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Thread: Self as salvation...

  1. #1
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Self as salvation...

    It seems to be a popular corruption of the Dharma, doesn't it? The Secret, etc... Self-actualization? What does that mean? What is an actualized self anyway? How many people come to and through Zen this way? Does corporatism taint everything it touches in the west?

    Chet

  2. #2

    Re: Self as salvation...

    I can't say much from what I know, but it's important that we practice. If the teacher doesn't recommend sitting Zazen, then they should be questioned. As Bill, I mean Eika made beautifully clear before:

    OK . . . (confusion and delusion are part of enlightenment too. Things usually straighten themselves out. Maybe not on our time-table, but on their own . . . no problem).
    Mostly we start off that way, but after a year or ten of sitting, it straightens out. It's good to have people or friends, and a teacher who are sitting Zazen/Shikantaza and "doing the practice". Dogen: "This is a practice for those who learn by doing things."

    So, the Sangha is helpful, and we should rely more on sitting than philosophizing in the beginning, but that's just my take. I refer back Eika

    Gassho _/_

    W

  3. #3
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Self as salvation...

    Quote Originally Posted by will
    I can't say much from what I know, but it's important that we practice. If the teacher doesn't recommend sitting Zazen, then they should be questioned. As Bill, I mean Eika made beautifully clear before:

    OK . . . (confusion and delusion are part of enlightenment too. Things usually straighten themselves out. Maybe not on our time-table, but on their own . . . no problem).
    Mostly we start off that way, but after a year or ten of sitting, it straightens out. It's good to have people or friends, and a teacher who are sitting Zazen/Shikantaza and "doing the practice". Dogen: "This is a practice for those who learn by doing things."

    So, the Sangha is helpful, and we should rely more on sitting than philosophizing in the beginning, but that's just my take. I refer back Eika

    Gassho _/_
    Good point, Will - but what I'm saying is there's a subtle corruption of the teachings than can be overcome by sitting. As Sidd said "Do not say that, Ananda. Good friends are the whole of the practice"

    Our entire culture is influenced by branding and corporate culture. When zen becomes a brand in the western spiritual marketplace, it's whole emphasis gets distorted. We should be aware of this tendency and do our best to counteract it. Witness Genpo Merzel Roshi and his Big Mind brand of zen.

    Chet


    W[/quote]

  4. #4

    Re: Self as salvation...

    I think the 'branding' of Zen will lead to some people being led astray but will also lead to some people finding the 'good stuff'. I think back to one of the first Zen books I bought. It was full of nifty little sayings, koans, etc. but really it was 90% garbage. It was as though someone thought it would be cool to make a pocket book full of things that 'sounded Zen'. As useless(yes and no, but pretty much) as this book was, it still held my attention at the time and at least got me thinking about Buddhism. I was in my 'let's buy all the cool looking Buddhist books' phase. No practice, just reading. Like a poor teacher, the book was of some benefit but it was up to me realize that it was time to forget it and move on (good hint: boredom!).

    I think there will always be those that follow corrupted teachings(Zen or otherwise) blindly. For those that are lost and those that are leading them, I wouldn't spend much effort on trying to fix that situation. I think a better thing to do is let people ask about Zen, on their own, and then answer them. I think being lost and finding your way is up to the individual and is part of the path. Is anyone on Treeleaf here other than by their own efforts?

    So, I think this capitalization, or packaging, of Zen can be like a finger pointing to a spot away from the moon. Some people will follow the finger and mistake a star for the moon, some will question and tire of that finger and find a new one, and others will find the moon and know the wrong finger wasn't on target...

    Also, I think with the Internet, the authentic teachings will always be available and so will the history. I don't think Zen needs to be defended as such. If someone is satisfied with "Big Mind", I don't see a problem. It's their life. If someone is not satisfied with "Big Mind" and comes to Dogenland, still no problem. It's their life. One who looks for Zen will see that there are different types; especially if they use Google. I think most people will try the free ones first... but a fool and his money...

    Cam

  5. #5

    Re: Self as salvation...

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    When zen becomes a brand in the western spiritual marketplace, it's whole emphasis gets distorted. We should be aware of this tendency and do our best to counteract it. Witness Genpo Merzel Roshi and his Big Mind brand of zen.
    Speaking on Genpo Roshi, I'm told by everyone that finds my interest in zen that I need to check out the Kanzeon center in SLC (closest in-state zendo, 6hrs) because it's just an "amazing place" and Genpo is this and he is that. As much as I still am interested in some ways because I've never been to a formal zendo, I have some serious hesitations about getting involved with anything related to Genpo Roshi. Something just seems off to me. Maybe I'm just naive, but I remember looking at the "suggested donations" to be given to the teachers for various teachings, and for the jukai ceremony and I was amazed at how much was suggested.

    I guess you have to pay for all of the commercialization somehow, why not pass it on down to the little guys.

    On another note, I'm reading a booked name "Grassroots Zen" that touches a bit on this topic. I'll have to pull some quotes, I found the co-authors perspectives interesting. They were both former students of Aitken Roshi.

  6. #6

    Re: Self as salvation...

    Things I believe help me have a more authentic understanding of Soto Zen: researching Chinese and Japanese culture, both religious and not; having a Zen teacher who lives in Japan and whose teacher in turn is Japanese; having a sangha as large and vocal as this one; having Chet around to point out un-authentic stuff :wink: ;

    Every religion and philosophy gets twisted. Its up to us to either go for what flashes and has the shiniest buttons, or take the time to dig for the original rough diamond.

    gassho
    tobiishi

  7. #7
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
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    2,907

    Re: Self as salvation...

    Hi everybody,


    I have a made a clear choice in my life so far: not to give money to receive the Buddha-Dharma and to work so I don't have to ask for money to share the Buddha-Dharma in return. I am always a bit suspicious of suggested donations and enlightemenent fees :? . But again, that's me. Now, maybe, one day I will have to ask for financial support, who knows? Although I disagree with the materialistic tendency of some teachers and sometimes with some aspects of their teachings, I deeply respect their right to sell water by the river. And when some other teachers trash the guys for this and that, I think it is a bit over the top.

    There are great truths in Western psychology but I am not sure that mixing things up is a good option. I also like to break away from tradition, not following at all Japanese style but keeping elements which are, in my limited understanding, essential to the Buddha-Dharma ( just sitting, kesa, sutra study and chanting, work). There is nothing wrong with money, it is just energy, but the attachment to it leads to what we ll know: greed, violence,power struggles, intolerance, crisis.

    Through my various studies, I came to the obvious conclusion that even the greatest tradition once trapped into an institution like a monastery, a church get easily and quickly corrupted. Look at Eiheiji a few years after Dogen's death...Look at Christianity or Tibetan Buddhism. Therefore I prefer a non institutionnal approach where money is not central and where every practionner is responsible, invited to wake up and doesn't loose his or her freedom giving his or her power to the guru. Here we don't always agree with each other, and we learn to live with it and respect people. Here, many students teach me. And I am so grateful to them. in the past, not a single teacher of mine would have openly accepted being taught by a student.

    That's why I think Treeleaf is a great place. And it meets what seems to be the requirements for the right balance between the individual and the group.

    I think we are very fortunate to be able to practice what we do here alone-and-together.


    Gassho


    Taigu

  8. #8
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Self as salvation...

    I have to disagree with some basic points here. First, I'm not talking about money in Zen - I actually see little problem with that. I wish that there was a way to donate money to this sangha because I can't do samu for the sangha the way I could in a more physical one. It's also one of the few ways in western culture by which to show appreciation in a way that 'hurts' a little. Then again, maybe that instinct is part of the problem.

    What I'm talking about is more of a mindset - a commodity-oriented view of Zen (of everything, really). A lot of the individuality valued by our culture was purposefully intended to isolate us to make us more prolifigate consumers. I myself, disconnected from community as I am, have very little means at my immediate disposal by which to counteract that tendency. Zen and sangha are two important ways for me to do that.

    My problem with Genpo isn't asking for donations, it's turning zen into a trademarked product designed to do what all products are advertised to do - fill an emotional need or perceived gap.

    Chet

  9. #9

    Re: Self as salvation...

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    How many people come to and through Zen this way? Does corporatism taint everything it touches in the west?

    Chet
    My take is that it doesn't matter much how people begin a path . . . many folks come to real jazz through the corporate junk (simply my opinion) that is marketed as jazz like Kenny G, etc. The ones who really have an open ear, however, quickly see that fast-food music is not the same as a good meal. Then their interest changes. Maybe Zen is the same. Tolle, et al, may steer a few folks toward Buddhism who wouldn't have found it otherwise; they may also sour folks' impression of the Dharma before they have ever truly encountered it. Either way, the dilletantes will come and go: asi es la vida, we have little choice but to keep sitting . . .

    Peace,
    Bill

    PS: there is a collection of Buddhist writings on consumerism called "Hooked" that I got a year or so ago. It discusses much of what Chet is talking about.

  10. #10

    Re: Self as salvation...

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    My problem with Genpo isn't asking for donations, it's turning zen into a trademarked product designed to do what all products are advertised to do - fill an emotional need or perceived gap.
    Though I'm sure it was not very clear in my wording, this is actually what I was thinking about when I mentioned that something seems off. The donations was more an after thought that made me take another step back. The whole Big Mind thing when I watch videos (I have a copy of the DVD from a friend as well) felt like an infomercial.

    Actually, that's a good idea, maybe I should create my own spin on it...

    OxiZen - Removes pesky, unwanted emotional stains.
    • Simply apply a little OxiZen and sit for 30 minutes.
    • Repeat the process daily.
    • For exceptionally tough stains, apply OxiZen and sit twice a day.

  11. #11

    Re: Self as salvation...

    Quote Originally Posted by Eika
    ...that is marketed as jazz like Kenny G, etc.
    That cat could play some serious straight up jazz though. Years back, before he passed, Roy Cummings his old professor from UW showed us some videos from his college days and as a fellow jazz musician I would have to say that not only did he have great chops, but he just had a natural ability to fall into the groove.

    Apparently elevator music was his calling though...

    Sorry, getting off topic.

  12. #12
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Self as salvation...

    'Hooked' is a good read. My most recent thinking about this is influenced by 'Life Inc.' - although the guy goes on for far too long diagnosing the problem and is laughably short on solutions. I like his idea of 'community currencies' though. My recent posts are via iPhone and hence truncated..I'd like to talk a lot more about this.

    I've got almost no beefs about Treeleaf regarding this stuff. Accept for possibilities where we may cause real harm, Jundo pretty much lets the lunatics run the assylum - and that leads to some really good conversations, IMHO. I do feel the need to contribute in a more substantial way to the goings on in the Sangha. Maybe we could have a 'send folks to Japan/Jundo fund' or something though. If I put my mind to it, I could save up the cash to visit Jundo in person, but peeps like Dave and others in less fortunate financial positions could probably also benefit from visiting. These are some of the ways I've thought about to help the Sangha at large.

    Chet

  13. #13

    Re: Self as salvation...

    Hi Chet,

    Sorry for the rather longish post ... but it is all important ...

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    I have to disagree with some basic points here. First, I'm not talking about money in Zen - I actually see little problem with that. I wish that there was a way to donate money to this sangha because I can't do samu for the sangha the way I could in a more physical one. It's also one of the few ways in western culture by which to show appreciation in a way that 'hurts' a little. Then again, maybe that instinct is part of the problem.
    In this Sangha, we practice Samu by our work in the world in the aid of people. That is how we help the Sangha. As you are a nurse, Chet, just be a diligent and caring nurse ... even to the point where it hurts a little. Those of us fortunate to have jobs as school teachers, social workers and such can easily find such Samu that helps people. But, even work in at home or in an office, store or factory (for people who have no time for anything else) can be "Right Livelihood" if we approach it with Right Attitude ... if you work in a convenience store, just be kind, gentle and diligent in helping customers find the soap ...

    I post the following from time to time ...


    Samu is vital to Practice. In fact, Samu --IS-- "working Zazen"!

    I strongly encourage community volunteer work as Samu, for those who can make the time. I have not been too insistent on people doing "Samu" work practice at Treeleaf, but I think I should crack the whip a little. If someone will do community volunteer work, preferably, it should be hands on actually helping people in need like the sick or elderly or kids in need (not just folding envelopes) However, for those already loaded with work and family obligations with absolutely no time for anything else, an intentional commitment to non-do some of those activities is "Samu" practice.

    For example, if your Samu is work at home to support others in your family, I believe it is important that the work there you pick for daily Samu should be something you mentally resist a little. If you hate washing the dishes or washing the bathroom in your house, that is excellent Samu ... because a large part of our practice is, of course, learning to drop resistance and drop "likes" and "dislikes", and just to be present with how things are. Samu does not have to be something outside of our normal life though, and if you are busy with a job in the office or factory or taking care of home, well, just pick something in those places that you mentally resist. Samu should perhaps last an half hour or hour at least (though, truly, there is no time limit on Samu ... all can be seen as Samu), so for overworked people, you can select things within your existing duties at home and work. Excellent Samu! If we clean the floors, for example, silence is usually an important part of it. Also, dropping likes and dislikes: We wash the floor DILIGENTLY and CAREFULLY, but without any thought of "clean" "unclean" or a goal. Tricky, but it can be done on the "simultaneously true" channels we practice here.

    We could have a group in which people discuss Samu and support each other.

    Now ... as to Dana, the practice of selfless giving ... putting something in the monk's bowl ...

    I do not accept any "Dana" financial contributions for Treeleaf, as we now have sufficient resources for what we are doing. However, I do encourage people to make financial donations to charities that help folks, e.g., feeding the poor, finding a cure for a disease. Both donations and Samu work should be a bit beyond the point where it starts to hurt.
    On the other point you raise, Chet ...

    What I'm talking about is more of a mindset - a commodity-oriented view of Zen (of everything, really). A lot of the individuality valued by our culture was purposefully intended to isolate us to make us more prolifigate consumers. I myself, disconnected from community as I am, have very little means at my immediate disposal by which to counteract that tendency. Zen and sangha are two important ways for me to do that.

    My problem with Genpo isn't asking for donations, it's turning zen into a trademarked product designed to do what all products are advertised to do - fill an emotional need or perceived gap.

    Chet
    Let me play the Devil's Advocate (Mara's Advocate) a bit about Genpo Roshi ... I agree, however, that we should not turn practice into a commodity, or "spiritual materialism".

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

    My brother Brad is often very down on Genpo, but let me say this ...

    First, I do not wish to particularly comment on the "Big Mind" technique itself ... I had a brief experience, and perhaps it has some limited uses (as was said, it is the "Kenny G" of Zen ... but may serve to bring folks into more substantial, long term practice). I wrote about that here ... Let's keep an open mind (a BIg open Mind) that Genpo is just trying to develop his technique in good faith, combining some modern psychological techniques with Zazen.

    viewtopic.php?p=13271#p13271

    Second, as to Genpo accepting money, sometimes Big Money ... even the Buddha accepted donations of all sizes, with rich people giving more than poor people. Even a Buddha needs to eat (or, at least, goes through the motions). Monasteries of old and presently charge for various ceremonies and other "services" (or had lands filled with peasants raising rice to sell on their behalf ... not so pretty sometimes) ... because money is needed to keep a roof on the place. "Begging in the streets" was probably rarely, if ever, the main source of financial resources for the Buddhist clergy. (That is one of several reasons that the “protestant minister” model is attractive to me as the future course of Buddhist clergy in the West ... ministers, often with other "Right Livelihood" careers, teaching Zen harmoniously therewith. This may be a means appropriate to create an economic base for Buddhist activities in our capitalistic societies, far removed from the agricultural and traditional societies from which our traditions came.). My own teacher, Nishijima, accepted donation of a building in expensive Tokyo by a wealthy man for many years in which building he housed many foreigners wishing to sit Zazen.

    Now, in the West, we all have to figure out how to support Buddhist clergy in a culture not geared to making donations. This is especially true for Genpo Roshi who, frankly, has some kids to get through college, feed and keep in shoes. Can't the fellow (married Buddhist clergy with children) have enough income to reasonably support his family, just like other people? (In my case, I work as a translator of Japanese ... but Genpo Roshi is a full time teacher without an additional career).

    So long as he is also offering his teachings to the poor for little if any suggested donation, then I do not see such a problem. As long as he is using the raised money responsibly (for work on his ministry), I do not see a terrible problem. (However, I do have some VERY LARGE concerns where he seems to be charging high fees for "private time" for rich people with him ... promising in turn "fast results" for the private teaching time ... or holding his seminars in luxury hotels as part of a "spa" experience

    http://miami.going.com/event-315266;Big ... enpo_Roshi

    The following is pretty hard to justify for me ...

    In addition to the five amazing hours of Big Mind per day with Genpo Roshi, their is much to do and experience in tandem with your Retreat, including waterfront dining, and exploring the curative effects of our indoor and outdoor baths (Including: Turkish Hamam, cedar sauna, aroma steam room, Wall of Sound showers, soaking tubs and cold showers, Bayside salt water pool, Roman waterfall hot tub, Artic plunge mud lounge) as well as yoga and movement, indoor gym, massage, acupuncture, facial services, energy workers, salon services, personal life coaching, meditation and more.
    Gassho, Jundo

  14. #14

    Re: Self as salvation...

    Thank you for your perspective. Wonderful comments and thoughts on something that often leaves me torn.

    Maybe the only reason I find issue with the large (to some) suggested donations is merely because I (not so) secretly wish that I had more financial cushion and I choose things like this to illustrate and reinforce my idea that I think life is somehow unfair because I am in no position to make such donations.

    Gassho.

  15. #15
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Self as salvation...

    My beef isn't with Genpo, it's with turning Zen into a brand. I have no doubt that his efforts are mostly well-meaning. As long as there are alternatives, it's not even THAT big a problem. I just don't want to see such branded Zen become the only Zen.

    I ain't looking for 'purity' in Zen - I know it's never been there anyway. I'm just saying that there's some value to the goofy unbranded community of Zen. Big Mind prolly helps people and I think Brad's opposition is overmuch - more to do with his punk identity than anything else. It's arguably as damaging to build zen around punk principles as it is around corporate principles. They can both be seen as alienating and isolating.

    Chet

  16. #16

    Re: Self as salvation...

    May I quote a translation of the Great Heart of Wisdom Sutra:


    "....Nothing is pure, nothing is defiled..."


    I think I understand what you are saying....but after all, isn't there this "Soto" brand of zen and this "Rinzai" brand of zen and other zen 'brands' as well?
    I don't know any other religion which has people hanging on to the 'head' guy or gal's words the way people do for 'eastern' religions
    I never ran across a Catholic or Episcopalian who went on and on about 'my priest this and my priest that and this is what I'm working on in 'confession' etc. I never ran across a born again Christian that didn't hold their minister as being god's mouthpiece, but they didn't claim a lineage of ministers going back to the first one who got it from God's mouth to their ear! At communion no one seems to brag about their wafer being 'holier' than thou's. But in some of the sitting groups I've been with there has been a very competitive component.

    Really, to be an ordinary person is extraordinary.

    Finding a teacher who teaches this very ordinariness is rare.

    (And thank you Chet, and others here for another lively thread.)
    I am refraining from discussing my views regarding the trademarking of Big Mind as intellectual property....maybe another time...

  17. #17

    Re: Self as salvation...

    Quote Originally Posted by Keishin
    May I quote a translation of the Great Heart of Wisdom Sutra:


    "....Nothing is pure, nothing is defiled..."


    I think I understand what you are saying....but after all, isn't there this "Soto" brand of zen and this "Rinzai" brand of zen and other zen 'brands' as well?
    I don't know any other religion which has people hanging on to the 'head' guy or gal's words the way people do for 'eastern' religions
    I never ran across a Catholic or Episcopalian who went on and on about 'my priest this and my priest that and this is what I'm working on in 'confession' etc. I never ran across a born again Christian that didn't hold their minister as being god's mouthpiece, but they didn't claim a lineage of ministers going back to the first one who got it from God's mouth to their ear! At communion no one seems to brag about their wafer being 'holier' than thou's. But in some of the sitting groups I've been with there has been a very competitive component.

    Really, to be an ordinary person is extraordinary.

    Finding a teacher who teaches this very ordinariness is rare.

    (And thank you Chet, and others here for another lively thread.)
    I am refraining from discussing my views regarding the trademarking of Big Mind as intellectual property....maybe another time...

    Thank you, Keishin. Bows on bows.

  18. #18

    Re: Self as salvation...


    One day while walking in the vegetable garden at Tassajara, Suzuki noticed a student who was sitting on a stone looking at a sunflower growing nearby. He went over and sat by her.

    "What are you doing?"

    "Meditating with the sunflower," she said. "It rotates with the sun."

    Suzuki sat with her for a long time. That night Suzuki referred to his garden visit.

    "Unless you get through to emptiness, you are not practicing. But if you stick to the idea of emptiness, you are not a Buddhist yet. Someone was sitting in front of a sunflower, watching the sunflower, a cup of sun, and so I tried it too. It was wonderful; I felt the whole universe in the sunflower. That was my experience. Sunflower meditation. A wonderful confidence appeared. You can see the whole universe in a flower. If you say, 'Oh this is a sunflower which doesn't really exist' [laughing], that is not our zazen practice."

  19. #19

    Re: Self as salvation...

    Quote Originally Posted by ScottyDoo
    Quote Originally Posted by Eika
    ...that is marketed as jazz like Kenny G, etc.
    That cat could play some serious straight up jazz though. Years back, before he passed, Roy Cummings his old professor from UW showed us some videos from his college days and as a fellow jazz musician I would have to say that not only did he have great chops, but he just had a natural ability to fall into the groove.

    Apparently elevator music was his calling though...

    Sorry, getting off topic.
    Yeah, I"ve heard that he did a gig or two with Art Blakey's band and really smoked. I can't really fault him for choosing to make a bit of money, nonetheless, his instrumental-pop records are tedious and difficult to consider a real part of the jazz catalog. He is a very talented saxophonist. He makes more per gig than I do. Then again, Madonna makes more than Yo Yo Ma.

    Bill

  20. #20

    Re: Self as salvation...

    Quote Originally Posted by Keishin
    I don't know any other religion which has people hanging on to the 'head' guy or gal's words the way people do for 'eastern' religions
    I never ran across a Catholic or Episcopalian who went on and on about 'my priest this and my priest that and this is what I'm working on in 'confession' etc. I never ran across a born again Christian that didn't hold their minister as being god's mouthpiece, but they didn't claim a lineage of ministers going back to the first one who got it from God's mouth to their ear! At communion no one seems to brag about their wafer being 'holier' than thou's. But in some of the sitting groups I've been with there has been a very competitive component.

    Really, to be an ordinary person is extraordinary.
    I'm a recovering competitor myself . . . thanks, Keishin.

    Peace,
    Bill

  21. #21
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Self as salvation...

    I must respectfully disagree with the notion that Soto is a brand. Brands are an attempt to replace actual relationships with an 'idea' or image designed to stand in for such relationships. In this way, Soto is really more of a descriptor than a brand. Brands are an attempt to conjure or confer uniqueness upon a commodity that is otherwise generic and undifferentiated product. The differences between Soto and Rinzai are such that we would find new descriptive names for them if the current names were wiped from the record. I don't think we'd do that for types of toilet paper or rolled oats.

    My point with the first post is that practice teaches you rather quickly that many things with which you strongly identify are much more arbitrary than you thought and that all of them are conditioned. Nonetheless, this is not always a natural outcome of concentration practice. What are we to make of the use of concentration for the enhancement of the self and how do we discourage the false attribution of such self-centering to Buddhism (a central theme of which is self-un-centering)?

    Ultimately, I think we can't 'fight' this, but I think we need to be careful that WE understand the difference and that we emphasize that difference to newcomers because they may very well have these misunderstandings.

    Chet

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