Cleary on Cultish Zen

Re: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby kirtu » Fri Mar 01, 2013 1:09 pm

Astus wrote: Of course, those who maintain that Zen is about the correct posture will say these are wrong interpretations.


Taisen Deshimaru (and presumably others) talk about correct posture as a start, not an end.

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Re: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby Astus » Fri Mar 01, 2013 1:33 pm

kirtu wrote:Taisen Deshimaru (and presumably others) talk about correct posture as a start, not an end.


Wouldn't saying such a thing compromise the idea of zazen equals enlightenment?
"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: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby kirtu » Fri Mar 01, 2013 1:38 pm

Astus wrote:
kirtu wrote:Taisen Deshimaru (and presumably others) talk about correct posture as a start, not an end.


Wouldn't saying such a thing compromise the idea of zazen equals enlightenment?


Not at all. Actual zazen (seated meditation) is the essential element for kensho and satori. But we take our zazen with us off the cushion - we don't leave it there. Zazen is the start of enlightenment and is practice/enlightenment. But until we see that, it's just practice. But we take that with us no matter what we do. This was Dogen's great teaching and is essentially the main teaching of the Shobogenzo (although he may have more than this great teaching in it - I haven't gone through all of it).

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Re: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby Astus » Fri Mar 01, 2013 2:07 pm

kirtu wrote:Not at all. Actual zazen (seated meditation) is the essential element for kensho and satori. But we take our zazen with us off the cushion - we don't leave it there. Zazen is the start of enlightenment and is practice/enlightenment. But until we see that, it's just practice. But we take that with us no matter what we do.


If you can take zazen off the cushion then why is sitting, and in a specific posture, important at all? For instance, one can recite the nenbutsu or work on a koan anywhere in any posture.
"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: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby oushi » Fri Mar 01, 2013 3:45 pm

kirtu wrote:But we take our zazen with us off the cushion

Please explain to me, what is that you take off the cushion? I think people often mistake zazen mind with makyo...
Zazen mind is "unpicking" itself, so how can it be picked up? If you think you can pick up "not picking up", you are deluding yourself. Just an attempt of desiring mind to take control of something great.
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Re: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby Jikan » Fri Mar 01, 2013 6:34 pm

Referring back to the "worship of zazen" idea...

It seems to me that zazen was somehow transformed from one important practice among many practices into the practice par excellance, or the only practice. There's a complex history to this. I think this may go hand-in-hand with some of the issues Cleary points out in the OP. Brian Victoria has put it forward in different terms: the emphasis on not thinking and not studying so characteristic of Zen discourse becomes an emphasis on not criticizing the teacher or tradition; just doing becomes just doing as told. This is in the preface to Brazier's book The New Buddhism, in which Victoria shows that this sort of practice is carried over into North American Zen contexts (Bernie Glassman is explicitly criticized on this front). Victoria's books famously show the consequences of this complex of doctrines and practices in the Japanese milieu.

In this context, I don't think it's unfair to describe such near-total reliance on seated meditation as "worship."

I'd like to know if anyone has rebutted Victoria on this issue, or if anyone here at DW would like to give it a shot. Is this a serious problem facing contemporary practitioners, or are Victoria and Clearly completely off the reservation? A bit of both?
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Re: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Mar 01, 2013 10:14 pm

I guess anything can become corrupted - any spiritual movement, philosophy or practice, can be subjugated by politics or the military or the culture of the day. There are no guarantees to prevent that from happening, literally no silver bullet. It is up to every person who wants to understand the truth that Zen teaches to pursue it to the best of their ability. But there are still no guaranteed 'ways' or 'methods'. People can always fool themselves and you can't legislate against it when they do.

Brian Victoria's book caused a lot of soul-searching amongst Zen practitioners and it was impossible to deny that it contained some truth. (I have noticed that Slavoj Žižek refers to it when he wishes to engage in his ritual denigration of Modern Buddhism.) But I think there have been some effective rebuttals of aspects of Victoria's book, particularly his criticism of D T Suzuki (although I can't recall the detail right at this moment).

I don't interpret Dogen's 'practice is enlightenment' as a magic formula. I think to read it as 'I practice, therefore I'm enlightened' is completely mistaken. Zen Mind Beginner's Mind and To Meet the Real Dragon by Nishijima are two of the modern classics on this practice. The interpretation of this phrase that they offer is that the student needs to be very attentive to his/her actual condition, what really is the case for them, rather than becoming oriented towards some remote future attainment. The idea is actually not dissimilar to the Christian 'Practicing the Presence' meditation. You're not chasing the pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow, but awakening to the reality of tathata in this very life, in this very moment. 'I chop wood, I draw water, how marvellous, how mysterious'. It has always made sense to me - no matter how many other forms of Buddhism I consider, this is the one I return to.
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Re: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby kirtu » Sat Mar 02, 2013 1:33 am

Astus wrote:
kirtu wrote:Not at all. Actual zazen (seated meditation) is the essential element for kensho and satori. But we take our zazen with us off the cushion - we don't leave it there. Zazen is the start of enlightenment and is practice/enlightenment. But until we see that, it's just practice. But we take that with us no matter what we do.


If you can take zazen off the cushion then why is sitting, and in a specific posture, important at all? For instance, one can recite the nenbutsu or work on a koan anywhere in any posture.


Sitting is important because it reveals your own Buddhanature to you. Zazen is a more intensive and direct practice than nembutsu for example although one can awaken to their Buddhanature through nembutsu as well.

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Re: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby kirtu » Sat Mar 02, 2013 1:34 am

oushi wrote:
kirtu wrote:But we take our zazen with us off the cushion

Please explain to me, what is that you take off the cushion? I think people often mistake zazen mind with makyo...
Zazen mind is "unpicking" itself, so how can it be picked up? If you think you can pick up "not picking up", you are deluding yourself. Just an attempt of desiring mind to take control of something great.


You take your current expression of Buddha, you as Buddha, off the cushion when you get up and interact in the world.

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Re: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby Astus » Sat Mar 02, 2013 11:19 am

kirtu wrote:Sitting is important because it reveals your own Buddhanature to you. Zazen is a more intensive and direct practice than nembutsu for example although one can awaken to their Buddhanature through nembutsu as well.


I'm talking about sitting as a physical posture. People sit a lot every day in the office, at home, in a restaurant, in the car, etc. They sit because it is convenient. As Zhiyi writes (The Essentials of Buddhist Meditation, ch. 6, tr. Ven. Dharmamitra): "although it is true that this can be accomplished in any of the four deportments, still, for the study of the path, sitting is the superior posture." However, Huineng says (Platform Sutra, ch. 9, tr. McRae): "One is enlightened to the Way through the mind. How could it depend on sitting?" Even Dogen asks in the Fukanzazengi: "How could that be limited to sitting or lying down?" And in the Bendowa (PDF): "This is not only practised while sitting, it is like a hammer striking emptiness; before and after, its ringing pervades everywhere. How can it be limited to a place?"

What makes sitting more intensive and direct? How does intensity and directness depend on sitting? This is asked not because sitting is wrong but because this single posture is emphasised as if it had some special meaning or quality. Thich Nhat Hanh likes to teach walking meditation, and once a Chan monk told me that doing prostrations is the best. Many simply say that posture is not that important. Dogen likes to refer to Shakyamuni's sitting for six years (which is not true) and Bodhidharma's nine years of wall gazing (rarely interpreted as seated meditation, as discussed in Broughton: Bodhidharma Anthology, p. 66-68) as proof of elevating the sitting posture to the level of ultimate accomplishment. If that is just a poetic way of talking about meditation there is no need to think too much about it, however, just as you said, when it is equated with enlightenment itself, some explanations for that would be good.
"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: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby seeker242 » Sat Mar 02, 2013 1:36 pm

I hope Cleary is not trying to describe all of western zen or all of Japanese zen as "cultish", etc?? Sure, there are people who misinterpret or misunderstand the old masters. But, that has been going on since forever.
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Re: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby Jikan » Sat Mar 02, 2013 3:01 pm

Did Dogen not prioritize seated meditation also? I'm wondering if part of this has to do with particular interpretations of traditional masters such as Dogen.
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Re: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby Jikan » Sat Mar 02, 2013 3:04 pm

jeeprs wrote:I guess anything can become corrupted - any spiritual movement, philosophy or practice, can be subjugated by politics or the military or the culture of the day. There are no guarantees to prevent that from happening, literally no silver bullet. It is up to every person who wants to understand the truth that Zen teaches to pursue it to the best of their ability. But there are still no guaranteed 'ways' or 'methods'. People can always fool themselves and you can't legislate against it when they do.

Brian Victoria's book caused a lot of soul-searching amongst Zen practitioners and it was impossible to deny that it contained some truth. (I have noticed that Slavoj Žižek refers to it when he wishes to engage in his ritual denigration of Modern Buddhism.) But I think there have been some effective rebuttals of aspects of Victoria's book, particularly his criticism of D T Suzuki (although I can't recall the detail right at this moment).

I don't interpret Dogen's 'practice is enlightenment' as a magic formula. I think to read it as 'I practice, therefore I'm enlightened' is completely mistaken. Zen Mind Beginner's Mind and To Meet the Real Dragon by Nishijima are two of the modern classics on this practice. The interpretation of this phrase that they offer is that the student needs to be very attentive to his/her actual condition, what really is the case for them, rather than becoming oriented towards some remote future attainment. The idea is actually not dissimilar to the Christian 'Practicing the Presence' meditation. You're not chasing the pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow, but awakening to the reality of tathata in this very life, in this very moment. 'I chop wood, I draw water, how marvellous, how mysterious'. It has always made sense to me - no matter how many other forms of Buddhism I consider, this is the one I return to.


:good:

I was disappointed when I saw Zizek make that particular move. Talk about generalizing from the particular... that's a weak, weak way to make an argument.

Anyway, to the more important topic: Stephen Batchelor is not a particularly popular writer in these parts, but I think his idea of a "culture of awakening" is an important one in this context. What would such a culture look like? Well, it would involve some kind of critical thought, rather than passive following. This may be an antidote to the kinds of problems we're describing.
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Re: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby kirtu » Sat Mar 02, 2013 3:14 pm

Astus wrote:
I'm talking about sitting as a physical posture. People sit a lot every day in the office, at home, in a restaurant, in the car, etc. ....
What makes sitting more intensive and direct? How does intensity and directness depend on sitting?


Sitting is the preeminent yogic posture for meditation. The best posture is with legs crossed in lotus , then in half lotus, then in Burmese, then in Western. The back is then held straight, etc. (this detail differs from tradition to tradition slightly - in Taoism for example a straight back means a slightly rounded back). This posture straightens or opens the channels and facilitates deep concentration. As a yogic posture it just does this.

One can also sit in a chair if the back or hips are injured and even meditate laying on one's back. But they do not facilitate concentration in the same way and definitely not to the same degree.

Walking meditation is in part to help people bring their expression of Buddha out into the world (TNH says this in one of his works too).

and once a Chan monk told me that doing prostrations is the best.



For purification/Buddha repentance practice.

Many simply say that posture is not that important.


It is important, it's just not absolutely critical as meditation is done with the mind. But there is no other posture that facilitates long term deep concentration.

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Re: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby Matt J » Sat Mar 02, 2013 3:46 pm

This is like saying, if you can swim in the ocean, why swim in a pool at all?

Sitting is important because it allows us to leave off everything else and collect ourselves. Sitting in a proper posture is important because a proper posture facilitates relaxation and concentration.

Every teacher I've had, Zen, Theravada, and other, have started with sitting and then at some point say "now take your practice with you." In my experience, zazen is the hardest to get but the easiest to take into daily life.

Astus wrote:
kirtu wrote:Not at all. Actual zazen (seated meditation) is the essential element for kensho and satori. But we take our zazen with us off the cushion - we don't leave it there. Zazen is the start of enlightenment and is practice/enlightenment. But until we see that, it's just practice. But we take that with us no matter what we do.


If you can take zazen off the cushion then why is sitting, and in a specific posture, important at all? For instance, one can recite the nenbutsu or work on a koan anywhere in any posture.
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If only there is no picking or choosing
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Re: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby Astus » Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:04 pm

kirtu wrote:It is important, it's just not absolutely critical as meditation is done with the mind. But there is no other posture that facilitates long term deep concentration.


But concentration, attaining various levels of absorption, is neither the method nor the goal of Zen. I'm not questioning the yogic qualities of the posture, but they're not discussed in Zen works (except for Hakuin's tradition where it comes from outside of Buddhism), and they don't equal realising buddha-nature.

For purification/Buddha repentance practice.


Not necessarily. It's Chan in motion.
"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: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby Astus » Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:07 pm

Matt J wrote:This is like saying, if you can swim in the ocean, why swim in a pool at all?

Sitting is important because it allows us to leave off everything else and collect ourselves. Sitting in a proper posture is important because a proper posture facilitates relaxation and concentration.

Every teacher I've had, Zen, Theravada, and other, have started with sitting and then at some point say "now take your practice with you." In my experience, zazen is the hardest to get but the easiest to take into daily life.


Then we are talking about a gradual development, just as in any other school, except that in Zen they forgot to provide the description of the stages.
"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: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby kirtu » Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:22 pm

Astus wrote:
kirtu wrote:It is important, it's just not absolutely critical as meditation is done with the mind. But there is no other posture that facilitates long term deep concentration.


But concentration, attaining various levels of absorption, is neither the method nor the goal of Zen.


Concentration is the beginning method of zazen. It's why people count their breaths. A minimal concentration is needed to actually begin zazen and it is rooted in concentration.

Attain levels of absorption is not and I didn't say so. Concentration is also required to attain the jnanas, but that is not the goal or method of Zen as you note.

I'm not questioning the yogic qualities of the posture, but they're not discussed in Zen works (except for Hakuin's tradition where it comes from outside of Buddhism), and they don't equal realising buddha-nature.


I was about to quote Fukanzazengi but you mentioned the yogic qualities - that may be. Nonetheless Zen teachers teach this directly, verbally and it is verifiable in experience.

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Re: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby Astus » Sat Mar 02, 2013 5:15 pm

Kirt,

Yes, they teach counting the breath, focusing on the lower belly and sometimes even other things. How does that make the sitting posture identical to buddhahood?

"Only the posture of zazen is the true living Buddha. It is the only posture which inspires true respect in everyone. Through it, I will be able to face anything." (Deshimaru: True Living Buddha)
"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: Cleary on Cultish Zen

Postby kirtu » Sat Mar 02, 2013 8:40 pm

Astus wrote:Kirt,

Yes, they teach counting the breath, focusing on the lower belly and sometimes even other things. How does that make the sitting posture identical to buddhahood?

"Only the posture of zazen is the true living Buddha. It is the only posture which inspires true respect in everyone. Through it, I will be able to face anything." (Deshimaru: True Living Buddha)


The sitting posture itself is not identical to Buddhahood. Deshimaru didn't mean that literally. However sitting is needed to accomplish zazen (unless one has a handicap , in which case it would be difficult but not impossible). But zazen is practice/enlightenment. From the beginning. In Zen, zazen is the gateway to directly discovering one's Buddhahood for oneself.

Yes, they teach counting the breath, focusing on the lower belly and sometimes even other things.


This is not quite correct. The focus is not on "the lower belly" - it is on the hara (Japanese, dan tien Chinese) which is an energy point located in the lower belly. Focusing there draws energy to the hara, activating spiritual awareness over time. This is similar to but different from the Tibetan practice of drawing energy into the body's central channel (actually focusing on the hara may eventually do the same thing). So this is a bit of esoteric Buddhism that is in Zen from the start.

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