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Questions and thoughts on Zen practice.

Discussion in 'Zen DIR' started by Unveiled Artist, Mar 11, 2015.

  1. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist Veteran Member

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    I was thinking of taking up Zen again. I have strong Buddhist values but have strayed away so long. However, I do believe heavily in ancestral spirits and their helping me out. The Buddha came from His palace to be among the poor. He tried many religions some which believed in Gods, spirits, and such. He concluded that everything comes from the mind and practice. Practicing Zen is practicing life; and practicing life is our "true nature."

    Since I do believe in spirits, wouldn't that be contradictory to the Buddha's teachings?

    I don't like mixing faiths; but ancestral veneration isn't a religion. Many cultures do it regardless their religion or moral perspective.

    What ye think?

    I found something coincidentally relating to my question.

    The Buddha could not accept the religions existing at his time. He studied many religions, but he was not satisfied with their practices. He could not find the answer in asceticism or in philosophies. He was not interested in some metaphysical experience, but in his own body and mind, here and now. And when he found himself, he found that everything that exists has a Buddha nature. That was his enlightenment. Enlightenment is not some good feeling or some particular state of mind. The state of mind that exists when you sit in the right posture is, itself, enlightenment.​

    ~Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
     
    #1 Unveiled Artist, Mar 11, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2015
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  2. StarryNightshade

    StarryNightshade Aspiring Progressive Orthodox Jew
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    Sorry to intrude in the DIR, but as a former Buddhist, I think I can offer some insight.

    If you wish to follow the Buddha's teachings (particularly Zen), but still want room for ancestor veneration, why not check out generalized east Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese) Mahayana Buddhism? From my experiences, generalized Mahayana makes room for various traditions (especially Zen and Pure Land) and also has a good deal of ancestor veneration. That way, you can have both practices with little contradiction; at least culturally.
     
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  3. bishblaize

    bishblaize Member

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    Buddha's teaching are very much about how we think (or perhaps how we misthink). There's little in the way of creation myth, statements about the construction or mechanism of the universe, where we came from, etc. So I dont really see that a belief in spirits stops you being Buddhist any more than a belief in gravity stops you being Buddhist. Neither breach some fundamental belief framework that is required in order to be called a buddhist.

    That said Zen is very stripped back & pragmatic. In Zen, belief in ancestral spirits would probably be rejected in favour of belief in washing the dishes.
     
  4. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist Veteran Member

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    True. To be a Buddha, I assume that since the Buddha saw no over all importance and reason behind believing in gods, spirits, and so forth; that, he (or it would be against reasoning or Buddha nature) to assume there is anything more than our mind and how our mind perceives what is around us. I know a lot of Buddhist because of culture, do revere their ancestors. They (just like many Christians) don't associate it with their belief tenants. It's more they are closer to their ancestors because of their belief rather than it conflicting with each other.

     
  5. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist Veteran Member

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    I could do that. Thank you. We have a lot of Theravada temples. Mostly, they are in monk's homes or the temples are attached to their homes. There is two Zen monasteries, one in New York (I'm in Virginia) and the other in the Shenandoah mountains (and I'm in the metropolitan area)
     
  6. Geoff-Allen

    Geoff-Allen Resident megalomaniac

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  7. metis

    metis aged ecumenical anthropologist

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    Spirits of various types show up in the Pali Canon and numerous sutras. However, they're generally viewed as also being ever-changing entities that come and go, but are mostly viewed as not being that terribly consequential to the overall picture of things.

    One can use dharma more as a philosophical approach versus a religion, which is my drift.

    Excellent book, imo. My favorite Buddhist author by far is the monk Matthieu Ricard who is an adviser and translator to the Dalai Lama. He was a well-recognized French scientist until he decided to chuck that and become a monk. The guy's an absolute genius.
     
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  8. Vishvavajra

    Vishvavajra Active Member

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    Short answer: There's nothing wrong with ancestral veneration or any other practice, as long as you approach it from the perspective of Buddhist understanding.

    Longer answer: Buddhism isn't an exclusive religion in the way that Christianity and Islam are. It's a practice, not an identity. In every culture in which Buddhadharma is strong, it has found a way to coexist with native religious traditions, often adapting itself to them and them to it. Master Sheng Yan said that any practice undertaken from a Buddhist perspective becomes a Buddhist practice. Chinese religion has included both Buddhist practice and ancestor worship for many centuries.

    The key is that you don't take the existence of ancestral spirits to suggest that there is an essential, abiding self--but in this way the dead are really no different from the living. Buddhist myths and teachings speak of all sorts of divine beings, and in the realm of the mind all things are possible. Buddhism is not particularly concerned with questions of objective existence: if spirits are real to you, and that belief affects your behavior, then they can be regarded as real, at least in the conventional sense. That is not at all heretical from a Buddhist standpoint.
     
  9. Twilight Hue

    Twilight Hue The gentle embrace of twilight has become my guide

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    Having beliefs is not really going to affect Zen practice as you engage in Zazen or working on a Koan. It's just another contention by which you either entertain or pass like any nuance. That said, it can prove detrimental in fashion as to the manner by which one "progresses" by way realizations are uncovered through the manner by which you practice Zen. It comes to a point at times where it becomes a struggle as to decide wither one needs to hold on or chuck various baggage throughout the duration one practices Zen Buddhism.

    Incidentally, I started Zen with beliefs in divinity as well. Seems you already indicated some familiarity through your post. Easier go once started. :0]
     
  10. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist Veteran Member

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    I'm just re-reading my posts instead of going to bed, lol... seeing ancestral veneration from a Buddhist perspective, I'd have to accept that the spirits are not separate entities as which is commonly believed by majority, but thoughts/feelings personificatied coming from our mind? If I said that right.
     
  11. Vishvavajra

    Vishvavajra Active Member

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    That's one way to look at it, but as is typically the case with Buddhadharma, it's not the only way. After all, what is "our" mind? What is "separate"? What is an "entity"? Is there a degree to which a spirit is only a product of one's mind that, for example, your keyboard is not? The keyboard is, in fact, a product of your mind, in that the very concept of "keyboard" is a mental construct of the sort that we habitually impose on reality in order to make sense of it. Ancestral spirits are ultimately no different. However, the concept of "keyboard" does have its uses, no?

    Things can be conventionally true without having any bearing on the ultimate nature of reality. And when it comes to concepts like gods and spirits, once you recognize that they are Samsaric concepts like any other, what matters is not whether you make use of those concepts, but whether your use or non-use of them is constructive or destructive. If you believe in ancestral spirits and that belief affects your behavior and mental state, then there's a meaningful sense in which they're real, at least in a conventional sense, and what matters then is that they help you and not hinder you. For example, feeling gratitude for those who came before is a useful practice, as is the sense that you are loved and supported. On the other hand, feeling that you cannot be secure or accomplish things without appealing to outside help is not so useful.

    Buddhadharma does not discourage reverence or gratitude, in any case. What it discourages is reserving all of one's reverence and gratitude for deities and denying it to actual people and other sentient beings, as many people do. And it discourages slavish dependence on gods and spirits, who do not operate outside of the Samsaric realm of karma and are ultimately no better than elder cousins who are in the same boat as us, even if they've been in it longer.

    And yes, ultimately they're not separate from you, but neither is anyone else.
     
    #11 Vishvavajra, Mar 24, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2015
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  12. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist Veteran Member

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    Thank you. Well said.

     
  13. Acala

    Acala Member

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    Dogen had many visions of Ghosts and so on. Yume. There's a mass of writings by Dogen on this subject, past lives and various Realms. Western Zen is devoid of Eastern thought upon such matters. It takes conversation with Japanese Buddhists who know the Dharma to see through the Occidental mistranslation of Dogen's Dharma.
     
  14. Twilight Hue

    Twilight Hue The gentle embrace of twilight has become my guide

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    It's a pretty good summary there.

    I think personification provides a good base medium by way of illustration. Based on my own experiences, I found it particularly useful in identifying facets by which we have attuned ourselves through long-term habit by using numerous demons, angels, ghosts etc, and respective realms.
     
  15. Twilight Hue

    Twilight Hue The gentle embrace of twilight has become my guide

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    I know of no Zen school that regards such interpretation in that light. Definitly not Soto or Rinzai.
     
  16. Acala

    Acala Member

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    O.B.C. most certainly do, Rev Master Kennett was taught at Soji-ji various things that won't be taught in Western interpretations of Zen. Have you read Keizan's texts on such subjects? Or Dogen's Yume?

    'Probably one of, if not *the* most famous vision, that Dōgen ever had, was when returning to Japan, from China, by boat, at sea.

    According to the story, and to Sōtō Zen records, the ship met with a violent storm. The storm was so violent, that everyone feared that the ship would go down, and so Dōgen led them all in a recitation of the Kannon Scripture, at which point Avalokiteshvara (Kanzeon) appeared to Dōgen, floating on a lotus leaf amidst the waves. The vision was so powerful that that several members of the crew on board the ship could also see it. An event, that as one article noted, is extraordinarily rare.

    This vision, is discussed in works officially sponsored by the Sōtō Shu Head Office (Kouzui, 1994), and is so famous, that it was memorialized in a statue at Eihi-ji (see image below).

    There is also a 14'th century copy of a painting of the same Kannon that was supposedly commissioned by Dōgen himself. With it, is a poem, which is possibly an original in his own hand, of his giving thanks to Kannon:

    "From the single blossom five leaves uncurled:
    Upon one single leaf a Tathagata stood alone.
    Her vow to harmonize our lives is ocean deep,
    As we spin on and on, shouldering our deeds of
    right and wrong.'
    -written by the mendicant monk Dōgen, September 26, 1242. (Ishida, 1964)
     
    #16 Acala, Jul 9, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2015
  17. Kartari

    Kartari Active Member

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    I do not believe there is any inherent conflict between supernatural beliefs generally and either Zen or Buddhism more broadly, Carlita.

    While some individuals may disagree, there is certainly at least a historical precedent for the inclusion of both supernatural beliefs and Buddhism in one's life. Consider the fact that Confucianism, which strongly features ancestor reverence and worship, coexisted with and even co-mingled with Buddhism (and Daoism) in the popular religious expressions of the Chinese people for many, many centuries. Also consider that in Japan, Shinto (the animistic or spirit-centered native religion of Japan) and Buddhism as well coexisted and co-mingled for many centuries. It was not uncommon to find Chinese Buddhist monks performing Confucian rituals of ancestor reverence for the common people by Sui and Tang period China (6th century CE), for instance. As well, the Japanese for many centuries typically believed in both the Shinto spirits (called kami) and in Buddhist salvation from dukkha, with priests from each sought after for differing purposes (e.g. the same people might have a Buddhist service for a funeral, but a Shinto wedding ceremony).

    Indeed, one of the major schools of Chinese Buddhism to emerge was Chan, which was imported into Japan as Zen. And Chan/Zen practices were mingled by a number of masters with esoteric rituals and practices (e.g. rituals to call for rain to end drought, to magically heal someone, to protect the nation, etc.). This list of masters includes the very eclectic founder of the Rinzai lineage of Zen himself, Eisai, who (despite being chastised by the Tendai institution) never rejected his Tendai Buddhist status as a recognized Taimitsu (esoteric Tendai) master, and even continued to perform such esoteric rituals in his Zen temples to the end of his days.
     
  18. dyanaprajna2011

    dyanaprajna2011 Dharmapala

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    It all depends on how you view it. If it becomes a hindrance, I would say it's time to drop it. If it helps spur one in their practice, then there would be no issue with it. Buddhism is about practice, not beliefs, and there's certainly room in Buddhism for the veneration of ancestor spirits. I would ask, though, to ask yourself why you wish to hold this idea. Once you answer that question, and analyze it in light of the Dharma, then you'll have your answer.
     
  19. von bek

    von bek Well-Known Member

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    Believing in other intelligent beings beyond the human sphere of existence is perfectly acceptable and within the range of Buddhist beliefs, as long as one views these entities with the proper insight of dukkha, anicca, and anatta.
     
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  20. von bek

    von bek Well-Known Member

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    I should also add that it it is not necessary to believe in "spirits" or other beings to practice. Simply put, when it comes to worshipping or not, that is a personal decision that different Buddhists come to different conclusions on. If you ask others in order to find justification for what you already think, the issue will only become less clear as you will find a variety of opinions on the subject and you will not be able to readily reconcile all of them.
     
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