "right" and "wrong".

        Someone wrote me this week to ask if I am bothered if they express a political view very far on the "Left". I said, "no ... not at all, so long as you simultaneously know to drop all thought of "left" or "right"".

        Gassho, Jundo

        Ps - Don't disagree with me ... because I am right about this. :wink:
        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

        Comment

        • will
          Member
          • Jun 2007
          • 2331

          #5
          Re: Dukkha and Shikantaza

          Sometimes we have all these ideas about things and are so eager to say what is right and what is wrong refusing to just accept the fact that we don't know.
          [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

          • will
            Member
            • Jun 2007
            • 2331

            #6
            Re: Dukkha and Shikantaza

            There are so many things in this world and so many ways of doing things. There are millions of individuals who have hard earned wisdom. Who's to say that "our" way is the "only" way.
            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

            • Cameron
              Member
              • Jun 2009
              • 42

              #7
              Re: Dukkha and Shikantaza

              Hello all,

              First post!

              I spent a long time in the park today. I sat and watched people come and go. I moved from one bench to the other as the sun moved the shadows. I was there and things flowed. Just letting things be. It was very peaceful and relaxing.

              To me, this was Sukkha (not only this). And it is a happy coincidence to find this post today. I had one thought that returned to me a few times as I sat in the park. How should one handle goals? I have several goals in my life right know. I do not want to hold on to my goals too tightly because I know I will never really achieve what I had in mind... but I think it is important to stay focused and determined to achieve what I really didn't have in mind.

              Thanks,
              DB

              Comment

              • Jundo
                Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                • Apr 2006
                • 39453

                #8
                Re: Dukkha and Shikantaza

                Originally posted by Deadbuddha
                Hello all,

                First post!

                I spent a long time in the park today. I sat and watched people come and go. I moved from one bench to the other as the sun moved the shadows. I was there and things flowed. Just letting things be. It was very peaceful and relaxing.

                To me, this was Sukkha (not only this). And it is a happy coincidence to find this post today. I had one thought that returned to me a few times as I sat in the park. How should one handle goals? I have several goals in my life right know. I do not want to hold on to my goals too tightly because I know I will never really achieve what I had in mind... but I think it is important to stay focused and determined to achieve what I really didn't have in mind.

                Thanks,
                DB
                Hi DB,

                Please post a short introduction to your "self" over here ...

                viewtopic.php?p=22843#p22843

                Thank you for the lovely image ... I felt like I was sitting next to you on that bench in the park.

                As we have been discussing, we can have goals AND drop all goals SIMULTANEOUSLY. Yes, it is a kind of Koan ... a very healthy way to live too!

                The result is something like moving forward, step by step, yet ever arriving home.

                Buddha, Bodhidharma, Dogen ... all had "goals". Otherwise, Bodhidharma would have never bother to "come from the West" to China, and would have stayed put. Most of these folks built Sangha, taught students, wrote books, built monasteries ... they were "go getters"

                The only thing special is knowing how to be a "go getter" while also knowing that there is no place in need of "getting" :shock:

                Oh, and when you do have goals ... do so with a lose grip, non-attachment, patience. Do not let you "self" hang its "self worth" on their achievement. Yet, be diligent in pursuing them if diligence is called for.

                Both stillness and action ... at once!

                Gassho, Jundo
                ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                Comment

                • Jundo
                  Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                  • Apr 2006
                  • 39453

                  #9
                  Re: Dukkha and Shikantaza

                  Oh, and I should not forget to say that we had best reappraise many of our "goals" ... keeping life simple, and doing without much extra baggage.

                  So, having the "goal" of having the best car in the drive-way in your neighborhood ... probably a goal we can do without. Keeping life simple, not dependent on many "things" is our way too.

                  Gassho, Jundo
                  ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                  Comment

                  • Cameron
                    Member
                    • Jun 2009
                    • 42

                    #10
                    Re: Dukkha and Shikantaza

                    Thanks Jundo, it was good to read that.

                    Cam

                    Comment

                    • Tb
                      Member
                      • Jan 2008
                      • 3186

                      #11
                      Re: Dukkha and Shikantaza

                      Hi.

                      I sometimes explain dukkha something like this.

                      Samsara is when you put the knuckles of your hands together.
                      Nirvana is when you put the palms of your hands together.
                      Dukkha is when you move your hands, there is a slight "resistance"...

                      Mtfbwy
                      Tb
                      Life is our temple and its all good practice
                      Blog: http://fugenblog.blogspot.com/

                      Comment

                      • Hans
                        Member
                        • Mar 2007
                        • 1853

                        #12
                        Re: Dukkha and Shikantaza

                        Hello Fugen!

                        May I dare to add just a little comment to your wonderful analogy?
                        IMHO Dukkha is when knuckles move.

                        Thank you for putting those inspiring pictures you put into my head.

                        Gassho,

                        Mongen

                        Comment

                        • Shohei
                          Member
                          • Oct 2007
                          • 2854

                          #13
                          Re: Dukkha and Shikantaza

                          Wonderful posts! Start to finish. I thought that I rarely need to be reminded the causes of dukkha but way to often I forget the solution. Jundo thank you for reposting this - definitely deserved of kind words.
                          Fugen and Mongen - So very well put.
                          Agreed Ekia - amazed, and very fortunate to be able to practice( i need plenty ) with such a wonderful group !!

                          Gassho, Shohei

                          Comment

                          • Cameron
                            Member
                            • Jun 2009
                            • 42

                            #14
                            Re: Dukkha and Shikantaza

                            Another analogy:

                            For me, Dukkha is like too much friction. This implies too much heat (energy loss), restricted movement (loss of freedom), and greater deterioration over time (more sickness and disease).

                            For me, Sukkha is like just enough friction. This implies less heat (conservation of energy), easier movement (more freedom), and less deterioration (better health).

                            The friction is our self and its attachments. We need some friction (or how else could we move!?), but not too much. Zazen reduces the friction and we become healthier, freer and with more energy.

                            DB

                            Comment

                            • doogie
                              Member
                              • Feb 2008
                              • 77

                              #15
                              Re: Dukkha and Shikantaza

                              Thanks for the refresher in Dukkha and impermanence. I think I needed it today. As I was reading the original post, I started thinking about what life would be like if most people just accepted things as they are; held that one idea was no better than another. Would we still have slavery? Would Hitler control the world? Would we ever find cures for disease? Clearly, as I'm glad Jundo pointed out, there are things that are harmful in this world, and things that need to be changed.

                              I sometimes have a difficult time reconciling the words of Buddhism (esp. Zen Buddhism) with the reality of the world. For instance, many zen practitioners are involved in social action, peacemaking, environmental activism -- basically trying to change the world as it is rather than accept it as it is.

                              This is a contradiction.

                              But maybe that's zen? Learning to deal with more than one point of view at a time, no matter how opposing the views might be? Or is it more simple than that? Is it like that mantra that 12 steppers use?

                              "... Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
                              'Judge a man not by his answers, but by his questions.' Voltaire

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