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  • Reducing the suffering in the world

    Hey dear Wahnam Family. Here are two quick question for you. I wonder how you feel about that.

    Buddhism is about reducing, handling and overcoming suffering. It's most well known tool is meditation. There are lots of monasteries that have a huge emphasis on sitting Meditation. They sit about 4-5 hours and work the rest of the day to sustain themselfs on an average day. During the sesshins they sit more or less all day long.

    Let us say you do that for 30 years, which some Zen Masters recommend for having a basic insight into the art, and you have attained much insight over your own mind and the way suffering is induced in the world and yourself. Let us even assume you were really lucky and attained enlightenment. Now after 30 years you are an expert on suffering and know how to reduce, handle or relief it in yourself. Yes, even after enlightenment you will have to deal with suffering. Unfortunatly not everything after is eazy peazy birds and rainbows. Close ones will die, you might get sick because you still got that body of yours, wars might be going on ect. Now the next logical step would be to go into the world and try to deal and help with all of that suffering around you. Like in the last of the ten ox herding pictures of the zen tradition. You can do so by different means. Maybe you try to solve conflicts,convince and show people how to live peacefuly with another. Maybe you teach Meditation to help people discover their own illusions. Whatever you do to make the world a place with less suffering in it, there remain two questions in my mind that I cannot fully answer myself.

    1. When you want to reduce suffering in the World, is practising meditation for 30 years in a monastery while withdrawing from society really cost effective when you could be a doctor (example) who saves lifes the same 30 years?

    2.Is meditation just the training that will make you more effective in dealing with suffering when compared to someone still trapped in his illusions, who will maybe even make some suffering worse without his intention because he could not really see the roots and the necessary method to address the suffering? Again is it worth the time? Can meditation make such significant changes when helping those around you?

    Cheers,
    Benedikt
    Benedikt Vennen
    Shaolin Wahnam Germany

    ______________________

    May I be firm and resolute. may I be kind, compassionate, and friendly. May I be humble, calm, quiet, unruffled and serene. May I serve to be perfect. May I be perfect to serve.

  • #2
    This is quite a long question and I might suggest that this is something you need to repeatedly contemplate as you endeavour to address the suffering of your own life. However, as this school focuses on qigong and kung fu you might be better served by going to a Zen monastery and asking the senior monks as they will be able to speak from direct experience. Nevertheless, as I practice Buddhist meditation I will offer a view, for what it's worth. I would suggest that you find a practice that you are motivated to practice consistently every day, for years. For some people, this might be zazen, for others kung fu. There is a problem in the West in that there is a spiritual supermarket with all kinds of tools and techniques available that you can cherry-pick or mix and match. However, there is a great difference in their quality and depth and to quote Suzuki "At some point we need to dig one deep hole rather than lots of shallow ones". Being a monk and practising zazen several hours a day for years is an effective and proven method for realising and manifesting the nature of mind - as Dogen Zenji (the founder of Soto Zen) said: "practice and enlightenment are one". I would say that If you have a calling to be a monk and to practice meditation for several hours a day, then go and be a monk. However, we often have a romantic view of what this might entail so connecting with a monastery and doing several retreats over a number of years would give you a better understanding of the process and its effect.

    In response to how best to reduce the suffering of the world, Western medicine is excellent at alleviating physical suffering, but not good at resolving the fundamental issues that affect our mind and for purifying our karma. Buddhist meditation is fantastic for this. If you feel motivated to be a Doctor then go and be a Doctor - it is a noble profession. Perhaps you could learn our Qigong and eventually become a Healer. We each need to find the role that we can be of most service to the world, but this can change over time. Also, a key concept of Buddhism is that of interdependence. Someone practising in a cave in the Himalayas is still subtly influencing all other sentient beings with their meditation - you could say that it is like being a light in the darkness. Even at a mundane level, just knowing that someone is doing this is an inspiration to us lesser mortals.

    Ultimately though I think your questions will be best answered through your own daily practice and by going on retreat. You will see the effect that retreating has on your own mind and how it affects the world around you. It is an excellent way to get insight into more profound states of mind and to gain experiences of great joy and equanimity. You will also develop, over time, an understanding of how mental afflictions can be transformed and you will be able to speak with authority as you will have had direct experience of using the methods yourself. An important thing to note though is that we cannot remove someone else's suffering for them, we can only show them the way to do it themselves.

    Finally, many people today in the West are struggling with a nihilistic and materialistic worldview. In Mahayana Buddhism (of which Zen and Shaolin are a part). generating the aspiration for enlightenment gives your life great meaning and purpose. This in itself has a great healing effect on the mind and is something that Tibetan Buddhists do at the start of every practice session, and a habit that I would highly recommend myself. In gassho...or a Shaolin salute...
    Last edited by RDBoucher; 26th September 2018, 10:16 AM.
    Kind regards,
    David

    Comment


    • #3
      Nice Post!

      You are right to quote Suzuki. Everybody needs to find his special way to contribute to the problem, according to his personality, capacity and aspirations. Furthermore I think you make a good point when saying that being a doctor might not be sufficient enough to heal mental afflictions, because you might not have the experience of having successfully dealt with your own. I am no expert in modern psychology, but the feeling I have is that it's analysis of the human psyche are good but it lacks a profound practise that confronts the problems. Having attended only a few meditation retreats my experience with meditation is quite shallow, but as far as I am concerned I don't think meditation is a tool for everybody to adress their own mental problems. Meditation can be pretty hardcore and time consuming.

      Nevertheless the Buddha or Christ made very good use of their insights by instructing those around them to be good humans, which had a huge social impact on the lifes of a lot of people. Society evolved for the better. They were, like you said, a light in the darkness. Having mastered meditation is indeed inspiring to those you come in contact with. It can bring comfort to those around you and assure them that there is a way of dealing with that aspect of suffering. But not everybody can but the time and energy in meditation that will have the same effect as in Zen Masters.

      Some Zen traditions withdraw from society and maybe their work for the better in the world is mastering the mind and teaching the skills to only a few poeple, who decide to become monks, because they are well aware of the fact that it is a long and arduous way, that only few will be able to undergo. There are other traditions who engage actively in society and probably they do so, because they have the desire to help as many people as they can, in a larger variety of aspects. There are lay men who focus on other problems, like doctors, or plumbers, who save poeple as well by the means of maintaining hygene.

      Probaly it is the best to dig your own deep hole, be of service with the best you can do and neglect some other ways of helping that might not be suitable for you.


      Benedikt Vennen
      Shaolin Wahnam Germany

      ______________________

      May I be firm and resolute. may I be kind, compassionate, and friendly. May I be humble, calm, quiet, unruffled and serene. May I serve to be perfect. May I be perfect to serve.

      Comment


      • #4
        Dear Benedikt,

        You asked some good questions.

        1. When you want to reduce suffering in the World, is practising meditation for 30 years in a monastery while withdrawing from society really cost effective when you could be a doctor (example) who saves lifes the same 30 years?

        This depends on your perspective:
        how do you see reducing suffering and saving lives as? Is it saving the physical body from illness or death, healing the mind or giving spiritual guidance?

        If you want to save physical lives then yes, being a doctor you could do more good, than being a monk in a monastery.
        If you want to help people with mental issues, again, being a monk would not serve that purpose. Practicing Shaolin chi kung is an excelent way to overcome mental illness. But you have to have a competent master or instructor to teach you.

        But if you aim for enlightenment and saving other sentient beings through your own englightenment, then being a monk and meditating for 30 years is the right decision.

        I myself think that you can do your best in reducing suffering in the world where ever you are. Just do good when ever you can. Avoid evil.
        If all people did just this, what would the world be like?


        2.Is meditation just the training that will make you more effective in dealing with suffering when compared to someone still trapped in his illusions, who will maybe even make some suffering worse without his intention because he could not really see the roots and the necessary method to address the suffering? Again is it worth the time? Can meditation make such significant changes when helping those around you?

        First I’d like to quote Sifu:

        ”Meditation, which is spiritual cultivation, is not suitable to heal the body and soul. Practitioners should practice meditation only when they are ready. They should at least be healthy. That was the reason why the great Bodhidharma taught the Eighteen Lohan Hands. He found the monks sick and weak. Eighteen Lohan Hands could strength them.”


        I think in western culture, there are many misconceptions about meditation and it’s purpose.
        Today it’s considered as a means to heal even mental disorders, which can actually cause severe damage to patients. Meditation should be practiced only when healthy. This is something that is not known in the western countries.

        Yes, meditation makes you more effective in dealing with suffering. Meditation can also help you see things more clearly and make you more willing to help those around you.

        But the aim of meditation is enlightenment. And very few of us are actually ready for that.

        The standing meditation we do every time we practice our Shaolin arts is more than enough for our mundane needs. And instead of sitting in meditation for hours a day, we meditate for five minutes. And that’s sufficient.

        When I was younger I thought to myself; how can five minutes of standing meditation a day be enough? I had previously practiced zazen in a Zen school and there we had to sit for 20 minutes per session, many times a day. Yet, when I found Shaolin chi kung and kungfu, I was very surprised, that the standing meditation for five minutes was far more powerful than the sitting meditation I had practiced for an hour everyday.
        And zazen had not cured me of my health problems. Chi kung did.

        So, in a nut shell: first be healthy yourself. Do good when ever you can. Avoid evil.


        Best wishes,

        Nessa


        Nessa Kahila
        Shaolin Nordic Finland

        www.shaolin-nordic.com

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Benedikt View Post
          1. When you want to reduce suffering in the World, is practising meditation for 30 years in a monastery while withdrawing from society really cost effective when you could be a doctor (example) who saves lifes the same 30 years?
          What is this "life" that is being "saved"? Who is it that is doing the "saving"? What does "saving a life" even mean?

          Originally posted by Benedikt View Post
          2.Is meditation just the training that will make you more effective in dealing with suffering when compared to someone still trapped in his illusions, who will maybe even make some suffering worse without his intention because he could not really see the roots and the necessary method to address the suffering? Again is it worth the time? Can meditation make such significant changes when helping those around you?
          No, yes and yes.

          George / Юра
          Shaolin Wahnam England

          gate gate pāragate pārasaṁgate bodhi svāhā

          Comment


          • #6
            Some great questions!

            In my view the best way to reduce suffering in the world is simply to live the very best version of ourselves in our everyday lives. And that of course means something different for everyone. We are not all called to be a Mother Teresa or a Rosa Parks - we are simply called to be true selves. Finding that true and authentic self is the journey of our lives.

            As Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount:

            ' ... let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven'
            Wahnam Tai Chi Chuan and Shaolin Chi Kung classes in Dublin

            http://www.taijiquan.ie/

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