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Thread: Help

  1. #1

    Help

    Ugh! Why am I posting this? Because I need help, duh...

    How do you "keep going forward" in zazen when all you
    seem to get, day in, day out, are the clouds, just dark,
    heavy clouds, and NO BLUE SKY!!!???

    My wife and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary
    last weekend and we stayed at a "Bed and Breakfast." Well,
    it was a beautiful place. It overlooked a lake where we swam,
    got a sunset ride on a boat, laid together in a hammock between
    trees, did "the deed" ops: in a luxurious bed, and was fed a
    breakfast that would challenge a cook for the king. It was a
    wonderful experience. But the owner was a Baptist minister. He
    didn't say anything about it. But that night, in the "commnity room,"
    I noticed alot of his books dealt with ministry and Protestant
    theology. I picked up a few volumes of Martin Luther and some others
    and read some stuff that I thought I had tucked away in the "dark
    backward" of my mind. It got me remembering my past issues with
    all this stuff. I know a Buddhist forum isn't the greatest place to talk
    about this stuff, but it has brought up alot of issues (that I thought
    were no longer issues) and these seem to be disrupting my practice.
    Before, I felt no conflict between the two worlds. Even was proud
    to think of myself as a Zen Baptist. I know, that's kinda like calling
    myself an "aristocratic redneck." But now when I sit I spend the
    entire time doubting myself, doubting my practice, and doubting my
    motives for practicing. I know the entire conflict has its home in
    my thoughts, but thoughts can be powerful things. I don't know
    what I'm asking or looking for...just some words of wisdom and
    encouragement. Anything you've got will help. Thanks for listening.

    gassho
    Greg

  2. #2

    Re: Help

    Hi Greg,

    This is a great place to talk about such things, assuming you want to do so.

    Whenever you work out what you need to work out with your Christian self, Zen practice is still here and not changed a bit ... at least from this side of the dance. If you want to feel like you are sitting with "Reality" or "Buddha" or "the Universe" or "One's True Face" or "Mind" or "God" or "Jesus" ... same sitting. Just sit. Who is to say really where one ends and the others begin?

    Anyway, it is good to wrestle with these issues from time to time.

    And congratulations on your anniversary.

    Gassho, Jundo

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Jun 2008
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    Re: Help

    Hey Greg,

    I probably can't offer much help as I came to Zen without any prior religious ties, growing up as an agnostic. That isn't to say that I didn't grow up without any knowledge of religion since my father taught the subject and discussed it plenty. I've seen many people come through here struggle with the integration of Zen with other religions and I can sense their pain. All I can really say is that the ups and downs are a part of it and that the only thing you can do is keep sitting. The blue sky will emerge eventually, just not when you want it to...and that's point really. That sounds cryptic but in my experience it is the truth.

    I'm sure you will find many willing to discuss it here, so I wouldn't say this is the wrong place at all. Perhaps those with religious backgrounds similar to yours can be of more help. I just thought I'd offer my support. Hang in there.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  4. #4

    Re: Help

    No explanations needed, Greg. I know little about Christianity, I own a copy of the jefferson bible (Jefferson just stuck to the teachings of Christ, left out all the miracles, rather Zen, eh? )and the KJV but haven't really delved in. Obviously Zen has touched you deeply or you wouldn't even bother to post about your dilemma. The fact is, I feel, that we, all of us, are fundamentally "Zen", some of us just wake up to the fact that practice is Buddha and there is a practice to do. Baptist Buddha, Catholic Buddha, Hindu, Muslim, all buddha all the time! Some people just don't know it, i guess :P

    As far as I can tell, you have awakened to the fact that there is a way off this wheel of grasping and suffering, so really, where is there to go? Theology will probably never stop pointing fingers at who is right and who is wrong, humans are self-centered a good period of the time. What matters is YOU. Conflict will arise no matter what, it may be religious, or it may be personal (family business when I should sit, etc...) just another scene in the grand movie of your life and of your zazen.

    As far as the clouds are concerned, who cares? I don't know if I've ever "had" a blue sky moment, sure my mind is calmer sometimes, but the second the thought "ahhhhh! BLUE SK......." arises then there's "cloud....." I personally like watching my clouds now a days. They come in all kinds of interesting shapes and content :mrgreen: Striving for that blue sky is only a darker, harder to see through cloud. Strive to watch your thoughts.

    Just be Greg! You were born Greg and you shall be Greg, clouds, concerns, or not, you can be sure of that. Hope this helped a bit

    Gassho
    Taylor

  5. #5

    Re: Help

    Hi Greg,

    although I personally (I was raised as a catholic) could never understand how one can practise Christianity and Buddhism at the same time (although I can see how that could work in a Pure Land School kinda way...) without stretching both definitions to a degree of them both becoming almost meaningless...I know quite a few very wise people did, so I would suggest maybe a) reading stuff by people like Enomiya-Lasalle, Willigis Jaeger (don't know if his stuff has been translated), David Steindl-Rast....and/getting in touch with people here on the forum and/or at other Zen places where they use Zazen as part of a Christian contemplative approach. I never read Thich Nhat Hanh's "Living buddha , Living Christ", but some people rather seem to like it.

    From my experience, some of the mental hardship involved when one feels somehow "between two chairs" has to do with the social aspect...in the sense that one is so used to attend certain services, see certain people in a particular religious setting, do stuff together in the context of religion etc. It is just pretty hard when that suddenly changes. I was pretty involved in a particular branch of modern day Heathenism for quite a few years....most of my dearest and best friends consider themselves Heathens still...but the time between my taking up Buddhist practice and really "coming out" as a Buddhist was pretty hard, in my mind that is. I was lucky enough that all my friends supported me and just wished me the best on my path. That was true religious tolerance in action. For years I really kept myself away from "the scene", because I needed clarity...nowadays it wouldn't be a problem anymore, because I feel secure within what I practise....but the "in between" time can be really hard. That's all Iw ant to say. Give yourself time for questions to settle and answers to arise naturally.

    Gassho,

    Hans

  6. #6

    Re: Help

    Greg,
    I think that great doubt, coupled with great faith, (and great effort) is an important part of this practice.

    Or as Hakuin said:
    Great Faith. Great Doubt. Great Effort. -The three qualities necessary for training.

    Should you desire great tranquility, prepare to sweat white beads. -Hakuin
    Along the way you may come to find that you remove all doubt, and also the need for faith.
    Then you may come to have doubts again, and again find your faith. It can tend to be cyclic... But the idea might just be to recognise that cycle as just a cycle, then jump on and ride!

    I have been observing this tendency in myself, and those others that have had the courage to write openly about their practice for quite some time.
    And while the experience of others may be different, know that there are also plenty of folks who go through similar dark periods.

    I thank you for sharing and persevere brightly!

  7. #7
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Help

    How much do you want to wake up, Greg?

    How much are you willing to put on the line?

    Are you willing to give up every last one of your cherished beliefs, to throw "Baptist," and all the baggage that comes with it, out the window? And "Buddhist"?

    Chet used to say to me a lot, "Reality doesn't care what you believe." It doesn't care whether you believe there is a God or isn't a God, whether you think this is compatible with that, or whether it's hard for you to let go of certain things you desperately clung to.

    I can guarantee you that it's your cherished beliefs that are dragging all those heavy clouds along so that every time you look up those are what you see. No amount of worldly pleasure or well-meaning self-justification of what you believe is going to make you happy. If all Zen is, is a way to accessorize your mental space, it will never come alive in your life, and you will go on with this terrible struggle.

    There's part of you that is terrified to examine, much less give up, your old religious belief system. All the people who put all that stuff in your head made sure of it--that you will fear fiery hell and exile from God if you step one toe out of the line of dogma. And if you're not ready to examine or give up those beliefs, then stop toying with Zen, because sincere practice will slowly gnaw away at them. But if you want to be free, you have to be willing to endure the terror of your mental castles crumbling all around you. In the end, it seems so... ridiculous, because none of this stuff was ever real in the first place. You were desperately holding on to a branch two feet off the floor. Just let go.

    The problem in my opinion with trying to mix Zen practice and other religions is that sincere Zen practice requires you to go into your personal Museum of Belief with a hammer. If you can get to a place where you are experiencing "Christianity without belief"--as I believe some have done--where you are living intimately within the heart of Jesus, that's one thing... but to whatever extent your personal faith or religion is built with the brick of belief--which, as someone heavily inundated with Baptist culture growing up, I can say is the case with any form of Baptist Christianity I've ever come in contact with--be careful. The extent to which you insist on holding on to all that stuff is the extent you will stay blocked in this struggle between the part of you that wants to wake up, and the part of you that wants to remain nestled in the cocoon of comforting belief. And if you don't want to wake up... drop the Zen!

  8. #8

    Re: Help

    Hi Greg,

    I would like to say a few words as from my experience, I was raised Catholic and I went to Catholic school and was obliged by my parents to follow the Catholic path. At 15 I renounced completely. Because of my occupation I saw a lot of misery, crime, death ( like the Siddartha story in a way ), and I thought to go back to my Catholic roots, but got disappointed in a way that it made me dependant and I did not saw any difference with what I felt when I said the faith goodbye. Then I started experimenting with eastern philisophy and ended up with Zen as for me it felt a liberation and especially the fact that you take on your life yourself and not by any other deity who is out there to protect. It just felt ok although I have doubts about it, whether or not to sit, to stay, to continue. But now that I look at the message and not at the institutionalised religion I found many inspirations and sometimes it feels like now I discover true wordings ( what is true is difficult to say), in the Bible or in many other religious works ( like in sufism, quakers,... ). That doesn't make me an adept of any of these religions, I just am open to the message and let me inspire by sometimes people who express themselves as being part of a religion. I also intend now to be open for the Old Catholic church as it doesn't has the negative image I have of the church, as my daughter wants to be more involved in the Catholic faith, I propose her this church as it encourages womens' ordination, married priesthood, progressive thinking and so on. I also sense the fact that wanting to belong to a certain social group, is a natural human desire, and since the more predominant religions are aimed at trying to get as much people attached to their religions, my tendency is to get away from those people who are trying to win a soul. I also had the experience "belonging" to a zen group. The fact that the people in the zen group where not so demanding and "intrusive" made me stay, as I felt I could be there like I was, sometimes after a sesshin there was the feeling that I wanted to stay because it felt so secure and I felt being part of a group, in other occassion I felt bad because the group was less "good" as the others. At the moment you feel either happy or sad, after while I realised these were attachments or rejections to a particular situation in which I depended so much on the atmosphere of the group and of others, without considering my own contribution. As the story goes you have to get back to the marketplace and live your life. I think attachments can arise in any group or religion. I think Zen and sitting practice helps me to be more in the world and appreciate all good things that come ( including the holidays,... )

    Hope this helps ,

    Gassho

    Ensho

  9. #9

    Re: Help

    Sorry man, you're going to hell. kidding

    I'm glad you brought this up. I consider myself a Zen Christian. Now, mind you, I don't go to church, but I've always had a Christian faith. I suppose a lot has to do with my upbringing. To me, Zen has brought me closer to understanding Christ's words. In fact, I've been thinking about re-reading the 4 books with Christ in it (non-apocryphal although I really want to read the Book of St. Thomas ) to see what I add when I read those books. I mean what is the translation saying, and what assumptions do I make.

    Now, in my head, it's like oh if you don't do this you're going to hell, but I have a feeling that's my ego trying to immortalize itself, and I'm not certain that Jesus put it quite that way. I don't remember him talking about God as a dude sitting in a chair with a white beard, etc. But for some reason it took me a long time to get past that archetype; perhaps that feeling of needing an authority figure is an ingrained piece of our psyche or something.

    The last time I read Matthew a couple months back after starting down the path to Zen, it seemed to have a new flavor.

    My thing is this that I let old habitual fears imprison me. It's a daily struggle. One of those has to do with my faith. Am I following Zen to search for something different, to feel special? Or is this legitimate to me. Of course, I'm leaning toward this being a path for me, and I legitimize it by practice. But those doubts creep back up... But that's what I love about Zen; zazen is the place to just be here now... and no matter where you are in your head you must always be here now eventually.

    The only way to answer those questions is to face them. I'm not sure if they have an answer, but no matter which way I go, I know they will always be there, and so far Zen has really helped me to take a path to face reality and to recognize old habits that need to be discarded.

  10. #10

    Re: Help

    Hi Ghop,

    First off - Happy Anniversary!

    I think a lot of us here do a bit of religious shopping around before settling down, and sometimes that 'settling' involves realising that there's no need to settle into any one particular form.

    I amble between here and Quakerism, which admittedly is a far cry from the American Baptist church as I've seen it on some religious tv networks, but sometimes I'm aware of conflicts or paradoxes of doing so and then I just sit with the paradox. A lot of churches aren't very good at allowing paradox, but Jesus was - look up the parable of the wheat and tares for example, Matthew 13 - ish. Learn to live with both things, don't throw the holy baby out with the bathwater.

    For myself, I don't try to resolve both into some sort of private synthesis, it just feels unnecessary to me (and too difficult for me as a non-theologist in any tradition). I think that would be doing both traditions a disservice. They are what they are, and when I'm sitting, I'm sitting, and when I'm in Meeting I'm in Meeting. I can't do both and I don't feel the need to.

    It might be worth looking at your doubts a bit more closely. Are you afraid of 'backing the wrong horse' with the result you either waste your time or get chucked into hell?, afraid of not being able to explain logically to someone else how you can resolve the two traditions? worried about what 'others' might say? If you go into these sorts of questions openly, honestly feel the shape of the issues for yourself and don't shy away from them it might help to deepen your understanding in both traditions.

    Just to finish - (and to 'balance' the biblical reference!) - I dug up a quote from the Vimalakirti Sutra 8, talking about different activities of a bodhisattva:

    "He becomes a monk in all different religions of the world so that he might free others from delusion and save them from falling into false views."
    So, if becoming a Baptist is good enough for a bodhisattva, it can be good enough for you too. The doctrine isn't that important if that's something that we find ourselves clinging to and clinging = the cause of suffering in both the Four Noble Truths and the 'consider the lilies of the field' talk. The compassion that you show in whatever you do, in whatever mode you happen to be in must be the important thing.

    Quakers are always quoting the last bit of 'The Epistle of the Elders of Balby (which I think in turn is quoting something from St Peter) - it's urging the Meetings to look at their advice and follow the spirit of it rather than making it a doctrine in itself: it's to be followed, "not in the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life."

    Enjoy all of your practice,

    gassho,
    Monkton

  11. #11

    Re: Help

    I'm not a Christian myself so you might as well ignore all I say. But.

    Stephanie quoted the "reality does not care what you believe" thing, which is true.

    But I think if God exists, and if He is worth us putting faith in, then He does not much care how you practice, either. There's nothing much in the Bible (I think?) about meditation, pro or contra, but on the other hand there's a lot if it in various Christian traditions. Call it silent prayer or call it zen or just sitting... I do not think the practice of sitting still has much to do with your Christian faith or lack there-of. I cannot see, if you have doubts about your Christian faith, they can be because of zazen. Zazen has nothing in it that can cause a lack of faith -- unless that lack of faith was there to begin with, and zazen merely brings it to your mind. (Neither is there anything that I can see in Baptist religion that can in itself cause a doubt in zazen, for that matter.)

  12. #12

    Re: Help

    Well, I know a bit about religion, I like to study them because they interest me very much. What I would say is this:

    First, do a little looking in to things. I say this not because I doubt the validity of any religion, but rather like all things, the bits and pieces are subject to human error. Enough errors and the whole view changes. An example, the passage in the Bible (KJV) says, "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." was, in the original Hebrew, "thou shalt not suffer a poisoner to live." This small translation error is responsible for much of the Spanish Inquisition and Salem Witch Trials. Go to the source, as much as you can, and if it makes sense to you, follow it. Many dispute the validity of the Gnostic Bible, but I wonder if it is not the most accurate record of the teachings of Christ. One particular passage said, "you will not find me in houses made of brick or stone, but in the hearts of men."
    Second, your chosen religion need not be in conflict with your practice. It seems to me that you might believe that you are not being faithful to your Baptist roots, but what is the purpose of this religion? To know God, live well, and love others, correct? Suzuki Roshi calls it the Source and says that it is beyond our understanding, not that there is no God, but simply that, in honest truth, we do not know God's shape, form and breadth. Deshimaru Roshi says that meditation is the foundation of all religion, and that much of religion is decoration, knowing the rites, speaking the proper words, but that we must cut away the excess and find the essence of true religion. For you, since you have a Baptist foundation, ask yourself this: Is my Zen practice at odds with my religion? If you are unsure of certain aspects, ask and learn. But in truth I think it is like this:

    Once a university student on his visit to Gasan asked him : " Have you ever gone through the Christian Bible?"


    Gasan said : " No read it to me"


    The student immediately started reading out from St.Matthew : "And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lillies of the field, how they grow. They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for things of itself."

    On hearing, Gasan said "Whosoever uttered these words, I considered him an enlightened man"

    The student went on to read further, "Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened."

    Gasan remarked : " Excellent. Whoever said these words is not far from Buddhahood"

  13. #13

    Re: Help

    Zazen has nothing in it that can cause a lack of faith -- unless that lack of faith was there to begin with, and zazen merely brings it to your mind.
    I like that!
    gassho,
    Monkton

  14. #14
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Help

    Quote Originally Posted by monkton
    Zazen has nothing in it that can cause a lack of faith -- unless that lack of faith was there to begin with, and zazen merely brings it to your mind.
    I like that!
    gassho,
    Monkton
    I completely disagree. If you are seriously engaging this practice, and looking at your mind, and questioning the labels and beliefs and stories you lay on top of reality, you will start to doubt things you never doubted before.

    Certainly happened to me.

  15. #15

    Re: Help

    Who you really are - your true self - doesn't give two shits about Buddhism or Christianity. However all the great Buddhas and Saints meditated a lot and I think Buddha described our situation and what to do about it pretty well but Saints are cool too
    /Rich

  16. #16

    Re: Help

    Hi Folks,

    this whole notion of Zen practise being beyond religion ( which I seem to detect here and there...maybe I'm just projecting though ) has only truly come to real prominence in the last 150 years since the Meiji restoration as far as I know, if I find the time I will try to find some quotes and sources to back this claim of mine up. Alan Watts and Mr D.T Suzuki did their share...

    Dozens of generations of Zen masters had no doubt that Zazen and Buddhadharma were/are not to be divided. Now, I do not mean that the raft equals the shore. The shore we taste every waking moment is truly beyond boxes like -isms and religions, but the raft isn't. Dogen even makes a point in the Shobogenzo to make clear that his take on Buddhism is not to be confused with confucianism and daoism...and doesn't even mention Christianity for obvious cultural/historical reasons (though he might elsewhere, please correct me if you can).

    To return to Greg's original question: I think it's important to just give oneself time to figure these things out for oneself through deep, no holds barred inquiry. Joseph Campbell once said "follow your bliss"....just find that bliss and you'll be okay

    Gassho,

    Hans

  17. #17

    Re: Help

    Hi Stephanie,

    If you are seriously engaging this practice, and looking at your mind, and questioning the labels and beliefs and stories you lay on top of reality, you will start to doubt things you never doubted before.

    Certainly happened to me.
    you're right of course, and the same thing happened (and continues to happen) to me; but then what happens? - zen doesn't leave us high and dry. Shunryu Suzuki says:
    the purpose of studying buddhism is to to study ourselves and to forget ourselves. When we forget ourselves, we actually are the true activity of the big existence, or reality itself. When we realize this fact, there is no problem whatsoever in this world, and we can enjoy our life without feeling any difficulties. The purpose of our practice is to be aware of this fact.
    So I read this as saying, yes, we start by 'realizing' our doubts - literally making them real - in zazen, so they become our reality (not a layer that we've laid somehow on top of something called 'reality') it's a revelation to us of what our labels, beliefs and stories actually are; but that's not the end of the story.

    That's going further than Jaana's post so I probably inferred too much from it, so thanks for drawing me up.

    gassho,
    Monkton

  18. #18

    Re: Help

    Well, I was wrong to think this isn't the place to bring
    this subject up. Turns out it is a great place to do so.
    There is so much good advice here. I feel lucky to be
    able to get such support. It's just kinda embarrasing
    admitting such conflicts. It's like joining a math club
    and later having to admit you don't know squat about it.
    Jundo, Dosho, Taylor, Hans, Fuken, Stephanie, Ensho,
    Cyril, Jaana, Christopher, Rich, Monkton...thank you
    so very much. I agree that maybe zazen has just
    "revealed" the cracks in what I thought were an honest
    faith on my part. And Monkton, odd that you should
    bring up the Quakers. I have been looking into them
    for some time now. There is a Meeting about twenty
    miles from where I live. I have spoken with one of the
    members and will be attending soon, just to "test the
    waters."

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich
    Who you really are - your true self - doesn't give two shits about Buddhism or Christianity.
    :lol: :lol: :lol:

    gassho
    Greg

  19. #19

    Re: Help

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    How much do you want to wake up, Greg?...The extent to which you insist on holding on to all that stuff is the extent you will stay blocked in this struggle between the part of you that wants to wake up, and the part of you that wants to remain nestled in the cocoon of comforting belief. And if you don't want to wake up... drop the Zen!
    I was reading Beck's book "Living Zen" and came across an interesting quote from her. She said (and I am paraphrasing as I don't have the book in front of me) "I don't really care if people leave the practice of Zen. Awareness is the proverbial cat that can't be stuffed back in the bag. Life is zazen and will push you in the direction of reality whether you purposely practice or not. Practicing zen just accelerates the process."

    So, if I have understood and not mis-represented what she said, her opinion would seem to be "go ahead and go back to the Baptist thing if that feels right. It may be a necessary part of your learning to be disappointed by that faith. Then you will come back to zen, and be disappointed by that practice. Then you have a chance at awakening."

    Beck seems big on loss/disappointment as the only true teacher :wink:

  20. #20

    Re: Help

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans
    To return to Greg's original question: I think it's important to just give oneself time to figure these things out for oneself through deep, no holds barred inquiry. Joseph Campbell once said "follow your bliss"....just find that bliss and you'll be okay

    Gassho,

    Hans
    Well said, Hans!

  21. #21

    Re: Help

    There's an old story about W.C. Fields that I think is pretty funny (and also might fit here). When he was in New York for a show, he decided to go to his hotel room to rest before that evenings festivities. A few hours later his manager walked into Fields' room and noticed that he was reading the King James Bible. Knowing that W.C. Fields was a strong atheist, his manager had to ask why he was reading the Bible. Fields' replied, "I'm looking for loopholes."

    I believe that you can use Zen regardless of being Christian, Muslim, etc. If you sit zazen and come to some realization through this practice, and it is truth to you, then you can examine your other beliefs to see if those still hold the same truth in your mind. If you continue to zazen and you find that this practice does not fit what you truly believe or what makes sense to you,then get up off the cushion and continue to live. It does not matter what faith you follow; Zen will work. The great thing about Buddhism is that you can use what makes sense to you. Christ is quoted to have similar views to what the Buddha was quoted as saying, so I don't see an issue. We don't know what happens when we die, but we can choose to be happy RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. Just be happy and practice (whether it's zazen or prayer).

    Gassho,

    Adam

    PS - Congrats on the anniversary!

    PPS - The Dalai Lama also said, "My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness." That is true, too.

  22. #22

    Re: Help

    Quote Originally Posted by CraigfromAz
    Then you will come back to zen, and be disappointed by that practice. Then you have a chance at awakening."

    Beck seems big on loss/disappointment as the only true teacher :wink:
    Oh, I have been disappointed by Zen practice every single day, which is never quite how I would have it go or be. In fact, I have been disappointed by life every single day, which is never quite how I would have it be and go.

    And that is why I have walked this path of Zen practice for 28 years now, and will every day.

    Gassho, J

  23. #23

    Re: Help

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Quote Originally Posted by monkton
    Zazen has nothing in it that can cause a lack of faith -- unless that lack of faith was there to begin with, and zazen merely brings it to your mind.
    I like that!
    gassho,
    Monkton
    I completely disagree. If you are seriously engaging this practice, and looking at your mind, and questioning the labels and beliefs and stories you lay on top of reality, you will start to doubt things you never doubted before.

    Certainly happened to me.
    Oh, I did not mean to imply that could not happen. I find it actually pretty likely that taking time to sit by yourself helps you to think about things differently.What I meant to imply is that I do not think that the practice of sitting down and staring a wall can in itself be the cause for how you change. There is nothing mystical about sitting -- say, the Devil does not enter you and make you forget God if you do, nor God reveal yourself to you and tell you The Truth About Everything -- but if change comes, it comes from you/world/reality, with the help of zazen. Just sitting and staring at a wall can make you think about things differently -- but it cannot make you think of things in a particular way, if you know the truth to be different.

    (EDITed to add: ok, on a hindsight, I guess it sort of could do that too. Though even then, it is you convincing yourself of something that is not true, with the help of zazen, not zazen being the origin of the belief.)

  24. #24

    Re: Help

    greg,

    may i ask what your "past issues with all this stuff" might mean specifically? maybe it was expressed and/or addressed here and i completely missed it...but, having been raised in an evangelical christian environment myself, i know that the residues from multiple "issues" can remain for some time. just curious - not trying to pry...

  25. #25

    Re: Help

    Hi Adam

    Just a quick "I disagree" from my corner regarding some of the things you have written. Obviously we can never truly argue with what we "believe", so please don't understand what I am writing the wrong way. I am not trying to say "I am right", rather I would just like to highlight a different perspective.

    You wrote:
    "I believe that you can use Zen regardless of being Christian, Muslim, etc. ... The great thing about Buddhism is that you can use what makes sense to you.
    (...)

    Sila (Buddhist ethics), Samadhi, (concentration) and Prajna (wisdom) all have to come together for Zazen to really unfold. No right view without deeply realising the four noble truths either.

    I don't doubt that sitting down and entering deep meditative states can lead to great realisations...it just ain't Zazen IMHO.

    Buddhism split into dozens of different school precisely because "using what makes sense to you" did not make sense in a communal setting. Once differences in practice and/or theory become too great, it's schism time. If you don't stick to certain precise rules, or get funny ideas about ordaining women and put them into practise...you have a great problem with most of the traditional Theravada establishment. If you don't do your Ngondro preliminary exercises, you are not allowed to receive most of the empowerments and instructions for higher Yoga tantras etc. in the Tibetan traditions. The same would go for Japanese Buddhist traditions in different waysetc., although I agree that certain streams of Buddhism embrace syncretism more than others.

    It is true that the different Buddhist traditions do not have a pan-buddhist inquisition in place that would excommunicate loads of people, burn witches etc. (thanks for that!!!). But all Buddhist traditions (right until the time they entered the western industrial world) are/were governed by highly detailed rule-systems. I am really glad that we as westerners have the opportunity to look for what is most fitting...but as a historical tradition Buddhism isn't half as liberal as most of us westerners would want it to be. Now of course we can claim to know that the essence of Buddhism is such and such and doesn't have anything to do with the cumbersome organised religions calling themselves Buddhist.

    I know that I am repeating myself, but I will say it again. Zen is a Buddhist tradition. Take the cornerstones of Buddhism out of it and it ain't Zen anymore. It is a finger pointing at something that is beyond notions of religions (and is all of them at the same time). But not all fingers appear the same initially.

    Most individuals growing up in a western consumerist society don't like rules that limit their personal freedom in any way. We are all used to shopping for what we want and discarding what we don't want.
    Due to Buddhist traditions not being able to enact some kind of social peer pressure in the West, we often feel that that makes it such a freedom loving religious tradition. My own research and my experience of living in Japan tells me otherwise.

    PPS - The Dalai Lama also said, "My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness." That is true, too.

    ...as for the Dalai Lama, whom I highly respect btw. ....just google Dorje Shugden controversy and stuff related to CIA covert warfare in Tibet....day to day life is a whole lot nastier than most of the Dalai Lama's coffee table book quotes ( no matter how true they might be on some levels).

    May we all sentient beings realise the truth together.

    Gassho,

    Hans

  26. #26

    Re: Help

    I know that I am repeating myself, but I will say it again. Zen is a Buddhist tradition. Take the cornerstones of Buddhism out of it and it ain't Zen anymore.
    What are "the cornerstones of Buddhism" as you understand them - I mean, what has someone / some organization to be at minimum to qualify as Buddhist?

    What would you call the practice of "just sitting" in the context where someone practices it without interest in other originally Buddhist practices?

  27. #27

    Re: Help

    Quote Originally Posted by Jaana
    I know that I am repeating myself, but I will say it again. Zen is a Buddhist tradition. Take the cornerstones of Buddhism out of it and it ain't Zen anymore.
    What are "the cornerstones of Buddhism" as you understand them - I mean, what has someone / some organization to be at minimum to qualify as Buddhist?

    What would you call the practice of "just sitting" in the context where someone practices it without interest in other originally Buddhist practices?
    Here you go:

    This is a classificaion of the most important categories of Zen, made by the early Chinese Ch'an (Zen) master Kuei-feng Tsung-mi. The notion Zen in this context stands generally for "meditative practice." These are the five types of Zen:

    1.) Bonpu Zen
    (Japanese, "ordinary unenlightened person");
    Bonpu Zen is a type of zazen that is practiced without religious motivation, as, for
    example, for the improvement of mental or bodily health.

    2.) Gedö Zen
    (Japanese, "outside way");
    The type of Zen that is religious in character but follows teachings that are outside
    the Buddhist teachings. Christian contemplation, for example, would fall into this category.
    Also subsumed under gedö Zen are those meditative practices that are pursued purely
    for the sake of developing supernatural powers and abilities.

    3.) Shöjö Zen
    (Japanese, "small vehicle");
    A type of Zen that leads to the state of mushinjö, a condition in which all sense perceptions
    are cutt off and consciousness discontinued. If one remains in mushinjö until death occurs,
    then there is no rebirth and a kind of separation from the cycle of existence (samsära) is
    achieved. Since shöjö Zen is directed only toward the attainment of one's own inner peace,
    it is regarded by Zen Buddhism, which belongs to Mahäyäna Buddhism, as not in agreement
    with the highest teachings of the Buddha. The last two of the five types of Zen, on the other
    hand, are considered in agreement with these teachings.

    4.) Daijö Zen
    (Japanese, "great vehicle");
    The central characteristic of daijö Zen is self-realization and the actualization of the "great way"
    in everyday life. Since in self-realization the connectedness, indeed, the untiy, of the self
    with all beings is experienced, and since the actualization of the "great way" in everyday life
    has to do with working for the welfare of all beings, this is a Zen of the Mahäyäna type.

    5.) Saijöjö Zen
    (Japanese, "supremely excellent vehicle");
    In this highest form of Zen practice, the way and path are fused into one. Zazen is understood
    here not so much as a means to "attain" enlightenment, but rather as a realization of the
    buddha-nature immanent in every being. It is said that this Zen was practiced by all the
    buddhas of the past and it is considered as the pinnacle and crown ornament of Buddhist Zen.
    This practice, also known as shikantaza, is the Zen particularly fostered by Dögen Zenji.

  28. #28

    Re: Help

    Hello Jaana,

    I am not the pope of Buddhism. And that's a good thing I believe. To me personally however, the three marks of existence (anatta, anicca, dukkha), the four noble truths and the noble eightfold path + dependent origination are key cornerstones (insofar as they form the base from which we make our own discoveries that don't rely on scriptures).

    If they weren't, I personally could just as well be practising Advaita Vedanta or ACEM meditation.

    Gassho,

    Hans

  29. #29

    Re: Help

    Hans I wasn't asking for the opinion of the pope of Buddhism, just for yours. I am well-aware you are just one person, don't worry.

    Thanks for the terminology, Fuken. So in Japanese it does look like 'Zen' is also used for meditation outside of Buddhist practices? Wonder if adopting the terminology from there would cause less or more confusion than trying to clarify the English every-day outside-of-Buddhism usage of the word...

  30. #30

    Re: Help

    Hi Jaana,

    Yes, "Zen" is just short for Zazen. Roughly meaning "Seated Meditation."

  31. #31

    Re: Help

    Hi,

    I very much disagree that one has to abandon another religion in order to practice Zen Buddhism. In fact, if one looks at the history of Buddhism in general, Zen in particular, that was never the case in Asia. The Buddha incorporated many Indian gods, beleifs and practices right from the start (while, of course, rejecting other important aspects of Brahmanism ... much as Jesus kept key Jewish beliefs while making something new too), most Chinese may have mixed their Zen Practice with Daoist practices, Confucian social beliefs and Pure Land Buddhism ... even Dogen (who did not actually have to deal with Taoism and Confucianism in Japan, as they were not so prevalent there as much as in China) honored many Shinto practices while still a through and through Zen Buddhist, as do most modern Japanese Zen priests I know (almost every major Zen temple in Japan, including Sojiji and Eiheiji have Shinto Shrines on the premises that protect the temple. When I visited Nishijima Roshi at the New Years, I noticed that he had no trouble to incorporate many Shinto practices too). Most of the Zen teachers in America I know of Jewish background (a lot!) at some point reincorporate many Jewish practices and beliefs (Norman Fischer and Bernie Glassman are just two examples) They were able to keep each in its own sphere without conflict, and often with great harmony.

    http://www.everydayzen.org/index.php?It ... ing&id=905

    It is more a matter how it is done.

    I agree with Hans though that one must practice Zen in accord with the Buddhist teachings. We must not leave the Buddhist teachings aside, and think that all beliefs are the same. There is no Zen free of the Buddha Dharma. However, one can practice the Buddha Dharma and find a way without conflict, and manifesting great harmony simultaneously with other beliefs ... just as one can be a Zen Buddhist bus driver or a Zen Buddhist cowboy without conflict with the "Zen Buddhist" part, one can be a Zen Buddhist Baptist if one's heart finds that "no conflict, great harmony".

    As Hans said, I believe that


    Sila (Buddhist ethics), Samadhi, (concentration) and Prajna (wisdom) all have to come together for Zazen to really unfold. No right view without deeply realising the four noble truths either. ... the three marks of existence (anatta, anicca, dukkha), the four noble truths and the noble eightfold path + dependent origination are key cornerstones


    But I believe that that can happen while still finding a place for other religious practices in one's life ... and perhaps finding the same voiceless voice in each, and one can find how those teachings even manifest in Baptist practice. (Now, whether the Baptist minister will be as liberal as I am with regard to incorporating Buddhism into his beliefs, from his side of the issue ... that is a different story).

    As I often say:

    Is there a "God named 'Jehovah'"? Jesus? Or "Bob"? No God? .......... If so, live human life, fetch wood and carry water.

    Is there not some "God named 'Jehovah'"? No "Jesus"? And no "Bob"? No "no God"? .......... If not, live human life, fetch wood and carry water.


    In any case ... fetch wood, carry water.

    Gassho, J

  32. #32

    Re: Help

    Hello Jundo!

    It's lovely to see these two sides of the same coin.

    Part of this equation seems to me as having to do with how we define religious practice. I see no trouble at all incorporating social, ritual and other cultural aspects from different religions...or mixing them with Zen liturgy, as long as the core contains the Buddhadharma. But unlike in Buddhism, where different containers may contain the same potent juice....there are things like catechisms and religious dogmas that do not just apply to some ideas in the minds of elitist bookworms, but are at the core of the day to day life and faith itself of millions of different people.

    Now, the mystical and contemplative traditions of just about any religious tradition often come to similar conclusions regarding the nature of reality, which is wonderful and creates the possibility to exchange wisdom, yet they are by far not the vast mass of people whose lives throughout the centuries have actually defined their religious traditions per se. To say so would IMHO mean to belittle the non-contemplatives who might simply believe in e.g. a personal eternal god (which means either "anatta" is wrong or God is wrong ) , an eternal unchanging atman etc. and get on with their lives, slaughtering certain animals to please their God/s and not eating others for the same reason.

    Gassho,

    Hans

  33. #33

    Re: Help

    The talk by Father Keating that Taigu posted on another thread is a fine example of someone able to find common ground between his Christianity and Buddhist teachings ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Hi everybody,

    I bumped into this and I listened...Well, have a go, it is really worth it. It will shed more light on why we let go of kensho. I don't always agree with the way he tells the story of the first transmission ( and why not, pretty dramatic and interesting anyway), but I love what he comes up with describing this reality. So close to our practice. So intimate.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88UukqH3kDQ&playnext_from=TL&videos=_9J1zw 50mco&feature=grec_index[/video]] ... grec_index

    gassho

    Taigu
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88UukqH3kDQ&playnext_from=TL&videos=_9J1zw 50mco&feature=grec_index[/video]] ... grec_index

  34. #34

    Re: Help

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans
    Now, the mystical and contemplative traditions of just about any religious tradition often come to similar conclusions regarding the nature of reality, which is wonderful and creates the possibility to exchange wisdom, yet they are by far not the vast mass of people whose lives throughout the centuries have actually defined their religious traditions per se. To say so would IMHO mean to belittle the non-contemplatives who might simply believe in e.g. a personal eternal god (which means either "anatta" is wrong or God is wrong ) , an eternal unchanging atman etc. and get on with their lives, slaughtering certain animals to please their God/s and not eating others for the same reason.

    Gassho,

    Hans
    "Popular Buddhism" among the "vast masses" (as you put it) of Asia looks more like "popular Christianity" in how it is practiced than it does "contemplative" Buddhism. Buddha is a messiah or god like figure, and folks work to stay on his good side to get rewards in this life and go to heaven in the next.

    What is more, almost every Zen priest I know ... including Dogen ... practiced a Buddhism that was a mix of the contemplative and popular. Dogen had plenty of ceremonies around Eiheiji, and plenty of teachings, that incorporated such beliefs. In China, Zen eventually merged with Pure Land ... which is a form of Buddhism strikingly similar to Christianity in its basic framework and beliefs. It did so at the level both of social ritual AND in its deeper contemplative and philosophical side.

    My point: The possibility to mix Zen Buddhism with Christianity is just the same.

    What is more, I cannot think of one doctrine of Christianity or Judaism that could not sit comfortably with the Buddha's teachings. Can you name one? (The only kind I can think of, right off, is a doctrine on the Christian or Jewish side that said "our way or the highway". But, if you put that aside, anything can fit).

    Gassho, Jundo

  35. #35

    Re: Help

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans
    Hi Adam

    Just a quick "I disagree" from my corner regarding some of the things you have written. Obviously we can never truly argue with what we "believe", so please don't understand what I am writing the wrong way. I am not trying to say "I am right", rather I would just like to highlight a different perspective.

    You wrote:
    "I believe that you can use Zen regardless of being Christian, Muslim, etc. ... The great thing about Buddhism is that you can use what makes sense to you.
    (...)

    Sila (Buddhist ethics), Samadhi, (concentration) and Prajna (wisdom) all have to come together for Zazen to really unfold. No right view without deeply realising the four noble truths either.

    I don't doubt that sitting down and entering deep meditative states can lead to great realisations...it just ain't Zazen IMHO.

    Buddhism split into dozens of different school precisely because "using what makes sense to you" did not make sense in a communal setting. Once differences in practice and/or theory become too great, it's schism time. If you don't stick to certain precise rules, or get funny ideas about ordaining women and put them into practise...you have a great problem with most of the traditional Theravada establishment. If you don't do your Ngondro preliminary exercises, you are not allowed to receive most of the empowerments and instructions for higher Yoga tantras etc. in the Tibetan traditions. The same would go for Japanese Buddhist traditions in different waysetc., although I agree that certain streams of Buddhism embrace syncretism more than others.

    It is true that the different Buddhist traditions do not have a pan-buddhist inquisition in place that would excommunicate loads of people, burn witches etc. (thanks for that!!!). But all Buddhist traditions (right until the time they entered the western industrial world) are/were governed by highly detailed rule-systems. I am really glad that we as westerners have the opportunity to look for what is most fitting...but as a historical tradition Buddhism isn't half as liberal as most of us westerners would want it to be. Now of course we can claim to know that the essence of Buddhism is such and such and doesn't have anything to do with the cumbersome organised religions calling themselves Buddhist.

    I know that I am repeating myself, but I will say it again. Zen is a Buddhist tradition. Take the cornerstones of Buddhism out of it and it ain't Zen anymore. It is a finger pointing at something that is beyond notions of religions (and is all of them at the same time). But not all fingers appear the same initially.

    Most individuals growing up in a western consumerist society don't like rules that limit their personal freedom in any way. We are all used to shopping for what we want and discarding what we don't want.
    Due to Buddhist traditions not being able to enact some kind of social peer pressure in the West, we often feel that that makes it such a freedom loving religious tradition. My own research and my experience of living in Japan tells me otherwise.

    PPS - The Dalai Lama also said, "My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness." That is true, too.

    ...as for the Dalai Lama, whom I highly respect btw. ....just google Dorje Shugden controversy and stuff related to CIA covert warfare in Tibet....day to day life is a whole lot nastier than most of the Dalai Lama's coffee table book quotes ( no matter how true they might be on some levels).

    May we all sentient beings realise the truth together.

    Gassho,

    Hans

    Hans,

    First of all, thank you for your reply! I always appreciate what you say here. Reading over my post, I believe that I might have been too general in my words than what I actually meant.

    I believe that if one is Christian, Muslim, or whatever, that Buddhism doesn't conflict with that at all. If someone believes in Jesus, why can't they sit zazen? If they sit without any judgements, expectations, or goals, then isn't that still zazen? (I shouldn't have used the word "realization") Regardless if they believe there is a god or not (or, like me, cannot say one way or the other). We need to practice Buddhism in the ways that yourself and Jundo described, of course, but I don't feel that other religions would be in conflict with zen. The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path are not any different if you believe in some higher power. It doesn't take away or add to those teachings, in my opinion.

    The Buddha said:

    "Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."

    That's basically what I was trying to say in my original post. If you are Christian, but struggling with your beliefs and Zen Buddhism makes sense to you, then by all means, give it a try and see what happens. If it doesn't make sense to you, then don't walk this path. I practice Zen Buddhism because it makes sense to me. Christianity doesn't make sense to me, so I don't practice Christianity.

    If any activity is causing yourself or others harm, then one needs to stop that activity. If zazen is causing one to suffer mentally, then maybe that person should step back from the cushion and decide what is causing this suffering. If it is the practice itself, then maybe this practice isn't one that person should follow.

    I just don't believe that other religions add or take away anything from Buddhism. Of course, if you start breaking Buddhism into little pieces to try and make them fit into your dogma, then, obviously, that's not Buddhism. However, Buddhist ethics, The Four Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path, or even the Precepts don't really deviate much from the positives in other religions. Be good to yourself and others (not two). We are all connected regardless if I'm Buddhist and the person sitting next to me is Christian.

    The Dalai Lama quote is just that...a quote. It works for this situation and this question that was brought to the sangha. Compassion and kindness should be at the core of every religion.

    Thanks again for your reply, and I hope I expanded on my original post to make more sense here. If not, then I will be happy to explain further. The words in my head do not transfer as well to writing for me, at times.

    Gassho,

    Adam

  36. #36

    Re: Help

    Hello Jundo,

    You said:
    "What is more, I cannot think of one doctrine of Christianity or Judaism that could not sit comfortably with the Buddha's teachings. Can you name one? (The only kind I can think of, right off, is a doctrine on the Christian or Jewish side that said "our way or the highway". But, if you put that aside, anything can fit).

    I never doubted for one second that there is loads of common ground between most religions, however if you seriously believe that there are no prominent doctrines and/or major assumptions shared by the majority of practitioners that do not sit comfortably with most general Buddhist teachings, I don't know what to say.

    I was raised a catholic and also attended protestant religion classes during high school because of my best friend being a protestant. My aunt is a carmelite nun and I have have Jewish and muslim colleagues and/or friends. So although I have no degree in Christian religion and/or comparative theology, please assume that I base my assumptions not on hearsay, but on years of encountering practitioners, studying their traditions and discussing their faith with them.

    Here's just a bit food for thought:


    Eternal personal God with particular likes and dislikes vs. non-personal mechanic of the universe propelled by Karma

    Original Sin vs Karma (two extremely different concepts)

    Only One God vs the polytheistic background of Buddhism with Gods appearing right left and center

    Jesus/Christianity being the only true way vs. Hinayana path, Mahayana path and Pratyeka-Buddha path as options/ or e.g. only the Lotus sutra being the only true way

    God being a personal, sovereign ruler over everything vs. even the highest Gods are subject to Karma and die eventually.

    the list could continue for sooo long, but obviously it is easy to say that somewhere in history someone challenged every single one of these assumptions and that "true" monotheists, or polytheists are all about caring and sharing. When looking at the overall impact of religious traditions have had on different societies in general throughout history it makes no sense to take the fringe movements like Quakers, Sufis and contemplative orders as examples for the overall compatibility of world views in general. I love the fact that most of my Christian friends have a liberal approach towards their own scripture, have a live and let live attitude etc. (as do I). However our secular and humanist values have more to do with that than anything else. I'll leave it at that. It's a free country (at least the one I am from). And I agree that when you drop of everything, and I mean everything, even your hope and faith in Jesus/Buddha etc., you might be dropping off body and mind.

    Gassho,

    Hans

  37. #37

    Re: Help

    Great post, Hans.

  38. #38

    Re: Help

    Hi Hans,

    I am not saying that people cannot create conflicts and incompatibilities about doctrines ... because most folks do (boy, do they ... and fight wars about it!)

    I am saying that it need not be so. For example, lets look at the examples you mention ...

    Eternal personal God with particular likes and dislikes vs. non-personal mechanic of the universe propelled by Karma
    Well, breach God's rules ... go to heaven, go to hell. Breach Karmic laws ... go to heaven, go to hell. Works pretty much the same on that score.

    So, someone could believe in a personal God, and still believe in Karma. Don't kill, don't steal, don't misuse sexuality with your neighbor's wife ... an easy gap to bridge.

    Gautama Buddha incorporated many Indian Gods into Buddhism ... simply making them subservient to Karma (Karma can make a God). Someone, however, could reverse the equation (i.e., some wisdom or God or force made Karma) and still, I feel, be practicing about the same thing.

    Original Sin vs Karma (two extremely different concepts)
    Said the Buddha, we are all deluded .... yet attain enlightenment, and see that we have never been deluded from the start. Even amid delusion, delusion washed away. Both true at once. Realizing this, we will live a better way.

    Said Jesus, we are all sinners ... yet through me, see that we are cleansed. Even living in this world of sin, sin is washed away. Both true at once. Realizing this, we will live a better way.

    Again, these two "differences" seem fairly easy to bridge.


    Only One God vs the polytheistic background of Buddhism with Gods appearing right left and center
    Who is to say if one is the many, the many but one?

    Jesus/Christianity being the only true way vs. Hinayana path, Mahayana path and Pratyeka-Buddha path as options/ or e.g. only the Lotus sutra being the only true way
    Well, yes, here I agree, as I first said. Even within Buddhism, people fight over "my way or the highway". As I said, it need not be so.

    I would put to you that most Buddhists in Asia do not see the different Buddhist paths as "options", and tend to have a "my way or the highway" attitude as much as Christian sects and Jewish sects that can't agree among themselves. I recently read about the big disputes in Southeast Asia among monks who uncover one of their shoulders, and monks who keep both shoulders covered with their robes.

    You forgot to mention soul and rebirth. Well, many folks argue that the distinction made in Buddhism between "rebirth" and "reincarnation" (of something to reincarnate) is not so clear. So, Buddhism has a "soul-ish" something, even if it calls it a "Karmic stream" or the like. What is more, the Mahayana includes the view that "there is a self, yet not" .... so we might say, "there is a soul, but not".

    My point ... it is not so hard to find common, harmonious ground.

    I am being the devil's advocate here. Actually, I am being the advocate for the other guy.

    Gassho, J

  39. #39

    Re: Help

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Most of the Zen teachers in America I know of Jewish background (a lot!) at some point reincorporate many Jewish practices and beliefs (Norman Fischer and Bernie Glassman are just two examples) They were able to keep each in its own sphere without conflict, and often with great harmony.
    No kidding! Here's just a few...not just zen...
    Jack Kornfield, Ram Dass (not tech. buddhist) Sylvia Boorstein, Surya Das,
    Stephen Levine, Sharon Salzberg, Joan Borysenko, Thubten Chodren...

    I personally think this is awesome. And what's even more awesome is that
    they have no conflict between the two worlds. Why, Jundo, do you think so
    many Jews have come to Buddhism? I love Judaism. It puts more emphasis
    on ethical conduct than it does beliefs. Christianity could learn alot from that.
    But, like Christianity, Judaism has its own mystical tradition with the Kabbalah.
    So why seek elswhere? This is what fascinates me. Why do people seek elsewhere,
    not those who have no beliefs, but those who are firmly grounded in their beliefs,
    why do they leave their own tradition and seek elsewhere? And how does one
    develop assurance in the path they have chosen for themself?

    gassho
    Greg

  40. #40

    Re: Help

    Quote Originally Posted by ghop
    I personally think this is awesome. And what's even more awesome is that
    they have no conflict between the two worlds. Why, Jundo, do you think so
    many Jews have come to Buddhism?
    Your list does not even scratch the surface!

    Personally, I consider myself "culturally Jewish", but practice little if anything from the religion (maybe celebrate the odd holiday here and there). As well, I consider myself an agnostic on most questions of deity, rebirth/reincarnation, heaven and hell.

    I am just saying that I don't think that is the only way one has to be.

    Now, why so many Jews in Buddhism?

    One reason is that some folks who grew up in a religion find it rather cold and sterile, and meditation is a breath of fresh air. Of course, there are Jewish meditation/prayer traditions, but they are not so easy for the novice to get started in.

    Also, growing up in a Jewish American family ... there is always an impending sense of doom. I think we are raised with it. It could be all those many many centuries of pogroms and persecution and holocaust ... but there is a definite feeling that bad news and tragedy are just waiting around the corner to happen. Every pimple on my arm must be cancer, everything bad is just waiting to happen. I know that you certainly do not have to be Jewish to have such a natural fear, but it certainly is part of the culture.

    There is also, for the same reason, a push from family to "succeed" and "get the degree" etc. ... to help keep your family safe and secure.

    I think that is one reason there are so many Jews involved in Zen, at least in North America. It is the medicine for the constant worry we are raised with. Jews are not naturally a "let it be" and "what will be will be" people.

    That is my assessment ... which came to me in my third year of law school.

    Gassho, J

  41. #41

    Re: Help

    Jundo,

    Your honesty was touching. The Jewish people have a legacy
    that is unmatched by any other culture in the world. It is
    staggering to look at how many of the Nobel Prize winners
    in history have been Jewish, in the arts, in science, in economics.
    Maybe there is something in the Jewish psyche that feels almost
    impelled to help others, to teach, to lead, to seperate what is right
    from what is wrong. I dunno. I am getting off course here. So let
    me bring it back to my question. I guess I'm wondering if you ever
    doubt your course in life? Ever wonder if you should've pursed Judaism
    as opposed to Zen? Basically, and I do, do you ever wake up in the middle
    of the night and wonder, "What the hell am I doing with my life? If there
    is a God, am I following the plan He has laid out for me? Am I on course?"

    gassho
    Greg

  42. #42

    Re: Help

    Quote Originally Posted by ghop
    I guess I'm wondering if you ever
    doubt your course in life? Ever wonder if you should've pursed Judaism
    as opposed to Zen? Basically, and I do, do you ever wake up in the middle
    of the night and wonder, "What the hell am I doing with my life? If there
    is a God, am I following the plan He has laid out for me? Am I on course?"

    gassho
    Greg
    No, as a matter of fact, I have woken up many a night ... at times in my life like Fr. K's stroke today ... and felt that, if there is a God, She is more than content with this road I've taken. I don't think She/He would care if you wear the yellow hat or the red hat, are a Buddhist or a Baptist. More than that, I think He would care that you are a good friend, father, husband, person. Whether it is God's Law or Karma ... don't steal, don't do violence, do unto other as you would have them do unto you (the only Buddhist twist on that is that, perhaps, you and others are not two).

  43. #43

    Re: Help

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    if there is a God, She is more than content with this road I've taken. I don't think She/He would care if you wear the yellow hat or the red hat, are a Buddhist or a Baptist. More than that, I think He would care that you are a good friend, father, husband, person. Whether it is God's Law or Karma ... don't steal, don't do violence, do unto other as you would have them do unto you (the only Buddhist twist on that is that, perhaps, you and others are not two).
    Jundo,

    You have proven that my questions are coming from
    an immature perspective. Thank you. I think I just
    heard the sound of one hand clapping. Gassho.

    Greg

  44. #44
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Help

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Also, growing up in a Jewish American family ... there is always an impending sense of doom. I think we are raised with it. It could be all those many many centuries of pogroms and persecution and holocaust ... but there is a definite feeling that bad news and tragedy are just waiting around the corner to happen. Every pimple on my arm must be cancer, everything bad is just waiting to happen. I know that you certainly do not have to be Jewish to have such a natural fear, but it certainly is part of the culture.

    There is also, for the same reason, a push from family to "succeed" and "get the degree" etc. ... to help keep your family safe and secure.
    I can only speak for myself, but many of these traits are also passed down to people with ancestors in New England, many of whom had ancestors who were calvinists. The guilt of original sin often leads to a sense of impending doom many generations after anyone has actually been calvinist. My mother grew up in Massachusetts and fits all of these traits, particularly the one about "getting the degree", and I know well that such thoughts did not originate with her or even her mother.

    So, like Jundo said, zen and buddhism can really be a breath of fresh air, especially for those raised in such religious households...or those like me who are two generations past just going to church on holidays.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  45. #45

    Re: Help

    Quote Originally Posted by Dosho
    The guilt of original sin often leads to a sense of impending doom many generations after anyone has actually been calvinist.
    Hi Dosho.

    You hit the nail on the head! This is exactly what I'm talking about.
    When one is raised with the idea of original sin it is not easy to
    shake it off. I was raised this way. I was taught to doubt all other
    traditions, even if they seem to be teaching the truth, because we
    are raised to believe that there is only one truth and everything else
    is a clever counterfiet produced by a force that is against God. It
    sounds really crazy, I know. But it does damage to the psyche. No
    matter what I do, or don't do, there is always a voice in the back of
    my mind saying, "Be careful, you just might be playing with fire."
    Guilt is a terrible thing to have to live with. Zazen has become a
    mirror for me. It seems to be showing me my demons. I thought
    I was pretty clean inside. Not so. Not even close.

    gassho
    Greg

  46. #46

    Re: Help

    Incedentally, here are some quotes by Quaker authors that I like,
    the first from Isaac Pennington, which sounds like the Quakers
    were on to a style of prayerful waiting that sounds kinda like zazen.
    The second from John Woolman, which is as open minded as I've
    ever read from any Christian.

    Give over thine own willing; give over thine own running; give over thine own desiring to know, or to be any thing, and sink down to the seed which God sows in the heart; and let that grow in thee, and be in thee, and breathe in thee, and act in thee, and thou shalt find by sweet experience, that the Lord knows that, and loves and owns that, and will lead it to the inheritance of life, which is his portion. And as thou takest up the cross to thyself, and sufferest that to overspread and become a yoke over thee, thou shalt become renewed, and enjoy life, and everlasting inheritance in that.
    -----

    "There is a Principle which is pure, placed in the human Mind, which in different Places and Ages hath had different Names; it is, however, pure, and proceeds from God. It is deep, and inward, confined to no Forms of Religion, nor excluded from any, where the Heart stands in perfect Sincerity. In whomsoever this takes Root and grows, of what Nation soever, they become Brethren"
    "The inhabitants of the earth have often appeared to me as one great family consisting of various parts, divided by great waters, but united in one common interest, that is, In living righteously according to that light and understanding wherein Christ doth enlighten every man that cometh into the world."

    gassho
    Greg

  47. #47

    Re: Help

    Hello everybody,

    the following article sheds an interesting light on some of the issues that were raised in this thread....anyway it's a good read for anyone interested in Sanbo Kyodan and the historical origins of some of the things the we "masses" now consider to be be typical of "Zen" (it being a wisdom behind/beyond all religions etc. etc.). Well worth the read methinks.

    http://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/publications ... df/456.pdf


    Gassho,

    Hans

  48. #48

    Re: Help

    Jundo, (and all)...

    I started this post because I was in a funk.
    Well, zazen seems to have both started the problem and settled it.
    It's amazing what kind of demons "just sitting" turns loose! But it also makes them vanish.

    So, I came across an older post from Beliefnet, Oct. 14, 2009.
    You talk about turning the light to shine inward.
    This has been on my mind alot lately.
    You said,

    "That you still do not grasp the certainty of this principle is because your thinking scatters, like wild horses, and your emotions run wild, like monkeys in a forest. If you can make those monkeys and horses, just once, take the backward step that turns the light and shines it inward, then naturally you will be completely integrated. This is the means by which we, who are [ordinarily] set into motion by things, become able to set things into motion."

    Is "turning the light inward" the same as just returning to "this?" Is it something special we do with our awareness during zazen, such as putting special emphasis on "watching" our thoughts? Or is it just simply coming back to the bare bones awarness of the fact that I am a body, sitting in this place, not seperate from what is happening?

    Could you talk a little more about what "turning the light to shine inward" means?
    Either here, or in a talk on Sunspace?

    gassho
    Greg

  49. #49

    Re: Help

    Hi Greg,,

    Both Taigu and I will have to be away from here for a few days due to other obligations and travel. I will be looking in. I promise to return to this as soon as I return next week.

    It is not posted yet, but Friday's sit-a-long is on point, I think.

    Gassho, J

  50. #50

    Re: Help

    I was raised a protestant Christian and I have formally renounced Christianity for about ten years now.

    When it was all said and done it was not whether or not there is a God that informed my decision. It came down to the central message of Christianity, which is that we are all born with a fundamental flaw, an original sin and nothing can remove that sin except a perfect human sacrifice. This perfect human sacrifice is the new covenant as opposed to the old covenant of a perfect animal sacrifice used to remove sin. It is here that I found the fundamental error of Christianity for me, even Paul points out that this is the essence of the religion and no one can rightly call themselves a Christian without accepting this human sacrifice as there own. A sacrifice given to God and in which one is washed in the blood of this sacrifice for the removal of sin, which in turn grants one eternal life in paradise.

    When it comes down to it, the only reason most of the Christians I have met in my life are Christian is for the sake of their souls, with life after death being the main concern and eternal torture coming in a close second. Now I understand that there are people out there who are far more spiritual then those who I have had contact with, so please don't take my statements as absolutes, they do not apply to all people for all time.

    When I did formally renounce Christianity, I had to face the fact, that the religion says, to do so, means that when I die I will for sure go to a fiery lake and fry :twisted: , until I am wiped out of all existence, for all time. Even my mother gave her motherly advice of "well... may be you should just be a Christian, just a little bit, just in case because.... you never know."

    Once I was willing to stand by my choice, even if it meant I would fry and die, the Christian religion melted away from my mind and at present it is no more real to me than Greek mythology.

    I choose to share my experience not to belittle Christians or Christianity or to judge, but to show that one can be free from the shackles of the Christian religion if they are willing to make the conscious choice to do so and at the same time accepting the consequences of that choice, whatever they may be.

    Best wishes

    Edited one to many thens.

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