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Thread: The Place of the study of Zen and Buddhist Works in Soto

  1. #1

    The Place of the study of Zen and Buddhist Works in Soto

    Hello all,

    I had a question well maybe more than one this weekend I was reading Shobo Genzo I can't remember where but Dogen was giving a parable over the Tripitaka Master and someone else . His critique was pretty hard but it made sense . Being one hoping to be like a Tripitaka Master as a student who studies religion academically mostly in a critical way as the Tripitaka Master studies his sutras I was wondering what place do certain texts like Shobo Genzo hold to you within your experience of Soto Zen? I also wonder about those Zen priests like Kazuaki Tanahashi who make the intense study of these texts a part of their life what place do they hold for you in Zen? I understand Shikantaza is the practice par excellence but the study of these things seem at times recommended.

    For me when it comes to the text I find they are aids in my own Shikantaza but I do seek to make them "My Own" through studying them and it just gives me great joy in life to study that show the depth of the human soul and read the critique of them. I am reading the Lotus Sutra now and hope to write some of my thoughts on it here after I am done but I do ponder what exactly makes a text sacred in Zen?

    Gassho,

    Karl

    STLaH
    Last edited by karlmalachut; 06-25-2019 at 05:57 AM.

  2. #2
    Hi Karl,

    Yes, some study is vital. All the great masters of the past knew their Buddhism, and understood Zen practice, and had read their Sutras and Commentaries before burning them. To burn them means, not to ignore, but not to be bound as a prisoner.

    To only do one's own thing, to be unstudied, is a recipe for disaster in most cases. Zazen without some understanding of teachings and heritage is unformed clay, uninformed, and can spin off in strange directions.

    So, yes, we study Dogen and Shobogenzo. (Our "No Words" Bookclub begins Okumura Roshi's wonderful introduction to Shobogenzo "Realizing Genjo Koan", in about a week. Please join us. )

    Other Sutras and writings are also important. Dogen played and danced often with the Lotus Sutra in Shobogenzo.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-25-2019 at 10:59 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui Geika's Avatar
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by karlmalachut View Post
    what place do certain texts like Shobo Genzo hold to you within your experience of Soto Zen?
    Hello, Karl,

    I have read many parts of the Shobogenzo and many commentaries, but not yet the entirety of it. For the most part, my reading in Zen is various commentaries by modern teachers, and by modern I mean from the fifties onward, I think. I have read the most common sutras a few times, but I do not make a regular practice of it-- usually only when it comes up here, as many of the unsui and teachers sometimes do some in-depth discussion. In my experience of practice, it is important to at least be familiar with them, if only to come to understand them more and more over the years, and also to have a grounded understanding of Buddhism and its history and traditions. I think that most of us took on a lot of reading in the beginning, and that is natural. Nothing wrong with it, but over time my perusal of the "eastern/ spiritual" section of the bookstore became less common.

    However, I am not a teacher. I would listen to Jundo on this matter.

    Gassho

    Sat today, lah
    求道芸化 Kyudo Geika
    I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Geika View Post
    Hello, Karl,

    I have read many parts of the Shobogenzo and many commentaries, but not yet the entirety of it. For the most part, my reading in Zen is various commentaries by modern teachers, and by modern I mean from the fifties onward, I think. I have read the most common sutras a few times, but I do not make a regular practice of it-- usually only when it comes up here, as many of the unsui and teachers sometimes do some in-depth discussion. In my experience of practice, it is important to at least be familiar with them, if only to come to understand them more and more over the years, and also to have a grounded understanding of Buddhism and its history and traditions. I think that most of us took on a lot of reading in the beginning, and that is natural. Nothing wrong with it, but over time my perusal of the "eastern/ spiritual" section of the bookstore became less common.

    However, I am not a teacher. I would listen to Jundo on this matter.

    Gassho

    Sat today, lah
    I think that Geika says it right.

    By the way, not every section of the Shobogenzo need be studied (like not every song every written by the Rolling Stones or Beatles needs to be treated equally). But there is definitely a group "best solid gold hits" that most folks should become familiar with at some point. They are basically the sections contained in Tanahashi Sensei's two smaller collections "Enlightenment Unfolds" and "Moon in a Dewdrop" (and maybe a third, called "Beyond Thinking," although it overlaps a bit).

    Tanahashi Sensei's full collection of the entire Shobogenzo is wondrous, but is very long as the "Complete Beatles" (although there are other even longer collections of Dogen talks called Eihei Koroku in a somewhat different teaching style than Shobogenzo), and his "The Essential Dogen" is too short, with nice passages and sayings pulled out here and there).

    As mentioned, Okumura Sensei's book on Genjo Koan is probably the best introduction to Shobogenzo. Also look for Jundo Cohen's amazing "The Zen Master's Dance," a guide to reading Dogen, due out from Wisdom Publications ... but you have to wait until 2020 for that!

    Dogen himself, by the way, was a walking encyclopedia of Sutra Passages, Koan Stories, famous legends, commentaries and such. He was incredibly well studied (especially considering that it was in the days before Google let alone real printing!!). However, he brought his studies to life, used the Sutras and Koans as springboards for his wonderful teachings. Read, study, but do not be a prisoner of words. Then, put the books down and sit sit sit. After sitting, perhaps pick them up again.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  5. #5
    Hi Karl!
    What a great question. Before coming to Treeleaf I had tried to approach Shobogenzo as an instructional text similar to modern-day books on Buddhism, and couldn't ever get through even a few lines of it. Surely people who professed to understand it must be either fibbing, or way way smarter than me, LOL. Now, with Jundo's help, I see it more as a book of poetry, words that speak not to the brain but to the heart, invoking teachings that cannot truly ever be completely expressed within the limitations of language. There are many references in it that would likely not be understood by anyone not from its time, and that's where the commentaries are helpful.

    As for the other texts and Sutras, Geika expressed it well that they are important in the framework of historical Buddhism and the lessons they hold. It seems though (correct me if I am wrong, anyone) that there are so many countless texts and Sutras that are important in other sects of Buddhism, and many that no one thinks much about or which haven't been translated, and it is really just a matter of how the paths of the different sects diverged that made one more "important" than another. Some of it seems pretty arbitrary to me, and there are some that resonate for me much more than others. But there are some common themes and elements that make them "fit" Soto Zen: emptiness, lack of intrinsic existence of things, cause and relief of suffering, the behavior of the Bodhisattva and saving beings, and of course Shikantaza!

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  6. #6
    Let me just post my two "down and dirty" How-To-Read-Dogen threads ...

    SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Dogen - A Love Supreme
    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...light=coltrane

    and

    How to Read Dogen
    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...light=coltrane

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    Treeleaf Unsui Geika's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    San Diego County, California
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Let me just post my two "down and dirty" How-To-Read-Dogen threads ...

    SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Dogen - A Love Supreme
    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...light=coltrane

    and

    How to Read Dogen
    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...light=coltrane

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    "Let's just put some happy little trees in there..."

    I am going to start calling these, "happy little Jundo reposts"-- there's one or two for every situation now!

    Gassho

    Sat today, lah
    求道芸化 Kyudo Geika
    I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

  8. #8
    Hishryo and I have been reading then discussing a chapter of Shobogenzo each week (ish), some make immediate sense some make no sense and most contain many references I don't yet understand (I need to read the Lotus Sutra and accompanying commentaries). I do think reading it has been vital my understanding of key Zen concepts though, or as much as I can understand them.

    I've kind of reconciled to myself that I'll be reading this book possibly for the rest of my life so look forward to seeing how my views change on the chapters over time.

    I'd missed that you will be reading Realizing Genjo Koan, I hope to be able to join in.

    Gassho,

    Neil

    StLaH

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