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Thread: ZEN's Cultural Flavors?

  1. #1

    ZEN's Cultural Flavors?

    Another question...
    Each tradition (religious, philosophical etc) aquires a particular flavor depending on a culture it grows within.

    How do the "flavors" of ZEN (practice, rituals, even philosophical details) vary dependent on the cultures it grew within? ... for example this community/forrum (although world-wide) seem to grew out of Japanese culture).

    Or is the tradition consistent a cross all cultures? Is it even possible?

    Curious
    Gautami

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Unsui Shohei's Avatar
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    Re: ZEN's Cultural Flavors?

    Hi ya
    Im no expert on such matters but i think the Japanese leaning here is because Treeleaf is a Soto Zen which was Chinese Zen, brought to Japan. I think there is a pinch of every culture, Zen Buddhism or Buddhism in general, has been passed on through. Also i understand there is quite a bit of difference between a Soto zen group in N.A then say Japan or UK, each would have there own cultural nuances. Im basing this on what i've read, of course. Not by direct experience so take it for what it is

    Gassho
    Dirk

  3. #3

    Re: ZEN's Cultural Flavors?

    Hi Guatami,

    That is something you need to develop an eye for over time. For example, there are aspects of the Buddha's message beyond time and space, applicable to any culture or era too. There are also aspects added by Indian culture, Chinese or Japanese or Korean culture, now Western culture.

    Some of those things have been very useful additions (for example, the new role of women in Buddhism in Western countries). Some are just cultural aspects that can be kept or left (using chopsticks instead of a fork, wearing robes of a certain cut). Some are downright negative (for example, the Western impatience for "quick" results and instant satisfactions). I could make a list of "positives" and "negatives" that Buddhism has picked up as it has moved from country to country, century to century ... and I often do mention them here.

    One has to learn to pick and choose, see which is which, keep the good things and leave behind the rest.

    Gassho, Jundo (A Westerner Living in Japan)

  4. #4

    Re: ZEN's Cultural Flavors?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hi Guatami,

    Some are downright negative (for example, the Western impatience for "quick" results and instant satisfactions).

    Gassho, Jundo (A Westerner Living in Japan)
    Hi Jundo,

    I am not so sure that impatience is "Western". I seem to recall a lot of medieval chinese chan writings mentioning impatience in beginning students.

    And in general, I am concerned about the generalizations made about "western culture/society/people" and "eastern culture/society/people". Maybe, I really mean to say that they are ethnic fantasies based on limited experience, often from fictional sources. Of course your experience is very much not limited!

    gassho,
    rowan

  5. #5

    Re: ZEN's Cultural Flavors?

    one thing I did notice with some western adoptions; With one of the Shin temples out here where I live,and a few other " BCA" certified temples I've passed through, it's that many are in large modeled off a " church" .

    To me I really did not see it really as a big difference, perhaps done more for the aesthetic comfort of a familiar setting it may offer those in the west raised on more western traditions and faith...where there is a difference, there is a similarity, where one has it's up's, and downs is something I can't really focus on too much, as I'm no expert.

  6. #6

    Re: ZEN's Cultural Flavors?

    Just wanted to point out that the free (or more prominent) role of female monastics is not really just a western phenomenon. It's very much individual from country to country. For example in therevada the thailand and myanmar would not even think of having fully ordained female nuns yet in Sri Lanka from more modern times there is full ordination of women.

    Again Tibetan is Mahayana and does not fullly ordain women but in Taiwan there is something like 120,000 nuns vs 20,000 monks. I don't know what the reason is really. Buddhism in and of itself should have no gender bias.

    One of my teachers suggested that although the approach of western buddhism is very down to earth it dismisses the explainations of the universe and afterlife too quickiy and that cause and effect are an intrinic part of reality and not divorced from it. Further that a lot of students lack faith. However at the same time the greatest strength is free and sincere inquiry in to what is the truth. It's all a matter of balance really.

    I think that universally across all countries that those who practice tend to develop a balanced approach to finding out what is reality, what is truth, what is dhamma and how to lead a more content life. As it occurred to me and once when a western monastic also said in his experience as well, once you see something as being true and irrevocable no matter how many times your mind tries to convince you otherwise, you know deep down that you can't wallow in ignorance and continue acting as you may have in the past.

    mettha

  7. #7

    Re: ZEN's Cultural Flavors?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aswini

    One of my teachers suggested that although the approach of western buddhism is very down to earth it dismisses the explainations of the universe and afterlife too quickiy and that cause and effect are an intrinic part of reality and not divorced from it. Further that a lot of students lack faith. However at the same time the greatest strength is free and sincere inquiry in to what is the truth. It's all a matter of balance really.
    Hi Aswini,

    And many of the the explanations of the afterlife, Karma and a mechanical system of "rebirth" given by the Buddha and others thousands of years ago, and over centuries past, may be but quaint, and quite incorrect, imaginings of folks who had no more idea about the "after-life" than any other human being ... thus they cooked up fantasy stories and myths.

    Or not. In any event, it is not a central issue to Zen Practice.

    What will happen after our deaths will take care of itself (given too that the words "our" "after" and "death" can be dropped away).

    It was the Buddha who is said to have created the male and female divisions in the Sangha, proclaiming such things as that ...

    A bhikkhuni who has been admitted even a hundred years must pay homage to, get up for, reverentially salute and respectfully greet, a bhikkhu admitted that day [but the converse is not to be]. (Anguttara Nikaya 8:51)
    http://books.google.com/books?id=7AO9OL ... &ct=result


    That, and the proposals about the afterlife ... there are a few things about the teachings attributed to the Buddha (know one knows if he really taught such things, but it seems quite likely) that could use a change without serious impact on the rest of the teachings. I think the Buddha was just speaking as a man of his times.

    Gassho, Jundo

  8. #8

    Re: ZEN's Cultural Flavors?

    Hi Jundo,

    Where is the system of rebirth outlined in specific, mechanical detail? I haven't come across this yet -- the sutras I 've looked at often discuss rebirth, but in a abstract sort of way, often prefaced by a reference to the "divine eye" (suggestive of a visionary state).

    Is it in the Abhidhamma perhaps?

    Gassho,
    Rob

  9. #9

    Re: ZEN's Cultural Flavors?

    Hi Jundo,

    There are five additional rules for nuns (on top of quite a few) that are to mind quite ridiculous, definitely added later on by a sexist monk I assume. The one quoted is the most ridiculous of all
    A bhikkhuni who has been admitted even a hundred years must pay homage to, get up for, reverentially salute and respectfully greet, a bhikkhu admitted that day [but the converse is not to be]. (Anguttara Nikaya 8:51)
    .

    No teacher in the Theravada tradition other than sexist Thai or Burmese monks believes that one. I go to a theravadin monastery where trusted and respected female monastics don't have to engage in the idiot rule above, and in the early suttas there is a lot mention of nuns teaching monks, especially the younger ones I am assumming.

    There are also rules in the Vinaya about the hem of a bhikku should be such and such inches, but not many pay attention to it.

    It's important to note how many of the other major religions in the world fully ordain female monastics. Except for a few Anglican movements not many. It's also important to note the status of women in India today (very unequal in regards to a male for the average person) and then compare that to what it was like 2500 years ago, when women were regarded as little more than possesions for men. It was in that climate that Buddha ordained women and taught that women were the equal of men in regards to spirituality and enlightenment (yup, here comes the flaming). It wasn't coz buddha wanted to a radical or thought how the teachings would be viewed in a different world 2500 years down the track. It's simply because he saw reality for what it was, was compassionate and did the change that was necessary in his society of the time (even tho he needed encouragement from ananda). Also at that time he was get abuse from Hindu's because of the drastic change he was bringing about in that society with regards to lay people being monks and it was an added pressure for a new found monastic order to ordain women, which was unheard of at that time.

    The teachings regarding rebirth of course should not be taken just coz someone said so. Neither should the 4 noble truths, the 8-fold path, dependent origination, no-self or impermanency. All these came from sid's experience, but so did cause and effect, karma and rebirth. Needless to say intellectually and experiecially the other teachings are easier to see than rebirth. According to teachings it was on the night that buddha saw all his past lives and what caused him to keep on coming back. Now I definitely have not had that experience. For all Buddha could really have been a maniac or a quack, so who knows, unless one experiences it themselves.

    As for females and male monastics, a vow of celibacy is often broken. Closer proximity to each other kind of greases any temptations a nun or a monk may have, even though they teach the opposite sex on a regular basisc (and some monks and nuns break their vow celibacy vow with the lay people they teach). But in total, the commited monastics keep on walking the path.

  10. #10

    Re: ZEN's Cultural Flavors?

    Quote Originally Posted by robert
    Hi Jundo,

    Where is the system of rebirth outlined in specific, mechanical detail? I haven't come across this yet -- the sutras I 've looked at often discuss rebirth, but in a abstract sort of way, often prefaced by a reference to the "divine eye" (suggestive of a visionary state).
    Hi Rob,

    Gautama Buddha, at least through the Suttas attributed to him, could be quite specific about the effects of our Karma (volitional actions) "after death, upon dissolution of the body". Some have tried to explain this away as just his teaching method employing expedient means, as a teaching tool (for speaking to students coming from a Hindu background). Others have tried to take it as pure metaphor for the states we encounter (my words) "at each moment, here and now and through all time, a constant process of birth and death". Some have said the Buddha did not really say such things (these Sutta were first written down many generations after Buddha died in this life ... and were preserved as an oral tradition until then).

    But it is quite likely that, as a man living amid a Hindu world view some 2500 years ago, he said what he meant ... and meant what he said ... (References like the following appear many places in the old Sutta):

    "So, householders, it is by reason of conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, by reason of righteous conduct, that some beings here, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappear in a happy destination, even in the heavenly world.

    15. "If a householder who observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct, should wish: 'Oh, that on the dissolution of the body, after death, I might reappear in the company of the warrior-nobles of great property!' it is possible that on the dissolution of the body, after death, he may do so. Why is that? Because he observes conduct that is in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct.

    16. "If a householder who observes conduct is accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct, should wish: 'Oh, that on the dissolution of the body, after death, I might reappear in the company of the brahmans of great property!' it is possible...

    17. "If a householder who observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma,...'... I might reappear in the company of householders of great property!' it is possible...

    18. "If a householder who observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct, should wish: 'Oh, that on the dissolution of the body, after death, I might reappear in the company of the gods of the Four Kings!' it is possible that on the dissolution of the body, after death, he may do so. Why is that? Because he observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct.

    19. ...of the gods of the Realm of the Thirty-three...3
    20. ...of the gods that have Gone to Bliss...
    21. ...of the Contented gods...
    22. ...of the gods that Delight in Creating...
    23. ...of the gods that Wield Power over others' Creations...
    24. ...of the gods of Brahma's Retinue...
    25. ...of the Radiant gods...
    26. ...of the gods of Limited Radiance...
    27. ...of the gods of Measureless Radiance...
    28. ...of the gods of Streaming Radiance...
    29. ...of the Glorious gods...
    30. ...of the gods of Limited Glory...
    31. ...of the gods of Measureless Glory...
    32. ...of the gods of Refulgent Glory...
    33. ...of the Very Fruitful gods...
    34. ...of the gods Bathed in their own Prosperity...
    35. ...of the Untormenting gods...
    36. ...of the Fair-to-see gods...
    37. ...of the Fair-seeing gods...
    38. ...of the gods who are Junior to None...
    39. ...of the gods of the base consisting of the infinity of space...
    40. ...of the gods of the base consisting of the infinity of consciousness...
    41. ...of the gods of the base consisting of nothingness...

    42. "If a householder who observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct, should wish: 'Oh, that on the dissolution of the body, after death, I might reappear in the company of the gods of the base consisting of neither-perception-nor-non-perception!' it is possible that, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he may do so. Why is that? Because he observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct.

    43. "If a householder who observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct, should wish: 'Oh, that by realization myself with direct knowledge, I may here and now enter upon and abide in the deliverance of the heart and the deliverance by wisdom that are taint-free with exhaustion of taints!' it is possible that, by realization himself with direct knowledge, he may here and now enter upon and abide in the deliverance of the heart and the deliverance by wisdom that are taint-free with exhaustion of taints. Why is that? Because he observes conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct."
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html
    But, as I have said many times, it is not a big deal to me. I don't demand that the Buddha be correct on every darn thing out of his mouth. Jesus! (Another character, by the way, that folks demand perfection of in every utterance, and then interpret countless different ways). Even Buddha does not need to be right all the time ... just most of the time ...

    And he might be right. He might be accurately reporting something he saw that really was real. I will try to let you know if reborn in hell, as a snake or (worse) a lawyer (my former life in this life) ...

    "Now, for one of wrong view, Lohicca, I tell you, there is one of two destinations: either hell or the animal womb.
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
    Gassho, Jundo (for the moment)

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