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Thread: Article on Shukke

  1. #1
    Friend of Treeleaf Daido's Avatar
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    Article on Shukke

    Thought this to be an interesting little article on Shukke especially in relation to Treeleaf. All things Jundo and Taigu have told us many times. Check it out.

    Gassho,

    Daido

    http://sweepingzen.com/shukke-another-perspective/
    Jiken Daido - Unsui at Treeleaf's Brother Sangha, the Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage.

    Do not just accept what I say. Decide for yourself if it rings true for you

  2. #2
    Yes, thank you for sharing Rev. Hilbert's article.

    Dogen spoke out of Both Sides of His No-Sided Mouth, for example, sometimes saying this about the practice of lay folks (usually when writing to lay folks, as here in Bendowa)

    Q: Can a layman practice this zazen or is it limited to priests?

    A: The patriarchs have said that to understand Buddhism there should be no distinction between man and woman and between rich and poor. ... It has nothing to do with being either a priest or a lay man. Those who can discern excellence and inferiority will believe Buddhism naturally. Those who think that worldly tasks hinder Buddhism know only that there is no Buddhism in the world; they do not know that there is nothing that can be set apart as worldly tasks in Buddhism. ... All this tells us that worldly tasks do not hinder Buddhism. ... In the age of the Buddha, even misguided criminals were enlightened through his teachings. Under the patriarchs, even hunters and woodcutters were enlightened. And others will gain enlightenment. All you have to do is to receive instructions from a real teacher.



    At other times, later times in his life, Dogen changed his tune. When speaking to his band of "all boy" monks in a 13th century monastery in the snowy boondocks, you can often hear him, in talks from this period, dealing with real "human to human" issues in the monastery. A lack of donors and hard economic times, rough food and no money to fix the roof. From what we know of the Eiheiji monks, a hodgepodge of refugees with various spiritual and personal backgrounds, Dogen's work was sometimes like herding cantankerous cats. You can hear in his voice the coach or commander, trying to keep up the sometimes flagging morale among his "men" ... men probably sometimes wondering why they'd left the comforts of home life and town to live and sit through the hard, cold, long, lonely winter days in a monastery in the middle of nowhere. No easy task, unless you preach a little "fire and brimstone". He would say such things as (in Shobogenzo Shukke)


    Clearly know that the attainment of the way by all Buddhas and ancestors is only accomplished by leaving the household and receiving the precepts. ... None of those who have not left the household are Buddha ancestors
    ...

    Breaking the precepts as a home leaver is better than keeping them as a layperson. You cannot experience emancipation by keeping the precepts as a layperson."




    Hmmm.

    Now, with most Japanese lineage priests (Zen and all denominations) marrying and having kids for the last couple of centuries, the question is even more muddled!

    If Dogen had not been driven out of town with his small band of monks, his ecumenical dreams a bit tarnished, forced to take retreat in the lonely cold and snow of remote Echizen Province ... would he have later become so seemingly closed to lay practice? I wonder.

    But, no matter ... for Dogen was a man of many moods and visions, and even Dogen is not the "final word" on what Soto Zen is or is not, and who can practice and who cannot, on what "home leaving" is or is not. Zen and Buddhism has always adapted to different times and societies. Master Dogen was sometimes just a man of his place and time, with views not necessarily always right for our times.

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  3. #3
    Thanks a lot, Jundo, for your opinion on this!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Dogen was a man of many moods and visions, and even Dogen is not the "final word" on what Soto Zen is or is not, and who can practice and who cannot, on what "home leaving" is or is not. Zen and Buddhism has always adapted to different times and societies. Master Dogen was sometimes just a man of his place and time, with views not necessarily always right for our times.
    I am so glad you see it that way - sometimes I have the impression (esp. in Soto-ish circles) that Dogen is treated like an almost God-like final authority on all things Zen who is not supposed to be challenged at all.
    That's why I appreciate Treeleaf so much - you and Taigu dare to "go against the stream" if you feel the need to.


    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  4. #4
    This is a wonderful topic, thank you Daido and Jundo for this.

    Gassho
    Shingen
    倫道 真現

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  5. #5
    Hi Timo,

    Actually, it is not just here, although people may not phrase it just so. Nobody is ... can ... live just like Dogen as a priest in the 21st Century, neither in Japan or the West. The societies, technology and economic systems have changed ... the information and education has changed ... much of the societal structure has changed from the traditional, agricultural world of old Asia. Japanese lineage priests have wives and kids for a start. None of us "go against Dogen's stream" ... we are just further down river dealing with different conditions.

    We all have a deep and profound honoring of Dogen ... while also recognizing that he was Dogen, a man of the 13th century in old Japan (though Timeless too) .... If I may use American society as an example, most Americans honor and respect Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln for being the guiding lights in helping to build American society ... but at the same time, many things have happened, and we face many questions, that they could never dream.

    I also say (and I truly believe) that, in many ways, the average sincere lay Buddhist Practitioner may have some things more facilitating of their Practice then even monk's in Dogen's time. I sometimes write (rant) this ...

    In some important ways, sincere lay practitioners today may enjoy better surrounding circumstances for practice than did the average monk in, for example, Dogen's day. Things in the "Golden Age" were not so golden as we too easily romanticize. Most monks back then were half-educated (even in Buddhism), semi-literate (or what passed for literacy in those times), superstition driven, narrow folks who may have understood less about the traditions and teachings they were following ... their history and meaning and depth ... than we now know. The conditions for practice within old temples and monasteries might have been less than ideal, many teachers less than ideal, despite our idealization of the old timers. Studying Sutras by smoky oil lamp, living one's days out in Japan or Tibet while having no real information grasp on China and India and the customs of prior centuries, living in a world of rumor and magic and misunderstanding (in which all kinds of myths and stories and superstitions were taken as explanations for how the world works), unable to access a modern Buddhist library, or to "Google" a reliable source (emphasis on making sure it is reliable however!) to check some point, or to ask a real expert outside one's limited circle, being beholden to only one teacher at a time (no matter how poor a teacher), with no knowledge of the human brain and some very important discoveries of science ... and after all that effort ... getting sick and dying at the age of 40 from some ordinary fever. (Can you even imagine trying to listen to Dogen Zenji recite "live" a Shobogenzo teaching from way across the room ... without a modern microphone and PA system and "Youtube" to let one replay it all? I suppose many never heard a word!)

    The "Good Old Days" were not necessarily the "Good Old Days".

    In contrast, in many ways, the average lay person practicing today has very many better circumstances for practice than those monks in 13th century Eihei-ji. For that reason, it is time to re-evaluate the place and power of lay practice. What was true in the cultures and times of ages past need not be true today!
    From another perspective, in Dogen's time, it was not so hard for the monk to walk away from his cell phone, Ipod, plane tickets, computer games and TV ... because nobody had such things back then (in fact, most Buddhist priests I know from Thailand to Tibet these day do!). Nor did most people have "career options" in the Middle Ages. Oh sure, they did commit to celibacy, but their "family" was the men of the Sangha. In fact, the monastic lifestyle in the 13th century was not so uncomfortable ... not compared to the lives of most of the general population of peasants outside the door. At least, in the monastery, one usually had steady food, a place to sleep, companionship, what passed for medical care and dentistry in the day, freedom from many obligations ... not bad compared to the starvation, war and pestilence that was the rule for most of society in the past.

    Anyway ... I am off on a tangent.

    The time and place for Practice is Here and Now ... as it was in Dogen's time or our time.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 04-11-2013 at 05:28 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  6. #6
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
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    Brilliant. Thank you all. It's funny, I am finding some sort of balance in preparing for Homeleaving. I am a father and husband, with a vibrant and busy family life, and my work life is changing profoundly as practice extends into all areas of my life and right livelihood - like a spring rain gently soaking parched soil. Live in a wholesome way, and tread lightly on the earth.

    Deep bows
    Yugen
    -----------------------------------------------------------
    Please take all my comments with a grain of salt - I am a novice priest and anything I say is to be taken with a good dose of skepticism - Shodo Yugen

  7. #7
    Thank you Jundo and Daido. A very interesting topic. .

  8. #8
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    I agree with the article and with what Jundo says. Times have changed! A lot!

    To me the concept of Home Leaving and going to a monastery is about giving up everything we've learned. To drop opinions and dogmas and to be open, so we are ready to learn and practice.

    Thank you for the article.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  9. #9
    Thanks Jundo and Daido.

    Some thoughts on this topic:

    Thinking of how the world changed since Dogen, one of the things that strike me when reading Shobogenzo or Tenzo Kyokun (cooking up your Zen life), is that the man himself was still evolving not to say completely changing direction and so were his teachings. In his early work he says it is possible for a lay person involved in normal life to attain enlightenment but changes that statement dramatically later on saying this is only possible in a monastic environment. That alone is very interesting and I was hoping any of the great minds among us can elaborate on that for me/us? What made this complete change happen? The harsh reality of founding an leading a growing congregation maybe? Or did Dogen get more radical and dictatorial in his later days? Did he give in to the political realities of his day perhaps?

    The often true saying “two sides of a no sided mouth” just won’t do it here, because there is much to be learned in both seeking and finding answers to these questions when it comes to Zen in the dream of daily life. Leaving home while staying at home sounds like a delicious Zen contradiction but in the end it is not. People can live together as a married couple without having any relation anymore. Quit our jobs but just not telling your boss yet. Being a father but not a dad, etc etc. (I wonder was Dogen married? Does anyone know?) One can be in a secluded monastery and not live like a monk at all, let alone be on the path, that’s for sure. So the other way around must be true also. I think that that’s one of the beauties of this sangha. We are all in the middle of it all, sometimes thousands of miles apart but very much on the path together.

    I gassho those who have kids and demanding jobs but can bring up the strength and discipline to sit every day because this in itself, is enlightenment.

    I gassho teachers who, without ever having looked most of us in the eye in person, work tirelessly to answer every question we come up with and keep patience and energy next to a job and family life, because this is in itself enlightenment.

    I gassho those who wrestle with serious mental and/or physical obstacles and still manage to find a way to practice and participate, because this is in itself enlightenment.

    I gassho all bodhisattvas who, within the abilities and possibilities as they were given, go out in precious spare time looking to be useful during our Global Service days in rain, snow, limited means, physical pain and or even ridicule. This in itself is enlightenment.

    We ARE wearing that robe all the time because, against all odds and common sense, we chose to do so. Monasteries are probably the shortest way but maybe not the hardest? In scriptures it is stated that secluded congregations were originaly founded for those of 'lesser faculties' or weaker discipline. Not my words, but this states an interesting point, no? Sure wish I could go to one though!

    Sorry for the longwinded post.

    Deep bows,

    Enkyo

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyonin View Post
    I agree with the article and with what Jundo says. Times have changed! A lot!

    To me the concept of Home Leaving and going to a monastery is about giving up everything we've learned. To drop opinions and dogmas and to be open, so we are ready to learn and practice.

    Thank you for the article.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    I agree my brother ... life within our communities give us wonderful teachings/opportunities for us to grow.

    Gassho
    Shingen
    倫道 真現

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  11. #11
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Yes, excellent discussion here.
    As you would expect, I am with Jundo on this. I often say that the skill is not to imitate Dogen but to live out of the same space he lived and acted from. Like branches shooting out if a same trunk, we do communicate in essence, be related yet different. Digging the past, asking the old blokes for answers to our questions, is a big deluded journey. Dogen was a man of his time and his changing views, twists and turns are often due to biographical ups and downs and challenges he had to face. Worshiping relics has never been my cup of tea, if your eyes are closed you will choose to pick up a bag of worn out rags in a treasure of and old temple and see them as the true and original transmitted robe, opening your eyes you will find the true and original robe in the fabric you sew , the action of making the okesa is the original manifestation of the robe.In time- Being past present and future playfully shift and collide.

    Gassho

    Taigu
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Enkyo View Post
    In his early work he says it is possible for a lay person involved in normal life to attain enlightenment but changes that statement dramatically later on saying this is only possible in a monastic environment. That alone is very interesting and I was hoping any of the great minds among us can elaborate on that for me/us? What made this complete change happen? The harsh reality of founding an leading a growing congregation maybe? Or did Dogen get more radical and dictatorial in his later days? Did he give in to the political realities of his day perhaps?
    Historians have been wondering this for years, and there is little additional information outside what one can "read between the lines" in Dogen's own writings. The best guess is that he first came back from China to the capital city of Kyoto, all bright eyed and optimistic about including everyone ... lay or priest, male and female. He did not meet with a very welcoming reception from many of the conservative "powers that be", including the large established Buddhist churches in the capital. Over the years, he was relegated to a place outside the capital in the "suburbs" (even chased out with torches by the "troops" of a powerful Buddhist group in the recent Dogen movie), then eventually to an isolated, snowy corner of Japan far from the capital, living with monks and teaching monks (not so many lay folks although, when he did write a letter to lay folks even during this period, his "everybody can do this" attitude would sometimes return). When living just with the monks, his attitude in his writings (most of them meant to be read just by the monks) was as I described ...

    When speaking to his band of "all boy" monks in a 13th century monastery in the snowy boondocks, you can often hear him, in talks from this period, dealing with real "human to human" issues in the monastery. A lack of donors and hard economic times, rough food and no money to fix the roof. From what we know of the Eiheiji monks, a hodgepodge of refugees with various spiritual and personal backgrounds, Dogen's work was sometimes like herding cantankerous cats. You can hear in his voice the coach or commander, trying to keep up the sometimes flagging morale among his "men" ... men probably sometimes wondering why they'd left the comforts of home life and town to live and sit through the hard, cold, long, lonely winter days in a monastery in the middle of nowhere. No easy task, unless you preach a little "fire and brimstone".

    He was something of the "Vince Lombardi" of Zen (for our non-American Football fans, a tough and fiery old coach from years ago).

    One thing we are pretty sure about: He was never married, and most monks were to be celibate in the day. Of course, the definition of "celibate" was sometimes bent in the old days in all manner of creative ways (much like Bill Clinton's explaining his actions), or simply ignored, and it is also not clear where homosexual relationships fit into the scene either (interpreted sometimes as not counting as a break of "celibacy") because they were/are still rather common in monastic situations in Asia. However, as far as we know, Dogen was always a celibate monks who was never married or had other sexual connections with anyone.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 04-12-2013 at 04:09 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

  13. #13
    Thanks a lot for your explanations, Jundo and Taigu, and to all others contributing to this interesting thread!

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  14. #14
    The best guess is that he first came back from China to the capital city of Kyoto, all bright eyed and optimistic about including everyone ... lay or priest, male and female.
    A very good point Jundo. Recognizable too. Dogen must have beamed with optimism and positive energy when returning from China. His teachings were/are so far out there, he probably soon had to deal with the fact people just didn't get things that were so obvious and elementary to himself. That must have been very hard on a young man! Sure, he was exceptional, with a mind that has had few equals in history, but still a young man who had to work on his own frustrations and disillusions ( no pun intended). Investing himself in people as a teacher and dealing with his personal disappointments in a harsh and unstable environment, sure can wear one out. Just imagine all those people coming to him for a quick spiritual fix, looking to prove him wrong or just looking for a swift career, giving up or being sent away again after a while. Must have been a huge effort for him (and the ones closest to him) just to keep motivated. Maybe that started to show a bit in is later days?

    The makers of tribute movies like “ZEN” tend to make the main characters lofty and fully accomplished. As an inspiring example to us all! Not true. Personally I think, if we could travel back in time and meet Dogen in person, we probably would not like him as a person at all! He was a tough cookie and got more and more so over time. He was samurai with a cause. Tough as nails! I for one always must be careful not to make Dogen a sweet, soft-spoken, paternal saint in the western modern sense, because he really was not. In a personal meeting with him he would probably make me cry or furious, lol. I’d probably be rubbing latrine floors for ten years before he would ever notice or talk to me again.

    Great minds with a strong will, drive and a revolutionary message, have always been shunned and misunderstood throughout history. Most prodigies are I think? We can just hope to stay openminded when the next Dogen comes along and recognise that person for what he or she is. I fear we probably won't because that is just the human nature. Or is it? Maybe that’s something to think about too, no?

    Thanks again Jundo and gassho

    Enkyo

  15. #15
    I think what you say about Dogen, Enkyo, was likely the case.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    #SAT TODAY!

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