Dogen's criticisms of other schools

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  • jrh001
    Member
    • Nov 2008
    • 144

    Dogen's criticisms of other schools

    Originally posted by From the recent sit-a-long talks on Beliefnet

    What good are such actions as reading the sutras and saying the Nembutsu. How futile to think that Buddhist merits accrue from merely moving the tongue and raising the voice. If you think this covers Buddhism, you are far from the truth. Your only purpose in reading the sutras should be to learn thoroughly that the Buddha taught the rules of gradual and sudden training and that by practicing his teachings you can obtain enlightenment. You should not read the sutras merely to pretend to wisdom through vain intellections. To strive for the goal of Buddhism by reading many sutras is like pointing the hill to the north and heading south. It is like putting a square peg in a round hole. While you look at words and phrases, the path of your training remains dark. This is as worthless as a doctor who forgets his prescription. Constant repetition of the Nembutsu is also worthless-like a frog in a spring field croaking night and day.
    This sounds like strong criticism of a particular school of Buddhism and I'm wondering how to reconcile that with the attitude of acceptance encouraged by the Sandokai?

    Jundo (or anyone), do you know the context of this writing? For example, Sekito was responding to the friction between the northern and southern schools. The writers of the Heart Sutra were countering arguments about dharmas. Was Master Dogen responding to some specific situation when he wrote this? Where's the harmony and equality in his criticisms? Or is he just calling a spade a spade?
  • will
    Member
    • Jun 2007
    • 2331

    #2
    Re: Dogen's criticisms of other schools

    that the Buddha taught the rules of gradual and sudden training and that by practicing his teachings you can obtain enlightenment.
    The point is that the man speaks the truth. A lot of Zen masters back in the day shut up about practice. You have to go to a mountain or find them by a stream to hear their teachings. Dogen wasn't quite like that. He told the truth according to what he realized sitting on Tiantong mountain. No pussy footing about. Straight to the point. Direct teaching.

    Read Bendowa and you can get an idea of What Dogen set out to do.

    The point is that he speaks the truth.

    We can't base our realization on only Dogen's. We have to do some of that our self. We question Dogen each time we sit.

    He's not telling us that Soto Zen is better, or that we should shun other traditions. He is just telling us to sit and find out. Bendowa says it more clearly.

    Plus, teachers say different things sometimes according to the situation. We weren't living during Dogen's time trying to establish a new school of Buddhism, so we don't really know.

    A more modern version of what he might be saying is the prevalent spiritual shopping and lack of commitment that goes on today.

    Gassho

    W
    [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

    • will
      Member
      • Jun 2007
      • 2331

      #3
      Re: Dogen's criticisms of other schools

      Edit:

      I think it's important to try an understand what the guy was trying do with the Shobogenzo. He used every resource he had available to convey what Zen practice is. He used Koans, Questions and answers, poetry, instructions, and whatever else.

      Someone's got to step up. Otherwise no Zen, no Soto Zen, no Buddhism.

      Gassho
      [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

      • Taigu
        Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
        • Aug 2008
        • 2710

        #4
        Re: Dogen's criticisms of other schools

        If I may add to Will's excellent post, I would just say that Dogen challenges approaches solely based on the use of intellect, Buddhism in these days had a lot of scholars living in great comfort and luxury spending their time discussing subtle points of Buddhist theory, and based on the faith only practice, Nembutsu might lead to a repetitive pattern when one utters words without being with/in them. The genius of Dogen was to renew the vision of Buddha Dharma, to look at mountains rivers and tiles as the true sutra, the living thread of the teachings at the time when everybody was obsessed by bringing scrolls and texts from China (or the portrait of a teacher), to see in flesh, bones and marrow sitting the real Amida, not in a distant-future land. To cut through all false hopes and idle activities. What Dogen does is that he dismisses various tools to focus on the original action of the Buddha sitting under the tree. It is pretty radical but so compassionate and we also have to remember that he had a lot to put up with, the great hostility of Tendai school, the hornet's nest that was Kyoto at the time, the Rinzai school criticism...Hee Jin Kim essay on Dogen, Eihei Dogen mystical realist, might give you further insights into this pretty hot furnace of 13th century Japanese Buddhism and also give you a pretty fair picture of where Dogen comes from with his strong criticism.
        So to cut a long story short, yes Dogen was a man of his time, today he would certainly do and write things differently ,and yes Dogen is also a man of the Dharma stressing the essential, coming back to the source.

        gassho


        Taigu

        Comment

        • Shohei
          Member
          • Oct 2007
          • 2854

          #5
          Re: Dogen's criticisms of other schools

          Originally posted by will
          We can't base our realization on only Dogen's. We have to do some that our self. We question Dogen each time we sit
          Nice post in its entirety Will! Of course many times more eloquent than I could have mustered this would have been what I wanted to reply with^^ .

          The part quoted makes sense though... saying e=mc[squared] certainly allow us to inherit the the scope of understanding Einstein had prior to, and after, that equation was worked out.

          Also in this the question, the "questioner"- Master Dogen's split personality (lol)- is purporting that transmission of the Dharma for us non-monastics is to just say the words since we couldn't possibly understand meaning - beyond common sense "...reading the sutras and [chanting] the Nembutsu are the natural means to enlightenment ".

          As Will already has said he wanted to reach everyone... so I figure the tone taken was also reflecting the "questioners" tone too. I think its a case of know your target audience. Well that's how i read it.

          Gassho, Shohei

          Comment

          • will
            Member
            • Jun 2007
            • 2331

            #6
            Re: Dogen's criticisms of other schools

            Also in this the question, the "questioner"- Master Dogen's split personality (lol)- is purporting that transmission of the Dharma for us non-monastics is to just say the words since we couldn't possibly understand meaning - beyond common sense "...reading the sutras and [chanting] the Nembutsu are the natural means to enlightenment ".
            Yes!!!!!!

            the Dharma for us non-monastics
            non-monastics??? :? How about "no monastics".

            Gassho

            W
            [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

            • Tb
              Member
              • Jan 2008
              • 3186

              #7
              Re: Dogen's criticisms of other schools

              Originally posted by jrh001
              Originally posted by From the recent sit-a-long talks on Beliefnet

              What good are such actions as reading the sutras and saying the Nembutsu. How futile to think that Buddhist merits accrue from merely moving the tongue and raising the voice. If you think this covers Buddhism, you are far from the truth. Your only purpose in reading the sutras should be to learn thoroughly that the Buddha taught the rules of gradual and sudden training and that by practicing his teachings you can obtain enlightenment. You should not read the sutras merely to pretend to wisdom through vain intellections. To strive for the goal of Buddhism by reading many sutras is like pointing the hill to the north and heading south. It is like putting a square peg in a round hole. While you look at words and phrases, the path of your training remains dark. This is as worthless as a doctor who forgets his prescription. Constant repetition of the Nembutsu is also worthless-like a frog in a spring field croaking night and day.
              This sounds like strong criticism of a particular school of Buddhism and I'm wondering how to reconcile that with the attitude of acceptance encouraged by the Sandokai?
              Hi.
              As others already have said, it isnt an criticism of a particular school.
              More in the line of an criticism of people who "miss the point" and at the same time give an "direction" for those who need it.
              Note "direction" as this is also an written text, as are the sutras.
              He more or less "challenges you" to "find out yourself"...

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

              Comment

              • jrh001
                Member
                • Nov 2008
                • 144

                #8
                Re: Dogen's criticisms of other schools

                Hi all,

                Thanks for the responses. The question came about because we're about to finish The Sandokai in the "book club" reading. It sounds like Dogen had "moved on" from the message of equality and the harmony of the Sandokai, written a few hundred years earlier. Thanks Taigu for some clues on the historical context. As you said, Buddhists today would probably frame their comments in a different way.

                Will, I note your comment about spiritual shopping, although I'm not sure if you think that the original questions are evidence of a lack of commitment. These days it's very likely that we'll run across (or even be influenced by) other schools of Buddhism - it's almost unavoidable.

                JohnH

                Comment

                • Bansho
                  Member
                  • Apr 2007
                  • 532

                  #9
                  Re: Dogen's criticisms of other schools

                  Hi,

                  Well, one entire school which Dogen Zenji did harshly criticize was Dainichi Nonin's Darumashu.

                  Originally posted by William M. Bodiford, Soto Zen in Medieval Japan
                  Members of the Darumashu apparently taught that because one's own mind already is a Buddha, the desire for enlightenment already is its attainment. If one believes in this inherent Buddha mind, then one is not only freed from all sin without having to observe the Buddhist precepts but also delivered from all torments to a life of continual pleasure. Observance of the precepts, Ch'an style meditation, and formal rituals all were disparaged.
                  This line of thought has it's roots in Senika's 'naturalist heresy' of an immutable self which is not subject to causation. In the Darumashu, this doctrine came to encompass the idea of original enlightenment (J. hongaku) as the spontaneous and inherent expression of Buddha Nature - without the need for practice. Dogen Zenji didn't reject hongaku thought in its entirety, but he did vehemently attack the idea that original enlightenment meant that practice was superfluous. Having said that, though, his criticism of this school wasn't just a polemic for its own sake. Several Darumashu followers (e.g. Ejo and Gikai, etc.) later joined Dogen's monastic community, and so he had a very real stake in clarifying his method of practice to them. Just as Jundo often says, he teaches baseball around here, so if you want to play football, that's fine, but this isn't the place for it.

                  Gassho
                  Bansho
                  ??

                  Comment

                  • will
                    Member
                    • Jun 2007
                    • 2331

                    #10
                    Re: Dogen's criticisms of other schools

                    Will, I note your comment about spiritual shopping, although I'm not sure if you think that the original questions are evidence of a lack of commitment.
                    No. This is just something that one may talk about to clarify what one needs to do to practice Zen. It's in context.

                    As I stated, we don't know what it was like living during Dogen's time and different teachers say different things according to the context.

                    Today we can choose a tradition or practice at the click of a button. We don't have to go to a monastery, or find a teacher. In that day there was little choice. You had to get on a boat, walk or travel by horse. So yeah, there might be a little more commitment there. A little less convenience.

                    I'm not saying that at that time there weren't people who shopped around, but in today's society this might be an issue that is brought up more frequently.

                    Gassho _/_

                    W
                    [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

                    • jrh001
                      Member
                      • Nov 2008
                      • 144

                      #11
                      Re: Dogen's criticisms of other schools

                      Originally posted by Bansho
                      ... Just as Jundo often says, he teaches baseball around here, so if you want to play football, that's fine, but this isn't the place for it.
                      Ah yes! Fully understood. Although I do notice some outside influence from time to time. http://www.treeleaf.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1199

                      (BTW. I've just ordered Eihei Dogen Mystical Realist, time to read up on some history.)

                      JohnH

                      Comment

                      • disastermouse

                        #12
                        Re: Dogen's criticisms of other schools

                        One can only know for oneself. I'm sort of surprised to think that anyone ever thought differently, actually.

                        Chet

                        Comment

                        • Eika
                          Member
                          • Sep 2007
                          • 806

                          #13
                          Re: Dogen's criticisms of other schools

                          Originally posted by will

                          As I stated, we don't know what it was like living during Dogen's time and different teachers say different things according to the context.
                          I agree and I'll amplify that by saying that sometimes the same teacher says different things, also because of context. One student might need a hug, another a slap depending on their temperament.

                          Gassho,
                          Bill
                          [size=150:m8cet5u6]??[/size:m8cet5u6] We are involved in a life that passes understanding and our highest business is our daily life---John Cage

                          Comment

                          • Jundo
                            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                            • Apr 2006
                            • 39459

                            #14
                            Re: Dogen's criticisms of other schools

                            Originally posted by jrh001
                            This sounds like strong criticism of a particular school of Buddhism and I'm wondering how to reconcile that with the attitude of acceptance encouraged by the Sandokai?
                            Well, I just want to say "ditto" to wonderful comments by others above. That happens to be the section of Bendowa I will touch on for the sit-a-long Friday, but basically I will be hitting the same notes expressed on this thread.

                            I might add this: If you look at the history of Zen Buddhism in China and Japan, and of the relationships among schools of Buddhism in general (even from the time of the Buddha) ... teachers frequently would offer criticism of other schools and beliefs, sometimes very passionately. So long as it is constructive criticism, there is no problem, I think.

                            To bring this in line with the Sandokai (which is also a kind of criticism of others, if you think about it) ... One can perfectly see and accept our sameness, and see and accept our differences, yet also often offer strong criticism and comment on what they see as the better course. Depending on the circumstances, one might speak words with power. There are times for silence, times for gentle words, times for direct words. Buddhist teachers (including Zen teachers) of old could be quite biting in their words sometimes.

                            Gassho, Jundo
                            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                            Comment

                            • AlanLa
                              Member
                              • Mar 2008
                              • 1405

                              #15
                              Re: Dogen's criticisms of other schools

                              For me (not that I matter), I don't care what a person's practice is as long as the results are that they engage with the world in a peaceful and constructive way. If this means chanting a sutra for hours on end one evening a week, and that leads to good fellowship and good deeds in the community, then fine. If this means reading the Bible on occasion and leads to good fellowship and good deeds in the community, then fine. If this means sitting visualizing whirled peas,,, well, you get the idea.

                              My point is it is not so much the practice as much as it is the result of the practice. If the point is only to chant or just to read the Bible or just to sit zazen, with no goodness outside of that, then not so fine. Is this what Dogen was criticizing, the result of those other practices? if so, then I (not that I matter) agree with him. Different paths up the same mountain, right?

                              Sorry if this is redundant, because I think it kind of is, so no need to respond. I just felt the need to more directly point out the difference between criticizing someone's practice versus the results of that process. Who are we to criticize a practice of any kind that leads to goodness extending from that practice? if it leads to good works, then more power to ya!
                              AL (Jigen) in:
                              Faith/Trust
                              Courage/Love
                              Awareness/Action!

                              I sat today

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