The Healthy State of Buddhism, In Japan and Elsewere

The Healthy State of Buddhism, In Japan and Elsewere

Postby jundo cohen » Mon Jun 18, 2012 7:25 pm

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Topic split from here:


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Hi Huseng,

Well, perhaps some stereotypes about Japanese culture and Buddhism in the above? I think you paint with too broad a brush when describing Japanese Buddhism.

Anyway, there is also some feeling among some of a return to what appears to be early Buddhist teachings on meat eating ...

Majjhima Nikaya 55: This discourse is particularly important because it is here that the Buddha clearly stated his position on meat eating. The King’s physician, Jivaka Komarabhacca, came to see the Buddha. After paying homage, he said: “Venerable sir, I have heard this: ‘They slaughter living beings for the monk Gotama (i.e. the Buddha); the monk Gotama knowingly eats meat prepared for him from animals killed for his sake’….”; and asked if this was true. The Buddha denied this, adding “Jivaka, I say that there are three instances in which meat should not be eaten: when it is seen, heard, or suspected (that the living being has been specifically slaughtered for oneself) … I say that there are three instances in which meat may be eaten: when it is not seen, heard, or suspected (that the living being has been specifically slaughtered for oneself)
...
Sutta Nipata 2.2: Here the Buddha recalled an incident in his previous life during the Buddha Kassapa’s time. Buddha Kassapa was his teacher then. It was an occasion when an external sect ascetic met the Buddha Kassapa and reviled him for eating meat, which he said is a stench compared to eating vegetarian food. Buddha Kassapa replied: “Killing … wounding … stealing, lying, deceiving … adultery; this is stench. Not the eating of meat… Those who are rude, arrogant, backbiting, treacherous, unkind … miserly … this is stench. Not the eating of meat… Anger, pride, obstinacy, antagonism, deceit, envy, boasting … this is stench. Not the eating of meat… Those who are of bad morals, … slanderous … pretentious … being the vilest of men, commit such wrong things; this is stench. Not the eating of meat ….”

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/s ... en&ct=clnk


I am not personally supporting or decrying the eating of meat, by the way. Rather, I am simply questioning what is or is not out of line with scripture.

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Re: Vegetarianism in Zen, Chan, etc.

Postby Jikan » Mon Jun 18, 2012 9:56 pm

I'm intrigued by Jundo's claim above. Is it true that there has been an intentional move toward the Pali teachings on this matter (and this matter only?) among Japanese Zen teachers and institutions?

Are there other matters in which a similar trend can be demonstrated? Say, teachings on the nature of practice (the goal of practice as it were)? How about the Vinaya?
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Re: Vegetarianism in Zen, Chan, etc.

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:53 am

Jikan wrote:I'm intrigued by Jundo's claim above. Is it true that there has been an intentional move toward the Pali teachings on this matter (and this matter only?) among Japanese Zen teachers and institutions?

Are there other matters in which a similar trend can be demonstrated? Say, teachings on the nature of practice (the goal of practice as it were)? How about the Vinaya?


Japanese scholars generally favour the Pali canon as the most authentic record of the Buddha's original teachings.

I've heard some priests cite the Buddha's conditions for eating meat (seen killed, heard being killed, or suspected of being killed for you) as justification for their own meat eating, while disregarding what the Brahma Net Sutra says because "it was written in China". Meanwhile, they do Mahayana rituals and their whole tradition is based on Chinese Mahayana literature.

At the end of the day, though, I think hardly anyone really cares.
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Re: Vegetarianism in Zen, Chan, etc.

Postby jundo cohen » Tue Jun 19, 2012 3:24 am

Huseng wrote:
Jikan wrote:I'm intrigued by Jundo's claim above. Is it true that there has been an intentional move toward the Pali teachings on this matter (and this matter only?) among Japanese Zen teachers and institutions?

Are there other matters in which a similar trend can be demonstrated? Say, teachings on the nature of practice (the goal of practice as it were)? How about the Vinaya?


Japanese scholars generally favour the Pali canon as the most authentic record of the Buddha's original teachings.

I've heard some priests cite the Buddha's conditions for eating meat (seen killed, heard being killed, or suspected of being killed for you) as justification for their own meat eating, while disregarding what the Brahma Net Sutra says because "it was written in China". Meanwhile, they do Mahayana rituals and their whole tradition is based on Chinese Mahayana literature.

At the end of the day, though, I think hardly anyone really cares.


Hi,

Meat eating and marriage came out of the closet in Japan in the late 19th century.

In fact, the reforms that occurred in Japanese Buddhism in the late 19th century allowing clerical marriage arose ... not because of priests' so-called "spiritual laxity" and "sexual weakness" (although I am not denying the the vast majority of Japanese priests wanted to marry ... as shown by the fact that the vast majority of Japanese priests married and are married today) ... but as the first step by Buddhist reformers, philosophers and "theologians" (for want of a better term ... "buddhalogians?") ... to make Buddhism appropriate for the modern age, to bring it out from behind monastery walls, to begin to free it from what was seen (by the reformers ... just their view) as superstition, feudalism and discrimination, myth and miracles, fiction claimed as fact and the like which is perhaps endemic to much of Buddhism. Close equivalent in the West might be the call within the Catholic Church to let Catholic Priests have the option to marry and nuns to perform Mass on equal footing with male clergy. The changes were not simply made "under pressure from Protestant influences" ... but in an attempt to bring Japan out from centuries of feudalism. While the pro-Shintoist factions in the Japanese establishment thought of these changes as a means to weaken Buddhism, many reformers saw these changes as a means to strengthen the relevancy of the conservative Buddhist sects and free them of narrowness. In fact, in Japan, Shinran's Pure Land Jodo-shinshu ... the singly most widely practiced flavor of Buddhism in Japan ... had already been marrying etc. for 600 years at the time these reforms were instituted, and their doing so had helped make the school perhaps the most relevant and personal to the lives of their practitioners. Allowing priests to marry and the like is a way of knocking down the barrier of monastic walls, bridging the gap between home-leavers and home-abiders and making these teachings relevant for the 21st century and beyond. There are many paths up and down the mountain-less mountain ... and for some, celibacy is right. For other priests, marriage is right. Again, it is very much like the great reforms and reformation in Christianity in the West in which the clergy of some churches choose to be celibate and some to marry and some to do each at different times in their life ... and to each their own beautiful path (let us hope that we can avoid the 40 Years War that accompanied the Reformation in Europe! :cry: ).

One of the great and wondrous changes that have occurred to Buddhism, bringing us out of what (may be, to each their own) dark ages!

Anyway, I digress ...

Yes, meat eating and marriage were tied together by these reformers. Was that a mistake? Personally, I am no fan of meat eating over vegetarianism, and believe that our societies should turn away from meat eating. Frankly, I think eating meat is a turn toward the dark ages! However, the fact seems to be that the historical Buddha was a meat eater and that the turn away from meat eating was largely a later or Chinese innovation.

Sometimes, in reform and "moving forward" ... we move forward in ways that happen to reflect the past, much as meat eating happens to be found and permitted in the early Suttas.

Sometimes, in reform and "moving forward" ... we move forward in ways that are new and do not reflect the past, much as a married clergy is not so easily found in the old books.

In any case, moving forward on a new path or old ... find a good path. The Buddhism and Buddhist Teachers have never hesitated to open new paths.

For this reason, I would disagree that the Brahma Net Sutra (yes, "apocryphal" like all Sutras in their way, written in China http://www.nalanda-university.com/buddh ... g-jing.htm ) needs to have the meaning that Huseng says it must have, or even the meaning it might have had for other cultures and times. It was written by Chinese in Chinese words, we might rewrite it now without changing a word! In fact, I would disagree that we need to be (or that any of our Lineages anywhere in Buddhism ever were) bound by every single tenet and proscription of every single Sutra or Vinaya injunction, whether the Brahma Net or others.

In the Brahma Net Sutra, the Third Minor Precept (a minor Precept, by the way) states ...

A disciple of the Buddha must not deliberately eat the flesh of any being, for if he does so, he thereby cuts off great compassion, kindness, and the seed of the Buddha-nature and causes all beings who encounter him to avoid him. Therefore, all Bodhisattvas must abstain from eating the flesh of any being, for meat-eating is the source of limitless offenses. Hence, if a Bodhisattva deliberately eats meat, he thereby violates this minor precept and commits defiling offense.

I actually agree with the spirit of this Precept, minor or not. However, it is a historical fact that Precept Ordinations in Japan, for centuries, have included only the 10 Major Precepts, not the Minor Precepts (although, of course, the spirit and intent behind many of those may be implied). Thus, in Japan, we enjoy our onions too, although it is left to the heart of the Practicioner whether to leek or not to leek (so long as we do not leak) ...

the Fourth Minor Precept - On Five Pungent Herbs
A disciple of the Buddha should not eat the five pungent herbs -- garlic, chives, leeks, onions, and asafoetida. This is so even if they are added as flavoring to other main dishes. Hence, if he deliberately does so, he commits a secondary offense.


Also, an interesting question is whether the writers of the apocryphal "Brahma Net Sutra" themselves violated the proscriptions of the "Brahma Net Sutra" by writing an apocryphal Sutra! :shock:

In any event, I digress again.

I personally do not see allowing meat eating as a step forward, although some saw it that way. Allowing priestly marriage and such, however, was (I believe, and for some walking that path) a step forward.

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Re: Vegetarianism in Zen, Chan, etc.

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jun 19, 2012 5:37 am

jundo cohen wrote:
to make Buddhism appropriate for the modern age, to bring it out from behind monastery walls, to begin to free it from what was seen (by the reformers ... just their view) as superstition, feudalism and discrimination, myth and miracles, fiction claimed as fact and the like which is perhaps endemic to much of Buddhism.


We can see how well that worked out. Buddhism in Japan is a skeleton running on the momentum generated by past generations, but very rapidly losing resources, personnel and legitimacy in society.

As I'm sure you're aware religion is fossilized traditions in Japanese society with few taking more than scholarly interest in it. There are of course practitioners, but on the whole most of Japanese Buddhism is in a state of rapid decay.

The reforms you are speaking in such bright terms about clearly did not produce viable and sustainable traditions.

Allowing priests to marry and the like is a way of knocking down the barrier of monastic walls, bridging the gap between home-leavers and home-abiders and making these teachings relevant for the 21st century and beyond.


Clearly they did not understand the meaning of renunciation.

When the sangha becomes no different from the common people they will be rapidly assimilated into the mainstream and eventually disappear. On paper your ideas might sound reasonable, but in reality Protestant Buddhism is a recipe for extinction. This is already clearly happening in Japan where while temples own a lot of property, they command little respect from most people and moreover are seen as relics of the past, irrelevant to the present even with married lay priests. The numbers of priests has also considerably declined in the last few decades.


There are many paths up and down the mountain-less mountain ... and for some, celibacy is right. For other priests, marriage is right.


What part of eliminating lust don't you understand? The Buddha very clearly said that in order to become liberated one has to overcome lust. Getting married, making kids and living an ordinary life as a husband and father are not what the Buddha advised his disciples to do. There are of course lay yogis and eminent householders such as in Tibetan Buddhism, but more often than not they also do extensive retreats and while "family men" do not live ordinary lives. What you are proposing here is just samsaric thinking and anyone swallowing it is swallowing poison.


However, the fact seems to be that the historical Buddha was a meat eater and that the turn away from meat eating was largely a later or Chinese innovation.


You are mistaken. A number of Indian scriptures such as the Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra clearly indicate that vegetarianism became an important point for Mahāyāna Buddhism on the sub-continent. In the first millennium it seems that along with Brahminism and other cultural currents meat eating became taboo across India, at least among certain segments of societies. In the early legal work the Arthaśāstra meat eating and hunting are acceptable for Brahmins, but as we know later on it became unacceptable.

The roots of Buddhist vegetarianism are to be found in India. We know that in China when Emperor Wu of the Liang 梁武帝 (464-549) formally forbid monastics from consuming meat there was indeed a lot of opposition to this.



I personally do not see allowing meat eating as a step forward, although some saw it that way. Allowing priestly marriage and such, however, was (I believe, and for some walking that path) a step forward.


The results speak for themselves. Buddhism in Japan is dying.
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Re: Vegetarianism in Zen, Chan, etc.

Postby jundo cohen » Tue Jun 19, 2012 6:43 am

Hi Huseng,

I believe you are speaking as someone who is not part of the Japanese traditions and does not live here in Japan, and so not completely unbiased, but your comments are not wrong either. I would go so far as to say that Buddhism is not doing so well anywhere in the world.

Oh, sure, some groups in various places are raising lots of money, building huge temples, selling spiritual comfort and services to parishioners (both those who can afford to sponsor the gold coating on a new statue and those who really can't but do), but I wonder if that should be called "healthful Buddhism"?

Other places are succeeding to preserve what may be (just may be) superstition, feudalism and gender discrimination, myth and miracles, fiction claimed as fact and the like, convincing people that all that mysto-magic is necessary for "Buddhism", but I wonder if that should be called "healthful Buddhism"?

Other places and groups are watering down the teachings, and turning them into some kind of secular "self help" technique to such a degree that I would not even call it "Buddhism" let alone "healthful Buddhism"!

And let's not even mention how well Buddhism is thriving in its Indian birth culture! :shock:

Rather, I would say that each model, and each Tradition, has its own defects and strengths.

I would dare say that Buddhism is MORE vital in Japan now than it has ever been. How? I often write this about the "good old days" ...

In some important ways, sincere lay practitioners today may enjoy better surrounding circumstances for practice than did the average monk in, for example, Dogen's day. Things in the "Golden Age" were not so golden as we too easily romanticize. Most monks back then were half-educated (even in Buddhism), semi-literate (or what passed for literacy in those times), superstition driven, narrow folks who may have understood less about the traditions and teachings they were following ... their history and meaning and depth ... than the average sincere practitioner today with access to information and teachers. The conditions for practice within old temples and monasteries might have been less than ideal, many teachers less than ideal, despite our idealization of the old timers. Studying Sutras by smoky oil lamp, living one's days out in Japan or Tibet while having no real information grasp on Chinese and Indian history and the customs of prior centuries, living in a world of rumor and magic and misunderstanding (in which all kinds of myths and stories and superstitions were taken as explanations for how the world works), unable to access a modern Buddhist library, or to "Google" a reliable source (emphasis on making sure it is reliable however!) to check some point, or to ask a real expert outside one's limited circle, being beholden to only one teacher at a time (no matter how poor a teacher), with no knowledge of the human brain and some very important discoveries of science ... and after all that effort ... getting sick and dying at the age of 40 from some ordinary fever. (Can you even imagine trying to listen to Dogen Zenji recite "live" a Shobogenzo teaching from way across the room ... without a modern microphone and PA system and "Youtube" to let one replay it all? I suppose many never heard a word!)

The "Good Old Days" were not necessarily the "Good Old Days".

In contrast, in many ways, the average lay person practicing today has very many better circumstances for practice than those monks in 13th century Eihei-ji. For that reason, it is time to re-evaluate the place and power of lay practice. What was true in the cultures and times of ages past need not be true today!

...

Most of us are familiar with the countless complaints by Dogen, Hakuin and others about the generally low quality of the monks at many institutions that they were encountering in China, Japan and elsewhere. Does this possibly show that these institutions were better at admitting those, perhaps, not so well qualified to be there, or who were there for the wrong reasons, than folks there for the right reasons? Much of that could be due to the fact that, throughout their history, most monasteries have been places of refuge ... not for the spirit ... but also for bastard children of the elite, those who did not wish to work morning to night in the hot sun (compared to the peasant lifestyle), and the like ... as well as true spiritual seekers (I do not mean to say that ALL residents of monasteries were like that ... only lots and lots). Granted, ALL the great Teachers in Buddhist history have been the product of monasteries (Although, ya know, that is not true ... as the likes of Layman Pang and Vimalakirti and many others attest ... though even they had some bucks. Perhaps the old woman in the "rice cake" Koan besting Te-shan is a better example). How many excellent potential monks and Teachers never had a chance because they were peasants, working people, or decided to stay at home to nurse an aging relative or child without having the economic means (as the Buddha himself did) to leave one's family in the charge of the servants in the family palace?



We have perhaps a too idealistic and romanticized view of what constituted "Buddhist health" in the past. Now, in Japan, there are more people sitting Zazen and with an interest in Buddhism than ever in all its past history combined (in sheer numbers), more access by lay and ordained folks to teachings and resources, Buddhist groups and universities, fellow practitioners than any time in the past ... when a narrow elite supported a semi-educated priesthood with little knowledge of anything in the world beyond the horizon, all actually supported by a superstitious, illiterate and half starved peasantry on whose shoulders the whole system rested. I would dare say that this is STILL the situation in much of Asia.

So, "health" depends on how one looks at it.

If you mean that most Japanese ... or Chinese, Thai, Korean or Tibetans ... turn to Buddhist temples seeking intercession of the "Buddhas and Spirits" for good grades in school, farm or business success, recovery from illness, a good rebirth for grandpa or the like ... I would say that it is the same as it has always been, no better or worse.

If you ask me, the reforms of the 19th century in Japan ... now taken many steps further in America and the West ... to bring these beautiful Teachings out of the dark ages, to make them more widely available, and to approve general education and the understanding of Practice among the general population ... have saved Buddhism. It is sometimes hard to see in the face of the onslaught of modern capitalism and consumerism, but the vibrant heart of Buddhism is beating stronger in Japan and the West than ever,

If your image of Buddhism in old China, Tibet, India or the like is of some "Shangri-la" of the Good 'Ol Golden Age where all lived together in a happy, spiritual utopia ... think again. Those were ugly, class based, narrow societies of a feudal and traditional age, and the cloistered, custom bound and closed-minded Buddhist institutions of such days were a reflection of that. Such Buddhism was not "healthy".

Gassho, Jundo

PS - "Protestant" Buddhism is no more a recipe for extinction than Protestant Christianity has been for that religion, or having a married clergy of many flavors has meant the end for Judaism. Please, it has kept each of those other religions vibrant and meeting the needs of the times, adapting to circumstances while preserving what needs to be preserved (leaving what deserves to be left behind).

PPS - Being "free of lust" does not mean one cannot have a loving relationship, make love, have children, raise a family. Not all sex is "lust".
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Re: Vegetarianism in Zen, Chan, etc.

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jun 19, 2012 8:03 am

jundo cohen wrote:I believe you are speaking as someone who is not part of the Japanese traditions and does not live here in Japan, and so not completely unbiased, but your comments are not wrong either. I would go so far as to say that Buddhism is not doing so well anywhere in the world.


I have a MA degree from Komazawa University. I read, write and speak Japanese. I am qualified to speak.


Oh, sure, some groups in various places are raising lots of money, building huge temples, selling spiritual comfort and services to parishioners (both those who can afford to sponsor the gold coating on a new statue and those who really can't but do), but I wonder if that should be called "healthful Buddhism"?


This is irrelevant to the discussion.



Other places are succeeding to preserve what may be (just may be) superstition, feudalism and gender discrimination, myth and miracles, fiction claimed as fact and the like, convincing people that all that mysto-magic is necessary for "Buddhism", but I wonder if that should be called "healthful Buddhism"?


Which traditions are you specifically talking about? Historically as it is today much of institutionalized Buddhism on the ground has been about sorcery and merit generation for both commoners and nobility alike, but nevertheless the practice and intellectual realms were also present. You might like to condemn the more mystical aspects of some forms of Buddhism as superstitious, but this just reveals a lack of understanding and appreciation on your part.


Other places and groups are watering down the teachings, and turning them into some kind of secular "self help" technique to such a degree that I would not even call it "Buddhism" let alone "healthful Buddhism"!


Much of what you talk about matches this description pretty well.


And let's not even mention how well Buddhism is thriving in its Indian birth culture! :shock:


It has actually recovered in the last few decades. Bodhgaya, Sarnath, Kushinagar and even New Delhi all have Buddhist Viharas and frequent teachings, blessings and opportunities for practice. Bodhgaya hosts many regular teachers from various traditions.


Things in the "Golden Age" were not so golden as we too easily romanticize. Most monks back then were half-educated (even in Buddhism), semi-literate (or what passed for literacy in those times), superstition driven, narrow folks who may have understood less about the traditions and teachings they were following ... their history and meaning and depth ... than the average sincere practitioner today with access to information and teachers.


Typical modern day rhetoric aimed at degrading the past and praising the present as if the past was always some kind of backwards perpetual nightmare, which modernity has suitably remedied.



Now, in Japan, there are more people sitting Zazen and with an interest in Buddhism than ever in all its past history combined (in sheer numbers)


Prove it. Proportionately in sheer numbers Japan has a much higher population than it did in the 14th century.


, more access by lay and ordained folks to teachings and resources, Buddhist groups and universities,


That's only because of industrialization and subsequent demographic changes that enabled social mobility and widespread education.


when a narrow elite supported a semi-educated priesthood with little knowledge of anything in the world beyond the horizon, all actually supported by a superstitious, illiterate and half starved peasantry on whose shoulders the whole system rested. I would dare say that this is STILL the situation in much of Asia.


You're guilty of the same sin you accuse the proponents of Shangri-la of. You propose that the past age were dark, backwards, uncomfortable and not at all as good as our present age when things are just as a matter course oh so greater. This is exaggeration.



If you ask me, the reforms of the 19th century in Japan ... now taken many steps further in America and the West ... to bring these beautiful Teachings out of the dark ages, to make them more widely available, and to approve general education and the understanding of Practice among the general population ... have saved Buddhism. It is sometimes hard to see in the face of the onslaught of modern capitalism and consumerism, but the vibrant heart of Buddhism is beating stronger in Japan and the West than ever,


You're clearly the one wearing the Shangri-la specs, dude.

Buddhism in Japan has become an archaic fossil. Most people look at it with apathy, at worst with fear or resentment. People go to temples because of their value as tourist sites. Most priests are paid clergy who run funeral operations for a living. Hereditary grave keepers. The world of Buddhist academia in Japan is full of materialist thinkers who have warped their vision of Buddhadharma to suit western ideas of materialist cosmology and values. There are few who really believe in Buddhadharma and instead just treat it as an interesting base of unique literature, and nothing more.

Like I said, there are still practitioners, but they are few and far between.

If your image of Buddhism in old China, Tibet, India or the like is of some "Shangri-la" of the Good 'Ol Golden Age where all lived together in a happy, spiritual utopia ... think again. Those were ugly, class based, narrow societies of a feudal and traditional age, and the cloistered, custom bound and closed-minded Buddhist institutions of such days were a reflection of that. Such Buddhism was not "healthy".


Feudal and narrow ages as you call them were a reflection of resources and technology limits. The main reason we have "human rights", gender equality and universal education is not because of enlightened thinkers, but because of a high energy return on investment made possible through exploitation of fossil fuels. In past ages universal education, human rights, a modern justice system, open-door religious institutions and democratic societies were often not feasible for the simple fact they lacked the resources to do otherwise. You make it sound like people back then were just stupid and cruel. This is of course typical thinking you see among present day people who have a tendency to spit on their ancestors and crush tradition as a tradition in itself.

In any case, the utopia vision you have about modern Buddhism will never come to fruition. As I just said we have high energy return on investment, allowing the current modern societies that we enjoy in the first world, but that will slowly come to an end.



PPS - Being "free of lust" does not mean one cannot have a loving relationship, make love, have children, raise a family. Not all sex is "lust".


Again, this is not what the Buddha himself taught. One of his most key teachings was that overcoming sexual desire was a requisite for attaining appropriate levels of jhana that in turn were requisite for liberation. Ajahn Brahm, a real bhikkhu, teaches this as well. You should take a note from him and read his works.
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Re: Vegetarianism in Zen, Chan, etc.

Postby jundo cohen » Tue Jun 19, 2012 8:39 am

Huseng wrote:
PPS - Being "free of lust" does not mean one cannot have a loving relationship, make love, have children, raise a family. Not all sex is "lust".


Again, this is not what the Buddha himself taught. One of his most key teachings was that overcoming sexual desire was a requisite for attaining appropriate levels of jhana that in turn were requisite for liberation. Ajahn Brahm, a real bhikkhu, teaches this as well. You should take a note from him and read his works.


Well, the Buddha also said we could eat roast beef sandwiches under certain conditions. It just depends on which part of "Buddha" you wish to pick and choose. One man's jhana is another man's Chan'na is another man's Son is another man's Zen. To each her own.

And I am very familiar with Ajahn Brahm, a "real" Bhikkhu as you put it. What is good for Ajahn Brahm and his community is good for them, and I respect and honor him and their ways. Unfortunately, he was recently excommunicated as a heretic, and someone outside the Buddha's teachings, so we need to take anything he says with a grain of salt, as he represents a force for insidious modernism.

http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php ... 59,0,0,1,0

It sounds to me like you and me, Huseng, are both right. The traditional societies and the "Buddhism of the Good Old Days" were not all negatives, while neither were they all "positives" and a Buddhist bed of roses either (the very reason for Rev. Brahm's excommunication was his attempt to change something from the past).

And the state of "modern" or "Westernizing" or "Protestant" or "Japanese" Buddhism is not all negatives either, while striving to overcome a new set of issues and problems. Yes, I think we can do without "sorcery", as you put it, and incantation for manipulation of the spirit world ... and, yes, a good part of the improvement can be attributed to "demographic changes that enabled social mobility and widespread education" ... but improvement is improvement!

I would make a bet that, if one actually had a time machine to travel back to the Buddha's day to see what he and his Sangha were actually like in the flesh (if not the fleshless) ... or to the "Great Monasteries" of the "Golden Age" ... one would find a truly mixed bag of pluses and minuses, and environments and people with their own good and bad points ...with many BIG NEGATIVES too ... until our romantic, idealizing, hagiographic, "scrub up the past and dip it in gold" tendencies caused us to forget all the bad and weaknesses ... remember or exaggerate the good and the strengths ... and create THE GOOD OLD DAYS!

The truth is likely in between ... and also simultaneously fully transcending ... both the good and bad.

Gassho, Jundo
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Re: Vegetarianism in Zen, Chan, etc.

Postby Matylda » Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:08 pm

Huseng wrote:
Jikan wrote:I'm intrigued by Jundo's claim above. Is it true that there has been an intentional move toward the Pali teachings on this matter (and this matter only?) among Japanese Zen teachers and institutions?

Are there other matters in which a similar trend can be demonstrated? Say, teachings on the nature of practice (the goal of practice as it were)? How about the Vinaya?


Japanese scholars generally favour the Pali canon as the most authentic record of the Buddha's original teachings.

I've heard some priests cite the Buddha's conditions for eating meat (seen killed, heard being killed, or suspected of being killed for you) as justification for their own meat eating, while disregarding what the Brahma Net Sutra says because "it was written in China". Meanwhile, they do Mahayana rituals and their whole tradition is based on Chinese Mahayana literature.

At the end of the day, though, I think hardly anyone really cares.


Some Japanese scholars, but not all, are under influence of European buddhologists of the XIX and XX century. There is nothing wrong in research of Theravada or Pali cannon. Untill the mid XIX century Brahmajala Sutra of mahayana cannon was the basic foundation for Buddhist ethics. And it is still. What academics are doing is another question. But for sure they have some influence as well.
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Re: Vegetarianism in Zen, Chan, etc.

Postby Matylda » Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:18 pm

jundo cohen wrote:
Meat eating and marriage came out of the closet in Japan in the late 19th century.

In fact, the reforms that occurred in Japanese Buddhism in the late 19th century allowing clerical marriage arose ... not because of priests' so-called "spiritual laxity" and "sexual weakness" (although I am not denying the the vast majority of Japanese priests wanted to marry ... as shown by the fact that the vast majority of Japanese priests married and are married today) ... but as the first step by Buddhist reformers, philosophers and "theologians" (for want of a better term ... "buddhalogians?") ... to make Buddhism appropriate for the modern age, to bring it out from behind monastery walls, to begin to free it from what was seen (by the reformers ... just their view) as superstition, feudalism and discrimination, myth and miracles, fiction claimed as fact and the like which is perhaps endemic to much of Buddhism. Close equivalent in the West might be the call within the Catholic Church to let Catholic Priests have the option to marry and nuns to perform Mass on equal footing with male clergy. The changes were not simply made "under pressure from Protestant influences" ... but in an attempt to bring Japan out from centuries of feudalism. While the pro-Shintoist factions in the Japanese establishment thought of these changes as a means to weaken Buddhism, many reformers saw these changes as a means to strengthen the relevancy of the conservative Buddhist sects and free them of narrowness. In fact, in Japan, Shinran's Pure Land Jodo-shinshu ... the singly most widely practiced flavor of Buddhism in Japan ... had already been marrying etc. for 600 years at the time these reforms were instituted, and their doing so had helped make the school perhaps the most relevant and personal to the lives of their practitioners. Allowing priests to marry and the like is a way of knocking down the barrier of monastic walls, bridging the gap between home-leavers and home-abiders and making these teachings relevant for the 21st century and beyond. There are many paths up and down the mountain-less mountain ... and for some, celibacy is right. For other priests, marriage is right. Again, it is very much like the great reforms and reformation in Christianity in the West in which the clergy of some churches choose to be celibate and some to marry and some to do each at different times in their life ... and to each their own beautiful path (let us hope that we can avoid the 40 Years War that accompanied the Reformation in Europe! :cry: ).

One of the great and wondrous changes that have occurred to Buddhism, bringing us out of what (may be, to each their own) dark ages!

Anyway, I digress ...

Yes, meat eating and marriage were tied together by these reformers. Was that a mistake? Personally, I am no fan of meat eating over vegetarianism, and believe that our societies should turn away from meat eating. Frankly, I think eating meat is a turn toward the dark ages! However, the fact seems to be that the historical Buddha was a meat eater and that the turn away from meat eating was largely a later or Chinese innovation.

Sometimes, in reform and "moving forward" ... we move forward in ways that happen to reflect the past, much as meat eating happens to be found and permitted in the early Suttas.

Sometimes, in reform and "moving forward" ... we move forward in ways that are new and do not reflect the past, much as a married clergy is not so easily found in the old books.

In any case, moving forward on a new path or old ... find a good path. The Buddhism and Buddhist Teachers have never hesitated to open new paths.

For this reason, I would disagree that the Brahma Net Sutra (yes, "apocryphal" like all Sutras in their way, written in China http://www.nalanda-university.com/buddh ... g-jing.htm ) needs to have the meaning that Huseng says it must have, or even the meaning it might have had for other cultures and times. It was written by Chinese in Chinese words, we might rewrite it now without changing a word! In fact, I would disagree that we need to be (or that any of our Lineages anywhere in Buddhism ever were) bound by every single tenet and proscription of every single Sutra or Vinaya injunction, whether the Brahma Net or others.

In the Brahma Net Sutra, the Third Minor Precept (a minor Precept, by the way) states ...

A disciple of the Buddha must not deliberately eat the flesh of any being, for if he does so, he thereby cuts off great compassion, kindness, and the seed of the Buddha-nature and causes all beings who encounter him to avoid him. Therefore, all Bodhisattvas must abstain from eating the flesh of any being, for meat-eating is the source of limitless offenses. Hence, if a Bodhisattva deliberately eats meat, he thereby violates this minor precept and commits defiling offense.

I actually agree with the spirit of this Precept, minor or not. However, it is a historical fact that Precept Ordinations in Japan, for centuries, have included only the 10 Major Precepts, not the Minor Precepts (although, of course, the spirit and intent behind many of those may be implied). Thus, in Japan, we enjoy our onions too, although it is left to the heart of the Practicioner whether to leek or not to leek (so long as we do not leak) ...

the Fourth Minor Precept - On Five Pungent Herbs
A disciple of the Buddha should not eat the five pungent herbs -- garlic, chives, leeks, onions, and asafoetida. This is so even if they are added as flavoring to other main dishes. Hence, if he deliberately does so, he commits a secondary offense.


Also, an interesting question is whether the writers of the apocryphal "Brahma Net Sutra" themselves violated the proscriptions of the "Brahma Net Sutra" by writing an apocryphal Sutra! :shock:

In any event, I digress again.

I personally do not see allowing meat eating as a step forward, although some saw it that way. Allowing priestly marriage and such, however, was (I believe, and for some walking that path) a step forward.

Gassho, Jundo


Historically speaking the reform had nothing to do with Buddhist reformers, philosophers and "theologians", but with extremely hostile Japanese government, which forced the bill concerning marriage, meat eating and wearing monks robes. They were all frocefully implemented, after period of destroying temples, texts etc. monks removing from temples, taking away means of survival etc. etc. etc. something unknown in China untill communist governemnt of Mao Tsetung. similar change was done in Mongolia, and almost all monks married and are married till today. It was politics which unfortunately changed Japanese buddhism. And of course the inner shift among clergy changed the whole situation. Today we have just product of all this unfortune. For clearer view I would recommend http://press.princeton.edu/titles/4676.html Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan:
Buddhism and Its Persecution
by James Edward Ketelaar
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Re: Vegetarianism in Zen, Chan, etc.

Postby Matylda » Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:22 pm

Matylda wrote:Some Japanese scholars, but not all, are under influence of European buddhologists of the XIX and XX century. There is nothing wrong in research of Theravada or Pali cannon. Untill the mid XIX century Brahmajala Sutra of mahayana cannon was the basic foundation for Buddhist ethics. And it is still. What academics are doing is another question. But for sure they have some influence as well.



by the way, in zen monasteries and probably in other schools as well Brahmajala Sutra is still basis. There is no introduction of pali suttas. The researchers preferences are still within the circle of academics, not official position of the tradition. Training monasteries still are obliged to follow the Brahmajala principles, which are mostly not folowed by public temples run by single priest and his family. But again there are public temples which follow much stricter course.
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Re: Vegetarianism in Zen, Chan, etc.

Postby Matylda » Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:27 pm

Matylda wrote:
Historically speaking the reform had nothing to do with Buddhist reformers, philosophers and "theologians", but with extremely hostile Japanese government, which forced the bill concerning marriage, meat eating and wearing monks robes. They were all frocefully implemented, after period of destroying temples, texts etc. monks removing from temples, taking away means of survival etc. etc. etc. something unknown in China untill communist governemnt of Mao Tsetung. similar change was done in Mongolia, and almost all monks married and are married till today. It was politics which unfortunately changed Japanese buddhism. And of course the inner shift among clergy changed the whole situation. Today we have just product of all this unfortune. For clearer view I would recommend http://press.princeton.edu/titles/4676.html Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan:
Buddhism and Its Persecution
by James Edward Ketelaar



I found some interesting reviews on books google:

http://books.google.com/books?id=Dy0Wp6 ... edir_esc=y
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Re: Vegetarianism in Zen, Chan, etc.

Postby jundo cohen » Tue Jun 19, 2012 1:22 pm

Matylda wrote:
Historically speaking the reform had nothing to do with Buddhist reformers, philosophers and "theologians", but with extremely hostile Japanese government, which forced the bill concerning marriage, meat eating and wearing monks robes. They were all frocefully implemented, after period of destroying temples, texts etc. monks removing from temples, taking away means of survival etc. etc. etc.


Hi Matylda,

Is that so? In that case, who were such influential Buddhist reformers and clerical marriage advocates of the Edo and Meiji periods as Shin theologian Chiku ( 智空 ), former Soto Zen monk Otori Sesso (鴻言爪), Nichiren Buddhist thinkers Tanaka Chigaku (田中智學), Tanabe Zenchi (田邊善知) and Nakazato Nissho (中里日勝), writers Inoue Enryo (井上円了) and Shimaji Mokurai ( 島地黙雷), and last but not least, the wonder Soto-shu priest and scholar Kuruma Takudo (來馬琢道), and the writer Maruyama Sei (丸山生).

You may forget that, no matter the government's policies and intentions, these matters were actively debated by Buddhist intellectuals for a century or more and, ultimately, the Buddhist clergy "voted" on these policies ... not only within the administrative bodies of the various sects, but in their actual lifestyle choices to be married. Nobody that I am aware of was "forced" to marry, and it was all ultimately a matter of personal right and choice. With regard to Kuruma Takudo, for example ...

It was from his vantage as editor of several of the Buddhist journals
in which the debate over marriage was being waged— Wayushi and
Bukkyo 佛孝夂一 and as the son of a cleric and abbot of a small Soto tem­
ple that Kuruma joined the debate over clerical marriage. In a series
of articles published in Bukkyo in 1901,the year before his own mar­
riage, Kuruma rebutted the objections to clerical marriage and, more
positively, described the benefits of marriage for Buddnism and how
married clerics were to support their families. Like other advocates of
clerical marriasre, Kuruma argued that apulying old standards to
Japanese Buddhism was a fruitless endeavor. Such critics of marriage
as Fukuda Gyokai, Ueda Shohen 上 田照遍(1828-1907),and the hier­
archs of the Soto denomination responsible for the official antimar­
riage position of the denomination had argued that celibacy was the
rule at the time of Sakyamuni and, therefore, should remain the rule
for the Buddhist clersgyin the Meiji era. As Kuruma summarized their
argument, “at the time of the Buddha, there were no married clerics.
There is no reason why clerics should marry today."

http://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/publications ... df/512.pdf


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Re: Vegetarianism in Zen, Chan, etc.

Postby jundo cohen » Tue Jun 19, 2012 1:39 pm

Matylda wrote:
Matylda wrote:
Historically speaking the reform had nothing to do with Buddhist reformers, philosophers and "theologians", but with extremely hostile Japanese government, which forced the bill concerning marriage, meat eating and wearing monks robes. They were all frocefully implemented, after period of destroying temples, texts etc. monks removing from temples, taking away means of survival etc. etc. etc. something unknown in China untill communist governemnt of Mao Tsetung. similar change was done in Mongolia, and almost all monks married and are married till today. It was politics which unfortunately changed Japanese buddhism. And of course the inner shift among clergy changed the whole situation. Today we have just product of all this unfortune. For clearer view I would recommend http://press.princeton.edu/titles/4676.html Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan:
Buddhism and Its Persecution
by James Edward Ketelaar



I found some interesting reviews on books google:

http://books.google.com/books?id=Dy0Wp6 ... edir_esc=y


It has been a long time since I read that book, Matylda, however while you point to the first part of the author's thesis about the "attack" on Buddhism in Japan, you don't mention the second portion of his thesis ... how these events turned Japanese Buddhism into a more modern belief system. Unfortunately, like so much of Japanese modernization of the time, this unfortunately partly went overboard into nationalism and support for Japanese military policy and the like. However, that also was not the whole story, and not all effects were so negative.

"Post-persecution Buddhist ideologues," Ketelaar writes, ". . . sought throughout the Meiji period to construct a definition of 'Buddhism' that would be both resistant to further dissipating regulations and would allow for continued sectarian expansion and operation" (p. 174). He characterizes this reconfigured image of "modern Buddhism" as transsectarian, transnational, and cosmopolitan: relevant but not reducible to national concerns; universal, yet finding expression in the social and political particulars of the moment and able to evolve appropriately to meet the demands of the times. Ketelaar analyzes how, in formulating this vision of their tradition, Meiji Buddhists drew on classic Buddhist texts, such as the Ta-sheng ch 'i-hsin lun (Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana), whose discussion of Suchness (Jpn. shinnyo, Skt. tathatā), was interpreted as setting forth an "essence" common to all Buddhism, and the Hasshūi kōyō (Essentials of the Eight Sects) of Shaku Gyōnen (1240-1322), who had characterized the various traditions within the Buddha-Dharma as "distinct rivers flowing forth from the same source" (p. 178). Numerous editions and commentaries of the Hasshūi kōyō produced during the Meiji period helped give rise to the concept of a "united Buddhism" (tsūbukkyō). [10] This Buddhist universalist discourse, Ketelaar says, enabled Meiji Buddhists to represent their sectarian differences, not as the product of conflict or competition, but as Buddhism's capacity to express itself appropriately according to the times and the people.

http://www.thezensite.com/ZenBookReview ... rtyrs.html


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Re: The Healthy State of Buddhism, In Japan and Elsewere

Postby Jikan » Tue Jun 19, 2012 1:47 pm

Matylda wrote:
Matylda wrote:Some Japanese scholars, but not all, are under influence of European buddhologists of the XIX and XX century. There is nothing wrong in research of Theravada or Pali cannon. Untill the mid XIX century Brahmajala Sutra of mahayana cannon was the basic foundation for Buddhist ethics. And it is still. What academics are doing is another question. But for sure they have some influence as well.



by the way, in zen monasteries and probably in other schools as well Brahmajala Sutra is still basis. There is no introduction of pali suttas. The researchers preferences are still within the circle of academics, not official position of the tradition. Training monasteries still are obliged to follow the Brahmajala principles, which are mostly not folowed by public temples run by single priest and his family. But again there are public temples which follow much stricter course.


This is my understanding as well. And it is why I am skeptical of Mr Cohen's claim that non-vegetarianism among contemporary Japanese Zen teachers has to do with an interest in early Buddhism.
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Re: Vegetarianism in Zen, Chan, etc.

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jun 19, 2012 1:52 pm

jundo cohen wrote:
Huseng wrote:Again, this is not what the Buddha himself taught. One of his most key teachings was that overcoming sexual desire was a requisite for attaining appropriate levels of jhana that in turn were requisite for liberation. Ajahn Brahm, a real bhikkhu, teaches this as well. You should take a note from him and read his works.




Well, the Buddha also said we could eat roast beef sandwiches under certain conditions. It just depends on which part of "Buddha" you wish to pick and choose. One man's jhana is another man's Chan'na is another man's Son is another man's Zen. To each her own.




That does not address the fundamental issue that exists with your stated issue. Removal of lust is a prerequisite for attainment of the first jhana, regardless of dietary prohibitions.



And I am very familiar with Ajahn Brahm, a "real" Bhikkhu as you put it. What is good for Ajahn Brahm and his community is good for them, and I respect and honor him and their ways. Unfortunately, he was recently excommunicated as a heretic, and someone outside the Buddha's teachings, so we need to take anything he says with a grain of salt, as he represents a force for insidious modernism.


You are mistaken that he represents a force for insidious modernism, whether you're being sarcastic or not. It was clearly politics, not doctrine, that had him excommunicated.

Ajahn Brahm was canonically justified in ordaining bhikkunis. I am unfamiliar which Pali scriptures he used as reference for justifying his right to ordain bhikkunis, but in the Chinese Vinaya canon we find sūtras like the Mahāprajāpatī Bhikṣuni Sūtra which gives the bhikṣu community the right to ordain bhikṣuṇīs if there are no bhikṣuṇīs. In the case of Ajahn Brahm, there are no more Theravada bhikkunis in the world, so he was justified in resurrecting the lineage. See the following:

《大愛道比丘尼經》卷2:「阿難復問佛言。便當令比丘作師耶。佛言不也。當令大比丘尼作師。若無比丘尼者。比丘僧可。」(CBETA, T24, no. 1478, p. 952, b17-19)

“Ānanda further asked the Buddha, 'Is it permissible for a bhikṣu to act as a master [to a bhikṣuṇī]?' The Buddha said, 'No. It should be that a great bhikṣuṇī acts as master. If there are no bhikṣuṇīs, then the bhikṣu sangha is permitted [to carry out the ordination].'”




It sounds to me like you and me, Huseng, are both right. The traditional societies and the "Buddhism of the Good Old Days" were not all negatives, while neither were they all "positives" and a Buddhist bed of roses either (the very reason for Rev. Brahm's excommunication was his attempt to change something from the past).


I think it has more to do with a male monopoly on religious power and all the perks that come with it.

You are also not really addressing most of my refutations, so I don't think you're right about much.


And the state of "modern" or "Westernizing" or "Protestant" or "Japanese" Buddhism is not all negatives either, while striving to overcome a new set of issues and problems. Yes, I think we can do without "sorcery", as you put it, and incantation for manipulation of the spirit world ... and, yes, a good part of the improvement can be attributed to "demographic changes that enabled social mobility and widespread education" ... but improvement is improvement!


Degeneration is now the name of the game. What we have gained will be lost over this century and beyond. As our fossil fuel production decreases (it has already plateaued) you can expect to see liberal ideologies become unfashionable. Social mobility and universal education will likewise go into decline as most nations will simply not have the resources to support such things anymore.

On that point, conservative religious institutions probably stand to last the test of time.


I would make a bet that, if one actually had a time machine to travel back to the Buddha's day to see what he and his Sangha were actually like in the flesh (if not the fleshless) ... or to the "Great Monasteries" of the "Golden Age" ... one would find a truly mixed bag of pluses and minuses, and environments and people with their own good and bad points ...with many BIG NEGATIVES too ... until our romantic, idealizing, hagiographic, "scrub up the past and dip it in gold" tendencies caused us to forget all the bad and weaknesses ... remember or exaggerate the good and the strengths ... and create THE GOOD OLD DAYS!


You keep saying "we" have tendencies to see things in some past "Golden Age". I have not proposed that. Who are you talking to? This is your own projections and not mine, or those of anyone else immediately posting it would seem.
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Re: The Healthy State of Buddhism, In Japan and Elsewere

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jun 19, 2012 1:56 pm

Jikan wrote:This is my understanding as well. And it is why I am skeptical of Mr Cohen's claim that non-vegetarianism among contemporary Japanese Zen teachers has to do with an interest in early Buddhism.


Vegetarianism is largely incomprehensible to most Japanese people in my experience. As I've said above from elementary school to life in a company people all eat communally and eat meat. There is little room for vegetarianism, even if you have an interest in it. If you're a university student, housewife, self-employed or retired, it is possible as you don't need to go along with the flock, but otherwise it would be socially detrimental to refuse to eat meat and fish.

As a foreigner I got away with it, but not without having to constantly explain myself and ask what the soup was made of.
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Re: The Healthy State of Buddhism, In Japan and Elsewere

Postby jundo cohen » Tue Jun 19, 2012 2:05 pm

Global Moderator Jikan wrote:This is my understanding as well. And it is why I am skeptical of Mr Cohen's claim that non-vegetarianism among contemporary Japanese Zen teachers has to do with an interest in early Buddhism.


I did not say that, by the way. I said that it happened to coincide with the Buddha's original meat eating stance, and that such arguments were one aspect raised in the debate.

By the way, I don't care what you call me ... and you can call me "ass" or "putz" for all I care (enough here probably do ... Right Speech aside). But is it typical for a moderator of a Buddhist forum, being in that capacity, to refer to ordained Buddhist clergy as "Mr."?

If so, no problem by me, and I will take to referring to all Buddhist clergy that way ... Mr. Huifeng, Mr. Ajahn Brahm, Mr. Dalai Lama etc.

A name is just a name, a title just a title anyway. I don't particularly care what you call me, but don't forget to call me to dinner.

Huseng wrote:Removal of lust is a prerequisite for attainment of the first jhana, regardless of dietary prohibitions.


Oh, you assume that all Zen Buddhists care much about "attainment of the first jhana". The old story goes that we were named the "Chan'na" school by mistake because of what people assumed Bodhidharma was aiming for in seated meditation. Arguably (I dare not speak for the whole Chan/Son/Zen world), Zen practice tended to take a view of Samadhi very different from those schools of meditation which held to attainment of a deep state of one pointed concentration leading to "Jhana".

But ... that is a topic for another day. I see a thread about it here, but do not necessarily agree with all the statements made by Mr. Huifeng and others.

viewtopic.php?f=69&t=8515&start=0

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Re: The Healthy State of Buddhism, In Japan and Elsewere

Postby Astus » Tue Jun 19, 2012 2:07 pm

I don't know much about the current state of Japanese Buddhism, but it seems to me that just as in other areas of life, it is not simply black or white. I remember from the "Marathon Monks" film that they mention that those Tendai monks eat strictly vegetarian food. And in the Myoshinji line of Rinzai Zen the actual masters (from the rank "shike" 師家 and above) have to live in celibacy (Jørn Borup: Japanese Rinzai Zen Buddhism, p. 60). So there are those who live according to the old ideals of a home-leaver.
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Re: The Healthy State of Buddhism, In Japan and Elsewere

Postby jundo cohen » Tue Jun 19, 2012 2:12 pm

Astus wrote:I don't know much about the current state of Japanese Buddhism, but it seems to me that just as in other areas of life, it is not simply black or white. I remember from the "Marathon Monks" film that they mention that those Tendai monks eat strictly vegetarian food. And in the Myoshinji line of Rinzai Zen the actual masters (from the rank "shike" 師家 and above) have to live in celibacy (Jørn Borup: Japanese Rinzai Zen Buddhism, p. 60). So there are those who live according to the old ideals of a home-leaver.


And, if I may add, more power to them! To each their own glorious path. In fact, Buddhism in general, Zen in particular, would be so much poorer without all of us ... conservatives and reformers, celibate and sexing.

One of the reasons Judaism has survived for thousands of years in the face of terrible times and social change is the presence of both ... the traditionalists living as if it were still 500 years ago, and the "out in the world" reformers with shaven beards and eating ham. With only the former, the religion would be frozen and stagnant. With only the latter, the religion would be reduced to chaos. The two feeding each other keep it rich and strong.

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