can zen be separate from buddhism?

Discussion in 'Eastern Philosophy' started by cole grey, Jan 8, 2005.

  1. cole grey Hi Valued Senior Member

    I am wondering if Zen study can be "separated" from buddhism. I have reason to believe some would say "yes", but, not knowing that much about buddhism, I don't know if many would also say "no".
    I'm asking if you believe there is a way to enlightenment that doesn't need a few basic ideas from Buddhism? If Buddhism is necessary, which ideas "must" the way utilize and still be called zen practice?
    Thank you so much.
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  3. dan74 Registered Senior Member

    This is a difficult question. Historically, Zen went into decline when it lost its Buddhist foundation (eg in Japan and Korea).

    And although the true wisdom is that of enlightenment, until that is realised, a "learnt" wisdom, ie that of the Buddhist sutras, is invaluable, I think. Of course, the sutras don't hold the monopoly on wisdom, you can learn it from life, other religious traditions, etc. But a Zen, or a meditation experience not founded on compassion, humility and virtue (ie Buddhist sutras), will be founded on a false foundation and lead to egoism, delusion and worse.
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  5. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    Zen, as it is practiced today is a FAR CRY from Buddhism as Buddha taught it.
    I don't don't even think it would be correct to place them into the same category.
    They are simply two different things.
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  7. cole grey Hi Valued Senior Member

    There is a type of buddhism called "zen buddhism". Please explain why this is not what we should refer to when we talk about "zen". That is what I am trying to ascertain here.
    Is zen a philosophy, and buddhism a religion?
    If so, in what ways can we describe the philosophy apart from the religion?
    If not, what is a better way to describe the relationship between the two terms?
  8. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

  9. duendy Registered Senior Member

    meditation, particularly the 'stone-buddha' type, or 'aching legs'

    apparenelty not always so according to accounts from the beginnings of of 'C'han' and Zen, where some 'maverick' masters very much mocked the sitting form of stylized meditation--see Alan Watts' The Way of Zen
    Need i say that i dont trust BOTH's call for us to 'become "enlightened"...again i see this as part of a pattern. which is to GUILT natrual being. you know the natrualness that doesn't WANT to sit for enldess hours eyes half shut wanting to get enlightenemnt

    Theyboth also believe in 'Mara'/Delusion.,,,,This means that any participatory ecstaic celebration WITH NATURE inpired by hallucinogens (which are forbidden by Buddhism and Zen alike) is considered very dangerous, for their dogma insists reality is 'Maya'.....a term with 'MA' in it signifying its very ancient association of Nature being primarily feminine, and thus not to be played with!
  10. dan74 Registered Senior Member

    To be enlightened is to be your natural self, which is no-self, an integral part of what is happening. Zen Buddhism never advocates a strange state of enlightenment, but simply complete awareness of what is. Meditation, because it is an opportunity to get intimately acquainted with your mind and what is happening, is very important to the practice of Zen.

    This is true of both main schools of Buddhism, but finds greater emphasis in Zen, where awareness, presence, and the teaching that we are already essentially enlightened (but this is obscured by confusion) are found.

    As for psychodelics, my experience is that Zen Buddhists are quite undogmatic, prefering rather that people discover these things for themselves. Perhaps they can be beneficial at some stage , but personally (having experimented myself in the past) I prefer to let my mind find its own way, without chemical aids.
  11. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    Zen and Buddhism are the same thing. Zen stresses sudden enlightenment, while Buddhism is more about long term cultivation, although the terms are somewhat interchangeable. Zen is short for "Zen Buddhism". Every culture will recieve these teachings differently, that's appropriate. Most practitioners of Zen recognize the importance of Buddhist principles as the roots of their teaching. Zen is a fast form for the mentally sophisticated, those that can hear something the first time and "get it". Buddhism was designed to be accessible to everyone.
  12. cole grey Hi Valued Senior Member

    Possibly, the "invaluable" thing buddhism has which many of the other "religious traditions" as practiced by most churches, historically lack is the wisdom of "humility". Also, the New Age beliefs, of which many are based on ancient traditions, seems to me to lack humility.

    Which Buddhist virtues are the ones that a meditation experience must include?
    A better way to put that may be, how far must the buddhist virtues be applied to have the "foundation" for a good meditation practice?
  13. cole grey Hi Valued Senior Member

    About "guilt". I don't blame myself for lacking the mental process to see through any delusions I have held or hold today. I just have heard certain people describe a state of consciousness that I seldom enter. A consciousness that includes a sense of oneness with God, and with a lot of love for everyone.
    I admit up front that I do not want to sit in a particular pose for endless hours as a path to "enlightenment". I think "the true Zen" can not be dependent on that. That is part of the reason for starting this thread.

    I am under the impression that many hallucinogens cause brain damage. I hung out at Timothy Leary's house one time (I think it was about ten years ago) and he was a little out of it. *the preceding phrase was a respectful euphemism*
    He did say something to me I thought was extremely clever and lucid (a statement regarding music which could be extrapolated into many other areas), but let's just say I would prefer to be lucid more often than he appeared to be. Granted, he did a TON of acid in his time. Some people may have said the same about Boddidharma when he was sitting and staring at a wall all day, so who knows what was going on in there?
  14. dan74 Registered Senior Member

    Wow, it's fascinating to read all the different replies (I'm new to this forum experience).

    There are many Zen practitioners with different styles and it is dangerous to make generalisations (eg Spidergoat, who probably he has a lot of knowledge, but I disagree that Zen is the fast thing, unless you take Zen to be Alan Watts). In Zen monasteries in Japan and Korea the training is very serious and tough. I know a Korean Zen nun who spent 20 year in monastic training and her attitude is that it never stops, as long as you live.

    As for virtues that are important for meditation, I would single out compassion as the most important one. If every time you meditate, you dedicate whatever insight you receive towards helping others, there is less likelihood that you will develop a superior attitude with your first breakthrough. Practicing an open-hearted compassionate attitude to other people (and yourself) throughout the day, as well as trying the mettabhavana (loving-kindness) meditation, could be useful.

    Another important thing is to be aware of your ambition for attainment. If you can, gradually develop an attitude that you meditate to meditate regardless of outcome, just sit, breathe and don't worry if you are not enlightened yet!

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    In meditation after some experience people often go into blissful states, or even before that states of dissociation, it is vital to keep your consciousness anchored in your breath so that you don't drift off or become addicted to bliss.

    Above all, find a good monk or nun, who you can come and ask questions when they arise. People can have freaky experiences in meditation and getting the right perspective and guidance can be really important.

    Meditation (or sitting) is just a simple thing, a refuge for our confused, overflowing minds, an opportunity for the Mind to unfold in its natural way, to come into its own. That's when you can be one with God, in fact there is no one and no god, separate from the one, then.

    You don't have to sit for countless hours, some people "meditate" when they play baseball or cricket, work in their garden, walk. These experiences of clear mind, or even no-mind, just total presence is much like meditation. Except then they are interrupted and in meditation you can let them be as long as they need to, totally aware. Hence countless hours. It can go deeper. Depends on you.
  15. candy Registered Senior Member

    I think that I read somewhere that Zen is the Japanese derivative of the Chinese Chan school.
  16. cole grey Hi Valued Senior Member

    This is beautiful, and a good point for christians, athiests, buddists, et al.

    I have interpreted the thing I read about nirvana being a "hitching post for a donkey" to apply to that.

    I feel that I have experienced this meditative state in other activity, as you describe later on in your post. If the sitting meditation is one activity for inducing this state, is enlightenment a constant existence in that meditative state of presence? If that is one description of it, I feel that I have a better understanding of why this would be described as being in "oneness" with the universe.
    I have a hard time believing that a normal egoic state of consciousness would not return off and on, even for the most advanced practitioners of Zen.
  17. Technoterri Registered Member

    Zen is a label for one of the fragments of knowledge that is the cause of self delusion. Krishnamurti said truth is a pathless land that you have to discover for your self through the comprehension of your own mind and its ways.

    As we all go through the conditioning process and without exception continue the conditioning until there is the moment of seeing, or realisation for our selves. This delusion, this fragmentation of knowledge, that grows out of the thinking process, is what is known as the self. The root of the problem is fear. Fear creates the fragmentation within each of us and we pass on this fear to one another as we communicate.

    As humans we are encouraged to load our brains up with a huge amount of factual information to enable us to participate in modern society. This is called education. These facts are coloured by our teachers adding their opinions of good and bad, this I call psychological thinking. I do not now see anything inherently as good or bad, except as a personal preference. We are born into a meaningless world. Our histories show that humans have spent hundreds of thousand of years arguing and discussing trying to make an agreeable sense of everything, to give meaning to life. We as individuals pick up a small amount of knowlege which we use to give meaning to our own lives with disastrous results.

    To be able to step outside of that never ending stream of thought that pre-occupies our individual selves for a moment is the start. Many individuals across human history have pointed this out and tried to sum up their realisation in a few words.

    Cease to do evil, learn to do good. I have heard and, one must be careful not to mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself.

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  18. duendy Registered Senior Member

    I studied old J.K for a bit. Then i was to find a book by his mistress, and others who painted aCOMPLETELY different picture than the one he put out

    i am not saying he didn't have insight. but he certainly didn't patent them

    All this talk about hundreds of thousands of years etc. really we dont KNOW. what there are hints about is the godamn patriarchy and its oppressiveness. and its guilting-ness. and i sniff it in the Eastern variety. the place all the dissillusioned seekers went running too after having experienced psychdelics, and finding their own religiouw world all tuffy and grim. so they turned East

    like i say, i was taken in for a bit, but have learnt since then via experience. a l,ot of what i see from the gurus and masters is utter hypocrisy.....ANd it still is patriarchal
    Its main tenet is that reality is illusion. that natrual SELF is illusion. so whats this do?
    it GUILTs you. it hooks you. this is what authoritarianism does. FIRSt it has to make you feel unworthy. THEN it says, i have the 'key'. Then you are hooked. searching for your 'non-self' meanwhile old guru got the dosh

    what does non-self MEAN anyway. have you got it? do you hae snatches of it? lots of us have deep experiences

    but are you SAYING that therer is a time when it will always be that--'Nirvana'...

    you can find clues to the patriarchy. they
    all are jealous. they do not like you having hallucinogenic experience. some may secretly say it is allowed for intiates--aka Tibetan buddhism--but it is to be under their way and interpretation.

    K. also constanlty relegated against the use of halluinogens, believing the corporate-owned 'Readers Digest' he read, and its Drug War propaganda
  19. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    It is difficult and perhaps counterproductive to try and define Zen, and the methods outlined in it's teachings. A great statement I heard recently is that it's a dialog, not a doctrine. So, there is plenty of room for paradox and seeming contradiction depending on what antidote someone needs.

    Suzuki seems to think Zen and Buddhism are different:
    "Zen in not a system of Dhyana as practiced in India and by other Buddhist schools in China. Dhyana is generally understood to be a kind of meditation or contemplation directed toward some fixed thought; in Hinayana Buddhism it was a thought of transiency, while in the Mahayana it was more often the doctrine of emptiness. When the mind has been so trained as to be able to realize a state of perfect void in which there is not a trace of consciousness left, even the sense of being unconscious having departed; in other words, when all forms of mental activity are swept away clean from the field of consciousness, leaving the mind like the sky devoid of every speck of cloud, a mere broad expense of blue, Dhyana is said to have reached its perfection. This may be called ecstasy or trance, or the First Jhana, but it is not Zen. In Zen there must be not just Kensho, but Satori. There must be a general mental upheaval which destroys the old accumulations of intellection and lays down the foundation for new life; there must be the awakening of a new sense which will review the old things from a hitherto undreamed-of angle of observation. In Dhyana there are none of these things, for it is merely a quieting exercise of mind. As such Dhyana doubtless has its own merit, but Zen must be not identified with it." (source- D.T. Suzuki)

    "I think that I read somewhere that Zen is the Japanese derivative of the Chinese Chan school. "
    Ch'an and Zen are interchangable words.
  20. BeHereNow Registered Senior Member

    Zen is distilled Buddhism, with Taoism for flavor.
    The distillation process can be done many ways, yielding many results.
    Clearly there is Eastern Zen and Western Zen.
    Alan Watts and the Beatniks stripped Zen of much of its Buddhist roots and made it more palatable for Westerners. D.T.Suzuki, though not as radical, aided the movement. Gone is much of the vocabulary and terms found in Buddhism that is easy for the Eastern mind to grasp, but extremely difficult for Westerners.

    The Western Zen is typified by the Rinzai sect. Meditation has little or no part in satori (enlightenment). It is said a koan can be solved as easily with spade in hand as locked in meditation. Satori comes suddenly. Not suddenly to the uninitiated, but suddenly after years of “study” and “practice”.
    Famous quote: "Before I grasped Zen, the mountains were nothing but mountains and the rivers were nothing but rivers. When I got into Zen, the mountains were no longer mountains and the rivers were no longer rivers. But when I understood Zen, the mountains were only mountains and the rivers only rivers."

    Eastern Zen is typified by Soto Zen, which retains the meditation, rituals, and scriptures of Buddhism (not a reliance on scriptures, but they are studied).
    Eastern Zen stays with Buddhism, Western Zen incorporates other religions and belief systems.

    If we look at two different sects of Christianity we may see more differences than similarities. Compare the snake handling Pentecostals of Kentucky and West Virginia to the Catholics of Boston. Huge difference.

    I haven’t seen the story of the start of Zen posted here, although someone else probably recounted it somewhere.

    Buddha lived about 500 BC. About 1000 years later the 28th patriarch Bodhidharma lived. He crossed from Japan to China. As legend has it, during one teaching session a student asked the Master what the central message of the Buddha was. Bodhidharma held up a lotus flower and said nothing. One student had instant enlightenment, and Zen was born. Bodhidharma stressed that enlightenment came from being, from realization, not from the sutras and scriptures.

    Bodhidharma is credited with what might be loosely called the “creed” of Zen. Now for the purists, Zen has NO creed, and yet, if you don’t believe the following, if would be impossible to be part of Zen. In any other belief system, this would be a creed:
    A special transmission outside the scriptures;
    Depending not on words and letters;
    Pointing directly to the human mind;
    Seeing into one's nature, one becomes a Buddha.

    True Zen is not true religion and not true philosophy.
  21. BeHereNow Registered Senior Member

    Psychedelics are not a path to enlightenment, as was proposed in the 60’s, but neither are they “forbidden”.
    Amusement is allowed in Zen.
  22. dan74 Registered Senior Member

    Again a flurry of different replies! Isn't it easy to get lost among the different voices and not hear the soft call of your own soul?

    I think that most of us (including myself) finding learning to listen a really hard art to master. We are much better at talking!

    As for your question about the return of the egoic states, I asked the same question of a number of long-term practitioners I really respect and yes, they did say that it is a continuous process, like in the ox-herding pictures (check the web), one goes through the sequence continuously. The difference may be that a mind that is very tuned in and very sensitive recognises the lapse into old habits and patterns of thought very quickly (or even before it occurs) and has a real choice which way it wants to go.
  23. dan74 Registered Senior Member

    Technoterri: I appreciate your comment that Zen can be a label that gts in the way. But it's not the fault of the finger if I mistake it for the moon it is pointing too. Most of us need the finger. Some can see the moon without it.

    BeHereNow: Thank you for doing the historical sketch. One thing, the story you refered to as Boddhiharma holding up a flower, that was actually supposed t be the Buddha, but the point remains the same. In inzai they still meditate a lot. Just less emphasis on it, as you said.

    Spidergoat: That was a really interesting passage you quoted. I am sure you know that we have to be aware that not only Zen, but enlightenment/satori are concepts in our mind that can and do get in the way of the real thing. Even DT Suzuki can't capture satori in words.

    Duendy: who needs gurus, I agree! but occasionally if you are really interested you can come across the real thing. These people aren't usually very flash and impressive, but they are genuine. They are like a little crystal clear spring in the forest somewhere. It's not all about patriarchy and guilt. Basically you are ok, and no one has a right to judge you. In meditation, you get to learn to live with yourself, to find out about yourself, to accept yourself and to nurture yourself, if necessary. There are no good and bad there, there is only what is.

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