On television I recently heard about a technique related to Buddhism called "plunging," where "you go somewhere completely unfamiliar, somewhere that has nothing to do with your usual way of thinking." The context of the quote involves a Zen monk who lived among the homeless for a time. As a student of Zen Buddhism this idea interests me a lot, but I couldn't find any reference to it on the internet or in my books. Is there a better name for it and is this a real concept or was this just made up for the show?

2 Answers 2


I have never seeing this term as a concept in Buddhism nor Zen. To the best of my knowledge, the closest formulation of something in that vein are the specific instructions to practice samadhi in the Vishuddhimagga targeted at people with distinct temperaments -- which is kind of a compilation of pedagogical strategies developed at the time. Example:

"A suitable lodging for one of greedy temperament has an unwashed sill and stands level with the ground, and it can be either an overhanging [rock with an] unprepared [drip-ledge], a grass hut, or a leaf house, etc. It ought to be spattered with dirt, full of bats, dilapidated, too high or too low, in bleak surroundings, threatened [by lions, tigers, etc]. with a muddy uneven path where even the bed and chair are full of bugs. And it should be ugly and unsightly ..."

A suitable resting place for one with hating temperament is not too high or too low, provided with shade and water, with well-proportioned walls, posts and steps, with well-prepared frieze work and lattice work, brightened, with various kinds of painting, with even smooth soft floor, [...] smelling sweetly, of flowers and perfumes and scents set about for homely comfort, which makes one happy and glad at the mere sight of it."

-- Visuddhimagga, Chapter III


In searching for choosing inhospitable or uncomfortable environments, I discovered many practices that, at least for beginners, involve choosing a safe comfortable environment. http://www.westernchanfellowship.org/news-item/wcf////connected-practice-enhancing-your-practice-in-your-own-environment/ Here people are practicing in a natural environment that may not be a monastery:

Connected Practice: Enhancing your practice in your own environment By Hilary Richards Join us in a commitment for a period of connected and enhanced practice. We will undertake this in our daily lives, whether at home or in the workplace, with the silent support of knowing that we are not practising alone. We intend to raise the tempo of our practice for this period, increasing our capacity to be aware in our daily lives. A Mindfulness Bell will be rung at noon every day, when all participants may pause and be joined in the silence that the bell marks. Members of our Sangha may use this opportunity in different and creative ways. Open to all. Choosing the Practice Buddhists find practising as a sangha to be essential, but it is not always easy for people to come together. Connected Practice links practitioners at different locations to practise within a virtual sangha. We begin on Sunday May 18th with the WCF Wesak Celebration in Leominster and end on the morning of 29th May. We will practise at specified times during this period, each person in their own environment So this says non-traditional environment but one consistent with your life style.

Here is an urban center that tries to support people in non traditonal monastery in a city http://www.cambridgezen.com/index.php?c=resident.training

Resident Training

The Great Way is not difficult: Just don't pick and choose. Cut off all likes or dislikes And it is clear like space.

Tseng Ts'an, Third Zen Patriarch Located in the heart of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge Zen Center is one of the largest urban, residential Zen training grounds in the U.S. Zen Master Seung Sahn taught us that the fastest way to change our karma and become compassionate beings is by practicing and living together. The center provides residential training opportunity in an urban environment both short and long term. Training includes practice & retreats, community work and service, outreach, sangha events, gatherings and much more to provide a supportive and nurturing environment in which to grow spiritually.

So they are trying to create a feeling of support in a monastery where you walk out the front door and are immediately confronted with the world.

This quote from above

The Great Way is not difficult: Just don't pick and choose. Cut off all likes or dislikes And it is clear like space.

may hold the key to your question. Don't pick and choose your environment once you are beyond the novice stage, where nothing shakes your practice. Then practice wherever you find yourself.

This is the answer closest to the heart of the matter in my opinion. Choosing a disgusting environment can just toughen and strengthen the personal ego or break it down so that someone is not really doing the practice but just going on this ego trip of extreme fear.

In Zen, the personal yields to the depth of the silence. Sure a master can go sit on a pile of manure and remain calm, but how would that help someone who has not yet reached the other side of the river?

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