Jeff Shore on koan practice for lay people

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Pablo
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Jeff Shore on koan practice for lay people

Post by Pablo » Thu Aug 23, 2018 6:16 pm

From a Q&A session in a retreat in Germany:
Wolfgang: If you are given a koan, you are supposed to stick to it day and night for weeks and months. But this is not possible for me in daily life. Because in daily life I have to focus on many different things. So what I try to do is to stick to the point as best I can. Whatever happens in my work, I try to reach the ground.

Jeff: Do you think it's different for a monastic?

Wolfgang: At least my impression is like that. I can sit here in retreat with mind quiet and focussed, but in daily life it's not as focussed, it’s changing constantly.

Jeff: And how is that different from a monastic? Do you know how many weeks a year they have for retreat? About seven, that's seven weeks out of fifty-two. What are they doing the other forty-five weeks? Pretty much what you're doing. The question is whether one is committed or not, that's all. Give yourself to the practice here. Then when you return to your busy life, give yourself there. In time you will see that they are not two different things. There is no conflict, other than the one you concoct in your head. Don't use your busy life as an excuse not to practice. There is where the real practice must come to life! When you realise the necessity to complete practice, you will find the time underfoot.
In the kitchen we sometimes put things on the back burner to simmer while we focus on what is cooking on the front burner. We speak of putting something on the back burner when it is not the conscious focus. This is what we naturally do with our practice, with our koan. We focus on what needs our attention at the moment. But the koan remains in the background, on the back burner. Give yourself to what requires your attention at the
moment. Let that be your practice at the moment. You will see that the koan gradually boils over, comes to life in and as your daily activities. Those daily activities, your work and so on, are just as important as your so-called “Zen practice.” Eventually, they are your practice.

Would anyone else like to speak?

[...]

Participant: You were talking about koans and laypersons. Does every layperson need to work with a koan?

Jeff: Well, in the deepest sense, the koan is the question that you are. In that sense, yes. But does everyone need to be given a formal koan? No, of course not. What did they do before they had koans? Where did koan themselves come from? Most of them were that person's great doubt, their question that had to be resolved. A simple example: Layman Pang, a family man with wife and two kids. But he roused his own koan: “Who is the one that is not involved in the 10,000 things?” It sounds a little strange, but that’s the literal Chinese. In other words: Who is the one that transcends everything? Who is the one that doesn't get caught up in anything? The liberated one, the Buddha––who is that? He didn't get that question from someone, it came from here. That's where koans really come from. They were the perplexing question that came to include everything.
So, do you need to be given a formal koan? Absolutely not.

Participant: But it is the traditional way, especially in Rinzai Zen.

Jeff: In a word, it developed because of corruption. The Zen masters themselves state this over and over again. Eventually Chan, that is, Chinese Zen, became almost the state religion, so many people from all walks of life were flocking to the Zen masters for instruction. Most without their own living, burning question or natural koan, as layman Pang had. So the statements of old were taken up and used, eventually becoming what we now call koans. There’s inevitably a level of artifice with them. You have got to make them your own, cement yourself to them, in order to really work with them. So, I ask you here and now, as I asked in the beginning, what is your koan? That’s the best way. Then you don’t have to mess with someone else’s. Anything else is secondary.
Perhaps what lies behind your question, and that of many others, is the assumption that you cannot come up with your own koan. Bullshit. If you’re human, it’s there. Simply stop running away from it.
Jeff Shore's website: https://beingwithoutself.org

Zazen in Madrid: https://pandazen.es

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fuki
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Re: Jeff Shore on koan practice for lay people

Post by fuki » Thu Aug 23, 2018 6:29 pm

Pablo wrote:
Thu Aug 23, 2018 6:16 pm
Bullshit. If you’re human, it’s there. Simply stop running away from it.

Ace, thanks for sharing.

Quit a fresh statement from the usual "koan practise can only be given by your teacher" religious (business) jargon.
Waking up in the morning is the very koan, every moment, life is the koan. But usually we go about identifying with the neural stream/screen of consciousness without inquiring how this beingness/consciousness appeared and dwell in the usual superimposed mental constructs.
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lindama
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Re: Jeff Shore on koan practice for lay people

Post by lindama » Thu Aug 23, 2018 7:03 pm

fuki wrote:
Thu Aug 23, 2018 6:29 pm
Pablo wrote:
Thu Aug 23, 2018 6:16 pm
Bullshit. If you’re human, it’s there. Simply stop running away from it.

Ace, thanks for sharing.

Quit a fresh statement from the usual "koan practise can only be given by your teacher" religious (business) jargon.
Waking up in the morning is the very koan, every moment, life is the koan. But usually we go about identifying with the neural stream/screen of consciousness without inquiring how this beingness/consciousness appeared and dwell in the usual superimposed mental constructs.
Fuki, This is the way that I was taught koans... yes, there are diff views on this. In the flow, I often had my own koans appear as well as ones I was given. What Pablo posted, Jeff said is right on. Koans keep company with us whether we know it or not, whether cooking, walking etc. They show themselves at the right moment again, like a good friend. I know a very advanced practitioner whose koan teacher said that he didn't need to be assigned a koan. Diff strokes for diff folks. As much as I appreciate them, I no longer put my attention there.
linda

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fuki
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Re: Jeff Shore on koan practice for lay people

Post by fuki » Thu Aug 23, 2018 7:46 pm

lindama wrote:
Thu Aug 23, 2018 7:03 pm
I know a very advanced practitioner whose koan teacher said that he didn't need to be assigned a koan. Diff strokes for diff folks. As much as I appreciate them, I no longer put my attention there.
linda
Yeah I even know a teacher who calls them jokes, others are dead serious about them, it's relative and depending on the practisoner (or dis-ease if you will) As many people live in seperation (imagination) I remind people daily that there is only difference in form and behaviour not in essence, that's humanities koan, always has been but especially in these times. But people often don't like statements which come from beyond the mind, ofcourse you don't have to put your attention there, it's expedient means, nothing mandatory.
meldpunt seksueel misbruik in boeddhistische gemeenschappen.
https://meldpuntbg.nl/

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lindama
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Re: Jeff Shore on koan practice for lay people

Post by lindama » Thu Aug 23, 2018 9:36 pm

Fuki,
let them have their jokes. I'm not saying koans have anything to do with jokes or imagination... nor can we sweep them away bec they appear, I said appear, to be non-dual. People take on koans according to their personal proclivities, one might notice that sooner or later. It's a way for us to know our ancestors... as you said elsewhere, can't put an age on them.
linda

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guo gu
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Re: Jeff Shore on koan practice for lay people

Post by guo gu » Mon Aug 27, 2018 6:13 am

jeff doesn't really teach koan... i would say he teaches closer to chan, using huatou or whatever one gets stuck in life. i asked him about this once. he said (paraphrasing) "most laypeople cannot go through the koan curriculum anyway." he went on to doubt the usefulness of the curriculum. my sense, in chatting with him, is that after having gone through the system, he has distilled the curriculum into a few core critical huatous or approaches to koan/life. if needed, what he has learned in the koan system serve him as checking points for students. that's about all. in this sense, he's closer to chan teachers.

my conversation with jeff took place in 2014 after he assisted me in on a 7-day retreat. i invited him as a guest master. in december this year, i will assist him on a 5-day retreat at my center. all are welcome!

be well,
guo gu

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Re: Jeff Shore on koan practice for lay people

Post by Nothing » Mon Aug 27, 2018 7:17 am

guo gu wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 6:13 am
jeff doesn't really teach koan... i would say he teaches closer to chan, using huatou or whatever one gets stuck in life. i asked him about this once. he said (paraphrasing) "most laypeople cannot go through the koan curriculum anyway." he went on to doubt the usefulness of the curriculum. my sense, in chatting with him, is that after having gone through the system, he has distilled the curriculum into a few core critical huatous or approaches to koan/life. if needed, what he has learned in the koan system serve him as checking points for students. that's about all. in this sense, he's closer to chan teachers.


be well,
guo gu
True, at least that is what i have been tought by Jeff and the huatou is my method of practice.

Viktor

Caodemarte
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Re: Jeff Shore on koan practice for lay people

Post by Caodemarte » Mon Aug 27, 2018 3:37 pm

I wonder if Jeff’s approach is that different from other Rinzai teachers (ignoring the obvious differences between lay and ordained). Many, if not nearly all, Rinzai teachers do not follow a fixed curriculum and “make up” koans and wato (hua tou) all the time. Hakuin, who created the classic Japanese system gleefully created quite a few. The Kamakura koans are a great example of “making up” directly applicable koans in simple language. The subtle allusions to classic Chinese poetry and history that had crept in did not help the Japanese samurai class, although the Chinese literati seemed to like them. That said, koans are not a set of puzzles and the fundamental questions have not changed in essence since humanity began.

Pablo
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Re: Jeff Shore on koan practice for lay people

Post by Pablo » Mon Aug 27, 2018 7:05 pm

guo gu wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 6:13 am
in this sense, he's closer to chan teachers.

I'm sure he will love that statement :D But if you look at the work of Shinichi Hisamatsu (one of Jeff's great es inspirations), he shares the same focus as well, and he's very Japanese.
my conversation with jeff took place in 2014 after he assisted me in on a 7-day retreat. i invited him as a guest master. in december this year, i will assist him on a 5-day retreat at my center. all are welcome!
I don't think I will be able to make that one, but it does sound great! Thanks for all the effort you and Jeff are doing for all _/\_
Jeff Shore's website: https://beingwithoutself.org

Zazen in Madrid: https://pandazen.es

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Meido
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Re: Jeff Shore on koan practice for lay people

Post by Meido » Fri Aug 31, 2018 6:19 pm

Caodemarte wrote:
Mon Aug 27, 2018 3:37 pm
I wonder if Jeff’s approach is that different from other Rinzai teachers (ignoring the obvious differences between lay and ordained). Many, if not nearly all, Rinzai teachers do not follow a fixed curriculum and “make up” koans and wato (hua tou) all the time.
This is so in my experience.

Rinzai teachers i have known all openly said that there was always freedom to distill or in other ways freely use inherited methods as they saw fit. Especially for laypersons who may not have the time and opportunity to have frequent sanzen over a period of some years, it's no problem at all to simplify things.

Koan practice is best seen as a general structure in Rinzai Zen that serves as a kind of skeleton for one's overall training, providing many jumping off points and pointers to other things. But details vary according to lineage. And in actual application there is nothing fixed at all: the teacher's guidance varies to fit the student. How could it be otherwise?

Finally, the really crucial training in Rinzai practice comes after koan training is completed!

The idea of Rinzai practice as s kind of rigidly fixed curriculum, like that of koans having fixed "answers," is a misunderstanding that sometimes pops up...not really here in this topic, but commonly enough to be worth mentioning perhaps.
The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
Madison, WI Rinzai Zen Community [機山龍源寺] - http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community - http://www.rinzaizen.org

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guo gu
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Re: Jeff Shore on koan practice for lay people

Post by guo gu » Sun Oct 21, 2018 4:04 pm

jeff will be coming to my center this december to lead a 5-day retreat. we're calling it an introduction to rinzai zen retreat: https://tallahasseechan.org/events/intr ... n-retreat/

a few years ago he was a guest teacher on my retreat and assisted me in doing the interview (we had about 100 ppl on that retreat). this time, i'l assist him in this retreat and he will be the main teacher. pls spread the word.

in the near future, in 2019 sometime, i'm hoping to have meido here in tallahassee to lead a retreat. that would be wonderful!

be well,
guo gu

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