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Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Discussion of Theravada Buddhism in the light of Zen.

Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Boatman Bodhisattva on Fri Jul 07, 2017 4:44 pm

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.
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby macdougdoug on Fri Jul 07, 2017 5:19 pm

Surprising! What makes you say that?
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Boatman Bodhisattva on Fri Jul 07, 2017 5:26 pm

macdougdoug wrote:Surprising! What makes you say that?


It's not very surprising. These observations are nothing new.
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby macdougdoug on Fri Jul 07, 2017 5:32 pm

I'm surprised. Will you at least tell me where you got the info.
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Boatman Bodhisattva on Fri Jul 07, 2017 5:49 pm

macdougdoug wrote:I'm surprised. Will you at least tell me where you got the info.


Here and there, throughout the years. Here is one example:
http://www.insightmeditationcenter.org/ ... raditions/
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Caodemarte on Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:25 pm

I have head this too, but I suspect it is said by people who happen to be more familiar with Zen and Theravada than with other sects. It is similar (same root, same family) but I can't say it is more similar than any other sect.
Last edited by Caodemarte on Fri Jul 07, 2017 8:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Meido on Fri Jul 07, 2017 8:01 pm

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.


Actually I have not heard of any Zen teachers that have taken Theravadin ordination. I don't doubt they exist, but I would not say that "many Zen teachers, at least in the West" have done so. If they had, they would be easy to spot since the vinaya they would observe includes the wearing of specific (non-Zen) dress.

As for Zen teachers who have trained under Theravadin teachers, sure, there may be many who have exposure to that tradition. For example, I practiced for a month with a group under Anagarika Munindra in India. Though I would never describe something so short as "having trained in Theravadin Buddhism," or sufficient for me to call him "my teacher."

My personal observation is that Zen has more affinity in teaching and practice with Mahamudra and Dzogchen than with Theravada.

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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Dan74 on Fri Jul 07, 2017 8:13 pm

People sometimes cite Ajahn Chah of the Thai Forest tradition, as sounding quite Zen. He was actually a fan of Huineng and gave talks on the Platform Sutra, which in translation from Thai, is one source of this perception. But there's more than familiarity with Huineng, I think. Forest Ajahns who are deep meditators do sometimes point to the core and sound quite "zennie", IMO. But the actual living tradition is quite different.

_/|\_
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Caodemarte on Fri Jul 07, 2017 8:18 pm

Historically I would think Zen would be closest to Pure Land. These seemingly directly opposed practices meet like one person flying west and one east on this globe of a planet (as D.T. Suzuki said if you rely completely on self or other power you learn that there is no self or other).
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Meido on Fri Jul 07, 2017 8:48 pm

Caodemarte wrote:Historically I would think Zen would be closest to Pure Land. These seemingly directly opposed practices meet like one person flying west and one east on this globe of a planet (as D.T. Suzuki said if you rely completely on self or other power you learn that there is no self or other).


Historically, certainly this association is deep in Chan as it developed in China.

Though I don't personally practice in that way, I've come to appreciate the approach and why Suzuki said some of what he did. The kind of confidence or radical faith that confirms both paths is, I now think, not different at all (and this confirmation, also, bridges any illusory divides between Zen schools and methods).
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Jok_Hae on Fri Jul 07, 2017 8:52 pm

Dan74 wrote:People sometimes cite Ajahn Chah of the Thai Forest tradition, as sounding quite Zen. He was actually a fan of Huineng and gave talks on the Platform Sutra, which in translation from Thai, is one source of this perception. But there's more than familiarity with Huineng, I think. Forest Ajahns who are deep meditators do sometimes point to the core and sound quite "zennie", IMO. But the actual living tradition is quite different.

_/|\_


Ajahn Buddhadasa could sound quite "Zen-like", as well.

My own view is that some folks are inclined to look for differences and some look for commonalities. I fall pretty squarely in the latter category, but both approaches have strengths and pitfalls, I suppose.

_/|\_

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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby TigerDuck on Sat Jul 08, 2017 12:45 am

From outside, I actually also observe similarity between Theravada and zen.

If we go to both Temples, they are very simple as compared to if we go to vajrayana Temples with so many bodhisattvas statues.

For a new comer, I sometimes think if I bring him/her to Theravada or zen temple, may be this is better to avoid misperceptions.

In terms of realisation, I was told they have limitation in realising emptiness of phenomena. One implication is mountain is seen as mountain, rock as rock. They also can't understand everything is pure. If we go to Thailand, we need to be very careful with the way we sit, we can't put our feet facing Buddha. This is impolite, and this is a sign they can't see emptiness of phenomena, where everything by default has no description.

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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Boatman Bodhisattva on Sat Jul 08, 2017 2:20 am

Meido wrote:My personal observation is that Zen has more affinity in teaching and practice with Mahamudra and Dzogchen than with Theravada.


Is there a particular Mahayana school or sect that you would say is most similar to Theravada?
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Boatman Bodhisattva on Sat Jul 08, 2017 2:31 am

I can think of some similarities between Zen and Theravada off the top of my head.

Both traditions, for most of history, have been centered on the monastic life, at least for those doing the intensive practice.

Both traditions are meditation-centered, and rely on one's own efforts, rather than petitioning an external Buddha, to attain enlightenment.

Both strongly emphasize seeing and experiencing things as they are, in the present moment.

Both Zen practitioners and Theravada practitioners often claim their teaching or practice is, compared to other sects and schools, especially authentic to what the historical Buddha or early Buddhism originally taught.

It also seems that Zen, perhaps coincidentally, places less emphasis on the aspects of Mahayana Buddhism that aren't accepted by Theravada.

I can think of more similarities later.
I mean no disrespect to forum members on my ignore list. Gassho. __/\__

"Reciting the name of the Buddha constantly... His own body is the limitless body of Amida, the treasure trees of seven precious gems, the pond of the eight virtues." - Hakuin Ekaku

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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Boatman Bodhisattva on Sat Jul 08, 2017 9:25 am

One of the biggest similarities between Theravada & Zen is they both tend to prefer practical application of the Buddha's teachings instead of metaphysical speculation.
I mean no disrespect to forum members on my ignore list. Gassho. __/\__

"Reciting the name of the Buddha constantly... His own body is the limitless body of Amida, the treasure trees of seven precious gems, the pond of the eight virtues." - Hakuin Ekaku

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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Nothing on Sat Jul 08, 2017 10:31 am

TigerDuck wrote:In terms of realisation, I was told they have limitation in realising emptiness of phenomena. One implication is mountain is seen as mountain, rock as rock. They also can't understand everything is pure. If we go to Thailand, we need to be very careful with the way we sit, we can't put our feet facing Buddha. This is impolite, and this is a sign they can't see emptiness of phenomena, where everything by default has no description.


Yes, I agree, that is my understanding too when it comes to their understanding or realization of emptiness. While they realize emptiness of no self, they lack the realization of emptiness of phenomena, so they still see the conditioned world as the world of samsara or suffering, so they try to overcome it by entering nirvana and for zen folks samsara is not other than nirvana.

Of course that is the general sentiment when comparing zen or mahayana and theravada school, but I am sure there are/were theravada masters who are/were fully emancipated.


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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby desert_woodworker on Sat Jul 08, 2017 7:04 pm

BB,

Theravada is intent on promulgating the perfection of states of meditation (see the Visudhimagga manual, of Buddhaghosa).

Mahayana (e.g., Ch'an-, Zen-, Soen-, Thien-Buddhism) is intent on promulgating the perfection of Wisdom (see the Prajnaparamita literature).

Then, decide: are these different? Read, study, them, first. And if you have a chance, PRACTICE, in a school representative of each, for at least half a decade in each, say, or so. Rgds,

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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Boatman Bodhisattva on Sun Jul 09, 2017 2:25 am

desert_woodworker wrote:BB,

Theravada is intent on promulgating the perfection of states of meditation (see the Visudhimagga manual, of Buddhaghosa).

Mahayana (e.g., Ch'an-, Zen-, Soen-, Thien-Buddhism) is intent on promulgating the perfection of Wisdom (see the Prajnaparamita literature).

Then, decide: are these different? Read, study, them, first. And if you have a chance, PRACTICE, in a school representative of each, for at least half a decade in each, say, or so. Rgds,

--Joe


That's a little simplistic, as if a main goal of Theravada isn't the cultivation of wisdom.
I mean no disrespect to forum members on my ignore list. Gassho. __/\__

"Reciting the name of the Buddha constantly... His own body is the limitless body of Amida, the treasure trees of seven precious gems, the pond of the eight virtues." - Hakuin Ekaku

https://matthewsatori.tumblr.com/
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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby jundo on Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:59 am

Each precisely the same, yet sometimes very very different: often quite different, yet always just the same.

Gassho, J

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Re: Zen & Theravada: Not So Different?

Postby Caodemarte on Sun Jul 09, 2017 2:18 pm

In terms of practice, perhaps what is most important is how one practices, how sincere one is, how motivated one is, rather than what one practices.
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