Saturday, September 4, 2010

Judgements are thoughts

"We have to start to be able to separate what is occurring from the one who is aware of what is occurring. In order to do that we have to develop a focused concentration or mindfulness so that our attention doesn't flutter and flow into the constant stream of arisings. If you are a beginner in meditation and you find that your mind is wandering a great deal, it is necessary to practice with a simple focus in order to develop the capacity to stay calm." from James Low in Being Right Here, A Dzogchen Treasure Text of Nuden Dorje, Pg 68

Using the same principle as James Low describes in Dzogchen, the beginning method for Chan students is breath counting. Count the out breaths one to ten and start over. If the attention wanders and you forget which number you are at between one and ten, start over at one and count the breaths until you arrive at ten, and start over at one. Repeat this method until you are not losing count, or the breath counting seems to occur by itself. Then move on to either the Silent Illumination or the Huatuo method.

There are three types of distractions:

1. The physical senses process (hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, smelling) activities in the external environment such as fire engines, cars, peoples voices. If you are usually meditate in a room, most likely the sensory activities/distractions will be sound distractions. All these activities prompt the mind to name the sound, analyze the smell, etc; then a second thought attaches itself to the 1st thought, and then a 3rd to the 2nd, and a fourth to the 3rd...and on and on. (Not quite what we would define as being present!)

2. Sensations in the body: "My knee hurts...I must straighten my leg; my eyebrow is itchy...I must scratch it; my back hurts ...I must change my posture; it's hot in here...I need to take off a sweater; it's cold in here...I need a sweater."

3. Thoughts (include emotions with thoughts, as one exacerbates the other). Travelling elsewhere in your mind; be it blissful or decidedly not a nice place, the attention wanders to a new local. Emotions/sensations such as the desire to laugh, cry...emotional pain. Also include judgements in the realm of thoughts. "This is a disgusting thought to could I ever imagine such a thing? Wow this meditation is great! My God. What a terrible meditation! I might as well quit right now." Or maybe, "I must be close to enlightenment. Wait 'til I tell everyone." Judgements are thoughts. Judgements are distractions.


Really famous Zen Masters, or "Watch it, whether you answer correctly or incorrectly to Zen master's question, you still get 30 whacks from the incense stick. Ouch!!!"

"Here's more info on Mazu, the eighth generation teacher (709-88), who emphasized the teaching that 'mind is Buddha' and 'This place is itself true thusness'. Mazu's 'sudden' approach moved the Chinese spiritual scales back toward 'pointing at mind', the essential teaching of Bodhidharma's Zen."

"A monk asked, "How can one gain accordance with the Way?"
Master Mazu said, "So, you don't want to become a buddha?"
The monk asked, "What is the essential meaning of Zen?"
Mazu struck him and said, "If I didn't hit you, I'd be laughed at from every direction."
from Andy Ferguson, Zen's Chinese Heritage, pg. 68


Also check out
Master Cheng Yen in Facebook; classes in Vancouver/White Rock with Master William Tsao at
and the Western Chan Fellowship at

The Chan retreat is full. There are 18 people booked! Call Adrian at 250 898 8201 or email for information on Chan classes in Courtenay.

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