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Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby Nonin on Sat Feb 19, 2011 8:17 pm

The following article was sent to me, and I'm passing it on. It was part of an article called Why Can't Zen Buddhism find an Online Home, written by Gary Ray. It originally appeared appeared in CyberSangha, an online Buddhist journal, in 1995.

In the article, Gary Ray speaks of his experience with on-line forum discussions of Zen Buddhism and goes on to say:

Even the best of these forums were falling prey to Zen drivel, so I realized the problem was not with the forum administration, it was in the general attitude of its participants. This lack of quality and insight seems to be caused by three particular problems, not necessarily unique to the online world of Zen. Attachment to emptiness, Zen without Buddhism and an inaccurate portrayal of Zen in popular culture all combine to undermine meaningful Zen dialogues.

Attachment to emptiness is so common that the term "Zen sickness" is often used to describe it. Sufferers of this malady run around telling you that "everything is empty" and nothing really exists. In discussions, when these people don't know the answer to a question or don't know how to pursue a meaningful dialogue, they often resort to their emptiness claim to stifle conversation, or worse, appear wise. A recent discussion in alt.zen was composed of a someone asking where the Zen was in the discussion group, since everyone seemed to be ranting and raving about new age teachers and Hindu philosophy. The response to his question was overwhelming, as many people slyly informed him of the "emptiness" of the conference. Heck, it doesn't have Zen because it's empty. True emptiness represents a lack of permanent form, pregnant with potential for unlimited growth and development. The emptiness discussed in these conferences is a growth impediment, since discussion immediately stops when the emptiness word is used. A response one of my Zen teachers often used when confronted by an emptiness spouter was: "Does emptiness feel pain?" This is especially effective when brandishing a big Zen stick (or listserv software).

Zen without Buddhism is the second problem that impedes discussions. In the vein of Toni Packer and Charlotte Beck, many discussion participants think that Zen is some separate "way," divorced from its roots in Buddhism. I visited Charlotte Beck's center several years ago and rather than a Buddha on the alter, there sat a rock. This is the world of Buddhism without the Buddha. What happens when Zen is removed from its context and its support in Buddhism? It becomes a technique—either for relaxation or for enhancement of the ego to protect oneself from reality.

Zen divorced from Buddhism is nothing. It lacks the moral foundations, the base, that is necessary for spiritual advancement. Meditation (which is the meaning of "Zen" after all) is only one of the Eightfold Paths or Six Paramitas. Steven Echard Roshi writes that "Such people think that you can extract the essence out of Zen Buddhism, dilute it to infinitesimal levels, and still possess the same thing." The result in online discussions is that there's very little left to talk about when Buddhism is removed from the picture. There's sitting, and then there's, well, sitting. Actually these people spend enormous amounts of time trying to explain "enlightenment experiences," the brass ring of the Zen student whose Buddhist foundation is removed.

The inappropriate portrayal of Zen in popular culture is really an extension of this second problem. In popular culture, Zen becomes divorced from its Buddhist context and worse, it even loses its inaccurate representation as a meditation technique. Zen becomes an expression for any event that somehow had a synchronistic effect on the speaker. Zen changes form from a noun to a verb, and gets used to describe the proper way for motorcycle maintenance, creative management, internet navigation, and a variety of unrelated topic. The word "Zen" in the title seems to illicit a popular response that increases market share. In online conferences this "popular understanding," or what Zen master Seung Sahn calls "Common People's Zen," is used as a springboard for discussing just about anything, but preferably something from Japan - since it sounds more romantic.

Most of these problems can be fixed with a simple remedy. Just refer to Zen as Zen Buddhism. Whenever you use the word Zen, put Buddhism after it. If it sounds funny, the word Zen is probably being used inappropriately. Try it: Zen Buddhism and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Gosh, the clouds were still and I had this experience of oneness with everything,; it was very Zen Buddhism. The problem of Zen divorced from Buddhism can be solved by placing meditation in context. Think of Zen as a link in the practice chain. If you sit in zazen, divorced from the rest of Buddhist practice, I'm afraid it's not Zen Buddhism.


Hands palm-to-palm,

Nonin
Soto Zen Buddhist Priest. Transmitted Dharma Heir of Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
Abbot and Head Teacher, Nebraska Zen Center / Heartland Temple, Omaha, Nebraska, USA
http://www.prairiewindzen.org
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Re: Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby So-on Mann on Sat Feb 19, 2011 8:37 pm

Wow, that's amazing... after years of moderating first the Zen "Bantustan" at E-sangha, and now ZFI, it tickles me pink to see my own experiences mirrored so well.
Facing a precious mirror, form and reflection behold each other. You are not it, but in truth it is you.
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Re: Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby retrofuturist on Sat Feb 19, 2011 10:00 pm

Greetings reverend Nonin,

Thank you for the sharing the article with us.

Sixteen years on and it still seems an accurate depiction of the root causes that underpin a lot of dissatisfaction people have with online conversation.

I guess the question now becomes, if we accept the analysis, "What now?"

Metta,
Retro. :)
Mind precedes mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox. (Dhp1)
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Re: Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby Shonin on Sun Feb 20, 2011 1:11 am

Certainly sounds familiar. Not sure I agree with all of the author's analysis of the causes of these problems.

I definitely agree with the first point.

What he calls the second problem - "Zen without Buddhism" - doesn't cause any problems for online discussion in my experience. Mindfulness is not Buddhism and yet people do have coherent online discussion about it generally. Rather "Zen without Buddhism" may just be something the author (perhaps with justification) disagrees with.

I'm not sure I completely agree with the third point either - "Zen changes form from a noun to a verb, and gets used to describe the proper way for motorcycle maintenance, creative management". For centuries, Zen has meaningfully been integrated into everyday arts and activities from calligraphy to martial arts to flower arranging and gardening in Japan, China and other countries. This is a perfectly valid expression of Zen. Every art with ends with 'do' is seen as a spiritual practice of moving Zen and/or Taoism (little distinction is made between them in this context). Again, I don't see this as weakening online discussion. An activity which is grounded in awareness, harmonisation and non-attachment is a Zen (/Taoist) practice. This is the samadhi of activity. The problem is when it is co-opted as a buzzword to mean whatever the user wants it to mean, including marketing products. It's a victim of it's own success in a sense.

What I do see as an issue (in addition to the first point) is the idea that (presumably since Zen is about boundlessness and not about being attached to forms and ideas) it is whatever you want it to be, from Dada-like nonsense to sex to New Age ideas to massage oil.

I don't see this as being all the 'fault' of modern Western culture either. Zen is less tied to its philosophical roots than most forms of Buddhism. A coherent theoretical framework is important if Zen is to have a definite meaning.
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Re: Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby Carol on Sun Feb 20, 2011 1:47 am

Shonin wrote: Zen is less tied to its philosophical roots than most forms of Buddhism. A coherent theoretical framework is important if Zen is to have a definite meaning.


I don't think Zen Buddhism is less tied to its philosophical roots than most forms of Buddhism. Most students of Zen Buddhism either study Dogen extensively, or koans, or both ... and, in addition, many read the sutras and translations of the old Chinese Masters. Most teachers give Dharma talks linking our practice to investigation of this traditional framework as well.

But, actually, I don't know how linked the practice of Theravadan or Pureland or Vajrayana Buddhism is to traditional theoretical frameworks ... so I should not say whether Zen Buddhism is more or less so. The impression I get from contact with lay practitioners in other Buddhist traditions is that they may not be so well connected. But I could be mistaken.
Practitioners who cultivate the personal realization of buddha knowledge dwell in the bliss of whatever is present and do not abandon their practice.
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Re: Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby Dan74 on Sun Feb 20, 2011 1:50 am

Some valid points but I wouldn't have dismissed Charlotte Joko Beck and Tony Packer so lightly. To say they are about relaxation or "for enhancement of the ego to protect oneself from reality" is not true at all. Now there may be some Buddhism missing in their teachings but what they teach is very valuable, IMO, nevertheless and should be given more respect that this.

Likewise with people whose Zen is missing some Buddhism - if their practice is sincere and committed, it should be respected IMO, and critiqued with this respect in mind, rather than simply dismissed.
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Re: Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby Jundo Cohen on Sun Feb 20, 2011 3:11 am

Hi,

Our Treeleaf Sangha may be the most "fully online" Zen Sangha now, and I feel we have been able to avoid so many of the excesses and problems of other places. I do not have time to go into discussion now (as I must run out to teach a Zen class in a building ... we do that too! :) ), but I wanted to post this.

Interestingly, it was to be run by the ShambhalaSun folks in one of their magazines, but they rejected it as too critical of traditional Buddhism. (Hmmm, where else have I read something like that this week?)

Please do me the kindness of reading it ... I'd like to add a couple of comments later.


THE WORLD IS VIRTUAL, THIS SANGHA IS REAL

By Jundo Cohen

With Gassho before a body scanner, sitters will enter the 3-D Holographic Zen Hall from wherever they are. Instantly, a high roofed room, Manjusri Bodhisattva at its center, fills the senses and the 10 directions encircling them. Lifelike images of a hundred others who have sat that day (some hours earlier in distant time zones) occupy projected Zafus all around, and the scent of incense perfumes the air. A young priest walks through the room straightening slippers made of photons, guiding newcomers to their places. Biosensors in the sitter’s clothing adjust posture with a touch lightly felt at the small of the back. A teacher in far Japan, as if a few feet away, offers a talk and responds immediately to questions. Rising from Zazen, all recite as one the Bodhisattva Vows, prostrating toward Manjusri now seen hovering midair as vast as a mountain. The identical scene appears in Holospaces in every sitter’s home or private place, including for one fellow sitting zero gravity on the long voyage to Mars.

Though sounding like Isaac Asimov meets the Lotus Sutra, researchers at the holographics lab of one of Japan’s best science universities tell me it is just a matter of time now. The ‘HoloZendo’ is not a figment of the imagination, and may be available to carry in one’s pocket. If so, it will not be the first time that new technologies have impacted Buddhist practice. The printing press in China and Japan in centuries past first made sacred texts widespread both for laypeople and monastics, and available to hold in one’s hands. The airplane, telephone, sound and video recording allowed 20th century teachers and ancient teachings to cross national borders without need for perilous sea journey, linking monasteries in the far Himalayas to practitioners in Texas, bringing Dharma around the world.

Now, in the first years of the 21st century, the technology available for Buddhist practice is not quite yet the “3-D HoloLotus Land” … but it is not too bad. What’s more, with a touch of ingenuity and creativity (plus the virtues of patience and perseverance), many of the defects and weaknesses inherent in its use for Buddhist practice can be overcome. Like the printing press, modern means of communication are overcoming various obstacles that have limited the teaching and dissemination of Buddhist practice since the Buddha’s time, especially to laypeople outside monastery walls and those in distant places. Even in the ‘Golden Age’ of Buddhism, conditions were not so ‘golden’ for millions of non-monastics unable to abandon their homes and families to travel to distant mountaintops in search of instruction. While ‘Home leaving’ is the Path for those who can, millions more were bound to home and the duties of caring for family … left hoping for future birth as their one chance to pursue the Way. Would the Buddha have changed his views on the place of “householder” practice if modern possibilities were available? Certainly, the intangibles of “on site” practice … observing the teacher and fellow monks in their daily actions and behavior, living and practicing communally from day to night … cannot be replaced by modern technologies as they now exist. But do other pluses and strengths compensate in important ways, with overall benefits which may sometimes surpass the traditional in key aspects, especially for lay practice?

Our Treeleaf Sangha (http://www.treeleaf.org), now entering its fourth year, may be the world’s most “online” Buddhist Sangha.. Our ‘mission statement’ describes Treeleaf as “a practice place for Zen practitioners who cannot easily commute to a Zen Center due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or work, childcare and family needs, seeking to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Zen Buddhist Sangha, all fully online.” People from over 40 countries, as far away as Kazakhstan, learn the Dharma, share their lives, and sit Zazen together. A few members symbolize who we serve**: Miriam was a 40 year Zenny who came like clockwork to a twice weekly Zazen meeting in Arizona. However, following a stroke, she was left nearly bedridden, unable to make the drive. Almost immediately, activities with the group, all sitting and social contact, were substantially cut off. By learning to use a computer, camera and microphone from her home, Miriam was able to sit with us any day of the week, study Buddhist texts with us, laugh and cry with us. Likewise, Ann is a single working mother holding down two jobs, with no time to visit the Buddhist group gathering blocks from her house. She is able to access our sittings whenever she has the time, 24/7, plus build friendships with other working parents of our Sangha facing similar struggles. Tom is a soldier in Afghanistan who sits with us between combat missions. Bill is a medical volunteer in Africa with no Buddhist Sangha for thousands of miles. Lee was hospitalized for cancer treatments, yet was able to prepare for Jukai with us via video netcast viewed from her hospital bed. She was supported throughout her illness by many of our other members also facing major health issues. Sven attends his local twice monthly Zen meeting in a Swedish small city, but finds he wants more. Through our Sangha and our two way “see and be seen” video Zazen hall (not a ‘3-D Holosuite' yet, but on its way!), he is able to both sit and share social tea with Zenfriends any day, join in our Rakusu sewing circle, Precepts study circle and more. These folks are typical of the people who sit with us. It could be argued that most Buddhist Centers in the west have significantly failed the thousands of interested and dedicated practitioners who just cannot come to sittings because life intervenes.

We encourage our members to attend “in the flesh” Zen meetings in their communities whenever they can. It is wonderful to sit under a roof with others, able to share that kind of interaction. However, it’s just not possible for so many. What is more, Taigu Turlur (the other teacher at Treeleaf) and I have been surprised at the rich, intimate, nurturing environment that can be established in a so-called “online” Zen community. Certainly, there are some things we miss, beginning with the simple ability to hug a member during a life emergency or adjust posture by touch. Yet, our structure offers benefits too, especially in comparison to many non-residential, once or twice weekly or monthly Zazen groups where people come to hear a short talk, then sit silently before heading home, with little chance for social interaction beyond a few minutes before and after. In contrast, our Treeleafers communicate any day, every day, as much as they wish, with fellow Zennies who become real friends over time. People share the twists and turns of their lives, support each other during the ups and downs. We often see people who are more inclined to reveal themselves and share their lives over the internet (given the relative anonymity it can provide), and to drop the masks and facades that sometimes people wear dealing “face to face”. People do open up, often about events in their lives that they have told no one else. We have various video opportunities to chat with each other (including two way video Dokusan), but much of our Sangha’s communication is by written word in our “Forum”. While intonation and body language are unseen, our very diverse, mature, literate, gentle, lovely members are generally superb communicators by writing, and the written format allows a richness of expression, taking of time, depth and thoughtfulness that can be missing from casual oral chat-chat. Our discussions on the Dharma, on Practice and all life are serious business. It is a bit like the story of the blind man who, deprived of his ability to use some senses, learns new paths to richly contact the world through his remaining senses in ways the sighted often ignore. Although “Leafers” are denied aspects of physical contact and communication, they laugh and cry together, support each other, give each other a kick in the pants when needed, are truly Sangha brothers and sisters. At least, as much as any lay Sangha I know.

We have problems too, things we must be very creative to overcome. Sometimes, we have succeeded in transcending the barriers presented by our medium, sometimes not. Many of the problems are exactly the same as most Buddhist Sangha face in the West. For example, as with any group meeting in a building, we have a body of very regular members, but so many other people who come for just a few days or weeks before drifting away. This is just the case at every Zen group I have encountered in America, Europe or Japan. Taigu and I wish we could entice everyone to stay and benefit from this wonderful Practice, but it is not possible. For that reason, we are developing certain resources to get people better involved and feeling ‘at home’. For example, a weekly casual ‘tea meeting’ gathers to share and shoot the breeze by sound and video link, and we are attempting to organize many other online social events as well. We use the “buddy system” so that, if any member enters the hospital or is otherwise unable to communicate in an emergency, her “buddy” will be able to alert us. We are also hammering out a “mentoring” system by which more experienced Zen practitioners befriend and ‘take under wing’ newcomers just getting started. Our art and music circles encourage our aspiring artists, poets, writers and musicians to share their compositions with the community, and anyone is welcome to try. Certain specialized online study groups, in subjects such as Kesa sewing, Buddhist text reading, Oryoki and the like, help build community, as will certain charitable and “engaged” social projects that members are encouraged to join. Finally, our one true “rule” of the Sangha (besides our “rule” to sit Zazen each day) is that members must mutually maintain “gentle speech” in all communication, even when voices disagree on hot issues. Perhaps more than anything, this allows a warm, welcoming and non-hostile atmosphere for new and old, where people can open up without fear.

This year, Treeleaf Sangha took the groundbreaking step of ordaining three individuals, and their training will occur largely by means of modern communication media. We are now engaged in a multi-year course of education, using both new, innovative methods and ancient, traditional methods, combining ‘at a distance’ and ‘in the flesh’, with the one goal of turning these people into ethical, skilled and equipped Soto Zen teachers, ministers and counselors. We know that we have to "get this right" because we are breaking new ground, and it is a heavy responsibility. Our goal is, no more and no less, to turn out Wise and Compassionate, fully ordained priests with the knowledge, skills and ethical standards to serve their students well.

The world is virtual. A most basic Buddhist teaching is that our experience of the world and ‘self’ is a virtual recreation, or outright fiction, built from data passing through the senses into the “3-D Holodeck” of the human mind. In fact, at the heart of the practice of Zazen is the abandonment of judgments and divisions thus created, such as concepts of “here” “there” “now” “then”, distance and separation. All time and space, Buddhas and Ancestors in distant lands and ages past, are encountered in the most intimate terms as Zazen is sat. It is this very same dropping of “distance and separation” which can be taught through a “no near nor far” Sangha like ours. Folks learn to sit and breathe together side by side, intimacy felt without thought of miles. Thus, as I often say, “the world is virtual, our Sangha is real.”


** names have been changed

Founder Treeleaf Zendo, Japan. Member SZBA AZTA. Treeleaf is an online Sangha for those unable to commute to a Sangha, w/ netcast Zazen (www.treeleaf.org/forum/viewforum.php?f=17) & all of a Soto Sangha (http://www.treeleaf.org) Nishijima/Niwa
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Re: Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby Kojip on Sun Feb 20, 2011 3:42 am

Regarding the OP. Including Joko Beck with flaky "Zen" is odd. Her teachings are a sober intro for new people. Apart from that the article is bang on. All Buddhism gets sucked into online Enlightenment spats and emptiness claims. But Zen is more prone. A Zen forum has to be that much more careful, because of the "Sudden" thing, and the unique and easily pop-ified terminology. It is hard to get goofy over Madhyamaka because it doesn't throw you a bone like "True nature", and Theravadins can get really Talmudic pouring over Suttas..( Ah! ah! ah! Atta! Atta!)

A forum will be as genuine as the people posting on it, and that means willing to been seen as an ordinary fool. Everybody is afraid to look bad online. It is because we can't smell each others morning breath, or get irritated by someone wheezing on the the cushion.

Jundo's experiment sounds interesting. I attended a Son Temple in Second Life once, and the people were serious. Everyone's avatar met in the Meditation Hall and the teacher gave a talk. I actually felt the physical sensations of being in a new temple for the first time. Wasn't my cup of tea, but the potential is very real. For people scattered in the regions, without Buddhist infrastructure, this could be very effective. Can't calculate the possible drawbacks though.
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Re: Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby Pemako on Sun Feb 20, 2011 4:08 am

Thank you, Nonin for your generosity to take the time to present your view so completely here. You may or may not be surprised to hear that I have close friends in Japan who consider themselves Zen Buddhists but they never sit in zazen. They do however have a shrine in their own home, work to maintain a temple and assist in various ways such as by feeding monks.
"The victorious ones have said
That emptiness is the relinquishing of all views.
For whomever emptiness is a view,
That one has accomplished nothing."
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Re: Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby Seigen on Sun Feb 20, 2011 4:27 am

Saying "Zen Buddhism" does make sense to me. It cuts through the emptiness stall on life, as Buddhism is certainly more than that but "Zen" may not be it seems, and it fends off the Zen whatevers.

I am actually only two years in or so to forum expression of any kind, and find the 1995 description that Nonin posted above remarkably close to what I see here today. Having shared much of my own drivel and spew, I'm not sure that insisting upon Zen Buddhism is going to save this social medium from what appear to be its qualities. Maybe a forum does what a forum does, for example a forum dedicated to art would have a face-off between the conceptualists and craftspeople, over and over and over again ad nauseum. I'm afraid all one can do is be prepared for what is likely and spend time nurturing what is worth nurturing, as the flowers and weeds together will grow.
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Re: Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby lok91 on Sun Feb 20, 2011 5:17 am

retrofuturist wrote:I guess the question now becomes, if we accept the analysis, "What now?"

Learn how to laugh more. :)
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Re: Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby Shonin on Sun Feb 20, 2011 8:32 am

Dan74 wrote:To say they are about relaxation or "for enhancement of the ego to protect oneself from reality" is not true at all.


Plus, in my experience, those are (incorrect) cliches of spiritual snobbery, used to 'lift' spiritual Buddhist practices above secular ones.
Last edited by Shonin on Sun Feb 20, 2011 8:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby Shonin on Sun Feb 20, 2011 8:57 am

Carol wrote:I don't think Zen Buddhism is less tied to its philosophical roots than most forms of Buddhism. Most students of Zen Buddhism either study Dogen extensively, or koans, or both ... and, in addition, many read the sutras and translations of the old Chinese Masters. Most teachers give Dharma talks linking our practice to investigation of this traditional framework as well.

But, actually, I don't know how linked the practice of Theravadan or Pureland or Vajrayana Buddhism is to traditional theoretical frameworks ... so I should not say whether Zen Buddhism is more or less so. The impression I get from contact with lay practitioners in other Buddhist traditions is that they may not be so well connected. But I could be mistaken.


If you compare Zen (as practiced) with Theravada (as practiced), Theravada is significantly more closely tied to its core texts than Zen, in my experience. Yes there is some discussion of soundbites from Dogen, Hakuin etc and some exposition of a more detailed theoretical nature, however Theravada has a more coherent, consistent and better understoood theoretical framework than Zen. There is less space for the nonsense.

Theravada forum:
Q: What is the point of Buddhism?
A: To end suffering
B: Yep. What she said

Zen forum:
Q: What is the point of Buddhism?
A: To end suffering
B: To get insight into the true nature of reality
C: To get rid of the ego
D: To realise there is no self
E: To realise that there is no such thing as enlightenment
F: To realise that there is no point
G: To balance the autonomic nervous system
H: To just sit
I: To experience enlightenment
J: To experience emptiness
K: Simply being good to other people
L: Chopping wood and carrying water
M: A storm wind blows through the treetops
N: WHO is asking the question?
O: ...uhhh...
P: MU!
Q: Ding Dong! The witch is dead...!
R: Hey diddle, diddle, The cat and the fiddle...

I'm exaggerating slightly, but you get the point.
Last edited by Shonin on Sun Feb 20, 2011 9:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby Pemako on Sun Feb 20, 2011 11:37 am

S: Motorcycle maintenance
"The victorious ones have said
That emptiness is the relinquishing of all views.
For whomever emptiness is a view,
That one has accomplished nothing."
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Re: Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby Carol on Sun Feb 20, 2011 12:12 pm

Shonin wrote:
Carol wrote:I don't think Zen Buddhism is less tied to its philosophical roots than most forms of Buddhism. Most students of Zen Buddhism either study Dogen extensively, or koans, or both ... and, in addition, many read the sutras and translations of the old Chinese Masters. Most teachers give Dharma talks linking our practice to investigation of this traditional framework as well.

But, actually, I don't know how linked the practice of Theravadan or Pureland or Vajrayana Buddhism is to traditional theoretical frameworks ... so I should not say whether Zen Buddhism is more or less so. The impression I get from contact with lay practitioners in other Buddhist traditions is that they may not be so well connected. But I could be mistaken.


If you compare Zen (as practiced) with Theravada (as practiced), Theravada is significantly more closely tied to its core texts than Zen, in my experience. Yes there is some discussion of soundbites from Dogen, Hakuin etc and some exposition of a more detailed theoretical nature, however Theravada has a more coherent, consistent and better understoood theoretical framework than Zen. There is less space for the nonsense.

Theravada forum:
Q: What is the point of Buddhism?
A: To end suffering
B: Yep. What she said

Zen forum:
Q: What is the point of Buddhism?
A: To end suffering
B: To get insight into the true nature of reality
C: To get rid of the ego
D: To realise there is no self
E: To realise that there is no such thing as enlightenment
F: To realise that there is no point
G: To balance the autonomic nervous system
H: To just sit
I: To experience enlightenment
J: To experience emptiness
K: Simply being good to other people
L: Chopping wood and carrying water
M: A storm wind blows through the treetops
N: WHO is asking the question?
O: ...uhhh...
P: MU!
Q: Ding Dong! The witch is dead...!
R: Hey diddle, diddle, The cat and the fiddle...

I'm exaggerating slightly, but you get the point.


:lool:

Yeah, hands down.
Practitioners who cultivate the personal realization of buddha knowledge dwell in the bliss of whatever is present and do not abandon their practice.
~Lankavatara Sutra
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Re: Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby Dan74 on Sun Feb 20, 2011 1:12 pm

Shonin's pretty spot on :)X

Personally what puts me off on the fora is shallow posts, meaning posts that show that the writer hasn't really engaged with the subject matter they are writing about. Yeah, they (I?)could be showing off, or trying to sound like a zen master or just quoting some irrelevant snippet (although they can be powerful when one least expects it!)

What gets my attention are posts that come from personal experience and insight or from relevant scholarship.

For whatever reason I've seen a gradual attrition of good posters here, but new ones come to (kind of) replace them. I miss many names that are no longer seen here, so I turn to the dead ones more and more.
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Re: Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby christopher::: on Sun Feb 20, 2011 1:58 pm

I think these online forums can be helpful in that we are putting private thoughts, experiences and understandings of the dharma out into a shared space. It's an opportunity to gain assistance and support and (when conflict arises) to observe our own thinking patterns and attachment to views. Get some insight into the "self making" process, hopefully. We don't all see things the same way, that's natural.

In my own experience this desire to put forth and defend a perspective, being critical of another's point of view, has been fertile territory for applying the teachings of Zen Buddhism and (hopefully) for gaining a bit more wisdom. When we become mindful of how we do this- observing the process and then detaching from views- we can benefit. At least in my own case, when i get caught up defending my narratives & opinions- it seems to perpetuate my own suffering. As i let go (or views let go of illusory "me") that suffering often seems to diminish.

:ghug:
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"You are the sky. Everything else, it’s just the weather.” ~Pema Chodron
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Re: Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby Kojip on Sun Feb 20, 2011 2:29 pm

What is the point of Buddhism?


Ending suffering is the Buddhist answer. It is the answer because it is the skillful answer, the safe answer, the answer least likely to mislead in any number of ways, the answer that brings along everything else, and leads everything else. No suffering is True Nature.. etc... etc..

The fact that this answer is often considered a Theravadin one, and secondary to "seeing the true nature of reality" is a symptom of Zen sans Buddhism. It is a symptom of the tree forgetting its roots.



Ed. There will always be new people showing up ready to say "just drop everything, drink tea, there is nothing to do, don't you get it?". I think this is because people do have experiences of dropping everything, go "aha!",
then go online where they can be nothing but what they present themselves as. No one can see you, they can't see through your words to your presence, which will give away your actual state. So you can present your best, and get to be Enlightened online.

Maybe it would help to have a clear introductory statement about the reality of commitment to practice over time, and that people are not impressed by Enlightenment displays?
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Re: Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby lok91 on Sun Feb 20, 2011 8:34 pm

Kojip wrote:No one can see you, they can't see through your words to your presence, which will give away your actual state.

Thanks for the morning laugh Kojip. :lol2:
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Re: Zen Buddhism and Online Forums

Postby christopher::: on Mon Feb 21, 2011 4:39 am

Kojip wrote:
Ed. There will always be new people showing up ready to say "just drop everything, drink tea, there is nothing to do, don't you get it?". I think this is because people do have experiences of dropping everything, go "aha!",
then go online where they can be nothing but what they present themselves as. No one can see you, they can't see through your words to your presence, which will give away your actual state. So you can present your best, and get to be Enlightened online.

Maybe it would help to have a clear introductory statement about the reality of commitment to practice over time, and that people are not impressed by Enlightenment displays?


Well, the reality of my commitment to practice over time has been dropping everything and going "aha" and then picking stuff up, carrying shit and going "ugh" for something like 30 years now... I find it helpful to be reminded about this by the newcomers. Not that dropping everything and drinking tea (helping my family, driving mindfully, etc) is *ALL* that practice is about, but its been a pretty important component - in my life anyway.

Sure it's meaningless if a person is just trying to act "enlightened" to impress others online, but mindfulness practice can be deeply meaningful in our real lives, a down to earth way of lightening the load, reducing suffering day-to-day by being fully present in the moment...



Anyway, that's why i'm here. Not to impress others but to be encouraged, to encourage others and be reminded about how to practice effectively.

:heya:
::::: Buddha Nature: Heart of the Dharma :::: Tao & Zen (Facebook page) ::::
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