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Thread: Is there hope in Zen?

  1. #1

    Is there hope in Zen?

    Hello fellow Treeleafer's hope you all are having a peaceful week. Sorry to run a little long here, I will try to be as concise as possible.

    I have recently been struggling with how to have hope in the future while practicing Zen?

    I come from a life long belief in Christianity, with the feeling that there is a guy in the clouds looking after me, and orchestrating my future path. Which naturally led to hope in my future and the feeling that things will work out, which led to a positive outlook (albeit perhaps a delusional outlook, but comforting none the less).

    Since I have been practicing zazen daily, and learning about Buddhism, this belief I have held has totally fallen away. Somehow zazen practice makes it seem unnecessary, and the emotional connection I felt I had with God, is no longer there (this is a huge change for me in my life , as I've had that type of spiritual belief since childhood essentially).

    In Zen it seems the only real thing is the present moment. That there is no future nor security in life because it is all transitory. We can strive for security but it's a delusion, I can hope for a good future but the future is never here. There is no comforting outlook, nothing to grasp that lasts, nothing that really matters outside of the moment.

    I have been reading Pema Chodron's "When things fall apart" (not a Zen book, but super interesting) and it has been difficult to wrap my head around. She argues that hope is just as delusional as fear, and that hope takes one out of the reality of the moment and denies the truth of everything being temporary. That hope is like a drug, that perpetuates the delusion that one will always be the same/alive. She also argues that there is no solid ground in life and no security to be found (it wouldn't last anyway) and so grasping for it is futile.

    I have been walking through my days, trying to be present, practicing zazen daily , but I am struggling with keeping a positive outlook. I feel as far as I can really get is just being grateful in the moment, but not really being hopeful or happy about the future as it isn't a guarantee. It feels a little dangerous not being hopeful or feeling like some supreme guide is creating a path for me and my family. I almost feel aimless in life to a certain extent.

    How does hope for a good future work in Zen? Is it simply a delusion? How does one keep a positive outlook about the future? How does one be calm about their unknown future? Is there any comfort to be had about the future or is this something to let go of?

    I hope this makes sense, it has been something I have been struggling with the last few weeks and any insight anyone has would be greatly appreciated.

    Gassho,
    John
    Sat today




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  2. #2
    I think Zen is one of the most optimistic practices there is; the Bodhisattva vows and precepts and, hell, zazen itself are impossible to get “right” by how we judge things, and not all Buddhists even agree on how to do these things; even so, our willingness to take on these impossible challenges knowing that we will fail is the most optimistic and hopeful thing one could do. Think about it; we will all die; we could use that to give into all sorts of petty wants and wishes; it’s meaningless anyway, so why not just live in the now man? No that’s not our way; our limits, failings and mortality is something that drives our practice to create and find real meaning. By dropping our personal likes and dislikes and grasping toward thise things our lives take on a much broader viewpoint where nothing and no one is left out because everything we “encounter” is us.

    anyway thats just like my opinion man

    gassho

    risho
    -stlah

  3. #3
    Of course there is hope in Zen Buddhism, and the belief that the future begins in each moment!! Of course!

    We know the timeless, yet we work for today and we work for tomorrow. Every second is a new beginning, and we believe that if we are diligent and good, generally (not always, alas, as life is life) good things will result. Cast nets, and there will be fish. Plant seeds, and crops will grow. Not always, thus the years of famine in the Bible too. But most years, the crops and bounty will be what is needed.

    God or no God, however, be good, be diligent and plant seeds and cast nets today. Life is transitory and changing (it is no more or less so than before you practiced Buddhism), but it is also fertile and willing to be nurtured like a farm field to be well tended. Life is not ALWAYS as we wish, but so long as we are breathing and walking, we can still walk on and walk forward. Pema Chodron is wrong if she says that hope is not important in Buddhism (Does she really say such a foolish thing in her book? I can't believe that.) Of course, both Buddha and Dogen had hope for the future in nurturing their projects, teaching and caring for the people in their charge just like you care for your own family. Hope, like fear, in EXCESS can be a problem if you ONLY live for the future (or worry EXCESSIVELY about imagined troubles). However, reasonable, motivating hope and fear are good and necessary to life. Maybe that is what Pema meant? (Gee, when she wrote the darn book, didn't Pema have hope that somebody would ready it?? )

    Don't try to "be present." Think about the future, work for the future, but do not be EXCESSIVELY ATTACHED to the future (or the present or past) or to outcomes. Work for your dreams and hopes in the future, but also learn to flow along with how life actually goes. This is the Dao. If you plant those seeds, more than likely the sun will shine and the rains fall, and they will grow. If you cast your nets, in all likelihood, you will catch your fish. The land and sea, while not always cooperative, are pretty dependable! Keep working and hoping. If they do not yield this year, well, try to get by as best you can, try to make do, try to survive, dust off and try again next season. If the doctor gives you an unwelcome diagnosis, take your medicine, keep hope ... you just might make it too.

    "There is no place to go" in our practice, and each step is right here ... yet we keep on walking and stepping down the road.

    No, it might not always turn out as you wish. In such times of sometime failure or disappointment ... flow with what happens. Don't be ATTACHED to your wishes or to outcomes. However, many dreams will be realized too if you keep hoping and working for them, and do not lose hope.

    Sorry to run long.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah

    PS - Zen also allows for God if someone wishes, or no God if someone wishes. God or no God, keep fetching water and chopping wood.
    Last edited by Jundo; 04-09-2021 at 08:42 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post

    PS - Zen also allows for God if someone wishes, or no God if someone wishes. God or no God, keep fetching water and chopping wood.
    Amen

    Gassho,
    Tom

    SatLah
    ďDo whatís hard to do when it is the right thing to do.Ē- Robert Sopalsky

    I may talk wise but Iím a simpleton and I know a lot less than I think I do. Iím quite a goofy person so take what I say with massive car sized boulders worth of salt. In fact, ignore all my grandiose statements until Jundo or another priest confirms or denies them.

  5. #5
    The Buddhist teachers and long-term monastics I've known all seem really joyful. Not perfect - I think we do our teachers a disservice when we imagine they've achieved some state of perfection. They might be angry, or seem a bit backward when it comes to certain social justice issues, or whatever. But man, Zen and Buddhist teachers in general, they really seem to get joy.

    And I find that joy very hopeful.

    Gassho, Jim
    ST/LaH



    Sent from my SM-T510 using Tapatalk
    No matter how much zazen we do, poor people do not become wealthy, and poverty does not become something easy to endure.
    Kōshō Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought

  6. #6
    There is a further sense of "Hope" in Zen Buddhism. It is our Hope (Big H) for all to be as it is. If one Hopes for all the universe to be "just as it is," then one's Hopes can NEVER be disappointed.

    And there is even another aspect of Hope too: We hope beyond anything to hope for. For example, if alive, wishing not to be dead, we may or not get the outcome we wish. Likewise if we wish to win, not to lose, we may or may not win. Or if we wish to get to our goal of point X at the top of the mountain when only at point Y at the bottom of the mountain, we may or may not get there. HOWEVER, Zen folks know how to simply drop away all thought of birth and death whereby, even if we die, THERE IS NO DEATH (no birth either! ). We may lose, but taste the realm of Wholeness where nothing can be lost (nor is ever less than complete). We may be prevented from reaching goal X, but instead come to realize that ALL POINTS of Buddha Mountain are already TOTAL ARRIVAL at Buddha Mountain, whether top, bottom or middle.

    So, it is like the hope of a trapeze artist to catch the trapeze, but also a safety net of the universe ... so ultimately, no place to fall even when we fall.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 04-10-2021 at 11:25 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    I vote for hope. Couldnít live without it. Though it is tempered by my level of optimism which is affected by my understanding or lack there of.

    Doshin
    St

  8. #8
    A vote for hope is itself what hope there is, I think. _()_ _()_ _()_

    gassho
    ds sat today, also lah
    Visiting unsui, take with salt. "Though the river's current never fails, the water passing, moment by moment, is never the same." -- Kamo no Chōmei

  9. #9
    To save all sentient beings, though beings numberless
    To transform all delusions, though delusions inexhaustible
    To perceive Reality, though Reality is boundless
    To attain the Enlightened Way, a Way non-attainable


    To me hope is an inherent aspect of Zen. When I take the vow to save all sentient beings I have to have hope that is possible.
    To transform all delusions I have fundamentally hope that this can happen even thought it might be close to impossible.

    And so on.

    I have to have dedication and hope to take on the vow. Otherwise the vow is meaningless.

    At least that is what I think today.

    Gassho, Shinshi

    SaT-LaH
    空道 心志 Kudo Shinshi
    I am just a priest-in-training, any resemblance between what I post and actual teachings is purely coincidental.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Shinshi View Post
    To save all sentient beings, though beings numberless
    To transform all delusions, though delusions inexhaustible
    To perceive Reality, though Reality is boundless
    To attain the Enlightened Way, a Way non-attainable


    To me hope is an inherent aspect of Zen. When I take the vow to save all sentient beings I have to have hope that is possible.
    To transform all delusions I have fundamentally hope that this can happen even thought it might be close to impossible.

    And so on.

    I have to have dedication and hope to take on the vow. Otherwise the vow is meaningless.

    At least that is what I think today.

    Gassho, Shinshi

    SaT-LaH
    Itís funny, Shinshi, because I take the exact opposite message from the Bodhisattva vows, they seem to be inherently hopeless. How can I save numberless beings, transform inexhaustible delusions, to perceive a boundless reality and attain a way that is unattainable: itís a hopeless endeavour! And in positing that paradox and entertaining it - boy, does Zen love a paradox - I move beyond hopelessness and hopefulness.
    I think this is what Pema Chodron was getting at, and itís many years since Iíve read that book so I might be getting this wrong - I often do - that we move beyond hope and despair. Hope and despair is the wreckage a drowning man clings to; what if we let it go and just swim?

    I love the Bodhisattva vows, they cannot be answered, they defy rational thought, like a perpetually blossoming flower you have to fall into the petals: the answer can only be tasted and each day it has a different flavour.
    We have a brief and precious moment of consciousness before we are snuffed out. To be alive is so wonderful that we cannot bear the thought of its extinction. This is the conundrum that all the religions try to answer, it is the existential question at the heart of all human anxiety. Christianity goes for the hopeful answer: a promise of eternal life in the presence of God. Here hope posits an outcome and shuts down all other possibilities. Whereas Buddhism asks us to stare down the barrel of this gun - unflinchingly, and in doing so we are open to endless possibilities.

    Sure, there are our little daily hopes: that the car will start in the morning; that the boss will be in a good mood; that we will meet out mortgage payments this month. But there will be that day when the car doesnít start, the boss is in a foul temper and the bank wants to repossess. On this day hope has abandoned us - what to do? Maybe let go of the wreckage and swim.

    Mary Oliver asks ushttps://wordsfortheyear.com/2015/06/...ry-oliver/amp/ what we will do with our one wild and precious life. Note, it is a question, one she leaves us to answer. Each day we encounter this question, each day we find a different answer. Today my answer is: to be alive and open to the day's endless possibilities. In doing so I try to avoid hope for an outcome but faith that I can encounter each possibility with an open and generous heart.
    Tomorrow I may have a different answer.

    Martyn
    Sat today.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Of course there is hope in Zen Buddhism, and the belief that the future begins in each moment!! Of course!

    We know the timeless, yet we work for today and we work for tomorrow. Every second is a new beginning, and we believe that if we are diligent and good, generally (not always, alas, as life is life) good things will result. Cast nets, and there will be fish. Plant seeds, and crops will grow. Not always, thus the years of famine in the Bible too. But most years, the crops and bounty will be what is needed.

    God or no God, however, be good, be diligent and plant seeds and cast nets today. Life is transitory and changing (it is no more or less so than before you practiced Buddhism), but it is also fertile and willing to be nurtured like a farm field to be well tended. Life is not ALWAYS as we wish, but so long as we are breathing and walking, we can still walk on and walk forward. Pema Chodron is wrong if she says that hope is not important in Buddhism (Does she really say such a foolish thing in her book? I can't believe that.) Of course, both Buddha and Dogen had hope for the future in nurturing their projects, teaching and caring for the people in their charge just like you care for your own family. Hope, like fear, in EXCESS can be a problem if you ONLY live for the future (or worry EXCESSIVELY about imagined troubles). However, reasonable, motivating hope and fear are good and necessary to life. Maybe that is what Pema meant? (Gee, when she wrote the darn book, didn't Pema have hope that somebody would ready it?? )

    Don't try to "be present." Think about the future, work for the future, but do not be EXCESSIVELY ATTACHED to the future (or the present or past) or to outcomes. Work for your dreams and hopes in the future, but also learn to flow along with how life actually goes. This is the Dao. If you plant those seeds, more than likely the sun will shine and the rains fall, and they will grow. If you cast your nets, in all likelihood, you will catch your fish. The land and sea, while not always cooperative, are pretty dependable! Keep working and hoping. If they do not yield this year, well, try to get by as best you can, try to make do, try to survive, dust off and try again next season. If the doctor gives you an unwelcome diagnosis, take your medicine, keep hope ... you just might make it too.

    "There is no place to go" in our practice, and each step is right here ... yet we keep on walking and stepping down the road.

    No, it might not always turn out as you wish. In such times of sometime failure or disappointment ... flow with what happens. Don't be ATTACHED to your wishes or to outcomes. However, many dreams will be realized too if you keep hoping and working for them, and do not lose hope.

    Sorry to run long.

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah

    PS - Zen also allows for God if someone wishes, or no God if someone wishes. God or no God, keep fetching water and chopping wood.
    Really, a beautiful teaching, Jundo.

    Deep bow and gassho,

    Satlah


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    東西 - Tōsei - East West
    there is only what is, and it is all miraculous

  12. #12
    I have hope. But also understand things may not end up where I want things to be. Honestly they rarely do anyway. What matters most is how you respond to the situation and how you move through these uncertain times. You always have a choice to respond with clarity and ease.

    Gassho,
    Ekai
    Sat

    Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk

  13. #13
    after the restoration of our treeleaf forum database we all know:

    yes, there is hope in zen



    aprapti

    sat

    Let silence take you to the core of life (Rumi)


    Aprāpti (अप्राप्ति) non-attainment

  14. #14
    ok
    Quote Originally Posted by aprapti View Post
    after the restoration of our treeleaf forum database we all know:

    yes, there is hope in zen



    aprapti

    sat
    ha!

    gassho

    risho

  15. #15
    In addition to all the wonderful answers here i would like to posit the idea of reincarnation in buddhism. The concept that we may return one day. No guarentee but its worth making sure there is a good future to come back to.

    Gassho
    David
    Sat/lah

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by serenewolf View Post
    In addition to all the wonderful answers here i would like to posit the idea of reincarnation in buddhism. The concept that we may return one day. No guarentee but its worth making sure there is a good future to come back to.

    Gassho
    David
    Sat/lah
    Perhaps, traditionally, rebirth was not a hope, but rather a cycle for escape. It is lay folks who perhaps felt that, well, if one cannot escape, best to come back in the next life at least rich.

    Gassho. J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Perhaps, traditionally, rebirth was not a hope, but rather a cycle for escape. It is lay folks who perhaps felt that, well, if one cannot escape, best to come back in the next life at least rich.

    Gassho. J

    STLah
    I was referring to a healthy environment and society rather than personal gains in reincarnation. A blue sky above, the sound of the wind in the trees, a chorus of crickets at night and a star filled sky. A healthy and happy society for all and not just a few. In this way, our goals and work stretches the evolution of society and the world over centuries instead of decades. Perhaps i am a bit starry-eyed but i feel its a worthy goal.
    Gassho
    David
    Sat/lah

  18. #18
    Thank you to everyone who responded on this thread. This was very helpful.

    Gassho,
    John
    Sat today/Lah

    Sent from my LG-H910 using Tapatalk

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