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What is Zen?

A place to share and discuss the practice of Zen Buddhism without teachers. Debates about whether practicing without teachers is possible or desirable are not appropriate here, nor are criticisms of Zen Buddhist practice with teachers.
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A place to share and discuss the practice of Zen Buddhism without teachers. Debates about whether practising without teachers is possible or desirable are not appropriate here, nor are criticisms of Zen Buddhist practice with teachers.

What is Zen?

Postby ocean on Fri Jan 23, 2015 9:58 pm

I wonder...

What is Zen?

Can it be practiced?

Can it be taught?

How can you even talk about it?
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby organizational on Fri Jan 23, 2015 10:19 pm

We can only wonder what is Zen, that is Zen!
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby Chrisd on Fri Jan 23, 2015 10:20 pm

I wonder about it all too.

What do you think? :heya:
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby ocean on Fri Jan 23, 2015 11:27 pm

I think when I start thinking about it I might geht in trouble -
and then it will be gone...

But who will get in trouble?
And where can it go?

Ha! This is so ridiculous!

I better just go on laughing :heya:
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby Linda Anderson on Fri Jan 23, 2015 11:34 pm

I'm laughing with you :heya:
Not last night,
not this morning;
Melon flowers bloomed.
~ Bassho
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby Chrisd on Sat Jan 24, 2015 12:24 am

Me too! :lol2:
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby Ted Biringer on Sat Jan 24, 2015 4:42 am

Great question!

It would be difficult to understand why or how someone could practice something without knowing what it actually is - especially when it comes to resolving the great matter of life and death, a task the Zen masters tell us demands wholehearted effort and sincere aspiration.

Here is the best short answer I know of; the guy that said it is supposed to be someone with a good handle on the situation:

Seeing your nature is Zen. Unless you see your nature, it’s not Zen.
–Bodhidharma
, The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma, Red Pine

Please treasure yourself.

Ted
Do not misunderstand Buddhism by believing the erroneous principle ‘a special tradition outside the scriptures.’ Zen Master Dogen, Shobogenzo, Bukkyo (trans. Hee-Jin Kim)
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby ocean on Sat Jan 24, 2015 2:19 pm

In my eyes...

Yes, Bodhidharma is right!
Although his statement seems to be a little dualistic.
This is Zen and that is not?
Ok, but language is dual.

Bodhidharma also said: “Not thinking about anything is Zen.
Once you know this, walking, sitting, or lying down,
everything you do is Zen.”

So you could also say - only Zen is.
Becoming aware of it,
even Zen disappears.
It is the same.

So is Zen a way, or is it the goal?
Is it maybe both merged into one?
Is it nothing at all?

It could be a means to attain god.

It can not be practiced.
It can not be taught.
Yet still...

Certainly it can be experienced.

Zen is the impossible
becoming true.
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby Gregory Wonderwheel on Sat Jan 24, 2015 6:00 pm

ocean wrote:I wonder...

What is Zen?

Can it be practiced?

Can it be taught?

How can you even talk about it?



Who/what is wondering?

_/|\_
Gregory
Why you do not understand is because the three carts were provisional for former times, and because the One Vehicle is true for the present time. ~ Zen Master 6th Ancestor Huineng
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby ocean on Sat Jan 24, 2015 7:28 pm

Oh can't you see?
It's just me!

You think this cannot be true?
Well maybe I am you...

:PP:
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby chankin1937 on Tue May 19, 2015 1:42 pm

Hello all.
I once read a definition of Zen the gist of which is:
Zen is the search for enlightenment outside the scriptures.
It gives clues to attaining the goal its aspirants seek.
Some teachers are extremely cryptic.
When Joshu was asked a question relating to Zen he rambled on about a many coloured coat he had once owned.
He gave the perfect answer. The enquiry raised no response in his mind. Any other expert in a specialisation would have thought about the question and produced a reasoned answer.The question raised no such response in Joshu's mind. He was deaf to it, in the best Zen tradition. That is the clue he gave. We must be deaf to all that goes on around us. We must be alert and simply aware of the condition of a mind in which thinking has been temporarily suspended.
The instruction of every Zen Master comes down to this. There are no scriptures to memorise; no convoluted practices to involve ourselves in; no foreign language definitions to learn. Just become aware of what the quiet mind feels like.
The feeling we seek to enhance is happiness - the common human goal. Zen gives us a way to do that.
CH
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby desert_woodworker on Tue May 19, 2015 3:33 pm

'morning, Colin,

There is no "zen", really. There is Nature, and Human Nature, which also are not two.

It was Dogen who wrote that Zen is a special transmission of mind, independent of the scriptures, not dependent on words and letters. In this way, "zen" is a means of uncovering the true mind and true nature, by awakening as Shakyamuni did. Thus, Zen is a channel or stream, the following of which, with proper guides and companions, is capable of universalizing Shakyamuni Buddha's experience, and awakening. Buddha said he is "Awake". So can we, given correct practice, and the presence of cooperating causes and conditions.

Joshu had a robe that weighed three chin (three pounds). He did not have a robe of many colors (and would not have had, as a left-home monastic). It was Joseph, in another tradition, who had a many-colored coat.

(it seems that when you tried to reel-out the road-kill, it came out with snags and snarls)

By the way, ...was the "Zen" that Dogen (1200 - 1253) referred to in the 13th Century the same as "Zen Buddhism", when he referred to it? Or, is (or was) Zen different from Zen Buddhism? That's a question that this thread could properly address, for clarity.

And, BTW... nothing "cryptic" in Zen Teachers' utterances. And, no "rambling". Those adjectives are added by commentators who are in the dark, without one eye yet open to Wisdom. That very darkness is what correct practice addresses.

:Namaste:,

--Joe

chankin1937 wrote:I once read a definition of Zen the gist of which is:
Zen is the search for enlightenment outside the scriptures.
<snip>
Some teachers are extremely cryptic.
When Joshu was asked a question relating to Zen he rambled on about a many coloured coat he had once owned.
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby Meido on Tue May 19, 2015 4:24 pm

chankin1937 wrote:Zen is the search for enlightenment outside the scriptures.
It gives clues to attaining the goal its aspirants seek.
Some teachers are extremely cryptic.


Your "outside the scriptures" is no different than someone insisting "inside the scriptures". You miss the point of that statement.

Zen's entrance gate is pointed out very directly and clearly, and the prior/subsequent path is laid out plainly.

The sayings of the great teachers may seem cryptic. The lack is in oneself.

chankin1937 wrote:When Joshu was asked a question relating to Zen he rambled on about a many coloured coat he had once owned. He gave the perfect answer. The enquiry raised no response in his mind. Any other expert in a specialisation would have thought about the question and produced a reasoned answer.The question raised no such response in Joshu's mind. He was deaf to it, in the best Zen tradition.


Joshu's answer was not rambling in the least. But I do not think you have grasped Joshu's mind or its functioning at all here.

chankin1937 wrote:The instruction of every Zen Master comes down to this. There are no scriptures to memorise; no convoluted practices to involve ourselves in; no foreign language definitions to learn. Just become aware of what the quiet mind feels like.


No, this is very far from a summary of the instruction of every Zen master. But there are many Zen masters who have warned regarding the misunderstanding you present here.

The "quiet mind" you have presented as the fruition of Zen is nothing more than a temporary cessation of gross (but not subtle) thought activity. It is an experience well-known to beginning practitioners. It may be accompanied by feelings of bliss and of being liberated from a great weight. I do not say it is without use. But it is not the experience of one's empty, luminous nature.

Your position strikes me as similar to that of some who claim that structured practice, inherited forms, samadhi, and awakening experiences all have no importance, and that one need only engage in a practice of "ordinary mind" throughout each day. Such people do not grasp that their "ordinary mind" is not the mind of awakening; it is, after all, just ordinary deluded mind. Going on many years like that - sometimes resting in a stale quietness, sometimes in the arising of habitual thought and emotion - the result is like that of slowly stewing a pot of turd: no matter how long you cook it, it's still useless. It is for such people that Hakuin wrote (quoting also Bodhidharma):

When a person who has not had kensho reads the Buddhist scriptures, questions his teachers and fellow monks about Buddhism, or practices religious disciplines, he is merely creating the causes of his own illusion – a sure sign that he is still confined within samsara. He tries constantly to keep himself detached in thought and deed, and all the while his thoughts and deeds are attached. He endeavors to be doing nothing all day long, and all the while he is busily doing.

But if this same person experiences kensho, everything changes. Although he is constantly thinking and acting, it is totally free and unattached. Although he is engaged in activity around the clock, that activity is, as such, non-activity. This great change is the result of his kensho. It is like water that snakes and cows drink from the same cistern, which becomes deadly venom in one and milk in the other.

Bodhidharma spoke of this in his Essay on the Dharma pulse:

If someone without kensho tries constantly to make his thoughts free and unattached, he commits a great transgression against the Dharma and is a great fool to boot. He winds up in the passive indifference of empty emptiness, no more able to distinguish good from bad than a drunken man. If you want to put the Dharma of non- activity into practice, you must bring an end to all your thought-attachments by breaking through into kensho. Unless you have kensho, you can never expect to achieve a state of non-doing.


Really, this kind mistaken understanding and conceptual proliferation do a great disservice. It's a shame, really, since the mainstream of correct practice is not hard to enter.

chankin1937 wrote:The feeling we seek to enhance is happiness - the common human goal. Zen gives us a way to do that.
CH


The purpose of Zen is not to enhance any such feeling.

If we grasp what Zen points to, we will know that "happiness" as commonly understood and sought is completely pointless.

~ Meido
Last edited by Meido on Tue May 19, 2015 4:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby Chrisd on Tue May 19, 2015 4:26 pm

wow nice post Meido
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby another_being on Tue May 19, 2015 8:26 pm

Thank you, Meido.

:Namaste:
"Some people think they are enlightened, some people think they are not enlightened." -- Denko
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby Avisitor on Wed May 20, 2015 12:04 am

Meido wrote:But if this same person experiences kensho, everything changes. Although he is constantly thinking and acting, it is totally free and unattached. Although he is engaged in activity around the clock, that activity is, as such, non-activity. This great change is the result of his kensho. It is like water that snakes and cows drink from the same cistern, which becomes deadly venom in one and milk in the other.


Really like that one.
Thanks Meido
:peace:
Disclaimer: There is no intent to be offensive in my posts. None was intended and none should be interpreted as such.
Sorry, got a message that I was not being PC.
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby Meido on Wed May 20, 2015 12:41 am

Yep, Hakuin's a good companion to have around.

Image

~ Meido
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby desert_woodworker on Wed May 20, 2015 1:08 am

Meido wrote:Yep, Hakuin's a good companion to have around.

Meido's not a bad fellow either. :Namaste:

Great posts!, in this thread, Meido, ...as usual, around these precincts. But, dynamite!

I thrill to see you're taking no prisoners! Liberating ALL... . :)

(a hundred-weight of TNT, compared with my New Year's firecrackers. Happy and healthy! Year of the Ungulate -- Sheep, Goat, Ram -- by the way... ).

Nine full bows,

in thanks,

--Joe
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby Monk Rob on Wed May 20, 2015 6:04 am

"Not thinking about anything is Zen. Once you know this, walking, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is Zen.”-Bodhidharma

"When I chop wood, I chop wood. When I carry water, I carry water."-Layman Pang
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Re: What is Zen?

Postby Chrisd on Wed May 20, 2015 11:00 am

Joining Joe in bows
may you and others continue hakuins good work
:Namaste:

desert_woodworker wrote:
Meido wrote:Yep, Hakuin's a good companion to have around.

Meido's not a bad fellow either. :Namaste:

Great posts!, in this thread, Meido, ...as usual, around these precincts. But, dynamite!

I thrill to see you're taking no prisoners! Liberating ALL... . :)

(a hundred-weight of TNT, compared with my New Year's firecrackers. Happy and healthy! Year of the Ungulate -- Sheep, Goat, Ram -- by the way... ).

Nine full bows,

in thanks,

--Joe
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