Zen and engaged Buddhism?

Zen and engaged Buddhism?

Postby Luke » Sun Nov 17, 2013 6:29 pm

What is Zen Buddhism's view on charity work? Did Zen masters of the past ever find it important or did they just see it as a distraction from dharma practice?

I am aware that Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen monk and that he spends a great deal of effort on Engaged Buddhism, but is this just his own innovation or have there been other examples like this in the history of Zen Buddhism?
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Re: Zen and engaged Buddhism?

Postby Matylda » Sun Nov 17, 2013 9:41 pm

Actually nothing if we consider charity in the Western sense. Zen was represented by monks mostly in temples and monasteries, so according to general dharma teaching sangha was an object of offerings by lay followers or faithful Buddhists.
In the East there was no idea of charity like in Europe or America. I understand that big part of charity traces its origins to Christianity, but it was not the case in Asia. Dana paramita or FUSE in Japanese was part of individual practice. It does not mean that there was no or is not charity in Asia, it simply means that the way it was expressed was much less institutionalized. Then there were great examples of charity praticed by lay and ordained...
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Re: Zen and engaged Buddhism?

Postby shaunc » Mon Nov 18, 2013 4:25 am

Thich Nhat Hanh is one of my favourite monks. I love reading his work. The 14 precepts his disciples are expected to follow are fantastic.
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Re: Zen and engaged Buddhism?

Postby Lindama » Mon Nov 18, 2013 4:45 am

TNH is a Vietnamese zen monk. He seems to have his own application for zen.

There are organizations such as Engaged Buddhism and Buddhist Peacemakes organized by Bernie Glassman... and others who work on compassionate projects in prisons and in the streets. Some individuals just do this. My on the ground experience with zen does not go beyond the interests of keeping the sangha going.

I have sat with several Tibetan lamas who contribute to the survival of entire villages overseas. A little goes so far over there. I know of nothing like that in zen. But, I don't have the bigger view.
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Re: Zen and engaged Buddhism?

Postby yan kong » Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:14 am

All Buddhism is engaged, it is the dogmas that the western world holds that convinces them otherwise.
"Meditation is a spiritual exercise, not a therapeutic regime... Our intention is to enter Nirvana, not to make life in Samsara more tolerable." Chan Master Hsu Yun
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Re: Zen and engaged Buddhism?

Postby Luke » Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:11 pm

yan kong wrote:All Buddhism is engaged, it is the dogmas that the western world holds that convinces them otherwise.

Really? Would you care to elaborate on this idea?

For example, how is a Buddhist group which only focuses on their own meditation practices "engaged"?
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Re: Zen and engaged Buddhism?

Postby seeker242 » Sat Nov 23, 2013 10:25 pm

The ultimate charity is to teach people the dharma. Near all the masters of the past did that. Bodhidharma coming to China was an act of charity. The Bodhisattva vow to save all beings is quite charitable. :smile:
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Re: Zen and engaged Buddhism?

Postby Luke » Sun Nov 24, 2013 10:20 pm

seeker242 wrote:The ultimate charity is to teach people the dharma. Near all the masters of the past did that. Bodhidharma coming to China was an act of charity. The Bodhisattva vow to save all beings is quite charitable. :smile:

Yes, I agree. I have no doubt about the "charity" of great Buddhist masters.

My question is if Buddhists who drive to the Buddhist center for a meditation session and then drive right back home are also "charitable" in the same sense.

Obviously, one can't teach the dharma without first learning it, but the question is if it's important for Buddhists to be charitable while they are still learning about the dharma.
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Re: Zen and engaged Buddhism?

Postby Paul » Sun Nov 24, 2013 11:17 pm

Luke wrote:
seeker242 wrote:The ultimate charity is to teach people the dharma. Near all the masters of the past did that. Bodhidharma coming to China was an act of charity. The Bodhisattva vow to save all beings is quite charitable. :smile:

Yes, I agree. I have no doubt about the "charity" of great Buddhist masters.

My question is if Buddhists who drive to the Buddhist center for a meditation session and then drive right back home are also "charitable" in the same sense.

Obviously, one can't teach the dharma without first learning it, but the question is if it's important for Buddhists to be charitable while they are still learning about the dharma.

You can engage in charitable acts like giving and taking care of people all your life and then die without even slightly getting closer to escaping samsara. Samsara cannot be made 'better' by any action - it's inherently suffering. This is a point of view very much at odds with the Judeo-Christian point of Western culture.
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Re: Zen and engaged Buddhism?

Postby seeker242 » Mon Nov 25, 2013 1:39 am

Luke wrote:
seeker242 wrote:The ultimate charity is to teach people the dharma. Near all the masters of the past did that. Bodhidharma coming to China was an act of charity. The Bodhisattva vow to save all beings is quite charitable. :smile:

Yes, I agree. I have no doubt about the "charity" of great Buddhist masters.

My question is if Buddhists who drive to the Buddhist center for a meditation session and then drive right back home are also "charitable" in the same sense.

Obviously, one can't teach the dharma without first learning it, but the question is if it's important for Buddhists to be charitable while they are still learning about the dharma.


I would say if they are practicing properly, then they would also be engaging in charity and that yes it's important. Lot of teachers talk about the "6 paramitas" with the first being the Dana Paramita. Zen is no exception to that. :) But "charity" is not necessarily limited to just giving homeless people food, etc., it's much more expansive than that. This description of the Dana Paramita is a good one I think. http://www.naljorprisondharmaservice.or ... amitas.htm
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Re: Zen and engaged Buddhism?

Postby yan kong » Mon Nov 25, 2013 2:38 am

Luke wrote:
yan kong wrote:All Buddhism is engaged, it is the dogmas that the western world holds that convinces them otherwise.

Really? Would you care to elaborate on this idea?

For example, how is a Buddhist group which only focuses on their own meditation practices "engaged"?


The threefold training involves practicing the precepts and 6 paramitas as well as concentration/meditation. If one only meditates then their practice in not complete.
"Meditation is a spiritual exercise, not a therapeutic regime... Our intention is to enter Nirvana, not to make life in Samsara more tolerable." Chan Master Hsu Yun
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Re: Zen and engaged Buddhism?

Postby Luke » Wed Dec 04, 2013 7:38 pm

seeker242 wrote:I would say if they are practicing properly, then they would also be engaging in charity and that yes it's important. Lot of teachers talk about the "6 paramitas" with the first being the Dana Paramita. Zen is no exception to that. :) But "charity" is not necessarily limited to just giving homeless people food, etc., it's much more expansive than that. This description of the Dana Paramita is a good one I think. http://www.naljorprisondharmaservice.or ... amitas.htm

Thanks for the reminder that Zen Buddhists also practice the Six Paramitas. All Mahayana Buddhists strive to practice the Six Paramitas and I shouldn't forget this.

yan kong wrote:The threefold training involves practicing the precepts and 6 paramitas as well as concentration/meditation. If one only meditates then their practice in not complete.

Ah, I see what you mean now. Thanks for replying. :namaste:
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Re: Zen and engaged Buddhism?

Postby Luke » Wed Dec 04, 2013 7:43 pm

Paul wrote:You can engage in charitable acts like giving and taking care of people all your life and then die without even slightly getting closer to escaping samsara. Samsara cannot be made 'better' by any action - it's inherently suffering. This is a point of view very much at odds with the Judeo-Christian point of Western culture.

This may be true, but it's also dangerously close to a nihilistic view that all ordinary acts of kindness are worthless--which is denying cause and effect (karma).

This is why, as Yan Kong mentioned earlier, Buddhism has the threefold training: to develop the mind, virtue, and wisdom all together.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Threefold_Training
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Re: Zen and engaged Buddhism?

Postby Jesse » Tue Dec 24, 2013 1:17 pm

Paul wrote:
Luke wrote:
seeker242 wrote:The ultimate charity is to teach people the dharma. Near all the masters of the past did that. Bodhidharma coming to China was an act of charity. The Bodhisattva vow to save all beings is quite charitable. :smile:

Yes, I agree. I have no doubt about the "charity" of great Buddhist masters.

My question is if Buddhists who drive to the Buddhist center for a meditation session and then drive right back home are also "charitable" in the same sense.

Obviously, one can't teach the dharma without first learning it, but the question is if it's important for Buddhists to be charitable while they are still learning about the dharma.

You can engage in charitable acts like giving and taking care of people all your life and then die without even slightly getting closer to escaping samsara. Samsara cannot be made 'better' by any action - it's inherently suffering. This is a point of view very much at odds with the Judeo-Christian point of Western culture.


Samsara isn't a place, it is simply ignorance, this is why once ignorance is removed, there is enlightenment, so I sort of disagree that charity can't remove suffering. It certainty can, ask the homeless person receiving food or warm clothing from someone right now. They are being given a material thing, but also something much kinder.

But I do agree with
You can engage in charitable acts like giving and taking care of people all your life and then die without even slightly getting closer to escaping samsara


So why not do both? :) ( But I can hardly believe people like MLK, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, etc. weren't 'enlightened' in some way, already. )
"We know nothing at all. All our knowledge is but the knowledge of schoolchildren. The real nature of things we shall never know." - Albert Einstein
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