Going to a Mahayana teacher

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Going to a Mahayana teacher

Postby yuuki » Mon Jan 11, 2010 3:27 pm

I'm pretty new to Buddhism, and so far I've had an early Buddhist flavor to my studies. I get the feeling that many here would also consider themselves as "early Buddhists" rather than specifically "Theravada Buddhists".

I've recently encountered some Mahayana Buddhists, and at first I found the doctrine offensive, as it seemed to misrepresent the Buddha's dhamma. And, living in Japan, I've seen monks selling trinkets on the floor of their main halls, next to statues of Amida (who is that, anyway?) and a host of other statues that don't really speak to me. I find the vinaya to be at least half of the dhamma-vinaya, so it's a little shocking.

Lately, I've been growing more accepting to other paths, ... mostly because I don't enjoy thinking that other traditions are that far off. And we're all just trying to do our best, right?

My point is not to start an argument about traditions. I've found a temple close to where I live (in rural Japan) and I'm wondering, should I study under the teacher there, who is a monk in the Soto Zen tradition?

I see the issues as two-fold:

Vinaya: the monk handles money and charges (required donation?) for zazen training, and has a wife. This is normal for Japanese temples, as far as I can tell. Other than that he also smokes. I think I respect so much the monks that I have been learning from over the internet because they live according to the Vinaya and have very dedicated virtue practice.

Dhamma: it's Zen, so I expect there is a heavy emphasis on meditation. But, the Zen practitioners I've met online haven't presented the tradition in a very favorable light to me. There's been a lot of: nothing matters, it's all empty, we're already enlightened, that pile of bones was your grandmother in a previous life. And I am always thinking: practice virtue, develop positive mental qualities, work on the brahmaviharas.

Should I hold out and search for more teachers? (Are there any that fit the bill in Japan?)
Should I take in this teaching with an open-mind, and attempt to benefit from the diversity?

Obviously none of this data has to do with the teacher himself yet, so I plan to just play it by ear. What would you do?
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Re: Going to a Mahayana teacher

Postby Sanghamitta » Mon Jan 11, 2010 3:33 pm

What would I do ? Which is not of course the same as what would I do if I were you.. ;)

I would make a renewed attempt to find Thervada teachings near enough to travel to occasionally. And/or get good online Theravada teachings.

best wishes for your search.

:anjali:
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
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Re: Going to a Mahayana teacher

Postby LauraJ » Mon Jan 11, 2010 6:32 pm

All I can say is, take your time :)

Kindly,
Laura
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Re: Going to a Mahayana teacher

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Jan 11, 2010 7:05 pm

i'd go and meditate with the monk and study on my own
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

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: Going to a Mahayana teacher

Postby piotr » Mon Jan 11, 2010 8:04 pm

Hi Yuuki,

I think that it's important to find a teacher who lives in accordance with his teachings. Then it would be appropriate to evaluate if his teachings are in accordance with teachings that you already know as the Dhamma. I've found this two principles useful.
Bhagavaṃmūlakā no, bhante, dhammā...
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Re: Going to a Mahayana teacher

Postby Dan74 » Mon Jan 11, 2010 10:30 pm

From my perspective (I practice Korean Zen) a lot depends on the teacher. If this monk happens to be a serious monk (or rather priest, properly) who is in it for the Dharma, then practicing virtue, developing positive mental qualities and working on the brahmaviharas (or the Six Paramitas in Mahayana) are all going to happen, although perhaps in different ways. Of course many priests in Japan are priests because their father was one or for some other reasons.

Dogen, Soto Zen founder in Japan, was well-versed in Agamas (Chinese equivalent of the Pali scriptures) and had deep respect for all Buddhism. I believe the spirit of the Buddha's teachings is alive and well in Dogen's teaching too. So if you have affinity with the Pali Scriptures, you will not have to abandon it. Methods and approaches differ, but the spirit remains.

I am very grateful to be able to learn here on a Theravada forum and from some visiting Theravada teachers and if I ever happened to live in a Theravada country, I would join a Sangha there, I imagine.

All the best!

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Re: Going to a Mahayana teacher

Postby meindzai » Mon Jan 11, 2010 11:32 pm

I say go to lots of teachers and bug the crap out of them until you find one that is "your teacher." Obviously I favor Theravada - but when it comes to teachers themselves as people or models of the Dhamma/Dharma sometimes the tradition doesn't seem to matter.

I don't know what has happened to the Soto school since Dogen, but that seems to be where all the riffraff hang out now. I think it's largely been polluted by the western misinterpretation of certain Soto teachings. Rinzai and Korean zen masters have been valuable for me in terms of getting clarity - they're sharp as tacks and they see right through you. It's a valuable experience to be able to have an interview with one, even if you don't follow their teachings. You'll usually come out humbled. I argued a lot about Buddhism with some Korean Zen masters, becuase I was studying the Pali canon and was getting fed up with some of the Zen BS. But they dealt with me with a great deal of equanimity and made some really good points in the process.

Vietnamese zen (you know doubt know about Thich Nhat Hahn) has some grounding in the Pali Canon, though I disagree with a lot of their interpretations of it. Haven't gotten a chance to duke it out with one of them yet. (Next time Thich!! Next time!! {shakes fist})

I find Tibetan Buddhism really far out there, but find their emphasis on compassion awe inspiring at times. Been to a temple (it was very pretty) but haven't really met with a teacher yet. I'd like to do one of their Metta retreats or study ShantiDeva's work one of these days.

-M
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Re: Going to a Mahayana teacher

Postby Monkey Mind » Tue Jan 12, 2010 12:09 am

For awhile there was no Theravadan community in my area, so I went with friends to a Zen Sangha for Dharma talks. I don't recommend or not recommend this, to each their own. What I do recommend is: Gil Fronsdal's recorded talks at Zencast.org. Gil was a Zen monk, now married with children, and he had some training in Theravadan. What I liked about his talks is whenever he came to a place where Theravada and Zen are divergent, he would simply say without judgment, "The Theravada teach X, and the Zen teach Y." It really helped me understand some of the divergent teachings I was hearing.

Because no one else has said it, I will just point out that some of the Zen lineages do not follow Vinaya.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710
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Re: Going to a Mahayana teacher

Postby Bankei » Tue Jan 12, 2010 2:45 am

yuuki wrote::

Vinaya: the monk handles money and charges (required donation?) for zazen training, and has a wife. This is normal for Japanese temples, as far as I can tell. Other than that he also smokes. I think I respect so much the monks that I have been learning from over the internet because they live according to the Vinaya and have very dedicated virtue practice.



Hi Yuki

Did you know that there are no Bhikkhu in traditional Japanese Buddhism? The vinaya ordination started to die out in the 800s when Saicho (founder of Tendai) started ordaining monks according to Bodhisattva precepts. This was mainly for political reasons (to break ties with the big powerful vinaya temples). From there it gradually died out, though there were various attempts throughout history in bring it back.

So the monks you see in Japan today are not monks, but priests. The are not celibate, they marry, drink alcohol and eat meat. However, you can still find many priests acting like monks living in some of the major training temples - such as Eiheiji in Fukui province.

If you wish to find some Theravada centres there are a few around including ethnic Sri Lankan and Burmese temples and monks and some Japanese vipassana type groups. Haven't heard of any Thai groups or monks there, but there may be a few.
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Re: Going to a Mahayana teacher

Postby adeh » Tue Jan 12, 2010 3:31 am

I think that if you look you may find a Theravada group in Japan. I know that the Ven. Silananda used to go there often and had a following there. I also remember reading a thread on e.sangha about Theravada in Japan basically saying that there are several Theravada groups in Japan, but as e.sangha is down at the moment I can't verify that. With metta, Adeh.
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Re: Going to a Mahayana teacher

Postby adeh » Tue Jan 12, 2010 3:38 am

Found one! There is a Burmese Vihara near Tashima in Ibrakhi province headed by the Ven. Bhikkhu Sumana...unfortunately there are no contact details. Adeh.
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Re: Going to a Mahayana teacher

Postby adeh » Tue Jan 12, 2010 3:45 am

Here are some more:
Dhamma Dipa
2F, 1-3-4- Nakai, Shinjuku-ku
Tokyo 161 Japan.
Teacher: Ven. U Vicittasara
Affiliation: Mahasi Sayadaw Meditation Centre
Tradition: Theravada, Burmese

Dhammakaya International Meditation Center (Tokyo)
2-59-20-201 Kaneko Bld., Shimo, Kita-Ku, Tokyo 115 Japan
Tel: 3-39036571 to 72
Fax: 3-39036573
Email: dimejpl@z2.zzz.or.jp
Web site: www.concentration.org
Founder: Luang Phor Sodh
Tradition: Thai Meditation Organisation pan Theravada Buddhist Association

Gotami Vihara, 1-23-9 Hatagaya
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-0072
Tel: (3) 5738-5526, Fax: (3) 5738-5527
Email: gotami@m05.itscom.net&#12288
Web site: www.j-theravada.net
Tradition: Theravada, Vipassana meditation
Teachers: Ven. U Vicittasara Thero and
Ven. Alubomulle Sumanasara Thero
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Re: Going to a Mahayana teacher

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jan 12, 2010 4:02 am

adeh wrote: Dhammakaya International Meditation Center (Tokyo)
2-59-20-201 Kaneko Bld., Shimo, Kita-Ku, Tokyo 115 Japan
Tel: 3-39036571 to 72
Fax: 3-39036573
Email: dimejpl@z2.zzz.or.jp
Web site: http://www.concentration.org
Founder: Luang Phor Sodh
Tradition: Thai Meditation Organisation pan Theravada Buddhist Association
This one would probably be best to stay away from.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Going to a Mahayana teacher

Postby BlackBird » Tue Jan 12, 2010 5:21 am

tiltbillings wrote:
adeh wrote: Dhammakaya International Meditation Center (Tokyo)
2-59-20-201 Kaneko Bld., Shimo, Kita-Ku, Tokyo 115 Japan
Tel: 3-39036571 to 72
Fax: 3-39036573
Email: dimejpl@z2.zzz.or.jp
Web site: http://www.concentration.org
Founder: Luang Phor Sodh
Tradition: Thai Meditation Organisation pan Theravada Buddhist Association
This one would probably be best to stay away from.


Seconded.

:anjali:
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Going to a Mahayana teacher

Postby yuuki » Tue Jan 12, 2010 6:26 am

Thank you for the advice, everyone!

Bankei, I most definitely did not know that there are no bhikkhu in traditional Japanese Buddhism. That explains a lot of the behavior I'm seeing.

adeh, thank you for checking out Theravada teachers for me. I also found quite a few in Tokyo, but unfortunately I am about four hours away in Iida, Nagano. I'm about two hours from Nagoya and did find a couple of meetings there, however!

Maybe I should expand my search to bhikkhus in general, since the Vinaya is what attracts me to learn from monks, whereas I can interact with lay persons (or in between) in other venues.
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Re: Going to a Mahayana teacher

Postby Bankei » Tue Jan 12, 2010 12:14 pm

Hi Yuuki

You may find this article interesting:

Clarke, Shayne
Miscellaneous Musings on Mūlasarvāstivāda Monks: The Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya Revival in Tokugawa Japan
http://www.nanzan-u.ac.jp/SHUBUNKEN/pub ... df/728.pdf

Bankei
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Re: Going to a Mahayana teacher

Postby LauraJ » Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:01 am

meindzai wrote:I say go to lots of teachers and bug the crap out of them until you find one that is "your teacher." Obviously I favor Theravada - but when it comes to teachers themselves as people or models of the Dhamma/Dharma sometimes the tradition doesn't seem to matter.-M


:goodpost:
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Conquer the angry man by love. Conquer the ill-natured man by goodness. Conquer the miser with generosity. Conquer the liar with truth. -The Dhammapada
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Re: Going to a Mahayana teacher

Postby catmoon » Thu Jan 14, 2010 8:53 pm

Maybe your indecision means you have not gathered enough information to make an assured decision.

Each sect tends to specialize in an aspect of Buddhism, such as ritual, meditation, scriptural study, compassion, or mysticism. They tend to be very good at what they focus on. In time I hope to see you settle on a group attuned to you, while you feel free to go see specialists in other fields as the need arises.
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Re: Going to a Mahayana teacher

Postby LauraJ » Thu Jan 14, 2010 10:11 pm

Yes catmoon, I feel like meindzai's remark was so to-the-point.
Cool :)
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