Meditation: Sōtō School of Zen Buddhism (Analysis)

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posted on May, 2 2014 @ 05:43 PM
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As I may have posted elsewhere, I've been meditating for about a month or so. I've also recently researched Zen Buddhism since for some reason I felt drawn towards this "religion" and branch of it more than anything else.

When I was curious about Buddhism, I guess I could've also researched Tibetan Buddhism, but for some reason I feel that Tibetan Buddhism is more involved with ritual, whereas I feel that Zen Buddhism has more to do with straight up meditation and connecting with that source rather than concerning itself with gods, demons, heavens and hells.

So I started looking into Zen Buddhism with the express purpose of trying to find a school that was the best fit. An interesting one was Rinzai. I find the use of koans in Rinzai fascinating, and I had some success contemplating some koans that I made up myself (just simple, one sentence koans).

However, the school that I found extremely fascinating, and the one that I felt a strong calling for was the Sōtō school. Not only are they more concerned with just meditation as opposed to other techniques, but I found it interesting that they believe that while meditating you should allow your thoughts to flow freely without policing your thoughts. I found this interesting because I have spontaneously been utilizing this very technique for almost this whole month that I've been meditating. I have had doubts while I was doing this before reading that this was an established method, but after reading that, my meditation is that much freer since I feel comfortable in knowing that my technique is not just going to lead nowhere.

While I am very happy that there is such a school as the Sōtō school, since I am interested in meditation secularly, I feel compelled to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. On the official Sōtō page, they mention things that I feel are not really important. Some examples are swaying from side to side while meditating (since I meditate while lying down this action would be rendered impractical, anyway). Another thing is to have a statue of Buddha in the place that you are meditating. One more thing is the use of a mudra while meditating. A mudra is a symbolic or ritual gesture done with the hands and fingers while meditating. While meditating I just place my hands on top of each other on my chest, or resting on pillows by my sides.

One of the techniques that actually does give me comfort in knowing that it is an aspect of this school is that of having your eyelids slightly open while meditating. This gives me comfort because, while meditating, sometimes my eyelids flutter about, and this would lead me to the belief that the meditation was not as deep since I could partly see the room around me.

I also get struck by the realization that secular mindfulness based interventions seem to utilize techniques from Zen Buddhism (especially the Sōtō school) more than any other branch of Buddhism.

Here's a description from the Sōtō website about the technique that I was speaking of. It's properly called, shikantaza:


In Hinayana [this would include branches such as Tibetan Buddhism], there are two elementary ways (of beginner's practice): one is to count the breaths, and the other is to contemplate the impurity (of the body). In other words, a practitioner of Hinayana regulates his breathing by counting the breaths. The practice of the Buddha-ancestors, however, is completely different from the way of Hinayana. An ancestral teacher has said, “It is better to have the mind of a wily fox than to follow the way of Hinayana self-control.”


I hope that this thread will inspire people to look into the different established schools of meditation, and if necessary, perhaps adapt those methods to fit your needs. Happy meditating!

Official Sōtō Website (Zazen)




posted on May, 2 2014 @ 06:22 PM
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Thank you for sharing your experience. It's nice to read the thoughts of other novice meditators and to find out that they are similar to my own. Here's a pdf version of a book that has really helped me in the last several months and may help you too:

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

Good luck in your practice.
edit on 2-5-2014 by zazen because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 2 2014 @ 07:15 PM
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originally posted by: brazenalderpadrescorpio
my meditation is that much freer since I feel comfortable in knowing that my technique is not just going to lead nowhere.

Who is it that is going nowhere? What is doing the leading?



One of the techniques that actually does give me comfort in knowing that it is an aspect of this school is that of having your eyelids slightly open while meditating. This gives me comfort because, while meditating, sometimes my eyelids flutter about, and this would lead me to the belief that the meditation was not as deep since I could partly see the room around me.


Eyelids fluttering is a sign of an agitated mind, don't try so hard. Relax.



I also get struck by the realization that secular mindfulness based interventions seem to utilize techniques from Zen Buddhism (especially the Sōtō school) more than any other branch of Buddhism.


Zen Buddhism is roughly 1200 years old. Shakyamuni Buddha achieved enlightenment and began spreading the dharma 2500 years ago. Mindfulness is based on the Buddhism aspect, Zen is Buddhism and hence employs mindfulness.

Shikantaza means "nothing but precisely sitting". You need to sit, straight back, and you will at that point be displaying your Buddha nature.



posted on May, 2 2014 @ 07:24 PM
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S&F to brazenalderpadrescorpio for this thread.

This is the second reference to Buddhism today. I'm sensing its telling me to revisit the subject. It was covered in my yoga training and to be honest I haven't continued with my studies.

Zazen, thank you for the link. I have booked it and will read more later.

Namaste,
YogaGinns
edit on 2-5-2014 by YogaGinns because: spelling



posted on May, 2 2014 @ 07:50 PM
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a reply to: zazen

Thank you! I'll definitely take a look at it!



posted on May, 2 2014 @ 07:53 PM
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a reply to: Glorification

Thanks for your advice about the eyelid fluttering. I notice that it goes away if I go a day (or more) without meditating. But I absolutely hate to go a day without meditating!

ETA: I like to meditate lying down to prolong my relaxedness while meditating (and therefore prolong the meditation). I don't fall asleep easily.
edit on 2-5-2014 by brazenalderpadrescorpio because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 2 2014 @ 07:56 PM
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a reply to: YogaGinns

The first reference may have been mine as I created another thread about the Dalai Lama, today. I was critical of the Dalai Lama at first, but read the whole thread because I have a change of heart at the end!



posted on May, 2 2014 @ 08:53 PM
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a reply to: brazenalderpadrescorpio

My friend, these instruments are only there to serve the ones who need them for every being begins their path at a different level of experience. One must keep in mind that all varieties of meditation exist because all varieties of beings exist, each with their own perceptions of what is necessary and what isn't, but undoubtedly all paths lead to the same source.

May I ask, what perceptions are you still holding on to?



posted on May, 2 2014 @ 09:12 PM
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a reply to: brazenalderpadrescorpio

Brazen, the reference I spoke of came from another thread I was reading. I have booked your Dalai Lama thread and will look at it tomorrow.

That makes three arrows pointing me to read up on Buddhism.

Namaste,
YogaGinns



posted on May, 2 2014 @ 09:17 PM
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a reply to: YogaGinns

I just want to warn you that there's not a lot of information in my thread about the Dalai Lama. It's a failed thread in more than one respect. You'll see what I mean when you look at it.



posted on May, 2 2014 @ 09:23 PM
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a reply to: EviLCHiMP

Very lucid and insightful. I'm not sure if this answers your question but, even though I feel a very blissful feeling while meditating, I'd like to get to the point where a stillness is reached. That seems to be the goal of meditation if it can be said that meditation has a goal (I'd say that an advanced meditator would not believe that there is a goal, as someone previously alluded to). But I'd say that I have to be patient for that to happen.



posted on May, 2 2014 @ 09:42 PM
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originally posted by: brazenalderpadrescorpio
a reply to: EviLCHiMP

Very lucid and insightful. I'm not sure if this answers your question but, even though I feel a very blissful feeling while meditating, I'd like to get to the point where a stillness is reached. That seems to be the goal of meditation if it can be said that meditation has a goal (I'd say that an advanced meditator would not believe that there is a goal, as someone previously alluded to). But I'd say that I have to be patient for that to happen.


Very perceptive! Too many enlightened minds have been lost to the confusion of believing there is a goal to meditation, when in reality (as you have perceived) there is nothing to "attain" or "acquire" for what can be attained from something that one is inherently born with. It fills my being with joy to stand witness to another blossoming flower, may all the blessings of creation be with you my friend!



posted on May, 2 2014 @ 09:59 PM
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a reply to: EviLCHiMP

Thank you! I really do enjoy meditating; even the blissful feeling.



posted on May, 2 2014 @ 10:11 PM
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I've never really gone deep into researching Buddhism except for a few things. Letting your thoughts go is its main purpose I guess you could say, however it does get pretty hard to allow your thought to flow freely depending on your day which is the main point of the practice. Especially when the thoughts themselves could have emotion behind them, or just vulgar...Long story on that one.

Mudras, not so familiar with, but I feel when I do meditate, that my hands have to place in a certain way, like interlocking your finger on your lap. For the Eyes...Hmmm...I guess keeping them closed would just make people fall asleep, but for me, I'm usually comfortable with it.

You just gotta let your self be really.

S&F



posted on May, 3 2014 @ 12:19 AM
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a reply to: Specimen

Thanks for the post. Off-topic comment: I can definitely tell you've read the Ra material! It's nice to see that there's more of us here, even if you are service to self...hahaha. Not that I know for sure that you are service to self, just a theory based on your location.



posted on May, 3 2014 @ 02:41 PM
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a reply to: brazenalderpadrescorpio

I`m afraid I have not read the Ra Material, but I have heard plenty about it when I joined ATS. I just usually use to follow some studies on meditation, philosophies, and what not. Also, I used to practice a lot, at least an hour everyday for a good while. Half an hour sometime in the morning, and half an hour at night, and on random days, I tried to increase the duration of my meditations if I could.

Practice makes perfect.



posted on May, 3 2014 @ 03:34 PM
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a reply to: Specimen

Practice definitely does. I'd actually like to get to the point where I realize that there's no goal. That seems like an interesting state of mind. It's almost paradoxical to think that you have to reach your goal of not thinking that there is a goal! Weird.



posted on May, 4 2014 @ 12:11 PM
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a reply to: brazenalderpadrescorpio

It can be quite the contradiction in the general theory of it, and it does become more challenging as you get closer to the goal overall, depending on one perceptive or how they view their world. I understand the concept from my own perceptive and experience, and the practice will relive much stress, lessen blood pressure, and the general fine tuned peaceful mind set.

You have to have somewhat of water like mentality, where as for example, much like pure water, as it has no color or character/personality, while the impurities are what give it distinctive traits and character.

Almost similar to as how people view perfection, it the imperfection that make us who we are, or forces us to rise above it. Although perfection does not exist in reality, much like finding pure water with no impurities. It almost non existent.

edit on 4-5-2014 by Specimen because: (no reason given)





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