Is Zen Buddhism?

Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby Jikan » Wed Feb 12, 2014 1:06 pm

This is an interesting question. A comment was made in another thread...

dzogchungpa wrote:Also, K. D. Lang and, if you include "Zen" Buddhism, Leonard Cohen.


viewtopic.php?f=63&t=15569

that reminded me of the book Buddhism and Zen by Nyogen Senzaki. It's quite an artifact, in that it gives some insight into the very early days of Buddhism in the US--the Mentorgarten scene in San Francisco, with Paul Reps and Sufi Sam Lewis in the mix. In this text, Senzaki takes what you might call a perennialist line: he suggests that Buddhism is a religion, but Zen is the truth of spiritual life independent of any religious tradition (if you're expecting a quotation or two from Meister Eckhardt by now, you won't be disappointed). I assume this was Senzaki's way of trying to reach the Americans he met at the time he met them.

I don't know any contemporary Zen practitioners who would agree with Senzaki on this point. The consensus seems to be that Zen is what it seems to be: a way to practice Buddhism. I also know there are Buddhists outside of any Zen school who would argue that what happens in Zen temples isn't Buddhism at all, but something else. That's why the quoted comment above caught my eye.

So I present this question to the gallery: Is Zen Buddhism? Are Zen practitioners Buddhists?
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Re: Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Feb 12, 2014 1:16 pm

You can have yoga without any religious goal in mind.

Likewise you can have zazen without Buddhism.
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Re: Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby Seishin » Wed Feb 12, 2014 1:37 pm

Indrajala wrote:You can have yoga without any religious goal in mind.

Likewise you can have zazen without Buddhism.


Something that has become very popular I have noticed. I think the question is, is it still the "Zen" school without Buddhism? :thinking:

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Re: Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby seeker242 » Wed Feb 12, 2014 2:15 pm

Depends on how you define the word "zen".
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Re: Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby Virgo » Wed Feb 12, 2014 2:18 pm

Indrajala wrote:You can have yoga without any religious goal in mind.

Likewise you can have zazen without Buddhism.


It's still a Mahayana method, however. Labels such as "Buddhism" or not, things are what they are.
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Re: Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby theanarchist » Wed Feb 12, 2014 2:32 pm

Virgo wrote:
Indrajala wrote:You can have yoga without any religious goal in mind.

Likewise you can have zazen without Buddhism.


It's still a Mahayana method, however. Labels such as "Buddhism" or not, things are what they are.



But it's no longer a buddhist practice if you apply it with an egoistic or worldly motivation.
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Re: Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby Simon E. » Wed Feb 12, 2014 2:54 pm

theanarchist wrote:
Virgo wrote:
Indrajala wrote:You can have yoga without any religious goal in mind.

Likewise you can have zazen without Buddhism.


It's still a Mahayana method, however. Labels such as "Buddhism" or not, things are what they are.



But it's no longer a buddhist practice if you apply it with an egoistic or worldly motivation.


Until Awakening we have no choice but to apply our practice with a greater or lesser degree of egotistic motivation , whatever our school.
I am not sure what 'wordly ' means in this context.
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Re: Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby Virgo » Wed Feb 12, 2014 3:10 pm

Simon E. wrote:
theanarchist wrote:But it's no longer a buddhist practice if you apply it with an egoistic or worldly motivation.


Until Awakening we have no choice but to apply our practice with a greater or lesser degree of egotistic motivation , whatever our school.
I am not sure what 'wordly ' means in this context.

This is true, and without the motivation of dedication I don't think it is real practice but it still brings benefit.

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Re: Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby Jikan » Wed Feb 12, 2014 3:43 pm

Indrajala wrote:You can have yoga without any religious goal in mind.

Likewise you can have zazen without Buddhism.


Is zazen the same as Zen? That is, is Zen reducible to zazen practice?
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Re: Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby Jikan » Wed Feb 12, 2014 3:43 pm

seeker242 wrote:Depends on how you define the word "zen".


OK, I'll bite. How do you define the word Zen?
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Re: Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby Astus » Wed Feb 12, 2014 3:56 pm

I think the biggest mistake is to fail to see that Zen says nothing different from what is stated in the sutras. The second biggest mistake is to get lost in words and letters. Even the retarded version of Zen says that the transmission started with the Buddha, so it is the Buddha's teaching, and necessarily Buddhism.

The source of confusion is the way Zen is defined. In that sense, the word Dharma can be defined in several ways as well, both as something beyond all conceptual ideas and as something very much religious. Zen, just like Dharma, can be interpreted as the ultimate truth, and as such, it is beyond all methods and teachings. That's how people can say that Zen is not Buddhism, not a religion. And if we look at the everyday reality, it is no different from Buddhism, no different from a religious teaching. So, as Madhyamika masters have said several times, one needs to understand the two truths properly.

Here is what Sheng-yen says,

"People seek help, and their prayers are answered. It is common in every religion. In this respect. Buddhism is like other religions. Ch'an Buddhism, however, is different. Ch'an Buddhism penetrates directly to the original essence of Buddhadharma, and encourages practitioners to rely on themselves, and to solve their own problems. ... Since Ch'an espouses self-initiative, it can do without the religious, supplicating aspects of other Buddhist sects."
(Sheng-yen: Is Ch'an a Religion? in Zen Wisdom, p 217)

And then he says the opposite:

"Many people think that Chan practice depends solely on their own efforts, requiring self-reliance, while those who practice by reciting the Buddha's name depend solely on external help. Both of these views are incorrect. In reality, Chan practice also requires external help, and the practice of reciting the Buddha's name also requires one's own effort. One can hardly become an accomplished Chan practitioner through one's own efforts. In India, China and Tibet, all meditators need the support and assistance of teachers, Dharma-protecting deities, and the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. That is why Chan monasteries in China erect and worship the statues of Dharma-protecting deities such as the eight divisions of divinities and the four deva kings."
(Sheng-yen: Chan Practice and Faith, p 2)
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Re: Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby Adamantine » Wed Feb 12, 2014 5:13 pm

Jikan wrote:
So I present this question to the gallery: Is Zen Buddhism? Are Zen practitioners Buddhists?


Isn't it a more essential question of these categorizations altogether, Buddhism in particular?

This discussion has arisen before on this board.. but the term Buddhism is a modern Western term, not one native to the traditions of dharma. The term Tibetan Buddhism for instance is the most absurd, since the same Vajrayana lineages have been practiced historically and continually through the present moment in Bhutan, Nepal, India, Mongolia, Tuva, Russia, China and Indonesia. Practicing Dharma or alternatively Buddhadharma has been the more universal reference for "insiders" i.e., those actually practicing, whereas the term Buddhism is more of an outsider term applied by Western institutions, the suffix "ism" connoting inclusion in categorization with other religious or philosophical ideologies.

It seems to me like it'd be most ideal for practitioners to abandon the term Buddhism because it contains presumptions that are misleading: in essence, that it functions in the way that other religions function. Of course, from the common perspective of the modern pluralist community "Buddhists" are just another group of believers with their alternative claim to having a superior knowledge of Truth. It is hard to argue against this perspective without seeming like a fanatic. I think this is the reason why leaders or teachers such as Sheng-yen will differentiate their tradition from Buddhism, giving it a more universal appeal and also skillfully trying to guide people to the essence or the main point, rather than a cause for self-identifying with something. Namkhai Norbu also has been doing this somewhat with Dzogchen.
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Re: Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Feb 12, 2014 5:51 pm

I think in some corners of the Western Zen world, the "direct realization outside scripture" bit is used as a way to remove the threatening bits or stigma of being called a religion and thus draw more people in. That said, obviously (to me at least) that Zen is most definitely Buddhism in the same sense other forms are...it just doesn't always get sold that way. I think I agree with what Adamantine is saying here, but as long as we live in a world where people have need to know whether or not Zen is "Buddhism" proper, i'd err on the side that it is, rather than that it isn't.
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Re: Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby Jikan » Wed Feb 12, 2014 6:15 pm

Adamantine wrote:
Jikan wrote:
So I present this question to the gallery: Is Zen Buddhism? Are Zen practitioners Buddhists?


Isn't it a more essential question of these categorizations altogether, Buddhism in particular?

This discussion has arisen before on this board.. but the term Buddhism is a modern Western term, not one native to the traditions of dharma. The term Tibetan Buddhism for instance is the most absurd, since the same Vajrayana lineages have been practiced historically and continually through the present moment in Bhutan, Nepal, India, Mongolia, Tuva, Russia, China and Indonesia. Practicing Dharma or alternatively Buddhadharma has been the more universal reference for "insiders" i.e., those actually practicing, whereas the term Buddhism is more of an outsider term applied by Western institutions, the suffix "ism" connoting inclusion in categorization with other religious or philosophical ideologies.

It seems to me like it'd be most ideal for practitioners to abandon the term Buddhism because it contains presumptions that are misleading: in essence, that it functions in the way that other religions function. Of course, from the common perspective of the modern pluralist community "Buddhists" are just another group of believers with their alternative claim to having a superior knowledge of Truth. It is hard to argue against this perspective without seeming like a fanatic. I think this is the reason why leaders or teachers such as Sheng-yen will differentiate their tradition from Buddhism, giving it a more universal appeal and also skillfully trying to guide people to the essence or the main point, rather than a cause for self-identifying with something. Namkhai Norbu also has been doing this somewhat with Dzogchen.


That's a helpful way to reapproach or refine the question:

Is Zen a way or form or path of practicing the Buddha Dharma? Or is it a distinct path from the Buddha Dharma?*

I think Astus' post addresses this question...

*I'll answer my own question here: I think Zen is indeed a Dharma path, but I also observe there's been plenty of nonsense propagated under the category of "Zen" in the US and Europe in the last century.
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Re: Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby dzogchungpa » Wed Feb 12, 2014 6:42 pm

Jikan wrote:This is an interesting question. A comment was made in another thread...
dzogchungpa wrote:Also, K. D. Lang and, if you include "Zen" Buddhism, Leonard Cohen.

I was mostly thinking of Sasaki and his ilk when I made that remark.
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Re: Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:04 pm

The first books I read about Zen were Alan Watts and D T Suzuki who were both of the 'perennialist' view, which I am naturally drawn to. This is because it is about universal values and universal truths. But the next book I read was Zen Mind Beginner's Mind. I took a 'refuge ceremony' at Nan Tien Temple, and also eventually visited SFZC and continue to practice along those lines, which are distinctively Buddhist. So I have come to accept that Buddhism is, as it says it is, 'a vehicle', for us naturally imperfect and straying individuals who are in need of one. I suppose at the point of complete enlightenment, the vehicle is no longer needed, the raft is left behind, as the saying has it. But up until that point, I think that Zen is indeed Buddhist - the expression of a universal truth in a particular cultural idiom.
Last edited by Wayfarer on Wed Feb 12, 2014 11:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:12 pm

A great blog post on this kind of idea. The last line is the kicker.
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Re: Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby seeker242 » Thu Feb 13, 2014 1:09 am

Jikan wrote:
seeker242 wrote:Depends on how you define the word "zen".


OK, I'll bite. How do you define the word Zen?


For me personally? It depends on the context. It could mean "the uncreated, the deathless, ultimate truth, true nature, tao, emptiness, the void, etc, etc" or it could mean "set of practices that are traditionally done in zen temples, etc, etc". So you could answer the question with "yes and no".

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Re: Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby kirtu » Thu Feb 13, 2014 1:38 am

Jikan wrote:
Indrajala wrote:You can have yoga without any religious goal in mind.

Likewise you can have zazen without Buddhism.


Is zazen the same as Zen? That is, is Zen reducible to zazen practice?


You mean is zazen identical with Zen. Is Zen practice reducible to zazen practice?

No.

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Re: Is Zen Buddhism?

Postby shel » Thu Feb 13, 2014 9:00 am

seeker242 wrote:
Jikan wrote:
seeker242 wrote:Depends on how you define the word "zen".


OK, I'll bite. How do you define the word Zen?


For me personally? It depends on the context. It could mean "the uncreated, the deathless, ultimate truth, true nature, tao, emptiness, the void, etc, etc" or it could mean "set of practices that are traditionally done in zen temples, etc, etc". So you could answer the question with "yes and no".

:namaste:

And Buddhism, on the other hand, knows what it is. :tongue:
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