Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

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Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby Namu Butsu » Fri Feb 18, 2011 12:09 am

Alright weird title. But I am curious after reading through many talks by Ajahn Chah. It seems as if he has a zen like approach. Sort of just do it and also the fact that he keeps saying that we can be liberated at any moment. From this perspective it seems zen like, but perhaps its because I dont know shit about theravada buddhism. So my question is are these teachings the same thing in Theravada? I had a theravada monk tell me that anyone can be enlightened if they have enough merit.. so that sort of at least in my eyes contradicted the view that at any moment we can transcend merit and become enlightened. Look forward to your enlightened replies
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Re: Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby Viscid » Fri Feb 18, 2011 12:30 am

He is quite zen.

The idea of merit's been hijacked by spiritual capitalism. Merit doesn't 'add up,' there's no one keeping track.
Last edited by Viscid on Fri Feb 18, 2011 12:37 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby bodom » Fri Feb 18, 2011 12:31 am

Namu Butsu wrote:Alright weird title. But I am curious after reading through many talks by Ajahn Chah. It seems as if he has a zen like approach. Sort of just do it and also the fact that he keeps saying that we can be liberated at any moment. From this perspective it seems zen like, but perhaps its because I dont know shit about theravada buddhism. So my question is are these teachings the same thing in Theravada? I had a theravada monk tell me that anyone can be enlightened if they have enough merit.. so that sort of at least in my eyes contradicted the view that at any moment we can transcend merit and become enlightened. Look forward to your enlightened replies
:anjali:


Even within the Theravadan tradition there is found a wide spectrum of teaching methods and approaches to practice. Ajahn Chah seemed to have a "zen like" like approach with his teachings within which stressed the practical side of and immediate usefulness of the Dhamma. This "zen like" approach is certainly not common with all teachers in the Theravadan tradition as a whole. Many Teachers within this tradition emphasize different aspects of the path and have different ways of expressing and teaching the same Dhamma.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Feb 18, 2011 1:03 am

Many asian theravadin teachers have quite a textbook approach wheras I think Ajahn Chah taught from the heart and from experience.

When taught from the heart and from experience I don't think there is a lot of difference between Zen and Theravada, when taught from the textbook there is.

I don't think Ajahn Chah knew much about Zen, so perhaps Zen is very Ajahn Chahlike.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby kirk5a » Fri Feb 18, 2011 1:58 am

Namu Butsu wrote:Alright weird title. But I am curious after reading through many talks by Ajahn Chah. It seems as if he has a zen like approach. Sort of just do it and also the fact that he keeps saying that we can be liberated at any moment. From this perspective it seems zen like, but perhaps its because I dont know shit about theravada buddhism. So my question is are these teachings the same thing in Theravada? I had a theravada monk tell me that anyone can be enlightened if they have enough merit.. so that sort of at least in my eyes contradicted the view that at any moment we can transcend merit and become enlightened. Look forward to your enlightened replies
:anjali:

Who cares about the rest of Theravada and how "Zen" it is or isn't? I just now read one of his talks and the end he says

"If you (speaking to a layperson who was present) are afraid, then consider this: suppose that you were convicted of a crime that calls for capital punishment, and in seven days you will be executed. What would go through your mind? This is my question for you. If in seven days you will be executed, what will you do? If you think about it and take it a step further, you will realize that all of us right now are sentenced to die, only we don't know when it will happen. It could be sooner than seven days. Are you aware that you are under this death sentence?"
http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books ... Enough.htm

hmmm. So? What do I do? Seven days, that's not even enough time to become a monk. Maha-satipatthana Sutta. It says something in there about seven days...

"The Blessed One said this: "This is the direct path for the purification of beings..."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby PeterB » Fri Feb 18, 2011 9:08 am

Lets not get carried away and project our stuff....

As any of his numerous surviving monks can tell you Luang Por Chah was DEEPLY traditionally Theravada.
If you met him in the flesh you were left in no doubt about that.
He was also a man of his time, and when the teaching phase of his life started he became one who was sought out by a variety of people from all Buddhist traditions. Word gets around when a teacher arises...even before the www.
What he said was " follow your way with great energy and vigor. If you want to reach the pure clear water dig in one spot. do not sink holes all over the place. Pursue your path without compromise and without flagging "

Remember Luang Por Chah did not write books. All you read are comments he made to specific people in their unique situation.
This makes for fertile projection ground, because of the absence of checks and balances we can take Luang Por's words and , like the works of Shakespeare project onto them what we want.
I never heard him speak of Zen, but I am willing to bet that if that comparison was made to him , he would have been swift in his response.

He appeared to know much of the Canon by heart...

When you read that he says "its not in books" he is NOT saying" you...westerner raised in a culture that values adhamma , and disregards Sila, that has no collective store of Dhamma knowledge..you dont need to read books".

He is assuming a degree of knowledge of the suttas. he is assuming Sila effort..he is assuming humility in the face of Buddha Dhamma.

I know this because I was fortunate enough to hear him say so.
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Re: Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby Ben » Fri Feb 18, 2011 9:15 am

PeterB wrote:I know this because I was fortunate enough to hear him say so.

Wow! Incredible!
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Re: Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby PeterB » Fri Feb 18, 2011 9:17 am

Right place, right time,
undeserved, Ben...
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Re: Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby PeterB » Fri Feb 18, 2011 10:05 am

It crossed my mind to start a new topic..Why I AM a Theravadin, but it seemed untimely... :roll:

Had I started that thread my entry would have been simply
Because I met (in chronological order ) Dhiravamsa, Luang Por Sumedho and Luang Por Chah.
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Re: Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby plwk » Fri Feb 18, 2011 10:26 am

Hi Namu Butsu, how have you been? I hope all is well and will change for the better for you and the family :anjali:

Here's something from 'A Still Forest Pool: The Insight Meditation of Achaan Chah' by Jack Kornfield & Paul Breiter in one section 'Yes I Speak Zen', page 180:
A visiting Zen student asked Achaan Chah,
'How old are you? Do you live here all year round?'
'I live nowhere.' he replied.
'There is no place you can find me.
I have no age. To have age, you must exist and to think you exist is already a problem.
Don't make problems; then the world has none either.
Don't make a self.
There's nothing more to say.'
Perhaps the Zen student glimpsed that the heart of vipassana is no different from the heart of Zen.
Bhikkhus, if you develop and make much this one thing,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.
What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

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Re: Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby PeterB » Fri Feb 18, 2011 10:30 am

Perhaps.
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Re: Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby meindzai » Fri Feb 18, 2011 3:08 pm

PeterB wrote:
I never heard him speak of Zen, but I am willing to bet that if that comparison was made to him , he would have been swift in his response.


His only reference to Zen that I have found. He seemed to think some of the methods could work, based on what he knew of them:

This is pointed out through many different methods by different teachers. In Zen, for example, they have their ways for imparting wisdom. You are asked a question, and when you answer, they beat you. Bam! They ask again, so you don’t answer this time, but they hit you again. “Hmm…. What’s really going on here? I might lose my life over this; how should I respond? What should I do?” these methods can bring about wisdom. What to do? Going forward is not right. Retreating is not right. Standing and giving no answer is not right either. Whatever you try, you only get a beating. Some feeling comes about, and you start to seek more deeply for the answer. This is the method of Zen that I read about. It’s curious, isn’t it? It can really people to gain wisdom. However you answer or don’t answer, you are beaten. You lose all your ideas about what is right and wrong. You can’t move, you can’t stand still. What do you do? You come to the end of your tether, but still there is something more to go through. So the mind keeps on investigating to find a ways. Their methods are pretty good. I think. It’s mysterious. But for us, it’s just a lot of thinking and guessing about the way things are. We know something, but what we know is only what someone else he said. So there will always be more things to ask about and learn, and there are always more doubts. The more things are explained, the further we are from understanding. Why is it like this? What is blocking us? This knowledge itself is blocking us.


-M
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Re: Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby meindzai » Fri Feb 18, 2011 3:20 pm

As much as I hate using the word "zen-like" to describe people it's really hard to disagree that Ajahn Chah seems to have this quality.

One thing to note about Ajahn Chah is that he was not only deeply versed in the Suttas but also put a lot of attention on Vinaya. On the surface this sets him apart from the Zen approach, much of which throws vinaya out the window. But the thing about it is that the Vinaya is the "discipline" while the Suttas are "doctrine" and he seems to have put a great deal of emphasis on the discipline - i.e. getting right down to practice, though not at the expense of doctrine. His teachings come across as very personal, rather than mechanical, and he seems to have really disliked Abhidhamma. (Comparing it once to going to a chicken shack and removing the shit rather than the eggs).

Zen teachers who have encountered Ajahn Chah's teachings identify with him rather strongly. Certainly those of us who have experience in both Theravada and Zen seem to find a kind of meeting point there in his teachings.

The Zen sect continues to diverge in a few different directions, one being the "everything is cool" beatnik variety and another including an increased emphasis of study of Theravada teachings. Again Chah fits well here. Another caveat though is that his very personal teachings, like a lot of the Zen teachings, ought not to be confused with the doctrine itself as they are delivered on a very individual and situational level.

-M
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Re: Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby PeterB » Fri Feb 18, 2011 3:27 pm

I was referring to a suggestion that his teaching was the same as Zen....at most he would have talked of the same aquafer being tapped, not of the same methodology or framework. And as long as we are simply addressing outcomes rather than process ...anything goes doesnt it ?

I could draw another comparison with something Trungpa Rinpoche said.... "we see ourselves as Enlightened..on a stage..with a well positioned spotlight
there is just one thing wrong with this touching scene..when Enlightenment happens YOU wont be there at all "

Which I think is the same as Luang Por Chah's " Dont be a Bodhisattva, dont be an Arahant...dont be anything ".
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Re: Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby Nyana » Fri Feb 18, 2011 3:44 pm

meindzai wrote:On the surface this sets him apart from the Zen approach, much of which throws vinaya out the window.

While this may have some basis in Japanese circles, there have been and still are Chinese teachers who closely adhere to vinaya. Ven. Xuānhuà being one well known modern example.

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Re: Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby PeterB » Fri Feb 18, 2011 4:04 pm

An example of actual, non ideologically driven, parallel development which arose from the attainments of charismatic leaders.
Rather than a emtionally driven need to avoid exploring difference.

Ven Hua's Sangha and that of the Forest Sangha have a good deal of mutually supportive dealings.
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Re: Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby Nyana » Fri Feb 18, 2011 4:06 pm

PeterB wrote:An example of actual, non ideologically driven, parallel development which arose from the attainments of charismatic leaders.
Rather than a emtionally driven need to avoid exploring difference.

Ven Hua's Sangha and that of the Forest Sangha have a good deal of mutually supportive dealings.

Indeed.
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Re: Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby PeterB » Fri Feb 18, 2011 4:23 pm

One of the current Ajahns when a young monk wanted to join Ven Hua's monks on one of their famous " bowing" pilgrimages...but it would have cut into Rains Retreat and so it didnt happen. Apart from that practical problem, his Abbott was fully supportive of the idea.
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Re: Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby Viscid » Fri Feb 18, 2011 5:52 pm

PeterB wrote:Remember Luang Por Chah did not write books. All you read are comments he made to specific people in their unique situation.

This makes for fertile projection ground, because of the absence of checks and balances we can take Luang Por's words and , like the works of Shakespeare project onto them what we want.


Good point. I'm sure a lot of what was written was his western students picking and interpreting what words of his they liked. Who knows how accurate a representation of him it truly is.
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Re: Ajahn Chah Zen Theravada?

Postby Euclid » Sun Feb 20, 2011 8:39 pm

I know of another reference to Zen Buddhism in Ajahn Chah's work:

(an excerpt from his talk, The Two Faces of Reality)

The Empty Flag

I once read a book about Zen. In Zen, you know, they don't teach with a lot of explanation. For instance, if a monk is falling asleep during meditation, they come with a stick and 'whack!' they give him a hit on the back. When the erring disciple is hit, he shows his gratitude by thanking the attendant. In Zen practice one is taught to be thankful for all the feelings which give one the opportunity to develop.

One day there was an assembly of monks gathered for a meeting. Outside the hall a flag was blowing in the wind. There arose a dispute between two monks as to how the flag was actually blowing in the wind. One of the monks claimed that it was because of the wind while the other argued that it was because of the flag. Thus they quarrelled because of their narrow views and couldn't come to any kind of agreement. They would have argued like this until the day they died. However, their teacher intervened and said 'Neither of you is right. There is no flag and there is no wind.'

This is the practice, not to have anything, not to have the flag and not to have the wind. If there is the flag, then there is the wind; if there is the wind, then there is the flag. You should contemplate and reflect on this thoroughly until you see in accordance with the Truth. If considered well, then there will remain nothing. It's empty, void; - empty of the flag and empty of the wind. There is no birth, no old age, no sickness, no death. Our conventional understanding of flag and wind is only a concept. In reality there is nothing. That's all! There is nothing more than empty labels.

If we practise in this way, we will come to see completeness and all of our problems will come to an end. In the great Void the King of Death will never find you. There is nothing for old age, sickness, and death to follow. When we see and understand in accordance with Truth, that is, with Right Understanding, then there is only this great emptiness. It's here that there is no more 'we', no 'they', no 'self' at all.
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