in defense

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clyde
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in defense

Post by clyde »

As I read some of the topics in the Zen sub-forum, I’m discouraged that all too often Zen topics become opportunities for non-Zennists to criticize Zen and Zen teachers. It seems to me, and perhaps I’m being overly sensitive, that Zen, and especially Western Zen, and more especially Western Soto Zen, its teachers and teachings have been criticized for not being authentic Buddhism, not being expressions of the Dharma.

I’m not referring to criticism of scandalous Zen teachers. There were a few, too many, who caused harm to others and brought shame to themselves and their lineage. Nor am I referring to Zen teachers who are critical of other Zen teachers or Zen students who are critical of their training and/or their teachers; that’s internal criticism intended to benefit the tradition, not demean Zen teachings and practices or Zen teachers and their students.

I’m responding to Buddhists of other traditions who post in the Zen sub-forum.

And I responding, not as a Zen student; I’m not, but I feel an affinity with the Dharma as presented by the Buddha in the Suttas and Sutras, and by Bodhidharma and his followers, and particularly with Western Soto Zen teachers and teachings. I have no Zen teacher, but I am familiar with a fair number of contemporary Zen teachers, some from books and/or videos, some I’ve sat with and listened to their Dharma talks directly, and a few I’ve had intimate conversations with. Without exception, they all appeared and were compassionate to me . . . but I’m easy.

Western Zen teachers come in a variety of personalities, breadth of knowledge and depth of wisdom. They have their personal histories, training and experiences which cause them to be as they are. I felt closer to some than others. So you can take them or leave them as your preferences arise.

There’s the criticism that Western Zen and Western Zen teachers aren’t as good (awakened, skillful, etc.) as the “good ole’ days” in the East and that these are the “Dharma-ending days”, etc. To quote the Talking Heads, “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was.” Human nature isn’t any different here and now than it was where and when the Buddha taught, nor where and when Bodhidharma sat (nor where and when Dogen lived). Cultures and language change, so the expressions and manifestations of the Dharma appear different - but there is one Dharma. [NOTE: Even the tendency to glorify the past seems to be a constant feature of human nature.]

Another criticism is that Western Zen teachers don’t know about and/or teach about meditation states (the jhanas or other ‘states of mind’). This is mostly true. But there’s a fundamental reason for this - Zen teaches (and the Buddha taught this as well) that states of mind are not the Buddha-mind; so Zen teachers don’t deny them, but they also don’t give them any special attention or concern. [NOTE: I had an interest in the jhanas, so I read about them, listened to talks about them, practiced at home, and did a couple of short jhana retreats with different teachers and a weeklong solo retreat.]

Soto Zen teachings have been criticized as “quietism” because of the emphasis on shikantaza (“just sitting”). It’s true that shikantaza is emphasized, but Soto Zen teaches that sitting quietly is a beneficial skillful technique practiced by the Buddha and Bodhisattvas (after all, Zen is the “meditation school”) and that “just sitting” is not separate from Buddhahood. But Soto Zen also teaches that “just doing” is also not separate from Buddhahood, so Soto Zen is not quietism.

There are, almost certainly, other criticisms, but we are all wayfarers on the Path and regardless of any doctrinal differences, we hold the same core precepts. We are bound by and have as our foundation the Dharma. Let’s enter into discussions with that understanding.

clyde


p.s: I’m also familiar with Theravada/Vipassana teachers and teachings and Tibetan Buddhist teachers and teachings. I have deep respect for all those traditions, their teachers and practitioners.
“Enlightenment means to see what harm you are involved in and to renounce it.” David Brazier, The New Buddhism

“The most straightforward advice on awakening enlightened mind is this: practice not causing harm to anyone—yourself or others—and every day, do what you can to be helpful.” Pema Chodron, “What to Do When the Going Gets Rough”
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Re: in defense

Post by Grigoris »

Valid and constructive criticism is fodder for growth and development and not something that needs to be defended against.

Mutual back-patting rarely leads anywhere positive.
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Re: in defense

Post by Dan74 »

Valid and constructive are good. I would also add "informed" and "well-intentioned". But even two out of these four would be welcomed I think. The trouble is that most criticism doesn't score even one of these points.
Grigoris wrote: Tue Jul 07, 2020 8:35 pm Valid and constructive criticism is fodder for growth and development and not something that needs to be defended against.

Mutual back-patting rarely leads anywhere positive.
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Re: in defense

Post by LastLegend »

clyde wrote: Tue Jul 07, 2020 8:26 pm As I read some of the topics in the Zen sub-forum, I’m discouraged that all too often Zen topics become opportunities for non-Zennists to criticize Zen and Zen teachers. It seems to me, and perhaps I’m being overly sensitive, that Zen, and especially Western Zen, and more especially Western Soto Zen, its teachers and teachings have been criticized for not being authentic Buddhism, not being expressions of the Dharma.

I’m not referring to criticism of scandalous Zen teachers. There were a few, too many, who caused harm to others and brought shame to themselves and their lineage. Nor am I referring to Zen teachers who are critical of other Zen teachers or Zen students who are critical of their training and/or their teachers; that’s internal criticism intended to benefit the tradition, not demean Zen teachings and practices or Zen teachers and their students.

I’m responding to Buddhists of other traditions who post in the Zen sub-forum.

And I responding, not as a Zen student; I’m not, but I feel an affinity with the Dharma as presented by the Buddha in the Suttas and Sutras, and by Bodhidharma and his followers, and particularly with Western Soto Zen teachers and teachings. I have no Zen teacher, but I am familiar with a fair number of contemporary Zen teachers, some from books and/or videos, some I’ve sat with and listened to their Dharma talks directly, and a few I’ve had intimate conversations with. Without exception, they all appeared and were compassionate to me . . . but I’m easy.

Western Zen teachers come in a variety of personalities, breadth of knowledge and depth of wisdom. They have their personal histories, training and experiences which cause them to be as they are. I felt closer to some than others. So you can take them or leave them as your preferences arise.

There’s the criticism that Western Zen and Western Zen teachers aren’t as good (awakened, skillful, etc.) as the “good ole’ days” in the East and that these are the “Dharma-ending days”, etc. To quote the Talking Heads, “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was.” Human nature isn’t any different here and now than it was where and when the Buddha taught, nor where and when Bodhidharma sat (nor where and when Dogen lived). Cultures and language change, so the expressions and manifestations of the Dharma appear different - but there is one Dharma. [NOTE: Even the tendency to glorify the past seems to be a constant feature of human nature.]

Another criticism is that Western Zen teachers don’t know about and/or teach about meditation states (the jhanas or other ‘states of mind’). This is mostly true. But there’s a fundamental reason for this - Zen teaches (and the Buddha taught this as well) that states of mind are not the Buddha-mind; so Zen teachers don’t deny them, but they also don’t give them any special attention or concern. [NOTE: I had an interest in the jhanas, so I read about them, listened to talks about them, practiced at home, and did a couple of short jhana retreats with different teachers and a weeklong solo retreat.]

Soto Zen teachings have been criticized as “quietism” because of the emphasis on shikantaza (“just sitting”). It’s true that shikantaza is emphasized, but Soto Zen teaches that sitting quietly is a beneficial skillful technique practiced by the Buddha and Bodhisattvas (after all, Zen is the “meditation school”) and that “just sitting” is not separate from Buddhahood. But Soto Zen also teaches that “just doing” is also not separate from Buddhahood, so Soto Zen is not quietism.

There are, almost certainly, other criticisms, but we are all wayfarers on the Path and regardless of any doctrinal differences, we hold the same core precepts. We are bound by and have as our foundation the Dharma. Let’s enter into discussions with that understanding.

clyde


p.s: I’m also familiar with Theravada/Vipassana teachers and teachings and Tibetan Buddhist teachers and teachings. I have deep respect for all those traditions, their teachers and practitioners.
With all due respect, criticism was meant to be uplifting. Astus and others have demonstrated uplifting Zen spirit of wordless transmission of Bodhidharma. Issues are recognized from East to West. For example, my teacher did not have any formal teacher when he first started and later on met teachers who gave pointers. Lack of teacher is a real issue in Zen Vietnam. I am Vietnamese and so is he. Am I considered Zen student? It depends on what you qualify as Zen. Soto Japan is recognized as strict discipline and practice. There is no confusion there. Rinzai Japan has their own practice no confusion there. Vietnamese has Chinese influence of previous patriarch teachings mainly recognizing the strict test of enlightenment (mainly transcending consciousness) through a form of question that is koan-like. From the time of 6th Patriarch, Chan has talked about Mahaprajna (consult platform Sutra).
Last edited by LastLegend on Tue Jul 07, 2020 9:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: in defense

Post by Ayu »

:good: , clyde. It was time to say it.
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Re: in defense

Post by avatamsaka3 »

we are all wayfarers on the Path and regardless of any doctrinal differences, we hold the same core precepts
I know what they are in various traditions, but what do you think the shared ones are?
its teachers and teachings have been criticized for not being authentic Buddhism, not being expressions of the Dharma.
What's the Dharma?
There’s the criticism that Western Zen and Western Zen teachers aren’t as good (awakened, skillful, etc.) as the “good ole’ days” in the East and that these are the “Dharma-ending days”, etc. To quote the Talking Heads, “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was.” Human nature isn’t any different here
And what is this "human nature"? It's difficult to say with certainty, but from the looks of things the various traditions are becoming diluted and commercialized, and have lost the "spiritual power" of great ancestors. Who knows, though. It might all come back.
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Re: in defense

Post by Grigoris »

Dan74 wrote: Tue Jul 07, 2020 9:00 pm Valid and constructive are good. I would also add "informed" and "well-intentioned". But even two out of these four would be welcomed I think. The trouble is that most criticism doesn't score even one of these points.
Grigoris wrote: Tue Jul 07, 2020 8:35 pm Valid and constructive criticism is fodder for growth and development and not something that needs to be defended against.

Mutual back-patting rarely leads anywhere positive.
I am not trying to make excuses for poor behaviour. At the same time I think that intelligent debate benefits people on both sides of an issue.

I do not believe that everybody that engages in debates related to Zen, does so out of bad faith.
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Re: in defense

Post by Malcolm »

clyde wrote: Tue Jul 07, 2020 8:26 pm
There’s the criticism that Western Zen and Western Zen teachers aren’t as good (awakened, skillful, etc.) as the “good ole’ days” in the East and that these are the “Dharma-ending days”, etc.
That was stated by Matylda, a Japanese woman raised in a Soto Zen family, and a translator who has translated for many Zen teachers in Japan. Not only does she think that Zen in West is 99% bunk, she thinks Japanese Zen is in late stage senescence. However, she hardly sounds happy about it.
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Re: in defense

Post by Dan74 »

Malcolm wrote: Tue Jul 07, 2020 10:06 pm
clyde wrote: Tue Jul 07, 2020 8:26 pm
There’s the criticism that Western Zen and Western Zen teachers aren’t as good (awakened, skillful, etc.) as the “good ole’ days” in the East and that these are the “Dharma-ending days”, etc.
That was stated by Matylda, a Japanese woman raised in a Soto Zen family, and a translator who has translated for many Zen teachers in Japan. Not only does she think that Zen in West is 99% bunk, she thinks Japanese Zen is in late stage senescence. However, she hardly sounds happy about it.
Matylda is delightfully grouchy and it is easy to file her views under "oh, the good ol' days" type of thing. I doubt she has the necessary data to conclude that "99% of Zen in the West is bunk" or whether that is bad. Maybe in the East it is 99.5%! What does it even mean? That 1 out of 100 authorised Zen teachers is fully awakened? Wow, I would be impressed if that were true. Would probably be the most awakened school of Buddhism!
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Re: in defense

Post by Grigoris »

Dan74 wrote: Tue Jul 07, 2020 10:17 pm
Malcolm wrote: Tue Jul 07, 2020 10:06 pm
clyde wrote: Tue Jul 07, 2020 8:26 pm
There’s the criticism that Western Zen and Western Zen teachers aren’t as good (awakened, skillful, etc.) as the “good ole’ days” in the East and that these are the “Dharma-ending days”, etc.
That was stated by Matylda, a Japanese woman raised in a Soto Zen family, and a translator who has translated for many Zen teachers in Japan. Not only does she think that Zen in West is 99% bunk, she thinks Japanese Zen is in late stage senescence. However, she hardly sounds happy about it.
Matylda is delightfully grouchy and it is easy to file her views under "oh, the good ol' days" type of thing. I doubt she has the necessary data to conclude that "99% of Zen in the West is bunk" or whether that is bad. Maybe in the East it is 99.5%! What does it even mean? That 1 out of 100 authorised Zen teachers is fully awakened? Wow, I would be impressed if that were true. Would probably be the most awakened school of Buddhism!
Great, the white-middle class-man just wrote off the personal experience and expertise of a Japanese woman Dharma translator (re Zen) with the quaint epithet "delightfully grouchy" based on his ignorant appraisal of her knowledge.

Excellent move Dan. What's next?
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"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
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Re: in defense

Post by Dan74 »

Grigoris wrote: Tue Jul 07, 2020 10:23 pm
Dan74 wrote: Tue Jul 07, 2020 10:17 pm
Malcolm wrote: Tue Jul 07, 2020 10:06 pm

That was stated by Matylda, a Japanese woman raised in a Soto Zen family, and a translator who has translated for many Zen teachers in Japan. Not only does she think that Zen in West is 99% bunk, she thinks Japanese Zen is in late stage senescence. However, she hardly sounds happy about it.
Matylda is delightfully grouchy and it is easy to file her views under "oh, the good ol' days" type of thing. I doubt she has the necessary data to conclude that "99% of Zen in the West is bunk" or whether that is bad. Maybe in the East it is 99.5%! What does it even mean? That 1 out of 100 authorised Zen teachers is fully awakened? Wow, I would be impressed if that were true. Would probably be the most awakened school of Buddhism!
Great, the white-middle class-man just wrote off the personal experience and expertise of a Japanese woman Dharma translator (re Zen) with the quaint epithet "delightfully grouchy" based on his ignorant appraisal of her knowledge.

Excellent move Dan. What's next?
I don't know, Greg, what do you think? Maybe I will go defend racists again. Might be a more rewarding pastime than this...

Oh, do you think Matylda does have the data to conclude that 99% of Zen in the West is bunk? Sorry, I am all ears.

FFS, man...
Last edited by Dan74 on Tue Jul 07, 2020 10:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: in defense

Post by Matt J »

Most (if not all) Zen teachers would say (or have said) that there is no Zen without a teacher. So would you include yourself as a student in a non-Zen tradition who posts in the Zen forum?
clyde wrote: Tue Jul 07, 2020 8:26 pm I’m responding to Buddhists of other traditions who post in the Zen sub-forum.

And I responding, not as a Zen student; I’m not, but I feel an affinity with the Dharma as presented by the Buddha in the Suttas and Sutras, and by Bodhidharma and his followers, and particularly with Western Soto Zen teachers and teachings. I have no Zen teacher, but I am familiar with a fair number of contemporary Zen teachers, some from books and/or videos, some I’ve sat with and listened to their Dharma talks directly, and a few I’ve had intimate conversations with. Without exception, they all appeared and were compassionate to me . . . but I’m easy.
"The essence of meditation practice is to let go of all your expectations about meditation. All the qualities of your natural mind -- peace, openness, relaxation, and clarity -- are present in your mind just as it is. You don't have to do anything different. You don't have to shift or change your awareness. All you have to do while observing your mind is to recognize the qualities it already has."
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Re: in defense

Post by LastLegend »

clyde wrote: Tue Jul 07, 2020 8:26 pm As I read some of the topics in the Zen sub-forum, I’m discouraged that all too often Zen topics become opportunities for non-Zennists to criticize Zen and Zen teachers. It seems to me, and perhaps I’m being overly sensitive, that Zen, and especially Western Zen, and more especially Western Soto Zen, its teachers and teachings have been criticized for not being authentic Buddhism, not being expressions of the Dharma.

I’m not referring to criticism of scandalous Zen teachers. There were a few, too many, who caused harm to others and brought shame to themselves and their lineage. Nor am I referring to Zen teachers who are critical of other Zen teachers or Zen students who are critical of their training and/or their teachers; that’s internal criticism intended to benefit the tradition, not demean Zen teachings and practices or Zen teachers and their students.

I’m responding to Buddhists of other traditions who post in the Zen sub-forum.

And I responding, not as a Zen student; I’m not, but I feel an affinity with the Dharma as presented by the Buddha in the Suttas and Sutras, and by Bodhidharma and his followers, and particularly with Western Soto Zen teachers and teachings. I have no Zen teacher, but I am familiar with a fair number of contemporary Zen teachers, some from books and/or videos, some I’ve sat with and listened to their Dharma talks directly, and a few I’ve had intimate conversations with. Without exception, they all appeared and were compassionate to me . . . but I’m easy.

Western Zen teachers come in a variety of personalities, breadth of knowledge and depth of wisdom. They have their personal histories, training and experiences which cause them to be as they are. I felt closer to some than others. So you can take them or leave them as your preferences arise.

There’s the criticism that Western Zen and Western Zen teachers aren’t as good (awakened, skillful, etc.) as the “good ole’ days” in the East and that these are the “Dharma-ending days”, etc. To quote the Talking Heads, “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was.” Human nature isn’t any different here and now than it was where and when the Buddha taught, nor where and when Bodhidharma sat (nor where and when Dogen lived). Cultures and language change, so the expressions and manifestations of the Dharma appear different - but there is one Dharma. [NOTE: Even the tendency to glorify the past seems to be a constant feature of human nature.]

Another criticism is that Western Zen teachers don’t know about and/or teach about meditation states (the jhanas or other ‘states of mind’). This is mostly true. But there’s a fundamental reason for this - Zen teaches (and the Buddha taught this as well) that states of mind are not the Buddha-mind; so Zen teachers don’t deny them, but they also don’t give them any special attention or concern. [NOTE: I had an interest in the jhanas, so I read about them, listened to talks about them, practiced at home, and did a couple of short jhana retreats with different teachers and a weeklong solo retreat.]

Soto Zen teachings have been criticized as “quietism” because of the emphasis on shikantaza (“just sitting”). It’s true that shikantaza is emphasized, but Soto Zen teaches that sitting quietly is a beneficial skillful technique practiced by the Buddha and Bodhisattvas (after all, Zen is the “meditation school”) and that “just sitting” is not separate from Buddhahood. But Soto Zen also teaches that “just doing” is also not separate from Buddhahood, so Soto Zen is not quietism.

There are, almost certainly, other criticisms, but we are all wayfarers on the Path and regardless of any doctrinal differences, we hold the same core precepts. We are bound by and have as our foundation the Dharma. Let’s enter into discussions with that understanding.

clyde


p.s: I’m also familiar with Theravada/Vipassana teachers and teachings and Tibetan Buddhist teachers and teachings. I have deep respect for all those traditions, their teachers and practitioners.
Clyde,

If we are not talking about instantaneous Buddhahood, then we are talking gradual steps of realizations. If you maintain Zen as a formal sitting meditation and teacher-student relationship in a formal residential setting, then the closest thing you get is current monastic Zen. But Zen in China has progressed to Mahaprajna because 6th Patriarch Chan taught Mahaprajna. He heard a phrase from Diamond Sutra and started his journey. He taught platform Sutra not different from any Mahaprajnaparamita Sutras which talk about emptiness. If it falls under Mahaprajna/emptiness, then it’s still Mahayana and why is it exempt from criticism of Mahayana perspective? Mahayana in its intention to take vows seriously which isn’t necessarily the case for modern Zen since emphasis is much on sitting meditation. When Chan migrated to Mahaprajna, it becomes a different animal, namely transcending all duality by consciousness. Translated term is differentiation in various Sutras including Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra by Manjushri. That has become the pith/marrow instruction, rather than emphasis on formal sitting.
Last edited by LastLegend on Tue Jul 07, 2020 11:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: in defense

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

Well, having been involved and interested in Western Zen myself, I think it actually deserves some criticism. There's some good there too, a couple of my biggest "ahah" moments in Buddhism came from my Zen teacher, who was mostly definitely of the Western, and Soto-influenced variety, though not formally a Soto teacher.

The thing is, there is something to be said for not adhering too closely to our own cultural norms - in Western Zen sometimes that means generally poo-pooing anything overtly "religious" (i.e understanding of Karma and rebirth), focusing on Zazen, Zazen, Zazen, and basically using "outside the scriptures" as an excuse to not emphasize text study, and to wave away questions that push against said cultural norms.

I don't think it happens across the board, there are some excellent Western Zen teachers, but I do see some tendencies that are pretty questionable here and there, mainly because (like secular Buddhism, which some forms of Western Zen closely resemble) it throws the baby out with the bathwater, at which point Zen just becomes a form of light therapeutic practice, with some poetic-sounding stuff.

I actually feel as qualified as anyone else to post in the Zen forum , I have years of Zen practice, grew up meditating in front of a statue of Bodhidharma (due to martial arts practice) and still study Zen texts and teachings, even though it is not my main practice. Particularly with Western Zen and it's general eschewing of officialdom anyway, it seems a little silly to claim that one needs to be specifically credentialed to talk about it.

Now, if I come in here and start talking about the superiority of Dzogchen or Tantra (something which I actually don't believe by the way, though I think some do) to Zen, that is another question. People are not supposed to be doing that in the Zen forum.

My biggest criticism of Western Soto-influenced Zen is that it's actually an attempt very advanced practice, and I am not sure the learning framework is there to get to the advanced practice (Shikantaza) in the way a lot of Western Zen is taught. I doubt it has anything to do with Zen tradition itself, but any time something jumps cultures, stuff gets emphasized and left behind. That's just based on my subjective experience of course.
Another criticism is that Western Zen teachers don’t know about and/or teach about meditation states (the jhanas or other ‘states of mind’). This is mostly true. But there’s a fundamental reason for this - Zen teaches (and the Buddha taught this as well) that states of mind are not the Buddha-mind; so Zen teachers don’t deny them, but they also don’t give them any special attention or concern. [NOTE: I had an interest in the jhanas, so I read about them, listened to talks about them, practiced at home, and did a couple of short jhana retreats with different teachers and a weeklong solo retreat.]
Yes well, quite honestly we are left with two questions here then - one is, are most Western Zen teachers qualified to give direct transmission of this state? That is how it's supposed to work, as far as I know.

If they can't directly introduce the student to this state, then the lack of basic meditation instruction (i.e. some kind of "gradual" teaching) is indeed a big problem. In my experience Western Soto - influences Zen has very little instruction that can act as a "stepping stone" to Shikantaza, YMMV. If a teacher cannot point out the true state of Shikantaza to a student, then a gradual method is all there is.

There's also the issue that when misinterpreted like this, "just sitting" is actually just sitting in dullness and blankness, which is not Shikantaza at all. You can read about this in some instruction and Zen texts of course, but if your teacher does not point out to you directly the difference between stillness and dullness, this is a major error. Lack of basic language in teaching meditation, and the attitude of "just sit and it'll work itself out" in my experience can lead to some real roadblocks that one has no method to get past.

Now, if the situation is such that a Zen teacher can directly introduce a student, then it's all good, but how often does that really happen in Western Zen circles? is it even seen as a possibility, how is it even understood? It is mostly more "traditional" Zen teachers I hear talk this way with any authority.

I think about some Zen texts and what they say - Great Doubt for instance, how often do Western Zen teachers use a text like this to correct errors in a student's progress, or to steer people in the right direction?
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

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Re: in defense

Post by clyde »

To be clear, I was not implying that non-Zennists shouldn’t post in the Zen sub-forum. As I clearly stated, I'm not a Zen student and I post here, and I’ve posted in other sub-forums as well. I consider myself an unaffiliated Buddhist with a preference for Zen Buddhism. I post to learn or to share my experiences, observations, and/or understandings; not to criticize and/or demean Buddhist traditions.

Nor was my point that Zen Buddhism is above criticism or questioning.

My point was that some posts in the Zen sub-forum feel (to me) mean-spirited and meant to demean Zen, its teachings and practices, teachers and students.
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Re: in defense

Post by tkp67 »

I think that is an internet dynamic more than a zen/non zen dynamic
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Re: in defense

Post by Charlie123 »

clyde wrote: Tue Jul 07, 2020 11:59 pm To be clear, I was not implying that non-Zennists shouldn’t post in the Zen sub-forum. As I clearly stated, I'm not a Zen student and I post here, and I’ve posted in other sub-forums as well. I consider myself an unaffiliated Buddhist with a preference for Zen Buddhism. I post to learn or to share my experiences, observations, and/or understandings; not to criticize and/or demean Buddhist traditions.

Nor was my point that Zen Buddhism is above criticism or questioning.

My point was that some posts in the Zen sub-forum feel (to me) mean-spirited and meant to demean Zen, its teachings and practices, teachers and students.
I don't think it is mean-spirited to point out that much of Western Zen has problems. For those who wish to avoid those problems, it is actually helpful to point this out. Of course, we all must come to our own conclusions about what is helpful and not helpful, accurate and not accurate etc.
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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: in defense

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

clyde wrote: Tue Jul 07, 2020 11:59 pm To be clear, I was not implying that non-Zennists shouldn’t post in the Zen sub-forum. As I clearly stated, I'm not a Zen student and I post here, and I’ve posted in other sub-forums as well. I consider myself an unaffiliated Buddhist with a preference for Zen Buddhism. I post to learn or to share my experiences, observations, and/or understandings; not to criticize and/or demean Buddhist traditions.

Nor was my point that Zen Buddhism is above criticism or questioning.

My point was that some posts in the Zen sub-forum feel (to me) mean-spirited and meant to demean Zen, its teachings and practices, teachers and students.
I don't think that happens very often these days to be honest, though I have seen it. If you see people demeaning Zen, or definitively holding a particular approach above Zen in the Zen subforum, you should report it, it's against the ToS. This is quite a bit different than having a discussion on the ups and downs of Western Zen.

I don't think the kind of conversation that's gone on in this thread so far fits the bill. There is and has always been a weird dynamic here because we have a minority of Zen practitioners, and those that are simply tend to post and talk less. To be frank, a lot of Zen folks I've known shy away from talking about Dharma in detail, period. I mean, to a degree this is baked in.

There are good and bad points to that, but it makes things like Zen forums a weird pursuit sometimes.

I mean, if everyone who didn't identify as an exclusively Zen practitioner did not post here, there would be little traffic.

I'd be more interested to read your response and experiences on Western Zen teachers being able to directly introduce or point out the the state of Shikantaza, and when they cannot, whether or not gradual teachings are used. Again this was my biggest issue personally when practicing Western Zen. I often felt like the culture completely discouraged questions on meditation, much less Buddhism generally. In such an environment, unless you 'get it' upon some kind of pointing out, you are just lost, because there is no language, map, or guidelines, and the culture does not encourage you to find them. It'd be "too intellectual" or somesuch.

This of and within itself is a kind of teaching, but only I think the kind of teaching that an already sufficiently advanced student would get anything out of.

The rest of us would take the advice to "just sit" and possibly rest in distraction or dullness, and the cycle continues because instead of correction, it's more "just sit". Factually, Zen texts exist from the Bloodstream Sermon on up that discuss some of these things, but how commonly are they used to guide students in Western Zen?
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Re: in defense

Post by avatamsaka3 »

My point was that some posts in the Zen sub-forum feel (to me) mean-spirited and meant to demean Zen, its teachings and practices, teachers and students.
And where are you drawing the line between demeaning a tradition and criticizing it?
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clyde
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Re: in defense

Post by clyde »

I am not going to report posts or “draw lines”. I can’t know the intentions of others, but the Buddha’s teachings about Right Intention and Right Speech are clear and the Buddha asked us, his followers, to reflect before we acted or spoke.
“Enlightenment means to see what harm you are involved in and to renounce it.” David Brazier, The New Buddhism

“The most straightforward advice on awakening enlightened mind is this: practice not causing harm to anyone—yourself or others—and every day, do what you can to be helpful.” Pema Chodron, “What to Do When the Going Gets Rough”
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