Comments on Shinzen Young's tip for
”The Quickest Way to Enlightenment”
Because this video presentation by Mr. Shinzen Young, a pioneering buddhist meditation teacher, is misleading I wish on my part to clarify these points made. I understand my point of view is critical but I wish that with this presentation of mine I can shed light on this topic of enlightenment of which there are so many misleading conceptions about in general.
If you are not familiar with who I am, please go to Open Heart.fi-website and see the information about Guidance to Awakening and my personal bio.
In the video Shinzen Young presents that ”strong determination sitting” is the quickest way to enlightenment. Considering his long history in rinzai-style of Japanese zen buddhism, it is not a surprise that this is his recommendation. His practical advice for attaining enlightenment is to sit in a determined fashion for lengthy periods of time, all the way from an hour to several days in a row, while enduring all the physical pain and mental-emotional confusion that comes along by doing that.
Having personally experienced and endured the hard Japanese rinzai zen training and having made observations of many zen practitioners, I'd say that there are a lot of useful and beneficial factors in the zen method. However, by no means I consider this school, rinzai zen or any Japanese zen sect for that matter, to be lucrative in it's ability and means to help it's practitioners to become awakened or enlightened, (not to even mention the levels of attainment after the initial awakening, as enlightenment has been defined here). So my personal opinion of Young's advice of determined sitting to be the quickest way to get enlightened is that it is very misleading. Based on my own experience and careful study of many years, I'd say that this advice is not sound at all.
In an interview that Young gave to Buddhist Geeks in 2010, he was asked,
BG: ”How common is that dramatic, sudden experience of enlightenment as compared to the more gradual and even integration?”
Shinzen Young: ”The sudden epiphany that’s described in many books about enlightenment, that has definitely happened to some of my students. And when it happens, it’s similar to what is described in those books*. How frequently does it happen? I don’t know. I don’t keep statistics, but maybe a couple times a year.”
*Visuddhimagga and Three Pillars of Zen were mentioned earlier in the interview
With all respect to Mr. Young, on a yearly basis, a couple of students getting awakened, is by no means a number of significance. I assume a ”couple” would perhaps mean something like 2-4 in number. As Young in his videos speaks a lot about awakening and enlightenment and because surely rinzai zen is majorly concerned about it, I assume that his work as a meditation and spiritual teacher strongly aims to bring his students to this perceptional shift. However, if ”strong determination sitting” is the ”quickest way to enlightenment” and assumably then also the most or at least very proficient one, and if even then the yearly result is merely a couple of cases, I find this system of training to be quite questionable. However, if this result seen from the point of view of the rinzai zen school or other buddhist schools for that matter, is high and successful, then I wish to congratulate them. However, the modern standard of seekers getting enlightened and hence ending their search, is getting way higher compared to the ancient and still contemporary old methods such as the one offered by zen. Here I wish to remind that I find some aspects of the Japanese zen also very uself and beneficial. Here my criticism towards zen doesn't concern it's Korean and Chinese versions as I do not have enough knowledge of them.
Let's see what the statistics of awakenings from other sources say. First, according to the founder Elena Nezhinsky, LU during the first three years when the forum has been active, produced a round number of 1000 awakenings (out of 1055 cases, 95%). This result was produced by many guides working together. This number, almost one awakening per day for three consecutive years, would not have been possible for one teacher. A second example is an anonymous professional mind training teacher of 20 years of active teaching history, whose yearly awakening rate is roughly 9 cases (175 in total over 20 years). Third, personally as a teacher offering guidance to awakening, I have verified 40 awakenings in less than two years with a success rate of 95% (2 persons did not awaken during their first dialogue).
In all these three examples the method to directly point to the awakened nature of man, beyond the self-centered thinking patterns, has been skillful ways of theoretical analysis or ”mapping” and practical instructions, given either live or through online dialogue, which then has been empirically studied by the recipient with the outcome of seeing through the illusory nature of the I-thought. In my understanding the key here has been one-on-one exchange based on a sufficient understanding of the problem itself, the biased sense of me-ness, together with effective means to facilitate this theoretical understanding.
In my analysis there are four main problems in various teachings trying to help their followers awakened but not being able to do so. These factors may be partial impediments, serious hindrances which waste time and energy of the practitioner or complete obstacles which are dead ends in the context of awakening:
1. theoretical explanation not being able to explain what awakening exactly is and what the anatomy of it is,
2. method in general not having particular technology for awakening,
3. technique aimed at generating awakening in particular, being superficial or only vaguely relevant and
4. no guidance from an awakened specialist available.
A seeker would do wise to find out how these questions are answered by the concerned method and it's specialist. After all, these are reasonable questions. Mind training should never be based on a belief.
The reason why I am so concerned about people getting awakened without having to engage in senseless method's carrying loads of cultural and historical baggage, is obvious. Awakening is the first permanent level of spiritual attainment which significantly transforms the persons mind, view and way of life. The reason why I express this critique of misleading views such as the one that ”strong determination sitting” through pain and emotional despair being the most effective and quickest way to get enlightened, is that in our modern time the requirements of mind training/spiritual instructions are getting way more clearer and effective than most of the ancient traditions are able to offer. My critique towards ”strong determination sitting” here looked in the context of sudden awakening is based on over 11 000 hours of personal experience. That was plenty of emotional and mental confusion, knee pain and all that... but no awakening.
The interview conducted by Buddhist Geeks, shows that Young uses the term ”enlightenment” to refer to a dramatic shift that is sudden and not gradual. If this is a complete definition of ”enlightenment” by him, then it is not different than what I have briefly described above and in the materials I have provided at the Open Heart-website (freely available). On the other hand, if his definition of ”enlightenment” varies and could also include the meaning of ”gradual enlightenment”, which I term ”gradual purification of the mind”, meaning a transformation of mind taking place during a longer time span, even then ”strong determination sitting” would not even nearly be my first choice as a method to pursue enlightenment in the gradual sense with the outcome of karmic purity in the body.
Here, it is relevant to say that Young's zen master of 30 years, the late Joshu Sasaki Roshi, who passed at the age of 107 and practiced rinzai zen that emphasizes ”strong determination sitting” for 94 (!) years as a monastic monk, managed not to embody the mind of enlightenment. He had a reputation of being a sexual abuser of his female students. These abusing actions signify that such a person has big blind spots in his subconscious mind and therefore his gradual enlightenment process is not finished. Sex is not the issue here but abusal is. This means that the recognition of the natural awareness state is not thorough enough in his bodymind. It could also signify that the person concerned is ethically perverted which in turn would mean that there is something greatly wrong in his recognition of the natural awareness state as the awake awareness is where the ethics originate from. There are many similar or even identical abuse cases of other zen, other buddhist, hindu or christian teachers around the world and for sure, they will keep happening. In my opinion, The title of a ”master” is too lightly used today, be it zen master or something else. Anyway.
The point of this article is that there are much more efficient methods of awakening and enlightenment (in both the meanings as mentioned above) than the ”time tested” old ones where you just have to ”stick with it” or ”push through it”.
I wish nothing but the best to Mr. Shinzen Young in all possible ways. This article and criticism in it, is directed to what teachings such as his teach, not towards his person.
As a colleague teacher, a fellow human being and a spiritual practitioner, I felt the need to express this criticism for the actual benefit and liberation of all beings. I understand I have said many things that might not be pleasant for people to hear. I hope you have read this article with analytical mind yourself and find something useful from it.
Thank you for reading,
Baba Kim Katami,
Yleinen keskustelualue ja olohuone henkisille etsijöille.
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Baba kirjoitti: In all these three examples the method to directly point to the awakened nature of man, beyond the self-centered thinking patterns, has been skillful ways of theoretical analysis or ”mapping” and practical instructions, given either live or through online dialogue, which then has been empirically studied by the recipient with the outcome of seeing through the illusory nature of the I-thought.
vois yrittää kääntää. tos virkkees on kuusikymmentäyksi (61) sanaa. se katkee tos keskel. siit hävii koheesio. sit sä vaa luet sitä ja luulet et sä tajusit
TAI! sit mä oon tyhmyri. enkä osaa pitää 61 sanaa ja niiden aiheuttamia kontekstien esiintymiä mielessäni. Jos tuosta pitäisi vielä jatkaa virkettä, se olisi näin: joo katos, samsara on paskaa. muttei mulloo kato mitään tekemist sen asian kaa
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