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"Sitting is Zen. Not sitting, is also Zen"

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I'm not entirely sure if I'm in the right thread here, but my practice most closely aligns with Zen practice, not to mention Zen Buddhism is what I study and the path I work to follow. With that being said, I often hear about people having "experiences" as a result of meditating, often relating these to "enlightenment", but I don't meditate for any sort of "experience". I meditate for the sake of meditating. I notice that when I maintain a continual meditation practice, the meditation itself becomes something I sometimes enjoy doing, but not always. I often think the results of my meditation are more like side effects of the actual practice, and are not the goals as to why I should sit on my cushion. I may be way off base here, but I sit on the cushion because when I do I notice a change in my everyday life, and because of these very subtle changes, it motivates me to sit on my cushion again. However the motivation is not necessarily the reason why I do it. I don't know if I'm making much sense here but it's the best I can do to explain why I do what I do.

The other piece is: I don't have any crazy "enlightenment" experience due to my sitting practice. The closest I can come to any "experience" I've had as a result of my meditation is that I'm able to feel life happening a little more fully; and by "little" I mean bit by bit, piece by piece, my experience of life gains a modicum of depth to it. I did experience sort of an "aha" moment when I started looking into no-self or non-duality, but that was more because it just sort of makes sense. It's like spending all this time swimming upstream and then someone says "hey dummy! Turn around, it's much easier that way."

So my question is: am I on target here with my practice? Should I even have a target? Is that the point of this? Or is the point the fact that there is no point? (which is pretty much the conclusion I've come to lately, and that's not a bad thing.)

Thanks in advance for any insight.

RE: "Sitting is Zen. Not sitting, is also Zen"
Answer
2/26/13 10:53 AM as a reply to Rich Silva.
Rich Silva:
I'm not entirely sure if I'm in the right thread here, but my practice most closely aligns with Zen practice, not to mention Zen Buddhism is what I study and the path I work to follow. With that being said, I often hear about people having "experiences" as a result of meditating, often relating these to "enlightenment", but I don't meditate for any sort of "experience". I meditate for the sake of meditating. I notice that when I maintain a continual meditation practice, the meditation itself becomes something I sometimes enjoy doing, but not always. I often think the results of my meditation are more like side effects of the actual practice, and are not the goals as to why I should sit on my cushion. I may be way off base here, but I sit on the cushion because when I do I notice a change in my everyday life, and because of these very subtle changes, it motivates me to sit on my cushion again. However the motivation is not necessarily the reason why I do it. I don't know if I'm making much sense here but it's the best I can do to explain why I do what I do.

The other piece is: I don't have any crazy "enlightenment" experience due to my sitting practice. The closest I can come to any "experience" I've had as a result of my meditation is that I'm able to feel life happening a little more fully; and by "little" I mean bit by bit, piece by piece, my experience of life gains a modicum of depth to it. I did experience sort of an "aha" moment when I started looking into no-self or non-duality, but that was more because it just sort of makes sense. It's like spending all this time swimming upstream and then someone says "hey dummy! Turn around, it's much easier that way."

So my question is: am I on target here with my practice? Should I even have a target? Is that the point of this? Or is the point the fact that there is no point? (which is pretty much the conclusion I've come to lately, and that's not a bad thing.)

Thanks in advance for any insight.


Different people meditate for different reasons, and different traditions offer different rationales for why one should meditate. If you have an informed view of what's out there, and if you're pleased with what you're doing, then I don't see why you should change what you're doing. It seems sort of strange that you'd profess to enjoying meditation for its own sake but then post a question like this.

What you're talking about here is something I've referred to elsewhere as "throwing away the ladder". We all get into meditation for this reason or that. We read that it helps with stress, or maybe we heard you can get into altered states with it, so we went after it. There's nothing wrong with that. People do things for reasons (either good or bad), and it would be weird to get into some new activity - particular an activity that is as irritating as meditation often is - without a reason. Hardcore dharma distinguishes itself as being very focused on attainment and the "can do" attitude to a degree that I've seen in no other tradition. However, everyone gets into this for some goal-oriented reason or another, not just the yogis here.

That being said, there comes a point, even in an attainment-oriented practice - usually after one has gotten to a pretty advanced point - where the selfing behind the intention to practice has to dissolve and fall away. This is the part where the ladder you just climbed up is no longer there. Or if it was, it doesn't matter, because there couldn't have been a climber. This is a profound moment. It coincides with a very close approach to beingness itself: an experience where there is no coming, there is no going, and there certainly is no one who could be coming or going. The mind turns away from the arising and passing of mere phenomena and goes for something else entirely, something truly restful, something which brings resolution to all the tension and distress. And after that, it can seem pretty foolish to "go" or "try" for anything, even though one is very aware that at some point that going or trying seemed to make sense.

Other traditions don't bother with the coming or going at all. They make a b-line for being. You just sit. You just drop things. And if you're not just sitting or just dropping things, that's still beingness, too, so realization is possible there as well. I literally don't know how well that works. Is that easier than taking the developmental path? When I talk to practitioners who only take that approach, I feel like a person who has reached the summit of a mountain by going up a winding road, and the other person says to me, "Yeah, but you could have walked straight up the mountain," and I think, "Yeah, but that was is so thick with trees and thorns that it's hard to find a way through." But maybe that's just my impression. Since I've only taken a developmental approach, I can't say what it would have been like to have done something so different.

RE: "Sitting is Zen. Not sitting, is also Zen"
Answer
2/26/13 2:51 PM as a reply to Rich Silva.
Rich Silva:
Or is the point the fact that there is no point? (which is pretty much the conclusion I've come to lately, and that's not a bad thing.)

Thanks in advance for any insight.


One of the key messages of the hardcore dharma movement is that there definitely is a point. The point is enlightenment/awakening/radical liberation from dhukka/stress/suffering. The "enlightenment experiences" (I think) you're referring to are just signposts along the way. There are a lot of ideas about what that all means and how to get there.

I don't know much about Zen, but I've had the impression that some of the riddles and paradoxes can be mistaken to be mean that the best you can hope for is acceptance. If that's the path you're on, I would encourage you to look around, read some journals here and at kennethfolkdharma, read MCTB. I don't want to convert you, but there may be some insight here that can shed light on what you're already doing.

Jason

RE: "Sitting is Zen. Not sitting, is also Zen"
Answer
2/26/13 9:02 PM as a reply to Rich Silva.
Frankly I'd say forget about Zen. First of all it is all meant in the context of the relationship between the student and the enlightened teacher, and second of all it is misunderstood by basically everyone. I believe that to be a fault of the tradition, not those curious about it.

RE: "Sitting is Zen. Not sitting, is also Zen"
Answer
2/26/13 11:48 PM as a reply to Fitter Stoke.
Fitter Stoke:
Other traditions don't bother with the coming or going at all. They make a b-line for being. You just sit. You just drop things. And if you're not just sitting or just dropping things, that's still beingness, too, so realization is possible there as well. I literally don't know how well that works. Is that easier than taking the developmental path? When I talk to practitioners who only take that approach, I feel like a person who has reached the summit of a mountain by going up a winding road, and the other person says to me, "Yeah, but you could have walked straight up the mountain," and I think, "Yeah, but that was is so thick with trees and thorns that it's hard to find a way through." But maybe that's just my impression. Since I've only taken a developmental approach, I can't say what it would have been like to have done something so different.


I think I understand what you're saying here, and I don't see any harm in checking out some other means to "climb the mountain." What I enjoy about the Zen tradition is the importance it seems to hold on the noticing of everyday, run-of-the-mill occurrences. Since our lives are mostly made up of seemingly small, insignificance's, I've found it doesn't hurt to add some depth and meaning to it all through careful investigation. Which, upon doing my own investigation, Zen seemed to resonate the most with me and my understanding of what it all means: Buddhism, life, existence, so on and so forth.

My practice is very secular and agnostic. I sometimes agree with the term "atheist" but I shy away from this approach since in recent events it's taken almost as dogmatic of an approach to "reason and science" as religion has to spirituality and the supernatural; which I don't find I can follow easily in either case. Zen, to me, takes the most practical and non-spiritual/non-supernatural approach to "enlightenment" or "awakening", which I find also resonates with me quite well. I may be mistaken in this disposition, and if so please point me in the direction of more information; for if I've learned nothing from my practice it's that I should always be open to any opportunity to deepen my understanding of the nature of being. I mean, why else do anything? If I did have a goal of my practice, it'd have to be: understanding.

RE: "Sitting is Zen. Not sitting, is also Zen"
Answer
2/27/13 12:05 AM as a reply to Joshua, the solitary.
Joshua ..:
Frankly I'd say forget about Zen. First of all it is all meant in the context of the relationship between the student and the enlightened teacher, and second of all it is misunderstood by basically everyone. I believe that to be a fault of the tradition, not those curious about it.


I very much agree with you here in the fact that Zen is widely misunderstood. I am often confused by it's teachings as well, and I'm certainly not going to sit here and try to explain my understanding of all the ins and outs of it. To say that I would even begin to have a clue would be a huge misstatement.

Zen tradition in and of itself is contradictory and I'm not quite sure if that's by design? (The folks of Zen like to be vague and mysterious, I think it comes with the territory. It's like "here is your ceremonial bowl and robes, and from now on you must answer questions only in vague references and riddles.") One hang up I have of Zen is that it's supposed to be passed down by an "enlightened" teacher, but then when you speak with a teacher they tell you:

"... any experience you have has meant nothing. Anything you think you know, means nothing. Even I, as you teacher, know nothing that you don't already know. But until I tell you that you know that which you do not know, that which you cannot know, and that which I don't even know to teach you, you cannot even speculate to know anything. Except for the fact that you already know everything. Oh... and there is no enlightenment; at least it's not what you think it is, so it's best not to even concern yourself with it."

At which point I look a little something like:
emoticon

This may be more of a response than what you were hoping for, but thanks for your comment and thanks for listening. I appreciate it, it really has helped me.

RE: "Sitting is Zen. Not sitting, is also Zen"
Answer
2/27/13 4:35 PM as a reply to Rich Silva.
"The other piece is: I don't have any crazy "enlightenment" experience due to my sitting practice."

That's actually a good thing, seeing as how these experiences can mess up your life.

"The closest I can come to any "experience" I've had as a result of my meditation is that I'm able to feel life happening a little more fully; and by "little" I mean bit by bit, piece by piece, my experience of life gains a modicum of depth to it."

Sounds very much like you're on the right track.