Discussions of Zen Buddhism in all shapes and sizes.
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EDIT: So I looked into the website and it says that a lineage holder from the Soto Zen sect is involved in the Center, not sure if he is their primary teacher or whatever. I also read into their practice of zazen and they recommend putting a candle in front of you if you have problems just sitting. I've only been doing zazen and reading about Zen for a short while, but I've never heard of the candle thing. Just curious if anyone else has?
I am going to be meeting with the folks at Center for Pragmatic Buddhism..
It is based here in St Louis and they meet in a church and practice zazen and discuss schtuff with each other.
I'm looking forward to it. I am also going back to Missouri Zen Center this Thursday for zazen + discussion.
A little bit about the Center from their website :
Ever wondered why someone would enter Buddhism as a monk? The conventional answer might have something to do with enlightenment or nirvana or something. Still the question remains as to WHY they seek those things. Someone seeks enlightenment and/ or nirvana because s/he has recognized that life as it is lived by the masses is vastly problematic and unsatisfactory. Someone entering the monastic life is seeking something better. However, life in our contemporary world does not lend itself to hermitage. We live ever more connected lives. Some will continue to seek sanctuary in a monastery, but is this the only option - seclusion?
No. Your life can be your monastery.
I have never heard of the candle thing and it would seem antithetical to zazen.
The "center" describes itself as derived or developed from traditional Zen practice. It is not a Zen school per se and claims that it uses various practices taken from various traditions. It states that Soto Zen teacher Matsuoka gave the precepts to one of the founding teachers, not permission to teach (roughly the difference between baptism and ordination as a priest for Christians).
The web site just does not inspire confidence. It claims the well known (deceased) scholar Welch received dhrama transmission and passed it on to one of the founding teachers. There is no other known claim of Welch having even been a practitioner, let alone that he a was a religious teacher. If so he never mentioned it to his former (academic) students and friends. At most, he described himself as having "sympathy" for Buddhism.
This is an old-timey Hindu Yoga practice. It's called "tratak". You can research its history among classical Yoga (preliminary-) concentration and meditation practices.
One can use a candle flame, or simply view a spot on the wall, or floor.
(In genuine zazen, this is not done, but instead, one's gaze has no particular center of concentration: one is open to all, and attached to nothing, nor "rejecting" anything. Pretty "balanced", eh?). Your teacher might let you know if and when this could be a useful expedient for you (or not).
I don't know that it's a tweak invoked traditionally in Ch'an or Zen Buddhist practice (I've not encountered it in 37 years' formal practice in these circles), but I suppose a teacher might "prescribe" any manner of temporary expedients, when suitable. Almost anything "goes", in the teacher-student relationship.
It's good to rely on one's teacher's assessments and suggestions, and not "self-prescribe" -- nor assess -- I'd say.
Last edited by desert_woodworker on Wed Jul 06, 2016 4:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
It's a very lovely book that Holmes Welch wrote.
For me, it came as a window into the setting and conditions of the contemporaries and predecessors of my late shihfu, Ch'an Master Sheng Yen, which they dwelt and practiced in, monastically.
I learned a lot from the book, things that my shifu did not usually speak about or teach, except perhaps to the monastics under him, while I -- and most of Sheng Yen's students over the decades -- were lay practitioners instead.
I mention this as an aside, and I'll add that I really recommend the book (The Practice of Chinese Buddhism: 1900 - 1950) to those with interest in it. I cannot comment on Welch as a practitioner, nor as a putative spiritual teacher, but only as an affirmed academic scholar. That much is clear. His book is a good read!
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Thanks for your input. After further thought I'm just going to stick to going to the Missouri Zen Center... maybe one day later on down the road I'll check out this Pragmatic Buddhism Center. I want to find out what pure Zen is first.
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