Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby dyanaprajna2011 » Sat Apr 13, 2013 8:56 pm

Does Zen Buddhism use mantras? If so, which mantras do they use?
"If you want to travel the Way of Buddhas and Zen masters, then expect nothing, seek nothing, and grasp nothing." -Dogen
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Re: Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby Astus » Sat Apr 13, 2013 9:18 pm

It is common to recite the names of buddhas (e.g. Amitabha) and bodhisattvas (e.g. Avalokitesvara), and there are dharanis (e.g. Great Compassion Dharani) that are usually part of the liturgy. The "Ten Shorter Dharanis" (十小咒) are part of the daily ceremony in Chinese Buddhism and you may consider them mantras because of their brevity. Mantras from specific sutras may be used by some practitioners. Here is an introduction: Buddhist Mantras.
"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: Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Sun Apr 14, 2013 7:21 am

Yes, we do.

In Soto Zen,
The Prajnaparamita mantra is the first one that comes to mind, and is recited daily as a part of The Scripture of Great Wisdom (Heart Sutra)

It is, (as translated and how we recite it in the OBC) "Oh Buddha, going, going, going on beyond: And always going on beyond, always BECOMING Buddha. Hail! Hail! Hail!"

The next one's are the Dharanis; the Invocation of Achalanatha, the Invocation of Mahakala, The Invocation of the Cosmic Buddha, and The Golden Bell that Rings but Once.

There are also daily verses,

Such as the Kesa Verse, the Lecture verse, the Scripture for the Removal of Disasters, the Mealtime Ceremonial Verse (the Five Thoughts, and The Universe is as the Boundless Sky which is recited at the end of a meal.), the Bathing Verse, Toothbrush verse, and Toilet verse.

There are also much longer and elaborate mantra's recited at Segaki, and other ceremonials.

So yes, we have quite a few.

In Gassho,

Sara
"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: Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby Jikan » Sun Apr 14, 2013 3:19 pm

Sara H wrote:Yes, we do.

In Soto Zen,
The Prajnaparamita mantra is the first one that comes to mind, and is recited daily as a part of The Scripture of Great Wisdom (Heart Sutra)

It is, (as translated and how we recite it in the OBC) "Oh Buddha, going, going, going on beyond: And always going on beyond, always BECOMING Buddha. Hail! Hail! Hail!"

The next one's are the Dharanis; the Invocation of Achalanatha, the Invocation of Mahakala, The Invocation of the Cosmic Buddha, and The Golden Bell that Rings but Once.

There are also daily verses,

Such as the Kesa Verse, the Lecture verse, the Scripture for the Removal of Disasters, the Mealtime Ceremonial Verse (the Five Thoughts, and The Universe is as the Boundless Sky which is recited at the end of a meal.), the Bathing Verse, Toothbrush verse, and Toilet verse.

There are also much longer and elaborate mantra's recited at Segaki, and other ceremonials.

So yes, we have quite a few.

In Gassho,

Sara


That's not the usual understanding of mantra. I don't know anyone who practices mantra or dharani in translation. Further, the translation you've given of the Gate mantra from the Heart Sutra has been the object of criticism here at DharmaWheel; I remember Ven. Huifeng demonstrating the problems with it elsewhere (can't find it now without the search function, sorry).

Reciting gatha (verses), on the other hand, is another story. Reciting sutra in translation is the norm. For instance, the Heart Sutra is chanted in Sino-Japanese or Tibetan or whatever, and the mantra at the end is recited as a mantra (not translated).

Big picture: it's better not to generalize from the particular. Sara belongs to a specific Zen organization with very particular practices that may or may not reflect the mainstream of Zen practice. I'm not saying this is good or bad, I'm merely saying it's not so easy to generalize from these experiences to Zen overall.
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Re: Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby pueraeternus » Sun Apr 14, 2013 4:21 pm

Jikan wrote:That's not the usual understanding of mantra. I don't know anyone who practices mantra or dharani in translation. Further, the translation you've given of the Gate mantra from the Heart Sutra has been the object of criticism here at DharmaWheel; I remember Ven. Huifeng demonstrating the problems with it elsewhere (can't find it now without the search function, sorry).


I think it is this one.

:popcorn:
If you believe certain words, you believe their hidden arguments. When you believe something is right or wrong, true of false, you believe the assumptions in the words which express the arguments. Such assumptions are often full of holes, but remain most precious to the convinced.

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Re: Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby plwk » Sun Apr 14, 2013 5:33 pm

From my own experience with the Chinese Ch'an Tradition....standard ones (from my memory and experience). Below are just strictly mantras or also known as 'true words', omitting the other chant verses.

a. Daily morning liturgy (starting bewteen 4-4:30am): (from various parts of the chants)
Surangama Dharani (5 parts long), Great Compassion Dharani, the Ten Small Dharanis, the Sri Devi Dharani (that comes with a praise to the Dharma Protector Skanda Bodhisattva). The early morning small portion rice/rice porridge and three to seven cups of water offering where certain mantras are recited over them as offering to the Triple Gem. (This may vary from place to place as some may not include this part of the offerings in the early morning liturgy)

b. Daily noon (Before noon) meal liturgy (around 10:30am-11am):
i. The standard food and beverage offering mantras with mudras and movements around the shrine hall and the offering platform with visualization, mantra and the threefold snapping of fingers to invite the Eightfold Division of beings to receive the visualised and actual offerings and with a short mantra inserted in the form of a chant praise.
ii. In the dining hall, after the meal is concluded, a short sung chant of the Maha Cundi Mantra
During the upasatha or posadha days of the new and full moon, they would add chanting (on top of i.) for 2 other side shrines: western hall to Amitabha & eastern hall to Bhaisajyaguru Buddhas where food and beverage offerings with paper dedication plaques are also placed and chanted mantras for: food & water blessing, universal offering, Rebirth in Pure Land & Bhaisajyaguru Buddha. Also, they may add a Sutra like the Chapter 25, Lotus Sutra for the 10:30/11am session, where at the end of Sutra, they will add the Great Compassion Dharani or any other Avalokitesvara related mantras from the Ten Small Dharanis collection and ending with purification of recitation mistakes mantras.

c. Daily evening liturgy (around 4:30pm-6pm):
i. The Meng Shan rite (mainly for the pretas with mudras & mantras, visualizations, specific movements & prostrations around the shrine hall and the outer offering platform, verses from Sutras, names of Buddhas, repentance & refuge verses)
It has several mantras/true words: food & water blessing, hell eradication, universal invitation, untying aversion, extinguishing fixed karma, eradicating karmic obstacles, throat opening, samaya, single syllable water wheel, milk ocean, unobstructed charity food & universal offering and rebirth in pure land.
ii. Conclusion of the evening liturgy: chanting of the Great Compassion Dharani along with chant praise to the Dharma Protector Sangharama Bodhisattva

d. During special liturgical days and misc
i. During the upasatha or posadha days of the new and full moon: certain Dharma Repentance services are conducted (different places have different choices)
For instance, the 'Jewelled Repentance of Hong Ming' (derived from 3 main Sutras texts which contains the 53 & 35 Buddhas & Samantabhadra Bodhisattva with respective repentance and resolution verses plus bowing prostrations) which also has in the prologue part where two mantras of the Medicine King Bodhisattva and Superior Medicine Bodhisattva are chanted/sung
ii. Specific Buddhas/Bodhisattvas/Dharma Protector/Ullambana liturgical days which have respective repentance ritual texts, some of which carries varieties of mantras and mudras. For instance, the annual and grandest Chinese Mahayana liturgical celebration: 'The Water, Land and Air Universal Liberation Great Rite' where it can go on for a week or more with inner and outer mandala shrines with all kinds of Sutras, Mantras, Mudras, Meditations and so forth done. The outer mandala shrines are open to the public but the inner one is confined only to designated ritual masters and experienced laity.
iii. Common services & purification blessings (which have mantras and mudras) for home/factory/office/temple, religious iconography, exorcism, animal liberation, keeping away pests from monasteries/temples/centres, funerals (at parlors and graves), marriages, births and etc.
iv. Personal mantra practices, mantras for the toilet, the fivefold mantras for purification of body, speech, mind & universal offering before reciting a Sutra and etc...
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Re: Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby Matylda » Mon Apr 15, 2013 3:02 pm

Jikan wrote:
Sara H wrote:Yes, we do.

In Soto Zen,
The Prajnaparamita mantra is the first one that comes to mind, and is recited daily as a part of The Scripture of Great Wisdom (Heart Sutra)

It is, (as translated and how we recite it in the OBC) "Oh Buddha, going, going, going on beyond: And always going on beyond, always BECOMING Buddha. Hail! Hail! Hail!"

The next one's are the Dharanis; the Invocation of Achalanatha, the Invocation of Mahakala, The Invocation of the Cosmic Buddha, and The Golden Bell that Rings but Once.

There are also daily verses,

Such as the Kesa Verse, the Lecture verse, the Scripture for the Removal of Disasters, the Mealtime Ceremonial Verse (the Five Thoughts, and The Universe is as the Boundless Sky which is recited at the end of a meal.), the Bathing Verse, Toothbrush verse, and Toilet verse.

There are also much longer and elaborate mantra's recited at Segaki, and other ceremonials.

So yes, we have quite a few.

In Gassho,

Sara


That's not the usual understanding of mantra. I don't know anyone who practices mantra or dharani in translation. Further, the translation you've given of the Gate mantra from the Heart Sutra has been the object of criticism here at DharmaWheel; I remember Ven. Huifeng demonstrating the problems with it elsewhere (can't find it now without the search function, sorry).

Reciting gatha (verses), on the other hand, is another story. Reciting sutra in translation is the norm. For instance, the Heart Sutra is chanted in Sino-Japanese or Tibetan or whatever, and the mantra at the end is recited as a mantra (not translated).

Big picture: it's better not to generalize from the particular. Sara belongs to a specific Zen organization with very particular practices that may or may not reflect the mainstream of Zen practice. I'm not saying this is good or bad, I'm merely saying it's not so easy to generalize from these experiences to Zen overall.


I think that one has to define what one means by mainstream zen... if it is something what is in the West then will not apply to the East.. if in the East then will not apply to zen in the West.
No idea what Sara belongs to, however I know the name of Jiyu Kenneth, and I knew teachers who were at Sojiji when she was there.
Anyway what she wrote reflects somehow what is in Japan. I did not encounter mantra in Western zen places. But in Japan there are in fact thousands of mantras in use. And there are manuals for priests for use and proper writting of them both in kanbun and in siddham. There are many buddhas and bodhisattvas and each one has mostly at least few mantras.
Moreover there are other manuals with commentaries and exact description of the mantras, and all this within soto school of zen.. however I have some rinzai manuals which contain variety of mantras mostly for different occassions.

This is what one can easily find within zen mainstream in Japan... but not in the West.

Daily in zen temple would be probably in used about 10 mantras and dharanis.. for special rituals could more, depending on the root diety...
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Re: Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby Jikan » Mon Apr 15, 2013 3:51 pm

Matylda,

Are the mantra pronounced in everyday Japanese in Japanese temples? Or in traditional Sino-Japanese syllables that reflect the original Sanskrit? The question is whether or not mantra & Dharani are translated (we know they are transliterated).

Thanks!
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Re: Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby Meido » Mon Apr 15, 2013 5:02 pm

Matylda wrote:This is what one can easily find within zen mainstream in Japan... but not in the West.


Well, again as you said...we should not generalize. There is no homogeneous "western zen", and certainly even Japanese teachers within different lines of the same school have chosen to transmit different practices and nonpublic texts.

Another thing to consider is that some things which have been transmitted simply haven't been widely used in the west. For example, our priest training includes instruction and documents for mantras to be used in different situations e.g. to empower various kinds of omamori, mantra /mudra for situations of crisis or war, etc. But so far not many places here I know are making their own omamori...or revealing, say, a practice to get rid of a harmful spirit using mantra and shinken. On the surface no one would know publicly that we've inherited these things. In the future, if there is a need or demand for these practices, i imagine more people will be aware that they exist here.

~Meido
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Re: Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby Meido » Mon Apr 15, 2013 8:41 pm

p.s.

I meant to mention also that these things as we've received them here in translated docs include both sino-japanese and Sanskrit pronunciations. But i've not heard anywhere of translations of the actual dharani or mantra being used in practice, and to do so would conflict with the understanding of their use which was transmitted to us.

FWIW, in this one corner of the Zen world...

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Re: Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:58 pm

Jikan wrote:That's not the usual understanding of mantra. I don't know anyone who practices mantra or dharani in translation. Further, the translation you've given of the Gate mantra from the Heart Sutra has been the object of criticism here at DharmaWheel; I remember Ven. Huifeng demonstrating the problems with it elsewhere (can't find it now without the search function, sorry).


Which, if you recall, was later refuted and debunked by someone else showing that it was indeed accurately translated.


tigerdown wrote:
Huifeng wrote:
It is rather, shall we say, a creative rendition. The Japanese, as the Chinese, is just a transliteration. The Sanskrit that we have is as follows:

[tadyathā oṃ] gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā.

Conze has a nice break down of it:

~~ Huifeng


If I may offer, having done some small research of this years back, an overly strict reliance on grammar may miss the point of the Heart Sutra itself. I very much recommend Donald Lopez' very fine ELABORATIONS ON EMPTINESS, USES OF THE HEART SUTRA on this point and the great flexibility the Sutra itself allows on grammatical forms and tense constructions. In a nutshell, "gone" is simultaneously timeless is going is coming. "Beyond" is here and in the very exertion of rafting the river to the other shore when all is encountered as empty. There is no "other shore", the "other shore" in on this side of the river and in the middle, and seeing clearly that truth is arriving at the "other shore" in emptiness. In other words, coming is going is gone gone gone. This perspective is very much that of Dogen and, I am guessing, may be part of the rendering of this translation if coming from the OBC, a Soto group.

So, ""Going on, Going on, always Going on, Always Becoming Buddha, Hail, Hail, Hail!"" is perfectly fine and equivalent to "Gone Gone Gone Beyond". It might also be "Coming Coming Coming Always Coming Buddha" and "Being Being Being Always Being Buddha" simultanously with no distinction. Thus Come One, Thus Gone One, Thus Buddha. The Heart Sutra is very flexible!

So getting lost in time and grammatical structure may mean only looking at what can not be expressed in a fixed time and words from one angle.

Tig


There are several ways to accurately render words in English Jikan.

In Gassho,

Sara
"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: Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby Matylda » Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:21 pm

Meido wrote:
Matylda wrote:This is what one can easily find within zen mainstream in Japan... but not in the West.


Well, again as you said...we should not generalize. There is no homogeneous "western zen", and certainly even Japanese teachers within different lines of the same school have chosen to transmit different practices and nonpublic texts.

Another thing to consider is that some things which have been transmitted simply haven't been widely used in the west. For example, our priest training includes instruction and documents for mantras to be used in different situations e.g. to empower various kinds of omamori, mantra /mudra for situations of crisis or war, etc. But so far not many places here I know are making their own omamori...or revealing, say, a practice to get rid of a harmful spirit using mantra and shinken. On the surface no one would know publicly that we've inherited these things. In the future, if there is a need or demand for these practices, i imagine more people will be aware that they exist here.

~Meido
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Re: Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Mon Apr 15, 2013 11:18 pm

Meido wrote:
Matylda wrote:This is what one can easily find within zen mainstream in Japan... but not in the West.


Well, again as you said...we should not generalize. There is no homogeneous "western zen", and certainly even Japanese teachers within different lines of the same school have chosen to transmit different practices and nonpublic texts.

Another thing to consider is that some things which have been transmitted simply haven't been widely used in the west. For example, our priest training includes instruction and documents for mantras to be used in different situations e.g. to empower various kinds of omamori, mantra /mudra for situations of crisis or war, etc. But so far not many places here I know are making their own omamori...or revealing, say, a practice to get rid of a harmful spirit using mantra and shinken. On the surface no one would know publicly that we've inherited these things. In the future, if there is a need or demand for these practices, i imagine more people will be aware that they exist here.

~Meido


Yes, we use these sort of things pretty commonly in the OBC as the need arises.

But as you said, a lot of people don't even know these things exist.

.
.
.
(to Jikan)
So the answer to your question Jikan, is maybe is not why are the monks in the OBC and others affiliated with them talking about and teaching these things.

But rather, why are the other mainstream western Zen Buddhism groups not?

After all, as Matylda quite accurately pointed out, these things (and more) are very common in Japan, and China which is where our teachings came from when they came to the west.

They are a part of Zen Buddhism.

Somebody along the way, made a decision not to teach something.

So the question is, rather, why are people not teaching these things?

There seems to be an impression sometimes that the OBC is just making stuff up, because nobody else is talking about these things.

But that's not the case at all, the case is that the other Zen groups simply aren't talking about or teaching things that are actually a part of Zen.

So the question is why?


In Gassho

Sara
"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: Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby dyanaprajna2011 » Mon Apr 15, 2013 11:59 pm

The reason I ask, is because I've read something by Han-shan. He gives various teachings of Zen, and particularly practice, then goes onto say: "If you cannot practice in this way...you need to also inwardly hold the essence of mantras, relying on the esoteric symbols of Buddha to dispel these obstacles." He then goes onto to say that these mantras were kept secret, out of ordinary usage, for various reasons, then says that they are a part of Zen. In the Kwan Um schools liturgy book, I noticed that there are several mantras used and mentioned.

It seems that there is more esotericism to Zen than meets the eye. I'm curious about this aspect of it.
"If you want to travel the Way of Buddhas and Zen masters, then expect nothing, seek nothing, and grasp nothing." -Dogen
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Re: Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Tue Apr 16, 2013 12:23 am

dyanaprajna2011 wrote:The reason I ask, is because I've read something by Han-shan. He gives various teachings of Zen, and particularly practice, then goes onto say: "If you cannot practice in this way...you need to also inwardly hold the essence of mantras, relying on the esoteric symbols of Buddha to dispel these obstacles." He then goes onto to say that these mantras were kept secret, out of ordinary usage, for various reasons, then says that they are a part of Zen. In the Kwan Um schools liturgy book, I noticed that there are several mantras used and mentioned.

It seems that there is more esotericism to Zen than meets the eye. I'm curious about this aspect of it.


Yeah there's a lot more richness and color to Zen than meets the eye.

Certainly a lot more than is found in Tricycle magazine or Barns and Noble Buddhism books.

I don't really think it's secret, certainly it isn't in the OBC or in Japan, but for some reason a lot of groups in the west just arn't talking about it.

Which I personally think is a shame, as many of these things are not only very helpful in and of themselves, they also add a great deal of richness to one's practice.

As for why those groups arn't discussing or teaching these things, you'd have to ask them.
As far as my own experience goes though, I'd be happy to answer any questions of these things from my own experience with them.

In Gasshō,

Sara
"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: Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby kirtu » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:00 am

dyanaprajna2011 wrote:The reason I ask, is because I've read something by Han-shan. He gives various teachings of Zen, and particularly practice, then goes onto say: "If you cannot practice in this way...you need to also inwardly hold the essence of mantras, relying on the esoteric symbols of Buddha to dispel these obstacles."


That's interesting. Where does Han Shan say this?

In the Kwan Um schools liturgy book, I noticed that there are several mantras used and mentioned.


Yes but Kwan Um is semi-esoteric from the start. All of Korean Zen may be.

It seems that there is more esotericism to Zen than meets the eye. I'm curious about this aspect of it.
[/quote]

John Daido Loori also spoke about mantra in Zen Buddhism on a couple of occasions. But in general they do not seem to do beyond the level of dharani in Zen (so mantra in Zen seems to be treated more like dharani and dharani are treated more or less like condensed sutra). However some Zen teachers go beyond that. Daido Roshi did talk about mantra as mantra and Seung Sa Sunim did urge a particular extended mantra recitation to basically fix karmic problems. Kwam Um also does Kwam Um/Kanzeon mantra recitation.

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Re: Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby Astus » Tue Apr 16, 2013 9:27 am

In Hanshan's (1546–1623) time (Ming Dynasty, mostly the reign of the Wanli Emperor) there were strong financial, political, cultural and especially religious connection with Tibet (see: Tibet during the Ming Dynasty). When Hanshan refers to mantras (in his Essentials of Practice and Enlightenment for Beginners) it reflects the presence of Vajrayana, but not because it is something inherent to Chan. Note that Hanshan mentions the mantras as one of the last techniques (i.e. for more troubled people) to use and something that is especially good for removing obstacles.
"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: Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby Seishin » Tue Apr 16, 2013 10:28 am

I know that in the past Chinese Buddhism wasn't nearly as sectarian as Japanese Buddhism and that monasteries in China tend to practice more than one aspect of Buddhism. We also know that Vajrayana made it's way to Japan from China, so it's possible that some chan schools absorbed Vajrayana as part of their practices.

We also know that many monks such as Dogen were Tendai Buddhists before starting his Japanese Zen school, and some of the chants, dharani's and even mantras can be found in Soto Zen liturgy. http://global.sotozen-net.or.jp/eng/pra ... /cover.pdf http://global.sotozen-net.or.jp/eng/pra ... tures.html

Many of these can also be found in the western Zen schools http://newtonzen.org/BoWZ%20Liturgy.pdf

So the chants etc can indeed be found in the west, but I would hazzard a guess (and this is only a guess) that some western schools have chosen to drop most of the chanting and rituals in favour of just sitting, possibly as a way to appeal to the modern western mindset, to appeal to as many people as possible or even because they believe such things are not necessary :shrug:

Gassho,
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Re: Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby Jikan » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:57 pm

Sara H wrote:
Jikan wrote:That's not the usual understanding of mantra. I don't know anyone who practices mantra or dharani in translation. Further, the translation you've given of the Gate mantra from the Heart Sutra has been the object of criticism here at DharmaWheel; I remember Ven. Huifeng demonstrating the problems with it elsewhere (can't find it now without the search function, sorry).


Which, if you recall, was later refuted and debunked by someone else showing that it was indeed accurately translated.


tigerdown wrote:
Huifeng wrote:
It is rather, shall we say, a creative rendition. The Japanese, as the Chinese, is just a transliteration. The Sanskrit that we have is as follows:

[tadyathā oṃ] gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā.

Conze has a nice break down of it:

~~ Huifeng


If I may offer, having done some small research of this years back, an overly strict reliance on grammar may miss the point of the Heart Sutra itself. I very much recommend Donald Lopez' very fine ELABORATIONS ON EMPTINESS, USES OF THE HEART SUTRA on this point and the great flexibility the Sutra itself allows on grammatical forms and tense constructions. In a nutshell, "gone" is simultaneously timeless is going is coming. "Beyond" is here and in the very exertion of rafting the river to the other shore when all is encountered as empty. There is no "other shore", the "other shore" in on this side of the river and in the middle, and seeing clearly that truth is arriving at the "other shore" in emptiness. In other words, coming is going is gone gone gone. This perspective is very much that of Dogen and, I am guessing, may be part of the rendering of this translation if coming from the OBC, a Soto group.

So, ""Going on, Going on, always Going on, Always Becoming Buddha, Hail, Hail, Hail!"" is perfectly fine and equivalent to "Gone Gone Gone Beyond". It might also be "Coming Coming Coming Always Coming Buddha" and "Being Being Being Always Being Buddha" simultanously with no distinction. Thus Come One, Thus Gone One, Thus Buddha. The Heart Sutra is very flexible!

So getting lost in time and grammatical structure may mean only looking at what can not be expressed in a fixed time and words from one angle.

Tig


There are several ways to accurately render words in English Jikan.



Yes, it's true that the English language is plastic and vast, and there are different ways to plausibly translate ancient materials into contemporary English. "Colorless ideas sleep furiously." Tigerdown doesn't refute Huifeng's position, by the way; he or she merely offers a different interpretation, a different jugdment on the plausibility of the OBC translation of the mantra. I'm skeptical of it myself.

To your broader pedagogical question: I don't know why the OBC has elected to recite translated mantra rather than mantra as such and I don't claim to know. I do know that this is out of the mainstream of mantra practice anywhere else I know of. I've been exposed to many and various Tibetan traditions, some Japanese and a few Korean schools, and I have friends who practice in Chinese traditions: in none of these contexts have I heard of translated mantra or dharani used in lieu of the mantra or dharani itself. In this respect, the OBC really is a novelty to the best of my knowledge. (If I'm wrong I hope to be corrected.)

This is a statement of fact and not of judgment. I'm not saying it's good or bad or right or wrong, merely that it's different. I really would like to know the pedagogy behind this decision, and I'm glad you brought it up.
Jikan
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Re: Mantras in Zen Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Wed Apr 17, 2013 12:11 am

Jikan wrote:Yes, it's true that the English language is plastic and vast, and there are different ways to plausibly translate ancient materials into contemporary English.


No Jikan, there are not many ways to "plausibly" translate ancient materials into contemporary English.

There are many ways to accurately translate ancient materials into contemporary English.

If you don't believe that, you can ask a linguistics expert.

Jikan wrote:
To your broader pedagogical question:


I didn't ask an "educational science" question friend.
You did. Although the way you did it was to make direct, implied accusations rather than outright ask your questions.

Although later in the above statement you finally got around to outright asking, although with plenty of verbiage interposed inbetween.
I don't know why the OBC has elected to recite translated mantra rather than mantra as such

and
I really would like to know the pedagogy[educational science] behind this decision

(Item in brackets mine)

As far as your actual question goes,
While I can't necessarily answer your question perfectly,

I can address a couple of points. First of all, translated mantra, is mantra. You are under the assumption they cannot be translated at all, or parts of them cannot. This is incorrect.

As to why they chose to make the effort to try and translate what or parts they could,
If I had to make an educated guess, I would say it could have something to do with the fact that unlike many of the other mainstream western Zen Buddhist groups, they actually use mantra's as is common in Japan, and so have had more opportunity to work with them and examine them.

You are under the assumption that these are all simply syllablistic phrases that have no meaning outside of the syllables themselves.

That is incorrect. The Japanese mantra's are actually a mix of mantra as perhaps the Tibetans use them, as pure stringed syllables, as well as combined with actual Japanese or Chinese words and phrases in some cases.

So parts of the mantra's of some of them are translatable, and other parts are not, because reciting the specific syllable itself is what is important.

You forget, Shasta Abbey, and the OBC has some extremely talented linguistics staff as part of their monastic congregation.

Rev. Master Hubert, in particular is exceptionally talented. And has a PHD in the area of ancient Chinese and Japanese languages.

So if they made a decision to translate some or part of a mantra, as is the case with all of their translations it was likely done with a great deal of care, and research, and expertise.

Some or some parts of them actually are translatable.

However again, this is just my take on the subject,
If you'd like a more specific answer, I'd suggest talking with them directly, as I'm sure they'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.

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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