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Thread: Questions on Zazen and TM

  1. #1

    Questions on Zazen and TM

    Hello all,

    I have a couple ZenNewbe questions that I would love to hear your insights on. The first is very basic, but one I have yet to find an answer for it.

    Why, contrary to most other Buddhist traditions and meditation techniques, does Zen practice sitting meditation with eyes open, rather than closed?

    In my small city, the only meditation guidance available is non-denominational Transcendental Meditation (TM), which I have been attending in order to advance my ability to meditate and apply that to my Buddhist practice. There seems to be many similarities between TM and Zazen (from what I can tell), although it is performed with the eyes closed.

    This leads me to my second question.

    Although TM is founded on Hindu beliefs (and as such doesn’t always parallel my own views) is it still a fair means for a Buddhist to use TM to develop a daily meditative practice, especially when no other guidance is locally available (besides Treeleaf of course)?

    I would appreciate any wisdom you may have on the matter.
    Cheers!
    Kelly

  2. #2
    Hi Kelly,

    First question is easy. We meditate in Zazen with eyes open for a couple of related reasons. First, we are sitting with open awareness to our surroundings ... not focused on any thing or object in particular, not thinking about our environment or any topic, not judging our surroundings ... but not shutting it out or avoiding it either. Second, if one closes their eyes, we will tend to just dream or see visions or ... horror of horrors ... fall asleep. Our meditation is to be awake and aware in this world.


    Second question, a little more care is required in answering. I would say the philosophy of TM (including the whole culture surrounding the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the objectives of TM as different 'higher stages of consciousness' and merging with a cosmic spirit) are so different from Zen that the two cannot be mixed.It is a bit like trying to study Karate by studying Judo ... they look a little the same on the outside, but the differences are great.

    Arguably, both practices (Zen and TM) can bring about similar experiences. However, our 'just sitting' is based on radical non-doing, goallessness, non-focused sitting which is 'just present'. We are not trying to do anything, or reach any 'special state' (with the proviso that 'non-seeking a special state' IS a very special way to experience life.) We are more about being present in this life, in our own moccassins, than about trying to escape this reality for a 'higher' reality or to merge with any god (with the proviso there too that, sometimes, both the Brooklyn Bridge and the Holland Tunnel will get you to the same 'non-places'). However, we are much more about being in the here and now, home right here, than about achieving any wild mental experiences (another proviso: although we get some wild mental experiences in our Zazen too, we tend to visit but not stay there, and return again and again to the 'here and now' of our life ... Hindu meditation tends to cultivate the wild mental experiences as the target).

    So, I would much prefer that you took a nice, non-sectarian Yoga class at the community center than TM.

    I hope that was helpful. I wonder if others will add anything.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - TM folks use a Mantra. A Mantra, or focusing on the breath, is a good practice for a Newbie for the first weeks, maybe a few months, to build general concentrations and to settle the mind ... but soon, like training wheels, we take that off for 'just sitting' with non-focused awareness.

    PPS - I love your Emerson quote on your posting:

    "To different minds, the same world is a hell and a heaven"
    -Ralph Emerson

  3. #3
    Hi Jundo,

    Thanks for the reply, I certainly see where you are coming from. In response to a couple things;


    I would say the philosophy of TM (including the whole culture surrounding the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the objectives of TM as different 'higher stages of consciousness' and merging with a cosmic spirit) are so different from Zen that the two cannot be mixed.It is a bit like trying to study Karate by studying Judo ... they look a little the same on the outside, but the differences are great.
    I agree that there are many facets of TM that do not parallel my beliefs, nor that of Zen, nor Buddhism in general, and my approach from the beginning has been to use TM as a source of practical knowledge only, and not philosophical/religious. So far, although some of what you have mentioned above has been mentioned, the class has had little in way of Hindu metaphysics, and has focused primarily on the meditation alone. I don't get the impression that anyone there has much of a desire to learn about a cosmic mergence but rather ways to promote relaxation, sleep, etc.

    However, we are much more about being in the here and now, home right here, than about achieving any wild mental experiences (another proviso: although we get some wild mental experiences in our Zazen too, we tend to visit but not stay there, and return again and again to the 'here and now' of our life ... Hindu meditation tends to cultivate the wild mental experiences as the target).
    So far, this class has been about nothing but casually focusing on the breath and promoting a complete relaxation. We are literally being encouraged to just sit, mind on the breath, without expectation of results and without even an attempt to meditate. When the mind wanders, we are encourage to neither promote nor prohibit it, and to only bring the mind back to the breath when easy. Perhaps more potentially psychedelic techniques may be in store later on in the course, but so far it has help my practice greatly.

    So, I would much prefer that you took a nice, non-sectarian Yoga class at the community center than TM.
    Haha, yoga is coming soon and I can't wait!


    Well, what you are saying here supports some of what I had suspected about TM, but my outlook from the beginning has been to approach it with an open, yet guarded mind. If you think is better not to dabble in it whatsoever then I will stop attending. Perhaps these couple classes so far were all I needed to teach me what 'just sitting' is generally all about; before them I use to spend most of my time on the cushion in frustration as I was attempting to achieve a sort of 'perfect concentration' on my breath with little tolerance for metal meandering. It was also refreshing to get to group meditate every week given my lack of other options.

    Thanks again Jundo for you wisdom.
    Cheers,
    Kelly

  4. #4
    hmmm...I really only have this to add. I've tried other meditations tried this, tried that, but I always came back to zen practice. Now Zen practice is the only thing I prefer to practice. I think it might be good in the beginning to stick with one practice, however it sounds like you are using the TM meditation in a useful sort of way. It's really your choice.


    Gassho

  5. #5
    Hi Again, Kelly,

    Quote Originally Posted by Kelly M.
    So far, ... has focused primarily on the meditation alone. I don't get the impression that anyone there has much of a desire to learn about a cosmic mergence but rather ways to promote relaxation, sleep, etc.

    ... So far, this class has been about nothing but casually focusing on the breath and promoting a complete relaxation. We are literally being encouraged to just sit, mind on the breath, without expectation of results and without even an attempt to meditate. When the mind wanders, we are encourage to neither promote nor prohibit it, and to only bring the mind back to the breath when easy. Perhaps more potentially psychedelic techniques may be in store later on in the course, but so far it has help my practice greatly.
    Well, as you describe it, it does sound like a down to earth experience, not very different from what we do, in fact. If you are getting some benefit from it, follow your heart. At a certain point, of course, you will have to choose Karate or Judo. If the class does eventually evolve into something else (and they do have a reputation for moving onto other things down the line), you will have to follow your heart again. Please sit with us too, as there is no reason you can't do both until you find what's right. .

    Gassho, Jundo

  6. #6
    Thanks Jundo and Will, I will be cautious with the TM for sure. After spending time considering the two, I believe that I better understand their basic conflicts. In brief, TM encourages one to turn completely inward, into oneself, becoming lost in the moment. Zazen, on the contrary, encourages one to turn outward, incorporating all of this reality, and to find oneself in the present moment.

    Moreover, while both desire to develop a certain stillness of mind, TM’s approach is to set the mind free from all restraints, and let it return to you when its ready (like letting a dog off its leash so that is may run unbound, returning back by your side only when it’s satisfied). Zazen is perhaps more about gently guiding the mind, and building up its concentration and alertness like one would build a muscle. Zazen would be more like teaching that dog to heel while on the leash. Does that make any sense? Am I in the right ballpark?

    * * *

    OK, so here are my next couple questions.

    Where does Vipassana (Insight Meditation- such as that taught by Gil Fronsdal) fall into all this? How does it related to Zazen?

    Vipassana seems (at least to me) to perhaps be rather similar to Zazen, but with the eyes closed. If I’m not mistaken, although Gil is now a Vipassana teacher in California, he has a Zen and a Theravada background. I have also seen this elsewhere, a sort of mixing of Zen, Theravada and Vipassana practice. Could anyone comment on this? Is this a common theme for these traditions to mix and overlap?

  7. #7
    Kelly,

    I'm a real newbie at this too, so please take anything I say with a grain of salt.

    I really like Gil Fronsdal, he's one of my favorite dharma teachers( after Jundo). I've never met him just listened to just about every talk of his on the Zencast podcast, including his four part introduction to meditation course. . . If your interested in trying Vipassanna you could start there (available on Itunes for free). But, I think you'll find that Zazen is more stripped down and simpler than Insight meditation, not relying on a lot of complex techniques or focus points, and less analytical too. Essentially in Vipassanna meditation you start with Samatta meditation to produce calm abiding, then after much practice start to work analytically with sensations or concepts in order to acquire insights into the nature of things. Zazen ends up in the same place just does so without a goal of doing anything. . . sort of ties into Dogen saying Zazen is enlightenment itself aka no need to try to do anything during mediation because the simple act of sitting is itself the destination. Do I make any sense?

    ps. Jundo, feel free to hit me with your dharma hammer if I'm preaching false doctrine here.

  8. #8
    Hi Kelly,

    Let me try to answer as best I can ...

    By the way, I would like you to look on this insider's take on TM that I found when we were talking about Ken Wilber and such. I do not mean to imply that your local group is like this, just so that you can spot it if it is the case. Just keep your eyes open. ;-)

    http://www.suggestibility.org/

    Quote Originally Posted by Kelly M.
    Thanks Jundo and Will, I will be cautious with the TM for sure. After spending time considering the two, I believe that I better understand their basic conflicts. In brief, TM encourages one to turn completely inward, into oneself, becoming lost in the moment. Zazen, on the contrary, encourages one to turn outward, incorporating all of this reality, and to find oneself in the present moment.
    Zazen is not about inward/outward, except to say that they are not two. When we 'Just Sit', dropping goals, judgments, likes and dislikes, categorizations ... we also drop concepts such as 'inward' 'inside' 'outside' 'outward'. But, yes, we do not shut the eyes to the outside, do not seek to shut it out.

    Maybe I could also say that 'turning into oneself' proves to be 'incorporating all of reality'. And 'turning toward all of reality' is precisely 'incorporating oneself.'

    Now, don't worry about what the heck that means ... just sit.

    Moreover, while both desire to develop a certain stillness of mind, TM’s approach is to set the mind free from all restraints, and let it return to you when its ready (like letting a dog off its leash so that is may run unbound, returning back by your side only when it’s satisfied). Zazen is perhaps more about gently guiding the mind, and building up its concentration and alertness like one would build a muscle. Zazen would be more like teaching that dog to heel while on the leash. Does that make any sense? Am I in the right ballpark?
    I would not say this for the Zen part of the statement... (and I do not have enough experience with TM to be commenting on that part of it). In fact, I would say that our practice of 'Just Sitting' is 'setting the mind free from restraints' ... we might say, 'what dog, what leash?"

    Then we find that there a dog again, so it is like she came home ... except she was always there. Arf. :-)

    But part of our practice, part of this 'freeing the mind' is, definitely, to develop concentration and alertness.

    To give you an example of this, life in a Zen Monastery is like being a dog in obedience school ... not unlike a prison ... being told what to do, getting up before dawn, tedious tasks that need to be done precisely (and never can be done precisely). BORING Zazen. But, we finally start to ask, WHO is feeling things to be boring and tedious? WHO is resisting and WHAT is being resisted?

    Have you ever seen those dogs in somebody's backyard, bound by a self-tightening leash or chain? I mean one of those chains that get tighter and tighter the harder the dog pulls on it, the more the dog resists ... This is to be a human being, with a finite human body in this back yard we call the world. We want to get out, we want to get over the fence (where the grass is greener, I guess). Well, in our Zen Practice, the dog kinda realizes that the whole universe, all freedom, is found within each blade of grass in its own back yard. Nothing to resist, no place to go. Suddenly, the chain expands to infinity, and the universe comes to the backyard.

    And, by the way, a dog that did 'get loose' and ran ran ran ... would still be a prisoner, would still be in chains, with the wrong perspective on the nature of freedom. That's why some people are always dissatisfied wherever they go, while some are content even on a short leash.

    Something like that.


    * * *

    OK, so here are my next couple questions.

    Where does Vipassana (Insight Meditation- such as that taught by Gil Fronsdal) fall into all this? How does it related to Zazen?

    Vipassana seems (at least to me) to perhaps be rather similar to Zazen, but with the eyes closed. If I’m not mistaken, although Gil is now a Vipassana teacher in California, he has a Zen and a Theravada background. I have also seen this elsewhere, a sort of mixing of Zen, Theravada and Vipassana practice. Could anyone comment on this? Is this a common theme for these traditions to mix and overlap?
    My understanding is just what Greg said (he has made quite a project of comparing Vipassana Practice and 'Just Sitting' Practice because he has moved between both, and writes about both. (He is rather new to the Zen side, but his description rings right). In fact, Greg probably has more experience with Vipassana than I have, because I have almost always been a Soto 'Just Sitter'. I stayed with the one that brought me to the dance about 25 years ago). A key part of their Practice is analytical of the body, mind and experiences, while we are more about dropping analysis during Zazen.

    But, you know, it is like a discussion about Karate vs. Kendo. Two techniques, both with their own strong points, that have the same basic philosophy but different approaches. My feeling is that, in the West, "Insight Meditation" has become much closer to Zen in feeling, compared to its Southeast Asian origins. And there is now a lot of crossover. In our Zen too, we do quite a bit of analysis of how the mind works, the senses, the nature of experience (we have about the same worldview) ... we just don't do so DURING Zazen.

    And you can dabble in a little Karate and a little Kendo, but eventually you have to pick one as your main Practice and pursue it. I think.

    I hope that was helpful. Now, go walk the dog and let it off that leash!

    Gassho, Jundo

  9. #9
    Thank you Greg and Jundo. It is difficult for me to get all of these techniques straight in my mind when all I see of them is print on paper and font on screen. I think it is all coming together (slowly) for me though, and your replies have been of great help.

    Jundo, as for that website you sent me above (suggestibility.org), I read over a good chunk of the large collection of literature put forward by that author. It is disconcerting to say the least. Much of it I had already suspect (I don’t easily buy into pseudoscientific jargon) but I countered the wild claims of grandeur with responsible scepticism, and tolerated the spiritual facets by simply chalking them up to residual Hinduism that inevitably would have remain attached to a Hindu derived technique.

    Some of the accusations put forth on suggestibility.org however take this issue to a whole new level. It is only fair and responsible that I approach this site’s views with the same scepticism that I did the TM course; and I emphasise scepticism, which does not equate cynicism (scepticism is objective whereas cynicism is pessimistic). I notice that the structure of this TM class does not quite seem to match that which is described on the site, but I do notice enough similarities. Although a part of me would like to continue the course out of sheer curiosity (especially in light of its cult-like properties), I agree with you Jundo in that I believe it is best to simply avoid it all together. I will have to just sit someplace else.

    Thanks for the heads up,
    ‘nothin like a good cult from time to time :wink:
    Cheers and Gassho
    Kelly

  10. #10
    You know how I started Zen practice? The other meditation center was closed (literally) I first went to some meditation place can't remember. There was nobody there. So I stopped by a zen center and it was open. I made an appointment and voila. Still practicing zazen.

    Gassho

  11. #11
    how serendipitous!
    or was it... DESTINY?!
    OOOO WEEEEE OOOOO

    I'm going to be honest. Brad Warner's New book had Godzilla on the cover. Thats how I came back to Zazen.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by FeMonky
    how serendipitous!
    or was it... DESTINY?!
    OOOO WEEEEE OOOOO

    I'm going to be honest. Brad Warner's New book had Godzilla on the cover. Thats how I came back to Zazen.
    Why, to ensure mindfulness during future Godzilla attacks or to prove to yourself that Godzilla does not inherently exist? :P

  13. #13
    Haha. :lol:

    Yes. Too bad our practice isn't as Hollywood.

  14. #14

    Comparing Vipassana meditation to Zazen

    The form of meditation that I practice is Vipassana, but as far as I know, Vipassana is not about analyzing anything, but about being mindful in the present moment. What goes on during a meditation session, is attention to breath, noting of thoughts, sensations, feelings, images, etc., but NOT an analysis of them. If one is a newbie, one starts with attention on the breath (this helps to develop focus), then moves on to noting and experiencing sensations, thoughts, etc. (this is the mindfulness part), but also using the breath as an "anchor". Sati, mindfulness, is like bare attention. In Vipassana, we witness the sensations, thoughts, feelings arise, change and pass away (hence insight/wisdom into impermanence).

    Metta and Gassho,

    Marina

  15. #15
    I forgot to mention that if you want to get a little better understanding and clarification of what's involved in Vipassana meditation (aka Insight meditation) succinct instructions are given in Chapter 3, "Meditation Instructions", of a book titled Seeking the Heart of Wisdom by Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield. It's worthwhile reading Byt he way there are a few different forms of Vipassana, some more encompassing than others.

    Metta and Gassho,
    Marina

  16. #16
    Hi Marina,

    In our mindfulness group we sometimes do a bodyscan meditation, where you focus on each part of the body in turn and notice any sensations. We use this one and find it very relaxing: http://www.archive.org/details/MCullenB ... Meditation

    This is a type of vipassana meditation I think?

    Gassho,
    John

  17. #17

    Vipassana and Zazen

    Hi John,
    Jon Kabat-Zinn, the American psychologist, uses the body scan meditation in the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program he developed. From my understanding the body scan meditation is an adaptation of a form of Vipassana Meditation, body sweeping, as taught by U Ba Kin and his successor, S.N. Goenka. This form of Vipassana focuses in on body sensation, gross and subtle energies. I had attended Goenka's intensive Vipassana retreat a few months ago for ten days. This style of meditation wasn't for me (too goal oriented and limiting--I equate it to living in a house and only getting to explore one room). The Vipassana I practice is more in the style of Ajahn Chah and Mahasi Sayadaw, in which awareness is given to not only body sensations, but also mental states, thoughts, feelings, sounds, etc. It's really just bare attention, being aware of whatever presents itself in the moment. I love Norman Fischer's idea that Zazen is life itself. Very true of zazen and isnght meditation. The breath is used as an anchor, so to speak. Vipassana (Insight) meditation has its roots in the Anapanasati Sutta and the Satipatthana Sutta, both involve mindfulness training.

    You know, I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to include both Zen and teachings from the Theravadan tradition in my life. They really complement each other, and have deepened my own spiritual growth.

    Metta and Gassho,
    Marina

  18. #18
    Sorry John and Treeleaf folks, I misquoted Norman Fischer. He said that zazen/meditation is being itself.

  19. #19

    Re: Vipassana and Zazen

    Quote Originally Posted by Marina S
    You know, I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to include both Zen and teachings from the Theravadan tradition in my life. They really complement each other, and have deepened my own spiritual growth.
    I find this theme keeps popping up from again and again. I hit upon this question a bit above, but now that I understand the difference between Zazen and Vipassana, I would like to revisite this: There seems to be a sort of blending of Therevada and Zen thought; and Vipassana seems to always be at or near the center of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kely M.
    If I’m not mistaken, although Gil is now a Vipassana teacher in California, he has a Zen and a Theravada background. I have also seen this elsewhere, a sort of mixing of Zen, Theravada and Vipassana practice. Could anyone comment on this? Is this a common theme for these traditions to mix and overlap?
    Another example is the book “Beginner’s Guide to Insight Meditation” that is co-authored by both a Zen and a Theravada teacher.

    It is almost like Vipissana is taking on a tradition of its own. Does anyone have any, umm… insight, on this trend?

    Cheers, and Gassho,
    KElly

  20. #20
    You know, I feel so privileged to have the opportunity...

    Metta and Gassho,
    Marina
    Yes. This question popped up this morning. We are tremendously lucky to be able to be alive at a time when this practice, teachers, and teachings are accessable, or atleast that's my feeling. It beats getting caught up in all the confusion that History is loaded with and what we could have become.

    Gassho Will

  21. #21
    Another example is the book “Beginner’s Guide to Insight Meditation” that is co-authored by both a Zen and a Theravada teacher.

    It is almost like Vipissana is taking on a tradition of its own. Does anyone have any, umm… insight, on this trend?


    I have a further question along the same lines... anyone know anything about or have any ideas regarding mixtures of Pure Land and Zen?

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by KvonNJ

    I have a further question along the same lines... anyone know anything about or have any ideas regarding mixtures of Pure Land and Zen?
    In Sydney there is Chinese Cha'n (Zen) temple which teaches that Pure Land is Cha'n (Zen) practice, only they claim it is a higher level (?). They also claim the Buddha is a god residing in the Pure land (some mystical heaven realm) and can hear your prayers and answer them!

    I've mentioned them here before, I visited there out of curiosity a while back, they were all about dividing the Chinese and foreign practitioners into two groups. They claimed that only the Chinese could ever understand the teachings of the Buddha, and had some very bad things to say about Japanese practitioners. So much for compassion, understanding and love among Buddhist sects.

    Pure Land and Zen are practised together in China.

  23. #23
    Hi Guys,

    Pardon these rather long comments, as it is an important topic.

    As you may have guessed by now, I am pretty much a purist for "Just Sitting" Shikantaza as taught by Master Dogen.

    In my view, mixing styles can be beneficial sometimes, but also can lead to a "jack of all trades, master of none" situation if not done very carefully and skilfully. The latter case is especially a danger in this modern age, in which folks "spirituality shop", choosing the religion and guru of the week. I don't think anybody here on this thread is doing that by the way (our Treeleafers are too sensible for that!!), but there is still the danger of not seeing one practice through until it makes available all the rich fruits it has to offer, and instead, doing two practices in a half-way or conflicting manner. That is especially the case in mixing Shikantaza (which is about attaining radical non-attaining, which has a non-goal of goallessness, which is about not seeking any special state ... about attaining the sweet fruits right here all along by not searching for them) with a form of meditation that seeks to attain something, especially, a special state (which, by the way, seems perhaps --NOT-- to be the case in the types of Insight Meditation described on this thread ... please see discussion below).

    Mixing meditation styles is not like choosing food off a cafeteria menu, in which about anything will mix with anything else. Instead, it is more like trying to train to be a professional footballer and baseball player at the same time: Not only are you trying to get the body-mind acclimated to mastery of two very different skills, but there may even be conflicts by trying to attend both training sessions at the same time or giving one's full energies to one or the other. One cannot play football while wearing a catcher's mitt.

    That being said, I do not see anything wrong in dabbling in the kind of goalless Insight Meditation described, but only as a secondary practice to Shikantaza and once in awhile, e.g., once a week. Shikantaza has to be the central practice because, truly, it is not just Zazen meditation, but instead, a whole philosophy that becomes a way of life (the non-seeking of Shikantaza is training on the cushion for taking the Shikantaza attitude off the cushion and into all aspects of our daily lives). (By the way, we study all the "insights" on body sensations, mental states, thoughts, feelings, sounds, etc. of "insight meditation" in Soto Zen, but just not during the act of Zazen itself.)

    That does not mean that I disapprove of "Insight Meditation", by the way. I am a fan. Especially, I am a fan of the kind of "Insight Meditation" that resembles goalless "Just Sitting". I am less of a fan of traditional "Theravada" practices focused on a "blow out" Nirvana, or extinguishing desires and the senses, but modern "Insight Meditation" seems to often resemble "Just Sitting" more than its Theravadan roots in that regard. I am also not completely comfortable with the practice (as a main practice) of focused awareness of body sensations, mental states, thoughts, feelings, sounds, etc. (to repeat, it is a good and necessary part of our Practice even in Soto Zen, just not during Zazen itself as our main and central Practice. The main and central Practice should be non-focused, open awareness)

    I am in a difficult position, because (to use an analogy) I am a Karate teacher, and I cannot recommend that you mix your Karate training with Judo (both Karate and Judo have similarities, and both are beautiful practices, but ... ESPECIALLY UNTIL YOU HAVE MASTERED ONE OR THE OTHER ... you should not casually go mixing or switching back and forth. Pick one that suits you, and a teacher that suits you, and stick with that. When you master it, you will know if you need to continue your training elsewhere). So, in this Karate Dojo, we only practice Karate, and this Sangha needs to stay focused on "Just Sitting" Zazen primarily or only. If you want to mix and match, you alone must be the final judge of what is right for you (we are each the final judge of what practices work in our own lives). However, I have to put up a "Do So At Your Own Risk" sign at the swimming pool, and I cannot give it an official sanction.

    Again, that does not mean that I think Insight Meditation is bad in any way. Quite the contrary. It is just that I am not teaching any mixture here as the main Practice. Also, ABSOLUTELY, I hope everyone will always feel welcome at Treeleaf, and to talk about various practices even if the Treeleaf boat is focused on the course of "Just Sitting" only.

    The situation is even more sensitive with Pure Land Buddhism (also called "Jodo Buddhism"). As you may know, "Zen" is usually considered "Jiriki" Buddhism (self-power) in contrast to Pure Land "Tariki" (other power) Buddhism. The basic difference is that, in Pure Land, the central figure is the supernatural "Amida Buddha" who, very much like Jesus, is a savior who will take you to the "Pure Land" (a heaven) if you but have faith in Him and call upon His name. In fact, the similarities to Christianity are many and fascinating.

    Now, in fact, folks in China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan have been mixing Pure Land and Zen for centuries. In reality, modern "Ch'an" Buddhism in Taiwan, Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh from Vietnam and many others teach a mix of Zen and Pure Land. D.T.Suzuki, toward the end of his life, mixed Rinzai practice with Pure Land:

    http://www.amazon.com/Buddha-Infinit...=cm_lmf_tit_21

    And, or course, there is the truth that there is no "self" or "other", that "going in" is but "reaching out" to the universe, that (as some Zen chants go) the "Pure Land is always right here". Sure.

    But, frankly, I think that Amida Buddha is a fiction much like the Angel Gabriel. I can appreciate him symbolically, but my Practice is not based on any such mythical creature (at least, I do not have need for that). It is centered on a (probably) historical Shakyamuni, who was a fellow like you and me, a human being of flesh and blood (although a pretty smart one).

    So, again, in this Karate Dojo, I do not mix styles.

    No harm in talking about these different practices, however, and comparing them to our own.

    I hope I made my philosophy clear without making anyone feel uncomfortable, because that is absolutely not my intention. Although Treeleaf is a Karate Dojo, Judo folks are welcome to come here and practice Karate. Their doing so will add to the richness and diversity of our community. I hope that gets across. Please nobody feel unwelcome!

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - I have been urged recently to post a FAQ on the "central practice" at Treeleaf, explaining what the central practice(s) are here. I think it is a good idea, especially for newcomers who may be confused by that.

  24. #24
    Well, I don't know from Vipassana (never practised it, can't even pronounce it!), but I've been mixing some Japanese and Chinese Zen for years now. I recently re-read David Chadwick's Thank You and OK!, I liked his take (p28):
    Taizen says Soto is soft, Rinzai is hard. It doesn’t bother me to move from one to the other. In this business you get used to contradictions--even if you stick to one sect or one teacher. If contradictions are in the way, then the Four Vows will be impossible.

  25. #25
    Ah, don't even get me started on the subject of mixing Soto Shikantaza with Rinzai Koan practice!! :evil:

    Sorry if I come across as pretty inflexible today. I hope most folks who have been hanging around Treeleaf for awhile will know that it is not true for most subjects, I think.

    Gassho, Jundo of the One Track Mind

  26. #26
    If it were a real, Jundo quote : "brick and morter" Sangha, we would "probably" be more focused on one particular practice. From my experience anyway.

    We could chat about granola though. I just made a great batch using the microwave. Chocolate and cinnamon

    Gassho Will

  27. #27

  28. #28
    Ah, don't even get me started on the subject of mixing Soto Shikantaza with Rinzai Koan practice!!
    Oh my yes! I was thinking about visiting a sangha near my home. Jundo warned me that they do Koan practice. Since I'm still learning Shikantaza, the thought of trying to mix in something that appears to be the opposite of "just sitting in the present" seems to be a good way to screw up my learning process.

    I do practice metta meditation occasionally when I'm super pissed off at my students (oh man, they push my buttons, bless their little hearts). However, when I turn on the daily 'sit-in' with Jundo, I only practice Shikantaza.

    Really, its hard enough for me to do this. I stinkin' analyze everything! Oh which reminds, me. Jundo, I'm going to ask you about something in the Genjo Koan thread. :lol:

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by TracyF

    ... Jundo warned me that they do Koan practice.
    Hi Tracy,

    I have no time to answer in detail now, and will do so later. I'm just a little concerned that "warned" may be a little strong and give a misleading impression. Koan Practice, all the others, even "Just Sitting" ... all lovely practices with respective good points (and respective demerits too). It is just that one must be careful of mixing and matching, I think. Also, new students should know that there are differences between these various approaches, and that one size does not fit all. Different people may benefit from different means and approaches.

    Anyway, have to run today. Gassho, J

  30. #30
    I'm just a little concerned that "warned" may be a little strong and give a wrong impression.
    Oops! Sorry about that, Jundo. Warning was the wrong word. I meant to say that you simply informed me that they meditate on Koans. It saved me a trip because I definitely don't want to go in that direction right now.

  31. #31
    But, frankly, I think that Amida Buddha is a fiction much like the Angel Gabriel. I can appreciate him symbolically, but my Practice is not based on any such mythical creature (at least, I do not have need for that). It is centered on a (probably) historical Shakyamuni, who was a fellow like you and me, a human being of flesh and blood (although a pretty smart one).

    I see your point. If, however, Amida Buddha (and all the other Buddhas mentioned) are viewed as manifestations of different aspects of THE Buddha, and Buddha is percieved as something within ones' self (as opposed to the idea of an external "god" concept,) or, as the texts themselves put it, "projections of one's OWN mind," then couldn't one say that Amida Buddha is just as "real" as any of us?
    I'm not much into the "hocus pocus" of a lot of rituals, and "theology" leaves me cold; but there are spiritual principles in the practices of other forms of Buddhism that I can appreciate and sort of run through a "Zen filter," if that makes sense.

  32. #32
    Hi,

    Oh, in that way, I sure DO believe in Amida Buddha, Kannon, the Angel Gabriel, and all the rest. The devil too, and the Boogie Man. The certainly do represent truths within all of us, and something about the human condition ... which cannot be separated from the truth of the universe at all. What is in us is the outside too. We had a nice chat about this once before on the forum, worth looking at. I wrote ...

    viewtopic.php?p=2869#2869

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    Hi Will,

    I want to say again that I believe in Buddhist Heavens and Hells, Buddhas (apart from the historical Shakyamuni) and Boddhisattvas, and all the rest of the Buddhist cosmology, in much the spirit of that famous essay ... "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus". Did you ever read that? A little girle wrote to a newspaper editor, back in 1897, saying that she'd heard from friends that there is no Santa Claus. "Is it true?", she asked. Part of the response ran like this ...

    What? You don't believe in Santa Claus?

    Gassho and Ho Ho Ho, Jundo


    VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

    Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

    http://www.newseum.org/yesvirginia/

  33. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I am in a difficult position, because (to use an analogy) I am a Karate teacher, and I cannot recommend that you mix your Karate training with Judo (both Karate and Judo have similarities, and both are beautiful practices, but ...
    Lol, actually when I was studying martial arts, my Aikido teacher was very supportive of my taking T'ai Chi classes (and vice-versa). 8) (Now I'm wondering how to relate the hard/soft martial arts to Jiriki/Tariki... lol)

    I think that there are good and bad points to practising in more than one tradition. I think it's too easy these days to slip into a spiritual dilettantism, especially when the practice is difficult and results aren't quick or obvious. On the other hand, if I hadn't been willing to change traditions a few times, I would have missed out on several excellent teachers and my life would be much the poorer.

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    I am in a difficult position, because (to use an analogy) I am a Karate teacher, and I cannot recommend that you mix your Karate training with Judo (both Karate and Judo have similarities, and both are beautiful practices, but ...
    Yet, the art of Doshin Ső - known as Shorinji kempő - is exactly that; a synthesis of karate and Judő.

    Most of today's martial traditions owe their origins to a synthesis of styles. In the Edo jidai in particular, it was the combining of techniques and strategies from many lineages and styles that led to the large number of ryũ-ha.

    gassho

  35. #35
    I teach what I teach.

    It may seem inflexible to some, but I feel it right for me to do so and to keep Treeleaf focused on Shikantaza.

    I am happy to discuss other traditions and any topic in the universe, but not to engage in any other Practice here.

    Sorry, but I am the fish monger and I don't sell turnips.

    Gassho, J

    PS - So that I don't come across as hypocritical after my stand on 'E-Sangha', that group is supposed to be a general discussion forum on all sects of Buddhism, open to all sects of Buddhism and (supposedly) not dedicated or giving precedence to any one school of Buddhism. In contrast, Treeleaf is a practice hall with a teacher devoted to a particular practice. That is the difference in my mind.

  36. #36
    Hey Jundo I don't think you are coming acoss as hypocritical in relation to e-sanga thread, you are just stating your case whilst allowing discussion.

    Forums are for discussion after all :lol:

    Kev

  37. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I teach what I teach.

    It may seem inflexible to some, but I feel it right for me to do so and to keep Treeleaf focused on Shikantaza.

    I am happy to discuss other traditions and any topic in the universe, but not to engage in any other Practice here.

    Sorry, but I am the fish monger and I don't sell turnips.

    Gassho, J

    PS - So that I don't come across as hypocritical after my stand on 'E-Sangha', that group is supposed to be a general discussion forum on all sects of Buddhism, open to all sects of Buddhism and (supposedly) not dedicated or giving precedence to any one school of Buddhism. In contrast, Treeleaf is a practice hall with a teacher devoted to a particular practice. That is the difference in my mind.
    Oh, I agree 100% with you Jundő, it's your sandpit we are invited to play in, so you set the rules of play. I thought that the Budő analogy wasn't a good one however. It is based on the misconception that methods of martial combat are beyond evolution and tinkering.

    And you aren't coming across as hypocritical at all.

    Gassho

  38. #38
    Seconding everything Jun said.

  39. #39
    Hi Jundo,

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I teach what I teach.

    It may seem inflexible to some, but I feel it right for me to do so and to keep Treeleaf focused on Shikantaza.
    ...
    In contrast, Treeleaf is a practice hall with a teacher devoted to a particular practice. That is the difference in my mind.
    I can only speak for myself, but I am really glad that that is the case. The net is full of 'jackalopes' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackalope (Ger. 'Wolpertinger' http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolpertinger). I think that is why lots of them will never be more than just chat forums whereas Treeleaf is IMHO a real Sangha.

    Gassho
    Ken

  40. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by Kenneth
    I can only speak for myself, but I am really glad that that is the case. The net is full of 'jackalopes'
    To search for Bodhi apart from this world is like looking for a hare with horns. ~Platform Sutra


  41. #41
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I teach what I teach.
    Agreed, not hypocritical or inflexible. Soto Zen sangha, Shikantaza is the meditation method of Soto, Jundo emphasizes Shikantaza. Why would it be any other way?

    Things can get confusing very quickly when a blending of styles is introduced and we have a few "10th kyu" here. I think that may be where Jundo is coming from.

    It's not to say that certain methods are inferior, but to keep things simple for those who are relatively new to Buddhist practice, "official" Treeleaf training needs to be focused solely in Soto and thereby in shikantaza. There is plenty of time to experiment individually after the basics have been mastered.

    Just like in the jisei jukai discussion on another thread. Jundo our friend and brother was in agreement with the reasoning, but because he must also wear the sensei hat in this sangha endorsing alternate methods can only lead to confusion.

    One cannot clearly examine a teaching if the teaching one is examining is not clear.

    As the monk said to the lady when he put her down, "Lay off the pudding."

  42. #42
    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Jundo,

    ...

    Now, where do you stand on abortion...?

    Regards,

    Harry.
    Harry,

    I would like to leave my views on abortion out of this for now (I am sure we will have time to talk about abortion sometime in detail). It is such a complicated issue, no less so from a Buddhist perspective as from a Judeo-Christian.

    However, I thought you might find this interesting: For cultural reasons not directly related to Buddhism, abortion is much more casually accepted in Japan as a means of birth control. But, there is some belief in the need to appease the spirit of the child, who is in a kind of limbo. So, a statue of Jizo is often purchased after an abortion (some temples contain whole sections filled with thousands upon thousands of these statues, including for children who died of illness, but mostly for the aborted)



    The result is that a lot of Buddhist temples in Japan, indirectly, make a good living off of this. If you are very interested in the topic, here is an article ...

    http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-EPT/joan.htm

    and a good book on the subject ...

    http://www.amazon.com/Liquid-Life-Willi ... 0691029652

    Gassho, Jundo

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