Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Jikan » Mon Feb 21, 2011 2:35 pm

kirtu wrote:
plwk wrote:Perhaps there is after all a growing influence/popularity of Tendai in the West, specifically the US?


I think it is growing and has been growing since Stevens' book "Marathon Monks of Hiei" circa 1988. There was also a self-styled Tendai group that floated around and had some interaction with Shunryu Suzuki's zendo in the late 60's.

It seems that not Tendai philosophy per se but practices like walking nembutsu + kaihogyo are perfect as a start for the American mindset because of the athleticism. And Tendai is also an outer tantra school (or has outer tantra) so it seems like an expression of Mahayana that will likely become quite popular.

Kirt


Definitely. And speaking for myself here: one of the reasons I initially found Tendai so appealing was precisely because I wanted to understand the core of Vajrayana: the practices and view held in common between East Asian and Himalayan transmissions of Vajrayana. The embodied practices Kirt names here (walking nembutsu & outdoor hiking practices such as Kaihogyo) are just a lot of fun to do.

I've found that the Tendai sangha is also a delight: generally harmonious, like a healthy family. :cheers: It's a lot easier to practice Mahayana in an environment like this.

It's not my intention to turn this thread into a Tendai recruitment & intake center, so I'll acknowledge that there are problems as discussed above (scarcity of resources...) and leave it at that.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Tatsuo » Mon Feb 21, 2011 2:56 pm

For those, who don't know where to find the classical works by Zhiyi/Chih-i (jp. Chigi/Tendai Chisha Daishi), there are translations of "The Essentials for Practicing Calming-and-Insight & Dhyana Meditation" (修習止観坐禅法要 chin. Xiu-xi-zhi-guan-zuo-chan-fa-yao, jp. Shūjū Shikan Zazen Hōyō) and "The Six Dharma Gates to the Sublime" (六妙法門 chin. Liumiao famen, jp. Roku Myō Hōmon), that can be found here.
Parts of the”Great Calm-Observation” 摩訶止観 (chin. Mo-Ho Chih-Kuan, jp. Makashikan), "The Confessional Samadhi of the Lotus Sutra" (法華三昧懺儀 chin. Fa-Hua San-Mei Ch'an-I, jp. Hokke Sanmai Sengi) and "The Prose & Verse of the Lotus Sutra" (法華文句 chin. Fa-Hua Wen-Chu, jp. Hokke Mongu) can be found here.
And parts of the Makashikan and Shūjū Shikan Zazen Hōyō can be found here.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Jikan » Mon Feb 21, 2011 3:10 pm

these are fine resources, Tatsuo. Thank you for the links.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Tatsuo » Mon Feb 21, 2011 3:13 pm

Jikan wrote:The embodied practices Kirt names here (walking nembutsu & outdoor hiking practices such as Kaihogyo) are just a lot of fun to do.

I would say, that there is more to that. Walking nenbutsu and Kaihōgyō are both ways to achieve Buddhahood. Whereas the walking nenbutsu is closely related to birth in the Pure Land, Kaihōgyō is in fact a practice of Esoteric Buddhism/Vajrayana. But what is really interesting is, that lay people in the West obviously do Kaihōgyō (is that right?). I thought, that this practice is reserved for ascetic monks in Japan. I also never heard of lay people doing walking nenbutsu in Japan. Nenbutsu is of course very common in Jōdo schools and in Tendai, but not the walking nenbutsu which involves arduous practice for many days without proper sleep. But please correct me if I'm wrong :)
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Jikan » Tue Feb 22, 2011 5:09 pm

Tatsuo wrote:
Jikan wrote:The embodied practices Kirt names here (walking nembutsu & outdoor hiking practices such as Kaihogyo) are just a lot of fun to do.

I would say, that there is more to that. Walking nenbutsu and Kaihōgyō are both ways to achieve Buddhahood. Whereas the walking nenbutsu is closely related to birth in the Pure Land, Kaihōgyō is in fact a practice of Esoteric Buddhism/Vajrayana. But what is really interesting is, that lay people in the West obviously do Kaihōgyō (is that right?). I thought, that this practice is reserved for ascetic monks in Japan. I also never heard of lay people doing walking nenbutsu in Japan. Nenbutsu is of course very common in Jōdo schools and in Tendai, but not the walking nenbutsu which involves arduous practice for many days without proper sleep. But please correct me if I'm wrong :)


Agreed. I hope my comment didn't imply that these practices are anything other than methods of awakening. They are also (at least in my subjective opinion) more appealing than endless hours of seated meditation. (This option is also available in Tendai, by the way). I think this is useful to point out because in the experience of many casual Buddhists and persons involved in the mindfulness seminar circuit, seated meditation *is* the alpha and omega of Buddhist practice. There are other ways to do this.

(EDIT: when we do walking nembutsu, it's for an interval of 40 minutes or so... not like the "marathon" practice at Hiei-zan. Our version of Kaihogyo style practice takes a full day and is physically challenging if you are fit, very difficult if you are not fit... and the physical fitness aspect is not the most significant variable!)
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Tatsuo » Tue Feb 22, 2011 11:14 pm

You're right. There is more to Buddhist practice than meditation. I would also include recitation and study, of which many groups (at least the ones i've been to) do the former (but mostly as addition to meditation and not as actual practice in itself), but leave the latter to individual members. I'm glad, that the Tendai Buddhist Institute seems to be so actively involved in studying sutras.

Doing Kaihōgyō is considered an esoteric practice isn't it? Is one required to have taken certain vows and having been ordained/initiated (or at least have taken the refuge) or can anyone do Kaihōgyō?
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Jikan » Wed Feb 23, 2011 12:09 am

Yes, and not just studying sutras: we read, recite, and copy them (mind, speech, body).

To your questions on kaihogyo: on Hiei-zan, it's not a practice anyone off the street can do. There's a one-day version that ordinands do as part of their 60 day training, which makes one minimally qualified to be a Tendai priest (of which more later if anyone's curious). There are, of course, the longer intensive kaihogyo practices described in the Marathon Monks book. In the States, Keisho Leary regularly practices it on the California Tendai Monastery site... effectively lapping a mountain if I understand it right. At the Betsuin in New York, it's also a part of gyo or training for priests, and yes, there are specific mantras involved. It's uplifting and joyful practice.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Daniel Arraes » Thu Feb 24, 2011 12:15 am

Seishin wrote:Recently found this: http://www.youtube.com/user/Tendaihokkebrasil Tendai-shu in Brazil. :twothumbsup:


Hi! Actually this guy is bogus and a very unpleasant fella. He's very harsh and unpolite in critising all other forms of Buddhism besides his own. I did mention him back on E-sangha.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Tatsuo » Thu Feb 24, 2011 1:09 am

Jikan wrote:There's a one-day version that ordinands do as part of their 60 day training, which makes one minimally qualified to be a Tendai priest (of which more later if anyone's curious).

Is it true, that Tendai priests can choose between a training based on the Lotus Sutra (which involves seated meditation and was introduced by Dengyō Daishi) and a training based on Esoteric Practices (which involves goma and kaihōgyō and was introduced by Jikaku Daishi). And it there a difference in the US between Keisho and Monshin, because I read, that Keisho is mainly practicing Esoteric Buddhism whereas Monshin focuses on exoteric meditation. Is that right?
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Jikan » Thu Feb 24, 2011 2:10 am

Tatsuo wrote:Is it true, that Tendai priests can choose between a training based on the Lotus Sutra (which involves seated meditation and was introduced by Dengyō Daishi) and a training based on Esoteric Practices (which involves goma and kaihōgyō and was introduced by Jikaku Daishi).


The 60 days on Hiei-zan I alluded to earlier are divided roughly in half. The first half is concerned with the sutra teachings, while the second half is primarily concerned with the esoteric teachings. This is how it's been described to me at least; I've never been to Hiei-zan.

The kinds of training that priests take on after that may vary widely.

And it there a difference in the US between Keisho and Monshin, because I read, that Keisho is mainly practicing Esoteric Buddhism whereas Monshin focuses on exoteric meditation. Is that right?


That's not quite it. It's true that both teachers in their own practices have different specialties, if you will. But if you're training in Tendai in North America, you're going to be exposed to the whole tamale. Everyone learns how to recite the sutra. Everyone learns how to lead walking nembutsu. And so on. What you do for your own practice comes in consultation with your teacher.

The reality is that if you want to learn esoteric practices or really practice the Tendai teachings intensively, you'll need to make a commitment to the sangha in some form of service. Hence, it comes in the context of training and vows and so on. I remember hearing the great Pema Norbu Rinpoche (the Palyul leader) taught that the best way to make merit is to uphold and communicate the Mahayana teachings (I can't remember which text he was citing, sadly). Serving the teachings is itself a form of practice.

For more on the training, see:

http://www.tendai.org/index.php?id=46
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Jikan » Thu Feb 24, 2011 2:12 am

Daniel Arraes wrote:
Seishin wrote:Recently found this: http://www.youtube.com/user/Tendaihokkebrasil Tendai-shu in Brazil. :twothumbsup:


Hi! Actually this guy is bogus and a very unpleasant fella. He's very harsh and unpolite in critising all other forms of Buddhism besides his own. I did mention him back on E-sangha.


Thanks for catching and confirming this. I remember trying to translate some of his materials from the Portuguese (ok, I used google translate) and found him to be preoccupied with right-wing politics (or rather anti-left-wing politics) more than anything having to do with Buddha Dharma...
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Seishin » Thu Feb 24, 2011 9:39 am

Shame :crying:
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Tatsuo » Thu Feb 24, 2011 10:04 am

Thanks for clarification, Jikan! :)
Concerning the bogus Tendai teachers I think it's best to only rely on teachers and temples, that are mentioned on the official website of Tendaishū and the groups, that are affiliated with them. There seems to be some teachers, that are not authorized Tendai teachers, but declare they are. Some years ago Stephen Hayes claimed to be a Tendai teacher, which is now not mentioned any more on his website. I think he was a teacher of Jion Prosser (wrote a book about Tendai gongyo) and "Jikaku" James Foster (Daiun-ji, "Great cloud temple"). Does anyone know, if those are authentic teachers?
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Jikan » Thu Feb 24, 2011 12:36 pm

Tatsuo wrote:Thanks for clarification, Jikan! :)
Concerning the bogus Tendai teachers I think it's best to only rely on teachers and temples, that are mentioned on the official website of Tendaishū and the groups, that are affiliated with them. There seems to be some teachers, that are not authorized Tendai teachers, but declare they are. Some years ago Stephen Hayes claimed to be a Tendai teacher, which is now not mentioned any more on his website. I think he was a teacher of Jion Prosser (wrote a book about Tendai gongyo) and "Jikaku" James Foster (Daiun-ji, "Great cloud temple"). Does anyone know, if those are authentic teachers?


Jion Prosser is no longer teaching. I suppose one could try to ask Ara sensei at the Hawaii betsuin about him.

James Foster is now affiliated with a Korean Zen teacher named Paul Lynch, and runs a series of Buddhist organizations, including in Second Life. These:

http://five-mountain.org
http://cincinnatizen.org

and some others. I'm not sure how long Foster has been involved with Lynch, or what Lynch's relationship to the Chogye Order and/or the rest of the Seung Sahn sunim mandala might be. I don't know the nature or duration of what Foster's training in Tendai might have been either, but he's not now involved.

Since this is a Tendai thread, I'll leave it at that. PM me for more on this stuff if you need to know more.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Tatsuo » Thu Feb 24, 2011 10:04 pm

Thank you for your info, Jikan. So the Tendai Buddhist Insitute/Jiunzan Tendai-ji (and affiliated groups), California Tendai Monastery and the four temples in Hawaii are the seeds of Tendai in America :) It seems, that there are ways to practice Tendai in the US, but the scriptural foundation is still unsatisfactory. Apart from the few translations of Tendai teachings, there are not many classic works available in English, as Seishin and mr. gordo rightly pointed out.
I think this is the main problem Tendai has today - because most people in the West (including myself), first encountered Buddhism through reading instead of practising meditation or visiting a certain temple/group. So as long as people only read introductions to Zen and Vajrayana, because Tendai doesn't have those introductory texts, Tendai imho will not flourish in the US.
Zen and Vajrayana have these texts, written by teachers of that traditions, who have an excellent pool of translated texts to study with (and experience with the practice of course, but that is also available for people interested in Tendai) and then write easy commentary/ introductory texts, which fascinate people and make them look for that certain tradition, while Tendai teachers don't have many classic texts to base their introductory books on (but there are also not many introductory books about the practice, which is maybe easier to write at that moment).
There need to be more books and articles about Tendai written by practitioners in English to attract people to Tendai. Today there are only translations, which most people do not read, because they are difficult to read and understand without a certain foreknowledge, and of course academic literature about Tendai, which also isn't very helpful for people who are more interested in Buddhist practice than Buddhology.
Last edited by Tatsuo on Thu Feb 24, 2011 10:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Jikan » Thu Feb 24, 2011 10:13 pm

I think that's a fair assessment, Tatsuo. The closest thing to a practice guide suitable for a popular audience might be _Stopping and Seeing_.

This is one area in which more work definitely needs to be done in my opinion. Who will write those books? People who write English well, and who themselves have a solid basis in practice. Who is that person? We haven't found our Pema Chodron yet...

...at least not in English. Shomon Trans is getting it done in Danish.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Tatsuo » Fri Feb 25, 2011 10:14 am

There is also the possibility for those American Tendai priests, who speak Japanese, to translate easy written introductions to Tendai from Japanese teachers, like it is done with books by Japanese Zen priests, who don't speak English. I think, that publication of Tendai texts is essential.
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Seishin » Fri Feb 25, 2011 12:47 pm

Agreed, those of us in the UK would definitely perchase a copy or 3
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby jikai » Sun Jul 03, 2011 1:37 pm

Jikan wrote:
Tatsuo wrote:Thanks for clarification, Jikan! :)
Concerning the bogus Tendai teachers I think it's best to only rely on teachers and temples, that are mentioned on the official website of Tendaishū and the groups, that are affiliated with them. There seems to be some teachers, that are not authorized Tendai teachers, but declare they are. Some years ago Stephen Hayes claimed to be a Tendai teacher, which is now not mentioned any more on his website. I think he was a teacher of Jion Prosser (wrote a book about Tendai gongyo) and "Jikaku" James Foster (Daiun-ji, "Great cloud temple"). Does anyone know, if those are authentic teachers?


Jion Prosser is no longer teaching. I suppose one could try to ask Ara sensei at the Hawaii betsuin about him.[quote]

In regards to Jion Prosser Sensei, yes it is true that he is no longer teaching. However as a member of a branch of the Hawaii Betsuin (Ara Ryokan's sensei's temple) although I have not personally met him, as far as I have been informed, he is a legitimate teacher who really knows what he is doing. His book on GyoIn is particularly worth a read! :)
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Re: Why isn't Tendai popular in the West?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jul 03, 2011 1:44 pm

Seishin wrote:Why isn't Tendai popular in the West? :shrug:



For the same reason that Yoga Tantra is not popular in Tibet -- anuttarayoga tantra is alive and well in the West.

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