zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

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  • Craig
    Member
    • Oct 2008
    • 89

    zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    i like shikantaza. just sitting is my buddhist practice of choice at this point in my seeking. from joining treeleaf, i was happy to find that i didn't have to be some advanced practitioner to do shikantaza (like counting my breaths for several years!).
    so, sitting as i do, i decided to go back to the local soto zendo here in atlanta. i had been several times before but just didn't like the stick (as i've mentioned before on this site). now we do sit zazen there, but there is so much other stuff going on there that i just am having second thoughts about the whole project. i wonder if there are things about zen that we are not told. secrets and shadows. i say this because much of the rhetoric of Zen seems to be so hierarchical and admonishing of questioning and dissent. this is especially true at the place i had been going. even thought it is a soto center, the dharma discussions have been focused on these ridiculous koans. it's also very hard to get any straight answers from anyone and the teacher is NEVER there. there is also this feeling of who's in and who's out. i've had this feeling about zen before. there is a very in crowd aspect to it that seems to pervade places i've sat and most definitely the web. treeleaf hasn't been this way and i know i'm being kind of vague, but i'm curious and a bit anxious about this. zen isn't some pure buddhism. ironically it is full of as much esoteric baggage as Tibetan if one really looks at the literature. much of it is japanese culture i think. however, i want to wake up, not be japanese :lol: my biggest fear is that zazen may just be some giant joke being played on us by dogen. maybe even the buddha is playing a huge joke on us! this is a real fear. and as i learn more and more about the fact that ALL traditions have dark sides, it is really quite arbitrary to say which is the best, most accurate, etc. no one knows.
    craig
  • jrh001
    Member
    • Nov 2008
    • 144

    #2
    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

    Hi Craig,

    I suspect that some (or alot) of it has nothing at all to do with Zen or Buddhism. It's just "human nature" and what happens when people congregate in groups. In relation to the esoterics, it might also be human nature to unnecessarily complicate things that were once quite simple. We seem to do it all the time.

    best wishes,

    JohnH

    Comment

    • clyde

      #3
      Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

      Craig;

      Yes, doubts arise, fears arise, but you know for yourself:
      Originally posted by Craig
      i like shikantaza.
      Me too

      clyde

      Comment

      • AlanLa
        Member
        • Mar 2008
        • 1405

        #4
        Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

        The problem with expectations about places, especially places that you feel are supposed to be spiritual, is that those expectations may not be met. Zen is about dropping those expectations. What the posts say above is good stuff. I would only add that if, after a while, you feel the place is truly not a good fit for you, then stop going there. But give it time, accept what it is they have to offer, take the whole experience as a lesson, not just the lessons being overtly taught there, for within the dark there is light. Oops, that last part sounded like some mumbo jumbo, crooked, confusing zennie answer, so please skip it.
        AL (Jigen) in:
        Faith/Trust
        Courage/Love
        Awareness/Action!

        I sat today

        Comment

        • will
          Member
          • Jun 2007
          • 2331

          #5
          Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

          Firstly I'll say "things are what you make them". It is up to you to find out and ponder these Koans.

          Here's a quote from Dogen's Bendowa Modern Interpretations (which I prefer):

          When the buddhas – those who live fully in the present – each of
          whom has learned the Buddha’s truth from a real person, realise what
          the truth is, they achieve it by the best method there is. This method,
          in which there is no intention of reaching an aim, is subtle, and is only
          taught by one buddha to another buddha. It never deviates from this.
          It is a practice that balances the active and the passive, and it sets the
          body-and-mind right. The authentic form of this practice, which is
          known as Zazen, is sitting in an upright posture. Although we each
          have the natural state, if we do not return to it in this practice, it does
          not show itself, and if we do not experience it, we do not realise what
          it is. It comes to us and fills us as soon as we give up our intentions,
          and is not a discriminative state. When we speak, this state expresses
          itself through our mouth in complete freedom. Buddhas live in and
          maintain themselves in this natural state in which they do not separate
          reality into two parts: mental and physical. People who do not separate
          reality into two parts are buddhas. The way I am teaching now to
          follow the Buddha’s truth is a way that allows us to really experience
          everything clearly as it is, and gives us a state of wholeness that brings
          true freedom. When you get rid of everything that hinders you and
          find this freedom, these words that you are reading now will have no
          relevance.

          Establishing in myself a firm resolve to search for the Buddha’s truth, I
          travelled to many parts of Japan to meet teachers who I hoped would
          help me in my search. One of these was Master Myozen, who lived at
          Kennin Temple. I stayed as his student for nine years, learning the
          teachings of the Rinzai lineage. Master Myozen was the most excellent
          of Master Eizai’s students, and had received the teachings of the
          Buddha’s truth directly from him. None of the other students were
          comparable. Then I travelled to China, searching east and west for a
          good teacher, and learned of the traditions of the five lineages that
          practice Zazen. Finally, I visited the temple on Mt. Dai-byaku-ho and
          met Zen Master Nyojo, with whom I finally completed the great task
          of a lifetime’s practice. Then in 1228, I returned to Japan determined to
          spread the truth that I had found to others in order to save them. I felt
          as if a heavy burden had been placed on my shoulders. But while
          waiting for favourable circumstances to carry me forward, I thought
          that I might spend some time wandering from place to place, following
          the flow of events, like wise teachers of old have done. But I also
          felt that there may be people who were already sincerely practicing
          Zazen and seeking for what is true, people who were not seeking for
          fame or wanting to get something, and those people might be misled
          by teachers who were not genuine, whose teachings would only lead
          them away from a correct understanding of what is true. They might
          then deceive themselves with those wrong ideas and become caught
          by their own delusions. How could they then strengthen their intuitive
          ability to know what is true, and have the chance to practice what
          is true? If I just wandered around waiting for the right time, where
          would they be able to find a true place to practice? This seemed to me
          a very sad situation, and so I have decided to write down all the customs
          and criteria that I myself experienced during my visits to the Zen
          monasteries in China, together with the teachings from my master,
          Tendo Nyojo, which I have received and put into practice. I will then
          leave these writings for people who learn by actually doing things,
          and who find it easy to live in reality, so that they will know the true
          teachings of the Buddha that have been passed on from person to
          person. I feel that this task may be of great importance.
          Gassho

          Will
          [size=85:z6oilzbt]
          To save all sentient beings, though beings are numberless.
          To penetrate reality, though reality is boundless.
          To transform all delusion, though delusions are immeasurable.
          To attain the enlightened way, a way non-attainable.
          [/size:z6oilzbt]

          Comment

          • Jundo
            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
            • Apr 2006
            • 39477

            #6
            Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

            Originally posted by Craig
            i like shikantaza. just sitting is my buddhist practice of choice at this point in my seeking. from joining treeleaf, i was happy to find that i didn't have to be some advanced practitioner to do shikantaza (like counting my breaths for several years!).... i wonder if there are things about zen that we are not told. secrets and shadows. i say this because much of the rhetoric of Zen seems to be so hierarchical and admonishing of questioning and dissent. this is especially true at the place i had been going. even thought it is a soto center, the dharma discussions have been focused on these ridiculous koans. it's also very hard to get any straight answers from anyone and the teacher is NEVER there. there is also this feeling of who's in and who's out. i've had this feeling about zen before.
            Hi Craig,

            Allow me just to echo some of the comments by others.

            First, pursue your own Practice. Ultimately in Zazen, we sit with ourself and ourself alone (literally, with our "self"), and the others in the Sangha (the teacher most of all) just help with that. But, ultimately, it is a matter of Craig exploring and sitting with Craig's "me myself and I"

            Second, every group of people, not only every Buddhist Sangha, is a bit different ... be it a workplace, pub, card club (not that I am comparing our practice to drinking and gambling! ) or the local Lion's Club. If you don't like a particular Sangha, or the chemistry does not seem right, move to another. Of course, don't be too fast to judge on first impressions and (unless something seems seriously wrong right away), you may need to give them time. You say you have been there many times, so maybe you have. Any teacher or Sangha should be open to questioning.

            Third, however, many parts of our Practice are worth keeping, even if they strike someone as strange at first. Bowing, statues, incense and, yes, weird talks about Koans all fit in that category. They may seem like unnecessary "Japanese" or "Esoteric" elements at first, until you understand the role they serve. I have given talks on all these things recently, for example ...

            Bowing ...

            http://treeleafzen.blogspot.com/2008/11 ... at-iv.html

            On the other hand, it is okay to abandon or reject many practices. However, KNOW very well what you are rejecting before you reject it. For example, I wrote this to someone this week about which of the "Japanese trappings" are worth keeping and which can be discarded. I wrote him:

            Absorb what is useful and discard the rest. For example, I think Oryoki [formal meal ritual] is a great practice, and worth keeping.. Same for bowing.

            Some things I keep out of respect for TRADITION [the robes, the ways of doing some ceremonies]. It is important to keep ties to where we come from. Some things also have a special symbolic meaning if you look into them, so worth keeping [for example, a Rakusu]

            But other stuff, no need to keep: For example, I usually avoid to chant in Japanese or Chinese [except once in awhile, out of respect for tradition]. Tatami mats and Paper screens have nothing to do with Zen practice particularly [but I happen to live in an old Japanese building, so ... well, tatami and paper screens!} Some things I think are just dumb (except symbolically), like the Kyosaku stick. Incense is great, until it was recently shown to cause cancer. Many beliefs of Buddhism are rather superstitious things that were picked up here and there. I abandon many of those.
            But I assure you that there are no dark secrets and shadows (any more than in your local Lion's Club! In fact, we are just the "Lion's Club" focused on the universe!). I have not spent 25 years of my life pursuing a pointless joke. Actually, Zen --IS-- a HUGE joke, but a profound one! So, keep on smiling!

            Gassho, Jundo

            .
            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

            Comment

            • Jundo
              Treeleaf Founder and Priest
              • Apr 2006
              • 39477

              #7
              Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

              Hi Jon,

              What you wrote is so nice ...

              Originally posted by ZenChat99xyz

              The easiest proof of the path's effectiveness, is reasonably easy. You write a diary of what you were like before the path. Then keep a diary as you practice the path. Within only a few years, you will see the difference. Less anger, more peace, more clarity, more wisdom. They will all come. Slowly, perhaps, but they will come. That is one form of proof. .
              I would only perhaps say one thing ...

              If you have some powerful spiritual experience in meditation, that will certainly be more proof for you....Every single person I know who has meditated with some vigor for 5 years and more has had quite concrete spiritual experiences.
              Please just recall that, in our Soto way, we are not on the hunt for spiritual experiences, peak moments, fireworks and zippy-dippy trips. Oh, sure, there will be those ... but our Soto way is to observe them, perhaps pick up a fresh perspective here or there, often yawn, and move along. We neither chase after them, nor need them, nor push them away when they happen to come. We honor the "Ordinary as Sacred". In fact, we really do value the "spiritual experiences" no more than we value this moment, or breathing, or driving the car.

              For this moment, each breath and driving a car are wonderful, when seen with a Buddha's Eyes!

              Gassho, Jundo
              ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

              Comment

              • Tb
                Member
                • Jan 2008
                • 3186

                #8
                Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

                Hi.



                Mtfbwy
                Fugen
                Life is our temple and its all good practice
                Blog: http://fugenblog.blogspot.com/

                Comment

                • Voton
                  Member
                  • May 2008
                  • 45

                  #9
                  Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

                  Oops. Ignore this!

                  Comment

                  • Voton
                    Member
                    • May 2008
                    • 45

                    #10
                    Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

                    This post made me grin and nod in agreement so hard that I think I gave myself whiplash. I got into Zen because, as Brad Warner would say, I had a bad case of yellow fever: the religious version of some anime nerd. Doing this will make me practically Japanese! Kewl! And those koans: wow, those make no sense at all, they must be really deep, man. What a geek.
                    Then I encountered Zennies. I figured that the place to which I started going would be filled with rich yuppies aggressively one-upping each other, but I thought, it's a sesshin, they have to STFU for the whole week, how bad can it be? Well, the ingenuity of the American upper middle class knows no bounds. They'd given themselves different colored robes to indicate their place in the hierarchy, so you could tell at a glance how much money they'd flung at the abbot. If you had no robe (that's me), you were off-the-map gauche, and could be kicked and insulted with impunity (figuratively, of course). When they could speak at the end of the retreat, they'd always drone about something like, "Thank you all for providing this space for me to work out the horrible, horrible pain of my 401k's 12% loss year over year, and how I may not be able to continue making the payments on the Lamborghini. I've come to understand that material things don't matter."
                    I'd echo Jon: "Usually, the superficial, loud and aggressive people rise to the surface. Often the most spiritual people in centers are very quiet and rarely heard," and "Every single person I know who has meditated with some vigor for 5 years and more has had quite concrete spiritual experiences." Absolutely true, in my experience.
                    Part of my practice has been learning to love people who annoy the living crap out of me, and there's lots of that to be had at Zen centers. I think I've made some progress there. I still love all the Japanese stuff: I embrace and accept my own geekiness. Those koans are starting to make sense to me, too. Yikes. Although gaining is not the point, I am gaining perspective and compassion.
                    Yeah, shikantaza's great, isn't it? -Paul

                    Comment

                    • Craig
                      Member
                      • Oct 2008
                      • 89

                      #11
                      Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

                      well thanks to all for the comments. as i said, i've been to this place on and off for a while, so encouragement to stick it out is not necessary. it's also quite a circular argument as well. this is part of what bugs me specifically about zen. of course, as i said, institutions have issues, but zen seems to purport this idea that 'one needs to stick with it and if you're having concerns, then its your stuff coming up'. this is all couched in an attitude of 'we know what's really going on and you don't.' this is exemplified in zen-speak, koans, japanese customs, etc. so, to blame all of 'my issues' on 'my ego' is quite a cop out and quite similar to the circular logic in christianity (why aren't you going to church anymore?). the bible is the word of god because it says so. in addition, i have common sense and an intellect that may get in the way of me waking up, but it also helps me survive. it's just so amazing to me that people will jump into zen thinking it's some pure form of buddhism and not be critical of the fact that it is anything but. it supports a basic practice, but has so much baggage that people just buy into. if it works for people, then great. but, zen is not what it seems on the surface and that has left me a bit jaded. at the same time, i am not japanse, or chinese. i'm american. i hate hierarchy and i don't think my head is the most sacred place. so for me to put my rakasu on my head and say a prayer is ridiculous.
                      so, shikantaza is a keeper, but there needs to be some informed consent in these religions.
                      just my thoughts.
                      craig

                      Comment

                      • Jundo
                        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                        • Apr 2006
                        • 39477

                        #12
                        Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

                        Originally posted by Craig
                        .... zen seems to purport this idea that 'one needs to stick with it and if you're having concerns, then its your stuff coming up'. this is all couched in an attitude of 'we know what's really going on and you don't.' this is exemplified in zen-speak, koans, japanese customs, etc. so, to blame all of 'my issues' on 'my ego' is quite a cop out and quite similar to the circular logic in christianity (why aren't you going to church anymore?). .... i hate hierarchy and i don't think my head is the most sacred place. so for me to put my rakasu on my head and say a prayer is ridiculous.
                        Hi Craig,

                        I don't think anyone is saying "just stick with it ... it's your stuff coming up". At least, no one here is saying it. It seems to me to be a definite lack of chemistry between you and that particular Sangha and their practices, so you had best try a new place. Yes, some of it may be "you", for example, your preferences and judgments are demanding that things be as you think they should be. And some of it may be "them", for example, the group has some problems with cliques and such, as you said.

                        Well, there are a lot of fish in the sea, and a lot of Sanghas. So, try some more before you swear off fish.

                        I will say this: It is not that saying a prayer with a Rakusu on your head is objectively ridiculous for all people who do so. But it sure is for Craig if Craig thinks it is. There are parts of our practice which we do BECAUSE we resist (for example, when visiting a temple for Retreat, I usually volunteer to clean the toilets BECAUSE I resist)*. Ask yourself where that kind of resistance is to be found (here's a clue, and it is right behind your own eyes).

                        Ask yourself how much is truly the problems with the Sangha and how much is you and how much is both.

                        Then go just sit, and forget about it all.

                        Gassho, J

                        *By wife usually reminds me at this point that I rarely volunteer to clean the toilets at home. ops:
                        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                        Comment

                        • replicant
                          Member
                          • Aug 2008
                          • 29

                          #13
                          Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

                          Originally posted by Jundo
                          Please just recall that, in our Soto way, we are not on the hunt for spiritual experiences, peak moments, fireworks and zippy-dippy trips. Oh, sure, there will be those ... but our Soto way is to observe them, perhaps pick up a fresh perspective here or there, often yawn, and move along. We neither chase after them, nor need them, nor push them away when they happen to come. We honor the "Ordinary as Sacred". In fact, we really do value the "spiritual experiences" no more than we value this moment, or breathing, or driving the car.
                          Speaking of "spiritual", has anyone read Brad Warner's latest article "Buddhism is Not Spirituality"? I found it an interesting perspective on spiritual vs material and the likes .. It kinda clicked with me as I never considered myself a "spiritual" person so to speak, but also never really gave it too much thought! 8)
                          I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain... Time to die.

                          Comment

                          • Craig
                            Member
                            • Oct 2008
                            • 89

                            #14
                            Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

                            Originally posted by Jundo
                            Originally posted by Craig
                            .... zen seems to purport this idea that 'one needs to stick with it and if you're having concerns, then its your stuff coming up'. this is all couched in an attitude of 'we know what's really going on and you don't.' this is exemplified in zen-speak, koans, japanese customs, etc. so, to blame all of 'my issues' on 'my ego' is quite a cop out and quite similar to the circular logic in christianity (why aren't you going to church anymore?). .... i hate hierarchy and i don't think my head is the most sacred place. so for me to put my rakasu on my head and say a prayer is ridiculous.
                            Hi Craig,

                            I don't think anyone is saying "just stick with it ... it's your stuff coming up". At least, no one here is saying it. It seems to me to be a definite lack of chemistry between you and that particular Sangha and their practices, so you had best try a new place. Yes, some of it may be "you", for example, your preferences and judgments are demanding that things be as you think they should be. And some of it may be "them", for example, the group has some problems with cliques and such, as you said.

                            Well, there are a lot of fish in the sea, and a lot of Sanghas. So, try some more before you swear off fish.

                            I will say this: It is not that saying a prayer with a Rakusu on your head is objectively ridiculous for all people who do so. But it sure is for Craig if Craig thinks it is. There are parts of our practice which we do BECAUSE we resist (for example, when visiting a temple for Retreat, I usually volunteer to clean the toilets BECAUSE I resist)*. Ask yourself where that resistance is to be found (here's a clue, and it right behind your own eyes).

                            Ask yourself how much is truly the problems with the Sangha and how much is you and how much is both.

                            Then go just sit, and forget about it all.
                            Gassho, J

                            *By wife usually reminds me at this point that I rarely volunteer to clean the toilets at home. ops:

                            Jundo-
                            well, it's a given that i am projecting. we all do. and i'm not just singling out this sangha. they have a way they do things and that works for some people. my issue is with zen in particular and buddhism in general. it's quite disheartening to find so much religiosity, cultural baggage, ritual, in a 'philosophy' that's supposed to integrate with what ever culture it finds itself. it happened in india, korea, japan, china, etc. i think it needs to happen in america.

                            so i like that you say...'go sit and forget about it all'...i'm still trying to figure out how to 'drop body and mind' but just sitting is what it's all about. so why all the other stuff? for me it's not necessary.

                            peace-
                            craig

                            Comment

                            • Craig
                              Member
                              • Oct 2008
                              • 89

                              #15
                              Re: zen's shadow side--lack of critique?

                              Originally posted by jrh001
                              Hi Craig,

                              I suspect that some (or alot) of it has nothing at all to do with Zen or Buddhism. It's just "human nature" and what happens when people congregate in groups. In relation to the esoterics, it might also be human nature to unnecessarily complicate things that were once quite simple. We seem to do it all the time.

                              best wishes,

                              JohnH

                              yes, it is our nature to totally complicate things. i wish i could be a bit more light-hearted about all of this, but it's quite frustrating. the dharma is gonna have to adjust to what we/me as an intellectual/liberal/psychoanalyzed people are...or it will lose folks like me.
                              craig

                              Comment

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