Learning about Tendai

Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Nikolay » Mon Apr 29, 2013 7:32 pm

I have read this thread http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.ph ... 61&start=0 and it got me thinking. Is situation in Japan really so grim? Sounds like a complete disaster.

Also, turns out the Brahma Net Sutra precepts that Japanese priests take actually include celibacy, so all those married priests are technically violating them?

Finally, silly question: do Tendai priests shave their heads like monks? On photos I think I can see examples of both. And what do different robe colours mean? Seems that the default colour is brown, but on photos I see people in white, black, grey, blue and even violet, I think.
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Jikan » Mon Apr 29, 2013 7:42 pm

mirage wrote:I have read this thread viewtopic.php?f=64&t=5061&start=0 and it got me thinking. Is situation in Japan really so grim? Sounds like a complete disaster.


I doubt it is a complete disaster. I have met very serious practitioners who live full-time in Japan, practice there, and so on. The danka system is failing, no doubt, but the Dharma scene in Japan is not a total trainwreck.

Also, turns out the Brahma Net Sutra precepts that Japanese priests take actually include celibacy, so all those married priests are technically violating them?


Depends who you ask.

Finally, silly question: do Tendai priests shave their heads like monks? On photos I think I can see examples of both. And what do different robe colours mean? Seems that the default colour is brown, but on photos I see people in white, black, grey, blue and even violet, I think.


Many do shave their heads regularly. Some do not. Heads are shaven during periods of training, though.

I don't know all the meanings to the different robe colors and textures and other accoutrement.
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Seishin » Mon Apr 29, 2013 7:52 pm

Just to reiterate what Jikan said. Some serious practitioners and teachers live and practice in Japan. In my opinion it's not a train wreck.

The precept for celibacy was changed by the government during the meiji era as a way to reconstruct Buddhism. These days it's a choice to be celibate which some do take.

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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Meido » Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:59 pm

Seishin wrote:From what I understand, Tendai monks such as Dogen, Nichiren and Honen left Tendai and embarked on "single practice" schools (Zen, Nichiren and Pureland respectively), due to their thought that this one practice was better/easier to attain enlightenment. From my little understanding, Nichiren believed that his school was the only correct way to enlightenment, whereas Dogen and Honen wanted "better/easier" ways to enlightenment.


I don't know much about Dogen, Nichiren or Honen or the later development of their schools. Certainly Tendai was the cradle for many eminent Buddhist practitioners in Japan because it was so well established and influential there. But I think it a simplification to say in every case that these guys struck out on their own as a rejection of Tendai.

For example, Eisai is often pointed to as the first to establish Rinzai Zen in a viable manner in Japan. He, however, never abandoned Tendai practices, and as far as I know still considered himself a Tendai monk to the end of his life. I have always preferred to think that the Tendai approach is what allowed someone like Eisai to think it worthwhile to seek out and transmit Zen teachings/lineages from China...even if the official position of the Tendai hierarchy at that time was to actively discourage their establishment (for reasons that likely had more to do with non-religious concerns).

In any case, my personal opinion is that any teaching that reifies an interpretation of "Ekayana" which justifies inter-sect triumphalism is deluded. Any of us is a follower of the One Vehicle when we turn the light around and give testament to the essential point of all Buddhist teaching. Whether someone does this through nembutsu, deity practices, mantra recitation, koan, kaihogyo or whatever is really not the point. Or, so I've been taught in Zen.

Jikan wrote:...Tendai is a "big tent" culture.


That's what I like, and I'd love to see more exchange/encounter between different traditions as well (which is why I lurk around here). Our One Vehicle tent is certainly big enough for it :)

Sorry to interrupt once again.

~ Meido
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Seishin » Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:06 pm

No apology necessary and thank you for your imput Meido-san :smile:

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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Jikan » Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:51 pm

Meido raises an important point on Eisai (my understanding corresponds more or less to Meido's description above). The way it has been described to me has a slightly different emphasis though: Eisai (as I've heard) wished to include koan practice as he learned it in China into the Tendai curriculum. This did not happen due to institutional reasons. This tells that a great master, Eisai, saw no discontinuity between Tendai and Ch'an at the doctrinal level, or if he did see a discontinuity, it was not meaningful in point of practice.

To me this opens onto another question that I would like to discuss in another thread sometime: I've been told but I haven't confirmed it that Tendai training contains within it a Zen transmission, but not the "northern" or "southern" transmissions that have become so well known as Soto and Rinzai: the "Ox Head" school (Gozu) line. I know next to nothing about this except for some comments made in passing by my teacher, and the little bits I've read in Dumoulin's book on Zen.
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Jikan » Tue Apr 30, 2013 1:47 am

addendum on head-shaving:

last night I had a dream in which Ven. Indrajala shaved my head and face (I'm a hairy one thanks to my Viking ancestry) with a straight razor. He did a good job of it too. There were laughs all around but he didn't pull a Sweeney Todd.

:thanks:
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Luke » Wed May 01, 2013 12:03 pm

Meido wrote: I have always preferred to think that the Tendai approach is what allowed someone like Eisai to think it worthwhile to seek out and transmit Zen teachings/lineages from China...even if the official position of the Tendai hierarchy at that time was to actively discourage their establishment (for reasons that likely had more to do with non-religious concerns).

That's a very interesting and refreshing perspective! :thumbsup:
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Astus » Wed May 01, 2013 2:19 pm

Jikan wrote:To me this opens onto another question that I would like to discuss in another thread sometime: I've been told but I haven't confirmed it that Tendai training contains within it a Zen transmission, but not the "northern" or "southern" transmissions that have become so well known as Soto and Rinzai: the "Ox Head" school (Gozu) line. I know next to nothing about this except for some comments made in passing by my teacher, and the little bits I've read in Dumoulin's book on Zen.


You can read a little about the Niutou/Gozu school here: The "Hsin-Ming" Attributed to Niu-T'ou Fa-Jung.

The poem in another translation with some modern commentary: Niutou's Song of Mind: A Commentary by Sheng Yen
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Jikan » Wed May 01, 2013 2:27 pm

Excellent, thank you Astus!
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Nikolay » Wed May 01, 2013 3:05 pm

From the other thread.
Jikan wrote:I can't speak to what others have been asked to read. I've primarily read histories, sutras, commentaries, and some doctrinal texts such as Swanson's book T'ien-T'ai Philosophy.

Oh, I know that book! Have to say, so far I was unable to wrap my head around Chih-i's threefold interpretation of two truths theory. I find myself somehow agreeing with his critics about "Middle Way" as a separate truth being rather weird.
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Seishin » Wed May 01, 2013 3:31 pm

A good explanation of the Three Truths can be found here http://tendaiaustralia.org.au/Tendai-Doctrine.php

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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Jikan » Wed May 01, 2013 3:41 pm

mirage wrote:From the other thread.
Jikan wrote:I can't speak to what others have been asked to read. I've primarily read histories, sutras, commentaries, and some doctrinal texts such as Swanson's book T'ien-T'ai Philosophy.

Oh, I know that book! Have to say, so far I was unable to wrap my head around Chih-i's threefold interpretation of two truths theory. I find myself somehow agreeing with his critics about "Middle Way" as a separate truth being rather weird.


That's the thing: the inseparability or interpermeation of the two truths (provisional and ultimate, conditional and absolute) is the third truth. They are not separate. The "middle way" is the word Zhiyi used for this.

You are right, it is an unusual approach. In my opinion, it means that all phenomena are immanently and nondually of the nature of Buddha.
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Nikolay » Wed May 01, 2013 4:05 pm

Well, I guess I need to read more... I just wasn't much convinced by Zhiyi's use of Nagarjuna's text to support this theory.

Might I ask which commentaries did you read? I assume they are sutra commentaries. Are they available? I'm not very accustomed to reading sutras, so commentaries would be very useful.

Hope I'm not asking too many questions!
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Jikan » Wed May 01, 2013 4:23 pm

Tao-Sheng's commentary on the Lotus Sutra was interesting. I also enjoyed Thich Nhat Hanh's less-academic and more-popular approach in his commentary.

The thing about ZhiYi is that he was working with Chinese translations of Sanskrit texts. Many of his interpretations reflect the nuances in the Chinese texts, which sometimes puts him at some remove from the traditional Indian approach to Madhyamaka. Ng Yu-Kwan's book T'ien-T'ai Buddhsm and Early Madhyamika explores this in the context of Zhiyi's overall approach to Dharma, which goes some way to show the reason why Zhiyi took the interpretation he did.

I should also say up front that I am no scholar of this material, no expert at all. My reading has all been directed toward my practice and contemplation of the teachings.
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Jikan » Wed May 01, 2013 4:26 pm

I should add that some texts that are contemporaneous with Zhiyi or emerged shortly after, such as Wonhyo's brilliant commentary to the Vajrasamadhi sutra (published as Cultivating Original Enlightenment), seem very TienTai-influenced to me.
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Nikolay » Sat May 04, 2013 1:29 pm

I have a couple of questions on the "original enlightenment" theory.

1)Is there an authoritative text which explains hongaku in more or less accessible way? Right now I am quite lost: is this just common Tathagatagarbha doctrine, or something else?
2)How is hongaku not ethernalist? I mean, what's the difference from Hindu Brahman?

Related question: why are trees, rocks and such are describes as having Buddha-nature and even capable of achieving Buddhahood? They obviously do not possess mind-streams in the way sentient beings do, right?
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby PorkChop » Sat May 04, 2013 10:24 pm

I kinda like this explanation:
http://www.tendaicolorado.blogspot.com/ ... nment.html
But for an in-depth presentation:
http://books.google.com/books?id=jbO_Kc ... &q&f=false

I'm not sure how it would relate to Brahman: a being/nonbeing that supposedly does have inherent existence beyond the phenomenal universe, acting as a sort of substrate. I don't see such a substrate in Original Enlightenment doctrine, merely an elaboration on the emptiness of phenomena.

As far as the doctrine being eternalist, I'm not so sure about that. It is making the point that the state of Enlightenment or Buddhahood is not something conditioned - for if it were conditioned, then it would end. I guess the "uncreated" or "unconditioned" does have a bit of an eternal aspect; but if Buddhahood is reversible, then why bother?
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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Seishin » Sat May 04, 2013 10:35 pm

Not sure how hongaku can be seen as Hindu Brahman :thinking:

Try reading this: Medieval Tendai Hongaku Thought
and the New Kamakura Buddhism


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Re: Learning about Tendai

Postby Son of Buddha » Sun May 05, 2013 3:50 am

mirage wrote:I have a couple of questions on the "original enlightenment" theory.

1)Is there an authoritative text which explains hongaku in more or less accessible way? Right now I am quite lost: is this just common Tathagatagarbha doctrine, or something else?
2)How is hongaku not ethernalist? I mean, what's the difference from Hindu Brahman?

Related question: why are trees, rocks and such are describes as having Buddha-nature and even capable of achieving Buddhahood? They obviously do not possess mind-streams in the way sentient beings do, right?


(1)Hongaku will probley be explained in the Lotus sutra and Nirvana Sutra
Common Tathagatagarbha is also explained in the Nirvana sutra

(2)what is your definition/ description of eternalist and nhilism?
I would say eternalist and nhilism is based on the conditioned,that which is conditioned is subject to time,birth and decay.
Enlightenment being unconditioned it is neither born nor decays,never being born nor dying it can truely be called from our worldly understanding Eternal,Enlightenment never changes if it did,that would mean you could "lose" Enlightenment,if Enlightenment could be lost then it would not truely be the end to suffering,therefore from our worldly understanding it is called permenant,Enlightenment being the permenant end of misery and suffering from our worldly understanding we call it Bliss,Enlightenment being present in everything,being a pure diamond undercover of a dirty rag,unborn,uncreated,undying,unconditioned it is termed the inherent absolute.
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