Author Topic: Zen Buddhism  (Read 9937 times)

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July 11, 2007, 10:35:51 AM
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ChezNips

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Zen Buddhism 
 
Zen has been largely popular in the United States for over the last 30 years as part of the new age movement. Lately we can find a wide assortment of zen desk top fountains, sand gardens, zen lamps, zen "pop culture" books and een clothing. Zen did not start with the new age, its an ancient practice in the japaneese form of Buddhism which uses meditation as its hub.

Zen doesn't necessarily mean meditation. It extends to having a particular attitude or frame of mind. It's about living in the moment. The whole point is to want what we have, who we are right now at this point in time. Zen is about mindfulness, paying attention, and letting go insted of striving for or attaching to the more worldly things that weigh us down.

Zazen translated means "just sitting". It's the Zen form of meditation having been around for thousands of years because it's an effective way of centering the spirit, bringing peace to the soul and generallyadjusting the attitude. Beyond zazen, Zen can become a helpful way of seeing, living and generally understanding the world. Zen gives us a set of ethics very similar to the yogic "Eightfold Path" that teach us that we can only control our own thoughts, actions, and reactions. We must let go of the trying to control people, manipulating situations and detach from the desperation involved with modern commercialism, materialism and consumerism. The attitude Zen conveys is simply to let go and just be.

Understanding the basic concepts of yin and yang make Zen meditation easier to understand and practice. These concepts evolved from the idea that the body is a microcosm of the universe. The idea is that everything in nature is balanced. Yin and yang are intertwined forces inherant in all things. It is the universal equivilant to the concept of homeostasis- the body's process of rebalancing to achieve harmony in relation to environment. It is the rebalancing process whereby Zen meditation is like pushing our body's reset button to clear our minds, relax our bodies and regain our center or equilibrium.

The concept of yin and yang were known, as well as the concepts of dharma and karma thousands of years ago to a young man named Siddhartha Gautama but he did not attain enlightenment until around 500 B.C.E.. After turning his back on his family and royal life of priviledge, he began a life as a wondering religious ascetic. He spent 6 years striving for enlightenment by going to extremes and self-deprivation until he abandoned all that for a more moderate philosophy. One day, as the story goes, he sat under a fig tree and decided to meditate until he attained enlightenment. In time he understood the truth, became enlightened and became the man we know as Buddha. After he attained enlightenment, he traveled around trying to help others also attain enlightenment. The ironic thing is that his message to people was the need to find their own path to enlightenmentand that he couldn't show them how to do it.

Because meditation worked for Buddha to enlightenment where self-deprivation, arduous studying and other extremes did not, many forms of Buddhism emphasizes meditation as the way to the truth. Different sects use different techniques. As an example, some sects practice by focusing on a series of enigmatic riddles known as koans until the mind releases rational thought to comprehend higher truth. Other sects use the chanting of mantras or the staring at images called mandalas to sitting in complete and total awareness.

Buddha believed that suffering could be eliminated by adopting the middle way and avoiding extremes. The Buddha also believed in working to eliminate desire because because desire was an attachment to wordly things- those very things that cause suffering. Dukha, meaning suffering can also be translated to mean dissatisfaction or incompleteness. Buddha believed that only enlightenment brought freedom from these human states.

Buddha suggests eight steps to reach the area where we are beyond attachments as follows:

Right Understanding- it's about adjusting your views of life. To comprehend the true nature of life is to realise that life is impermanent and full of suffering but that we can release our minds. Traditional Buddhism centers around the belief in reincarnation or the cycles of birth, death and rebirth until one has truely comprehended right understanding.

Right Thought- this precept is about releasing ourselves from sexual desire, violence and creulity and negative thinking. Right thought is the omission of pessimism and optimism as right thought is about living in the moment and to see things only for what they are. It's not about what might be or the woulda, coulda, shoulda's.

Right Speech- this is about speaking correctly, or more the agreement to not lie, gossip or speak negatively about anyone. The philosophy behind this step is that thought and action are inseparable. What we speak, we eventually live.

Right Action-This step has five substeps:
(1)no killing
(2) no stealing
(3) practicing self-control
(4) being sincere and honest
(5) not partaking in intoxicating substances that cloud the mind

Right Vocation-This step is about what you chose as your job, that it should never harm anyone or anything. This means you should not chose a job that involves selling drugs or alcohol, a job that includes selling firearms or weapons, no slave trading or flesh dealing including selling meat as food or anything that has to do with financial greed.

Right Effort- This means working towards bettering oneself by always attempting to keep wize thoughts, words and deeds. It also means banishing unhealthy practices. Part of the "Zen" thought is to accept oneself in the moment rather then striving to be someone or something else. Right effort is to realise each stage in your journey and right effort *is* the hjourney's vehicle.

Right Mindfulness- mindfulness is an inner vigilance, an awareness of the body, mind, spirit connection in relation to the cosmos. When we practice mindfulness, we are less likely to be led astray from truth or doing things we are not supposed to be doing.

Right Concentration-this step is to be able to concentrate so completely on a single object that all desire is overcome and true knowledge of the object is attained. With practice this step can be achieved and the hinderances (sensuality, ill will, lethargy, restlessness, worry and skeptical thought) will be overcome. The seeker will eventually find the way to pure consciousness.
 
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February 27, 2010, 11:27:42 AM
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Mindlessinvalid

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I would have liked to avoid necroposting, but you missed a few things here. Zen as a sect of Buddhism is reliant on find your own way to becoming enlightened.

To pull a quote from the translation of the bloodstream sermon (available on wikipedia):

    "Buddhas don't save Buddhas. If you use your mind to look for a Buddha, you won't see the Buddha. As long as you look for a Buddha somewhere else, you'll never see that your own mind is the Buddha. Don't use a Buddha to worship a Buddha. And don't use the mind to invoke a Buddha. Buddhas don't recite sutras. Buddhas don't keep precepts. And Buddhas don't break precepts. Buddhas don't keep or break anything. Buddhas don't do good or evil.

    To find a Buddha, you have to see your nature"

Zen is a verbal tradition and most of the teachings were word to mouth with very little emphasis on scripture.

Zen temples in japan have a practice where the monks would be whipped with a shinai by the abbot during meditation to test their concentration. Flinching from the blow was a sign that they were not disciplined enough and were given extra duties to help work the discipline into them.
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February 27, 2010, 12:26:00 PM
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ChezNips

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The article was written as a introductory article to give folks some idea of what Zen buddhism was, not to get really deep into everyhting, just a general idea.
some days you're the bug, some days you're the windshield.

February 27, 2010, 12:54:21 PM
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Mindlessinvalid

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It rather felt like an introduction to the general concept of Buddhism to me. Forgive me if I sounded blunt, it's probably because I have very little capacity for making a helpful suggestion not sound like being a jerk.

Still I liked the article for what it was, rather that what it was intended to be.

It was very nicely written, and a good overview of the basic concept of moderation as the way to enlightenment.

I was going somewhere with the shinai beatings, but I lost my thought train half way through

It had something to do with different temples in different countries having different methods of attaining enlightenment within the sect of zen.

But you did make one good point about it being of a "no mind gnosis" path. In fact, that about sums up all of zen (because it is as varied in itself as all of the other sects of Buddhism are to each other.)
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February 27, 2010, 09:01:23 PM
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ChezNips

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Thank you.  I started researching it because I was interested in buddhism and zen seems to get lopped into the same group when its really a sub set of buddhism.  I've been to temples in Pittsburgh PA and also in Wichita Ks and always was fascinated.
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February 27, 2010, 10:48:46 PM
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Mindlessinvalid

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You could look at Buddhism in the terms of forging swords, where a well forged sword is an enlightened soul.

You have zen, which is stock removal, easy to pick up, very difficult to master. You shave away all of the extraneous material until you have  sword to be proud of.

Other forms of Buddhism that rely on mantras and ritualistic behavior is proper forging. It takes much longer, and is harder to pick up, but advancement is easier because you have a pattern by which to judge progress by.

Clothes make the man, and naked people have little or no say in society.