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One Zen fits all?

One Zen fits all?

Postby island on Fri Jan 23, 2015 2:45 pm

I am trying to sort out the overlaps between Zen traditions and practices and their differences. This is not an idle wondering or some sort of abstract issue. It is very much a felt experience. And so I was wondering if people either had this experience or could speak to it from a particular perspective.

What is happening is that I am now sitting with a Soto Zen sangha and two teachers, both priests whom I have not gotten to know all that well yet, though I have had dokusan in the past with them. Their tradition is the dominant one here, Suzuki Roshi, though they have also studied in Japan and elsewhere.

I'm coming into it having worked previously with koans in the Diamond Sangha tradition. That experience and most of my background reading is oriented more in a Rinzai leaning direction though I realize that the original Sanbo Kyodan was intended to be a blend and be inclusive of Soto.

I am finding that Soto feels somewhat alien. Things like kensho are actively put down. Claims are made that Soto is of the people in contrast to the Samurai class (of koan traditions presumably).

The zazen is not really different because Diamond Sangha includes zazen as well as koan introspection so my own private practice has not really changed. The emphasis in the dharma talks versus teisho is quite different though. Anyone have any thoughts?
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Re: One Zen fits all?

Postby Chrisd on Fri Jan 23, 2015 3:23 pm

I've practiced mostly in Zen traditions and with people that were quite inclusive, not so much putting down. Except the putting down of everything :PP:

How are they putting down kensho? Maybe you can elaborate a bit more.

ps Would you mind explaining one time short what the value of kensho is in your opinion? Is it different from any other experience that shows us our current experience is not "reality"?
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Re: One Zen fits all?

Postby Pedestrian on Fri Jan 23, 2015 3:28 pm

I'm interested in ChrisD's questions about put downs as well. I've heard teachers dismiss kensho because students tend to cling to those experiences -- that is, they are encouraging us all to put down kensho, along with all of their other preconceived notions about enlightenment, Zen, etc.
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Re: One Zen fits all?

Postby island on Fri Jan 23, 2015 3:29 pm

The language used was something like "no special experiences," adding "those are nice but we don't pay attention to that." It was not an adamant denial of such experiences but a certain devaluing I guess that implicitly directs people away from them. That has its place and I do understand the rationale, but it does seem to rub the wrong way. First I am uncomfortable with having a sense of tension between traditions brought into the room. Second since I have had kensho experiences I felt it was invalidating something that was part of my former tradition and path.

I will think about how I would want to talk about kensho.
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Re: One Zen fits all?

Postby Pedestrian on Fri Jan 23, 2015 3:36 pm

I think that's a good idea. I don't find "those are nice but we don't pay attention to that" to be a knock on kensho; to me, it sounds like expedient means to dislodge clinging to kensho....
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Re: One Zen fits all?

Postby island on Fri Jan 23, 2015 3:44 pm

Yes, I said I understand what is behind it, but this particular way of saying it does feel like it is not just suggesting not clinging but also suggesting not to even have or value the experience.

David Loy, who is a prolific Buddhist writer and was in Japan for almost 20 years during which time he received transmission in Sanbo Kyodan, once told me "the best thing to do with kensho is forget it." I saw that as wise advice from someone who had had the experience, had had it repeatedly throughout the koan curriculum, but on the other side of that was saying don't get too caught up with that.

I feel like even though David's words seem more directly against in a way, the spirit is not against. Rather it is one informed by the experience, actively recognizing it as part of the way, and then situating it in perspective.

That is different from just saying no.
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Re: One Zen fits all?

Postby Pedestrian on Fri Jan 23, 2015 3:45 pm

I think I'm getting a better sense of your concerns. Can you take them to the folks who are saying these things? Engage with them in some way?
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Re: One Zen fits all?

Postby Chrisd on Fri Jan 23, 2015 3:50 pm

island wrote:The language used was something like "no special experiences," adding "those are nice but we don't pay attention to that." It was not an adamant denial of such experiences but a certain devaluing I guess that implicitly directs people away from them. That has its place and I do understand the rationale, but it does seem to rub the wrong way. First I am uncomfortable with having a sense of tension between traditions brought into the room. Second since I have had kensho experiences I felt it was invalidating something that was part of my former tradition and path.

I will think about how I would want to talk about kensho.


To take away the object of the fire when it's wrongly directed (kensho, temporary experience) seems fine to me. But maybe no fire remains then. Maybe the teachers don't have the fire you're looking for.

I wouldn't have a problem with tension between traditions if I thought the teacher posing it was right to do so. So the teacher is realized and can speak from a proper perspective. Possibly the same with you, not tension between traditions is the problem but inappropriate tension?

Edit: I see you've just posted this here, which points to that if you ask me.
island wrote:David Loy, who is a prolific Buddhist writer and was in Japan for almost 20 years during which time he received transmission in Sanbo Kyodan, once told me "the best thing to do with kensho is forget it." I saw that as wise advice from someone who had had the experience, had had it repeatedly throughout the koan curriculum, but on the other side of that was saying don't get too caught up with that.


So far for teacher bashing :lol2: we must follow our own light that may or may not manifest as a teacher on the outside, to me.
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Re: One Zen fits all?

Postby island on Fri Jan 23, 2015 4:18 pm

It is good advice both to try to address concerns with either of them directly and to also contemplate whether I do have some underlying sense that there isn't a match. Problem is I'm not at all sure how to do this, especially the direct discussion. It could end up sounding wrong, at best unappreciative and at worst downright rude. Plus since they are new figures for me, it seems a bit difficult as a starting place. It would be relatively easy with someone who knows me and I know them because I like frankness and value critical thinking, but not everyone does.
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Re: One Zen fits all?

Postby Chrisd on Fri Jan 23, 2015 10:48 pm

I can't see how people that don't appreciate frankness and critical thinking can be Zen teachers. Asking such a question to them should prove to them your sincerity and earnestness. If they don't appreciate it... :ninja: :PP:

Whatever happens, I imagine it'll be a good learning experience for you. Addressing "authority" figures. To me it seems the same thing every time a teacher asks the question "who are you" > the same as asking: who/what holds your authority? The endpoint could be that not even our self is an authority, it does not hold "us". Thus no more need for kensho or any experience the self can cling to. No more desire to see a teacher.

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Re: One Zen fits all?

Postby Pedestrian on Fri Jan 23, 2015 10:52 pm

What ChrisD said. :rbow:
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Re: One Zen fits all?

Postby Meido on Sat Jan 24, 2015 2:00 am

island wrote:Claims are made that Soto is of the people in contrast to the Samurai class (of koan traditions presumably).


As an aside: I'm always puzzled when this kind of reference to a long-extinct feudal class system is clumsily wheeled out and used in such a manner. There are historical and other reasons why Zen developed as it did in Japan starting in the Kamakura era. But none that I can think of serve very well as ammunition for any kind of inter-sect polemic.

Anyway, as we know the farming and warrior classes in Japan were eclipsed quite a long time ago by a class originally deemed lower than both: the merchants. So if that is what is meant by "the people", I see no lack of groups wanting to be "of the people" today.

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