how does zen differ from theravada?

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how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby bugslikescarrots » Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:52 am

aside from the obvious "north/south" buddhism. how do the approaches to enlightenment and meditation differ? are there more intent focuses? thank you
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby mettafuture » Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:02 am

I found Zen to be frustratingly abstract. It doesn't depend as much on "words" like other Buddhist traditions; for me this quality made it more difficult to understand. I've dabbled with many philosophies and religions over the years, and I've yet to find anything as clear, systematic and practical as Theravada. Daoism, which could be consider the mother of Zen, comes close in its practicality, but putting it into practice isn't as straight forward.
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:22 am

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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby ground » Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:45 am

mettafuture wrote:I found Zen to be frustratingly abstract. ...

Zen is unbearable "open minded" (to borrow this term from another thread and suggest it as an alternative characterization, neither meant to be "positive" nor "negative"). Even difficult to find Zen followers that can cope with this. :sage:
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby alan... » Tue Jan 01, 2013 6:51 am

zen being influenced heavily by chinese and then japanese mind sets which themselves were largely influenced by taoism, confucianism and shintoism respectively is largely naturalistic and practical in nature. it relies heavily on concepts such as oneness with nature or the universe, actualizing "the way" (in essence, this is rarely said outright) which is largely similar to taoism. meditation is usually just letting the mind be, which is supposed to lead one to nirvana which is an unconditioned, natural state.

theravada is more influenced by indian mindsets from it's time of inception which are more meticulous and specific in practice and teaching. they use lists and numerical progressions and clearly laid out and defined step by step meditation procedures and so on. as opposed to silent illumiation and shikantaza are both methods in which progressive mind state teaching is not given.

it is very similar to vipassana in it's focus on mindfulness and non jhana sitting meditation, however unlike vipassana it does not use much contemplation. everything is thoughtless and without much direction. by thoughtless i mean one is usually not taught to contemplate not self, death and what not. one is just taught to sit. either literally just sit with no guidance or just sit with the breath. by direction i mean there is no listing of progressive states one can achieve such as the theravada stages of purification or the jhana progression. the only time one is taught to work with thoughts as contemplation is for koan study.

they teach from a few mahayana sutras such as the lankavatara sutra, heart sutra and lotus sutra among others while theravada uses the entire pali canon. the mahayana sutras are so massive and varied that one school rarely proclaims and uses all sutras within it as this would cause a lot of confusion and conflict. for example the pure land school sutras talk about how one can go to amitabha's pure land after death and reach enlightenment there by having faith in him, whereas other mahayana sutras talk more about self effort and direct practice to get oneself to nirvana in this life as opposed to the next or some kind of pure land, the lotus sutra proclaims itself the ultimate and highest sutra and so on. if you tried to practice all the mahayana sutras teachings you would end up in hundreds of knots. the pali canon is more or less internally consistent.

i do not know of a single practice found in zen, aside from koan, that is not found in theravada (and some would argue that there are things similar to koan in theravada as well). however there are many practices found in theravada that are not found in zen.
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby Dan74 » Tue Jan 01, 2013 8:53 am

There is a bunch of generalizations and inaccuracies in the above, but even the most accurate description is unlikely to convey what it means to practice Zen. Instead we will project our preconceived notions onto it.

I found Zen to be neither abstract nor relying on concepts.

Mindlessness rather than mindfulness is more common in Zen.

Nature and any sort of oneness are not what it's really about.

Words and descriptions don't get close, if you really want to find out, practice each (Zen and Theravada) intensively for at least several years each. Then there is at least a hope but no guarantee. As a friend who has practiced alongside with me for at least 8 years now and done many retreats recently said, "I don't get it at all." I guess some of it has to with being ready to let go...
_/|\_
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jan 01, 2013 8:57 am

Dan74 wrote:Mindlessness rather than mindfulness is more common in Zen.
But, of course, it really depends upon how you define these two terms. Quite franly, once that is done, they end up pointing to the same sort of experience.
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: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:12 am

Thanks for your comments, Dan, and for the comments you made on this thread, which I found very useful:
viewtopic.php?f=43&t=13382&start=20#p211749

:anjali:
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby Dan74 » Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:00 am

mikenz66 wrote:Thanks for your comments, Dan, and for the comments you made on this thread, which I found very useful:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 20#p211749

:anjali:
Mike


Thanks, Mike! I try to share little that I've understood but in all honesty I am sure it is riddled with errors and I sometimes fear it will hinder more than help.

tiltbillings wrote:
Dan74 wrote:Mindlessness rather than mindfulness is more common in Zen.
But, of course, it really depends upon how you define these two terms. Quite franly, once that is done, they end up pointing to the same sort of experience.


You are very likely correct, but the approach seems quite different - there seems to be more instructions on dropping mind than in using it for concentration.
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:01 am

Dan74 wrote:You are very likely correct, but the approach seems quite different - there seems to be more instructions on dropping mind than in using it for concentration.
What are doing when the "mind is dropped."
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: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby Raitanator » Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:05 am

I believe that in Theravada Prajnaparamita-sutra is not used as one of the main authorities for the meditation? Please correct if I am wrong.

:stirthepot:
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby Dan74 » Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:34 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Dan74 wrote:You are very likely correct, but the approach seems quite different - there seems to be more instructions on dropping mind than in using it for concentration.
What are doing when the "mind is dropped."


Nothing especially. What arises, arises.
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby Sambojjhanga » Tue Jan 01, 2013 2:55 pm

Dan74 wrote:Words and descriptions don't get close, if you really want to find out, practice each (Zen and Theravada) intensively for at least several years each. Then there is at least a hope but no guarantee. As a friend who has practiced alongside with me for at least 8 years now and done many retreats recently said, "I don't get it at all." I guess some of it has to with being ready to let go...


I think this is well-said. There is no way one can really get a handle on either schools without practice.

My primarly practice now is Anapanasati. I simply observe breathing. To those of you who have a Zen practice, is there an equivalent style in Zen, or is Zen primarily "just sitting"?

Metta

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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby plwk » Tue Jan 01, 2013 3:26 pm

... is there an equivalent style in Zen, or is Zen primarily "just sitting"?
Google on Dogen and the Soto Zen.... shikantaza
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.

Anguttara-Nikaya: Ekanipata: Ekadhammapali: Pañhamavagga
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby Sambojjhanga » Tue Jan 01, 2013 4:04 pm

plwk wrote:
... is there an equivalent style in Zen, or is Zen primarily "just sitting"?
Google on Dogen and the Soto Zen.... shikantaza


Fascinating, thank you.

Metta

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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby daverupa » Tue Jan 01, 2013 4:30 pm

I'll just set this down here...

SN 54.6 wrote:"Having abandoned sensual desire for past sensual pleasures, lord, having done away with sensual desire for future sensual pleasures, and having thoroughly subdued perceptions of irritation with regard to internal & external events, I breathe in mindfully and breathe out mindfully."

"There is that mindfulness of in-&-out breathing, Arittha. I don't say that there isn't. But as to how mindfulness of in-&-out breathing is brought in detail to its culmination, listen and pay close attention. I will speak."
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby alan... » Tue Jan 01, 2013 5:28 pm

Raitanator wrote:I believe that in Theravada Prajnaparamita-sutra is not used as one of the main authorities for the meditation? Please correct if I am wrong.

:stirthepot:


prajnaparamita is mahayana i believe, not in the pali canon. the pali canon is the theravada authority on meditation, they also use the commentaries as an authority but the canon comes first.

prajnaparamita is an authority in zen. the heart sutra is the most common zen sutra and is prajnaparamita.
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby alan... » Tue Jan 01, 2013 5:57 pm

Dan74 wrote:
Words and descriptions don't get close


theravada can easily be described by using suttas, modern practitioners books, commentary, and so on. but when it comes to zen people always say this. why is that? something to do with that old zen saying perhaps?:

"A special transmission outside the scriptures;
No dependence on words and letters;
Direct pointing to the mind of man;
Seeing into one's nature and attaining Buddhahood."

whereas theravada is a progressive step by step teaching laid out in the suttas and elaborated on in the commentary and by later teachers, zen can only be transmitted from master to student by direct interaction?

i'm inclined to believe it but i don't understand it. trying to learn zen from a temple i found myself dragging. a lot. but i had full and complete faith that the monks and nuns there were getting somewhere with their practice. my final conclusion on zen is that one must have a TON of direct face to face teaching with a zen master to get anywhere, which is in accord with the whole attitude where it can't be described or learned from books, it must be learned from direct transmission and all that. i never was able to get enough time at the temple (once every six months or so, the retreats i attended were mostly not in english since it was just me and monks/nuns and maybe one or two other english speakers) and my teacher had a lot of students so my interviews with him were always short and muffled by his thick accent. however i'm fully confident he had mastered zen, it radiates from the guy and his dharma talks show a deep understanding. i just think it's not something one could learn without spending months of daily practice and interviews with a master or it might even require living in the temple.


Dan74 wrote:Nature and any sort of oneness are not what it's really about.

this is up for debate based on who taught a practitioner or master, their own interpretation of zen, their own experience, and so on and so on. one zen master may say this is what it's about, another will say otherwise and the vast majority will be so vague in their description that it could very well be this or something different. zen is so dependent on each individual masters ideas that there is no way to make a statement like that and be 100% accurate. as you said, "words and descriptions don't get close". so from that standpoint, saying "it is about oneness and nature" is incorrect and saying "that's not really what it's about" is equally incorrect, if words don't describe it, any textual description is automatically incorrect. whereas in theravada if someone says that all we have to do is look to the pali canon and decide whether or not that fits in with the buddhas descriptions of nibbana, it doesn't, so we can say that's not what it's really about with a fair amount of confidence.

zen has made itself so independent from other schools, certainly from any texts, vague and yet dependent on each individual master that it evades any kind of pinning down of it's definition and so everyone is right and everyone is wrong.

the only real way to speak with 100% accuracy is to talk about only one masters school. so one could fairly easily discuss dogens zen or another well defined and well written master, and back up discussion points with references from their written works or later disciples works but trying to just discuss "zen" in absolutes doesn't really work. from that perspective certainly you are correct and know what you're talking about, what school do you practice?
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby m0rl0ck » Tue Jan 01, 2013 7:09 pm

I think the biggest difference is that zen is right and theravada is wrong. The biggest similiarity being that they both have an "e" in them.
There is no comfort without pain; thus
we define salvation through suffering.
-- Cato
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby Raitanator » Tue Jan 01, 2013 7:13 pm

I'm not sure if it has been mentioned already: Zen also has teachings from second turning of wheel, and some of the third. While Theravada doesn't have. Hence, Zen, like any other mahayana-school, has the burden of proving themselves to be an authentic buddhist school. Theravada doesn't have to do that. In zen, Sutra is the main authority also, because of mahayana. Dogen didn't invent his stuff out of thin air.
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