Author Topic: Kensho, spacing out, comas, and dreamless sleep. What's the difference?  (Read 1516 times)

Offline ZenFred

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So this general question was asked over at treeleaf
http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showthread.php?12521-Spacing-out

I think the shikantaza response dodges a very real question.

Let's rephase and expand the question.

If during kensho you experience being without suffering, how is this different than spacing out, being unconscious, or in a dreamless sleep? In all these states you are alive yet not suffering.


A perhaps related question/line of thinking. If enlightenment is just being beyond suffering how is this possible for anyone as long as even one sentient being still suffers since all beings are connected?

It would stand to reason then that enlightenment/kensho/satori is more than just being without suffering. What then is it?

-Namaste

Offline uruk_awrys

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Re: Kensho, spacing out, comas, and dreamless sleep. What's the difference?
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2014, 06:05:42 pm »
greetings

does "just  being without suffering" imply awareness?

and if we connect all sentient beings to our awareness of suffering, haven't we experienced compassion?

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Kensho, spacing out, comas, and dreamless sleep. What's the difference?
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2014, 06:15:24 pm »
If during kensho you experience being without suffering, how is this different than spacing out, being unconscious, or in a dreamless sleep? In all these states you are alive yet not suffering.


Enlightenment is much more than just being beyond suffering... it's the total transformation of the heart and mind, the result of direct experience of conditional and interconnected reality.


Offline ZenFred

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Re: Kensho, spacing out, comas, and dreamless sleep. What's the difference?
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2014, 06:20:04 am »
DK,

 Any suggested reading that elaborates on this particular point?  I know all of Buddhism is about interconnectedness. But the transformation that occurs?

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Kensho, spacing out, comas, and dreamless sleep. What's the difference?
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2014, 08:04:28 am »
You might want to try reading "Zen and the Psychology of Transformation" by Hubert Benoit --- you can download a free copy here:

http://terebess.hu/zen/mesterek/Hubert-Benoit-The-Supreme-Doctrine.pdf

Offline ZenFred

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Re: Kensho, spacing out, comas, and dreamless sleep. What's the difference?
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2014, 07:34:59 am »
DK, finished chapter 1. It is an amazing work and Benoit is obviously brilliant. Thank you very much for the recommendation.

Benoit writes from a perspective I can appreciate with a mix of western philosophy (particularly existentialism and post-constructionalism) and psychotherapy. I have not finished his book and plan to take my time studying it. But do you think he is faithful to Buddhism/the dharma? I think there is a danger of making Buddhism into just a philosophy or just a therapeutic modality. Of course it must involve a committed meditative and compassionate practice. Again I've only read chapter 1 and maybe he addresses this.


Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Kensho, spacing out, comas, and dreamless sleep. What's the difference?
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2014, 09:09:15 am »
Regardless of the author being read, I suspect that there's always a chance of that occurring or something even worse, yet on the other hand the more traditional authors haven't always been able to speak to a Western audience in a way that doesn't lead to such a thing --- as you stated, it comes down to practice, where I certainly know more than a few practitioners who have done quite well practicing the Dharma as a philosophy and way of life without the other trappings.

Usually, the criticism he receives is more of the "sour grapes" variety, the kind similar to what Kiew Kit Wong said in "The Complete Book of Zen":

Quote
In his book Zen and the Psychology of Transformation, Dr Hubert Benoit describes an experience which he calls a 'little transitory satori':

At this moment the calm in me is so pure that it amounts to a veritable suspense. Suddenly a sense-perception (an object which enters my field of vision, or a sound which reaches me) breaks this suspense, I see the object, or I hear the sound, as I never see or hear habitually; as if, habitually, forms and sounds only came to me through a screen which deformed them, whereas in this special moment, they come to me direct, in their pure reality. Still more interesting, my sense perception communicates to me simul-taneously a knowledge of the outside world and of myself; in this moment I feel no longer any separation between the world and myself although they remain distinct; Not-Self and Self, while remaining two, are joined together to form a unity.


The above quotation reveals a superficial understanding of satori based on reading Zen literature, not on personal experience. It is unlikely that the above author has practised Zen in the way it is traditionally practised. Benoit's experience may be an altered state of consciousness, but it is not satori. He first experiences a state of pure calmness, 'a veritable suspense'. Then a sense-object breaks the calmness and he perceives this object in a way he has never perceived it before. His experience is still phenomenal, not transcendental. He feels that he is not separated from the world — a feeling that is probably due to his intellectual, not intuitive, knowledge of Zen — yet he is aware of his separateness. A satori experience is usually, though not necessarily, the reverse. The pure calmness comes after, not before, the sense-object, which acts as a catalyst for the Zen awakening. The subject does not feel or think that he is organically linked to the world; he actually experiences this organic togetherness.

The disturbing point is that Dr Hubert Benoit's views on Zen are regarded in the West as authoritative. The London Times reports, 'He has understood their [the Zen masters'] secret', while Aldous Huxley comments, 'Dr Benoit has discussed the supreme doctrine of Zen Buddhism in the light of Western psychological theory and Western psychiatric practice.'

If you read through the criticsm carefully, you'll see that he stated that "a satori experience is usually, though not necessarily, the reverse" and then he goes on to decry that people in the West consider his views to be "authoritative" --- like  I said, it comes across like sour grapes, almost infantile in content

In the end, the proof is in the pudding --- in other words, you need to go by what you get out of reading it and whether or not it helps your practice.

Offline ZenFred

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Re: Kensho, spacing out, comas, and dreamless sleep. What's the difference?
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2014, 06:00:24 pm »
Completely amazing quote! (one of many really)

"Since realisation
signifies liberation one arrives at the absurd paradox that man is subjected to
the coercive duty to be free. Man's distress is concentrated then on this
question of his salvation; he trembles at the thought that he may die before
having attained his deliverance. Such a grave error of understanding
necessarily entails anxiety, inner agitation, a feeling of unworthiness, an
egotistical crispation on oneself-as-a-distinct-being, that is to say, it prevents
inner pacification, reconciliation with oneself, disinterestedness towards
oneself-as-a-distinct-being, the diminution of emotion—in short all the inner
atmosphere of relaxation which governs the release of satori."
-Hubert Benoit

Offline Infinity989

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Re: Kensho, spacing out, comas, and dreamless sleep. What's the difference?
« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2014, 12:59:48 pm »
meditation produces experiences.

if, in meditation, nothing other than ordinary consciousness arises, then nothing else arises.  If something else does, then it does.

Most people who practice meditation regularly...say, one hour daily for 5 - 10 years do report experiences that are outside the normal range of consciousness.

Otherwise, why would billions of people, over the course of thousands of years, have even bothered to meditate?

Offline NoEssentialNature

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Re: Kensho, spacing out, comas, and dreamless sleep. What's the difference?
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2014, 10:45:15 am »
If during kensho you experience being without suffering, how is this different than spacing out, being unconscious, or in a dreamless sleep? In all these states you are alive yet not suffering.


A perhaps related question/line of thinking. If enlightenment is just being beyond suffering how is this possible for anyone as long as even one sentient being still suffers since all beings are connected?

It would stand to reason then that enlightenment/kensho/satori is more than just being without suffering. What then is it?

-Namaste

The Buddhist path is to the end of suffering, not simply to its absence. There is a story from the Buddhas life of students who took the unsatisfactoriness of being to be responded to by suicide, and the Buddha spoke in the strongest possible terms that this was the view of an icchantika. We do not avoid our karma even in the states you list, and crucially, of them only through the awakening in whatever form or degree, do we unravel it - the path to the end of suffering, the practice of Buddhism and the attainment of that practice.

This links to a bigger area of discussion. How for those of us who are not enlightened, to talk about enlightenment? The cat-and-mouse game of it's not this it's not that, can be argued not to be a problem for those involved in practice who are expected to realise the qualities or direction f awakening through direct experience, though how to recognise the experience of awakening was a problem even for no-less-a-being than Lin Ji and is a wider problem within organisations and communities.

But sidestepping this, the problem of how to talk about awakening and why a person might attain it with non-practitioners remains. An area I have found of interest, is how academics within the theology and Zen/Buddhist studies approach this. One paper I read talked about trying to frame the benefits of awakening so that it can be considered as a meaningful topic of discussion, instead of a kind of everything-you-need but nothing-you-can-put-your-finger-on, described as the approach of 'Zen big mouths', suggested finding a new phrase. The suggestion was intersubjective-transubstatiation. Needless to say a bit jargon-y. But it highlights what seems to be a widely described aspect of awakening, a relinquishing of personal attachments but not replacing the subjective with any universal, but instead with intuitive empathic insight.

I really like Seung Sahn's metaphor of the 'Zen compass'. This is about a dynamic switching between framing things as they appear, through oneness, through emptiness, through a kind of deconstructionist 'magical thinking', and through a kind of discarding of all this 'only just like this'. I see this as a kind of loosening of our grip on suffering, first the fingers, the knuckles, the palm, the heel, and then just letting go of the damn thing.

So, Kensho not as the absence of suffering, but the dynamic ending of suffering as it arises.

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Kensho, spacing out, comas, and dreamless sleep. What's the difference?
« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2014, 01:46:46 pm »
Care should be taken when using an expression like "Zen big mouth" --- I suspect that you might have picked up this expression from Seung Sahn's recounting of the story of Master Guji's finger (see below), but the usage of the phrase as you've presented it appears to be more of an ad hominem, something that will not lead to the meaningful discussion you've described, not to mention that it would also be contrary to the TOS of this forum.

Quote
One day, Zen Master Guji had to go down to the village to visit the head temple. It was a whole day's journey. So he left right after breakfast, and wouldn't be back, he told his thirteen-year-old attendant, until evening. The attendant was left alone at the hermitage all day. Some time after Guji had left, a monk entered the temple and knocked on the door. He was very tall and wore a big straw hat.

"I want to see Zen Master Guji," he said to the attendant.

"I am sorry," said the attendant.

"The master is gone for the day."

"When will he be back?"

"Oh, I don't expect him until after dinner."

"Oh, that's my bad karma," the monk said. "I want to see him now, but I am very busy. I can't stay long. That's a big problem ..."

"Why is that a problem?" the boy asked.

"I have some question, but your master is not here. Now I have come all this way, and I cannot ask him anything. What a shame ..."

"You have some question?"

"Yes, I have a question."

Then the attendant said, "Oh, that's no problem!"

"What do you mean, 'That's no problem?' "

"I can answer for you!" the attendant said, folding his arms and smiling brightly. This young attendant had a big mouth!

 "How can you answer me?" the monk asked. "Do you understand Zen Master Guji's teaching?"

"Of course! I've lived at this hermitage for three years. I understand all of my teacher's Dharma!"

"Oh, that's wonderful. Please teach me!"

Then the boy said, "OK, OK. Follow me." He led the monk to Guji's receiving room. While the monk waited nervously, the attendant donned his teacher's long ceremonial robes and ascended the high rostrum. He held Guji's big Zen stick across his lap. After taking several moments to adjust his posture, the boy said, "OK, we must follow the correct form. First, bow three times, as you would to my venerable teacher, whose rare and ineffable teaching you are about to receive."

Eager to have the great Master Guji's teaching given to him, the monk was only too happy to oblige. "Yes, yes." He did three full prostrations to the attendant and remained kneeling humbly before him.

"So," the boy continued. "You have some kind of question? You can ask me anything: your life, your problem, your practicing. Any kind of question . ."

The monk bowed his head. "Sir, I want to understand: What is Dharma? Dharma comes from where?"

The attendant closed his eyes until they were just two very narrow slits. He bobbed back and forth slowly on the high seat, as if deeply pondering the old monk's question. Then suddenly the boy raised one finger right in front of the old monk's face—piitchhuu! At this, the old monk's eyes grew as big as saucers. "Oh, thank you very much for your teaching!" he exclaimed, and bowed deeply to the boy.

"You are welcome, you are welcome," the attendant replied, and waved him out the door. Overjoyed at his good fortune to receive this rare and profound teaching, the monk left the temple and made his way back down the mountain in high spirits. He had been walking for about two hours when he met an older monk who was on his way up the mountain. "Are you Zen Master Guji?" the monk asked. "Yes, I am," Guji replied. "Oh, Zen Master, thank you very much for your teaching! Now I under-stand what is Dharma." The monk looked very happy and smiled as he bowed deeply to Zen Master Guji and continued on his way.

"What does he mean, 'Thank you for your teaching'?" Guji thought to himself. When he arrived back at the temple, Guji cried out, "Attendant!"

"Yes, sir?"

"Did you teach this monk?"

"Yes, sir. I was teaching him."

"So, then, I have a question for you: Do you understand Dharma?"

"Yes, of course, sir. I understand your Dharma!"

"Then I ask you, What is Dharma?"

The attendant, not thinking anything, quickly picked up one finger — piitchhuu! Now, every Zen master has a special knife, called a precepts knife. This knife is used to cut a monk's hair off on the appropriate day of the month when monks shave their heads. When cutting the hair, we say we are cutting the monk's "ignorance grass," his attachment to the normal world of name and form. So this knife is very, very sharp and also has great mean-ing for monks. When the attendant raised his finger, Zen Master Guji pulled out the knife and cut the boy's finger in one stroke — piitchhuu!

The attendant screamed out in pain, "Waaahhh!!" and ran out the door. He ran down the path away from the building, holding his bloody hand and crying. Suddenly Guji shouted, "Attendant!"

He instantly forgot everything and turned his head. "Yes, sir?" Zen Master Guji simply raised his finger. The boy saw that and got true enlightenment—piitchhuu! He attained his own true speech. Guji's one finger finally became his own true wisdom. That is a very famous story.

"The Compass of Zen"
by Master Seung Sahn
pp. 219-221



Offline ZenFred

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Re: Kensho, spacing out, comas, and dreamless sleep. What's the difference?
« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2014, 05:36:44 pm »
I took no offense by "Zen big mouth" though I can see how it should be used with care. I really like Seung Sahn and he usually describes talking about enlightenment, or anything really, as a "big mistake". Hyon Gak, his student, does a really good talk about how a conference of monks debating sudden enlightenment vs. gradual enlightenment end up at each other's throats and very uncharitable to one another. Anytime you say something you are likely wrong and cause harm to those with whom you disagree.

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Kensho, spacing out, comas, and dreamless sleep. What's the difference?
« Reply #12 on: August 20, 2014, 05:48:57 pm »
I'm a bit reserved when it comes to Seung Sahn, due in part to his own shortcomings --- in some ways, it could be said that he remained that young attendant mentioned early on in the story.

Offline NoEssentialNature

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Re: Kensho, spacing out, comas, and dreamless sleep. What's the difference?
« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2014, 07:59:38 am »
I took no offense by "Zen big mouth" though I can see how it should be used with care. I really like Seung Sahn and he usually describes talking about enlightenment, or anything really, as a "big mistake". Hyon Gak, his student, does a really good talk about how a conference of monks debating sudden enlightenment vs. gradual enlightenment end up at each other's throats and very uncharitable to one another. Anytime you say something you are likely wrong and cause harm to those with whom you disagree.

There is a characiture of the good Buddhist as being completely agreeable about everything, but Seung Sahn raised strong feelings and opposition when he advocated returning the bones of Japanese soldiers from Korea.

I think it is important to consider Buddhist statements as within a practice, aimed at awakening. So obscurations of conventional understandings of what awakening is have to be understood as directed at practitioners, who have a concept they have hopefully used to progress their practice with, but which may stand in the way of realisation. This approach to philosophy is quite different to that in the West, where universal and objective tend to be accepted more or less uncritically, and theological statements are expected to aim to be universally true from given premises.

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Kensho, spacing out, comas, and dreamless sleep. What's the difference?
« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2014, 08:37:58 am »
Yes, in the West we also take a dim view of so-called enlightented masters that can't keep it in their pants, so to speak.... Seung Sahn raised strong feelings and opposition in regard to this as well.

Of course, there's the adage that one who can't master himself is a master of none, but in hindsight I'm also reminded of a verse from "The Facts of Life" theme song:

you take the good, you take the bad,
you take them both and there you have
the facts of life, the facts of life

 


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