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Thread: zen forms

  1. #1

    zen forms

    Hi

    When on the retreat I've just been on the were a number of 'forms' that we had to follow. Certain ways we had to do things such as taking meals, preparing veg, cleaning etc never mind in ceremonies.

    I'm asuming that the nature of these is for us to drop our egos, to be humble enough to do what we are asked to do, how we are asked to do it, rather than impossing our will by saying how we'd think it done best?

    Also I'm assuming that it is also a way to bring mindfulnes in to activities other than just sitting?

    Doegen sets out other forms in chapters of the Shobogenzo in realtion to hygene/cleanliness.

    Am I right in my ssumptions of their purpose? Are there other reasons for them?

    In gassho, Kev

  2. #2

    Re: zen forms

    Hi again! I'll help you along a little, just based on my own understanding of my monastic training at Shasta (Throssel's sister Abbey here in the states

    Quote Originally Posted by Longdog
    When on the retreat I've just been on the were a number of 'forms' that we had to follow. Certain ways we had to do things such as taking meals, preparing veg, cleaning etc never mind in ceremonies.

    I'm asuming that the nature of these is for us to drop our egos, to be humble enough to do what we are asked to do, how we are asked to do it, rather than impossing our will by saying how we'd think it done best?
    Yes, this is part of it. Simply allowing yourself to do a task as requested regardless of what you "know" is a better, faster, more efficient, ultimately saner way of doing the thing! This is so incredibly hard, maybe especially here in the US which values above all else our fierce independence in thinking and acting. Gods...this was so hard for me to do as a lay person but then, when you get to be monastic, the ante is raised and this is even harder and harder. I am still hoplessly lousy at it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Longdog
    Also I'm assuming that it is also a way to bring mindfulnes in to activities other than just sitting?
    Yes. Absolutely.

    Quote Originally Posted by Longdog
    Doegen sets out other forms in chapters of the Shobogenzo in realtion to hygene/cleanliness.
    Don't worry about these. They are fairly esoteric and may not be the important thing for your practice right now.

    Really, all the forms of ceremony and daily living taught at Throssel and by many other groups besides are to help you learn to discipline your mind through the disciplining of your body. That is why one of the first things you learn when you come to a temple is to remove your shoes, turn the toes to the wall, and set them straight. It seems like a very daft thing up front. But, as you go deeper in your training, as you learn to discipline your body it will work it's way into the discipline of your mind. My own experience led me to learn that the mind chatter I continually had with regard to doing things others asked of me finally quieted. I just did the task as asked without the running commentary and, hence, the resistance of the mind. The freedom in learning that, the space that opened up in my mind, in my heart, is almost indescribable.

    The Order of Buddhist Contemplatives is very ceremony oriented. I hated it at first...thought it was such a huge waste of time. But, then I came to truly love them. It can be off-putting if you are not of a devotional bent, but Rev. Master Jiyu said that generally people come to Buddhism through one of two ways: the intellectual (the study of sutras, history, the talks, the discussions) or the devotional (the zazen, the ceremonies, the chants.) However, since these are really only two ends of a single tunnel it doesn't matter which end you enter from because, as you deepen your practice, you will, eventually, travel deep enough to blend both aspects.

    The key to the gateless gate is willingness.

    In Gassho~

    Lynn

  3. #3

    Re: zen forms

    Thanks, again Lynn

    In gassho, Kev

  4. #4

    Re: zen forms

    Quote Originally Posted by Lynn
    ... very ceremony oriented. I hated it at first...thought it was such a huge waste of time. But, then I came to truly love them. It can be off-putting if you are not of a devotional bent, but Rev. Master Jiyu said that generally people come to Buddhism through one of two ways: the intellectual (the study of sutras, history, the talks, the discussions) or the devotional (the zazen, the ceremonies, the chants.) However, since these are really only two ends of a single tunnel it doesn't matter which end you enter from because, as you deepen your practice, you will, eventually, travel deep enough to blend both aspects.

    The key to the gateless gate is willingness.

    In Gassho~

    Lynn
    Hi Kev,

    I second everything Lynn told you in her beautiful description. Sometimes, in a retreat or longer exposure to a monastic setting, we must learn the "inner" freedom that can be found within the seeming "outer" confines and regimentation. Both prisons and monasteries have high walls, yet we can learn that stone walls cannot hold us as tightly as the chains within ourselves.

    Another aspect of Zen ritual I like to emphasize is that no ritual can be done the same twice, nor ever "perfectly". It does not matter how many years we practice the ritual or how expert we become in its forms (I think of it not unlike Olympic high diving in that regard, whereby no two dives ever can be exactly the same even for the greatest athlete). Things will always feel different, turn out a little different and ... most importantly ... there will be sudden surprises and "mistakes" each time. Thus, I take it as a model for life ... in which we may strive toward goals and ideals with great determination and energy for perfection, yet simultaneously, great ease and flexibility in knowing the goal can never be perfectly achieved. We can do both at once.

    There are many rituals of traditional Zen Buddhism worth keeping and preserving, and incorporating into our own daily Practice to some degree. These include bowing, chanting, mindful eating and others. I may think about ways to incorporate these more into our Practice here at Treeleaf (for example,everyone must know that they should not just plop down on their Zafu for Zazen, but should conduct a little ritual of bowing and chanting and such at the outset. We can talk about this more in the coming days). Many of the rituals and customs are things that Westerners particularly resist (like doing full prostrations on the floor) ... and that is one of the best reasons to do them: because we don't like them.

    There is a series of talks I did in anticipation of our first retreat discussing the philosophy of many such rituals, one by one ...

    http://treeleafzen.blogspot.com/search?q=zazenkai

    ... and another talk I gave on what of the "old stuff" is worth keeping, what may change as Zen and Buddhism come to new cultures and times ...

    http://treeleafzen.blogspot.com/2007/11 ... xtras.html

    The one place I may disagree with Lynn is that I do not think that Zen Practice necessarily needs many aspects of "the devotional" as the other end of the tunnel, especially if that means a certain kind of "devotional". I am not much for Buddha statues dipped in gold, fancy costumes and robes, or chants that nobody understands (I support losing oneself within a chant, but only after the content of the chant has been understood in heart and mind). I am certainly not for chanting to work magic or to bring about good fortune and the favor of cosmic forces, nor intonations to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas living in some unseen mystical realm as depicted in ancient Buddhist stories (a very big topic I do not want to get into right now). But, yet, I will be devotional if that means bowing down to all of reality, the universe, the mystery that brought us to life ... I just don't need a gold statue and arcane hocus-pocus chant to do that.

    Gassho, Jundo

  5. #5

    Re: zen forms

    Jundo wrote:
    I am not much for Buddha statues dipped in gold, fancy costumes and robes, or chants that nobody understands (I support losing oneself within a chant, but only after the content of the chant has been understood in heart and mind).
    This reminds me of a great episode of Frasier where Frasier is asked to speak Hebrew at his son's Bar-Mitzvah (on the show, Frasier wasn't Jewish, but his son's mother was). He goes to a young boy who is good at languages to get help with the language, but somehow he pisses the kid off and so this is the result:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGZV6fsotYo[/video]]

    Enjoy,
    Bill

  6. #6

    Re: zen forms

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    The one place I may disagree with Lynn is that I do not think that Zen Practice necessarily needs many aspects of "the devotional" as the other end of the tunnel, especially if that means a certain kind of "devotional". I am not much for Buddha statues dipped in gold, fancy costumes and robes, or chants that nobody understands (I support losing oneself within a chant, but only after the content of the chant has been understood in heart and mind). I am certainly not for chanting to work magic or to bring about good fortune and the favor of cosmic forces, nor intonations to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas living in some unseen mystical realm as depicted in ancient Buddhist stories (a very big topic I do not want to get into right now). But, yet, I will be devotional if that means bowing down to all of reality, the universe, the mystery that brought us to life ... I just don't need a gold statue and arcane hocus-pocus chant to do that.
    Fair enough. What woiks for somes don'ts always woiks for others. Still, I ended up loving the chants as well (which were in English), just because I love to sing and the music was beautiful and nothing in the words (which were based on sutras) was intending harm to another being.

    Ummmmm, just so we're square: You know I don't do magicky, good fortuney, hocus pocus, right Jundo? I'm pretty sure you didn't intend to cast aspersions, insinuate allegations, or start up the rumour mill. :wink:

    In Gassho~

    Lynn

  7. #7

    Re: zen forms

    Yeh, the reason I like the chants (not howls) at Throssel is becuase they are basically the sutras in english so I can understand them and absorb their meaning in the same way that we are working through the genjo koan.

    The monks there made a specific point of saying that we don't need the 'finery' of the ceremony hall and that the statues are just chicken wire and paper mache, not gods or representation of gods but some things that can represent different elements of the human psyche for us to think up on such as Kanzeon or Achalathanata, (terrible spellig attempt, but I can't find it on the net and everyone is in bed wher emy books are!) and that we may wish to aspire to.

    But basically they sit and are pretty much silent when not sitting.

    In gassho, Kev

  8. #8

    Re: zen forms

    Quote Originally Posted by Lynn
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    The one place I may disagree with Lynn is that I do not think that Zen Practice necessarily needs many aspects of "the devotional" as the other end of the tunnel, especially if that means a certain kind of "devotional". I am not much for Buddha statues dipped in gold, fancy costumes and robes, or chants that nobody understands (I support losing oneself within a chant, but only after the content of the chant has been understood in heart and mind). I am certainly not for chanting to work magic or to bring about good fortune and the favor of cosmic forces, nor intonations to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas living in some unseen mystical realm as depicted in ancient Buddhist stories (a very big topic I do not want to get into right now). But, yet, I will be devotional if that means bowing down to all of reality, the universe, the mystery that brought us to life ... I just don't need a gold statue and arcane hocus-pocus chant to do that.
    Fair enough. What woiks for somes don'ts always woiks for others. Still, I ended up loving the chants as well (which were in English), just because I love to sing and the music was beautiful and nothing in the words (which were based on sutras) was intending harm to another being.

    Ummmmm, just so we're square: You know I don't do magicky, good fortuney, hocus pocus, right Jundo? I'm pretty sure you didn't intend to cast aspersions, insinuate allegations, or start up the rumour mill. :wink:

    In Gassho~

    Lynn
    Hi Lynn,

    Sorry if I was misunderstood, Lynn. Nothing about you was intended at all.

    I meant just that so much of Buddhism, and so-called "Eastern Religions" in general, are tangled up with (or largely about) magicky, good fortuney, hocus pocus hooey, plus all manner of esoteric doctrines and Buddhas in the sky. As you know, I am just opposed to most of that, don't teach that, and am trying to teach a Buddhism without that (and I am not alone in trying to do that). I did not mean anything about your personal practice at all, Lynn, although I thank my good fortune for the day we met, and I think that you have true magic in your lovely personality. If there are blessed spirits in this world, I happen to know that you have one.

    You sure have cast a spell on me! :wink:

    And I also 100% dig how the monks at Throssel Hole described their statues and such ... That's cool with me.

    The monks there made a specific point of saying that we don't need the 'finery' of the ceremony hall and that the statues are just chicken wire and paper mache, not gods or representation of gods but some things that can represent different elements of the human psyche for us to think up on such as Kanzeon
    I think of Kanzeon in much the same way, and we are building a little Kannon (Kanzeon) hall here at Treeleaf just with that spirit.

    Gassho, Jundo

  9. #9

    Re: zen forms

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    You sure have cast a spell on me! :wink:
    Awwwwwwww......................

    The feeling is mutual, friend!!

    In Gassho~

    Lynn

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