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Thread: Questions on Suffering

  1. #1

    Questions on Suffering

    I would just like to talk and question about suffering from a Zen Buddhist/ Buddhist perspective. This has been mulling around in my brain for some time and I would like to get other's feedback on this subject. We engage in charitable works during our Global Service days, and during zazenkai we recite our desire to save all sentient beings?

    So are we talk about Suffering or Suffering? As I understand it, suffering from the Buddhist perspective is an attempt to get past dukkha. Is that not our vow to help others get past this kind of suffering? I am certainly NOT suggesting that any of us should not volunteer to help end actual suffering, but exactly how does Global Service play out, how do we view charitable works as a Buddhist? Isn't that really focusing on the wrong kind of suffering?

    So when Shingen asks as part of our Ango vows, does working on the environment play into saving all sentient beings or not? My answer would be I simply do not know, because as I understand it, I am not sure helping people with any aspect of samsara is really helping them with their suffering.

    We have this "new" idea out there about Engaged Buddhsim, Why a need to address this issue? Why say ENGAGED Buddhism? Is this because traditionally Buddhism is not really involved with volunteering to actually help people in those ways? Is this a Westernized idea bout Buddhism? Are we competing with Christian ideas?

    What is it we actually mean by "Save All Sentient Beings"? How does charitable action play into that?

    Gassho
    Ishin
    Sat Today and did volunteer work too

  2. #2
    You ask: "What is it we actually mean by "Save All Sentient Beings"? How does charitable action play into that?"

    Doesn't acting charitably reinforce the notion that you are not alone, the notion that you are not separate from other sentient beings? By the same token, doesn't the flip-side of charity (greediness and hoarding) indicate that you are the person suffering with the delusion of their separateness?

    #sattoday

    Gassho,
    Juki
    "First you have to give up." Tyler Durden

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Ishin View Post
    I would just like to talk and question about suffering from a Zen Buddhist/ Buddhist perspective. This has been mulling around in my brain for some time and I would like to get other's feedback on this subject. We engage in charitable works during our Global Service days, and during zazenkai we recite our desire to save all sentient beings?

    So are we talk about Suffering or Suffering? As I understand it, suffering from the Buddhist perspective is an attempt to get past dukkha. Is that not our vow to help others get past this kind of suffering? I am certainly NOT suggesting that any of us should not volunteer to help end actual suffering, but exactly how does Global Service play out, how do we view charitable works as a Buddhist? Isn't that really focusing on the wrong kind of suffering?

    So when Shingen asks as part of our Ango vows, does working on the environment play into saving all sentient beings or not? My answer would be I simply do not know, because as I understand it, I am not sure helping people with any aspect of samsara is really helping them with their suffering.

    We have this "new" idea out there about Engaged Buddhsim, Why a need to address this issue? Why say ENGAGED Buddhism? Is this because traditionally Buddhism is not really involved with volunteering to actually help people in those ways? Is this a Westernized idea bout Buddhism? Are we competing with Christian ideas?

    What is it we actually mean by "Save All Sentient Beings"? How does charitable action play into that?

    Gassho
    Ishin
    Sat Today and did volunteer work too
    Hi Ishin,

    Perhaps traditional Buddhists in centuries past was more concerned with getting out of the wheel of Samsara, escaping this world as hopeless. In traditional societies in Asia, not much could be done to reform the authoritarian, impoverished, class based societies of old India, China and Japan. Concern with "social justice" and "engaged" activity out in the world is rather a late 19th and 20th Century invention, mostly aimed at modern societies and economies.

    However, now, yes, many Buddhists are more concerned than was typical before with social justice and wellbeing. We have adapted many Buddhist doctrines to emphasize the same, perhaps in ways that they were not traditionally. An example is the "interconnection" of all phenomena.

    In any case, our vow is to "rescue all sentient beings". Part of that is to teach about liberation from the small self by showing how to transcend the small self ... but part may also be to provide housing, medicine and food to that cold and hungry small self in need.

    Part of "saving all sentient beings" is finding that nothing in the universe requires anything, not anything at all. So, by this perspective, even innocent Jews marching into Nazi ovens or little children with debilitating illnesses ... nobody is ever in need of saving any more than a blade of grass can be made a more perfect blade of grass.

    Then, of course, teaching people to come to see these Buddhists truths, by teaching Buddhism for example, is a way to "save all sentient beings". You help people come to see life in the above way of "nothing needs saving".

    By another perspective, simply saving yourself by working for your own "enlightenment" is "saving all sentient beings" because, in Buddhist philosophy, you ARE all sentient beings in the most radical sense (as much as your eyes, toes, hands and heart are just you, but even more "one" than that ... as much as your eyes are your eyes).

    Now, historically, the above perspectives are one reason that Buddhists have not done as good a job, perhaps, as Christians and such in building hospitals, schools and orphanages. (That is a very misleading statement, actually, because Buddhists have provided medical care, education and other social services to the general population in many countries ... and the Christians often partly have missionary work in mind in many of their charitable activities ... However, certainly, Buddhists could have done more than we have done).

    Thus, the current "engaged" view of "saving all sentient beings" and acting in Compassion involves charitable work in society. I believe in this strongly.

    So, although a drowning man requires not the slightest saving by the Buddhist view, the Buddhist view is also to jump in the water and save him. Though sick children require nothing, we should work hard to find a cure. Sides of a single coin. All "simultaneously true".

    Did that help?

    Gassho, Jundo

    SatToday
    Last edited by Jundo; 09-18-2015 at 02:59 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4
    Member Hoseki's Avatar
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    Hi Ishin,

    I think there are a number of reasons to engage in charitable acts that could be in agreement with what I think is the older tradition (liberation from Samsara.) I'm going to number my points so I can be brief. Buddha time might be infinite but my break-time is not

    Please note: My understanding of Buddhism is spotty. Much like my world history e.g. Buddha was born, Socrates had a few chats was executed, Plato wrote it down and then world war 1 happened )

    1. After Siddhartha Gautama became enlighten or woke up or whatever he decided to share it with others. This is important because it sets the prescient for helping others. He is kind of the big archetype as well. The kind of guy who gets mentioned in "what would X do?" questions.
    2. I'm pretty sure Siddhartha Gautama almost starved himself to death (which would have been a quick way right back into Samsara!) until he realized that asceticism was harmful to the practice. When people are in dire straights or very tightly in the grip of concerns related to their survival they are less likely to be responsive to messages about the Dharma. I believe you would get comments about not being able to eat the Dharma and what not.
    3. Helping others also helps reduce the influence of the poisons (anger, greed and ignorance) with-in oneself.
    So I think when these things are considered together you see the seeds for a life of wandering the world helping those in need (like "The Littlest Hobo" or Canada's Lassie.)


    Sattoday
    Adam

  5. #5
    Hi Ishin,

    Engaged Buddhism is also deeply rooted in the value of gratitude and compassion, a couple of core believes to humanity. And since Buddhism is essentially a humanist way of life, we vow to save all sentient beings because in the process we save ourselves from our own selfishness and apathy towards others. And by others I mean other living beings.

    To engage in charity projects gives us the chance to give back a little to the Universe, from all the things we enjoy and are. We put our knowledge of compassion into action because we know all living creatures can suffer.

    Beyond that, all living things in the universe are connected through Pratītyasamutpāda, Dependent Origination. We all are connected by threads so fine that are easily overlooked. You are here thanks to all living things in the history of the Universe and we all spin a wheel so much bigger than we can possibly imagine. By joining Engaged Buddhism projects and Service Days we honor that connection and help ourselves in the process.

    But I could be totally wrong, of course.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    #SatToday
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  6. #6
    Thanks to all who responded. My issue isn't whether or not we should help people or the environment, or in general being helpful and kind to others especially those in actual need and suffering. My issue is what do WE mean by "Save all sentient beings". I think Jundo gets where I was coming from. Yet again two sides of the same coin. I understand.

    Gassho
    Ishin
    Sat Today

  7. #7
    My issue is what do WE mean by "Save all sentient beings"
    Hi Ishin

    If I might riff a little in a Dogen like way, I think that "Save all sentient beings" is not something that is constant but should be applied to whatever we encounter in the present moment.

    When I am at home with my kids, "Save all sentient beings" might be cooking their dinner. Faced with the present refugee crisis, "Save all sentient beings" looks like donating money, clothing or posting 'Refugees Welcome' on your Facebook page.

    In a Zendo, "Save all sentient beings" can be teaching dharma, making the tea after sitting or making sure the cushions are set out before everyone arrives. It might be giving someone a hug, welcoming a new person or checking the heating is on at a comfortable level.

    Shopping ethically is "Save all sentient beings". Not buying more than you need is "Save all sentient beings." Being kind when it is needed is "Save all sentient beings", as is bringing up your children well, picking up litter that might harm wildlife, protesting against an environmentally destructive road and volunteering at a food bank, nursing home or charity shop.

    Sitting is "Save all sentient beings" as is taking part in Ango, posting great questions on Zen forums and smiling at strangers.

    Is there any part of practice that is not "Save all sentient beings"?

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    #sattoday
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Ishin View Post
    ... So are we talk about Suffering or Suffering? As I understand it, suffering from the Buddhist perspective is an attempt to get past dukkha. Is that not our vow to help others get past this kind of suffering?

    ...as I understand it, I am not sure helping people with any aspect of samsara is really helping them with their suffering.

    What is it we actually mean by "Save All Sentient Beings"? How does charitable action play into that?
    Hi Ishin,

    That's a really interesting question. I think I see what you’re getting at. Helping someone recover from a natural disaster, or helping at a food bank, or righting political injustice, etc., probably doesn’t “save” anyone in the sense of bringing them to “enlightenment” and the end of Suffering in a Buddhist context (dukkha).

    Kokuu’s words really ring true to me.

    Another angle of “saving all sentient beings”, especially when speaking about charity and good works, is that we’re doing what we can to counteract the effects of greed, anger and ignorance, like Adam said. In embracing the suffering of others we perceive the truth of interconnection. If, in doing such work, we lessen their immediate suffering, while increasing our understanding and breaking open our hearts, it’s a win-win. If the decrease in suffering sets the stage for more peaceful living, it may open up a space or plant a seed for those people to begin to seek liberation as well.

    Who is saved? Well, no one, and everyone. If saving sentient beings means helping them realize the Dharma, we do so by recognizing others, and ourselves (not two, not one), as expressions of the Dharma, and consciously acting in accordance with that truth. Compassionate action is an expression of, and an entryway to, the Dharma.

    Maybe.

    Gassho
    Lisa
    sat today

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Ishin View Post
    My issue is what do WE mean by "Save all sentient beings".
    Not all can be saved. Some must be killed, by you and me so we can carry on our work. So, don't be wasteful? I don't know.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Ishin View Post
    I would just like to talk and question about suffering from a Zen Buddhist/ Buddhist perspective. This has been mulling around in my brain for some time and I would like to get other's feedback on this subject. We engage in charitable works during our Global Service days, and during zazenkai we recite our desire to save all sentient beings?

    So are we talk about Suffering or Suffering?
    I don't think there is a difference between the two. If someone appears who needs help, you help them. I think it's just that simple. Doesn't matter what kind of suffering they experience. If they need help, you help them. IMO, a true Bodhisattva does not discriminate based of the kind of suffering that is happening. He or she helps with any and all kinds of suffering.

    Avalokiteshvara has 1,000 arms. One arm will be feeding a homeless person while another simultaneously will be teaching someone about the highest nirvana. She does them both at the same time and does not discriminate. That is why she has 1,000 arms to begin with!

    That is how I think of it.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post
    Not all can be saved. Some must be killed, by you and me so we can carry on our work. So, don't be wasteful? I don't know.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_
    Well, let's talk about that in a couple of weeks, for the Precept reflections for Jukai on the avoiding of taking life. Vegetarianism and meat eating, military power, self defense all fair game in that discussion.

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  12. #12
    I don't think there is a difference between the two. If someone appears who needs help, you help them. I think it's just that simple. Doesn't matter what kind of suffering they experience. If they need help, you help them. IMO, a true Bodhisattva does not discriminate based of the kind of suffering that is happening. He or she helps with any and all kinds of suffering.

    Avalokiteshvara has 1,000 arms. One arm will be feeding a homeless person while another simultaneously will be teaching someone about the highest nirvana. She does them both at the same time and does not discriminate. That is why she has 1,000 arms to begin with!
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  13. #13
    Yugen
    Guest

    Questions on Suffering

    It's very easy for me to get wrapped up in Buddhist philosophy and ontological explanations - the process of my practice and progression of my training as a priest has brought me to a very basic and elemental place -

    "Saving all sentient beings" is nothing more and nothing less than living in a way that recognizes our interconnectedness with one another, with our environment, and the discovery of the dimensions to which our actions unfold or manifest for others in ways we had either ignored or not recognized.

    Practice is not complicated. Human beings complicate things. Often complex philosophical or dogmatic explanations are utilized to help us avoid inconvenient situations that make us uncomfortable or help us sustain a certain narrative in our lives.

    In my view, engaged projects and service are the core of our practice here. All the rest is a prelude to living authentically.

    Deep bows
    Yugen


    sat2day
    Last edited by Yugen; 09-16-2015 at 03:17 PM.

  14. #14
    Gassho

    Clarisse Sat2Day


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