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Thread: In Defense of Treeleaf

  1. #1
    Friend of Treeleaf Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    In Defense of Treeleaf

    On foot of a recent discussion, Taigu asked me to post on the whole question of teaching the Dharma online. Here goes! :wink:
    ###
    If I said to you that Dogen appeared to me last night in a dream and gave me Dharma Transmission, what would you think? That he had come to me, in his tattered Kesa, emaciated with TB and near death, and given me his robe and bowl? If I believed the dream to be true, you'd think I was crazy, right?

    I didn’t have this dream. But it isn’t for nothing that Dharma Transmission of the dream-realm isn’t recognized. If I did dream this – interesting though it may be to a psychoanalyst – it would have very little purchase in the conscious world. No one, not even for a second, would consider that my night-time hallucinations carried any weight.

    Jundo and Taigu's teaching of the Dharma over the World Wide Web, particularly their giving of Jukai and Shukke Tokudo over Skype, has been criticized by some. I have read their critics summon the inadmissibility of Dharma Transmission in dream or from the dead as a way of undermining what happens here at Treeleaf. But this criticism is fallacious. No analogy can be drawn between what Jundo and Taigu are doing and interactions in either apparitions or dreams.

    As we know from our reading of Master Keizan's Record of Transmitting the Light, "warm hand to warm hand" transmission is given great emphasis in the Soto tradition. Such a Transmission can be verified. An apparition can be the product of a deluded mind, while a dream may be nothing but a manifestation of repressed or wishful thinking. But at each end of a Skype exchange sits a real person. Teacher and student are communicating together intentionally and in real time. As Shohaku Okumura writes in Realizing Genjokoan, there is a "unity of subject and object". The reflection (in this case the flickering image on the computer screen) is a real reflection of the person being reflected. There is no separation between them:

    [Dogen] is saying that a mirror and reflecting water are not separate from the objects whose images they reflect. In other words, there is no separation between the person who experiences and the objects that are experienced. The subject of experience, the object of experience, and the experience itself are all truly one reality (Okumura: 67).
    Radically, the reflection of the moon is at one with the moon. And so it is with Dokusan on Skype.

    Incidentally, while dreams get a rough time in Buddhism – just think of the close of The Diamond Sutra – Dogen sees even these dreams as belonging to this one reality, which, as we know, is ultimately empty. And as emptiness goes, critics of encountering the dharma online should bear in mind ontological reality as understood by Dogen in the Shobogenzo.

    For Dogen, representations (like Skype 'projections') have the same order of being ultimately that our very flesh and blood has. It is a denial of emptiness to argue that our physical bodies are ultimately real and that our internet selves are not. In Dogen's view, all – our physical selves and our representations or projections – have the ontological status of "painted cakes".

    [You will realize that] life and death, coming and going, all are a painted picture/ painting a picture (gato); supreme enlightenment is none other than a painted picture/ painting a picture. All the dharma world and the empty sky – there is nothing whatsoever that is not a painted picture/ painting a picture (Dogen: Shobogenzo, ‘Gabyo’).
    Those that place Jundo and Taigu's endeavor in a lower order of existence are therefore making a fundamental mistake. In more senses than one, the moon [the person] and the moon’s reflection [the person on Skype] all can be broken down to the essential emptiness of form – or, to put it another way, these forms are all empty.

    As Kee-Jin Kim says in Eihei Dogen – Mystical Realist: “all existences were the flowers of emptiness (Kim: 91)” for Dogen. In Dogen’s words: “all things themselves are ultimate reality (Shobogenzo: ‘Kuge’).”

    The moon and its reflection. Taigu sitting in Japan and Taigu filling the frame of my computer screen. This is “warm hand to warm hand” communication. Taigu is alive. Jundo is alive. They are not ghosts or some kind of dream. Their representations are not apparitions (although sometimes they can be a bit ghostly, especially on Justin TV). When we talk to Jundo and Taigu, it can be verified that it was not a dream that took place.

    Maybe Treeleaf’s critics should go back to Master Dogen and have a rethink for themselves. Or maybe they should just do as I'm about to do now: simply revert to silence and sit. Gassho.

  2. #2

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Well said!

    I'd add that there is nothing to defend. Whether or not we convince all the nay-sayers that what happens here is legit really doesn't change things. We do what we do. They will do what they do.

    Last point, the forum is not Treeleaf, in my opinion. The world is Treeleaf's temple, place for samu, and zendo. The forum is our water cooler and bulletin board and classroom. That point gets lost on outsiders who apparently think that the only sphere of our practice is what we post online or discuss on Skype. That is the tip of our Zen iceberg. The stuff they see online is a small percentage of what is going on here. Again, just my opinion.

    Peace,
    Eika

  3. #3

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Very well said. In the end Treeleaf doesn't need to be defended. Our practice and community show the authenticity of this Sangha with ever post.

    Thank you

  4. #4

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Very well said. In the end Treeleaf doesn't need to be defended. Our practice and community show the authenticity of this Sangha with ever post.

    Thank you

  5. #5
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Well explained Soen and a good point too Eika _/_
    We all use Treeleaf in one way or another but ultimately as Eika says our individual practice extends into our own worlds and that is also where Jundo and Taigu extend their teachings of Dharma, through our embodiment (however that may be expressed) of this practice.
    I have read some of these criticisms and wonder how people have the time and energy to waste on it!
    Perhaps they should direct themselves towards 'adulthood' (in the Uchiyama sense pp136-7).

  6. #6
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Great post, soen. You make a good point: they are alive-- not dreams. When they teach, they know who they are teaching to and they are molding their teachings to those people. We are a true Sangha. We do more than the average social forum and we have a totally different dynamic. I would say the proof is in the pudding: I have improved my practice since learning with them, and I anticipate improving more, even though there is nothing really to improve and nothing to practice. :wink:

    There is no temple of my practice near me. Does that mean I drop it and decide that I can't learn the Dharma because it won't be in the traditional way? I don't think Buddha would jive with that very well-- especially when there are teachers here willing to teach me honestly and whole-heartedly.

    Thank you, Jundo _/_, Taigu _/_ and soen _/_ for writing the original post.

  7. #7

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Thank you, Soen ... a lovely, magical post. In fact, a dream!

    After a time, I will put it over with the "THE WORLD IS VIRTUAL, THIS SANGHA IS REAL" essay so that we can keep it around.

    viewtopic.php?f=19&t=3343

    But ya know, funny you should mention Keizan. In centuries past, dreams did not have such a questionable reputation among Zen folks. In fact, Keizan was one of the great dreamers. There is a wonderful book about that (although a bit heavy going at times, in a French intellectual sort of way. C'est vrai, Taigu? Nes pa? 8) ), describing Keizan's many dreams, including one in which he was visited by the Bodhisattva Kannon who told him where to build his monastery ... Find page 114 here (Chapter 5, Dreaming) ...

    http://books.google.com/books?id=rbrtd0 ... 22&f=false

    And actually, in China, "Dharma Transmission" via dream or vision from dead masters the recipient sometimes had never met (called Yaosi, or "remote succession") was quite common in the history of Chan/Zen, although frowned upon and often criticized (rightly!) for potential abuse. A rather popular living master who claims Transmission by a "vision of his deceased teacher Seolbong Sunim, who had come to him to give Dharma transmission", is the Korean Teacher Samu Sunim, although he later received Transmission from a living teacher.

    http://sweepingzen.com/2009/12/23/samu-sunim-bio/

    I also would greatly greatly doubt and likely reject any "Dharma Transmission" by dream or vision. I am a skeptic on such things who believes, to misquote Freud, "usually a dream is just a dream".

    Gassho, J

  8. #8

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    I can agree with the majority of what's here but I would also submit this:

    Who ordained and transmitted Buddha?

    I see things like this, yes it is an important aspect to continue our tradition and our lineage, and to ensure that the way taught by the masters of our line continue, but in the end, all ways up the mountain (and to quote Jundo, what mountain?)

    With that in mind, true understanding of the dharma is transmission in and of itself. To say that the only real way of transmitting the dharma is to have a flesh and blood person do the transmitting is like to saying that you can never comprehend the Dharma without another person pointing the way. Transmission is the authorization to teach, but if one really understands the Buddha Dharma, is it not that person's obligation to all the sentient beings of this saha world to bring forth the teachings? Doesn't that sort of diminish the profundity of the dharma, by saying that a person must pass it on, when our understanding of the nature of enlightenment is beyond the bounds of flesh and blood, and our understanding of Buddha Nature is that all possess it already?

    I'm not saying that teachers are not required, if you read other posts I've written, I'm a staunch supporter of the teacher / student paradigm. What I am saying is that, the true apprehension of the nature of the dharma is, to my mind, its own ordination, its own transmission.

    As to the question of how one would know if their understanding of the dharma is "true" and not delusion, that's a bit harder to say. But then again, there is no shortage of persons within our religion who recieved ordination and transmission from the hands of a flesh and blood teacher, and then ended up being the source of scandal and, to be frank, embarassment, to the Zen and Buddhist community at large.

    Transmission from a dream or from a flesh an blood person? Hmmm.....maybe the jury needs a little more time to deliberate that one.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Martin's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Well said all. As Eike says, Treeleaf doesn’t need defending from its critics. We work our work, they theirs. And, anyway, who would be the judge?

    As some of you will know, I work as a mediator. Mostly in the “real” world, travelling round the country, staying in less than glamorous motels (I’m in one right now). But I also mediate on line through an on line mediation platform I designed. There’s plenty in the “mediation community” who queued up when we launched that platform to tell me that “You can’t mediate on line”. “It’s not real mediation”, apparently. They protested that only through being physically in the same place can the mediator really form a link with the parties, pick up their body language and tone of voice, and establish the trust that mediation depends on.

    Maybe so. Maybe not. But here's the thing: the cases still settle. People are still relieved of their disputes. Conflict is taken out of their lives. And they’re still relieved and grateful. In fact, it doesn’t even look as if the settlement rate for on line mediation is any less good than for face to face mediation.

    What matters is the connection. Not how it’s made.

    Gassho

    Martin

  10. #10

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Good points above.

    As I said in one of my previous post on the subject, the criticism is a healthy thing if handled properly. If one doesn't become defensive about it, but rather takes this opportunity to investigate the matter for yourself and answer for yourself. In case of Treeleaf – those are all good questions. Why are you doing it here? Is Internet a good medium for learning the dharma? Where am I slacking off comparing if I was living with a teacher 24/7?

    I, for example, would be the first to criticise anybody who's giving away dharma transmission left and right on the Internet but that's not the case here. Having been here only a few months I can already see that Jundo and Taigu are taking this stuff seriously and it would a long a hard work before anybody gets a transmission from them.

    Meanwhile as Amelia said the proof is in the pudding and there's plenty of this proof here on Treeleaf.

  11. #11
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    What matters is the connection. Not how it’s made.
    Spot on, Martin.

    Thank you.

    Gassho


    Taigu

  12. #12

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Hi

    Id like to add to the "Does not need defending" though I often feel the urge to do so
    Wonderful post Soen, thank you! Thank you to all that comment after too.

    Treeleaf has ordained 3 priests and holds yearly Jukai ceremonies along with precept study etc. Thus far. Has proceeded carefully, openly with no real short cuts! There is no mill here, no Dharma transmission either, yet may change some day, as Martin directly pointed out its not how the connection was made its the connection and it is as real as any other.

    Gassho
    Shohei

  13. #13
    Stephanie
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    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    I still come to the forum here to read from time to time, and several times I've been tempted to come out of "lurking" to make a post on this subject, but have resisted. This thread, however, brings out the topic in such a way I feel compelled to respond.

    I used to be a defender of Treeleaf and the Internet as a medium for Zen teaching and training. Now, in hindsight, looking back at the time I "practiced" at Treeleaf, I see "no merit."

    I left Treeleaf out of concern about the energy and time that participating here was taking away from time and energy that could be spent building relationships and ties in my local community.

    But in hindsight, that was only a glimmer of a larger issue.

    I no longer believe that Zen can be effectively taught in this format. By "this format," I do not necessarily mean the Internet, but specifically the Internet with an emphasis on participation in a discussion forum like this one. Why? Writing on a forum like this goes in the opposite direction of Zen training. Forum-posting nurtures and supports living life through the filter of narrative and concept, rather than breaking down and challenging our love of simple narrative explanations of our lives.

    Writing a post entails transforming a complex, largely unknown experience, into a narrative form that links causes and effects together. We thus "make sense" of our lives.

    The real liberation is not in this act of "making sense," but in letting go of the compulsion to do so.

    Everything in Treeleaf is presented in the form of an idea. Even personal stories about non-conceptual experience become conceptualized into neatly packaged stories with morals. Everything seems so much clearer and more solid once you've written a post about it.

    It is exactly this sort of cognitive activity that traditional Zen practice seeks to disrupt. To shock us out of our usual story-making and conceptual justification of our activities. To arrest the endless stream of comparison, strategy, and rationalization.

    People rarely challenge each other's stories here, usually only doing so when those stories go against the "dogma" of Treeleaf. Not such a bad dogma, as far as dogmas are concerned--the perfection of things as they are. The problem is not the content of the dogma, but the process of dogma--in which a lived, experiential reality becomes a belief one either subscribes to, or does not. Beliefs can be invoked, like ritual magical objects, to ward off the demons of anxiety, but they do not truly liberate or transform.

    The most damning piece of personal evidence I have against Treeleaf and Jundo is the absolute failure of this practice community to respond in a time of dire spiritual need in my life. (Chet was the only one able to do so, and he shares with me the questionable honor of having been one of only a few people ever banned from here for not being "leafy" enough.) I personally do not believe that any person or group so unlearned about the shadow can be a reservoir of truth. It is like having a knight who is good at cutting worms in half, but who faints in horror when the dragon shows up. I was taught at Treeleaf to fear the dragon; the journey I went through, against Jundo's advice, allowed me to befriend it and become more fearless, patient, and compassionate as a result.

    It is hard for me to write this post because I like so many people here, in the limited extent to which I know them, and admire what people are trying to do here. But my personal conclusion is that this is a failed experiment. Not failed in the sense it won't continue to go on being what it is, but in the sense that it will continue to offer the opposite of Zen practice in the costume of Zen practice. I believe no one capable of great transformation will find it here.

    Transformation, you say? What are we transforming? What need is there to "transform"? A Zen teacher with whom I recently had an interview spoke of finding what makes you come alive. This is transformation to me--coming alive, instead of living in dead ideas and concepts. I talked to him about feeling lately like I couldn't really, sincerely ask or connect with the questions that brought me to practice. To ask them cognitively feels like rote exercise. He pointed me to the fact that the posture, the act of sitting, these alone are the expression of a question, that even if not articulated in words at the forefront of your mind, is there, in your gut, throughout your entire being. And I felt, at the very core of my being, that this was true--the questions are still there, in some form, and they are the engine keeping my practice going.

    I listened to a talk by John Daido Loori on a similar theme a while back, in which he pointed to the power of questions, and how it is the energy of those questions that drives practice. It was a deep, burning existential question that drove me into depression in 2008. And I came here with it. In hindsight, it is a blessing that I was driven away from here, because Treeleaf is a place where questions come to die.

    To be driven by a question is to be driven toward aliveness. The more power in that question, the more power in the demons driving you, the more power there is at the root of your life. That kind of intensity alarms this community, which responds to it aggressively. At Treeleaf, anyone who cannot sit and smile nicely and talk about how wonderful the status quo is, does not really fit in. Someone whose questions pressed her to the very edge of despair? A heretic, an ill person, someone whose passion should be medicated away. At Treeleaf, you are taught to abandon the questions, to not play with fire.

    What is the point of posting this? I do not know. I don't think it will likely do anything other than press people to defend this place. Maybe it is simply folly and quixotic delusion to come here and post this. But I am haunted by how radically Treeleaf failed to address the questions and raw emotional power of my existential search, and how in hindsight most of my time here seems wasted in folly, trying to neuter and destroy what I should have been drawing from and celebrating.

  14. #14

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    by defending Treeleaf, you give the impression there are reasons for it to be defended. It's the "Have you stopped beating your wife?" factor.

    people will try to poke at things on the internet. let them poke without a reaction and they will find better targets.

  15. #15

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Quote Originally Posted by Eika
    Well said!

    I'd add that there is nothing to defend. Whether or not we convince all the nay-sayers that what happens here is legit really doesn't change things. We do what we do. They will do what they do.

    Last point, the forum is not Treeleaf, in my opinion. The world is Treeleaf's temple, place for samu, and zendo. The forum is our water cooler and bulletin board and classroom. That point gets lost on outsiders who apparently think that the only sphere of our practice is what we post online or discuss on Skype. That is the tip of our Zen iceberg. The stuff they see online is a small percentage of what is going on here. Again, just my opinion.

    Peace,
    Eika
    good points. I know we like to say that Treeleaf is not a forum but a Sangha. well, that 's mostly true. It still remains a forum with [img] code and moderation functions and the like. And with that comes anonymous users who don't always have good intentions. Having been involved in BBS, Muds, and forums since the dawn on time (well, measured from the advent of the Mosaic browser ), these people stick out and are easy to spot. When these people arrive (however infrequently), they need to be handled in the manner of a moderator/user relationship and not a sensei/student one, IMHO.

  16. #16

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    I still come to the forum here to read from time to time, and several times I've been tempted to come out of "lurking" to make a post on this subject, but have resisted. This thread, however, brings out the topic in such a way I feel compelled to respond.
    Thank you, Stephanie. You are always welcome here, and I hope you find what you need.

    Gassho, Jundo

  17. #17

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Quote Originally Posted by soendoshin
    ...Jundo and Taigu's teaching of the Dharma over the World Wide Web, particularly their giving of Jukai and Shukke Tokudo over Skype, has been criticized by some. I have read their critics summon the inadmissibility of Dharma Transmission in dream or from the dead as a way of undermining what happens here at Treeleaf. But this criticism is fallacious. No analogy can be drawn between what Jundo and Taigu are doing and interactions in either apparitions or dreams...
    In our Dojo they told that in live/person is the best way,
    it has been so for ages, from master to master to teacher to student,
    but...
    The world goes on and we use all its possibilities
    that is my point of view
    :wink:

    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    ...There is no temple of my practice near me. ....
    I have one and still i'm here too , open to new dharma in different ways
    :wink:

    Quote Originally Posted by mcurtiss
    by defending Treeleaf, you give the impression there are reasons for it to be defended...
    right my point too,
    but i like too add : you may defend the (treeleaf) sangha (in its entirety)
    not a person (Master, teacher, student) or the forum what so ever.

    just giving my ideas
    ops:

  18. #18
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Stephanie,

    I am sorry you did not find what you were looking for here at Treeleaf and I wish you well in your practice elsewhere.

    I did learn a great deal from you, so for that I thank you.

    Take care.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  19. #19

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    To Stephanie,

    I had a chance to read through some of your posts from 2008. I'm honestly glad that you're finding answers to your questions through your continuous Zen practice elsewhere. But looking at your character (solely judging by your posts) perhaps shikantaza practice, as emphasized here, was not for you?

    Once I was in a Rinzai zendo, and there were people practicing Mu and having a dokusan with a teacher. The first time I heard this animal roar of "MUUUUU!!!!" I was scared shitless. I can't really imagine myself doing this or ever expressing my "true nature" in this way but for those people that was probably the right way.

  20. #20

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    i wonder if these types of discussions/ arguments occurred when "Buddhists" of old began to use the information
    technologies of their times- writing and wood block printing.

    to the Tigress,
    nothing to add but "Hello!"

  21. #21

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    I'm in the school of thought where I don't think Treeleaf needs any defending, but that's how I approach my life as well. I'm not smug; although I can be. I just mean, either you find what you are looking for here or you don't.

    I find a lot of value here. I wish Stephanie were around more because I really like her challenges. I know what she's saying about status quo, but I think we're free to ask any questions. I don't always "get" what is being presented, and I ask questions. Sometimes I answer my questions before I ask them. There are the deeper questions as well. But who can answer those but me?

    In terms of formulating nice "packages" to post on the forum; whether we communicate on a forum to person to person I'm going to do that anyway. It's part of communicating as a human being. We always frame things with our pre-defined concepts. It's just a part of being a human being.

    Now, I do have to say there are challenges with an online forum. Posting is not a dialogue. THere is back and forth, but forum posting can lack the organic back and forth of a true dialogue. Also, you all don't really know me. You would know me much more intimately if we were personally acquainted. You don't get the nuance of being you do in the presence of another human being.

    However, I do believe we get to know each other just a little more slowly. And we probalby all just show the side of us we want to show, which Iguess isn't too far off from reality anyway.

    Now, in terms of getting dharma transmission through a dream. That's just plain bullshit. Excuse my language (I'm from Chicago ), but I'm just not that superstitious.

    I have a lot of baggage, and this place helps me.

    I'm glad you posted again Stephanie. This sangha will grow based on the strenght of each practitioners practice; it's a shame you couldn't come by more often to rile things up

  22. #22

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    IMO, because of its unique online home, much of what happens on Treeleaf is what we bring into it. If we choose to just pack our mind along with the willingness to engage in the practice of zazen, we may find Treeleaf and its unique qualities to work for us.

    If we pack in extra philosophical dilemmas and issues, I think not just Treeleaf but many institutions will fail you, because the answer to questions will only lead to more questions, ad infinitum.

    Questioning is a good thing. but at some point, questioning has an endpoint, and it is our practice which much begin again.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Hi All,

    Many good concerns have been brought up as to where Treeleaf may be "lacking". I honestly believe most of those concerns can be addressed if we look at Treeleaf as a whole and not imagine what is lacking by focusing only on it's parts. The forums, for example, are just one(of many) parts which work together to create a whole experience which we call Treeleaf. One(big, yet justifiable) issue which I see come up often is the person to person aspect. I feel that our teachers have thought of all of this and worked hard to eliminate such shortcomings. If the forums lack the ability to give the feeling of intimate contact there is Dokusan, the Treeleaf Tea Party and if all that fails, there is also the retreats one can attend(Can't think of a better way to make the human connection than that!) Not to mention that the Zendo in Tukuba has an open door policy where any of us can attend in the flesh. Sound like I'm defending Treeleaf? That's because I am :twisted: :lol:

    Gassho,
    John

  24. #24

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    I have sat for a while at a Rinzai zendo and didn't get as much out of it as I do with this sangha. I read posts everyday by most and every once in a while chime in with my small amount of knowledge, but even though this is "virtual", i actually feel more a part of this than I did at a "live" zendo. Most just listened to the Roshi without contributing to the discussion. I appreciate this sangha's members and all their contributions. It's real enough for me!

    Gassho,

    Matt

  25. #25

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Stephanie,

    I'm glad that you posted. I've always appreciated your different perspective and challenges, and even PM'ed you a while back to ask after you and see if you might stop in again. I hope you continue to do so, even though you are practicing elsewhere.

  26. #26
    Senior Member Martin's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Writing on a forum like this goes in the opposite direction of Zen training. Forum-posting nurtures and supports living life through the filter of narrative and concept, rather than breaking down and challenging our love of simple narrative explanations of our lives.
    There is always that risk, as you say, Stephanie. Posting on an internet forum it may be particularly easy to mistake the pointing finger for the moon, the forum for the whole of the practice, and the words for the stillness between them. To want to make good posts when our practice is beyond good and bad posts.

    I hope you are well and that your practice flourishes.

    Gassho

    Martin

  27. #27

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin
    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Writing on a forum like this goes in the opposite direction of Zen training. Forum-posting nurtures and supports living life through the filter of narrative and concept, rather than breaking down and challenging our love of simple narrative explanations of our lives.
    There is always that risk, as you say, Stephanie. Posting on an internet forum it may be particularly easy to mistake the pointing finger for the moon, the forum for the whole of the practice, and the words for the stillness between them. To want to make good posts when our practice is beyond good and bad posts.

    I hope you are well and that your practice flourishes.

    Gassho



    Martin
    Martin
    Thank you for this eloquent summary. When you look into Treeleaf you find so much more than the ability to post on the forum. Everything fits into life's busy schedule and is there waiting when you have the time. Gassho Shogen

  28. #28

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Quote Originally Posted by Shogen
    Thank you for this eloquent summary. When you look into Treeleaf you find so much more than the ability to post on the forum. Everything fits into life's busy schedule and is there waiting when you have the time. Gassho Shogen
    i would add :

    You just have to stop all movement,
    inside and outside,
    if you are here
    like in zazen.

  29. #29

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Quote Originally Posted by Jiki
    Quote Originally Posted by Shogen
    Thank you for this eloquent summary. When you look into Treeleaf you find so much more than the ability to post on the forum. Everything fits into life's busy schedule and is there waiting when you have the time. Gassho Shogen
    i would add :

    You just have to stop all movement,
    inside and outside,
    if you are here
    like in zazen.
    Jiki
    Yes...Thank you
    gassho Shogen

  30. #30
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Thank you Soen for posting this thread, it is certainly enlightening to see what everyone is grateful for. Also, Thank you Martin, Shogen and Jiki for these latter postings. If Tree Leaf was only a forum I would definitely not be here.

    gassho,

  31. #31

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Thank you, Soen.

    I was preparing to post a thread with some questions on how Zen relates/conflicts with the Theravadan focus on jhana states. First, I did a quick search, and found all the questions (and answers) I had intended to ask:

    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2389&hilit=jhanas
    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=218&hilit=jhanas
    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1328&hilit=jhanas
    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2294&hilit=jhanas
    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=3766&hilit=jhanas

    So that is just another amazing thing about Treeleaf--its vast teachings and discussions are self-documenting, indexed, and fully searchable!

  32. #32

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    I have been a teacher for many years (as a calling, rather than a profession). I have taught many adults and teens who were failed by their schools and parents, teaching them to read, write, do math, and pass their high school equivalency tests when those in traditional paths had given up. If there is anything that I have learned from this experience it is that no one learns the same way, and no teacher, method, or environment is right for every student.

    Although I have been more successful than most in teaching these students because I am flexible in analyzing and adapting to the way an individual learner’s brain works, I have not been the right teacher for each and every student. Those few that I could not help were sometimes able to find help elsewhere, most notably those learners who needed a much more strict environment than I could personally provided (what I would call militaristic, which betrays my bias); however, I recognize that this was the right path for them, and I am glad that these students were able to find the right teacher to help them on it.

    Thus, given that everyone’s path of learning is not the same, for me, for now, with limited time, and with limited access to others with an affinity for Buddhism and Zen, Treeleaf is my best path. Who knows, I may eventually take a branching path away, or I may not, but for now, it does lead me further toward than away from Zen. Gassho, Grace.

  33. #33

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    stephanie -- thanks -- i can relate to much of what you said -- in the end, online zen doesn't make it for me -- in fact, online social also does little for me, and zen culture is not my cup of tea -- just my practice is what i need

    i am also recovering from shoulder surgery, so thats all for typing

    may you all be well, roky

  34. #34

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Quote Originally Posted by roky
    stephanie -- thanks -- i can relate to much of what you said -- in the end, online zen doesn't make it for me -- in fact, online social also does little for me, and zen culture is not my cup of tea -- just my practice is what i need

    i am also recovering from shoulder surgery, so thats all for typing

    may you all be well, roky
    Hey Rock,

    I wish you a fast recovery.

    Rocky, you have written from time to time over your last 2 or 3 years here, that you would rather sit Zazen in the desert with your dog or alone in your trailer, and that you come to the Zen Hall to sit with others for the company ... but apart from that, have no real interest in 'chit chat' and socializing. That is fine! Not everything is one's cup of tea.

    But do not be limited by the mental barriers that one makes for oneself. If one finds oneself unable or disliking to share and commune with others ... online or off ... that may be an inability of one's 'self's' own making (speaking as rather a social wallflower and lone wolf my self). That's one's own hangup! Knock down that Wall, Mr. Rocky Gorbachev!

    If you cannot or don't want to by choice (which is your right) ... also do not doubt the ability of the many who can ... dropping all divisions of here there now then, near or far, me and you.

    Gassho, Jundo

  35. #35
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    I have been on the Internet since back in the day of the text based Yahoo! homepage in 1994. And since then the Internet has been a invaluable tool for learning, meeting people from all over the planet and for personal growth.

    Thanks to the Internet I came to learn about Buddhism. My mind was learning with texts written by bloggers and authors in other countries, while my butt sits on a chair in Mexico.

    I have made friends for life, studied skills that help my career and got closer to relatives living in Spain, UK and the US. My whole livelihood, what I do for a living is based on the Internet.

    The Internet is the most important communication medium ever developed by humanity since Gutenberg invented the printing press.

    When good old Johannes Gutenberg made books available to everyone, knowledge started to spread and reach a lot more people than it would've reached by copying books by hand. The first book ever mass produced was, of course, the Bible, but that's another story.

    Thing is, the whole humanity got benefits from the printing press. And of course Buddhism is reachable by anyone who is curious enough to pick up a book.

    That being said, I've never ever found anyone complaining that Zen books are bad because they are not a real life teacher. Books are written by real people, who commit and work on spreading knowledge; as such, we are able to absorb and learn without ever questioning the veracity or the existence of the author.

    Times change and the Internet now reigns supreme over most communication media. It's the new way of connecting with people, the new way of learning. At the end of every Skype call there is a human, real life skin and blood.

    To me, seeking knowledge and connecting with people over the web is no different than reading books and sending paper letters. This is faster, more personal and it's just the way we communicate today.

    Learning, working on my computer while being connected to hundreds of friends, family and clients is a huge part of my life and I'm sure millions of people have embraced this way of living.

    So, if humans now connect, communicate learn and grow using the Internet, I don't see why Treeleaf is less valid a sangha than a temple based one.

    Treeleaf is a live and colorful sangha. We connect, live, learn and grow. Support each other. We make friends and help. We sit transcending time and space and while I am alone in my study sitting, I know that on the other end of the Google Hangout there are friends joining me, doing the same.

    Treeleaf has changed my life in so many great ways that I can't even begin to thank enough Jundo and Taigu for their work and dedication to us. They don't seek reward, they don't ask for anything, yet they care for us and embrace us. They give precious times of their lives to create a huge knowledge base available to anyone interested.

    Times change, humans evolve. Our communications mediums do grow and evolve and they serve their purpose: to connect humans in both ends of the line.

    I think people should understand this and just move on with their lives because is just a matter of time when more sanghas pop up and start working on the very same model.

    Treeleaf is here to stay and I am humbled and very happy to be part of it.

  36. #36
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Wow Choco, well put

    _/_

  37. #37
    Friend of Treeleaf Daido's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Good job Choco

  38. #38

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Very good explanation Choco, thank you.

    Gassho,

    Tom

  39. #39
    Friend of Treeleaf Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Choco,
    Very well put. You explained it so well. I agree 100 per cent. Thank you.

    Rocky,
    Sorry I haven't sat with you on Google+ for a while. I haven't seen you in the 'Stream'. I hope all is well.
    Soen

  40. #40
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Hello Roky!

    I've been wondering where you've been. The zen-hall has become quite popular. You should join us. (I still can't drag my lazy ass out of bed in the morning to sit so you probably won't be seeing my smiling face!)

    Ron

  41. #41

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Choco -
    I had said similar things - to some others questioning online sangha, dharma online etc and well... only a tiny fraction as clear and well put as you have just done, Thank you for speaking my your mind (and mine! )
    Thank you for expressing this so well.

    Gassho
    Shohei

  42. #42
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    What people call reality is but a dream,
    dreams themselves are more real than anything else,
    mountains walk
    a painted cake is a relish
    those calling us fools
    should pick the Shobogenzo again and
    simply read and live

    We are twisted and crooked and imperfect
    yet, this is it

    gassho


    Taigu

  43. #43
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    You know I'm down with what you said Choco!

    Gassho,
    John

  44. #44

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    nice job Choco,
    thank you for sharing

  45. #45

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Taigu said,
    We are twisted and crooked and imperfect
    yet, this is it
    Taigu

    Volumes of written or spoken words cannot say it better. Deep appreciation for your time and efforts. Gassho Shogen

  46. #46
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    What is it that needs defending? Let the dharma combat begin!

    Things are not always what they seem...

    Choco's point regarding the paradigm-changing impact of the internet on human communication and sharing of knowledge and information is spot-on. I am only really beginning to understand the enormity of this impact. The introduction of the moveable type press made mass literacy possible... the moveable type press was not initially welcomed by the western and eastern churches in Europe because in order to learn to read, heretofore one had to learn under the tutelage of a priest, and the instructional material consisted of scripture.... a powerful recruitment and management tool for the spiritual and temporal destiny of the masses.... none of those newfangled ideas about the earth revolving around the sun, etc.... Copernicus and the notion of orbiting celestial bodies was not real popular with the ecclesiastical establishment..... but I digress...

    Fast forward to 2011.... the notion of the dharma being shared via an internet community/sangha is discomforting to some in the zen community because (and I paraphrase) 'teaching and transmission is best done person to person' and 'it is not really zen if it is done over the internet....' I used to succumb to the "inferiority complex" of being a member of an internet community (and allowed teachers/members of sanghas who practiced in person) to manipulate that insecurity. Two things have happened to change that perspective for me - one, as I become active in the formation of a new sangha, the knowledge I have gained here at Treeleaf is being actively solicited for the establishment of a more "traditional" zendo, and as I explain the lengths Jundo and Taigu have gone to build a practice community (Ango, Jukai, Rakusu sewing, Zazenkai, etc.) it is apparent that what we have accomplished is significant and not restricted by physical boundaries. Secondly, those "traditionalists" who pause when I mention my membership in this sangha remind me of members of the religious community in feudal Europe at the time of the introduction of the moveable type press - their way of doing things, of (I hate to say this) controlling information and bestowing the "privilege" of information or "inner teachings" as a means of favoring or cultivating certain followers, is being challenged. In a literal sense, this sangha represents a revolutionary concept, and I never thought of myself as a revolutionary (OK I'm overstating things but I hope you get the point). I never thought I would be utilizing Marxist social theory to explain the social leveling of Soto Zen practice as facilitated by the internet - but, I am all for it!!

    This is my sangha, you are my community, and I am in for the long run!

    gassho,
    Yugen

  47. #47
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    You go Yugen! _/_

    I have heard the argument quite a bit on how the Dharma can't be spread through the Internet and that person to person is the only way. To this I think, sure it is easy for many to say this. But could they possibly look someone in the face, who lets say have an illness or disibility which prevents them from going to a Zendo in person, and tell them directly that their Dharma is not real because their only access to it is through the Internet? Well this is Treeleaf and we do have members in such situations! It doesn't get any more real than that folks.

    Gassho,
    John

  48. #48

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    i agree with 'teaching and transmission is best done person to person'

    because there is much fake going arround on the internet
    people posing as a teacher...
    people claiming wisdom who they have copying from others
    also searching for accurate information on the Internet is an almost impossible thing
    as starter in the Dharma it really is difficult to see good stuff from bad stuff.

    this Forum on the other hand is a lot different,
    in many aspects, so please do not feel attacked by my words
    A master has to see your bodylanguage to be sure of your honosty.
    if it is by direct or with camera (like in here)

    and yes even in real life you can have the wrong teacher or wrong dharma too.
    :cry:

    Thank you

  49. #49
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Jiki,
    Good morning and a deep gassho - thank you for your words.

    I do not feel attacked at all, indeed I agree with everything you have said. A process of experience and authenticity is required I think to feel comfortable in a forum such as ours..... my level of comfort with this sangha has been three years in the making and is the result of many experiences.

    You are absolutely correct regarding the proliferation of information and "masters" via the internet, and it is difficult to find teaching and information that is authentic.... one must use one's own experience and judgement. In the end, for me, my measure of a teacher and community is "how well do they walk the walk?" I have found the teachers and fellow practitioners in this sangha to be authentic, honest, and principled. Most importantly in my mind, they are very quick to point out the limits of zen practice as well as their own knowledge.... Zen is not promised here as a cure-all for the mental or physical afflictions that accompany our physical existence... merely as a path or way.... and one that allows for, and indeed encourages the pursuit of other practices or disciplines. Indeed, I think Jundo and Taigu are very exacting in the use of "fine print" warnings on the instruction labels for the use of Zazen! ( backgrounds as an attorney and scholar) :wink:

    I do not encourage anyone to "jump in" and accept everything at face value... indeed one must question, test, and examine the places they go to for community. I have been at Treeleaf for over three years and my level of comfort has been that long in the making.

    There is no question that "the person to person transmission" or teaching aspect is still viable and important.... and indeed in use here at Treeleaf.... I have had some remarkably profound and direct skype video calls with Jundo and sangha colleagues.... and there are aspects of our practice and training at Treeleaf that do take place in person... witness this winter's retreat in Europe, or the fact that our priests-in-training will have to undertake some of their practice in person in Japan over time... this sangha has its physical as well as virtual aspects. So Jiki, I am in full agreement with your observations....

    Part of my level of comfort and appreciation for this sangha derives from the opportunity to have discussions like this with people like you. Thank you.

    Yugen

  50. #50

    Re: In Defense of Treeleaf

    Hi all; I saw this thread a few days back and refrained from commenting. Then I saw it again, and decided that my reluctance to comment might well just be one of my own mental barriers. Here goes.

    I see no need to defend Treeleaf. I have no idea whether online dharma transmission is the same as flesh-to-flesh transmission. Are all in-the-flesh transmissions the same? I enjoy the Sangha as much for its constant presence as for my participation in it. It works for me. If I lived within 200 miles of a physical Zen center, would I still be here? I don't know. When that happens, I'll let you know.

    I do agree with some of what Stephanie and others say, particularly about the weaving of stories. I rarely post on the forums, for a few reasons: 1) I have a tendency to ramble and get caught in my own ego-narratives, and the forums feed that; 2) I live in a rural area, and my internet connection isn't great; 3) others usually say what I would have said, and I see no need to chime in with "me too!" or a gratuitous thanks. These are the sorts of problems I see with an online Sangha. In general, I find posts about sitting, home liturgy, books and their different interpretations, etc. to be extremely useful. Meta-threads like this one (threads about Treeleaf itself) are far less interesting to me. They seem too much like collective naval-gazing. Still, some people likely benefit from the discussion and if so I'm in no position to judge.

    Recently one of my colleagues, a researcher who writes a lot for wider public audiences (I won't name him here) confessed that he suffers greatly because he is continually accused of grandstanding, seeking fame, etc. I am fairly well certain that that isn't the case--he is just a person who believes in his cause, and he has little ego invested in being on stage. Where his ego *is* invested is in worrying about those who interpret his public presence as a call for personal attention. I think Treeleaf as an organization might learn from that. The sangha here is trying to engage in a form of Right Action. No need for a defense.

    Remember the story of Hakuin Ekaku?
    A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near Hakuin. One day, without any warning, her parents discovered she was pregnant. This made her parents angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.

    In great anger the parents went to the master. "Is that so?" was all he would say.

    After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbors and everything else the child needed.

    A year later the girl could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth - the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fish market.

    The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back.

    Hakuin willingly yielded the child, saying only: "Is that so?"

    (from Reps, Paul; Nyogen Senzaki. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings. ISBN 0-8048-3186-6.)(copied from Wikipedia)

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