Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby Prasadachitta » Fri Feb 06, 2009 5:10 pm

sect-bashing arises out of emotional need or a lack of basic understanding about other sects. It's embarrassing when Buddhists do this to one another.


I think the embarrassment you feel comes from a very similar "emotional need" to the one sect bashing arises out of. Im not trying to pick on you Drolma. I just thought this was a good opportunity show a more broad perspective on our behavior.

Metta

Gabriel
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Fri Feb 06, 2009 5:41 pm

gabrielbranbury wrote:
sect-bashing arises out of emotional need or a lack of basic understanding about other sects. It's embarrassing when Buddhists do this to one another.


I think the embarrassment you feel comes from a very similar "emotional need" to the one sect bashing arises out of. Im not trying to pick on you Drolma. I just thought this was a good opportunity show a more broad perspective on our behavior.

Metta

Gabriel


Hi Gabriel,

I appreciate your feedback. But I might have misstated this. What I mean is that it reflects poorly on the larger group. But I'm not feeling a personal sense of shame or embarrassment.

:namaste:
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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby kc2dpt » Fri Feb 06, 2009 7:11 pm

Personally, if I am asked my opinion of another's practice, Buddhist or non-, I will give it. If no one asks though, I don't feel any need to volunteer my opinion. Also, if I ask for someone's opinion I'm not going to then criticize them for offering it.

Also, I think it a good general rule when speaking of another's tradition to be as generous as possible. So for example...

My opinion of Zen is it seems a tradition that depends heavily on qualified teachers. I think the bulk of the questionable behavior we see comes from students speaking about things they are not yet qualified to speak about. I think this is not the fault of the religion itself but rather due to the wide availablity of books websites.

Conversely, Theravada seems to rely more directly on scripture which I think makes it easier for everyone to get on the same page (no pun intended) and making Theravada an easier fit with our information rich society.
- Peter

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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Fri Feb 06, 2009 8:26 pm

Peter wrote:Personally, if I am asked my opinion of another's practice, Buddhist or non-, I will give it. If no one asks though, I don't feel any need to volunteer my opinion. Also, if I ask for someone's opinion I'm not going to then criticize them for offering it.

Also, I think it a good general rule when speaking of another's tradition to be as generous as possible. So for example...

My opinion of Zen is it seems a tradition that depends heavily on qualified teachers. I think the bulk of the questionable behavior we see comes from students speaking about things they are not yet qualified to speak about. I think this is not the fault of the religion itself but rather due to the wide availablity of books websites.

Conversely, Theravada seems to rely more directly on scripture which I think makes it easier for everyone to get on the same page (no pun intended) and making Theravada an easier fit with our information rich society.


Peter,

Yet again, I completely agree with you.

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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby jcsuperstar » Fri Feb 06, 2009 10:41 pm

Peter wrote:Personally, if I am asked my opinion of another's practice, Buddhist or non-, I will give it. If no one asks though, I don't feel any need to volunteer my opinion. Also, if I ask for someone's opinion I'm not going to then criticize them for offering it.

Also, I think it a good general rule when speaking of another's tradition to be as generous as possible. So for example...

My opinion of Zen is it seems a tradition that depends heavily on qualified teachers. I think the bulk of the questionable behavior we see comes from students speaking about things they are not yet qualified to speak about. I think this is not the fault of the religion itself but rather due to the wide availablity of books websites.

Conversely, Theravada seems to rely more directly on scripture which I think makes it easier for everyone to get on the same page (no pun intended) and making Theravada an easier fit with our information rich society.

i can get on board with this..
i also think theravada has the most systems of checks and balences of all the buddhist sects, no that things dont go bad (ive heard horror stories about bad monks) but theres more of a system to weed out the trouble makers
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the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby christopher::: » Sat Feb 07, 2009 4:41 am

Peter wrote:
My opinion of Zen is it seems a tradition that depends heavily on qualified teachers. I think the bulk of the questionable behavior we see comes from students speaking about things they are not yet qualified to speak about. I think this is not the fault of the religion itself but rather due to the wide availablity of books websites.

Conversely, Theravada seems to rely more directly on scripture which I think makes it easier for everyone to get on the same page (no pun intended) and making Theravada an easier fit with our information rich society.


I think the reality of our situation presently is that Zen in the West has relied on translated texts (of teachings from Patriarchs and great masters) in much the same way as Western Theravada has relied on translations of sutras. Traditionally, qualified teachers were central in Zen Buddhism, definitely, and we do have many excellent teachers. But interest in Zen has expanded at a rate that teachers alone cannot provide for, imo. Perhaps this is one reason many of us are drawn to the Theravada tradition, as an exemplary group of modern Buddhist practitioners, to learn from?

If Zen Buddhism is to move forward without becoming a sloppy mess we need most probably thousands of qualified teachers and/or a better sense of what constitutes helpful texts/scripture, as well as key practices.

Speaking only for myself, while I have had contact with qualified teachers (in recent years) I've had to make my way on my own pretty much, since the early 1980s. Most helpful over that time (imo) has been to read texts from highly realized masters, both within Zen Buddhism and from other traditions.

For the last 5 years I've found that sincere practitioners have been very very helpful, in guiding my practice, and study. This points to a third potential method for strengthening our traditions, with the existence of online sangha communities like E-sangha, Dhamma Wheel and ZFI. This is still an experiment, of course, but initial results with this ongoing experiment look encouraging, imo.

:group:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Theravada and Ch'an

Postby Tikki » Tue Apr 28, 2009 6:38 pm

Will wrote:As an example, Ch'an Master Hsuan Hua, was close to several Ajahn's. He even donated a large amount of land for a retreat or monastery (I have forgotten which) for the Theravadins. Below is a picture of him and Ajahn Sumedho. So between Ch'an and Theravada, yes - I do not know much about Zen.

Image


The monastery that Venerable Master Hsuan Hua donated a large amount of land to was Abhayagiri. (Sorry if my English is not correct.)

http://www.abhayagiri.org
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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby Bankei » Wed Apr 29, 2009 6:09 am

I was original drawn to Zen Buddhism and still have a soft spot for it.

I am attrached to the old Chinese Chan of the Tang and Song Dynasties, masters such as Linji, Mazu etc

What strikes me as appealing are the simple stories without complex theories. Such as the 2nd Patriarch when he was talking to some disciple who told him their mind as at unease. He (can't remember the name now) said show me your mind and I will pacify it.

Also the death poems (jisei) of mainly Japanese masters are great. I like the simplicity of language where maybe 4 chinese characters can express something which would need a whole page of English if translated.

Also I like the non-attachment to the traditional aspects of the religion, such as Buddha statues, temples, suttas etc. Sometimes I think Theravadins get too caught up in these sorts of things.

But this can be taken too far, when for example, some say we shouldn't be attached to precepts. The Japanese Daruma school of Nonin may be an example.

The more I studies Zen the more I found that these sorts of things I was attracted to were not really present in Zen. Maybe they never were, maybe they were just idealised stories that were read back into history.

In Japan, modern Zen is no different to the other sects. It is mainly just funeral business Buddhism. Monks are not really monks, but priests who may only spend a short time of intense study at a training monstery and then go back to the family temple which they inherited from their father where they will live with their wife. They will chant sutras for the dead for money as this is their job. This reminds me one of the old Zen masters said chanting Sutras with the aim of benefiting the dead was like reciting recipes to help alleviate hunger - this is the sort of stuff I love.

I was surprised to learn that Eisai or Yosai, the monk who introduced Rinzai Zen to Japan spend a lot of time chanting sutras to try to benefit the nation. It is not a matter of recent Zen changing. This was from the 1100s, Zen masters concerned with political stuff!

Another aspect which I wasn't really into was the Mahayana theology behind Zen. I could never really understand all this stuff. When you start to read some of the works of Dogen for example, it is really hard to understand without knowing much about Mahayana theories.

so this lead me to Theravada which I found to be much simpler, and closer to the original teachings of the Buddha. But I still like the simple idealistic Zen stuff.


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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby Mexicali » Thu Apr 30, 2009 2:46 pm

I find most western Zen people insufferable. A lot of the Japanese-derived Western Zen lineages teach things that I don't even really consider Buddhism. I practiced in a Chan/Pure Land tradition which, while it ultimately has its own problems, still kept precepts, the noble truths and noble paths, monasticism, and other basic teachings of the Buddha. Western Zen often just throws it all out and reduces Buddhist teachings to 'hey, live in the now, dude.' Point out that this isn't what Buddha taught and maybe you'll be treated to some kind of stupidity about how 'the Buddha never said a word' or whatever. There have been some great Chan/Zen/Son teachers, but there have also been a lot of unethical fakes with a tendency to form cultish groups around themselves, and a lot of 'monks' who don't even keep 5 precepts and use "crazy wisdom" and/or enlightenment to justify everything they do.

Sorry if I seem ungracious, but years of hearing white zennies perfecting their David Carradine act will leave its mark. :cookoo:
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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby christopher::: » Tue Jul 07, 2009 6:56 am

I have yet to find a tradition that didn't have it's share of arrogant egoists, greedy teachers, fundamentalists, fakes and hypocrites. At the end of the day, we each must do the best we can to follow the Buddha's teachings, all of which were meant to help us.

Walk the path, suffering decreases, compassion and wisdom grow. Deviate from the way- the dharma- and problems will arise.

Basic dharma, it applies to all equally.

:group:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby Guy » Wed Jul 08, 2009 11:39 am

Hi everyone,

A Letter to a Dying Man

Bassui wrote the following letter to one of his disciples who was about to die:

"The essence of your mind is not born, so it will never die. It is not an existance, which is perishable. It is not an emptiness, which is a mere void. It has neither color nor form. It enjoys no pleasures and suffers no pains.

"I know you are very ill. Like a good Zen student, you are facing that sickness squarely. You may not know exactly who is suffering, but question yourself: What is the essence of this mind? Think only of this. You will need no more. Covet nothing. Your end which is endless is as a snowflake dissolving in the pure air."


http://www.101zenstories.com/index.php?story=95

From a Theravada POV, is the above story "inaccurate"? Perhaps what it's pointing to is the same truth as can be found in the Theravada tradition, but the language used is just different?

Is it implying that the deathless state is the "essence" of the mind? If so, is this not in contradiction with the teaching of anatta?

Isn't the mind empty of any essence? Or am I misunderstanding what is being said in either this story and/or the Theravadin Suttas?

With Metta,

Guy
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1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby Individual » Wed Jul 08, 2009 12:25 pm

Guy wrote:Hi everyone,

A Letter to a Dying Man

Bassui wrote the following letter to one of his disciples who was about to die:

"The essence of your mind is not born, so it will never die. It is not an existance, which is perishable. It is not an emptiness, which is a mere void. It has neither color nor form. It enjoys no pleasures and suffers no pains.

"I know you are very ill. Like a good Zen student, you are facing that sickness squarely. You may not know exactly who is suffering, but question yourself: What is the essence of this mind? Think only of this. You will need no more. Covet nothing. Your end which is endless is as a snowflake dissolving in the pure air."


http://www.101zenstories.com/index.php?story=95

From a Theravada POV, is the above story "inaccurate"? Perhaps what it's pointing to is the same truth as can be found in the Theravada tradition, but the language used is just different?

Is it implying that the deathless state is the "essence" of the mind? If so, is this not in contradiction with the teaching of anatta?

Isn't the mind empty of any essence? Or am I misunderstanding what is being said in either this story and/or the Theravadin Suttas?

With Metta,

Guy


It does seem to simply be slightly different language.

Pabhassara Sutta

"Luminous, monks, is the mind.1 And it is defiled by incoming defilements." {I,v,9}

"Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is freed from incoming defilements."

This seems to equate with "consciousness without feature" -- "where the four elements have no footing".

If Nibbana is freedom from defilement, then it must be the true essence of the mind, in order for it to be developed in the first place. Without the innate capacity for enlightenment, Dhamma-practice would be a worthless activity. The essence of the mind being unborn, unconditioned, etc., is connected with notself. If the essence of the mind was entirely conditioned by prior causes, there could no effort or liberation, only determinism.
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby christopher::: » Thu Jul 09, 2009 1:42 am

No one ever really dies. No one ever gets enlightened. There is no self that continues on. Knowing that that is unborn, luminious, there is nothing to fear.
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby zerotime » Thu Jul 09, 2009 3:45 am

When the Buddhist Teachings spread to China, the Chinese of those days were intelligent and wise enough to accept it, and there arose teachings such as those of Hui Neng and Huang­-Po in which explanations of mind and Dhamma, of Buddha, the Way and emptiness were extremely terse. There emerged the key sentence that mind, Buddha, Dhamma, the Way and emptiness are all just one thing. This one sentence is enough there is no need to say anything more. It is equivalent to all the scriptures.

Now that is a statement that particularly those of us studying and practising in the old style have no way at all of understanding. It might be beneficial for us to feel a little ashamed on this account. The Chinese went on to say that 'emptiness is by nature always present, but we don’t see it'. I may prove this by saying once again that at this moment everyone sitting here has a mind that is by nature empty but not only do you not see it but what's more, you will not accept that this is emptiness.

Huang Po scolded that this is to be like someone having a diamond attached to their forehead without knowing it, who goes searching all around the world or perhaps outside the world in hell, heaven or the Brahma worlds, making an offering of a penny and expecting to go to heaven and satisfy every desire. Not seeing that which is stuck to our forehead, we seek all around the world or if that's not enough in the other realms. So please, just for a while, look very closely to see what is there at your fore­head, and how to go about putting your hands on it.

When speaking of the way to take hold of the diamond the Chinese teachers spoke even more profoundly, "There's no need to do anything just be still and the mind will become empty by itself". This phrase "Just be still. There's no need to do anything" has many meanings. Our minds are naughty and playful. The mind wanders out of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body, gathering sense-objects, and having accepted them within, is stupid enough to allow the dhammas of ignorance to climb into the driver's seat', so that there is nothing but grasping and clinging to "I" and 'mine'. This is called being naughty, refusing to be still.

'Being still' means not admitting sense-objects into the mind but being content to let them founder like waves on the shore. For instance, when the eye sees a form, if there is merely seeing, then that is called not admitting visible forms into the mind and similarly with the other sense organs. If you can't do that and vedana, feeling of satisfaction and dissatisfaction arise, let it stop just there, don't allow desires based on those feelings to develop. If it stops there it's still possible to be still. But if we act to extend a feeling of satisfaction then in a moment the 'I' and 'mine' emerge. Or if we act in response to a feeling of dissatisfaction then there will be Dukkha. It is called not being still.

So the 'being still' of Hui Neng refers to that very practice that the Buddha taught, of seeing that nothing whatsoever should be grasped at or clung to as being 'I' or 'mine'. If there is nothing whatsoever to be clung to, what possible purpose can there be in busying and confusing ourselves, rushing about after the things that disturb, rather than just being still?

We must look for this emptiness that is truly worthy of our aspiration. To say that there is a kind of emptiness that gives rise to cessation, purity, clarity, and peace is still to be speaking in the realm of convention. Truly speaking, there is nothing other than emptiness, there is only this one thing. It is not the cause of anything else. It is Buddha, it is Dhamma, it is Sangha, it is the Way. It is purity, clarity, and peace. All these things are present in emptiness. If we still say that emptiness is the cause of this or that it shows that we haven't yet reached the supreme emptiness, because if we have reached the supreme then we don't have to do anything. By being still the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, purity, clarity, peace, Nibbana - everything will be present in that very immutable state.

An extremely simple method that Huang Po used to teach dull people how to recognize emptiness was to give them a riddle, 'Look at the mind of a child before its conception'. I would like to present all of you with this riddle. Look at the child's mind. Before it is conceived in the womb where is it? If you can find it you will easily be able to find emptiness, just as if taking hold of that which is already there at your forehead.

To sum up - this one subject of emptiness covers all of the Buddhist Teachings, for the Buddha breathed with emptiness. Emptiness is the theoretical knowledge, it is the practice and it is the fruit of the practice. If one studies one must study emptiness; if one practises it must be for the fruit of emptiness, and if one receives the fruit it must be emptiness, so that finally one attains that thing that is supremely desirable. There is nothing beyond emptiness. When it is realized, all problems end. It is not above, it is not below, it is not anywhere-I don't know what to say about it, better to shut up! Suffice it to say that emptiness is the supreme happiness.

HEART - WOOD FROM THE BO TREE
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BUDDHADASA BHIKKHU



BUDDHADASA the most excellent bhikkhu, able to talk to future Buddhists. There is not many people like him because darkness cannot resist their light.
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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby christopher::: » Thu Jul 09, 2009 6:06 am

From a Zen perspective, that was brilliant. How are the views of Buddhadasa Bikkhu regarded these days, by Western Theravadins? My sense is many people's thinking has become more conservative in recent decades...

[EDIT: In the interests of keeping this discussion on-topic, if you wish to respond to Christopher:::, please do so at viewtopic.php?f=14&t=1758 . Thank you for your assistance - Retro.]
Last edited by retrofuturist on Thu Jul 09, 2009 6:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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