Jikan wrote:I agree that the view described in the article is a mainstream Mahayana view. It's not hard to find it in the Lotus Sutra and other texts popular in the Zen tradition. But is this how practice is described in mainstream Zen/Soen?
Hi Jikan -
the term "the once-human Buddhas and Bodhisattvas which are the decisive agents of salvation" is a unique phrase presented by the Zen teacher at that moment. The usual emphasis in Rinzai, Soto and in my limited experiences in Soen is on the individual's personal insight and then taking that insight to the teacher to check it and refine it (or more usually to throw it away). This phrase, if my interpretation is correct and I think it is, is from the opposite side: the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas bringing the essential wisdom teachings to us.
Daido Roshi (with whom unfortunately in hindsight I spent very little time actually over eight or so years ) would talk about this as a part of many teachings just not using these words. He once startled me at least whenj he said directly that Shakyamuni Buddha came to this world for each and everyone one of us personally
echoing the words of Christians and esp. Christian fundamentalists. In this part of an hour long teaching he basically said that Shakyamuni Buddha saw us individually through time with his wisdom. He would also often talk in different ways of the manifestations of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in our suffering world in different forms and clearly intended this as both metaphoric and literal (for Daido I don't think there was a real difference between metaphor and literal experience on this subject since for him the Zen teaching of the entire phenomenal universe being the manifestation of enlightenment was really real).
My meager experiences in Soen are similar but not expressed in this way. She once told of stories though of the manifestations of Kwan Seum Bosal (Avalokiteshvara) in whom she has great faith as Seung Sahn definitely did. One of these stories was risqué; another said that he manifested as a demon or very ugly strange person and frightened people out of a structure that collapsed in the next few minutes. She also urged people to chant Kwan Seum Bosals mantra as she often does for others. This is to awaken ourselves and to effect positive change in the world. But she just says things simply and directly.
My exposure to Korean Zen is limited to Wonhyo, Kihwa,
Gosh I have no idea what Kihwa is (- ah a Korean Buddhiost monk circa 1350 CE)! I find Wonhyo's interpretation of Dharmakaya that you mentioned interesting.
samadhi seems to be emphasized over devotional practice.
Yeah that is true but I have to say that all my Zen/Soen teachers have been devotional. This may just be me seeing that in them as they can teach on different levels to different people according to their needs and perceptions. I would have to say that Daido was clearly devotional.
Second and much less important point: is Batchelor's position really atheistic? As I suggested earlier, I have reason to think Batchelor's position is a lot more like the radical skepticism Seung Sahn promotes as Don't Know Mind than the Know For Sure atheism of analytical philosophy, for instance.
I haven't read Batchelor. He said in an interview or two that he was basically agnostic on the issues of karma and rebirth. It seemed to me to be upaya because he thinks that's where Westerners are. I don't know if you can say that he is promoting radical skepticism. Batchelor seems to have become frozen in these views.
Seung Sahn used don't know mind to cut through everything conceptual. Really the only way to practice his school is on retreats because it's more than just don't know mind. They also have (or had) vigorous mantra/dharani practice specifically to effect change in the world and in practitioners (Seung Sahn told them this was energy practice). Hopefully they haven't thrown that out. I don't know if Seung Sahn was devotional or not (I would suspect he was though) but he definitely had faith in interdependence as that was the basis for the mantras/dharanis working and I'm getting that from my former Soen teacher by inference based on what she said.