Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Vidyaraja » Tue Sep 10, 2013 7:07 pm

plwk wrote:If this is helpful...


Interesting, but not sure I agree with him. He says Taoism is naturalistic, but Taoist texts state that the Tao is prior to heaven and earth, both of which depend on it, and it also states it is beyond the senses, i.e. the Tao is transcendent.

I also wouldn't say that Zen is humanism or humanistic seeing as though Pure Mind or the Buddha is the sole focus, besides which not a thing exists. As Huang Po says:

Our original Buddha-Nature is in highest truth devoid of any atom of objectivity. It is void, omnipresent, silent, pure; it is glorious and mysterious peaceful joy - and that is all. Enter deeply into it by awakening to it yourself. That which is before you (awareness) is it, in all it's fullness, utterly complete. There is naught beside.


Huang Po also speaks of the Buddha-Nature or Mind being the source substance of all phenomena, which of course includes all that is merely human. Aside from that, if Zen is indeed a form of Buddhism, did not the Buddha teach that skandhas which comprise the human is anatta or "not myself"? What is merely human is denied in Buddhism as far as I can tell, whereas Buddha-Nature/Pure Mind is all there is.
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Astus » Tue Sep 10, 2013 10:59 pm

Vidyaraja wrote:While I am personally not convinced, there must be some basis or reason for multiple figures to make these claims.


The question is where and why were Taoism and Zen connected by certain individuals. Without binging in actual quotes and references this can't really be answered. As for Zen itself, the tradition makes no connection to Taoism, Taoist teachers or teachings, but recognises only Buddhist scriptures and doctrines.

I haven't read much of Suzuki, but why is he biased and outdated?


He represented a specific interpretation of Zen defined by Japanese Rinzai rhetoric and modern Romantic/Theosophist/New Age ideas. That's why it is biased. And it is outdated because since then scholars have extensively reviewed and modified the understanding of Zen history and religion.

Huang Po also speaks of the Buddha-Nature or Mind being the source substance of all phenomena, which of course includes all that is merely human. Aside from that, if Zen is indeed a form of Buddhism, did not the Buddha teach that skandhas which comprise the human is anatta or "not myself"? What is merely human is denied in Buddhism as far as I can tell, whereas Buddha-Nature/Pure Mind is all there is.


It seems to me you are misinterpreting Zen as some sort of monism. Zen doesn't teach anything like a supreme absolute thing nor does it deny ordinary phenomena. Sure, certain translations and terms can be misleading. But, first of all, Zen does not discuss Buddhist doctrine, it talks about practice. So if you gain some sort of view from reading Zen texts, that's not what they were written for. It is very important to clarify the basic teachings of Mahayana before attempting to understand Zen, otherwise one fails to see the context and inevitably misconstrues the whole thing. If you don't know where to start with Mahayana, I recommend Shantideva's Bodhicaryavatara. Although it was never popular in East Asia, it is still a great summary. But if you want to stay within the Chinese Buddhism area, go through the works translated by Ven. Dharmamitra: http://kalavinka.org/
"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)

“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; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Vidyaraja » Wed Sep 11, 2013 12:11 am

Astus wrote:He represented a specific interpretation of Zen defined by Japanese Rinzai rhetoric and modern Romantic/Theosophist/New Age ideas. That's why it is biased. And it is outdated because since then scholars have extensively reviewed and modified the understanding of Zen history and religion.


Doesn't everyone have biases though?

Perhaps Suzuki is wrong about his claims, I wouldn't know because I never read him, but I personally never understood the idea of views being outdated. Why is the 2013 understanding of Zen history and religion the correct one? If in the future scholars modify the current understanding, will we then be outdated? Is the Buddha outdated? Should we listen to someone like Stephen Batchelor's views on Buddhism over the traditional views because they are contemporary and more familiar with modern science?

Astus wrote:It seems to me you are misinterpreting Zen as some sort of monism. Zen doesn't teach anything like a supreme absolute thing nor does it deny ordinary phenomena. Sure, certain translations and terms can be misleading. But, first of all, Zen does not discuss Buddhist doctrine, it talks about practice. So if you gain some sort of view from reading Zen texts, that's not what they were written for. It is very important to clarify the basic teachings of Mahayana before attempting to understand Zen, otherwise one fails to see the context and inevitably misconstrues the whole thing. If you don't know where to start with Mahayana, I recommend Shantideva's Bodhicaryavatara. Although it was never popular in East Asia, it is still a great summary. But if you want to stay within the Chinese Buddhism area, go through the works translated by Ven. Dharmamitra: http://kalavinka.org/


Zen also doesn't say we are the human body with its thoughts, memories, expectations, etc. Zen and Buddhism in general is a doctrine of awakening to our true nature/the Absolute, not humanism. Buddha himself claimed the 5 skandhas to be anatta, and what else comprises the human organism but the 5 skandhas?

If Zen (and Buddhism by extension) doesn't each an absolute Buddha-Nature or One Mind or Universal Ground Gnosis, which of course is not a "thing", what does it teach? What is beyond the 5 skandhas that are anatta, anicca, and dukkha?
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:13 am

I am a great admirer of D T Suzuki, even having read critical studies and being informed of the criticisms about him. So I don't accept that he is 'biased' - he simply writes from a perspective, and without some perspective, it is pointless to say anything. I like his universalism, even though I acknowledge that is influenced by theosophy, and I don't agree that his books are 'out-dated'.

I also don't agree that Zen is *not* a type of monism, although that has to be qualified with the observation that really it is an expression of non-dualism, 'advaya' being its Buddhist iteration, to distinguish it from the Hindu Advaita. So the 'one' which Zen points to, is not properly an object of cognition as it is never 'other' to the one pointing. Nevertheless there are many statements in the Zen literature about the One:

Huang Po wrote:The Dharmakaya, from ancient times until today, together with the Buddhas and Ancestors, is One.


Astus wrote:Zen doesn't teach anything like a supreme absolute thing


That is because the supreme absolute is not 'a thing'.
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Huifeng » Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:19 am

Vidyaraja wrote:There are two claims I often hear regarding Zen that I'd like to inquire about. One of these claims is that Zen represents a Sinification of Buddhism and is influenced by or mixed with Taoism. An extreme variant of this I've heard is that Zen is merely Taoism in disguise. The other claims I hear is that Zen isn't Buddhism, which I find even more absurd than the first claim.

To what extent if any are these claims true? It seems from my readings into Zen that it isn't merely Taoism in disguise. It seems that Zen is based on sutras like the Lankavatara, and I personally believe in the historical existence of a Bodhidharma and hence Zen's transmission from India. Of course Zen adapted to Chinese and other East Asian cultures and I believe that there may have been influences from Taoism considering Buddhism being influenced to some degree by other indigenous traditions (Hinduism, Bon, Shintoism, Korean shamanism, etc.) wherever it spread, but this is a bit different from the claims I've mentioned.

So yeah, what are the relationships between Zen, Indian Buddhism, and Taoism?


Buddhism developed in India, moved through into central Asia, and from there into the center of China; it also went to China via the south eastern sea routes. At first, the Chinese often used terms from texts like the Daode jing, Zhuangzi, etc. to translate, but by the 5th century when Kumarajiva arrived, they realized that this was really quite wrong. In the next few centuries, Chinese Buddhism was a fairly straight up Indian Buddhist model in doctrine and practice terms, but externally took on a number of Chinese cultural elements. Of these cultural elements, there were various texts and interpretations, but no real schools or religions, per se. Around the Tang and Song there was further sinicization of Buddhism, but also a huge amount of influence by Buddhism on the other philosophical teachings. The idea of Daojia as a system of philosophy, and Daojiao as a religion, but both were heavily influenced by Buddhism. The Daojia people wrote classic "jing" that were exactly modeled on Buddhist texts, and even had to claim that Laozi taught the Buddha. Such brazen lies went too far, and one emperor told them to knock it off. So, by the Song the Daojia and Rujia (Confucian tradition) people reinvented themselves in the face of pressure, borrowing a huge amount of Buddhist notions just changing the terms some times to represent their own traditions. The Buddhists still continued to use both translations of Indian sutra, sastra and vinaya; and write their own commentaries on these. Their own philosophical tradition was very rich, and they didn't have to borrow or steal from the others very much at all. Though obvious there would have been some influence. In the modern period, there is a further Buddhist trend back to Indian material, which is still regarded as more orthodox in terms of theory and practice. This is the case for Chan as well as any Chinese tradition.

Many western scholars who studied Chinese Buddhism learnt sinology -- classical chinese through non-Buddhist sources, and backed up with modern Japanese scholarship. They did not learn Sanskrit or Indian Buddhism. Thus, when they often encountered terms or phrases in Chan and other Chinese literature, they quickly saw parallels to Daojia or Rujia ideas, but often totally missed the fact that the ideas were straight out of Indian Buddhism. Eg. use of the term "dao" -- while it could conceivably by from Daojia or Rujia or any other Chinese form (see Rob Campany's essay on the term "dao" as the generic Chinese equivalent of "religion"), it is much more likely to just come from Buddhism, either "marga" or "bodhi". Why jump to the conclusion that it is "Daoist"? Because of poor knowledge of Indian Buddhism in the first place. Other examples are plenty.

If you like, try going through all the huge Chan school literature, and just see how many times the classic opening phrase from the Daode jing "道可道非常道 名可名非常名" comes up. If almost not a single Chan teacher uses such a classic line, but these texts are over flowing with references and quotes from Buddhist scripture, how can we say that Chan is (crypto)Daoist? It really is too much of a stretch.

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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Huifeng » Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:21 am

Modern Zen studies buried poor old D T Suzuki several decades ago already... Time to move on...

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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:53 am

I would prefer to linger, thanks.
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Kim O'Hara » Wed Sep 11, 2013 3:56 am

Thanks for a :good: , Huifeng.
However, this response is mainly directed towards Jeeprs.
It struck me that the process described here ...
Huifeng wrote:Buddhism developed in India, moved through into central Asia, and from there into the center of China; it also went to China via the south eastern sea routes. At first, the Chinese often used terms from texts like the Daode jing, Zhuangzi, etc. to translate, but by the 5th century when Kumarajiva arrived, they realized that this was really quite wrong. In the next few centuries, Chinese Buddhism was a fairly straight up Indian Buddhist model in doctrine and practice terms, but externally took on a number of Chinese cultural elements. Of these cultural elements, there were various texts and interpretations, but no real schools or religions, per se. Around the Tang and Song there was further sinicization of Buddhism, but also a huge amount of influence by Buddhism on the other philosophical teachings. The idea of Daojia as a system of philosophy, and Daojiao as a religion, but both were heavily influenced by Buddhism. The Daojia people wrote classic "jing" that were exactly modeled on Buddhist texts, and even had to claim that Laozi taught the Buddha.

... is paralleled rather neatly (and somewhat amusingly so) by the process by which Buddhism was brought to the West. Let's see how far I can push the similarity without being too silly:
with apologies to Huifeng, Kim wrote:Buddhism developed in Asia, and moved through into the West in the late nineteenth century via India and Sri Lanka and separately via Japan. At first, the westerners often used terms from texts like the Bilble, theosophical texts, etc. to translate Buddhist concepts, but by the 1950s, they realized that this was really quite wrong. In the next few decades, Western Buddhism was a fairly straight up bunch of Asian Buddhist models (Mahayana, Zen, Vajrayana, Theravada) in doctrine and practice terms, but externally took on a number of Western cultural elements such as the equality of women, a less devotional style and a more democratic relation between teacher and students. Of these cultural elements, there were various texts and interpretations, but no real schools or religions, per se. Around the 1990s there was further westernisation of Buddhism, but also a huge amount of influence by Buddhism on other philosophical and therapeutic teachings. MBSR and other 'secular' meditation movements were heavily influenced by Buddhism. The 'mindfulness' people wrote self-help books that were exactly modeled on Buddhist texts, and even claimed that the Buddha was a scientific rationalist.


Where's Suzuki in this? Right back in the early part, and that's why his work is considered outdated. He was a pioneer and we should respect and thank him for it, but we now have more accurate translations built on a far wider range of sources.

:namaste:
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Sep 11, 2013 5:33 am

I admire Suzuki at least in part because I discovered Zen through his (and Alan Watts) books. I recognize his drawbacks, but the books you discover such a subject through become part of your spiritual formation. It doesn't mean you can't be critical about them, but I still find them very meaningful and more congenial to my outlook than many other books. (I was intensely dissillusioned when I read Monica Furlong's bio of Watts although I have gotten over that to some extent.)

I find many of the more updated and current studies of Zen have their own biases - well, perhaps not biases, but are expressions of another type of intellectual fashion, whatever that might be. I am quite dissillusioned with a tendency amongst Zen exponents to rationalize normality rather than challenge it. Anyway, that's all

:offtopic:

I am reading some of the links provided above, which are quite interesting in their own right.
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby LastLegend » Wed Sep 11, 2013 6:40 am

To Huifeng:

What I want to know is if Tao or Dao from (Dao De Jing) is not some brushed up Buddhism.
NAMO AMITABHA
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Konchog1 » Wed Sep 11, 2013 7:41 am

Seven Taoist Masters is a collection of Daoist folk tales. It repeatedly states that Daoism and Buddhism lead to the same goal and presents Daoist masters teaching their students Buddhist teachings.

Daoist mediation as explained seems similar to Zen or even Dzogchen (to me).

However, the Chi practices of Daoism seem unique to Daoism.
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"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby plwk » Wed Sep 11, 2013 8:46 am

The Daojia people wrote classic "jing" that were exactly modeled on Buddhist texts, and even had to claim that Laozi taught the Buddha. Such brazen lies went too far, and one emperor told them to knock it off.
Sounds like what I posted here some time back...
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Astus » Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:31 am

Vidyaraja wrote:Perhaps Suzuki is wrong about his claims, I wouldn't know because I never read him, but I personally never understood the idea of views being outdated. Why is the 2013 understanding of Zen history and religion the correct one? If in the future scholars modify the current understanding, will we then be outdated? Is the Buddha outdated?


Certain philosophical and religious ideas are theoretically timeless as they are not bound to material evidence, nevertheless, they can change too by time. Suzuki's works are outdated in terms of their scholarly perspective, what they say about the history and development of Zen, and how it generalises his interpretation of Zen to all forms of Zen. And yes, even the current view of the history of Zen can expire if new sources and studies appear. Translations also require refreshment and corrections for several reasons.

Zen also doesn't say we are the human body with its thoughts, memories, expectations, etc. Zen and Buddhism in general is a doctrine of awakening to our true nature/the Absolute, not humanism. Buddha himself claimed the 5 skandhas to be anatta, and what else comprises the human organism but the 5 skandhas?

If Zen (and Buddhism by extension) doesn't each an absolute Buddha-Nature or One Mind or Universal Ground Gnosis, which of course is not a "thing", what does it teach? What is beyond the 5 skandhas that are anatta, anicca, and dukkha?


The five aggregates are indeed impermanent, not self and empty. That is their true nature. That is our true nature. But if you look for something beyond that, a universal essence, that's "adding a head on top of your head". Look at the Heart Sutra and the Diamond Sutra - the two most prominent scriptures used in Zen - do they talk about anything like an absolute? And there's the Platform Sutra, right after the story of Huineng it gives an explanation of Mahaprajnaparamita, shows how the nature of the mind is empty, functioning and includes everything, that is, one should not block the senses but be aware without attachment. That is no-thought, the essential path of Zen, and no different from what are taught in the sutras.

If you look into Zongmi's criticism of Taoism (On Human Origins), it is exactly this idea of a fundamental source and basis of everything that he refutes as nonsense. Similar arguments exist in both Madhyamaka and Yogacara works.
"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)

“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; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:41 am

Astus wrote:do they talk about anything like an absolute?


Huang Po wrote: The Dharmakaya, from ancient times until today, together with the Buddhas and Ancestors, is One.
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Astus » Wed Sep 11, 2013 12:27 pm

jeeprs wrote:
Huang Po wrote: The Dharmakaya, from ancient times until today, together with the Buddhas and Ancestors, is One.


"If Dharma students wish to know the key to successful cultivation, they should know that it is the mind that dwells on nothing. Emptiness is the Buddha's Dharmakaya, just as the Dharmakaya is emptiness. People's usual understanding is that the Dharmakaya pervades emptiness, and that it is contained in emptiness. However, this is erroneous, for we should understand that the Dharmakaya is emptiness and that emptiness is the Dharmakaya.
If one thinks that emptiness is an entity and that this emptiness is separate from the Dharmakaya or that there is a Dharmakaya outside of emptiness, one is holding a wrong view. In the complete absence of views about emptiness, the true Dharmakaya appears. Emptiness and Dharmakaya are not different. Sentient beings and Buddhas are not different. Birth and death and Nirvana are not different. Klesa and Bodhi are not different."

(Chung-Ling Record in "The Dharma of Mind Transmission", tr. Lok To)

Also from Huangbo:

"Worldly and holy are very clearly explained in the Three Vehicles. You do not understand and grasp them as objects. Wouldn't it be incorrect to think of emptiness as really existing? Merely wipe out the worldly-and-holy view. There is no Buddha outside of the Mind. The Patriarch came from the West solely to point out that people's minds are Buddha. You do not recognize this and actively pursue the Buddha. You do not recognize this and actively pursue the Buddha outside, thus deluding your own mind. For this reason, I talk about the Mind as Buddha. Actually, giving rise to a single thought, one falls into heterodox paths. Since time without beginning, there is no differentiation or discrimination, Void-ness is the Unconditioned Awakening."
"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)

“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; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:21 pm

People's usual understanding is that the Dharmakaya pervades emptiness, and that it is contained in emptiness. However, this is erroneous...


...because it is incorrect to think of Dharmakaya as extended in space.

Dharmakaya is a metaphysical conception. It cannot be demonstrated scientifically, or grasped objectively. It is not simply 'nothing' but it is also not any particular thing. It is an incorporeal reality - while it is not extended in space, there is nowhere that it does not obtain.

It is often said that the idea of dharmakaya is the nearest equivalent to the God idea. I don't think it's true, because it is not something along the lines of a personal deity. But there are many parallels between the Dharmakaya and the God of the mystics.

If one thinks that emptiness is an entity... one is holding a wrong view.


But if one thinks that emptiness is a non-entity, that is also a wrong view.

D T Suzuki wrote:Absence, extinction and unoccupancy—these are not the Buddhist conception of emptiness. Buddhists’ Emptiness is not on the plane of relativity. It is Absolute Emptiness transcending all forms of mutual relationship, of subject and object, birth and death, God and the world, something and nothing, yes and no, affirmation and negation. In no Buddhist Emptiness there is time, no space, no becoming, no-thing-ness; it is what makes these things possible; it is zero full of infinite possibilities, it is a void of inexhaustible contents.


Sentient beings and Buddhas are not different.


But if this was evident to everyone, what need would there be of a teaching? 'The Patriach came from the West to point this out': if it was obvious, there would have been no need.

Actually, giving rise to a single thought, one falls into heterodox paths.


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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby oushi » Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:44 pm

jeeprs wrote:It is often said that the idea of dharmakaya is the nearest equivalent to the God idea. I don't think it's true, because it is not something along the lines of a personal deity. But there are many parallels between the Dharmakaya and the God of the mystics.

To have many parallels, we need many characteristics. And there is only one which is "no particular characteristic". It is precisely the same for Tao.
jeeprs wrote:
Actually, giving rise to a single thought, one falls into heterodox paths.


One has to think in order to write.

There is difference between rising and giving rise... I would say, a major difference.
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Astus » Wed Sep 11, 2013 3:01 pm

jeeprs wrote:It is often said that the idea of dharmakaya is the nearest equivalent to the God idea. I don't think it's true, because it is not something along the lines of a personal deity. But there are many parallels between the Dharmakaya and the God of the mystics.


"All of the non-Buddhist paths are attached to the view of a self. If it was actually the case that a self existed, then it ought to fall into one or the other of two categories. Either it is characterized by destructibility or else it is characterized by indestructibility. If it is characterized by destructibility, then it ought to be something like a cow hide. If it is characterized by indestructibility, then it ought to be comparable to empty space. In the case of both of these positions, they are both such as would involve no offense entailed in killing and would involve no merit in refraining from killing.
If it were like empty space, then neither rain nor dew would be able to moisten it and neither wind nor heat would be able to dry it out. If this were the case, then it would fall into the category of something which is permanent. If it were permanent, then suffering would be unable to torment it and happiness would be unable to please it. If it thus was something which did not experience suffering or happiness, then it ought not to be concerned with avoiding evil and striving to perform deeds which generate merit.
If it was comparable to a cow hide, then it would be such as might be destroyed by wind and rain. If it was destructible, then it would fall into the category of something which is impermanent. If it were impermanent, then there could be neither [future punishments resulting from] offenses nor [future blessings resulting from] engaging in meritorious karmic deeds.
If in fact the discourse of the non-Buddhist traditions corresponds to these characterizations, then what would be the point in having the teaching that refraining from killing is karmically meritorious and that engaging in killing constitutes a karmic offense?"
...
"[The beliefs of] you and other non-Buddhists like you are so extremely different from the Buddha’s Dharma as to be as far apart as heaven and earth. Your dharmas and that of other non-Buddhists like you is a place for the production of afflictions. In the case of the Dharma of the Buddha, it is a place for the doing away with afflictions. This constitutes a great difference."

(Nagarjuna on the Six Perfections: The Perfection of Wisdom, Excerpt 2)

But if one thinks that emptiness is a non-entity, that is also a wrong view.


"Thus because the view of existence and nonexistence of entities will have many faults, therefore that “lack of intrinsic nature of entities” is the vision of reality; it is the middle path; and just that is the attainment of ultimate reality (paramartha)."
(Buddhapalita's commentary to MMK chapter 15, tr. William L. Ames, "Buddhapalita's Exposition of Madhyamaka" in "Journal of Indian Philosophy 14 (1986), p 322)

"For us, there is no view of refication or nihilism based on essence, because we do not maintain that entities exist essentially. Suppose one charged, “Although you do not adopt the view of reification, you do adopt the view of nihilism!” We would reply that if one first maintained that the object of annihilation exists essentially and then later maintained that it does not exist, one would thereby repudiate the necessity of the eternal existence of that which exists essentially, and thus would fall into nihilism. But to say that that which never existed essentially in the first place does not exist is not deprecation, and therefore is not nihilism."
(Tsongkhapa's commentary to MMK 15, in "Ocean of Reasoning", p 325)

Actually, giving rise to a single thought, one falls into heterodox paths.

One has to think in order to write.


Thoughts are not eliminated or stopped. Not giving rise to means not attaching to, not having a view that there is an essence of a thought.

"What is nonthought? If in seeing all the dharmas, the mind is not defiled or attached, this is nonthought. [The mind’s] functioning pervades all locations, yet it is not attached to all the locations. Just purify the fundamental mind, causing the six consciousnesses to emerge from the six [sensory] gates, [causing one to be] without defilement or heterogeneity within the six types of sensory data (literally, the “six dusts”), autonomous in the coming and going [of mental phenomena], one’s penetrating function without stagnation. This is the samādhi of prajñā, the autonomous emancipation. This is called the practice of nonthought.
If one does not think of the hundred things in order to cause thought to be eradicated, this is bondage within the Dharma. This is called an extreme view."

(Platform Sutra, ch 2, tr. McRae, p 33-34)
"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)

“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; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Astus
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Vidyaraja » Wed Sep 11, 2013 4:05 pm

Astus wrote:The five aggregates are indeed impermanent, not self and empty.


You forgot dukkha.

Astus wrote:That is their true nature. That is our true nature. But if you look for something beyond that, a universal essence, that's "adding a head on top of your head".


Our true nature is impermanent, without a self, empty, and merely the 5 skandhas? Sounds like nihilism and materialism more than a spiritual doctrine of Awakening to me. Aside from that, the 5 skandhas are all immanent and yet Buddhism often speaks of "transcendent wisdom." What is this wisdom that is transcendent if all that exists is the 5 skandhas?

It seems your view on this matter is indeed a view that has existed within Buddhism, but not the only view. Dolpopa for instance studied Buddhism and nothing but from childhood until the end of his life and didn't come to the same conclusion. In fact he wrote a massive tome which is filled with numerous citations from sutras, tantras, shastras, and commentaries which support his position. I'll quote two pieces from his Fourth Council to highlight his thoughts on the issue:

They claim that what is empty of self-nature is the ultimate profound mode of reality, such as absolute truth, the expanse of reality, the true nature, and thusness. Without dividing the two truths into two kingdoms, they claim that whatever is manifest is relative truth and whatever is empty is absolute truth. They say that the manifest and the empty are in essence indivisible, so there is a single essence, but with different facets.

If everything manifest is relative samsara, the manifestation
of the absolute would also be relative samsara
If everything empty is absolute nirvana, all that is empty
of self-nature would be absolute nirvana.
If that is claimed, the consequence would be that all sufferings
and their sources would also be absolute nirvana
If even that is claimed, they would be taintless, and also
pure, self, great bliss, and permanent.
All the absolute qualities such as the powers, which are as
numerous as the sands of the river Ganges, would also be complete.
Those [sufferings and their sources] would be the ultimate
which are to be taken up.
They would be the ultimate source of refuge for living
beings.
They would be the ultimate omniscient gnosis.
They would also be the imperishable adamantine buddhabody.
It would be totally incorrect to reject [those sufferings and
their sources] with the antidote.
To reject them would mean that the Truth of the Path
would really be meaningless.
The attainment of buddhahood would be totally impossible.
Dharma and Sangha would also be impossible.
In this [position] there are also infinite other faults and flaws.


and

Therefore, the ultimate [reality] in all profound sutras and tantras which finely present thusness, and so forth, is empty of other, never empty of self-nature.

It is absolute, never relative.
It is the true nature, never the phenomena.
It is the middle, never the extreme.
It is nirvana, never samsara.
It is gnosis, never consciousness.
It is pure, never impure.
It is a sublime self, never a nothingness.
It is great bliss, never suffering.
It is permanent and stable, never impermanent.
It is self-arisen, never arisen due to another.
It is the fully established, never the imagined.
It is natural, never fabricated.
It is primordial, never incidental.
It is Buddha, never a sentient being.
It is the essence, never the husk.
It is definitive in meaning, never provisional in meaning.
It is ultimate, never transient.
It is the ground and result, never the Truth of the Path.
It is the ground of purification, never the object of
purification.
It is the mode of reality, never the mode of delusion.
It is the sublime other, never the outer and inner.
It is true, never false.
It is perfect, never perverse.
It is the ground of emptiness, never just empty.
It is the ground of separation, never just a separation.
It is the ground of absence, never just an absence.
It is an established phenomenon, never an absolute negation.
It is virtue, never nonvirtue.
It is authentic, never inauthentic.
It is correct, never incorrect.
It is immaculate, never stain.


Of course this is Tibetan Buddhism, not Zen. Interestingly enough I was reading Thomas Cleary's book on various documents about Kensho last night, and in it he stated:

When Zen texts speak of emptiness, voidness, equanimity, purity, or the spacelike nature of mind, it is this aspect of "substance" to which they refer. The emptiness, voidness, equanimity, purity, and spacelike quality refer to the nonconceptual, nonemotional nature of the experience of the substance or "body" of the true mind.


Immediately following Chinul goes onto quote the Awakening of Faith:

The substance of true suchness is neither more nor less in ordinary people, learners, those awakened to conditionality, enlightening beings, and the Buddhas. It was not originated in the past and will not perish in the future; it is ultimately eternal.


Chinul then goes onto say himself:

According to this scripture and treatise, the basic substance of the true mind transcends causality and pervades time. It is neither profane nor sacred; it has no oppositions. Like space itself, it is omnipresent; its subtle substance is stable and utterly peaceful, beyond all conceptual elaboration. It is unoriginated, imperishable, neither existent nor nonexistent. It is unmoving, unstirring, profoundly still and eternal.

This is called the inner host that has always been there, or the person before the prehistoric Buddhas, or the self before the aeon of emptiness. Uniformly equanimous, it is totally flawless and unblemished. All things, pure and impure-mountains, rivers, earth, grasses, trees, forests, all forms and appearances- all come forth from this.
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Re: Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Sep 11, 2013 4:50 pm

Emptiness is a non-affirming negation. Someone saying that you cannot find anything outside the 5 skandhas means what it means, there is no underlying implication about anything else, it's just talking about what it is, if you can find something outside the skandhas, go ahead and show us what it is.

Meaning, nothing is affirmed as "more real" or "less real" You can draw whatever conclusions you want from that, but it is NOT the same thing as saying "nothing exists outside the Skandhas". It may seem like a small distinction but it's huge, and seemingly The Buddha himself discouraged such definitive statements in either diretion about the ultimate nature of reality.

Also take a look at the "rang tong vs. zhen tong" threads, and a few of the other "true self" threads floating around.

I do not remember what Sutta it is, but the analogy goes something like "I teach Everything, if a man should claim the existence of another Everything, he would go crazy trying to find it". So yeah, the statement is what it is, it is not a definite ontological statement of either being or nothingness, but of course should be a middle path between the two...by my understanding.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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