Tugas Gunadarma Gunadarma Tutorial VB.NET Download OST Anime Soundtrack Anime Opening Anime Ending Anime OST Anime Japan Download Lagu Anime Jepang

Results 1 to 31 of 31

Thread: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

  1. #1

    Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Statistics on another forum shows an extremely high attrition rate (95% +) amongst newcomers who are introduced to Zen practice. I have clear views on this and would like to discuss with others. Is it appropriate to introduce this on this topic, or should I start another?
    Regards

    Michael

  2. #2

    re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Hello,

    it's always hard to find a balance between too many traditional elements and the danger of just presenting some consumerist wellness-style relaxation technique. Every group/situation is different so that IMHO there can sadly be no good rules of thumb. We usually sit with around four people (including me)...sometimes more, sometimes less. I'd sit alone too, because it's a nice building. I make it a point of saying that everyone found the door on their way in, and that they can also find it on their way out. There's one woman who has come to sit with me every single time since I started this in October. Even if she were to leave I know that Zazen (not me) has touched her in a special way somehow already. Usually this practise "clicks" after trying it half a dozen times, or it doesn't.

    If people want a hot stone massage (which is an absolutley legitimate need and probably very nice), they can get it elsewhere. Whilst I have found some Zen organisations to be not only blunt but unwelcoming, I am really trying (and failing once in a while) to be extremely welcoming, whilst still being blunt where it matters. To quote Sheryl Crow "This ain't no disco. This ain't no country club either."

    In theory, Zazen is for everybody. In practise, it ain't. I go there every week and lose precious time I could spend with my wife and having a relaxed dinner time, because I know among the many (or rather the few) that show up, there will be 1% for whom it will "click" inspite of my foolish ramblings.

    Gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen

  3. #3

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    I am going to lay it on the line here as I sense you guys can handle it. Another forum would amp up. My view is to leave all 'religious' symbols and liturgy out for learners. And most definitely throw out the black. Mix the colours, lighten the room. The heart of Zen is Zazen. Ground the practice in Zazen then those that wish will naturally enquire into the rest.

    I feel really quite shocked at how many very serious practitioners are besotted with the bells, whistles and trimmings. They just have to shove it down a learner's throat, why? because they are no different to Christians – but cannot admit it.

    Also stick to 'just sitting' with no other direction than position. 'You already have it' is just so so important. Also multiple 25m sits with kinhin can work quite well. Make the sitting as comfortable as posssible. Yes, I agree that we should not hide the fact that is serious bitter medicine. It aint going to feel great during a sit.

    Just my views

    Cheers

    m

  4. #4

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Dear M.,

    thank you for your thought provoking post. I beg to differ and would like to humbly offer my two guy-in-training cents.

    Although Zazen is the core and heart of our practise, most of us humans are "story animals" in that we like to employ greater narratives as frameworks for our practise or actions in general.

    The Kesa, the lineage, vows, precepts etc. all these are skillful means when employed in the hands of practitioners who are aware of their relative usefulness.

    Kannon knows she doesn't exist e.g., which doesn't invalidate the devotional practise directed at her, which can potentially be a most powerful finger pointing at the moon, for those who like this type of gateway into unadulterated presence.

    I can only speak for myself (and I don't even think you had me in mind in particular, so please do not think for one second that I feel the need to defend anything), I am not besotted with bells, whistles and trimmings, but I know whence they come from, which is why I am free to use them as I see fit.

    One can be too attached to anything, even the idea that religious symbolism is just a waste of time.

    If you remove all the "trappings", you are not left with a pure form of experience, you are left with a postmodern and existentialist notion of what pure practise should look like. No matter how often you remove the outer layer of a sausage, you will always have "something" as an outer layer. An empty room with just a zafu is as much a deliberate statement as a room filled to the brim with Thangka paintings, statues and bells.

    The Soto Tradition is more than just a few pointers towards how to sit, it is a vehicle that managed to transport its essence over hundreds of years, because of AND inspite of a lot of bells, whistles and rituals.

    Our own readiness towards truthfully facing what arises is all that matters in the end, and no amount of rituals can give you that. The lack of rituals and traditions can't give you that either.

    I'd also like to know who "they" are, who are no different from Christians and want to shove things down people's throats.

    Gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen

  5. #5
    Friends of Treeleaf Dokan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Ashburn, Virginia
    Posts
    1,321

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Thanks Hans & Michael,

    You both bring up very valid points. In the end, in my area (North Texas) we are a strong Christian area. I am fairly certain that most of the people visiting would be out of curiosity. People interested in maybe yoga and tai chi type practices...maybe martial arts (Another option I'm looking at is inquiring about my wife's Aikido dojo on off night). Interestingly enough, I'm not so much looking at this in order to attract people to Zen. While I would love to see that, I think there is more so a genuine need for options for Zen practice in this area. Dallas has 2 million people and we have 1 Zen centre (Maria Kannon). There are dozens of Tibetan centres as well. I just would be hoping to find other's who have been like me for the past years, sitting alone.

    Maybe the first step for me is to drop all steps.

    @Hans. When you do liturgy, what do you do?

    Thanks for the conversation! It's very welcomed.

    Gassho,

    Dokan

  6. #6

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    very interesting post and I wish you well with the new group.

    I probably know less about the rigours of buddhist meditation than anyone else
    on this site - started with mindful meditation about two years ago and then after
    reading more realised that (for myself) I would benefit more by following a traditional
    approach.

    I'm still learning about the ritual - and seem to have intuitively adopted a few of my own! - but
    if I was going to a group I think I would really appreciate having this element explained and being part
    of the experience.

    I am astounded to find myself feeling this way as I was put off religion in my younger years by the whole
    paraphenalia of icons, etc.

    I think I have gradually warmed to symbolism/ritual and feel it is really what we make of it and can be very useful.

    Also, mulling over the whole concept of 'introjection' (for me a concept taken from my psychotherapy training) and quite
    happy to introject my 'inner buddha' by whatever means.

  7. #7
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Sarnia, Ontario Canada
    Posts
    2,096
    Blog Entries
    119

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Willow;
    Searching through Jundo and Taigu's Introductory stuff and the top of the forum should get you a little of what you ask, also have a look at the recommended books

    Shawn;
    We are all in support of your progres and keep watching in wonderment at your passion and energy, Gambatte !!

    Hans;
    I've watched some weekly zazenkais that you have conducted, also the videos of the recent retreat and now this latest post and; I admire your passion and sincerity and would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to carry on. Also, I tend to agree with whoever said recently that you are the real deal.

  8. #8

    Re:Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    To define better where I am coming from we need to try and go back to imagining what a typical experienced group practicing in a typical Zendo looks like for the newcomer. I will use the words bazaar, creepy, weird and - for many - very off-putting. I have no argument against these things being adopted over time, providing it is voluntarily and self-motivated. I am only thinking about how best to introduce the wonderful benefits of Zazen to the most people. The low success rate speaks for itself. I believe this is in part due to dogma overkill. Zazen does not need trappings. They are detrimental in most cases where Zen is being introduced.
    With respect
    m

  9. #9

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Hello Michael,

    you raise important points, however my own very limited experience has been that in some cases (this meaning my previous experience with a small sitting group type engagement), that once people see Zen as a mere technique, they treat it as such and there is no going back. It really depends on the people who might attend IMHO. If you have people who are all high on Samurai movies, mystical pagoda dreams etc., one should probably focus a bit more on bare bones technical instruction in the beginning. If you have people who just want some stress reduction and have no interest in potentially changing their lives at all, then maybe chanting the Emmei Jukku Kannon Gyo is not a bad idea.

    Btw, where I am we have no typical Zen groups. A different flavour every time, although certain organisations have a distinctive flavour no matter where they have their zendo.

    It is quite obvious to me that at least in Germany most groups that make a point of not being openly Buddhist will not contribute to the spreading of the Buddhadharma in the long run. They might and do spread wisdom, goodness and stress-reduction, but don't pass on the vast amount of wisdom that is uniquely expressed within a certain lineage. I have no interest in Dogma, seriously NO interest, but most people I have met who want to throw away what they call dogma, will just fill their lack of Buddhadharma experience wih personal assumptions about how things should be.

    Chacun a son gout.

    Gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen

  10. #10
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Minnesota
    Posts
    2,024

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Hi All,

    Michaels post reminds me a little of the approach that Joko Beck took by choosing to distance herself from some of the Japanese elements.

    Ultimately when forming a sitting group I feel it comes down to following your heart(and your guiding teachers advice :wink: ). If all the bells and whistles are your thing, go for it. If not, then don't have them. Though I think both approaches require deep contemplation as to why you are drawn to one over the other! Taking care not to fall into the trap of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    No matter which route you choose it will inevitably attract some and repel others. This is why I think it is important to follow your path of calling. It makes me think of Bodhidharma sitting in front of the cave wall. He was following his own calling regardless of how many more people he could attract if he had just picked a better spot with a nicer view!

    Just my 2cents :lol:

    Gassho,
    John

  11. #11

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Hi,

    I took the liberty of splitting this into its own thread.

    Here is what I usually say on this topic when it comes up:

    I have come to the conclusion, after years and years, that one medicine does not suit all patients ... not everyone has the Karma to resonate with the practice (maybe, perhaps, in some other lifetime if one believes in that). Some may not have the chemistry for this form of Buddhist or Zen Practice, some may not have the chemistry for Buddhism or meditation of any kind at all!

    And ya know ... it has been that way for thousands of years. 1000 students may come, most for once or a few times only ... but a few dozen or a hundred who will still be around for 20, 30 or 50 years. It is those few dozen or a hundred who, generation to generation, has kept this Practice and Lineage alive. Zen has rarely been a "mass movement" (not compared to other, more popular forms of Buddhism and belief), even during its most vibrant periods in China and Japan.

    I do wish that folks would give it more of a try before quitting prematurely because, like many things worthwhile ... it takes a while sometimes to "get the hang" or sink into one's bones. I wish folks would wait at least 3 or 6 months of sincere sitting and study before deciding "this aint for me". (Even then, be willing to try it again later in life when you may have changed in some ways in who you are).

    But I have sat at many Zen groups in America, Europe and Japan. Like Treeleaf, new folks come all the time ... some stay while many do not. Membership numbers for most Zen groups I know seem pretty constant, at maybe 10 to 50 members (maybe double or triple that for a really big group). I used to joke that, if all the first time lay folks who showed up once or a few times at Shojiji monastery (the head temple of Soto Zen where I used to sit in Japan) suddenly decided to all come back on the same day ... they would be lined up from the temple, a mile down the hill to the train station and we'd be short a few hundred Zafu! 8)

    Yes, I still wish everyone "got it" and could benefit from these wonderful, sensible, enlightening Teachings and Practices. Alas, there is no "one size fits all" formula.

    Which leads to the next topic ...

    Quote Originally Posted by michaeljc
    I am going to lay it on the line here as I sense you guys can handle it. Another forum would amp up. My view is to leave all 'religious' symbols and liturgy out for learners. And most definitely throw out the black. Mix the colours, lighten the room.
    I do not know if this is true for all folks. Some folks like the tradition and ritual, bells and incense ... other first timers do not. I try to walk a middle road ... keeping the atmosphere in our Zendo light (even fun and frequently funny), but also keeping some bells and incense. Still, it is hard to appeal to everyone. This Treeleaf place has been accused at various times of being either (1) too heavy and religious and traditional or (2) too lightweight, irreverent/iconoclastic and modern. Like Goldilocks, hard to please everyone! :shock:

    Also, there are a variety of Zen Buddhist groups these days, ranging from the dour and unsmiling to the light and always laughing, the traditional "more Japanese even than the Japanese" types to "burn the Kesa and sit in bluejeans" types ... and everything in between. Something for everyone but, alas, no one formula that seems to appeal to all people. It is becoming much like Protestant Christianity in America, where there seems to be a million different little churches splitting off somewhere, one version of Jesus for everyone.

    Finally, I do so much agree with Hans: If you do strip away too much the "Buddhist Teachings" and some of the accompanying traditions and ritual from the bare Zazen, you have lost something vital. There are basic Buddhist perspectives and philosophies such as The Four Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path, The Precepts, Impermanence, the Middle Way, Non-existence of the “self,” Cause and Effect, Dependent Co-Origination, Buddhist views on time, life and death (and no life no death), the workings of the senses and mind… the words and insights of the Buddha and later teachers… the list goes on…

    ... and without those, "Zazen" is kind of mush, unformed clay. Also, many of the rituals, chants and ceremonies can embody some of those same Teachings.

    This ties in with what I sometimes post on "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 Buddha 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)
    Gassho, Jundo

  12. #12

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    We host a "Newcomer's Night" on Wednesdays. There are no robes, candles, or incense; no Precepts, no Buddhism at all; it's just sitting (and only for 15 minutes); very bompu, all out of concern for what others might think. The attrition rate (if you really want to call it that) is still 99%. As near as I can tell, catering to the expectations of others makes no difference at all.

    Dogen said that where there is bowing, the way of the Buddha flourishes. Where there is no bowing, the Way of the Buddha fades away.
    Our Zen as we practice it (I can't really speak to anyone else's) is simple and perhaps austere. Everything in our zendo (including our robes) is various shades of brown, both traditional in our lineage, and offering nothing visually for the mind to grasp hold of. Our robes are (somewhat) traditional; tying us to our past and to one another, and comfortable for long periods of zazen. Donning my robes, reciting the Verse of the Kesa, is certainly not meaningless ritual to me, and my rakuzu is certainly not the meaningless trappings of false piety or religious theatrics. I bow, perhaps a lot for some people's taste; I do prostrations, light candles and offer incense and flowers (yes, before a "graven image" or "idol"), I welcome and invite the bells to sound. Each and every bit of ritual, every bow, every bell, has a distinct meaning and serves a specific purpose; if it didn't, there would be no point to doing it at all. Each one I enter into mindfully, with all of the focused attention which I can muster; if I were to do it simply out of habit, mimicry, or religiosity, there would be no point to doing it at all. For me, each and every one has a place and a purpose and serves to advance my practice. If it appears a bit "bizarre, creepy, weird and - for many - very off-putting", well; it is just as it is. I am not responsible for others expectations, preconceptions, or prejudices. Everyone; newcomers, novices, those who have sat with us forty years; we welcome openly, and are welcome to leave without pursuit, and are welcome to come sit with us again if they choose to; all without grasping or any notion of gaining something. Our Zen as we practice it isn't for everyone, and if it's not for you, then I sincerely hope and pray that you get to where you truly are supposed to be, and I will be quite happy if I hear that you have found your own path up the mountain. However, I am a Zen Buddhist; I am not willing to abandon all that makes us what we are simply to be more palatable for mass consumption.

  13. #13
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Midcoast Maine
    Posts
    1,956
    Blog Entries
    2

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Michael,
    I am very glad you raised this topic, and it is very timely too.... I have been facing many of these questions in the last two months.

    I will stress that these comments reflect my own experience only - the matter of practice is an intensely personal one and will differ from individual to individual.

    When I first came to Treeleaf I kept the ritual aspects of Zen Buddhism at arms' length - I meditated - I did not perform any chants, rituals, etc. I took the precepts in January 2009 and do not consider myself to have seriously embodied a practice of the precepts in my life until the last five months or so. Similarly, there has been a transition in my practice - I practice Soto Zen as a religion now as compared to a meditative routine or practice. I have learned the difference between the practice of meditation and Soto Zen Buddhism. I now consider myself religious, and not spiritual. This is significant and reflected in the larger perception on the part of a significant number of American adults who when asked, will say they are "spritual" but not "religious."

    What has accounted for this transition? I have kept many things at arm's length in the course of my life - emotional relationships, honesty, awareness of who I "am," and perhaps most importantly, a choice of what I stand for, and what is the example I wish to set for those around me - my children, spouse, friends, community. My emotional distance was a selfish and arrogant statement that essentially said "I can go my own way" - the traditions, community practice, and ethics that have served as a guide for so many didn't apply to me - well, I had my view changed in some pretty radical ways. I sit with a teacher and sangha locally who explained to me that he turned to Soto Zen because "he had nowhere else to go." That summed it up for me. I came to an existential impasse, a barren emotional and spiritual plain of great pain and loneliness. The chants, the rituals, the bowing, for me are a form of discipline which require commitment to something other than oneself - the beginning of humility - something in short supply in my life. When I chant a sutra or ring a bell, I am not worshipping a deity or invoking supernatural powers but establishing a connection to others practicing with me, and those who have followed the path for many years. Drawing upon the great stream of human experience and practice is far more powerful than standing (or sitting!) alone. And I was very alone. Right now I draw the line at the darkness, or black everything of more traditional Sotoshu Zen. Lightness, laughter, and irony are essential ingredients of my practice. As a refugee from the Greek Orthodox church, I grew up with Black robes, obedience, kissing the back of hands (like the Godfather), and the admonition that one was not to ask questions but do what one was told. Treeleaf is important to me because I agree with Jundo that in today's world, for Soto Zen to be relevant the boundary between lay and ordained practice has to become much less distinct. There are significant communities in Soto Zen where the distance between ordained and lay practitioners is still great (by design), and the level of attainment available to the latter (by human determination) is limited. I do not accept those boundaries - they are nothing but a form of ecclesiastic intellectual property protection...

    The greatest factor that has accompanied this transition in my beliefs and practice is the fact that all of a sudden, I realize and accept how inconsequential I am in the overall scheme of things - I am not that important - the world doesn't revolve around me - and I have learned not to believe the myths my own mind spins about how great I am - and it is a tremendous relief. It allows me to live as a compassionate human being who might stop wreaking havoc and maybe contribute something to others' lives. And for the first time in my life, I have some authentic relationships - many of them at Treeleaf - where one can practice great faith, great doubt, and community.

    My thoughts only.

    Gassho,
    Yugen

  14. #14

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    when people I know start down the path of zen, I usually end of forwarding them this link: http://www.thereformedbuddhist.com/2011 ... -like.html

    over the top, but I think it breaks down (comically) much of the preconceived notions that people have of our practice. zen is not only the tranquil beach, but the rusted cars in overgrown weeds. seekers of perfection and harmony will ultimately be disappointed.

  15. #15
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Cincinnati Ohio Area (Northern Kentucky)
    Posts
    1,843

    Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Quote Originally Posted by mcurtiss
    when people I know start down the path of zen, I usually end of forwarding them this link: http://www.thereformedbuddhist.com/2011 ... -like.html

    over the top, but I think it breaks down (comically) much of the preconceived notions that people have of our practice. zen is not only the tranquil beach, but the rusted cars in overgrown weeds. seekers of perfection and harmony will ultimately be disappointed.

    :-D

    Ron

  16. #16
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Minnesota
    Posts
    2,024

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Just some more random thoughts on this topic.

    Michael wrote:
    Statistics on another forum shows an extremely high attrition rate (95% +)
    Hi All,

    Though I don't know about the studies which have been done to arrive at this percentile, I'll still go with it. Though 95% seems like shocking number leading to concern, I believe it to be a rather common number. I say this from experience playing both the role of the common 95% and the rare 5% in regards to my own various endeavors.
    The longer you stick with any given commitment the more you bear witness to the commings and goings of that larger percentile who quit or move on to something else.

    I'm sure others can attest to this and how numbers like these don't just apply to Zen.

    Take for example the martial arts. Having given many years of study to them I have seen countless people come and go. Some after a month, others after a year, and even some yet after just one class.
    As to the argument that if we just change/remove things we can retain more people I further have this to say. Getting punched in the face hurts! Aversion to pain quite likely makes up a portion of the 95% in this regard. So how many more people could we keep in class if we just eliminated punching and kicking? Would it be the same art if we did?

    That's not to say that you can't remove some things here too. It just must be done by skillful means. An example of this can be found in Judo. The founder(Jigoro Kano) eliminated many of the dangerous techniques of Jujitsu when creating his own system.

    Once again careful consideration must go into what will come out on the other end if you do!

    Gassho,
    John

  17. #17

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Yugen - I found your post very moving.
    Thankyou.

  18. #18

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Hello,


    @ Yugen: Thank you for your post.


    @ all:

    Just to put things into perspective a bit regarding ritual (and I do feel I am not exaggerating), please allow me to use a metaphor.

    If the average Soto-Shu monastery with all its seasonal local guardian deity rituals, daily kitchen God rituals, general merit transfer and sutra shuffling rituals etc. is the Mount Everst in terms of extra ritual bling-bling stuff, then we here at Treeleaf are a hill, not even a mountain.

    Seriously, if you look at the yearly ritual/bell/whatever you want to call it schedules that are normal in the Japanese Soto school, Treeleaf is much closer to Charlotte Joko Beck than to traditional orthodoxy.

    (sucking up to the teacher alert!!! RUN AWAYYYY!!!) I am very much a fanboy when it comes to Jundo's ritual balancing act so to speak


    Gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen

  19. #19
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Midcoast Maine
    Posts
    1,956
    Blog Entries
    2

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Willow,
    Thank you, and welcome to Treeleaf! I am looking forward to practicing with you!

    Hans,
    I agree with you in regard to Jundo's "balancing act" - I find it just right!

    Gassho,
    Yugen

  20. #20

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    There are some awesome posts here! Gassho everyone, and Gassho Yugen.

    Sometimes, I think that things that are esoteric like Zen liturgy and practice are very useful tools for realizing ourselves, noticing ourselves. It's like the first time you do something, like riding a bike, it's out of the ordinary. It's different. We're very self conscious about where are feet are in relation to the pedals, our balance so we don't fall over, our position so we don't run into something or have something run into us.

    Then when we learn it, it becomes rote. But a lot of things we do are rote, and they pass us right by. Most of my life is like this. I sometimes "wake up" in the middle of brushing my teeth, like oh yeah I'm brushing my teeth.

    A daily liturgy shouldn't become rote. I can't really argue with certainty what is right. I don't know if there is a right way, and I'm certainly not qualified to say what it is for Zen. I'm a beginning practitioner, and I don't have enough experience to know what is useful or not. Therefore, I rely on my teachers and my sangha as guides. i also have responsibility for what I do, but I rely on the support and the traditions here a lot.

    That being said, I'm a fierce individualist and I don't want to just practice something or follow something because it's "Zen". I also don't want to abandon something because it doesn't fit in with my "conception" of things (throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak). Let's face it, we all have a liturgy, to paraphrase Daido Roshi: the way we drive, walk, say hello, celebrate holidays and sporting events, etc. Those are just as "odd" to someone not familiar with them. But those habitual daily things our are liturgy.

    The difference with Zen liturgy is that it creates a space for us to notice ourselves, forgetting ourselves, becoming truly compassionate. We can apply that to our lives.

    Sometimes I simply reject the practice, but time and time again life proves to me its value.

    Gassho,

    Risho

    Edit: sorry about the stream of consciousness writing. lol I sometimes dont' have time to post a lot, so I get all this stuff I want to get out! ahahah in any case, I struggle with the practice, but that's where the precepts really help me. I think when we drop out or give up, we need to think about how it impacts others in the sangha too. Sometimes, as Jundo sensei said, it's not right for everyone. I mean different strokes for different folks, but I see it as something brought me here with you all, and I think it's really interesting to investigate this practice. At first I was weirded out by it too, my wife was weirded out. It was all part of the honeymoon phase with Zen. ok now I'm truly rambling. hahha anyway happy friday and I'm glad I found this sangha and can practice with you all

  21. #21
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    2,901

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Just a few words about the way I see it:

    My training was originally quite strict and formal and over the years, as I moved away from the sangha that taught me, as my first teacher died, I went through a phasis of challenging what had been handed down to me.
    when I met Mike Cross, I was the real mess he described, and all I could do was to practice with very little Japanese forms, ( Nishijima never really insisted on these) and Chodo was boiling it down to a minimum.

    Moving to Japan, my intention was to study some esoteric rituals if I had the opportunity and season my practice with Japanese flavour...and what I find myself doing is just dead simple: a few ceremonies, just sitting, shavIng my head and sewing the okesa. I don t mind about these byzantine rules and processus although I strongly recommand my close students to study them so they can see for themselves, take what they feel right and also blend when they visit other communities.

    To sit, all you need is a cushion, your butt and a wall.

    i would say that here the very core is shikantaza. And the realization that life is practice, practice is life. For people wanting to commit further, some chanting, rakusu sewing and recieving the precepts would be the natural way. sewing an Okesa is made possible when you are given the greenlight from one of the teachers. the next step is to receive tokudo which manifests the wish to give yourself to practice and to serve sentient beings in the four directions. As long as you keep sitting and okesa alive, the amount of religious forms you throw intothe mix is your choice. But, it is also true that our resistance is an amazing teacher, and Jundo or myself might strongly recommand you to start to practice or study religious forms.

    And if I use shippei ( also known as nyobo or kotsu ) or a hossu ( whisk with horse hair used in ceremonies), If I wear extravagant robes ( colourful funzoe), it is just because it feels appropriate. These objects might or might not be dropped by future generations of teachers. for now, they are in my hands and mind. I will transmit them if I transmit the Dharma.

    No need to be religious or spiritual though.

    Whoever you are and no matter how simple or complicated is your practice, you are my brother.


    Gassho


    Taigu

  22. #22
    Friends of Treeleaf Dokan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Ashburn, Virginia
    Posts
    1,321

    Re: Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    To sit, all you need is a cushion, your butt and a wall.
    Fukanzazengi Rufu-bon in a single sentence. Beautiful!

    Deep Gassho,

    Dokan

  23. #23

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    hellos to all posting here!


    great thread (just curious, what topic was it 'split' from?)


    Michael, to your original question regarding attrition of 95% or whatever it in fact 'really' is....I would say this:

    don't worry about it

    Let that thought--like so many others--pass through consciousness unobstructed...
    I have not found any notion of 'success' in zen in my years of zazen practice.

    Do what is fitting under the circumstances and the moment. Don't worry about others. If I sit with others on a regular basis then I help maintain a time and place for (as yet) unknown others who are 'seeking' to stumble across what may point them in a direction correct for them. It cannot help but do so. If they take to sitting, it is a direction for which there is affinity. If they do not 'take' to it for whatever reason, then it allows them to refine what they are 'seeking'--which still points them toward a direction correct for them.

    At some point the notion of 'seeking' gets unpacked (or not--there are permanent seekers out there...).

    Just because it appears someone has 'arrived' for a time and 'left' a sitting group doesn't mean I know much of anything about them or their practice or the future of their practice. When I sit together with others there is mutual support of the practice of zazen. When I moved to a new city, when one group changed its schedule several times and then closed...these things didn't mean I stopped sitting, even if I stopped sitting for a period of time. It might have looked like attrition to someone somewhere measuring things, but that would not have been accurate.

    In my experience there is no measure of success in zazen no more than there is a measure of success for the 'big bang,' or for our Sun, for a river, for a snowflake.

  24. #24

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu

    Whoever you are and no matter how simple or complicated is your practice, you are my brother.
    Gassho

  25. #25

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Quote Originally Posted by michaeljc
    I am going to lay it on the line here as I sense you guys can handle it. Another forum would amp up. My view is to leave all 'religious' symbols and liturgy out for learners. And most definitely throw out the black. Mix the colours, lighten the room. The heart of Zen is Zazen. Ground the practice in Zazen then those that wish will naturally enquire into the rest.

    I feel really quite shocked at how many very serious practitioners are besotted with the bells, whistles and trimmings. They just have to shove it down a learner's throat, why? because they are no different to Christians – but cannot admit it.

    Also stick to 'just sitting' with no other direction than position. 'You already have it' is just so so important. Also multiple 25m sits with kinhin can work quite well. Make the sitting as comfortable as posssible. Yes, I agree that we should not hide the fact that is serious bitter medicine. It aint going to feel great during a sit.

    Just my views

    Cheers

    m
    Regarding the attrition rate..

    In both the Theravadin Sangha experience, and Zen Sangha experience, it has always been the same... some people coming just once, some coming and staying a little while then leaving, some coming and staying a long while then leaving. There are few "lifers". The lifers go through all kinds of ups and downs and maybe go away and come back a few times. But commitment to see it through comes only when there is no other choice left. Attrition rate at an online Sangha like this may be higher because a click of a mouse does not require the same commitment as walking through the snow to the Zendo.

    Regarding bells and whistles and such...

    The vehicle is that. The practice is super-simple just sitting, but the vehicle is more than that. It includes aspiration, devotional practice (that one freaks people out) and embodying ritual, that when practiced is like joining a big old river. Back when I was a "facilitator" with the local Lay Theravadin Sangha, my role was to lead in ritual, facilitate group sittings, and welcome new people. One issue that came up all the time was new people (maybe feeling burned by Mom and Dad's church) who said the ritual was alienating. We decided to after a time to appease that and reduce the ritual. But then there was some other element of Buddhism that new people found off-putting or (heaven forbid) "religious". On it went. Eventually we decided to just say. "It is what it is, take or leave it", and brought back the ritual which is beautiful and has deep resonance for many people.

  26. #26

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Thanks all for the great feedback. I repeat again that I have no problems at all over how other Zen Buddhists practice. They can prostrate all the way to India for all I care. I do care about the fact that many ordinary people in this modern age could benefit immensely from Zazen. The objective is simple; formulate the best environment in which newcomers can experience benefits from Zazen. Now, that aint easy.

    Some people are naturally attracted to ritual. I am not convinced that they are naturally receptive to Zen. With the risk of sounding arrogant I will pass on my feeling that some immensely intelligent scholarly monks writing screeds of metaphysical ramblings and scriptural interpretations in other forums still do not get it!! They are not ever going to make teachers for learners.

    To me the introduction should pass the message to the student that this practice is for them personally. The simple principles are:

    Everything is Kosher
    This is your practice
    You have everything that is required
    There is nothing to fear

    'Just sit' sums it up perfectly

    Defining the length and number of sits in a group is going to be the most problematic issue. I sat a sesshin once that was built around 25 m sits (with Kinhin) . This could be a good compromise. Allowing learners to change position may also be on. The group situation, when lead by an experienced sitter, encourages people to remain still so I do not think moving would get out of hand.

    To sum up: Lighten up

    IMO

    Regards

    m

  27. #27

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    In retreat/sesshin sometime l sit on cushion, sometime sit in chair, sometime stand. Next time maybe I lie down.

    I thought I read somewhere that buddhism is fastest growing religion in the west so it seems to be taking care of itself. There is no meaning other than trying tohelp all beings

    I like to ring the bell during the bell chant.

  28. #28
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    2,901

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    The take it or leave it attitude is a very good one when it is done with respect and when the newcomer is given plenty of time to adjust and get used to the new aspects.

    A few teachers in the West made the choice to lighten up and get rid of everything, bells, whistles, kesas, robes, statues...the whole lot. Butt, cushion and wall remains. But in the process of doing so a more psychological, counselling or philosophical taste starts to surface to compensate for the lack of ritual, or, to say it differently, one witnesses the ritualisation of the gathering of people in a different way: circles, group dicussions etc.

    I think that we have a good balance in Treeleaf and we don t overdo things. I strongly feel that if we let the religious dimension go, we loose an important part of this path. When people understand that the religious is just a manifestation of compassion, that it takes shikantaza away from the personnal healing and well being sphere, they wake up to its actual necessity.

    Gassho


    Taigu

  29. #29

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    When people understand that the religious is just a manifestation of compassion, that it takes shikantaza away from the personnal healing and well being sphere, they wake up to its actual necessity.
    AMEN!

  30. #30

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Where does this fear of attrition come from, Michael? You've got a couple threads going now... maybe I missed something, but did something happen lately?

  31. #31

    Re: Newcomer Attrition in Zen (SPLIT TOPIC)

    Quote Originally Posted by mcurtiss
    when people I know start down the path of zen, I usually end of forwarding them this link: http://www.thereformedbuddhist.com/2011 ... -like.html

    over the top, but I think it breaks down (comically) much of the preconceived notions that people have of our practice. zen is not only the tranquil beach, but the rusted cars in overgrown weeds. seekers of perfection and harmony will ultimately be disappointed.
    Good words McCurtiss

Similar Threads

  1. SPLIT TOPIC: Sitting Posture Posturing
    By willow in forum TREELEAF COMMUNITY: Topics about Zazen, Zen, Buddhism & MORE ZAZEN!
    Replies: 44
    Last Post: 02-17-2012, 09:33 PM
  2. topic moved
    By will in forum TREELEAF COMMUNITY: Topics about Zazen, Zen, Buddhism & MORE ZAZEN!
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 04-16-2009, 08:30 AM
  3. Topic Withdrawn
    By Kelly M. in forum TREELEAF COMMUNITY: Topics about Zazen, Zen, Buddhism & MORE ZAZEN!
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 03-05-2008, 12:28 AM
  4. o/ (a bit off topic)
    By Shohei in forum TREELEAF COMMUNITY: Topics about Zazen, Zen, Buddhism & MORE ZAZEN!
    Replies: 33
    Last Post: 02-20-2008, 08:20 PM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •