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Thread: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

  1. #1

    Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    As I have written elsewhere, I have been really into some of the writings of Glenn Wallis. He’s a meditation teacher and professor at the University of Georgia. I’ve really connected with his translation of The Dhammapada and his Basic Teachings of the Buddha. I recently emailed him, and he has been very gracious in his responses. His website features some of his other writings. I particularly recommend his article called Touching the Earth. He told me that he was asked to write it by an editor of one of the Buddhist glossies, but then the editor thought it was too “upsetting” to publish. Anyway, I told him I thought it was great. You can find it on the following page. Just look for the link for the title of the piece:

    http://www.glennwallis.com/articles_etc

    I asked him a few questions about his orientation in Buddhism, and I thought his responses were compelling. Apparently, he had practiced Soto Zen for a number of years, but now focuses completely on the anapanasati tradition. He wrote,

    “I had a thriving Soto ground in Old City Philadelphia until several months ago. (We were an affiliate of Atlanta Soto Zen Center.) I considered it part of my own training as a meditation teacher and practitioner. I had to stop the group, though, because it became impossible for me to (1) reconcile Dogen's teachings with Gotama's, and (2) I found all the Japanese and Zen stuff to be a burden to the kind of stripped-down practice that you mention. … I don't consider myself a Buddhist; I consider myself a student of Siddhattha Gotama. He recommends the practice of anapanasati. I have verified the value of that practice in my own life. So, that is enough for me. Anything else -- being Buddhist, chanting, robes, affiliations, etc., etc. -- is superfluous. I would not say that a meditation community is unnecessary, though. Again, I say this out of experience, not theory.”

    I wrote him back asking him why he found it impossible to reconcile Dogen’s teachings and Gotama’s. He has yet to respond, but I am wondering if anyone here has some thoughts on this issue. I am interested because some teachers/writers in the Soto school, particularly Nishijima Roshi, seem to say that Dogen taught exactly what Gotama taught. Any thoughts?

    Thanks,
    Keith

  2. #2

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Hi,

    Thank you for your post. First I would like to comment on the title. Your title suggests an overtly adversarial relationship (with undertones of violence) which I think is an unfortunate orientation. But perhaps you view any difference in philosophy this way. Perhaps, even, you enjoy conflict, who can say? I would have titled this thread "comparison of Gautama and Dogen teachings".

    First, the teachings of Gautama - a small note. I believe it is significant that the earliest writings were written 500 years after Gautama died. I therefore posit that we don't actually know what Gautama said. However the Pali Canon remains a useful set of teachings for those who find them so. And that, I believe is all that matters. And by saying "useful" , I do not wish to imply anything demeaning or petty. If the Pali Canon teachings are of minor or major help to any person in their understanding, then this is all that matters. I believe that it is a fallacy to say "this must be "valid" because this particular person said it is". And that the position of "validity based on source" is in itself based on a perjorative which is extrinsic to the actual words.

    Can someone provide a definition of anapanasati? I read the "core instructions" in the reference in Wikipedia, however this may not be the best general description. But, based on the 16 meditation practices listed as comprising the meditation process of anapanasati, frankly shikantaza is far more "stripped down". However, a more structured process is often useful for some people. Anapanasati also seems to advocate the rejection of emotion that I have found in other Theravadan writings. But both the anapanasati instructions and shikantaza emphasize awareness during sitting, but the anapanasati instructions seem to emphasize a conscious focusing of one's attention while shikantaza seems to emphasize an undirected awareness in "just sitting".

    As for "I had to stop the group, though, because it became impossible for me to (1) reconcile Dogen's teachings with Gotama's, and (2) I found all the Japanese and Zen stuff to be a burden to the kind of stripped-down practice that you mention" I consider it of questionable ethics that he stopped a group (which presumably was of benefit to the people attending, otherwise why would they show up) instead of continuing to be of assistance to these people, or at least found another teacher to take over, if they wanted the services of one. But perhaps the above quoted sentence does not accutaely reflect how things happened. As for chanting, robes, etc. Dogen in various places in the Shobogenzo emphasizes the absolute importance of meditation and even recommends excluding chanting, rituals, intellectual debate, bell-ringing, etc. As described in the Shobogenzo, zen monastic life at the time seems to have included very little, if any, meditation at all.

    thank you for your time,

    rowan

  3. #3

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Quote Originally Posted by ros
    First I would like to comment on the title. Your title suggests an overtly adversarial relationship (with undertones of violence) which I think is an unfortunate orientation. But perhaps you view any difference in philosophy this way. Perhaps, even, you enjoy conflict, who can say? I would have titled this thread "comparison of Gautama and Dogen teachings".
    The title was a complete and utter tongue-in-cheek joke, a sort of commentary on a lot of the Buddhist sectiarism out there. As I was thinking of a title, I actually thought of Brad Warner's penchant for monster movies, and I thought the title would be funny. Perhaps I failed to make that clear.

    You don't know me from Adam, Rowan, and you are still rather new here at Treeleaf, so let me clarify that I do not "view any difference in philosophy this way." If you were familar with many of my previous posts (which I don't expect you do be), you would see that I am quite the univeralist, moreso than some others here. You write, "Perhaps, even, you enjoy conflict, who can say?" Who can say? I can. In fact, I do not "enjoy" conflict at all. I avoid it as much as possible. However, perhaps, you like sitirring it up where there is none. Who can say? If not, I wonder why you began your reponse in the manner that you did.

    Regarding Wallis's reasons for stopping his Soto group, as you say, we don't know the whole story. I know he currently leads another meditation group. Perhaps it's with the same people. Who knows? But, it can also be said that he made the correct decision for stopping the Soto group, if he couldn't continue it in good faith. Perhaps that was the right path for him and that group. But, again, this is all conjecture, and it was not meant to be the focus of this thread.

  4. #4

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith
    The title was a complete and utter tongue-in-cheek joke, a sort of commentary on a lot of the Buddhist sectiarism out there. As I was thinking of a title, I actually thought of Brad Warner's penchant for monster movies, and I thought the title would be funny. Perhaps I failed to make that clear.
    FWIW...I got the joke. :mrgreen:

  5. #5

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith
    Quote Originally Posted by ros
    First I would like to comment on the title. Your title suggests an overtly adversarial relationship (with undertones of violence) which I think is an unfortunate orientation. But perhaps you view any difference in philosophy this way. Perhaps, even, you enjoy conflict, who can say? I would have titled this thread "comparison of Gautama and Dogen teachings".
    The title was a complete and utter tongue-in-cheek joke, a sort of commentary on a lot of the Buddhist sectiarism out there. As I was thinking of a title, I actually thought of Brad Warner's penchant for monster movies, and I thought the title would be funny. Perhaps I failed to make that clear.

    You don't know me from Adam, Rowan, and you are still rather new here at Treeleaf, so let me clarify that I do not "view any difference in philosophy this way." If you were familar with many of my previous posts (which I don't expect you do be), you would see that I am quite the univeralist, moreso than some others here. You write, "Perhaps, even, you enjoy conflict, who can say?" Who can say? I can. In fact, I do not "enjoy" conflict at all. I avoid it as much as possible. However, perhaps, you like sitirring it up where there is none. Who can say? If not, I wonder why you began your reponse in the manner that you did.

    Regarding Wallis's reasons for stopping his Soto group, as you say, we don't know the whole story. I know he currently leads another meditation group. Perhaps it's with the same people. Who knows? But, it can also be said that he made the correct decision for stopping the Soto group, if he couldn't continue it in good faith. Perhaps that was the right path for him and that group. But, again, this is all conjecture, and it was not meant to be the focus of this thread.
    Hi,

    I merely wrote what occurred to me and in the order that it occurred to me (the title came first, what can I say)?. I only said "perhaps". I certainly did not nor would not presume to know anything about you. It is regretable if it seemed otherwise. As for Wallis stopping the group, again I can only write based on what was written. And, as it was written, I felt there was an important ethical issue which I wanted to mention.

    rowan

  6. #6

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Hey Guys,

    Lets not conflict about not being in conflict! :shock: I liked the title and thought it was very funny. Also, a good question! One of my favorite topics in fact.

    I have not yet read more than a few pages of the article you provided, Keith. I will do so in the next day or so. But the subject is so important, that I wanted to jump in with my standard "answer" to such things.

    First off, I am now reading and rereading some very good books on the life of the Buddha: In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology from the Pali Cannon by Ven. Bhikku Bodhi, The Life of the Buddha by Ven. Bhikku Nanamoli, and the wonderful What the Buddha Taught by Prof. Walpola Rahula.

    In my reading of those and other original writings of the Buddha, it becomes perfectly clear (in my view at least) that what Dogen taught is just what the Buddha taught, which is precisely what we are practicing today.

    And also Buddha was Buddha, Dogen was Dogen and Keith is Keith.

    "Huh?" you say? Let me explain ...

    The Buddha lived 2500 years ago in ancient India, and Dogen about 1300 years after that in medieval Japan. Keith lives in that strange world known as 2008 Miami. Certainly, some changes arose along the way on some superficial matters, and in outer forms. For example, the Chinese made Zen Practice very Chinese, the Japanese very medieval Japanese, and now we are making it very Western.

    However, the Heart of the Buddha's teachings ... the Four Noble Truths, Non-Self, Non-Attachment, the Middle Way, etc. etc., here now as much as it was there then.

    On the other hand some other stuff is, well, changed. For example, when Buddhism came to China it was heavily influenced by, and pretty much merged with, Taoism (not to mention that it was already "Mahayana Buddhism" by that time, a very different flavor from the original). The result was this little thing we now call "Zen Buddhism". So, congratulations, we are already "Taoists" and not just "Buddhists". When it got to Japan, the Japanese added Japanese culture to it. In the West, we are now making some very good changes (although we have to, of course, try to avoid bad changes). These good changes include equality of the sexes and a greater emphasis on lay practice.

    But it is still Buddhism. What Dogen taught was Buddhism. What we do around Treeleaf (I do believe) is as Buddhism as Buddhism can be.

    I will even go so far as to say (and this is the kind of statement that has gotten me into all kinds of trouble on E-Sangha and such) that maybe, just maybe, later Buddhism actually made some big and important "improvements" to the Buddha's original formulation with all those additions, and a couple of thousand years of working out the kinks and bugs. It is much like saying that Buddha was Henry Ford, who first thought up the brilliant idea of sticking 4 wheels on an internal combustion engine, but now we can drive a Prius! I even say that maybe, just maybe, the Buddha was not infallible on every darn thing and, while he was 90% right in his proposals, he also had some klunkers and narrow ideas here and there ... like the whole thing about an overly mechanical view of rebirth ...

    According to Buddhism if a human does not obtain nirvana or enlightenment, as it is known, the person cannot escape the cycle of death and rebirth and are inevitably be reborn into the 6 possible states beyond this our present life, these being in order from the highest to lowest;

    Heaven. In Buddhism there are 37 different levels of heaven where beings experience peace and long lasting happiness without suffering in the heavenly environment.

    Human life. In Buddhism we can be reborn into human life over and over, either wealthy or poor, beautiful or not so, and every state between and both as it it is served up to us. Anything can happen, as is found in human life and society all around us as we are familiar with in the day to day human world in is myriad of possibilities. What we get is a result of our Karma of what we have dragged with us from previous existences and how it manifests in our temporary present lives.

    Asura. A spiritual state of Demi-Gods but not the happy state experienced by the gods in the heavens above this state. The Demi-Gods are consumed with jealousy, because unlike humans, they can clearly see the superior situation of the gods in the heavens above them. They constantly compete and struggle with the gods due to their dissatisfaction with their desires from the others.

    Hungry Ghost. This spiritual realm of those who committed excessive amounts of evil deeds and who are obsessed with finding food and drink which they cannot experience and thus remain unsatisfied and tortured by the experience. They exhaust themselves in the constant fruitless searching.

    Animals. This realm is visible to humans and it is where spirits of humans are reborn if they have killed animals or have committed a lot of other evil acts. Animals do not have the freedom that humans would experience due to being a subject constantly hunted by humans, farmed and used in farming, also as beasts for entertainment.

    Hell. This realm is not visible to humans. It is a place where beings born there experience a constant state of searing pain and the various types of hell realms reads like a variety of horrific torture chambers. Those with a great deal of negative Karma can remain in such places for eons of time.

    http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma5/viewdeath.html
    Yeah, maybe ... 37 Heavens, huh? Our Zen Practice has tended to turn away from that mechanical view, to a "here and now, let rebirth take care of rebirth, chop wood and fetch water" attitude. In fact, the above has come to take on the meaning of "we are reborn here and now, every moment, and create all the heavens and hells in our lives right in each moment" meaning ...

    But I diverge from our subject.

    The final fact is that, even if later Buddhism is not an "improvement", it is just its own path. No path is better than others if someone finds their right path, to each his own path. Some folks will benefit from the Zen path, some from Anapanasati or even Anarchy or Ana-Baptism. To each his own, and one size does not fit all. While the Buddha sure didn't teach Ana-Baptism (and probably not Anarchy ... sorry Erik), he sure did preach a lot of different things, expedient means, to different audiences and students with different needs. I am sure that, as an educator Keith, you can relate. If you read the Pali texts, he recommended many different approaches to meditation ... although all came back to his basic philosophy (Four Noble Truths, etc.) that we still faithfully maintain today.

    And I have not even mentioned the historical reality that Ros alluded to, namely, that what the Buddha said was an oral tradition for hundreds of years, passed down orally alone, until somebody finally wrote it all down hundreds of years after he was dead ... and then all the Buddhists immediately set to disagreeing about which of them had the "authentic" teachings.

    I have not read all of Mr. Wallis paper, but if he writes this, he is full of malarchy (at least for anyone but Mr. Wallis. It may be a true statement for him, in his life. It is not true in my experience):

    I had to stop the group, though, because it became impossible for me to (1) reconcile Dogen's teachings with Gotama's, and (2) I found all the Japanese and Zen stuff to be a burden to the kind of stripped-down practice that you mention. … I don't consider myself a Buddhist; I consider myself a student of Siddhattha Gotama. He recommends the practice of anapanasati.


    The Buddha recommended "anapanasati" meditation and other practices of meditation. It was by no means the only meditation the Buddha taught. And what he means by all the "Japanese and Zen stuff", well, that is perhaps because Mr. Wallis never learned to see beyond the gift wrapping to the gift inside. One does not need to eat with chopsticks to practice Zen, and one can use a fork Western style (or even your hands). But if you practice eating with fork or chopsticks or hands as if it is the whole universe eating in that moment ... that is Zen. If Mr. Wallis missed that fact, then I hope he finds what he is looking for in the road he has taken.

    So, in conclusion ...

    Dogen was different from Shakyamuni Buddha, who are both different from Keith.

    But when Keith is sitting a moment of Zazen ... perfectly whole, just complete unto itself, without borders and duration, not long or short, nothing to add or take away, containing all moments and no moments in "this one moment" ... then there is not the slightest gap between you and the Buddha.

    Gassho, J

  7. #7

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    To each his own, and one size does not fit all. While the Buddha sure didn't teach Ana-Baptism (and probably not Anarchy ... sorry Erik),

    For those keeping score (and DHS), I am not Anarchist.......not that there is anything wrong with it. :mrgreen:

  8. #8

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Hello Keith!

    Great article, thanks for the link.

    Gassho,

    Hans

  9. #9

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    The Buddha recommended "anapanasati" meditation and other practices of meditation. It was by no means the only meditation the Buddha taught.
    I agree. Jundo hits on something here I have always had a beef with. There is apparently in the West (maybe it happens in the East too, I don't know) a tendency to try to "universalize" each specific teaching. The Buddha told this one guy this one thing, and this other guy another thing, and 2500 years later folks try to take one of those specific teachings and turn it into a universal teaching for everyone. For me, the wiser course is to read many of the Buddha's teachings and seek to practice the spirit or the common-denominator in those teachings.

    If Buddha was just a man (I think he was and according to the sutras he said he was), then his ideas can be honed, shaped, and developed as the times changed and social conventions changed. The core, Buddha-nature, and all that is unchanged (because there is nothing there I suppose) but the surface-level stuff changed to fit the culture. It had to. Without those changes, Buddhism would have died I think. I don't want to drive a Model-T. They were the bomb about 90 years ago, but they are not the most effective way to travel today. I prefer my Honda.

    Nice thread, Keith. I got the humor of the "showdown" thing. I often try to include irony in songwriting but have the same issue. Unless I am way over the top, saying something so ridiculous that there's no way it could be serious, then I always have folks who don't know me thinking it is a serious statement. About 10 years ago I wrote a song about 70s porn-star John Holmes. It was meant to be an illustration of how men should be careful what they wish for (free sex, large organs, etc.). Many people, however, thought it was a tribute to him. So instead of hearing a song about a wasted life, they heard a song glorifying the pornstar lifestyle. I finally reached the point that I said "Once I write it and put it out there, I have to let go of people's understanding of it."

    Rowan, I can see how you might interpret Keith's humor as anything but. Another example of how pitiful the written word is at conveying what we actually mean.

    Later,
    Bill

  10. #10

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith
    I wrote him back asking him why he found it impossible to reconcile Dogen’s teachings and Gotama’s. He has yet to respond, but I am wondering if anyone here has some thoughts on this issue. I am interested because some teachers/writers in the Soto school, particularly Nishijima Roshi, seem to say that Dogen taught exactly what Gotama taught. Any thoughts?
    So. Keith, what's your take on your own question? :wink: :?:

  11. #11

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Hi Folks,

    Thanks very much for your replies. I'm happy to know that you saw humor/irony in my title. Hans, I'm glad you liked the article. What particularly did you like about it? Bill, you make some excellent points; I'd like to hear that John Holmes song!

    Jundo, thank you for the extremely clear reply. I tend to agree. I'd like to know your thoughts on the article when you get a chance to read the whole piece. I'm happy to know that Gotama taught more than one way of meditation. You're right, as an educator, I can certainly relate. It’s called "differentiated instruction." It's a fancy name for saying "teach 'em in the way that they learn." There’s no one way to learn, and no one way to teach. In his book, Compass of Zen, Seung Sahn argues that as his teaching career progressed, the Buddha began teaching one way (Theravada), and then as people began to understand more and more, he eventually ended up teaching Zen. Now, I am not sure if it's as cut and dried, and as linear, as that, but he seems to make a similar point as you. Can you direct me to some of the early writings where Gotama teaches other forms? I've read the Anapanasati Sutta, in addition to Larry Rosenberg's very good book Breath by Breath, and it seems that that way of meditation is pretty detailed, and perhaps unnecessarily complex. As Rowan said, shikantaza seems much more "stripped down."

    Erik asked what my take on the whole thing is. Well, as Jundo knows, I tend to get a little too focused on the “trappings” of Zen and Buddhism. I’ve owned (and given away) way too many Buddha statues, books, singing bowls, malas, etc. etc. I now see the futility of this nutty habit. For so long, I was way too focused on playing the part of a Buddhist, sometimes to the detriment of actually practicing. However, while realizing this vicious circle I put myself in is helpful, it doesn’t stop the thoughts from coming. It recently reared its ugly head with all the talk of sewing a new rakusu and going through Jukai again. I was way too excited about getting a new rakusu. I thought how cool it would be to eventually sit with a group and have this cool denim or green rakusu. Everyone would be asking about it, and …. (Well, you get the picture.). I think this is overly romantic, idealistic, and essentially immature way of viewing it.

    I feel the Precepts are very important to my practice, but I have decided not to go through Jukai again (I’ve done it twice already – once with Jundo, and once with a Kwan Um group), because I’m too caught up in the superficial, what Uchiyama Roshi called Buddhist “toys.” Anyway, I feel I need to be in a place in my practice where I don’t have too many toys, perhaps one little Buddha statue and a zafu, and that’s it. In addition, I LOVE to read. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I can spend all day in a bookstore, reading and drinking coffee. It’s my repose sometimes. Now, I long to read about Zen and Buddhism, but sometimes I read way too much and get way too caught up in words, words, words. So, it’s important to me to have just a few books that are important for my practice, such as The Dhammapada, a few early suttas, and maybe a good compilation of the “best of” Dogen. Otherwise, like the statues, bells, and rakusus, books become a monkey on my back.

    So, to make a very long story short (I know, way too late for that!), I really like Wallis' article because I am attracted to a very stripped down, unpretentious way of practicing that he talks about. I want to sit Zazen everyday, and not worry too much about ritual, bells, whistles, robes, and other external and cultural stuff. Those aspects of the practice may really help others, and that is great. I would never insult or tell anybody they shouldn’t engage in any type of practice, if it assists them to balance and peace. But, I think it’s important to my practice to focus on the essentials – sitting, trying to live according to the Precepts, and gaining some guidance and inspiration from a modicum of reading.

    Eric, now that I've written all that, I see that you were asking me about my question about comparing Dogen and Buddha. Oops! ops: Well, while I feel I have a decent understanding of Gotama's "basic teachings", I don't feel I know enough about Dogen's more complex writings (save Fukanzazengi, Bendowa, and Instructions to the Tenzo) to personally make an intelligent comparison. That's really why I asked the question. But I certainly have learned from the responses here.

    Soooo sorry that this was soooooo long!

    Peace,
    Keith

  12. #12

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    deleted by Will

  13. #13

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    When excited, be excited. When obsessive, let the obsessiveness be.
    Well, with this logic, it seems I should (a) when excited, be excited; and when obsessive, be obsessive; or (b) when excited, let the excitement be; and when obsessive, let the obsessive be. Why is being excited any better than being obsessive? Why is being obsessive any worse than being excited? Remember the lesson not to pick and choose?

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    Don''t try to avoid it, don't try anything.
    Don't try to avoid what? Actually, trying to avoid something that causes self and others suffering may be the absolute best, most healthful option. If you knew how much money I've spent over the years on Buddhist "stuff", you may have different advice. My wife sure does! In addition, I would say that a child molester should certainly avoid being around children, and a heroine addict should certainly avoid being around that substance. And why should I try nothing? This seems pretty defeatist to me. Seung Sahn consistently taught the "try mind." He said "only try for 1000 years, and then keep trying."

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    No "one" thing can cause obsessiveness. Rakusus don't cause it. Rupas (Buddha statues) Don't cause it. Bowing doesn't.
    I don't believe I said that any of these things "caused" my obsession.

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    Neither does anything that you can see, touch, taste, smell, hear.
    Well, we certainly know from modern psychology that this is completely false. In fact, ANYTHING that we can see, touch, taste, smell, and/or hear can cause obsession, if one possess a certain psychological make up and/or is brought up in certain environments. See the child molester and heroine addict reference above.

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    In avoiding it, you learn absolutely nothing. Only how to avoid it (but you never really can).
    How in the wide world of sports can you say with any certainly at all, what I can and cannot learn from anything that I experience? This seems extremely presumptive and arrogant on your part. As a pedagogue, it has been my experience that we learn something from every single human experience, without exception. Please remember what Sawaki Roshi said, "We cannot even exchange one fart with someone else."

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    Quoting Keishin:
    Quote Originally Posted by will
    it's not what you think...
    How can Keishin, you, or anyone else say it's not what I think? Again, this seems pretty arrogant and presumptive. It actually may be exactly what I think.

    Will, before you or anyone else can attempt to actively "teach" another, it helps to actually try to get to know that person, at least a little, before one attempts to dispense his/her "wisdom." In this way, the "teacher" is better able to tailor the "lesson" to that individual. This also avoids making grand assumptions about another. To rely on hackneyed zennisms may not be the best route for everyone. In fact, it may only put another on guard and fall on deaf ears, regardless of one’s intentions. This is part of my huge beef with Zen and some Zen teachers. One size does not fit all, and fortune-cookie wisdom is not always wise.

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    Have a good day.
    You too.

  14. #14

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Hi Jundo,

    As I got to thinking more about my response to you above, I must take something I said back. My issue is with my statement "I tend to agree." I wrote to Eric saying, "Well, while I feel I have a decent understanding of Gotama's 'basic teachings', I don't feel I know enough about Dogen's more complex writings (save Fukanzazengi, Bendowa, and Instructions to the Tenzo) to personally make an intelligent comparison. That's really why I asked the question. But I certainly have learned from the responses here."

    So, upon reflection, I must take back my "I tend to agree." I honestly have no basis to agree or disagree with your saying that Dogen and Gotama taught exactly the same thing. While I still think your response was clear, and I did learn something from it, if I am to take Gotama's teaching seriously, I must have some knowledge/experience in what I am doing/saying. If not, it's all just words and empty concepts. I hope you understand.

    In addition, you quoted something that the Buddha supposedly said about heavens and rebirth and whatnot. Let me ask, isn't this kind of the same thing as picking and choosing from the Bible to justify one's preferences? Perhaps, Glenn Wallis is doing the same to justify his take on the Buddha'a teachings. And it seems that other teachers do this with Dogen. They pick and choose partcular quotes to justify their positions. It's done all the time, and sometimes it's harmless. But, some writings like the Bible have been used to justfy both helpful, healthful stuff, as well as evil stuff. I am sure Dogen has some pretty nutty things that he wrote about, no? I read in the Zuimonki where, to justify eating meat when one is sick, he said that there's actually a demon on one's head that is actually eating the meat, so the Precept of not killing is not broken. Hmmmm ... I don't think so. So, my point is that anybody can use any text to justify just about any point of view.

    Peace,
    Keith

  15. #15

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    deleted by Will

  16. #16

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Will,

    Enough with the fortune cookies. Can you speak/write in a way that doesn't sound like Mr. Miagi?

    Now let me be as crystal clear as I can: there are some things I know. These things have been empirically tested and retested from my own life experience. You, nor Jundo (sorry Jundo!), nor Dogen, nor Gotama, nor my mother, nor anybody else can tell me that I don't know what I know. However, I will be the first, second, third,... and last person to say that there are many, MANY things I do not know. I say, without a nanosecond of hesitation, that there are plenty more things I do not know than what I know. However, again, you are not in a position at this point to tell me what I do not know (except things about you and your life). Perhaps, if we knew each other better, I'd welcome and seek out your views and advice about my life. However, since that is not the case, you're presumptions about me and about what I know and do not know are not welcome. In other words, try to fight the urge to offer me any fortune cookie-cutter advice unless I request it from you. Thanks.

    And by the way, I find your "Have Fun" to be condescending.

  17. #17

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Hey Keith,

    Not much really to say here that you don't already know, I think.

    Bottom line maybe: You have to find your own Buddha, Dogen ... Keith too.

    I don't really know who any of those folks were or are. Everytime I pick up book on Buddha by a different author or translator, I encounter a new flavor of Buddha. Same with Dogen. I can read the same passage of the same chapter of Dogen on Tuesday and Wednesday and get two very different feelings from it. Heck, I don't even really know the ins and outs of who my own mother was, or my wife or my kid ... they are all complicated, multi-faceted people, constantly changing.

    I don't even know 100% who I am, cause my life changes from morning to night, day in day out. There are 10,001 "Jundos" (or "James's" as it says on my drivers license).

    All I can tell you is that the "Dogen" and the "Buddha" I found for my life sure works well in my life. I think it will too for some other folks (not everyone for sure) with similar inclinations, thus I have the guts to try to teach something. I am pretty sure that the "Dogen" and "Buddha" that I have found in my own life are, at their core, what the historical "Dogen" and "Buddha" were preaching about. (I hope Mr. Wallis feels the same about his Buddha). I think so.

    But ultimately, I don't really care because of another old fortune cookie from Master Lin Chi:

    If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him ... same for Dogen.

    Here is how I interpret that (again, I don't know what Lin Chi really meant, or who Lin Chi was, so I just tell you what I think he meant):

    To me it means this: I like the "Buddha" and "Dogen" that I have encountered in my life so much that, should it turn out that the "real" "Buddha" and "Dogen" were actually very different (though I don't think they were) ... I will keep the one's I've got anyway! :lol:

    Anyway, Keith ... nothing I can say on any of these issues is worth a pile of dog poop.

    You have to find your own Buddha and Dogen and Keith.

    Gassho, 1 of 10,001 Jundos

  18. #18

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Thank you, Jundo. I appreciate this very, very much. Now I can, in good faith, say that I agree with this post!

    Gassho,
    Keith

  19. #19

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    I just deleted a post. First time in the 1 1/2 year history of this forum I have ever done that.*

    This stops now, please. We are all in this little rowboat together. The only rule around here, besides the one about Zazen, is to be kind to each other. Folks can say what they want and need to say, but in constructive ways.

    Plus, we are all a*holes to somebody.

    Gassho, Jundo the Gatekeeper

    PS- *Except for one post long ago with a really bad dirty joke. Might have left it if it had been funny.

  20. #20

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I just deleted a post. First time in the 1 1/2 year history of this forum I have ever done that.*
    And I missed it?? Damn! :wink: It must have been bad if Jundo deleted it. :|

    Peace,
    Keith

  21. #21

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Plus, we are all a*holes to somebody.
    ....and you know that old joke about the time the a**hole went on strike. :mrgreen:

  22. #22

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him ... same for Dogen.
    for me it always looked like maybe if you meet the Buddha you will listen to him without thinking much about what is said.
    and as smart and true as his words might be it isn't always true for you, and it might hold you back from actually learning and experiencing things on your own.

    my favorite quote of the Buddha would be...

    " Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if i have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense "


    which might explain my interpretation of killing a Buddha.

  23. #23

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    My understanding of Lin Chi's teaching ("If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him") is that he's saying not to get too attached to concepts. I believe Buddha can be read as our limited concepts of reality. And if we get overly attached to our own concepts, no matter what they are, we cease to be open to the unfolding moment, in whatever way it unfolds.

    Of course, I can be full of it (as I often am).

    L'Chaim,
    Keith

  24. #24

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    .

  25. #25

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Hi Charles,

    Quote Originally Posted by CharlesC
    Oneness, living in the present moment, mindfulness, feeling compassion for everyone around me, etc, etc. I am trying to escape living via fantasies. I don't want to just swap in another set of fantasies of what I should be like.
    Excellent point! I think Zen, among other teachings/traditions, does set these "standards" that can lead one to go deeper into fantasy. I think this can manifest itself, for example, in one taking on all the surface trappings of what a "Zen guy/girl" should dress, act, speak, eat (etc.) like. It can also put a great deal of stress on one. "Oh man, I'm not living in the moment, feeling compassion for everyone, etc. I suck."

    The "gold standard" for me is asking, "Does this work for me? Do I feel more balanced, peaceful, compassionate than before I took up this practice?" If so, than I think it's a good practice. But, I also don't think it's for everyone (and I'm certainly not suggesting it's not for you), and that is perfectly okay. Perhaps some people stay with it out of some guilt or fear of failure, or something. Proper guidance from good teachers and friends can help a lot, but in the end, it's up the individual to determine whether its a good practice for him/her or not.

    Thanks,
    Keith

  26. #26

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith
    Hi Charles,

    Quote Originally Posted by CharlesC
    Oneness, living in the present moment, mindfulness, feeling compassion for everyone around me, etc, etc. I am trying to escape living via fantasies. I don't want to just swap in another set of fantasies of what I should be like.
    Excellent point! I think Zen, among other teachings/traditions, does set these "standards" that can lead one to go deeper into fantasy. I think this can manifest itself, for example, in one taking on all the surface trappings of what a "Zen guy/girl" should dress, act, speak, eat (etc.) like. It can also put a great deal of stress on one. "Oh man, I'm not living in the moment, feeling compassion for everyone, etc. I suck."

    The "gold standard" for me is asking, "Does this work for me? Do I feel more balanced, peaceful, compassionate than before I took up this practice?" If so, than I think it's a good practice. But, I also don't think it's for everyone (and I'm certainly not suggesting it's not for you), and that is perfectly okay. Perhaps some people stay with it out of some guilt or fear of failure, or something. Proper guidance from good teachers and friends can help a lot, but in the end, it's up the individual to determine whether its a good practice for him/her or not.

    Thanks,
    Keith
    I so much agree. Of course. you have to have some blind trust in the Practice at the start, because it may take awhile to really notice the effects (even though we are seeking nothing from this practice, it does have good effects ... although they often creep up on us slowly and almost imperceptibly).

    And also, some folks come to it, and go away from it, a few times ... one of the best ways to realize the benefits of the practice is to stop for awhile (Keith, I think that describes you, me and and bunch of us). I found, after stopping for a time, that I missed the balance and perspective it provided.

    But otherwise, yes, if it doesn't work for someone then it just doesn't. Maybe try Scientology instead? 8)

    Oh, and yes, don't get caught up in some idealized fiction about how you think a "Zen Guy" should talk, walk, dress, etc. every day of his/her life. As I like to say, there are moments in which we are in the present moment, and there are moments when we are anything but. I think that this practice is more about being "one" with this crazy universe and with the human condition (not two things by the way). Most books on the Buddha and the great Zen masters completely fail to present these personalities as 3-dimensional people. I don't like great Teachers and Buddhas who are presented as statues and robots. I wrote this in the "Famous" Buddha-bot "sit-a-long" (the recording is now gone) ...

    Buddha-bot

    The hyper-idealized, super-human images of the Buddha and Ancestors contained in the Sutras and other Buddhist storybooks have (in many ways) done Buddhism a great disservice. I think. People writing such religious legends dip the hero in gold, place him on a platform, and omit the humanity and rough edges (give me the imperfect Greek or Norse Gods over that!) .

    Surely, if we were to travel back in time to meet the actual Buddha and others, we'd find people who were people ...

    ... wondrous, spiritual, good, wise people perhaps, but people nonetheless. Not statues, not gods, not all-perfect saints. Assuming that even the best of human beings will have a few pimples, bad habits, fears, prejudices and all scattered imperfections, would they not too? Should we, thus, be disappointed at who we'd find?

    No! In fact, it gives me hope: For so many Buddhist Practitioners misunderstand the point as the attainment of unreal, extreme, otherworldly, emotionally removed, bizarre states. No wonder some folks talk of countless lives required to achieve such fantastic goals. Instead, our Buddhist practices and Buddhist philosophy have survived for millenia simply because real people find real benefits in this world, in ordinary life.

    Our Zen practice is for our living as truly "human" human beings ... not unerring saints, not robots, not machines.


    Beware of the BUDDHABOTS!
    Very well said and described, Keith.

    Gassho, Jundo

  27. #27
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    If we are studying/following Dogen's improvements/refinements of what Buddha taught, then why isn't this called Dogenism? (This is a rhetorical question not deserving of a response. The name is NOT important.)

    I have always loved that saying "If you see Buddha on the road, kill him." Can you imagine Christians saying "If you see Jesus on the road, crucify him"? Lots wrong with that last statement, I know, apples and oranges. But it is an interesting contrast, no?

  28. #28

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Hi, Everyone,

    I like the term "Buddhabot".

    In the Tibetan lineage that I studied with for a while, I saw a lot of that. What's worse, is that I tried to be that! Would'nt say "sh** if my mouth was full of it".

    I'm not condeming them, people need to do what they need to do, and I met a lot of very good people. It's just that it did'nt feel right for me, I felt insincere in my practice both on and off the mat. I learned a whole lot from them and I'm grateful for that.

    Not that there's a "me" or a "them".

    Many Blessings,
    Lora

  29. #29

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    This has been another of many very good threads imo. Thanks to all of the above for their contributions! Anything i would have said is already above!

    Gassho
    Dirk

  30. #30

    Re: Showdown: Dogen vs. Gotama

    Lin Chi was probably making a reference to the Susthitamati-pariprccha sutra - translated into English as "How to Kill with the Sword of Wisdom" in A Treasury of Mahayana Sutras. In it the god Well-Abiding Mind asks Manjushri how to cultivate pure conduct. Manjushri responds by drawing his sword and charging at the Buddha. Ha ha, what a kidder, that guy!

    That was quite a good article, but I kept thinking that someone could have written pretty much the same experience from the opposite direction. Y'know: "I used to be a solitary iconoclast, but now that I've gotten over my big ego, I quite enjoy bowing and dressing up in robes and chanting in Japanese."

    My 4 year old niece has a much-loved book about a little hermit crab. He starts off naked and alone, but quickly acquires a lovely seashell home, camouflage, decoration and companions. Of course, at the end he outgrows his shell again and has to move on. I think it's very healthy to realise that 'Zen' doesn't fit anymore into the conceptual framework we've built around it. So we put it in a bigger box! Maybe if we can keep on growing up, and don't get stuck, we can graduate to a shell as big as the entire ocean.

    Or, as Chan Master Sheng Yen put it: Bodhi is known only to those who have determined to follow the path of bodhi. As one follows this path, one's practice will deepen, and the path will widen and widen until the path disappears. (Song of Mind, p140)

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