alan... wrote: ... i only consider zen because my choices are: zen or tibetan lol! it's the best one of the two. i agree with you. i've just got so many questions!!!
for example i even find questions in thanissaro's little quote above! what is concentration per se? zero thought? thoughts arise but no interaction? is there consciousness of the senses and inputs? and so on. i just wish i could freaking talk to a teacher!
zen goes back and forth as well. some teachers in history went with a really odd outlook like meditation is the opposite of what you want to do since by meditating you are getting further from the truth because the goal of meditation is your true nature so to seek it is to lose it. that kind of stuff is almost the exact opposite of what the buddha taught. but soto zen for example is fairly close to theravada. it's really a mix of different traditions. you see old school buddhism in early zen, heavy on meditation and morality, then in late zen you see this odd mixture of it and other things, some masters are extremely violent, one cuts a man's finger off, another cuts a cat in half, there are masters shouting and beating people, and so on, and they teach odd things like the above about meditation on and off. in some ways it's far from what the buddha taught but in other ways, coupled with the theravada dhamma (or perhaps a firm guiding hand through zen practice itself), these shocking ideas and thoughts can help cut through some of the confusion in practice, that is as long as one already has a firm grounding in theravada dhamma.
for example i used shikantaza to just sit and noticed how automated everything is in the body, even consciousness itself! this was very liberating as i realized how little room there is for a willful self when the body and mind run with or without my consent!
Since you can do shikantaza there is enough to settle the mind upon a proper aiming-point, which for me is the nikāyan analysis of the rise and fall of psychophysical causal processes.
I did zen for 20 years and other than the contemplative work of zazen and shikantaza, found it to be fortune-cookie Buddhism and a poor guide.