Author Topic: Amida Buddha as Being-Itself  (Read 1129 times)

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Amida Buddha as Being-Itself
« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2017, 10:13:20 am »
After reading up on Pure Land Buddhism I think Dogen was a little harsh in that quote from Bendowa. Certainly staring at a blank wall seems just as silly as reciting a name over and over -- but anyone familiar with zen history knows that "wall gazing" goes back to Bodhidharma, the founder of zen, who spent 9 years at it.

The link that DF provided http://faculty.luther.edu/~kopfg/internal/fullsyllabai/Roshi.html to a wonderful talk by Harada Roshi is typical of current zen attitudes towards Pure Land practice -- where the pure land is equated with the enlightenment of zen here and now. While this might be an attempt to co-opt what is a competitive sect in Japan, it is more likely a sincere recognition of the potential for enlightenment through pure land practice of reciting nembutsu. However, to suggest that pure land practices are included in the standard zen curriculum is a stretch.

Not having actually practiced nembutsu much I cannot comment on its effectiveness. The main caveat I have is similar to the problem I have with Krishna in the Bhagavadagita http://www.frogzen.com/the-bhagavadgita-2/-- in order for the practice to work one has to really believe that Amida, Krishna, or whomever, is the ultimate reality. However, once the raft of a particular deity has taken one to the other side, carrying around the raft can be a distraction that must be discarded. Knowing that in advance, one would not have the necessary faith to get across in the first place.

The need to find a quick and easy way to liberation has always been a preoccupation for some. Being well aware of how hard and long the path is I can certainly sympathize.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Amida Buddha as Being-Itself
« Reply #16 on: March 09, 2017, 03:31:37 am »
Hi zafrogzen, do you think that wall-gazing is similar to meditating with eyes closed, cutting out distraction? If so, do you think having the eyes open, but with no distraction, brings a different dimension to the practice? I tried something similar once, spending time with eyes partly open, but resting my gaze on the floor rather than on the shrine room itself. On occasions, there was a different quality to the meditation. With Pure Land chanting, I expect it has the same effect as concentrating on the breath.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Amida Buddha as Being-Itself
« Reply #17 on: March 09, 2017, 01:21:57 pm »
Hi zafrogzen, do you think that wall-gazing is similar to meditating with eyes closed, cutting out distraction? If so, do you think having the eyes open, but with no distraction, brings a different dimension to the practice? I tried something similar once, spending time with eyes partly open, but resting my gaze on the floor rather than on the shrine room itself. On occasions, there was a different quality to the meditation. With Pure Land chanting, I expect it has the same effect as concentrating on the breath.

Thank you for your interest,

Most of us get used to a certain way of practice and have a hard time trying something different. This would seem to leave a lot up to chance rather than scientific-like experimentation.

In my experience wall-gazing (pi-kuan) is very different from meditation with eyes closed but not really much different from resting the gaze on the floor -- except that in looking at a wall one can "fix" the gaze on a single point rather than letting the gaze relax into what I call a “soft” focus.

I do think that meditating with eyes open, without distraction, brings a “different dimension to the practice.” I don’t know if neuroscientists have gotten around to studying it yet, but sitting with eyes open is obviously different physically and maybe even chemically -- a luminosity and a sense of presence that is hard to describe.

Meditating with open eyes would, logically, make it easier to transition the practice into getting up and moving around in ordinary life. Philosophically it is interesting to note that in Theravada practice, with its emphasis on retreat from the world, they sit with eyes closed, while in zen, with its emphasis on returning to the everyday world, it is with eyes open. Ultimately, there is really not so much difference, since the insights are within the mind. It would seem that having the eyes closed would make it easier to go within, but that hasn't been my experience.

I’ve spent some time chanting various different ways and there is also something unique to that practice. It does quiet discursive thinking much in the same way as watching the breath. Neuroscience has studied that a little and apparently the physical effects on the brain are very similar to regular meditation.

I think most of the different methods can be effective in inducing Samadhi. It’s probably a matter of personal inclination and tendencies. But how that Samadhi translates into insight might vary with different methods and settings.

Here’s what I wrote on my website about meditation with open eyes --

OPEN YOUR EYES

Meditate with the eyes open, looking slightly downwards. It’s often said that this is to prevent falling asleep, or daydreaming and visions, which might be more likely with the eyes closed.

I think there’s more to it than that.

With the eyes open and relaxed, but not focused on anything in particular, we see the surrounding space as if in a round mirror. This helps clear the mind of nagging thoughts and internal noise, and makes it easier to go into Samadhi, the clear, global awareness that leads to insight.

The eyes may also be “fixed” on a small spot, usually about three feet away and slightly downward. This tethers the attention and develops concentration. For years I meditated with eyes fixed on a small shiny object on a dark wooden wall, all the while practicing concentration on the breath.

Visualizations can still be done with the eyes open and relaxed. When I experimented with shamanistic journeying I was easily able to get into self-propelled visions while sitting in meditation with eyes open, without drumming or other assistance.

In some traditions they face a wall a few feet away, but with practice it’s possible to face almost any scene without getting drawn into it. Now I usually face out into the room and look slightly downward towards the floor about three or four feet away, through “soft,” half open eyes.

Most people think meditators always sit with their eyes closed. On family vacations I liked taking the kids to the swimming pool. I’d place my meditation pillow on a folded towel in a discreet location with a good view of the pool and sit and meditate while watching the children play in the pool. When I mentioned what I was doing, my sister-in-law became concerned that I wasn’t really watching the kids. “That was the only thing I was doing,” I explained, “unlike most of the other parents around the pool who were yakking or reading.”
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Amida Buddha as Being-Itself
« Reply #18 on: March 10, 2017, 07:23:07 am »
Thanks, Zafrogzen. That was very helpful. People are surprised when I tell them that I hear everything when I meditate, although my eyes might be closed. I describe it as relaxed awareness, ready to react to anything if needs be, rather than being spaced out and absent. Especially, as you say, if sitting outside with eyes open. Then you observe more than if you were not meditating.

I've heard about the interaction of vibrations and the brain when chanting. It's the same when knocked unconscious- it's not as if the brain operated on some sort of clockwork or uses a flywheel, so why should it cut out when moved quickly? Maybe chanting brings different parts of the brain together, as when meditating, creating new pathways which would otherwise not be there.

I'd be interested in hearing more about shamanistic meditations. I'm often accompanied when meditating, and the only real parallel I can find for this is in shamanism, where people deliberately try to find an animal or other form of, perhaps spiritual, companion. Mine are usually some form of large cat (sometimes an eagle) and a North American Native person.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Amida Buddha as Being-Itself
« Reply #19 on: March 10, 2017, 09:04:14 am »

I'd be interested in hearing more about shamanistic meditations. I'm often accompanied when meditating, and the only real parallel I can find for this is in shamanism, where people deliberately try to find an animal or other form of, perhaps spiritual, companion. Mine are usually some form of large cat (sometimes an eagle) and a North American Native person.

You might have an affinity for Shamanism. I only got into it briefly, but I felt like my meditation practice made it easy for me. I've been looking for a subject to write about on my website. Maybe I'll try writing about my experience with shamanism, which was brief but pretty interesting. I'll see how it goes.

For a short answer. It was during a period of my life when I was doing sweats with friends who were on the Native American spiritual path http://www.frogzen.com/writings/sweatsong/ I read The Way of the Shaman by anthropologist Michael Harner and had one particularly strong experience which I'll try to write about. If you're not already familiar with that book, I'd recommend it. He lays out a technique, without drugs, which I found easy to get into. The last I heard Harner was traveling around doing workshops while teaching at the University of California in Berkeley. He and others have probably written more about it since then.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Amida Buddha as Being-Itself
« Reply #20 on: March 10, 2017, 09:30:13 am »

I'd be interested in hearing more about shamanistic meditations. I'm often accompanied when meditating, and the only real parallel I can find for this is in shamanism, where people deliberately try to find an animal or other form of, perhaps spiritual, companion. Mine are usually some form of large cat (sometimes an eagle) and a North American Native person.

You might have an affinity for Shamanism. I only got into it briefly, but I felt like my meditation practice made it easy for me. I've been looking for a subject to write about on my website. Maybe I'll try writing about my experience with shamanism, which was brief but pretty interesting. I'll see how it goes.

For a short answer. It was during a period of my life when I was doing sweats with friends who were on the Native American spiritual path http://www.frogzen.com/writings/sweatsong/ I read The Way of the Shaman by anthropologist Michael Harner and had one particularly strong experience which I'll try to write about. If you're not already familiar with that book, I'd recommend it. He lays out a technique, without drugs, which I found easy to get into. The last I heard Harner was traveling around doing workshops while teaching at the University of California in Berkeley. He and others have probably written more about it since then.

Ha ha, I'd gone to my bookshelf to find that Michael Harner book and after writing my reply above I was wondering if it was OK to write about by my experience -- when I absentmindedly opened the book to a page which said it might not be a good idea, that whatever power I'd encountered could leave me if I talked about it to others. I haven't tried to contact those powers since that period in the eighties, but who knows they might still be looking out for me.

Obviously it's OK to talk about those techniques in general terms (Harner does), but not to relate a specific experience in detail. To bad, it's a good story.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline IdleChater

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Re: Amida Buddha as Being-Itself
« Reply #21 on: March 10, 2017, 04:03:36 pm »

I'd be interested in hearing more about shamanistic meditations. I'm often accompanied when meditating, and the only real parallel I can find for this is in shamanism, where people deliberately try to find an animal or other form of, perhaps spiritual, companion. Mine are usually some form of large cat (sometimes an eagle) and a North American Native person.
You might have an affinity for Shamanism.

I think so, too, or perhaps Vajrayana.  Using visualizations in yoga or sadhana, or working with Yidams have certain similarities and perhaps even a basis in Shamanistic practices.
[/quote]

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Amida Buddha as Being-Itself
« Reply #22 on: March 11, 2017, 02:49:27 am »
Thanks for the posts. I've read quite a bit about shamanistic practices, although I'm more interested in exploring how similar practices produce similar effects, than in looking for personal spiritual outcomes such as encountering spiritual guides. Over the years I've noticed how these impressions of people and animals sitting next to me keep cropping up whenever I visualize myself meditating during a meditation, usually sitting in the presence of a statue of the Buddha. They don't say or do anything, other than keep me company, looking off in the same direction as me. It doesn't seem necessary to talk; just to enjoy the richness of the experience.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Amida Buddha as Being-Itself
« Reply #23 on: March 11, 2017, 12:29:14 pm »
Quote
SPD said -- I've noticed how these impressions of people and animals sitting next to me keep cropping up whenever I visualize myself meditating during a meditation

That's interesting. I sometimes "see" my body sitting like that when I'm meditating -- as if from outside or above. It's always oddly blissful. But I've never had company!

Most of my practice has been grappling with the matter of birth and death, but I can go on tangents. The Shamanistic Journeys I took while meditating, involved visualizing an "entrance" which I went into and back again -- sort of a inner ritual. What was amazing is how that alternate reality can take on a life of its own.

I suspect Vajrayana visualizations might also involve some kind of transition ritual (probably complicated). It might be a good idea to keep the realities separate. I start to worry if I have spontaneous visualizations -- like when I see a rag in the road and for an instant it looks like an animal (or worse).
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Amida Buddha as Being-Itself
« Reply #24 on: March 12, 2017, 04:08:30 am »
Quote
SPD said -- I've noticed how these impressions of people and animals sitting next to me keep cropping up whenever I visualize myself meditating during a meditation

I suspect Vajrayana visualizations might also involve some kind of transition ritual (probably complicated). It might be a good idea to keep the realities separate. I start to worry if I have spontaneous visualizations -- like when I see a rag in the road and for an instant it looks like an animal (or worse).

Hi Zafrogzen. I haven't had much in the way of formal visualization practice, so what you say makes sense. I guess formal visualization practices take into account the possible rise of the kind of spontaneous visions in everyday life. Our brains make decisions about what we see on very little direct evidence, so as areas of the brain transition from one kind of perception to another as we meditate, we can expect things like that to crop up. One of my interests is the effects of people meditating outside groups who may have more experience of dealing with such things.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Amida Buddha as Being-Itself
« Reply #25 on: March 13, 2017, 12:45:17 am »
I've learned to keep those alternative realities separate. If it's a drug one can know that the effect ends eventually. The same with a ritual entrance to an alternate reality -- one enters and leaves. I learned to keep them separate to avoid the alternate reality leaking into the primary reality. I think that's important if one is experimenting with visualizations and inner journeys. Most folks take this reality for granted and don't appreciate how wonderful (and fragile) it is.

There's also "lucid dreaming" which is similar and also has a Tibetan version in the "Dream yoga" of Naropa. I've had some experience with that as well. As with shamanistic journeying, I was very impressed with the results and how my experience with meditation made it easy for me to get into it. But again, I eventually abandoned it to concentrate on the big question of birth and death. There are so many things to explore, but life is short and one cannot go down every path.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Amida Buddha as Being-Itself
« Reply #26 on: March 13, 2017, 02:53:09 am »
That's true. Just because they are there doesn't mean they have to be explored. I did have lucid dreams at one time, which could be fun, especially when I was flying and controlling the flight. My favorite ones were when I was meditating in different places. The ones nowadays are those telling me I need to wake up and go to the bathroom again ...
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Amida Buddha as Being-Itself
« Reply #27 on: March 13, 2017, 10:58:45 am »
Ha, ha. I got sidetracked lucid dreaming by the sexual potential and the babes I could meet up with. Shows where my head's at.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Online Dharma Flower

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Re: Amida Buddha as Being-Itself
« Reply #28 on: May 14, 2017, 03:18:30 am »
BTW I have studied zen history extensively...

You are either lying or you are woefully ignorant of Zen history:

Dude, maybe you should back off the aspersions.

I am sorry for casting aspersions. If one would like to learn more about the history of combined Pure Land and Zen practice, I recommend reading Finding Our True Home: Living in the Pure Land Here and Now by Thich Nhat Hanh.

This is a summary of the book:
Quote
Buddhist authors in late-medieval China and Vietnam frequently describe Pure Land Buddhism’s practice of reciting the Buddha’s name in terms of three levels:

Mundane, regular level: reciting the Buddha’s name to achieve rebirth in the Pure Land.
Middle-level: reciting the Buddha’s name to “bring out” the Buddha within the practitioner.
High-level: reciting the Buddha’s name with the understanding that there is no Buddha outside the mind.

The point is that the “ultimate” teaching of Pure Land Buddhism has nothing to do with an external refuge, but that the Pure Land is the mind itself.
https://klingonbuddhist.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/a-look-at-chinese-pure-land-buddhism/

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Re: Amida Buddha as Being-Itself
« Reply #29 on: June 02, 2017, 12:47:20 pm »
It takes some faith to practice, faith is a result of insight. To already have your mind made up, before you even practice, seems like a good way to miss the unexpected, the openings which can only come from having an “open“ mind.


It seems that you are reducing Buddhist practice to seated, silent meditation. Please keep in mind that, traditionally, meditation is only one of the Six Paramitas. It is only by accumulating merit that one can actually attain Buddhahood, as evidenced by the many lifetimes of selfless service of the historical Buddha before he attained Buddhahood.

Quote
We see that sudden awakening is just the beginning of the awareness regarding the underlying, essential principle of all dharmas, or buddha-nature,m and is not the same as becoming a Buddha. Gradual practice is the cultivation of merit through concrete actions. Only through accumulating merit through gradual practice can one actually become a Buddha: so "sudden awakening to principle but gradual practice with regard to actions" is another way to clarify sudden and gradual. This explanation shows us what sudden awakening in Chan Buddhism means.
https://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~dmgildow/documents/section%204.pdf


Quote
The path of the bodhisattva is inseparable from the true practice of Chan. While actively cultivating the methods of dhyana, the Chan practitioner follows the bodhisattva path as the most effective way of lessening vexation, alleviating karma and helping sentient beings. When all the practices of the bodhisattva are harmonious and perfect, one is then practicing the One Buddha Vehicle.
http://www.dharmanet.org/coursesM/26/chan6a.htm

 


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