zen/chan practices and the pali canon

zen/chan practices and the pali canon

Postby upasaka_/\_ » Tue May 08, 2012 1:56 am

i've practiced zen for over ten years under the abbott of a zen temple whom in the past was also ordained in the theravada tradition. he has taught me much about zen and a decent amount about theravada i have read all of the important zen scriptures and i have read vast amounts of the pali canon as it is studied in the zen library on the temple grounds for study groups.

as far as i can tell they are extremely similar in practice and even in spirit. of course in doctrine and other things there are huge differences.

what differences are there in practice (other than the use of koan training)?

are there any zen trainings or practices that are not found also in the pali canon or at least a derivative of something from there?
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Re: zen/chan practices and the pali canon

Postby Huifeng » Tue May 08, 2012 4:37 am

As the Chan / Zen / Son tradition is from Far East Asia, it never had any real contact with the Pali Canon at all, until about 100 years ago. The Far East Asian tradition did have non-Pali translations of Agamas (equivalent to Nikayas) and Vinaya texts. But in general, these were disparaged as "Hinayana" teachings, and seldom worth really checking out. Again, the attitude has changed somewhat in recent years. But all the classic Chan / Zen / Son attitude either largely doesn't know of or ignores this sort of stuff. Still, they are all forms of Buddhism, so have their common roots. So, avoid falling into the other extreme of "They are totally different", too.

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Re: zen/chan practices and the pali canon

Postby upasaka_/\_ » Tue May 08, 2012 4:57 am

Huifeng wrote:As the Chan / Zen / Son tradition is from Far East Asia, it never had any real contact with the Pali Canon at all, until about 100 years ago. The Far East Asian tradition did have non-Pali translations of Agamas (equivalent to Nikayas) and Vinaya texts. But in general, these were disparaged as "Hinayana" teachings, and seldom worth really checking out. Again, the attitude has changed somewhat in recent years. But all the classic Chan / Zen / Son attitude either largely doesn't know of or ignores this sort of stuff. Still, they are all forms of Buddhism, so have their common roots. So, avoid falling into the other extreme of "They are totally different", too.

~~ Huifeng



i am aware that the ancient zen masters had not read the pali canon and were not theravada practitioners. my question is: are there any practices (breath meditation, walking meditation, mindfulness of the body, death, lovingkindness meditation, etc.) used by the zen tradition that are not also found in the pali canon (other than koan practice)?
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Re: zen/chan practices and the pali canon

Postby Huifeng » Tue May 08, 2012 5:54 am

A lot of fairly typical Mahayana notions, such as Buddha nature, tathagatagarbha, alayavijnana, various bodies of the Buddha, etc. etc.

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Re: zen/chan practices and the pali canon

Postby upasaka_/\_ » Tue May 08, 2012 6:56 am

Huifeng wrote:A lot of fairly typical Mahayana notions, such as Buddha nature, tathagatagarbha, alayavijnana, various bodies of the Buddha, etc. etc.

~~ Huifeng



when i say "practices" i mean things you can literally practice, like breath meditation, walking meditation, etc. in the original post, when i said i know there's differences in doctrine, i meant the things you just posted as opposed to practices which i'm considering as separate.

as far as i can tell they do all the same actual practices, i'm wondering if there are any physical, literal practices that zen has that is not in the pali canon. i know that their doctrines are totally different in many ways.

like koan is a practice that is not in the pali canon. or mala bead practice, or mantra chanting, all practices one can do that are not in the pali canon. as opposed to doctrine, such as buddha nature, etc.

we're going in circles. i'm done. i can't make it any clearer.
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Re: zen/chan practices and the pali canon

Postby Infinite » Tue May 08, 2012 7:34 am

Just a question why does it matter whether they are in Pali Canon? To know the reason for the question is to be able to give a proper answer.
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Re: zen/chan practices and the pali canon

Postby Astus » Tue May 08, 2012 8:16 am

Chan is about sudden enlightenment. The concept itself can exist because there is the teaching of buddha-mind. From this, in practical terms, comes the method/instruction to see one's nature. From this arises the practice of no-thought, the mind without abiding on anything - a derivative of Prajnaparamita teachings. This can be likened to the Theravada teaching on the three gates (emptiness, signlessness, desirelessness) which is also in the Prajnaparamita sutras. Huatou practice is meant as a gateway to no-thought.
"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: zen/chan practices and the pali canon

Postby plwk » Tue May 08, 2012 8:18 am

...wondering if there are any physical, literal practices that zen has that is not in the pali canon.

If these are of any help...some that I can think of offhand...
1. using the keisaku/xiang ban/incense board to correct practitioners' sitting postures and alertness
2. using the bell ring to end a sitting session instead of touching anyone to come out of the sitting
3. preparation exercises before and after a sitting, e.g Dharma Drum Mountain utilises the 8 Forms of Moving Meditation and some massage techniques to help unwind the body after a sitting, especially if it's a long one
4. the 'Seven Point Vairocana Posture' sitting guidelines, used by both Mahayana & Vajrayana Traditions
5. the tradition of sitting facing the wall instead of facing the assembly/shrine e.g as done in Soto Zen/Caodong Ch'an
6. bowing to the cushion before sitting as an expression of one's gratitude of supportive causes and conditions & recalling one's good merit to be able to do Dharma practice; that the seat is one's own pure bodhimandala and making an aspiration for Bodhi for all sentient beings
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