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Thread: Lay Zen Buddhist Practice

  1. #1

    Lay Zen Buddhist Practice

    Thought a few of you might find this interesting.


    http://www.knowbuddhism.info/2009/03/la ... ctice.html

    Gassho

  2. #2

    Re: Lay Zen Buddhist Practice

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    Thought a few of you might find this interesting.

    New article by Robert Aitken Roshi:

    http://www.knowbuddhism.info/2009/03/la ... ctice.html

    Gassho
    Hi Will,

    Thank you for the article ...

    In the West, Zen Buddhism has maintained a quasi-monastic mode. Monks und nuns have been ordained in Los Angeles, San Francisco and elsewhere. Although there has not been the distinct line between the priesthood and the laity in Western Zen that we find in our Far Eastern antecedents, still it has been clear that teachers at many Western centres have felt that the true path leads through ordination. Moreover, lay people too have sought to keep a kind of monkish role, even when married with children. I myself followed this path.
    The reasons why Buddhist practice was kept behind monastery walls (and emphasized leaving family) for thousands of years are very many, long and complicated to discuss. There are some definite benefits to Practice on that path, but also many demerits (such as the fact that the path traditionally has emphasized leaving the world, and not merely "seeing through" the world as one is living right in it!). To cut to the chase ... the reasons for that path (including that it was the only or best way to access Buddhist teachers, teachings and training for thousands of years, that traditional feudal societies needed to keep everyone "in their place", and that the Buddhist clergy was a protected economic "guild" for most of that time) are now largely dead wood.

    Most Japanese Priests, in all forms of Japanese Buddhism including Zen, are married with families. That has been the case for some sects for hundreds of years (for the Zen sects for the last century). So, Japanese priests somewhat resemble the Protestant Christian clergy in that regard. My own lineage, through Nishijima Roshi, is about knocking down the barrier further. We are about bringing the teachings out into the workaday world. In that case, the "ordained" teacher should be the man or woman who has sufficient training to get up in the pulpit and lead the congregation each week, and I believe we take as a model something like the Protestant Christian clergy in the West.

    So, just as in the case of Jewish Rabbis and Protestant married clergy, the emphasis should be on the training that a person receives to lead and teach. The concept of "Shukke" (Home Leaver) vs. "Zaike" (Householder) has become a matter of the heart and calling. The priest can "leave home" without "leaving home" via the views of "absolute" and "relative", dropping attachments (even as we have attachments), and by realizing that there is no "home" to leave, all while we are never apart from "home". It is a matter of dedication to teaching and service, combined (of course) with having absorbed/been absorbed into the teachings and practices of Zen ... all through proper education and "seminary" training to be a teacher, minister and counselor (because, on a daily basis, a priest will find her/himself advising people during deaths, divorces, emotional crises and other sensitive times where people turn to clergy).

    Here at Treeleaf, I will eventually find a way to train teachers, and (if appropriate) allow Transmission to certify them as authorized teachers. I am not quite sure how to do that as yet. It will be a few years down the road, perhaps when the technology improves a bit more. I believe that those persons should be ordained as "Shukke", and called ministers/priests/clergy/rabbis to distinguish (same but different) their functional role.

    Most central of all, we can practice in our families, with spouse and children, listening to them, and investing and engaging in their process of life. And finally we can practice zazen at least three minutes here and five minutes there, brief intervals we deliberately take to restore ourselves for fulfilling our Bodhisattva vows.
    Yes! That is our philosophy at Treeleaf. There is no situation in life which is not an opportunity for Practice.

    I tell the story in my teisho on the Ninth Precept about a Tibetan lama who asked me what Zen teaches on the subject of anger. I replied, "There is no anger and no one to get angry." He gave me a strange look and said nothing, but I thought about it a lot afterwards. It seems to me that whereas Theravada Buddhism and Vajrayana Buddhism tend to leave out concerns about realization, we in Zen Buddhism tend to leave out concerns regarding the human character and its cultivation. So I think that mindfulness practice should have much more of a place in the teaching of Zen Buddhism.
    I think that his description is not true for most Western Zen teachers right now, and may reflect Aitken Roshi's particular lineage prior to his generation ... whose Japanese teachers have been mostly focused on Kensho.

    I dream of a camp, a large piece of property with a dojo and perhaps a building that could be both a main hall and a dining room, with many little cottages and lots of space for children to play. The families could live in the cottages during their vacations, and take part in formal practice as their family-time permits. The Roshi could live at the camp with a small group to maintain the programme. There could be rigorous training periods and sesshins, with entire families taking part at several levels, each member according to need and ability, starting with play for the children. It would be a monastery transmuted into our own dimension. There is no historical precedent for this kind of arrangement, but if Zen Buddhism is going to acculturate, we are going to have to create family practice.
    This is a truly wonderful suggestion. I have been trying to structure our online Retreats here at Treeleaf to allow family time, but this is a step far beyond that.

    Gassho, Jundo

  3. #3

    Re: Lay Zen Buddhist Practice

    btw made an error on the date of that.

    Gassho

  4. #4

    Re: Lay Zen Buddhist Practice

    "all through proper education and "seminary" training to be a teacher, minister and counselor (because, on a daily basis, a priest will find her/himself advising people during deaths, divorces, emotional crises and other sensitive times where people turn to clergy). "

    Jundo, I'm very happy to hear you speak like this. Real Buddhism must meet the real needs of real people.

  5. #5
    Senior Member murasaki's Avatar
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    Re: Lay Zen Buddhist Practice

    I am glad to see this discussion. If you read too much Tale of the Genji / Tale of Murasaki like I do ( :roll: ) you'd have the idea that becoming Buddhist is a sort of "retirement" arrangement, for when you've had enough hedonistic cavorting, waka writing, fan exchange, suitors' impatient rustling of your curtains, and other social scandal that you're finally pushed over the edge and want to "leave the world behind". :lol:

  6. #6

    Re: Lay Zen Buddhist Practice

    Thanks for the article, Will. It's nice to hear his views on an issue that I think Western Zen teachers will have to address if Zen is to survive in this culture that has so many surface-level differences as compared to Asia. I say surface-level because the real issue of being a healthy and compassionate human is the same for all cultures. I also appreciate that Aitken and Jundo recognize that leaving home is a matter of attitude not physical location (although getting away from the house occasionally helps me recharge a bit).


    Gassho,
    Bill

    PS--I suppose that during zazen we are all monks/priests/Buddhas. The question is what we do with the other hours of the day.

  7. #7

    Re: Lay Zen Buddhist Practice

    The concept of "Shukke" (Home Leaver) vs. "Zaike" (Householder) has become a matter of the heart and calling. The priest can "leave home" without "leaving home" via the views of "absolute" and "relative", dropping attachments (even as we have attachments), and by realizing that there is no "home" to leave, all while we are never apart from "home".
    This sounds like semantics in a role where something more honest and up-front would do better... maybe I misunderstand, but it sounds like rationalization of a new way of doing things. I thought Buddhism was about changing to adapt to cultural differences? It has remained resilient throughout migration from India and beyond, and I would hope that in the long run (thousands of years maybe!)it will still be recognized as Buddhism in the West...

    But back to the point, if Buddhism can migrate and assimilate and become Wetsernized and still be Buddhism, do we really need to try to interpret our own terminology to justify the change? Or can we not just allow it to naturally adapt, and call things what they are without apology?

    Its also entirely possible that the whole thing has sailed over my head, and I'm grasping at nothing :?

  8. #8

    Re: Lay Zen Buddhist Practice

    Call me whatever name you want, but don't call me late for dinner! :?

  9. #9

    Re: Lay Zen Buddhist Practice

    Or can we not just allow it to naturally adapt, and call things what they are without apology?
    In order for things to develop naturally, one must ask questions, and make definite decisions. How to maintain Dogen's Zen in a different atmosphere and surroundings. No one's apologizing. A school has been set up to study and maintain the Buddha way. It's been doing that for hundreds of years. Depending on what type of practice environment the teacher wants to maintain, he needs to keep some stuff and throw out other stuff.

    A process of adaptation is produced by how the culture, and "students" assimilate the practice in a balanced way, sticking to the original methods and lifestyle of that school. If we throw too much out, then we can't really call it Soto Zen can we?

    Plus, questions "activate us" (Zoketsu Norm Fischer)



    Gassho

  10. #10
    Senior Member murasaki's Avatar
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    Re: Lay Zen Buddhist Practice

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    In order for things to develop naturally, one must ask questions, and make definite decisions. How to maintain Dogen's Zen in a different atmosphere and surroundings. No one's apologizing. A school has been set up to study and maintain the Buddha way. It's been doing that for hundreds of years. Depending on what type of practice environment the teacher wants to maintain, he needs to keep some stuff and throw out other stuff.

    A process of adaptation is produced by how the culture, and "students" assimilate the practice in a balanced way, sticking to the original methods and lifestyle of that school. If we throw too much out, then we can't really call it Soto Zen can we?
    This process of asking questions and seeking to adapt is very healthy, and critical. Contrast this with the Islamic model: centuries ago, Muslims were so fearful of asking these questions, so afraid of "throwing too much out" that the ones in charge effectuated a big "closing of the doors of ijtihad" (an Arabic term for the process of questioning and adapting). They simply believed that they could halt time, freeze everything in place, and eliminate any need for themselves or future generations to struggle with these questions.

    Since then, there has been a veritable witch-hunt against anyone who would propose to change even the smallest practice, labeling it "bid'aa" (innovation), without considering whether or not it would make sense and be a positive change. I don't think I need to point out the negative consequences arising from this lack of ability to adapt; it's damaging to individuals, communities, and the world.

    It's a privilege to be able to question, observe, and make changes that are hopefully for the best. I believe that it works as long as it's done with sincerity and care.

  11. #11

    Re: Lay Zen Buddhist Practice

    It's a privilege to be able to question, observe, and make changes that are hopefully for the best. I believe that it works as long as it's done with sincerity and care.
    Yep.

    This extremism/non extremism is an important point in our practice.

    Gassho

  12. #12

    Re: Lay Zen Buddhist Practice

    Wow ... fascinating discussion. Thanks.

  13. #13
    disastermouse
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    Re: Lay Zen Buddhist Practice

    Lay practice, monastic practice - the real question is, 'Are you awake?'

    Too often, monastics simply fold their delusion into the sacred aura of 'serious business' monasticism. There's at least one 'shaved head' at ZCLA that I'm thinking of particularly, LOL!

    I should think that as a layperson, one's life could be punctuated by periods of monastic practice a la sesshin and other 'retreats' and lay practice - where one attends to the duties of householding. It's crazy to think that the duties of 'lay' practice are somehow lacking, as long as zazen is frequent - the point is not and has never been to find a situational solution to a 'problem'. What does life bring to you? THAT'S the practice, mostly because there just isn't anything else. All ideas of some other ideal situation are just mind fluff until you are in that situation, at which point, it always seems to become less ideal - just like the situation you left to get to this new one.

    IMHO.

    Chet

  14. #14

    Re: Lay Zen Buddhist Practice

    Hi.

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    the real question is, 'Are you awake?'
    Thats very important! (said in the voice of the queen of hearts from alice in wonderland )

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Too often, monastics simply fold their delusion into the sacred aura of 'serious business' monasticism.
    Also to often all to true, but ask your self. who let them in that delusion?


    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    It's crazy to think that the duties of 'lay' practice are somehow lacking, as long as zazen is frequent - the point is not and has never been to find a situational solution to a 'problem'. What does life bring to you? THAT'S the practice, mostly because there just isn't anything else. All ideas of some other ideal situation are just mind fluff until you are in that situation, at which point, it always seems to become less ideal - just like the situation you left to get to this new one.
    _/_

    Mtfbwy
    Tb

  15. #15
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Lay Zen Buddhist Practice

    Quote Originally Posted by Fugen

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Too often, monastics simply fold their delusion into the sacred aura of 'serious business' monasticism.
    Also to often all to true, but ask your self. who let them in that delusion?
    I think the language has failed us here. What are you saying? 'Who let them in that delusion?' does not register in a way that I can understand what you are asking.

    Chet

  16. #16

    Re: Lay Zen Buddhist Practice

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Quote Originally Posted by Fugen

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Too often, monastics simply fold their delusion into the sacred aura of 'serious business' monasticism.
    Also to often all to true, but ask your self. who let them in that delusion?
    I think the language has failed us here. What are you saying? 'Who let them in that delusion?' does not register in a way that I can understand what you are asking.

    Chet
    Hi.

    Sorry.

    Who let them think that things are that way?

    Mtfbwy
    Tb

  17. #17
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Lay Zen Buddhist Practice

    Quote Originally Posted by Fugen

    Hi.

    Sorry.

    Who let them think that things are that way?

    Mtfbwy
    Tb
    Oh! I think some people may just be bound and determined to think that way. Perhaps zen teachers get tired of slapping down egos in zen drag? Or maybe they figure if given enough time, the people who do this will eventually catch on to their own self-defeating approach.

    Chet

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