Innovation in North American Zen

MuMun
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Innovation in North American Zen

Postby MuMun » Sun Apr 15, 2012 11:10 pm

I am not looking to change the subject or hijack the thread, and if this merits an independent thread, by all means we could start one. There is an interesting sidebar to this conversation, a question that is not new and will probably come up more frequently moving forward: the role of creativity and innovation in developing new zen organizations in the west.

Let's suppose there were no questions about this teacher's credentials, and he decides, as a fully-authorized teacher, to found a new organization so that he could innovate and find a distinctive teaching and practice style, while preserving the dharma and the integrity of his own training. In other words, something that Zen Master Seung Sahn and other teachers did, to varying degrees, when they moved to the United States and began teaching American students: change traditional forms, adapt, and even incorporate elements of different traditions.

In the early days of what would become Kwan Um, Seung Sahn adopted zafus and some aspects of more familiar Japanese Zen. We even use the Japanese word "zen" because it is so much more familiar than the Korean word (soen). Very little Korean terminology is used. Mostly we use English words, and occasionally Japanese terms if the audience is familiar with better-known Japanese-derived zen. It's code-switching, for sure, and needs to be done with care and clarity. But the code switching exists and has a function. We have Korean dharma names but rarely use them outside of precepts ceremonies. (I use it as a signature, some consider me a little weird for doing it.) I sometimes imagine they might quietly be dropped from the precepts ceremony altogether, as there seems to be so little interest in them.

And then there are things that Seung Sahn plainly invented. He put laypeople in the long robes traditionally worn by Korean sunims. To this day, some Korean Buddhists get thrown by this. Seung Sahn created positions like "dharma teacher" and "senior dharma teacher" and "bodhisattva teacher," with incremental precepts ceremonies and temple responsibilities. The ceremonial kasas worn by high-ranking laypeople and their various colors were also adaptations by Seung Sahn. He used elements of Korean tradition, yet invented an original tradition. I could well imagine that traditionalist Koreans might look at this and think, "This is awful."

Dae Gak Soen Sa started his own organization, and there is some Japanese-Korean code switching within his organization, as well as modifications to the robes and kasa (J. rakusu). I don't know what their formal practice routine is, whether they use the same Korean chants Kwan Um uses, or how similar they are.

What if an American teacher with authentic transmission wanted to take steps like more English-language chanting, and aesthetically moving away from Asian styles to explore a more european-american style? Or to incorporate styles from other traditions? Is there something proprietary about a Korean-trained preceptee wearing a kasa that looks Japanese?

This is not just limited to aesthetics. In the wake of a catastrophic leadership scandal, San Francisco Zen Center ardently sought to create a more participatory and less centralized authority structure for its organization. Teaching hierarchies are being reconsidered. Cultural traditions are being parsed from formal practice. Translations of texts into English are expanding and improving.

It's a question that will continue to come up as new generations of transmitted teachers exercise their creativity. There will be criticisms, maybe valid, of watering things down, popularizing them, parting from solid traditions; on the other hand, what helps people connect personally to practice and realize the teachings in their life? What helps people make the commitment and find the faith to keep at it?

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Re: Innovation in North American Zen

Postby DGA » Sun Apr 15, 2012 11:27 pm

I split this important post into an independent thread.

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Re: Innovation in North American Zen

Postby DGA » Sun Apr 15, 2012 11:54 pm

It seems to me that the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, founded by Jiyu Kennett roshi, may be pointed to as one example of what you're describing, MuMun. The liturgy is in English, and a lot of the forms and functions (titles, liturgies, and so on) seem as Anglican as they are Soto to an outsider looking in.

I'll leave it to someone with a better knowledge of that context to speak further on it.

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Re: Innovation in North American Zen

Postby MuMun » Mon Apr 16, 2012 12:09 am

Yes, Jikan, very much so!

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Wesley1982
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Re: Innovation in North American Zen

Postby Wesley1982 » Tue Apr 17, 2012 12:38 am

I'm an American with obvious Western cultural influences. I would say some authentic teachers had the duty of trying to "import" Buddhism into the paradigm of Western culture.

Its an interesting POV to learn and study.

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Indrajala
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Re: Innovation in North American Zen

Postby Indrajala » Tue Apr 17, 2012 6:31 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Innovation in North American Zen

Postby Huifeng » Tue Apr 17, 2012 10:09 am



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Re: Innovation in North American Zen

Postby plwk » Tue Apr 17, 2012 10:18 am


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Re: Innovation in North American Zen

Postby kirtu » Tue Apr 17, 2012 5:03 pm



"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche

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Re: Innovation in North American Zen

Postby DGA » Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:05 pm


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Astus
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Re: Innovation in North American Zen

Postby Astus » Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:35 pm

Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



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Wesley1982
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Re: Innovation in North American Zen

Postby Wesley1982 » Tue Apr 17, 2012 8:25 pm

Why can't buddhism be reflected in wearing plain & casual clothing? . .

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Malcolm
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Re: Innovation in North American Zen

Postby Malcolm » Tue Apr 17, 2012 10:30 pm





འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


Free of hope and fear, relax.
Human life spent in
a state of great spaciousness is enjoyable.


— Kunzang Dechen Lingpa

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Re: Innovation in North American Zen

Postby Infinite » Wed Apr 18, 2012 4:07 am


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Re: Innovation in North American Zen

Postby kirtu » Wed Apr 18, 2012 4:43 am



"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche

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kirtu
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Re: Innovation in North American Zen

Postby kirtu » Wed Apr 18, 2012 4:49 am



"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche

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Indrajala
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Re: Innovation in North American Zen

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 18, 2012 6:44 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Innovation in North American Zen

Postby DGA » Wed Apr 18, 2012 3:50 pm


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Wesley1982
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Re: Innovation in North American Zen

Postby Wesley1982 » Fri Apr 20, 2012 4:46 am


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Huifeng
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Re: Innovation in North American Zen

Postby Huifeng » Fri Apr 20, 2012 6:01 am




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