Friday, 20 September 2013

Can Zen ( Rinzai and/or Soto branches) be of assistance in approaching Dhāraṇā, the 6th limb of Patanjali's Ashtanga, in particular object and objectless concentration practice?

"The other Sunday at Stillpoint Yoga I practiced Led primary with Manju Jois. On coming to the final padmasana we practiced pranayama and then chanted shanti mantras. Ramaswsami refers to chanting here as Dharana, it's one of the meditative limbs of Ashtanga,  concentration on an object (next, according to Patanjali you would move on to concentration without an object). The object might be an icon, the breath, or here a mantra. Ramaswami would have us practice Japa mantra meditation, repeating a short mantra over and over, Manju happens to have has us chant a number of Shanti (peace mantras). I guess you could replace your own preferred approach to meditation practice here if you not yet comfortable with chanting ( I wasn't for the longest time)" from an earlier post

from my earlier post Ashtanga and Zen 2 - Mirror of Zen /// A Day in the Moment of a Modern Zen Monk
http://olyasamadhi.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/ashtanga-and-zen-to-join-their-swords-video/

Yoga in the west is of course big on Asana...., Pranayama too if you know where to look but detailed help with the 6th limb Dhāraṇā can be hard to find. Aranya's commentary on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras is a good start but perhaps we might also consider looking elsewhere for assistance....for the nuts and bolts of object and objectless concentration/meditation practice as it were.

from an earlier post


"Dhāraṇā (from Sanskrit धारणा dhāraṇā) is translated as "collection or concentration of the mind (joined with the retention of breath)", or "the act of holding, bearing, wearing, supporting, maintaining, retaining, keeping back (in remembrance), a good memory", or "firmness, steadfastness, ... , certainty".[1] This term is related to the verbal root dhri to hold, carry, maintain, resolve.
Dhāraṇā is the sixth stage, step or limb of eight elucidated by Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga or Raja Yoga. For a detailed account of the Eight Limbs, refer to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Dhāraṇā may be translated as "holding", "holding steady", "concentration" or "single focus". The prior limb Pratyahara involves withdrawing the senses from external phenomena. Dhāraṇābuilds further upon this by refining it further to ekagrata or ekagra chitta, that is single-pointed concentration and focus, which is in this context cognate with Samatha. Maehle (2006: p. 234) defines Dharana as: "The mind thinks about one object and avoids other thoughts; awareness of the object is still interrupted."
Dhāraṇā is the initial step of deep concentrative meditation, where the object being focused upon is held in the mind without consciousness wavering from it. The difference between Dhāraṇā,Dhyāna, and Samādhi (the three together constituting Samyama) is that in the former, the object of meditation, the meditator, and the act of meditation itself remain separate. That is, the meditator or the meditator's meta-awareness is conscious of meditating (that is, is conscious of the act of meditation) on an object, and of his or her own self, which is concentrating on the object. In the subsequent stage of Dhyāna, as the meditator becomes more advanced, consciousness of the act of meditation disappears, and only the consciousness of being/existing and the object of concentration exist (in the mind). In the final stage of Samādhi, the ego-mind also dissolves, and the meditator becomes one with the object. Generally, the object of concentration is God, or the Self, which is seen as an expression of God".

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It's interesting perhaps to compare Patanjali's treatment of object and objectless meditation practice with that of Zen.

Patanjali and meditation on an object.

1.17 The deep absorption of attention on an object is of four kinds, 1) gross (vitarka), 2) subtle (vichara), 3) bliss accompanied (ananda), and 4) with I-ness (asmita), and is called samprajnata samadhi. 

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: Based on the Teaching of Srivatsa Ramaswami by Pam Hoxsey

Here's the Rinzai branch of Zen on meditation on an object ( here a Koen)

Rinzai Zen and meditation on on object (Koen)

How is Zen meditation done? ... zazen, one maintains the body in a position free of tension and movement, and focuses the mind on a single object of attention
http://zen.rinnou.net/zazen/

How to sit
Ryōan-ji, Rinzai Temple, Kyoto used to visit here often when we lived in Kyoto, the small moss garden around the back is best.

 See the comments, turns out Enrique was here in this very temple a couple of weeks back. here's his picture of the moss garden I mentioned.

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Patanjali and meditation without an object

1.18 The other kind of samadhi is asamprajnata samadhi, and has no object in which attention is absorbed, wherein only latent impressions remain; attainment of this state is preceded by the constant practice of allowing all of the gross and subtle fluctuations of mind to recede back into the field from which they arose.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: Based on the Teaching of Srivatsa Ramaswami by Pam Hoxsey
And here's the Soto branch of Zen on objectless meditation.

Soto Zen and meditation without object


"What is the meditation practice of Soto Zen? We call it “shikantaza,” “just sitting,” or “objectless meditation", 


http://www.sfzc.org/ggf/display.asp?catid=3,78,89&pageid=1455


Dogen's Eiheiji temple, Soto branch of Zen

In Patanjali meditation o an object might be con sidered as a preperatory stage for objectless meditation. In Zen it is perhaps the other way around.


"Isshu Miura says that the difference of the Rinzai Zen school from Soto is that "zazen is, first of all, the preliminary practice by means of which mind and body are forged into a single instrument for realization. Only the student who has achieved some competency in zazen practice is, or should be, permitted to undertake the study of a koan. Proficiency in zazen is the basic ground for koan study. During the practice of zazen the koan is handled. To state that it is used as the subject of meditation is to state the fact incorrectly. The koan is taken over by the prepared instrument, and, when a fusion of instrument and device takes place, the state of consciousness is achieved which it is the intent of the koan to illumine and in this instant the koan is resolved." He also writes: "When the koan is resolved it is realized to be a simple and clear statement made from the state of consciousness which it has helped to awaken."
 http://www.dharmanet.org/lczen.htm


On Zen and the two largest schools/branches, Soto and Rinzai.
"Zen schools are more or less divisible into those that emphasize a curriculum of verbal meditation objects-like koans-and those that do not. Emphasizing daily life practice as zazen, Soto Zen centers generally do not work with a set koan curriculum and method, though koans are studied and contemplated. Because of this, Soto Zen has traditionally been criticized by the koan schools (the best-known koan school is the Rinzai school of Japan) as dull, overly precious and quietistic, in contrast to the dynamic and lively engagement of the koan path. But the koan way also has its critics, who see the emphasis on words, meaning and insight as working against real non-conceptual Zen living. Koan training systems also have the disadvantage of fostering competition and obsession with advancement in the system.

To study the Buddha way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget oneself is to be actualized by myriad things.
When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away.
Dogen Zenji
In koan Zen, contemplation of a koan begins with zazen practice. The practitioner comes to intense presence with body and breath, and then brings up the koan almost as a physical object, repeating it over and over again with breathing, until words and meaning dissolve and the koan is "seen." This practice is done in the context of an intensive retreat led by a qualified Zen koan teacher. Like all systems, the koan system can degenerate into a self-protective and self-referential enclosure. It's the teacher's job to see that this doesn't happen, but sometimes it is not preventable. There are many different systems of koan study, but most of them emphasize humor, spontaneity and openness. The koan method is, at its best, a unique and marvelous expression of human religious sensibility". http://www.dharmanet.org/lczen.htm

Soto and Rinzai Zen

The two main contemporary schools of Zen, Soto and Rinzai, have their roots in the Chinese Caodong and Linji schools of a thousand years ago. These two branches of Zen were transmitted to Japan around 1200.
The distinctions between the schools goes back to to teachers, Shitou and Mazu. While Shitou's style was gentle and harmonious emphasizing the skillful use of words, Mazu's demeanor was stern and uncompromising, often using shouts and blows. This difference in style was carried through their descendants until the founders of the Rinzai and Soto schools, Linji (J. Rinzai) and Dongshan (J. Tozan).taught ( Ch. Ts'ao, J. So).

Soto

Soto's style of practice can be traced back to Shitou (700-790) whose poem "The Harmony of Difference and Sameness" (Sandoaki) is an important early expression of Zen Buddhism and is chanted in Soto temples to this day. Two masters in Shitou's lineage, Dongshan and his disciple Caoshan,are so closely associated with each other that heir names were used together to form the name of their Zen school, Caodong (which became Soto in Japan).
One of Donshan's poems "The Song of the Jewel Mirror Awareness" is also still chanted in Soto temples. Another set of poems on the Five Positions of Absolute and Relative is important as a set of koans used in the Rinzai school.
It was Eihei Dogen Zenji (1200-1253). who transmitted Caodong Zen to Japan. Dogen Zenji is probably the most revered figure in all Japanese Zen. Yet only recently has he become read and studied in the West, perhaps because that great popularizer of Zen in the West, D. T. Suzuki, followed the Rinzai school and managed to essentially ignore Dogen throughout his voluminous writings.
But it was Dogen who first insisted on intensive meditation, who produced the first Japanese writings explaining Zen practice, and who constructed the first real Zen monastery in Japan, establishing a set of monastic rules still observed. Moreover, the strength of his character has inspired many Zen masters to follow.

Rinzai

RInzai Zen is said to be founded by Linji (J. Rinzai). Linji is known for his dramatic and iconoclastic style which is recorded in The Record of Linji.
Although Eisai is credited with bringing Rinzai to Japan, it was Hakuin Zenji who reformed and gave Rinzai Zen its impetus, formulating Japanese Rinzai koan practice and reviving Rinzai Zen in Japan. Endowed with enormous personal force and spirit, Hakuin was a rarity among Zen Masters and a lion among men. He was an accomplished artist and calligrapher and a voluminous author—he left a written legacy that is arguably the most extensive of the masters of the Chan or Zen, traditions. His caustic tongue and pen were legendary, and his words still breathe fire today. Yet his compassion was equal to his fire, and he was beloved by the common folk of his time and remains a favorite among lay practitioners of Zen. Hakuin single-handedly transformed the moribund Rinzai school into a tradition focused on arduous meditation and koan practice. Essentially all modern practitioners of Rinzai Zen use practices directly derived from the teachings of Hakuin.
Although hybrids schools like the Harada-Yasutani line of Zen are not part of the Rinzai lineage, these lines comprise the greater part of Western Zen; and, some of these teachers were, in fact, Rinzai Dharma heirs. Teachers, like Roshi Robert Aitken were at one time students of Rinzai Teachers.

How different?

Shitou jousted with Mazu, and they often swapped students, Mazu sent his pupils on their way with a wink and the advice that Shitou was "slippery."
Much has been made about the differences between Rinzai and Soto Zen. Writers and teachers often emphasize Rinzai's emphasis on kensho (seeing into one's self nature) and Soto's emphasis on zazen, but this has lead to the misconception taht Soto rejects the concept of enlightenment and Rinzai practitioners don't practice zazen. There also seems to be misinformation regarding koan practice or study. Koans are examples drawn from the awakening of past practitioners and often seem to be illogical or intuitive. But they are not puzzles to be solved or intuited. They are expressions of awakening.
Both Rinzai and Soto Zen Buddhists study koans and practice zazen. The differences are of a more subtle nature. To even say Rinzai "stresses" koans over zazen would be inaccurate. It is accurate to say that Soto Zen continues to consider the practice of zazen to be the sole means of realization. But Soto Zen has never discarded the koan. Soto teachers lecture on koans and their students study koans outside the practice of zazen. Soto Zen practices zazen as awakening itself to the already realized koan. In Rinzai Zen practice, a koan is examined while sitting in order to deepen insight.
Isshu Miura says that the difference of the Rinzai Zen school from Soto is that "zazen is, first of all, the preliminary practice by means of which mind and body are forged into a single instrument for realization. Only the student who has achieved some competency in zazen practice is, or should be, permitted to undertake the study of a koan. Proficiency in zazen is the basic ground for koan study. During the practice of zazen the koan is handled. To state that it is used as the subject of meditation is to state the fact incorrectly. The koan is taken over by the prepared instrument, and, when a fusion of instrument and device takes place, the state of consciousness is achieved which it is the intent of the koan to illumine and in this instant the koan is resolved." He also writes: "When the koan is resolved it is realized to be a simple and clear statement made from the state of consciousness which it has helped to awaken."

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Below, extracts from Zen Training Sekida Katsuki ( my use of bold) which I'm currently reading quite closely, always seem to keep coming back to Zen ( this will be my fourth 'Zen phase'), no doubt because it's useful. Does anywhere else focus so closely on actual practice ( ashtanga comes to mind).

Available on Amazon or here
http://www.scribd.com/doc/96016634/Zen-Training-Sekida
"In studying Zen we start with practice. Now, it is true that Zen is concerned with the problem of the nature of mind, so it necessarily includes an element of philosophical speculation. However, while the philosopher relies mainly on speculation and reasoning, in Zen we are never separated from our personal practice, which we carry out with our body and mind. Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology, may seem to come close to Zen in his ideas when he advocates a technique called "phenomenological reduction." He says that he ignores "the ego as a person arranged on objective time," and arrives at the "pure phenomenon." However, like other philosophers, he does not seem to go beyond a purely mental exercise. In Zen training we also seek to extinguish the self-centered, individual ego, but we do not try to do this merely by thinking about it. It is with our own body and mind that we actually experience what we call "pure existence."

"Our aim in practicing zazen is to enter the state of samadhi, in which, as we have said, the normal activity of our consciousness is stopped. This is not something that comes easily to us. The beginner in Zen will usually be told to start by practicing counting his breaths-that is, to count each exhalation up to ten, and then start again (see chapter 5). The reader (assuming he is inexperienced in Zen) should try this for himself. Quite probably you will look on this task with some contempt, thinking that you can do it without any difficulty, but when you start you will soon find that wandering thoughts come into your head, perhaps when you have reached about "five" or "six," and the thread of counting is broken. The next moment you come to yourself and cannot recollect where you left off. You have to start again, saying "one" and so on. How can we prevent our thoughts from wandering? How can we learn to focus our attention on one thing? The answer is that we cannot do it with our brain alone; the brain cannot control its thoughts by itself. The power to control the activity of our mind comes from the body, and it depends critically (as we shall show in later chapters, in detail) on posture and breathing".

"We have already referred to the state of off-sensation, in which we lose the sense of the whereabouts of our body. Subsequent1y, by stilling the activity of our mind, a state is reached in which time, space, and causation, which constitute the framework of consciousness, drop away. We call this condition "body and mind fallen off." In ordinary mental activity the cerebral cortex takes the major role, but in this state, apparently, it is hardly active at all. "Body and mind fallen off" may seem to be nothing but a condition of mere being, but this mere being is accompanied by a remarkable mental power, which we may characterize as a condition of extreme wakefulness".

"When the Zen student has once experienced pure existence, he undergoes a complete about-face in his view of the world. But unfortunately, as long as he is a human being, he cannot escape from the inevitability of living as an individual. He cannot leave the world of differentiation. And he is thus placed in a new dilemma, which he did not encounter before. Inevitably, this entails a certain internal conflict, which may cause much distress. To deal with this, further training of the mind has to be undertaken in order to learn how, while living in the world of differentiation, we can avoid discrimination. We have to learn how to exercise the mind of nonattachment while working in attachment. This is called training after the attainment of realization, or cultivation of Holy Buddhahood, which constitutes an essential part of Zen (see chapter 17). There is a Zen saying, "Equality without differentiation is bad equality; differentiation without equality is bad differentiation." This is a very commonplace saying, but the level of understanding to which it refers is not common, since it can be attained only in a mature state of Zen practice".


"Zen training continues endlessly..."


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18 comments:

  1. Nice post im looign some info about that after to see the video by Sigismondi. Richard Freeman practice asana, pranayama and meditation (like he said in the pranayma curse video in some moment) an d some time ago i saw some pic of him sit and dress with this tipical wear very posible was vipassana or zen. The main point is that Zen in theori maybe have some point with ashtangam but in practice look very different. Gregor Maehle advice yoga meditation (he make focus mantras, chackras etc) for continues the same "lineage" like in the asana and pranayama. For this im not sure this is adviceble combine ashtanga with zen/vipassana meditation..i left this video taht i was looking for me something for zen begginer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LL2XUTeoUsM very useful for the people like me that dont anything about zen.

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    1. Hi Toni, I can't remember if RF practices Zen or vipassana, I know he used to study zen and if your following his Pranayama course then his descriptions of how to sit (posture) is a very Zen like description. And this is my intention here in this post, to ask where Zen can help us in our Yoga meditation practice. What does Zen have to say about living with a mantra (or Koan) that we might find useful, how can Soto Zen help us with approaching object less meditation when the time comes.

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    2. yeas im in the last sesion and is true that he don't sit in padmasana, Is some subject that i have great interes. Like Freeman said is very good trie to make this 3 practice (asana, pranayama and meditation) have some sitting pranayama nad meditative out of ashtanga vinyasa. Always i tried to see him like the "perfect" teacher, i have great admiration for him. I will sent you for fb the photo that i've said and you will see, he was studiyng both vipassana and Zen but maybe is Zen the weay that use now.

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  2. Ryōan-ji, Rinzai Temple, Kyoto used to visit here often when we lived in Kyoto, the small moss garden around the back is best.

    I visited this temple last year. Twice, I loved it so much that I had to repeat.

    This is a picture I took of the back garden:
    http://i41.tinypic.com/2gwbzhz.jpg

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    1. Yes, that's the little moss garden, was hunting for a picture on google but couldn't find one I liked. May I include yours in the post Enrique?

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    2. Thank you Enrique, hope to move back home to Kyoto within the next year or two, looking forward to visiting this little garden again. Hoe you had a good time in Japan.

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  3. My experience is that they feed each other in wonderful and, often, inexplicable ways. In fact, I have (mostly) stopped trying to pin it down.

    One thing that interests me is how, in Zen, they give you beginning instruction in zazen and then you are tossed in, sink or swim. Usually it is a little of both. There is a lot of trust there that anyone can do it who really wants to. In yoga, I find, there is a lot less trust in that. I have heard again and again that, in particular, Western students "can't" do meditation because our minds are supposedly too over active. You have to do this much asana and this much pranayama and then, maybe, just maybe, a little meditation. While I kind of get that perspective, my Zen experience has shown me that it simply isn't true. With enough time, practice and the right intention, anyone can settle their mind.

    Also love how yoga is so much about detailing and listing every possible experience - all the how's and why's. While in Zen, it is all about direct experience. I think it is never-ending interesting to study the two together. Possibly Ashtanga is well suited because we do the same thing everyday, which of course, is never the same. Just like sitting.

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    1. I know Robyn, Sharath disappoints me every time he claims ( again and again) that meditation is pointless ( or words to that effect) , retreats are pointless etc. either dismissive or ignorant of the fact that tens of thousands of people in the West meditate daily, whether Zen, Vipassana, TM and have done for years.

      Of course many Monks in Burma supposedly thought Westerners could never practice Vipassana and no doubt many Japanese monks thought that Westerners could never practice Zen either....they came around.

      I think there's a sense where your thrown into Ashtanga in the beginning and just get on and practice that too strikes me as similar to Zen, the Philosophy coming later, they strike me as having a lot in common. Both talk about practice practice practice. Lately I'm thinking that Zen is closer to Ashtanga than Vippasana...of course next week.... : ) So much better to look to how they all may inform each other rather than taking a blinkered view.

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  4. Perhaps, you would enjoy reading Trevor Leggett's book on "Sankara on the Yoga Sutras" - http://www.leggett.co.uk/books/sys.htm

    Leggett was a Zen practitioner who had studied Yoga quite deeply.

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    1. I have leggett' book Anon, first Yoga Sutra's I bought in fact. Haven't looked at it for a long time though, will revisit it.

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  5. Great discussion. I think no matter what our practice or tradition, it is a beneficial exercise to look at other approaches to practice - it can help us gain perspective on what we are doing and why. It can also have its downside if we get lost in the distractions of distinctions and over-analysis.

    Interesting to note that Richard Freeman suggests reading/studying the Heart Sutra, a cornerstone teaching of Chinese Zen (Chan) Buddhism. At its core it presents the idea that all practice and all philosophy are good to a point, they get us to a place where we can actually enter spontaneous, formless meditation. For a time we need them, and at some point we must move past our reliance and attachment to our particular "form" of practice. A good reminder regardless of what we choose to practice.

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    1. yes Tom, practice(s) as tools, the idea perhaps is to focus on the work at hand rather than the tool itself.

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  6. Just my two cents, but if it's important to have some philosophical consistency, or whatever, Advaita Vedanta might be worth considering. I think in Advaita, most of the fundamental differences between Buddhism and Vedanta/Hinduism disappear, like whether there is a soul. Advaita Vedanta places much less importance on meditation, they're not opposed to it, and usually end up doing some form, but a formal practice seems to be de-emphasized, at least that's how I see it.
    Personally I spent nearly 30 years doing Zen and basically got nowhere. Two years ago I picked up Mahasati, a type of Vipassana but perhaps even more body-oriented, now I feel like I'm taking off on a rocket. And reading Sekida's comment just now, that it takes the body to control the mind, really brought the whole thing home to me. It takes the body to control the mind. I read Zen Training 30 years ago, and in principal had all the information, I just couldn't see. I guess some of us take longer. - Scott

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    1. Been looking into mahasati Scott, love the demo videos on Youtube especially the one where the monk starts playing around at the end,
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOcIhTOJQjo

      best smile ever. If you feel like emailing I;d be interested in hearing more about your experience of the practice. Have you tried bringing that awareness in the movements into your yoga practice, was trying it this morning, curious. My email if you want to get in touch is grimmly2007@googlemail.com or I'm on fb as Anthony Grim hall.

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  7. And one more thing, if I may - looking at that Runways project on the Small Blue Pearls blog, I'm surprised at how many Ashtangis seem to be practicing Buddhists. Perhaps the two systems connect in ways that aren't clear to the thinking mind. - Scott

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  8. Interesting what you say about Sekida's Zen training Scott, Sekeida says there that most ( well maybe not most) people who have been practicing Zen have been going about it all wrong ( ie neglecting their posture, tanden, basically the body). I've keep coming back to Zen, this is the fourth time for me and this book has been like discovering it for the first time. I practiced Vipassana for some time but started to feel that the approach was getting in the way of the practice if that makes any sense. Really inot this idea of getting out of the way and letting whatever "it" is do it's work. So in Ashtanga, don't think it too much , don't 'teach' it too much but rather keep out of the way as much as possible and just let the practice do the work, feel that way a little about Zen. Love Sekeida on koan's too btw, not thinking of them as a puzzle so much but rather just letting them inhabit you, same with a mantra, a chant, don't worry too much about what it means. Will have a look at Mahasati, haven't come across that name before.

    re Buddhism and Ashtanga, i wonder if it's the two systems or just certain people's tendencies that connect....but then perhaps that's the same thing.

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  9. In Soto Zen there is no goal. Practitioners are usually advised not to try to approach any special states.

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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