Thursday, August 25, 2011

Zazen and Zen-Samadhi, from Bodhidharma to Hakuin

 In the Zen lineage from Bodhidharma to Hakuin, zazen, i.e., sitting meditation, has been described as the method of practice and zen-samadhi (Skt. dhyanasamadhi, C. 禅定, chanting, J. zenjo)  is described as the realization of practice.

Bodhidharma (5th/6th century)(From "Great Master Dharma's Discourse on the Nature of Awakening”):

            “If a person knows that the six roots (i.e., 6 sense organs) are not real, that the five accumulations (skandhas) are provisional names, and that seeking everywhere for their substance is necessarily to dwell without samadhi, then one should know that such a person expounds the words of the Buddha.  The sutra says, "A home in the cave of the five accumulations is called the courtyard of zen.  When the inner illumination is opened and unbound, then the gate of the Great Vehicle could not be brighter!" 

`           To not bear in mind all things (sarvadharma),  therefore, is called doing zen-samadhi (dhyana-samadhi).  If someone understands these words, then walking, standing, sitting, and lying down are all zen-samadhi.  Knowing the mind is empty is called the act of seeing Buddha.  Because why?  For all Buddhas in the ten directions, in every consideration there is no mind.  Not seeing in (by) the mind, is called the act of seeing Buddha.

            To unstingily renounce the body is called Great Charity (mahadana).  The samadhi of detaching from the various activities is called Great Sitting Meditation (J. dai zazen).  Because why?  Worldly people are singly directed toward activities, and the Small Vehicle is singly directed toward samadhi.  Namely, to pass beyond the worldly people and the sitting meditation (zazen) of the Small Vehicle is called the Great Sitting Meditation. If those who act with this realization, in all the various appearances, do not seek to release themselves and, in all the various illnesses, do not cure their own errors, then this is entirely the power of Great Zen-Samadhi.

Dajian Huineng (638–713)  (From The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Ancestor, Chapter 5, “Sitting Meditation (Zazen)”):

Learned and virtuous ones, what is called zen-samadhi? Outwardly, to be free from characteristics is doing zen. Inwardly, to not be perturbed is doing samadhi. Outwardly, if one attaches to characteristics, inwardly, the heart-mind is immediately perturbed. Outwardly, if one is free from characteristics, the heart-mind is immediately not perturbed. The root nature by itself is pure, by itself is samadhi. Only by seeing conditions and thinking about conditions is one immediately perturbed. If someone sees various conditions and the heart-mind is not perturbed, this is real samadhi. Learned and virtuous ones, outwardly, to be free from characteristics is immediately zen. Inwardly, to not be perturbed is immediately samadhi. Outwardly, zen, inwardly, samadhi, this is doing zen-samadhi.

Dazhu “The Great Pearl” Huihai (second half of  8th century) (From “Discourse On The Essential Gate Of Entering The Way Of Immediate Awakening”):

Question:For a man to cultivate the fundamental root, what method (dharma) of cultivation should be used?

Answer, Only by sitting meditation (zazen) is zen-samadhi quickly attained. The Dhyana Paramita (lit. Zen Gate) Sutra says, ‘To seek the noble intelligence (arya-jnana) of the Buddha, then zen-samadi is necessary.  If there is no zen-samadhi, thoughts and ideas clamor and stir and spoil good roots.’”

Question: “Say, what is doing zen, and say, what is doing samadhi?”

Answer: “To not give birth to false thoughts is doing zen. Sitting to see the root nature is doing samadhi.  That which is the root nature is your unborn mind.  In that which is samadhi there is no mind that responds to the environment and the eight winds are not able to stir.  For that which are the eight winds, benefit and ruin, defamation and honor, praise and ridicule, and suffering and pleasure are called the eight winds.  If like this one attains that which is samadhi, even if one is an ordinary man, one then enters the rank of Buddha.”

Hakuin Ekaku (1686 - 1768) (From Ode to Sitting Meditation (Zazen Wasan)):

As to the zen-samadhi of the Mahayana, 
There is just too much to praise.
The several perfections such as charity, morality, and such;
Chanting Buddha's name, confession and repentance, austerities, and the like;
The many good deeds and various virtuous pilgrimages;
All these are coming from within it.

Also, a person succeeds by the merit of a single sitting
To destroy one's immeasurably accumulated crimes.
Where then should the evil appearances exist?
The Pure Land is then not far away.

This last quote is most interesting because in virtyually all translations of Hakuin's "Zazen Wasan" the term "zenjo" (zen-samadhi) is translated as "zazen" in order to make it easy for English readers. The fact is that the term "zazen" only appears in the title of Hakuin's "Ode to Zazen" and nowhere appears in the body. Unfortunately that kind of attempt to make the idea accessible for English readers leaves out the very essential nuance that is the difference between zazen as the activity of sitting-zen and zen-samadhi as the realization.

These great zen masters all directly stated the relationship between zazen and zen-samadhi. Today we hear a lot about zazen, but the recognition and realization of zen-samadhi is hardly spoken of.

I assert that without the realization of zen-samadhi, there is no true zazen, no matter how much zazen is talked about as a practice.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Best News of the Day = Pastafarian Rights

The best news of today, at least the news that made me laugh the loudest, comes from Austria where a Pastafarian has had affirmed his right to wear his preferred head covering on his driver's license photo!
Yes, that is Pastafarian with a "P" and his head gear is a pasta strainer! No kidding, here's the story with photo . As a Pastafarian member of The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster Mr. Nico Alm has had his day in court and won! I tell people who are thinking of going to court that you are never guaranteed to get justice, you are only guaranteed to get a decision. It's looks like Mr. Alm got both.

Check out the Religion Dispatches article for the full story.  And enjoy your next plate of pasta!

P.S. For those who may not read through the whole article, here are the last two paragraphs. I love the Pastover and Ramendon.  For us Zennies who have the Rohatsu sesshin meditation retreat to honor Buddha's enlightnment we might want to consider having a Ropastsu retreat.

While FSM began as a joke, the community that has formed around it has come increasingly to resemble Durkheim’s moral community. Historically, critics of organized religion have framed the alternative as a worldview that is individualistic and cerebral. For example, Thomas Paine stated, “My mind is my church.” What’s so significant about Pastafarianism is that it’s taken atheistic philosophy and infused it with collective meaning in the form of rites and symbols. The image of FSM now appears on car bumpers, necklaces, and as street graffiti.
In addition to Skepticon, Pastafarians have also created International Talk Like a Pirate Day, Pastover, and Ramendon. For functionalists, it is irrelevant whether Pastafarians sincerely believe in their noodly deity. This shared body of symbols and practices has spawned an esprit de corps, uniting philosophical atheists and agnostics into a moral community, meaning that Pastafarianism may well be on its way to becoming a religion—in both the substantive and the functional sense.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Dharma of Instincts and Skandhas

One person shared a story about feeling compelled to throw a rock at a squirell on a tree and feeling ashamed when the rock actually hit the squirrell. Another person replied:

The simplest explanation is that you were born with a hunting instinct.  You certainly weren't the first kid to do this.

The simplest explanation is usually simplistic.  Every person is born with every instinct. But as I read the original story there wasn't any hunting goinng on there.

In the context of psychological motivations, from the perspective of Analytical Psychology there are five primary instincts:

(1) hunger (feeding)
(2) sex (reproduction)
(3) action (fight, aggression, progression)
(4) reflection (flight, reflex, regression, digression)
(5) creativity (construction, imagination)

All five are necessary for and result in our survival, though they can be viewed in a hierarchy of neediness, sense of demand, or biological imperative in terms of our survival.   Most of our behaviors show a combination of instincts, and it is very rare for an act to be solely influenced by only one instinct. For example, "hunting" is a combination of the hunger, action-aggression, and creativity instincts.  When one instinct predominates in a manner that suppresses the others our behavior becomes obsessive or addictive. 

The instincts are the physical "muscle" or "force" that powers the psychic structure that culminates in consciousness, which in Buddhism is called the Five Skandhas.  As such they are inchoate in the First Skandha called "Form" and become more differentiated and coherent in our awareness as they are embodied in the mental "structures" or inherent patterns of personality of the other skandhas. 

From another perspective, each of the five instincts is the physical analog of the 5 Skandhas so that Form is analogous to feeding, Sensation is analogous to sex, Perception is analogous to aggression, Mental Formations is analogous to reflection and Consciousness is analogous to creativity. That is, in each skandha the corresponding instinct becomes the dominant influence. In the same way that the instincts do not operate alone, none of the skandhas functions in a vacuum without the presence and activity of the other skandhas. However, at any one time there is usually a dominant instinct and skandha active, so that sometimes the dominance is only a just noticeable difference and at other times the dominance is overwhelming in awareness and obscures the actual ongoing presence and activity of the others. 

The reflective instinct is the key to creativity just as the 4th Skandha is the threshold to the 5th Skandha of consciousness. The reflective instinct is the source of our self consciousness and comes out most primitively in the flight response when we feel the overwhelming need for self protection, as a flight response is the "bending back" (re-flexis) from the perceived danger. Reflection is also the source of our self-awareness or self-consciousness as it functions to bend back awareness to create (i.e., in conjunction with the fifth instinct) the image of our "self" in the first place. 

This bending back manifests in the mutual reflectivity of the Sixth and Seventh Consciousnesses, first to create the self-image which at first becomes enchanted with externalities and then, when ripened, there is the turning back (paravritti) of awareness itself from the glamour of objects to see through the subjectivity of the self-image to the treasure at the source of our awareness. As Zen Master Dogen said, we are usually reaching out to or advancing toward objects to confirm them on the basis of our "self," and this is the natural delusion that is technically called the Seventh Consciousness attending to externals.  When the turning around or bending back (paravritti) of awareness occurs it takes place in the deepest part of our consciousness called the Eighth Consciousness or Storehouse or Treasury (alaya) Consciousness.  Then the myriad things are no longer objectified as being confirmed by the self-image but their sensory data-stream returns to the source in the alaya and awareness perceives its own oneness in what Dogen calls satori. 

Here’s how D.T. Suzuki describes it:
The Manas is a double-headed monster, the one face looks towards the Alaya and the other towards the Vijnanas. He does not understand what the Alaya really is. Discrimination being one of his fundamental functions, he sees multitudinousness there and clings to it as final. The clinging now binds him to a world of particulars. Thus, desire is mother, and ignorance is father, and this existence takes its rise. But the Manas is also a double-edged sword. When there takes place a "turning-back" (paravritti) in it, the entire arrangement of things in the Vijnanakaya or Citta-kalapa changes. With one swing of the sword the pluralities are cut asunder and the Alaya is seen in its native form (svalakshana), that is, as solitary reality (viviktadharma), which is from the first beyond discrimination. The Manas is not of course an independent worker, it is always depending on the Alaya, without which it has no reason of being itself; but at the same time the Alaya is also depending on the Manas. The Alaya is absolutely one, but this oneness gains significance only when it is realised by the Manas and recognised as its own supporter (alamba). This relationship is altogether too subtle to be perceived by ordinary minds that are found choked with defilements and false ideas since beginningless time.

Zen Master Hui Hai, The Great Pearl, when describing the many names for formless Mind said,
As the Suchness to which all phenomena ultimately return, it is called ‘the Tathagata Treasury’.

Understanding this complexity of the phenomena of mind in its functioning of the instincts and skandhas is not for the purpose of better understanding but for the purpose of not attaching to understanding.  The one supreme Buddha vehicle of sudden direct awakening that does not rely on understanding leaps over the dull and sharp understandings of ordinary people and sages to see one’s own nature.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Man in the Moon

A poem for the full moon of August 12, 2011.

The Man in the Moon

Zen Master Hui Hai, known far and wide as “The Great Pearl,” said,
“The moon is reflected in that deep pond, catch it if you like.”

Reaching to grasp the moon in the pond,
Stirring the ripples and making 10,000 more reflections,
and still coming up empty handed.
Reaching for “not-reaching” stirs up reflections on reflections.

Throwing our life into it
Falling head over heels into the pond,
Sooner or later we discover with a great laugh
The one who is facing the pool.

 Isn’t this like Paul Simon singing,
“I have reason to believe
that we all will be received
in Graceland”?

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Thoughts on the Surangama Sutra

Here are some thoughts stimulated by a discussion at Zen Forum International regarding the Surangama Sutra (also spelled Shurangama Sutra).  There are three English versions easily available on the internet.  The translation by Lu K'uan Yu (Charles Luk) is in PDF format here.  Another translation is here but the translator is not attributed.  And the Buddhist Text Translation Society index to their PDF version is here.
Someone commented:
While the Shurangama Sutra has many beautiful and valuable parts ...  several important sections of the Shurangama Sutra are so questionable that, if the Buddha really did say such things ([i]fortunately, with our modern appreciation of history and text origins we can be pretty darn sure that he didn't[/i]) then the Buddha comes across perhaps as a fool.

I had a strong reaction to those comments.  I don't read the section discussing the "inside the room" analogy as foolish, silly, or as something Buddha wouldn't have said.  That section falls right in the middle of what "teaching by expedient means" is all about! Such "proof by analogy" is one of the entirely accepted and traditional forms of Indian logic which was the context of Buddha's dialogue. 

Another comment was,
In other words, a man "in a room" can see what is outside the windows of the room AND (in front of that) the objects and people in the room ... but we cannot see the inside of the body (heart, liver, spleen, etc.) so the mind cannot be in the body. In modern terms, the mind cannot see the brain, so we can assert that the mind is not in the brain.

Assuming (as I and most Buddhists do in one fashion or another) that "mind" is not something limited to within the body or brain, it is nonetheless simply silly to argue that the mind in not located there, in whole or part, because it cannot see the inside of the brain, let alone the spleen!
To understand what Buddha is saying here, one needs to investigate the phrase “the mind is not located there” or as the Sutra says “If you cannot perceive what is inside at all, how can you perceive what is outside?”   

Buddha is using the Socratic Method to bring Ananda around to understanding the egolessness of mind.  That as the Diamond Cutter Sutra says, the mind abides nowhere. This first step in the teaching is in direct response to Ananda saying he believed his mind was inside his body.  The Buddha taught the analogy that without an “outside” there is nothing to perceive at all and therefore there is no mind that can be mentioned, and likewise if the mind were inside it would perceive itself before it perceived anything outside. since there is no perception at all, and therefore no mind at all until there is the perception of an outside, it follows that the mind is not inside.  There is nothing faulty with this logic, that is, at least nothing faulty as far as logic goes.

Ananda is following along with this logic and therefore Ananda says, “Upon hearing such a Dharma-sound as the Tathagata has proclaimed, I realize that my mind is actually outside my body.”  So then the Buddha has to teach Ananda that the mind is not “outside” the body either.  As Ananda accepts the dialectic that the mind in not outside the dialogue continues

The Surangama Sutra says:
Ananda said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, it is as the Buddha has said, since I cannot see inside, my mind does not reside in the body. Since my body and mind have a common awareness, they are not separate and so my mind does not dwell outside my body. As I now consider it, I know it is in a certain place.”

The Buddha said, “Now where is it?”

Ananda said, “Since the mind which knows and understands does not perceive what is inside but can see outside, upon reflection I believe it is concealed in the organ of vision.

So of course the next section is Buddha leading Ananda to see the mind is not “concealed” in the organ of vision.   This dialogue may be very plain or pedestrian, but it is definitely not foolish or silly.  This is just the most traditional type of logic there is, as the Buddha goes from teaching that the mind is not located inside the body and not located outside the body. This is a style of teaching using dialogue and very simple analogy that is very appropriate for certain people. There are people who actually think this way.  Buddha teaches all people, not just those who are sophisticated.  Of course this style is not appropriate for some other people, and for them there are other expedient styles of teaching, such as analytical discussions of the 12-linked chain of interdependent origination, the 12 entrances (ayatanas) and the 18 realms (dhatus). In fact in this section the Surangama is making this exact analysis only it is not using the analytical jargon that turns off some people. In other sections of the Surangama there is more use of the jargon, such as discussion of the Five Skandhas.  There is also a very cosmically expansive jargon such as found in the Lotus Sutra with celestial Buddha Halls and cosmic Buddhas.  There are koans that take up each of these styles and points as well.

Each Sutra is a teaching for a specific audience with a more than less specific direction of purpose to what is being expounded as the way to bring that particular audience “across to the other shore,” which in Zen we call direct realization of our own true nature. 

Let’s not forget the analogy that Buddha uses to explain the relation of the One Mind to the six senses using the one piece of cloth tied into six knots.

The Surangama Sutra Says:

The Buddha told Ananda, "You know that this precious cloth is basically one strip, but when I made six ties in it, you said it had six knots. Carefully consider the substance of the cloth: it remains unchanged except for the knots in it. "What do you think? You identified the first knot I tied as number one. Now I am ready to tie the sixth knot. Will you also call it number one?" "No, World Honored One. If there are six knots, the sixth knot can never be called the first one. Even if I exhausted all my intelligence and eloquence in life after life, I could reverse the sequence of these six knots.

The Buddha said, "So it is. The six knots are not identical. Consider their origin: they are created from the one cloth and were tied in a certain order. It would be impossible to scramble that sequence. Your six sense organs are also like that. From what was identical, decisive differences arise." The Buddha said to Ananda, "Assuming you did not want these six knots and would like there to be just one cloth, how could you achieve that end?"

Ananda said, "As long as these knots remain, dispute about what they are and what they are not will arise. Their very existence will lead to such distinctions as this knot not being that knot and that knot not being this one. But if the Tathagata were to untie them all right now, so that none remained, then there would be no ‘this’ or ‘that.’ There would not even be anything called ‘one,’ how much the less ‘six.’"

The Buddha said, "That is also what happens when the six sense organs are freed: even the one is gone. Because from beginningless time your mind and nature have been insane and disturbed, you have created false knowledge and views. As that falseness continues to arise without respite, perception becomes weary and defilements arise. Just like the whirling flowers that appeared when the eyes grew tired of staring, these too are disturbances that arise without a cause within the tranquil, essential brightness. Everything in the world-the mountains, the rivers, the earth itself, as well as birth, death, and Nirvana-is these flowers that appear because of our being turned upside-down by insanity and weariness."

It is difficult to present in a few words the vast profundity of the Surangama Sutra.  It covers the entire spectrum of Buddha Dharma with direct and plain analogies and emphasizes that no amount of intellection or thinking about the Dharma is sufficient, but that only in the practice of samadhi and untying the knots can we truly experience liberation for ourselves.  Buddha teaches that the source of ignorance lies in these six knots and also that the source of enlightenment lies in these six knots!

Another comment was:

Perhaps my favorite section of the Sutra on the "bizarre" scale is the many pages discussing the very important topic of 'THE THREE GRADUAL STEPS TO ERADICATE THE FUNDAMENTAL SOURCES OF DISORDERED MENTAL ACTIVITY" Going up the list, "No. 3" is avoiding intentional engagement with sexual and other perceived objects, and "No. 2" is compliance with the Precepts and other fundamental rules of behavior.


Avoiding onions, of course!

The reference is to this part of The Surangama Sutra (in Lu K'an Yu's version).
‘Ananda, all beings live if they eat wholesome food and die if they take poison. In their search for Samàdhi, they should abstain from eating five kinds of pungent roots (i.e. garlic, the three kinds of onions and leeks); if eaten cooked, they are aphrodisiac and if raw, they cause irritability. Although those who eat them may read the twelve divisions of the Mahàyàna canon, they drive away seers (çùi) in the ten directions who abhor the bad odour, and attract hungry ghosts who lick their lips. They are always surrounded by ghosts, and their good fortune will fade away day by day to their own detriment.

Now, all this business about the five kinds of pungent roots, such as onions, garlic, etc., and ghosts is nothing to laugh about derisively.  As it should be clear from the outset, the Surangama is a Sutra intended to speak to people who are caught up in sexual intoxication and sexual addiction and it uses the devise of portraying even Ananda as being susceptible so such intoxication.  It speaks to people saying, “Hey, if even Ananda got caught up in that, then you are not such a bad person after all.” Why would that be necessary? Because people caught in addictions always have a very very low self-esteem and at some level think of themselves as undeserving worthless scum fallen to the gutter of life. With this in mind there is little help to get out of the addictive cycle. So here comes a Buddhist Sutra that recognizes the problem and even puts the Buddha’s cousin and “right-hand man” Ananda into the same boat as them! This is wonderful! The sex addict can say, “If Ananda is also like this then I too have a chance.”

Another very important aspect of this Sutra is the recognition that sex addiction goes along with a general feeling of fearfulness towards life.  This is why the Bodhisattvas in the Surangama talk about the use of mantras to protect against fear and the feelings of fearfulness.  When we have a basic instinct of fear toward life we are most susceptible to addictions. We are afraid of our own feelings and use whatever the addictive channel is to ward off these very palpable feelings of fear and anxiety by getting our next “fix” to make us feel “normal” because we don’t accept the feelings of fear and anxiety as being normal. 

Addiction and fear is what the teaching of the Surangama is centered upon.  If anyone can’t relate to having an addiction and the underlying fear of life that the addiction is based upon, then I advise just passing by the Surangama. But if you have ever had or still have an addiction and feel helpless and fearful of ever kicking the habit, then the Surangama might just be the ticket to cross to the other side of gutter. 

The medicine offered by the Surangama is to untie the knot of ignorance that is manifested in the knots of the six senses by the practice of samadhi to investigate the knot directly.  The Sutra acknowledges that the fears that are being undone by the practice of samadhi will arise as “demons” who want to protect their positions in relation to the knots of the six senses and that there are clans or classes of demons that are associated with each of the Five Skandhas.

So, what about the onions?   This is what is called a “sky hook.” in a children’s fable:. 

Once upon a time there was a little duckling who was afraid of the water because he believed he couldn’t swim.  Nothing his mother or brothers and sisters could say was able to get him to enter the water. He himself was very saddened by his condition and just felt like a misfit or mutant duck who didn’t know how to swim.  His father returned from a long trip and was told about the problem and talked with his son.  He told his son that deep in the woods was a wise old owl who would have the answer to his problem but that it was a perilous journey to get there.

The duckling son rose to the challenge and set off. Having many mishaps and near misses with catastrophe in the guise of foxes and other creatures, the young duckling finally arrived at the ancient tree where the wise old owl lived.  He told the owl his whole story, and the owl said he had just what the duckling needed. The owl told the duck to break off a limb of that very tree that had a branching fork in it near the base. When the limb was then held upside down, the branching sides with one long and the other short was like a hook. The owl called this a sky hook and assured the young duckling that if he used the sky hook to hook into the sky and hold onto it when he went into the water that he would not sink and could assuredly swim.

The duckling was filled with joy and rushed home excitedly. He ran straight into the water holding up his sky hook and miraculously he could swim!  Of course people made fun of him swimming around with his sky hook, but he didn’t care because now he could swim just like all the other ducks.

One day he was lounging on the shore with his sky hook beside him when he heard someone screaming. He rushed to see who it was and it was his favorite girlfriend duckling who was caught in the strong currents and being pulled toward the waterfall to her death.  No other ducks were close enough to help her except for him. Not caring about his own safety he dove into the water to her side and pulled her to the shore on the other side of the river.  After he had done so the other ducks had arrived and began shouting at him and pointing across the river. At first he couldn’t tell what they were shouting about but then it became clear.  In his urgency to save his friend he had left his sky hook on the other side of the river and there it was laying on the shore where he had left it.  After that, of course, he never needed his sky hook again.

People caught up in addiction have a belief at the core of their self-identity that they just can’t change.  It’s no joke to them.  They know from their own experience what it is to live in a world surrounded by ghosts and demons and no amount of mere words will convince them otherwise.  To this end the Buddha teaches the renunciation of the five pungent roots. 

To a person who is bound by their sexual addiction and who believes they can never be free of their sexual lusts, this is the perfect sky hook. If they can learn to live by giving up these tasty spicy plants, then they can learn to live unfettered by sexual lust. Giving up onions, garlic, and the rest with the belief that these plants stimulate sexual lust is a great way to focus the mind so the person can swim without being tormented by sexual lust.  In other words the person can demonstrate to themselves, “If I can give up these five pungent roots, then I can also give up being a slave to my desires.”

It’s very similar to the teaching of the Buddha to the woman who wanted him to bring her dead child back to life. He didn’t just say, “Sorry it can’t be done.” Those words would never be efficacious to a person in her condition of distraction. Instead he told her he would bring the dead child back to life if she brought a mustard seed from a household that had never had a death in the family.  Wasn’t that too a silly and foolish thing to say? Of course it was if said to a rational person who was not distraught with her dear child in her arms.  Similarly, the teaching about abstaining from onions is not for everyone. It is for people who are addicted to sex, and by extrapolation generally to anyone addicted to any of the desires of the senses, to show them a way to embody the discipline needed to begin the practice of samadhi.

It has to be taught as if it were absolute truth because that is what makes a sky hook effective.  If we are told, “I’m just telling you don’t eat onions because it is a trick to get you to focus your body on samadhi,” who would that work on? I would suggest it would be next to useless just as if Buddha told the woman holding her  dead child, “Oh I’m giving you this task because you are so disturbed I have to get your attention.” That would destroy the actual embodiment of the learning. The woman going around from house to house looking for a household not touched by death was embodying her samadhi practice in her single focused attention on her “koan.” Likewise, for people who are addicted to the senses and especial to the addiction of the bodily sense of sexuality, abstention from onions becomes a koan-like focus for our self-image as embodied persons. 

Lasly, for those who might read Master Hsuan Hua’s comments and be surprize by their literalness, I suggest that they should be taken with a good dose of salt. He is speaking as a Dharma Master, not as a Zen Master.  He is not talking to Zen students, but to people who never heard of Zen. He is talking to people who live with the presence of ghosts and demons as a normal part of their everyday lives. 

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Ten Stages of Awakening

Here's a table of comparison between three early models of the Ten Stages of Awakening.  We don't know how much cross reference there is between them.  The 10 Bodhisattva Stages from the Avatamsaka Sutra are the earliest. Zongmi obviously read the Avatamsaka Sutra and was extremely well versed in it but did not adopt it's model of 10 stages verbatim and instead used the famous "Discourse on the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana" as his template for the 10 levels of awakening.  The 10 Oxherding pictures have had several versions and I'm using here one of the later versions.  I've never herd a solid story about how the 10 Oxherding Pictures developed, but I have seen an earlier version that came from India using an elephant rather than an ox.

 The fourth column is my own version of the 10 stages in terms of the functioning of the Eight Consciousnesses and the well know association of the transformation of the Eight Consciousnesses into the Four Wisdoms that have been described in Zen since Huineng in the beginning of the 8th century.

Zongmi’s 10 Levels of Awakening
10 Ox Herding Pictures
10 Bodhisattva Stages (bhūmi)
My View of the 10 Stages In Terms of the Eight Consciousnesses and Five Ranks
Awakening of Faith in One’s Own Suchness and the Three Jewels
Searching for the Ox
the Very Joyous. (Skt. Paramudita), in which one rejoices at realizing a partial aspect of the truth;
After years of wandering in the weeds and woods Awareness feels the intimations of the 8th Consciousness and begins to seek its own source.
Resolving to Attain Awakening by Generating Compassion, Wisdom and Vows
Seeing the Footprints
the Stainless. (Skt. Vimala), in which one is free from all defilement;
Awareness begins to turn around from enchantment with the 10,000 things of the 1st to 6th Consciousnesses and to investigate their images as reflected in the 7th Consciousness
Cultivating the Five Gates  to Make the Root of Faith Grow (i.e., the Five Paramitas with the fifth being samatha-vipassayna combined)
Seeing the Ox
the Luminous. (Skt. Prabhakari), in which one radiates the light of wisdom;
Peeking through the veil of the  7th Consciousness, Awareness becomes certain of the 8th Consciousness and begins releasing its fixed grip on the 1st to 5th Consciousnesses
Arising of Great Bodhicitta
Getting the Ox              
the Radiant. (Skt. Archishmati), in which the radiant flame of wisdom burns away earthly desires;
Awareness fully lets go of grasping at the 1st to 5th Consciousnesses and begins to release its grip on the 6th Cons.  to flow through the 7th Consciousness into the 8th Consciousness
Overcoming the Six Afflictions and
Seeing Self is empty.
Herding the Ox
the Difficult to Cultivate. (Skt. Sudurjaya), in which one surmounts the illusions of darkness, or ignorance as the Middle Way;
Awareness Having Let Go of all attachment to the 6th Consciousness passes through the Veil of the 7th Consciousness to enter the 8th Consciousness
Flowing in the Practice of the Six Perfections (the Six Paramitas with 5 and 6 being Dhyana and Prajna) Self and Dharmas both empty, eternally void eternally like an illusion.
Riding the Ox Home
the Manifest. (Skt. Abhimukhi) in which supreme wisdom begins to manifest;
Awareness Having let go of all attachment to the 7th Consciousness and fully returned to the 8th Cons., the 8th Cons. Transforms into the Great Mirror Wisdom
Mastery Over Forms, Everything in Fusion, All Arises From Discrimination of One’s Own Mind
Forgetting the Ox, the Person Resting
the Gone Afar. (Skt. Duramgama), in which one rises above the states of the Two vehicles;
Awareness arising through the Great Mirror Wisdom Transforms the 7th Consciousness into the Equality Wisdom
Mastery Over Mind, Nothing That is Not Illuminated
Person and Ox Both Forgotten
the Immovable. (Skt. Achala), in which one dwells firmly in the truth of the Middle Way and cannot be perturbed by anything;
Awareness arising through the Equality Wisdom Transforms the 6th Consciousness into the All Observing Wisdom
Free From Thoughts Cultivating No-thought, Awakened to the Origin of Delusion & So Full of Teaching Devices
Returning to the Source
the Good Intelligence. (Skt. Sadhumati), in which one preaches the Law freely and without restriction;
Awareness arising through the All Observing Wisdom Transforms the 1st to 5th Consciousnesses into the All Performing Wisdom
There is One Awakening With Limitless Responsive Functioning in the Constantly Abiding Dharma Realm, Seeing All Beings Attaining Perfect Awakening
Returning to the Marketplace With Helping Hands
 the Cloud of Dharma. (Skt. Dharmamegha), in which one benefits all sentient beings with the Law (Dharma), just as a cloud sends down rain impartially on all things.
Awareness Blossoms in Full Awakening and Mutual Integration of the Four Wisdoms

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Buddhist Faith in "The Sutra of Queen Srimila's Lion's Roar"


The translation is my own. This comes from the section relating to the topic of "Articulating the Tathagata’s True Children."

Here the Buddha is speaking to Queen Srimila after approving her previous declarations of the Dharma, and he is distinguishing what makes a person a "true child of the Tathagata." In this exerpt, the World Honored One articulates how faith makes us a true child of the Thathagata.

“If my followers follow with the faith that is most superior, then based on their bright faith they already accord with the innate-intelligence of the Dharma and then attain the ultimate. That which accords with the innate-intelligence of the Dharma (1) investigates the establishment of the field of liberation of the intellect and faculties of sense; (2) investigates karmic retribution; (3) investigates the eye of the Arhat [i.e., the wisdom (prajna) eye seeing the emptiness of all dharmas]; (4) investigates joy of the mind’s autonomy and the joy of meditation (zen); and (5) investigates the noble autonomy and fluency of the Arhats, Independent Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of great power.

“With these five kinds of expedient contemplations accomplished, from within future worlds to come after my nirvana, were my followers, who follow with the faith that is most superior based on their bright faith in accord with the innate-intelligence of the Dharma, to have the pure mind of their own nature there become contaminated by afflictions, yet they would attain the ultimate. Indeed that which is the ultimate is the cause of entering the Way of the Great Vehicle. With that which is faith in the Tathagata there exists great efficacy that does not slander the profound meaning.”