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  • Ryumon
    Member
    • Apr 2007
    • 1706

    On rituals

    I've been having an e-mail exchange with Jundo over the past few days, and one of the things I commented on was my discomfort with the rituals that are practiced in Zen. I thought it would be a good idea to post my thoughts here, and see what you all think. Here's what I said first:

    I've been hanging around Treeleaf pretty much since the beginning, but I'm constantly torn between my immense appreciation for your teachings and for the sangha that you have built, and my distaste for all the ritualistic trappings that are part of zen. I come and go as my feelings shift. At times, I want to make a stronger commitment to zen practice. But at other times, I can't help thinking that a more secular Buddhism, without the ritualistic baggage, suits my views better. But the ideas that zen brought to Buddhism resonate very strongly within me. In the past few months, I’ve been reading a lot of Pali canon texts. They are very grounded, very deep, but they don’t have that touch of the ineffable that zen has.

    Then, in reply to Jundo's reply (which I won't post, unless he says it's okay to do so):

    In some ways, I guess what bothers me is that these ritual - not just the chanting, but the robes, the rakusu and the rest - are transplanted, and don’t resonate with me.

    I wonder if any of you have similar thoughts, and, if so, how you deal with them.
    ---
    Ryūmon (Kirk)
    流文

    SAT/LAH

    I know nothing.
  • Taigu
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
    • Aug 2008
    • 2710

    #2
    You might have not seen this vid:



    Now, I am very happy that you don't like it. It is not meant to be liked by you. This ego of yours that has been a pain in the a... for so many years doesn't like it? GOOD! the ego doesn't like what that old fool of Taigu writes? GOOD!
    A person too keen on rituals should be told to give it a rest.
    A person disliking them should question where does the dislike arise from and practice them.

    What suits you views better as you write is the obstacle to your freedom.
    Your views are the obstacle.

    It is not about rituals, kesa, guru, Zen, Pali Canon...it is about you.

    Take great care

    Written with strong language beecause of my deep respect for you.

    gassho


    Taigu

    Comment

    • Ryumon
      Member
      • Apr 2007
      • 1706

      #3
      Taigu,

      Thank you. I hadn't seen that video.

      You certainly wield your words like a Kyosaku. :-)

      Kirk
      ---
      Ryūmon (Kirk)
      流文

      SAT/LAH

      I know nothing.

      Comment

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

        #4
        Well my kyosaku is worn out. But kind words are sweet for a great bloke like you. Take care, Kirk, Glad you saw it. I can certainly understand where you come from. I am myself taking a kind of distance with rituals, the point is to really ask yourself where does that resistance come from. Question, question. It is worth it.

        gassho


        Taigu

        Comment

        • Jundo
          Treeleaf Founder and Priest
          • Apr 2006
          • 39454

          #5
          Boy! It cannot be expressed any finer than by Taigu in that AMAZING talk, and here ...


          A person too keen on rituals should be told to give it a rest.
          A person disliking them should question where does the dislike arise from and practice them.

          What suits you views better as you write is the obstacle to your freedom.
          Your views are the obstacle.

          It is not about rituals, kesa, guru, Zen, Pali Canon...it is about you.



          What I originally wrote to Kirk is that part of my heart would put away the robes and incense and fancy dance in a second, and Just Sit. I'm with you! In fact, many days I do just so ... no incense, no robes, no Kesa/Rakusu, no Buddha statues ... no "Buddhism" no "Buddha" ... and Just Sit.

          But part of me sees that a Ritual can mark something, convey something to and from the heart like a wedding or a funeral or a baptism (I just "created" a new fangled ceremony, but with traditional content and roots, to express gratitude to the hardware and software that is a bridge for all of us in this Sangha) ...

          To rival the Olympic Opening Festivities ... :) ... please join us at the following times and link for our CEREMONY 'OFFICIALLY' MARKING THE OPENING OF THIS NEW TREELEAF FORUM AND WEBPAGE (even though it has actually been up and running for a few weeks) and ... ... 'KUYO' MEMORIAL SERVICE & OFFERING TO RETIRE OLD COMPUTER


          ... or be a dance we loose and lose and find our self in ... like a ballet! Here is a film of the Morning Service at Sojiji Monastery (watch for a few minutes from about the 9:00 to the 14:00 mark) ...



          It is just the same as Hoyu looses and loses and finds himself again in the Tea Ceremony he demonstrated this week for us ... a freedom within what seems like confining rules and restrictions ...

          Hoyu offers a "hello" to everyone from Treeleaf Tsukuba ... then we sat a brief 30 minutes of Zazen, and a little Kinhin. Shokai Richard joined us in the middle. Please sit with us if you have a chance. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sy5BVT1NGmA We will also had a Tea Ceremony conducted by Hoyu Sensei, which you


          At Treeleaf, we have a time for being free in Ritual & Tradition and and a time for being free without. I am as apt to be found in the Zendo in a t-shirt as in funky Chinese robes. We do not insist that every ritual must speak to everyone. Some of my other "practical reasons" (one does not always need a "practical reason" however) for honoring Rituals and Traditions are stated here ... It's something I have posted several times, and most folks may have read:


          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 and other places, 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)?

          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 and arcane ceremonies 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 ... the humility and wholeness of Bowing.

          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.

          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.

          When tasted as such ... every action and gesture in this life is Sacred and Magical when experienced as such, from changing a babies diaper to cooking dinner to chanting the Heart Sutra. So, why not Chant as well as the rest?

          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 Buddha 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.

          Daido Loori has a lovely book on how to live, and be lived through, rituals in his book mentioned in our "Recommended 'At Home' Liturgy" thread ...

          Hi, 'Liturgy' means the many acts and rituals by which we manifest (and are manifested by) the beliefs and teachings at the heart of Buddhist Practice. Some we practice as a group together, some at private times (not two, by the way). These various practices can bring the teachings more visibly to life, and our lives into the


          So, as Taigu so wisely said ... a person who hates rituals should be told to drop the hate and engage in a ritual ... and a person too attached to ritual might be told to stop ritualizing and attaching. I throw myself into some "silly" rituals precisely because I resist and find them "silly" ... all in order to drop the resistance and judgment.

          In about a day, I will ANNOUNCE OUR UPCOMING JUKAI, RAKUSU SEWING CIRCLE and ANGO ... and I suggest, Kirk, that you find a way to drop the judgments and aversions, and throw your self into those.

          Gassho (an Asian custom), Jundo (a Dharma name)
          Last edited by Jundo; 07-31-2012, 07:36 AM.
          ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

          Comment

          • Mp

            #6
            Originally posted by Taigu
            A person too keen on rituals should be told to give it a rest.
            A person disliking them should question where does the dislike arise from and practice them.

            What suits you views better as you write is the obstacle to your freedom.
            Your views are the obstacle.

            It is not about rituals, kesa, guru, Zen, Pali Canon...it is about you.
            Beautiful and so well put, thank you Taigu! As always your direct approach is still soft because it is clear.

            I also feel that sometimes it is good to do something we don't like ... I find it helps to be more tolerant and open-minded.

            Gassho
            Michael

            Comment

            • RichardH
              Member
              • Nov 2011
              • 2800

              #7
              Work is ritual at the temple too.... When folks show up at the temple they need to be given a job... or else there is mischief.

              For me the chanting and bowing is just as important as sitting... The first time really just chanting, just bowing,.. was somehow more impactful than the first time just sitting. Just bowing... it's beautiful.

              Gassho. kojip.

              Comment

              • Ekai
                Member
                • Feb 2011
                • 664

                #8
                For me, the problem is not that I don't enjoy the rituals but creating time for the rituals. That's the biggest challenge for me right now. There are times where I feel that I am not dedicated enough when I fall behind on Zen rituals even though I sit Zazen on most days.

                Gassho,
                Ekai

                Comment

                • Jundo
                  Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                  • Apr 2006
                  • 39454

                  #9
                  Originally posted by Ekai
                  For me, the problem is not that I don't enjoy the rituals but creating time for the rituals. That's the biggest challenge for me right now. There are times where I feel that I am not dedicated enough when I fall behind on Zen rituals even though I sit Zazen on most days.

                  Gassho,
                  Ekai
                  Hi Ekai,

                  As you know about this place ... Sitting Zazen is Vital!

                  However, as far as "Rituals" are concerned ... changing the baby, doing the laundry, making copies in the office, washing the car, driving to work, dealing with a difficult co-worker, tending the garden are Sacred Rituals when Perceived as such. Daido's book speaks about that quite a bit.

                  In fact, why not Chant the Heart Sutra while doing the laundry!?!

                  Gassho, J
                  Last edited by Jundo; 07-30-2012, 03:14 PM.
                  ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                  Comment

                  • Hans
                    Member
                    • Mar 2007
                    • 1853

                    #10
                    Hello Kojip,

                    thank you for raising this topic.

                    I'd just like to make a general point about the fact that the pendulum of outer trappings can swing both ways. The well known danger of becoming entangled in the vines of empty movements/sayings/rituals etc. has been highlighted in this exchange already.


                    The radiant intimacy that one experiences in Zazen however, drinking the water of life from one's own source, which is the source of all and within all....that aspect can sometimes bring forth the will to express itself in ritualitisc terms in the same way that one might spontaneously burst out singing. Call it body poetry, call it an atavistic urge.....all just dead stones, those words....but then again e.g. lighting a candle can be so vitally important, because the "inner" wishes to express itself through the "outer"...at that right moment the candle one lights is none other than the radiant clarity of Buddha nature that makes visible the sacredness of all that is.

                    One's inner hunger should lead one to the table of timeless and endless nourishment. Stuffing one's mouth with food, chewing, swallowing....indeed these are traps when they preceed the hunger to meet that which never left.

                    We are all different in our appreciation of these things, but often it turns out that one's dislike for certain outer forms has to do with entering the building upside down, or from the inside out.

                    Gassho,


                    Hans Chudo Mongen
                    Last edited by Hans; 07-30-2012, 03:24 PM.

                    Comment

                    • Ekai
                      Member
                      • Feb 2011
                      • 664

                      #11
                      Originally posted by Jundo
                      Hi Ekai,

                      As you know about this place ... Sitting Zazen is Vital!

                      However, as far as "Rituals" are concerned ... changing the baby, doing the laundry, making copies in the office, washing the car, driving to work, dealing with a difficult co-worker, tending the garden are Sacred Rituals when Perceived as such. Daido's book speaks about that quite a bit.

                      In fact, why not Chant the Heart Sutra while doing the laundry!?!

                      Gassho, J
                      I like the idea of chanting the Heart Sutra during household activities! Sometimes I recite the meal gatha with Hunter.

                      hunter_gatha_02.jpg

                      Gassho,
                      Ekai
                      Last edited by Jundo; 07-30-2012, 03:14 PM.

                      Comment

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

                        #12
                        I sing the Hannya shingyo inwardly when I run at the gym club...and in many other circumstances.

                        gassho


                        Taigu

                        Comment

                        • Myozan Kodo
                          Friend of Treeleaf
                          • May 2010
                          • 1901

                          #13
                          Hi,
                          This is a great thread.

                          I think-feel the individual and the tradition should merge and be in balance. That means entering the ritual fully. That means the ritual has to reckon with you and you with it. From this the rituial may be changed in its new blood-body (you), just as you will become the timeless ritual by giving youself over to it.

                          It's too early for me to know what is happening in this slow process. And so I just practice.

                          Thank you all for your insights.

                          Gassho
                          Myozan

                          Comment

                          • Risho
                            Member
                            • May 2010
                            • 3179

                            #14
                            wow, this thread seriously resonates with me. I've been thinking the same thing. I get hot and cold with it. I understand ritual plays an important part in zen, but I'm really not much for it. At the same time, I recite the Bodhisattva vows, the verse of atonement after sitting, and the short meal gatha before every meal because this isn't about me, even though it is my practice.

                            At the same time, I'm not all giddy about robes and incense and the rakusu. I typically sit in my pajamas. I often wonder if the Buddha wore jeans would there be 1000's of acolytes wearing jeans to become enlightened. Now, this is strictly my opinion, but at times I wonder if some people get caught up in the superficialities of it all. I am not Japanese, and for me to practice Zen doesn't mean I need to embrace the Japanese culture.

                            I know the Japanese culture added a lot to the practice, as did many other cultures through which Zen has evolved, but for me to try to parrot that culture, by wearing things from it would be insincere. I really feel it is an insincere form of practice, but that is my humble opinion. I guess I'm sort of like Bruce Lee like that; Gi's are really cool, but at the same time, they are a vestige of a different culture and really don't have much to do with solid martial arts. At the same time, I really liked my Gi when I wore it, and those cultures can be honored by following some of those things.

                            But again, this is a personal thing for me, and I don't really feel a resonance within the cultural trappings of Japanese or Chinese Zen. I just want to practice.

                            Gassho,

                            Risho
                            Email: risho.treeleaf@gmail.com

                            Comment

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

                              #15
                              Thank you Risho.

                              Okay, once again...
                              The kesa is not a trapping, it is form and formless-universe-being itself, not just a symbol. Not a pair of jeans.
                              We may throw the kolomo, the white kimono, the bells and all of the rest of it in our will to make it our own ( Zen is not our own by the way, it has nothing to do with our stincky agendas), we may negate the whole history, do a tabula rasa, and practice with shorts or Tshirs ( very comfortable, I quite like it).

                              and when you sit in your pans or pijama these also become the kesa.

                              Would you take the time to study a bit the kesa and practice a bit more before dismissing it?

                              What really puzzles me is the arrogance behind it all: Don't parrot. don't parrot anybody or anything...This is not us, we can do it all, we don't need to follow other forms, we can make our own... this is a byproduct of a hubris that is ridiculous: the old ways in the East and the West are based on copying, parroting and then, only when forms are understood, breaking free and exploring. It was true in Rembrandt workshop, it is true in Zen. After 35 years of practice I can start to change things for myself and with care and respect.


                              By the way, people that know me, in the market place and practice place, know I am not a Japanese. I don't embrace Japanese culture. There is a point where the ideas of this is Japanese and this is Western fade away.

                              That's the still point I invite you to find.



                              gassho


                              Taigu

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