What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Sara H » Wed Apr 03, 2013 7:10 am

Huseng wrote:
Sara H wrote:It's like water Huseng, it molds itself to fit the container it's in.

Sara


Sure, just don't get too contaminated by the present vessel.


There is no Buddhism without the practitioners or culture who practice it.

If water is allowed to settle, the murk usually floats to the bottom.

Going to another country doesn't give you a better practice.

The depth of your practice, depends on you.

Sara
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 03, 2013 7:16 am

Sara H wrote:There is no Buddhism without the practitioners who practice it.


Not all practitioners are equal.



Going to another country doesn't give you a better practice.


Not necessarily, true, but it provides insight otherwise unavailable.

Atiśa said,

    One should live with few possessions
    And dwell with one's back turned
    To the things that cause grasping
    Be as a wanderer in foreign lands
    Taking food as it is found
    Like the birds in migration.


One thing I've seen in my travels is how western liberal values, which are normally projected into Buddhism in the west, are not so universal or even appreciated in much of Asia. A lot of what we might cherish and assume to be real and true would be overlooked or even dismissed in many places in the present Buddhist world in Asia.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Sara H » Wed Apr 03, 2013 7:25 am

And Dogen said "it is futile to travel to other dusty countries, thus forsaking your own seat."

Buddhism fits the needs of the culture it's in. Not all cultures have the same needs.

Not all people do.

There are good teachers and sincere practitioners to be found all over the world Huseng.

It's not just in one country, and not just in Asia or India.

Perhaps you found a good teacher or practice in Asia, but it's not the only place there is one.

There are people elsewhere, all over the world who have found sincere practice to fit their needs.

Sara
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 03, 2013 7:40 am

Sara H wrote:And Dogen said "it is futile to travel to other dusty countries, thus forsaking your own seat."


What Dogen said doesn't negate my experience.

Moving on...
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby oushi » Wed Apr 03, 2013 7:46 am

Sara H wrote:Buddhism fits the needs of the culture it's in. Not all cultures have the same needs.

I thought that Buddhism aims for the extinction of all suffering, not to fit the need of a culture... Because people desire for Buddhism that will fit them, they pick and chose, create their own version, and then argue with others, whose "buddhism" is better. It was like that for centuries. Even great figures fallen for that. Texts are full of "I am right, he is wrong", even when master speaks about master.
Everyone has his own little "buddhism" and because it fits him, he will defend it until he lose an "I".


Followers of the Way, do not be deceived by teachers who everywhere say "I know Zen, I understand the Way," and who endlessly deliver discussions like mountain torrents. All this is action that produces hellish Karma. -Linji
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Apr 03, 2013 8:11 am

Huseng wrote:
jeeprs wrote:As far as 'kensho' is concerned, there are many passages in texts which say that there is nothing to attain and nobody to attain it.


Isn't it interesting that despite statements about nothing being attained and nobody attaining it, the myth in Zen about a "transmission" from master to disciple, which is used to legitimize and affirm institutional authority, is still widely believed as a firm tenet? In other words, the practitioner has nothing to attain with "body and mind dropping away", yet somehow this realization and the authority it confers by virtue of being recognized by a master holding the title already are held as equally important in the institutional setting of Zen.

You are supposed to drop reifications, yet the mythical narrative about "transmission" is clearly a firm unquestionable tenet that plenty of Zen practitioners, many with years of experience off and on the cushion, insist as very real and quite essential to Zen.


But it's true! It is true that 'there is nothing to attain and nobody to attain it', and also true that 'there is something that has to be learned and it can be taught'. Zen is fraught with paradoxes, as is the Diamond Sutra. 'I will liberate countless myriads of sentient beings but there really are no beings to liberate'. It's not something we can figure out. It doesn't 'make sense' from the viewpoint of conventional logic. Hence the legendary paradoxicality of Zen. It's part and parcel of it.

"How do you get the goose out of the bottle?"

"There, it's out."

Where I have a problem is the hierarchical structure with its in-crowd and and out-crowd. I was more or less told on ZFI if you don't agree that finding a group and being supervised by a 'qualified' teacher is 'the right way', then Zen is not for you. I said it reminded me of something the early Church said about 'no salvation outside the Church'.

Didn't go down well, and I'm not posting there any more.

I'm still trying to maintain my practice under my own tutelage though. And the things I have learned from Zen, whether or not I have been taught them 'properly', I won't easily forget. And I'm trying not to criticize others approach either. If I think I can point out something useful, I will try, but I don't think it is a subject I want to debate, as such.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby oushi » Wed Apr 03, 2013 8:29 am

jeeprs wrote:But it's true! It is true that 'there is nothing to attain and nobody to attain it', and also true that 'there is something that has to be learned and it can be taught'. Zen is fraught with paradoxes, as is the Diamond Sutra. 'I will liberate countless myriads of sentient beings but there really are no beings to liberate'. It's not something we can figure out. It doesn't 'make sense' from the viewpoint of conventional logic. Hence the legendary paradoxicality of Zen.

It is not a paradox, Zen is not paradoxical, Buddhas didn't teach nonsense. Even Diamond Sutra is logically consistent. The only point where Zen is paradoxical is koan practice, because that is the whole point of this practice, to strip the mind from analysis. You are good in psychology, you will figure it out. I mean, figure out why there is nothing to figure out.

I was more or less told on ZFI if you don't agree that finding a group and being supervised by a 'qualified' teacher is 'the right way', then Zen is not for you. I said it reminded me of something the early Church said about 'no salvation outside the Church'.

Didn't go down well, and I'm not posting there any more.

:smile:
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Apr 03, 2013 8:52 am

Oushi wrote:It is not a paradox, Zen is not paradoxical, Buddhas didn't teach nonsense.


Paradoxes are not nonsense, although this might be something you may not appreciate.

I like a lot of the posters on ZFI, and they helped me a lot when I was enrolled in Buddhist Studies. I think the problem is at my end, not with them.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby oushi » Wed Apr 03, 2013 9:00 am

jeeprs wrote:I like a lot of the posters on ZFI, and they helped me a lot when I was enrolled in Buddhist Studies.

True. There are many great and sincere posters there, and few are my close friends now. It is the way people are being shaped to fit the frame, is what amazes me. Authority can say all kind of nonsense, contradicting his own lineage, and it will be enforced at all costs. Those are the people that would fit the checklist from OP perfectly.

jeeprs wrote:
Oushi wrote:It is not a paradox, Zen is not paradoxical, Buddhas didn't teach nonsense.


Paradoxes are not nonsense, although this might be something you may not appreciate.

"It doesn't 'make sense' from the viewpoint of conventional logic." - you :smile:
I think you make distinction between nonsense and no sense, but is there any?
And, yest it make perfect sense from the viewpoint of conventional logic. The problem lies in the structure of the mind, which constitutes of two parts. One logical and the other free from logic. Logic cannot grasp that non logical, that is why we all (without exception) are wrong in explaining Dharma. On the other hand, there is no wrong, so there is nothing to chase after, or run from.

'I will liberate countless myriads of sentient beings but there really are no beings to liberate'
By letting go of conceptualization, all beings are liberated, while no being was liberated.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Apr 03, 2013 9:33 am

Oushi wrote:And, yes it make perfect sense from the viewpoint of conventional logic. The problem lies in the structure of the mind, which constitutes of two parts. One logical and the other free from logic. Logic cannot grasp that non logical, that is why we all (without exception) are wrong in explaining Dharma. On the other hand, there is no wrong, so there is nothing to chase after, or run from.


But you can see how easily this can dissolve into chaos. It takes huge discipline to really grasp the meaning of these ideas. Why? Because when you say 'the structure of the mind', from which standpoint are we saying that? From 'within the mind'! We are not really ever in a position outside or above that. If we were, we would not be saying anything. ('He who knows, doesn't speak'.)

I think it is certainly true that the standpoint of the Tathagatha is beyond logic. But to go beyond logic is not the same as to disregard it. What is above reason is not irrational, but superior to reason. Crucial distinction.

I read some dialog the other day wherein a Zen teacher was talking of 'when you put aside the rational mind'. The way it was said, made my blood run cold. That can be an ideal space in which to cultivate fanaticism. I do understand 'beyond reason', I think, but I have complete respect for reason, within its range of application. I guess that is my Western philosophical side, but I would like to think that ultimately there is no conflict between the two.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 03, 2013 9:44 am

jeeprs wrote:I'm still trying to maintain my practice under my own tutelage though. And the things I have learned from Zen, whether or not I have been taught them 'properly', I won't easily forget. And I'm trying not to criticize others approach either. If I think I can point out something useful, I will try, but I don't think it is a subject I want to debate, as such.


I follow the line of thought of early Mahāyāna where you need to cultivate mental stamina through long-term meditative practices coupled with wisdom gained through scripture. If you combine the study of philosophy and scripture with long-term cultivation of samadhi and a moral lifestyle, then your three trainings are covered and you'll see progress.

Your mind will be more stable and you'll suffer less. You'll not suck people into your own religious neurosis. You'll see through people's BS, and more importantly your own excuses for irrational behaviour.

A good mentor might help, but it isn't a prerequisite for practice and progress.

Everything you need to do is outlined in the sūtras. If you need further clarification, check the śāstras.

At that point what's the point of receiving transmission, or thinking someone is wiser than the flock just by virtue of having "received transmission"? It is all performance and largely a reflection of institutional, not spiritual, concerns.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 03, 2013 9:55 am

jeeprs wrote:I read some dialog the other day wherein a Zen teacher was talking of 'when you put aside the rational mind'.


If someone who is a purported teacher is suggesting one disengage one's critical thinking apparatus, then I'm already doubting their qualifications.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby oushi » Wed Apr 03, 2013 9:57 am

jeeprs wrote:Because when you say 'the structure of the mind', from which standpoint are we saying that?

From the standpoint A there are two standpoints. From standpoint B there are no standpoints. To say something is to say it from standpoint A. We don't need to say anything from standpoint B, and nothing can be said from it.

I think it is certainly true that the standpoint of the Tathagatha is beyond logic. But to go beyond logic is not the same as to disregard it. What is above reason is not irrational, but superior to reason. Crucial distinction.

I understand you frustration here, mine was similar. But try to find the difference between "beyond logic" and "without logic" and you will see that the difference appears only from the logical point of view :smile: . "beyond logic" and "without logic" are logical conceptualizations. :smile:
jeeprs wrote:I read some dialog the other day wherein a Zen teacher was talking of 'when you put aside the rational mind'. The way it was said, made my blood run cold. That can be an ideal space in which to cultivate fanaticism. I do understand 'beyond reason', I think, but I have complete respect for reason, within its range of application. I guess that is my Western philosophical side, but I would like to think that ultimately there is no conflict between the two.

There are no conflicts! Psychologically speaking, there is part of the mind that does the thinking, and it is You. And there is Tathagata. You will never become Tathagata, because you are Tathagata, not "You". If you sincerely let go of thinking, you will let go of yourself, which will still "work as designed".

"When the mortal mind appears, buddhahood disappears. When the mortal mind disappears, buddhahood appears. When the mind appears, reality disappears. When the mind disappears, reality appears. Whoever knows that nothing depends on anything has found the Way. And whoever knows that the mind depends on nothing is always at the place of enlightenment. - Bodhidharma"

It makes perfect sense when you take into consideration the way mind is divided from the brain perspective. Two separate entities, where only one is able to think logically. The other one is separated by a gateless gate. Gateless because "gate" is a meaning. When you take away meaning of a gate, and try to conceptualize about it, you will end up with gateless gate.

Huseng wrote:
jeeprs wrote:I read some dialog the other day wherein a Zen teacher was talking of 'when you put aside the rational mind'.


If someone who is a purported teacher is suggesting one disengage one's critical thinking apparatus, then I'm already doubting their qualifications.

"If you understand anything, you don’t understand. Only when you understand nothing is it true understanding. -Bodhidharma"

But lets leave this teaching and others like Diamond Sutra, as mystery... Then we can construct whatever please us, and argue about it.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby muni » Wed Apr 03, 2013 10:13 am

Huseng wrote:
Everything you need to do is outlined in the sūtras. If you need further clarification, check the śāstras.

At that point what's the point of receiving transmission.



As we consider ourselves being students of the Buddha we are inspired and guided by the great scriptures and then come to understand that what we are seeking we never find in scriptures themselves.

Since that what is seeking, is mind seeking itself = the point of transmissions.

No one is there who is wiser or less wiser other than in samsara's habits.

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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Astus » Wed Apr 03, 2013 10:36 am

Huseng wrote:I follow the line of thought of early Mahāyāna where you need to cultivate mental stamina through long-term meditative practices coupled with wisdom gained through scripture. If you combine the study of philosophy and scripture with long-term cultivation of samadhi and a moral lifestyle, then your three trainings are covered and you'll see progress.


Bojo Jinul and Hanshan Deqing did the same and both are regarded as major Zen teachers. It is not an unknown path even today.

At that point what's the point of receiving transmission, or thinking someone is wiser than the flock just by virtue of having "received transmission"? It is all performance and largely a reflection of institutional, not spiritual, concerns.


I think most of us could give a list of a number of teachers we have received help from on our path. Among those teachers, good friends, there are some who were more influential in our progress than others. Depending on our inclinations we could say that we stand closest to this or that style of teaching, or perhaps a mixture of a handful of methods learnt here and there. This is how it worked before and how it works today for the majority. The idea of a Zen lineage is partially based on that natural phenomenon in the Buddhist community, it also contains a strong influence from ancestor worship and the aristocratic system, eventually transformed into a politically motivated structure (first the fight between Shenxiu's heirs, then between the "Northern" and "Southern" school, and so on, culminating in the superiority of the Linji lineage promoted in the Tiansheng Guandeng Lu (published in 1039) that was also the first to explicitly put down the so called five houses system). Debates surrounding the transmissions were never doctrinal but rather political, establishing claims to authority. Eventually it served as a unifying scheme within Chinese Buddhism and practically any aspiring monk or nun could present a transmission document as Holmes Welch reported. That is no different from how it happens in the Soto Zen church today where temple priests all possess a lineage chart as part of their position, thus its spiritual value is only nominal.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 03, 2013 3:02 pm

muni wrote:
As we consider ourselves being students of the Buddha we are inspired and guided by the great scriptures and then come to understand that what we are seeking we never find in scriptures themselves.


Nevertheless, they are a sufficient guide for the path. An optimal means to an end.


Since that what is seeking, is mind seeking itself = the point of transmissions.


On paper it works like that, but not in real life.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 03, 2013 3:16 pm

Astus wrote:I think most of us could give a list of a number of teachers we have received help from on our path.


I agree. I have many teachers to whom I am deeply indebted for their support and teachings.

Like I said, I just don't see the compelling need for "receiving transmission". It perhaps sounds rather striking when someone is a "Dharma Heir" to some late figure who got a lot of publicity and had a huge following, but that's judging the person by their title rather than their deeds and words.

What I'm saying is, basically, I don't believe in the myth. I see it as a social construct useful for transmitting institutional authority.

I used to study and practice Zen. I even went to a Soto Zen University in Japan. I've come to think a lot of what came to exist is really unnecessary and seems to cause collective neurosis in people rather than remedy it.

Best to get back to the basics: sūtra, śāstra, abhidharma and dhyāna.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby randomseb » Wed Apr 03, 2013 3:20 pm

Sara H wrote:And Dogen said "it is futile to travel to other dusty countries, thus forsaking your own seat."


This is a reference to searching externally for Buddha, for "the answer", for the Way. Your own seat is that place were you are right now, not physically, mentally. The ancients often say this kind of thing, amongst other teachings.

As for institutional buddhism, it seems that this came about because many people need that kind of structured construct to compensate and allow them some form of progression along the way.

Initially there were not even any precepts, you just joined Buddha, listened to the teaching, and went off and put it into practice on your own. But as more and more people took interest, and because people have varying capabilities, precepts were added, usually in response to specific problems that came up.

The same in Zen, the Masters, the people who started it, were not about the form. Rules and forms were a hindrance. Sitting zazen was not zen, it was just a small part of it. The Way is not dependent on the condition of sitting. But as more and more general people became interested, the form and rituals took on stronger and stronger roles, and at some point it's no longer actually zen, but some other thing loosely based off it. This is obvious by the ego-clinging and grasping at the eight worldly concerns displayed by practitioners and teachers of these derived pseudobuddhist paths.

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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Astus » Wed Apr 03, 2013 3:49 pm

Huseng wrote:Best to get back to the basics: sūtra, śāstra, abhidharma and dhyāna.


Actually Zen itself has a huge literature that can be used just like other sutras and treatises. So we could say that instead of transmission a Zen teacher is someone who follows in the footsteps of previous teachers in terms of doctrine and praxis. For instance Thich Nhat Hanh, Xuanhua and Xingyun are all considered Zen teachers, but in fact it is not a central part of their teachings. Another example is Ting Chen's "The Fundamentals of Meditation Practice" (PDF) that is described on BuddhaNet as Chan while in fact it is mostly Tiantai. Then defining who is a Zen teacher becomes more of a matter of identifying what constitutes Zen.
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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; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 03, 2013 5:21 pm

Astus wrote:Actually Zen itself has a huge literature that can be used just like other sutras and treatises.


The Indic literature, however, is far more consistent and coherent.

Chinese Chan literature is often quite vague and requires extensive interpretation. Just reading it literally, it makes little to no sense without understanding all the symbolism and allusions. As a form of literary study it is rewarding, but I don't see it providing much insight into the workings of the mind and reality. Someone might argue otherwise, but I'm just stating my opinion on the matter.

I like early Chan literature (the Tang Dynasty treatises attributed to Bodhidharma and the Seven Gate Treatise for instance), but I don't see much value in Chan records of patriarchs, which forms the bulk of Chan literature, and gong'an. After taking courses on it and even translating it, I've come to have a low opinion of it. Huayan, Tiantai, Sanlun and so on produced far more readable and logical works, perhaps because they were looking to emulate their Indian counterparts.

With Indic literature you often just need to understand the technical vocabulary and it is fairly straightforward after that. Abhidharma and śāstra can be terse, but it is logical and coherent. If something doesn't immediately make sense, you can be assured it is not a puzzle or paradox. The authors normally had a meaning they wished to convey and as such there should be a coherent meaning to be understood.

With Chan literature you can often read it any number of ways and come to an intuitive, personal interpretation. This might explain the success of such literature in English translation as compared to, say, Abhidharma. The latter demands more intellectual rigour, which in a climate of anti-intellectualism that is so common amongst western Buddhists, will often not be encouraged.
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