The Tao of Zen?

The Tao of Zen?

Postby Ikkyu » Sat Jun 16, 2012 8:18 pm

I have studied both Buddhism and Taoism, and while many individuals assert that Taoism has had no influence on Buddhism I find this difficult to believe. Philosophical Taoism (Daojia) at least has had some semblence of influence on Ch'an Buddhism in China. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy asserts that Taoism has had major influences on Buddhism, especially during the T'ang Dynasty period in China when Ch'an/Zen was flourishing. It is no surprise to me that Dogen spoke of "the Way" (Tao) and "the ten-thousand things" (both terms that are featured numerous times in both the Tao Te Ching and Zhuangzhi).

The author Ray Grigg devoted a whole book to explaining how Taoism influenced Zen Buddhism.

A documentary on Zen Buddhism by Empty Mind Films, The Zen Mind, postulates that the "Tao... is to be found in Zen."

I once spoke to the abbot of the Sangha I attend for zazen. He leads a tradition based on Thich Nhat Hanh's, that is... the Lam Te (Rinzai) Thien (Vietnamese Zen) tradition. he has studied with the Dalai Lama, in the Vajrayana, Theravada and Mahayana. He is a former monk and now is a leading priest. When I asked him about the connection between Taoism and Buddhism, he described how "Taoism explains why, whereas Buddhism explains how and what". He also said that Vietnamese Buddhism had been influenced by both Taoism and Confucianism.

The I-Kuan Tao sect attempts to combine Zen Buddhism with Taoism.

There's an old myth postulating that Lao Tzu taught the Buddha many things when venturing to India. Although this is pretty much like I said, a myth.

Lastly, I just can't read the Tao Te Ching without feeling that it was written by a very enlightened individual. Its wisdom is equal, if not greater than that, of some sutras.

So basically my question is, what are your thoughts? Do you feel that Zen is influenced by Taoism or Daojia? Do you consider Lao Tzu to have been enlightened, perhaps a Pratekyabuddha or Arhat? And aren't there 84,000 different teachings What are your thoughts?

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Re: The Tao of Zen?

Postby Jikan » Sat Jun 16, 2012 8:43 pm

relevant recent thread:

viewtopic.php?f=69&t=8355
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Re: The Tao of Zen?

Postby Wesley1982 » Sat Jun 16, 2012 8:52 pm

There's a book I've studied called Christ the Eternal Tao which is a Chinese rendition of the gospel storytelling narrative.

http://www.amazon.com/Christ-Eternal-Ta ... 0938635859

The Tao by itself is also a interesting study.
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Re: The Tao of Zen?

Postby Astus » Sat Jun 16, 2012 9:25 pm

Here's Chengguan's (4th patriarch of the Huayan school) view on the influence of Taoism on Buddhism.

豈言象之能至。故云迥出。又借斯亡絶以遣言思。 (T36n1736, p2 b19)
Words may resemble very much. But the cause (behind it) is very different. We borrow the words but not accept their meaning.

言有濫同釋教者。皆是佛法之餘。 (T35n1735, p521 b15-16)
Those who go too far and equate [false teachings] with Buddhism are all outside of the Buddhadharma.

無得求一時之小名。渾三教之一致。習邪見之毒種。為地獄之深因。開無明之源流。遏種智之玄路。誡之誡之。(T36n1736, p107 a11-13)
Do not seek after the trivial reputation of a single age and confuse the three teachings as one. Studying the poisonous seeds of false views is a deep cause for being born in hell, opens up the wellspring of ignorance, and blocks of the road to omniscience. Take heed! Take heed!

And his disciple, Zongmi says regarding Confucianism and Taoism, that is, the outer teachings:

由於時命;故死後卻歸天地,復其虛無。然外教宗旨,但在乎依身立行,不在究竟身之元由。所說萬物不論象外,雖指大道為本,而不備明順逆起滅染淨因緣,故習者不知是權,執之為了。(T45n1886, p708 a27-b4)
the essential meaning of the outer teachings merely lies in establishing [virtuous] conduct based on this bodily existence and does not lie in thoroughly investigating the ultimate source of this bodily existence. The myriad things that they talk about do not have to do with that which is beyond tangible form. Even though they point to the great Way as the origin, they still do not fully illuminate the pure and impure causes and conditions of conforming to and going against [the flow] of origination and extinction. Thus , those who study [the outer teachings] do not realize that they are provisional and cling to them as ultimate.

(Translations from Peter N. Gregory's "Inquiry into the Origin of Humanity")
"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 Tao of Zen?

Postby Ikkyu » Sat Jun 16, 2012 9:37 pm

Astus wrote:Here's Chengguan's (4th patriarch of the Huayan school) view on the influence of Taoism on Buddhism.

豈言象之能至。故云迥出。又借斯亡絶以遣言思。 (T36n1736, p2 b19)
Words may resemble very much. But the cause (behind it) is very different. We borrow the words but not accept their meaning.

言有濫同釋教者。皆是佛法之餘。 (T35n1735, p521 b15-16)
Those who go too far and equate [false teachings] with Buddhism are all outside of the Buddhadharma.

無得求一時之小名。渾三教之一致。習邪見之毒種。為地獄之深因。開無明之源流。遏種智之玄路。誡之誡之。(T36n1736, p107 a11-13)
Do not seek after the trivial reputation of a single age and confuse the three teachings as one. Studying the poisonous seeds of false views is a deep cause for being born in hell, opens up the wellspring of ignorance, and blocks of the road to omniscience. Take heed! Take heed!

And his disciple, Zongmi says regarding Confucianism and Taoism, that is, the outer teachings:

由於時命;故死後卻歸天地,復其虛無。然外教宗旨,但在乎依身立行,不在究竟身之元由。所說萬物不論象外,雖指大道為本,而不備明順逆起滅染淨因緣,故習者不知是權,執之為了。(T45n1886, p708 a27-b4)
the essential meaning of the outer teachings merely lies in establishing [virtuous] conduct based on this bodily existence and does not lie in thoroughly investigating the ultimate source of this bodily existence. The myriad things that they talk about do not have to do with that which is beyond tangible form. Even though they point to the great Way as the origin, they still do not fully illuminate the pure and impure causes and conditions of conforming to and going against [the flow] of origination and extinction. Thus , those who study [the outer teachings] do not realize that they are provisional and cling to them as ultimate.

(Translations from Peter N. Gregory's "Inquiry into the Origin of Humanity")



"無得求一時之小名。渾三教之一致。習邪見之毒種。為地獄之深因。開無明之源流。遏種智之玄路。誡之誡之。(T36n1736, p107 a11-13)
Do not seek after the trivial reputation of a single age and confuse the three teachings as one. Studying the poisonous seeds of false views is a deep cause for being born in hell, opens up the wellspring of ignorance, and blocks of the road to omniscience. Take heed! Take heed!"

Suggesting that studying religions outside of Buddhism will lead someone to Hell seems very un-Buddhist. I study all sorts of different religions. Am I going to Hell? Perhaps this is the reason that the Huayan school doesn't flourish much anymore, whether in China or as Kegon in Japan.

"由於時命;故死後卻歸天地,復其虛無。然外教宗旨,但在乎依身立行,不在究竟身之元由。所說萬物不論象外,雖指大道為本,而不備明順逆起滅染淨因緣,故習者不知是權,執之為了。(T45n1886, p708 a27-b4)
the essential meaning of the outer teachings merely lies in establishing [virtuous] conduct based on this bodily existence and does not lie in thoroughly investigating the ultimate source of this bodily existence. The myriad things that they talk about do not have to do with that which is beyond tangible form. Even though they point to the great Way as the origin, they still do not fully illuminate the pure and impure causes and conditions of conforming to and going against [the flow] of origination and extinction. Thus , those who study [the outer teachings] do not realize that they are provisional and cling to them as ultimate."

But the Tao is intangible. Te (virtue) is the result of one with the Tao. Isn't compassion the quality of a Buddha, who is itself aligned with the Dharmakaya? Tao, in my understanding makes sense in the context of Buddhism and vice versa.

So what is the "great Way" to Buddhists? Dharmakaya... Sunyata... Buddha-nature?
"Nothing can be known, not even this."
-- Arcesilaus (but I'm not sure)
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Re: The Tao of Zen?

Postby Astus » Sat Jun 16, 2012 10:08 pm

I recommend you first read this: Common Misconceptions Concerning Daoism (Taoism) (PDF) by Louis Komjathy, Ph.D. It gives a nice list of incorrect ideas. The Daoist Center is also a valuable source of information.
"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 Tao of Zen?

Postby Wesley1982 » Sun Jun 17, 2012 12:30 am

Ikkyu wrote:So what is the "great Way" to Buddhists?


I think it would be the Magga or Path to Liberation - what is commonly understood by a consensus of buddhists to be known as a certain " path."
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Re: The Tao of Zen?

Postby Jikan » Sun Jun 17, 2012 1:11 am

Ikkyu wrote:So what is the "great Way" to Buddhists? Dharmakaya... Sunyata... Buddha-nature?


Depends who you ask. Some will in fact say Shunyata. Some will say Buddhanature or Buddhahood (which corresponds to Zen practice as I understand it, and TienTai thought as well). Others may also say the paramitas or the precepts. If you posted the same question at a Theravada board, one of the first responses would surely be the Eightfold Path. There are a great number of good answers to your question.

My own view (since it's one Buddhist's opinion it might be representative): all these are good answers. The Great Way is great because there are so many gates in which to enter it. It is good to practice virtue. It is good to recognize one's own nature as Buddha and to abide in that recognition. &c. If studying Taoism is helpful to you, then it is good too insofar as it is helpful (just as good as it is helpful). Same for Hegel, same for flower arranging, same for volunteering at the animal shelter, same for whatever context in which you do the Great Work. Enjoy!
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Re: The Tao of Zen?

Postby Ikkyu » Sun Jun 17, 2012 1:14 am

Astus wrote:I recommend you first read this: Common Misconceptions Concerning Daoism (Taoism) (PDF) by Louis Komjathy, Ph.D. It gives a nice list of incorrect ideas. The Daoist Center is also a valuable source of information.


I read your .pdf, and I personally found it lacking. While this individual asserts that there is no such things as Philosophical Taoism (Daojia), this is of course not true. It follows logic that between the periods in which the Tao Te Ching and Zhuangzi were written in the 4th century BCE and Religious Taoism came about in the 2nd century CE that there had to be some philosophical following of Taoism outside of ancestor and Heaven worship and the veneration of the Immortals or Shens.

See http://www.reformtaoism.org/.
"Nothing can be known, not even this."
-- Arcesilaus (but I'm not sure)
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Re: The Tao of Zen?

Postby Ikkyu » Sun Jun 17, 2012 1:16 am

Jikan wrote:
Ikkyu wrote:So what is the "great Way" to Buddhists? Dharmakaya... Sunyata... Buddha-nature?


Depends who you ask. Some will in fact say Shunyata. Some will say Buddhanature or Buddhahood (which corresponds to Zen practice as I understand it, and TienTai thought as well). Others may also say the paramitas or the precepts. If you posted the same question at a Theravada board, one of the first responses would surely be the Eightfold Path. There are a great number of good answers to your question.

My own view (since it's one Buddhist's opinion it might be representative): all these are good answers. The Great Way is great because there are so many gates in which to enter it. It is good to practice virtue. It is good to recognize one's own nature as Buddha and to abide in that recognition. &c. If studying Taoism is helpful to you, then it is good too insofar as it is helpful (just as good as it is helpful). Same for Hegel, same for flower arranging, same for volunteering at the animal shelter, same for whatever context in which you do the Great Work. Enjoy!


Can someone believe in both the Tao and the Buddha? I have a hard time NOT believing that Lao Tzu was an enlightened being or a Bodhisattva after reading the Tao Te Ching. Its wisdom clearly rivals that of many of the sutras, and surpasses others. Not to mention the fact that there are 84,000 ways to the Dharma itself.
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Re: The Tao of Zen?

Postby Astus » Sun Jun 17, 2012 8:37 am

Ikkyu wrote:I read your .pdf, and I personally found it lacking. While this individual asserts that there is no such things as Philosophical Taoism (Daojia), this is of course not true. It follows logic that between the periods in which the Tao Te Ching and Zhuangzi were written in the 4th century BCE and Religious Taoism came about in the 2nd century CE that there had to be some philosophical following of Taoism outside of ancestor and Heaven worship and the veneration of the Immortals or Shens.

See http://www.reformtaoism.org/.


Ancestor worship, rituals, magic, etc. are older than any writing, they are universal in almost every human culture. Organised Taoism, a Taoist self-awareness appeared after Buddhism reached and spread in China. There were philosophers, of course, just as there are New Age thinkers today without making it a single philosophy with fixed axioms.

You can of course interpret Laozi and Zhuangzi in a way that harmonises with Buddhism. Many did so before in East Asia. You can even find Buddhist commentaries. But then, it is not the same what those who are considered Taoists believe. It is also possible to read the Bible or the Bhagavad Gita, or practically any kind of book, with a Buddhist eye. Still, just because one likes to believe that Krsna was a bodhisattva, it won't make him a Hindu. In the same way, Buddhist teachings can be interpreted in a non-Buddhist way. What all this boils down to is a philosophical and theological debate on orthodoxy.

By the way, there is no such thing as philosophical Buddhism either.
"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 Tao of Zen?

Postby Jikan » Sun Jun 17, 2012 12:32 pm

Ikkyu wrote:
Can someone believe in both the Tao and the Buddha? I have a hard time NOT believing that Lao Tzu was an enlightened being or a Bodhisattva after reading the Tao Te Ching. Its wisdom clearly rivals that of many of the sutras, and surpasses others. Not to mention the fact that there are 84,000 ways to the Dharma itself.


Belief? Believe what you want. Everyone does.
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Re: The Tao of Zen?

Postby seeker242 » Sun Jun 17, 2012 1:12 pm

Ikkyu wrote:
Can someone believe in both the Tao and the Buddha? I have a hard time NOT believing that Lao Tzu was an enlightened being or a Bodhisattva after reading the Tao Te Ching. Its wisdom clearly rivals that of many of the sutras, and surpasses others. Not to mention the fact that there are 84,000 ways to the Dharma itself.


Yes. A Korean Zen Master named Man'Gong once said: "If you encounter the thing that can not be named, then you have reached the gate to the eternal Tao". I don't recall the exact words he used so I am paraphrasing, but that was basically what he said. However, many wise people consider the Tao, Sunyata, Buddha-Nature, Dharmakaya, your true self, ultimate truth, whatever you chose to call it, to all the be the same thing.
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Re: The Tao of Zen?

Postby White Lotus » Sun Jun 17, 2012 3:17 pm

there is great wisdom in the tao, it has greatly complemented my approach towards buddhism...
however does it reveal nature? is nature the Great Tao. it might be, but if it were, it would be limited.

is 'it' nature?

'it' is nature 'it' is not nature; 'it' is nature, 'it' is beyond nature, 'it' is within nature, 'it' is below nature, 'it' is above nature.

in his chapter Bukojoji in the Shobogenzo; Dogen speaks of going beyond nature (Icchantika).

a zen master once said that as long as one is attached to a 'name', it is like a donkey tethered to a post for 10,000 years.

Hui Chung the National Teacher taught... ''no name whatsoever for it''. this is going beyond nature, beyond Mind. where one finds No mind at all.

best wishes, Tom.
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Re: The Tao of Zen?

Postby Ikkyu » Mon Jul 09, 2012 8:21 am

White Lotus wrote:there is great wisdom in the tao, it has greatly complemented my approach towards buddhism...
however does it reveal nature? is nature the Great Tao. it might be, but if it were, it would be limited.

is 'it' nature?

'it' is nature 'it' is not nature; 'it' is nature, 'it' is beyond nature, 'it' is within nature, 'it' is below nature, 'it' is above nature.

in his chapter Bukojoji in the Shobogenzo; Dogen speaks of going beyond nature (Icchantika).

a zen master once said that as long as one is attached to a 'name', it is like a donkey tethered to a post for 10,000 years.

Hui Chung the National Teacher taught... ''no name whatsoever for it''. this is going beyond nature, beyond Mind. where one finds No mind at all.

best wishes, Tom.


"The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things
Thus, constantly without desire, one observes its essence
Constantly with desire, one observes its manifestations
These two emerge together but differ in name
The unity is said to be the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders"
"Nothing can be known, not even this."
-- Arcesilaus (but I'm not sure)
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Re: The Tao of Zen?

Postby Ikkyu » Mon Jul 09, 2012 8:24 am

Astus wrote:
Ikkyu wrote:I read your .pdf, and I personally found it lacking. While this individual asserts that there is no such things as Philosophical Taoism (Daojia), this is of course not true. It follows logic that between the periods in which the Tao Te Ching and Zhuangzi were written in the 4th century BCE and Religious Taoism came about in the 2nd century CE that there had to be some philosophical following of Taoism outside of ancestor and Heaven worship and the veneration of the Immortals or Shens.

See http://www.reformtaoism.org/.


Ancestor worship, rituals, magic, etc. are older than any writing, they are universal in almost every human culture. Organised Taoism, a Taoist self-awareness appeared after Buddhism reached and spread in China. There were philosophers, of course, just as there are New Age thinkers today without making it a single philosophy with fixed axioms.

You can of course interpret Laozi and Zhuangzi in a way that harmonises with Buddhism. Many did so before in East Asia. You can even find Buddhist commentaries. But then, it is not the same what those who are considered Taoists believe. It is also possible to read the Bible or the Bhagavad Gita, or practically any kind of book, with a Buddhist eye. Still, just because one likes to believe that Krsna was a bodhisattva, it won't make him a Hindu. In the same way, Buddhist teachings can be interpreted in a non-Buddhist way. What all this boils down to is a philosophical and theological debate on orthodoxy.

By the way, there is no such thing as philosophical Buddhism either.


I would say you are mistaken. A number of books have been published over the years such as "Buddhism Without Beliefs"... taking the ritualistic and religious element out of Buddhism in order to convey it purely as a philosophy.
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Re: The Tao of Zen?

Postby dharmagoat » Mon Jul 09, 2012 8:52 am

Ikkyu wrote:A number of books have been published over the years such as "Buddhism Without Beliefs"... taking the ritualistic and religious element out of Buddhism in order to convey it purely as a philosophy.

What about Buddhism as a way of life?
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Re: The Tao of Zen?

Postby Astus » Mon Jul 09, 2012 9:16 am

Ikkyu wrote:I would say you are mistaken. A number of books have been published over the years such as "Buddhism Without Beliefs"... taking the ritualistic and religious element out of Buddhism in order to convey it purely as a philosophy.


Those are philosophising about Buddhism, just as anyone can use bits and pieces from the Buddha's teachings. Taoist and Neo-Confucian works also contain elements from Buddhist teachings, and it doesn't make them Buddhists either.
"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 Tao of Zen?

Postby Ikkyu » Mon Jul 09, 2012 7:18 pm

Astus wrote:
Ikkyu wrote:I would say you are mistaken. A number of books have been published over the years such as "Buddhism Without Beliefs"... taking the ritualistic and religious element out of Buddhism in order to convey it purely as a philosophy.


Those are philosophising about Buddhism, just as anyone can use bits and pieces from the Buddha's teachings. Taoist and Neo-Confucian works also contain elements from Buddhist teachings, and it doesn't make them Buddhists either.


Sure. But there are a lot of Confucians and Taoists in China, for example, who would also consider themselves Buddhist.
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Re: The Tao of Zen?

Postby Jikan » Mon Jul 09, 2012 7:58 pm

Indeed. It's possible to be trained as a veterinarian and a Buddhist too, but that doesn't mean theories of animal health care are forms of Buddhism.
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