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Thread: Plays well with others?

  1. #1

    Plays well with others?

    Is it possible to practice Soto Zen and simultaneously be an active member of another faith?

    Assuming there are no restrictions within the other faith that would prevent it, is it possible, for example, to go through the Jukai ceremony and take the precepts while still being an active Jew, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Mormon, etc (again, assuming those other faiths would allow it)?

    I read something in the text of the Jukai ceremony that I got from Dogen Sangha (I think) that states:

    "The giving of the precepts of Three Devotions is like this. From now on, Gautama Buddha and the other Buddhas are your great teachers. Never devote yourself to demons, non-Buddhists, and so forth..."

    This would seem to preclude being a member of another faith, but I didn't know if this was the generally accepted practice.

    (I've attached the document, if you're curious. It contains a discussion of the precepts as well as the text of the Jukai ceremony.)

    Gassho,

    Kevin

  2. #2

    Re: Plays well with others?

    Hi Kevin,

    Good question. My understanding is that most "Western" schools of Zen have no problems with practitioners belonging to other faiths. There are active Roman Catholic priests and nuns who are transmitted Zen teachers, such as Robert Kennedy. He is a Jesuit priest who is a teacher in the White Plum lineage. As it states on his website, people of all faiths are welcome to practice there:

    http://members.tripod.com/~kennedyzen/

    From personal experience, it also seems that the Kwan Um School of Zen has no problem with accepting folks from other faiths. In fact its founder, Seung Sahn, conducted retreats at the Abbey of Gethsemani, a Trappist monastery in Kentucky where Thomas Merton lived. In addition, Mitch Doshin Cantor, teacher from the White Plum lineage, told me that even though he practices Zen, he's always considered himself Jewish. Also, Jundo can speak for himself, of course, but from our many conversations, I also believe that he would have no problem giving the precepts to someone from another faith simply because of that fact.

    These are just a few examples, but it seems that most Zen teachers don't have a problem with this issue.

  3. #3

    Re: Plays well with others?

    Aye. I am still a Cat lick, and a regular at my parish. I have also had the pleasure of sitting with Kennedy and his dharma heir kevin hunt, both of whom are true gems. My wife is a Buddhist, we go to Shinto shrines on New Years. Its all good.

  4. #4

    Re: Plays well with others?

    Another testament to the fact that spirituality and religion are not the same thing.

  5. #5

    Re: Plays well with others?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin
    Is it possible to practice Soto Zen and simultaneously be an active member of another faith?

    Assuming there are no restrictions within the other faith that would prevent it, is it possible, for example, to go through the Jukai ceremony and take the precepts while still being an active Jew, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Mormon, etc (again, assuming those other faiths would allow it)?

    I read something in the text of the Jukai ceremony that I got from Dogen Sangha (I think) that states:

    "The giving of the precepts of Three Devotions is like this. From now on, Gautama Buddha and the other Buddhas are your great teachers. Never devote yourself to demons, non-Buddhists, and so forth..."

    This would seem to preclude being a member of another faith, but I didn't know if this was the generally accepted practice.

    (I've attached the document, if you're curious. It contains a discussion of the precepts as well as the text of the Jukai ceremony.)

    Gassho,

    Kevin
    Hi Kevin,

    I see no reason why one cannot be simultaneously a "Zen Buddhist" and a practitioner of another religion ... assuming that it is permitted by the tenets of the other religion (I hear most often from, for example, my conservative Christian and orthodox Jewish friends that it is not okay from their perspective, although I know it is fine with more liberal schools of Christianity and Judaism). There may be certain types of religion that would not meld well with Buddhism, but an open, ecumenical Christianity or Judaism certainly will. I think.

    Some Buddhist teachers may disagree, but I don't see a problem. Dogen, in his day, was facing a rather different situation involving Shintoism, Taoism and Confucianism, plus pressure from various other Buddhist sects too. Sometimes he could be very ecumenical and open to others (mostly other schools of Zen) in his statements, sometimes not. I think he was facing a different social situation.

    There may be times when you have to select one or the other on certain beliefs or tenets (I cannot think of a specific example right now), but those bridges can be crossed as you come to them.

    I often say that we Practice Zen with the universe "as it is". That means something like this: If there is no God or Jesus, we chop wood and fetch water. If there is a God and Jesus, we chop wood and fetch water. In all cases we try to live as folks who do not harm, including not killing and stealing, which is about the same idea for all religions.

    If I die, awake in heaven and find that God, Jesus, Thor, Fudõ Myõ-õ, Dainichi Nyorai Buddha or some other entity was in charge all along ... I will say to them that I did my best and apologize for not believing in them more.

    Now, I have some wood to chop.

    Gassho, Jundo

  6. #6

    Re: Plays well with others?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I often say that we Practice Zen with the universe "as it is". That means something like this: If there is no God or Jesus, we chop wood and fetch water. If there is a God and Jesus, we chop wood and fetch water. In all cases we try to live as folks who do not harm, including not killing and stealing, which is about the same idea for all religions.

    If I die, awake in heaven and find that God, Jesus, Thor, Fudõ Myõ-õ, Dainichi Nyorai Buddha or some other entity was in charge all along ... I will say to them that I did my best...
    Kev, what a great question, and a big one for the current times. I sometimes forget how unbelievably fortunate I am to live in a space/time continuum which allows for exposure to all the major world religions (and some minor ones, as well) and the opportunity to visit churches/synagogues/temples/shrines etc. of my choosing without fear of persecution, jail time, or death. With all the negatives about our govt. being slung far and wide, the aspect of religious freedom is unbelievably important. As stated in the First Amendment:

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

    That is so incredibly powerful. I like to read that every now and again.

    If it seems good in your explorations to really stick it out with one religious practice or another, you will know. You could always become a Unitarian Universalist! They're quite an interesting group.

    (By the by, if interested check out a new book that's come out titled "Founding Faith: Providence, Politics and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America" by the founder of Beliefnet.org, Steven Waldman.)

    Jundo, your thoughts are almost verbatim to my own. I've had numerous encounters with many people regarding the issue of "judgement" after I die. I basically say what you said: Whoever it is I show up in front of I will feel good because I did my best to live as a decent human being regardless of whether or not I spent a jot of time in front of the image of them. They can review things and make their judgements as they wish. I'm far more interested in using my time alive to live than to continually panic over, and obsess about, what *might happen when I die. :wink:

    Jundo, I wouldn't even go into apologies. My guess is they won't care if they have someone with a good heart before them.

    In Gassho~

    Lynn

  7. #7

    Re: Plays well with others?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lynn

    If it seems good in your explorations to really stick it out with one religious practice or another, you will know. You could always become a Unitarian Universalist! They're quite an interesting group.
    In Gassho~

    Lynn
    Yes, we are. :mrgreen:

  8. #8
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
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    Re: Plays well with others?

    I second that! UUs are quite interesting.... there is also a UU Buddhist Fellowship, the link is below...

    http://www25.uua.org/uubf/

    I think Jundo's perspective is helpful, there is a range of interpretations as to interfaith dialogue and practice - whether you interpret the biblical quote that "the house of the Lord has many rooms...," or Nishida Kitaro's definition of God as "the spirit of unity and truth at the center of the universe..." Thomas Merton explored the linkage between the contemplative Christian tradition and Zen Buddhism in his travels to Asia.... from his condensation of the Chuang Tzu to his readings of Nishida and meeting with Suzuki.... Merton's perspective of course is quite liberal Christian....

    Gassho,
    Alex

  9. #9

    Re: Plays well with others?

    I'm a member of a UU congregation, a Zen Buddhist, and a member of the UUBA. The sitting group I facilitate is listed now on UUBA's website. The Unitarians, people fro ALL faiths and religious backgrounds, almost perfectly mirror the buddhist precepts in their beliefs, and are extremely "Zen Friendly." The sitting group (I "facilitate." I'm just the organizer. I'd never presume to lead or teach,) happened as a direct result of everyones' being able to share their multifaceted beliefs.

  10. #10

    Re: Plays well with others?

    Quote Originally Posted by KvonNJ
    I'm a member of a UU congregation, a Zen Buddhist, and a member of the UUBA. The sitting group I facilitate is listed now on UUBA's website.
    A bit OT, for almost 20 years, I have been a UU member. When I turned 18 and started attending UT-Pan American, I became interested in both the UUA and Zen Buddhism. Since then, I have found it enriching to continue my Buddhist studies & participate in my local UU as best as I can.

  11. #11

    Re: Plays well with others?

    chicanobudhista wrote:
    Since then, I have found it enriching to continue my Buddhist studies & participate in my local UU as best as I can.
    My wife and I have recently been attending a UU congregation . . . seems like a good place for a Buddhist and a biologist to take their children for a weekly "church" experience. Also, the openness of the community is refreshing (especially here in the "bible-belt").

    Bill

  12. #12

    Re: Plays well with others?

    Community is precisely why my family and I joined a UU church some 18 months ago. UU membership addresses the needs of the family, Zen addresses my own personal needs. The two are highly compatible.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Martin's Avatar
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    Re: Plays well with others?

    Hi Kevin

    Your question used to trouble me a lot. Eventually I decided that I couldn’t see any difficulty in practising Soto Zen and being in another religion, which was your question. Being a Zen Buddhist and an active member of the Church of Whatever, that might be more difficult, I thought.

    But then, I decided that I wasn’t sure if I was a “Zen Buddhist”. And I’m still not. How would I know? It’s not as if the Buddha-in-the-sky keeps a list of who’s “in” and who’s “out” (unless I’ve misunderstood things badly!). What creed would I have to adhere to? In what Articles of Faith would I have to believe? I just sit daily, read what I can get my hands on, and visit this sangha when I’ve time.

    Which may just mean I’m a feeble Zen Buddhist, of course. Or reflect the fact that I haven’t taken Jukai. And perhaps your question was specifically about Jukai, in which case I’m going OT, sorry. At any rate, there’s a lovely story at the end of Jan Willem van der Wettering’s book about his year in a Zen Monastery in Japan, The Empty Mirror, in which Jan, who is leaving the Monastery, goes to see the Abbot and asks if he can formally become a Buddhist. The Abbot says that there is a ceremony, if Jan insists, but asks why Jan thinks it will help. Jan is a bit nonplussed, but says that the Abbot is a Buddhist isn’t he? The Abbot replies that he has no idea. Jan says the question of his “becoming a Buddhist” was never raised again.

    After I read that I felt a lot easier about not having to choose Soto Zen and thereby reject everything else. Mind you, once I’d got over that, I found that the more I came to feel at home in Soto Zen, the less desire I had to maintain an allegiance to any other faith (and the more difficulty I had with the whole concept of “faith”). But that’s another story altogether.

    Gassho

    Martin

  14. #14

    Re: Plays well with others?

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin
    At any rate, there’s a lovely story at the end of Jan Willem van der Wettering’s book about his year in a Zen Monastery in Japan, The Empty Mirror, in which Jan, who is leaving the Monastery, goes to see the Abbot and asks if he can formally become a Buddhist. The Abbot says that there is a ceremony, if Jan insists, but asks why Jan thinks it will help. Jan is a bit nonplussed, but says that the Abbot is a Buddhist isn’t he? The Abbot replies that he has no idea. Jan says the question of his “becoming a Buddhist” was never raised again.
    Great story, Martin.

    It is probably all about our intentions and actions and not about the trappings.

    In gassho,

    Linda

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