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Thread: Special reading - eight types of enlightenment

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  1. #1

    Special reading - eight types of enlightenment

    Hi Ho,

    Continuing this special series of "readings that will help in understanding Zen readings" ...

    This is something that I introduced here once before, but is well worth re-reading and understanding by all of us.

    The topic is a very clear list of "Eight Types of Enlightenment" as typically found in various forms of Buddhism over its history and currently, meaning the very different and often totally inconsistent (although sometimes overlapping) visions that various schools of Buddhism propose as the ultimate "goal" at the end of the Buddha's rainbow. Different strands of Buddhism really do have very unique ideas on this whole "Enlightenment" whatever, and anyone studying Buddhism can become tangled up in the many ways that teachers of various schools, in different books and teachings, often are proposing radically different goals and different ways to get there. Even within the Zen Schools, or even contained in the vision of a single teacher, the ideas often get mixed & matched and stuck together. Thus, it is important for students to be able to recognize where a teacher's teachings are coming from and pointing to (and neither/both coming & going), and some ability to see each of these separate, sometimes tangled threads.

    Please download and read the following [PDF]:

    The list is from a book called "The New Buddhism" by David Brazier (a book primarily on the theme of Buddhism as a model for engaged, socially conscious action ... but which also touches on other subjects such as this). What is also interesting is that Mr Brazier seems --not-- to be a Zen Practitioner (I believe he is currently a Pure Land student), and thus offers some criticisms of what he sees as the "Zen" concept(s) of Enlightenment. This will give us a chance to talk about those as well, although (of course, being from within the Zen tradition) I do not think many of his criticisms of "Zen enlightenment" are accurate. Naturally, he seems to propose a "Pure Land" concept of Enlightenment as the best.

    Despite that, I really think you will find it informative, and helpful to your practice and understanding of Buddhist books and teachings.

    As always, I emphasize ... different ways up the mountain for different mountaineers and, anyway, ultimately 'what mountain?' (though, as you may see, not everyone throughout Buddhist history might agree with that!)

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 09-03-2012 at 12:42 AM.

  2. #2
    Hi there - Brazier's book has been sitting on the shelf for a while - I skimmed it after reading this thread but couldn't get fully engaged as his style of writing can sometimes drift off into polemics.

    Anyway _ I decided to give it another go (partly driven by bemusement that Brazier has now set up an institute of 'Zen Therapy' in the UK and also wrote a book on Zen therapy a few years back (he writes a lot of books - I enjoyed 'The feeling Buddha'). So I was curious.

    If I'm honest - reading the rest of the book did bring up questions for me and forced me to face head on niggling doubts that I'd side stepped. I'm no way near sorting this out in my mind - but my overall impression is that although Brazier can bring up factual stuff to criticize Zen he misses at some level the spirit of Zen. He also misses the fact that most of his objections are explored - with greater eloquence - by many of the authors on our Tree Leaf reading list. As he doesn't seem to have read any of these works (he mentions Dogen once but it's easy to name drop) it's a bit like reading crib notes on Zen - but there's no real heart or experience in the writing (despite his 'dropping' into the text that he had a Zen master).

    I was wondering Jundo - if you could say a bit more about the next few chapters - (Critical Buddhism) where the concept of Buddha nature is criticised and also the co-arising version of dependent origination. Brazier's also keen to point out (within his frame) that Buddha was a dualistic and that (in his view) the Non-Dual type of enlightement is 'dangerous because it unhooks enlightenment from ethics'.

    To be honest - Zen gets a real bashing in this book (but the aim is unashamedly iconoclastic and veers towards popular writing) with a kinda apologistic 'well - Zen's got its good points and will be fine in the hands (minds) of the right individuals' (towards the end of the book.)

    But the trajectory is Pure Land - and this is where I feel the book falls into a polemic of utopian politics at the expense of a pretty shallow rendering of Zen.

    After the challenge and discomfort of reading it I simply came to the conclusion that my heart belongs to Zen.



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