the will to study and listen

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

    the will to study and listen

    An interesting post from Ron as a reaction to Jundo's video about sewing raised an interesting issue.
    Ron writes the following:

    Aren't we doing 'our own little thingy' here? If the form can make you live the essence, fine. But let's not mistake anachronistic Japanese practices for the heart of our zen/religious way.
    After another 25 years of chewing, have come to see that sewing a rakusu in itself has little to do with purity or impurity of practice. One is not better than the other. I do see the danger of it becoming an incrowd thing, or the new clothes of the emperor rather than the Buddha's robes, mistaking the form for the essence. For me, playing soccer with my kids is a thousand times more important.
    Well, in our tradition, form and essence cannot be separated. The problem comes from this arrogant space that would think soccer is good Dharma practice and that we can ditch everything and do it our way. Soccer is soccer and Zen is Zen. Beginners, even after 30 years of pratice, should reflect and develop an humble mind. What we teach here is what we teach, not an ersatz of the real thing, but the real thing itself. It is not to be confused with New Age vibes, made up and redesigned practice. If you boil Zen to the bare bones, you end up with zazen and kesa. Whether people like it or not, it is the way it is. Everybody joining here is invited to sit and study and sew. Not willing to do so is fine, but it's a very different ball game.

    gassho

    Taigu
  • Shugen
    Treeleaf Unsui
    • Nov 2007
    • 4535

    #2
    Re: the will to study and listen

    Not this Ron by the way.

    Ron (the other)
    Meido Shugen
    明道 修眼

    Comment

    • Jundo
      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
      • Apr 2006
      • 39074

      #3
      Re: the will to study and listen

      Hi to all the Rons,

      I echo what Taigu said. The following is my usual response on this subject ...

      This practice is not limited to any place or time ... we drop all thought of place and time. It certainly is not Indian, Chinese, Japanese, French or American. But, of course, we live in place and time, so as Buddhism traveled over the centuries from India to China, Japan, Korea etc. it naturally became very Indian/Chinese/Japanese?Korean etc.

      But what of the cultural trappings?

      Must we bow, ring bells, chant (in Japanese, no less), wear traditional robes, have Buddha Statues, burn incense? ... All that stuff besides Zazen. Are they necessary to our Practice?


      No, not at all!


      We don't need anything other than Zazen, any of those trappings. In fact, they are no big deal, of no importance, when we drop all viewpoints in sitting Zazen.

      On the other hand, we have to do something, to greet each other somehow, read some words, dress some way. Why not do such things? As I often say, for example, we have to do something with our hands when practicing walking Zazen ... why not hold them in Shashu (I mean, better than sticking 'em in your pockets)?

      viewtopic.php?p=24626#p24626

      As well, there are parts of our practice which we do BECAUSE we resist (for example, when visiting a temple for Retreat, I usually put my heart fully into ceremonies and arcane rituals BECAUSE I resist and think some of it silly or old fashioned). Ask yourself where that kind of resistance is to be found (here's a clue, and it is right behind your own eyes).

      What is more, there is method to the madness, and many (not all) customs have centuries of time tested benefits ... embody subtle perspectives ... that support and nurture Zazen Practice at the core. Many parts of our Practice, though "exotic", are worth keeping, even if they strike someone as strange at first. Bowing, statues, rigid decorum in the Zen Hall 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://www.treeleaf.org/sit-a-long/arch ... owing.html

      Many aspects of tradition can be seen in new ways when the barriers of the mind are knocked down. Thus, for example, the Kesa, the Buddha's Robes ... though just cloth ... can be seen to cover and enfold the whole universe, laughter, cries of pain, old age, becoming and fading away ... life ...

      On the other hand again, 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 awhile back 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.
      The outer wrap of Zen Buddhism is changing greatly as it moves West. The greater emphasis on lay practice over monastics, the greater democracy in what was a feudal institution (arising in societies where the teacher's word was law ... oh, those were the days! :wink: ), giving the boot to a lot of magico-supersticio hocus-pocus bunkum, the equal place of women ... heck, the use of the internet to bring teachings that were once the preserve of an elite few into everyone's living room.Those are good and great changes to the outer wrapping (you can read about them in books like this one (author interview here: http://atheism.about.com/library/books/ ... anChat.htm ). The coreless core, however, remains unchanged.

      Do not throw out the baby with the bath water. Many completely "Japanese" practices which seem silly at first are worth keeping. ...

      ... other things, like some of the arcane incense, bell & drum filled rituals, take them or leave them.

      Gassho (an Asian custom), Jundo (a Dharma name)
      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

      Comment

      • JohnsonCM
        Member
        • Jan 2010
        • 549

        #4
        Re: the will to study and listen

        One day Dogen instructed:

        Many people in this world would say: " I hear the words of the teacher, but they do not agree with what I think." This view is mistaken. I do not know what is in their minds. Can they be thinking that the principles of the sacred teachings are wrong because they do not agree with what they themselves imagine? This is sheer idiocy. Or are the words spoken by the teacher unsuited to their own minds? If so, why do they ask the teacher in the first place?
        Dogen may have been a little more harsh than I would have, but there it is. We come to our teachers to be taught, and it should be with great respect and reverence that we accept what has been handed down from the time of Shakyamuni Buddha. That does not mean we need to accept everything the roshi says as scripture, and we should always educate ourselves enough to be able to tell where the Dharma ends and the roshi's personal opinion begins. But that is why we try to choose teachers who are steeped in the Way to the point that their personal opinions echo the Dharma, no oppose it.
        Gassho,
        "Heitetsu"
        Christopher
        Sat today

        Comment

        • Dosho
          Member
          • Jun 2008
          • 5784

          #5
          Re: the will to study and listen

          Originally posted by rculver
          Not this Ron by the way.

          Ron (the other)
          Thank you for posting this clarification as it didn't sound like you, but of course we are all entitled to change our opinions!

          Gassho,
          Dosho

          Comment

          • Janne H
            Member
            • Feb 2010
            • 73

            #6
            Re: the will to study and listen

            Hi, and thank you for bringing this up, and Jundo for bringing light in the matter.

            To be truly honest, with you and the sangha, I for one feel some resistance in participating with the sewing of the rakusu, and also with the chanting part of the zazenkai, (I usually sit and listen), I don´t feel comfortable with doing it myself. On the other hand (besides zazen and kinhin) I like the gentle bows, reading books, ringing bells etc. it´s all a beautiful part of the whole practice. I have not tried oryoki, but I would like to. These are ways to extend the practice of zazen to be part of all of one´s life.

            BUT I will humbly look for deepening my understanding about the rakusu, and consider to participate in the sewing. Your post Jundo, really gave me a new shed of light and understanding in the purpose of doing it, thank you.

            And about the chanting, i´m still a bit lost there... . I (my mind) would still prefer simply reading texts, reflecting upon them as part of the sittings. Any advice would be appreciated.

            An honest gassho, Janne

            Comment

            • Shugen
              Treeleaf Unsui
              • Nov 2007
              • 4535

              #7
              Re: the will to study and listen

              Originally posted by Janne H
              Hi, and thank you for bringing this up, and Jundo for bringing light in the matter.

              To be truly honest, with you and the sangha, I for one feel some resistance in participating with the sewing of the rakusu, and also with the chanting part of the zazenkai, (I usually sit and listen), I don´t feel comfortable with doing it myself. On the other hand (besides zazen and kinhin) I like the gentle bows, reading books, ringing bells etc. it´s all a beautiful part of the whole practice. I have not tried oryoki, but I would like to. These are ways to extend the practice of zazen to be part of all of one´s life.

              BUT I will humbly look for deepening my understanding about the rakusu, and consider to participate in the sewing. Your post Jundo, really gave me a new shed of light and understanding in the purpose of doing it, thank you.

              And about the chanting, i´m still a bit lost there... . I (my mind) would still prefer simply reading texts, reflecting upon them as part of the sittings. Any advice would be appreciated.

              An honest gassho, Janne
              I have a hard time with the chanting as well. It seems so weird when you are doing it by yourself in front of the computer. I usually do it anyway and what was really helpful, was doing it with other people. I know it seems like the opposite would be true but when you aren't doing it alone, it is really something else. Don't worry about getting it wrong or screwing up, that's all part of it. Besides, if you are paying attention, you'll notice that you're not the only one messing up and it still comes out sounding pretty impressive.

              Ron
              Meido Shugen
              明道 修眼

              Comment

              • Ankai
                Treeleaf Unsui
                • Nov 2007
                • 878

                #8
                Re: the will to study and listen

                If you boil Zen to the bare bones, you end up with zazen and kesa. Whether people like it or not, it is the way it is.

                I still feel strongly that if you boil it further, Zazen is sufficient.
                Gassho!
                護道 安海

                -Godo Ankai

                I'm still just starting to learn. I'm not a teacher. Please don't take anything I say too seriously. I already take myself too seriously!

                Comment

                • nadia_estm
                  Member
                  • Jul 2010
                  • 38

                  #9
                  Re: the will to study and listen

                  Jundo mentions something about resistance, and I think he is right. Why should we resist doing something like sewing? or bowing? or chanting? ....If we resist it is it not a great teaching to do it?...and try to drop the judgments that separate us from the pure activity, I mean that is our effort...is it not?

                  Comment

                  • Ankai
                    Treeleaf Unsui
                    • Nov 2007
                    • 878

                    #10
                    Re: the will to study and listen

                    Originally posted by nadia_estm
                    Jundo mentions something about resistance, and I think he is right. Why should we resist doing something like sewing? or bowing? or chanting? ....If we resist it is it not a great teaching to do it?...and try to drop the judgments that separate us from the pure activity, I mean that is our effort...is it not?

                    Well, that's the thing I'm getting at. I have no resistance whatsoever to sewing or wearing a Rakusu or full Kesa. What I'm resisting is the idea that either is somehow essential.
                    Gassho!
                    護道 安海

                    -Godo Ankai

                    I'm still just starting to learn. I'm not a teacher. Please don't take anything I say too seriously. I already take myself too seriously!

                    Comment

                    • Daibh
                      Member
                      • Aug 2010
                      • 68

                      #11
                      Re: the will to study and listen

                      This thread I have found incrediably useful.

                      A big thanks and deep Gassho ("an asian custom" :lol: ) to all who have posted.
                      [b:z5iv0uxu]Documenting the Ango - A Hat Full of Rain [/b:z5iv0uxu]
                      http://ahatfullofrain.wordpress.com/
                      [b:z5iv0uxu]My poetry blog - Subtle Drops[/b:z5iv0uxu]
                      http://subtledropspoetry.wordpress.com/

                      Comment

                      • Dosho
                        Member
                        • Jun 2008
                        • 5784

                        #12
                        Re: the will to study and listen

                        Originally posted by KvonNJ
                        Well, that's the thing I'm getting at. I have no resistance whatsoever to sewing or wearing a Rakusu or full Kesa. What I'm resisting is the idea that either is somehow essential.
                        So, stop resisting. Embrace it fully, then reject it if you so choose. But truly, wholly, and fully embrace it. Then we'll talk.

                        Gassho,
                        Dosho

                        Comment

                        • Seishin the Elder
                          Member
                          • Oct 2009
                          • 521

                          #13
                          Re: the will to study and listen

                          My apologies to all the free-thinkers and egalitarians of the world, but when one enters a school one ascribes to and adheres to its rules or if one disagrees with those rules finds another school which one feels better being in. If I enrolled at a state college and told the dean of my department that I didn't think any of the electives and only some of the required courses were germaine to me I think I would be invited to find another department or another college. Why do we think it is okay to cafeteria shop the spiritual school?

                          If we come into a school that has a teacher and ask to be taught...then we ought to open ourselves to be taught. I could only believe that in such a situation the teacher is there and is the teacher because he or she knows more than me. I don't understand the challenging of what is being taught that has been going on here lately. I know it is part if our Western independent thinking, but since we are treading in a different idiom here shouldn't we at least attempt to follow its rules first before dismissing it as hooey.

                          Gassho,

                          Seishin Kyrill

                          Comment

                          • Onshin
                            Member
                            • Jul 2010
                            • 462

                            #14
                            Re: the will to study and listen

                            Nice one Kyrill.
                            Gassho

                            Joe
                            "This traceless enlightenment continues endlessly" (Dogen Zenji)

                            Comment

                            • Keishin
                              Member
                              • Jun 2007
                              • 471

                              #15
                              Re: the will to study and listen

                              Hellos to all posting here

                              Please forgive me, I have just hopped, skipped and jumped reading through.
                              I have not studied each person's comment with thoroughness.
                              I have a few thoughts regarding the 'theme' of this thread as it resonates with my own understanding: someone correct me please if I have got things wrong:

                              the kesa as sewn by the ancestors wasn't something worn for sitting, it was their clothing, period.
                              They didn't go to the store to buy the fabric, the fabric was garnered from rags no one would see fit to use for anything.

                              We don't even begin to make the kesa worn by ancestors.

                              However, the time put in, the labor with one's own hands, the zazen following off the cushion and the practice of zazen now continued while sewing: philsophy in action

                              I now wear my efforts (or someone else's efforts if I buy or am given a rakusu made by someone else), I wear
                              my weariness, my perserverance, I wear my mistakes, I wear my satisfaction, my hours spent with myself and these pieces I put together like a puzzle
                              The rakusu is not only a miniature of the kesa, it is a miniature of me, of my whole life: how I approach sewing the rakusu/the kesa is how I approach anything and everything I have never done before:

                              This is no small thing, this small thing.

                              As far as what to keep and what to let fall away, well that's a perennial issue.
                              Maybe rakusu eventually will fall away, human life itself may eventually fall away
                              The sun, I understand, will burn out, but until then it shines and shines and continuously shines while we spin in space, experiencing darkness and light.

                              Even if you have only seen a picture of someone wearing a rakusu and you don't even know what that thing is around that person's neck: you have seen the rakusu 'shine.'

                              I understand at one zen center, where kitchen duty would be served by different people, (and when doing kitchen work as in going to the bathroom, the rakusu is hung up so as not to become soiled); well there were folks who would steal them--take those rakusus!

                              Sanghas offer opportunities for all kinds of teaching and all kinds of learning....such as not being attached to one's sewing.


                              But back to what to keep, what to shelve or throw away: it's a teacher's job, and it is never ending.
                              If you study under a teacher, it is true: you learn it their way. After you master their way and they say you 'got it' you can then do it your way.

                              Teachers can get up and open a window or shut a door during zazen: students do not do these things.
                              A teacher may open a window because it is hot, but a teacher may have another reason: to let the sounds of birds or the water fountain in.
                              A teacher may shut a door not to shut out the sound of traffic outside, but for students sitting to experience the change: just like chatter in the mind: chatter gone: quiet there, always there, ever there.

                              A teacher may add chants, subtract chants, keep three, keep only one.
                              A teacher may do chants in only one language, in two languages: do a chant in Japanese and then in English in succession.
                              A teacher may have tatami mats, may have tan (raised platforms) for sitting, but most places I have sat do not have tatami mats or tan.

                              I remember a story about a woman who would do what her mother had done: she would take a roast and cut a piece from each end before baking it. Her mother came to visit and saw her doing this and asked 'why are you cutting off the ends?' Daughter said: 'That's the way I've always seen you prepare it!' Mom said 'I used to trim the ends because my pot was too small for the roast.'

                              Tradition has layers beyond 'just because.'

                              'Just because' isn't much of a tradition; however 'just because' can keep a tradition which has lost itself around long enough sometimes to find itself again.
                              It's all good practice: observing the self hating the stupid chant; observing the self loving the beauty of the chant; observing the self wanting things to be different; or wanting things to stay the same.


                              My grandmother would set her breakfast table before she went to sleep. The plates, the cups and saucers, the spoons and napkins. She put butter out on a plate and covered it.
                              This was her beautiful ritual, her tradition; I have not made it mine, but because I experienced her ritual, her tradition: because I experienced that butter left out to soften overnight; I intimately know that tradition's impact on fresh toast.
                              I do not consider my grandmother's actions as any different from a zen priest's bowing and lighting incense as gongs are rung at precise points during a chant.

                              (and I didn't necessarily 'like' this business of setting everything out at night--my grandmother attended to each step with thoroughness of each action--I was tired and bored and wanted to go to bed) (and similarly a priest has moved about the butsudan taking their kneeling cloth from their arm and setting it correctly for full bows--attending fully to throughness of each action--and I have been tired and bored and want to be finished with the service so I can leave the zendo!)

                              likes and dislikes having nothing to do with traditions (obviously)

                              so, thank you all for your patience with my mind's meandering

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