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“It doesn’t come from outside.”

 
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25 September 2016 11:22
 
NL. - 24 September 2016 06:10 PM

. . . why does the master tell the student that nothing binds him? Clearly, in the relative world, the laws of cause and effect do bind him. He’s less experienced, younger, etc., etc., and that has real world effects. Which would seem to contradict said master’s earlier statement.

If you read the OP again, notice that the master doesn’t tell the student that nothing binds him.  The student tells that master that he wants to study Zen in order to be free.  Then he tells the master that nothing is binding him.

 
 
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25 September 2016 11:43
 
unsmoked - 25 September 2016 11:22 AM
NL. - 24 September 2016 06:10 PM

. . . why does the master tell the student that nothing binds him? Clearly, in the relative world, the laws of cause and effect do bind him. He’s less experienced, younger, etc., etc., and that has real world effects. Which would seem to contradict said master’s earlier statement.

If you read the OP again, notice that the master doesn’t tell the student that nothing binds him.  The student tells that master that he wants to study Zen in order to be free.  Then he tells the master that nothing is binding him.


I don’t see how that changes anything about what I was saying, though? Unless you are saying the point of the story is supposed to be something entirely other than what the point of the story appears to be, i.e., that the student really was bound by causality and needed a great deal of training to live wisely in the world. But that would be like the most random way ever to make that point, as it doesn’t tie into the original story at all, so again, don’t see how that changes what I was talking about?

 
 
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25 September 2016 12:17
 
hannahtoo - 25 September 2016 05:38 AM

I wouldn’t necessarily put every Zen story above aphorisms.  I mean, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is TRUE.  And so is “out of sight…”  And the first phrase dates back to the 1600’s; the second to the 1200’s.  Hardly Hallmark, hmmph!


Hey, Hallmark is pretty awesome. They share plenty of wisdom on mugs and frames and such, the vehicle doesn’t make it any less true.

 

But seriously, I guess I don’t see that a Zen master would expect an acolyte to be transformed by a single statement.  It is surely a take-off point for all sorts of meditation and further questioning.  Even the legends of the Buddha describe a lifetime journey of ups and downs to reach enlightenment.


I think (could be wrong on this,) that Zen is relatively bigger on the idea of ‘instant enlightenment’ vs. other traditions. They of course have their own more formalized traditions as well, but I do think this idea is bigger with them than, say, Theravada Buddhism.

 

Here’s the other angle:  In my great wisdom, I see no religion or path as the right one for everyone.  A whole lot of them claim to be, however.  Zen may not fit NL as well as it does unsmoked.  Off-the-shelf philosophies fit some lucky people who pull down the right volume.  I don’t mean this to be disparaging at all.  Obviously, certain religions or philosophies are very fitting for a lot of people—that’s why the major religions have hung around for millennia.  (Yeah, I know, some have been perpetuated by force.  But if they made no sense, they wouldn’t last longer than, let’s say, a dynasty.)  I think it’s wonderful when a religion or a talent or passion can fulfill a person.  Then there are the rest of us who must continue to wrestle and seek and hack our way cross-country across the landscape, rather than following a path.


I agree. It’s funny, because I have to remind myself of Steve Pinker’s thoughts on not constantly ‘hedging’ when listening to dharma teachers (I realize I have broken up with them 18 times over the past few weeks, but I suppose I still do like Buddhism a great deal.) Pinker says that it’s obnoxious when academics constantly hedge their statements (he gives an example of professors saying of their daughter “We virtually adore her”) and that of course you should assume words like “in my opinion”, “this is my take anyways”, “how I see it”, etc., are implicit in any conversation. That isn’t true of all religions but I have to remind myself that in secular Buddhism, if Jack Kornfield (who I assume is an extrovert) says you should learn to be your own sanctuary, I should hit “auto-adjust” in my head and remember I am hearing that through the filter of a mind that is incredibly introverted and waiting for any excuse to go “Great, super, awesome, when can I go live in a cave and think deep thoughts and not interact with or depend on those messy beings called humans ever again?”. Clearly this is not what that statement means to him and there is a degree of relativity in all things, language included. When Tara Brach talks about how we should work on racism in a way that seems divisive to me via emphasizing differences, I have to remember that’s not from the POV of someone with social phobia who doesn’t need yet another wall of division on their mental plate and that for me focusing on those differences is simply going to make me totally unengaged. For a bubbly extrovert, sure, maybe they can go to “White Awake” (assuming they can get past attending an Ivy League group literally named with a cringeworthy dad-joke pun, which I don’t know that I could, but hey, if they could) and really build bridges with people and have a healing dialogue. That’s great for them. Not great for me. I’m kind of slowly figuring all that out.

 

Personally, the challenge of forgiving others speaks to me from Christianity.  But I reject the notions of reward and punishment in the afterlife.  I appreciate the calls for justice and freedom in the modern Jewish Passover.  At the same time, I cringe at the tribalism of the Old Testament.  And I acknowledge wisdom in the perspective of Buddhism, while knowing that I cannot meditate.  I must walk and do.  That is what consistently brings me peace.

 


Oh, anyone can meditate. I’m not doing formal sitting meditation at the moment just because I’m busy and exhausted and I don’t like focusing on breathing when all this ragweed is killing me, but since I started with a baseline of absolute zero regarding ‘mindfulness’ (since I only heard of the concept at all a few years ago,) I remind myself that whatever moments of ‘active meditation’ I do on the fly during the day are an exponential increase from where I started. And I do think meditation does people a lot of good, even if it has absolutely no spiritual connotation - reduces stress, improves sleep, etc. It’s like being on an exercise routine (something I am taking a similar approach to at the moment, ha ha - not really hitting the treadmill but I try to park further away and take the steps, every little bit helps.) But if that’s not for you, you could always try focusing on the moment while gardening, or cooking, or taking a walk. And for your particular situation, I hope you have some kind of support group to talk with, I think that’s really helpful as well.

 
 
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25 September 2016 14:36
 

NL:
Oh, anyone can meditate. I’m not doing formal sitting meditation at the moment just because I’m busy and exhausted and I don’t like focusing on breathing when all this ragweed is killing me, but since I started with a baseline of absolute zero regarding ‘mindfulness’ (since I only heard of the concept at all a few years ago,) I remind myself that whatever moments of ‘active meditation’ I do on the fly during the day are an exponential increase from where I started. And I do think meditation does people a lot of good, even if it has absolutely no spiritual connotation - reduces stress, improves sleep, etc. It’s like being on an exercise routine (something I am taking a similar approach to at the moment, ha ha - not really hitting the treadmill but I try to park further away and take the steps, every little bit helps.) But if that’s not for you, you could always try focusing on the moment while gardening, or cooking, or taking a walk. And for your particular situation, I hope you have some kind of support group to talk with, I think that’s really helpful as well.

So maybe I am meditating, by your definition, when I take a walk.  Today I experienced the joy of an aspen forest in fall.  Light filtering through trembling yellow leaves, the soft crunch underfoot, the smell of autumn, the crisp air.  I was fully enjoying the here and now.

And yes I have been attending a good support group.  (Thank you for caring.)  For the record, it is NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).  They are nation-wide and have groups for families as well as for “peers.”

 
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26 September 2016 06:38
 
hannahtoo - 25 September 2016 02:36 PM

So maybe I am meditating, by your definition, when I take a walk.  Today I experienced the joy of an aspen forest in fall.  Light filtering through trembling yellow leaves, the soft crunch underfoot, the smell of autumn, the crisp air.  I was fully enjoying the here and now.

And yes I have been attending a good support group.  (Thank you for caring.)  For the record, it is NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).  They are nation-wide and have groups for families as well as for “peers.”

 


I would say yes on the meditating thing. If it’s something you’re interested in, I think reading / listening to an introductory book on mindfulness (I think the first one I read was “Mindfulness In Plain English”) or doing a quick online course could help - not to make it “harder” - but just to know what some common traps and pitfalls are when you think you’re ‘in the moment’ but you’re actually getting caught in a stream of thoughts, or trying to block a stream of thoughts in order to “be in the moment darn it!!” and so on - more of a ‘tips and tricks’ kinda thing, but yeah, to me that sounds like meditation.


You know, I read this Lions Roar article today on how difficulties can be helpful or harmful depending on how we approach them. I thought it was really good…


(With one random nitpick - and I say this not to be nitpicky and churlish, but because this is actually a random side note topic that concerns me. When Pema Chodron talks about how most people don’t appreciate gifts anyhow, I have found the exact opposite to a degree that worries me a little bit. When I am actually doing my ‘daily goals’ list [which I’m not right now], I have goals like ‘meditate for 15 minutes’, and one of them is just to do someone, anyone, a favor that day. Sometimes that’s making a small gift basket for someone, or trying to help one of my clients with a problem that is not directly related to the work I’m doing with their child [trying to track down a specialist for a health problem someone else in the family is having, for example,], sometimes it’s just a little card or note to someone who I think needs it. A lot of the time, people seem so surprised and grateful for these things that it really makes me wonder how much social support the average person has these days. It’s kind of like how crimes can happen in public and no one calls the police because everyone assumes “Hey, this is in the middle of a crowded area, someone else surely did” - maybe we look at each other and assume people are getting help elsewhere.)


So I don’t know, you might enjoy reading that. And while I know I can be a bit too “look for the silver lining” (maybe I just need to sit with people’s suffering more,) sometimes I think it does help to look for the silver lining a bit. I recently found out that this rescue horse that I really love has to be put down for a number of reasons. And as sad as I am, I told the volunteers working the shelter (who are sadder) that I hope they can at least know that even if he couldn’t ultimately be “saved” (whatever that means, as we all die at some point anyways, I guess,) which is what we all wanted, at least every moment of happiness he had at the center was a moment of happiness he never would have had in the miserable setting he came from. Honestly, maybe the only peace and happiness he’s ever had. And with your brother, sometimes maybe you can remember that even if he’ll never be ‘normal’, and even if you can’t help him 100% because you have to take care of yourself, whatever help you can offer is help or comfort or guidance he wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. (And on the flip side, I have seen plenty of cases of the opposite, where people beat the odds or transformed in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible. One of my best friends is in a situation very similar to yours with a sibling, and while it wasn’t the siblings fault, I gave her the same advice I’m giving you [she didn’t take it], because I thought she put my friend through a couple of kinda traumatic situations and for both of their sakes another setting might be safer. But she’s actually doing great now, better than she’s ever done before, even after facing a couple of really hard life situations unrelated to her mental illness - so while I don’t want to give false hope either, I also don’t want to incline your mind entirely in one direction on this. The truth is you just never know how things will turn out, I guess, as hard as that is.)

[ Edited: 26 September 2016 07:03 by sojourner]
 
 
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30 September 2016 00:39
 

Zen is being honest with oneself.  Difficulties and stress arise when one is not honest with oneself about who one is.  This is not about good or bad, right or wrong, in or out, left or right; it is about knowing who you are and being yourself.

The student wants to be free but doesn’t recognize what is binding him, or probably more accurately, doesn’t admit what is binding him.  The unbound do not ask to be free.  Your bindings are in your head.

 
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30 September 2016 10:11
 
Skipshot - 30 September 2016 12:39 AM

Zen is being honest with oneself.  Difficulties and stress arise when one is not honest with oneself about who one is.  This is not about good or bad, right or wrong, in or out, left or right; it is about knowing who you are and being yourself.

The student wants to be free but doesn’t recognize what is binding him, or probably more accurately, doesn’t admit what is binding him.  The unbound do not ask to be free.  Your bindings are in your head.

Yes.  In the OP, the master is responding to the student’s claim with ‘grandmotherly kindness’ - (a Zen expression).  He is leaving it to the student to go and reflect - “If nothing binds me, what am I doing here telling the teacher I want to be free?  Why did I give him a false answer?  What is binding me?  What will I tell him if he asks again?  Does he have the key, or is the key in myself?”

 

 
 
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30 September 2016 14:45
 

You are not free if you ask to be free.  Of what do you wish to be free?

 
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30 September 2016 17:13
 
unsmoked - 30 September 2016 10:11 AM
Skipshot - 30 September 2016 12:39 AM

Zen is being honest with oneself.  Difficulties and stress arise when one is not honest with oneself about who one is.  This is not about good or bad, right or wrong, in or out, left or right; it is about knowing who you are and being yourself.

The student wants to be free but doesn’t recognize what is binding him, or probably more accurately, doesn’t admit what is binding him.  The unbound do not ask to be free.  Your bindings are in your head.

Yes.  In the OP, the master is responding to the student’s claim with ‘grandmotherly kindness’ - (a Zen expression).  He is leaving it to the student to go and reflect - “If nothing binds me, what am I doing here telling the teacher I want to be free?  Why did I give him a false answer?  What is binding me?  What will I tell him if he asks again?  Does he have the key, or is the key in myself?”


To both of the above, my complaint is that this simply seems like question begging regarding the definition of ‘free’. What if the student said “I want to fly off a cliff”, and the master answered “What stops you from flying?”. One could either answer in a material world, colloquial language sort of way with “Uh… I dunno, not into physics, but I think it’s called gravity”; or an entropic category-free way with “Ah, I am hemmed in by definitions and goals! If I give up all pursuits and desires, including the desire not to be pulverized on rocks, I can fly off the cliff! Briefly. Before the splatter on the rocks part. Ah, but then, if I see no categories, then what is the difference between me and the air and the birds who continue to fly? Now I’ll jump off this cliff and fly forever. Winning!”. I mean ok, if you really want to take things to their extreme logical conclusions regarding ‘letting go’, ‘non striving’, ‘freedom from categories’ and so on, fine, but I don’t think this is what most people have in mind when they post cheery pictures about being “In the moment” (Based on those pictures, btw, one would conclude that being in the moment is comprised entirely of standing with your eyes closed and your hands out in a strong wind, possibly while some granular substance like dandelion seeds or petals float by. I feel like the Buddha could have simplified things a lot by just including a pictorial of that.)


On the other hand, if you are not talking about: 1. Some defined version of ‘free’  2. Chaos; then you do in fact have some manner of referent in mind when saying the word ‘free’, so I would say, how the hell would the student know what’s keeping him from being free if he doesn’t know what it is? That would be like asking me what’s keeping me from being amethystiella. I could answer anything. Either the question is meaningless or there are far more metaphysics than I think Buddhists in the west like to talk about surrounding what ‘free’ is. If it’s not something akin to “getting buzzed off of brain chemicals”, then it is in fact a positive statement about reality.

 
 
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30 September 2016 17:53
 

You’re really hung up on the word ‘free’.  The student provided the word and it is up to him to define it.  The Master is helping him find the definition.

 
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30 September 2016 18:17
 
Skipshot - 30 September 2016 05:53 PM

You’re really hung up on the word ‘free’.  The student provided the word and it is up to him to define it.  The Master is helping him find the definition.


If you want to get technical and literal, sure. Maybe he had a bad case of head lice or a cold and was asking for home remedies to free himself of those. But this is not what that language has typically meant in zen-speak. My assumption given the context would be that the student had heard other happy people use this word and liked the outcome even if he didn’t know what the exact referent was.

 
 
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30 September 2016 18:24
 

If. . .  Maybe. . .

I don’t respond to hypothetical questions or splitting hairs.  Be free in whatever way you want.

 
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30 September 2016 18:30
 
Skipshot - 30 September 2016 06:24 PM

If. . .  Maybe. . .

I don’t respond to hypothetical questions or splitting hairs.  Be free in whatever way you want.


That’s my point. I am not, in fact, free to fly off a cliff, by the usual definition of that word. The world is rife with restrictions. So why shouldn’t the rest of the exchange have just gone:


“Gravity”


“Oh, yeah, you’re right. Well, sorry, you’re shit out of luck then, pretty much bound by gravity.”


“Dang.”

 
 
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01 October 2016 11:04
 
unsmoked - 23 September 2016 11:11 AM

Zen master to new student:  “Why do you want to study Zen?”

Student:  “To be free.”

Master:  “What binds you?”

Student:  “Nothing binds me.”

Master:  “Then I have already set you free.”

I’m guessing from the student’s answer that he’s not having a breakthrough moment.  He’s responding ‘automatically’ in a matter-of-fact way.  The master’s response seems lightly sarcastic, probably with a gesture toward the door and the suggestion, “More Zazen.”  (more meditation)

“A split-hair’s difference and heaven and earth are set apart.”

 

[ Edited: 01 October 2016 11:17 by unsmoked]
 
 
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01 October 2016 20:16
 
unsmoked - 01 October 2016 11:04 AM

The master’s response seems lightly sarcastic, probably with a gesture toward the door and the suggestion, “More Zazen.”  (more meditation)

 

That sounds like “because you didn’t have enough faith” repackaged, though. Not necessarily a sentiment that I’m averse to, as I still think some forms of Christianity are a good spiritual path - I’m just thinking, more and more, that the idea of Buddhism as categorically different in being philosophical and not faith-based, is false. I think it is, in fact, a religion. Which is cool with me, I like religion when it’s not being all enculturated and authoritarian.

 
 
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