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Thread: Father Thomas Keating

  1. #1

    Father Thomas Keating

    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

  2. #2

    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    Hello Taigu,

    thank you for this wonderful link!


    Gassho,

    Hans

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    Thank you Taigu. It is a wonderful talk.

    Gassho,

    Soen

  4. #4

    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    I like how Deshimaru Roshi said it best.

    "One cannot sever everything, even in zazen....But one can see in ones self how mistakes are made and that is satori. During zazen, if you think you have satori you are a little bit crazy." Taisen Deshimaru Questions to a Zen Master.

  5. #5
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    All the cute business in the beginning about God being too fast for us to see is, to me, a glaring example of throwing unnecessary concepts on top of reality. If you're relating your experience to a concept of God, you're relating to concepts, not experience, IMO.

    I can see the parallels in some of what he says with the approach of shikantaza... but I think overall it's a bit of a stretch. I think it's also a bit of blaring irony that the defense for the anti-kensho attitude at Treeleaf (not that I include myself in that) is a bit of sweetness and light about God playing games with us by a Christian monk, whereas things said by our actual Zen ancestors are to be rejected?

  6. #6

    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    Stephanie...

    Just to set the record straight...


    We don't have anti-kensho attitude on Treeleaf. You may watch my last vid where I am making a point very clear. And read what Jundo says about it. If you are interested in studying Risotto (Deshimaru's joke), Rinzai-Soto blend, then there is plenty on the market. And it is a fine dish. Different recipe though. We are not cooking this stuff here.

    We are not rejecting things said by our ancestors, if their historical reality can be challenged, their teachings are valid yesterday, today, tommorrow, in Being-time. It is good to study genealogy and make charts, it is better to understand how theses guys live in your life NOW.

    I would not call the description of impermanence as a cute business and God is not a concept. Not in that man's experience. Can't you see???

    I would, if I were you, be a bit more modest. That Christian monk has many things to teach us, as long as we listen with our heart and not our head.


    The irony is entirely yours, I am sorry to see. As often .


    gassho


    Taigu

  7. #7
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    Taigu, respectfully (and hurriedly),

    I am sure I have been guilty of being immodest on many an occasion. On this one, I'm not so sure.

    The talk by Keating didn't inspire or engage me--I'm just being honest here. Whereas reading about our Zen ancestors--Soto or Rinzai--has lit a fire under me about practice I haven't experienced in quite some time.

    I understand and respect your desire not to serve Risotto. But I don't understand why we should turn our noses up at Risotto as too fusion-y for our menu, but make full accommodations for Christobuddhism, JeBuddhism (can't manage to make a funny pun out of it, oh well), etc.

    Keating's talk reminded me of a lot of things I used to hear people say and I used to read at New Age centers. Maybe that sounds harsh, and arrogant, but truly--I don't hear awakening in what he's saying, just the same collection of idealistic concepts that I used to be drawn to, and that ultimately did nothing to bring me any closer to the truth. Keating may have tremendous understanding, I wouldn't know--all I do know is I don't hear anything in that talk that connects to whatever tiny sliver of me recognizes truth. Again, the fault may be mine.

    And I very much want to watch/hear your talk, but won't be able to until my computer gets uncrapulated.

    Yours in BuJedus (er, maybe not),

    Stephanie

  8. #8

    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    I would not call the description of impermanence as a cute business and God is not a concept. Not in that man's experience. Can't you see???
    And isn't experience what truth is all about?
    I mean, belief is like a cloud. But experience is
    like the clear blue sky. Call it what you will...God,
    Buddhanature, etc. Water quenches my thirst
    whether I call it water, agua, vellam, etc. Thanks
    for the post, Taigu.

    Oh, and Stephanie...
    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Yours in BuJedus (er, maybe not),
    is entirely hilarious. Thanks for the smile. :wink:

    gassho
    Greg

  9. #9

    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    Here's another quote from another Christian monk:

    "In order to arrive at having pleasure in everything, Desire to have pleasure in nothing.
    In order to arrive at possessing everything, Desire to possess nothing.
    In order to arrive at being everything, Desire to be nothing.
    In order to arrive at knowing everything, Desire to know nothing."
    --John of the Cross, 16th century

    They were three hundred years apart, but John of the Cross and Dogen could have easily had an Inter-monastic dialogue about "nothing." Shintataza.

    I'm a great admirer of Tom Keating but I have a hard time with him when he presents enlightenment as something easily attained or as an end unto itself or something that should be attained. A notion that is foreign to the teachings of the Catholic mystics.

    I think someone said it better: http://homepage.mac.com/doubtboy/KENSHOSCHMENSHO.htm

    Gassho,

    James.

  10. #10
    Treeleaf Unsui Kyrillos's Avatar
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    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    Taigu,

    Thanks for this post and the connection.I thought the talk was gentle and easy to understand for those he was speaking to. I think that is an important consideration when we critique what he is saying. We also need to understand his grounding and how his experience speaks to him...in what language, so to speak.

    I think Stephanie that firstly you must have suffered at the hands of the Christian Church at some time in your life, and for that I sincerely apologize; and you seem to carry that hurt in an almost knee-jerk reaction to most things presented that have a Christian tenor. And for that I think you are not being fair or understanding. Please , let us all remember, that almost everyone of us of the Sangha are products of Western Civilization. There are some things that are so engrained in our conscious and subconscious mind that relate us to our society that we must look at and study the East with those filters in mind. Sometime when we speak about Buddhism, we need to use those forms and terms a Westerner can "get". Japanese or Chinese terms, even to a fluent reader or speaker who is of the West, has its colorings.

    What you might consider is that Fr. Thomas probably would have been excommunicated, defrocked and burned at the stake for speaking as he does if he were in another century. YET...the experience is much the same. The Eastern Fathers and Mothers of the Desert to St. Antony of Egypt to the Fathers of Mount Athos to the Russian Staretzy all had what would be called "Mystical Experience" that they tried to explain or pass onto others. In the descriptions they gave in the language of their times I have recognized the same aspects that I have read (so far) in teachings of the Zen Masters. The reason I am here is because I do see the sameness of the experience, no matter how it was attained, or in what language or idiom. Frankly I do not see this as an amalgamation of Christianity and Buddhim, or Judaism and Buddhism or anything of the like. I see it as having seen the SAME TRUTH from different angles, through a different place in the prism. Because I see that truth as a personal god does not preclude the idea that in my human desire to understand, I may be wrong. I can only work with what I have available to me. It is said that the Buddha taught 84,000 dharma paths so that each "sort" of person could find understanding of his experience. I will be the first to admit that I do not use my head and learning alot, I prefer to approach by way of my heart and compassion, and I truly believe that this was one of those 84,000 dharma paths Buddha gave us...a way for even Christians to find and understand his experience and to share in it...or come to the realization that we already share in it. Please do not discount this branch of the Bodhi Tree under which Buddha sat.

    Gassho,

    Seishin Kyrill

  11. #11

    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    Thank you for this clear voice Brother, one truth from many angles. Not many angles mixed up to strive for the truth. Much like Stephanie (very likely) I suffered a lot under the Christian Church ( Catholic, to be more precise), was labeled a demon, an heretic, just a non person. When I was in England, I lost my job for being a buddhist... No grudge. For this is IT.

    It takes along time to forgive and forget. A long time to just see that no harm has been done.

    Just light.

    like my father wanting to kill me. No grudge. timeless sitting.

    This is why we are here, together, Stephanie, you and countless others.

    One breath.



    gassho


    Taigu

  12. #12

    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    Thank you all for your teaching. I have no problem being a Christian and a Buddhist at the same time. Buddhism has actually brought me closer to God or my higher power or my universal mind or dont know mind or....... My only regret is that the nuns and priests didn't teach me to pray or meditate properly

    /Rich

  13. #13

    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    Quote Originally Posted by frjames
    Here's another quote from another Christian monk:

    "In order to arrive at having pleasure in everything, Desire to have pleasure in nothing.
    In order to arrive at possessing everything, Desire to possess nothing.
    In order to arrive at being everything, Desire to be nothing.
    In order to arrive at knowing everything, Desire to know nothing."
    --John of the Cross, 16th century
    If the Christianity I had been brought up with was more like the above quote, I might has seen more value in it. But probably not - how much sense can the above make to a 10 year old kid? I barely understand it now :?

  14. #14
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    I would not say I have particularly suffered under Christianity. I went to the Episcopal (Anglican) church growing up. Neither of my parents were very religious, though my father found great awe and religious inspiration in science and the natural world (sort of like Carl Sagan). My mother found her spirituality more in loving service as a mother, and only in recent years has started exploring spirituality more intently. Now, my maternal grandmother was a Bible-believin' Baptist who filled me with all kinds of scary stories about the Rapture when I was a tot, but I grew out of these at a pretty early age. I wouldn't say it was any more scary or traumatic than the usual scary things adults tell young children :lol:

    I spent a lot of time in my college years researching different religions of the world, particularly the mystical aspects of religion. This wasn't my major or what I studied in class, but what I studied in my own time outside of class. I actually am drawn to religion in general, and appreciate its different expressions. I loved reading about medieval Christian monasticism, and actually did take a class on medieval Western European monastic Christian architecture. Reading about those monks was somewhat romantic for me, as I imagined them writing the Lindisfarne gospels in candlelight in a beautiful monastery, with a very heartfelt connection to the Gospels and the person of Jesus. As a Westerner, I far prefer the aesthetics of Christianity--the towering cathedrals, stained glass, and beautiful choral music--to the aesthetics of Zen, though I appreciate them also. I just feel more awe standing in a cathedral than looking at a zendo full of zabutons :lol:

    I have deep respect and affinity for Christian mysticism. Teresa of Avila was one of my foremost spiritual heroes for a long time, and I still admire her and her works on the inner life. Among my favorite works of "spiritual music" are the Christian classical pieces by composers like Mozart, Beethoven, and Poulenc. I also love bluegrass gospel music! The bluegrass gospel theme of "homecoming" speaks to my heart. I even put time into putting a playlist together called "The Social Gospel" of music that expresses Tolstoy's teachings on Christianity. Listening to that playlist inspires me and has the power to move me to tears sometimes.

    I say all this to say that I don't have a "knee-jerk negative reaction" to anything having to do with Christianity. But I do have reservations when I see attempts to mix Christianity and Buddhism. There's a lot of PC gyrations people do to try to equate all religions with one another, and while I do believe in interfaith dialogue, I think there's a falseness in shrugging our shoulders and treating it all as the same thing. Hans and Chet have mentioned a book that does a good job of challenging that called "God Is Not One."

    I do believe there have been people who, within the Christian tradition, have had some degree of awakening, but these are a select few. Why? Mainstream Christianity is mainly a propagation of a belief system, not a way of life or a practice. Masterpieces like The Cloud of Unknowing do stand as fine mystical literature pointing to "turning the light inward," but that's not the Christianity most people get, whether Catholic, Baptist, or something else.

    As for Keating... I simply did not find that talk inspiring. Nothing in it connected with that part of me that is jarred awake by profound words of truth. I was sharing an honest opinion... and the reason I even bothered share it at all is twofold. One, I find it grossly hypocritical that we can be snide and dismissive about Rinzai or "Risotto" Zen here at Treeleaf, and pooh-pooh at Rinzai practices, but we must honor and be respectful of Christianity, which is much, much farther from what a Soto Zen teacher teaches than Rinzai Zen.

    Two, I think that "God talk" obscures the truth. That is not to say I don't appreciate poetic expressions about God, or think that they don't ever reflect truth. (I think that Kyrillos has done a much better job of it here than Keating did in that talk.) In my experience... and I can say this as someone fascinated with the history of God and who yearned for a connection with God or gods for a long time... thinking that has to do with God usually has at least some amount of projection and wish-fulfillment involved. Not to say there aren't some very fine mystics who have used the term in a different way... but when most people talk about God, they are expressing a desire to be seen, heard, recognized, and cared for by the Universe or someone / something in it. We desperately want to matter to someone, somewhere. And that desperate hoping that someone sees and cares for us in our times of trouble is something that, in my opinion, blocks direct seeing of what is.

    What I've learned in my own practice and inquiry is... all of these things I wanted to know for so long, cannot be known with any certainty. Maybe there is a god, or someone or something that cares (though I honestly incline more toward polytheism than monotheism), but we can't know that. We can have feelings one way or another, but "feelings aren't facts." And when I sit and look, and look, and look at what's there... I don't see God. I see unadorned coming-and-going, cause-and-effect, that has nothing to do with me or a "plan for me" by some cosmic figure. And every time I've looked for that, or wanted to use that kind of "God language," it's all been rooted in concepts and desires. My experience is that as soon as you start using the word "God," you've stepped beyond immediate experience and into ideals, mental images, and the like.

    Honestly, and most simply, I don't believe that questioning the concept of God as understood by followers of monotheistic traditions should be treated as rude in a zendo. The purpose of Treeleaf, as I understand it, is not primarily interfaith dialogue, but Zen practice. Sure, let's be respectful of one another, but let's not let our fear of offending someone get in the way of the mutual exploration of what's true and what isn't. I forget who said that a zendo is a place for "the combustion of delusion." If you're here and you're Christian, great, but if so you should be willing to engage in sincere, and fiery, if needs be, dialogue about these matters, because this is a zendo, not a church. I mean, I would feel like an ass if I joined a Christian community and told them, "Well, I don't believe in any of this God and Jesus business, but I do like sitting together with you all fine people and singing these lovely hymns." Well, that might work in a UU church :lol: but definitely not a Catholic or Baptist one :shock:

    And I especially find the double standard weird and off-putting, that we can be snide and dismissive of other approaches to Zen, but must accomodate this completely different religious belief system and agree that it is just "a different path up the same mountain."

  15. #15

    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    Stephanie,

    Maybe I'm wrong, but I think the reaction was not to other
    flavors of zen but to the way certain people were presenting
    themselves here at Treeleaf AGAINST Jundo and Taigu's
    teaching. I agree that it is a zendo and not a church. I
    brought up certain issues about God and church because
    they directly affect my practice of zazen at this time.
    No one here is trying to convince Jundo that Jesus or Judaism
    is the only way. God forbid! I think it was a case of
    someone going too far in their own views to the point that
    they openly insulted the teachers here. Questioning Jundo
    and Taigu is one thing. Insulting them is quite another.

    gassho
    Greg

  16. #16
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    Oh, I don't disagree with you, Jundo, or Taigu, that Chet can step far beyond the line of propriety. But I'm not sure that Chet's advocacy of looking, inquiring, and seeing what is this is contrary to Soto Zen. I think there's a difference between pushing for kensho experiences and making a constant effort to orient oneself toward awakening and the truth. Chet has certainly helped me do that.

    I would say calling a Zen lineage that utilizes both Rinzai and Soto practices "Risotto" in a dismissive tone goes beyond advocating for a particular teaching and practice style here at Treeleaf and extends further into a dismissal of other Zen teachers and lineages.

    Which is the same ol' crap that's been going on in Zen from Day One, and hardly something that would bother me too much if it wasn't followed by advocacy for Christianity as a "different path up the same mountain." Total, unjustified double standard, and not a position I agree with at all. Christianity only takes a very select few to the same destination Zen does. For most people, religious belief is a way to stay asleep, not wake up. (That can certainly be true in Buddhism also.)

  17. #17

    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    Hi Stephanie,

    Some very interesting points raised here. Important.

    Honestly, and most simply, I don't believe that questioning the concept of God as understood by followers of monotheistic traditions should be treated as rude in a zendo. The purpose of Treeleaf, as I understand it, is not primarily interfaith dialogue, but Zen practice. Sure, let's be respectful of one another, but let's not let our fear of offending someone get in the way of the mutual exploration of what's true and what isn't.
    I agree with this very much. So long as one is respectful, and not dismissive in tone, of another's beliefs, we can discuss and question anything here. Our purpose is not interfaith dialogue. Yet when we do talk about beliefs, "respectful and not dismissive in tone, even when disagreeing" is the most important part of dialogue (something we all wrestle with sometimes!).

    However, one can engage in interfaith dialogue and practice Shikantaza ... or one can have little interest in interfaith dialogue and practice Shikantaza. In fact, one can be an atheist, Catholic priest, agnostic, Baptist (from our standpoint anyway), Republican/Tory or socialist or apolitical, bus driver or sailor at sea and practice Shikantaza.

    Imagine a room in which you are sitting Zazen. If the room is totally empty, you can sit Zazen there. If the room is not totally empty but has a table in it, you can still sit Zazen there. Same with a cosmos that does or does not have a God or creator. (in fact, our practice points at the fact that "chair" "empty" "god" "no god" and "you sitting" "room" are just names and judgments and divisions imposed by the human mind on the wholeness of "just what's there, whatever's there")

    As I said, I am an agnostic myself (although I often refer to myself as a "mytic-agnostic")

    viewtopic.php?p=37643#p37643

    ... but I think that people can find, in their own hearts, ways to build bridges between Buddhist doctrine and the theology of other religions.

    viewtopic.php?p=38384#p38384

    Now, on the other hand, the question of merging Shikantaza practice with other ways of meditation or Buddhism, even Zen Buddhism, is actually often trickier. That is because it is a question of METHOD! Our way is RADICAL, to-the-marrow's marrow NON-SEARCHING. One finds by giving up the hunt to fill what lacks ... thereby filling the hole inside that was never there. For that reason, it is not possible really to merge Shikantaza with practices seeking, even subtly, to change or escape this reality (which, strangely enough, is our Shikantaza method of changing and escaping samsara in a revolutionary way! Thus, for example, this week's book club reading on Master Keizan speaks very often of "attaining awakening" which, in our tradition, is attaining awakening to the fact that was just right here all along).

    Thus, I feel closer to the spirit of Shikantaza when I read this, as posted by Father James, than when I read many descriptions of flavors of Buddhism meant to "get to enlightenment" or "reach nirvana" ...

    Quote Originally Posted by frjames
    "In order to arrive at having pleasure in everything, Desire to have pleasure in nothing.
    In order to arrive at possessing everything, Desire to possess nothing.
    In order to arrive at being everything, Desire to be nothing.
    In order to arrive at knowing everything, Desire to know nothing."
    --John of the Cross, 16th century
    I might phrase it a little differently ... drop all desire to possess, to know, to be ...

    Yet, yes ....SHIKANTAZA!

    Gassho, Jundo

  18. #18

    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Our way is RADICAL, to-the-marrow's marrow NON-SEARCHING. One finds by giving up the hunt to fill what lacks ... thereby filling the hole inside that was never there. For that reason, it is not possible really to merge Shikantaza with practices seeking, even subtly, to change or escape this reality (which, strangely enough, is our Shikantaza method of changing and escaping samsara in a revolutionary way! Thus, for example, this week's book club reading on Master Keizan speaks very often of "attaining awakening" which, in our tradition, is attaining awakening to the fact that was just right here all along). ....SHIKANTAZA!

    thank you

  19. #19

    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    Thank you for the post Taigu, and also thank you everyone else for your comments. I think it is always important to listen to the views of the people all over the world whether you agree with them or not. If we do not understand where others are coming from how can we know why we believe what we do.

    gassho,
    Corey

  20. #20
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    Since I haven't had many profound thoughts of my own recently, I've been noting and copying them from others. Here is my edited take from kenshoschmensho (btw, who wrote that? no name on there I could find).
    I was walking along the street one morning and happened to just kinda notice what the whole Buddhist philosophical system was all about.

    [But that was not] a kensho experience. I have never had a kensho experience. I hope I never do. I've never come across anyone who claimed to have had one of those who could convince me it was anything worth experiencing.

    [It's just that] if you practice zazen long enough there may come a time when you see through most of the philosophical problems you've held for most of your life.

    [But the] only thing you understand when you solve your philosophical problems is that this is just this. That life is what it is, that you are what you are, that the universe is what it is. Get me? You can't even explain what the universe is. It just is what it is. That's it.

    The main reason we miss it, though, might be that we're just too damned clever for our own good. Maybe "clever" isn't the best word. Perhaps "intellectual" is closer to the mark.
    I get really turned off by this forum sometimes when it gets overly bogged down in philosophizing and intellectualizing. I get really turned on by this forum when it emphasizes the experiential nature of the dharma Path and we help people gently along that Path without excess philosophy and intellect. Splitting religious philosophical and intellectual hairs doesn't seem helpful to me, but sharing similar religious experiences does. So I liked the video and feel I experienced it in the spirit it was given.

    Where's the balance between experience and philosophy/intellect? I can't explain that, but I do experience it sometimes, so that's what I go by. If I had to put it in words, I would say the balance is the middle way between the two, and we each need to find our own balance point. Too much emphasis on your personal experience is a ledge easy to fall off of, and the same goes for too much emphasis on philosophy/intellect. Sometimes people can be on both ledges at the same time, and then comes a double hard fall. The outcome of falling hurts, but the great thing about the process of falling is that you can pick yourself up and regain your balance, learning from the experience so as to be less likely to fall again in the future.

    So I would encourage people to: (1) be aware of ledges! (2) when you find yourself on a ledge, step away from the ledge! (3) and move towards the middle way!

  21. #21

    Re: Father Thomas Keating

    Taigu,
    Thank you for the wonderful pointing to the Father Keating video. He does a terrific verbal presentation of "THIS" gassho gassho gassho zak

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