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 Post subject: Tendai and Pretend-ai
PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 2:32 pm 
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I am tired of thinking about this one: a topic that has caused me a peculiar mix of amusement, annoyance, and actual heartache. My purpose with starting this thread is to say in one neutral public place what I have had to say again and again privately to people.

My friend Doko O'Brien, who leads the Blue Mountain Sage Tendai sangha in Denver, came up with the word "Pretendai" to describe groups and teachers that present themselves as Tendai but in reality doing their own thing. I don't object to people doing their own thing. However, it causes harm when people doing their own thing insist on claiming their own thing is something else, in this instance Tendai Buddhism. And this seems to happen a lot in the relatively small English-speaking Tendai universe. I am asked about it often. People come to me with some experience with these groups, and are quickly disappointed to find out that what they learned in a $70 DVD they got from Ronnie's House of Ninjutsu or Bob's Discount Mikkyo is inaccurate and worse than useless when it comes to actual practice.

What motivates people to pretend to be something they are not? I'm not interested in speculating on that. I just prefer they stop using the words Tendai and Mikkyo to describe their fine products so there is less confusion and more practice in the world.

Here are some extant DW threads on this topic. I will add more links later.

viewtopic.php?f=66&t=3945

viewtopic.php?f=40&t=2061

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 3:23 pm 
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It is simply using a known name to propagete one's goods. Trade mark works in commerce but not in religion. It reminds me somewhat of off- and on-mountain Tiantai, although that involved monks. Just think about the many uses of Buddha, Buddhism, Zen and Tantra. Perhaps it means Tendai is gaining some popularity.

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"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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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 4:11 pm 
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I think it means Tendai seems exotic, magical, special... and desirable to some for these reasons. Zen is easy to find by comparison.

Tendai is also obscure. There are not many English-speaking Tendai teachers. So it's easy to play make-believe and get away with it for a while.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 4:29 pm 
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It is not difficult either to sell something as Buddhism, Zen or Tantra. Why so much worry about some Tendai imitators? Have you tried to tell them they should include some actual Tendai teachings too?

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"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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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 4:38 pm 
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That's a good question, Astus.

Here's the usual response I get back in reply when I ask one particular "mikkyo" group just what they teach:

Quote:
In this tradition we study the teaching of Buddha, but also Jesus, Krishna and Melkitzdeck. We observe and grow through experiences.

Comportments such as anger, arrogance, jalousie and hatred are at the origins of suffering. These comportments and the suffering that comes out of them are caused by the lack of consciousness of the
people. People are imprisoned in this suffering and search for a way to make it through. This suffering is majorly caused by the person herself. It is by looking at ourselves, by observing our ego’s mask and by awakening our consciousness that we
can eradicate these false conceptions, true root of suffering. These false conceptions come from the attachment to material goods, to relationship and to the value we give to our own identity.
These attachments are the true roots of suffering. It is by finding their source, their roots, that we can grasp, understand its nature, and finally free ourselves from it.
This is the thought and attitude that constitute the foundation of Mahajrya Buddhism.


Here is another version of the same, from an exchange of email with a different representative:

Quote:
Well, naturally we are learning to be happy and realize ourselves, by dissolving the concepts of possession, relationship and identity :)

We look to five spiritual masters for our wisdom. The first is Buddha, for the consciousness of compassion. The second, Krishna, from whom we learn to live in non-action. Non-action does not mean non acting, it means acting responsibly but not being attached to the outcome of our actions. The third is Jesus, for the consciousness of charity and forgiveness. The fourth is Melkezedek, for Divine Justice. This means that we strive to stop competing with others in any way--there is no concept of human fairness here, everything that happens we bring to ourselves to further our own spiritual evolution (he's also the father of Kabbalah, and this is taught to those who want to learn it). The fourth is MahaVajra, our current spiritual master who is a reincarnation of the MahaVajra who lived several thousand years ago. He teaches expedient means and how to efficiently purify the ego with a technique called emotional integration.

We embody this wisdom by studying processes such as Kuji-in, Kama Chakra, the Elements of Creation, Atma Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Healing, NagaRaja process, the Siddha path, Immortality process, Quantum Metaphysics, Kabbalah, and more.


I'm not sure how this can be characterized within the context of Mahayana Buddhism, much less Tendai specifically.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 4:39 pm 
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We do not (to my knowledge) have this problem with Tendai in the UK, but it happens to "Buddhism" at large. There are many groups in the UK claiming to be Buddhist but are actually quasi-buddhist - but the robes look so cool :thumbsup: Or there are split groups claiming they have the "true path" etc etc. Then there are those (especially in the martial art world) that throw around buddhist terms and say things like "this is very zen" and then scoff at me when I speak about Buddhism.

I try not to worry too much. When people approach me about these things I try to steer them in the right direction, but don't tell them what they should and shouldn't do. It's also why I set up my blog. All we can do is practice and practice well. Our actions should speak louder than our words.

Gassho,
Seishin.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 4:42 pm 
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Seishin wrote:
All we can do is practice and practice well. Our actions should speak louder than our words.


Excellent advice. I hope there will be much less need of talking about this topic in the future.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 5:01 pm 
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Seishin wrote:
All we can do is practice and practice well. Our actions should speak louder than our words.


From Zen history it appears to me that it is the words that matter. Nobody cares if you are a buddha lost in the mountains and you'll be soon forgotten by the people and history. So a proper tactic would be to set up quality Tendai places, publish books and spread the Dharma.

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"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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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 5:02 pm 
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I'm less optimitsic. I think this sort of thing will just continue, but I hope we can minimize it as legitimate groups and organisations grow.

Gassho.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 5:04 pm 
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Astus wrote:
Seishin wrote:
All we can do is practice and practice well. Our actions should speak louder than our words.


From Zen history it appears to me that it is the words that matter. Nobody cares if you are a buddha lost in the mountains and you'll be soon forgotten by the people and history. So a proper tactic would be to set up quality Tendai places, publish books and spread the Dharma.


Would that not be considered as "action"?

Gassho.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 5:06 pm 
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I dunno Jikan, they say perception sells these days, so what have the 'orthodox' ones done to 'cash in' on this?
Seems like the heterodox have used this as their advantage point...

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 6:41 pm 
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plwk wrote:
I dunno Jikan, they say perception sells these days, so what have the 'orthodox' ones done to 'cash in' on this?
Seems like the heterodox have used this as their advantage point...


Well, one thing we've done is steadfastly refuse to cash in. Instead, the emphasis has been on practice, and on training people to carry on the practice with integrity and competence. This is the purpose of the doshu program. http://www.tendai.org/index.php?id=46

And this speaks to Astus' very important point. Rather than trying to peddle bits of Dharma like so many commodities, Tendai-shu has focused on building institutions, sanghas, leaders. It's slow and difficult work. It's also expensive.

That said, efforts have also been made at outreach. There is, for instance, an online course that is free and available to anyone who signs up. The point is to create conditions and causes for future connection to these teachings, to get people on the path of practice, and so on. http://www.tendai.eu/82.html

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 8:44 pm 
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Jikan wrote:
plwk wrote:
I dunno Jikan, they say perception sells these days, so what have the 'orthodox' ones done to 'cash in' on this?
Seems like the heterodox have used this as their advantage point...


Well, one thing we've done is steadfastly refuse to cash in. Instead, the emphasis has been on practice, and on training people to carry on the practice with integrity and competence. This is the purpose of the doshu program. http://www.tendai.org/index.php?id=46

And this speaks to Astus' very important point. Rather than trying to peddle bits of Dharma like so many commodities, Tendai-shu has focused on building institutions, sanghas, leaders. It's slow and difficult work. It's also expensive.

That said, efforts have also been made at outreach. There is, for instance, an online course that is free and available to anyone who signs up. The point is to create conditions and causes for future connection to these teachings, to get people on the path of practice, and so on. http://www.tendai.eu/82.html


I'll vouch for the online course. It helped me immensely in finding out more about Tendai practices. Of course I'm also indebted to Jikan and Seishin (great blog by the way :thumbsup: ), who have been a great help and have answered my many questions.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 8:56 pm 
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Quote:
Rather than trying to peddle bits of Dharma like so many commodities, Tendai-shu has focused on building institutions, sanghas, leaders. It's slow and difficult work. It's also expensive.


What about translations and other publications? There isn't much of them. Not even some comprehensive introductory book, perhaps besides Numata's edition of the "Collected Teachings of the Tendai Lotus School". Online sources are minimal too. Couldn't by a DVD even if I wanted to.

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"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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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 9:11 pm 
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Astus wrote:
Quote:
Rather than trying to peddle bits of Dharma like so many commodities, Tendai-shu has focused on building institutions, sanghas, leaders. It's slow and difficult work. It's also expensive.


What about translations and other publications? There isn't much of them. Not even some comprehensive introductory book, perhaps besides Numata's edition of the "Collected Teachings of the Tendai Lotus School". Online sources are minimal too. Couldn't by a DVD even if I wanted to.


Those are good ideas, but they take money and time and consequently haven't been taken up yet.

I neglected to mention before: there is a series of podcasts out by Tamarack Garlow called "The Diamond Path," from a few years back. A quick web search will turn those up.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 9:12 pm 
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adept wrote:

I'll vouch for the online course. It helped me immensely in finding out more about Tendai practices. Of course I'm also indebted to Jikan and Seishin (great blog by the way :thumbsup: ), who have been a great help and have answered my many questions.


thanks for the good word!

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 27, 2011 1:53 am 
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Jikan wrote:
I think it means Tendai seems exotic, magical, special... and desirable to some for these reasons. Zen is easy to find by comparison.

Tendai is also obscure. There are not many English-speaking Tendai teachers. So it's easy to play make-believe and get away with it for a while.


Have you read the interview on Crooked Cucumber that spoke about Dr, Ajari? He was a self-styled Buddhist semi-scholar (there is some debate about how scholarly he was in the dharma world of 50-70's Califronia) who had followers (or groupies) and did some kind of kaihogyo (basically hikes in the mountains while chanting mantra) and some fire puja. During a Kagyu teaching the lama anted him to leave apparently. However some Zen teachers, and maybe Suzuki Roshi, tollerated him.

Anyway, this might shed light on the history of US dharma development as it pertains to Tendai.

Kirt

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 27, 2011 1:57 am 
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Jikan wrote:
That's a good question, Astus.

Here's the usual response I get back in reply when I ask one particular "mikkyo" group just what they teach:

Quote:
In this tradition we study the teaching of Buddha, but also Jesus, Krishna and Melkitzdeck. We observe and grow through experiences.
....
We look to five spiritual masters for our wisdom. The first is Buddha, for the consciousness of compassion. The second, Krishna, from whom we learn to live in non-action. Non-action does not mean non acting, it means acting responsibly but not being attached to the outcome of our actions. The third is Jesus, for the consciousness of charity and forgiveness. The fourth is Melkezedek, for Divine Justice. This means that we strive to stop competing with others in any way--there is no concept of human fairness here, everything that happens we bring to ourselves to further our own spiritual evolution (he's also the father of Kabbalah, and this is taught to those who want to learn it). The fourth is MahaVajra, our current spiritual master who is a reincarnation of the MahaVajra who lived several thousand years ago. He teaches expedient means and how to efficiently purify the ego with a technique called emotional integration.

We embody this wisdom by studying processes such as Kuji-in, Kama Chakra, the Elements of Creation, Atma Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Healing, NagaRaja process, the Siddha path, Immortality process, Quantum Metaphysics, Kabbalah, and more.


I'm not sure how this can be characterized within the context of Mahayana Buddhism, much less Tendai specifically.


What the hell is this mish-mash? This is stunning on so many levels. This is also like the New Age crap peddeled in the
80's and 90's.

Kirt

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 27, 2011 2:00 am 
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Astus wrote:
What about translations and other publications? There isn't much of them. Not even some comprehensive introductory book, perhaps besides Numata's edition of the "Collected Teachings of the Tendai Lotus School". Online sources are minimal too. Couldn't by a DVD even if I wanted to.


There is still the very good intro by Stevens: "The Marathon Monks of Hiei". Americans in particular like physical practices - except,infamously, prostration.

Kirt

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 27, 2011 10:03 am 
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adept wrote:
I'll vouch for the online course. It helped me immensely in finding out more about Tendai practices. Of course I'm also indebted to Jikan and Seishin (great blog by the way :thumbsup: ), who have been a great help and have answered my many questions.


Cheers Adept :tongue:

Gassho.

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