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Thread: Tradition versus innovation

  1. #51
    Senior Member Martin's Avatar
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    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Dear Martin,

    We usually make the distinction between lay practice and priest practice.
    If you go in the direction of priest practice, then a kesa is needed. If you don't, you are already living in the whole kesa of the universe, as Sawaki Kodo says: there is no world outside the kesa. He means by that that everything as it is is already the kesa, and sentient and non sentient beings do all wear it.
    So you are already wearing the kesa, and you feel-think you don't need it. That is perfectly ok. I just would like to reflect that for some people here, there is a different story, another commitment and the light of that commitment, this sewn fabric is Buddha's body. You don't understand it. I tried to explain it. But of course, as you sit in this boundless reality, it is already covering your shoulders.
    I wish people would open their mind and accept that what they think is nonsense, can make perfect sense to other people.
    Jundo asked me to present this teaching which was Buddha's teaching, Dogen's and all the old guys. If people don't want to hear it, they can skip my posts, not read the kesa chapters in Shobogenzo...
    Thank you for your practice and I wish this clarifies what I have been saying all along.
    Frankly, I am also tired an a bit sad.

    Take care and thank you for the sewing you do in your work and your life

    gassho


    Taigu
    Taigu

    Thank you.

    There are some who feel that their questions haven't been addressed, and I can't speak for them, but your post spoke to me.

    Thank you for the teaching, thank you for your sewing, and for all the work you do at Treeleaf. One day, I hope to sew a kesa. Perhaps on that day you will guide me.

    Gassho

    Martin

  2. #52

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    I see so much suffering in myself and the world that sometimes I could just wrap myself in a kesa or blanket and just cry.

    I have never made a kesa but from experience I know that the Buddha's robe was and is life itself. Without a good robe I probably wouldn't have survived some of my travels in the mountains and deserts.

    I think everyone needs shelter from the storms and to revere that reality is a good thing.

    /Rich

  3. #53

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich
    I see so much suffering in myself and the world that sometimes I could just wrap myself in a kesa or blanket and just cry.

    I have never made a kesa but from experience I know that the Buddha's robe was and is life itself. Without a good robe I probably wouldn't have survived some of my travels in the mountains and deserts.

    I think everyone needs shelter from the storms and to revere that reality is a good thing.

    /Rich
    _/_

    _/_

    _/_

    Perry

  4. #54

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    Hi Stephanie, hi KvonNJ,

    When I was a student ( and I am still a student) I used to take anything from my teachers and target myself. I was not begging for answers, but welcoming questions and questions again. The job of a student is to question his body-mind, not to beg a rational explanation that convice him to proceed. The job is to undo and drop habits, patterns and belief systems. Nevertheless, even as a student, you don't have to take everything, especially when it gets really nasty: I did question my last teacher's abusive behaviour and left (no it had nothing to do with the simple and harmless teaching of the robe, issues with anger and power). So, on that one, we are on the same wave lentgh.

    But When with a dramatic and vibrant voice, you talk about the spectre of past abuses and the risk of it in Treeleaf, it sounds over the top:

    Do I even need to raise the specter of Milgrim's experiments and what they showed about the "obey first, understand later" mentality?
    If you want to understand the reasons why this bib or big blanket is revered in our school, open Shobogenzo and read the chapters about the robe. I am not going to give you the answer you expect in the way you expect it just because you want it. Do your homework and don't ask to be spoon fed. My job, and apparently my abuse, is to allow you to find by yourself. One may say that the kesa is a living mandala, a representation of all things and beings, an boundless rice field, Buddhas's body, true alchemy ( shabby clothes turn into the robe of sitting, the illusion into awakening), the symbol-reality of transmission ( in Dogen, no gap between symbol and reality, cake and painted cake, read Shobogenzo and Kim please) and it is a mere piece of cloth. And again if people don't like my poetic style, it is OK.


    If the rakusu is troubling you, KvonNJ, just forget about it and focus on sitting. Put your jeans on, even your hat and sit American style. No problem.

    gassho


    Taigu

  5. #55
    Stephanie
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    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyrillos
    Stephanie, I really would like to know what it is that continually steers many of your posts back to questions about abuse of authority. I've read it in several threads and it concerns me. Do you have a general concern that anyone in a position of authority is going to abuse it? Do you feel that there is a particular vein of such abuse here, or just generally in religious and spiritual organizations? Please understand that I am not challenging your right to ask such questions or open these sorts of discussions; I only ask because it comes up so often in your posts, it seems to me. Like in this present thread, I cannot help but feel by the way you are asking Taigu to respond, that you are equating his seeming failure to satisfy your query substantially that he is somehow "hiding" behind the Kesa and refusing to respond purposefully. Maybe I'm reading too much into it. As Hans said, email has no "voice". I really diodn't feel that from Taigu, but rather a disappointment that what he said was not understood. Please don't think I'm trying to hammer you Stephanie, I just would like to know what the underscore is that I "think" I am hearing.
    No need to apologize, I appreciate the question(s).

    First, let me be clear: I am not accusing Taigu of anything. Quite the contrary; I respect him as someone who seems to respect and honor his position and those of others. Which is why I am interested in what he thinks about how the kesa, and spiritual authority in general, have been abused. Similarly, I respect Jundo for being accessible and open, and so far, my challenges to him and Taigu come out of my respect and trust, rather than the opposite. If I did not trust Treeleaf or its teachers, I would not practice or ask questions here.

    Why do I focus on the topic of abuse of authority? I do not really know. I cannot trace it back to some momentous or traumatic event in my childhood. I have been aware of and impassioned by this issue for some time now; it is one of my motivating forces as a social worker, to address and right imbalances of power. Perhaps some of it comes from my father having money and being involved with more wealthy people in the small town I grew up in. I never liked those people, or people who lorded their wealth and power over others. Almost none of the wealthy people I ever met seemed to deserve their power or use it to good ends. Ostentatious displays of wealth and power are an instant turn-off for me, an indicator that a person is of questionable moral character and social intelligence.

    As for spiritual authority... most "spiritual authorities" I have met have been good people, worthy of respect. But even those that have struck me as good people, great people, all ultimately revealed secret indiscretions and lapses of judgment. My experiences with people have shown me that almost no one wears the mantle of power well. People ignore the impact on the use of their power on others with less power than them, and act unjustly. I see this happen even at my job. I am very wary of the power I hold even as a relatively lowly social worker and not abusing that power is a very important ethic to me.

    I guess it boils down to: people are naturally good, but also inherently flawed, and give an imperfect person (i.e. any one of us) power, and it will be abused. And I find tradition to be an easy cover for power-seekers. People seek tradition because it is familiar and comforting, and are willing to submit to it and those that represent it just because it is tradition, not because it is right or true.

  6. #56
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    But When with a dramatic and vibrant voice, you talk about the spectre of past abuses and the risk of it in Treeleaf, it sounds over the top:
    Goodness, Taigu, my raising that example was by no means meant to refer to Treeleaf or its teachers, but as an illustrative example of why obedience is not inherently a good thing. My questions to you were sincere: why is it good to obey without fully understanding what or who it is one is obeying? And how can one know who to trust and obey? How many people out there of good will and heart have obediently followed a "master," only to find they were obeying a faker or charlatan, a cult leader or monster? Again, I by no means am implicating Treeleaf as an example of such abuses; rather, asking you, as someone making a point that obedience is a good thing, to clarify when, where, and how obedience is good, because it certainly isn't good as a general principle.

  7. #57

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    If the rakusu is troubling you, KvonNJ, just forget about it and focus on sitting. Put your jeans on, even your hat and sit American style. No problem.


    As I have tried repeatedly with all sincerity and humility to explain, Taigu, it's not the Rakusu, but what you said that was troubling me. But that doesn't matter. Know what? What you said to me comes off pretty aggressive, Taigu, and I don't know you. I've been asking with respect, and ask what I'm asking as well as I can and as clearly as I can. I'm not asking to be spoon-fed, I was simply asking for clarity on a point at which you are differing vastly from what I've been taught thus far IN THIS ZENDO. And that's all. If it hurt your feelings to be questioned, that is not my intent, you should know that it was what you were saying, not you, your experience, your authority or your expertise, and if this is what I'm going to get in the way of instruction, maybe I should take your advice. Forget it. Has Treeleaf changed this much?
    You won't have to worry about me asking a question again, to be sure. Peace.

  8. #58

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    Hi KvonNJ,

    In Zen all questions are not answered, even if you put them respectfully. Some things in this life cannot be expressed. Sometimes no answer is the answer.

    I wrote to Martin the following:

    We usually make the distinction between lay practice and priest practice.
    If you go in the direction of priest practice, then a kesa is needed. If you don't, you are already living in the whole kesa of the universe, as Sawaki Kodo says: there is no world outside the kesa. He means by that that everything as it is is already the kesa, and sentient and non sentient beings do all wear it.
    I don't think that Treeleaf have changed that much ( mind you, bear in mind that everything changes). Zazen is the core. The kesa as a clothing is the choice of some people that want to commit further to the path. There is room for lay practice without a rakusu or kesa. And there is room for people to discover by themselves that the kesa is also much more than fabric sewn. If somebody ask you to put zazen in a nutshell and show-say what it is, what would you do? The best is to invite that person to sit and see for herself or himself what it is all about. Wouldn't you agree? I do the same with the kesa. The kesa represents something much bigger than your or my well being. The risk of Zazen without the kesa is clearly to fall into a therapy for stressed people, a way to sort yourself out, something convinient.

    Some people in America go in the desert and wild parts and they sit with a blanket around their shoulders and a hat to get protection from the sun. There is nothing aggressive in mentioning this option.

    Obviously, it is getting hot here, we would also all need a hat

    gassho


    Taigu

  9. #59

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    In Zen all questions are not answered, even if you put them respectfully. Some things in this life cannot be expressed. Sometimes no answer is the answer.


    You could have said that, Taigu, and as a student I'd have accepted it.

  10. #60

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    this is definitely an interesting thread...it makes me think of the teacher who raised a finger to answer a question...just that, and that was enough.....

  11. #61
    Treeleaf Unsui Kyrillos's Avatar
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    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    Stephanie, thanks for your straightforward response, I appreciate it and it helps me to somewhat understand.

    Gassho,

    Seishin Kyrill

  12. #62

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    Quote Originally Posted by KvonNJ
    What I'm having a hard time with, and not getting answers for, is the idea that "Zazen apart from Kesa is not the Buddha's Zazen," a statement which in both at surface and in depth appears to run quite counter to everything I've been taught by Jundo here since 2007. ... I was simply asking for clarity on a point at which you are differing vastly from what I've been taught thus far IN THIS ZENDO. ... . Has Treeleaf changed this much?
    Zazen is the be all and end all of Practice (a "be all and end all" without being or end). Zazen is only seated Zazen, and so is sat on the Zafu each day ... nothing more to attain, nothing more necessary.

    "Zazen" in its wider meaning is all of this lifeworldself ... not a drop left out. But, as Taigu said in his talk, how we fan manifests and brings it forth (fan the flames of anger, and anger comes forth ... fan awakened life, and awakening comes forth).

    "Zazen" is to sew and wear the Kesa ... to wear and sew the Kesa is Zazen. Thus, "Zazen apart from Kesa is not the Buddha's Zazen" Zazen can never be separated from the whole cloth of the Kesa.

    I feel that devotion should be a vital aspect of this path. Many traditional practices can be objects of our devotion (beyond subject and object) when we throw our "self" into the practice ... when we come to see it with fresh eyes. Thus, Taigu writes ...


    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    The study of tradition gives me an insight: kolomo and stuff are not essential to Zen, many of the countless chants can be dropped, ceremonies can be simplified: what cannot be changed is Zazen and kesa, at least in my lineage. And sorry guys, but this is not debatable. Sit with jeans, shorts, whatever. Sing in English or French or Italian. You can even not shave your head. Buddha's sitting and Buddha's kesa cannot be disposed of.
    And this is right. As well, Taigu has other aspects of this practice to which he is devoted ... to the Compassion of Kannon Bodhisattva, for instance.

    http://www.shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=14889

    Other practitioners are devoted to a particular chant, to shaving the head (Dogen also wrote long passages on how we must do so ... although ... ) ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/sit-a-long/with ... -monk.html

    ... to bowing, to a particular Sutra's teachings ... to Jesus and Mary (for some of our Christian Zen folks). All Zazen, when perceived as such.

    To the outsider, these respective practices may lack all relevance and meaning. To the insider (or "no insider/outside"-r) they are right at the heart.

    I have read Taigu's posts several times, and I believe they are beautiful and crystal clear. I think, Karl ... maybe Martin and Stephanie ... you should reread them with a different tone and "voice" in your own heads. He treats the topic of wearing the Kesa with great subtlety and beauty. He says [emphasis added] ...


    We usually make the distinction between lay practice and priest practice.
    If you go in the direction of priest practice, then a kesa is needed. If you don't, you are already living in the whole kesa of the universe, as Sawaki Kodo says: there is no world outside the kesa. He means by that that everything as it is is already the kesa, and sentient and non sentient beings do all wear it.
    So you are already wearing the kesa, and you feel-think you don't need it. That is perfectly ok. I just would like to reflect that for some people here, there is a different story, another commitment and the light of that commitment, this sewn fabric is Buddha's body
    ...
    If the rakusu is troubling you ... just forget about it and focus on sitting. Put your jeans on, even your hat and sit American style. No problem.
    ...
    I don't think that Treeleaf have changed that much ( mind you, bear in mind that everything changes). Zazen is the core. The kesa as a clothing is the choice of some people that want to commit further to the path. There is room for lay practice without a rakusu or kesa. And there is room for people to discover by themselves that the kesa is also much more than fabric sewn.
    Perfectly clear, not an ounce of aggression in his words (despite the tiredness of a man working three jobs on a Friday night who still comes here to put his efforts into this place nonetheless ). Read them again, closely.

    Taigu taught me the sacredness and practice of the Kesa (and Kannon too) in ways I had not encountered before encountering Taigu. Thank you, T.

    Yes, pour your "self" into the sewing ... spill your blood (literally) on the fabric ... move forward and there is no place to go ... no mistakes, yet care and diligence to avoid mistakes ... no mistakes, yet we stop to fix what we can ... all this lifeworldself folded in each fold and panel ... covering all time and space ... dyed with laughter and tears ... Robe of Liberation boundless ... field of benefaction ... wearing the Buddhas Teachings ... saving all sentient beings ... All Zazen ...

    Come to see the Robe this way ... and it is precisely this way (do not see it as so, and it is just rags and thread). Up to you.

    Now, with that in mind ... I may still be of the school that the Robe is always worn in such way, whether seen or not. As Taigu said, "there is no world outside the kesa ... So you are already wearing the kesa." So, tonight at our Zazenkai, I will not wear a "Kesa" Kesa (and only a t-shirt). However, if you see me standing there in my t-shirt and cannot see the Kesa, I say ... open your eyes. If, other days, you see me standing in a Kesa, I say ... open your eyes more! There is the visible/invisible Kesa ... there is the invisible/visible Kesa.

    Taigu is devoted to sewing and wearing the visible/invisible Kesa. I am a little more into the invisible/visible Kesa. Wonderful thing is that it is all the Kesa. The Zen way is like painting ... with different teachers who teach the same painting with somewhat different strokes and perspectives. How boring if we all taught painting the very same painting in the very same way.

    Which leads to our next topic ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyrillos
    If you wish to undermine and destroy anything that has been established, especially religion, all you need to do is eliminate it's traditions.
    I have to leave in a few minutes, so I do not have time to do this justice. I will just say that the reason Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism may have each survived and thrived for thousands of years is because you need all these folks ... the rigid "traditionalists" and the "adapters and changers with the times" ... TOGETHER. Judaism is an example ... with some folks, very literalist and closed to change ... who keep the light of the old ways burning. Other Jews, out in the world, who turn it all upside down and invent new ways. If it were only for the former, the religion would be wooden, rigid, dead. If it were only for the latter, the religion might fall into chaos and meaninglessness. Only with both, feeding and supporting each other ... with people in one camp learning from the other (and from all manner of folks somewhere in between ... and folks moving from one to the other, learning from each ... ) ... have the gardens of these paths bloomed.

    Anyway, no chance to go into this more ... I will write again later.

    And one note on "authority" ... a Kesa or a doctor's scalpel can be used or abused. The "proof" is in the pudding about whether the particular practitioner is one or the other. Just because a bad doctor has sometimes misused his tools does not mean that the "authority" of all doctors is to be mistrusted.

    Anyway ...

    Gassho, Jundo

  13. #63

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    I may have mis-read, and I admit that at present my own emotions and sensibilities are very raw. It is not and never has been my intent to be a problem child. I apologize to Taigu and the Sangha at large, I will take a deep breath, (breathing in, I calm my body, breathing out, I smile...) and try again.
    With humility,

  14. #64
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    Thank you, Jundo. Gassho

  15. #65

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    Hi,

    Well, I sat with the invisible-visible Kesa.

    http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/9810670

    viewtopic.php?p=41555#p41555

    I think next week I will sit with the visible-invisible Kesa. Anyway, both are divisible-indivisible.

    One thing about the invisible Kesa is that it is too easy to wear it inside out. Fortunately, there is no inside or out! :wink:

    Quote Originally Posted by KvonNJ
    I may have mis-read, and I admit that at present my own emotions and sensibilities are very raw. It is not and never has been my intent to be a problem child. I apologize to Taigu and the Sangha at large, I will take a deep breath, (breathing in, I calm my body, breathing out, I smile...) and try again.
    With humility,
    It may be that we can grow attached to outer forms while not seeing the formless. However, we can also fail to see the Truth which is right before our eyes. I think one good medicine for raw emotions and sensibilities, and sad tears and torn tears in life ... is a little sewing! Please give it a try. I bet, Karl, you may even end up a Kesa fellow like Taigu!

    Gassho, Jundo

  16. #66

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    I have been following this discussion the last couple of days now, and would simply like to say thank you to everyone. Through everything that has been brought up I feel I have a better understanding of the kesa(invisible/visible) and its importance.

    Much appreciated,

    Will

  17. #67
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    The job of a student is to question his body-mind, not to beg a rational explanation that convice him to proceed.
    I like you, Taigu. You cut right to it.

    Gassho,

    Jennifer

  18. #68

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    Hi everyone!
    Wow! Things have been very interesting around here! But there is so much tension in all this!
    So much of our limitations being dropped when polishing each other,vast practice!

    Thank you everyone!
    gassho,
    Jinyu
    ps: Lets return to kesa sewing :wink:

  19. #69

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    Hellos to all posting here

    I appreciate the various thoughts offered in this thread and it's cousin: The Will to Study and Listen

    Teachers do have a time of it: what to keep hold of, what to let fall away: this dharma to transmit, the baby sitting in the bath water of 'tradition',
    what is the amount to be kept without drowning baby, how much can be tossed out without tossing out the baby too?

    It is interesting to follow the development of a teacher--(Toni Packer comes to mind--so different from her teacher, Philip Kapleau Roshi).
    A wonderful book about a teacher's personal development--Novice to Master (I forget the name of the zen master who wrote it), small book, and each chapter beautiful touching points of his early-student arrogance and his teacher's teachings.

    I remember one zen story of a woman who lived below a monastary. One day she heard the big gong of the monastary ringing and she knew the abbot had died: because he had not allowed the ringing of the big gong during his lifetime.

    Another zen story of the people who came to see the zen master famous for his 'finger pointing' teaching. The master was out and the visitors wanted to know what the teaching was, so a young monk showed them his master's teaching by raising his finger and pointing. When the master returned and heard about this he called the young monk to him and asked the young monk to show what he had done. When the young monk raised his finger, the master cut it off. The story goes that the young monk became enlightened in that same instant.

    (folks if I am not remembering these zen stories well, please correct me)

    Imitating a teacher's method of conveying that teacher's understanding is not one's own understanding.
    This is not an intellectual kind of understanding. No amount of intellectual discussion will 'get it.' Intellectual discussion gets something, for sure, but not 'it'.

    humility also figures into this zen practice, 'not knowing' is one aspect of it.

    Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn Soen-sa-nim has a koan:
    Somebody comes into the Zen Center with a lighted cigarete, walks up to the Buddha-statue, blows smoke in its face and drops ashes on its lap.
    You are standing there. what can you do?
    This person has understood that nothing is holy or unholy. All things in the universe are one, and that one is himself. So everything is permitted. Ashes are Buddha; Buddha is ashes. the cigarette flicks. The ashes drop.
    But his understanding is only partial. He has not yet understood that all things are just as they are. Holy is holy; unholy is unholy. Ashes are ashes; Buddha is Buddha. He is very attached to emptiness and to his own understanding, and he thinks that all words are useless. So whatever you say to him, however you try to teach him, he will hit you. If you try to teach by hitting him back, he will hit you even harder. (He is very strong.)
    How can you cure his delusion?
    Since you are a Zen student, you are also a Zen teacher. You are walking on the path of the Bodhisattva, whose vow is to save all beings from their suffering. This person s suffering from a mistaken view. You must help him understand the truth: that all things in the universe are just as they are.

    How can you do this?
    If you find the answer to this problem, you will find the true way.
    *

    *from the preface of the book Dropping Ashes on the Buddha

    I certainly consider myself to be a zen student; so when I first read 'since you are a Zen student, you are also a Zen teacher,' I balked...I don't want to be a zen teacher!...then I understood just how serious this opening of my mouth can be. Others may think I know something: I have to be clear about what I don't know.

    So I don't know about the 'right amount of tradition' to keep or the 'correct innovation' to adopt when it comes to teachers and their teaching. Each teacher comes to their own method of keeping the dharma baby.
    To question the teacher's method of teaching is not the question.
    The question is: how to find my own way through.
    Through and through.

    With gratitude to all teachers; past, present and future.
    To Treeleaf teachers Taigu and Jundo
    To the Treeleaf teachers-in-training

  20. #70

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    This is only my second or third post here, and in some ways perhaps I should remain silent, but since the comparison to Catholicism was made, maybe my contribution can hold some relevance.

    I am actually a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist in Canada.
    In Canada and the US, Jodo Shinshu Temples have been around for just over 100 years. Today it is still primarily those of Japanese origins who are attending the Temples, or their spouses, and with less immigration from Japan, and changing feelings about religion in general with the last couple generations, most Temples are experiencing declining, and aging membership.

    Over the last 100 years, some things in Shin have been changed to suit North American culture. Many Temples are called "churches", and often services are held on Sunday morning. Services themselves hold a strong resemblance to Protestant Christian services with members dressed literally in their Sunday best, Buddhist hymns being sung, and a social tea after. our Sensei's are often called "reverend" and dharma talks are sometimes called "sermons".
    Some of this was simply a practical approach in a Christian dominated country. Some of it was to consciously integrate into western culture, and try to combat racism by not seeming to be too different.(being Japanese in North America during and immediately after the second world war was not easy)
    Some of it is just because Shin is similar to Christianity in some superficial ways.

    Today many Shin temples are trying to re-invent themselves and become relevant to modern western culture, and so we are sort of going through our second round of trying to decide what traditions should be kept, and which should change, only this time, some of the things called into question are not the old traditions, but the changes that were made to cope with the reality of America in the 40's, 50's and 60's.

    There is of course always debate in this process. Most Temples still chant exclusively in Sino-Japanese and in some cases there is a great deal of resistance to the idea of switching to English. Interestingly when we have non-Japanese visitors to the Temple for services, they tend to like the Sino-Japanese chanting. I think a mix is best.
    As a music teacher and musician, I do think the Sino-Japanese "chants" better, and probably better induces a more meditative mind set, but there is also value in gaining an intellectual understanding of the sutras as well, and that generally requires them being in English for most North Americans.
    In my own home practice, I probably am about 3 to 1, Sino-Japanese chanting to English. I always recite the Nembutsu in Sino-japanese, or Sanskrit. (I realize that is not a Soto practice though)

    In Shin our Kesa is less elaborate (technically only Ordained Sensei's wear a "kesa" and lay followers wear a smaller version called a "Monto Shikisho"...I think in Soto you have these as well?) and in many Temples few lay followers wear it. In my Temple a few years ago our Sensei asked members to return to wearing it for services, and I'm glad they did. Now in Canada we have a "Canadian" montoshikisho with maple leafs and the Sagarifuji (Shinshu crest) and I think now it is widely worn in most Canadian Temples. So this was a nice compromise between tradition and integrating into western culture.

    Traditionaly Shin followers are supposed to chant "Shoshinge" (a kind of summary of shin teachings, written by Shinran) every morning and night, but more and more we use shorter chants, and I strongly suspect most members do not chant at all except for Temple services. I think this relaxing of tradition is most regrettable!

    When I first came to my Temple (after several years fo practicing Soto on my own without a Temple or teacher) I was an enthusiastic advocate of making changes. After 15 years practicing Shin at the Temple though, I am more of a traditionalist.
    My feeling is that regardless of if it suits western sensibilities or not, teachers must lead, and students must follow. Students will simply not understand some things, and many of these things cannot be explained.
    Traditions came about with a purpose behind them, but sometimes we only really "get" the purpose after significant practice, in which we simply trusted that there was a purpose even if we didn't understand it.

    So my feeling is that it is best to only make a change if there is a practical need to change. Otherwise I think we have to trust our teachers, and our ancestral teachers...that they know/knew more than we as students.

    Wearing a kesa, bowing, proper posture...all of these things help create a mood or mindset condusive to practice, and a reverence for the incredible good fortune we have to receive the teachings and have the opportunity to practice. If we remove too many of these things, we may start to take this opportunity for granted.

    Anyway I apologize for a long winded post, and coming from an outside perspective, but for those who have less taste for tradition and ritual, my advice would be that those who went before you, knew what they were doing, and we do well to trust them, even if we don't quite understand the value of something for ourselves just yet.

  21. #71

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    Quote Originally Posted by Shutoku
    I am actually a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist in Canada.
    Thank you for sharing!
    I knew very little about Shin Buddhism! Perhaps a little about Nembutsu and the links between Zen and Nembutsu schools, but in a very intellectual way.
    It is great to have a real practitioner's opinion on these subjects!

    gassho,
    Jinyu

  22. #72

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    Perry said,"the Bhodi Tree needs to take root before we start trimming it!"
    Who knows, with a little patience and respect, we may like it just the way it is.
    Gassho zak

  23. #73

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    Hey Chugai,

    I will give a listen and perhaps comment in a day or so.

    Not sure about next life, but very busy busy today in this one! 8)

    Gassho, J

  24. #74
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    My feeling is, who cares what someone else's assessment is of how good a Buddhist I am? I've known people who almost make a career out of contrasting their "correct" way with someone else's "incorrect" way, and it has nothing to do with wisdom. I'm more interested in the feedback of the person on the street as to the impact of what I just did than that of some person who has set himself (or herself) up as a judge of others.

    As for this specific issue, it's one that many people get very passionate about. Both sides vehemently defend their view or way as right, and the only right way. But the Buddha never advocated for people to become Buddhists and adhere to the Buddhist party line, he advocated for people to find out what is true, and to do so by seeking wise counsel but always primarily relying on the verification of direct personal experience.

    The human mind is tricky. How do I know I know what I think I know? I don't. I don't even know the extent to which what I see is an actual representation of the world. How do I arrive at the truth? Do I trust a mystical experience I had, that might just be the product of endogenous neurology? Do I trust the word of another due to authority or convincing argument? I don't personally see any clear way to actually answer the question of life after death with certainty. I experience it more as a koan, a question that informs the living of life and that is not meant to ever be answered in a definitive manner.

    My personal opinion, which is worth as much as any other uninformed speculator's personal opinion, is that mind/body dualism is a misperception based on the way experience feels. I think it is especially attacked by the Buddha's line of inquiry, which reveals that the self, that so many have taken to be "more real" than even their bodies, is ephemeral and illusory. And without mind/body dualism, the most common conception of rebirth falls apart. There might be another way rebirth is "true," but it is not in that the self we experience is our "true soul" that migrates from one body to the next.

    Also, the more I learn about and appreciate the majesty and epic scope of evolution, the more I come around to a view that is informed by and embraces science but does not lead to a view of "dead materialism." The best way I have found to put it is... whatever it is that we are was coded into the universe before the first life ever appeared on Earth. We are fully an expression of the Universe. Every piece of it that led up to us sitting here, typing to one another via our computers, is part of us. The elements in our bodies were generated by stars, one of the first forms to appear in the universe. We are shot through and through with our emergence from water, our cradle. Every step along the way toward us left its trace in us, from naked RNA to bacteria to simple multicellular life to the simplest fish, to tetrapods and reptiles and ultimately to mammals, the first mice with grasping hands that became monkeys and then apes and then hominids and then us. We contain everything that existed before us.

    In this view of the universe, a "separate realm" inhabited by "the dead" does not make sense. A "spiritual" basis for life--in the sense of life being guided and driven primarily by "spirits" separate from material bodies--would mean that something could be separated out from the universe, removed from it, and placed elsewhere. In our modern understanding of the universe, where would we place the dead, or the migrating souls in the in-between realm? Do they go to another universe in a multiverse? Do they get zapped to another planet? Or is there immaterial "stuff" just floating all around us, waiting to get sucked into a new body? I find such views incoherent.

    That is not to say, however, I am of the opinion that our subjective experience is "just" a byproduct of physical processes in the brain. We are "meat technology" wired perfectly to run on and read the innate "code" of the universe. Our consciousness is the expression of an underlying richness. That we exist and do what we do is because we are exactly the same thing as the universe that gave rise to us. I am not just "one" person, I am everything that flows through me, including all of the information transmitted via genes and culture. My life could never exist in isolation, because human culture only exists through the fact that so many channels of information can pass through us, across space and time. The dead are not dead, and whatever in me can pass away is not the self I think of myself as being.

  25. #75

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    Quote Originally Posted by chugai
    Hi Chugai,

    I have written on the subject of "life after death" and "rebirth" before ...

    viewtopic.php?f=24&t=1429

    viewtopic.php?f=24&t=1281

    ... but let me address the cited article quickly.

    Let me first state that I happen to believe that we, sentient beings, did not happen to pop up alive and aware, in the middle of time and space, by sheer outrageous luck and a blind role of the dice. Personally, I feel our lives are no more unexpected than it is unexpected that an apple tree will grow from an apple seed, and give fruit to apples!

    Also, Buddhist teachings allow us the very real knowledge that, in a vital sense, we never die ... not so long as the amazing vital dance which is our source keeps dancing ... for we are just that, and that us, in the most intimate sense (in fact, we were never "born" from that very same perspective). We no more die than the sea "dies" or is "born" as its waves come and go ... for the waves, which we are, are/were just the sea all along. We are "reborn" with every new wave, and live in every drop of sea water ... the life of the sea, ever just the moving sea itself.

    But, truly, whether there is "life after death" or not is not so important to Zen Practice, which is primarily focused on this moment ... and our actions ... here and now. I style myself an "open minded agnostic, but a skeptic" on some subjects such as overly detailed, mechanical, imaginative views of Karma and rebirth. My attitude, and that of many other Buddhist teachers, is that ...

    If there are future lives, rebirth, heavens and hells ... live this life here and now, seek not to do harm, seek not to build "heavens" and "hells" in this world ... let what happens after "death" take care of itself. Heck, if one is a good person "here and now", I suppose one is making possible that good "rebirth" or "entrance into heaven" if they exist!

    And if there are no future lives, no rebirth, no heavens or hells ... live this life here and now, seek not to do harm, seek not to build "heavens" and "hells" in this world ... let what happens after "death" take care of itself. Doing so will make for a better life and world in any case.


    I disagree with the statements in the article cited ...

    Karma is a difficult pill to swallow for many Western students of Buddhism. So, too, is rebirth. And, practically speaking, these two pills are inseparable. It’s hard to see how you can take one without taking the other—at least not without getting undesirable side effects.
    That is not true. Buddhism, as described above, functions quite well without an overly literal, mechanical view of Karma, or a detailed, mechanical view of rebirth. Morality does not fall apart either, and can be supported with a "this worldly" humanist basis.

    I have looked at some of the "scientific" evidence for cases of literal "rebirth" (virtually indistinquishable in such cases from "reincarnation, although some Buddhists like to make a technical distinction), and I find the evidence anecdotal, speculative, unimpressive (things like children who seem to share a birthmark resembling someone who died, or who may have a memory not unlike some past event ... both usually very vague and unspecific resemblances that are highly interpretive. I am not convinced). The "Dr. Tart" who provides evidence for these things claims that he is being reasonable and scientific, and he is being anything but.

    And if the Buddha taught such doctrines, well, he was a man of his times. I am more than content to be a "Buddhist" based on the other 90% of his teachings which reveal Truths about this life and world ... and I don't need to buy into every claim of an Indian man living 2500 years ago.

    Much of the article is based on "might be" and "could be" trues, and "how do you know its not" trues ... and that is just not a convincing basis for argument. How do we know that there is no Loch Ness monster, and it "could be" true!

    Again, it is not that I am convinced of the falsity of literal rebirth ... It is just that I doubt it, don't need it, can get on without it ... it is not central to my Practice.

    Now, on the Kevatta Sutta you mentioned ... Oh, I don't doubt in the least such "Psychic Powers"! (Does that surprise you, since I just said what a "skeptic" I am?) However, folks in the Zen world, including ol' Dogen, always had an interesting way to see and express such "Psychic Powers" ... The Sutta says:

    There is the case where a monk wields manifold psychic powers. Having been one he becomes many; having been many he becomes one. He appears. He vanishes. He goes unimpeded through walls, ramparts, and mountains as if through space. He dives in and out of the earth as if it were water. {etc.]
    Oh, well, we "Zen folks" have no trouble being "one" or "many" ... just like that wave, the sea, and all the drops of the sea I mentioned. Yes, our "self" appears and vanishes, and goes unimpeded right through mountains! Piece of cake!

    Yes, I believe in miracles too! (Does that surprise you too?). I believe in the miracle of a child's smile, of the sea and mountains. I believe in the "miracle" of the whole universe spinning round and round in such a way that ... you and I popped out, alive and aware, here in the middle of time and space!

    Gassho, Jundo

  26. #76
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    I mentor a young challenged lad of 19yrs. He confides to me that he lived 5000 yrs ago; one of the pharoahs before Tutt. He and seven of his friends are earth benders, they all lived in the same era (Do you find it strange that they would all pop up here and now at the same time?) He has also told me of his dreams; more than slightly scary stuff. I quite thankful I'm not inside his body. By surfing the same sites that he does I get insight into where the is coming from and a lot of it is out of Harry Potter. Most kids read Harry and take it with a grain of salt but, not my Mentee :lol:
    I had an aunt who died last year at the age of 101. She told me years ago in her early nineties, that she expected her death to be a grand and wonderful experience, to which she added, " And If it isn't, no problem, who'd care?" This leaves me to ponder, "will i ever get to find out how it went for her:?:"

    gassho, Richard

  27. #77

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    I've been reading alot of the posts here concerning the abuse of power and such, so I thought I'd put my two (non)cents in (pun intended).

    I, too, dislike the abuse of power in any position be it material wealth or spiritual. We can see how this happens every day when people begin to believe that the number of green pieces of paper with dead Presidents on them that they can stack one atop another, is in some what proportionate to their worth as human beings. I have more money, so I'm better. Religion, too, is an old stomping ground for abuse. History is riddled with religious wars, that behind the scenes were really fought for political and monetary gain. So in this respect, I'm with Stephanie that the abuse of power is all to easy for most to fall prey to. However, that is part of why we do what we do, isn't it? We are Buddhists because we recognize the delusions within these thoughts. You are not more holy then the next man because you are Pope or Head Priest, you are not a better person than the poor man beside you because you can buy more stuff, which you can't take with you when you die. We should all be careful to see the reality of things, that these ideas are delusive and that they cause us to want, desire, and grasp at objects, and concepts that aren't real. But we also need to make sure that we realize when we may be expecting the worst out of people because we have already pre-judged them. I do not believe that if you give a person power, the next step is his abuse of that power, but I do believe that, as Stephanie said, we as a species are imperfect. I can choose to see that as a sure sign that we are bound to become drunk with whatever power we might have, or I can choose the way of compassion, and when a powerful person falls, I might help them up, dust them off, and remind them to be careful where they walk when the footing is precarious.

  28. #78

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    Quote Originally Posted by chugai
    I am not surprised to find out you believe in psychic powers and miracles -- I've known humans to believe in many contrary things at once ---

    ...

    I've never heard nor seen what I would describe as good rational, reasonable, scientific evidence of psychic powers.

    Miracles as you describe them I believe in. But folks have interpreted much to divine intervention that I cannot fathom the reasoning.
    Just to be clear ... I do not believe in (or, better said, am skeptical and have seen little if any convincing evidence for) "psychic powers" in the meaning of E.S.P., telekinesis, seeing the future or the like (although I do believe in seeing the past! :shock: ) Nor do I put much stock in Big Foot, the Loch Ness monster or U.F.O's (although I do believe that we are far from alone among sentient life in the vast cosmos).

    It is not that I completely discount such things. At the same time, I ALSO believe that science does not have "all the answers", that there is more to this material universe than "meets the eye", and that "there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." It is just that I believe that 99% of the claims for such phenomena, so far, are circumstantial, sometimes outright faked, exaggerated, otherwise explainable, etc. Some smoke, little fire.

    The meaning that Dogen and others gave to "psychic powers" is not that. We "walk through mountains" for they are empty and so are you and me! We know others minds for they are just Mind, and just the mind of human beings. We can tell the future ... for what "future"? That kind of ways of interpreting "psychic powers". We can expand to cover the entire cosmos ... and shrink to enter into the smallest atom ... for what is "big" and "small", and where in the cosmos are we not all along?

    That kind of view of "psychic powers" I can experience, and is just a matter of seeing and experiencing life in such ways.

    I believe in "REAL MAGIC!" Oh, so many people cannot find the magic and miracle of this reality, right before their eye and this eye itself, because they are so busy searching for cheap "magic" and carnival "miracles"! They seek "powers" as they do not know how to be at one with the power of life. They cannot see all, as they try to "see all". They wish to "predict the future", but do not know right here and now holding future and past and everything in between.

    Gassho, J

  29. #79

    Re: Tradition versus innovation

    Hi every body,

    Hear is my opinion about tradition vs innovation.

    I think, using an old tradition or doing innovation, both is not a problem at all.
    The most important thing is the practice. In soto-Zen, the core practice is Zazen.

    When I talk about practice, it is not the practice of traditional ceremony or etc. What I mean with practice is to understand the way, drop the body and mind.

    Tradition without practice is a dead-thing.

    Innovation without practice is lossing the Way.

    So, innovation or not innovation, is not a problem.

    Practice is more important.


    Gassho, Mujo

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