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Old 11-13-2000, 06:21 AM   #1
ian
 
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I've been interested in Buddhism (paticularly zen) for many years now. However I have come to feel that enlightenment is an unattainable ideal. I don't believe I can fucntion normally without the predjudices and assumptions that I have developed through my life, even though I can see past them. I have had moments of elation which may be comparable, but I think this could be more physioloigcal or intellectual than spiritual.

Has anyone had any experiences which are either spiritually profound or relate to enlightenment?

Ian
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Old 11-14-2000, 03:25 PM   #2
cguzik
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Ian,

I think everyone at one point (or another) experiences states of awareness that transcend the self.

Dogen said that practice and enlightenment are not separate, so if one maintains continuous practice then that should do the trick.

In my opinion it would be a mistake to think that such realization feels different than our everyday state of mind.

Chris Guzik

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Old 11-15-2000, 03:59 AM   #3
George S. Ledyard
 
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Formal Training

What is your involvement with Zen meditation? Do you have a teacher and are you sitting regularly?

George S. Ledyard
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Old 11-15-2000, 04:49 AM   #4
ian
 
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No George,
I'm pretty well read on both Zen and other areas of Buddhism and Taoism. I have meditated extensively in the past and was also into yoga for a time, though now I only meditate occasionally (though I 'reflect' regularly!).

Unfortunately, when I tried to get involved with a Zen group, they said I needed to have come from a buddhist rather than a christian background (and I don't really consider myself a Zen Christian). I've also come to hate the religious baggage that often comes with organised religion, and prefer to work my own way through to understanding - though admittedly there can be problems with no instructor, with zen.

Ian

P.S. I agree Chris; Dogen has a way of cutting through to the truth.

[Edited by ian on November 15, 2000 at 04:54am]
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Old 11-15-2000, 08:27 AM   #5
Russ
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Hi Ian,

Once again I'll shamelessly plug a man by the name of Jiddu Krishnamurti. I find all of his talks and essays to be quite eye opening! He gives straightforward, 20th century discussion on 'being'. It's interesting as he believes truth cannot be found through any particular way or path. Another, even more accessable, writer/teacher is Douglas E. Harding. Try to find a book called "On Having No Head".

Finally, here is a link to an essay by John Wren-Lewis. A big spiritual skeptic until he had his own experience. Check it out!
http://spiritualsearch.webprovider.c...wren_lewis.htm

Sincerely,

Russ
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Old 11-15-2000, 12:59 PM   #6
George S. Ledyard
 
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"Enlightenment"

Quote:
ian wrote:
No George,
I'm pretty well read on both Zen and other areas of Buddhism and Taoism. I have meditated extensively in the past and was also into yoga for a time, though now I only meditate occasionally (though I 'reflect' regularly!).
Not to be disrespectful but deciding that you can't be "Enlightened" when you haven't spent a prologued period of your life training under a qualified teacher is like deciding you can't do Aikido after reading books and watching videos and trying to puzzle things out for yourself.

The attitude of the Zen group you speak of surprises me as most serious meditators will tell you that Buddhist meditation is a separate issue from your religious faith. There have been plenty of Christions who have done substantial amounts of Buddhist meditation, most notably Thomas Merton who wrote extensively.

What is meant by "Enlightenment" is essentially a letting go of the various defenses that we maintain that serve to protect our constructed view ourselves from any challenge. The Buddhists have a name for people who get Enlightened without going through a formal process with a teacher. They are called Pratyeka Buddhas. It is considered very rare but it does occur. But they are considered sort of spiritual geniuses whose previous lives prepared them for their Enlightenment in this life time without the usual process of training. For most people the support of a training structure and the guidance of a teacher is considered crucial. So it would be a bit premature to have doubts about the attainment of Enlightenment before you have actually engeged in the process.

Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, etc. have spent over two thousand years developing their unique systems of spiritual work to produce insight. If you sincerely throw yourself into a practice with a qualified teacher (hard to find in some cases) you will eventually gain insight into what is meant by Enlightenment. From what I have read, it is almnost never what the practitioner expected when he or she started.

[Edited by George S. Ledyard on November 15, 2000 at 01:01pm]

George S. Ledyard
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Old 11-16-2000, 10:33 AM   #7
ian
 
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Thank you all for the replies - I think my life as taken turns such that I am no longer interested in committing a lot of time to zen meditation (don't gasp in disgust! - I'm still young and full of senseless vitality), and I feel much of zen has really just become a formalised system to instil discipline.

However, I would still be interested to hear if anyone else has had enlightenment experiences, or whether they have seriously studied zen and given up.

Ian
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Old 11-16-2000, 05:52 PM   #8
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Ian,

I've been studying Zen Buddhism for a little over four years. The first year was exploratory -- starting out sitting once weekly with an informal group and ending up sitting daily on my own with weekly group sitting. The second year I began practicing every morning with a sangha at a non-residential Zen center. The third year however I was unable to attend every morning practice due to personal schedule issues; but I was still sitting daily on my own and would attend at least one practice period with my sangha each week. The fourth year I had to move to a location where there is no formal sangha and I am now practicing completely on my own.

My experience accords with George's statement that in general, one must dedicate oneself to a good teacher, or at least a sangha, in order to find truly sincere practice.

One thing I learned that second year was that the structure which is imposed by formal training really helped me learn how constraints can be guides, and that the discipline is necessary in order to truly move freely in life.

Now that I do not have a sangha within any reasonable proximity, I can see why they call it the third jewel. Peer pressure can be positive sometimes, and practicing alone is extremely difficult.

I will never give up my training but sometimes I feel like my practice needs practice.

Chris Guzik


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Old 11-16-2000, 09:53 PM   #9
George S. Ledyard
 
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Spiritual Training

Quote:
ian wrote:
Thank you all for the replies - I think my life as taken turns such that I am no longer interested in committing a lot of time to zen meditation (don't gasp in disgust! - I'm still young and full of senseless vitality), and I feel much of zen has really just become a formalised system to instil discipline.

However, I would still be interested to hear if anyone else has had enlightenment experiences, or whether they have seriously studied zen and given up.

Ian
I would recommend reading Pema Chodren. In one of her books she talks about the student who starts off full of enthusiasm, full of how Buddhism is so great, etc. Then at some point in time (usually not very long) they come to her and say they are quitting because practice isn't really doing it for them like before. She states that that is precisely the state of mind they have been training towards because it is only then that they've started to come up against their issues. That's when the real practice starts. So they quit precisely at the time that things start to make some changes.

I have found exactly the same thing in Aikido. Hundreds of people over the years have come into the dojo to start training. Often they fall all over themselves telling me how much they love it and how it is changing their lives, etc. But after a certain period of time they get disatisfied, find fault with the training or the dojo or the art... It is no coincidence that this happens precisely at the point where the training starts to call on them to really invest themselves. At that point they have to make the decision about whether they want to change or not. Most people leave rather than face the need to change.

You can complain about the structure of the Zen training but there isn't a spiritual path out there that isn't going to push your buttons if you are really putting yourself into your practice. You would probably feel embarrased to know how commonplace your ideas on this subject are. Teachers hear this stuff all the time.

I remember a story about an aspiring student of Zen who had read all the "Crazy Zen" stories. He especially liked the ones like "The Buddha is a **** wiping stick" or "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him" or the story about the Zen monk who burned a statue of the Buddha to keep warm. The seeming iconoclastic attitude appealed to this rebellious fellow so he trotted himself off to find a real Zen Master with whom to train. When he met the master he was shocked to find him wearing Buddhist robes, sitting, chanting, and bowing to the Buddha. He made some statement to some effect that this couldn't be authentic Zen because you were supposed to "burn the Buddha" whereupon the Zen Master said that that was fine but he himself preferred to bow.

Kensho Furuya has a book entitled "Kodo - Ancient Ways: Lessons in the Spiritual Life of the Warrior / Martial Artist". It is an absolutely wonderful book and he has wealth of things to say about students like yourself. You might find it helpful or you might hate it, hard to say.

[Edited by George S. Ledyard on November 16, 2000 at 09:58pm]

George S. Ledyard
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Old 11-17-2000, 10:07 AM   #10
Skyluke81
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Talking enlightment

To practise the arts is to be damned,
to master them to be enlightened...


I believe that enlightmenet is possible, but noone can imagine how it'll be. Or maybe it is just different for everyone.

Don't think that enlightment will make your life improve positively your life - it will do it, but never in the sense you (or me, or anyone) could imagine.

Ok, I'm confused but you got the point, right?


Luca

'Cause between this world and eternity,
there is a face you hope to see.

-Lene Marlin
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Old 11-17-2000, 11:19 AM   #11
"Sid"
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Re: enlightment

I have been reading up on Taoism, and there is a book that eprtains to enlightenemnt and stuff, as well as a good all-round Taoist book. Dont laugh )

It's The Tao of Pooh.

Sid
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Old 11-20-2000, 10:06 AM   #12
ian
 
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I understand what both George and Chris are saying. However, I do have a fear that arguments such that one should not give up practise, because that is when you are about to develop the most are flawed.

The same type of arguments are used in other religions to make sure people stay with the institution e.g. in Christianity people will often say it is the devil who is tempting you away, and that you must resist to get over this period.

As you may have realised from my original question - I have changed my attitude towards enlightenment, and I reject systems which insist on indoctrination. It is true that there are some things you can never understand until you have passed through them - but similarly there are many deluded people out there, and to me, my spiritual beliefs would have to be based on a consistent 'truth' laying at the base of all things.

I suppose I am interested in Zen partly due to its acceptance of death and extinguishment of the ego. I have no real drive to practise zen because I no longer have any desire to be enlightened (and usually have little fear of death); just to be spiritually satisfied. I get a strange comfort from the fact that, no matter what, one day I will be dead (as will we all), and my actions will have no real (extrinsic)meaning.

If the situation arises when I fall into a zen practise with which I feel comfortable, maybe I shall do that. If not, I won't. I do hope people are not practising zen to escape samsara; which I just see as the eastern equivalent of being good so that you go to heaven.

I am sorry if any of this offends people - I can only speak from what I feel (everything else is other peoples words).

Ian
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Old 11-20-2000, 10:08 AM   #13
ian
 
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P.S. Sid, I've read that too and it was very enjoyable. There is a translation of Chuang Tzu's writings (I can't remember the author at the moment), which you may find interesting as well.
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Old 11-20-2000, 02:07 PM   #14
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Translation book.


Hey all,

I believe that the book you are talking about is calle 'The Tao Speaks'.
It's an illustrated translation.
I find it very helpful, and enjoyable.

But you could be talking about another book.

dean
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Old 11-21-2000, 08:33 AM   #15
Russ
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[quote]ian wrote:

As you may have realised from my original question - I have changed my attitude towards enlightenment, and I reject systems which insist on indoctrination. It is true that there are some things you can never understand until you have passed through them - but similarly there are many deluded people out there, and to me, my spiritual beliefs would have to be based on a consistent 'truth' laying at the base of all things.

- Russ - This is so true. "Truth is a pathless land...." it is right before our eyes every second. "There is no separation between the seer and the seen...." Enlightenment does not need to be attained. You already are enlightened. Illusive thinking (fear)is the obstacle. A continual process, seeing fear for what it is, to be sure
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Old 11-21-2000, 02:10 PM   #16
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Re: Spiritual Training

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:

I have found exactly the same thing in Aikido. Hundreds of people over the years have come into the dojo to start training. Often they fall all over themselves telling me how much they love it and how it is changing their lives, etc. But after a certain period of time they get disatisfied, find fault with the training or the dojo or the art... It is no coincidence that this happens precisely at the point where the training starts to call on them to really invest themselves. At that point they have to make the decision about whether they want to change or not. Most people leave rather than face the need to change.


[Edited by George S. Ledyard on November 16, 2000 at 09:58pm] [/b]
Oh so true!!!

________________________
Mors certa, hora incerta
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Old 11-21-2000, 04:23 PM   #17
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On a related note...

There's an interesting commentary on Zen and Aikido by Chiba Sensei at

http://www.aikidoonline.com
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Old 11-22-2000, 06:10 PM   #18
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Stalking Enlightenment

Quote:
ian wrote:
...However, I would still be interested to hear if anyone else has had enlightenment experiences, or whether they have seriously studied zen and given up.
Ian
Maybe you're ready for Bankei, a Zen Buddhist monk of the Tokugawa era. He was so radical, some Japanese feared that he was actually teaching Christianity!

[quote]Once the Master said:
"When I first began to search for enlightenment, I wasn't able to find a good teacher and, as a result, did all sorts of painful practices, pouring out my heart's blood. Sometimes I'd forsake the company of men and go into seclusion; at other times I'd fashion a paper mosquito net and, sitting inside it, practice meditation, or else I'd shutter all the windows and meditate in my darkened room. Without permitting myself to lie down, I'd sit cross-legged until my thighs became inflamed with sores, the marks of which remained with me even afterward. At the same time, if I happened to hear a good teacher was to be found in some place or other, I'd set off at once to meet him. In this way I spent several years, and I think I may say there were few places in Japan that I didn't leave my footprints. And all because I wasn't able to meet an accomplished teacher! Once I'd hit on enlightenment, I realized for the first time that I'd been struggling uselessly all those years, and was able to achieve tranquility. I tell you all that, without any struggle, you can attain complete realization now right where you are, but you won't believe me because your're not truly serious about the Dharma."

From "Bankei Zen" by Peter Haskel

It is not practice that makes perfect, it is correct practice that makes perfect.
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Old 12-16-2004, 08:57 AM   #19
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Re: enlightenment

Kev Price posted this awhile back. I thought it was one of the most helpful things I've ever read on meditation:

Quote:
I practiced meditation for a long time and never quite felt comfortable with it until a few years ago when I stopped 'meditating' and instead just sat down in silence and experienced sitting down in silence.

It may not sound like there is much difference, but I found that the change in perspective helped me in many things.

When I sat down to meditate I told myself that certain things should happen, that there were certain rules to meditation. like my 'mind should be still' 'I should be relaxed', 'I should not get distracted' that kind of thing.

This set up a win-lose situation in my meditation.

my meditation was defined by the outcome rather than the experience.

if at the end of my meditation the certain criteria had been fulfilled then I felt happy that I had meditated.

If not, then I felt I had not meditated.

I judged it to be imperfect.

I stopped doing that and stopped fighting or putting limits on it and began to just sit and experience sitting.

in doing that, I could sit and if I was distacted then I could simply experience the distraction, or experience the way in which my mind is moving. I could experience 'and find harmony with' any set of circumstances that occured within that moment in which I was sitting.

in letting go of the definintions of meditation and the limits of meditation I allowed my meditation to become perfect as I had no criteria against which to judge it. it became a more personal thing as it was all about me and the moment in which I existed.

I realised then that it was a case of standing up and doing the same thing.

that the 'meditation' could be applied to everything.

that you could experience just being in any situation and each situation would become perfect as you had no criteria against which to judge it. harmony could be found.

It was an amazing experience and discovery for me and fit in nicely with my aikido and the philosophy of it.

Last edited by Bill Danosky : 12-16-2004 at 08:57 AM. Reason: fixed html
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Old 12-16-2004, 12:17 PM   #20
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Re: enlightenment

Bill thank you so much for posting that.
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Old 12-16-2004, 12:42 PM   #21
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Re: enlightenment

Quote:
Ian Dodkins wrote:
... I have come to feel that enlightenment is an unattainable ideal ...
Ah, good. You're starting to get somewhere, then.

Chuck

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Old 12-16-2004, 09:16 PM   #22
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Re: enlightenment

Quote:
Chris Guzik wrote:
Ian,

I think everyone at one point (or another) experiences states of awareness that transcend the self.

Dogen said that practice and enlightenment are not separate, so if one maintains continuous practice then that should do the trick.

In my opinion it would be a mistake to think that such realization feels different than our everyday state of mind.

Chris Guzik
I agree with Chris, Ian.

Bryce
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Old 12-17-2004, 09:35 PM   #23
Bill Danosky
 
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Re: enlightenment

It's funny how I wound up in Aikido- When I was among the Korean martial arts community, many of us secretly thought the Japanese Aikidoists had all "The Secrets" (I guess I still think that). But when I took Shao Lama Kung Fu, we thought some of the Koreans had it going on. When I studied Yoshukai and Goju Ryu Karate, we thought the Kung Fu masters were undefeatable. There's a lot of buzz about Muay Thai and BJJ right now.

I'm beginning to think, likewise with religion and meditation, the secrets are all the same- You practice the form and technique for long enough that you begin to understand and apply the doctrine, then if you can really sustain a love for the art, you'll eventually achieve mastery and enlightenment. I've had some great teachers over the years and I think most of them were at about the same "place" even though they took very different paths to get there. Not that it's a place I'm close to arriving at, myself, but I think I know now where I'm going.

In the Buddhist view, it takes a LOT of lifetimes to acheive real enlightenment. A lot of lifetimes! But considerably less if you take almost any path through the milestones outlined above. I have very close ties in the Yoga/Hindu "cosmos" too, and the advanced Yogis there have that same remarkable quality that makes you know something exists that's worth reaching for.

So, my humble advice, to everyone including myself: Keep sitting and just "be" happy!
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Old 12-23-2004, 02:40 PM   #24
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Re: enlightenment

Quote:
It's The Tao of Pooh.
Good book. Made me think about a lot of stuff and to not take the world too seriously. Remember that it is ok to mull over philosophy and spiritualism but its also ok to have FUN!


Enjoy the journey even if you never reach your goal.

"flows like water, reflects like a mirror, and responds like an echo." Chaung-tse
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