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Thread: Excerpt (Coming Down from the Zen Clouds)

  1. #1

    Excerpt (Coming Down from the Zen Clouds)

    An interesting excerpt:

    Coming Down from the Zen Clouds

    Stuart Lachs

    The question of the relationship between enlightenment and cultivation has persisted in the Zen tradition from the end of the eighth century onward. Enlightenment in this context refers to the experience of deep insight into the true nature of reality. Cultivation may be taken as living one's day to day life from the enlightened point of view which includes an awareness of other people's full humanity and our connectedness with them.23 Ma-tsu (709-788), a major and influential Ch'an teacher, claimed that the sudden enlightenment experience was inherently so thorough that the whole of the Buddha's path was realized and completed in that experience. This view came to be known as "sudden enlightenment/sudden cultivation." Other major Zen teachers, such as Tsung-mi24 (780-841), Yen-shou (901-975), and the Korean, Chinul (1158-1210) took the view that sudden enlightenment might bring full attainment, but perhaps only for exceptionally endowed individuals such as the Sixth Patriarch Hui-neng and Ma-tsu. For the more ordinary run of mankind, who are less spiritually talented, the enlightenment experience indeed offers a true view of one's self-nature, but without exhausting selfishness. Some delusions, such as existential bewilderment, may be overcome by a deep experience. Other more deep-seated delusions such as craving, hatred and conceitedness can only be overcome by making "that which we have seen a living experience and molding our life accordingly."25 The Buddhist injunction to live an ethical life is comprised of not only exercising restraint and self-control, but also of positively manifesting compassion in our dealings with other people. Ch'an master Yen-shou put the matter in this way: If the manifesting formations are not yet severed and the defilements and habit energies persist, or whatever you see leads to passion and whatever you encounter produces impediments, then although you have understood the meaning of the non-arising state, your power is still insufficient. You should not grasp at that understanding and say, "I have already awakened to the fact that the nature of the defilements is void," for later when you decide to cultivate, your practice will, on the contrary, become inverted. ... Hence it should be clear that if words and actions are contradictory, the correctness or incorrectness of one's practice can be verified. Measure the strength of your faculties; you cannot afford to deceive yourself.26 As a matter of historical fact Ma-tsu's line survived and has dominated the Zen tradition from the Sung dynasty (960-1280) to this day while Tsung-mi's line, for instance, died out. The result is that the view that sudden enlightenment entailed sudden cultivation became the official rhetoric of Zen Buddhism. The opposing, but still orthodox, Zen view that sudden enlightenment had to be followed by gradual cultivation, has largely been de-emphasized. In Tsung-mi's words, "Awakening from delusion is sudden; transforming an ordinary man into a saint is gradual."27 Most teachers are hardly fully enlightened Buddhas, but are people who need to cultivate themselves further. We need to keep this in mind when we interact with them. Though in Zen practice we must focus on our own shortcomings, there remains a place for common sense in viewing the actions of others, even those of our teachers. The Dalai Lama has written concerning the student's view of the teacher, ". . . too much faith and imputed purity of perception can quite easily turn things rotten."28
    http://www.mandala.hr/5/6-slachs.html

    G,W

  2. #2

    Re: Excerpt (Coming Down from the Zen Clouds)

    Though in Zen practice we must focus on our own shortcomings, there remains a place for common sense in viewing the actions of others, even those of our teachers.
    Good point here.

    I think it needs to be balanced like most things in our practice. It is good to use common sense, but being "too" critical could be a barrier to our practice as well. I don't think compassion or wisdom manifests as overly critical about one's self or others.

    G,W

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