chan/seon/rinzai/soto differences

chan/seon/rinzai/soto differences

Postby chickenman » Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:42 pm

what, in a nut-shell, are the major differences between chan, seon, rinzai & soto zen?
thank you.
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Re: chan/seon/rinzai/soto differences

Postby Astus » Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:54 pm

Is your question about their differences in doctrines, practices, ceremonies, scriptures, language, history, arts, organisation or something else?
"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)

“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; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: chan/seon/rinzai/soto differences

Postby chickenman » Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:26 pm

doctrines & practices i suppose. just trying to get a feel for what makes all these different sects "different".
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Re: chan/seon/rinzai/soto differences

Postby Astus » Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:55 pm

What makes them different first of all is that Chan is Chinese, Seon is Korean, while Rinzai and Soto are Japanese. This affects their history, their style, their language. In terms of doctrines all of them are East Asian Mahayana.

Chan is not very organised, therefore the specifics in terms of favoured sutras depend mostly on the teacher, and since Chan is almost synonymous with Chinese Buddhism, its uniqueness lies mainly in those that represent Chinese Buddhism in general. If there is anything Chan specific in practices, it is the use of huatou. Because Chan is a loose term in China there is no conflict with using teachings and methods from any school.

Seon re-emerged in Korea in the 19th century and today its major organisation is the Jogye Order, the largest Buddhist church in the Republic. They have a basic curriculum for novice monastics that emphasises the combined study of Hwaeom and Seon, according to the tradition of Weonhyo, Jinul and Hyujeong. The primary Seon method is the hwadu, similarly to Chan.

Rinzai today follows the teachings of Hakuin who created a special koan curriculum for practitioners. Soto today follows the teachings of Dogen, as a result of 18th century changes (similarly to Rinzai), and in practice they focus on shikantaza. Like other Japanese schools, they lack full monastic ordination, and were influenced by Tendai doctrines.
"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)

“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; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: chan/seon/rinzai/soto differences

Postby chickenman » Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:28 pm

thank you, astus, for the information.
exactly what i was looking for - just a quick "overview".
i am slightly familiar with soto, but knew nothing about the other 3.
thanks again.
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Re: chan/seon/rinzai/soto differences

Postby Sara H » Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:05 pm

I have to kindof correct Astus here, there are actually some Soto organizations that are fully monastic.

The Order of Buddhist Contemplatives is a fully monastic Soto organization.

Soto and Rinzai practice isn't restricted to Japanese national territory. ; )

The Caodong Chan school, is actually Soto Zen, just the Chinese version of it, and minus the Japanese ancestors.

Soto, is a name that refers to the school decended from Sozan and Tozan. Which are Japanese names for two of the Chinese ancestors.

Zen in Japan was actually fully monastic, until an Imperial decree broke them up by law.
The Emperor at the time, or whichever warlord controlled him, considered the monks a threat to their influence.

Outside of Japan, in most of the world, monastic Zen practice is considered the norm. The exception to that is some of those Japanese school's descendants here in the west, -though not all of them.


In Gassho,

Sara H.
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: chan/seon/rinzai/soto differences

Postby Astus » Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:51 pm

Sara,

I said that Japanese schools don't have full monastic ordination (i.e. according to the Vinaya) and not that there are no monasteries. Does the OBC observe the Dharmagupta Vinaya or another one?

No Caodong school exists in China as an individual organisation, although there is the Caodong lineage, however, that is only nominal and has no influence on daily monastic life.

The Meiji government only removed the punishment for breaking monastic regulations. They didn't force anyone to have families and live like a layman. It was a decision the Buddhist churches made themselves to allow people give up the previous rules. But this is a different subject and off topic.
"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)

“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; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: chan/seon/rinzai/soto differences

Postby randomseb » Sat Feb 02, 2013 9:21 pm

Some information to complement the helpful replies above:

Bodhidharma went to China to preach the Dharma, and so Ch'an was born, and from this eventually the other specialized sects of the various kinds of Zen emerged based on what doctrines and methodology suited different groups of people and spreading out into different lines of Zen flavors.

For a more in-depth history and information about differences, see here:

Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that originated in China during the 6th century as Chán. From China, Zen spread south to Vietnam, to Korea and east to Japan.

The word Zen is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Middle Chinese word 禪 Dzyen (Modern Mandarin: Chán), which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "absorption" or "meditative state"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zen
Disclaimer: If I have posted about something, then I obviously have no idea what I am talking about!
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Re: chan/seon/rinzai/soto differences

Postby Sara H » Sun Feb 03, 2013 11:14 am

Astus wrote:Sara,

I said that Japanese schools don't have full monastic ordination (i.e. according to the Vinaya) and not that there are no monasteries. Does the OBC observe the Dharmagupta Vinaya or another one?

No Caodong school exists in China as an individual organisation, although there is the Caodong lineage, however, that is only nominal and has no influence on daily monastic life.

The Meiji government only removed the punishment for breaking monastic regulations. They didn't force anyone to have families and live like a layman. It was a decision the Buddhist churches made themselves to allow people give up the previous rules. But this is a different subject and off topic.


Actually there was an Imperial decree that made temples hereditary.

This meant young boys had to take over their fathers job to takeover the family temple.

It turned monasteries into boarding schools and required many monks to become lay priests and have children in order to pass the temples on.

So sure, you could say it was their "choice" to break monastic vows.

But it was a forced choice between that or a "hard place", a worse situation.

And of course now, it's been that way there for so long, that it's become engrained, and so they have very little incentive to change it.

Dogen, Keizan, and many of the other great Japanese ancestors, (and their desciples) were fully monastic.

Soji-Ji Is a monastery in Japan, and they do have monasteries over there, and they have had priests that are monastic, however I believe those who do so, do so out of personal choice, and are not required (See above regarding this tradition).

Regarding the OBC, I'm not exactly sure on that, I will check for you.

I made the comment, because your statement seemed to refer not specifically to Zen schools in Japan, but rather to "Japanese Schools" in general, which depending on how you look at it, would also include those lineages that have descended from Japanese origin.

If that is not how you meant it, then I apologize, as from that perspective you would indeed be correct, that there are no current fully monastic branches of Zen in Japan itself that I am aware of.

So I suppose it would depend on whether one considers western branches to still be of the Japanese schools or not.

It is certainly possible that one could argue that they are now their own branch in their own right, as there have been in some cases three generations of western teachers, master-to-desciple, so suggesting that they are no longer "Japanese" could indeed, be a valid argument.

Again, it would depend on how you look at it.

In Gassho,

Sara H.
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: chan/seon/rinzai/soto differences

Postby Huifeng » Sun Feb 03, 2013 12:07 pm

It's rather confusing to say that Caodong Chan is just a Chinese version of Soto Zen. For a start, if anything, it would be the other way around, as Caodong comes before Soto. But even then, as Astus points out, there is not much of an ongoing Caodong Chan system as per Sotoshu. Other factors such as the ordination issue are different. As far as I understand, Master Dogen never received bhiksu ordination (具足戒, 比丘戒). From a Chan point of view, that means he was not a "full monastic". Also, from what I see, much of Soto relies on Dogen; but he had no influence at all on Caodong Chan in China.

Best not to try to look at any Chinese forms of Buddhism through a Japanese lens, it gets really confusing really fast. Chinese Chan - mostly a general umbrella term, but not always - includes the whole range of Mahayana Buddhism found in China. And, more recently, other forms of practice from Tibetan and Theravadin Buddhism.

However, there are few Western practitioners from Chinese Buddhism to lend voice to what really goes on, so the confusion is quite understandable.

~~ Huifeng
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Re: chan/seon/rinzai/soto differences

Postby Astus » Sun Feb 03, 2013 4:31 pm

Discussion regarding the differences in ordination and precepts: viewtopic.php?f=69&t=11532
"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)

“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; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: chan/seon/rinzai/soto differences

Postby plwk » Sun Feb 03, 2013 4:33 pm

what, in a nut-shell, are the major differences between chan, seon, rinzai & soto zen?
doctrines & practices i suppose. just trying to get a feel for what makes all these different sects "different".
Some of my own musings...
a. Generally, the Linji/Rinzai gang sit facing each other and the Caodong/Soto gang sit facing the wall, backs facing each other.

b. These days, as I heard and read, I doubt they use the keisaku or xiang ban or incense board stick to hit hard, just light taps... I hope... :tongue:

c. I am unsure about most Western Zen groups which have a popular image of being iconoclastic about literature (scriptures and treatises) but from my experience with Ch'an practitioners, it isn't so.

d. Yes, rites and rituals are part of the Ch'an tradition like standard Chinese Mahayana repentance services (which can be a whole day's or up until a week's affair), the daily private practice of chanting and sitting, liturgical observances of the monthly observance of 8 Vegetarian Precepts on New/Full moon days and special annual commemorations, some even do a private daily practice of 108 bows which is also found amongst some Seon practitioners but the Zen Trad in the West? I have seen though old vids of Soto Zen monasteries in Japan which observe the daily liturgical rituals and annual celebrations. So, it's not just about the practice of sitting but a host of other stuff as part of the practice.

e. I think it's common to expect some Ch'an practitioners to practice a dual Dharma door, for instance, combining Ch'an with Pure Land or something else, like esoteric practices. Rarely do I meet those who do exclusive practice. From one forum chat I had with someone some years back, he comes from a Zen background, he remarked to me that some Zen practitioners also visit and practice with the Jodo Shinshu gang and vice versa although I should think that this phenomena is an individual basis thingy rather than an official Zen one.
In one old vid some years back (I think it's been taken off) there's a footage of a rare Korean ceremony by Seon monastics showing a process of mantra and sacred objects insertion into a huge Buddha statue for a standard East Asian Mahayana blessing rite and inaugural opening of a new temple and the shrine hall. It's also similar in the Ch'an world where I watched many videos of Ch'an monastics performing the full blessing and opening rites for centres, temples, monasteries and even in the laity's homes. I myself have attended, back some time ago, one factory blessing and opening ceremony performed by my refuge and preceptor master, where the factory owner invited her and an entourage of Bhikshunis to oversee the event and after that a sponsored lunch dana. Further, I have seen Ch'an monastics, both in real life and in videos, attending Vajrayana ceremonies and teaching sessions of various lineages. Another one is the Guiyang/Weiyang Ch'an community of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Talmage, California where they are famous for Shurangama & Great Compassion Dharani practice and also the rare initiation and empowerment for the practice of the 42 Hands and Eyes of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva to selected and experienced disciples. Some are initiated into the Maha Cundi practice in other places. In some Pure Land youtube videos I have watched, there's one Hong Kong Chinese Mahayana Pure Land master who I was told that he is an experienced practitioner of Theravada & Ch'an plus some other Dharma practices but his primary focus remains on Pure Land teaching and practice, comes off and on to my country on invitation of the local Pure Land association here, and in some of the assemblies he presides over, he gives a teaching and performs an East Asian Mahayana Mahakala puja which attracts audiences of all kinds being an open event, including Ch'an practitioners, like most people to obtain blessings and remove obstacles.
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Re: chan/seon/rinzai/soto differences

Postby Julio Robles » Tue Sep 17, 2013 11:57 am

Astus, you said "Like other Japanese schools, they lack full monastic ordination", that is not accurate,the Japanese Obaku Zen School (3rd larger Japanese Zen School, for the readers that doesn´t know, I´m sure you do) follows the Vinaya of the Dharmagupta.
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