Universalism

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  • Dainin
    Member
    • Sep 2007
    • 389

    Universalism

    Hey Folks,

    A few recent discussions on Treeleaf have prompted me to think a lot about Universalism. Historically, it is a specific Christian theology purporting that all will eventually be “saved by an all-loving God.” However I have learned that some have taken Universalism outside the boundaries of Christianity and are using it as the best explanation of their worldview. Even some agnostics and atheists have an affinity for Universalism. They see it as more, well, universal. Some don’t see it as anything to do with a “saving God” but more as an explanation that “there are many ways up the mountain” (leaving aside for now the Zen idea that there is really no mountain to climb, etc.). Lately, I have discovered a certain affinity for this philosophy. The Unitarian Universalist Association’s (which is no longer a Christian denomination - more humanistic - was created through a merger between the Unitarian Church and the Universalist Church in the 1950’s, I believe) guiding principles affirm :

    -The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
    -Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
    -Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
    -A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
    -The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
    -The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
    -Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

    This all seems very reasonable to me. As I think I have made clear around here, I abhor fundamentalism and sectarianism in all their guises. I’ve seen it in Christianity, we’re all seeing it with certain Muslim groups around the world, we see it in jingoism, I’ve seen it in education, and I’ve seen it in Buddhism. I guess it can rear its ugly head in any human endeavor. To say that one particular way of doing something is the only way of doing it is, to me, absurd. I just cannot reconcile this view with how I view the world and what I know in the deepest recesses of my being. I believe there are many ways of doing many things and, most of the time, they are all valid. This certainly does not mean “anything goes.” It doesn't mean you're being milk-toast, and it doesn't mean you don't have a strong practice/base.

    For example, I am inspired by Nishijima Roshi’s teachings, especially regarding Shikantaza. However, I just don’t get why he’d say that his way of teaching it and the 4 Noble Truths are the only authentic way. Brad Warner says the same (Brad has a recent post about just this on his blog). As I said to Jundo on another thread, I understand why a teacher says “This is what I teach and the way I teach, and if it doesn’t work for you, perhaps I’m not the teacher for you.” Okay. I dig that. No problem. But, then to add, “But if you go somewhere else, you won’t be getting the real deal” seems absurd to me. Okay, Nishijima says that his is the authentic way, but so does vipassana teacher S.N. Goenka. He claims he’s teaching authentic meditation exactly how Buddha taught it and everyone else isn’t, which is very different from Nishijima‘s way. Others, of course, say the same thing. To make a statement like that seems to me based out of some type of fear and seems very childish to me. I see all the various styles and ways of teaching as all skillful means meant for all different types of folks. If something doesn’t work for you, there are other ways. No problem. And regardless of what someone may say, you’re not an asswipe because you feel that way.

    I just think it’s important to be faithful to what works for you, while remaining open to the whole. To be fundamentalist is to close ourselves off to some potential richness from other sources. My practice lately has come to mean learning to live by the basic teachings of the Buddha (4 Noble Truths/8-Fold Path), the Precepts that I have taken, and Shikantaza. I may call myself a Buddhist on good days, and I don’t think I’ll be calling myself a Universalist anytime soon, but I think there is something for me to learn there as well.
  • Rev R
    Member
    • Jul 2007
    • 457

    #2
    Hey Keith,

    "Fundamentalism" is becoming a word with a hair trigger. It seems that anytime someone professes a strong opinion or a critical view of another opinion, the new "F-bomb" is dropped.

    At it's most broad definition fundamentalism is a strict adherence to a certain set of principles. That's all of us my friend. The difference that I have found in my study and practice of the Way is that "our fundamentalism" isn't supposed to lie in scripture or clerical authority. It lies instead in our own personal experience of practice.

    So to refer to the criticism of another method of practice as fundamentalism, particularly when this reference includes a opinion of how it "should" be, is a degree of fundamentalism itself.

    In the end x is fluffy, y is wrong, z is the True Path(tm) is just an opinion. Is "this mind is Buddha," really any different to "the kingdom of heaven lies within"? Not really. But in my mind the first statement has less baggage, fewer assumptions. To me the old adage holds true, "absorb what is useful, discard the rest." Only you know what is truth, and only you know what you require.

    Comment

    • Dainin
      Member
      • Sep 2007
      • 389

      #3
      Hey Rev,

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply. There's not much that I disagree with you here.

      Originally posted by Rev R
      "Fundamentalism" is becoming a word with a hair trigger. It seems that anytime someone professes a strong opinion or a critical view of another opinion, the new "F-bomb" is dropped.

      At it's most broad definition fundamentalism is a strict adherence to a certain set of principles.
      The traditional definition, I think, is more to do with what's the essential (fundamental) aspect of a particular phenomenon. Remember RIF (Reading is Fundamental)? Yeah, learning to read is fundamental for most people to get along in modern society. But, I think it has also evolved into meaning a closed-minded-circle-the-wagons-against-the-infidels attitude. When I use the word in this context, I am referring to that attitude, which I don't find helpful.

      Originally posted by Rev R
      "To me the old adage holds true, "absorb what is useful, discard the rest." Only you know what is truth, and only you know what you require.
      I heartily agree! This is exactly why the Buddhadharma has attracted me.

      Gassho,
      Keith

      Comment

      • Rev R
        Member
        • Jul 2007
        • 457

        #4
        Hey Keith

        I was focused on the definition in it's religious context.

        I think it has also evolved into meaning a closed-minded-circle-the-wagons-against-the-infidels attitude. When I use the word in this context, I am referring to that attitude, which I don't find helpful.
        Oh I agree, and it's not healthful either. It's a difficult mentality to combat and maintain balance because it's such an easy mentality to drift into. I've seen it in others and I see it in myself from time to time. It gets difficult to recognize the mentality when you agree with the ideas.

        *edit* Yeah I do remember RIF, whatever happened to that program.

        Comment

        • will
          Member
          • Jun 2007
          • 2331

          #5
          It can also be good to look at others in various other practices not with a critical eye but with eye that say we both share that path. For this I'm referring to other "buddhist" practices here, but it might relate to other stuff. I might be full of shit, but it just seems anti- productive to worry about how others are following the wrong path. It seems more productive to laugh with them and maybe chop some wood. I think you know what I mean.

          It seems to me that let's say the Tibetan tradition. Now they have this idea of reincarnation, but who am I to say they are full of it. They might know something I don't. After listening to Lama Malcolm's talks I could see that they were shooting for the same realization as Soto Zen only using different methods. I didn't and don't study Tibetan Buddhism, maybe someone can enlighten me.

          You know. Jundo said something to me that was fairly relevant. I can't remember his exact words, sorry Jundo. He said "You do this practice and eventually see it as a good way of life." Doesn't mean it's the only way.

          Gassho Will
          [size=85:z6oilzbt]
          To save all sentient beings, though beings are numberless.
          To penetrate reality, though reality is boundless.
          To transform all delusion, though delusions are immeasurable.
          To attain the enlightened way, a way non-attainable.
          [/size:z6oilzbt]

          Comment

          • Jundo
            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
            • Apr 2006
            • 39392

            #6
            Hey Guys,

            I came across an appropriate quote today from Dogen Zenji. It was a time when he was preaching that all Buddhism was one, yet was simultaneously very critical quite often of other Buddhist traditions such as Pure Land, Esoteric traditions, some schools that only emphasized book learning and such. He wrote ...

            "A Buddhist should neither argue superiority or inferiority of doctrines, nor settle disputes over depth or shallowness of teachings, but only know authenticity or inauthenticity of practice." (Bendowa)

            I know that some people prefer Britney Spears to Beethoven, and that is fine ... a matter of taste. But if you come to my piano class to learn to play Beethoven, I will tell you how to do it "right", and I will know for sure when the piano is in or out of tune.

            Some people want their religion to have an old man with a long beard who created the earth in 6 days, or a golden buddha whose sacred steps turn to lotus blossoms. Good for them. Maybe their Buddhism or other religion/philosophy is better than mine, at least for them. I am sure that they feel likewise about my way of Buddhism. Good for them again. Other people want to come to Zazen for a bit of feel-good relaxation before they get on with their busy week. Good for them too. They may not appreciate or have interest in the more challenging aspects of our Practice.

            But I am not going to change what I teach one bit. Nor am I going to stop to comment on other forms of Buddhism/religion which I consider (from my standpoint) fluff, hocus-pocus or counterproductive. Feel free to listen to Britney Spears, but do not expect a Beethoven teacher to tell you how good it is.

            Gassho, Jundo the Dharma Snob

            PS - I ONLY recommend this Practice because it has been part of my life for about half of it. But you have to find out for yourself if the same holds true for you. If not, feel free to head out my door and down the street to the big Dharma music store and buy some Britney, White Stripes, Will Simpson, Stravinsky or Miles Davis ... whatever works for you.
            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

            Comment

            • Bansho
              Member
              • Apr 2007
              • 532

              #7
              Hi,

              I think Nishijima Roshi is correct when he says that his teachings are the only way, but: in a relative, not an absolute sense. Let me try to explain. As far as I know, none of us here at Treeleaf were brought up in families which practice Soto Zen. We all have different backgrounds, live in various countries and probably come from famlies where a theistic religion is the standard. In my case, it was catholicism. However, I don’t believe in any god(s), heaven or hell in a literal sense, etc. So theistic religions are a no-go for me. After about 15 years of being an atheist with a nominal interest in philosophy, my interest was sparked in Buddhism. However, I don’t believe in reincarnation, I don’t think Mara is going to drag me to the Avici hell if I’m a bad boy, I don’t think that Amithaba is going to find a nice place for me in the Tushita heaven if I’m a good boy, and I’d be willing to bet that Buddha Shakyamuni never lit up the sky by sending out a beam of light from between his eyebrows. It’s also not likely that something will happen which will cause me to change my view on these things. There’s no going back. On the other hand, I have deep faith in the core teachings of the Buddha, Nagarjuna, Bodhidharma, Dogen Zenji, and of course in Zazen. Faith in the sense that I know that they are true, just like if I drop a ball I know that gravity will make it fall to the ground. So after I started looking into the Buddhadharma I slowly but actively narrowed my focus to the general direction of Zen, then towards Soto Zen and finally into Nishijima Roshi’s lineage with Jundo and Treeleaf. One by one I’ve ruled out traditions which don’t work for me. And now I’m here, hurray! So when Nishijima Roshi (or Jundo for that matter) says that what he teaches is the only way, it’s like he is speaking to a limited audience of people in a similar situation who have, like us here at Treeleaf, actively sought him out for very specific reasons and for that particular audience, it may very well be the only way. Of course for others who just happen to stumble across a statement like that it may be off-putting if interpreted in an absolute sense. OK, enough rambling on for now. Hopefully I’m not giving Nishijima Roshi too much credit where it’s not deserved, but that’s my take on it at this point in time.

              Gassho
              Ken
              ??

              Comment

              • Jun
                Member
                • Jun 2007
                • 236

                #8
                I’d be willing to bet that Buddha Shakyamuni never lit up the sky by sending out a beam of light from between his eyebrows.
                I read that it was from between his butt-cheeks? Must be a different story...never mind.
                Gassho
                Jun
                The life and teachings of Suzuki Shõsan Rõshi - http://kongoshin.blogspot.com/

                Comment

                • Dainin
                  Member
                  • Sep 2007
                  • 389

                  #9
                  Hey Guys,

                  Thank you for your replies. Good stuff all around (except maybe the butt-cheek thing - not a good image! :wink: ).

                  I still feel there are many ways to do most things, and I still need to remain open to the whole. But like Ken said, I've also narrowed down my options over the years enough to know that the Soto way, as taught in this lineage, is the most skillful and balanced way for me. Hurray!

                  Gassho,
                  Keith

                  Comment

                  • Martin
                    Member
                    • Jun 2007
                    • 216

                    #10
                    Keith

                    Like you, and others, I'm sympathetic to Universalism.

                    Different paths can all be equally right - or equally wrong! And recognising that we in the great scheme of things (if there is one) are all equally wrong can be a basis for a universal and inclusive approach also. I read that the Buddha said:

                    "I look upon the judgment of right and wrong as the serpentine dance of a dragon, and the rise and fall of beliefs as but traces left by the four seasons".

                    Gassho

                    Martin

                    Comment

                    • Ankai
                      Treeleaf Unsui
                      • Nov 2007
                      • 907

                      #11
                      I and my kids attend a Unitarian Universalist fellowship on Sunday mornings. If you look at the Zen Peacemakers website, the core beliefs are almost identical! UUism is quite compatible with Buddhism, especially our own expression.
                      With a group of like-minded, interested folks there, (and from outside,) we've got a pretty good sitting group going.
                      Pretty cool stuff!
                      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

                      • Jundo
                        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                        • Apr 2006
                        • 39392

                        #12
                        Originally posted by Keith

                        I still feel there are many ways to do most things, and I still need to remain open to the whole.
                        We all do. This weekend, I was at the local festival and I bought one of those bumper stickers that says "CO-EXIST" on it, with symbols for the many religions: a Crucifix, a Jewish Star, a Buddha, etc. I really believe in that, and moreover, we must be constantly open and learn from each other, from all other traditions and beliefs. (Heck, although I personally think it eccentric and maybe a little dangerous, I sometimes try to listen to what Tom Cruz is saying about Scientology's views. Also, no book fails to contain some idea of value, no matter how reviled the author).

                        But I tend to look on society, and religious society, as a salad. I am a tomato, and there are peppers and greens and bit of this and that ... and we should all co-exist, learn from each other and get along.

                        But, you know, as a tomato, I am going to be my tomato-ness. I am going to go that way, right for me. Other tomatoes show up at my door, I am going to teach them how to be tomatoes.

                        Gassho, Jundo-mato

                        (Just got up: I'm not so good with fruit and vegetable analogies so early in the day ... but you get the point! :? )
                        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                        Comment

                        • Rev R
                          Member
                          • Jul 2007
                          • 457

                          #13
                          But don't tomatoes already know how to be tomatoes?:lol:

                          Just funnin' ya a bit.


                          I've no issue with tomatoes being tomatoes and peppers being peppers (let alone any issue with a specific tomato).

                          I've no issue with pointing out the difference between strains of tomatoes or between tomatoes and peppers. Even if it sounds a little harsh.

                          My issue always lies in peppers telling tomatoes they are going to the grill if they don't become peppers.


                          Besides, we all know that grilled peppers taste better.

                          Comment

                          • Dainin
                            Member
                            • Sep 2007
                            • 389

                            #14
                            Hey Tomato Sensei ... er ... Jundo,

                            Originally posted by Jundo
                            But, you know, as a tomato, I am going to be my tomato-ness. I am going to go that way, right for me. Other tomatoes show up at my door, I am going to teach them how to be tomatoes.
                            So, as tomatoes, are we fruits or vegetables? Neither? Both? :wink:

                            Seriously, nice analogy (even if it was an early morning one).

                            Gassho,
                            Keith

                            Comment

                            • Rev R
                              Member
                              • Jul 2007
                              • 457

                              #15
                              and are we reborn as ketchup.

                              Comment

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