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Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Discussion of Theravada Buddhism in the light of Zen.

Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby desert_woodworker on Thu Jul 27, 2017 2:59 pm

BB,

Boatman Bodhisattva wrote:It seems that Zen is more similar to Theravada Buddhism, in teaching and practice, than any other Mahayana school or sect. Many Zen teachers, at least in the West, are also ordained or trained in Theravada Buddhism.

Let's have a look at what Dogen's teacher taught stringently to Dogen in China about this very question.

Dogen's teacher in China, Ju-ching, emphasized the element of true ("great-") Compassion, as exercised in the Mahayana (and hence in Ch'an Buddhism, of which he was an exponent, representative, and Master-teacher, the "Authentic Teacher" that Dogen had sought all his life).

This teaching by Ju-ching is given as article 36 (of 50 articles), in Dogen's record of his days in China, in the document known as the Hokyo-ki, by Dogen. I'll transcribe the article below, as translated in T. J. Kodera's, DOGEN'S FORMATIVE YEARS IN CHINA -- AN HISTORICAL STUDY AND ANNOTATED TRANSLATION OF THE HOKYO-KI (1980).

    "36. Ju-ching taught one day: 'Although the sitting in meditation of arhats and pratyekabuddhas transcends attachment, it lacks great compassion. Therefore it is not identical with the sitting in meditation of the buddhas and patriarchs, who consider great compassion first, whereby they save all sentient beings. The Hindu heretics also practice sitting in meditation. The heretics, however, always retain the three evils, namely attachment, perverse views and arrogance. Therefore their sitting in meditation is eternally different from that of the buddhas and patriarchs. Among the sravakas, there is also [a practice of] sitting in meditation. However, sravakas rarely possess compassion. Their self-profiting wisdom does not necessarily allow them to penetrate the true characteristic mark of all existing phenomena: they only improve themselves in such a way that all seeds for buddhahood are crushed. Therefore their sitting in meditation is eternally different from that of the buddhas and patriarchs'.

    'In their sitting in meditation, the buddhas and patriarchs wish to gather the entire Buddha Dharma from the first developing of the mind for enlightenment [bodhicitta]. Thus, sentient beings are neither forgotten nor abandoned Their compassionate consideration is always extended even to insects; they transfer their every merit to the salvation of all [sentient beings], determined to save them all. For this reason, the buddhas and patriarchs always sit in meditation to pursue the Way in the realm of desire. Regarding Jambudvipa as the only region in the realm of desire, they cultivate all merits and attain a meekness of mind [in order to save all sentient beings]'.

    Dogen asked: 'What is this attainment of meekness of mind?'

    Ju-ching replied: 'The will of the buddhas and patriarchs to drop the body and mind is meekness of mind. This is the Seal put upon the mind of the buddhas and patriarchs.'

    'Dogen made obeisance six times [profound bows; prostrations].'
_________________________________________

Thus, it would seem that the exercise of the element of true Compassion for saving all beings is the distinguishing element between, say, Theravada (or Hinayana, generally) and Mahayana, according to Dogen's teacher Ju-ching.

And we already know that the bodhisattva, as a practitioner-ideal-type, is a Mahayana invention (innovation), not a Theravada one.

--Joe
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Caodemarte on Thu Jul 27, 2017 5:38 pm

Just a gentle reminder from a cranky guy that Hinayana is a word used for an attitude. It was applied to roughly 18 up to 21 sects (depending on what list you read) by Indian partisans. Theravada was not, as far as I have been able to determine, in existence as a distinct sect at the time and is not one of them. Confusing Theravada and Hinyana was an early scholarly Western mistake we don't need to keep ancient sectarian splits, especially from extinct sects, going. If you want to decree or speculate that Theravada should be called a Hinayana sect, be my guest.

I don't know where this claim of "many" Zen teachers ordaining in the Theravada and ordaining in the Zen sect comes from. I know of a few Zen and Theravada trained people, but I also know of actually ordained Catholic priests who are recognized Zen teachers. I would never say "many" in either case.
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby fukasetsu on Thu Jul 27, 2017 5:57 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:Thus, it would seem that the exercise of the element of true Compassion for saving all beings is the distinguishing element between, say, Theravada (or Hinayana, generally) and Mahayana, according to Dogen's teacher Ju-ching.

And we already know that the bodhisattva, as a practitioner-ideal-type, is a Mahayana invention (innovation), not a Theravada one.

--Joe


Joe, here's a video which is about certain differences between certain vehicles, my cats are in it too.
parental advisory; it includes the word illusion

https://vimeo.com/227285024
Differences are never in opposition.
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby desert_woodworker on Fri Jul 28, 2017 1:54 am

Fuki,

fukasetsu wrote:Joe, here's a video which is about certain differences between certain vehicles, my cats are in it too.

Loverly! ;)

Great to see the Nalanda University crew haggling, and making-nice.

This is just the sort of thing that is anathema to Ch'an, or in Ch'an. Well, Ch'an (Zen) is/are not the "teaching"-school(s). They are (it is... ) the Meditation school.

But the Nalanda University in India was the great place for textual studies of the scriptures and commentaries. I'm glad that there is "another way" entirely. We can practice in order to have Shakyamuni's experience under the tree. Then, we might as well have written all the "scriptures" ourselves. Do you understand? :lol2: ;)

Note that the monk who the long-bearded teacher in the video revered or credited most was a Chinese-surnamed fellow. Maybe had a Ch'an background? Like my root-teacher?

Kiss the cats,

--Joe

p.s. "sexy" curved TV screen. First one I've seen.
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby fukasetsu on Fri Jul 28, 2017 7:06 pm

"anathema to Ch'an" :lol2: :lol2: :lol2:
That hurt my jaw Sir, I understand and cats kissed.

I'd say you're a fine ambassador for Ch'an Joe, you remind me of Xu Yun.
Experience Chan! It can't be described.
When you describe it you miss the point.
When you discover that your proofs are without substance
You'll realize that words are nothing but dust.


Everyone who visits my home says something similair about the tv, I always forget it's curved, I only noticed the effect the first 3 days or so,
I picked it up on a black friday on the black market (black market not as in illegal, it's just called black I don't know why)
I'd trade it for a bowl of cat food.
Differences are never in opposition.
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby desert_woodworker on Fri Jul 28, 2017 8:04 pm

Fuki,

fukasetsu wrote:I'd say you're a fine ambassador for Ch'an Joe, you remind me of Xu Yun.

He lived a good long life! To age 120. He almost died at sea, once, though. He was fished out of the ocean nearly lifeless.

Ch'an Master Xu Yun is in fact my Dharma Grandfather. He was a teacher of one of my teacher Sheng Yen's teachers. (Guo Gu probably knows a lot more about this).

Ch'an Master Xu Yun wrote:You'll realize that words are nothing but dust.

Yes! Makes me thirsty... .

--Joe
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby desert_woodworker on Fri Jul 28, 2017 8:10 pm

fukasetsu wrote:(black market not as in illegal, it's just called black I don't know why)

Boy, this is off-topic, but hereabouts (USA), that lower-price market is called "The Grey Market". No so black as "Black"! It just sounds a little better, maybe.

In New York City, I used to buy some of my Nikon camera lenses on "the Grey Market", downtown, and saved pretty-big (1970s-80s) bucks.

To be a little on topic, I'd say that "Zen" and Theravada are pretty different. For the reasons given earlier. ;)

--Joe
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby fukasetsu on Fri Jul 28, 2017 8:35 pm

Wonderful Joe!
:Namaste:

If it's in the stars that I ever become part of the lineage I wouldn't mind fuelling this engine for another 80 years.

Trust me black market sounds better in Dutch (zwart) off-topic as it may be, they sell everything under the sun, there are even Buddhist and Muslim sections. And yes I'd say they're as different as cats and dogs, Theosophy is different from Ch'an Buddhism too, Satanism too, Advaita Vendanta too, Theravada too, I don't see the value of looking for similarities or differences, once you meet a path which is right for you, you stick with it. All this comparising only weaves fantasies of interpretation onto perception as I see it.

It's perhaps a nice hobby for Darwinists and philosophists, but practise wise I don't see it having any useful function.
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby desert_woodworker on Fri Jul 28, 2017 9:26 pm

Well, definitely, there is fellow-feeling between Zen Buddhists and Theravadins. And the warm handshake, as the Dalai Lama reminds us, is how the Dharma spreads from one person to another. A hug could do, too.

I agree that comparisons are not useful to a practitioner who has found a path. But sometimes it's nice to know "How the Other Half Lives".

I used to like to say, "If comparisons are odious, then how much more so are contrasts".

--Joe

how_other_half_Riis.jpg
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby fukasetsu on Fri Jul 28, 2017 9:34 pm

Joe, sure it is.

Only on online forums, blogs etc you will find such topics created by people to manifest some deep emotional churning conflict.
In that way, I have zero interest in the ramblings of comparing Zen-Theravada or whichever.

Thanks for the book reference, looks interesting.
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Boatman Bodhisattva on Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:12 pm

Reading the Nikayas/Agamas helps me to be a better Mahayana Buddhist, since they are foundational to both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism.

It's because of reading the Pali scriptures that I take seriously things like karma, rebirth, and following precepts.

The Buddha's instructions for lay people in the Pali canon are a major part of my practice as a Mahayana Buddhist.
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby desert_woodworker on Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:21 pm

BB,

The pointers in those scriptures and commentaries do not fall from Heaven, nor can they be derived from any ensemble of first-principles or axioms.

They are discovered in the awakened mind, informed by true Wisdom. It's said that the Buddha Shakyamuni discovered them upon awakening.

I'd say one is not yet "a Buddhist" until awakening. Until then, one is a Buddhist Adherent. After awakening, one is a natural or original human being, with no taint of a "Buddhism".

Being a "good" Buddhist, a "better" Buddhist, or "etc." Buddhist is being something still artificial. I would not brag about it.

;)

Of course, we use the tools available in order to practice: Buddha (Teacher); Dharma; Sangha.

--Joe
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby fukasetsu on Tue Aug 08, 2017 9:18 am

desert_woodworker wrote:Being a "good" Buddhist, a "better" Buddhist, or "etc." Buddhist is being something still artificial. I would not brag about it.


Joe,

I know what you mean.
But now may it not sound to some ears that all scripture reading is considered make-up and cannot be medicine or make up remover at all?
When I think artificial I think for instance Kardasian and the millions of American kids trying to "be like her"

But what is true beauty? It's definitely not wearing make up or altering any form, it's nothing from the opposite world.
True beauty comes from "not moving" right? (Samadhi) So then we might as well say,
that everything "from the moving mind" is artificial :lol2:
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby desert_woodworker on Tue Aug 08, 2017 4:23 pm

g' morning, Marcel,

fukasetsu wrote:True beauty comes from "not moving" right? (Samadhi) So then we might as well say,
that everything "from the moving mind" is artificial :lol2:

Samadhi may first be developed that way, sitting, not moving.

But, ...that is only a start. An important one! It immediately changes, and must change. Read on!:

Zen Buddhist training is very wise, as a developed-tradition of forms ("perfected"-tradition of forms, in quotation-marks). It includes other practices than sitting. When practicing with teacher and sangha, we usually have kinhin after a sit. We get up and walk slowly clockwise about the perimeter of the hall, following the time-keeper in single-file. This is "bringing one's samadhi up off the cushions". It is practice in making samadhi resilient, and not fragile nor ephemeral. Then, we sit again. Etc.

There are other practices, too, besides kinhin and zazen, which may be performed and practiced in a samadhi-state, to make it further resilient, and not "scared-away" by movement and activity and interaction. All the practices here may be carried-out that way: pls. see this familiar ZFI thread for their names:

http://zenforuminternational.org/viewtopic.php?f=64&t=11265

In the Mahayana, samadhi-states are not just for their own refinement and perfection: true Compassion and true Wisdom are the consummations, instead, after coming to see one's true nature (awakening). Daily-life -- life of activity and work and saving beings -- is the sphere that Mahayana people work in. Samadhi allows their life to be the most skillful. In the Mahayana, the life of a practitioner is not just for the enjoyment of Nirvanic states, or a Nirvanic condition: it is for daily-life as an engaged bodhisattva. Maybe even married, and not just engaged... . ;)

When you practice with a group, you'll see the wisdom of the Zen Buddhist methods, "taking samadhi up off the cushions".

best,

--Joe
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby fukasetsu on Tue Aug 08, 2017 4:32 pm

Thanks and goodmorning, Joe. :)

I was referring to Samadhi off the cushion, how else would we see the beauty in everything-ness and the colours of the world,
how else would we be fearless in the face of anything?

Though of the cushion never more for 20 minutes I estimate, much practise left (which never ends)

Thank for the description very "educative"

:Namaste:
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby desert_woodworker on Tue Aug 08, 2017 6:43 pm

Fuki,

fukasetsu wrote:Thank for the description very "educative"

That will be one (U. S.) dollar, please. :heya:

--Joe
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Anders on Wed Aug 09, 2017 8:40 am

:)

Having spent a little bit of time in both Theravada and Chan places, I feel like I can comment a bit on this.

I know that at Wat Pah Nanachat, they have been known to hand out "Zen mind, beginners mind" to westerners new to vipassana as it "is basically what we do here, but in more plain language than the suttas, which can be too stuffy for beginners." The same was basically said to me at Chithurst monastery when luangpor Sumedho was running the place.

I also recall the late Ajahn Pannavado, whom we all strongly suspected of making judicious use of various siddhis to guide people. One late evening, a monk-to-be and I had had a discussion about the question of "who" and how it impacted his mind. I had suggested to him that this was much like hua-tou practise and the great doubt and maybe he wanted to look up Hsu Yun as a clear exposition on the topic. The next day at tea where we were both seated, Ajahn Pannavado was talking about different ordination lineages. And then spontaneously suggested that if one were interested in the practises of mahayana lineages, he had read the Chan teachings of Hsu Yun, found them very clear and that as far as he was concerned, following these could lead one to awakening. The monk-to-be later told me that this kind of 'coincidental' mentions of stuff especially relevant to the listener happened all the time with Ajahn Panna.

That said, there are certainly differences. I once went straight from a large chinese monastery after a 5-day Chan retreat there to a forest monastery in thailand for a week and was struck by how.... non-communal the practise is in contrast. It's not that it's not communal in thai wats, but in the Chinese style you do almost everything together. The thai wats are less grandmotherly kind - they stick you in your own hut in the woods and expect you to sort yourself out. Sink or swim. Ask questions at teatime.

The range of practices available is also a fair bit different. How you relate to these is a significant factor, imo. And for me, strictly personally, the presence of the bodhisattva vows as an integrated part of the path, is a significant difference. And, purely speculatively, one I also suspect accounts for some of the differences in flavor between communities.

The greatest point of similarity I found was amongst those in each tradition who showed signs of real attainment - The same relaxed energy that was almost tangible in its expression and ready to be used dynamically for whatever was at hand, often joyfully. And when they talked about the nature of the mind and the path from their own perspectives, it often came out remarkably similar across traditions. I don't have enough firsthand knowledge of Japanese Zen style to feel comfortable commenting on it in regard to the other parts, but this part for me also holds true in that tradition.

We can compare philosophically and all, but I think the proof is in the pudding. The style of practise, the choice of methods, the sense of affinity - These are very tangible and personally intimate differences that I feel a practitioner should be aware of and attentive to if choosing between, or mingling, these two practise streams. This is true not just between various traditions but from teacher to teacher.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Caodemarte on Wed Aug 09, 2017 1:54 pm

Anders wrote::)
Having spent a little bit of time in both Theravada and Chan places, I feel like I can comment a bit on this...


Wonderful post, Anders!
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby desert_woodworker on Wed Aug 09, 2017 2:20 pm

Anders wrote:The greatest point of similarity I found was amongst those in each tradition who showed signs of real attainment - The same relaxed energy that was almost tangible in its expression and ready to be used dynamically for whatever was at hand, often joyfully. And when they talked about the nature of the mind and the path from their own perspectives, it often came out remarkably similar across traditions.

Thanks, Anders. This is what I mean in saying that as one awakens (and afterwards), one is "no longer sectarian". Surely, one stays with the practice-forms one has learned, but overall one is then a basic, original Human being, with, as I say (and this may raise some eyebrows), "no taint of Buddhism".

When the patient is well, the patient is, ...well, Well.

Thank heaven for all the flavors and colors available to suit our various weirds when we're "not well", and to keep us well when we are.

And thank the compassionate geniuses who developed them, and those who perfected them and kept them alive in caring-communities over the centuries so that we might inherit them ...give them life, ...and give them a push to the next generation.

:Namaste:

--Joe
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Nothing on Thu Aug 10, 2017 12:24 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:Thanks, Anders. This is what I mean in saying that as one awakens (and afterwards), one is "no longer sectarian". Surely, one stays with the practice-forms one has learned, but overall one is then a basic, original Human being, with, as I say (and this may raise some eyebrows), "no taint of Buddhism".

When the patient is well, the patient is, ...well, Well.

Thank heaven for all the flavors and colors available to suit our various weirds when we're "not well", and to keep us well when we are.

And thank the compassionate geniuses who developed them, and those who perfected them and kept them alive in caring-communities over the centuries so that we might inherit them ...give them life, ...and give them a push to the next generation.

:Namaste:

--Joe


Beautifully said Joe :Namaste:
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