Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby Heavenstorm » Tue Jan 27, 2009 4:27 am

Individual wrote:In other words, Huineng took what was becoming a ridiculous superstition and then tried to turn it into something useful. Gautama did the same thing with proto-Hindu beliefs... I see Bodhidharma and Huineng turning Chinese folk religion on its head as basically being the same thing Gautama did with proto-Hinduism. Rather than trying to work against the concepts through preaching beliefs people didn't agre with or understand, they took the wisdom of the Buddha and applied it contextually, working through the concepts and mindsets of the people there.


Except that Huineng accepted the validity of Pure Land schools (Who relying upon the trikaya doctrine more than other Mahayana schools) and not totally against it. The previous quoted statement is another way of saying that the trikaya is found within everyone (like Buddha nature) rather than locally externally, not rejecting it.

Huineng used criticisms as a means to induce people into seeing the nature of their mind but most people misunderstood that He is actually serious about it and trying to create a deviation from the mainstream system.

Oh, and Retrofuturist, I would add, based on the above, that "Zen Buddhism" shouldn't be merely associated with Japan, but rather, China (Chan) and it was exported to Japan. Bodhidharma, Huineng, the Zen classics from the Song Dynasty, these were all Chinese.


Bodhidharma was an Indian and before Him, the early patriarchs of Zen were Indians and Arahants. And Bodhidharma came to China in the Northern and Southern Dynasty period while Huineng was alive during the Tang dynasty.
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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby christopher::: » Tue Jan 27, 2009 8:45 am

Heavenstorm wrote:
However, since exposure to chat sites, I notice Zen adherents verge towards extremes of nothingness and are soft in moral foundation.


A further problem is that many of them believe in a sudden instance of Enlightenment rather than a gradual experience. Hence they see the non necessity of studying scriptures and enjoy mocking the learned. As a result, they are tend towards interpreting emptiness as voidness and don't see morality as a requirement for achieving deep states of calm (Jhanas).


Zen adherents are as numerous and diverse as a room filled with Europeans or New Yorkers. This is probably true, actually, for any group on our planet. There are many kinds of Christians, Muslims and Jews as well. Everything you have said above is true for many who show an interest in Zen, more so probably for newcomers.

Once people go deeper though they discover that no school of Buddhism is simple or easy. The dharma doesn't work if we only implement a few select elements of it.

:smile:

Heavenstorm wrote:
Bodhidharma was an Indian and before Him, the early patriarchs of Zen were Indians and Arahants. And Bodhidharma came to China in the Northern and Southern Dynasty period while Huineng was alive during the Tang dynasty.


Clearly, the great rivers of Buddhism flow from the same initial sources. The farther back (and deeper) you go, the closer we get...

: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 Individual » Tue Jan 27, 2009 5:26 pm

I just came across a sutta that seems relevant to this discussion:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Ven. Maha Cunda said, "Friends, there is the case where Dhamma-devotee monks1 disparage jhana monks, saying, 'These people are absorbed and besorbed in jhana, saying, "We are absorbed, we are absorbed." But why, indeed, are they absorbed? For what purpose are they absorbed? How are they absorbed?' In that, the Dhamma-devotee monks do not shine brightly, and the jhana monks do not shine brightly. That is not practicing for the welfare of the masses, for the happiness of the masses, for the good of the masses, nor for the welfare & happiness of human & divine beings.

"Then there is the case where jhana monks disparage Dhamma-devotee monks, saying, 'These people say, "We are Dhamma-devotees, we are Dhamma-devotees,' but they are excitable, boisterous, unsteady, mouthy, loose in their talk, muddled in their mindfulness, unalert, unconcentrated, their minds wandering, their senses uncontrolled. Why, indeed, are they Dhamma devotees? For what purpose are they Dhamma devotees? How are they Dhamma devotees?' In that, the jhana monks do not shine brightly, and the Dhamma-devotee monks do not shine brightly. That is not practicing for the welfare of the masses, for the happiness of the masses, for the good of the masses, nor for the welfare & happiness of human & divine beings.

"Then there is the case where Dhamma-devotee monks praise only Dhamma-devotee monks, and not jhana monks. In that, the Dhamma-devotee monks do not shine brightly, and the jhana monks do not shine brightly. That is not practicing for the welfare of the masses, for the happiness of the masses, for the good of the masses, nor for the welfare & happiness of human & divine beings.

"Then there is the case where jhana monks praise only jhana monks, and not Dhamma-devotee monks. In that, the jhana monks do not shine brightly, and the Dhamma-devotee monks do not shine brightly. That is not practicing for the welfare of the masses, for the happiness of the masses, for the good of the masses, nor for the welfare & happiness of human & divine beings.

"Thus, friends, you should train yourselves: 'Being Dhamma-devotee monks, we will speak in praise of jhana monks.' That's how you should train yourselves. Why is that? Because these are amazing people, hard to find in the world, i.e., those who dwell touching the deathless element with the body.2

"And thus, friends, you should train yourselves: 'Being jhana monks, we will speak in praise of Dhamma-devotee monks.' That's how you should train yourselves. Why is that? Because these are amazing people, hard to find in the world, i.e., those who penetrate with discernment statements of deep meaning."
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra
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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby bodom » Tue Jan 27, 2009 5:30 pm

Individual wrote:I just came across a sutta that seems relevant to this discussion:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Ven. Maha Cunda said, "Friends, there is the case where Dhamma-devotee monks1 disparage jhana monks, saying, 'These people are absorbed and besorbed in jhana, saying, "We are absorbed, we are absorbed." But why, indeed, are they absorbed? For what purpose are they absorbed? How are they absorbed?' In that, the Dhamma-devotee monks do not shine brightly, and the jhana monks do not shine brightly. That is not practicing for the welfare of the masses, for the happiness of the masses, for the good of the masses, nor for the welfare & happiness of human & divine beings.

"Then there is the case where jhana monks disparage Dhamma-devotee monks, saying, 'These people say, "We are Dhamma-devotees, we are Dhamma-devotees,' but they are excitable, boisterous, unsteady, mouthy, loose in their talk, muddled in their mindfulness, unalert, unconcentrated, their minds wandering, their senses uncontrolled. Why, indeed, are they Dhamma devotees? For what purpose are they Dhamma devotees? How are they Dhamma devotees?' In that, the jhana monks do not shine brightly, and the Dhamma-devotee monks do not shine brightly. That is not practicing for the welfare of the masses, for the happiness of the masses, for the good of the masses, nor for the welfare & happiness of human & divine beings.


"Then there is the case where Dhamma-devotee monks praise only Dhamma-devotee monks, and not jhana monks. In that, the Dhamma-devotee monks do not shine brightly, and the jhana monks do not shine brightly. That is not practicing for the welfare of the masses, for the happiness of the masses, for the good of the masses, nor for the welfare & happiness of human & divine beings.

"Then there is the case where jhana monks praise only jhana monks, and not Dhamma-devotee monks. In that, the jhana monks do not shine brightly, and the Dhamma-devotee monks do not shine brightly. That is not practicing for the welfare of the masses, for the happiness of the masses, for the good of the masses, nor for the welfare & happiness of human & divine beings.

"Thus, friends, you should train yourselves: 'Being Dhamma-devotee monks, we will speak in praise of jhana monks.' That's how you should train yourselves. Why is that? Because these are amazing people, hard to find in the world, i.e., those who dwell touching the deathless element with the body.2

"And thus, friends, you should train yourselves: 'Being jhana monks, we will speak in praise of Dhamma-devotee monks.' That's how you should train yourselves. Why is that? Because these are amazing people, hard to find in the world, i.e., those who penetrate with discernment statements of deep meaning."


Nice find Individual! :twothumbsup:

:namaste:
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: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby dumb bonbu » Tue Jan 27, 2009 6:25 pm

i think any Mahayana tradition stands to learn a great deal from the Path of the Elders, that's why i'm here. i'll confess i don't know a great deal about Zen...other than having read Suzuki's The Zen Doctrine of No Mind when i was much younger (probably too young to pick up on a great deal of it if i'm being honest) but from the little i do know of it i can understand why often there might be a lot of...erm..interfaith dialogue (is that an appropriate phrase to use?) between the two. especially the Thai Forest tradition. the reason i became interested in the Path of the Elders is in the hope and belief that it will enrichen and strengthen not only my understanding of the path i practice but also my understanding of Dhamma full stop.

incidentally Ben, if you are struck by the poetic expression of Zen, i would highly recommend The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Bassho!
Monks, even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding.
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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby christopher::: » Wed Feb 04, 2009 11:35 am

dumb bonbu wrote:
incidentally Ben, if you are struck by the poetic expression of Zen, i would highly recommend The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Bassho!


That is indeed a great book.

I'd also recommend 101 Zen Stories to anyone who hasn't read them. All 101 are online now...

http://www.101zenstories.com/

One of my favorites:

45. Right and Wrong

When Bankei held his seclusion-weeks of meditation, pupils from many parts of Japan came to attend. During one of these gatherings a pupil was caught stealing. The matter was reported to Bankei with the request that the culprit be expelled. Bankei ignored the case.

Later the pupil was caught in a similar act, and again Bankei disregarded the matter. This angered the other pupils, who drew up a petition asking for the dismissal of the thief, stating that otherwise they would leave in a body.

When Bankei had read the petition he called everyone before him. "You are wise brothers," he told them. "You know what is right and what is not right. You may go somewhere else to study if you wish, but this poor brother does not even know right from wrong. Who will teach him if I do not? I am going to keep him here even if all the rest of you leave."

A torrent of tears cleansed the face of the brother who had stolen. All desire to steal had vanished.


:heart:
"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 genkaku » Wed Feb 04, 2009 2:32 pm

Christopher -- Funny, but somehow I thought the torrent of tears might have erupted among the brothers who knew right from wrong.

Wrong again, I guess. :)
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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:51 pm

Peter wrote:...the only time I see rebirth being emphasized are by people who don't want to accept rebirth. They ask lots of questions about it, they argue about it, they try to reinterpret scriptures over it... meanwhile the other students are simply trying to learn to get some control over their minds. Honestly, if it weren't for people constantly trying to argue against rebirth I think I'd hardly ever have cause to talk about it.


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

Postby Dhammanando » Thu Feb 05, 2009 1:06 am

Hi Genkaku,

genkaku wrote:Christopher -- Funny, but somehow I thought the torrent of tears might have erupted among the brothers who knew right from wrong.

Wrong again, I guess. :)


That is in fact the outcome of a very similar story from the Christian desert fathers. As Thomas Merton tells it, when the miscreant monk is discovered the abbot wants the community to forgive him, but the brothers won't have any of it: "He's a sinner, he must go!"

To which the abbot replies: "I'm a sinner, I must go."

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby Individual » Thu Feb 05, 2009 3:08 am

I was a bit deluded, I think, to say above that Theravada and Zen are basically identical. There are differences.

A list of things not taught in Theravada which has been taught by Zen Buddhists, at some point:
  • All the aspects of Mahayana, including Yogacara and Madhyamaka philosophy, veneration of bodhisattvas, and sectarian slander towards the "Hinayana".
  • Their own sets of classic texts and mythologies, including some Mahayana sutras, which lay the basis for their practice.
  • Keysaku (a stick used to whack students during meditation)
  • Suizen (flute meditation)
  • Koans, short nonsensical stories, often used in a particular meditation practice
  • Doing art as meditation (painting calligraphy or drawing ensos, black circles drawn briefly with paintbrushes)
  • Belly-shouts ("Ho!" in Chinese, "Katz!" in Japanese), loud exclamations meant to induce enlightenment.
  • Death poems (jizei), poems written near death, to describe one's passing or the culmination of the meaning of one's life.
  • "Certificates of enlightenment"
  • Shaolin kung fu.
  • A lack of regard for the authority of particular scriptures.

There have also been Zen Masters like Ikkyu Sojun (who got drunk& visited prostitutes) which have showed a lack of a regard for the precepts and Japanese Zen monks do not follow Vinaya, even being non-celibate.

Also, while I would equate zazen with samatha-vipassana and shikantaza with "signless concentration" (the higher states of jhana), there are apparently many Zen Buddhists who would exaggerate the depth of their meditation practices to exalt them above what Theravadins themselves do.
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Feb 05, 2009 3:20 am

Hi Individual,

Many of the things you list appear to me to be characteristics of particular Zen or "Zen-ish" practitioners and not representative of the ideals of the tradition.

You could probably make a similar list regarding Theravada (lavish Wats, monks peddling amulets, lazy monks, lay people who just turn up for a quick blessing, ...), which would completely misrepresent what most would agree was "real Theravada".

Does either list "prove" anything?

Metta
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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby Individual » Thu Feb 05, 2009 3:59 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Individual,

Many of the things you list appear to me to be characteristics of particular Zen or "Zen-ish" practitioners and not representative of the ideals of the tradition.

You could probably make a similar list regarding Theravada (lavish Wats, monks peddling amulets, lazy monks, lay people who just turn up for a quick blessing, ...), which would completely misrepresent what most would agree was "real Theravada".

Does either list "prove" anything?

Metta
Mike

That's not a very good analogy, because knowledgeable Theravadin scholars know that things you mentioned are corruptions and distortions. Academic students of Zen, however, would apparently put forth apologetics. You do not. :)
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby christopher::: » Thu Feb 05, 2009 8:15 am

Individual wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Hi Individual,

Many of the things you list appear to me to be characteristics of particular Zen or "Zen-ish" practitioners and not representative of the ideals of the tradition.

You could probably make a similar list regarding Theravada (lavish Wats, monks peddling amulets, lazy monks, lay people who just turn up for a quick blessing, ...), which would completely misrepresent what most would agree was "real Theravada".

Does either list "prove" anything?

Metta
Mike

That's not a very good analogy, because knowledgeable Theravadin scholars know that things you mentioned are corruptions and distortions. Academic students of Zen, however, would apparently put forth apologetics. You do not. :)


I really think it depends on who you are talking to, Individual. Indeed, some make excuses for the misdeeds of Zen Buddhist teachers and students. Others do not.

Many longterm Zen practitioners lived thru the initial boom of Buddhism in the States during the 1950s and 1960s. At that time quite a few Tibetan and Zen Buddhist teachers came over to teach. It was a time of the sixties counterculture, hippies and beat generation. There was a liberalism in the culture, that celebrated a freedom from "moral constraints" that led to a lot of trouble.

If you talk with people like hrtbeat7, genkaku, Karma Gedun- they observed some of this first hand, the damage it did to young Western sangha communities. The worst were sex scandals involving teachers with students, sometimes Western, sometimes Asian.

Nowadays I think most sincere practitioners are less likely to make excuses for this kind of behavior. These mistakes can happen with any tradition, imo, its not a characteristic of Zen, Tibetan or Theravadin Buddhism.

The great masters in all these traditions exhibit similar traits of character, centered on right action, adherence to the precepts, without deviation. Practitioners and teachers who ignore the precepts create problems for themselves, no matter what school or tradition.

This is my view anyway.

:heart:
"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 Individual » Thu Feb 05, 2009 2:41 pm

christopher::: wrote:I really think it depends on who you are talking to, Individual. Indeed, some make excuses for the misdeeds of Zen Buddhist teachers and students. Others do not.

Not just the misdeeds of Zen teachers and students, but their teachings and practices. Zen Buddhists apparently do not care at all about tracing their teachings back to the scriptures and practices of the Buddha. When it comes to something like hitting a gong before meditation, I don't think it's a big deal. But when it comes to the more elaborate practices, like koan meditation, it's questionable.
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:36 pm

Individual wrote:Zen Buddhists apparently do not care at all about tracing their teachings back to the scriptures and practices of the Buddha..


Image
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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby clw_uk » Thu Feb 05, 2009 10:23 pm

There may be divergent practices but the goal is the same, and as I said i quoted an earlier post

"Wherever there is the four noble truths and the eight fold path, there you will find arahants


It is only when these teachings are forgotten or given a back seat so to speak, does the buddhadhamma disappear.



:namaste:
“ Your mind is likewise blocked. But the right road awaits you still. Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule , then the mind is their subject." Boetius
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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Feb 05, 2009 10:35 pm

Hi Individual,
Drolma wrote:
Individual wrote:Zen Buddhists apparently do not care at all about tracing their teachings back to the scriptures and practices of the Buddha..


Image


Well, it would be easy to make the same sort of accusations about Theravada Buddhists. How about these, for a start?
Forest Monks don't see any point in reading what the Buddha said. They just tell you to 'read your own mind'.

City Monks don't bother with meditation, don't pay any attention to the vinaya, and (worst of all!) don't even dye their own robes! They think that all you need to do is memorise all of the categories of citta and cetasika in the Abhidhamma.


:popcorn:

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Re: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby christopher::: » Fri Feb 06, 2009 3:43 pm

Individual wrote:
christopher::: wrote:I really think it depends on who you are talking to, Individual. Indeed, some make excuses for the misdeeds of Zen Buddhist teachers and students. Others do not.

Not just the misdeeds of Zen teachers and students, but their teachings and practices. Zen Buddhists apparently do not care at all about tracing their teachings back to the scriptures and practices of the Buddha. When it comes to something like hitting a gong before meditation, I don't think it's a big deal. But when it comes to the more elaborate practices, like koan meditation, it's questionable.


No offense, Individual, but your reasoning here has perhaps fallen into a mental :quote: stereotype :quote: . Have to be watchful for those. It happens to the best of us. (Most of us?) Like ditches on the side of the road they tend to provide a box-like space where thoughts that fall in simply keep spinning.

Don't worry, with patience and calm reflection your mind will soon break free!

:namaste:

Another Zen story:

A Cup of Tea

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"

"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"


:heart:
Last edited by christopher::: on Fri Feb 06, 2009 3:52 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"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 bodom » Fri Feb 06, 2009 3:48 pm

christopher::: wrote:
Individual wrote:
christopher::: wrote:I really think it depends on who you are talking to, Individual. Indeed, some make excuses for the misdeeds of Zen Buddhist teachers and students. Others do not.

Not just the misdeeds of Zen teachers and students, but their teachings and practices. Zen Buddhists apparently do not care at all about tracing their teachings back to the scriptures and practices of the Buddha. When it comes to something like hitting a gong before meditation, I don't think it's a big deal. But when it comes to the more elaborate practices, like koan meditation, it's questionable.


No offense, Individual, but your reasoning here has perhaps fallen into a mental :quote: stereotype :quote: . Have to be watchful for those. It happens to the best of us. (Most of us?) Like ditches on the side of the road they tend to provide a box-like space where thoughts that fall in simply keep spinning.

Don't worry, with patience and practice your mind will soon break free!

:namaste:

Another Zen story:

A Cup of Tea

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"

"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"


:heart:


Beginners Mind!

:namaste:
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: Theravada and Zen - a comparative analysis

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Fri Feb 06, 2009 4:18 pm

It is entirely possible to embrace and love your tradition without having to attack other sects as false. Hopefully the more firmly grounded one becomes in his/her own practice, the less interest s/he has in taking issue with other people's stuff.

It's my opinion that 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. It's not in the spirit of dharma. And please don't give me any double-talk about how the Buddha made fun of wrong views, so we can/should do it too. That's just conceit.

[/rant off]
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