The allure of Zen...

The allure of Zen...

Postby /johnny\ » Tue Jul 17, 2012 7:51 pm

I studied Zen long ago and greatly enjoyed it. I have since gone mostly too Theravada. But i'm still very interested in Zen for many reasons, mostly it's unique approach too apprehending the mind and take on meditation.

However i'm fairly confident, after years of fruitless study, that one must have a teacher. No matter how much I read about it, I can never come to any concrete methods or conclusions, it's all vague and changeable. Every tradition has it's starting points, how to meditate, how too cultivate daily mindfulness, etc. but then there's this stopping point where there are no new practices or levels too reach in already known practices without a teacher.

which leads too the next problem: how would one know if they are wasting their life learning from someone who is not actually a Zen master capable of teaching them the way?

I want too learn Zen but I don't want too waste my life with one teacher who may not be good but that I might not know they are not good, or going from one too the next looking for one I believe is the real deal. In Theravada there are so many agreed upon texts and step by step instructional guides that this isn't an issue. If a teacher isn't teaching something fairly close too what's in the Pali Canon, it's pretty much safe too walk out. Or if they are breaking rules or acting in ways that are not acceptable according to the Canon, again, it's safe to say "this isn't right."
Whereas in Zen, your teacher can smack you with a stick, ZERO support for violence in the sutras, and it's a good teaching method! People reach enlightenment from this kind of thing. But then i'm sure there have been "masters" who are just violent, unenlightened people who like hitting their students, so how do we know the difference?

or from a non-violent example, there are Zen masters who teach methods that are not talked about in the sutras, that supposedly work wonders. and "masters" who teach methods not found in the sutras, that do nothing, again, how do we know the difference?

Can anyone explain all of this?
/johnny\
 
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Re: The allure of Zen...

Postby Jikan » Tue Jul 17, 2012 8:15 pm

*Yes, you need a competent teacher. Someone who attempts to teach himself has a fool for a teacher.

*How do you know if the teacher you are following is capable of teaching you? Here, you have to do some fieldwork. I think it makes sense to start with examining his or her students. Are they people with whom you would like to be? That is, would you like to turn out that way? Try to see what kind of culture the teacher encourages or allows to flourish. That gives you some insight (but not completely) into what the teacher values or at least is willing to tolerate. Next, listen carefully to what the teacher is saying, ask questions when you can, pay attention generally, ask around ,and inform yourself. Is this person completely off the reservation, or is this in the mainstream of Dharma? If you feel comfortable among the students and you find that the teacher is someone you can learn from, then participate for a while. How do you know if you are learning, developing, growing? Well, are you less prone to BS-ing yourself? Is your meditation more stable? Are you gentler to plants, animals, and people? To people find you less unpleasant to be around? if so, then you are in fact learning. If not, then something's wet in your process.

does that help?
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Re: The allure of Zen...

Postby /johnny\ » Tue Jul 17, 2012 8:23 pm

Jikan wrote:*Yes, you need a competent teacher. Someone who attempts to teach himself has a fool for a teacher.

*How do you know if the teacher you are following is capable of teaching you? Here, you have to do some fieldwork. I think it makes sense to start with examining his or her students. Are they people with whom you would like to be? That is, would you like to turn out that way? Try to see what kind of culture the teacher encourages or allows to flourish. That gives you some insight (but not completely) into what the teacher values or at least is willing to tolerate. Next, listen carefully to what the teacher is saying, ask questions when you can, pay attention generally, ask around ,and inform yourself. Is this person completely off the reservation, or is this in the mainstream of Dharma? If you feel comfortable among the students and you find that the teacher is someone you can learn from, then participate for a while. How do you know if you are learning, developing, growing? Well, are you less prone to BS-ing yourself? Is your meditation more stable? Are you gentler to plants, animals, and people? To people find you less unpleasant to be around? if so, then you are in fact learning. If not, then something's wet in your process.

does that help?



Indeed! thanks. what are some teaching results one could look for in students? Traits of a good teacher? There are Theravada suttas on required traits, but as I was saying these rules do not apply too Zen, which is one of the things that makes it so alluring! So how can you tell specifically?
/johnny\
 
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Re: The allure of Zen...

Postby Astus » Tue Jul 17, 2012 8:34 pm

First important thing to understand about Zen is that there are Zen stories and there is actual life. Stories are fiction, they are there to entertain and to educate. Life, well, that's a lot more complex thing.

In the book "Zen Wisdom" Ven. Sheng-yen is asked, "How does an ordinary practitioner recognize a false master?" To what he answers,

"The most important thing in recognizing masters is to be able to judge whether they have a correct view of Buddhadharma. If their views of the Dharma are correct, then even if their behavior reveals some weaknesses, they should not be considered false masters. On the other hand, if teachers do not have a correct view of the Dharma, they cannot be considered authentic or virtuous masters.

Of course, this presupposes that the person making the judgment has some understanding of correct Dharma. Without an understanding of the Dharma, there is no way a practitioner can tell if a teacher is genuine or false.

Beyond this, there are some basic criteria that can be used in assessing masters. First, consider their causes and conditions. In other words, their actions should be based on a foundation of emptiness; there should be no attachment in what they do. Second, consider their causes and consequences, or karma. The sense of emptiness that guides the actions of virtuous masters (causes and conditions) should accord with their karma (causes and consequences). That is to say, their actions need to be guided by a sense of responsibility. They should, at all times, be clearly aware of the consequences of their actions. Thus, there is an intimate relationship between responsibility and non-attachment.

These, then, are the marks of virtuous masters: they have a correct view of the Dharma, their actions reveal no attachment and they have a clear sense of responsibility."


So, the first thing you should do, is to study Mahayana. You should be clear about the basics, like bodhicitta, the six paramitas, compassion, dependent origination and emptiness. Although it is not used in East Asia, Shantideva's Bodhicaryavatara (The Way of the Bodhisattva) is an inspiring introduction to the fundamental teachings. Also, as an introduction to Zen, you should study the so called Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch.
"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: The allure of Zen...

Postby /johnny\ » Wed Jul 18, 2012 9:44 pm

Astus wrote:First important thing to understand about Zen is that there are Zen stories and there is actual life. Stories are fiction, they are there to entertain and to educate. Life, well, that's a lot more complex thing.

In the book "Zen Wisdom" Ven. Sheng-yen is asked, "How does an ordinary practitioner recognize a false master?" To what he answers,

"The most important thing in recognizing masters is to be able to judge whether they have a correct view of Buddhadharma. If their views of the Dharma are correct, then even if their behavior reveals some weaknesses, they should not be considered false masters. On the other hand, if teachers do not have a correct view of the Dharma, they cannot be considered authentic or virtuous masters.

Of course, this presupposes that the person making the judgment has some understanding of correct Dharma. Without an understanding of the Dharma, there is no way a practitioner can tell if a teacher is genuine or false.

Beyond this, there are some basic criteria that can be used in assessing masters. First, consider their causes and conditions. In other words, their actions should be based on a foundation of emptiness; there should be no attachment in what they do. Second, consider their causes and consequences, or karma. The sense of emptiness that guides the actions of virtuous masters (causes and conditions) should accord with their karma (causes and consequences). That is to say, their actions need to be guided by a sense of responsibility. They should, at all times, be clearly aware of the consequences of their actions. Thus, there is an intimate relationship between responsibility and non-attachment.

These, then, are the marks of virtuous masters: they have a correct view of the Dharma, their actions reveal no attachment and they have a clear sense of responsibility."


So, the first thing you should do, is to study Mahayana. You should be clear about the basics, like bodhicitta, the six paramitas, compassion, dependent origination and emptiness. Although it is not used in East Asia, Shantideva's Bodhicaryavatara (The Way of the Bodhisattva) is an inspiring introduction to the fundamental teachings. Also, as an introduction to Zen, you should study the so called Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch.


extremely informative and illuminating, thanks!
/johnny\
 
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Re: The allure of Zen...

Postby Jikan » Wed Jul 18, 2012 9:54 pm

/johnny\ wrote:Indeed! thanks. what are some teaching results one could look for in students? Traits of a good teacher? There are Theravada suttas on required traits, but as I was saying these rules do not apply too Zen, which is one of the things that makes it so alluring! So how can you tell specifically?


Just be practical about it. "keep your eyes wide open all the time." Do these people relate to each other, and to you, as you would expect a Buddhist community to do? eg with kindness, respect, generosity...? for instance
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Re: The allure of Zen...

Postby /johnny\ » Wed Jul 18, 2012 9:56 pm

Jikan wrote:
/johnny\ wrote:Indeed! thanks. what are some teaching results one could look for in students? Traits of a good teacher? There are Theravada suttas on required traits, but as I was saying these rules do not apply too Zen, which is one of the things that makes it so alluring! So how can you tell specifically?


Just be practical about it. "keep your eyes wide open all the time." Do these people relate to each other, and to you, as you would expect a Buddhist community to do? eg with kindness, respect, generosity...? for instance


awesome advice, thanks!
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