SPLIT TOPIC: So, What Happens When Folks Die?

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39211

    #31
    We have had a few threads on how to speak of one's one beliefs to family, spouses and friends who may not fully approve. My typical response is the following. But I would go further ... join in all the family holidays, sing the Christmas songs, have the baby Baptised ... just nod and say "maybe so" ... if it makes your poor mom or dad happy. Why not? Buddha is everywhere and, if there is a God, She's everywhere too.

    I often say that we don't prosthelytize and rarely need to try to convince anyone of the worth of these things.

    Rather, just be a good son/daughter/husband/wife/parent/friend ... perhaps let the peace and gentleness show itself in our ordinary behavior and interactions with others as the years pass ... and many folks will slowly come to understand, even if they do not fully understand.



    For an image of traditional popular views of "Buddhist Hells" in Asian Buddhism, including "ordinary people's" Zen as it is practiced on the ground ... complete with pitchforks and brimstone ... look here. Not for the squeemish. I have seen similar images here and there at temples in China, Japan, Thailand and Korea ... images that would make any Fire & Brimstone preacher in the Bible Belt faint. Just like in the West, images of "hell" were often used by Buddhist preachers to get people to "be good". WARNING: 18 and OVER



    For centuries in Japan, Zen Priests taught women of their inherent impurity via the "Blood Pool Sutra", and the need for purification ceremonies (usually for a fee, of course) ... In my understanding, the Blood Pool liturgy was only removed from the official Soto Shu scriptures in the 1980s, under pressure from Japanese feminists.

    The Ketsubonkyø, or the Blood-bowl Sutra, is a sutra composed in China around the end of the 12th century or the beginning of the 13th. It describes how Mokuren(Mu-lien, Maudgalyåyana), disciple of the Buddha famous for his supernatural or magical powers, descended to hell to save his mother. ... we find her sunk in hell submerged in an enormous pond, or lake, of menstrual and birth blood. She is in the company of a multitude of women there who suffer abuse at the hands of the hell wardens and are forced to drink the blood. They are punished like this, the sutra explains, because the blood produced by their bodies spills on the ground and offends the earth gods, or ends up in rivers from which the water to make tea for holy men is drawn.
    Generally, Zen priests and monks are not seen as mediators and benefactors of the afterlife for their practitioners. However, in medieval to early modern Japan, priests took exactly this role; most…


    I am rather skeptical in my beliefs and the flavor of Buddhism I offer here at Treeleaf, but there is no need to feel that one's own ways or practice or understanding are superior (or inferior) to another. Many Buddhists enter and walk the Path through images of heavens, hells, literal rebirth and the like. Many Christians and others speak of heaven and hell. It may be so (and the skeptic's suppositions may be wrong) and, even more importantly, such "superstitious" Beliefs may be the Path and Doorway right for such person. To each their own Path.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-07-2012, 03:09 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    Comment

    • Jundo
      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
      • Apr 2006
      • 39211

      #32
      Originally posted by YuimaSLC

      Two of my three children received naming ceremonies at the Soto Zen Abbey in Mt. Shasta, CA; each within about a year of their birth.
      Just to mention, even "modern, western" Zen and Soto Zen comes in many flavors. For example, Jiyu Kennett Roshi of Shasta Abbey/Throsel Hole/the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives was herself prone to trances and visions at times which led her to a very mystical view of her past lives and various Buddhist realms and images. Her interpretation of these events ranged from the psychological to quite literal.

      Many of the visionary episodes provided her [Kennett Roshi] with an experience of, or an
      insight into, her past lives ...Each successive vision – of such things as giant lotus blossoms,
      towers, columns of light, fountains, heavenly Buddha Lands, Buddhas and
      lineage-Patriarchs – superimposed itself onto her immediate physical surroundings.
      She observed, moved, acted and interacted within the context of each
      unfolding vision – by climbing glass mountains, for example, or by travelling to
      different realms and conversing with celestial beings – but she remained awake
      and alert throughout, constantly ‘aware of things going on around me’
      (Kennett 1977b: 263).

      ...

      In particular, she experienced an awesome and holy being whom she variously described as ‘the
      Cosmic Buddha’, ‘the Lord of the House’ or simply ‘the Lord’, and to whom she
      related in a deeply reverential, penitential, humble, obedient and prayerful
      way. At other times, however, her presentation was ambivalent about the
      ontological status of the places and beings in her visions that, she explained,
      were themselves ‘empty’ or merely symbolic expressions of Buddhahood. This
      ambivalence is observed by both Rawlinson and Batchelor who describe
      Kennett’s Zen as ‘theistic’ or ‘quasi-theistic’ whilst acknowledging that she
      upholds ‘basic Buddhist teachings’ (Rawlinson 1997: 368) – like anatta (noself)
      and sunyata (emptiness) – and that the Christian associations are
      therefore ‘more apparent than real’ (Batchelor 1994: 136). Kennett’s experience,
      then, may best be understood as a combination of the numinous and the
      mystical.

      In the years following her kensho, Kennett herself drew a distinction between
      ‘imaginative visions’ and ‘intellectual visions’, and this helps us to understand
      ... According to Kennett’s typology, however, both imaginative and intellectual visions are
      understood as numinous experiences. Thus, even in an intellectual vision
      a person knows for certain that there is something greater than himself
      with him (or her). I have often had monks say to me: ‘I can feel the
      Lord of the House here. I know He is sitting with me. I haven’t seen
      Him – I just know’.

      [In her diary, How to Grow a Lotus Blossum] Kennett next experiences a number of her past lives (see Figure 6.1) so that
      she can ‘clean the impregnations that the karma of my past lives has left upon
      my skhandas [sic]’. Cleaning or ‘converting’ inherited karmic propensities is a
      prerequisite to becoming ‘one with the Eternal Lord’. The past-life images that
      flash before her here are also seen by her assistant disciple:
      He looks at me and for a fleeting moment sees a very old European
      Christian monk; he is very happy, he has left behind no unclean
      impregnations […] Further and further back I go […] Down the
      centuries I have been a monk so many times; fifteen times Christian,
      fourteen Buddhist, sometimes male, sometimes female.
      (Kennett 1977b: 51–53)

      Once her karma on the human plane of existence is dealt with, she goes on to
      purify ‘the karma from lives in the formless realms and from animal lives’. At
      this point she undergoes a key past-life experience, that of ‘a white tiger,
      captured whilst eating a heron, by a tribe of Indians whose religious cult was
      one of tiger worship’ (Kennett 1977b: 66). ...

      Having cleansed the karma of her past lives, Kennett finds herself in ‘the
      Buddha Land’ where she is ‘seated in a lotus blossom’ within an immense sea ‘full
      of lotus blossoms just like mine’, each representing the ‘flowering’ of Buddhist
      training. In a particularly striking vision, she witnesses Shakyamuni Buddha
      become absorbed into the great, golden Cosmic Buddha that I now see
      in the sky. He is taken into the Cosmic Buddha and yet is separate
      from Him. He is not the Cosmic Buddha but there is nothing in him
      that is not of the Cosmic Buddha; the two are inseparable and
      different.
      (Kennett 1977b: 93–94)

      By the way, as the book also notes, such beliefs in dreams and visions were also found among Zen folks of centuries past ... such as Keizan, much less in the case of Dogen.

      Within Asian cultures, dreams are widely regarded in a visionary sense as ‘channels of
      communication with the invisible world’ (Faure 1991: 213). [Zen Historian Bernard] Faure discovered
      that although the Zen tradition has in theory rejected dreams as illusory, in
      practice ‘the intermediary world of dreams’ has provided an important aspect of
      its metaphysics of presence and has often ‘played a significant role in the life of
      Chan/Zen communities’ (1991: 209).
      He outlines examples of masters experiencing
      ‘all kinds of dreams or visions’ during sleep and meditation, including
      premonitory and revelatory dreams, ‘dreams of ascent’ to celestial places, and
      visions of Arhats, Bodhisattvas and various deities. It is also important to recognise
      that dreams played a crucial role in the specific development of Soto Zen,
      the tradition within which Kennett received her training. Whilst Dogen’s
      ambivalent attitude towards dreams erred upon the side of orthodoxy, Keizan
      ‘lived his dreams’ or ‘dreamt his life’:


      Although upholding the Mahayana tenet of emptiness (sunyata),
      Keizan lived in a world impregnated with very real dreams.
      (Faure 1991: 221)
      If you are further interested in this topic, check out "Keizan's Dreams" from page 126 here ...

      Bernard Faure's previous works are well known as guides to some of the more elusive aspects of the Chinese tradition of Chan Buddhism and its outgrowth, Japanese Zen. Continuing his efforts to look at Chan/Zen with a full array of postmodernist critical techniques, Faure now probes the imaginaire, or mental universe, of the Buddhist Soto Zen master Keizan Jokin (1268-1325). Although Faure's new book may be read at one level as an intellectual biography, Keizan is portrayed here less as an original thinker than as a representative of his culture and an example of the paradoxes of the Soto school. The Chan/Zen doctrine that he avowed was allegedly reasonable and demythologizing, but he lived in a psychological world that was just as imbued with the marvelous as was that of his contemporary Dante Alighieri. Drawing on his own dreams to demonstrate that he possessed the magical authority that he felt to reside also in icons and relics, Keizan strove to use these "visions of power" to buttress his influence as a patriarch. To reveal the historical, institutional, ritual, and visionary elements in Keizan's life and thought and to compare these to Soto doctrine, Faure draws on largely neglected texts, particularly the Record of Tokoku (a chronicle that begins with Keizan's account of the origins of the first of the monasteries that he established) and the kirigami, or secret initiation documents.


      That whole chapter, and much of the book in fact, is about dreams among those old Zen guys, especially Keizan. Dogen was a bit of a dreamer too, although rather more skeptical and conservative about dreams. Read from page 118 to 119 about Dogen.

      Me? I think all of life is kind of a dream.

      Gassho, J
      Last edited by Jundo; 10-07-2012, 03:54 AM.
      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

      Comment

      • YuimaSLC
        Member
        • Aug 2012
        • 93

        #33
        Jundo,

        Interesting quick re-visit to my earlier roots with the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives under Rev. Master Houn Jiyu Peggy Kennett.

        This group, by the way, spent a goodly amount of focus on kensho and discerning the on-going kensho experiences as stages of development t'wards Buddhahood. Along with
        past-life experiences and helping to cleanse that karma.

        Some Zen groups in the West observed the "goings on" at O B C and wondered if their leader had become caught up in makyo visions....hallucinations resulting from ongoing illnesses that had plagued her since her training in Japan. That along with a rather strong control (some described it as heavy handed) over the O B C community later lead to allegations of an almost 'cult like' structure.

        "How to Grow A Lotus Blossom" was the significant work following "Zen is Eternal Life" and disclosed the entire period and stages in which these significant kensho events took place.

        It resulted in several senior monks leaving the Order in the mid/late 70s, resulting from disagreement/misunderstanding with what was going on.....depending upon your perspective.

        It wasn't a type of training meant for all Zen trainees. I chose to disassociate in the late 80's.

        I don't like to speak of it in ways that are either maligning or disrespectful. Many fine monks came from the O B C. Some left, some stayed. A couple who come to mind are Rev.James Ishmael Ford
        and Rev. Kyogen Carlson.

        Comment

        • YuimaSLC
          Member
          • Aug 2012
          • 93

          #34
          and one clarification, least anyone comes to think from my above post.... I was not an ordained priest at the O B C. I was/am a lay buddhist.

          Gassho

          Richard

          Comment

          • Bids
            Member
            • Mar 2008
            • 56

            #35
            Willy Tea Taylor performs his song "Everywhere Now" from the Helm inColorado Springs, CO 4/25/12.



            in gassho
            Nadi

            Comment

            • Jundo
              Treeleaf Founder and Priest
              • Apr 2006
              • 39211

              #36
              I just came across three poems on life-and-death by Kosho Uchiyama Roshi (of "Opening The Hand of Thought", the heir of Kodo Sawaki Roshi who Taigu so beautifully quotes on other threads today). Uchiyama Roshi lived with tuberculosis for over 50 years, and finally succumbed to the disease, so faced all head on. These poems were written by Uchiyama when he was in his 70's ... are the very same non-perspective on life-and-death discussed in this Thread ...

              Life-and-Death
              Water isn't formed by being ladled into a bucket
              Simply the water of the whole Universe has been ladled into a bucket
              The water does not disappear because it has been scattered over the ground
              It is only that the water of the whole Universe has been emptied into the whole Universe
              Life is not born because a person is born
              The life of the whole Universe has been ladled into the hardened "idea" called "I"
              Life does not disappear because a person dies
              Simply, the life of the whole Universe has been poured out of this hardened "idea" of "I" back into the universe

              Just Live, Just Die
              The Reality prior to the division into two
              Thinking it to be so, or not thinking it to be so
              Believing it to be so, or not believing it to be so
              Existence-nonexistence, life-death
              Truth-falsehood, delusion-enlightenment
              Self-others, happiness-unhappiness
              We live and die within the profundity of Reality
              Whatever we encounter is buddha-life
              This present Reality is buddha-life
              Just living, just dying---within no life or death

              Samadhi of the Treasury of the Radiant Light
              Though poor, never poor
              Though sick, never sick,
              Though aging, never aging
              Though dying, never dying
              Reality prior to division---
              Herein lies unlimited depth
              Last edited by Jundo; 10-14-2012, 12:29 PM.
              ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

              Comment

              • Bids
                Member
                • Mar 2008
                • 56

                #37
                Beautiful and clarifying ..... thank you Jundo.

                in gassho
                Nadi

                Comment

                • Omoi Otoshi
                  Member
                  • Dec 2010
                  • 801

                  #38
                  Originally posted by Seiryu
                  we tend to think of death as an experience of ever lasting non-existence. And, at least for me, that idea is scary. To experience my non-existence forever.
                  Exactly.

                  We tend to imagine death as a very passive, boring sort of existance, floating in some cold limbo with nothing to do, outside of the real world. Where's the fun in that?

                  In Zazen we get used to dying. The ego dies over and over again on the Zafu. And we discover that what is prior to division, what is there when our individual self is no longer present, is not some cold and empty limbo. It is like coming home. So alive and in full activity. An ever lasting spring outside of time. Nothing in need of doing, no need for having fun, but as far from boring as could ever be. And then the whole world of relativity is born again. Time reappears. And everything is fresh, cleansed, vibrant, alive. Every time Zazen ends, I am reborn, everything is reborn. Not only then, but this is when it is apparent.

                  Gassho,
                  Pontus
                  Last edited by Omoi Otoshi; 10-14-2012, 11:25 AM.
                  In a spring outside time, flowers bloom on a withered tree;
                  you ride a jade elephant backwards, chasing the winged dragon-deer;
                  now as you hide far beyond innumerable peaks--
                  the white moon, a cool breeze, the dawn of a fortunate day

                  Comment

                  • pinoybuddhist
                    Member
                    • Jun 2010
                    • 462

                    #39
                    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing these.

                    Raf
                    Originally posted by Jundo
                    I just came across three poems on life-and-death by Kosho Uchiyama Roshi (of "Opening The Hand of Thought", the heir of Kodo Sawaki Roshi who Taigu so beautifully quotes on other threads today). Uchiyama Roshi lived with tuberculosis for over 50 years, and finally succumbed to the disease, so faced all head on. These poems were written by Uchiyama when he was in his 70's ... are the very same non-perspective on life-and-death discussed in this Thread ...

                    Life-and-Death
                    Water isn't formed by being ladled into a bucket
                    Simply the water of the whole Universe has been ladled into a bucket
                    The water does not disappear because it has been scattered over the ground
                    It is only that the water of the whole Universe has been emptied into the whole Universe
                    Life is not born because a person is born
                    The life of the whole Universe has been ladled into the hardened "idea" called "I"
                    Life does not disappear because a person dies
                    Simply, the life of the whole Universe has been poured out of this hardened "idea" of "I" back into the universe

                    Just Live, Just Die
                    The Reality prior to the division into two
                    Thinking it to be so, or not thinking it to be so
                    Believing it to be so, or not believing it to be so
                    Existence-nonexistence, life-death
                    Truth-falsehood, delusion-enlightenment
                    Self-others, happiness-unhappiness
                    We live and die within the profundity of Reality
                    Whatever we encounter is buddha-life
                    This present Reality is buddha-life
                    Just living, just dying---within no life or death

                    Samadhi of the Treasury of the Radiant Light
                    Though poor, never poor
                    Though sick, never sick,
                    Though aging, never aging
                    Though dying, never dying
                    Reality prior to division---
                    Herein lies unlimited depth

                    Comment

                    • Geika
                      Treeleaf Unsui
                      • Jan 2010
                      • 4977

                      #40
                      The passages about Jiyu Kennett Roshi were touching to me as well as the Willy Tea Taylor song. Que sera, sera. Thank you for posting, Jundo and Nadi. Gassho.
                      求道芸化 Kyūdō Geika
                      I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

                      Comment

                      • adrianbkelly
                        Member
                        • Jun 2012
                        • 214

                        #41
                        Thanks everyone for an interesting discussion. I thought I'd share a poem on this subject, which I wrote years ago for the family of a young woman, who died of leukaemia on one of my night shifts:

                        The shadow of a sad song descending,
                        How long 'til death will tear us apart?
                        But I promise you I won't be leaving,
                        For the body is just a single part
                        Of all that makes a human being.
                        So when I die, love, don't despair,
                        Think of me when the wind is blowing
                        And I will run my fingers through your hair.

                        _/\_
                        Ade

                        Comment

                        • mr.Lou
                          Member
                          • Apr 2012
                          • 61

                          #42
                          Originally posted by Jundo
                          The old adage that "Zen" is about "Becoming One With The Universe" is really not so far off the mark!

                          What is more, I propose to you that this is really not so hard to see or understand (even for us with a modern, skeptical mind), although 'tis hard to really sink in and truly see (that is one reason for all this Sitting and Practice). And once seen, it is known as having always been there...

                          Gassho, Jundo
                          When I said I don't feel the need to ponder that question now, I think I was unclear in my response. I have sat with it for some time, and now I would like to clarify my point.

                          By not contemplating this question in the present, some can assume that it is because I am unconcerned. This is only partly correct. Perhaps this analogy can better explain my thoughts here:

                          [Next week, I know I will probably need to eat. I can't be 100% certain, but based on recent trends, I can guess with some fair probability. I do not know what I will eat. I do not know where the food will come from, who will prepare it, or how I will be changed by it. Those future-times and future-decisions are not necessary right now; I'm saving them for a future present when Right Action becomes needed. I could contemplate them if I wanted to, but it will all come down to the same end. If I plan or don't plan, I will still most probably end-up eating next week.]

                          To me, this is what death is. It is something I know is certainly coming, and I could spend a lot of time planning and contemplating it. I could let thoughts of that future occupy my time now, but why? In the end, my death will be another event in a long line of events that have happened or will happen or didn't happen; as the universe has done long before I could think about it and I guess long after too. Thinking about it now only intrudes on the time I have allotted for spending in the ever fleeting present.
                          thank you
                          -Lou Sat Today

                          Comment

                          • Jundo
                            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                            • Apr 2006
                            • 39211

                            #43
                            Originally posted by mr.Lou
                            When I said I don't feel the need to ponder that question now, I think I was unclear in my response. I have sat with it for some time, and now I would like to clarify my point.

                            By not contemplating this question in the present, some can assume that it is because I am unconcerned. This is only partly correct. Perhaps this analogy can better explain my thoughts here:

                            [Next week, I know I will probably need to eat. I can't be 100% certain, but based on recent trends, I can guess with some fair probability. I do not know what I will eat. I do not know where the food will come from, who will prepare it, or how I will be changed by it. Those future-times and future-decisions are not necessary right now; I'm saving them for a future present when Right Action becomes needed. I could contemplate them if I wanted to, but it will all come down to the same end. If I plan or don't plan, I will still most probably end-up eating next week.]

                            To me, this is what death is. It is something I know is certainly coming, and I could spend a lot of time planning and contemplating it. I could let thoughts of that future occupy my time now, but why? In the end, my death will be another event in a long line of events that have happened or will happen or didn't happen; as the universe has done long before I could think about it and I guess long after too. Thinking about it now only intrudes on the time I have allotted for spending in the ever fleeting present.
                            Lovely Lou. I am with you on this. How you live now, for good or bad, is the pivot point, and the only place it matters.

                            Of course, even if you don't think about it ... you had better plan a little for next week. If you don't eat, you will surely die!

                            Gassho, J
                            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                            Comment

                            • Daitetsu
                              Member
                              • Oct 2012
                              • 1145

                              #44
                              There is a very interesting book about "Death" by Thich Nhat Hanh: "No Death, No Fear".
                              His points are very reasonable, and you don't have to believe in the classical concept of rebirth/reincarnation.

                              We are not born and we don't die. We just manifest as something different.

                              If I may quote:
                              Sooner or later the cloud will change into rain or snow or ice. If you look deeply into the rain, you can see the cloud. The cloud is not lost; it is transformed into rain, and the rain is transformed into grass and the grass into cows and then to milk and then into the ice cream you eat. Today if you eat an ice cream, give yourself time to look at the ice cream and say: “Hello, cloud! I recognize you.” By doing that, you have insight and understanding into the real nature of the ice cream and the cloud. You can also see the ocean, the river, the heat, the sun, the grass and the cow in the ice cream.

                              Looking deeply, you do not see a real date of birth and you do not see a real date of death for the cloud. All that happens is that the cloud transforms into rain or snow.

                              When everything is one interconnected whole - what is it that is supposed to die and/or be "reborn"?
                              The common concept of birth/death does not make much sense then to me.
                              no thing needs to be added

                              Comment

                              • Daitetsu
                                Member
                                • Oct 2012
                                • 1145

                                #45
                                Hi Seiryu,

                                Originally posted by Seiryu
                                we tend to think of death as an experience of ever lasting non-existence. And, at least for me, that idea is scary. To experience my non-existence forever.

                                However, if you don't exist you cannot experience anything. The prerequisite for perception is existence, and if you don't exist, you cannot perceive.

                                Or as the Greek philosopher Epicurus put it: "When we exist death is not, and when death exists we are not."
                                So even assuming a (philosophically) materialistic approach about death, we would not have to fear it.

                                The thing I am afraid of is not death, but the way of dying. Not everyone dies peacefully in their sleep, if you know what I mean. (I've seen some bad/sad things in the last years...)

                                Gassho,

                                Timo
                                no thing needs to be added

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