Posted in zen

The Zen Method of Awakening

All things are connected and impermanent.

The world is a reflection of the mind and the Zen method is nothing other than an effort at an intuitive understanding of these facts. There is nothing else to it.

The mind realizes its own essence and in this way no longer perceives itself and the outer world as two separate and unconnected realities.

Zen masters of ancient times told their students to “lay it all down” and “have no concern for the world.” There are many stories of people becoming enlightened only from hearing a word or seeing an action at an appropriate moment, usually delivered by a master. But much of this activity is the result of a long-term meditation practice in which the practitioner has spent time building up their inner potential.

Experiences of awakening, the dropping away of body and mind, can occur during meditation, but it can also occur during ordinary life. In any case, this cannot happen without some cultivation of the ordinary mind.

The Zen method of awakening doesn’t engage the ordinary, intellectual, conscious flow of our minds. As our minds are deluded, delusions would get in the way. Instead, the Zen method seeks to engage the empty “mind ground” directly. All of our perceptions and thought patterns are products of the ordinary state of mind and we are seeking to disengage from them.

We are, instead, turning our gaze firmly within, away from externals, so that the essence of our true nature can be realized and integrated with, challenging our perception of duality and attaining realization that all things exist in a deep emptiness.

A Zen practitioner is considered a spiritual warrior who declares a firm intention to transcend our deluded nature now.

Seated meditation is an important practice that can be done anywhere.

A seated physical posture must be chosen that can be held for around 25 minutes. We must declare our dedicated intention to transcend both time and space. The illusion of time and space manifests in our minds as boredom and agitation. We must overcome these.

The practitioner must set the mind upon its true nature and not get distracted by anything while in the act of meditation. Over time, the spiritual sense of detachment spreads from existing during meditation to existing more and more often.

The body must sit on the floor in a way that is straight and upright. The legs should be arranged in a folded manner. The spine should be straight and the shoulders should not slump. The face should be relaxed and the eyes should be gently closed. The left hand should lie on top of the right hand in the lap, with the tips of each thumb touching. This posture is said to allow energy to flow without being hindered.

Breathing should be deep, with each breath entering and leaving through the nose.

Posture and position are used to guide us through the gate on our spiritual journey. Once the gate is entered, the meditation method is used to deliver us to our true nature.

At the beginning concentration is probably weak, but practice will strengthen it. The mind must be taught how to focus on a single point. This point, when turned inward, digs through our delusion. The simplest way this can be developed is by the practice of following the breath.

Inward and outward breathing must be followed in every moment and an awareness develops. The breath itself emerges and disappears but with practice we develop a perception of the spaces in between. Concentrating the mind on the breath focuses it inward, toward its own true nature.

The truth is our true nature is always present, but we can’t see it. So, this method removes the false barrier created by our delusion so that the emptiness that contains all things can be glimpsed.

Sometimes reliance on the breath is not always powerful enough. In ancient times, meditators would practice for a long time, but only meeting an enlightened master who could give some kind of demonstration or teaching could enlighten them. That said, the student must always have the potential built up. The teacher is only pointing at what is already there. Preparatory meditation was always essential to working with a teacher.

Zen practitioners can use many different meditation methods. Master Hsu Yun used the hua tou method, which is asking yourself over and over, “who am I?”

Some people like to meditate staring at a complicated mandala. And some like to chant, either vocally or in their minds. The outward form isn’t that important, although I have found following the breath to be the most effective method for me.

What’s important is that we should be disciplined and gather the mind to a focus so that effort can be applied with unceasing determination.

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Kensho: A Glimpse of Awakening

Kensho is something we talk about in the Zen tradition.

It represents the mystical experience, the experience of oneness, of seeing our true nature, emptiness, the absolute, whatever you want to call it.

Some lineages talk about it a lot and some talk about it a little. It’s important to not attach to these experiences. There are stories about people who thought they had attained Enlightenment and then made some bad decisions.

That’s why having a teacher is important, so the teacher can tell you, “Hey, slow down. Take it easy.” This is helpful if we’re attaching too much to these experiences. Or, at the very least, it is useful to find a supportive community. Finding a teacher isn’t always easy and for some of us it takes a very long time.

It’s been said that Kensho can be a big or small experience. In either case, it is an opening, a glimpse into Awakening. This is a temporary experience.

Dogen called it, “The dropping away of body and mind.”

Xu Yun said, “The mind came to a stop.”

Having had a Kensho experience doesn’t mean that one is fully Enlightened. It’s just a glimpse of the truth. Kensho has been compared to a psychedelic experience.

I didn’t really start having these experiences with any regularity until I started meditating every day. Some people say they never have them, even with really diligent practice.

The point is that we shouldn’t be attached to these experiences.

They are wondrous and can really help motivate us on the path, but if we think of them as special, we could have problems.

D.T. Suzuki also wrote in An Introduction to Zen Buddhism:

“When the mind has been so trained as to be able to realize a state of perfect void in which there is not a trace of consciousness left, even the sense of being unconscious having departed; in other words, when all forms of mental activity are swept away clean from the field of consciousness, leaving the mind like the sky devoid of every speck of cloud, a mere broad expense of blue, Dhyana is said to have reached its perfection.”

Some people think of Kensho as the end of the path, but that’s a mistake.

Really, it’s the beginning. It does change you in a very real way. I’ve been fundamentally changed by every such experience I’ve had. I wouldn’t say I’ve had Satori, or a full Enlightenment experience, but it’s because of Kensho that I believe Satori is attainable. Once you’ve had a Kensho experience you can’t lie to yourself like you did before when you’ve had  a glimpse at the true nature of things.

In the Platform Sutra Huineng said:

“If, for one thought-moment, there is abiding, then there will be abiding in all successive thoughts, and this is called clinging. If, in regard to all matters there is no abiding from thought-moment to thought-moment, then there is no clinging. Non-abiding is the basis.”

Kensho is a state of letting go, releasing who you think you are and dwelling in your true self.

After this break in thoughts is over, one tends to still not cling to thoughts for a while.

When we engage both concentration and insight practices, these experiences can arise naturally. They’re especially common when we are on retreat.

Every time we enter this space of Awakening it’s a deep and profound experience.

Every time, we dwell in Enlightenment, we bring a little more of it back with us

 

 

http://thetattooedbuddha.com/kensho-a-glimpse-into-awakening/

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The Teachings of Clouds

 

My two favorite historical Buddhist teachers called themselves clouds.

I wonder sometimes if that is significant. In many ways there were not similar, but they both inspire me a great deal.

What does it mean to call yourself a cloud?

A cloud is like a wayfarer—a traveler just passing through. A cloud doesn’t stay, but it can do a lot to make the sky look beautiful when it’s there. A cloud is soft, not hard. Indeed, it is so soft, you can’t grab hold of it at all.

But a cloud is also unstoppable. A cloud can get through any obstacle with no difficulty at all.

A cloud can take any shape. It can be whatever form it needs to be.

A cloud doesn’t get pulled this way and that by the circumstances of the world. It just goes on. A cloud is free. A cloud doesn’t want or need anything. And it doesn’t waste time comparing itself to other clouds.

I’m going to tell you about these two Buddhist teachers who called themselves clouds, but I’m going to go backwards, so I’ll start with Master Xu Yun.

The lineage that my teacher transmitted to me was the lineage of Xu Yun.

Xu Yun was a Ch’an Master in China and he lived for 120 years. He lived from 1840 until 1959. Just imagine the amount of history he witnessed in that time. He called himself Empty Cloud. He spent a lot of his long life restoring old temples in China that had been destroyed. That’s why he was a cloud. He traveled from place to place, spreading the Dharma and helping it have a more solid foundation. He gave teachings to many people.

It’s said that he received Dharma transmission in all five of the original Ch’an lineages—an achievement that is mostly unheard of.

So, that’s why he was a cloud. Why was he empty?

In this we should, I think, take empty to mean selfless. He wasn’t caught up in the trip of I-Me-Mine, that we all so easily fall into. He saw himself as part of an interconnected whole. That’s why he was able to dedicate 100 years of his life to rebuilding temples for other people.

Xu Yun is the inspiration behind my lineage. His tireless work throughout his long life is something that impresses me.

The other cloud I want to write about has nothing to do with my lineage. He, in fact, didn’t leave behind a lineage and he didn’t transmit the Dharma to anyone. He lived in Japan during the 1400s. His name was Ikkyu, and he called himself Crazy Cloud.

He was like a cloud, too. He traveled from place to place giving teachings and had a habit of going to places where other Zen teachers would never go. He taught in brothels and bars. He was often seen giving teachings to artists, musicians and homeless people.

This is why they called him crazy—a title he was more than happy to accept.

He wasn’t very comfortable in Zen temples with the other monks. He found them to be more political than spiritual, with different monks competing for the highest positions. And he didn’t see much point in staying there. He wanted to take the teachings out into the world, so everyone could learn, instead of just those who visited or stayed in temples.

His temple was the world.

In the history of Zen he’s often viewed as both a heretic and a saint. He was wild and free in a lot of ways and I think a lot of us wish we were wild and free. But, at the same time he was incredibly dedicated to spreading the Dharma and gave teachings at every opportunity.

So, those two people are my inspiration. Xu Yun is the spiritual founder of my lineage and Ikkyu is my personal hero.

I want to be a cloud too. Do you?

 

http://thetattooedbuddha.com/the-teachings-of-clouds/