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  • ghop
    Member
    • Jan 2010
    • 438

    Help

    Ugh! Why am I posting this? Because I need help, duh...

    How do you "keep going forward" in zazen when all you
    seem to get, day in, day out, are the clouds, just dark,
    heavy clouds, and NO BLUE SKY!!!???

    My wife and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary
    last weekend and we stayed at a "Bed and Breakfast." Well,
    it was a beautiful place. It overlooked a lake where we swam,
    got a sunset ride on a boat, laid together in a hammock between
    trees, did "the deed" ops: in a luxurious bed, and was fed a
    breakfast that would challenge a cook for the king. It was a
    wonderful experience. But the owner was a Baptist minister. He
    didn't say anything about it. But that night, in the "commnity room,"
    I noticed alot of his books dealt with ministry and Protestant
    theology. I picked up a few volumes of Martin Luther and some others
    and read some stuff that I thought I had tucked away in the "dark
    backward" of my mind. It got me remembering my past issues with
    all this stuff. I know a Buddhist forum isn't the greatest place to talk
    about this stuff, but it has brought up alot of issues (that I thought
    were no longer issues) and these seem to be disrupting my practice.
    Before, I felt no conflict between the two worlds. Even was proud
    to think of myself as a Zen Baptist. I know, that's kinda like calling
    myself an "aristocratic redneck." But now when I sit I spend the
    entire time doubting myself, doubting my practice, and doubting my
    motives for practicing. I know the entire conflict has its home in
    my thoughts, but thoughts can be powerful things. I don't know
    what I'm asking or looking for...just some words of wisdom and
    encouragement. Anything you've got will help. Thanks for listening.

    gassho
    Greg
  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39065

    #2
    Re: Help

    Hi Greg,

    This is a great place to talk about such things, assuming you want to do so.

    Whenever you work out what you need to work out with your Christian self, Zen practice is still here and not changed a bit ... at least from this side of the dance. If you want to feel like you are sitting with "Reality" or "Buddha" or "the Universe" or "One's True Face" or "Mind" or "God" or "Jesus" ... same sitting. Just sit. Who is to say really where one ends and the others begin?

    Anyway, it is good to wrestle with these issues from time to time.

    And congratulations on your anniversary.

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    Comment

    • Dosho
      Member
      • Jun 2008
      • 5784

      #3
      Re: Help

      Hey Greg,

      I probably can't offer much help as I came to Zen without any prior religious ties, growing up as an agnostic. That isn't to say that I didn't grow up without any knowledge of religion since my father taught the subject and discussed it plenty. I've seen many people come through here struggle with the integration of Zen with other religions and I can sense their pain. All I can really say is that the ups and downs are a part of it and that the only thing you can do is keep sitting. The blue sky will emerge eventually, just not when you want it to...and that's point really. That sounds cryptic but in my experience it is the truth.

      I'm sure you will find many willing to discuss it here, so I wouldn't say this is the wrong place at all. Perhaps those with religious backgrounds similar to yours can be of more help. I just thought I'd offer my support. Hang in there.

      Gassho,
      Dosho

      Comment

      • Taylor
        Member
        • May 2010
        • 388

        #4
        Re: Help

        No explanations needed, Greg. I know little about Christianity, I own a copy of the jefferson bible (Jefferson just stuck to the teachings of Christ, left out all the miracles, rather Zen, eh? )and the KJV but haven't really delved in. Obviously Zen has touched you deeply or you wouldn't even bother to post about your dilemma. The fact is, I feel, that we, all of us, are fundamentally "Zen", some of us just wake up to the fact that practice is Buddha and there is a practice to do. Baptist Buddha, Catholic Buddha, Hindu, Muslim, all buddha all the time! Some people just don't know it, i guess :P

        As far as I can tell, you have awakened to the fact that there is a way off this wheel of grasping and suffering, so really, where is there to go? Theology will probably never stop pointing fingers at who is right and who is wrong, humans are self-centered a good period of the time. What matters is YOU. Conflict will arise no matter what, it may be religious, or it may be personal (family business when I should sit, etc...) just another scene in the grand movie of your life and of your zazen.

        As far as the clouds are concerned, who cares? I don't know if I've ever "had" a blue sky moment, sure my mind is calmer sometimes, but the second the thought "ahhhhh! BLUE SK......." arises then there's "cloud....." I personally like watching my clouds now a days. They come in all kinds of interesting shapes and content :mrgreen: Striving for that blue sky is only a darker, harder to see through cloud. Strive to watch your thoughts.

        Just be Greg! You were born Greg and you shall be Greg, clouds, concerns, or not, you can be sure of that. Hope this helped a bit

        Gassho
        Taylor
        Gassho,
        Myoken
        [url:r05q3pze]http://staresatwalls.blogspot.com/[/url:r05q3pze]

        Comment

        • Hans
          Member
          • Mar 2007
          • 1853

          #5
          Re: Help

          Hi Greg,

          although I personally (I was raised as a catholic) could never understand how one can practise Christianity and Buddhism at the same time (although I can see how that could work in a Pure Land School kinda way...) without stretching both definitions to a degree of them both becoming almost meaningless...I know quite a few very wise people did, so I would suggest maybe a) reading stuff by people like Enomiya-Lasalle, Willigis Jaeger (don't know if his stuff has been translated), David Steindl-Rast....and/getting in touch with people here on the forum and/or at other Zen places where they use Zazen as part of a Christian contemplative approach. I never read Thich Nhat Hanh's "Living buddha , Living Christ", but some people rather seem to like it.

          From my experience, some of the mental hardship involved when one feels somehow "between two chairs" has to do with the social aspect...in the sense that one is so used to attend certain services, see certain people in a particular religious setting, do stuff together in the context of religion etc. It is just pretty hard when that suddenly changes. I was pretty involved in a particular branch of modern day Heathenism for quite a few years....most of my dearest and best friends consider themselves Heathens still...but the time between my taking up Buddhist practice and really "coming out" as a Buddhist was pretty hard, in my mind that is. I was lucky enough that all my friends supported me and just wished me the best on my path. That was true religious tolerance in action. For years I really kept myself away from "the scene", because I needed clarity...nowadays it wouldn't be a problem anymore, because I feel secure within what I practise....but the "in between" time can be really hard. That's all Iw ant to say. Give yourself time for questions to settle and answers to arise naturally.

          Gassho,

          Hans

          Comment

          • Fuken
            Member
            • Sep 2006
            • 435

            #6
            Re: Help

            Greg,
            I think that great doubt, coupled with great faith, (and great effort) is an important part of this practice.

            Or as Hakuin said:
            Great Faith. Great Doubt. Great Effort. -The three qualities necessary for training.

            Should you desire great tranquility, prepare to sweat white beads. -Hakuin
            Along the way you may come to find that you remove all doubt, and also the need for faith.
            Then you may come to have doubts again, and again find your faith. It can tend to be cyclic... But the idea might just be to recognise that cycle as just a cycle, then jump on and ride!

            I have been observing this tendency in myself, and those others that have had the courage to write openly about their practice for quite some time.
            And while the experience of others may be different, know that there are also plenty of folks who go through similar dark periods.

            I thank you for sharing and persevere brightly!
            Yours in practice,
            Jordan ("Fu Ken" translates to "Wind Sword", Dharma name givin to me by Jundo, I am so glad he did not name me Wind bag.)

            Comment

            • Stephanie

              #7
              Re: Help

              How much do you want to wake up, Greg?

              How much are you willing to put on the line?

              Are you willing to give up every last one of your cherished beliefs, to throw "Baptist," and all the baggage that comes with it, out the window? And "Buddhist"?

              Chet used to say to me a lot, "Reality doesn't care what you believe." It doesn't care whether you believe there is a God or isn't a God, whether you think this is compatible with that, or whether it's hard for you to let go of certain things you desperately clung to.

              I can guarantee you that it's your cherished beliefs that are dragging all those heavy clouds along so that every time you look up those are what you see. No amount of worldly pleasure or well-meaning self-justification of what you believe is going to make you happy. If all Zen is, is a way to accessorize your mental space, it will never come alive in your life, and you will go on with this terrible struggle.

              There's part of you that is terrified to examine, much less give up, your old religious belief system. All the people who put all that stuff in your head made sure of it--that you will fear fiery hell and exile from God if you step one toe out of the line of dogma. And if you're not ready to examine or give up those beliefs, then stop toying with Zen, because sincere practice will slowly gnaw away at them. But if you want to be free, you have to be willing to endure the terror of your mental castles crumbling all around you. In the end, it seems so... ridiculous, because none of this stuff was ever real in the first place. You were desperately holding on to a branch two feet off the floor. Just let go.

              The problem in my opinion with trying to mix Zen practice and other religions is that sincere Zen practice requires you to go into your personal Museum of Belief with a hammer. If you can get to a place where you are experiencing "Christianity without belief"--as I believe some have done--where you are living intimately within the heart of Jesus, that's one thing... but to whatever extent your personal faith or religion is built with the brick of belief--which, as someone heavily inundated with Baptist culture growing up, I can say is the case with any form of Baptist Christianity I've ever come in contact with--be careful. The extent to which you insist on holding on to all that stuff is the extent you will stay blocked in this struggle between the part of you that wants to wake up, and the part of you that wants to remain nestled in the cocoon of comforting belief. And if you don't want to wake up... drop the Zen!

              Comment

              • Govert
                Member
                • Aug 2009
                • 95

                #8
                Re: Help

                Hi Greg,

                I would like to say a few words as from my experience, I was raised Catholic and I went to Catholic school and was obliged by my parents to follow the Catholic path. At 15 I renounced completely. Because of my occupation I saw a lot of misery, crime, death ( like the Siddartha story in a way ), and I thought to go back to my Catholic roots, but got disappointed in a way that it made me dependant and I did not saw any difference with what I felt when I said the faith goodbye. Then I started experimenting with eastern philisophy and ended up with Zen as for me it felt a liberation and especially the fact that you take on your life yourself and not by any other deity who is out there to protect. It just felt ok although I have doubts about it, whether or not to sit, to stay, to continue. But now that I look at the message and not at the institutionalised religion I found many inspirations and sometimes it feels like now I discover true wordings ( what is true is difficult to say), in the Bible or in many other religious works ( like in sufism, quakers,... ). That doesn't make me an adept of any of these religions, I just am open to the message and let me inspire by sometimes people who express themselves as being part of a religion. I also intend now to be open for the Old Catholic church as it doesn't has the negative image I have of the church, as my daughter wants to be more involved in the Catholic faith, I propose her this church as it encourages womens' ordination, married priesthood, progressive thinking and so on. I also sense the fact that wanting to belong to a certain social group, is a natural human desire, and since the more predominant religions are aimed at trying to get as much people attached to their religions, my tendency is to get away from those people who are trying to win a soul. I also had the experience "belonging" to a zen group. The fact that the people in the zen group where not so demanding and "intrusive" made me stay, as I felt I could be there like I was, sometimes after a sesshin there was the feeling that I wanted to stay because it felt so secure and I felt being part of a group, in other occassion I felt bad because the group was less "good" as the others. At the moment you feel either happy or sad, after while I realised these were attachments or rejections to a particular situation in which I depended so much on the atmosphere of the group and of others, without considering my own contribution. As the story goes you have to get back to the marketplace and live your life. I think attachments can arise in any group or religion. I think Zen and sitting practice helps me to be more in the world and appreciate all good things that come ( including the holidays,... )

                Hope this helps ,

                Gassho

                Ensho

                Comment

                • Risho
                  Member
                  • May 2010
                  • 3179

                  #9
                  Re: Help

                  Sorry man, you're going to hell. kidding

                  I'm glad you brought this up. I consider myself a Zen Christian. Now, mind you, I don't go to church, but I've always had a Christian faith. I suppose a lot has to do with my upbringing. To me, Zen has brought me closer to understanding Christ's words. In fact, I've been thinking about re-reading the 4 books with Christ in it (non-apocryphal although I really want to read the Book of St. Thomas ) to see what I add when I read those books. I mean what is the translation saying, and what assumptions do I make.

                  Now, in my head, it's like oh if you don't do this you're going to hell, but I have a feeling that's my ego trying to immortalize itself, and I'm not certain that Jesus put it quite that way. I don't remember him talking about God as a dude sitting in a chair with a white beard, etc. But for some reason it took me a long time to get past that archetype; perhaps that feeling of needing an authority figure is an ingrained piece of our psyche or something.

                  The last time I read Matthew a couple months back after starting down the path to Zen, it seemed to have a new flavor.

                  My thing is this that I let old habitual fears imprison me. It's a daily struggle. One of those has to do with my faith. Am I following Zen to search for something different, to feel special? Or is this legitimate to me. Of course, I'm leaning toward this being a path for me, and I legitimize it by practice. But those doubts creep back up... But that's what I love about Zen; zazen is the place to just be here now... and no matter where you are in your head you must always be here now eventually.

                  The only way to answer those questions is to face them. I'm not sure if they have an answer, but no matter which way I go, I know they will always be there, and so far Zen has really helped me to take a path to face reality and to recognize old habits that need to be discarded.
                  Email: risho.treeleaf@gmail.com

                  Comment

                  • monkton
                    Member
                    • Feb 2009
                    • 111

                    #10
                    Re: Help

                    Hi Ghop,

                    First off - Happy Anniversary!

                    I think a lot of us here do a bit of religious shopping around before settling down, and sometimes that 'settling' involves realising that there's no need to settle into any one particular form.

                    I amble between here and Quakerism, which admittedly is a far cry from the American Baptist church as I've seen it on some religious tv networks, but sometimes I'm aware of conflicts or paradoxes of doing so and then I just sit with the paradox. A lot of churches aren't very good at allowing paradox, but Jesus was - look up the parable of the wheat and tares for example, Matthew 13 - ish. Learn to live with both things, don't throw the holy baby out with the bathwater.

                    For myself, I don't try to resolve both into some sort of private synthesis, it just feels unnecessary to me (and too difficult for me as a non-theologist in any tradition). I think that would be doing both traditions a disservice. They are what they are, and when I'm sitting, I'm sitting, and when I'm in Meeting I'm in Meeting. I can't do both and I don't feel the need to.

                    It might be worth looking at your doubts a bit more closely. Are you afraid of 'backing the wrong horse' with the result you either waste your time or get chucked into hell?, afraid of not being able to explain logically to someone else how you can resolve the two traditions? worried about what 'others' might say? If you go into these sorts of questions openly, honestly feel the shape of the issues for yourself and don't shy away from them it might help to deepen your understanding in both traditions.

                    Just to finish - (and to 'balance' the biblical reference!) - I dug up a quote from the Vimalakirti Sutra 8, talking about different activities of a bodhisattva:

                    "He becomes a monk in all different religions of the world so that he might free others from delusion and save them from falling into false views."
                    So, if becoming a Baptist is good enough for a bodhisattva, it can be good enough for you too. The doctrine isn't that important if that's something that we find ourselves clinging to and clinging = the cause of suffering in both the Four Noble Truths and the 'consider the lilies of the field' talk. The compassion that you show in whatever you do, in whatever mode you happen to be in must be the important thing.

                    Quakers are always quoting the last bit of 'The Epistle of the Elders of Balby (which I think in turn is quoting something from St Peter) - it's urging the Meetings to look at their advice and follow the spirit of it rather than making it a doctrine in itself: it's to be followed, "not in the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life."

                    Enjoy all of your practice,

                    gassho,
                    Monkton

                    Comment

                    • Jaana
                      Member
                      • Jun 2010
                      • 39

                      #11
                      Re: Help

                      I'm not a Christian myself so you might as well ignore all I say. But.

                      Stephanie quoted the "reality does not care what you believe" thing, which is true.

                      But I think if God exists, and if He is worth us putting faith in, then He does not much care how you practice, either. There's nothing much in the Bible (I think?) about meditation, pro or contra, but on the other hand there's a lot if it in various Christian traditions. Call it silent prayer or call it zen or just sitting... I do not think the practice of sitting still has much to do with your Christian faith or lack there-of. I cannot see, if you have doubts about your Christian faith, they can be because of zazen. Zazen has nothing in it that can cause a lack of faith -- unless that lack of faith was there to begin with, and zazen merely brings it to your mind. (Neither is there anything that I can see in Baptist religion that can in itself cause a doubt in zazen, for that matter.)

                      Comment

                      • JohnsonCM
                        Member
                        • Jan 2010
                        • 549

                        #12
                        Re: Help

                        Well, I know a bit about religion, I like to study them because they interest me very much. What I would say is this:

                        First, do a little looking in to things. I say this not because I doubt the validity of any religion, but rather like all things, the bits and pieces are subject to human error. Enough errors and the whole view changes. An example, the passage in the Bible (KJV) says, "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." was, in the original Hebrew, "thou shalt not suffer a poisoner to live." This small translation error is responsible for much of the Spanish Inquisition and Salem Witch Trials. Go to the source, as much as you can, and if it makes sense to you, follow it. Many dispute the validity of the Gnostic Bible, but I wonder if it is not the most accurate record of the teachings of Christ. One particular passage said, "you will not find me in houses made of brick or stone, but in the hearts of men."
                        Second, your chosen religion need not be in conflict with your practice. It seems to me that you might believe that you are not being faithful to your Baptist roots, but what is the purpose of this religion? To know God, live well, and love others, correct? Suzuki Roshi calls it the Source and says that it is beyond our understanding, not that there is no God, but simply that, in honest truth, we do not know God's shape, form and breadth. Deshimaru Roshi says that meditation is the foundation of all religion, and that much of religion is decoration, knowing the rites, speaking the proper words, but that we must cut away the excess and find the essence of true religion. For you, since you have a Baptist foundation, ask yourself this: Is my Zen practice at odds with my religion? If you are unsure of certain aspects, ask and learn. But in truth I think it is like this:

                        Once a university student on his visit to Gasan asked him : " Have you ever gone through the Christian Bible?"


                        Gasan said : " No read it to me"


                        The student immediately started reading out from St.Matthew : "And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lillies of the field, how they grow. They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for things of itself."

                        On hearing, Gasan said "Whosoever uttered these words, I considered him an enlightened man"

                        The student went on to read further, "Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened."

                        Gasan remarked : " Excellent. Whoever said these words is not far from Buddhahood"
                        Gassho,
                        "Heitetsu"
                        Christopher
                        Sat today

                        Comment

                        • monkton
                          Member
                          • Feb 2009
                          • 111

                          #13
                          Re: Help

                          Zazen has nothing in it that can cause a lack of faith -- unless that lack of faith was there to begin with, and zazen merely brings it to your mind.
                          I like that!
                          gassho,
                          Monkton

                          Comment

                          • Stephanie

                            #14
                            Re: Help

                            Originally posted by monkton
                            Zazen has nothing in it that can cause a lack of faith -- unless that lack of faith was there to begin with, and zazen merely brings it to your mind.
                            I like that!
                            gassho,
                            Monkton
                            I completely disagree. If you are seriously engaging this practice, and looking at your mind, and questioning the labels and beliefs and stories you lay on top of reality, you will start to doubt things you never doubted before.

                            Certainly happened to me.

                            Comment

                            • Rich
                              Member
                              • Apr 2009
                              • 2587

                              #15
                              Re: Help

                              Who you really are - your true self - doesn't give two shits about Buddhism or Christianity. However all the great Buddhas and Saints meditated a lot and I think Buddha described our situation and what to do about it pretty well but Saints are cool too
                              /Rich
                              _/_
                              Rich
                              MUHYO
                              無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

                              https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

                              Comment

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