Does Zen have ethics?

Does Zen have ethics?

Postby Luke » Fri Aug 16, 2013 12:17 pm

Zen can often sound very amoral with all its celebration of performing different actions with total concentration.

Zen Buddhists often talk about "just sitting," "just eating, " etc., but from the Zen point of view, what makes these any different from "just stealing," "just killing," etc.?

I'm aware that Zen Buddhists aren't emotionless psychopaths, but I would just like to see some Zen quotes that prove that Zen has some sense of ethics, because this often isn't obvious to people who first encounter it.
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Re: Does Zen have ethics?

Postby oushi » Fri Aug 16, 2013 2:06 pm

Luke wrote:Zen can often sound very amoral with all its celebration of performing different actions with total concentration.

Zen Buddhists often talk about "just sitting," "just eating, " etc., but from the Zen point of view, what makes these any different from "just stealing," "just killing," etc.?

I'm aware that Zen Buddhists aren't emotionless psychopaths, but I would just like to see some Zen quotes that prove that Zen has some sense of ethics, because this often isn't obvious to people who first encounter it.

I would say that Zen is all about emotions, thus intellectual answer will always miss the point. We can debate ethics, but this is just playing with ideas. Ethics change, Zen does not change.
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Re: Does Zen have ethics?

Postby plwk » Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:18 pm

Well Luke, the Zen tradition has the basic Pratimoksa & Bodhisattva Silas of various extensiveness... what is known in some as 'jukai'... so that's one source of ethics for them besides their daily practice, teachings and self realisation...
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Re: Does Zen have ethics?

Postby Astus » Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:33 pm

Sure it does. Japanese take the bodhisattva precepts, in other countries they take all the usual Buddhist precepts. Dogen wrote extensively on regulations, in modern Rinzai meditation on the bodhisattva precepts is the final and highest stage of koan practice. Also, Chan traditionally has an extra set of precepts for monastics called the Pure Regulations that is attributed to Baizhang.
"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: Does Zen have ethics?

Postby shel » Fri Aug 16, 2013 5:49 pm

Significant that it is even questionable. It is a good question though, and I will attempt to show why it's a good question.

Image
I just finished reading a book about sociopaths. According to the book 4% of the population are sociopaths. Sociopaths are not all serial killers, and the vast majority are virtually undetectable. They can be very charismatic and persuasive. Sociopaths have one defining characteristic, which is that they simply have no conscience. For the non-sociopath it's very difficult if not impossible to imagine what it would be like to have no conscience or sense of responsibility for other beings. What would motivate such a person?

I bring this up because there appears to be some very successful sociopathic Zen masters. For example see: http://www.shimanoarchive.com/index.html This master of Zen thrived in the premiere Zen Temple of New York, one of the largest and most cosmopolitan cities in the world, for well over five decades.

Apparently a man with no conscience can be a Zen master, a realized and transmitted teacher of Zen Buddhism.
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Re: Does Zen have ethics?

Postby kirtu » Fri Aug 16, 2013 6:34 pm

shel wrote:I bring this up because there appears to be some very successful sociopathic Zen masters. For example see: http://www.shimanoarchive.com/index.html This master of Zen thrived in the premiere Zen Temple of New York, one of the largest and most cosmopolitan cities in the world, for well over five decades.

Apparently a man with no conscience can be a Zen master, a realized and transmitted teacher of Zen Buddhism.


Shimano is probably not a sociopath but it does raise a disturbing possibility.

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Re: Does Zen have ethics?

Postby shel » Fri Aug 16, 2013 6:48 pm

He shows all the characteristics of one. Even more disturbing is the thought that the practice of Zen Buddhism allows a realized Zen master to override his conscience.
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Re: Does Zen have ethics?

Postby Matylda » Fri Aug 16, 2013 7:23 pm

Luke wrote:Zen can often sound very amoral with all its celebration of performing different actions with total concentration.

Zen Buddhists often talk about "just sitting," "just eating, " etc., but from the Zen point of view, what makes these any different from "just stealing," "just killing," etc.?

I'm aware that Zen Buddhists aren't emotionless psychopaths, but I would just like to see some Zen quotes that prove that Zen has some sense of ethics, because this often isn't obvious to people who first encounter it.


Well... words sound very misleading I guess... anyway as far as Japanese zen teaching goes it is based on the highest ethics, i.e. buddha nature. And in buddha naure there is no killing, stealing, sexual misconduct and so forth.

Just sitting etc. is used in a very different context of realized buddha nature with all its highest qualities or activities of liberating from any bondage causing even slightest suffering or confusion.

However this teaching used by unenlightened can be base of abuse and indulgence for nihillists, but we have to understand clearly the this teaching does not deny in fact the law of karma, or cause and effect in all its complexity. Unfortunately this very core of zen teachings easily became how th say, so much public and popular and part of market place commercialism exposing this what should never be exposed in unskillful way to unprepared individuals. So sad, since it is source of destruction of the teaching itself and the way to liberation.
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Re: Does Zen have ethics?

Postby shel » Fri Aug 16, 2013 7:29 pm

More evidence...

Image

The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 30, No. 4, August 5, 2013.
Zen as a Cult of Death in the Wartime Writings of D.T. Suzuki 死の信仰としての禅 鈴木大拙、戦時下の著述
– Brian Daizen Victoria

http://japanfocus.org/-Brian-Victoria/3973
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Re: Does Zen have ethics?

Postby Astus » Fri Aug 16, 2013 7:46 pm

Shel,

The question is whether Zen has ethics, not whether you can give a list of incidents where people behaved unethically. However, if you can logically show that Zen necessarily leads to bad morals it is a different matter, and there is already a topic like that: Zen has No Morals.
"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: Does Zen have ethics?

Postby shel » Fri Aug 16, 2013 7:53 pm

Astus wrote:The question is whether Zen has ethics, not whether you can give a list of incidents where people behaved unethically.


Not just any people who have behaved unethically. The people mentioned are transmitted and realized Zen masters and teachers of Zen. Are there any more relevant exemplars of Zen ethics? It goes to the very heart of what transmission and realization mean in Zen.
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Re: Does Zen have ethics?

Postby Astus » Fri Aug 16, 2013 8:12 pm

shel wrote:Not just any people who have behaved unethically. The people mentioned are transmitted and realized Zen masters and teachers of Zen. Are there any more relevant exemplars of Zen ethics? It goes to the very heart of what transmission and realization mean in Zen.


Zen is approximately 1500 years old. I don't see people bringing up the story of Nanquan's cat or Juzhi's finger to point out how bad Zen teachers are. And again, the cases like that of Shimano was already addressed in that other thread that is about the lack of morals in Zen. So, I think that if you want to run a debate about the ethicalness of Zen here - and I consider that a fine idea - instead of citing those few well known incidents, bring in some reasoning and such to support the argument that Zen has an ethical fault.
"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: Does Zen have ethics?

Postby oushi » Fri Aug 16, 2013 8:50 pm

shel wrote:He shows all the characteristics of one. Even more disturbing is the thought that the practice of Zen Buddhism allows a realized Zen master to override his conscience.

Conscience is something conditioned by society, much different then Buddha awareness. Overriding conscience is necessary, or even indispensable.
Sociopaths are people who lack conscience, but sustain a very strong sense of right and wrong, based on logic. They are driven by reason whatever shape it may take. In Zen both of those needs to be transcended.
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Re: Does Zen have ethics?

Postby shel » Fri Aug 16, 2013 8:51 pm

Astus wrote:
shel wrote:Not just any people who have behaved unethically. The people mentioned are transmitted and realized Zen masters and teachers of Zen. Are there any more relevant exemplars of Zen ethics? It goes to the very heart of what transmission and realization mean in Zen.


Zen is approximately 1500 years old. I don't see people bringing up the story of Nanquan's cat or Juzhi's finger to point out how bad Zen teachers are. And again, the cases like that of Shimano was already addressed in that other thread that is about the lack of morals in Zen. So, I think that if you want to run a debate about the ethicalness of Zen here - and I consider that a fine idea - instead of citing those few well known incidents, bring in some reasoning and such to support the argument that Zen has an ethical fault.


I've done better than merely argue the case, I've shown evidence. How much evidence does it take to be convincing... and indeed doesn't the amount of evidence required to convince in itself say a lot about Zen ethics? We can overlook Zen in war... we can overlook sexual abuse by realized and transmitted Zen masters... we can overlook Zen stories of cats being beheaded... How much can we overlook and does the practice of Zen allow us to overlook what we should not overlook?

But okay, I reason that because an apparent sociopath (someone without a conscience or sense of responsibility for other beings) can be a transmitted and realized master of Zen, that therefor conscience and a sense of social responsibility is superfluous in Zen. A Zen master can do pretty much whatever they like and still be considered a realized Zen master. Shimano, for example, is still considered a realized master of Zen.

Of course just because something like ethics isn't necessary doesn't mean that none exist in the Zen tradition. Being a social species we (except for the 4%) are naturally equipped with a conscience and ability to care for and love others.
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Re: Does Zen have ethics?

Postby shel » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:03 pm

oushi wrote:
shel wrote:He shows all the characteristics of one. Even more disturbing is the thought that the practice of Zen Buddhism allows a realized Zen master to override his conscience.

Conscience is something conditioned by society, much different then Buddha awareness. Overriding conscience is necessary, or even indispensable.
Sociopaths are people who lack conscience, but sustain a very strong sense of right and wrong, based on logic. They are driven by reason whatever shape it may take. In Zen both of those needs to be transcended.

Driven by reason?

In the book it describes an experiment where sociopaths neural activity is viewed while processing emotional words like 'love'. In non-sociopaths such words are have an emotional response and are quickly processed in a particular brain region. In sociopaths such words are processed in the cortex, and they take longer to process, as though it were some kind of puzzle to figure out.

I think that's what you mean by "driven by reason," but what drives reason? What dives reason may not lead to a reasonable outcome.

Overriding conscience is necessary, or even indispensable.

I will take this as support for my reasoned position. :tongue:
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Re: Does Zen have ethics?

Postby oushi » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:33 pm

shel wrote:I think that's what you mean by "driven by reason," but what drives reason?

Understanding the world, and dividing things into categories, like right and wrong, true and false.
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Re: Does Zen have ethics?

Postby shel » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:47 pm

Yes, ethics require that we know the difference between right and wrong. Does that sound dualistic? :emb:
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Re: Does Zen have ethics?

Postby Astus » Fri Aug 16, 2013 10:17 pm

shel wrote:I've done better than merely argue the case, I've shown evidence.

But okay, I reason that because an apparent sociopath (someone without a conscience or sense of responsibility for other beings) can be a transmitted and realized master of Zen, that therefor conscience and a sense of social responsibility is superfluous in Zen. A Zen master can do pretty much whatever they like and still be considered a realized Zen master. Shimano, for example, is still considered a realized master of Zen.


Evidence would be if you could show in the canonised scriptures of Zen that it denies ethical behaviour. What you gave evidence to is that there can be individuals who act unethically, however, that does not discredit the entire tradition. Devadatta was a fully ordained monk, nevertheless, he did bad things.

You are giving lot of credit to the status of Japanese Zen priest. Such words as "transmitted" and "realised" have meaning only in a modern Western Zen context. It is quite unimaginable if a Chinese abbot behaved unseemly who wouldn't be shortly removed from his position and banished from the monastery.
"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: Does Zen have ethics?

Postby shel » Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:05 pm

Astus wrote:
shel wrote:I've done better than merely argue the case, I've shown evidence.

But okay, I reason that because an apparent sociopath (someone without a conscience or sense of responsibility for other beings) can be a transmitted and realized master of Zen, that therefor conscience and a sense of social responsibility is superfluous in Zen. A Zen master can do pretty much whatever they like and still be considered a realized Zen master. Shimano, for example, is still considered a realized master of Zen.


Evidence would be if you could show in the canonised scriptures of Zen that it denies ethical behaviour.

According to Bodhidharma (first Chinese patriarch) Zen follows a "special transmission outside scriptures" which "did not stand upon words". Does not stand upon words, Astus. But perhaps you know better than Bodhidharma.

Incidentally, Bodhidharma is credited with the physical training of the Shaolin monks...

Image

Not to suggest it's unethical to practice fighting. But should the need for violence arise, well, they were ready to kick ass.

What you gave evidence to is that there can be individuals who act unethically,...

As explained I did more than that. These "individuals," as you tellingly refer to them, do not stand alone. In fact they ARE the tradition. They are the "special transmission outside the scriptures."

... however, that does not discredit the entire tradition.

The topic is not about credit, the topic is about whether or not Zen has ethics. I've shown that in effect the "special transmission outside the scriptures" doesn't need to have a conscience. Indeed, some in Zen go so far as to suggest that overriding conscience is necessary, or even indispensable.

You are giving lot of credit to the status of Japanese Zen priest. Such words as "transmitted" and "realised" have meaning only in a modern Western Zen context.

So Bodhidharma is a meaningless legend? If he's a meaningless legend what else in Zen is a meaningless legend? What "canonised scriptures of Zen" are true and which are false?

It is quite unimaginable if a Chinese abbot behaved unseemly who wouldn't be shortly removed from his position and banished from the monastery.

That might actually be true, or it may not be. Shall I see what a google search will dig up? Perhaps that thought stirs your imagination. :tongue:
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Re: Does Zen have ethics?

Postby LastLegend » Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:32 pm

shel wrote:
According to Bodhidharma (first Chinese patriarch) Zen follows a "special transmission outside scriptures" which "did not stand upon words". Does not stand upon words, Astus. But perhaps you know better than Bodhidharma.



Precepts do not stand upon words either, yet there are words to describe precepts.
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