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Thread: Sitting with a Sanbo Kyodan group

  1. #1

    Sitting with a Sanbo Kyodan group

    Hello friends,
    I have a question to those of you who have experience of Sanbo Kyodan.

    The background is that the only real chance for me to go on sesshin around here (with my pay scale) is with a group within the Sanbo Kyodan tradition. During a sesshin this last weekend it became apparent that there were enough differences between what I have learned in my studies here with the treeleaf sangha and that of the Sanbo Kyodan teacher that I think I need some guidance. I think having a better grasp of the two traditions would make me a lot less confused during teisho or dokusan with the Sanbo Kyodan teacher. I realize of course that there are also significant differences between individual teachers.

    I want to keep going on sesshings with the Sanbo Kyodan teacher, but I want to practice within the tradition we share here at Treeleaf. My question to you is: what differences do you know between the two traditions?

    I have spoken a bit with Jundo beforehand and he brought up:
    Likely, the Sanbo Kyodan group will emphasize Koan Zazen and reaching Kensho, not Shikantaza and "Just Sitting". You will find considerable differences (and considerable similarities about other things). Same but different, very different but the same.
    I have searched the forum and our earlier discussions seems to bring up mainly the kensho focus and variations in handling of precept study/ethics, as have come up in the jukai discussions concerning aitkens book.
    '
    Differences I think I have noted myself are:
    • Emphasis on yourself, deemphasis of other beings and strong deemphasis of non-human beings in the first bodhisattva vow.
    • Deemphasis on ethics and precept study - the eightfold path is directly actualized through enlightenment, precept study is for laymen not interested zazen or enlightenment.
    • Teaching seems to not actively include/mention the possible necessity for change. (In my interpretation, Jundo tends to emphasis simultaneous acceptance AND work to change)


    I think it might be wise to also point out that I am not trying to discredit Sanbo Kyodan. I'm just looking for advice with going on sesshin with a group whose tradition might not always harmonize with my own.

    Gassho,
    Em

  2. #2

    Re: Sitting with a Sanbo Kyodan group

    Hi Em,

    As I mentioned, there are likely to be differences in approach. Likely, the Sanbo Kyodan group will emphasize Koan Zazen and reaching Kensho, not Shikantaza and "Just Sitting". You will find considerable differences (and considerable similarities about other things). Same but different, very different but the same.

    Groups, however, may even vary from teacher to teacher in Sanbo Kyodan (Nishijima Roshi's students come in several flavors too). So, it is hard for me really to say about a particular group or experience. It is also good for everyone to try many groups, many teachers, many flavors in the Buddhist ice cream store ... before settling on the one that resonates with them. However, you will have to eventually choose the way that resonates with you, as it is hard to go both ways at once. (The hard push to Kensho that is typical of Sanbo Kyodan ... and the "Just Sitting" Shikantaza approach ... are probably best not pursued at once, in my opinion).

    You already mentioned to me that you are familiar with the Robert Sharf article on the Sanbo Kyodan [PDF}

    Sanb˘ky˘dan Zen and the Way of the New Religions
    by Robert H. Sharf
    Japanese Journal of Religious Studies (1995) 22 3-4


    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=w ... 02Dk0y5PQw
    text
    http://www.terebess.hu/english/sharf.html

    However, if you will be sitting Sesshin there, well, nobody knows what kind of sitting you are sitting (unless you discuss it in the Dokusan room). You should sit your own sit. You may feel pressure to conform to the group, but that pressure is just a Koan too! :-)

    As to your comments on the teacher's approach to the Precepts in that group, I have no information on what is taught there, not enough to comment.

    Many ways up the mountain ... and, what mountain?

    Gassho, Jundo

  3. #3

    Re: Sitting with a Sanbo Kyodan group

    Hello,

    all humans are just that, humans. Even Sawaki Roshi, who inspires me like almost nothing or no one else in my practice, has had a less than ideal biography (if one was to have an idealistic viewpoint) in some ways... I am just saying that in order to not pretend Soto-Zen's has been squeaky clean....however with regards to Sanbo Kyodan one should maybe take some of the facts unearthed by Brian Victoria into account (it's worth reading the whole review):

    http://www.thezensite.com/ZenBookReview ... tories.htm


    Again, I do not want to turn this into a debate along the lines of "us vs. them", however I am a firm believe in thorough research.


    Gassho,

    Hans

  4. #4

    Re: Sitting with a Sanbo Kyodan group

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans
    Hello,

    all humans are just that, humans. Even Sawaki Roshi, who inspires me like almost nothing or no one else in my practice, has had a less than ideal biography (if one was to have an idealistic viewpoint) in some ways... I am just saying that in order to not pretend Soto-Zen's has been squeaky clean....however with regards to Sanbo Kyodan one should maybe take some of the facts unearthed by Brian Victoria into account (it's worth reading the whole review):

    http://www.thezensite.com/ZenBookReview ... tories.htm


    Again, I do not want to turn this into a debate along the lines of "us vs. them", however I am a firm believe in thorough research.


    Gassho,

    Hans
    Hi Hans,

    I don't know ... I am not so quick to criticize what some long dead fellow said 70 years ago in support of his country during the war, a strange time in history. And you certainly cannot fault people two or three generations down the line for something before they were born.

    I used to be a fan of the "Zen at War" books ... but then found out about the the author's often "fast and loose", out of context use of quotations, translations and facts. It is enough for me to take most of what is in the book as true, but some of it as nearly yellow journalism. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to tell apart in the Victoria books.

    Anyway ... I would not judge Sanbo Kyodan on what somebody may have said 70 years ago in Japan, when the whole country was in a fever of nationalism.

    You know, I am married to a Japanese, I am from a Jewish family ...I have two uncles (on my side, my wife's side) who were in the Pacific War on opposite sides, possibly in the same battles. It was a complicated time. Our own 91 year old Nishijima Roshi, who claims he never supported the war or shot anyone, was drafted and sent to Manchuria, had his family's house burned to the ground by American bombs and (although he means it in the best way, mostly) is convinced (like so many of his generation) that the Jews probably run all the banks, control the world economy and choose the American president. That is a common belief in people of his generation still, because they were taught that before the war and it is still a common belief in Japan. It was a complicated time.

    Gassho, Jundo

  5. #5

    Re: Sitting with a Sanbo Kyodan group

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I used to be a fan of the "Zen at War" books ... but then found out about the the author's often "fast and loose", out of context use of quotations, translations and facts. It is enough for me to take most of what is in the book as true, but some of it as nearly yellow journalism. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to tell apart in the Victoria books.
    Emotional background: I owe him a lot, he was gracious enough to act as an "older brother" on occasion when I was in Japan in the early 70s, and he introduced me to his teacher. OK, so the books are not "just the facts" but he's a serious guy, and he was an activist before he was a monk. He accomplished his goal, which was not to denigrate particular people so much as to expose Zen (particularly Soto, since he had a personal stake) as being less than universally wonderful.

    Anyway ... I would not judge Sanbo Kyodan on what somebody may have said 70 years ago in Japan, when the whole country was in a fever of nationalism.
    I am inspired by the stance that Oomoto took. They refused to go along with the military fever. Their sites were razed and they were arrested, killed, or fled to Manchuria. Knowing one's own integrity and speaking truth to power. Isn't there something in the precepts about that?

  6. #6

    Re: Sitting with a Sanbo Kyodan group

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    Anyway ... I would not judge Sanbo Kyodan on what somebody may have said 70 years ago in Japan, when the whole country was in a fever of nationalism.
    Also, hasn't Sanbo Kyodan apologized for Yasutani's statements, among other things?

  7. #7

    Re: Sitting with a Sanbo Kyodan group

    Personally, I like what Zak said in another post:

    I've tried both Rinzai and Soto practice and could see how both ways could be effective. Personally, I prefer the Soto Shikantaza way for my practice. In the end it seems to be all about your personal inclination. Perhaps, it would be much better if we just referred to ourselves as simply Buddhists.
    The paths we take up the mountain sometimes come with labels, even though at the end of all things we are not what we believe in, but what that faith has helped to shape us into. Names like "Rinzai" "Soto" and "Sanbo Kyodan" seem like just another attachment to me. I prefer to practice in the way known as "Soto" Zen and shikantaza, but does that make me Soto Zen? Seems to be another way to create the delusion that "I" am seperate from "you". As Taigu said "I just walk".

  8. #8

    Re: Sitting with a Sanbo Kyodan group

    Hello all,


    I would not tell anyone "don't go sit with Sanbo-Kyodan", I am absolutely sure they have some pretty good teachers in their ranks, nevertheless I am a firm believer in getting people as much information about groups one might get into contact with as possible. IMHO it should be down to newly interested individuals to decide whether they care what some people said some 70 years ago (and since Sanbko-Kyodan did apologize as far as I know, there must be some truth to the allegations), once they've been exposed to as many perspectives as possible, including controversies and different readings of their history.

    One could argue that someone who fought in Manchuria could not possibly have been a very realized Zen master...I don't. I appreciate that at least some rough facts regarding Sawaki-roshi are out there.

    ...maybe it's because I'm German...too many stories about about people who said things 70 years ago they now pretend they never said.

    Gassho,

    Hans

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