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Thread: What is a Buddhist?

  1. #1

    What is a Buddhist?

    "Am I a Buddhist?"
    I saw this question on a Buddhism sub-forum in Thailand.
    The questioner wanted to know how one becomes a Buddhist. Do we just decide for ourselves and, if so, what would make our decision a valid one? Or is there a ceremony, perhaps preceded by instruction and the sponsor's discernment that the person is ready?
    I am aware of people formally taking refuge in the Triple Gem, though I've never seen it. I gather Soto has a ceremony of this kind, but I can't think of the name of it.
    Really, how does one become a "Buddhist"?

  2. #2

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian
    "Am I a Buddhist?"
    I saw this question on a Buddhism sub-forum in Thailand.
    The questioner wanted to know how one becomes a Buddhist. Do we just decide for ourselves and, if so, what would make our decision a valid one? Or is there a ceremony, perhaps preceded by instruction and the sponsor's discernment that the person is ready?
    I am aware of people formally taking refuge in the Triple Gem, though I've never seen it. I gather Soto has a ceremony of this kind, but I can't think of the name of it.
    Really, how does one become a "Buddhist"?
    Hello Adrian,

    Just my thoughts--

    I once heard a joke/observation from a monk:

    "There are two kinds of people in the world--Buddhists, and those who haven't yet realized that they're Buddhist." Which is to say, the ceremony is an important acknowledgment, but if one follows the Dharma (whether or not that's what one calls it) one is a Buddhist.

    Metta,

    Saijun

  3. #3

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Really one does not become a Buddhist, Buddhism is a way of seeing the world, and living in the world. If the teachings speak to you and you start incorporating them into your everyday life, then you are a Buddhist.

    But to your question, taking refuge in the triple Gem makes it formal, where you get a new Buddhist name, and become a card carrying Buddhist (so to speak). in zen we have the ceremony of Jukai where we formally take the 16 Bodhisattvas vows as a formal way of committing to the Buddhist path.


    Gassho

    Seiryu

  4. #4

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    All,

    I've thought about this question, "What is a Buddhist", and I have to agree that if ones adopts Buddhist views, precepts and actions, one IS a Buddhist in one's own view. However, I also believe that one needs to take something like jukai to I guess "officiate" it. If one describes themselves as a Christian (this talks about your beliefs), then fine, but the formal religious acceptance of sacraments officiates a Catholic or other religious denominations.

    Thought?

    Gassho,

    Matt

  5. #5
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    'Buddhist' is primarily a self-designation, IMHO. I haven't taken Jukai (who knows if I ever will), but I still self-designate as Buddhist.

  6. #6

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by MJU
    All,

    I've thought about this question, "What is a Buddhist", and I have to agree that if ones adopts Buddhist views, precepts and actions, one IS a Buddhist in one's own view. However, I also believe that one needs to take something like jukai to I guess "officiate" it. If one describes themselves as a Christian (this talks about your beliefs), then fine, but the formal religious acceptance of sacraments officiates a Catholic or other religious denominations.

    Thought?

    Gassho,

    Matt
    I feel this is about right. If one seeks to follow sincerely the Buddhist Teachings and Practice, and bring them into the core of one's life, then one is a "Buddhist". No name or ceremony is important to that.

    Yet we have a ceremony of Jukai (Undertaking the Precepts) which we celebrate, and which includes our committing to the Buddhist Path and the Lineage of Buddhist Teachers and Students going back ... back to the Buddha himself. However, if ya ask me, the "celebration" merely celebrates the existing fact that otherwise has already been brought to life in one's life.

    This is much like a marriage ceremony celebrates an existing love and commitment for individual people to continue together onward on that path ... and, in turn, the love relationship and commitment is celebrated and somehow affirmed and bound together by the wedding ceremony ... and really both are one. One without the other is perhaps weak.

    I will be announcing information in the coming weeks looking forward to our next Jukai, but you can see some of how it went in previous years here ...

    viewforum.php?f=7

    Gassho, J

  7. #7
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by MJU
    All,

    I've thought about this question, "What is a Buddhist", and I have to agree that if ones adopts Buddhist views, precepts and actions, one IS a Buddhist in one's own view. However, I also believe that one needs to take something like jukai to I guess "officiate" it. If one describes themselves as a Christian (this talks about your beliefs), then fine, but the formal religious acceptance of sacraments officiates a Catholic or other religious denominations.

    Thought?

    Gassho,

    Matt
    I feel this is about right. If one seeks to follow sincerely the Buddhist Teachings and Practice, and bring them into the core of one's life, then one is a "Buddhist". No name or ceremony is important to that.

    Yet we have a ceremony of Jukai (Undertaking the Precepts) which we celebrate, and which includes our committing to the Buddhist Path and the Lineage of Buddhist Teachers and Students going back ... back to the Buddha himself. However, if ya ask me, the "celebration" merely celebrates the existing fact that otherwise has already been brought to life in one's life.

    This is much like a marriage ceremony celebrates an existing love and commitment for individual people to continue together onward on that path ... and, in turn, the love relationship and commitment is celebrated and somehow affirmed and bound together by the wedding ceremony ... and really both are one. One without the other is perhaps weak.

    I will be announcing information in the coming weeks looking forward to our next Jukai, but you can see some of how it went in previous years here ...

    viewforum.php?f=7

    Gassho, J
    Are you saying that Buddhists who forgo Jukai are somehow 'weaker' or 'less Buddhist' than those that take Jukai?

    Chet

  8. #8

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse

    Are you saying that Buddhists who forgo Jukai are somehow 'weaker' or 'less Buddhist' than those that take Jukai?

    Chet
    Not at all! There is nothing wrong at all with just "living together", as one beyond one. In fact, I think that the vital point is "living together" with self and others in a gentle and harm avoiding way guided by the Precepts ... and learning by the Buddhist Teachings, making them the axis of one's spinning life. The ceremony merely celebrates all that.

    In fact, I think it pointless to just undertake that ceremony, then walk out the door and kill, cheat, lie, steal filled with greed, anger and ignorance! In that case, the ceremony is meaningless! Much better the other way around! (Reminds me of folks who go to church on Sunday, cut someone's throat on Monday).

    So, the silly ceremony is not the point, the living is the point.

    Yet ... somehow it ain't so silly!

    Oh, by the way, Chet. Congratulations again on your recent engagement and upcoming wedding! I guess "tying the knot" has some power to it too! :wink:

    viewtopic.php?p=54001#p54001

    Gassho, J

  9. #9
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Hi All,

    Matt posted this very interesting quote of what a Buddha/buddhist(not actually a word used in the quote, but rather my own extension) is on another thread and I thought it applied here as well. Just something to think about......

    Matt wrote:
    Chris--similar to another saying I've heard (and I can't remember the origin): "As soon as you steal, you are a thief; as soon as you sit, you are a budda"
    Gassho,
    John

  10. #10

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Matt wrote:
    Chris--similar to another saying I've heard (and I can't remember the origin): "As soon as you steal, you are a thief; as soon as you sit, you are a budda"
    So when we sit, we are just demonstrating our own Buddha nature that is inherent in us all. "When you steal, you are a thief"; I'm assuming this akin to leaving no trace?

    Gassho,

    Matt

  11. #11
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    When you steal, you are a thief"; I'm assuming this akin to leaving no trace?
    Perhaps leaving no trace as in just stealing everything in sight :lol:

    Gassho,
    John

  12. #12

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    That's actually quite amusing. :lol:

  13. #13

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    buddhist is as buddhist does,
    after all, according to Nishijima Roshi, buddhism is a philosophy of action!

  14. #14
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    according to Nishijima Roshi, buddhism is a philosophy of action!
    Hi All,

    I'm sure this next topic in going to bring up must have been discussed before but I couldn't seem to find it using a search. The question is: Is Zen a religion or philosophy? I have heard many Zenjin(ok, i dont know if this is a real term or not ) say that Zen is not a religion. It has always confused me when people say this. Zen is a sect of Buddhism which is clearly defined as a religion by webster's dictionary. Since I haven't really classified it for myself(I just let Zen be Zen) I'm just wondering which camp some people here find themselves in and why?

    Gassho,
    John

  15. #15

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Thanks for asking this question, John:

    Quote Originally Posted by JRBrisson
    The question is: Is Zen a religion or philosophy?
    I thought about this question a lot when I was first reading about Zen. But now, just up from half an hour of sitting, I'd say: Zen is neither religion nor philosophy. Rather, it's a practice, one that cannot fit within the constraints of either of those designations.

  16. #16

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by JRBrisson
    according to Nishijima Roshi, buddhism is a philosophy of action!
    Hi All,

    I'm sure this next topic in going to bring up must have been discussed before but I couldn't seem to find it using a search. The question is: Is Zen a religion or philosophy? I have heard many Zenjin(ok, i dont know if this is a real term or not ) say that Zen is not a religion. It has always confused me when people say this. Zen is a sect of Buddhism which is clearly defined as a religion by webster's dictionary. Since I haven't really classified it for myself(I just let Zen be Zen) I'm just wondering which camp some people here find themselves in and why?

    Gassho,
    John
    Hi John,

    Depends how one looks at it, and defines "religion" and "philosophy".

    I still like the following description from Nishijima Roshi's book I translated with him. (It is in the form of a dialogue between Gudo and a fictitious student named Sekishin, "Beginner's Mind"). As a side note, it happens to be a subject that Nishijima Roshi seems maybe to have changed his opinion about if one reads his earlier and later writings ... although not really so much (as I feel that he merely took to referring to Buddhism more as a "philosophy", to distinquish it from traditional ideas of "religion".).

    Gudo: Ah… It is very good to think about whether religion is necessary or not. There are so many people who simply believe in some religion without questioning, or who dismiss all religions as foolish out of hand, all without really examining this very important question. Truly, I believe that all human beings, almost without exception, have a religion, that all men and women are religious … even those who think that they are not religious, or describe themselves as agnostic, atheistic, ‘anti-religious’ or such.

    Sekishin: Why do you think that, Roshi?

    Gudo: Well, for me, if I am going to ponder that question, there is another necessary question to address first.

    Sekishin: And that is….?

    Gudo: That is the question of what ‘religion’ is in the first place..... [M]y definition of a ‘religion’ is a bit different, and is something that virtually no human being can avoid to have.

    ...

    WHAT IS A ‘RELIGION?’

    Sekishin: So, Roshi … You have said that you have your own, rather different definition of a ‘religion.’ What do you think of as being a ‘religion?’

    Gudo: Well, that is terribly difficult, yet an extremely important problem, and we could fill hours and hours in talking about it. However, since we could go on and on discussing this before arriving at any conclusion, I will just move directly to stating my own conclusion, which is that there are two elements central to a religion: The first is that there is some way of thinking or ideology believed true concerning the meaning and workings of the world and humankind’s place in it, and the other is that the actions of the individual are sought to be regulated in accordance with that way of thinking believed true. Namely, one aspect of the content possessed by something which constitutes a ‘religion’ is a faith in some ideology which is a world-view, and the other aspect is a discipline and regulation of the faithful’s actions to accord with the ideology thought proper in that faith. It is by this definition that I believe that all men and women, almost without exception, have a religion.

    ...

    Sekishin: So are you saying that, likewise, in the cases of Christianity and Buddhism and such other religions practiced today in so-called ‘developed’ societies, one center point of the content of each is their particular ideology concerning the true nature of the world and mankind’s place in the world, the way of thinking which they respectively possess and which is acted upon by the upholders of the ideology in their lives?

    Gudo: That is correct. The basis for answering the question of what constitutes any religion is determined by looking at the way of thinking which that religion upholds in its faith.

    ...

    THREE TYPES OF ‘RELIGION.’

    Sekishin: Might I ask you now to describe your impression of various specific religions that are currently widely active and popular. What are there respective good points and bad points?

    Gudo: Well, to speak about those respective religions properly it is necessary, I would think, to demonstrate plentiful knowledge and experience with each such particular religion. As you know, I am a Buddhist priest and, therefore, perhaps I may rightly claim to have some knowledge about Buddhism. But, I can only speak as an outsider with regard to other religions. Thus, if someone who is an outsider, as I am, were to self-righteously assert his opinions regarding some other religion, I believe that act would be very insulting to the followers of the other religion, and further, would run the great risk of mistake and misstatement on a number of points. Thus, I do not wish to speak about such things.

    However, instead of doing what you asked me to do, I would like to discuss just a little, as a general, abstract description, my idea of the three types of religion which exist.

    Sekishin: What do you mean by ‘the three types of religion?’

    Gudo: By this, I mean that, if we attempt to classify, based upon their content, the religions found in this world in which we live, they can be divided generally into three types.

    Sekishin: Please tell me about each of the three types.

    Gudo: The three types consist of those religions which set high store on the ideal, those that venerate the material, and those that emphasize ‘action.’ By the latter term, I mean a religion which simply tells us to live, to ‘act’ here and now, in this world just as it is. Thus, I call it a religion of ‘action.’ Buddhism, I believe, falls within this last category.

    Sekishin: I think that this is the first time that I have heard such a classification ….

    Gudo: Well, perhaps it contains within it my own particular view of religion. A few minutes ago, I expressed my idea that, if we consider ‘religion’ as commonly understood and ‘Buddhism,’ they are really quite different in their content with regard to the four characteristics that stand for a religion in ordinary definition, and the categories of religion which I want hereinafter to describe are related to that fact.

    Sekishin: To begin … the first type, those religions that set high value on ‘the ideal,’ are what kind of religion?

    Gudo: Those are what we usually think of as ‘religions’ in common understanding. For example, in most ‘religions,’ the central focus of the teaching is the idea of a super human, ideal entity such as a ‘god,’ whereby each such religion is formed having as its centerpiece a belief in that ‘god.’ It is this type of religion which is most like what we usually bring to mind as being a ’religion,’ and thus is the most conventional. If we ask the true nature of the entity represented by these anthropomorphic, human like ‘gods,’ we can say that it is actually a concept of the ‘ideal’ which we human beings each carry within our hearts.

    We human beings are the animal, among all animals, that has developed the highest ability to think. Accordingly, each moment of each day, we think that we wish circumstances to be ‘like this,’ or to be ‘like that,’ or that things ‘should be like this’ or ‘should be like that.’ We contrast this with the state of the world before us, the state of circumstances we see around us, that are just as they are with all their seeming imperfections. In such manner, the state of the way that things ‘should be’ that we human beings have the capability to envision within our heads is typically called the ‘ideal.’ Those religions that arose centered upon such higher ideals, images of the ‘ideal,’ and setting high value on the ideal, are in reality those religions that we most usually think of as being ‘religions.’ Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, and many others …. most belief systems that these days we commonly call ‘religions’ belong to this category. They each hold up some perfect, idealized state or other world, in the light of which this world we live in is just a shadow … some other state of being, or some heaven, toward which we aim, but in contrast to which human beings and the unsightly human world fall far, far short.

    Sekishin: And those religions that worship the ‘material’ are what type of religion?

    Gudo: Those are religions that we usually do not think of as, or call, ‘religions.’ Because religions that place importance on the ‘ideal’ have been so successful, with so many people belonging to such religions, regulating their lives in accordance with the beliefs and tenets thereof … the result has been that a skeptical portion of such believers have come to feel certain contradictions in their religion, certain dissatisfactions with traditional, idealist religions leading them to doubt the dogma of the religion. The reason is that the ideals commonly upheld by the religion, and the explanations it will give for why the world functions in the way it does, will seem to diverge from the actual realities of the world in which we live, will not always mesh and be in accord with our understanding of how the world really functions .….With regard to those problems regarding which the two disagree with each other, or point in very different directions, people will suffer the dilemma of whether they should carry through with the ideal, or act in the manner that reality seems to indicate. They will be greatly frustrated by how our day-to-day world seems constantly to fall short of the religious ideal, and by how the explanations of the idealized religion seem to offer but fanciful stories to explain the way the world is ….. fanciful stories which require a good deal of faith to be believed.

    Thereby, from such experience, people will start to doubt the ideals that their religion seems to uphold, which may lead them to begin to criticize those ideals as such, which then may lead to such people beginning to separate themselves from the religion, perhaps to ultimately come to follow beliefs and tenets fully the opposite of what the religion upheld. Such a position is commonly called ‘anti-religious,’ which is a belief system usually viewed as not itself being a ‘religion.’ But if we look at what I described earlier …. that the content of a religion is, first, a belief in some certain way of thinking or ideology concern the true nature of the world and mankind’s place in it, and second, action in accordance with that believed certain way of thinking or ideology …. we see that ‘anti-religion’ is itself clearly but a form of ‘religion.’ In addition, such a way of thinking, because it intentionally seeks to deny the ‘ideal,’ and because it seeks to remove the ideal from its importance and position in the ‘real world,’ with a tendency to define the ‘real’ as only those material phenomena and events which can be grasped and perceived by the eye and ear and the other physical sense organs … such a way of thinking can be described as a viewpoint which places central importance upon, that venerates the ‘material.’ It is a religion which worships the material.

    Sekishin: Can there really be such religions?

    Gudo: ... In the 19th Century, via Feuerbach, Marx and other materialists, religions placing importance upon the material became most strong.

    Sekishin: So, Roshi … You think of Marxism as a religion?

    Gudo: Yes I do. Its arising out of a belief that all that this world contains was born from a foundation in the physical and material, its construction of an intricate system of thought and ideology, and the efforts of its followers to reform society using, as a basis therefor, that system of thought and ideology …. these can all be said to be clearly one type of religious behavior. I also believe that ‘science’ can be a religion for some people to the extent that it is viewed … not merely as a tool for understanding aspects of this world in which we live … but as the ‘be all’ and ‘end all’ perspective for the way this world is, that nothing is ‘true’ except as it has a basis in the material universe, seemingly harsh, cold and blindly operating …. that, perhaps, the universe is nothing more than an equation, for example. It is not just a faith in the utility of ‘Scientific Method,’ but a faith expounding that nothing has value, nothing really is ‘true’ … be it ‘love,’ ‘poetic truth,’ ‘artistic truth,’ the subjective truths of the heart … unless it can be tested and proven by ‘Scientific Method.’ That is a perspective now very common in our world.. Right or wrong, to the extent that such beliefs constitute a world-view, an ideology, to which people conform their lives …. a faith in ‘science’ is another religion.

    Sekishin: So next, what do you consider those religions that emphasize ‘action?’ What do you mean by that?

    Gudo: This refers to those religions that just call for us to ‘be,’ to ‘live’ and ‘act’ here and now, while simultaneously accepting this world ‘as it is,’ just ‘as it is’ here and now … without appeal to some ‘other world’ that is somehow better, more ‘ideal.’ Because all they ask of us is to ‘be,’ to ‘act’ here and now, in this very world in which we are living here and now, I call such philosophies ‘religions of action.’ Buddhism is such an existential religion. On the other hand, although Buddhism calls upon us to fully accept, to merely observe without judgment this world in which we are living … still, Buddhism need no be thereby a philosophy of passivity. We need not but sit in bliss upon our lotus leaf, watching life pass us by. While fully accepting the world, while fully not wishing that the world were any other way than just the way it is …. simultaneously and from yet another perspective, we are most free to act, to live and choose as we think best. We need not be passive, but can live our lives abundantly, moving forward …. all the while as we know that we are always just ‘here,’ that there is no place ultimately to go other than where we are… In this way, it is a ‘religion of action.’ ….. And again, equally important is the further perspective that in our acting, in our living … it is but the world which acts and lives as we act and live, for we are each but a facet of the world, but an expression of the whole of Reality without separation. In this stance, all concepts of ‘subject’ and ‘object’ are put aside, and our lives and the functioning of all Reality constitute a single Great Activity, one Great Functioning. Thus, because we view the world as acting by and through each of us without separation or division …. for this reason as well, it is a ‘religion of action.’ So, just ‘being,’ ‘living’ and ‘acting’ is sacred, a sacred act, in and of itself. We can even try to better the world as best we can, while hand in hand recognizing the world as perfectly just what it is. Because we can live, must live and act even as we accept …. So, it is a religion of ‘action.’

    I believe that religions of ‘action’ are not included in the categories of religions which worship the ideal and those that focus on the material, but transcend both. I think that almost all of this world’s religions fall into one or the other of the previously described two categories. But, although their numbers are small, there do exist in this world religions not falling into one of those two categories, philosophies which can be said to transcend and swallow whole both the ‘ideal’ and the ‘material.’ Buddhism is an example. Buddhism possesses nothing within it equivalent to a ‘god.’ Further, it does not discount and reject the world of the physical, of the flesh… In fact, it honors the world we find before us. It does not recognize souls and spirits. Even if we just think alone about its characteristic of not denying or rejecting this actual world in which we live, we find thereby that it is certainly not a religion which worships the ‘ideal.’ On the other hand, if we think about it as a religion which seeks for the ethical, warns against our drowning in the senses, which is a viewpoint that does not see the total of Reality only in the empirical or physical, which places importance on actions and seeks for a unity of the objective and the subjective, Buddhism, from any viewpoint, is not a religion of the ‘material.’ Thereupon, if we then ask what is the real centerpiece of the teachings of Buddhism, it is not the ideal, not the material, but in reality its central focus is the actions of human beings, of being and doing here and now. So, when we encounter a religion such as Buddhism which has been created placing central importance on the actions of human beings here and now, that is called a religion which places highest value on ‘action,’ a ‘religion of action.’

    NISHIJIMA ROSHI IN ISRAEL

  17. #17

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Philosophy or Religion?




    Attached files

  18. #18

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    What is a Buddhist? Hmmmmm....I would say that there are a few viewpoints on this. The relative - You're a Buddhist if you believe in the tennents of, have faith in the path, and practice Buddhism. And the Absolute - Since Zen Buddhism is a return to our original Buddha nature, aren't we all Buddhists no matter our religious preference?

    As for it being a religion or a philosophy - well I think it's both and neither. We don't have a divine being we specifically worship, though many of us believe in the existance of one, we tend to think of a divine being or creator as something beyond our ken. If that is so, why try to understand it, anticipate it's wants or demands on humanity? Why not simply live the best, most beneficial life (to all beings) that we can, and be in this world at this moment? It is a way of thinking that frees us from the bonds of other ways of thinking, and once the mind is free - all things follow (to paraphrase Bodhidharma).

    By that same token, it is a religion because we believe in the Path set forth by Shakyamuni, we believe in his expression of the Dharma and we have faith in how he turned its Wheel. It moves us through spiritual phases and helps us to live a life of balance and equanimity. It helps clear away the dross that blocks our view of compassionate living and true caring for other beings. It shows us our true selves and allows us the opportunity to exist in a positive and beneficial manner to the world and all sentient beings. If that is not in accord with the will of a God that took the time and effort to create us, then I don't know what is.

  19. #19

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    This discussion is making me recall Dainin Katagiri's Each Moment is the Universe chapter on "The Search for Meaning and Security," and this cautionary note:

    Since human being have been born in this world, we have decorated our lives with lots of ornaments in order to make time more meaningful. ...

    Maybe we believe that a spiritual life can help us find meaning. So we create ideas such as God, Buddha, universal energy, the last judgment and paradise after death, theology, mythology, or morality and ethics, and then we try to depend on them to make us feel that life is worth living. Century after century we have done this, trying to find real spiritual security through making time meaningful. But still there is no solution, because they are all just ornaments. ...

    I don't want to reject ornaments. There's nothing wrong with science, culture, and religion. Ornaments are important. Without ornaments, you cannot exist. But if you take those concepts and ideas away, what's left? Just the transient streams of time!

  20. #20

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    What is a Buddhist? Hmmmmm....I would say that there are a few viewpoints on this. The relative - You're a
    By that same token, it is a religion because we believe in the Path set forth by Shakyamuni, we believe in his expression of the Dharma and we have faith in how he turned its Wheel. It moves us through spiritual phases and helps us to live a life of balance and equanimity.
    Okay, I'll ask a silly question that betrays my ignorance and lack of knowing where to look it up so that I have the correct answer. What does it mean "turned the wheel." I have heard this expression a couple of times now, and haven't found the context yet. Wikipedia's answer made no sense to me:

    "The Three Turnings of the Wheel (of Dharma) refers to a framework for understanding the sutra stream of the teachings of the Buddhism originally devised by the Yogachara school. It later became prevalent in modified form in Tibetan Buddhism and related traditions.

    The distinction is, on the one hand, a historic or quasi-historic scheme by which the Buddha's first sermons, as recorded in the Pali Canon and the tripitakas of other early schools, constitute the First Turning, and the later Mahayana sutras comprise the Second and Third turnings. The schema appears in the Samdhinirmochana Sutra, a central Yogachara text, although it may predate it.

    The tantras of the Vajrayana are generally not included under the rubric of the Three Turnings.[1] The model of three turnings of the 'Wheel' is an attempt to categorize the content, philosophical view, and practical application of the whole array of Buddhist sutrayana teachings."
    I can't make heads or tails out of it or how it relates to the instances where I have heard this expression used.

    Sorry to be so ignorant. Gassho, Grace.

  21. #21

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Graceleejenkins
    Okay, I'll ask a silly question that betrays my ignorance and lack of knowing where to look it up so that I have the correct answer. What does it mean "turned the wheel." I have heard this expression a couple of times now, and haven't found the context yet. Wikipedia's answer made no sense to me:
    No worries, we all begin at the beginning, and after all we're all beginners.

    Turning the Wheel of the Dharma is an expression we use to refer to preaching the Dharma. This refers to Shakyamuni Buddha's preaching throughout his life time, but can also refer to the dharma talks, or teishos, that Zen teachers give. When a person speaks on the Dharma, at least one who has enough of a realization of the Dharma to express it truthfully and honestly, then they "Turn the Wheel of the Dharma". To me, this can also refer to the example that a person who lives by the Precepts and is truly compassionate to their fellow sentient beings makes. When you live the Dharma, every action "Turns the Wheel".

  22. #22

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    I had to smile at this topic, becuase this question reminds me of a family dinner where I rather vehemently stated “Buddhism is not a religion!” in response to family members expressing concern about what I was getting into. My stepmother even said that she wants to be there when I die. To which I strongly said again “Buddhism is not a religion!” :x

    So to me, Buddhism is not a religion, if I just take the teachings of Buddha as directly as possible. However, it seems to me that some traditions have definitely built a religion around Buddhism but those traditions do not appeal to me. (I have a good joke about that, and if I can find it, I’ll post it later.)

    1. Buddha had no central personage(s) of a God that dictates behavior or beliefs that are not allowed to be questioned: Buddha said question and test everything. He admonished us to not even believe what he said just because he said it, but to try it in our own experience.
    2. Buddha did not exclude other groups, but encompassed all: he condemned nothing as being against God.
    3. Buddha refused to answer questions about God, saying that they were questions that could not profitably be discussed and rationally tested in experience.

    Just my current thought about what a "religion" is and why I don't personally consider straight Buddhism as a religion. I also don’t think Buddhism is necessarily incompatible with being a member of another religion. Gassho, Grace.

  23. #23

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Okay, found the joke!! :lol:


    A junior devil has been sent to earth to look around and see how things are progressing. He quickly returns to hell, horrified, and obtains an interview with Beelzebub, the chief devil himself.

    “Sir,” he splutters, “something awful has happened! There is a man with a beard walking around on earth, speaking Truth, and people are beginning to listen to him. Something has to be done immediately.”

    Beelzebub smiles pleasantly, puffing on his pipe, but making no comment.

    “Sir! You don’t realize the seriousness of the situation,” continues the distraught junior devil. “Pretty soon all will be lost!”

    Beelzebub removes his pipe slowly, taps it out on the ashtray, and sits back in his swivel-chair, hands behind his head.

    Don’t worry, son,” he counsels. “We will let it go on a little longer and, when it has progressed far enough, we will step in and help them to organize!”


    (Excerpted from “The Buddha Said “ by Osho.)
    I think that is what sometimes happens to both philosophies and religions! Gassho, Grace.

    P.S. Sorry to post three in a row. . .but I had the time at the momemt. . . so as my husband says "Dig while the spade is sharp!"

  24. #24

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Definition of RELIGION from Merriam-Webster

    1a : the state of a religious b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
    2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices 3archaic : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness
    4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

    It would seem that the academic world does not require the belief in a deity to be a pillar of religion.

  25. #25

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Definition of RELIGION from Merriam-Webster

    4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

    It would seem that the academic world does not require the belief in a deity to be a pillar of religion.
    As my step family would say "Darn academics!"

    Also, thanks, Christopher, for the answer on what it means to "turn the wheel."

    Signing off for good this time! Gassho, Grace.

  26. #26
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Thanks to all for the many insights into the question I put forward

    Gassho,
    John

  27. #27
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    I will be announcing information in the coming weeks looking forward to our next Jukai
    I was about to ask about the next Jukai

    Looking forward to it.

  28. #28
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    A Buddhist is a person who drives her/his life by the Precepts and understands the Four Noble Truths, regardless of the particular schools of Buddhism there are.

    I think you need not only to know some of the Buddhas teachings, but to have faith and practice them every day. And by faith I mean it in the Buddhist sense: to understand and trust because you have experimented enough to know the teachings just make sense.

    I have had regular discussions with my family about this. I tend to think about Buddhism as a set of philosophies but here in Mexico people think about it as Catholicism with a fat god. It's pretty hard to make people understand because they assume that every single human must believe in THEIR god.

    At the end of the day I think a Buddhist is a someone who practices the teachings... even though sometimes we don't even know they exist. I was a Buddhist long before I knew a guy called the Buddha had left a ton of teachings and millions lived by them.

  29. #29

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Thank you, friends, for your responses and extensions to my question. For the moment, although I look forward every evening to my sitting and drop everything to do it, I don't think I'm a Buddhist. I'm just a sitter. But all I've read about Buddha, Dharma and Sangha over the years, my experiences in France and India and Bhutan, all your responses, and Jundo's and Taegu's teachings, all impact consciously and articulately on my life. I like the Jukai idea, and have ordered the book, but probably won't participate in the next one. I'll just continue to hang out in Treeleaf, if that's OK.
    Gassho
    Adrian

  30. #30
    disastermouse
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    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Is Buddhism a philosophy? Parts of it could be thought that way, but what other philosophy do you know that has method? Zen is certainly more than philosophy. I think what throws people off about it as a religion is that it's not really a doctrinal religion. It doesn't say, 'You must believe this' as much as it says, 'Why don't you try this?'

    The truth of Zen (seems weird to call it that because the truth of Zen, IMHO is simply the truth of what is) can be - in fact, IMHO - must be realized for oneself. If there is 'faith' involved, it's only the same faith of a scientist who, upon hearing that a certain experiment leads to a certain result, undertakes the experiment for him or herself under the guidance of someone who has undertaken the experiment him or herself as well.

  31. #31
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    I think that any self-help system that has a method could be called a philosophy, though at a much shallower level. Other philosophies have methods of thinking, debating, etc.; zen isn't the only one. I find it hard to classify it as a religion. Take Dogen's teachings and get rid of the rituals, temples, etc., and there's no religion that I see.

  32. #32
    disastermouse
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    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    I think that any self-help system that has a method could be called a philosophy, though at a much shallower level. Other philosophies have methods of thinking, debating, etc.; zen isn't the only one. I find it hard to classify it as a religion. Take Dogen's teachings and get rid of the rituals, temples, etc., and there's no religion that I see.
    I know of no other philosophy, at least among current philosophers, that incorporates meditation of any kind - let alone something as radical as shikantaza.

    You don't see it as a religion because your definition of 'religion' is narrower in modern Western vernacular than in it's actual etymology suggests. 'Relegare' means to 'bind' or to 'bind back'. It's been suggested that it means to 'bind to the Gods' as used by Homer, but the actual word can mean 'read, read again' or 'to bind back (to truth)'. In this case, 'religion' means much more than doctrine. Certainly our constant revisiting of Buddhist teachings captures a sense of this. But in another sense, scripture in general is not quite as important to a Zen Buddhist as it is to a post-Reformation Christianity.

    I think that if it was decisively proven (somehow) that Jesus never existed or that the mythology itself about his life was untrue, it would devastate Christian religions of most types. If someone said that Siddhartha was a fictional character, I don't think most Zen or even generally contemplative Buddhists would do much more than go, 'Huh' before they went back to sitting in meditation. Would any Western Buddhist be shattered if they realized that many of the Mahayana teachings did not, in fact, come from a 'Naga' king, for instance?

    Chet

  33. #33

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    I think that if it was decisively proven (somehow) that Jesus never existed or that the mythology itself about his life was untrue, it would devastate Christian religions of most types. If someone said that Siddhartha was a fictional character, I don't think most Zen or even generally contemplative Buddhists would do much more than go, 'Huh' before they went back to sitting in meditation. Would any Western Buddhist be shattered if they realized that many of the Mahayana teachings did not, in fact, come from a 'Naga' king, for instance?
    This is a narrow view.

    Not the middle path.

    Regard ALL dharmas as dreams.

    I agree Chet. But don't go to a Christian...go to Christ, within yourself. Don't go to a Buddhist, go to Buddha, within yourself. I think people are waking up to a new Reality (the same ol' Reality) and are finding out that if they are going to find "the truth" they are going to find it within themselves. IMHO

    gassho
    Greg

  34. #34

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    What is a Buddhist?

    A Buddhist is someone who is trying to attain their true nature without depending on some outside force like god or religion. Sitting meditation / zazen is the practice of trying to do that.

  35. #35
    disastermouse
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    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by ghop
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    I think that if it was decisively proven (somehow) that Jesus never existed or that the mythology itself about his life was untrue, it would devastate Christian religions of most types. If someone said that Siddhartha was a fictional character, I don't think most Zen or even generally contemplative Buddhists would do much more than go, 'Huh' before they went back to sitting in meditation. Would any Western Buddhist be shattered if they realized that many of the Mahayana teachings did not, in fact, come from a 'Naga' king, for instance?
    This is a narrow view.

    Not the middle path.

    Regard ALL dharmas as dreams.

    I agree Chet. But don't go to a Christian...go to Christ, within yourself. Don't go to a Buddhist, go to Buddha, within yourself. I think people are waking up to a new Reality (the same ol' Reality) and are finding out that if they are going to find "the truth" they are going to find it within themselves. IMHO

    gassho
    Greg
    The Zen path, the Buddhist path itself, cannot be rooted only within one's own subjective experience - it must be an intersubjective 'science' of sorts. Think of Dokusan as 'qualified peer review'. Usually when you attend a Zen dokusan, the teacher isn't quizzing you about doctrine, he's there for practical matters related to the 4NT, EFP, and in the case of Treeleaf, Shikantaza - he's there to see and help with how it's working in your own experiment. This system of standards is propagated not specifically by some ethereal unicorn called 'Buddha', but by the hidebound, tiresome, and tradition-obsessed institution of Buddhism and as much as it often bores me to tears - it's necessary to prevent the narcissistic tendency to believe that every cherished idea we have results from a direct line to God/Truth/What-Have-You. It has taken me a while to come around to this, and I may passionately forget this again some time in the future, but I've finally come around to realize that it's true.

    If you sit for an appreciable amount of time, I think you may come to find that the term 'within yourself' is meaningless, not just doctrinally, but experientially. Experiencing the clusterfuck that is the moment-to-moment commentary of the mind, although it is all essentially 'not it', some of it is blatantly erroneous, but not a small amount of it is seductively and subtly attractive to the achievement-oriented ego. It is so seductive, so appealing, that if left to your own devices, it will stick to you like velcro. It's your teacher's job to unstick the velcro, and that successive line of qualified teachers is not found 'within yourself'. If you could see your own blind-spots, the term blind spot would be rather unnecessary. It is the entire tradition that upholds and makes possible this 'intersubjective peer review', and there are dangers to both slavishly holding to tradition (hiding your secret practice of 'achievement) and dangers to thinking you have or can 'personally achieve' truth.

    As always, only IMHO,

    Chet

  36. #36
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Very Interesting :roll:
    Thanks for sharing that Chet

  37. #37
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Chet wrote:
    If someone said that Siddhartha was a fictional character, I don't think most Zen or even generally contemplative Buddhists would do much more than go, 'Huh' before they went back to sitting in meditation.
    That's how I would handle the news.

    Gassho,
    John

  38. #38

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Gassho, Chet, for a truly useful post! I especially appreciated this articulation of dokusan:

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    The Zen path, the Buddhist path itself, cannot be rooted only within one's own subjective experience - it must be an intersubjective 'science' of sorts. Think of Dokusan as 'qualified peer review'. Usually when you attend a Zen dokusan, the teacher isn't quizzing you about doctrine, he's there for practical matters related to the 4NT, EFP, and in the case of Treeleaf, Shikantaza - he's there to see and help with how it's working in your own experiment.
    Terms such as "intersubjective science" and "qualified peer review" really help me understand what you're getting at here. I can also imagine using the "peer review" comparison to explain this to my (increasingly curious) dad!

  39. #39

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian
    I like the Jukai idea, and have ordered the book, but probably won't participate in the next one. I'll just continue to hang out in Treeleaf, if that's OK.
    Gassho
    Adrian
    It's ok.

    I have often said that, in my feeling, the most vital aspect is to incorporate Wisdom and Compassion into our life through Zazen, learn from the Buddhist Teachings and make them a foundation of our life, and seek as we can to live by the Precepts (i.e. live as we can to avoid harm, and to act in healthful and beneficial ways toward self and other ... 'self and other' not two, by the way).

    If one is living in such way, the ceremony of Jukai simply is a party to celebrate such fact. If one is not living in such way, then the ceremony of Jukai is without meaning anyway.

    There are aspects to the ceremony that are like any ceremony of commitment. Perhaps it does represent a certain promise and uniting, much like the difference between just "living together" and "heading to the altar". That is for each person to decide in their own heart.

    One other thing ... Some folks expressed sentiments like this ...

    Take Dogen's teachings and get rid of the rituals, temples, etc., and there's no religion that I see. ...

    ... A Buddhist is someone who is trying to attain their true nature without depending on some outside force like god or religion. ...
    I would say this this expressed a bit of 21st century, modern western bias as to how Buddhism, including Zen Buddhism, has been and is practiced in Japan, China and the rest of Asia now and throughout the centuries.

    A visit to almost any Zen Monastery in Japan (now or in Dogen's time), China, Korea or Vietnam ... with the incense smoke, ritual, dogma and doctrine, and heroic superhuman images of saintly Bodhisattvas and Buddhas, would quickly convince about anyone that this is a "church" and a "religion". For some reason, most modern westerners have come to believe that such "square Zen" is somehow a decay of the "real" Zen Buddhism, or a later addition, or not as "religious" as it appears to the eye. However, such is not the case. (I am not speaking only of Amida Buddhists and the like, who believe in a Buddha who is a savior-like figure very much like Jesus, who will take one to his "pie in the sky" heaven on death in return for faith and prayer ... but these same attitudes have been found in Zen Buddhism since the beginning) ...

    Bernard Faure, the great Zen Buddhist historian, has a very interesting ... but horribly edited and flawed (I think he wrote it over a weekend) ... little book called "Unmasking Buddhism", writes for example ...

    [T]he fact remains that, for the vast majority of Buddhists in Asia, this notion of Awakening is too often used as a convenient alibi to disguise the fact that the real practice seeks first and foremost to obtain worldly benefits, whether material (such as prosperity) or symbolic (such as prestige). We risk not understanding anything about real-life Buddhism if we underestimate these “human, too human” motivations. (p 36)

    Awakening continues to be presented as the mark of “authentic”Buddhism, while the concern for the “worldly benefits” (genze riyakuin Japanese) derived from pious works and the worship of Buddhist deities is dismissed as a less genuine form of Buddhism, the result of a lame compromise with local culture and popular needs. It would be presumptuous, however, for us Westerners to assume that we can easily identify and understand the true teaching ofthe Buddha after centuries of oblivion and deviations, while arguing that the people of Asia, who practiced it for such a long time, never really understood it. This kind of assumption reveals the resilience of the Orientalist ideology among Western adherents of Buddhism (or rather, Neo-Buddhism). Although we no longer disparage Buddhism in the name of an alleged Western cultural superiority, as our forefathers did, our tendency to idealize it and to reduce it to a teaching untainted by worldly concerns and focused exclusively on Awakening remains fundamentally mistaken. (p 38)

    Endowed with the thirty-two marks of the buddhas,
    Shakyamuni is indeed treated as a kind of god. Mahayana scriptures
    such as the Lotus Sutra depict him as an eternal, allknowing,
    and transcendent being whose human vulnerability is
    simply a pious stratagem. This notion of a supra-worldly Buddha
    gave rise to a whole series of metaphysical buddhas such as
    Amitabha (the buddha who reigns over the Western Pure Land)
    and the five dhyani buddhas who correspond to the five directions
    of the mandala (four buddhas at the four cardinal points with
    Shakyamuni at the center, later replaced by Vairochana). In esoteric
    Buddhism in particular, the cosmic Buddha Vairochana, likened
    to the sun, is perceived as the be-all and end-all of all things.
    After the buddhas come the bodhisattvas, considered to be either
    future buddhas or emanations of the various buddhas. The former
    case is represented by Maitreya, the “future Buddha,” who is said
    to wait in Tushita heaven until it is time (far away for us but close
    for him) to appear in our world, in several million years’ time.
    Unlike the Christian Messiah, however, Maitreya will not appear
    at the end of the world; instead he will mark the start of the new
    golden age after our world has completely renewed itself. (p 62)

    The magical aspect of Buddhism has unfortunately been completely
    neglected in the West to date, which has focused instead on
    its spiritual or doctrinal aspects. “Supranormal powers” (abhijña),
    allegedly obtained through asceticism or ritual, are contrasted
    with pure spirituality. Even though these powers have never
    been the avowed goal of religious observance in Asia, they
    particularly appeal to the imagination of followers who count on
    the clergy to protect them from all evil and guarantee them happiness
    in this world and the next.
    By depicting the Buddha as a kind of freethinker rising up
    against the prejudices of his time, the Orientalists of the nineteenth
    century transformed Buddhism into a kind of “Protestantism”
    characterized by its rejection of dogma and ritual. They found in
    Buddhism a religion after their own heart whose supposedly
    rationalist approach formed an enlightening contrast with
    Christianity (in particular ritualistic Catholicism). This same attitude
    can be found among the Western Buddhist elite who are
    seeking, in good faith, to reform Buddhism and transform it into
    a religion which is adapted to the modern world. In doing so,
    they are forgetting one thing: Buddhist philosophy, metaphysics,
    myth, and ritual form an organic whole; it is impossible to dispense
    with one (ritual) without distorting the others. In the living
    reality of Buddhism, the philosophical and the religious, the
    rational and the magic, go hand in hand. (p 67-68)

    The reinterpretation of Buddhism as “spirituality” is particularly
    striking in the case of Zen. In Zen and the Birds of Appetite,
    the Catholic monk Thomas Merton writes: “To define Zen in
    terms of a religious system or structure is in fact to destroy it – or
    rather to miss it completely.” He adds that “very serious and
    qualified” practitioners of Zen deny that it is a religion, citing as
    his authorities Do¯gen – a sect founder who was renowned for his
    sectarian polemics – and D. T. Suzuki, a renowned ideologist.
    According to Merton: “Buddhism itself … points beyond any
    theological or philosophical ‘ism.’ It insists on not being a system
    (while at the same time, like other religions, presenting a peculiar
    temptation to systematizers).” Merton is correct to stress that
    this demand not to be a system is shared by most religious systems:
    their very legitimacy is based on this point – making it
    somewhat suspect. (p 70)
    Gassho, J

  40. #40
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    A visit to almost any Zen Monastery in Japan (now or in Dogen's time), China, Korea or Vietnam ... with the incense smoke, ritual, dogma and doctrine, and heroic superhuman images of saintly Bodhisattvas and Buddhas, would quickly convince about anyone that this is a "church" and a "religion". For some reason, most modern westerners have come to believe that such "square Zen" is somehow a decay of the "real" Zen Buddhism, or a later addition, or not as "religious" as it appears to the eye. However, such is not the case.
    But does Zen need these things? Dogen was acting in a context, a cultural situation, that included such things.

    The Buddha didn't need a church or monasteries.

    Christ didn't need a church. That only came later. He was a rebel from the organized religion of his time.

    Emerson gave up on the church, because he realized it was a hindrance.

  41. #41

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    A visit to almost any Zen Monastery in Japan (now or in Dogen's time), China, Korea or Vietnam ... with the incense smoke, ritual, dogma and doctrine, and heroic superhuman images of saintly Bodhisattvas and Buddhas, would quickly convince about anyone that this is a "church" and a "religion". For some reason, most modern westerners have come to believe that such "square Zen" is somehow a decay of the "real" Zen Buddhism, or a later addition, or not as "religious" as it appears to the eye. However, such is not the case.
    But does Zen need these things? Dogen was acting in a context, a cultural situation, that included such things.
    Hi Kirk,

    No, I do not think Zen "needs these things" and, yes, Dogen and others were men and women of their times. I mean, I am a fella who recently wrote an essay that started ...

    I have a confession to make: I don't believe in Buddha.

    It may be shocking for a Buddhist priest to say so, as shocking as hearing a Catholic priest say he "doesn't believe in Jesus". But it's true nonetheless. I am a Buddhist priest who thinks "Buddha" is largely bunk and baloney. **

    viewtopic.php?f=17&t=3673
    **(although please note, as some folks missed in overlooking the points I was making, that essay also ended with the words ... The Buddhist Path is Real, Liberation is Real, Buddha is Real )

    However, in making such changes in the west, perhaps we need to be very honest and say that we are really making a "new Zen", very different from the ways it was practiced traditionally in China, Japan and Korea, in Dogen's time or later. What many westerners think of as "Zen" or "returning to the heart of Zen" is a modern western fantasy, and unlike anything before.

    In doing away with things that have been part of the tradition for hundreds of years, thousands of years, we must realize that ... in many ways ... we are making a completely NEW tradition that is nothing like "Zen" as traditionally practiced.

    Also, we have to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water. I wrote about that in something called "Turning Japanese". so I will post it here again.

    This practice is not limited to any place or time ... we drop all thought of place and time. It certainly is not Indian, Chinese, Japanese, French or American. But, of course, we live in place and time, so as Buddhism traveled over the centuries from India to China, Japan, Korea and other places, it naturally became very Indian/Chinese/Japanese/Korean etc.

    But what of the cultural trappings?

    Must we bow, ring bells, chant (in Japanese, no less), wear traditional robes, have Buddha Statues, burn incense? ... All that stuff besides Zazen. Are they necessary to our Practice?


    No, not at all!


    We don't need anything other than Zazen, any of those trappings. In fact, they are no big deal, of no importance, when we drop all viewpoints in sitting Zazen.

    On the other hand, we have to do something, to greet each other somehow, read some words, dress some way. Why not do such things? As I often say, for example, we have to do something with our hands when practicing walking Zazen ... why not hold them in Shashu (I mean, better than sticking 'em in your pockets)?

    viewtopic.php?p=24626#p24626

    As well, there are parts of our practice which we do BECAUSE we resist (for example, when visiting a temple for Retreat, I usually put my heart fully into ceremonies and arcane rituals BECAUSE I resist and think some of it silly or old fashioned). Ask yourself where that kind of resistance is to be found (here's a clue, and it is right behind your own eyes).

    What is more, there is method to the madness, and many (not all) customs have centuries of time tested benefits ... embody subtle perspectives ... that support and nurture Zazen Practice at the core. Many parts of our Practice, though "exotic", are worth keeping, even if they strike someone as strange at first. Bowing, statues, rigid decorum in the Zen Hall and, yes, weird talks about Koans and arcane ceremonies all fit in that category. They may seem like unnecessary "Japanese" or "Esoteric" elements at first, until you understand the role they serve. I have given talks on all these things recently, for example ...

    Bowing ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/sit-a-long/arch ... owing.html

    Many aspects of tradition can be seen in new ways when the barriers of the mind are knocked down. Thus, for example, the Kesa, the Buddha's Robes ... though just cloth ... can be seen to cover and enfold the whole universe, laughter, cries of pain, old age, becoming and fading away ... life ...

    On the other hand again, it is okay to abandon or reject many practices. However, KNOW very well what you are rejecting before you reject it. For example, I wrote this to someone awhile back about which of the "Japanese trappings" are worth keeping and which can be discarded. I wrote him:

    Absorb what is useful and discard the rest. For example, I think Oryoki [formal meal ritual] is a great practice, and worth keeping.. Same for bowing.

    Some things I keep out of respect for TRADITION [the robes, the ways of doing some ceremonies]. It is important to keep ties to where we come from. Some things also have a special symbolic meaning if you look into them, so worth keeping [for example, a Rakusu]

    But other stuff, no need to keep: For example, I usually avoid to chant in Japanese or Chinese [except once in awhile, out of respect for tradition]. Tatami mats and Paper screens have nothing to do with Zen practice particularly [but I happen to live in an old Japanese building, so ... well, tatami and paper screens!} Some things I think are just dumb (except symbolically), like the Kyosaku stick. Incense is great, until it was recently shown to cause cancer. Many beliefs of Buddhism are rather superstitious things that were picked up here and there. I abandon many of those.
    The outer wrap of Zen Buddhism is changing greatly as it moves West. The greater emphasis on lay practice over monastics, the greater democracy in what was a feudal institution (arising in societies where the teacher's word was law ... oh, those were the days! :wink: ), giving the boot to a lot of magico-supersticio hocus-pocus bunkum, the equal place of women ... heck, the use of the internet to bring teachings that were once the preserve of an elite few into everyone's living room.Those are good and great changes to the outer wrapping (you can read about them in books like this one (author interview here: http://atheism.about.com/library/books/ ... anChat.htm ). The coreless core, however, remains unchanged.

    Do not throw out the baby with the bath water. Many completely "Japanese" practices which seem silly at first are worth keeping. ...

    ... other things, like some of the arcane incense, bell & drum filled rituals, take them or leave them.

    Gassho (an Asian custom), Jundo (a Dharma name)

  42. #42
    Senior Member Ekai's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    I heard another teacher once say, "Why be a Buddhist when you can be a Buddha?" I believe we are all Buddhas by nature, even if one does not consider them a Buddhist.

    To me, being a Buddha is being awake. You are awake to your true innate nature and live a virtuous life grounded with wisdom and compassion. Just being who you are in this moment with an understanding that everything in life is ever-changing and impermanent. The awakened mind realizes there is suffering and the root cause of suffering is clinging. We learn to let go of this clinging to be liberated from suffering by following the Eightfold Path. We can't stop the suffering but we can choose on how we relate to it.

    We also understand that we are all interconnected in this world and our own self is not the center of the universe. When we let go of our ego and selfish ways and treat others with lovingkindness, compassion, empathy and wisdom, that is being a Buddhist or Buddha. Let go of our judgements, concepts and habitual patterns to see the Buddha nature in all of us.

    Jodi

  43. #43

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by jodi_heisz
    I heard another teacher once say, "Why be a Buddhist when you can be a Buddha?" I believe we are all Buddhas by nature, even if one does not consider them a Buddhist.

    To me, being a Buddha is being awake. You are awake to your true innate nature and live a virtuous life grounded with wisdom and compassion. Just being who you are in this moment with an understanding that everything in life is ever-changing and impermanent. The awakened mind realizes there is suffering and the root cause of suffering is clinging. We learn to let go of this clinging to be liberated from suffering by following the Eightfold Path. We can't stop the suffering but we can choose on how we relate to it.

    We also understand that we are all interconnected in this world and our own self is not the center of the universe. When we let go of our ego and selfish ways and treat others with lovingkindness, compassion, empathy and wisdom, that is being a Buddhist or Buddha. Let go of our judgements, concepts and habitual patterns to see the Buddha nature in all of us.

    Jodi
    Ah, so nicely nicely put. Thank you, Jodi.

    Gassho, J

  44. #44
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    On the other hand, we have to do something, to greet each other somehow, read some words, dress some way. Why not do such things? As I often say, for example, we have to do something with our hands when practicing walking Zazen ... why not hold them in Shashu (I mean, better than sticking 'em in your pockets)?
    True enough - you can make a fetish out of this or you can completely ignore it - but I think hewing to either simple-mindedly may be a mistake. My idealization of rebellion has diminished to a remarkable degree. Others may have to occasionally come the other way.

    To those who want to throw the whole out, I once got great advice - try it because you resist it.

    Chet

  45. #45

    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I once got great advice - try it because you resist it.
    Yes! Your resistance begs the question of attachment: what is this thing you're resisting and why? Do it to learn.

    Gassho, Jundo and Chet.

  46. #46
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: What is a Buddhist?

    Jundo wrote:
    Do not throw out the baby with the bath water. Many completely "Japanese" practices which seem silly at first are worth keeping.
    I agree. When I first started sitting here I was only interested in the practice of Shikantaza. The whole chanting and kinhin didn't really appeal to me. After sitting in every Zazenkai i can, I have come to love those other practices by seeing the beauty in them as well. Seeing less separation and more that they are all one and the same.
    Though it was an initial struggle I know enough to never "throw out the baby with the bath water". To many times in life have I had an aversion to something only to later come around and view it in a different light. The thing I have learned and consistently have had reinforced is that our initial opinion/reaction to things can change for the better. Which I find makes it harder to have negative opinions on things. Or at least wait long enough to know whether those initial aversions are warranted or not.

    Gassho,
    John

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