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Thread: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

  1. #1

    The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    I'm only new here and I don't know if this topic has been dealt with before or not, and I maybe in the wrong section of the forum for this question, but I'll post it here and see what happens.

    How do Western Buddhists and Zen practitioners account for the appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism? It is my impression, and I could of course be wrong, that Zen is by far the most popular form of Buddhism outside East Asia and that this is especially so in the West. Is it that Zen appeals more to the Western mind or is it that Zen was more popularised in the West than other forms of Buddhism going all the way back to the first 20 years of the post-war era, i.e. 1945 to 1965, when Zen was first introduced to a Western audience in the US and so was really the first form of Buddhism to be thoroughly grounded in the West and make any kind of an impact and take root?

  2. #2

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    I actually thought that Tibetan Buddhism was more popular in the West.

    From my perspective, I really like Zen because it focuses on the essential. I can't really compare it to other traditions because I haven't practiced in those, but from a very personal perspective I am an iconoclast, I am very rooted in self-sufficiency and I favor science over superstition. Not that other traditions do or do not have those. I don't mean it to sound negative.

    Gassho,

    Risho

  3. #3
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    In my personal view, I agree that Tibetan Buddhism is, by far, more popular in the West than Zen. In my country there must be at least more than 50 recognized groups of Tibetan Buddhism, Zen Buddhism groups, no more than 10, and the number of followers in Tibetan Buddhism is much higher. As one teacher told me once, "they say there are nearly 3,000 buddhists in Mexico... I really think there are only 3 or 4, real ones" :shock:

    Similarly, Zen attracted me more than any other form of Buddhism because I feel it goes beyond the iconic folklore and traditions, to the very heart of reality, non-dual duality of body-mind, self-world .

    Perhaps it might seem that at first gaze Zenīs simplicity and clarity would be more attractive to someone who would like closer to Buddhism, it might seem easier to just sit in front of a white wall and attain enlightenment, but that same simplicity contains much work and effort (not-working and effortless :wink: ), which may not seem so appealing after after all for most people, and thus feel more comfortable in other forms of Buddhism, more structured in rituals, traditions, images, collective experiences .... I do not know, Iīm just guessing :wink:

    Also, donīt mean to sound negative .... as someone said in this Sangha, Buddhism is like music, no two performers alike, but each may (hopefully) give great performances

  4. #4

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Hi,

    Yes, I would say that Tibetan Buddhism is larger, and many folks are attracted to (and benefit from) the colorful, powerful, magical atmosphere of their practices. Also, do not forget that the conversation is focused on "convert Buddhists" ... and that Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Thai, etc. Buddhist families in America and Europe follow their own religious traditions and practices that may not involve many of the central activities of a typical "convert Buddhist Zen group" (no Zazen, for example, and more religious worship of Buddha or family ceremonies like funerals and such!).

    Also, "Zen" in the West comes in a variety of flavors ... some more traditional, liturgical and "religious" ... some "modern" and stripped of a lot of the bells and whistles ... some focused on Koan Zazen, some on Shikantaza ...

    ... then there are also Vipassana "Insight" groups and Theravada (perhaps the largest body in the UK), Friends of the Buddhist Order/Triratna, and Soka Gakkai/SGI (the Nichiren Buddhist group centered on chanting with a very large following).

    So, I am here to say ... many roads for many hikers ... many medicines for different patients ... and hopefully everyone will find the right one. Heck, some may do better with Christianity, Judaism or something else! And, the right road/medicine for John may be wrong for Mary. The point is to find a good one ... not a path that leads into poison or poison ivy!

    I happen to think that Shikantaza is a powerful Medicine of All Medicines that could benefit what ails most folks .... but it may not be so for all.

    Gassho, J

  5. #5

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Well, that's interesting--and surprising. I certainly would not have thought that in the West Tibetan Buddhism's following would be so much larger than Zen's. The popularity of the Dalai Lama might have some bearing on this. I thought Zen would easily outstrip in numbers other Buddhist traditions. I did say that in my impression of Zen being the predominate Buddhist tradition in the West in terms of numbers that I could of course be wrong, and it looks like I am.

  6. #6

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Hi there - I got quite confused when I began to explore Buddism because I didn't really grasp the difference between convert buddhism
    and traditional practices. I think it takes quite a bit of work/guidance to compare and contrast (and experience different flavours as Jundo
    expresses it) to find what suits.

    I'm not sure we in the West are quite there with this process - there seems to be a lot of discussion/disagreement between convert strands/schools.
    At least with Soto Zen I feel there is clarity to the practice and that zazen is a firm anchor.

    I do feel though it's important to take on the 'whole deal' (another of Jundo's expressions) - a lot of people in the West seem to take mindful meditation
    on its own as an expression of Buddhism - and want to throw out - or not even bother - with the teachings.

    Anyway - my thoughts lack clarity - as I'm new to all this.

    Gassho

    Willow

  7. #7
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Tibetan buddhism definitely gets more press, what with the Dalai Lama and a number of celebrities following him. But Zen got to America first, and has a much longer history. I think a lot depends on where you live; I live in France, for example, and while Zen was there before Tibetan buddhism, it was a lineage that was, well, controversial (Taigu can talk about that...), and has remained discreet. There are, however, many Tibetan centers in France, making it easier to go that route.

    It's worth noting that I grew up in NYC, and back in the day - late 70s, early 80s - when I was exploring these things, there were Zen centers, but nothing else. No Vipassana, and no Tibetan (at least that I encountered). Also, at the time, the only books on buddhism were about Zen; I don't know when the first Trungpa book was published in the US, but that was the first Tibetan book AFAIK.

  8. #8

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    From a wonky perspective, the US census doesn't ask for religious affiliation. So, the Pew Forum is as close (to give one reference point) as we get to see the faith landscape.

    http://religions.pewforum.org/reports

    For Pew, self identified Zen Buddhists rank first. But looking at the numbers is pretty much close. Divided along five groups almost evenly.

    Sent from my SPH-D710 using Tapatalk

  9. #9
    Senior Member Daijo's Avatar
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    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    I think we also have to consider the fact that there are many people practicing "Zen" who do not identify themselves as "Buddhists". So polls and census data would be difficult. I sometimes sit with a group of about 30 people and I believe their may be 4 of us who would say we were Buddhists and that it is our religion.

  10. #10

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    A good book to read about this topic is "Buddhism In America" by Richard Hughes Seager.

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  11. #11

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Hi,

    Numbers and popularity polls do not matter anyway. In fact, throughout its history, Zen practice has been rather limited even in the Buddhist world ... a small, minority, "elitist" practice ... limited to those folks who had the time, energy, basic literacy and access to doctrine and teachings and teachers (this is "A Way Beyond Words and Letters" ... but even the legendary 'illiterate' 6th Ancestor had folks read to him and mastered the basic doctrines and teachings of Buddhism and Zen), who possessed a personal calling to pursue the way, philosophical bent, dedication to practice, simple financial and social freedom and such ... time to "sit on their ass" literally! 8) ... to undertake Zen practice. In the old days, all this was pretty much limited to monastics (and not even to all or perhaps most of those!) ... and the peasants and general population were much more concerned with immediately pressing things like working in the fields, keeping fed and staying alive!

    The vast vast majority of the Buddhist world in Asia ... in the past and even today ... is most focused on ordinary people worshiping and praying to the Buddhas & Bodhisattvas as godlike beings who can help keep the worshiper and those they love and pray for healthy, happy and free of harm (the same as most -any- religion in the world, any church or temple from Boston to Bangalor). Most folks have little interest or understanding of Buddhist teachings much beyond that. This is the Buddhism encountered about anywhere one goes in Asia ... from Thailand to Tokyo to Tibet ... as, for example, on my recent excursion to China:

    viewtopic.php?p=65263#p65263

    I do not mean, by the way, to "put down" some flavors of Buddhism as "less than" folks who sit Zazen and get involved in deep doctrinal examinations of Buddhist writings and teachings! Far from it! That is the medicine that those people may need for their hearts and lives ... just as some may find that same medicine in all religions. I do not think that "Zazen" and the kind of practice that we engage in here ... although an amazing and wonderful Path ... is necessarily even the right Path for the vast majority of people ... who need to live out their own Karmic paths.

    It is only in the West, and for a very few years, that lay people have delved into Zazen and other practices of meditation, doctrinal study and the like that was formally limited to monastics behind monastery walls (even in Thai or Tibetan Buddhism, most of the meditating was limited to the monks in monasteries, and the general population was simply expected to support the monks' efforts by providing food and financial support ... with a very few exceptions ... usually a scattering of very wealthy lay folks of the past with the resources to access teachers and the excess free time to do so ... and even then most just "dabbled" and did not go so deep). Consider yourself very fortunate! Heck, consider yourself very fortunate to have even been born a human at all!

    There is the famous story of the turtle ...

    In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the Buddha used the metaphor of a blind turtle in a vast ocean to explain how difficult it is to be reborn as a human being and at the same time to have the chance of hearing the Dharma.

    Suppose there is a small piece of wood floating on a vast ocean. The wood has a small hole the size of which is just enough for the head of a turtle to pop into. There is a long-lived sea turtle in the ocean. Once every one hundred years, this turtle comes out from the bottom of the ocean and pops his head into the hole of the wood.

    To be able to hear the Dharma is just as hard as for the blind turtle to encounter the small piece of wood on a vast ocean and let its head go through the hole in the wood piece.


    We also chant in the Evening Gatha ...

    ... do not squander your life.
    Have you sat today?

    Gassho, Jundo

  12. #12

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Gassho,

    Risho

  13. #13

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Well I can only speak for myself on this one, but Zen appealed to me because it didn't truck with all the add ons of other buddhist traditions (silly hats and such :shock: ). I liked how Zen really spoke to the essential, the simple and pure practice of just sitting. The world is full of attachments, and so are our lives as we live in this saha world, and so, why add on more attachments to mandalas and large hats and such? Boil it down to it's bones, the bones of zazen. Get rid of the added on after flavors, and just sit with Shakyamuni buddha under the bodhi tree.

  14. #14

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Well I can only speak for myself on this one, but Zen appealed to me because it didn't truck with all the add ons of other buddhist traditions (silly hats and such :shock: ). I liked how Zen really spoke to the essential, the simple and pure practice of just sitting. The world is full of attachments, and so are our lives as we live in this saha world, and so, why add on more attachments to mandalas and large hats and such? Boil it down to it's bones, the bones of zazen. Get rid of the added on after flavors, and just sit with Shakyamuni buddha under the bodhi tree.
    Hey Chris,

    That is an image of the simplicity and "its only about sitting and not the other stuff" that many Westerners have developed about Zen/Chan Buddhism during its history ... but something that has probably rarely been true in that history (except for the masters who would sometimes quit the monastery for a time and go up to the mountains to lead a hermits life for awhile ... and then most of which usually would head back to the monastery eventually). The history of Zen/Chan/Son Buddhism in Japan, China and Korea is pretty much the history of monastics not much different in their rituals, lifestyles and "funny hats" than any of the other sects.

    Here is the present Abbot of Eiheiji, the Soto Zen Head temple, and his funny hat (Nishijima Roshi has a similar hat) ...



    ... and here is the kind of thing that Zen priests spend much of their time undertaking in China, Japan and Korea (as much or more than Zazen sitting) ...

    [youtube] [/youtube]

    It is mostly Western Zen Buddhism that has sought to pear it down, simplify to "sitting alone", remove the old ways and "funny hats". In fact, Taigu and I are also about getting to the Simple, Clear Heart of Practice ... but it becomes the old question of what traditions to keep, what to change, without "throwing the Baby Buddha out with the ritual bathwater" ...

    Here is something I have posted several times, and most folks may have read:


    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

  15. #15

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hi,

    Numbers and popularity polls do not matter anyway.
    But. Really. We all wanna know who's on first? :wink:

  16. #16

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    ... but it becomes the old question of what traditions to keep, what to change, without "throwing the Baby Buddha out with the ritual bathwater" ...
    Oh no... look behind you ... the never ending question! :mrgreen:

    Thank you all for this thread pointing to the place of Zen in the Wast, the East, ... sometimes a small radical group, at other times the major philosophical school but not really practiced, ... always moving, always new in each context!
    Lets make it something great in our contextS :wink:

    deep deep gassho,
    Jinyu

  17. #17

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    It is only in the West, and for a very few years, that lay people have delved into Zazen and other practices of meditation,
    Why do you think that is? I mean, 15 minutes a day (your recommended zazen time for most people) isn't much, and everyone has a patch of ground beneath them for sitting. Is it just because zazen/meditation was simply not advertised as a lay practice in the East? And if not, why not given the preceding?

    Or perhaps the stressed-out West is simply more attracted to religious practices involving meditation as an antidote?

  18. #18

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by willow
    Hi there - I got quite confused when I began to explore Buddism because I didn't really grasp the difference between convert buddhism
    and traditional practices. I think it takes quite a bit of work/guidance to compare and contrast (and experience different flavours as Jundo
    expresses it) to find what suits.

    I'm not sure we in the West are quite there with this process - there seems to be a lot of discussion/disagreement between convert strands/schools.
    At least with Soto Zen I feel there is clarity to the practice and that zazen is a firm anchor.

    I do feel though it's important to take on the 'whole deal' (another of Jundo's expressions) - a lot of people in the West seem to take mindful meditation
    on its own as an expression of Buddhism - and want to throw out - or not even bother - with the teachings.


    Anyway - my thoughts lack clarity - as I'm new to all this.

    Gassho

    Willow
    (My emphasis in bold. Foursquare)

    I quite agree, Willow. If one is to take on Zen then I believe one must take on all of it including Zen's Buddhist roots. Meditation as a practice is only one element of the whole, albeit a basic, central, and essential element, but the Dharma is also basic, central, and essential, at least to my mind. For me to be a Zen practitioner, ipso facto I must be a practising Buddhist, too.

  19. #19

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by Foursquare
    I quite agree, Willow. If one is to take on Zen then I believe one must take on all of it including Zen's Buddhist roots. Meditation as a practice is only one element of the whole, albeit a basic, central, and essential element, but the Dharma is also basic, central, and essential, at least to my mind. For me to be a Zen practitioner, ipso facto I must be a practising Buddhist, too.
    Our Soto-Zenny perspective on this makes no sense ... and every sense.

    Seated Zazen is the one and only practice needed, the only place to be in all time and space, the one thing to do. Nothing more, no other place to go, nothing more to study. Nothing in need of chanting, no books in need of cracking.

    That being said, rising from the sitting cushion ... all of life is also "Zazen" in its wider meaning when pierced as such ... from chanting or lighting incense in a temple, to changing dirty diapers or buying bread in the grocery. Each and all, the one and only practice needed, the only place to be in all time and space, the one thing to do. Nothing more, no other place to go, nothing more to study.

    And that being said ... it is important for Zen folks to study a bit of the Buddhist Teachings, the Sutras and writings of great Masters ... in order to master why and how all that is so.

    All of the above, At Once As One. If one fails in one's Practice to experience how all of the above if True At Once As One ... and that Zazen is always complete and never lacking ... then something is lacking! :shock:

    Wonderful How That Works!

    Gassho, J

  20. #20

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Interesting. All right, then. I don't pretend to be expert but it poses more questions for me. Can Zen including the practice of zazen be divorced or detached from the Dharma and its other roots in Buddhism? And if it can, is it still Zen?

  21. #21

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by Foursquare
    Interesting. All right, then. I don't pretend to be expert but it poses more questions for me. Can Zen including the practice of zazen be divorced or detached from the Dharma and its other roots in Buddhism? And if it can, is it still Zen?
    Short answer:

    One can do away with some things, a certain cut of robe, a ceremony or even all ceremonies, incense and bells, a way to do this or that ... some tangential or minor ideas, practices and teachings ...

    ... but Zen and Zazen cannot be removed from rootedness in certain Teachings (Dharma) at the Heart of Buddhism ... Non-self, Impermanence, the causes and workings of Dukkha, Emptiness, living in balance and harmlessness by the Precepts, the poisons of greed anger and ignorance and the rest of the "mind theatre", perhaps "dependent origination" and the like, freedom from excess desire and attachments, Non-attaining, Non-thinking and so much more (all interrelated, by the way). These give form and direction to Zazen, without which it is unformed and aimless clay ... a fluffy tranquilizer at best, chaos at worst.

    So, no, Zen Practice cannot be removed from those.

    Yet, those are not enough without realization in Zazen, on the Zafu and off.

    And in a moment of Zazen, no book study or anything else but Zazen is needed.

    ... All True As One At Once.

    Gassho, Jundo

  22. #22

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    On a cold winter night, a big snow storm hit the city and the temple where Dan Xia served as a Monk got snowed in. Cut off from outside traffic, the coal delivery man could not get to the Zen Monastery. Soon it ran out of heating fuel after a few days and everybody was shivering in the cold. The monks could not even cook their meals.
    Dan Xia began to remove the wooden Buddha Statues from the display and put them into the fireplace.
    "What are you doing?" the monks were shocked to see that the holy Buddha Statues were being burnt inside the fire place. "You are burning our holy religious artifacts! You are insulting the Buddha!"
    "Are these statues alive and do they have any Buddha nature?" asked Master Dan Xia.
    "Of course not," replied the monks. "They are made of wood. They cannot have Buddha Nature."
    "OK. Then they are just pieces of firewood and therefore can be used as heating fuel," said Master Dan Xia. "Can you pass me another piece of firewood please? I need some warmth."
    The next day, the snow storm had gone and Dan Xia went into town and brought back some replacement Buddha Statues. After putting them on the displays, he began to kneel down and burn incense sticks to them.
    "Are you worshiping firewood?" ask the monks who are confused for what he was doing.
    "No. I am treating these statues as holy artifacts and am honouring the Buddha." replied Dan Xia.
    To me, this illustrates many things, but one thing in particular is that we should not do things, or become attached to things, trappings, statues, ritual, etc because they are traditional or historical. Many of the things that go along with any religion are there because of cultural difference. Look at Christianity and Catholicism, and the difference in garb between the Jesuits and say Eastern European Orthidoxy. These things are there, but they are of no use unless they further our understanding of the Way and our progression towards the goaless goal of realization.

    That's only my two cents, though.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    It is mostly Western Zen Buddhism that has sought to pear it down, simplify to "sitting alone", remove the old ways and "funny hats". In fact, Taigu and I are also about getting to the Simple, Clear Heart of Practice ... but it becomes the old question of what traditions to keep, what to change, without "throwing the Baby Buddha out with the ritual bathwater" ...
    I totally agree with you Jundo, also can not forget traditions like Zazen in the tub with the ceremonial hat :wink:



    Thank you for this teaching....have a great day you all

    Attached files

  24. #24

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Pfffft!

    That's not a hat. Obviously that's a samadhi induced halo of Omni-Present-interdimensional-super-galactic-oneness!

    Geeez. Thought everyone knew that.

    :mrgreen:

  25. #25
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    :mrgreen:

  26. #26
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Pfffft!

    That's not a hat. Obviously that's a samadhi induced halo of Omni-Present-interdimensional-super-galactic-oneness!

    Geeez. Thought everyone knew that.

    :mrgreen:
    :lol:
    Oh that's great!
    _/_

  27. #27

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    best laugh today - wonderful :lol: :lol:

    Gassho

    Willow

  28. #28

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by Foursquare
    Interesting. All right, then. I don't pretend to be expert but it poses more questions for me. Can Zen including the practice of zazen be divorced or detached from the Dharma and its other roots in Buddhism? And if it can, is it still Zen?
    Short answer:

    One can do away with some things, a certain cut of robe, a ceremony or even all ceremonies, incense and bells, a way to do this or that ... some tangential or minor ideas, practices and teachings ...

    ... but Zen and Zazen cannot be removed from rootedness in certain Teachings (Dharma) at the Heart of Buddhism ... Non-self, Impermanence, the causes and workings of Dukkha, Emptiness, living in balance and harmlessness by the Precepts, the poisons of greed anger and ignorance and the rest of the "mind theatre", perhaps "dependent origination" and the like, freedom from excess desire and attachments, Non-attaining, Non-thinking and so much more (all interrelated, by the way). These give form and direction to Zazen, without which it is unformed and aimless clay ... a fluffy tranquilizer at best, chaos at worst.

    So, no, Zen Practice cannot be removed from those.

    Yet, those are not enough without realization in Zazen, on the Zafu and off.

    And in a moment of Zazen, no book study or anything else but Zazen is needed.

    ... All True As One At Once.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Good answer: clear and comprehensive. That clears the matter up for me. Cheers.

  29. #29

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by chugai
    I think Pure Land chanting Buddhism is the largest Buddhist group but Zen appeals to me in the fact it cuts through the chafe and grows straight for the wheat ...
    Hi Chugai,

    Pure Land sects (there are more than one) are certainly the largest by number of parishioners in Japan ... and perhaps among immigrant Chinese and Japanese families to the Americas and Europe. What is more, in China and Vietnam (not, however, in Japan) Pure Land and Zen are all mixed together ... so it is almost impossible to say what is a "Pure Land" temple/priest/practitioner or "Zen" temple/priest/practitioner.

    viewtopic.php?p=65263#p65263

    Gassho, J

  30. #30

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by chugai
    Hi Sensei --- thank you, I had a partner in the seventies that chanted, she was Shin -- I remember her telling me about how large they were in and out of Asia --

    She had a scroll and and an altar and i can't remember what else -- I learned some of the chanting then ( I loved her) but only remember Nom Yo Ho Ren Ge Kyo now --
    Ah, just a footnote ...

    She is likely not a Jodo/Shin/Pure Land Buddhist at all, but a Nichiren Buddhist (my wife's family are Nichiren Buddhists). Nichiren Buddhism is a school of Buddhism which developed in Japan (and not found in China) hundreds of years ago centered on the power of the Lotus Sutra ... on the power of faith and recital even in just the name of the Lotus Sutra. Thus, they recite "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" (Hail the Wonderful Law of the Lotus Flower Sutra). Nichiren Buddhism is most well know in the West through the organization Soka Gakkai/SGI (although Soka Gakkai had a falling out with the mainstream Nichiren temples in Japan a few years ago).

    The Jodo or Jodo Shin (Pure Land) schools worship or rely upon Amida Buddha, and thus chant "Namu Amida Butsu" (or its equivalent in Chinese etc., Homage to Amida, Buddha of Infinite Light).

    End of footnote. 8)

    Gassho, J

  31. #31

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by chugai
    I think Pure Land chanting Buddhism is the largest Buddhist group but Zen appeals to me in the fact it cuts through the chafe and grows straight for the wheat ...
    That's why it appeals to me. It goes straight to the heart of the matter.

  32. #32

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    Zen is cool. It talks about one hand clapping and instant enlightenment, and poetry, and so on, but in fact Zen is quite boring to thinking mind. Everyone has different reason for coming to Zen. But generally we let the Zen do the Zen.

    Gassho

    W

  33. #33
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: The appeal of Zen in the West over other forms of Buddhism

    This is an interesting conversation. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about Zen - probably East AND West. It would be nice for some of us to think that Zen was a stripped-down, un-superstitious version of the Buddhas' (remember, even in Zen, there's more than one) teachings...but this is a convenient self-deception. I suspect that some of us have a hard time reconciling this romantic iconoclastic vision of Zen with actual Zen. But I've found that allowing this greater reality of what Zen is, it brings in things that we might find uncomfortable. Being involved with this sangha has forced me to confront self-deceptions regarding morality and community in ways I would not have imagined.

    So, maybe it's not the ride YOU'D build, or the ride you thought it was - but it might be worthwhile to see where it goes.

    I guess that maybe Zen is 'popular' partly due to misconceptions that appeal to a particular consumerist, individualist mindset - otherwise, why would those 'sit like a Zen Master' CDs sell? Obviously this isn't the only appeal of Zen, but if it WASN'T there, how could it be exploited by these companies?

    Chet

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