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Thai forest

Discussion of Theravada Buddhism in the light of Zen.

Thai forest

Postby Greggorious on Mon Feb 04, 2013 12:31 am

Is the Thai forest tradition in Theravada pretty much equivalent to Zen in Mahayana? I ask because according to certain sources the tradition prefers meditation over studying scriptures to obtain the truth (Dharma). I've also come across some teachings by Ajahn Chah who can sometimes come across a bit Zen, and Ajahn Buddhadasa even more so. I was quite shocked that Ajahn Buddhadasa rejected re-birth, as I presumed that re-birth is pretty much a fact in Theravada.
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Re: Thai forest

Postby Carol on Mon Feb 04, 2013 4:54 am

It would be necessary to ask someone who has practiced in both traditions, I think, to parse out the differences.

Formal Zen practice, though, I believe is different from the Thai forest practice ... in that Zen practice requires a teacher/student relationship. I don't think the Thai forest practice does .. and it's not a a "lay" practice, but a practice for monks.

There are also differences between Mahayana Buddhism and Theravadan Buddhism, particularly in the understanding of emptiness, Buddha nature, and nirvana/samsara, and the bodhisattva path.
Practitioners who cultivate the personal realization of buddha knowledge dwell in the bliss of whatever is present and do not abandon their practice.
~Lankavatara Sutra
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Re: Thai forest

Postby Anders on Thu Feb 07, 2013 10:23 am

I wrote this elsewhere a little while ago in response to a question about Vipassana and Silent Illumination. Maybe it will help a little:

It depends a lot on what you mean by 'vipassana'. A lot of Theravada teachers and branches have very different ideas of what that is. I think for most uses of 'vipassana' it represent a fairly different technique from Silent Illumination.

Vipassana tends to be analytical and Silent Illumination eschews analytical meditation as being too conceptual. When it's not quite analytical and focuses more on recognising the three marks of existence for insight, this is still conceptual from a Zen pov, because it employs signs and has an object of meditation.

There are some forms of Vipassana, such as taught in the Thai forest tradition, that are fairly similar to Silent Illumination. When I stayed at Wat Pah Nanachat, they told me that sometimes they would simply hand beginners with little previous experience with meditation a copy of "Zen mind, beginners Mind." It was more or less what they were doing, but it's not written in the terse and formulaic language as the pali suttas, which required a bit of work to get into.

But even so, though the method is similar in many ways, I think the embedded context is fairly different. What I mean by that is that in Theravada, you practise for cessation. This non-doing, awareness is meant to liberate you from affliction and eventually cease them, culminating in full enlightenment. In Silent Illumination, affliction and bodhi are considered non-dual and the focus is really more on enacting and integrating this nondual enlightenment than to liberate affliction. Hence in Zen, 'one enlightened thought makes you a Buddha, one deluded thought the equal of a sentient being'. But in equipoise there are no distinctions of affliction and enlightenment made, nor is it done with a view to attain something since that equipoise is itself manifesting buddhahood (ie, the old adage 'you are already there'). Of course there is some background expectation that one's afflictions will be liberated through this process (we practise, after all, to be free), but it's not emphasised to the extent that it is allowed to get in the way of the nondual view. The context is not quite the same and these differences in view make some difference to the method as well, imo.

That is more or less how I see it anyway. Others will no doubt offer other opinions. I hope this goes some way towards answering your question at least.
"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"
--- Gandavyuha Sutra
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Re: Thai forest

Postby MattJ on Thu Feb 07, 2013 1:32 pm

While commonly assumed, this is a false notion. There are bodhisattas in Theravada who postpone their enlightenment in order to cultivate the paramis to the point where they are reborn as Buddhas. However, it tends to be rare.

Kim wrote:There are no bodhisattvas in theravada.
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Re: Thai forest

Postby Kojip on Thu Feb 07, 2013 2:19 pm

I entered Buddhism through the Forest Sangha tradition. Our community was mentored by Ajahn Viradhammo, and in the broader sense by his teacher Ajahn Sumedho. I then practiced in both Forest Sangha and Zen for a few years, before gradually moving into a focused Zen practice. To be honest Sumedho is the most moving and influential person I have ever had the privilege to meet and practice with. He ruffles feathers among the orthodox by speaking of "Buddha Nature" , but is no rebel.

There are differences in the traditions of course ... mainly in Sangha culture, and in the laity's attitude toward practice in relation to the ordained Sangha. Lay people can sometimes really sell themselves short, seeing a legitimacy in the monastics that is not possible in their own lives. That is not the attitude of most monks and nuns, but it seems built into the economy of the tradition.

There is also the Mahayana / Hinayana issue.. which points up ignorance all around about the "other". I struggled with it, settled it, and wouldn't touch it now with a ten foot pole. :)


_/\_
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Re: Thai forest

Postby Kim on Thu Feb 07, 2013 3:47 pm

MattJ wrote:While commonly assumed, this is a false notion. There are bodhisattas in Theravada who postpone their enlightenment in order to cultivate the paramis to the point where they are reborn as Buddhas. However, it tends to be rare.

Kim wrote:There are no bodhisattvas in theravada.


My previous message which was removed by the moderator was meant as a joke.
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Re: Thai forest

Postby Samsaric Spiral on Tue Mar 05, 2013 4:30 pm

I'm thinking about leaving Zen for Theravadan. I've been reading up on Thai Forest, and it seems to be more in line with the Dhamma.
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Re: Thai forest

Postby Mojo Jojo on Tue Mar 05, 2013 7:13 pm

Samsaric Spiral wrote:I'm thinking about leaving Zen for Theravadan. I've been reading up on Thai Forest, and it seems to be more in line with the Dhamma.


Well, my guess is that it is more in line with the historical Buddha's teaching but I personally think that the Dharma is is bigger than the historical Buddha. This isn't to say that one is better than the other. I'm of the different means for different temperaments camp.
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