Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path

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  • Gregor
    Member
    • Apr 2007
    • 638

    Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path

    I'm a real novice when it comes to Buddhism. I've only been studying and practicing the Dharma (Dhamma) for the last couple years. So, of course my understanding and knowledge is limited. But I have a question I'd like to poise and I think this is an important one.

    Why in Zen practice and teaching we don't approach things with an emphasis on the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold path?

    I know these are fundamental parts of Buddhism, and fundamental parts of Zen, but it seems like they are not discussed much in Zen, or at least the beginning stages. I don't mean to criticize because I know that there is a reason for this. Is it because the whole point of Zazen/Zen practice goes against the intellectualization involved in presenting these basic concepts? Or, that Zazen is seen as the best way to truly understand and incorporate them into our life. I imagine that we are really talking about such things, such as when sitting Zazen . . this deals with right mindfulness, right concentration, ect.

    I just finished Nishijima Roshi's book, "To Meet the Real Dragon", I don't recall him mentioning the Eightfold path at all. He does discuss the Four Noble Truths, but his interpretation is radically different to any other I've ever been exposed to. I don't think this is wrong, In fact I am sure this is an example of skillful teaching. I get a lot out of this practice and approach, it does seem to fit for me. I'm just trying to align this Zen approach to the fact that the Buddha did teach that we must focus on these very fundamental and all encompassing aspects of the dharma. Without the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold path there is no Buddhism, right?

    It's just a very different approach than the way Buddhism is presented in other traditions. Most Tibetan and Theravada books I've read or centers I've visited start right off the bat with discussing The Four Noble Truths & Eightfold Path. We seem to go right for the Zazen, and let the rest take care of itself.

    I don't feel like I'm missing something because of the work I had done with the Eightfold Path and Four Noble Truths before becoming involved here at Treeleaf. But if I had not come without that background I don't think I would have been ready for Shikantaza. But this is most likely a personal issue dealing with the need I had to transform my world view and build a healthier ethical base for myself.

    Perhaps I'm getting too caught up on this. I don't mean to, I just think this is a conversation that we should have.

    What are every body's thoughts on this?
    Jukai '09 Dharma Name: Shinko 慎重(Prudent Calm)
  • Fuken
    Member
    • Sep 2006
    • 435

    #2
    The four noble truths are the dharma, everything else is just comentary.

    Gassho,
    Jordan
    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

    • Gregor
      Member
      • Apr 2007
      • 638

      #3
      Jordon,

      Good point. It's all contained in the Four Noble Truths.

      But is'nt the eightfold path the fourh noble truth?
      Jukai '09 Dharma Name: Shinko 慎重(Prudent Calm)

      Comment

      • Fuken
        Member
        • Sep 2006
        • 435

        #4
        Yep!
        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

        • Jundo
          Treeleaf Founder and Priest
          • Apr 2006
          • 39419

          #5
          Hey Greg,

          Great question, and I cannot say that I have the definitive historical answer. I will just speak from my impressions.

          The Eightfold Path is so naturally embodied in our practice of Zazen and the Precepts, that we rather just take it for granted ("take it for granted" like the air we breathe, not "take it for granted" in a negative meaning). I think it is the general Zen view that Right Concentration supports Right Mindfulness, and in combination with the Precepts, everything from Right Livelihood to Right Intention is implied ... and in turn all support Right Concentration.

          And the "Four Noble Truths" are accepted universally in Zen, and are at its heart, just as in all sects of Buddhism.

          Master Dogen mentions and deals with both. If we don't mention them as constantly as other sects of Buddhism, maybe it is because we have so many other subjects to talk about too??

          Gassho, Jundo
          ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

          Comment

          • Bansho
            Member
            • Apr 2007
            • 532

            #6
            Re: Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path

            Hi Greg (& everyone else),

            Originally posted by Gregor
            Why in Zen practice and teaching we don't approach things with an emphasis on the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold path?
            Without the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path there can be no Buddhadharma, and of course Zen is just the practice of the Buddhadharma with complete body/mind. It's clear from his writings that Dogen Zenji (and with high probability his Sangha as well) fully incorporated these teachings into their practice and had extensive and deep knowledge of the Tripitaka, Shastras, as well as Mahayana Sutras. There are many variations on themes/Suttas which come directly from those earlier texts, so if they weren't always quoted explicitly (sometimes they are indeed directly referred to), it's probably because Dogen Zenji was simply too much of a genius to reinvent the wheel. However, that by no means implies that they weren't an integral part of their practice.

            Gassho
            Kenneth
            ??

            Comment

            • cdshrack
              Member
              • Jun 2007
              • 50

              #7
              Perhaps I'm getting too caught up on this. I don't mean to, I just think this is a conversation that we should have.
              i don't think you're too caught up at all. you are where you are - be there.

              as for myself, i appreciate your bringing me back to a little more focus on the Eightfold Path, in particular. when sitting, it's easy enough to be aware of little things going on in and around you, but sometimes it's nice to run down the "checklist" of the eightfold path and see how i'm going.

              Gassho,
              cd

              Comment

              • Don Niederfrank
                Member
                • Jul 2007
                • 66

                #8
                Sitting helps me not stagger about, blinded by fears and desires, wandering far from the Path.
                Well, and improves the taste of breaksfast too. 8)
                Un otro mundo es possible, si...

                Comment

                • Bansho
                  Member
                  • Apr 2007
                  • 532

                  #9
                  Hi again,

                  btw there's an excellent book on the Noble Eightfold Path by Bhikku Bodhi which is available here as a PDF doc: http://hudsoncress.org/html/library/...old%20Path.pdf

                  Gassho
                  Kenneth
                  ??

                  Comment

                  • BruceS
                    Member
                    • Aug 2007
                    • 59

                    #10
                    This is a good question and topic! I've noticed that you read and hear much more about this from the Theravada and Vajrayana schools than with Zen. Maybe it's because they teach a more graduated approach, especially in Vajrayana, where the Zen emphasis is on sitting. On the other hand, keeping the precepts is a large part of Zen.

                    I sort of look at the Four Noble Truths as, "Life's a bitch, then you get sick and die, but there's a way out....". Life's a bitch because of the suffering, and the suffering comes from attachments and clinging. Sometimes life ends up just telling you that, but so does Zazen. I know that when I don't practice, there's not a lot of "right" anything going on with me. I easily fall right back into grasping and clinging. Good 'ol samsara.

                    Zazen seems to take care of so much of this without ever talking and philosophizing about it. Grasping and clinging seem to diminish, and "right this and right that" seem to want to happen naturally, all as a result of just sitting. Cool eh?
                    Cheers,
                    Bruce
                    The best thing I ever do is sit and do nothing.

                    Comment

                    • Gregor
                      Member
                      • Apr 2007
                      • 638

                      #11
                      Bruce,

                      Good point, Zazen does seem to help take care of living the precepts so much.

                      Nishijima Roshi makes pretty much the same argument, and I cannot find fault in it. However, I also know that Zazen is not magic, and is not an substitute for ethics training (no magic here either). . .this must be the role of the taking the precepts. Perhaps the Zen tradition believes that we need to prepare the ground for ethics training through Zazen training first. Just a different way to go about it my expierance with the Theravada/Insight tradition is they start with ethics then move to meditation. Just a different direction on the same circle, I suppose -- No big disparity here.
                      Jukai '09 Dharma Name: Shinko 慎重(Prudent Calm)

                      Comment

                      • Jundo
                        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                        • Apr 2006
                        • 39419

                        #12
                        Hi Greg,

                        Zen teachers, almost without exception I think, would say that one should be a good person now, not just later after formal study of the Precepts. Be kind to others, act as you can so as not to harm others, or harm yourself ... and know that there is ultimately no gap. Be helpful and Compassionate.

                        As well, there is nothing to stop of study of the Precepts now. In fact, the ceremony of "Leaving Home" (Tokudo) that starts a monk on his or her training is largely the same ceremony as "Jukai", and involves accepting the Precepts. That is the start of the path, and Precept study continues all through the course of training. For Lay People, traditionally, Jukai comes after one has been doing Zen Practice for some time ... but there is not particular reason it has to come later. It just comes later, I guess, because lay folks have to become familiar with so much, and see if they like Zen Practice, before they think about committing to live by the Precepts.

                        I suppose the only reason that we have not covered the Precepts more around here is because there is so much else to talk about in the Practice of Zen. However, we do talk about the Precepts (e.g., avoiding the taking of life) quite a bit.

                        So, yes, the people in the Theravada traditions may emphasize the Precepts more as a central gateway. But, the Precepts are with us all the time here too. I think.

                        Be good.

                        Gassho, Jundo
                        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                        Comment

                        • Jundo
                          Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                          • Apr 2006
                          • 39419

                          #13
                          Hi Greg,

                          Zen teachers, almost without exception I think, would say that one should be a good person now, not just later after formal study of the Precepts. Be kind to others, act as you can so as not to harm others, or harm yourself ... and know that there is ultimately no gap. Be helpful and Compassionate.

                          As well, there is nothing to stop of study of the Precepts now. In fact, the ceremony of "Leaving Home" (Tokudo) that starts a monk on his or her training is largely the same ceremony as "Jukai", and involves accepting the Precepts. That is the start of the path, and Precept study continues all through the course of training. For Lay People, traditionally, Jukai comes after one has been doing Zen Practice for some time ... but there is not particular reason it has to come later. It just comes later, I guess, because lay folks have to become familiar with so much, and see if they like Zen Practice, before they think about committing to live by the Precepts.

                          I suppose the only reason that we have not covered the Precepts more around here is because there is so much else to talk about in the Practice of Zen. However, we do talk about the Precepts (e.g., avoiding the taking of life) quite a bit.

                          So, yes, the people in the Theravada traditions may emphasize the Precepts more as a central gateway. But, the Precepts are with us all the time here too. I think.

                          Remember, not only does Zazen help us abide by the Precepts. Living a lifestyle that abides by the Precepts helps us taste the fruits of Zazen. It is a symbiotic relationship.

                          Be good.

                          Gassho, Jundo
                          ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                          Comment

                          • Gregor
                            Member
                            • Apr 2007
                            • 638

                            #14
                            Thanks for the helpful perspective on things, I don't think things are lacking here just the way they are, jut trying to get my head around the way things are organized. I'm probably still stuck in an overly intellectualizing mode, lol


                            I like to think that I am of the general "do no harm" persuasion and overall I'm a nice guy, but I have made some major mistakes and will continue to make mistakes (hopefully not major).

                            I'll try to be good, but no promises. . . I'm better at falling short of my goals than hitting them anyway.
                            Jukai '09 Dharma Name: Shinko 慎重(Prudent Calm)

                            Comment

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