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Thread: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

  1. #1

    zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    i like shikantaza. just sitting is my buddhist practice of choice at this point in my seeking. from joining treeleaf, i was happy to find that i didn't have to be some advanced practitioner to do shikantaza (like counting my breaths for several years!).
    so, sitting as i do, i decided to go back to the local soto zendo here in atlanta. i had been several times before but just didn't like the stick (as i've mentioned before on this site). now we do sit zazen there, but there is so much other stuff going on there that i just am having second thoughts about the whole project. i wonder if there are things about zen that we are not told. secrets and shadows. i say this because much of the rhetoric of Zen seems to be so hierarchical and admonishing of questioning and dissent. this is especially true at the place i had been going. even thought it is a soto center, the dharma discussions have been focused on these ridiculous koans. it's also very hard to get any straight answers from anyone and the teacher is NEVER there. there is also this feeling of who's in and who's out. i've had this feeling about zen before. there is a very in crowd aspect to it that seems to pervade places i've sat and most definitely the web. treeleaf hasn't been this way and i know i'm being kind of vague, but i'm curious and a bit anxious about this. zen isn't some pure buddhism. ironically it is full of as much esoteric baggage as Tibetan if one really looks at the literature. much of it is japanese culture i think. however, i want to wake up, not be japanese :lol: my biggest fear is that zazen may just be some giant joke being played on us by dogen. maybe even the buddha is playing a huge joke on us! this is a real fear. and as i learn more and more about the fact that ALL traditions have dark sides, it is really quite arbitrary to say which is the best, most accurate, etc. no one knows.
    craig

  2. #2

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Hi Craig,

    I suspect that some (or alot) of it has nothing at all to do with Zen or Buddhism. It's just "human nature" and what happens when people congregate in groups. In relation to the esoterics, it might also be human nature to unnecessarily complicate things that were once quite simple. We seem to do it all the time.

    best wishes,

    JohnH

  3. #3

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Craig;

    Yes, doubts arise, fears arise, but you know for yourself:
    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    i like shikantaza.
    Me too

    clyde

  4. #4
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    The problem with expectations about places, especially places that you feel are supposed to be spiritual, is that those expectations may not be met. Zen is about dropping those expectations. What the posts say above is good stuff. I would only add that if, after a while, you feel the place is truly not a good fit for you, then stop going there. But give it time, accept what it is they have to offer, take the whole experience as a lesson, not just the lessons being overtly taught there, for within the dark there is light. Oops, that last part sounded like some mumbo jumbo, crooked, confusing zennie answer, so please skip it.

  5. #5

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Firstly I'll say "things are what you make them". It is up to you to find out and ponder these Koans.

    Here's a quote from Dogen's Bendowa Modern Interpretations (which I prefer):

    When the buddhas – those who live fully in the present – each of
    whom has learned the Buddha’s truth from a real person, realise what
    the truth is, they achieve it by the best method there is. This method,
    in which there is no intention of reaching an aim, is subtle, and is only
    taught by one buddha to another buddha. It never deviates from this.
    It is a practice that balances the active and the passive, and it sets the
    body-and-mind right. The authentic form of this practice, which is
    known as Zazen, is sitting in an upright posture. Although we each
    have the natural state, if we do not return to it in this practice, it does
    not show itself, and if we do not experience it, we do not realise what
    it is. It comes to us and fills us as soon as we give up our intentions,
    and is not a discriminative state. When we speak, this state expresses
    itself through our mouth in complete freedom. Buddhas live in and
    maintain themselves in this natural state in which they do not separate
    reality into two parts: mental and physical. People who do not separate
    reality into two parts are buddhas. The way I am teaching now to
    follow the Buddha’s truth is a way that allows us to really experience
    everything clearly as it is, and gives us a state of wholeness that brings
    true freedom. When you get rid of everything that hinders you and
    find this freedom, these words that you are reading now will have no
    relevance.

    Establishing in myself a firm resolve to search for the Buddha’s truth, I
    travelled to many parts of Japan to meet teachers who I hoped would
    help me in my search. One of these was Master Myozen, who lived at
    Kennin Temple. I stayed as his student for nine years, learning the
    teachings of the Rinzai lineage. Master Myozen was the most excellent
    of Master Eizai’s students, and had received the teachings of the
    Buddha’s truth directly from him. None of the other students were
    comparable. Then I travelled to China, searching east and west for a
    good teacher, and learned of the traditions of the five lineages that
    practice Zazen. Finally, I visited the temple on Mt. Dai-byaku-ho and
    met Zen Master Nyojo, with whom I finally completed the great task
    of a lifetime’s practice. Then in 1228, I returned to Japan determined to
    spread the truth that I had found to others in order to save them. I felt
    as if a heavy burden had been placed on my shoulders. But while
    waiting for favourable circumstances to carry me forward, I thought
    that I might spend some time wandering from place to place, following
    the flow of events, like wise teachers of old have done. But I also
    felt that there may be people who were already sincerely practicing
    Zazen and seeking for what is true, people who were not seeking for
    fame or wanting to get something, and those people might be misled
    by teachers who were not genuine, whose teachings would only lead
    them away from a correct understanding of what is true. They might
    then deceive themselves with those wrong ideas and become caught
    by their own delusions. How could they then strengthen their intuitive
    ability to know what is true, and have the chance to practice what
    is true? If I just wandered around waiting for the right time, where
    would they be able to find a true place to practice? This seemed to me
    a very sad situation, and so I have decided to write down all the customs
    and criteria that I myself experienced during my visits to the Zen
    monasteries in China, together with the teachings from my master,
    Tendo Nyojo, which I have received and put into practice. I will then
    leave these writings for people who learn by actually doing things,
    and who find it easy to live in reality, so that they will know the true
    teachings of the Buddha that have been passed on from person to
    person. I feel that this task may be of great importance.
    Gassho

    Will

  6. #6

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    i like shikantaza. just sitting is my buddhist practice of choice at this point in my seeking. from joining treeleaf, i was happy to find that i didn't have to be some advanced practitioner to do shikantaza (like counting my breaths for several years!).... i wonder if there are things about zen that we are not told. secrets and shadows. i say this because much of the rhetoric of Zen seems to be so hierarchical and admonishing of questioning and dissent. this is especially true at the place i had been going. even thought it is a soto center, the dharma discussions have been focused on these ridiculous koans. it's also very hard to get any straight answers from anyone and the teacher is NEVER there. there is also this feeling of who's in and who's out. i've had this feeling about zen before.
    Hi Craig,

    Allow me just to echo some of the comments by others.

    First, pursue your own Practice. Ultimately in Zazen, we sit with ourself and ourself alone (literally, with our "self"), and the others in the Sangha (the teacher most of all) just help with that. But, ultimately, it is a matter of Craig exploring and sitting with Craig's "me myself and I"

    Second, every group of people, not only every Buddhist Sangha, is a bit different ... be it a workplace, pub, card club (not that I am comparing our practice to drinking and gambling! ) or the local Lion's Club. If you don't like a particular Sangha, or the chemistry does not seem right, move to another. Of course, don't be too fast to judge on first impressions and (unless something seems seriously wrong right away), you may need to give them time. You say you have been there many times, so maybe you have. Any teacher or Sangha should be open to questioning.

    Third, however, many parts of our Practice are worth keeping, even if they strike someone as strange at first. Bowing, statues, incense and, yes, weird talks about Koans all fit in that category. They may seem like unnecessary "Japanese" or "Esoteric" elements at first, until you understand the role they serve. I have given talks on all these things recently, for example ...

    Bowing ...

    http://treeleafzen.blogspot.com/2008/11 ... at-iv.html

    On the other hand, it is okay to abandon or reject many practices. However, KNOW very well what you are rejecting before you reject it. For example, I wrote this to someone this week about which of the "Japanese trappings" are worth keeping and which can be discarded. I wrote him:

    Absorb what is useful and discard the rest. For example, I think Oryoki [formal meal ritual] is a great practice, and worth keeping.. Same for bowing.

    Some things I keep out of respect for TRADITION [the robes, the ways of doing some ceremonies]. It is important to keep ties to where we come from. Some things also have a special symbolic meaning if you look into them, so worth keeping [for example, a Rakusu]

    But other stuff, no need to keep: For example, I usually avoid to chant in Japanese or Chinese [except once in awhile, out of respect for tradition]. Tatami mats and Paper screens have nothing to do with Zen practice particularly [but I happen to live in an old Japanese building, so ... well, tatami and paper screens!} Some things I think are just dumb (except symbolically), like the Kyosaku stick. Incense is great, until it was recently shown to cause cancer. Many beliefs of Buddhism are rather superstitious things that were picked up here and there. I abandon many of those.
    But I assure you that there are no dark secrets and shadows (any more than in your local Lion's Club! In fact, we are just the "Lion's Club" focused on the universe!). I have not spent 25 years of my life pursuing a pointless joke. Actually, Zen --IS-- a HUGE joke, but a profound one! So, keep on smiling!

    Gassho, Jundo

    .

  7. #7

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Hi Jon,

    What you wrote is so nice ...

    Quote Originally Posted by ZenChat99xyz

    The easiest proof of the path's effectiveness, is reasonably easy. You write a diary of what you were like before the path. Then keep a diary as you practice the path. Within only a few years, you will see the difference. Less anger, more peace, more clarity, more wisdom. They will all come. Slowly, perhaps, but they will come. That is one form of proof. .
    I would only perhaps say one thing ...

    If you have some powerful spiritual experience in meditation, that will certainly be more proof for you....Every single person I know who has meditated with some vigor for 5 years and more has had quite concrete spiritual experiences.
    Please just recall that, in our Soto way, we are not on the hunt for spiritual experiences, peak moments, fireworks and zippy-dippy trips. Oh, sure, there will be those ... but our Soto way is to observe them, perhaps pick up a fresh perspective here or there, often yawn, and move along. We neither chase after them, nor need them, nor push them away when they happen to come. We honor the "Ordinary as Sacred". In fact, we really do value the "spiritual experiences" no more than we value this moment, or breathing, or driving the car.

    For this moment, each breath and driving a car are wonderful, when seen with a Buddha's Eyes!

    Gassho, Jundo

  8. #8

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Hi.



    Mtfbwy
    Fugen

  9. #9

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Oops. Ignore this!

  10. #10

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    This post made me grin and nod in agreement so hard that I think I gave myself whiplash. I got into Zen because, as Brad Warner would say, I had a bad case of yellow fever: the religious version of some anime nerd. Doing this will make me practically Japanese! Kewl! And those koans: wow, those make no sense at all, they must be really deep, man. What a geek.
    Then I encountered Zennies. I figured that the place to which I started going would be filled with rich yuppies aggressively one-upping each other, but I thought, it's a sesshin, they have to STFU for the whole week, how bad can it be? Well, the ingenuity of the American upper middle class knows no bounds. They'd given themselves different colored robes to indicate their place in the hierarchy, so you could tell at a glance how much money they'd flung at the abbot. If you had no robe (that's me), you were off-the-map gauche, and could be kicked and insulted with impunity (figuratively, of course). When they could speak at the end of the retreat, they'd always drone about something like, "Thank you all for providing this space for me to work out the horrible, horrible pain of my 401k's 12% loss year over year, and how I may not be able to continue making the payments on the Lamborghini. I've come to understand that material things don't matter."
    I'd echo Jon: "Usually, the superficial, loud and aggressive people rise to the surface. Often the most spiritual people in centers are very quiet and rarely heard," and "Every single person I know who has meditated with some vigor for 5 years and more has had quite concrete spiritual experiences." Absolutely true, in my experience.
    Part of my practice has been learning to love people who annoy the living crap out of me, and there's lots of that to be had at Zen centers. I think I've made some progress there. I still love all the Japanese stuff: I embrace and accept my own geekiness. Those koans are starting to make sense to me, too. Yikes. Although gaining is not the point, I am gaining perspective and compassion.
    Yeah, shikantaza's great, isn't it? -Paul

  11. #11

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    well thanks to all for the comments. as i said, i've been to this place on and off for a while, so encouragement to stick it out is not necessary. it's also quite a circular argument as well. this is part of what bugs me specifically about zen. of course, as i said, institutions have issues, but zen seems to purport this idea that 'one needs to stick with it and if you're having concerns, then its your stuff coming up'. this is all couched in an attitude of 'we know what's really going on and you don't.' this is exemplified in zen-speak, koans, japanese customs, etc. so, to blame all of 'my issues' on 'my ego' is quite a cop out and quite similar to the circular logic in christianity (why aren't you going to church anymore?). the bible is the word of god because it says so. in addition, i have common sense and an intellect that may get in the way of me waking up, but it also helps me survive. it's just so amazing to me that people will jump into zen thinking it's some pure form of buddhism and not be critical of the fact that it is anything but. it supports a basic practice, but has so much baggage that people just buy into. if it works for people, then great. but, zen is not what it seems on the surface and that has left me a bit jaded. at the same time, i am not japanse, or chinese. i'm american. i hate hierarchy and i don't think my head is the most sacred place. so for me to put my rakasu on my head and say a prayer is ridiculous.
    so, shikantaza is a keeper, but there needs to be some informed consent in these religions.
    just my thoughts.
    craig

  12. #12

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    .... zen seems to purport this idea that 'one needs to stick with it and if you're having concerns, then its your stuff coming up'. this is all couched in an attitude of 'we know what's really going on and you don't.' this is exemplified in zen-speak, koans, japanese customs, etc. so, to blame all of 'my issues' on 'my ego' is quite a cop out and quite similar to the circular logic in christianity (why aren't you going to church anymore?). .... i hate hierarchy and i don't think my head is the most sacred place. so for me to put my rakasu on my head and say a prayer is ridiculous.
    Hi Craig,

    I don't think anyone is saying "just stick with it ... it's your stuff coming up". At least, no one here is saying it. It seems to me to be a definite lack of chemistry between you and that particular Sangha and their practices, so you had best try a new place. Yes, some of it may be "you", for example, your preferences and judgments are demanding that things be as you think they should be. And some of it may be "them", for example, the group has some problems with cliques and such, as you said.

    Well, there are a lot of fish in the sea, and a lot of Sanghas. So, try some more before you swear off fish.

    I will say this: It is not that saying a prayer with a Rakusu on your head is objectively ridiculous for all people who do so. But it sure is for Craig if Craig thinks it is. There are parts of our practice which we do BECAUSE we resist (for example, when visiting a temple for Retreat, I usually volunteer to clean the toilets BECAUSE I resist)*. Ask yourself where that kind of resistance is to be found (here's a clue, and it is right behind your own eyes).

    Ask yourself how much is truly the problems with the Sangha and how much is you and how much is both.

    Then go just sit, and forget about it all.

    Gassho, J

    *By wife usually reminds me at this point that I rarely volunteer to clean the toilets at home. ops:

  13. #13

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Please just recall that, in our Soto way, we are not on the hunt for spiritual experiences, peak moments, fireworks and zippy-dippy trips. Oh, sure, there will be those ... but our Soto way is to observe them, perhaps pick up a fresh perspective here or there, often yawn, and move along. We neither chase after them, nor need them, nor push them away when they happen to come. We honor the "Ordinary as Sacred". In fact, we really do value the "spiritual experiences" no more than we value this moment, or breathing, or driving the car.
    Speaking of "spiritual", has anyone read Brad Warner's latest article "Buddhism is Not Spirituality"? I found it an interesting perspective on spiritual vs material and the likes .. It kinda clicked with me as I never considered myself a "spiritual" person so to speak, but also never really gave it too much thought! 8)

  14. #14

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    .... zen seems to purport this idea that 'one needs to stick with it and if you're having concerns, then its your stuff coming up'. this is all couched in an attitude of 'we know what's really going on and you don't.' this is exemplified in zen-speak, koans, japanese customs, etc. so, to blame all of 'my issues' on 'my ego' is quite a cop out and quite similar to the circular logic in christianity (why aren't you going to church anymore?). .... i hate hierarchy and i don't think my head is the most sacred place. so for me to put my rakasu on my head and say a prayer is ridiculous.
    Hi Craig,

    I don't think anyone is saying "just stick with it ... it's your stuff coming up". At least, no one here is saying it. It seems to me to be a definite lack of chemistry between you and that particular Sangha and their practices, so you had best try a new place. Yes, some of it may be "you", for example, your preferences and judgments are demanding that things be as you think they should be. And some of it may be "them", for example, the group has some problems with cliques and such, as you said.

    Well, there are a lot of fish in the sea, and a lot of Sanghas. So, try some more before you swear off fish.

    I will say this: It is not that saying a prayer with a Rakusu on your head is objectively ridiculous for all people who do so. But it sure is for Craig if Craig thinks it is. There are parts of our practice which we do BECAUSE we resist (for example, when visiting a temple for Retreat, I usually volunteer to clean the toilets BECAUSE I resist)*. Ask yourself where that resistance is to be found (here's a clue, and it right behind your own eyes).

    Ask yourself how much is truly the problems with the Sangha and how much is you and how much is both.

    Then go just sit, and forget about it all.
    Gassho, J

    *By wife usually reminds me at this point that I rarely volunteer to clean the toilets at home. ops:

    Jundo-
    well, it's a given that i am projecting. we all do. and i'm not just singling out this sangha. they have a way they do things and that works for some people. my issue is with zen in particular and buddhism in general. it's quite disheartening to find so much religiosity, cultural baggage, ritual, in a 'philosophy' that's supposed to integrate with what ever culture it finds itself. it happened in india, korea, japan, china, etc. i think it needs to happen in america.

    so i like that you say...'go sit and forget about it all'...i'm still trying to figure out how to 'drop body and mind' but just sitting is what it's all about. so why all the other stuff? for me it's not necessary.

    peace-
    craig

  15. #15

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Quote Originally Posted by jrh001
    Hi Craig,

    I suspect that some (or alot) of it has nothing at all to do with Zen or Buddhism. It's just "human nature" and what happens when people congregate in groups. In relation to the esoterics, it might also be human nature to unnecessarily complicate things that were once quite simple. We seem to do it all the time.

    best wishes,

    JohnH

    yes, it is our nature to totally complicate things. i wish i could be a bit more light-hearted about all of this, but it's quite frustrating. the dharma is gonna have to adjust to what we/me as an intellectual/liberal/psychoanalyzed people are...or it will lose folks like me.
    craig

  16. #16

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    it's just so amazing to me that people will jump into zen thinking it's some pure form of buddhism and not be critical of the fact that it is anything but. it supports a basic practice, but has so much baggage that people just buy into. if it works for people, then great. but, zen is not what it seems on the surface and that has left me a bit jaded. at the same time, i am not japanse, or chinese. i'm american. i hate hierarchy and i don't think my head is the most sacred place. so for me to put my rakasu on my head and say a prayer is ridiculous.
    so, shikantaza is a keeper, but there needs to be some informed consent in these religions.
    just my thoughts.
    craig
    Hi , Craig. I, too, am suspicious of any activity that seems to be an arbitrary addition to the "core" of something. My only insight is that items I once considered superfluous are now quite integral, and meaningful activities for me(a chant here and there, prostrations, etc). The "give it time" idea is a tricky one. I agree that that sentiment is overused and is often a kind of intellectual laziness ("I don't have a good answer, so just give it time"). However, there are many activities in life that require significant time-investments before there is any noticeable change. I often have students come to me who say "I've been playing piano for 10 years and I'd like to learn jazz improvisation." I, then, give them tasks to complete each week and help them as best I can. But, about every third student gets really impatient at about the three-month mark. I think they presume that all of the Classical piano they studied will give them what they need to become a accomplished improvisor in a few months. The difference between the two fields is great, and it has little to do with their hands and everything to do with their heads. If they can manage to get a conceptual grasp on the path they are studying, then a life-long pursuit and study of improvising doesn't seem so unreasonable. My point is that many worthwhile things do take a long time to develop. Frustration, confusion, anger, etc often accompany skill development. I also concede, however, that there have been times in my life where a practice is simply wrong for me and I know it up front--no long-term time investment is necessary for me to decide.

    I would echo the comments above that said that much of what you are frustrated with are human failings, not the failings of the Zen teachings per se. I think that only about 20% of folks in any endeavor (Zen teachers included) are actually self-aware enough to proceed in a way that doesn't reinforce their bad habits. OK . . . that's life I suppose. I am sorry to hear about the climate in the Atlanta center. Maybe there is another group. Maybe your expectations of people are too high. Maybe . . .

    Lastly, I really enjoy a book called Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor. He attempts to spell out a vision of Buddhism that avoids some of the ideological traps that undermine practice. His book is not perfect, and I disagree with some of it, but the spirit of the book is spot on. I highly recommend it.

    There are many ways to do this Zen thing or Buddhism thing. Maybe you will find a way to make it happen for you without having to swallow too much junk that you disagree with.

    Peace and gassho,
    Bill

  17. #17

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    ... my issue is with zen in particular and buddhism in general. it's quite disheartening to find so much religiosity, cultural baggage, ritual, in a 'philosophy' that's supposed to integrate with what ever culture it finds itself. it happened in india, korea, japan, china, etc. i think it needs to happen in america.

    so i like that you say...'go sit and forget about it all'...i'm still trying to figure out how to 'drop body and mind' but just sitting is what it's all about. so why all the other stuff? for me it's not necessary.

    ...

    the dharma is gonna have to adjust to what we/me as an intellectual/liberal/psychoanalyzed people are...or it will lose folks like me.
    The outer wrap of Zen Buddhism is changing greatly as it moves West. The greater emphasis on lay practice over monastics, the greater democracy in what was a feudal institution (arising in societies where the teacher's word was law ... oh, those were the days! :wink: ), the equal place of women ... heck, the use of the internet to bring teachings that were once the preserve of an elite few into everyone's living room. Those are good and great changes to the outer wrapping (you can read about them in books like this one (author interview here: http://atheism.about.com/library/boo...olemanChat.htm ). The coreless core, however, remains unchanged.

    Do not throw out the baby with the bath water. Many completely "Japanese" practices which seem silly at first, such as Oryoki formal meal taking,, are worth keeping. ...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oryoki

    ... other things, like some of the arcane incense, bell & drum filled rituals, take them or leave them.

    However, I hope that Zen Practice NEVER becomes "intellectual" (at least, not more than it has always been) or psychoanalyzed. It is, at its heart, the dropping of excess analysis and self-obsession.

    Look, I used to volunteer as a Zen teacher in a maximum security prison. The structure of a prison is much like a monastery, actually, with a daily schedule filled with pointless, boring rituals that one often does not want to do. The purpose of our training is to teach us an inner freedom that even monastery/prison walls cannot hold ... thus it is important that one learn (for example, on the Zafu or in a Sesshin retreat) how to handle dull, pointless, silly, waste of time, arcane, "I hate this" rituals BECAUSE one resists doing them. It is a part of the training. Why? BECAUSE life is so often what we do not like it to be ... and thus we learn to find freedom amid what we resist and do not like.

    Often, non-doing, in freedom, what one resists and does not like is the very heart of the matter.

    Gassho, Jundo

  18. #18

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    “Once you figure out what a joke everything is, being the comedian is the only thing that makes any sense.”
    ~Alan Moore “Watchmen”

    Hi Craig,

    the dharma is gonna have to adjust to what we/me as an intellectual/liberal/psychoanalyzed people are...or it will lose folks like me.

    “Awakening” is not through ritual, it's not in a book, and it's not in the words of some dope with a title (no offense Jundo and Taigu). “Awakening” comes through one thing, seeing your nature. Only your own effort will make you see.

    For ten years I practiced on my own using whatever tools I had at my disposal. Dharma didn't magically adapt to my needs and experiences, I had to do that on my own. I've been fortunate to have met two good teachers who helped me solidify and ground my practice though it remains unorthodox. (Orthodox isn't exactly a word I would use to describe these two men though. )

    If you feel the buddha-dharma needs to adapt, then do it. Shikantaza works for you, excellent! Do it. Don't wait for everyone else to come around. To borrow from Ghandi, “be the change you wish to see.”

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with applying a little Jeet Kun Do to your Zen.

    My apologies if it seems abrupt, diplomacy is not my strong suit.

    R

  19. #19

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rev R
    “Once you figure out what a joke everything is, being the comedian is the only thing that makes any sense.”
    ~Alan Moore “Watchmen”

    Hi Craig,

    the dharma is gonna have to adjust to what we/me as an intellectual/liberal/psychoanalyzed people are...or it will lose folks like me.

    “Awakening” is not through ritual, it's not in a book, and it's not in the words of some dope with a title (no offense Jundo and Taigu). “Awakening” comes through one thing, seeing your nature. Only your own effort will make you see.

    For ten years I practiced on my own using whatever tools I had at my disposal. Dharma didn't magically adapt to my needs and experiences, I had to do that on my own. I've been fortunate to have met two good teachers who helped me solidify and ground my practice though it remains unorthodox. (Orthodox isn't exactly a word I would use to describe these two men though. )

    If you feel the buddha-dharma needs to adapt, then do it. Shikantaza works for you, excellent! Do it. Don't wait for everyone else to come around. To borrow from Ghandi, “be the change you wish to see.”

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with applying a little Jeet Kun Do to your Zen.

    My apologies if it seems abrupt, diplomacy is not my strong suit.

    R
    well i'm not saying that the dharma has to adapt to me per say. the four noble truths, the precepts, and zazen seem to be essential...buddhism on the other hand, maybe not. so i'm gonna just sit and i agree, me getting caught up in all this other stuff is my own doing. it's just ironic that zen stuff would get in the way of zen. i just want to get through life and have a 'good death'. no joke.
    craig

  20. #20

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Quote Originally Posted by DontKnow
    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    it's just so amazing to me that people will jump into zen thinking it's some pure form of buddhism and not be critical of the fact that it is anything but. it supports a basic practice, but has so much baggage that people just buy into. if it works for people, then great. but, zen is not what it seems on the surface and that has left me a bit jaded. at the same time, i am not japanse, or chinese. i'm american. i hate hierarchy and i don't think my head is the most sacred place. so for me to put my rakasu on my head and say a prayer is ridiculous.
    so, shikantaza is a keeper, but there needs to be some informed consent in these religions.
    just my thoughts.
    craig
    Hi , Craig. I, too, am suspicious of any activity that seems to be an arbitrary addition to the "core" of something. My only insight is that items I once considered superfluous are now quite integral, and meaningful activities for me(a chant here and there, prostrations, etc). The "give it time" idea is a tricky one. I agree that that sentiment is overused and is often a kind of intellectual laziness ("I don't have a good answer, so just give it time"). However, there are many activities in life that require significant time-investments before there is any noticeable change. I often have students come to me who say "I've been playing piano for 10 years and I'd like to learn jazz improvisation." I, then, give them tasks to complete each week and help them as best I can. But, about every third student gets really impatient at about the three-month mark. I think they presume that all of the Classical piano they studied will give them what they need to become a accomplished improvisor in a few months. The difference between the two fields is great, and it has little to do with their hands and everything to do with their heads. If they can manage to get a conceptual grasp on the path they are studying, then a life-long pursuit and study of improvising doesn't seem so unreasonable. My point is that many worthwhile things do take a long time to develop. Frustration, confusion, anger, etc often accompany skill development. I also concede, however, that there have been times in my life where a practice is simply wrong for me and I know it up front--no long-term time investment is necessary for me to decide.

    I would echo the comments above that said that much of what you are frustrated with are human failings, not the failings of the Zen teachings per se. I think that only about 20% of folks in any endeavor (Zen teachers included) are actually self-aware enough to proceed in a way that doesn't reinforce their bad habits. OK . . . that's life I suppose. I am sorry to hear about the climate in the Atlanta center. Maybe there is another group. Maybe your expectations of people are too high. Maybe . . .

    Lastly, I really enjoy a book called Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor. He attempts to spell out a vision of Buddhism that avoids some of the ideological traps that undermine practice. His book is not perfect, and I disagree with some of it, but the spirit of the book is spot on. I highly recommend it.

    There are many ways to do this Zen thing or Buddhism thing. Maybe you will find a way to make it happen for you without having to swallow too much junk that you disagree with.

    Peace and gassho,
    Bill
    well, 'just stick it out' is not much of a compassionate response as far as i am concerned. at the same time, i don't need the endorsement of some teacher or community to practice. it's all my work to do.
    regarding Batchelor's book...it was interesting but kind of lacked focus.
    craig

  21. #21

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    life is so often as we do not like it to be ... and thus we learn to find freedom amid what we resist and do not like.

    Often, non-doing, in freedom, what one resists and does not like is the very heart of the matter.

    right Jundo. i'm with you here. i totally agree with you. can i call you my teacher?
    i have enough of stuff i resist in my life...adding 'stuff' to the practice that is supposed to help me just seems crazy. i actually love the heart sutra, i like bowing, and i'm indifferent to oryoki. i don't like zen-speak, koans about cats being cut in half, not taking responsibility for one's traditions past transgressions, and lack of critical thinking.
    peace
    craig

  22. #22

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    I've had a very similar experience with the local zen teacher/center as Craig's. There was clearly an 'in' group and an 'out' group. there was a lot of 'stink' there.

    i went back and back and back for years, and i certainly found some things that were somewhat useful, but honestly, not much. it helped me in that i realized that all of these people - zen teacher and senior students included - were just people like me. they may have been sitting for a long time and done many sesshins, but they still had personalities and many were not particular welcoming and a few were just plain arrogant (unfortunately, the teacher and one of his senior students fell into this category - admittedly, in my opinion).

    there is an idea about spiritual practice that it can produce 'better' people - in fact, it seems that more than a few of the folks i sat with could use a little less zazen and a little more therapy.

    nonetheless, zazen does something! so, i sit, and i'm not sure why. i am very happy to have found this online sangha, so far, i seem to fit here and i am grateful for that.

    i completely love the quote below from Jundo - i think it gets to the reality of living, that's why i've included it again in this post.

    warmly,
    vince

    Please just recall that, in our Soto way, we are not on the hunt for spiritual experiences, peak moments, fireworks and zippy-dippy trips. Oh, sure, there will be those ... but our Soto way is to observe them, perhaps pick up a fresh perspective here or there, often yawn, and move along. We neither chase after them, nor need them, nor push them away when they happen to come. We honor the "Ordinary as Sacred". In fact, we really do value the "spiritual experiences" no more than we value this moment, or breathing, or driving the car.

    For this moment, each breath and driving a car are wonderful, when seen with a Buddha's Eyes!

    Gassho, Jundo[/quote]

  23. #23

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    http://www.geocities.com/jiji_muge/uszen3.html


    the above is a link to an article that raises some of the same questions i have had about zen. i think it's a well known article from the 1990s. its worth a look.

    craig

  24. #24

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    http://www.geocities.com/jiji_muge/uszen3.html


    the above is a link to an article that raises some of the same questions i have had about zen. i think it's a well known article from the 1990s. its worth a look.

    craig
    Hi Craig,

    We had some detailed discussions before about Stuart Lachs articles, most recently during our Precepts study. He over states the case a bit, but not by much. Any group is prone to power trips, sexual hanky panky, and overly idealized images of the person who is the "leader" or "teacher", even Buddhist groups.

    viewtopic.php?f=7&t=1238&p=17588&hilit=stuart#p175 88

    Since that time, most Sangha I am familiar with have instituted various checks and ethical guidelines and mechanisms to prevent such things. The situation at San Francisco Zen Center in the 70's was unusual, due largely to the meglomaniacal personality of Baker Roshi. It was extreme (and even then didn't really involve physical violence, drugs or anything like that). You should visit the place now to see what a treasure they have turned it into over the subsequent 30 years.

    Gassho, Jundo

  25. #25

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by Craig
    http://www.geocities.com/jiji_muge/uszen3.html


    the above is a link to an article that raises some of the same questions i have had about zen. i think it's a well known article from the 1990s. its worth a look.

    craig
    Hi Craig,

    We had some detailed discussions before about Stuart Lachs articles, most recently during our Precepts study. He over states the case a bit, but not by much. Any group is prone to power trips, sexual hanky panky, and overly idealized images of the person who is the "leader" or "teacher", even Buddhist groups.

    viewtopic.php?f=7&t=1238&p=17588&hilit=stuart#p175 88

    Since that time, most Sangha I am familiar with have instituted various checks and ethical guidelines and mechanisms to prevent such things. The situation at San Francisco Zen Center in the 70's was unusual, due largely to the meglomaniacal personality of Baker Roshi. It was extreme (and even then didn't really involve physical violence, drugs or anything like that). You should visit the place now to see what a treasure they have turned it into over the subsequent 30 years.

    Gassho, Jundo
    thanks jundo, the article was interesting and i appreciate your comments on the subject.
    craig

  26. #26

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Hellos to all posting here!
    It is an interesting discussion going on here. I started a reply days ago, but am only getting around to posting it here:

    consider family gatherings
    sanghas are not unlike that, so even if you 'leave home,' you can't get away from people being people.

    Hakuin Zenji's Song of Zazen starts: "All sentient beings are essentially Buddhas. As with water and ice, there is no ice without water; apart from sentient beings, there are no Buddhas. Not knowing how close the truth is, we seek it far away--what a pity! We are like one who in the midst of water cries out desperately in thirst. ..... (and it ends As the eternal tranquility of Truth reveals itself to us, this very place is the Land of Lotuses and this very body is the body of the Buddha."

    Even in a sangha where it appears the worst of all personality types have gathered themselves in a collective perfectly depicting your own personal version of hell, zazen is still zazen, and during zazen all members are mutually supporting each other in zazen.
    And at some point zazen happens not only during zazen, but more and more, and then almost all the time.
    It is actually EXCELLENT practice and tremendous good fortune to have clay feet revealed, expectations dashed and illusions about 'zen' shattered.
    To have all of this happen at one go at a sangha is like playing the card game of Hearts and 'shooting the moon' (collecting all of the 'bad' cards so that they end up not counting against you--but rather making you the winner!!) In other words bad luck ends up being good luck.
    Obviously self knowledge (to study the self) is a self-directed learning course in the university without walls called LIFE, but you and the universe kind of work out the requirements in a mutually dependent co-arising kind of way.
    Surely we all know when it is time to leave (the party, the spouse, the job, the sangha), and surely we all know when leaving is not what is to be done and surely we all know about fence sitting, or reading the horoscope, or consulting the I Ching or tossing a coin when we don't know.

    No one else can really make the call for you, although many will throw in their two cents.

    You come to an understanding that there is no place to go, even if you leave and there is no place to stay even if you remain.

  27. #27

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Quote Originally Posted by Keishin
    Hellos to all posting here!

    And at some point zazen happens not only during zazen, but more and more, and then almost all the time.
    It is actually EXCELLENT practice and tremendous good fortune to have clay feet revealed, expectations dashed and illusions about 'zen' shattered.

    Surely we all know when it is time to leave (the party, the spouse, the job, the sangha), and surely we all know when leaving is not what is to be done and surely we all know about fence sitting, or reading the horoscope, or consulting the I Ching or tossing a coin when we don't know.


    You come to an understanding that there is no place to go, even if you leave and there is no place to stay even if you remain.
    well many things you say here blow my mind. thank you. what you say about zazen happening all the time is some thing i really want in life. and you are right, i definitely had expectations about zen and those have been dashed. this is a good thing and i'm kind of enjoying it. the other side of the coin is realizing that there is no place to go. everywhere i go, there's me! also, realizing that all this hemming and hawing i am doing over zen is proof positive of suffering!
    thanks again.
    peace
    craig

  28. #28

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Thank you, Keishin. 9 Bows. That post is very vital, very wise, I think. Everyone should take note of what you said.

    9 Bows, Jundo

  29. #29

    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    I also really like what Keishin says here. I will add one thing that "blew my mind" from a seemingly unlikely source. I met a guy at the Zen center in question who, for all the world, looked like someone many people would label as a "redneck." We were chatting, and he asked where I was from. I don't have a regular practice center and have practiced a lot of different places. I mentioned a couple of semi-exotic Zen settings I had visited, and he said, "That sounds really nice, but it all looks the same from the cushion." Truer words could not be said. Ultimately, if you can do Zazen at a place, the rest is details. That was one of the best things I've ever heard anyone say about Zen.

    best,
    Elizabeth

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