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Sectarianism in Buddhism

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Sectarianism in Buddhism

Postby TonyD on Mon Dec 14, 2015 5:01 pm

Hi,

I could be totally wrong about this, but is anyone else frustrated by the somewhat fragmented, rigid way in which Buddhism appears to be practiced by the major schools in Japan?

For instance, in Zen the focus is almost entirely on intensive silent meditation, with chanting and sutra study de-emphasized. In Pure Land the focus is on nembutsu chanting only, with little or no meditation. Nichiren, on the other hand, did not like any of these practices and promoted his daimoku-chanting Lotus Sutra school above all others. Over the years there has been plenty of conflict between these schools (even *within* the schools) and with the older Shingon and Tendai schools, and it has led to a lot of rancor and sometimes even bloodshed.

Whereas in Chinese Buddhism, for instance, it is perfectly permissible to blend different practices, for instance, to combine Ch'an meditation with nembutsu (nianfo) recitation, and no one is up in arms about it.

But perhaps my understanding of Japanese Buddhism is just too simplistic. What do you think?

Gassho
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Re: Sectarianism in Buddhism

Postby desert_woodworker on Mon Dec 14, 2015 6:32 pm

Hi, again Tony.

These days, "China" probably means "Taiwan". Although maybe on the mainland the gov't suppression of religion may be less than before (I don't know).

In Japan, let's say, "different strokes". GOOD that there are various colors and flavors to attract people and offer them practice that suits their weird, or bent.

In USA, there are great fans of baseball, football, and hockey in the world of "sports". Some hockey fans are dedicated to hockey-doings only, and would not look at the presumed lesser-exciting, slow, game of baseball. I don't care to get worked-up about any spectator sports, and haven't since I was about 10 (and even then, not much; I was a pretty dedicated amateur naturalist and scientist from early on). People can be devoted and dogmatically-attached to favorite things: sports, religion, politics, etc.

Some intellectuals are divided over games like Chess, and the game of "Go". Different strokes, again.

I think everything's all OK, vis-a-vis the Japanese practice of religions. Anyway, I feel little or no effects of their practices and preferences, an ocean away.

Gee, I remember a book a long time ago on the proliferation of "New Religions" in Japan after the end of WWII. It is entitled, RUSH HOUR OF THE GODS, if I recall correctly. I think a lot of the new religions came and went. There are reasons, I must suppose, for the staying-power of certain lines of practice (or belief), as they continue to serve the needs of people, culture, and countries. Do they also serve other needs and purposes? Yes, certainly. Fundamentally Human needs. And Humans' relations with Humans, and with Nature.

Just a few thoughts. Musing, this morning.

--Joe
Last edited by desert_woodworker on Mon Dec 14, 2015 6:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Sectarianism in Buddhism

Postby Nonin on Mon Dec 14, 2015 6:33 pm

Tony,

I practiced Soto Zen Buddhism in Japanese and American monasteries. There is certainly an emphasis in Zen Buddhism on zazen as the core practice and on manifesting zazen in all activity, but we also did many devotional practices, such as chanting, bowing, ritual, and ceremony, in which we tried manifest to the spirit of zazen. We also did work practice and much study, both academic and otherwise, in the same way, so I would say that your view of Zen Buddhist practice both in Japan and elsewhere is inaccurate.

Of course, some practitioners in the various schools in Japan and elsewhere put down other schools and cause conflict because of egoistic issues, as do Christians, Muslims, and others throughout the world. I occasionally encountered such practitioners in Japan and also here in the United States, but I would not say that such views are rampant and certainly not widely held.

Hands palm-to-palm,

Nonin
Soto Zen Buddhist Priest. Transmitted Dharma Heir of Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
Abbot and Head Teacher, Nebraska Zen Center / Heartland Temple, Omaha, Nebraska, USA
http://www.prairiewindzen.org
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Re: Sectarianism in Buddhism

Postby Meido on Mon Dec 14, 2015 6:53 pm

Just to agree with Nonin. My experience with Japanese Zen teachers at least has not been sectarian at all, nor have I ever experienced a dogmatic clinging to particular methods.

Certainly each Buddhist school has a general "house style" including methods that it has refined to a high degree, and I do not say that strong sectarianism and negation of other traditions exist nowhere (some branches of the Nichiren-shu tree come to mind). But the variation in style between temples and teaching lines within a tradition can sometimes be surprising, not to mention the personal practice interests of individual teachers which get passed down; so best not to paint with broad brushes.

My experience specifically with Zen is that interest in any types of practices has been encouraged: one can, after all, approach any practice from a Zen standpoint...not to mention other activities and cultural arts that have come to complement Zen practice. One is only limited by one's interests.

One sometimes hears mention of the "single practice" emphasis of the Kamakura-era Japanese Buddhist schools, but as often used that description has seemed to me a rather lazy shorthand, without much relation to the reality on the ground which is rich, varied and nuanced. What does it mean to say that "zazen" is the main practice of Zen schools, for example, when that word itself is a general term for many different practices, none of which are understood by practitioners to be limited to the cushion or meditation hall?

In any case, since I assume all Buddhist schools have the intention of seamlessly encompassing the totality of life's activities within one's practice - that is, an effortless practice in which ideas of "practice" and "not practice" no longer make sense - it seems to me that Buddhist sectarianism where it does exist must ultimately dissolve in the realm of actual realization.

~ Meido
The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
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Re: Sectarianism in Buddhism

Postby TonyD on Mon Dec 14, 2015 7:48 pm

Thanks, this is encouraging to hear. Here's a novel idea: Maybe I should actually visit Japan to find out how Buddhism is really practiced there. :)

Gassho.
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Re: Sectarianism in Buddhism

Postby Meido on Mon Dec 14, 2015 7:53 pm

TonyD wrote:Thanks, this is encouraging to hear. Here's a novel idea: Maybe I should actually visit Japan to find out how Buddhism is really practiced there. :)


Nah, why waste time? Just find the teacher you want to learn from...doesn't matter what school, sect or nationality.

~ Meido
The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺]: http://www.korinji.org
Madison Rinzai Zen Community/Ryugen-ji [機山龍源寺]: http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community: http://www.rinzaizen.org
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Re: Sectarianism in Buddhism

Postby desert_woodworker on Mon Dec 14, 2015 8:05 pm

T.,

TonyD wrote:Maybe I should actually visit Japan to find out how Buddhism is really practiced there.

It might be all too overwhelming, and puzzling. You might need to extend your stay for years, to have a good sense of things, and people.

Just a reasonable guess.

If one is interested in practice, for oneself and all beings, no need to travel far, anymore. There are teachers and sanghas not far... .

WE have the Dharma, now (I like to say).

Thanks to pioneering teachers, and their Western successors.

Else, if your goal is to survey Japanese practice for academic or journalistic purposes, then more power to you, and your employer might even foot the travel bill and expense-account bills or per diem. I'd jump at the chance! But I'd still feel sure that my "stay", and "travels" would have to be YEARS long, and my immersion DEEP, at least for somewhat lengthy spells at one place, before going on to another place in turn, followed by another, and another; etc. Whew... . I'm tuckered-out already, even before putting shoe-leather to steam-boat.

Again... WE have the Dharma, now.

"Why travel to other dusty countries?" ;)

:Namaste:,

--Joe
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Re: Sectarianism in Buddhism

Postby Michaeljc on Tue Dec 15, 2015 7:15 am

"Why travel to other dusty countries?"


To better understand our home and fully realise why we did not need to leave :)
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Re: Sectarianism in Buddhism

Postby desert_woodworker on Tue Dec 15, 2015 2:06 pm

Michael,

Michaeljc wrote:
"Why travel to other dusty countries?"

To better understand our home and fully realise why we did not need to leave :)

It's an old Ch'an adage. Maybe a little dusty.

A future version of it is bound to be, "Why travel to other dusty planets?"

--Joe
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Re: Sectarianism in Buddhism

Postby cam101+ on Sat Nov 05, 2016 1:13 am

Organize anything and this is what happens. Dogmatic, fixed ideas. The path could not be simpler, but the task could not be more difficult. We must always remember that Buddha was not a Buddhist, and Christ was not a Christian.
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Re: Sectarianism in Buddhism

Postby desert_woodworker on Sat Nov 05, 2016 2:37 am

cam101+ wrote:We must always remember that Buddha was not a Buddhist, and Christ was not a Christian.

Forget it.

--Joe
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Re: Sectarianism in Buddhism

Postby Humbaba on Sat Nov 05, 2016 8:42 pm

TonyD wrote:I could be totally wrong about this, but is anyone else frustrated by the somewhat fragmented, rigid way in which Buddhism appears to be practiced by the major schools in Japan?

I can't speak for specific practices used by Japanese sects. But from a general experience of different walks of life, I find that there is a tendency among Japanese to form factions loyal to a teacher. That applies to professional life as well as academia, artistic circles, politics and most other fields. Loyalty to a teacher is important. Going against the advice of the teacher can lead to loss of status or even banishment from the group. It wouldn't be surprising if this also worked in Japanese sects.
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Re: Sectarianism in Buddhism

Postby Caodemarte on Sat Nov 05, 2016 9:16 pm

Perhaps those of us in Japanese based traditions or other traditions should take great care not to adopt this into our own practice.
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Re: Sectarianism in Buddhism

Postby Lunarious1987 on Sat Nov 05, 2016 10:15 pm

The Quran says: "your striking is in different paths" We should maintain individuality of our practises and not blend with the others, we can learn general information from others, but not forget who we are.

Peace
- Don't be thankful to be righteous. Be righteous to be thankful.
- Shia: "We are the friends/owners of proof, wherever it bends we bend."
- Imam Hussein was once asked: what is affluence? He said : Decreasing your wishes , and being satisfied with what is enough for you.”
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Re: Sectarianism in Buddhism

Postby desert_woodworker on Fri Nov 11, 2016 10:04 pm

c.,

cam101+ wrote:Organize anything and this is what happens. Dogmatic, fixed ideas

Disorganize everything, and see what other things happen. :lol2:

Zen Buddhism is radical. There is no fixed teaching. If you don't know this from study with a teacher already (and your post shows that this fact will strike you as "new"), then I can recommend that you see a Zen Buddhist teacher and stick around and practice regularly for at least a few years with that teacher and sangha. Rumor and hearsay are not experience of what's-actually-what.

Well, I say this in appreciation of Zen Buddhism and Zen Buddhism's traditions, not to belittle readers' evident inexperience. Or, :whatever: .

There's doctrine, of practice (awaken, to see one's true nature); and motivation (save all beings... ), in Zen Buddhism. But little dogma (if you know of examples of dogma in Z. Buddhism, please share examples).

Doctrine is not dogma. Caution! Religious words are words of profoundly sharp connotation. Use skillfully... . Or don't use them.

--Joe
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