Zen the Literary Movement

Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby the salt in the soup » Fri Jun 10, 2011 3:20 am

Astus wrote:The following quotes show how Chan Buddhism was reinvented in 17th century China - Japan's Obaku school comes from this phenomenon - through the strong influence of the literati and based solely on texts. A summary of it is found in the last quote.



I am sure that you are well read enough to find a source to support any arguement you wish to put forth. Much has been written about zen some of it true to some degree or other. Much zen practice happened before 17th century china and much has happened since.

I have sat with a few zen groups. I have yet to meet a teacher who didnt emphasize practice and i have yet to meet one who told me all i needed to do was read the right books.

The problem with you guys is that you are out of touch. You need to put down the books and get out more, maybe to a local zendo, think of it as an opportunity to demonstrate how well read you are :)
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jun 10, 2011 3:25 am

the salt in the soup wrote:The problem with you guys is that you are out of touch. You need to put down the books and get out more, maybe to a local zendo, think of it as an opportunity to demonstrate how well read you are :)


I am presently studying at Komazawa University which is Soto Zen's uni and seminary. Most of my colleagues are Zen priests. There is a zendo on campus and it is not used so much. There is a sign prohibiting people from entering it who are not going in with a class. There is little interest in practice or zazen here.
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby the salt in the soup » Fri Jun 10, 2011 3:34 am

Huseng wrote:
the salt in the soup wrote:The problem with you guys is that you are out of touch. You need to put down the books and get out more, maybe to a local zendo, think of it as an opportunity to demonstrate how well read you are :)


I am presently studying at Komazawa University which is Soto Zen's uni and seminary. Most of my colleagues are Zen priests. There is a zendo on campus and it is not used so much. There is a sign prohibiting people from entering it who are not going in with a class. There is little interest in practice or zazen here.


wow If you have any real interest in zen, that sounds like a good place to get away from. Every zendo i have been to, its all about the practice.
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby LastLegend » Fri Jun 10, 2011 3:34 am

Yes, Chan is a practice and they practice meditation and they also study Sutras. That's what they do at the temples. Thien means meditation in Vietnamese and it refers to Chan. So all the monks do Thien or meditation. They also do work at the temples besides meditation.

Buddha taught nothing but meditation. If you read the texts carefully, all the texts talk about is meditation. Meditation is to detach. After all the path is the path of detachment. Buddhism is all about practice after grasping the teachings. Buddha did not speak poetry for the ears.
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Fu Ri Shin » Fri Jun 10, 2011 4:30 am

I fail to see how:

--some highly assumptive statements made about Dogen without any backing,
--the literary style of Chan/Zen,
--the degenerate state of the Soto school in present day Japan, or
--that one can spend a lot of time learning Chinese if (and only if) one wishes to investigate Chan/Zen literature in its original text

warrant this claim. I was interested initially, but the premises do not support the conclusion. I find it strange that this has been made into a thread.
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby the salt in the soup » Fri Jun 10, 2011 4:38 am

Fu Ri Shin wrote:
warrant this claim. I was interested initially, but the premises do not support the conclusion. I find it strange that this has been made into a thread.


Seems odd to me as well.
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jun 10, 2011 4:55 am

the salt in the soup wrote:
Huseng wrote:
the salt in the soup wrote:The problem with you guys is that you are out of touch. You need to put down the books and get out more, maybe to a local zendo, think of it as an opportunity to demonstrate how well read you are :)


I am presently studying at Komazawa University which is Soto Zen's uni and seminary. Most of my colleagues are Zen priests. There is a zendo on campus and it is not used so much. There is a sign prohibiting people from entering it who are not going in with a class. There is little interest in practice or zazen here.


wow If you have any real interest in zen, that sounds like a good place to get away from. Every zendo i have been to, its all about the practice.


I'm glad it worked out for you.
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jun 10, 2011 4:59 am

Fu Ri Shin wrote:I fail to see how:

--some highly assumptive statements made about Dogen without any backing,


Dogen did write a lot. The Shōbōgenzō, his most prominent work, is not a small piece of writing.


--the literary style of Chan/Zen,


Chan and Zen have a vast canon of literature.

--the degenerate state of the Soto school in present day Japan, or


Soto Zen in Japan represents the majority of Zen Buddhism.

--that one can spend a lot of time learning Chinese if (and only if) one wishes to investigate Chan/Zen literature in its original text


The original texts which form the basis of the Chan and Zen canon are only barely translated into modern languages including modern Japanese.

warrant this claim. I was interested initially, but the premises do not support the conclusion. I find it strange that this has been made into a thread.


Sure they do. Historically Zen and Chan were both engaged heavily in literary activities reading and writing about people becoming enlightened and how they did it. In my estimation, which you may disagree with, overall it was less about actual meditation and more about the literature.
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Fu Ri Shin » Fri Jun 10, 2011 6:58 am

Huseng wrote:Dogen did write a lot. The Shōbōgenzō, his most prominent work, is not a small piece of writing.


I'm aware of Shobogenzo's extensive size. It's an accomplishment for sure. After that, you've lost me. This logic of "he wrote so much, he must have not meditated that much" is vacuous.


Huseng wrote:Chan and Zen have a vast canon of literature.


To be sure. Not clear on what your point is here.


Huseng wrote:Soto Zen in Japan represents the majority of Zen Buddhism.


Today perhaps, but from its inception?


Huseng wrote:The original texts which form the basis of the Chan and Zen canon are only barely translated into modern languages including modern Japanese.


A nice fact to throw out, but I don't understand the relevance. My list addressed points that made sense in and of themselves, but are doing a horrible job of showing me any evidence for your conclusion.


Huseng wrote:Sure they do. Historically Zen and Chan were both engaged heavily in literary activities reading and writing about people becoming enlightened and how they did it. In my estimation, which you may disagree with, overall it was less about actual meditation and more about the literature.


Once we can quantify meditation and compare it with literature, this will make sense to me. I don't see that happening.

Overall, I can vaguely see what you're getting at. Still, are we really to assume that just because a tradition has an extensive literary background that it is less oriented toward practice than the others? I find that to be an odd way of approaching variation within a group.
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jun 10, 2011 7:38 am

Fu Ri Shin wrote:
Huseng wrote:Dogen did write a lot. The Shōbōgenzō, his most prominent work, is not a small piece of writing.


I'm aware of Shobogenzo's extensive size. It's an accomplishment for sure. After that, you've lost me. This logic of "he wrote so much, he must have not meditated that much" is vacuous.


Connect the dots. He was literati, not a yogi.



Huseng wrote:Chan and Zen have a vast canon of literature.


To be sure. Not clear on what your point is here.


It is quite clear what I mean. Chan and Zen have vast canons of literature because historically they were oriented towards literary activities, not meditation.

Huseng wrote:Soto Zen in Japan represents the majority of Zen Buddhism.


Today perhaps, but from its inception?


There was no Soto Zen in Dogen's day. In any case, as Dogen exemplifies it was literati running the show, not hermit yogis.


A nice fact to throw out, but I don't understand the relevance. My list addressed points that made sense in and of themselves, but are doing a horrible job of showing me any evidence for your conclusion.


This was a reply to this:

--that one can spend a lot of time learning Chinese if (and only if) one wishes to investigate Chan/Zen literature in its original text


If you want to understand Chan or Zen as it actually was, you need to read the literature, of which little has been accurately translated into modern languages including modern Japanese and English.

You may still benefit from Chan practices, but the literature being what Chan really has been over the last thousand years, without properly understanding it you are merely examining a corner of a much greater mandala.



Once we can quantify meditation and compare it with literature, this will make sense to me. I don't see that happening.


My point is that Zen and Chan are oriented towards literary studies much more than meditation.

Overall, I can vaguely see what you're getting at. Still, are we really to assume that just because a tradition has an extensive literary background that it is less oriented toward practice than the others? I find that to be an odd way of approaching variation within a group.


I never said it was less oriented towards meditation than others. I think it was and is just as much oriented towards meditation as any other Buddhist tradition generally has been, which means not very much. I'm saying Chan and Zen shouldn't be seen as the tradition of meditators. It is a tradition, generally speaking, of literary activities.
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Astus » Fri Jun 10, 2011 8:51 am

Zen being a literary movement should be understood as something that makes Zen special among other forms of Buddhism is their literature and language. That means that Zen doesn't really have its own philosophy but has a way of speaking about common Buddhist teachings in a special way. Besides this literary part Zen monks do practically same as any other monk does. It might also be considered that almost every monastery in China and Korea is nominally a Zen monastery, thus being a Zen monk means nothing more than being an ordinary monk. And then there were times when Zen became especially popular and that resulted in new Zen texts in large numbers, texts that later became the classics. In that sense Zen is largely a literary thing, because outside of such literature there is nothing specifically Zen one may find.

As for the emphasis on meditation practice, it'd be interesting to enumerate the actual number of meditation handbooks. In the Song dynasty there were only two written, both of them quite brief. Compare that to other schools' manuals and it'd appear that Zen people never even meditated - which is of course not true. But meditation itself, just like all the other common monastic practices, were nothing "Zen specific".
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Fu Ri Shin » Fri Jun 10, 2011 9:51 am

Huseng wrote:I never said it was less oriented towards meditation than others. I think it was and is just as much oriented towards meditation as any other Buddhist tradition generally has been, which means not very much. I'm saying Chan and Zen shouldn't be seen as the tradition of meditators. It is a tradition, generally speaking, of literary activities.


You're right, I failed to remember that comment.

So if every other tradition has as little emphasis on meditation as Zen, what are they a tradition of then? One of the confusing aspects of this thread is that it appears to be demoting Zen to a status below others. I see that isn't the case... so I am curious what exactly is being accomplished by pointing out the not-of-meditation status of this particular tradition. Why not make a thread called "Buddhism the Mostly Insubstantial Institutionalized Religion" and cover all the bases?
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Astus » Fri Jun 10, 2011 9:58 am

Fu Ri Shin wrote:So if every other tradition has as little emphasis on meditation as Zen, what are they a tradition of then?


I think the point is that Zen is not The Meditation School. Meditation does not even define Zen. Meditation is one of the many religious practices in Buddhism and it is practised in all traditions. However, just as prayer doesn't define a theist or a denomination, so meditation doesn't define any particular school.
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Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
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This face, the face at birth."

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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:26 am

Fu Ri Shin wrote:
Huseng wrote:I never said it was less oriented towards meditation than others. I think it was and is just as much oriented towards meditation as any other Buddhist tradition generally has been, which means not very much. I'm saying Chan and Zen shouldn't be seen as the tradition of meditators. It is a tradition, generally speaking, of literary activities.


You're right, I failed to remember that comment.

So if every other tradition has as little emphasis on meditation as Zen, what are they a tradition of then? One of the confusing aspects of this thread is that it appears to be demoting Zen to a status below others. I see that isn't the case... so I am curious what exactly is being accomplished by pointing out the not-of-meditation status of this particular tradition. Why not make a thread called "Buddhism the Mostly Insubstantial Institutionalized Religion" and cover all the bases?


I don't see any problems with studying Buddhist literature.

It is what I do after all.
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby kirtu » Fri Jun 10, 2011 5:20 pm

Huseng wrote:After spending two years taking some classes on Zen, reading Chan records in the original Chinese and reading Chan / Zen history for many more years I've concluded that Zen really has little to do with meditation and is actually just a literary movement within East Asian Buddhism.



BZZZT! Thanks for playing.

"Johnny what do we have for our academic contestant from our Great Neighbor to the North?" <<on stage scrim raises>> - "Too much intellectual enwrapment with a heavy dose of literary criticism!" <<audience claps and cheers>>

After these masters verified the matter for themselves they lived the live of a Buddha day and night, never separated from their realization. That's why they were building, writing, etc. Drinking tea was once again drinking tea but inwardly it isn't like an ordinary person drinking tea.

There is a lot of literature in Chan / Zen that draws on earlier generations of sayings, quotes, experiences and literary devices. To learn even a fraction of it takes at least a year or two assuming you already read basic Literary Chinese. Again, that isn't time spent in the meditation hall.


That's true. It's also why Zen isn't a literary school. Realization has nothing to do with reading this literature. However it can be used to spur one's insight.

I simply get the sense that historically, as is the case even today, not a lot of people meditate as we would be told by modern day authors like Sawaki Kodo Roshi or various American Zen teachers. Most Zen priests I know in Japan only meditate when they have to (part of basic training). When they study Zen it is usually reading archaic Chinese literature and trying to interpret the meaning of those vague passages.


Nowadays people's realization in Zen is very weak overall.

So, again, Zen has little to do with meditation.


I'd say: "Zen has nothing to do with meditation. Realization can take place anywhere at anytime. Meditation is however one of the primary training tools in order to bring realization to life."

It is just a literary movement. It is even a cultural affiliation one can immerse oneself in.


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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby kirtu » Fri Jun 10, 2011 5:38 pm

Huseng wrote:It is a tradition, generally speaking, of literary activities.


It is a tradition, generally speaking, of life activities. Realization is seen for oneself and refined through these life activities. In the Zen training scheme that includes meditation, mondo, ritual, sutra reading, face to face discourse, interaction, eating, sleeping, working - all aspects of life.

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Postby Will » Fri Jun 10, 2011 6:12 pm

The spiritual elite has always been and always will be, the serious, dedicated few in all spiritual paths.

But to be fair, formal meditation is only critical at some point for everyone. But merit making is foundational for producing a strong tendency to want to meditate, in some lifetime.

So I see nothing revelatory about the ratio of deep meditators versus merit makers being weighted heavily toward the latter - whichever tradition or religion is examined.
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jun 11, 2011 3:15 am

kirtu wrote:
Huseng wrote:It is a tradition, generally speaking, of literary activities.


It is a tradition, generally speaking, of life activities. Realization is seen for oneself and refined through these life activities. In the Zen training scheme that includes meditation, mondo, ritual, sutra reading, face to face discourse, interaction, eating, sleeping, working - all aspects of life.

Kirt


I need not repeat all the arguments I made above. I made many arguments supporting my assertion drawing on historical examples and personal experience.

There is Zen the way popular authors in America say it is, and there is Zen the way it actually has been over the last 1000 years.
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby LastLegend » Sat Jun 11, 2011 3:22 am

How do you squeeze Bodhidharma and his lineage into all of this?
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Re: Zen the Literary Movement

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jun 11, 2011 10:33 am

LastLegend wrote:How do you squeeze Bodhidharma and his lineage into all of this?


The first account of Bodhidharma has him as a Persian. The following account has him as an Indian.

I'm sure there was a Bodhidharma, but as to the details of his life and legacy, you have to look at the literature for that, and the factuality of it is in debatable.
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