Sam: I didn’t have real doubt. I just kept repeating the question, like birds and insects making sounds…
——– Sharing on the 2-day retreat (2R5) from June 14th to 15th, 2014
Before this two-day retreat, I had not practiced at home for almost two months. I guessed it would be very difficult this time.
Just as I anticipated, I struggled with my drowsiness right from the evening when I checked in to the next day, and could not apply my method until that afternoon. In one of the sessions, while I was repeating, “What is nothingness?” I heard insects, and birds singing outside, and all that I could sense were three continuous sounds, the bird, the insect, and my chanting of the question, like three threads appearing in my mind all the time, I had no any other wandering thoughts at all. Soon I realized that I didn’t have real doubt. I just kept repeating the question, like birds and insects keep making their sounds. But at least my wandering thoughts didn’t show up in my mind the way a film plays because I concentrated on “chanting” the question.
After that, I tried to doubt on my daily events, and like inquiring desperate curefor serious illness, I doubted on several events at a time. In this way, I could generate doubt very quickly, however my mind still followed the events I doubted, and was distracted by wandering thoughts. On the first day, the teacher mentioned, “no-self doesn’t mean you won’t have any sensation of happiness, anger, sadness or joy, but you won’t dwell on the feelings tightly and let the feelings become your obstacles.” (This is my summary of the teacher’s words. There may be something different from what the teacher said exactly.) At that moment, the teacher’s words reminded me of a dialogue between Dalai Lama and Master Sheng-Yen. One time, an audience asked them whether they would get angry. One replied, “for one second”, and the other replied “for three seconds”. So in the following practices, when my mind began to wander, I tried not to move with my emotions or be glued to my thoughts, such as “Yeah, I found a wandering thought” or “Oh, I detected another wandering thought”, and I just kept on doubting. Therefore, when I ate my meal, I could enjoy the food with my smiles, rather than with serious moods before.
I had already known that we needed to sit more than ten sessions a day, which means it would be a “long and tough” day. So, I didn’t count how many sessions I had already finished. I just followed the schedule with the bell and then a day just passed.
It was about the first night or the morning of the second day when the teacher started to instruct us to doubt directly on the question, instead of doubting on “events (ex. sensations, thoughts, emotions…etc.)”. On the morning of the second day, I used these two questions to doubt; they are “what is the true nature of life?” and “what is nothingness?” After practicing in this way for several sessions, I could doubt continuously and feel my doubt lasting longer without relying on the questions. Of course, when my doubt was weakened, I would go back to ask those two questions to increase my doubt.
I found the methods of generating doubt is quite interesting – starting from applying the daily events, asking questions, and finally to getting rid of the questions. This is a three-stage process.
When I was on stage three, in which my doubt could last longer, our teacher kept telling us to ask, “What is no-self?”. I got confused because this seemed to go back to stage two. Since we could generate our doubt without repeating or asking the questions, why should we go back to repeat or ask the questions? I asked the teacher about my confusion during the break. The teacher replied, “Being no self, so I should have no thought? With thoughts, so I am not no self?” At that moment, I really couldn’t get it. This confusion troubled me in the following sessions. But I still didn’t know how to deal with it, so I just let it go with my wandering thoughts. During the discussion time at the end of the two-day retreat, I realized that not knowing how to deal with my question and then letting it go was just like not dwelling on thoughts.
The two-day intensive practices are just like heavily pouring the habits of Zen mediation into my life. In the following week, with several sessions of meditation, I found it became easier to generate doubt in my everyday life, and I finally experienced the feeling of “doubting in everyday life.”****check for more Students’ Sharing****