Buddhist Basics for Zen

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  • Randori
    • Jul 2024

    Buddhist Basics for Zen

    Hi everyone!

    After a month of daily zazen some questions came up for me that don`t have to do with zazen directly but more with the overall buddhist approach according to zen. As far as I have read Zen Buddhism seems to be a certain interpretation of the basic (Theravada) teachings of the Dharma. Right now I am reading "Opening the Hand of Thought" from our reading list. I really like it but I have the feeling (just as with other zen specific books) that the fundamental teachings of Theravada are not described there but knowledge is assumed. What would you consider the basics everybody should know? The four noble truths, the eightfold path, the three marks of existence? What about dependent origination? What would be Mahayana spefic interpretations or added insights that one should know? Don`t get me wrong: I have no doubt in the practice of shikantaza or anything like that, I don`t think that the study of sutras will ease suffering by itsself but I want to know what the thoughts and teachings are that lead to our practice.

    kind regards,
    alex
  • JohnsonCM
    Member
    • Jan 2010
    • 549

    #2
    Re: Buddhist Basics for Zen

    As for the "basics" everyone, I think, should know about the 8 Fold Path, the 4 Truths and have a basic understanding of the Precepts. After that, the rest can help you deepen your practice, but it's probably not really necessary. I actually had a conversation around this in another thread, if I can find it I'll come back and post it. Jundo, Chet, and Stephanie really helped me to see that by looking in all these sutras and esoteric theories and bits of Buddhist philosophy, that I may have been distracting myself from the true flavor of Zen. These things, while interesting and great conversation points to be sure, can't smell lilac's in early summer. They can't feel the sea while swimming in it, while being together with it. They may, as Jundo likes to point out, describe the broad technical differences between vanilla and chocolate, but they can't taste vanilla for you. Buddhist phliosophy probably doesn't know why Mahakashyapa laughed, probably wouldn't get the joke. It was the transmission of all that was beyond words. The point of shikantaza is to return ourselves to our original state, to drop the masks we create and try to fit over reality, and just be with it. Trust me, I know that it's a wierd pill to swallow. I was sure that knowledge of Buddhism would get me to enlightenment, but now I believe that "Understanding" will be a better guide down that path, and that it's a path that never really ends. Never really begins, either, since we're all already there. :wink:
    Gassho,
    "Heitetsu"
    Christopher
    Sat today

    Comment

    • Grizzly
      Member
      • Mar 2010
      • 119

      #3
      Re: Buddhist Basics for Zen

      Hi
      When Buddhism passed through China it was heavily influenced by Daoist philosophy and Zen came to be. That's not saying Zen isn't Buddhism- some Zennies claim it is the original Buddhism that Buddha taught, although thats not an argument that I'd care to get involved in.
      Daoism starts from the Dao that cannot be talked about or thought about. It manifests intself in form through the Yin/Yang (ie world of duality) and further individual forms through the elements. That's not an adequate explanation of Daoism at all as it is a subject thousands of pages have been written about but it is enough for this.
      Theravada comes from the Pali Suttas and these suttas teach the things you mention. The four noble truths are Buddhism but even these simple teachings have different interpretations in different places so please don't just listen to one view but check many different sources and find out for yourself. Dependent Origination is a foundation, and is included within the noble truths if understood, but I personally dont like the formulations and have rewritten them elsewhere for a modern audience. Again you need to read and re-read different views. Even the 3 marks of existence are not universally held to. Thich Nhat Hahn says Dukkha isn't one of them, instead it is Nirvana. if you understand both though this isn't a problem for practice and living.
      My advice would be to read other books to get the full idea rather than relying on one place or one set of opinions.
      Gunaratana's books on the 8 fold path, mindfulness and jhanas are recommended- the first in particular. Also Ajahn Chah's works.
      Personally I think that much Zen is problematic these days. The Theravadin philosophy and practice emphasises being happy here and now, practically ending suffering with many methods that Zen would call relative world things. You wake up feeling sad for example and spend a short tiem being mindful of it. If that doesn't help, instead of just continuing as many Zennies would, you can then seek to evoke a different feeling by replacing the state with a positive one or by doing metta or some other practice. The Theravadins are clear this isn't enlightenment but that by doing so one creates a peaceful and happy set of states from which one can still practice the 'enlightenment' side. It is therefore very practical in outlook and even should one not achieve what they seek you will still have a better life generally (given everything else being equal). Luckily here at treeleaf, despite some things we discuss, the relative fix isn't completely lacking as Jundo and Taigu have adopted the metta and state change practices. Of course ultimately all talk of absolute and relative is just talk which is why I don't have a problem with anything that leads to greater happiness rather than something less practical.
      Where I do have problems with Zen is when things like the following appear: A comment from one Zendo that said that the Zendo wasn't a mental hospital- I think this was in response to a suicide of a long term meditator. While on the surface the statement is true, it is one sided. If someone is severely depressed and we let them just sit there saying just be mindful then we are idiots. We should be helping in all sorts of ways. Firstly by community with love and kindness and support, secondly with these relative world change practices and thirdly, with more serious issues (like this very depressed chap), help to access therapy and mental health services as appropriate. I think those that take Buddhism to be separate from everyday suffering and its ending are possibly in some form of denial and certainly, in my view, poor Buddhists.
      My advice would be to find the practices that suit you, based on the only reason to want to be a Buddhist- the ending of suffering for all beings. This ending of suffering comes from seeing there is nothing to be saved but AT THE SAME TIME involves learning to act selflessly in the world to actually help others now.
      If the world isn't being helped by your prescence in it then practice is no more useful than having a beer and watching a film.
      To sum up, for me there is just Buddhism, Shikantaza with no goal in the now, other practices to change things as and when needed but always love and compassion to practically end others anguish.
      When you help an old lady who has fallen with no thoughts of self or reward then in that moment life is well lived.
      All the best
      Rich

      Comment

      • Jundo
        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
        • Apr 2006
        • 39441

        #4
        Re: Buddhist Basics for Zen

        Originally posted by Randori
        Hi everyone!

        After a month of daily zazen some questions came up for me that don`t have to do with zazen directly but more with the overall buddhist approach according to zen. As far as I have read Zen Buddhism seems to be a certain interpretation of the basic (Theravada) teachings of the Dharma. Right now I am reading "Opening the Hand of Thought" from our reading list. I really like it but I have the feeling (just as with other zen specific books) that the fundamental teachings of Theravada are not described there but knowledge is assumed. What would you consider the basics everybody should know? The four noble truths, the eightfold path, the three marks of existence? What about dependent origination? What would be Mahayana spefic interpretations or added insights that one should know? Don`t get me wrong: I have no doubt in the practice of shikantaza or anything like that, I don`t think that the study of sutras will ease suffering by itsself but I want to know what the thoughts and teachings are that lead to our practice.

        kind regards,
        alex
        Hi Alex,

        We practice Shikantaza as a complete practice. There is nothing lacking from it, nothing that need be added, nothing more to attain. We practice Shikantaza in this way to realize that nothing is lacking from this entire life-self-world, nothing need or can be added to it, there is nothing more to attain in living. When this can be fully realized, the barriers between a limited self and the whole world tumble down. However, the moment one thinks that they must 'do something to improve' their Shikantaza in order to someday attain a goal ... the further they are from that goal. If you think something is lacking ... it will be.

        There is nothing to improve Shikantaza ... even as we seek to practice it sincerely and diligently. Sorry to be such a "hard ass" about Shikantaza, but its "completeness" becomes a kind of "self fulfilling proposition".

        For that reason, one should never lose Shikantaza as the one and only truly necessary Practice. While we may do some other things to support and express Shikantaza, and to nourish a balanced life-self-world, such as living by the Precepts or a bit of Loving Kindness practice, they are merely side dishes to the central feast of Shikantaza, all expressions of Shikantaza (which cannot possibly be seen as lacking ... for then you will cause lack).

        Now, our way of Shikantaza is based on the same fundamental Buddhist teachings as all of Buddhism (although interpretations will vary, even among Zen folks). Those basics include the Four Noble Truths, Dukkha and the Eightfold Path, Non-Self, Impermanence, Dependent Co-Origination, Non-Attachment, the "Middle Way" and many more such as Emptiness (a more Mahayana teaching). I am offering an interpretation now on the "sit-a-longs" in a series called "Buddha-Basics" ....

        http://www.shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?s=buddha-basics

        As you practice for awhile, you will find out for yourself where each fits in. Study and wide reading on basic Buddhist philosophy is very important. The point, however, is not to lose the central wholeness of Shikantaza, which is the main medicine for Dukkha.

        By the way, I would hesitate to call "Theravadan" Buddhism more "Basic" or "Original" Buddhism than the Mahayana teachings. The reason is merely that all of us are 2500 years "down the road" from old Gautama Buddha. Though many folks have an image of "Theravadan" Buddhism as being "original", the truth is that it is also the product of centuries of evolution and doctrinal developments. I often write this when that subject comes up ...

        [O]ne thing for folks to remember is that Buddhism did change and evolve over many centuries, as it passed from culture to culture in Asia. The Buddha lived 2500 years ago in ancient India, whereupon the philosophy passed to China 1000 years later, and then to someone like Master Dogen who lived about 1000 years after that in medieval Japan. You and I live in the strange world known as the 21st century. Certainly, some changes arose along the way in some important interpretations and outer forms. For example, the Chinese made Zen Practice very Chinese, the Japanese very medieval Japanese, and now we are making it very Western.

        However, the Heart of the Buddha's teachings ... the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, Non-Self, Non-Attachment, the Middle Way, etc. etc., ... All are here now as much as there then!!

        How?

        On the one hand some outer stuff is, well, changed. For example, when Buddhism came to China it was heavily influenced by, and pretty much merged with, Taoism (not to mention that it was already "Mahayana Buddhism" by that time, a very different flavor from the original). The result was this little thing we now call "Zen Buddhism". So, congratulations, we are already "Taoists" and "Mahayana Buddhists" ... not just "Buddhists". When it got to Japan, the Japanese added Japanese culture to it. In the West, we are now making some very good changes (although we have to, of course, try to avoid bad changes). These good changes include equality of the sexes and a greater emphasis on lay practice.

        But it is still Buddhism. What Dogen taught was Buddhism. What we do around Treeleaf (I do believe) is as Buddhism as Buddhism can be.

        I will even go so far as to say (and this is the kind of statement that has gotten me into all kinds of trouble on with some folks in Buddhism's own fundamentalist quarters) that maybe, just maybe, later Buddhism actually made some big and important "improvements" to the Buddha's original formulation with all those additions, and a couple of thousand years of working out the kinks and bugs. It is much like saying that Buddha was Henry Ford, who first thought up the brilliant idea of sticking 4 wheels on an internal combustion engine, but now we can drive a Prius! I even say that maybe, just maybe, the Buddha was not infallible on every darn thing. Not on the vital heart of the teachings, mind you. But while he was 90% right in his proposals, he maybe also had some klunkers and narrow ideas here and there (as fits a man who lived in a traditional, myth based society some 2500 years ago in ancient India) ... like the whole thing about an overly mechanical view of rebirth, the place of women, the need to abandon the world and family in order to Practice and to repress or extinquish (as opposed to moderate & balance & pierce) the desires and emotions. ...

        Dogen was different from Shakyamuni Buddha, who are both different from all of us.

        But when we are sitting a moment of Zazen ... perfectly whole, just complete unto itself, without borders and duration, not long or short, nothing to add or take away, containing all moments and no moments in "this one moment" ... piercing Dukkha, attaining non-self, non-attached ... then there is not the slightest gap between each of us and the Buddha.
        Give yourself time, Alex, to see how all fits into Practice, including traditional aspects of Buddhist philosophy.

        Gassho, Jundo
        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

        Comment

        • JohnsonCM
          Member
          • Jan 2010
          • 549

          #5
          Re: Buddhist Basics for Zen

          Where I do have problems with Zen is when things like the following appear: A comment from one Zendo that said that the Zendo wasn't a mental hospital- I think this was in response to a suicide of a long term meditator. While on the surface the statement is true, it is one sided. If someone is severely depressed and we let them just sit there saying just be mindful then we are idiots. We should be helping in all sorts of ways. Firstly by community with love and kindness and support, secondly with these relative world change practices and thirdly, with more serious issues (like this very depressed chap), help to access therapy and mental health services as appropriate. I think those that take Buddhism to be separate from everyday suffering and its ending are possibly in some form of denial and certainly, in my view, poor Buddhists.
          I think that it is important to remember here that there are sometimes differences between Zev Buddhism and Zen Buddhists. This can sometimes be a difficult thing in the practice, because you will sometimes need to weed out the personal views of the practicioner from the Right View of realization.
          Gassho,
          "Heitetsu"
          Christopher
          Sat today

          Comment

          • disastermouse

            #6
            Re: Buddhist Basics for Zen

            Originally posted by Jundo
            However, the moment one thinks that they must 'do something to improve' their Shikantaza in order to someday attain a goal ... the further they are from that goal. If you think something is lacking ... it will be.
            I just quoted you again here for emphasis, mainly.

            *gassho*

            Chet

            Comment

            • Rich
              Member
              • Apr 2009
              • 2601

              #7
              Re: Buddhist Basics for Zen

              Originally posted by Grizzly
              When you help an old lady who has fallen with no thoughts of self or reward then in that moment life is well lived.
              All the best
              Rich
              I've noticed the older I get the more people are willing to help. That's cool.

              AS you settle into practice you'll need ideas about buddhism less and less.

              But I still enjoy a good buddhist talk or book. It's like a pregame or between period pep talk

              /Rich
              _/_
              Rich
              MUHYO
              無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

              https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

              Comment

              • Grizzly
                Member
                • Mar 2010
                • 119

                #8
                Re: Buddhist Basics for Zen

                Hi Rich



                Rich

                Comment

                • Randori

                  #9
                  Re: Buddhist Basics for Zen

                  Hi!

                  First of all, I want to thank all of you for all the really good input! Now to the point of some of my confusion:

                  Originally posted by Jundo
                  Study and wide reading on basic Buddhist philosophy is very important.
                  After all you said in your post: Why is it important in your opinion?
                  Initially I was drawn to buddhist thought because it made a lot of sense to me. I feel a hole in my life, I never seem to be truly happy, the first noble truth tells me I´m not alone. The second to fourth noble truth tell me why, that there is a possibility to be at ease and what to do about it. The "what" is then specified in the eightfold path. Everything seems pretty logical. The Zen books I read (Shunryu Suzuki, Joko Beck etc.) don`t really mention these concepts, they are mainly about sitting. I really do think that Shikantaza practice is a complete practice and I do sit every day but don`t you think it would help to know where this came from? Maybe I´m just too much fixated on structure. Again, this has nothing to do with thinking that shikantaza lacks something but I have the feeling that it is like a conclusion I am accepting without really knowing how it came about. Instinctively I think Shikantaza is the right thing.

                  Originally posted by Jundo
                  Give yourself time, Alex, to see how all fits into Practice, including traditional aspects of Buddhist philosophy.
                  *Sigh* This is waht my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Teacher always tells me. There seems to be a pattern. :wink:

                  P.S.: What does Uchiyama Roshi mean when he is talking about the "Fourth Seal" on p. 7 of "Opening the hand of thought"? The first three seem to be the marks of existence, but I never heard of Nirvana as a forth seal.

                  all the best,
                  alex

                  Comment

                  • Hans
                    Member
                    • Mar 2007
                    • 1853

                    #10
                    Re: Buddhist Basics for Zen

                    Dear Alex,

                    please allow me to throw in my two cents. As far as I know, the four seals developed out of the three marks of existence and do indeed include Nirvana: "Nirvana is beyond concepts"...according to one translation.

                    Btw. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse uses the four seals in his rather fun to read book "What makes you not a Buddhist" in order to make a point of what might be a kind of smallest common denominator between most Buddhist schools and to show some of the major misconceptions some people have about Buddhism:

                    http://books.google.de/books?id=2gQm0mv ... &q&f=false

                    You asked why studying basic philosophy is deemded important? In my own view, there is of course a great danger in over-intellectualising profound general principles- 2500 years of Buddhism have led to countless commentaries commenting on the commentary of some commentator.

                    On the other side of the knife edge however lies an over-simplification of the subject matter. If we are to believe in the message of some of the earliest suttas, then Shakyamuni Buddha was at first very reluctant to teach the Dharma he rediscovered....because he deemed it too difficult for most people's ears...a God had to talk him into spreading it first...whether you believe in Gods or not, you will surely appreciate the information that the Buddha had serious doubts at first, whether anyone would want/ or would be capable of listening and understanding.

                    Right view is the number one in the list of the Noble eightfold path. Ignorance, the abscence of right view, is number one in the chain of interdependent origination (although there is no start-point to it...but that's another topic)....just to underline the importance.

                    In order to cultivate right view, one must study, understand and recognize the Dharma. If sitting alone without any instruction would lead to the highest understanding of things as they are (although ultimately there is no high and low), frogs and office workers with good chairs would surely have attained and realized perfect-unequalled enlightenment a long time ago. In order to be able to "just sit" in a Buddhist sense, one needs to be able to understand the "fingers pointing at the moon", first with your head, then with your gut, and later on as not detached from anything arising in this world.

                    To get personal for a second: Although I am only a lazy heavy-metal fan and a great lover of good apple pies, the actual "study part" of dharma practice has been at times confusing, irritating and ultimately extremely rewarding. Sometimes all of those things at the same time. There is no point in stuffing oneself with books and talks to the point where one might suffer from spiritual-indigestion, but there are different approaches to sitting with your legs crossed with a straight spine. Many paths up the same mountain doesn't mean all the paths are the same. Vedanta is not wellness yoga is not Vipassana is not Shikantaza.

                    Remember those magic-eye 3-D books? Without anyone telling you how to look at them the "correct, non-ignorant way", you could sit and sit and stare at them for aeons without results. The explanations telling you how to use it...that's the intellectual side of dharma study. Whether you like it or not...I personally think that in order to discard something (or parts of it) one needs to know it beforehand. Even getting a superficial understanding of Buddhist philosophy (as it relates to practice) takes years of dedicated study.



                    Gassho,

                    Hans

                    Comment

                    • Grizzly
                      Member
                      • Mar 2010
                      • 119

                      #11
                      Re: Buddhist Basics for Zen

                      Hi Alex

                      Your jujutsu teacher and Jundo are right and so are you- sounds like a pattern indeed. I practiced the martial arts for 25 years and constantly discovered new things. You have to put the work in to discover these things yourself, otherwise they are always 'not yours'. Its no use knowing a theory of attack avoidance if you haven't discovered for yourself where it works, when it doesn't, how it can be made better/worse etc. The day you are walking home and get rushed by the thug is the day you show whether you've learnt or not and that only comes from hard training on the mat and outside. See the parallels?

                      I can't speak for anyone else but confusion has been part of my path- moments of clarity and moments of confusion. This is why I like Seung Sahn and Ajahn Chah- 'keep dont know mind' and 'just do it' and............

                      The only person that can find whats right for your life is you. I am not convinced personally of some of the seeming conflicts between Soto and Theravada or whether Soto is completely right as its taught as you will see if you read my threads. However, despite strong discussion its a good place to be here as we can talk about all these things without throwing others out of our hearts and we all are subscribing to the wanting happiness and no suffering for each other. In that sense especially I thank Jundo for not being a heavy handed moderator and I also thank Chet, Stephanie and others who risk posting their views and being disagreed with and making mistakes ( a risk for me too in posting but part of being transparent and open, even if people don't like what I say). This way of openess allows us to find our own path and as long as we think about what others say and not get caught in thinking we are necessarily right in our positions we discover things over time perhaps that are useful. The final expert on how you live though will always be you and the fruits of your life will show you how that is going, although we must maintain compassion for those who are stuck in patterns or situations whereby they haven't got that chance and hopefully help to alleviate that too

                      Rich

                      Comment

                      • Jundo
                        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                        • Apr 2006
                        • 39441

                        #12
                        Re: Buddhist Basics for Zen

                        Originally posted by Randori
                        Originally posted by Jundo
                        Study and wide reading on basic Buddhist philosophy is very important.
                        After all you said in your post: Why is it important in your opinion?
                        Hi again,

                        I usually put it this way ...

                        Zazen is clay, the teachings of Buddhism a potter's hands.

                        Our Zazen is goalless, formless, with no place to get ... but that does not mean it should be aimless, shapeless and adrift. ... Zazen is a formless practice, without goal ... but that does not mean it can take any form, or head in any direction. Zazen is a clay, and without guiding hands and molding ... the Buddha's philosophy and insights, the guidance of an experienced teacher and fellow practioners ... there is a good chance that the clay will crack on baking, or fail to reach its full potential. ... If you do not absorb some Buddhist history and philosophy hand-in-hand with the Zazen, then Practice ... and Zazen ... can turn into wet mush.
                        I think that all Zen teachers I have encountered talk about the "basics" of Buddhist philosophy such as the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold path. However, some of us are of few words, and more about action. Others who do talk have so many subjects to talk about, that we cannot limit ourselves to only a few subjects! 8)

                        In all seriousness, the relationship between "Zazen" and "Enlightenment" and Buddhist "Sutras and Philosophy" has been a strange one. On the one hand, the more extreme of Zen folks throughout history taught that ... if one merely sat Zazen and became enlightened ... all the Buddhist teachings would be instantly known. So, burn the books! (The fellows who said this, however, had almost all conducted many years of study of those same books, and already had them "internalized" by that point).

                        In reality, most Zen folks throughout history were not quite so extreme, although agreeing that the point is not to be trapped by the words. One must not get caught in wheel spinning, armchair philosophizing, "angels on the head of a pin" arguments, self-created debate, hair splitting, imagined "categories" and artificial distinctions and the like (some of which we see on this Forum from time to time, unfortunately, and despite my best efforts to pour cold water on that) ... but rather, one must bring the Teachings to life via Zazen, put them into practice, while allowing the Teachings to guide one's Zazen. I am in that camp, as are almost all Zen teachers, past and present, whom I know of.

                        You will learn a bit more about Buddhist history and philosophy as you read this and that. Take one's time, and no rush. But in the all along, just keep sitting! In fact, that's the central show. It is like the difference between swimming and feeling the water for oneself, and reading books (although they have their uses and place) about how to swim and poetry about the feel of water.

                        Gassho, J
                        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                        Comment

                        • Tb
                          Member
                          • Jan 2008
                          • 3186

                          #13
                          Re: Buddhist Basics for Zen

                          Hi.

                          When i read/hear of these questions, i always think of buddhas words (said in a spooky voice) "Remember what i declared to be declared and what i did not declare to be not declared".
                          The same goes for this thread, in some manner.
                          He always spoke of the four noble truths and the eight fold path, some sutras put some extra things in but those are always present.
                          There is a lot of concepts and words floating around in the "buddhistdominion", but they are there because they meant something to those that used them.
                          That doesn't mean they have to for you.
                          The Buddha also said, that you should not rely on any other's opinion asf., but rely only on what you yourself had found out.
                          Take the raftanalogy.
                          You need the raft as long as you are on the river.
                          When you get to the shore, if you don't need it anymore, you leave it there.
                          Books and teachers are all good and maybe even necessary, but you must find out for yourself what IT/THIS is.
                          Also, there is no better place than here or no better time than now to do it... :twisted:
                          No way around it.

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

                          Comment

                          • Jinyu
                            Member
                            • May 2009
                            • 768

                            #14
                            Re: Buddhist Basics for Zen

                            Originally posted by Hans
                            In order to cultivate right view, one must study, understand and recognize the Dharma. If sitting alone without any instruction would lead to the highest understanding of things as they are (although ultimately there is no high and low), frogs and office workers with good chairs would surely have attained and realized perfect-unequalled enlightenment a long time ago.
                            :mrgreen:

                            Originally posted by Fugen
                            When i read/hear of these questions, i always think of buddhas words (said in a spooky voice) "Remember what i declared to be declared and what i did not declare to be not declared".
                            The same goes for this thread, in some manner.
                            Hi everyone,
                            I just want to thank you all for this thread and I wanted to point some phrases ...

                            gassho,
                            Luis
                            Jinyu aka Luis aka Silly guy from Brussels

                            Comment

                            • Jundo
                              Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                              • Apr 2006
                              • 39441

                              #15
                              Re: Buddhist Basics for Zen

                              Hi,

                              Let me also add that, by my eyes, most Buddhist Teachings and their basic philosophy are surprisingly simple and elegant at heart. (I try to convey that simplicity and elegance in how the Teachings are presented here.)

                              Take, for example, the basic sweetness and goodness of an apple on one's tongue. If, however, one then has untold hundreds and thousands of overly intelligent "apple philosophers" wax and polish their fruity "philosophies of apple eating" for 2500 years, one will end up with a library filled with countless books ... often taking radically different viewpoints ... analyzing "apples" "sweetness" "goodness" and "tongue" all to pieces (resulting in some pretty rotten apples sometimes) 8)

                              Well, this Zazen practice must also be tasted on "one's own tongue" (although we often say things like "tasted with the eyes and seen with the ears") ... the proof is in the pudding (apple sauce?).

                              Actually, this practice is a little more complex than "apple eating" ... and is more like cooking apple pie (sometimes like "nailing apple pie filling to the wall"). So, the "tips" and guidance and general recipes of some simple cook books and experienced cooks are very useful. However, in the end, you must still do your own baking and tasting.

                              Some of the philosophy and teachings are very valuable and even indispensible, many aspects not so useful. But amid the bushels and bushels of bad or "so so" apples a few Golden Delicious will be found. Keep on tasting!

                              Now, one last point ...

                              Even though I do say that the "basic Buddhist teachings" are very simple and elegant ... I do not recommend that one merely turn back to the old Sutta books. First off, none of them was written or written down until hundreds of years after the Buddha died. So, no one is very sure that they actually convey the "original teachings of the Buddha" as opposed to various interpretations and additions which developed over those hundreds of years. Second, I really do believe that Mahayana, Chan/Zen and Soto Practice made some important and beautiful tweeks and improvements on the original formulations (making this practice more about life in "this life" and rather less about lives in any coming lives, for example ... there are many others). Of course, when I say "improvements" ... well, I am still a "many roads up the mountain" fellow, so to each his/her own. Everyone needs to find the practice which suits them. Granted, as a Mahayana Soto Zen teacher ... I am a bit biased!

                              Anyway, bottom line ... and though interpretations will vary (as in all things) and you have to find eventually your own "Truths" (we call that "killing the Buddha")... this whole practice is still about the "Noble Truths", Dukkha and its cure, Impermanence & Non-self, Dependent Co-origination and the like (all really different faces of the same thing, by the way).

                              Don't "kill the Buddha" too fast (many folks rush off to make their own apple pies without really reading the cook book or finishing the cooking lesson ... folks these days are so impatient!). Give it time, keep your ears and eyes open for now. Listen to the chef (me). 8) Be an apprentice in the kitchen for a few shorts years, perhaps, and then you can have your own bakery! In no time at all, you will be ready for your own solo efforts at pie making!

                              You already have your own inner Apple Pie. Truly, you are the Apple Pie Baking & Eating Apple Pie. I hope you just find how to taste that fact with your ears. :wink:

                              Gassho, J
                              ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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