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Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

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Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby Boatman Bodhisattva on Fri Jul 07, 2017 4:29 pm

Can someone practice Zen/Ch'an Buddhism without being particularly interested in seated, silent meditation?

What if someone is interested in Zen ritual/chanting, koan practice, studying Zen philosophy/doctrine, etc., but without being particularly interested in seated, silent meditation?

Even in Korean Buddhism, where Son (Zen) meditation has pride of place, monastic vocations are rigidly divided between practice monks (ip’ansung) and administrative monks (sap’ansung). The ip’ansung include monks engaged in full-time meditation practice in the meditation halls, as well as monks engaged in intensive textual study in Buddhist monastic seminaries. The sap’ansung include most everyone else, from the abbot (an administrative post in larger Korean monasteries distinct from the Son master, who is the spiritual head of the monastery), the prior, treasurer, and scribes (e.g., bookkeepers), to proctors, vergers of the various shrines around the monasteries, and bosses in the fields.

The sap’ansung are presumed to be too busy with their monastic duties to engage in formal meditation practice and are not even permitted to enter the meditation-hall compound, let alone sit with the full-time meditators. Thus, even in Korean Zen monasteries that are devoted to intensive meditation practice, only a minority of monks are actually engaged in meditation practice...

According to both historical evidence and modern-day testimony, Buddhist monks have followed many vocations, of which meditation is but one (and probably a less common one at that). And it was only in the 20th century that laypeople in Buddhist traditions from Burma to Japan became regular practitioners of meditation.
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Re: Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby macdougdoug on Fri Jul 07, 2017 5:29 pm

I'd say zazen (or meditation) is the foundation. Even the people working with koans would agree with that methinks. Without zazen the rest just becomes fluff or cultural heritage.

Maybe the answer woud be different if you told us why you wanted to practise all that stuff without the meditation.
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Re: Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby Boatman Bodhisattva on Fri Jul 07, 2017 5:54 pm

macdougdoug wrote:I'd say zazen (or meditation) is the foundation.


Seated, silent meditation isn't a main practice for sap’ansung monks, along with many lay people who affiliate themselves with the Zen tradition.

From what I've read by Sekkei Harada and Thich Nhat Hanh, every ordinary activity, if done with right mindfulness, can be zazen.

Many Zen/Ch'an masters throughout history, including Sekkei Harada and Thich Nhat Hanh, have also recommended for lay people to recite the name of a Buddha or Bodhisattva as a meditation advice.
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Re: Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby macdougdoug on Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:02 pm

Boatman Bodhisattva wrote:
Seated, silent meditation isn't a main practice for sap’ansung monks, along with many lay people who affiliate themselves with the Zen tradition.

From what I've read by Sekkei Harada and Thich Nhat Hanh, every ordinary activity, if done with right mindfulness, can be zazen.

.


Rare are those that attain nirvana - even rarer those that do so thanks to their administrative work. :>.>:

As you (may have) suggested in another thread: even Burmese Vipassana, done with right mindfulness, can be zazen.
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Re: Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby Caodemarte on Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:30 pm

I am baffled by the separation between koan practice and zazen, seated meditation, in these posts.

So is it possible make progress without seated meditation? Sure, just as you theoretically could learn to be a doctor by just reading medical books without illustrations and never seeing a human body. Or learn to swim from books without ever seeing water. However, it is much, much, much harder and practically impossiple for almost everybody. As the Koreans (and others) say "Study and meditation are like two wings of a bird. You need both to fly." Why not try to use both formal meditation and study and work, etc.? If you just want to study about Buddhism for curiosity's sake and not practice that is one thing. If you want to hope to be reborn as a meditating monk in a later life eons from now that's another (remember St. Augustine's prayer to make him sober and pure, but not just yet?). If you want to separate seated meditation into a nice isolated package separate from your life that is up to you too. I don't think any of that will help you much, but it is your call. You could try practicing zazen when seated formally on the cushion and when you wash the dishes as Harada and TNH (and pretty much every teacher) suggest. That seems to be the easiest and best way forward.

P.S. Please don't try to operate in my state if you are a library only "doctor." We arrest such people as a menace.
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Re: Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby Meido on Fri Jul 07, 2017 8:18 pm

Boatman Bodhisattva wrote:Can someone practice Zen/Ch'an Buddhism without being particularly interested in seated, silent meditation?


Someone can successfully practice Zen/Chan using whatever methods are suited to their conditions. Such choices are not determined by personal preference and interest, however, nor are they made solely by oneself.

Boatman Bodhisattva wrote:What if someone is interested in Zen ritual/chanting, koan practice, studying Zen philosophy/doctrine, etc., but without being particularly interested in seated, silent meditation?


Then they should likely confront that aversion.

There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that seated meditation is an extremely effective and rapid method, that someone would be foolish to forego if their motivation for practice is indeed profound.

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Re: Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby Boatman Bodhisattva on Sat Jul 08, 2017 2:12 am

Meido wrote:There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that seated meditation is an extremely effective and rapid method, that someone would be foolish to forego if their motivation for practice is indeed profound.


Rather than silently meditating, I recite the name of Avalokitesvara, as recommended by Ch'an master Miao Lien Shi in this book:
https://books.google.com/books?id=DH4FC ... &q&f=false

The book explains that the purpose of reciting Avalokitesvara's name is not to petition an external deity for worldly favors, but instead to cultivate Avalokitesvara's enlightened qualities within oneself.

Some of my other Ch'an influences are Masters Hsing Yun, Sheng-Yen, Yin-Shun, and Cheng-Yen.
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Re: Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby Meido on Sat Jul 08, 2017 3:14 pm

Boatman Bodhisattva wrote:Rather than silently meditating, I recite the name of Avalokitesvara, as recommended by Ch'an master Miao Lien Shi in this book:
https://books.google.com/books?id=DH4FC ... &q&f=false


That is a wonderful practice. Learning and doing practices like that is excellent.

Even better, if possible, is to do practice learned directly from one's own teacher in person. That way, it will be practice specifically chosen to suit the conditions.

Maybe you already have a relationship with a Chan/Zen teacher like this (if so, forgive the unwarranted advice). But if someone does not, I would usually say: you can start looking for your teacher, meaning the one with whom you feel affinity and who you wish to follow. The way to do this is carefully and patiently, taking your time: read books, go to talks, attend retreats with many teachers until you find yours. Then, be willing to abandon every practice you've learned and do what that teacher advises.

The reason for all this is that Chan/Zen is actualized in human relationship. However, someone who practices initially using good advice that they've read - and then takes their time to carefully and patiently find a teacher - will not be behind

~ Meido
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Re: Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby desert_woodworker on Sat Jul 08, 2017 9:59 pm

BB,

"Practice" may be available in all sorts of denominations of work... .

Awakening... happens in only one resultant.

If you're interested in Awakening, or feel it's inevitable, (please) be sure that the practice and practices that one signs-up for are oriented in that direction. Ask -- or grill -- the teacher, about this. Don't be squeamish, with the teacher. Life is short... .

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Re: Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby Boatman Bodhisattva on Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:18 am

Meido wrote:That is a wonderful practice. Learning and doing practices like that is excellent.


Thank you for the encouragement. Once I find the right teacher for me, I intend on having some sort of training as well.
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Re: Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby jundo on Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:56 am

Meido wrote:
Someone can successfully practice Zen/Chan using whatever methods are suited to their conditions. Such choices are not determined by personal preference and interest, however, nor are they made solely by oneself.

...

Then they should likely confront that aversion.

There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that seated meditation is an extremely effective and rapid method, that someone would be foolish to forego if their motivation for practice is indeed profound.

~ Meido


Lovely. :Namaste:

In this world of chasing and running here and there after jobs to do and things to gain, something special about sitting in the Wholeness of Just Such.

And then, getting up from the cushion, one can also pour oneself and find meaning in ritual and chanting, koan practice, studying Zen philosophy/doctrine, etc.. As well, returning to this day to day chase with places to go and things to get done, one might learn to carry a drop of that same Stillness and Wholeness.

Yes, it is possible that one might master Stillness and Wholeness without sitting ... but then again, if one has truly mastered Stillness and Wholeness, then why is the heart so averse to just sit? :PP:

Gassho, Jundo

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Re: Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby Boatman Bodhisattva on Sun Jul 09, 2017 6:48 am

jundo wrote:Yes, it is possible that one might master Stillness and Wholeness without sitting ... but then again, if one has truly mastered Stillness and Wholeness, then why is the heart so averse to just sit? :PP:


This is from Rev. Walpola Rahula's What the Buddha Taught:

Another very important, practical, and useful form of ‘meditation’ (mental development) is to be aware and mindful of whatever you do, physically or verbally, during the daily routine of work in your life, private, public or professional. Whether you walk, stand, sit, lie down, or sleep, whether you stretch or bend your limbs, whether you look around, whether you put on your clothes, whether you talk or keep silence, whether you eat or drink, even whether you answer the calls of nature – in these and other activities, you should be fully aware and mindful of the act you perform at the moment...

This mindfulness or awareness with regard to our activities, taught by the Buddha, is to live in the present moment, to live in the present action. (This is also the Zen way which is based primarily on this teaching.) Here in this form of meditation, you haven’t got to perform any particular action in order to develop mindfulness, but you have only to be mindful and aware of whatever you may do. You haven’t got to spend one second of your precious time on this particular ‘meditation’: you have only to cultivate mindfulness and awareness always, day and night, with regard to all activities in your usual daily life.
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Re: Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby jundo on Sun Jul 09, 2017 11:47 am

Boatman Bodhisattva wrote:
jundo wrote:Yes, it is possible that one might master Stillness and Wholeness without sitting ... but then again, if one has truly mastered Stillness and Wholeness, then why is the heart so averse to just sit? :PP:


This is from Rev. Walpola Rahula's What the Buddha Taught:


Hi,

I might just not the Theravadan ways and interpretation of Rev. Walpola are often quite different (Precisely the Same, but quite different) from the ways of the Zen Tradition as I know it. It is an excellent way I suppose for those who Practice such way, but it is not the Practice I know. This was discussed today on the other "Zen & Theravada" thread you began.

viewtopic.php?f=57&t=11868

You should ask yourself why so much resistance to Just Sitting, in Stillness and Wholeness. If that is hard for you, maybe all of life will remain hard for you. If sitting in Stillness and Wholeness becomes easy for you, then maybe all of life will become easy, Still and Whole.

But it seems that you have already made your choice, and are just looking for affirmation? I better recommend that you learn to sit Choicelessly Aware, and then get on with a life of Choiceless-daily-choices.

Gassho, J

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Re: Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby Boatman Bodhisattva on Sun Jul 09, 2017 4:35 pm

jundo wrote:I might just not the Theravadan ways and interpretation of Rev. Walpola are often quite different


In the above quote, Rev. Walpola Rahula was reiterating what many Zen masters had already noted, that mindfulness should be cultivated in every possible activity, whether sitting, standing, or lying down. I've read Sekkei Harada and Thich Nhat Hanh make the same point.

This mindfulness or awareness with regard to our activities, taught by the Buddha, is to live in the present moment, to live in the present action. (This is also the Zen way which is based primarily on this teaching.)
https://sites.google.com/site/rahulawha ... al-culture

Image
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Re: Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby jundo on Mon Jul 10, 2017 12:09 pm

Hi,

Boatman Bodhisattva wrote:
jundo wrote:I might just not the Theravadan ways and interpretation of Rev. Walpola are often quite different


In the above quote, Rev. Walpola Rahula was reiterating what many Zen masters had already noted, that mindfulness should be cultivated in every possible activity, whether sitting, standing, or lying down. I've read Sekkei Harada and Thich Nhat Hanh make the same point.

This mindfulness or awareness with regard to our activities, taught by the Buddha, is to live in the present moment, to live in the present action. (This is also the Zen way which is based primarily on this teaching.)
https://sites.google.com/site/rahulawha ... al-culture


Well, first, the purpose of such exercises in the Theravada is quite different, although apparently the same on the surface, Sadaparibhuta. (TNH is actually a Theravadan Teacher as much as a Zen Teacher, not uncommon in Vietnamese Buddhism, but that is a story for another day). In South Asian Buddhism, the Practice is actually a form of awareness and self-analysis to escape the self in a form of Vipassana Practice.

However, here is something else to consider:

It seems to me that many people confuse to be "in the moment" (meaning, the doing of one thing at one time with attention on that action, a sometimes very useful skill for the calligrapher or swordman or any of us sometimes ... I just did this playing in the park with my little daughter beyond before or after) with our main Teaching of "being one with the moment" or (better expressed) "being the moment" or (expressed beyond expressions) "to be the Momentless moment, whatever such moment be in that moment".

It seems to me that many people in Zen Practice have come to confuse "being present/mindful in the moment" (for example, "when drinking tea, just drink tea" ... a sometimes appropriate and lovely way to experience life) ... with "being at one with the moment" (allowing and merging with conditions of life "just as they are"). The two are not quite the same, and are often confused, and the latter is much more at the heart of the Shikantaza Path ...

Yes, I believe that there are times to be "mindful" ... and there are times not. Sometimes when I eat, I just eat ... when I sip tea, I just sip tea ... when bowing, just bowing ... fully absorbed in that action. A wonderful, insightful practice. When doing one thing, just do one thing with all one's body-and-mind.

At other times, just be Life as Life, as life presents in that present. We might think of something that happened this morning or many years ago, good or bad as we grab a sandwich from the drive thru while reading the paper and otherwise multitasking. When life forces one to do five terrible things at once ... such is just that moment, be one with such moment of five terrible things (that are neither five nor one, with eight before and eight behind).

(I do not know where the idea started among some folks that the 'goal' of this practice is to live the first way every moment of every day. That would be pretty awful (if not harmful) to live like that all or even most of the time. What's wrong with also sometimes reading the paper, thinking about work, while grabbing a quick sandwich? There is a place for all of that.)

In my view, the heart of this Practice is merely "being at one" with this self-life-world just as it is ... dropping the resistance, barriers, separation between our "self" and all the circumstances in which that "self" imagines it finds itself in ... until even the walls between "self" and "life-world" (or self and itself) soften or even fully drop away ...

So, for example, when drinking tea, just do that and fully allow that. When grabbing a sandwich while reading the paper and thinking about your annoying co-worker in the office, just do that and fully allow that (and fully allow the craziness in the newspaper and your annoying co-worker too).** When your kid plops in your lap during tea drinking and the cup spills all over the table, just do and allow that. When facing a trip to the emergency room (as one of our members did this week), just do that. When the shit hits the fan, just let it hit. When temporarily falling into sadness or anger, just do and allow that (although remember that "mind theatre" and see if you truly need to be that way, and seek to be not that way if you can). When overwrought with life for a moment, just do that and fully allow that (remembering in the back of your mind that the clear, boundless blue sky is behind the clouds of thought and emotion even when momentarily covered over). When suffering with old age and sickness of ourself or someone we love, even death as our eyes fill with tears, just do that and fully allow that with a Buddha smile and running tears.

I sometimes describe the many perspectives and states of mind that we can master through Zen Practice as "tools on the toolbelt". We may take them and be them at the appropriate moments, then replace them on the belt.

So, sometimes we can be fully in the moment, no thought of past or future, no thought of other places to be or where we would better be. Such moments might include watching a sunrise, playing with our children, enjoying and experiencing just this one place and time of life.

Other times, we might need to think of the project we have to do tomorrow, the place we have to go next, the many things we have to do on the "to do" list.

In my view, all of the above together is truly balanced, "mindful" living. That is "being the moment". Or, better as some aspect of this is beyond all time right as and in every second of time ... "just be-non-be each Momentless moment".

For that, we sit. If ya can't sit, how can one do-non-do any Momentless moment shit? :peace:

This flavor of "letting the moment be the moment" is a Daoist influence that came into Buddhism when it crossed from India to China, as is rather different from the "let us be free of all this life(s) and its emotions" that is more common in Indian and South Asian Buddhism.

Gassho, Jundo

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Re: Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby eputkonen on Tue Jul 11, 2017 1:07 am

Boatman Bodhisattva wrote:Can someone practice Zen/Ch'an Buddhism without being particularly interested in seated, silent meditation?

What if someone is interested in Zen ritual/chanting, koan practice, studying Zen philosophy/doctrine, etc., but without being particularly interested in seated, silent meditation?


You might be interested in Zen Master Bankei. This is what he said...
The only thing I tell my people is to stay in the Buddha-mind. There are no regulations, no formal discipline. Nevertheless, they have agreed among themselves to sit in Zen for a period of two incense sticks [an hour or so] daily. All right, let them. But they should understand that the birthless Buddha-mind has absolutely nothing to do with sitting with an incense stick burning in front of you. If one keeps in the Buddha-mind without straying, there’s no further satori to seek. Whether asleep or awake, one is a living Buddha. Zazen means only one thing—sitting tranquilly in the Buddha-mind. But really, you know, one’s everyday life, in its entirety, should be thought of as a kind of sitting in Zen. Even during one’s formal sitting, one may leave one’s seat to attend to something. In my temple, at least, such things are allowed. Indeed, it’s sometimes advisable to walk in Zen for one incense stick’s burning, and sit in Zen for the other. A natural thing, after all…. There are no binding rules here. Most masters these days use devices [kōan, etc.] to teach, and they seem to value these devices above all else—they can’t get to the truth directly. They’re little more than blind fools! Another bit of their stupidity is to hold that, according to Zen, unless one has a doubt [induced by the kōan] he then proceeds to smash, he’s good for nothing. Of course, all this forces people to have doubts. No, they never teach the importance of staying in the birthless Buddha-mind. They would make of it a lump of doubt. A very serious mistake.


You don't have to sit in Zen (Zazen). There are what are called the four dignities of man...sitting, lying, standing, and walking. As there is a sitting Zen, there is walking Zen, standing Zen, and lying Zen. Really, you can do anything in Zen. Just stay in the Buddha-mind.
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Re: Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby [james] on Tue Jul 11, 2017 1:35 am

eputkonen wrote:
Boatman Bodhisattva wrote:Can someone practice Zen/Ch'an Buddhism without being particularly interested in seated, silent meditation?

What if someone is interested in Zen ritual/chanting, koan practice, studying Zen philosophy/doctrine, etc., but without being particularly interested in seated, silent meditation?

You don't have to sit in Zen (Zazen). There are what are called the four dignities of man...sitting, lying, standing, and walking. As there is a sitting Zen, there is walking Zen, standing Zen, and lying Zen. Really, you can do anything in Zen. Just stay in the Buddha-mind.


As the Buddha-mind is all encompassing, so too is the Buddha-mind non-excluding. Sitting, lying, standing, walking ... all essential.

As it is impossible not to sit from time to time, why not take the opportunity to sit in Buddha-mind?
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Re: Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby Boatman Bodhisattva on Tue Jul 11, 2017 1:55 am

jundo wrote:Well, first, the purpose of such exercises in the Theravada is quite different, although apparently the same on the surface, Sadaparibhuta. (TNH is actually a Theravadan Teacher as much as a Zen Teacher, not uncommon in Vietnamese Buddhism, but that is a story for another day). In South Asian Buddhism, the Practice is actually a form of awareness and self-analysis to escape the self in a form of Vipassana Practice.


I could go through the trouble to find passages from Zen masters to quote back to you, but I guess it wouldn't make a difference here. I'm sorry for bothering you.
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Re: Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby Boatman Bodhisattva on Tue Jul 11, 2017 1:56 am

eputkonen wrote:You don't have to sit in Zen (Zazen). There are what are called the four dignities of man...sitting, lying, standing, and walking. As there is a sitting Zen, there is walking Zen, standing Zen, and lying Zen. Really, you can do anything in Zen. Just stay in the Buddha-mind.


Yes, thank you. That's what I've been trying to say.
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Re: Zen/Ch'an for Lay Householders

Postby Caodemarte on Tue Jul 11, 2017 1:57 am

There seems to an implication in this discussion that one can practice Zen in every activity except zazen. If you can practice Zen in every activity why not in sitting meditation as well? What is this strange reluctance? Is it the reverse of people who fall into "dead sitting?" Is it, frankly, an excuse like those who think they can get fit without exercise by reading fitness books? You are free to practice how you see fit. I just don't get it.
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