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Thread: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

  1. #1

    6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    Just thought I'd continue the topic treads.

  2. #2

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    The essence I take away from these few pages is "the attitude of discovering the life within the self that is connected to all things." So realizing the illusion that separates us from everything else is at the heart of this "religion" if we wish to use that term.

    There's a story that Lama Surya Das conveys about teaching a class of 9-year olds at a Montessori school in Austin, Texas. At the end of the talk, he used a gong for meditation. Before hitting the gong, he asked the students to see where the sound goes and to follow it. He told them it might bring them closer to God or to the Buddha. A week later, the mother of one of the kids reported back what her son had told her about the activity: "I watched the sound of the gong disappear, and I followed it. I went there, and you know what, Mom? When i went there, I didn't feel I was closer to God or the Buddha--I was God."

  3. #3

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    Quote Originally Posted by Janice
    When i went there, I didn't feel I was closer to God or the Buddha--I was God."
    Nice story Janice. Uchiyama seems to be saying this too. He sure does elevate the practice of zazen. It is not a practice that brings us closer to God but sems to be an actual union with God; it is the 'foundation of our lives'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Uchiyama
    Therefore, we can say that zazen is for the Buddhist much as God is for the Christian...Zazen certainly actualises this in the purest way. In Luke 17:20 there is, " The kingdom of God is within you"....In zazen we can see directly this kingdom within us.
    It's so hard for me not to see zazen as a means to attaining or realising our true nature. Attaining and self-improvement ideas are so ingrained and difficult to shake off. Guess I'd better sit with that and not just talk about it

    Gassho,
    John

  4. #4

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    Hi,

    Quote Originally Posted by Uchiyama Roshi
    Zen Buddhism does not recognize any authority outside of the true self.
    No ship outside of the true self, no ocean outside of the true self, no passenger outside of the true self, no destination outside of the true self and no captain outside of the true self.

    Gassho
    Ken

  5. #5

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    This is another quote (from Barry Magid) about getting away from self-improvement:

    Quote Originally Posted by Magid
    “After our futile efforts to transform our ordinary lives into idealized ones, we may discover that leaving everything alone is itself transforming,” he said. “It is very hard not to turn meditation into a spiritual gymnasium where we get ourselves mentally and spiritually in shape; it is hard to do nothing at all.”

    ”But leaving the mind just as it is may ultimately be the most emotionally and spiritually rewarding thing we can do, he said.”
    http://www3.lehigh.edu/News/V2news_stor ... ewsID=2676

    Gassho,
    John

  6. #6

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    Not my favourate chapter of the book. There are a few things that don't resonate with me :cry: For starters, I don't really see the need to talk about discussing if zazen can be considered a religion or not. It does not really matter, does it?

    Uchiyama also writes:
    we can say that zazen is for the Buddhist much as God is for the Christian" (p. 111)
    which together with those examples from the Bible make me somewhat confused, I should confess because as I understand in Christianity although the Kingdom is in us we still have to sort of qualify to get in, or? There are also so many different Christian traditions that I feel Uchiyama is "stepping onto the thin ice " as we say in Sweden, when making these comparisons and generalisations.

    ...zazen that protects, guides, and gives strength to our actions, as well as to our lives as a whole, and in turn to the society in which we live
    I cannot help it, it just sounds very propaganda-like to me (sorry!). I do notice are the benefits of meditation in every day life, though.
    I guess I am scarred for life by the Communist Party slogans that sounded exactly the same (guided, directed, protected, etc) :lol:.

    the prayer that takes a form of zazen...
    In Christian meditation as I understand the point of the meditation is to still the mind so one can hear the words of God and a prayer is a talk with God. I do realise Uchiyama does not say zazen is like a Christian prayer but still don't understand why all this talk is necessary and certainly hope the next chapter will clarify it a little.

    zazen as true religion
    :roll:

    Truth, religion, true religion...

    I spotted the word "repentence" in the final paragraph of the chapter :shock:
    Talk about surprise :lol:

    Gassho,

    Irina

  7. #7

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    Being brought up in a conservative Evanglical faith, I too have problems with the Christian analogies and comparisons. From page 111:

    "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31); and "We love HIm (God) because He loved us first...He who loves God must also love his brother" (John 4:19,21). This basic Christian attitude toward the religious life is also the basic Buddhist attitude.
    From how I was taught and had used to view these scriptures, it is definately not the same attitude. I suppose Uchiyama might have seen himself writing to a Western audience and felt a need to relate Buddhist views to Christianity. But "God" is a very loaded word for some. These verses imply that one should love his brother because God (The Authority) demands it of them or dedicate every aspect of your life as an offering to Him. So, I am reading it that Uchiyama is contradicting himself when he states that Zen is not a religion with a concern with "people's relationship to an authority above them" on page 110. And, I really cannot see that zazen is anything like a prayer (which to me was always an appeal). In the way I see it, zazen is just life. Which I believe Uchiyama has been saying throughout this book. It's just here that he's complicating it a bit.

    Gassho,
    Tony

  8. #8

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    .

  9. #9

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    Hi all,

    This chapter brought out a lot of baggage for me, too. Any mention of religion gets my antennae going and I find myself waiting for someone to try and make me do something or believe something (The authoritarian point of view that Uchiyama refers to.) I do not find it useful to relate Buddhism to religion (although it clearly is a religion in some countries and practices).

    For me, Buddhism is a way of being, and this is the part of the chapter that I like.
    We simply actualize within the self the most refined attitude toward life.
    Also, I was particularly struck with
    the true or genuine zazen found in Buddhist scriptures was never intended as a means of disciplining the mind or of becoming physically healthier. Our ideas about a mind to be trained or a body to be made healthy are expressions of the view of existence, which presupposes that there are things that can be accumulated. The wish to train and discipline our minds and bodies is nothing but our own egoistic desire. (my emphasis)
    I admit to falling victim to this form of egoistic desire.

    Gassho,

    Linda

    This is especially interesting in light of the recent mindfulness thread where Nishijimi suggested that being "full of mind" was not such a good thing.

  10. #10

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    "Religion" is a difficult word for me. I associate it with hypocrisy, imposed authority, right-wing fundamentalism, and exploitation, yet at the same time I have a belief that the religious life is worth living, that it is a way of dealing with the fundamental dissatisfaction with life that many of us experience. I had a Christian upbringing and although I rejected it in my early teens I have always had a lingering desire for a spritual dimension to life.
    I can relate to that lingering desire for a spiritual dimension, Charles.
    These days I definately make a distinction between religious and spiritual life, though: while spirituality is an important part of my life, religion is no longer is.

    Isn't this what many of us are looking for in a religion or spiritual practice? Something that sustains us through the vicissitudes of life? That no matter what happens to us, and when complete despair or disaster threatens us, there is something to keep us going, some fundamental trust in reality to hang onto. As long as Zen is mainly an intellectual exercise or act of self-improvement it is like the house built on sand.
    This is a good question, Charles. I have met people who did not think of soul seeking as such or were (at least consciously) sharing the beliefs of some religion but were very much in touch with reality (from what I could see) and did not strike me as suffering. Personally I don't think we need some tradition or belief to "sustain us" but it can make it easier, I guess. From my personal experience in the days of hardship you just hang in there and don't really think how to do it. I would think we pretty much pre-programmed to live on, progmatic as it may sound. :roll:

    I guess I was pretty much looking for something as you say to sustain me "through the vicissitudes of life" but since I have come across Buddhism my attitude towards life itself has changed very much and I don't think I need anything to sustain me. I guess this whole new attitutude is what sustains me now :lol: Now I am pretty much comfortable settling in what life is and then I simply don't need to look for something else, at least not outside me. Hope it makes sense.

    Gassho, Irina

  11. #11

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    Hi,

    I wouldn't get too hung up on Uchiyama Roshi's references to the Bible, Christianity, etc. Although he was interested in studying it as well as Western philosophy from an academic point of view, as far as I know he was never a practicing Christian. As he says in the foreward:

    Quote Originally Posted by Uchiyama Roshi
    Underlying my life's theme are the deep connections Japan has with both Eastern cultures and Western traditions. First it was important for me to study and learn from the wisdom of the past. Then I needed to pursue my own individual lifestyle informed by this past. The first thing I did to realize this idea was to study Western philosophy and Christianity. By studying Western philosophy academically you can pretty much learn what it is all about, but Buddhism is another matter. It's virtually impossible to make much sense of it if you don't actually practice it. ... When I was studying Catholicism, I had thought about becoming a novice priest just so I could study the religion, but regulations within the Church would never have allowed me to become one with that attitude.


    He undeniably had an interest in understanding the parallels between Eastern and Western religions, but I think he new the differences very well and by no means was propagating any mixing of the two. I look at his references to the Bible and such more as an attempt to build a bridge, perhaps to make things more accessible to his Western audience who had a Christian background. We should also remember that this book was written over 30 years ago. Perhaps the fact that at least some people no longer feel the need for such bridges implies that Buddhism in the West is maturing?

    Gassho
    Ken

  12. #12

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    Ken,

    He undeniably had an interest in understanding the parallels between Eastern and Western religions, but I think he new the differences very well and by no means was propagating any mixing of the two.
    Yep, but I don't recollet anyone saying he was propogating Christianity. :roll: He might be understanding the connection between the two but I did not, especially not in the context he used it and I wrote about just that. Uchiyama made his argument from where he stood and I made mine. I might see it differently in 3 months. I moved to the next chapter. :lol:

    I look at his references to the Bible and such more as an attempt to build a bridge, perhaps to make things more accessible to his Western audience who had a Christian background. We should also remember that this book was written over 30 years ago. Perhaps the fact that at least some people no longer feel the need for such bridges implies that Buddhism in the West is maturing?
    It is possible that quite on the contraray we will need some clarification for the Western public what Buddhism is about since it seems many people got in their heads (including myself till recently and almost everyone I meet now) that Buddhism is about trying to get into Nirvana and not to feel anything, to become detached from this world. I think we will need all help from the East and especially our Western teachers to help us deal with this misunderstanding. :shock:

    Gassho,

    Irina




    Gassho
    Ken[/quote]

  13. #13

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    I think Uchiyama was interested in Christianity and studied it before Buddhism. He says that zazen practice helped him understand the teachings of Jesus in the bible better and I think that is the case for me too. Though I don't read it anymore, the old parables, like the one Charles used, come back to me and I understand them better. Some of the teachings of Jesus are very like koans. I think. Uchiyama talks about it his commentary to the Bendowa:

    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9Y1e ... &ct=result

    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9Y1e ... #PPA139,M1

    Gassho,
    John

  14. #14

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    Interesting that you mention this, John!

    I came to understand what Jesus said in a few places in a very different light after I came in touch with Buddhism, actually.
    I still don't know of course if my interpretation is close to what Jesus actually meant but it certainly makes more sense to me :lol:.

    I have heard of a few Christian priests that spent time in Buddhist monestaries meditating and had close contacts with Buddhists. I certainly appreciated the books of Father Anthony de Mello who wrote in a very unusual (at least for me) multi-religious context (his book Awareness was one of the most ground-breaking for me in my time). It was nothing like a book written by a Catholic priest´, no talk about God bur rather about how to handle loss, emotions, realit, etc. The articles on his site are titled: "Is It Real- Or Just Your Ego?" and Losing Yourself to Find Yourself.

    Most people, he maintained, are asleep. They need to wake up, open up their eyes, see what is real, both inside and outside of themselves.
    The greatest human gift is to be aware, to be in touch with oneself, one's body, mind, feelings, thoughts, sensations.

    He used to challenge the students by statements like:
    "Come home yourself!
    Come back to your senses! Do you hear that bird sing?
    How can you hear the song and not hear the singer?
    How can you see the wave and not see the ocean?
    How can you see the dance and not see the dancer?"

    :wink:

    I guess I could have stayed in the Catholic church had I come into the contact with Father de Mello years ago.

    Gassho,

    I.

    Quote Originally Posted by John
    I think Uchiyama was interested in Christianity and studied it before Buddhism. He says that zazen practice helped him understand the teachings of Jesus in the bible better and I think that is the case for me too. Though I don't read it anymore, the old parables, like the one Charles used, come back to me and I understand them better. Some of the teachings of Jesus are very like koans. I think. Uchiyama talks about it his commentary to the Bendowa:

    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9Y1e ... &ct=result

    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9Y1e ... #PPA139,M1

    Gassho,
    John
    I will check those commentaries.

  15. #15

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    Thanks for the de Mello quotes Irina. I haven't read any of his books but I might in the future. Here are some more quotes that I liked

    • As soon as you look at the world through an ideology you are finished. No reality fits an ideology. Life is beyond that. That is why people are always searching for a meaning to life… Meaning is only found when you go beyond meaning. Life only makes sense when you perceive it as mystery and it makes no sense to the conceptualizing mind.

    • As you identify less and less with the "me," you will be more at ease with everybody and with everything. Do you know why? Because you are no longer afraid of being hurt or not liked. You no longer desire to impress anyone. Can you imagine the relief when you don't have to impress anybody anymore? Oh, what a relief. Happiness at last! You no longer feel the need or the compulsion to explain things anymore. It's all right. What is there to be explained? And you don't feel the need or compulsion to apologize anymore. I'd much rather hear you say, "I've come awake," than hear you say, "I'm sorry." I'd much rather hear you say to me, "I've come awake since we last met; what I did to you won't happen again," than to hear you say, "I'm so sorry for what I did to you."

    • Do you know what eternal life is? You think it's everlasting life. But your own theologians will tell you that that is crazy, because everlasting is still within time. It is time perduring forever. Eternal means timeless— no time. The human mind cannot understand that. The human mind can understand time and can deny time. What is timeless is beyond our comprehension. Yet the mystics tell us that eternity is right now. How's that for good news? It is right now. People are so distressed when I tell them to forget their past. They're crazy! Just drop it! When you hear "Repent for your past," realize it's a great religious distraction from waking up. Wake up! That's what repent means. Not "weep for your sins.": Wake up! understand, stop all the crying. Understand! Wake up!

    • Every word, every image used for God is a distortion more than a description.

    • "Help us to find God."
    "No one can help you there."
    "Why not?"
    "For the same reason that no one can help the fish to find the ocean."
    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Anthony_de_Mello

    There seems to be some strange connection between Jesuit priests and Zen. A Jesuit priest and Zen teacher called Robert Kennedy comes to Ireland every year from the US to lead Zen retreats. I went to one of them a couple of yeras ago and there were 4 Catholic nuns at the retreat. I don't know how he/they reconcile Christianity with Zen. I certainly can't do it with the evangelical Protestant faith I once had,

    Gassho,
    John

  16. #16

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    John wrote:
    I don't know how he/they reconcile Christianity with Zen.
    I obviously cannot speak for them, but maybe they don't see a need to reconcile anything. Ideas fighting ideas is strange anyway . . . so maybe it is a lesson in itself—where there is no clinging to ideas, there are no ideas to get caught up in a bunch of thinking over.

    Just a thought,

    Bill

  17. #17

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    Hi.
    (p.109)
    "Our ideas about a mind to be trained or a body to be made healthy are expressions of the view of existence, which presupposes that there are things that can be accumulated."
    There is nothing to attain because there is nothing that can attain.

    (p. 110)
    " Shakyamunis basic life attitude, which is to live out the life of the universal self"
    "Take refuge in self, thake refuge in dharma, do not take refuge in anything else."
    You are dharmas being experienced by myriad dharmas (or something, you know the qoute...) :wink:

    May the force be with you
    Tb

  18. #18

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    Quote Originally Posted by DontKnow
    I obviously cannot speak for them, but maybe they don't see a need to reconcile anything. Ideas fighting ideas is strange anyway . . . so maybe it is a lesson in itself—where there is no clinging to ideas, there are no ideas to get caught up in a bunch of thinking over.
    You mean - holding a kind of 'simultaneously true perspective' regarding other religions? Tolerance is good and maybe it's narrow to think there is only one path up the mountain. OTOH, if you have found a way that seems pretty good (like Zen) why would (in my case) I want to go back to the Evangelical Christianity I had become disillusioned with? I think it's better that I should practice one path deeply rather than take a shallow, dilettante, dabbling approach, trying a bit of this practice a bit of that as I feel like it. I see many others do this. But maybe, also, I tend to harbour the lingering thought that there must be one (and one only) 'right' path.

    Re: 'clinging to ideas': I was reading a koan in the Shinji Shobogenzo this morning(no. 53) where Nishijima says:
    Quote Originally Posted by Nishijima
    "....Some Buddhists, aware that Buddhism is more than intellectual knowledge, have gone to the other extreme and said that study of the scriptures is completely useless, and so insist that only to practice Zazen is buddhism. Master Dogen criticised this attitude. Human beings have great intellectual capacities.We must use them in the study of Buddhism, in the study of reality...."
    Some faiths like Catholicism instil rich traditions and rituals when people grow up with them. Perhaps Jesuit/Zen priests find those traditions hard to relinquish when they discover Buddhism and find a way to integrate or compartmentalise the teachings in their minds. Don't think I could do it though. Thanks for the interesting thought, Bill,

    Gassho,
    John

  19. #19

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    J
    ohn wrote:
    I think it's better that I should practice one path deeply rather than take a shallow, dilettante, dabbling approach, trying a bit of this practice a bit of that as I feel like it. I see many others do this. But maybe, also, I tend to harbour the lingering thought that there must be one (and one only) 'right' path.
    I agree completely. I think there are probably many roads to the truth, but if one keeps switching roads one never gets to the destination (even though the destination is here already). The trick is to find one that works for your vehicle.

    I, too, have little desire to go back to the tradition in which I was raised, however the more I practice, the better able I am to see that there is truly nothing wrong with that path, it just didn't suit my particular weaknesses/strengths. To each his/her own practice. There are roughly 500 million Buddhists worldwide, and I suppose that means there are 500 million Buddhist religions, each with its own flavor, some resembling others very closely, others very different. Maybe not all are effective, or even "healthful and helpful" as Jundo might say . . . but it is not my call. All I can do is practice as sincerely as I can the practice as I have been taught and have experienced as true.

    Gassho,
    Bill

  20. #20

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    Hi Irina,

    Quote Originally Posted by CinnamonGal
    Ken,

    Quote Originally Posted by Kenneth
    He undeniably had an interest in understanding the parallels between Eastern and Western religions, but I think he new the differences very well and by no means was propagating any mixing of the two.
    Yep, but I don't recollet anyone saying he was propogating Christianity. :roll: He might be understanding the connection between the two but I did not, especially not in the context he used it and I wrote about just that. Uchiyama made his argument from where he stood and I made mine. I might see it differently in 3 months. I moved to the next chapter. :lol:
    Sorry for not being clearer on that - I was referring back to this statement which Charles had made:

    Quote Originally Posted by CharlesC
    This section of the book resonates with the positive side of my Christian upbringing, presenting a coming together of Christianity and Zen which works for me; but I wonder if for many Christians and Zen Buddhists it is an unsatisfactory hybrid of the two traditions.
    Quote Originally Posted by CinnamonGal
    Quote Originally Posted by Kenneth
    I look at his references to the Bible and such more as an attempt to build a bridge, perhaps to make things more accessible to his Western audience who had a Christian background. We should also remember that this book was written over 30 years ago. Perhaps the fact that at least some people no longer feel the need for such bridges implies that Buddhism in the West is maturing?
    It is possible that quite on the contraray we will need some clarification for the Western public what Buddhism is about since it seems many people got in their heads (including myself till recently and almost everyone I meet now) that Buddhism is about trying to get into Nirvana and not to feel anything, to become detached from this world. I think we will need all help from the East and especially our Western teachers to help us deal with this misunderstanding. :shock:
    Yes, there are many misunderstandings about Buddhism in general floating about which urgently need clarification in the West, not to mention the needed clarification with respect to the differences between the various Buddhist traditions. No question about that. What I’m not so sure about is whether this should be approached using Christianity as a starting point to draw parallels. Maybe it's a sensible use of 'expedient means' for some, and that's great, but personally I can do without it. It's simply not my world.

    Gassho
    Ken

  21. #21

    Re: 6/6 - Zazen as Religion p. 109

    Quote Originally Posted by Kenneth
    Hi Irina,

    Quote Originally Posted by CinnamonGal
    Ken,

    Quote Originally Posted by Kenneth
    He undeniably had an interest in understanding the parallels between Eastern and Western religions, but I think he new the differences very well and by no means was propagating any mixing of the two.
    Yep, but I don't recollet anyone saying he was propogating Christianity. :roll: He might be understanding the connection between the two but I did not, especially not in the context he used it and I wrote about just that. Uchiyama made his argument from where he stood and I made mine. I might see it differently in 3 months. I moved to the next chapter. :lol:
    Sorry for not being clearer on that - I was referring back to this statement which Charles had made:

    Quote Originally Posted by CharlesC
    This section of the book resonates with the positive side of my Christian upbringing, presenting a coming together of Christianity and Zen which works for me; but I wonder if for many Christians and Zen Buddhists it is an unsatisfactory hybrid of the two traditions.
    Quote Originally Posted by CinnamonGal
    Quote Originally Posted by Kenneth
    I look at his references to the Bible and such more as an attempt to build a bridge, perhaps to make things more accessible to his Western audience who had a Christian background. We should also remember that this book was written over 30 years ago. Perhaps the fact that at least some people no longer feel the need for such bridges implies that Buddhism in the West is maturing?
    It is possible that quite on the contraray we will need some clarification for the Western public what Buddhism is about since it seems many people got in their heads (including myself till recently and almost everyone I meet now) that Buddhism is about trying to get into Nirvana and not to feel anything, to become detached from this world. I think we will need all help from the East and especially our Western teachers to help us deal with this misunderstanding. :shock:
    Yes, there are many misunderstandings about Buddhism in general floating about which urgently need clarification in the West, not to mention the needed clarification with respect to the differences between the various Buddhist traditions. No question about that. What I’m not so sure about is whether this should be approached using Christianity as a starting point to draw parallels. Maybe it's a sensible use of 'expedient means' for some, and that's great, but personally I can do without it. It's simply not my world.

    Gassho
    Ken
    Hi.
    Quite. but the best thing is to begin where "you" are and build from there, isnt it?
    May the force be with yolu
    Tb

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