Thread: Commentaries on Zen(ish) quotes

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    Commentaries on Zen(ish) quotes

    I once spent a year reading 'The Warrior Koans' by Trevor Leggett, from start to finish one koan a day, and then back to the start, around three times each. The koans were for Samuri, who only had a short time to live (probably), so needed a quite way to gaining insight before they died. To be honest, they were pretty enigmatic to read when by yourself and needed, I think, a Zen master to help build up the mental tension to make breakthroughs.

    I mention this because the experience gave me a taste for Zen sayings, so when I was given a page a day diary this Christmas, with a saying for each day and also one of those large book-like page a day diaries I decided to combine the two and each morning at breakfast write a whole page on that day's saying. Not researched, but straight off the top of my head.

    The good news is that I won't inundate BWB with daily postings of sayings, but when one crops up of particular interest to me I'll post it on this thread with a short commentary. Feel free to post your own comments, or your own sayings.

    The first is from Aloka's post on Zazen meditation, taken from the link https://zmm.mro.org/teachings/meditation-instructions/:

    "It is also important to be patient and persistent, to not be constantly thinking of a goal, of how the sitting practice may help us. We just put ourselves into it and let go of our thoughts, opinions, positions—everything our minds hold onto. The human mind is basically free, not clinging. In zazen we learn to uncover that mind, to see who we really are."

    That last sentence is why I like Zen. The goal is not to have a goal, but let the process of sitting in zazen change your brain and mind. The brain rewires itself while you sit not clinging to ideas. The rewiring process creates new networks, new pathways and links within the brain, which allow us to see things in different ways, ways which become unique to each individual. The mind of the person walking away from the mat is not the same as the one who walked to it. You die on the mat, as the zen saying goes, because rising from it you are, in effect, a different person.

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    Today's Zen quote is from the Hindu teacher Nisargadatta Maharaj, "A quiet mind is all you need. All else will happen rightly, once your mind is quiet." Which raises an interesting point: if it works, does it matter where the idea comes from? If we can sit with a quiet mind, rather than an empty or chaotic mind, is it the practice alone that counts, or is it the practice within a certain tradition, or what? Does it mean that there are a number of universal practices 'out there' that we can learn from and use within our own contexts? For me, we can use whatever works, including things which people in other cultures and other times have found useful.

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    This is a quote to do with extending mindfulness practice into our everyday lives. One aspect is in our interactions with others, “The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen ... Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us, not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal” Rachel Naomi Remen

    Not from any Buddhist text but from her book 'Kitchen Table Wisdom', it's another example of the universal nature of something like mindfulness, that it appears in most cultures, in most times and most locations. Once we bring a Buddhist perspective to other writings, then these things seem to crop up everywhere, often in more accessible language. We just have to be careful in dealing with other ideas associated with such texts.

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    From the Palestinian poet, Mahmood Darwish, "A moon will rise from my darkness". There is a lot in Zen about the moon, attributed to Dogen, about gaining enlightenment being similar to the moon being reflected in water http://www.thezensite.com/ZenTeachin...oan_Aitken.htm. The question is whether we can use quotes from a different context in the same way. The whole quote is "And I tell myself, a moon will rise from my darkness", which changes it somewhat, but, of course can be said of any of us undergoing some kind of suffering. I like to think that it describes why I meditate, that the moon of enlightenment arises from the darkness of suffering through the practice of following the path.

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    A monk asked Chao-Chou, "What is the real significance of Bodhidharma's coming from the west?" The master's answer was, "The cypress tree in the courtyard." This is part of a famous Zen Koan which was, perhaps, the culmination of a series of meetings between teacher and pupil. My first post talks about Koans used for Samuri, but they were also used for monks too. In such cases it is possible to build up mental tension over a long period of time, where the pupil has to answer questions or ponder answers that make no logical sense. An impossible task aimed at bringing about a different kind of understanding, a different way of interpreting the world.

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