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Distinguishing the importance between Samatha and Vipassana

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Why is it important to distinguish practice between Samatha and Vipassana? 

I have spoken to multiple Zen Priests with this question, and both of their answers were to ignore that idea, to not worry about that. 

RE: Distinguishing the importance between Samatha and Vipassana
Answer
1/6/17 1:02 PM as a reply to old dried leaf.
In my humble opinion, you can experience samatha and dullness concurrently. You can feel great and warm-and-fuzzy, but at the same time, your awareness can be "checked out" from noticing the moment-by-moment changes in experience. Therefore, in this way, one can achieve samatha without practicing vipassana well. There's overlap between the two, but if you don't consider that there are separate charateristics as well, you may achieve samatha and delude yourself into thinking you're also being mindful and/or insightful when in fact you may not be.

RE: Distinguishing the importance between Samatha and Vipassana
Answer
1/6/17 12:25 PM as a reply to old dried leaf.
Liking the name "old dried leaf"...

Anyway, Zen teachers don't really teach, nor are the supposed to, the Theravada paths and meditation methods like vipassana and jhana practices. You got the classic Zen answer to any beginner's question about meditation styles: "Just sit!"

RE: Distinguishing the importance between Samatha and Vipassana
Answer
1/6/17 12:43 PM as a reply to Chris O..
Chris O.:
You can feel great and warm and fuzzy, but at the same time, your awareness can be "checked out" from noticing the moment-by-moment changes in experience.

I was just experiencing this this morning.  Doing samatha metaphorically feels like staring out the passenger side window in a moving car.  You focus your eyes so they do not move from the glass, but also try to take in all the moving objects behind the glass.  It is very subtle in samatha practice to learn how to open yourself up to those moving objects behind the glass.  It is very easy to just see only the glass, and fall asleep.

RE: Distinguishing the importance between Samatha and Vipassana
Answer
1/6/17 5:21 PM as a reply to old dried leaf.
Chris O.:
In my humble opinion, you can experience samatha and dullness concurrently. You can feel great and warm-and-fuzzy, but at the same time, your awareness can be "checked out" from noticing the moment-by-moment changes in experience. Therefore, in this way, one can achieve samatha without practicing vipassana well. There's overlap between the two, but if you don't consider that there are separate charateristics as well, you may achieve samatha and delude yourself into thinking you're also being mindful and/or insightful when in fact you may not be.

Chris Marti:
You got the classic Zen answer to any beginner's question about meditation styles: "Just sit!"

Both Chris O. and Chris Marti are correct. From the latter you should take the precaution in the future of not asking Zen priests questions about Theravada practice methods or instruction in practice. Most Zennists are not into providing feedback or instruction much beyond the "Just sit" response. So, if you want to know about Theravada practices, ask a Theravadin practitioner. For this reason in beginning with meditation practice, you are much better served following Theravadin instruction because you will at least receive a reasonable answer and not just a brain teaser.

In addition to what Chris O. mentioned, you might want to view the following thread:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/418370

Hope that helps.

In peace,
Ian

RE: Distinguishing the importance between Samatha and Vipassana
Answer
1/6/17 7:29 PM as a reply to old dried leaf.
@OP:  another interesting sub topic is "manufactured" vs naturally occurring.  Either quality can arise as a side effect of a state, or as a direct result of purposeful cultivation.  Just another thing to consider.

RE: Distinguishing the importance between Samatha and Vipassana
Answer
1/6/17 9:27 PM as a reply to old dried leaf.
Hi ODL,

By way of introduction, I practiced Zen for many years, had tokudo priest ordination in the Soto tradition, with a Suzuki-roshi successor (Yvonne Rand). Yvonne encouraged me to practice vipassana, I did half of a three month vipassana retreat at IMS in Barre but had to drop out (if you want to know more you can read about it in my memoir, Silicon Valley Monk).

Zen basically comes at meditation from the end point and doesn't provide much guidance about the beginning and middle. The end point is to sit with empty mind. Meanwhile, if you are just getting started or even in the middle, your knees are killing you, you're worried about what your boss said to you at work today, and you are not looking forward to driving home through traffic after the sit is over. Vipassana gives you a way to work with the arising of these thoughts and sensations. The Zen recommendation is to bring the mind back to the breath. Vipassana adds a small extra step, labelling the sensation or thought. Shinzen Young, who trained in the Rinzai Zen tradition, teaches a particular kind of vipassana that simplifies and systemizes the Mahsi labelling practice so that you don't have to guess what the label should be and can quickly dispatch the sensation or thought with a label then return to the breath (you can read more about Shinzen's technique in his book, The Science of Enlightenment, or check out some of the material on his websites or Youtube channel). 

In addition, I think there is actually little difference between the Theravada path moment and Zen satori, at least if you look at the Soto tradition. This is a quote by Dogen Zenji, I think from his Shobogenzo:
To study the Buddha Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of enlightenment remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.
This sounds to me like the experience of the path moment. The difference is that Zen doesn't teach four distinct levels of enlightenment, nor does it have the maps of traditional Theravada which Daniel has updated in MCTB. My experience is that my Zen practice would have been a lot more understandable if I had MCTB when I was getting started because I went through a lot of what he describes (A&P, Dark Night, etc.) and had no guidance to understand it. I think the reason for the lack of sufficient user documentation in Zen is the historical context in which it arose, as a reaction to overly scholastic Chinese Tientai Buddhism. 

Anyway, hope that helps.

RE: Distinguishing the importance between Samatha and Vipassana
Answer
1/7/17 7:25 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:
@OP:  another interesting sub topic is "manufactured" vs naturally occurring.  Either quality can arise as a side effect of a state, or as a direct result of purposeful cultivation.  Just another thing to consider.
What is manufactured samatha/vipassana?

RE: Distinguishing the importance between Samatha and Vipassana
Answer
1/9/17 6:21 AM as a reply to old dried leaf.
You can take any object and be mindful. Like listen to music, watch the clickbaits on youtube resist clicking on them try to notice the urges what rise...got to notice them couple times to get next stage, the pictures or what you hear on internet or radio are just triggers and the insight what arises is effects.. you can then focus on effect at some point and find the essence of it. Anyway it at some point is internal breath or flow of substance or other forms. ..--------
**This method is like you ingest yourself with a poison and cultivate the effects and back to its source. It works because if you wouldn't have the source the external object wouldn't have any effect on you.
----------------------
You could also just contemplate during other activities like "just sitting". Its rather easy, you need to just capture moments when you become aware(and you already have an object, because you became aware because of that) and then practice notdoing or resistance to or what wikipedia definition is Calming the sankharas. And Yep it is also "just being or sitting" what Zen sayng.

*Insight- it is whatever what rises in you. It isn't knowledge only, if we think it has to be superhyper knowedge then we miss easily other types of arisings.
*object- it isn't a cup of tea you look at, it is internal effect and it can be become from watching a cup of tea, so the object you watch and the insight is one and the same but insight is internal object and its form can be completely different nature from the external object. In order to find the source it is long way, many stages inbetween and with checkpoints where you won't fall back or can come back to it easily when for an example a night or blackout happens or sinning.

--i often read posts on Dho and meditate on them, i get pissed off and angry and the urge to say bad names, as sometimes they slip through and i post then i can just futher mediate on different arisings. Easy.

RE: Distinguishing the importance between Samatha and Vipassana
Answer
1/10/17 6:51 PM as a reply to svmonk.
svmonk:
Hi ODL,

By way of introduction, I practiced Zen for many years, had tokudo priest ordination in the Soto tradition, with a Suzuki-roshi successor (Yvonne Rand). Yvonne encouraged me to practice vipassana, I did half of a three month vipassana retreat at IMS in Barre but had to drop out (if you want to know more you can read about it in my memoir, Silicon Valley Monk).

Zen basically comes at meditation from the end point and doesn't provide much guidance about the beginning and middle. The end point is to sit with empty mind. Meanwhile, if you are just getting started or even in the middle, your knees are killing you, you're worried about what your boss said to you at work today, and you are not looking forward to driving home through traffic after the sit is over. Vipassana gives you a way to work with the arising of these thoughts and sensations. The Zen recommendation is to bring the mind back to the breath. Vipassana adds a small extra step, labelling the sensation or thought. Shinzen Young, who trained in the Rinzai Zen tradition, teaches a particular kind of vipassana that simplifies and systemizes the Mahsi labelling practice so that you don't have to guess what the label should be and can quickly dispatch the sensation or thought with a label then return to the breath (you can read more about Shinzen's technique in his book, The Science of Enlightenment, or check out some of the material on his websites or Youtube channel). 

In addition, I think there is actually little difference between the Theravada path moment and Zen satori, at least if you look at the Soto tradition. This is a quote by Dogen Zenji, I think from his Shobogenzo:
To study the Buddha Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of enlightenment remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.
This sounds to me like the experience of the path moment. The difference is that Zen doesn't teach four distinct levels of enlightenment, nor does it have the maps of traditional Theravada which Daniel has updated in MCTB. My experience is that my Zen practice would have been a lot more understandable if I had MCTB when I was getting started because I went through a lot of what he describes (A&P, Dark Night, etc.) and had no guidance to understand it. I think the reason for the lack of sufficient user documentation in Zen is the historical context in which it arose, as a reaction to overly scholastic Chinese Tientai Buddhism. 

Anyway, hope that helps.

Love this post, and agree on all counts, and regularly pass on Shinzen's labeling suggestion to my students, who are, by and large, actual students at UCSC. I am also practicing in the Soto Zen tradition, mostly at Jikoji, at teaching elsewhere. I'm in the Santa Cruz mountains, not far from you. Is there a gang of DhO types in our area?

RE: Distinguishing the importance between Samatha and Vipassana
Answer
1/10/17 10:53 PM as a reply to Stirling Campbell.
Hi Stirling,

I live in the Valley just over the hill from Santa Cruz. I did a couple retreats at Jikoji in the early 90's when I was practicing at Kannon Do. Thought off and on about having a Meetup for hardcore dharma types. There is at least one other guy I know in the area who posts now and then, though he hasn't posted lately.

     

RE: Distinguishing the importance between Samatha and Vipassana
Answer
1/13/17 5:44 PM as a reply to svmonk.
Missed this one! Great that you are in the area. I'd be up for meeting at some point. It would be great to meet others from the Santa Cruz/San Jose or even peninsula area.